How can Wu Xing theory (5 Elements / 5 Phases) apply to Wing Chun?

The example below is intended to illustrate the beauty of Wu Xing theory. Showing how the feeding/generative cycle we flow through is optimised for continuous countering of every move in the flow of the opponent, assuming they are also attempting the dominant move to counter us and we’re one step ahead.

If you’ve just done a Bong Lap Fak, that would be “Earth breeding Metal” and if you want to know what’s the best follow up, again that would be a Water technique since Metal (and gemstone) leads to Water. So that could be anything with low impact, high momentum, such as an arm or neck drag (feminine water, like a drilling down whirlpool) into a heavy shove or a clothesline takedown which would be masculine water energy like a lifting wave or a water cannon. Then Water feeds Wood (and most organisms), and feeds us with those water-dependent food sources, so if you need a further continuation, you could re-bridge with a piercing straight shot (masculine wood energy), and if they’re still not finished, Wood (and most organic matter) fuels Fire, so transition next into floating combination punching, including hooks, from all angles, like a swarm of bees, because fire is also a swarming energy. Then Fire feeds Earth (since ash is a fertiliser) so follow your burst of punches with a catching Bong Wu or Jam Lan type structure. This transition (Fire feeding into Earth) may feel unnatural if your Lin Wan Kuen is rigidly the same with each shot, but if you’ve adapted your chain punching so each shot has a slightly different angle to the next (to avoid lactic acid build up, and incorporate flanking into your flow) your combination will then naturally come to an end after a few shots, ending with a catching move (Earth energy), and it will feel like a perfectly natural transition when you get used to it, if you’re doing it right. This side-leaning flank-spotting structure that naturally finishes this adapted chain punch combo can be seen at the highest level of professional boxing – Lomachenko does it regularly.

Now let’s look at this combination from the opponent’s perspective. It starts with Bong Wu (earth) into Lap Fak (metal). If we want to counter that Metal, we can do so most dominantly using Fire (which melts metal) or potentially using Wood if we’re strong enough in that energy (big wood blunts small metal). Feminine Fire is generally spreading-style blocks, ie circling the hand parallel to the ground, like a DJ. This could be Jut Sau to counter the Fak Sau (after catching it with Fook or Biu). Masculine Fire is lofty combination punching from all angles – this can follow the Jut Sau and makes for a great response to singular sharp & clinical Fak Sau attempt. However, in our original combination, we did not stop there, we went from Metal to Water, and the Water will dominantly counter the Fire. So assuming we’ve just tried to counter Metal (Fak Sau) with our Fire (Jut Sau and chesty combination punching) and have been met with Water (dragging us down and throwing us around) how do we counter the water? Well, if our Fire is strong enough, that could still win (big fire evaporates small water) but for more dominant effect we could employ Earth, which is fed naturally by fire (ash is a fertiliser). So after a burst of Fire power we catch with an Earth move, like Bong Wu or Lan Jam into Lap Fak. Earth dominantly soaks up Water so it’s a great response to being dragged and thrown – just frame up and keep them back, then roll them off with a Lap Sau and feed into Fak Sau because Earth breeds Metal. But what is the opponent doing in response to our Earth move? Our original combination flowed from Water into Wood – after dragging & throwing we re-bridged with a piercing linear wooden strike. This wooden move dominantly counters Earth (like a wooden stake in the ground). And the Wood feeds into Fire, which dominantly counters the Earth feeding into Metal.