Centerline Concept

One of the points that most martial arts schools tend to forget to teach is the target of attack. While a whole body can be a target, focusing on vulnerable points is more effective in immobilizing the opponent. Without specific targets, one tends to become a “head hunter”. While a head is a good target, it is also the most protected part of the body as a natural reflex, therefore the most difficult. Not only is it difficult to hit, but is also protected by a strong skull. Without a specific target to the head, one can cause injury to one’s own hands. The other common target is the body in general. While the strike may land somewhere, it may prove ineffective if landed on muscles, which cover most parts of the body. While blows to the muscles cause pain, they are slight and almost unfelt during confrontation when one’s adrenaline discharge is high. Therefore, it makes more sense to strike where it hurts and immobilizes the opponent. Knowing the human anatomy and its vulnerable points will not only direct your attacks specifically but also protect your own.

Vulnerable Points

Keeping in mind that this form of pugilism was invented by a woman, you must ask yourself this: “How does a woman immobilize a man who is bigger in muscles, fat and bones? Answer: She must strike at points where muscles and fat cover them the least. She must apply pressure to joints where little force is required. Where do you find these points? Without having to know the full anatomy of a human body, you can say that several vulnerable points lie in the centerline of a human body. Looking at left figure above, you will see that the third eye, nose, upper jaw, chin, wind pipe, sternum, bronchus, dantian, and groin are located in the centerline. Striking any of these points will either disorient, immobilize, knockout or even cause death to a person, depending on the force of the strike. If you were to draw a centerline on a leg, you will find the vulnerable points located from the knee, down the sheen, to the middle of the foot’s instep. None of them are covered with muscles. Striking them will cause serious injuries to the opponent, no matter how big they are.All joints are covered with thin and small muscles, as they require flexibility. With the proper angle of pressure, muscles are unable to resist it. No matter how large a person is, the pain is inevitable, excruciating, and completely immobilizing. The joints are the neck, arm sockets, elbows, wrists, knuckles, back of the waist, leg sockets, knees, ankles and toe knuckles.

If an opponent faces you sideways, the centerline is drawn in his middle again as in the middle figure above. His vulnerable points are again found within this line: The temporal veins and arteries, ear, side jaw, carotid artery, rib cage, side of the knee, and ankle bone. If he has his hands on the side, then the elbow and the back of his hand are the points of vulnerability.

If the opponent turns his back, as with a spinning kick, the centerline of his back becomes vulnerable as in the right figure above. There, you find the Medulla Oblongata (brain stem), back of neck, spinal column, and tail bone. Blows to these points are deadly.

Looking at the charts, the vulnerable points seem easy to locate, but in reality, difficult to strike during confrontation as the opponent is moving unpredictably in various directions. The principle of Wing Chun is to direct the strike towards the centerline. This focuses the strike to one target, or target line, rather than chasing several spots. A moving straight line is much easier to nail than a moving spot. The important thing is that you focus on a target. Without focusing on a target, you are in a guessing game. In war, the Generals must plan their target before sending out the bombers. With specific marked targets, they can accomplish their mission more successfully than letting the bombers go on their own to search and destroy.

Similarly, if you do not have a specific target, you waste your time probing. If you were to attack the head only, the opponent quickly realizes your limitations and reacts accordingly. On the other hand, if you aim at the centerline, the target is obvious, large, and visible to you, while being unspecific and unpredictable for the opponent. Striking anywhere on it will cause damage. From your point of view, your target is specific, although not a specific spot, it is a line made from many spots. From the opponent’s perspective, your attack is not specific as you are striking anywhere from the top to the bottom, especially if he does not understand that you are using the centerline as the line of attack. Your attacks become unpredictable, unlike those that just go for the head.


War has been part of humanity since its existence. It has become a science. No one knows the art of war as the Chinese do because of their volatile history. General Sunzi’s book on the Art of War is studied today by world leaders, military, and business persons alike. (SeeLecture X on more about Sunzi’s Art of War.)Pugilism is the art of war between two individuals. It can be as simple as uncontrollable anger expressed in physical form to very sophisticated concept, planning, strategy, and movements.

Wing Chun sees pugilism as war in the broader sense. It looks at a person’s body as a castle. His arms and legs are the soldiers. His hands and feet–the weapons. His head is the headquarters where the generals do the planning and do the dispatching. The aim is to penetrate the castle, immobilize the soldiers, and destroy the headquarters. On the other hand, you defend your headquarters and castle by building walls around them and stationing your soldiers around them. Many fighting forms concentrate on strong blocks to break an arm or a leg of the opponent. This is almost impossible, as the force would only send the arm or leg in the direction of the strike. Without an opposite force to resist the motion, it will not break. (When you see boards or brick-breaking demonstrations, you will notice that they are resisted firmly from the other end.) Trying to destroy an arm or a leg is like destroying weapons. Weapons are plentiful and replaceable. They are merely tools of war. From the Wing Chun’s point of view, it is senseless to try to immobilize the weapons. In war, you do not fight weapons, you fight soldiers. The objective of fighting the soldiers is to capture a post. Better still; capture the General in command. The battle is over when this is done. Therefore, Wing Chun’s objective is to penetrate the castle by breaking through the gates and walls, immobilizing the soldiers by trappings or diversions, and finally capturing and immobilizing the commander.

