When I talk of Internal or External it is not in the usual Kung Fu / Chi Kung way, I am simply using the words to describe the difference between what we think and feel, Internal.  And the motor mechanics of our Body, External.  We need a different approach, different diagnostics when we are dealing with the Driver than we do when we are dealing with the Bus.

On a physical level Chum Kiu is a major departure from S.L.T. Chum Kiu translates to something along the lines of “Seeking the Bridge”, traditionally the bridge in question is the foreArm, Chum Kiu is about CONTACT. Whereas S.L.T. is a method to build the “Body Being”, Chum Kiu is about using the “Body Being”, and the way we use it is by supporting the arms with the body.

Q. How do we support the Arms with the Body?

As simplistic as it sounds we allow our Arms to be pushed into our Body so that it has no choice but to act as a support, to learn how to support our Arms with our Body we need there to be some force applied to our Arms, our first experience of this is of course Chi Sau, Chi Sau from the point of Chum Kiu is about finding how to maintain your Body Being in an antagonistic environment, the collective Arm positions and movements in Chum Kiu are just a summation of possibilities in Chi Sau, or if you prefer Chi Sau is a dynamic exploration of Chum Kiu.

Body movement is introduced in Chum Kiu, in my experience most students get this almost backwards, they misunderstand the purpose of the movement, the body movement in Chum Kiu is not about creating or increasing power, yes it does increase power but this is not its purpose it just a wonderful, almost accidental consequence that benefits us and disadvantages our opponent, do not loose sight of the fact that Chum Kiu is about how we deal with the moment of contact, you cannot accept force by attacking it, we either move to intercept or we move to avoid, in either case it is because we are being attacked, it is a response to an action, it is defensive.

We do not move in towards our opponent, either by pivoting or shifting, apart from anything else there is absolutely no need, we are being attacked, the opponent is stepping in towards us, it is difficult to see why moving toward your opponent is so wrong through the course of normal training as no one ever truly attacks us, this can take a long time to reconcile yourself with, the sooner you start the sooner you will get there.

The purpose of Chum Kiu movement is two fold and as such we benefit from approaching them separately, of course in application it will all work as one, firstly we use our body mass to disturb and unbalance our opponents body mass and secondly we move our own body in such a way as to get off line of our opponents attack, to move the target to a place that is far more difficult to hit.

The biggest pitfall to watch out for and try to avoid is pushing.

A few years before my Sifu passed away he asked me to be a mentor to a group of junior Instructors, to help them understand Chum Kiu, the first problem I encountered was as a result of how my Sifu’s School engaged in Sil Lim Tao analysis, a partner would offer resistance and the Student would use a S.L.T. movement to move the resisting partner, this is pretty much the direct opposite of what we wish to achieve with Chum Kiu, it is not possible to support the Arm with the Body if you are using the Arm to do the work.

Common issues I found where that some pushed with their Arms as they moved their body mass, others managed to stop pushing with their Arms but just replaced it by pushing with their Legs or Hips, which is still pushing by the way, while others completely lost the connection to their S.L.T. once they were asked to think differently

If you have a decent understanding of the Body alignment from the first Form once the Arms are pushed into the Body the incoming force will naturally be guided down the Spine and into the Centre of Gravity, this can of course only happen if there is no physical tension, if your Body alignment is in any way incorrect your C .of G. will be compromised and you will be moved, if your alignment is correct you will be as solid as a rock with your partners weight now resting in and being controlled by your  Centre. From this position when you move your Centre of Gravity, literally anywhere, it will take your partner along for the ride, there is never any need to actively try to move or in any way affect your partner, he moves because he is holding onto something that is moving away from him, either by shifting on a different line or rotating out of the way.

When a partner applies force to your Arm the hardest thing is to not attempt to prevent it from having an effect on you, resistance is not what we are looking for, instead we look to join with his force, if needed we can manipulate our own Arm to make sure that our partners force is entering our Frame and settling in our Centre.

This of course is Chi Sau, Chi Sau is Chum Kiu.

