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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY. DO ONLY WHAT SHOULD BE DONE.

“When you paint Spring, do not paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots, but just paint Spring. To paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots is to paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots – it is not yet painting Spring.”

Dōgen Zenji. b.1200 – d.1253

To poorly paraphrase Dōgen’s statement, when practising  Wing Chun do not spend time or effort on Siu Lim Tao, Chum Kiu or Biu Gee because these are just Siu Lim Tao, Chum Kiu or Biu Gee, try to spend time on the honesty of the practice, on what Wing Chun is.

Wing Chun is not what we do.  It is why we do it.  We are not here to learn Wing Chun but rather to discover the truth of it.

Our own truth.

Phrases like the honesty of the practice require us to look at the ontological aspects of all Martial Arts, it is well documented that both Shaolin Monks and Samurai Warriors, the two great influences on modern martial arts, studied the metaphysics of awareness and consciousness, albeit for very different reasons.

To get past just playing at Wing Chun and reap the benefits that await us we should follow their lead.

The major difference between the Shaolin Monks and the Samurai Warriors was the relative positioning of meditation and the totally physical fighting practice in their respective disciplines, the Monks where on a spiritual journey their main goal was meditation and so they used the physical aspects of Shaolin Kung Fu to make them fitter and healthier to help them meditate for longer without becoming fatigued and falling asleep, whereas the Samurai where on a Martial journey whose main goal was fighting, they used the metaphysical aspects of meditation to make them calmer and more focused and to not worry about possible outcomes of a battle, such as life and death.

Even though it is a generalisation any Martial Art that has found its way to the wider world via the Shaolin tradition is primarily a vehicle for self improvement whereas any Martial Art that has found its way to the wider world via the Samurai tradition is primarily about combat. They can of course operate in the opposite sphere but this was not, is not their reason for being.

In many ways Wing Chun does not fit easily into either camp, it is a bit of a paradox, there is no Metaphysical aspect connected to the style, in fact it is usually said that Wing Chun deliberately avoids this aspect in order to be a pragmatic fighting style, however there is also no equivalent in Wing Chun to Kumite and no recognised treatise on fighting strategy.

It floats in the Void.

It is up to ourselves to choose, and we must choose, self improvement or combat?

Both are valid, however it should be self evident that we learn very little of either if we blindly stay where the great majority of Wing Chun training resides.  In the Void.

If we do it for self improvement we should not pretend it is for combat and for exactly the same reason if we do it for combat we should not pretend it is for self improvement, only once we know what we are about and why we are doing it can we “do only what needs to be done” and find our way to the honesty of the practice and discover the truth of Wing Chun.

Our own truth.

Other people’s truths become nothing more than chains.

 

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Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY. BROKEN POSITIONS

FIGHTS HAPPEN AT HANDSHAKE DISTANCE

FIGHTING RANGE

In the last post I mentioned that we aim to be in the right place at the right time. easier said than done because as a counter attacking martial art the first choice of where to be will never be ours, we will be under pressure, more than likely already in physical contact in a place of the Bad Guy’s choosing, so how do we turn it around and put ourselves in a position of dominance?

For me this is the main practical use of Chum Kiu, and of course what we should be exploring through the practice of the Form itself.

Mainly due to this Blog I get quite a few visitors that come to work just on Chum Kiu, from the beginning I ask them “why do we do Chum Kiu”? The answer are usually somewhere between”For movement {it is our footwork} or to create power”.  As I have said elsewhere Chum Kiu is not about moving, it is about stopping, or to be more precise re-stabalising, what we are exploring through Chum Kiu is where do we shift our weight to when we shift our weight?

This is an aspect of Chum Kiu that is difficult to explain in writing, it is even difficult to demonstrate on video because it really needs to be felt.

And of course why do we do that in the first place?

Firstly lets never forget that the Wing Chun fighting range is close range, closer than our Chi Sau position, Handshake distance, less than one arms length, the space that is taken up when the Bad Guy grabs us by the throat, at this range Stability is more important than Mobility, but do not doubt that we will be moving, if for no other reason than as a result of our nervous system responding to the incoming attack. If we are lucky we will be aware of the attack and in some control of our movements, if we are shifting or pivoting it is an attempt to shift or pivot without compromising our Stability, the smaller the move the better, the less we are destabilised the more chance we have of gaining the upper hand, often regaining our good upright posture from a broken position is all that is really needed.

