Centre Line Theory
This is probably the single most important theory of VTK. It has a number of components, and has quite a few levels of understanding. As with all theories in VTK it is integral to the style, and not isolated, so it needs to inter-relate with other theories. I will cover the important ones here, although deeper understanding of this and other theories will have to be covered later when more VTK is learned.
- The simplest and most basic point of centreline theory is this: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. What is the shortest distance between two curved surfaces? A straight line from centre to centre. So the shortest distance to your enemy is this line from your centre to your enemy’s centre. We want the shortest distance to move because if our opponent has started to move before us or is faster than we are, we want to catch up. The only way of catching up is to move a shorter distance. This way the block moves the shortest distance, and can intercept his fist. The punch also moves along the same line so it hits at the same time as the defence. Centreline theory plus the theory of Simultaneous Attack and Defense gives us important advantages in VTK.
The next point about centre line theory is that if we occupy the centre, the enemy must cross this line to hit us. Other martial arts either go in larger moves, in circles, or strike from the shoulder. This makes it easier to defend, because we know he must at some time cross this line in order to hit us. We don’t have so much trouble finding his hands when we want to stop them – because they have to cross this line to attack us. If you hold your hands in the position of the guard, you are making it harder for your opponent, since he has to go around, and you only have to move a little to defend or attack, and especially, your hands are right where you need them. Although some moves do not cross this line, most do, so therefore fewer avenues exist to be attacked, leaving the exponent able to concentrate on those moves that do threaten, and leaving us closer even to those few moves that do not cross the line.
The centre line also helps us defend ourselves by protecting our vulnerable points, and challenging those of my opponent. A lot of vulnerable points are down the centre line, and so are the opponents. But this is a simplification, and only applies to those directly in front of you. When we talk about the centre line, we actually mean the line drawn between two opponents from my axis to my opponent’s axis, regardless of direction or facing. The axis isn’t a line down the front of your body, unless you stand face to face. If you aren’t standing face to face, there are still are many vulnerable points, all radiating down meridians from the central nervous system, so we can attack those in a line from centre to centre. Even if we are facing away, and our opponent shapes up, we can defend on this line, rather than trying to hit a line down his front.
- The next point is pure physics and body mechanics. What happens when you attack a curved surface at an angle? The force is deflected. What happens when the attack on a curved surface is straight on? The force goes into the target. Try it with a basketball, and it’s easy to see. Now try this – get a partner and hit them gently in the centre of the chest. First, try it with the elbow out, and the fist horizontal, simulating a normal punch. Use the bigger two knuckles. Hit firmly, but not too hard, a couple of times. Feel the force, try to capture how it feels in your mind. Now turn the elbow down, so the fist is vertical, the elbow in the centre and hit with the bottom 3 knuckles. This simulates a VTK punch. You should feel a considerable difference. The vertical fist should feel more transmission of force. It’s like hitting someone with a three-by-four or a baseball bat. If you swing it at someone’s head, it hits hard, right? That’s what most martial arts are doing. It works fine. But if you imagine hitting with the same speed, but instead of swinging it, thrusting the end of it into their face. Can you see the difference? The shock value of the impact is much greater. If you club them, it hurts, but if you hit them like this, they go down. It’s like when you walk into a beam or a tow bar on a car. You are not moving really fast, but it hurts like hell. This is because the structure that you are impacting allows no loss of force, so all the force is used in damage. When this is done properly, I call this “The Tow Bar Effect”. It’s a combination of structure especially of stance, posture, the elbow and wrist, plus good technique and manner of movement.
- Another reason for the centre line punch is to help targeting. If you have ever shot a gun, if you shoot from the hip or out to the side, you can easily miss. If you shoot looking down the barrel, then you hit. By taking out some of the complications of trying to hit a moving target by eliminating your punch’s curved moves and angles, then you can hit your target easier. Have you ever tried to hit a focus ball, floor to ceiling ball, whatever? Hard, isn’t it? Well, ours is a tennis ball. You have to hit straight if you want to hit it more than once. By the way, Bruce Lee was credited with inventing it, but he only developed it from the VTK focus ball, which was originally set up by Wong Shun Leung. So, punching this way makes it easier to hit a moving target, such as a person’s head. Also, a good way to practice this kind of targeting is a small focus ball about the size of a tennis ball.
- Another thing about centre to centre punching is that it is difficult for the enemy to escape the punch. If you attack with a normal curving punch to someone’s chin, especially while they are moving, then all they have to do is to move their head an inch or so to escape it. Boxers, for example, practice dodging punches like this a lot. Now, if I come in straight, my enemy has to move much further to escape being hit. It is still possible to dodge it, but much harder, and if a person moves his head that far, their balance is starting to be out of place. And if the target for the punch was their body, they would have no chance of escaping it at all. Another thing is boxers (and others) also practice rolling the head to bounce the force of the punch off their chin or cheeks, but when a punch comes in straight, no matter how they turn, it still hits square. So, it’s not only easier to hit, but you can also hit harder, and the person is less likely to escape either the punch itself, or the force applied from the punch.