In Chum Kiu we use our Bridge to make contact with our opponents Bridge, initially the Bridges will be foreArm to foreArm { Chi Sau is two people rolling their Bridges together} but it could be anything to anything,  our Bridge meeting his Bridge, not our Bridge crashing through his Bridge or somehow trying to get at his body. We meet his Bridge by moving with either a pivot or a shift, it is not achieved by moving the Arm towards the Bridge, it is not possible for our partner to push our Arm back into us if we are moving it out towards him, in very much a leaf out of our Chi Sau book we want to be rotating our Arm slightly throughout contact, in early training this is best approached from a situation where both your self and your partner pose a guard and then you simply make a pivot or a shift to contact the Bridges initiating gentle Chi Sau upon contact.

Chum Kiu also introduces multi vector movement, M.V.M. is simply movement from more than one direction, as in the idea above with the guard my Arm is rotating downwards, vertically, while my waist could be rotating or shifting to the left, horizontally. M.V.M. is a wide subject that I will cover separately later.

The set shapes in the form allow us to observe this type of contact from many different angles and directions, none of which need to be moving at my partner, I emphasise “need to be moving at my partner”, I could of course choose to move at my partner if I was attacking, in general Wing Chun does not attack, everything we do is in response to someone else attacking us, to fully understand Chum Kiu you must accept this point.

Chum Kiu is performed with both Arms at the same time, this is simply a way to maximise our training time by doing two actions at once, the down side to this is that it is difficult to focus on what you are doing, it is beneficial to play the Form as a single arm exercise, firstly with the right Arm movement and then the left Arm movement, there is a significant difference to how your body micro manages itself when you do this.


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Pivoting off line in Chum Kiu.
Pivoting off-line in Chum Kiu.


When I talk of Internal or External it is not in the usual Kung Fu / Chi Kung way, I am simply using the words to describe the difference between what we think and feel, Internal. And the motor mechanics of our Body, External, we need a different approach, different diagnostics when we are dealing with the Driver than we do when we are dealing with the Bus.

Bring everything you learned in the first Form onwards to the second Form

Only you will know how you interact with yourself during the first Form, there is no correct way, it is always personal, but you absolutely must do the second Form from this perspective, it is not just about attitude, it also Body awareness, how it feels, where you reside in it, in this way when you make changes, and Chum Kiu will bring about quite a few changes, your whole being will change, and not just the Chum Kiu Form.

From the Internal, thinking point of view the Chum Kiu is an extension of the Sil Lim Tao, it even opens up in he same way, and as such time should firstly be spent on setting up our “Body Being”,   “HEAD UP, BODY DOWN”.

It is easy to get confused and think that there is a great deal more going on in the Chum Kiu Form than in the S.L.T. Form but of course, at least Internally, this is not the case, it is in fact done in exactly the same way for exactly the same reasons. We are just introducing additional movement to challenge our ability at maintaining the “Body Being”,

The only additional or new movement we introduce is from the waist, it is understandable that students think that we are also introducing movement from the legs, but on close inspection it is clear that the legs are being moved by the waist, Chum Kiu is about moving the waist without destroying whatever we have learned through Sil Lim Tao.

The shape of our torso in S.L.T. remains unchanged in the C.K. the shoulders sit naturally, quietly above the hips, the head, due to the inflated spine, sits naturally and quietly above the pelvis, no matter what we do with our waist, our torso is totally engaged in the “Body Being” of S.L.T.  “HEAD UP, BODY DOWN”.

When the waist is moved only the waist is moved, our head, shoulders, hips and navel are not engaged, they stay exactly where they naturally reside; just like Yum Cha Dishes on a “Lazy Susan” all the dishes stay in the same position in relation to each other, even though they move through space, unless of course you spin it too quickly, one thing that you will soon discover is that this is equally a problem in Chum Kiu.

