Are You Fast Enough?


The Zero Count

Photo by Bernard Hermant


After my Tuesday class this week, myself and some of our senior instructors, had time for a chat on training and how things were progressing with the students in general, something I always enjoy and even more so now that covid restrictions are finally eased.


During this get together, a discussion was raised regarding a video which had been viewed the previous week, showing one person attacking and the other not able to defend, surmising that, ‘Whoever is first, will always be successful’.


The video went something like this:

The demonstrator (Instructor), asked the student to place his arms by his side while the instructor did the same, then, asking the student to try to block, the instructor then fired a fast punch to the chest with the student unable to reach with the block in time.

This same test was then presented where the arms were raised, and again from both attacker and defender, with the conclusion being that whoever throws first, wins.


Now I am not saying that this is not to necessarily the case

but I am saying that this is a bad example.


This setup is from two people, with similar training and prior knowledge of what is going to happen, wait a moment, on reflection then, you may think that the defender should have more chance of being successful if he knows what is about to happen?

Again though, this is not the case, especially in reality, mainly because there are too many variables to take into consideration and, where my ‘Traffic Light’ thinking comes into play and also my, ‘Zero Count’ principle.


Traffic Light Thinking


This is quite simple really, when at distance from an individual, all is good, all is safe, all is Green, here you can relax and allow your arms to be by your side.


Moving up then, to Amber, this is when an individual approaches you, perhaps a little too directly, too quickly or purely in a manner which doesn’t seem quite fitting the situation.


Then there is the final, close distance, someone causing you distress and becoming a defined Red alert, this is where the hands must come into play, gauging a safe space/boundary, either as a confirmed guard or just looking as though you are talking with your hands (as it were).


Either way this is your red-light warning and dropping your hands in this range is nothing less than suicide.


Photo by Paul Siewert


The Zero Count


Should you find yourself in the red-alert stage of a confrontation, with no way of walking away or diffusing the situation, then the bottom line is, hit first (and fast, and hard), in essence, confirming the initial topic of this earlier discussion.

But even then, getting the first strike in still needs focus and timing, not just randomly launching one out.


For instance:

Bringing your hands up and toward yourself first, does not look like a sign of aggression and is a great way of getting into position.


Showing the palms of your hands not only looks submissive (and therefore making your opponent feel as though he has already won and ‘possibly’ lowering his mental guard somewhat), it also shows to any onlookers that you were trying to calm the argument down.

Both allow you to get your hands up and in motion, and, on a forward trajectory in the direction of your target, THAT is when you strike.


I am sure that to a few of you this may seem a little like a sucker punch, but remember, this is you acting out of self-defence, YOU did not start this conflict, you are simply trying to get yourself and perhaps your family out of danger.


So where does the Zero Count come in and what is it?


The problem with the initial video exercise mentioned at the start of this post, is that the defender is being asked to wait until such time as to react, obviously!

But here’s the thing, that method is purely one-sided, whereas a street situation has both people calling the shots.

Let me give you a little more…

My Son recently asked me,

“When we count, why do we not start at zero?”


My answer to him was that, at the point of you deciding to start counting, that was the zero.


I asked him, on my command, to start counting from one to five and of course on every time I did this, there was a slight pause between my saying, “Now”, and him saying, “One”, again, that was the zero count.


If two people are equally trained and both are in the same starting position, then yes, the person attacking first, will have the advantage and will most likely win.


It is our training of Wing Chun that helps us to be able to throw a strike with the least amount of telegraphing while applying the highest amount of power.

When someone in the street throws a punch (especially if untrained), it is their chambering of the punch, their body motion, their muscles tensing and so on, that we would pick up on, therefore giving us the Zero Count and allowing us to act upon this successfully.


So, look for the tell tale or telegraphing signs in others and give nothing away yourself, and if you are not sure of someone’s intentions or abilities, remember those warning lights.

Going into a red zone with your arms down is always a bad move, and if someone does this to you, beware the sucker punch from them!


Thank you for reading.


Start typing and press Enter to search