The Centerline Theory is crucial in Wing Chun. It is the concept that all the primary targets, eyes, throat, solar plexus, and groin, are in line down the center of the body. As such, we should maintain guard of the center of our bodies.
When two opponents are Face-to-Face, the line between them is also called the Centerline. Which is to say, each individual has a centerline, but there also exists a centerline between the opponents. Unfortunately, many beginning students focus on this particular Centerline.
When one person creates and angle, gets off the line, the goal should be to keep their own centerlines pointing toward the opponent’s center. This is call the Central Line.
These are important Wing Chun concepts and principals. So what is the Centerline Fallacy?
When beginning students learn about the Centerline and how important it is, they often focus on the less important Face-to-Face Centerline or the Central line, and take the theory to be an immutable rule. They struggle and question some concepts and techniques trying to force them into the Face-to-Face Centerline or the Central Line. They get confused when some technique seems to leave their Centerline exposed.
Many techniques abandon the Face-to-Face Centerline, and even the Central Line. Almost any version of an Arm-bar, standing or otherwise, requires the centerlines of the opponents to be parallel and pointing in the same direction, neither Face-to-Face Centerline nor Central Line. An attempt to try to create a Central Line eliminates the Arm-bar.
There are moves in Siu Nim Tao and all the Wing Chun forms that clearly demonstrate this. The double Sot Sau, with arms spread wide at shoulder height, begs the question about the Face-to-Face Centerline or Central line, or even the individual’s Centerline Guard. Where is the opponent? The Centerline of the practitioner is completely exposed. In reality, if one of the two hands is in Wu Sau or Lop Sau or some similar pinning position, the outstretched Sot Sau more clearly represents an Arm-bar or some other control. As such, the practitioner and opponent’s Centerlines are parallel. There is no Central Line.
The Individual Centerline is still used in these instances. The force employed by the person executing the Arm-bar is through his or her own Centerline. We are strongest when working through our own center.
Many beginning students focus on the person-to-person line, creating a fallacy for them. The primary Centerline Theory is not a person-to-person line. It is about the individual alone.