If we have been surprised and experienced a Spinal Reflex Action then our first move is to stop moving, or rather regain stability. If you think back to the last post our attackers forward pressure on us is returned to him by his own actions as we regain stability.

Let’s not slip into Wing Chun la la land here, unless we are being attacked by a complete dummy our position will be broken.

Something I have observed over many years of teaching is that when students engage in Chum Kiu analysis they begin in a perfect position and then pivot or shift, this is of course the correct way to start as it allows us explore the IDEA from an easy position, however once we are familiar with this way we really do need to explore doing the postures from a broken position, after all it is not how we start or how we move that is the real learning objective, it is how do we finish?

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FIGHTING RANGE from Derek Evans on Vimeo.

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In life the journey may be important but in a fight there is only the destination, everything else is just transport.

It does not matter which particular posture we choose to work this with, in time they are all the same, a good place to start is the Lan Sau.

Once we learn how to regain our good position we simply hit whatever is in range, this in turn will move the opponent and allow us to engage from the position we train in, in fact we will more than likely need to chase him down or pull him back to keep him in the Kill Zone.

The Wing Chun fighting range is anywhere we can hit the Guy, from a one inch punch to a fully extended Biu Gee finger jab.  Let the Bad Guy be the architect of his own destruction, let him come unto us.  This after all is the Wing Chun way.

 

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W.C.W. CONSTANT FORWARD PRESSURE.

Prevention is also Constant Forward Pressure.
Prevention is also Constant Forward Pressure.

Constant Forward Pressure is often mentioned in Wing Chun, it is espoused as one of the pillars of Wing Chun application, the question that is never clearly answered is wether or not it is real or imagined, is it “Thinking / Internal” or is it “Physical / External”?

In the lineage that I am part of there tends to be a reluctance to talk about overt violence, especially the mental and emotional aspects of being involved in a genuinely violent situation, as a result the only  involvement in the actual, tactile, physical aspect of violence, or to be more precise the pretend physical aspect of violence, is what we engage in through our training.   Even during Bil Gee training, which is supposed to contain our emergency techniques there is sparse mention to how we end up needing our emergency techniques in the first place, there is a lot more time and effort placed on what to do, and none on what not to do, so to avoid disaster.    I am of the opinion that this is where the whole idea of Constant Forward Pressure goes astray.

If there is an Instructor that is respected for their views on “Real Fighting” it is usually about being involved in situations that went well and ended quickly, never about being involved in situations that went bad. I have been in situations that went bad, a few went very bad and these events wiped out everything I thought I knew about fighting in an instant, some were in the ring, some on the matt and some in the street, and what I learned from these experiences is that when it starts going south there is no amount and no level of physical training that can get it back on track.   If we think on this it is the main reason Wing Chun adopts continuous punching.

I have attended workshops by some very talented masters that were no more than a display of superior application of general training, with little, usually no indication of how to engineer the mentality, calmness and position to bring it about.

The Elephant in the room is that if we are using our Wing Chun training it is all on and someone is trying to do us harm, no one wants to address this. Looking upon Constant Forward Pressure as a physical thing that we create as a default aspect of our style, is about pretending to be in control, subconsciously we avoid the fact that we are the subject of an attack that places us at a disadvantage, deny that we would be starting off in second place; and we will always be starting off in second place unless we begin the fight.  As a counter attacking style Wing Chun never begins the fight. As an individual you can choose to begin the fight but then you are stepping away from Wing Chun thinking.

Newtons third law states that “When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body”.

It makes zero difference who is pressing whom, the result is forward pressure from both parties, in fact if we attempt to maintain Constant Forward Pressure on our opponent physically all we really achieve is aiding our opponent to keep Constant Forward Pressure on ourselves.

Constant Forward Pressure is a concept, more importantly it is a genuine “Fighting Concept” and not one of the usual training concepts,  how we employ it is more to do with our current level of understanding of Wing Chun and our personal experience of violence than our certified level in Wing Chun training.

In any fight what matters most is being in the right place at the right time so we can make the best response to the attackers action, Chi Sau introduces this, the Mok Jan Jong enhances it, and the weapons especially the Knives expand it, Constant Forward Pressure is not a direction in space, it is a direction in time, it is always seeking to be in the perfect position to utilise our knowledge, to achieve this we must have the ability to think forwards, this obviously places immense pressure on the opponent, pressure on his strategy often making him act too quickly, pressure on his thinking that leads to bad decisions, and pressure on his emotions that can cast doubt and create panic ultimately leading to an opportunity to bring him undone.