If our pelvis is a ball then the waist is the equator of that ball, keeping this in mind I talk about moving the waist to bring about movement as opposed to moving the hips, apart from giving us a far larger and easier to feel engine to move our body, it enables us to use the hips as a point of reference for our shape, they are no longer something that we are directly trying to control they move where our waist moves because our waist moves as a result it is easy to see that the hips and the shoulders do not move at all but just go along for the ride.

Another, and quite separate part of Chum Kiu is to observe and understand how our Centre of Gravity is moved by the actions we create. An inherent part of Wing Chun “Body Being” that we establish in the S.L.T. is to maintain a straight spine and to keep our weight situated in our pelvis, Head Up. Body Down  {maintaining the relationship between the hip and the shoulder is by far the easiest way to do this the hip – shoulder line is parallel to the spine, if one is maintained by default so is the other, having the idea, via the practice of ‘Overcoat Body”, that my shoulder is connected with my hip encourages the centre of gravity to sink into my pelvis}.

Despite Wing Chun centreline theory human beings are not built around a centric axis, when we feel that this is the case it is because our weight is evenly distributed between the two excentric axes that are our legs, when we pivot it is only these two axes that are available to pivot on, this is biology and not Wing Chun, if we maintain a straight spine as we turn our waist, if we avoid creating tension and destroying the “Body Being” our centre of gravity moves to settle over one of the supporting legs. to a very large extent we are now in situation similar to a one legged S.L.T.

Refer to the picture above to get a clearer idea of what I am saying.

Just like the S.L.T. if we are working on the Internal aspect, the thinking and feeling, there is no reason to be concerned about what the body is actually doing, Heads and Tails are after all part of the whole but not the same.







There is more to a Bus Journey than a Driver and a Bus, there needs to be interaction, our Ego makes us think that we bring about that interaction, we think the act of driving is us creating the interaction, but Driving is an inherent part of being a Driver, just as much as breathing or eating.  Interaction is not done, it just happens.

The magic in all of this is that the Bus does not know the Driver exists, and the Driver does not realise that he is part of the Bus.

When we think of Layers we tend to envision them as physical things like layers of an Onion, without realising it we think we have some control over them, that we can separate them manually, move from one to another simply by choosing to, this is rarely the case, we would do better to see Layers as something like a state change or dimension shift, something that happens around us, something we have little control over like the dawning of a new day, one moment it is pitch black, then a sliver of light breaks in and then just like magic it is all daylight.

When we first do the Form we place our awareness into a single Arm and we keep it there as we make the different movements, for a long time that’s all there is, an Arm moving somewhere, we become amazed, and slightly obsessed.  As we become familiar and comfortable with this way of being we start to sense that there is something else here, without noticing the transition our awareness is now consumed by the rotation of the Shoulder, the hinging of the Elbow, the flexing of the Wrist and the extension of the Fingers, in everything we do this is the new reality of moving, and again we become amazed, and slightly obsessed.

With repetition comes familiarity, increased knowledge begins another transition, now our awareness is consumed by the Bridge alone {the lower Arm from the Elbow to the Finger tips}, externally the moves are the same, everything that was happening before is still happening, including the amazement and obsession.

Time, repetition, familiarity, transition, the pattern repeats but now there is just one tiny spot on the Bridge, it could be anywhere, a Finger Tip, an Elbow, a Wrist, as if someone had just marked us with a Felt Tipped Board Marker, a little Green Dot. Every move every action is just this little Green Dot going about its business, following our intention. Time, repetition, familiarity, transition, we realise that our whole Body is made up of millions of little Green Dots, connected, unified, when one Green Dot moves they all move, so we only ever need to move one Green Dot. Any one we choose, it could be on our wrist if we are thinking Sil Lim Tao, on our Waist if we are thinking Chum Kiu, on a Shoulder if we are thinking Bil Gee, it is just a thought, just an IDEA.

When any single part of us moves all of us moves.

There is a perception that deeper levels or layers bring greater more complex IDEAS, this is as far from the truth as we can get, just like an Onion every layer underneath is smaller, simpler and closer to the core.

