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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: IF YOU’RE NOT TRAINING REGULARLY IS DOING THE FORM ENOUGH ?

 

The real reason there are so few Masters in the world is less to with the difficulty in becoming a Master and far more to do with the difficulty of keeping up the training.

The drop off rate in the Martial Arts is something all Instructors are aware of, from my perspective there are three significant reasons, there are many more than these for sure but these I think are paramount.

Early on people do not consider the length of the journey, expect too much too quickly or are not willing to put in the work to get measurable results, this group leave within the first 3 to 12 months.

At the other end of the scale are the people that really did give it a go, trained diligently for years and then for some reasons, especially with Wing Chun, they decide that it doesn’t work, it doesn’t do what it says on the box and they change styles.

But for me the most unfortunate of all are the students that cared, worked hard at the training, loved it, made good progress then life got in the way, it can seem like mission impossible to prioritise training over working to pay the mortgage and raising a family, especially if there is travel involved to get to training.

The real reason there are so few Masters in the world is less to with the difficulty in becoming a Master and far more to do with the difficulty of keeping up the training.

It is this middle group that I try to reach out to by asking their friends that still train to get them to this Blog, by sending Emails and even by offering some catch up private lessons at a greatly reduced price, because I know that deep down they still want to be training.

Often when I am in contact with a member of this group of people they will say something along the lines of  “I have not completely abandoned Wing Chun I still do the Form most days” the implication being that somehow this is all it takes.

On the few occasions that I do tempt them to come back it very quickly becomes obvious that what they thought they were maintaining by doing the Form has long since packed its bags and headed for the coast, frequently this is the final nail in the lid of a well forgotten coffin.

So long it’s been good to know you.

Can there even be such a thing as “Maintenance Training?

All Martial Arts are complex systems that require involvement in a variety of different areas to stay current, if we focus too strongly on any single aspect then some other aspect is being ignored and decomposing, this is my main concern about Schools that base their training on doing Forms or “Internal” aspects.

All training even non Martial Art training is task specific, we can only learn what we are doing, we will only ever be able to do what we have learned. 

In fairness to the “Internal Camp” if we spend all of our time just hitting stuff we would experience a similar drop off in all around skill.

There must be balance, but most importantly there must be forward movement, just like a shark if we stop swimming we start sinking, if our training is always doing the same thing every time we train we are not moving forward.

One of the great weakness in Wing Chun training is that far too often there is no connection to context.

What is this thing I am doing really teaching me?

If we are only ever training one or even all of the Forms are we learning Wing Chun or are we simply learning Forms? And of course this applies if we are only training to hit things.

Each of us individually and as a School collectively need to establish the context that our training relates to, if we do not know where we are coming from how can we know where we are, if we do not know where we are how can we tell if we are headed in the right direction.

If you where to ask your Instructor “what is the context that you teach from” how do you think they would answer?

Would their answer be that they are trying to provide the conservative same old, same old or a progressive step forward, would they be passing on someone else’s ideas or their own updated understanding, would they be facilitating maintenance or progress?

Whichever way we look at it can only doing the Form provide either?

If this sounds like you get back to supervised training before it is too late.

If this sounds like someone you know send them a link to this post.

 

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Articles, Weekend Headspin

WEEKEND HEAD SPIN: THROUGH OTHER EYES.

A simple truth all Martial Artists understand is that we can never truly know what the Bad Guy is going to do, that is why all styles talk of being calm, focused and relaxed in the face of danger so that we can respond to whatever happens next, this is how we train, this is the theory.

In theory,     theory and reality are the same.

In reality,      they are not.

If we are in a situation where we know beyond doubt that the brown stuff is about to get airborne we cannot afford to try to live the dream and to stand there circulating our Chi, uninvolved, relaxed waiting to respond to what happens next, we must have a plan, to have a plan we need to train one up and if we have put in the time and effort to train a plan up we must stick to it.

The simplest plan is usually the best, “if they move punch them”, forget Chi Sau, forget Siu Nim Tao, forget everything and throw your lot in with Fist Logic, this is what Wing Chun does, it hits people, and it is only ever about us, and what we do, never about the bad guy or responding to what they do.

The great 1970’s tennis player Jimmy Connors was asked what made him the best returner of service in the game, he said, “as soon as the ball leaves his racquet it is all about me, all about what I do”

To succeed we must live in this space, to live in this space we must train in this space.

There is a well known saying that came from some long ago military, “how you train is how you will fight”, is how we train the way we wish to fight?

Much of Wing Chun training revolves around Chi Sau, there are some very good reasons for this, some very important things to learn inside of Chi Sau, but if we look at the Chi Sau around us, on YouTube, in our Facebook feeds at our own club not many people are trying to find some deeper knowledge most are just trying to play Chi Sau, if they do work at anything it tends to be working at playing better Chi Sau.

They mistake the messenger for the message.

If we did not know what Chi Sau was and we came across two people in a park doing it what would we think?

Are they playing?