Understanding the effect different strategies have on an opponent is essential, sadly one can only get this knowledge through experience, it is the old cliche´, “Making good decisions come from experience, experience comes from making bad decisions”  for instance punching a very large, heavy opponent in the chest will have little effect and create no pressure at all, however kick this same guy in the knee, it does not even need to be a hard kick just a notification of the intention to attack his weakness and everything changes for him.

Constant Forward Pressure is all about how we think, about keeping our options open, keeping our game plan active and looking for ways to take it to our attacker and not what we do physically.

As I have said many times in this blog, “if we are not training our Wing Chun to learn how to deal with trouble, we should not expect it to help us if we get in trouble”.

Constant Forward Pressure is a mental approach to engaging in physical contact and not physical contact itself.

To paraphrase Moshe Feldenkrais “I am not training to get a powerful Body, I am training to get a powerful Mind”.

 

What I’m after isn’t flexible bodies, but flexible brains.  –Moshe Feldenkrais

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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY. WING CHUN SPRINGY FORCE

Springy Force, sometimes referred to as Forward Force is one of the conceptual aspects of Wing Chun that means different, often very different things to different Instructors, I am not talking about Constant Forward Pressure, I see Springy Force and Constant Forward Pressure as two separate and almost unrelated IDEA’s, it is at times like this that the inherent weakness of a “Conceptual Martial Art” hits us smack in the face.

This is the stuff that fuels inter school arguments and turns intelligent students into, well, lets call them myopic partisans.

Wing Chun’s original traditions are oral, so for me I tend to start with the words used, and the pictures that those words evoke.

What are the qualities of a spring?

  1. A spring compresses { or stretches} under force.
  2. A spring decompresses { or contracts} as the force weakens and returns to its natural state.

This is a completely passive action, if no force is applied it is impossible to tell a spring apart from a helical shaped steel statue.

The compression / decompression that the spring undergoes is the result of an outside influence, and not a reaction brought about by conscious choice or even training.

“Stick with what arrives, follow with what departs”.

We do not bring Springy Force into existence, but obviously we lay down the conditions for it to spontaneously appear.

We build the spring.

One thing that a spring is not is resistant to force, it is not rigid or tense, so an important component of the spring is a lack of tension, the ability to accept the incoming force and allow it to pass through to the ground, in certain Constructional and Mechanical Engineering examples springs are used as supports that are only expected to carry weight, to compensate for vibration and only ever compress, never push back.

This is a very good approximation of Wing Chun Springy Force.

Another characteristic of a spring is that as the force is decreased the spring decompresses, eventually returning to its uncompressed state, a spring can never get any bigger than its natural size, Springy Force does not and never can expand.

There are schools that teach Springy Force as an active, physical pressing  thinking that Springy Force will automatically turn your defence into an attack by virtue of your decompression becoming a strike.

Springy Force does not and never can expand, it goes against the laws that rule our universe, expansion is pushing, pushing is not good Wing Chun.

HOW DO WE BUILD THE SPRING?

This is a surprisingly tricky thing to come to terms with both physically and mentally, mainly due to the fact that we must integrate three distinctly individual aspects of  our Wing Chun training, S.L.T. Chi Sau and Intention.

There is a potential weakness in the way a lot of schools analyse the S.L.T. in that the student expands his Arms structure against incoming force, this can easily lead the student to think that Springy Force actively presses outwards, if you are training with a highly knowledgable Instructor this is  not such a problem as they will clearly explain why you are doing it backwards, but at this stage most people are taught by relatively Junior Instructors and receive mixed messages.

Chi Sau is a method to “stick with what arrives”, to roll the incoming force down the helix and into the ground, what is difficult to grasp early on is that this is the same mechanism that once the force weakens allows the force to return up the helix, “follow with what departs”, there is no need for anything to change, it is completely passive.

If there is an “active ingredient’ then it is Intention, but it is the Intention of S.L.T. the blueprint that we develop and not the Intention to action.

Through S.L.T. training we discover where our arms belong, where they operate efficiently, it is the Intention of having our Arms in that place, or more accurately one of the many places that we discover through Chi Sau, not pushing or trying to force them there, just the knowledge that that is where they need to be that creates Springy Force.