The easiest place to experience these transitions, these layers, these dimension shifts or state changes is of the course the First Form, not because it is any way superior to the other Forms but because there is a lot less going on, this is why so many people spend so much time on this Form, but there is a danger here, if we cannot, or do not make the connections between all the Forms, if we cannot or do not create one unified method, one unified IDEA we may end up with a deep understanding of Sil Lim Tao but a shallow understanding of Chum Kiu and Bill Gee, when we consider that in application we only ever use Chum Kiu and Bil Gee this could be a problem.

There is no special trick or skill to unifying the Forms, we just spend an equal amount of time on each one, if we can find one move, one feeling, that is exactly the same in all the Forms and work outwards from that point, interaction will just happen, the Driver takes his seat, the Bus kicks into life and the Journey begins.

The journey from not knowing to knowing is very much like traveling along a dark road, when knowledge arrives it does not come as a bolt of lightning that brings instant illumination and clarity, it is much more like falling into an information filled hole in the road that was always there, we just could not see it in the dark.

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When I talk of Internal or External it is not in the usual Kung Fu / Chi Kung way, I am simply using the words to describe the difference between what we think and feel, Internal. And the motor mechanics of our Body, External. We require a different approach, different diagnostics when we are dealing with the Driver than we do when we are dealing with the Bus.

Due to the fact this it does take a certain length of time before we develop and become aware of our “Body Being” it is necessary to manufacture a set of movements to help us achieve it. In time, when “Body Being” and “Body Awareness” has been achieved we realise that the shapes of the Form are the natural result of moving our wrist from point A to point B in a straight line without creating tension, all of the movements, even Bong Sau are created by avoiding tension, at this point the Internal aspect and External aspect fuse into one IDEA, but this can take many years so as Instructors we teach our students an approximation of what our own body does when it avoids tension and maintains “Body Being”, it took me over 15 years to fully understand this, hopefully it will take you less.

Until everything clicks the External mechanical aspects of the S.L.T. Form needs to be approached as a separate area of study to the Internal psychological aspect, as if they are not really two parts of the same whole,  more like two different creatures that share a symbiotic relationship that  exist in totally different environments and have a completely different diet.

Mechanically the Arms are the only thing we are interested in, how they move, where they move, and the relationship to the torso, the shapes require accuracy, correctness and above all consistency, as Instructors it is our job to point out any errors in the production of the movement to the Student, this naturally creates Mental Tension, and a by-product of Mental Tension is Physical Tension.  The very act of trying to do the External aspect of the Form works against everything we are trying to achieve in the Internal aspect of the Form.

It works against the dance, and there is only the dance.

This is not the problem it may at first appear to be, they only work against each other if we try to force them to co-operate, if we treat them as individual ideas they can grow separately and surprisingly quickly, at the end of the day it is the fruit we are after and not the plant.

The first challenge is to be able to feel our Arms in a completely tangible and  tactile manner, zero imagination, 100% feeling, feel where they are in space, feel how they fit in our body, feel how they move, feel the weight of them, take into account the Joints and the hierarchy of their movements.

What happens when our Arm extends? What moves first? What moves second? What creates tension? What releases tension? This is what we are looking for, an understanding of how our Arm works.

There are many different versions of the Sil Lim Tao Form, most lineages have a different shape to a certain extent, this is fine because the shape itself is not that important, what is important is that we are accurate, deliberate and consistent {the Sil Lim Tao Form is the blueprint, the frame of reference that all our early training will be based upon} by accurate I mean that we need to be spot on, deliberate means thinking of nothing but that move and how it is unfolding, and by consistent I mean hitting the Bullseye every time.

Be totally involved in the physicality of what you are doing, no zoning out in dreams of ascending power, if the Mother ship was ever coming, it is well lost by now.