Are they dancing?

Are they fighting?

As Wing Chun people it is almost impossible to see anything Wing Chun from a non Wing Chun perspective, even in our minds eye, so let us say we think they are fighting.

Are they using a striking art or are they using a grappling art? 

 

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Articles, Video's, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: BONG SAU – FLAT EARTH THEORY OR JUST LOST IN TRANSLATION.

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The mistake is not in thinking that Bong Sau is a defence the mistake is in thinking that Bong Sau is a particular shape.

Once upon a time the whole population believed that the Earth was flat,  that the moon, the sun and all the stars circled around the Earth.  Everyone knew beyond doubt that when Christopher Columbus sailed away he would fall of the edge of the world and be lost forever.   This was common knowledge to the whole community, history teaches us that holding an alternative view to this common knowledge could have very bad consequences, disagreeing with the majority sent many a heretic to the flames.

There were some seriously egged faces the day Chris came home.

As Westerners so much of what we think we know about Wing Chun depends  just as much on someones translation as their skill or knowledge, I have spoken of this before, Jim Fung {my teacher} spoke excellent english, was well educated, very intelligent and possessed high skill and deep knowledge of Wing Chun if any one could translate this thing we do well it would be him, yet he would say that so much of Wing Chun does not translate into english, sometimes close but never really accurate, no cigar.

In the past few post I have pointed out how certain practices, Y.C.K.Y.Mah and Chi Sau in particular have the tendency to lead us into weird territory, we end up like passengers on an abandoned space ship who do not know what levers to pull or buttons to press, we find the instruction manual but it is in a language we don’t speak, we really have no choice other than guessing and hoping, when it appears to work we think ourselves clever and it becomes the new normal, we rewrite the book.

If we cannot trust the translation we must fall back on Fist Logic, “if I use this can I hit them”?   At the very core of Wing Chun, at the centre of the beating heart of our Fist Logic is simultaneous attack and defence, it is this  practice more than anything else that sets Wing Chun apart from other Martial Arts.

A no brainer that states the obvious is that our simultaneous attack must strike the opponent, this needs to be pointed out, some people appear to forget it.

One of the most popular tools for Wing Chun training is Chi Sau, of the many things that Chi Sau teaches us,  the co-ordination of our Arms is of great interest, if one arm circles forwards the other arm circles back, if one arm circles upwards the other arm circles down, this is repeated through different planes and angles all brought about by shoulder rotation.

The action that most Wing Chun practitioners call Bong Sau rotates forward, up and across, while the other arm rotates back, down and across, in Wing Chun any movement that goes forwards is an attack, thinking that Bong Sau is a genuine, useable defensive structure just because most people believe it, is lining us up with the folks that thought the Earth was flat.

If my defending arm is moving towards my opponent then my attacking arm is moving away from him, this is flying in the face of simultaneous attack and defence, this is not Wing Chun thinking, this is not Fist Logic. It makes little difference what past master told us that the Earth was flat the proof is clear that it is not, when Fist Logic speaks all other voices should be ignored.

Looking back at my own training I cannot actually remember anyone of any significance telling me that Bong Sau was in reality a defence, quite the opposite as it happens.

To the best of my knowledge Sifu Jim Fung only ever held one seminar, sometime in the late 1990’s, in this seminar Sifu Jim clearly stated that Bong Sau was a punch, not that it was shaped like a punch, but that it was plainly and simply a punch.

Something worth pondering on is that It did not change how we all played Chi Sau, but the truth was out there.

Why do we think that Bong Sau is a defence?

In Wing Chun’s genesis fairy tale a nun watches a crane defend itself from a snake by deflecting the attacks with its wings, Bong Sau is the Wing Arm, the mistake is not in thinking that Bong Sau is a defence, the mistake is thinking that Bong Sau is a particular shape, every time the snake attacked the crane flapped its wing and deflected it, Bong Sau is the flapping wing.

When we move our arms in any shape, in any direction we are flapping our wing.  Bong Sau is HOW we move our arm, not where or why, this means that everything is Bong Sau, anything we do is just us flapping our wing, terms like Garn Sau, Fook Sau, Tai Sau, Chum Sau etc, are the intention behind why we flap that wing.

 

Wing Chun’s Fist Logic is pretty much bullet proof, if I cannot hit you immediately then what I am doing is potentially not even Wing Chun.

 

 

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Articles, Food for Thought

WEEKEND HEAD SPIN: DO WE KNOW WHAT WING CHUN IS?

To be expected not everyone agrees with my assessment of Chi Sau, this is not a recent thing, a few years ago a fellow Wing Chun Instructor wanted to prove me wrong in my opinion that Chi Sau is not for fighting and set up a number of scenarios where we would use Chi Sau as it is played, whenever he tried to trap both my hands I just kneed or elbowed or headbutted him to which he complained.

Thats not Wing Chun it’s Muay Thai!  {In many ways his reaction proved my point, what use is Chi Sau if it fails to other styles}?

