Keep All Things In Balance

The Control Relationship makes up one part of the Martial Art System.

It can be observed that a controlling relationship exists between certain pairs of the Five Martial Elements. This means that time & effort spent on improving one element will indirectly have a balancing, suppressing, moderating, thus controlling effect on another element.

I say observed because I have seen this process take effect, many times, with everyone i’ve taught. A student may be practicing a drill, and suddenly they are moving more easily, using less energy than before. An incorrect choice leads to a change in direction, as people learn from their mistakes. These things are not unrelated – this is the control relationship at work, and it’s always present. Concentrate on improving one thing, and you begin to appreciate your errors and inefficiencies in everything else.

Because all the five martial elements are ultimately connected, the controlling effect cycles through the entire system, one element balancing the next. In five-element theory this cascading influence is known as the Control Cycle.

The diagram below shows the correct order in which the control relationship takes effect:

FWTS | The Control Relationship

Understanding The Control Relationship

To help you visualise this process, I will give an example for each of the five control connections. There are many possibilities, so please understand that while my examples are accurate, they are not the only ones that exist.

  1. Strategy controls Technical
  2. Technical controls Physical
  3. Physical controls Theory
  4. Theory controls Practical
  5. Practical controls Strategy

Please note that there is no correct starting point for this process – you can begin anywhere within the five martial elements. My list begins with strategy simply because that is the starting point I have chosen for the system.

1. Strategy controls Technical

By this I mean that any changes to your Strategic Element (What) will have a controlling effect upon your Technical Element (How).

Choosing a strategic option will automatically select the tools and techniques to be used. To use a motoring analogy, if you choose to reverse (perhaps into a parking space) you won’t be using any of your forward gears until you choose to drive forwards again. Selecting reverse gear will also activate parking sensors and reversing lights, which until then were all switched off. Your choices automatically switch some things off, and other things on.

In a martial arts example, choosing to turn and run will remove all striking techniques from your thoughts. But if you choose to try hitting an opponent in the groin, you will have to quickly select an appropriate striking tool (such as a kick, a low-punch, or a reverse-palm). This process – making a choice – always narrows down the range of technical options open to you.

2. Technical controls Physical

By this I mean that improving your Technical Element (How) will have a moderating effect upon your Physical Element (Who).

The greater your technical prowess, the more precise and efficient your movement becomes. Less energy is then required to perform the movement or achieve the desired result.

You can waste loads of time and effort by using inefficient, tense, sloppy movements. If you’re in the wrong place, at the wrong time, using the wrong tool for the job, you’ll be forced to use more strength, more speed, and more energy to achieve your objective. However if you train to use only the correct muscles, the most economical movement, using the simplest possible strategy, you’ll exert yourself far less and be able to endure longer. This process – refining your technical ability – will naturally promote greater economy, reducing the physical effort required.

3. Physical controls Theory

By this I mean that the specifics of your Physical Element (Who) will have a controlling effect upon your Theoretical Element (Why).

The physical attributes of your particular body will define the limits of what is theoretically possible for you to accomplish. Although these limits are broadly similar for each and every one of us, there can be considerable variation from person to person, and these variations do have an effect.

It is theoretically possible to knock someone over using air – like standing in the path of a hurricane. If you possessed powerful enough lungs you could stand at a distance and really “blow your opponents away!” However no human possesses such physical resources, and so this technique remains firmly within the media fantasy of martial arts. All theory must be mindful of the physical capabilities of the user.

4. Theory controls Practical

By this I mean that your Theoretical Element (Why) has a guiding influence upon your Practical Element (When & Where).

The deeper and more complete your theoretical knowledge, the more it will shape, direct and inform your practical actions. If you understanding why fire burns, for example, you can then make informed decisions about avoiding it, preventing it, controlling it or nullifying it. Pouring water on some fires will just make them burn more fiercely, so a poor grasp of theory can be a dangerous thing.

A proper understanding of martial theory compels me to remove, replace, or modify any exercise, drill, or training regime that is not beneficial to the reality of combat. Through painful experience I discovered that many “traditional” Wing Chun drills do indeed improve one particular movement, but sadly at the same time they destroy several other movements, or generate additional bad habits. The net result of such drills is an overall reduction in practical ability, and so I have removed them from the Federation Wing Tsun System. All improvements in theoretical understanding must shape the focus of our practical training.

5. Practical controls Strategy

By this I mean that your Practical Element (When & Where) exerts a controlling influence upon your Strategic Element (What).

Experience gained through practical training teaches you that some paths often lead to success, some usually to failure, and that some paths are best avoided at all costs. Such practical experience is known as empirical knowledge.

When attacked with a punch to the face, an inexperienced person will usually try to block – swatting the punch away whilst turning their head and leaning backwards. Now whilst this reflex action may protect them from the initial punch, it will also; (a) destroy their own balance, (b) ensure an almost static target for future attacks, and (c) keep them directly within range of all their opponents tools. Their untrained reflexive defence sets them up for any and all following attacks.

With experience, this is far less likely to happen. The more time spent in practical training, the less likely you are to make risky, unproven, uninformed, or downright foolish strategic choices. You’ll stick with two or three proven strategies, you’ll have a plan, and you’ll succeed.

Where Next?

Level Contents
2 The Martial Art System
3 Five Martial Elements The Creative Relationship The Control Relationship (you are here)
4 Strategic Element
Theoretical Element
Technical Element
Practical Element
Physical Element
The Creation Cycle
End Of Branch
The Control Cycle
End Of Branch