All of our arm movements begin with the shoulder rotating, this rotation must be constantly active throughout the whole movement, and our awareness needs to be right there in the shoulder joint, as our elbow begins to flex we must not lose the awareness of our shoulder rotating even as we become aware of our elbow’s hinging, both working along side each other, this is two separate moves and not one combination, if we are doing something like Tarn Sau we then cause a rotation of the foreArm by manipulating our Ulna and Radius bones, all the time still being aware of our shoulder rotation and our elbow hinge, then we open the wrist to flatten the hand, everything else is still in motion and still inside our active, deliberate conscious awareness,  lastly extend the Fingers so that our whole arm feels alive and connected, in the split second before the completion of the move our shoulder, our elbow, our ulna and radius, our wrist and all of our finger joints are moving together, opening in unison.

The creation of this movement and the ability to be aware of each individual action of all of the joints is no easy task, performing it equally with both arms is to an extent double the trouble. Add to this the importance of producing this movement in EXACTLY the same way and to EXACTLY the same place every time we perform it we get some idea of the complexity of this seemingly simple movement.

The tempo that the Sil Lim Tao is performed is frequently misunderstood, we are not trying to do the Form slowly, we are tying to do it smoothly without disturbing our Body Being or Body Awareness, we are trying to do it in an easy manner that does not create tension anywhere in the body, we do not try to coerce the body to operate at a tempo that is forced to move slowly, it needs to be natural, easy, without tension.

I am not a fan of using the word relax, to most natural English speakers it has too many meanings that are of no benefit in the Martial Arts, even though I am talking about the same thing I prefer to replace Relax with the terms like Be Without Tension,  Release Tension, it is more specific and instantly gets people engaged with a vital component in our set up. My own observations of even some quite senior students is that when they are asked to relax they just  turn everything off, instead of finding and removing tension. Having the Body turned off is of no use and it is not what I think we are after, what we want is to be able to drop the body into a neutral state, similar to how we slip the clutch at traffic lights remaining alert and ready to move when the light changes.

Every action is task specific, it is just not beneficial to do Tarn Sau and think of anything else except Tarn Sau, having any other thoughts, such as circulating energy or projecting focus is just splitting your attention {we can of course choose to perform this shape from the perspective of circulating energy or projecting focus but we are now involved in something else and no longer involved in Tarn Sau, as my Sifu would say “putting legs and wings on a snake may give you a dragon, but you no longer have a snake}, to improve we stay seriously, deliberately involved in the action we are performing and only the action we are performing, this is why I teach my guys to approach the Form from the two different directions of Psychology and Engineering, it is simpler and more effective.

Each move in the Sil Lim Tao is a stand alone experiment in movement and self control, as such there is no particular benefit in doing the whole Form in one go, unless you are a one in a billion type of person you will not be able to remain fully aware of all the complex actions throughout the whole Form, and any part of the Form done less than perfectly is done incorrectly so why waste your time?

All of our arm movements are produced from the same blueprint, all of the moves are to a very large extent the same move, the description of the Tarn Sau movement could just as well be Bong Sau or Garn Sau, instead of spending 10 minutes in random arm waving spend that time in total immersion of just one move, choose a different move everyday, it will repay you a thousand fold.

Consistency is paramount, what we are trying to learn is how to place our wrist accurately and deliberately on a point of our choosing, how to achieve total control over our limbs.





Layers are separate and individual, even though they are part of the total experience, part of the whole, a little like floors in a large office block, each has its own personality and function that may not have anything in common with the other floors but they are all undoubtedly part of the same building.  When we describe them individually it is difficult not to create contradictions, but when we pull back and look at the whole we can find that what appeared to be a contradiction was just different aspects of the same thing, Heads and Tails, Front and Back. Internal or External.

There is always a problem making connections between the Mental / Emotional aspects of what we do and the purely Physical, it is like trying to compare Phycology to Engineering, when I talk of Internal or External it is not in the usual Kung Fu / Chi Kung way, I am simply using the words to describe the difference between what we think and feel, Internal, and the motor mechanics of our Body, External, we need a different approach, different diagnostics when we are dealing with the Driver than we do when we are dealing with the Bus.

