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Wing Tsun – How to get up

One of the aspects that really drew me to WT kung-fu was the attention that is paid to fighting in different, sometimes disadvantageous situations.  Most martial arts focus on tournament or sport style fighting where two opponents will be evenly matched and allowed to get into their respective “en garde” positions before going at it.  The truth is in fighting we may be suddenly attacked, given cheap shots or accosted in a place where we simply can’t put up our traditional man/wu sau guard in time.  The great thing about WT is that we train and pay attention to all these possibilities and train the students accordingly.

In line with this, we also teach our students how to fight if they find themselves in the unfortunate position of being on the ground.  This is nothing new as many believe that WT specific ground-fighting techniques were developed after the advent of the UFC.  Actually in one of my trips to HK I saw photos of WT students practicing fighting off their backs and performing what is now called “ground and pound” way back in the sixties and early seventies.  Here you can even see a photo of the late Sifu Leung Tuen (brother to GM Leung Ting) from 1974 performing a pretty vicious ground and pound against an opponent from the Choy Lee Fut style.  His opponent was sent to the hospital after this fight.

Despite already having the foundation for ground-fighting, WT is not a style that specializes in this range of fighting.  We specialize in tactics and principles which don’t concern “where” or “how” we are fighting.  However, as the nature of ground-fighting and grappling in general has become more widespread and more advanced, so has the need to update WT’s specific ground-fighting methods.  The beauty of this is that we can do this all within the framework of WT’s techniques and concepts.

One of the great gems of the Hong Kong style ground-fighting techniques is what I label the “WT get-up”.  I admit I stole this name from the Turkish get-up (TGU) found in Turkish wrestling and kettlebell training.  This technique allows the WT fighter who is on the ground to effectively “get-up” off the ground quickly and efficiently after they have been knocked down.  I originally learned this in the EWTO as a student and then later I learned it directly from Grandmaster Leung Ting.  The methods I learned in both the EWTO and from the grandmaster were more or less identical.  Later as I learned from other instructors both in Hong Kong, stateside and elsewhere I noticed a number of variations in the get-up.  Some made sense and some where outright dangerous and difficult for many to perform.  I’m going to describe the version(s) that I teach at CWT and also dispel what I believe is the most dangerous version that is unfortunately being taught openly.  If your instructor teaches you the “dangerous” method, then you may want to bring up these points subtly to him/her.  It’s important that if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being on the ground that you can get up quickly and safely.

Method A

The standard method of “getting-up” is what we can call here Method A.  Method A implies that you have fallen to the ground in the proper WT leg scissor or ground-fighting position and that you will quickly use the hips to generate momentum to stand back up.  This is a great and efficient way to get back up, although it does have its limitations tactically.   Done correctly the student will swing up into a semi-crouch position which is relatively sturdy in case one gets kicked or attacked on the way up.  From this semi-crouch position, the WT trainee can quickly and easily get up to a fighting position without using too much undue strength.  One of the main ideas behind this way of getting up is to get up without using the hands as an additional support.  The theory behind this is if you use your hands to support yourself while you stand up you won’t have any hands to protect yourself should your assailant try to soccer kick you on the way up.

Image 1: The leg-scissor – WT’s primary falling position

Method A Breakdown:

The WT practitioner is thrown or falls to the ground.  When a WT fighter goes to the ground, the falling techique of choice is to fall ”like a cooked shrimp” so that the WT fighter rolls to the floor as opposed to landing flat.  This method is similiar if not identical to the falling methods of Chinese wrestlers or Shuai Jiao practitioners.  This is the preferred method of falling as we are not landing on a soft tatami mat on the street and traditional ”breakfalls” will just injure the falling person more than the fall itself.

When the WT fighter lands they will fall into the ”leg scissor” position (image 1).  If the WT fighter is stuck on the ground, meaning the opponent is standing or hovering making getting up difficult, the WT fighter will change the leg scissor to the ground-fighting postion (image 2).

Image 2: When you have fallen and can’t get-up – be ready to turn and kick the knees!

When in the ground-fighting position the front leg should never be higher than the opponent’s knee.  If it is placed too high, the opponent can use it as a handle to roll the WT fighter to one side and get on top.

The actual ”get-up” is performed from either the leg-scissor position or from the ground-fighting position depending on the situation.  The Method A of getting up can only be performed if there is enough space between the opponent and the WT fighter.  If the opponent is too close (hovering above) and does not give up an inch, then Method B must be employed.  Method B will be explained in part 2.

Follow the photo series below to see the classical WT get-up performed step by step.

Step 1 ”Hip Pop”: from either the leg-scissor position or the ground-fighting position, roll on the back and then thrust upward with the hips towards the sky.  The better the hip thrust, the easier it is to pop into the next position with relative ease and minimal use of leg force

Step 2 ”Cross Leg”: Roll forward using the momentum from the ”hip pop” and land in this pre-position.  The legs should form a 90 degree angle with each other.  DO NOT LAND ON THE SOLE OF YOUR BACK FOOT!  This is the unsuitable method that will be discussed in part 3.

Step 3 ”The Semi-Crouch”:  The next step is to pop into this semi-crouch position.  This is a vital transition point in case your opponent comes back to kick you on the way up.  This position at least gives you a bit of structure on the way up.  However you must realize that the entire get-up process is done very quickly with the momentum generated from the hips.  You won’t be in this or any of the other positions for any amount of time.

Step 4 ”Get Up, Stand Up”:  Using the tremendous momentum gained from the hip pop and forward rolling action, stand straight up onto your feet.  Some traditional instructors teach their students to do the final part of the get-up while chain-punching.  I personally don’t teach this as I feel it is an unnecessary violation of the old WT motto ”don’t launch any void (punches that won’t land on the opponent) punches”.

No martial art techniques or protocols are 100% perfect.  All techniques have their advantages and disadvantages.  Martial artists have to learn how to overcome these things through hard practice and learn how to adjust or modify techniques on the spot to make them adaptable.  Here is the final breakdown of Method A:


  • Fast and efficient way of getting up once trained properly
  • Promotes good core stability and hip mobility
  • Offers good protection and is applicable under stress


  • Not reliable if the standing opponent doesn’t move away (risk of counter too high)
  • Small percentage of students still don’t have ankle/knee/hip mobility required to get up this way
Text and photo: Alex Richter



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Kung Fu Hälsa

Adress: Celsiusgatan 29, våning 3

email: kungfu.sweden@gmail.com

Tel: 070-367683

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