Springy Force comes into existence through the laws of physics and not through Wing Chun training, our training really only teaches us how to not inhibit it.

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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: THE ATTRIBUTES OF WING CHUN’S TRINITY.

TARN ; FOOK ; BONG

A standard training model in Wing Chun is to study the bio-mechanics of all the Forms, especially the first Form the S.L.T.  As a result training tends to become full of statements like “Rise up, sink down, focus forward and relax” as important as these things are they have the potential to lead people away from the true purpose of  Wing Chun, which is of course fighting.

In the lineage that I am from there are almost 500  moves in the 6 combined Forms, it is inevitable that people will get lost and start thinking that at least some of these moves are important, that these moves are a representation of what Wing Chun is, start believing that to be successful in a fight you must relax, or whatever buzzword you are connected to when in truth most people who survive violent street encounters do not recall what they did that was so successful, usually it was a lucky punch that saved the day.

As Arnold Palmer once noted when a spectator called one of his shots lucky  “it sure was, and the harder I train the luckier I get” so training is important if we ever hope to get lucky.

What should we be training?

What should we look at taking away from that training?

What are all the Forms and all the buzzwords teaching us to understand?

Learning a Form or even all the Forms will only teach us how to do a Form, Chi Sau will only teach us how to do Chi Sau and relaxing will only ever help us to relax.  People will of course argue with this but all Human training is task specific, this is mostly due to the way that our brain stores information and has little to do with the methods of past Masters.

What is our training trying to teach us?

Keeping it simple, and Wing Chun always tries to keep things simple, it is teaching us how to absorb force and how to deliver force, it is teaching us how to hit another person and how to avoid being hit by another person.

That’s it.

Every move in every Form can be used for defensive purposes or attacking purposes, so it cannot be the move itself that is important.

If we think about it we can parry with a punch, we can strike with a Fook Sau, studying punches and Fook Saus, as punches and Fook Saus in their own right is pointless.

We should study what it is they are trying to achieve, once we understand this we can do it with any shape, any movement, any name.

We are of course talking about Intention, but Intention is a wide subject so in this instance I prefer to call it the “Inherent Attribute”, or even easier just the  Attribute of the move.

Ip Man stated that there are 3 Hands {Sau’s} in Wing Chun, Tarn Sau, Fook Sau and Bong Sau, everything else stems from them, this is why the first Form is at the core of Wing Chun, it introduces the Trinity for our examination.

It is the Attributes of this Trinity that everything is built upon, not the shape or where it is situated in the Form.

The Attribute of  Tarn Sau is redirection, although we have a shape that we call Tarn Sau we could redirect incoming force with any shape, hence Dai Sau and Bill Sau appearing as variations of the Tarn Sau shape, in fact a Fook Sau latch operates as a redirection and when doing so could be seen as working as a Tarn Sau. The Attribute of Redirection.

The Attribute of Fook Sau is control, for me the Chi Sau aspect of
Fook Sau is about controlling my own space behind my bridge and not an attempt to exert control on the opponent, however if wanted to I could control my opponent by pressing with a Pak Sau or Chum Sau even folding the elbow over but either way Fook Sau is about control, it matters not what I am using if I am controlling my space or controlling my opponents Arms with any shape. I am involved in the Attribute of Fook Sau. The Attribute of Control.

The Attribute of Bong Sau is movement, Bong Sau is the Wing Arm, whenever or wherever we move our Arm we are flapping our Wing, all our Arm movements are us flapping our Wing.  If we follow this rationale then every time we move our Arm anywhere we are performing Bong Sau, if we are performing the movement we normally refer  to as Tarn Sau I am flapping my Wing with the Tarn Sau attribute, when performing what we normally refer to as Fook Sau I am flapping my Wing with the Fook Sau attribute, and when I strike I simply put a hand weapon such as a Fist, Knife Hand or Palm on the end of my Wing.     Bong Sau,The Attribute of Movement.

So much less to learn. So simple.

From this perspective Chi Sau becomes almost ethereal, all I do is control my own space behind my bridge, it is just Fook Sau, yet my partner is constantly redirected, he gets only Tarn Sau.  No different input is needed from me, just like Magic.

This approach to training simplifies all applications, I either redirect or control, and of course strike.

The latter Forms teach us new ways to use our whole body, a Butterfly Knife or a Pole to redirect or control.

First an foremost of the Wing Chun Principles is Simplicity.

 

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