The First Form in Wing Chun is the Sil Lim Tao, this translates to the Way of the Little Idea, it is used throughout the training at all levels to help bring about and maintain the necessary physical, mental and emotional state to accomplish effective Wing Chun Kung Fu. The S.L.T. is a library of information and at the same time it is a testing ground for that information. There are so many different ways to approach the S.L.T. so many levels that it is counter productive to think of it as one way, it is many ways.

There is a paradox within Wing Chun and that is that the  S.L.T.  is of no use whatsoever for fighting, not a jot, but withstanding that you cannot learn how to fight effectively with Wing Chun if you do not develop an understanding of the purpose of the Form.  You cannot learn Wing Chun without the baselines that the Sil Lim Tao establishes, some of these baselines do not even show up until you play with the weapons.

From a thinking Internal perspective all the relevant work is introduced by the time we have opened and set the Yi Chee Kim Yeung Ma, from that point out it is pretty much rinse and repeat.  The Form commences by simply standing, feet together, knees unlocked, head high, arms by the sides, this is where we develop the Wing Chun approach to “Body Being”, at first it is all imagination, if the image is detailed and clear enough in time it becomes a reality, it becomes how we are.

Inflatable bones.

We imagine that the bones of our body, our skeleton, are inflatable and that there is a pump situated in our abdomen that we use to inflate them, as we turn on the pump, air is sent simultaneously down the legs and up the spine, at the centre of our shoulder area the air separates into three channels, one going on to the crown of the skull, the others opening across the upper back and down the arms, as the bones inflate imagine the passing of the air, feel the body open and expand.  Once the bones are inflated to their natural size they cannot get any larger, but it is possible to pressurise them so that they become more resilient. We feel the air pushing from our abdomen into our finger tips and toes connecting the extremities, we feel that the head is held high and proud, propped up by our inflated spine.  From here on I will refer to this idea as “Head Up”.

Overcoat body.

The flesh of our body hangs on our skeleton like a heavy overcoat, feel it hanging on the shoulders and chest, feel it draping down the back, feel the extra weight falling into the legs and pressing the soles of the feet, feel the sleeves hanging to the wrists, if we were to raise our arms we would feel the drag as the weight of the sleeve falls beneath the raising arm.  From here on I will refer to this as “Body Down”.

Head Up, Body Down.

Still in the standing position become aware of the two different forces, the “Head” rising and the “Body” sinking, and balance them so that neither is overpowering the other, this constant antagonistic movement brings about a powerful type of balance and equilibrium, what T.S. Elliot referred to as “the still point of the turning world”.

There is nothing physical being done here, this is just the thinking.

It may be some time before you are constantly and naturally aware of your “Body Being”, if necessary rebuild it with imagination every time.

Hold this “Body Being” still, check it for tension and if you find any release it.

If you are not yet at a point where you can release tension at will a helpful method is to add more tension to the affected area, as much as you can {think about what happens when you really squeeze your fists up} and then stop doing it, it is the stopping that is the release, do not over think it.

Once happy that you have achieved as good a tension free stillness, “Body Being”, as is possible at this time, slowly raise both of your arms, this move is not about the arms, it is about the tension free stillness and discovering how to move without disturbing it and it helps us understand the desired tempo for the dance.  The sequence of moves that finishes with the opening and setting of the Y.C.K.Y. Ma is all about discovering how to  maintain the “Body Being” while movement is happening.

From an Internal point of view all of the movements in the Form are about not disturbing the tension free stillness, maintaining the “Body Being”. As we progress through the pattern of moves that make up the S.L.T. each section brings in a different type of movement, each section increases the complexity of the move creating greater challenges to maintaining the tension free stillness, making it more difficult to keep the “Body Being” in balance.

This is the function of the Internal aspect of the Sil Lim Tao Form. “Head Up, Body Down”.

… At the still point of the turning world neither flesh nor fleshless; neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, but neither arrest nor movement, and do not call it fixity where the past and future are gathered; neither movement from nor towards; neither ascent or decline. Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

Burnt Norton. 1944.     T.S. ELLIOT.