Five Elements Working Together

The Five Martial Elements make up one part of the Martial Art System.

Classical five element theory is a way to describe interactions and resultant effects between connected phenomena, using as analogy the physical properties of earth, metal, water, wood and fire.

Many versions of this concept exist, and each version uses different elements in different quantities. The Chinese version is known as Wu Xing and is widely applied to many disciplines including medicine, art, music, military strategy, and even personal relationships. The Chinese set of classical elements seemed appropriate to use for my system, as Wing Chun Kung-Fu is a martial art of Chinese origin.

In order to apply classical five-element theory effectively and clearly to Kung-Fu,I developed a bespoke set of elements which were better suited to the phenomenon of unarmed combat. I named these the Five Martial Elements, and they are as follows:

The correct arrangement of the five martial elements is shown in the diagram below. Strategy is always topmost, to indicate the beginning of the combat thought process:

FWTS | The Five Martial Elements

The application of five-element theories to martial arts is not a new thing, however every style that I am aware of that uses the concept does so only at an extremely superficial level (like grouping all strikes together and calling them “Fire”, for example).

I believe my approach is unique in applying the theory to the entire discipline at all levels of detail – as above, so below. It was my intention to make the Federation Wing Tsun System a truly fractal martial art system, and i’m convinced that it’s the only way to truly understand things.

Components Of Each Element

As all fractal structures contain ever-deeper levels of detail, so too do each of the martial elements. The next layer of detail shows the components of each element, and there are four components within each.

This table shows how each martial element relates to each of the classical Wu-Xing elements, and the four components within each of them:

Classical Wu-Xing Element FWTS ‘Martial’ Element Element Components
Earth Strategic
Metal Theoretical
Water Technical
Wood Practical
(When & Where)
Basic Attacks
Bridging Attacks
Sparring Drills
Situational Drills
Fire Physical
Striking Drills
Co-ordination Drills
Reaction Drills

It’s All About Connections

Now, in all true five-element systems, the individual elements are bound together by a pair of relationships which have influence in opposite directions. One is an enhancing influence called the Creative Relationship, whilst the other is a moderating influence, called the Control Relationship.

Change within any one element will influence those connected to it – and so on until ALL elements have been affected to some degree.

These enhancing & suppressing relationships create cycles of influence known respectively as the Creation Cycle and the Control Cycle.

In developing the martial elements I recognised that to apply five element theory properly, the new elements and their components had to correctly retain these two influence relationships. It took me just under two years to complete this aspect of the Federation Wing Tsun System alone.

Because the “strength” of each element depends upon, influences, and is in turn influenced by the remaining four, you’ll discover that no single element can be more important than the others. The way towards mastery of the system is to ensure balance in all elements throughout.

Where Next?

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