“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.