Author Topic: Bridging/Sticking: Sink, Float, Swallow, Spit  (Read 3341 times)

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January 05, 2005, 12:41:56 AM
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Those of you who practice Southern Chinese martial arts styles (Southern Praying Mantis, White Crane, Dragon Claw, White Tiger, Chow Ga, Hung Ga, etc...) as well as those of you who practice internal martial arts styles (Tai Chi, Ba Gua, Xing Yi, etc...) will probably be well acquainted with the concept of bridging and sticking.  For those of you who are not, bridging is best described by the Hung Ga maxim "Build a bridge [to your opponent] and then walk over it".  Basically, this involves either intercepting your opponents attacking limb or, if your opponent is not actively attacking you, by inserting a limb of your own.  The contact point between you and your opponent (usually a forearm or, less often, the shin) is referred to as the bridge.  Southern Chinese martial arts and internal Chinese martial arts emphasize "sticking" to the opponent's limbs so that you can, as my Sifu calls it, put up a "radar field" that tells your body what your opponent will do next through tactile sensation alone.  This includes shifts in weight, chambering a limb for an attack, and even disengaging.  I have heard my Sifu speak of four concepts which relate to dealing with the opponent's bridge: Sink, Float, Swallow, and Spit which I have found are nearly universal at the higher levels of most Chinese martial arts as well as some Okinawan styles.  Although I do not fully understand these concepts as of yet, I would like to offer some conjecture based on how I comprehend them.  I think they probably have a lot more to do with energy than physical actions.

Float: Analagous to Ward Off (Peng) in Tai Chi.  Refers to deflecting an opponent's bridge forward and up thereby uprooting said opponent.  For Wing Chun players, I think Bong Sao is a good example of this energy.

Sink: Analagous to Push Down (An) in Tai Chi.  Refers to pressing down the opponent's bridge.  Push Down on an energetic level is like bouncing a basketball and highly advanced Tai Chi players are said to be able to sever an opponent's root by "bouncing" this energy down through an opponent.  In Wing Chun, Jam Sao and An Sao are good examples of this energy.

Swallow: Analagous to Roll Back (Lu) in Tai Chi.  Refers to adhering to an opponent's force, allowing it to continue on its present arc, and directing it into a harmless circuit.  The energetic aspect of this is like a person leaning on your front door with all his might when suddenly you open it and he falls on his face.  Aikido players are well acquainted with this energy.  One of the first drills in Aikido is to sidestep a foreword moving opponent and simply give him a push in the direction he was already traveling.  Wing Chun being the direct martial art that it is still possesses this energy although it is less obvious.  The Chum Kiu Ma or Shifting Horse stance possesses this energy especially when combined with a technique like Lop Sao.

Spit: Analagous to Press Forward (Ji) in Tai Chi.  Refers to reflecting the "borrowed" force in a direct manner back to the opponent.  A good example of this is a punch.  In Tai Chi the punch is more of a press while in Wing Chun the punch is more like the snap of a whip, yet the idea of percussion is present in both.  One must be wary of the recoil of energy whenever using Spit energy.  Think of punching a wall.  If you punch and then leave your punch there, the energy has time to reflect back into your hand.  If you punch and then quickly withdraw, the energy does not have time to enter your hand.  The Wing Chun and Tai Chi stances, being firmly rooted in the ground, have a better structure to absorb any recoil that might occur.

I would like to compare these energies to the Eight Trigrams and Five Elements.  However, be aware that there are inconsistencies in the two systems.

Trigrams:                                             Elements:
Heaven - Float                                     Metal - Sink
Water - Swallow                                  Water - Swallow
Earth - Sink                                         Wood - Float
Fire - Spit                                            Fire - Spit
                                                           Earth - Bridging itself

Also be aware that these concepts relate to the stages of combat, but that's another discussion.