This is such an odd thing to say for two reasons, number one I only use Wing Chun and number two I have never in my life trained Muay Thai so where did my ideas come from?

This idea that certain things belong to certain styles is so misinformed, there are many untrained street bullies that kick, punch, headbutt, grapple, throw or use sticks.   What style are they doing and where does it come from?

I have met so many people in Wing Chun with this semi – religious football fan mentality that leads to my Dad is better than your Dad lineage disputes, claiming that anything is or is not Wing Chun just prevents people from seeing how clever Wing Chun really is.

A concept can only ever be a concept, and Wing Chun is a conceptual martial art, we can’t have it both ways.

Wing Chun is a body method, we boast to other stylists that it is based on normal human body movement and not 5 animals, if everything is normal movement there is nothing new to learn, Wing Chun teaches how to make normal movement more dynamic and effective, any movement, it does not teach its own set of moves, that is just the Instructor choosing his favourite moves that he trusts.  This is where lineage wars come into existence.

The beauty and marvel of Wing Chun is that we can take any move from any system, apply our specific logic to it and in doing so improve it, in doing so, as long as we stick firmly to our Fist Logic it becomes Wing Chun.

 

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Articles

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: OUT GOES IN, IN GOES OUT AND NOTHING GOES FORWARDS.

ANYWAY BUT FORWARDS.

 

Even though this is part of Chum Kiu Logic it is not until we are introduced to Biu Gee core winding that it all clicks into place

OUT GOES IN, IN GOES OUT AND NOTHING GOES FORWARDS, is a very simple maxim but it takes a lot of study and understanding before it clearly shows itself, it is the defensive aspect of Fist Logic, it is Chum Kiu.

At its core Wing Chun is a defensive martial arts system, even though we adopt simultaneous defence and attack and one of our maxims from the Kuen Kuit is “ they attack first we hit first” counter attacking in any fashion means that we begin in second place on the grid.  Our first thought is to deal with the incoming strike, through training we learn how to do this is in such a way that it allows us to attack as soon as possible, ideally at the same time, later through exploration we discover strategic structural obstructions {basically putting shit in the way} that lead us into direct attack, this is how the dummy explains Fist Logic.

Out goes in, in goes out and nothing goes forwards is an aspect that often gets totally misunderstood, practically reversed by most students playing Chi Sau , most of the moves played out in Chi Sau would be the next move after a failed simultaneous defence and attack, in reality my strike would have made our attacker loose contact with us, our opponent would have freed our hand this is why it is so important not to push our partner in Chi Sau we only accept their force, this is why most Lap Sau, Gwoh Sau and trapping only exist as a reality instead of a concept within Chi Sau.

We should question the value of spending so much time on what are representing second phase moves, follow ups to our initial strike, that could and would only happen if our own counter attack had been countered. Not only are we training for failure but we are now faced by the quite silly idea of countering the counter to our own counter which is nothing but Hong Kong Movie stuff,  remotely possible but highly unlikely considering simultaneous attack and defence.

Simultaneous attack and defence can only be achieved if my defending side circles away from my opponent as my attacking side circles into them, this is why Bong Sau can never be a defensive option.

In training we often refer to our arm shapes as circles, to strike unhindered one of the antagonists needs to be on the inside of the circle so the main purpose of Chi Sau is to understand the concept of how to control and change orientation,  if we find our partner inside our circle then we need to roll him to the outside, essentially this is Tarn Sau Chit Sau,  this is IN GOES OUT, our partner is on the inside where he can easily attack so we roll him to the outside, in reality this would be done before contact by aligning our interception in relation to our opponents line of force.

If we have intercepted an incoming straight strike our opponent is still inside our circle and in a position to strike then we need to roll into the inner gate putting him beneath and outside of our circle, the inner gate, essentially something like Biu Sau  Huen Sau, or Biu Sau → Chum Sau this is OUT GOES IN we are on the outside so we roll into the inside.

These ideas get confused in Chi Sau because we roll so large, all of these actions will take place at the point of contact and use minimal movement, just enough for my strike to enter, if done with a slight rotation of the body, Chum Kiu, then their is little need for my hand to move from its general location, these actions will play out at around shoulder height. Smaller moves allows me to create a timing advantage, more movement requires more time.

In Wing Chun we always try to avoid force on force, in many ways this is mission impossible because any type of contact creates its own opposing force, but we keep it to a minimum by not only resisting the urge to go forwards into the incoming strike {as Bong Sau always does because no matter what direction we may think we are going the elbow advances it forwards}, but also turning our body in the same direction as the incoming force, interceptions should be at 90 degrees or more to the angle of the incoming force, if possible sharing the same vector and changing its direction which is in many ways moving back towards ourselves, this is NOTHING GOES FORWARDS.

 

 

Even though this is part of Chum Kiu Logic it is not until we are introduced to Biu Gee core winding that it all clicks into place, through Biu Gee we understand that the reversing right side powers the advancing left side and vice versa.

 

 

 

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