In the late 1960s, Bruce Lee amazed people from all around the world with his “One Inch Punch”. How could an average-sized guy like him make someone go flying with a punch from just an inch away? The real answer is that the punch is not from an inch away; the punch starts all the way from the impulse of Lee’s foot on the ground and travels through each joint up his leg, through each vertebra, and ultimately onto one point directly one inch from where his knuckles started.
Simple, right? Try it right now: stand up, hit a stance with your feet shoulder-width apart, and try to punch the air the “One Inch Punch” way. If you’re like the average Joe, you probably made a loud stomping noise, awkwardly flopped the rest of your body, and thrust your fist forward with a loud crack in your elbow and/or shoulder. Assuming you tried to redeem yourself with a couple more punches, you notice that it gets smoother and more powerful each time you repeat that movement. This is a prime example of our brain’s neuroplasticity, its ability to re-wire itself so that it could cope with tasks. In other words, it strives to make itself more efficient at the things we do all the time.
In WingTsun, reactions are developed with interpersonal in tandem with personal practice. In other words, practice by yourself on the form teaches you how to properly align your joints while practice with another person on drills teaches you how to react and re-adjust the alignment of your joints to be most effective. By “teaches you”, of course, I mean your brain’s neuroplasticity is allowing this training to re-wire your brain to be more effective at it. As you train more WingTsun, the new neural connections you burn into your brain begin to add up and improve bodily awareness and even habits. Now as that pesky doorframe bumps into your shoulder you find yourself dissipating the hit when before you would just fly backwards because, well, you are bumping into a solid wall.
When you bump into something there is no time to think about how to react so naturally your subconscious comes into play, tightening your body to protect it from the blow. So clearly reactions are rooted in the subconscious and aren’t something you can read a book about and then go out and do. How does WingTsun go about re-wiring our subconscious? Our subconscious is re-wired by first leaning, then understanding, and finally experiencing.
We have engaged in rituals since prehistoric times so that we can get each individual to feel something, whether that something is an out-of-body experience or just an overall sense of community. Much of WingTsun is like a ritual in the sense that its drills guide practitioners to experience what it’s like to feel a subconscious mind-body connection. This is not the only reason why partnering is so important; partnering in WingTsun also develops a subconscious awareness of the other person’s body, allowing practitioners to essentially “connect” through their hands and feed each other impulses on which to re-wire their brains even further.
“Connect to each other through their hands… How so?”, you ask? To that I say this: you’ve got to feel it!

Manol Atanassov
7 Student Grade