Gates / Flanks

gatesfrtThe human body is a castle. It is held and protected by walls and structures (i.e. muscles and bones). The castle walls and floors are held and supported by beams and joints. To knock a castle down, you strike the thin beams and joints (thin bones and joints). Within the castle, there are rooms (vital points) that are vital and vulnerable to attacks because of their importance and relationship to the headquarters; this is where the colonels and majors operate. The headquarters (brain) sits on top, where the planning and the decisions are made. It is of vital importance to guard it. Captains and lieutenants (inner arm and elbow; thigh and knee) guard the first inner gate. The sergeants and corporals (forearm and leg) guard the outer gate. The privates and their weapons (wrist and hand; ankle and foot) form the first flank of defense and attack.The human body is a small castle. There is no room to create wide walls and gates because of the limitation of one’s size. (Perhaps we can imagine it to be more like a mobile post.) Wing Chun creates imaginary gates around it. This is an important aspect of pugilism that most styles do not touch upon. Knowing one’s gates creates a strong and efficient defense. Not knowing them make you fall for feints thus weakening your defense.

Wing Chun creates a set of compact gates that is mobile and economical. From the frontal view (see the upper right figure), the gates surround the body closely along the sides. With the shoulders acting as the borderline, the head is farther inside the gates. There is no need to extend the borderline, as blocking within it is sufficient to protect the headquarters and the castle. The shoulders, side of the arms, thighs and legs are protected by large muscles, so strike to them are of little effect. In fact, they are used to divert strikes. The Wing Chun guard stance places the arms and hands (pawns and weapons) in the centerline (see figure at the end of this section). Attacks from the sides are easily parried with little effort and movement. In contrast, other styles travel far distances to block the same line of attack.

Wing Chun creates two sets of gates/flank in front of the castle, as shown in the lower right figure. (Gates are for defenses and flanks for attack). All the soldiers and weapons (elbows, forearms wrists and hands) are aligned to the centerline to create a closed gate. When the castle is attacked, the forefront soldiers come to the defense. If they are penetrated, the back flank comes to the defense and drives the enemy back while the fore flank withdraws to the back to protect the castle. Under heavy attacks, the post withdraws to another position (stepping back or sideways), but maintaining the soldiers’ positions in front of the gates.

The defensive system uses the pawns, the corporals and sergeants (hands and forearms; feet and legs) as the first feelers of the battle situation. They report the situation to the lieutenants and captains (elbow and forearms; knee and thighs), who in turn send the message to the Generals (the brain) via the colonels and majors (the nervous system). The Generals then strategized defensive and counter moves, sending commands to the soldiers to act on.

The offensive system works in the reverse, but along the same chain of command. It begins with the Generals (the brain), who plan and command the moves. The order is sent to the colonels and majors (nervous system) who in turn instruct the captains and lieutenants (the arms, elbows, thighs and knees) to send the sergeants and corporals to lead the privates into a charge.

The pawns (the hands and feet), under no circumstances, act on their own or lead the commanders. All decisions and power comes from the back to the front.

gatesidesFinally, Wing Chun draws a set of lateral gates (see all figures). The upper gate ranges from the top of the head to the base of the neck. The middle gate ranges from the collarbone to the solar plexus (or where your elbow hangs). The lower gate is from the solar plexus to the groin (or where your knuckles hang). The base gate is from the groin area to the ground. From the Wing Chun guard stance, the arms move easily from the upper gate to the middle or the lower gate. The two arms alternate, always protecting the upper and middle gates. Attacks to the lower gate are fended off using the arms or legs. Attacks to the base gate are parried off exclusively with the legs.


Penetrating an opponent’s gates are handled similarly. Strikes to the head and the mid-section are done with hands. The lower sections are struck using the feet. Wing Chun does not believe in high kicks to the head. Just as you would not go down to do a head-bump on your opponent’s foot; there is no sense in bringing your feet from the ground to the opponent’s head. The travel distance is far too long and flamboyant. It is much more economical to strike straight at a level where the distance is the shortest. A head-bump is only good towards another head. A kick is most effective executed below the waist.
The argument coming from the school of high kicks is that the scope is wider when one is able to kick high. It is true provided you can train your kicks to be fast, strong and balanced. This is a high goal to achieve. The other matter to consider is the practicality of it. Under confined space, high kicks are not executable or cumbersome. There is also a warm up time before the leg and back muscles can operate that kind of stretch. Given that most fights happen impulsively, it is unlikely that one can loosen up enough to execute those kicks.