Last time we looked at the Centreline and found that there were in fact three Centrelines to consider, the Jik Sin (Centre Line), Ji Ng Sin (Meridian Line) and the Centre of Gravity. Now we will look at how Centreline theory is commonly misunderstood.
Someone once made a passing comment about Wing Chun. It went something like, “Wing Chun only blocks attacks that come in along the centreline”. This statement implies that unless your opponent attacks you along the centreline then you will not bother defending yourself against this attack. So for example, if your opponent were to attack you with a hooking, circular punch, then you would not bother to block them. This is of course nonsense. Who will allow someone to hit them just because they attack you in a different way?
If you are in a situation where your opponent uses a very long circular punch, then so long as you are quick enough, you can step in along the meridian line and strike first. Although his arm may hit you, his power is focused at his fist and so you will avoid this. Also if your punch is good enough, you will disturb his balance and so he will be further weakened. This however, will only work when he is preparing to throw the punch or the punch is just beginning. As you see him preparing to punch you counter attack. Is this blocking or just reading the situation well?
However, not all swinging punches are so long. For example, a common hook punch is a compact punch, is very powerful and used at quite close range. In order to prevent this punch from hitting you, you need to meet the inside of your opponent’s arm. This helped by turning your stance (so your shoulders face more towards the punch) and this will give your defending technique much more leverage and so you will not be relying on the strength of your arm but using your entire body together. At the same time you can attack back by striking at your opponent along the Ji Ng Sin.
In order to become accustomed to defending against circular attacks then you should practise with someone until you feel comfortable with how the attacks move and work. Stepping and turning your stance will give you more leverage and so you can use less energy.
When attacking, you should attack along the Ji Ng Sin. This brings us to another common mistake. As we have already seen, when your opponent is directly opposite and facing you, you should strike directly towards his Jik Sin or for example his nose. If you were to turn and punch you will be correct in punching towards his nose. When you have an opponent this is quite obvious. However, when practising alone, in front of a mirror errors can arise. When standing square on to the mirror you punch towards your own nose.
If however you turned your stance and punched, then you should no longer be punching towards the reflection of your nose. Why is this? Turning your stance will actually move your Jik Sin and so change the Ji Ng Sin (as of course will stepping). When you turn your stance 45 degrees, for example to your right, your Jik Sin will also move to the right. This is because your weight shifts over to the right and your head also moves to the right.
However, in this exercise, your imaginary opponent has not moved and so you should punch to where your nose used to be, not at where you see it in the mirror after you have turned. If you continue to punch towards your nose after you have turned, then you are missing your target.
It helps if (Line B marks Grandmaster Ip Chun’s Jik Sin (Centre line) after he has turned his stance. Line A represent his Jik Sin before he turned and punched. If he were facing a mirror and aimed his punch at the reflection of his nose he would not be aiming at the correct place. You can see this from the drawings below) you draw a vertical line down the mirror and then use this as your opponent’s Jik Sin. Now you should punch along the Ji Ng Sin towards the line on the mirror. In the old days, Wing Chun practitioners did not have mirrors and so would place a stick vertically in the ground and use this for reference. This way they always knew where their target was.
The same principle is also true when practising defensive techniques in front of a mirror. If this all seems very complicated, don’t worry, unlike most things where saying is easier than doing, this is a case of doing is easier than saying. Try it for yourself and see.
 Darryl Moy, The Centre Line Part 2: Misconceptions, Qi Magazine no. 49, pp. 13 (Jun 2000)