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WING CHUN WEEKEND HEAD SPIN: WHY DO WE HAVE DOUBT?

“The RIGHT PLACE is a place that exists in relation to ourself and not in relation to any attacker, as such when we move we take the RIGHT PLACE with us, it is always where it has always been, exactly where it  is at training,”

I am in the process of rewriting and updating my E-Book, MAKING YOUR MARTIAL ART WORK ON THE STREET, no small job I tell you, the original took about three years to get together, I will be lucky if the rewrite will be completed before Christmas 2019, this is the original forward, still relevent, still misunderstood.

“THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM”

Apart from the obvious physical differences between Fighting in the Real World and Simulated Fighting / Training in the Dojo or Kwoon, there is a bit of an Elephant in the Room and it is this very Elephant that makes Students doubt the Validity or Practicality of their chosen Style.

 Training Situations or Scenarios may very well reflect Real World situations that you could encounter but Training very rarely reflects the way individuals react to other individuals, it deals with a Martial Artist, a well trained confident individual facing a Bad Guy, a low life.

For many good reasons Training does not included being surprised, being scared, being hurt, being damaged or simply not wanting to be there, and all of the Psychological Implications that come from these things.

Early training is about building confidence, even if we need to tell ourselves a “Little White Lie” about how awesome our Martial Art is and how unbeatable we will become.

 And because we are trying to build confidence we go along with what we’ve known all along to be a “Little White Lie”.

Before long we forget what brought us to the training, forget that our foundation is a “Little White Lie”.

Later on when we are actually beginning to develop some skills we push the “Little White Lie” deep into the back of our Memory because we now like the idea of becoming awesome.

Without an acceptable reason for creating our “Little White Lie” in the first place, it soon just becomes a Lie, along with all the baggage that deliberate lies come with, before too long it eats away at our hard won confidence in ourselves and by extension confidence in the  “Little White Lie” and that is when the doubt sets in.

There is an unfortunate but understandable aspect of all Martial Arts in that they try to make everything about their own specific Way of doing things, it is a bogus belief, no one Martial Art can possibly be the best thing to use in every situation, most Martial Arts started out as or have evolved into the thinking and advice of just one person, the winner, the survivor, who could have quite possibly won by accident.

All Martial Art Styles were created to deal with a specific and very local situation, say pulling Samurai down off Horseback, or having the ability to remain in Balance and fight on a moving Opera Barge. This does not mean that we cannot use these styles in a different Environment but it does mean that we need to adapt them to the particular circumstances that we may find ourselves in.  

And there will definitely be a number of situations that your chosen Martial Art will be so unsuited to that it will flat out fail.

But one Martial Art will suit you better than any other, its theories will fit into your thinking more easily and the physical requirements will fit in with your own personal capabilities and as long as you allow yourself to not lose sight that you are a thinking evolving Human Being you will find an answer in your Style where there was no answer before, this is how Styles evolve.

If someone attacked you and you happened to be holding a Stick I doubt there would be any hesitation on your part to use the Stick, even though you may have no Stick training, your Mind would just take the information from your Style and adapt it to the situation, you should not even be aware of this but an onlooker would tell that you had some form of training by your movements and body shape.

“If we learn how to move, and more importantly how we as individuals like to move, our Mind will find a way to add our Martial Arts training to this if the need arises.

“The RIGHT PLACE is a place that exists in relation to ourself and not in relation to any attacker, as such when we move we take the RIGHT PLACE with us, it is always where it has always been, exactly where it is at training,”

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY; BETTER PIVOTING AND SHIFTING.

 

This is entry level Wing Chun movement, but what is it we are moving?  Is it our hips, our waist, our legs or feet?

PIVOTING AND SHIFTING.

In Wing Chun there are a few different approaches to and explanations of how we develop functional movement, movement that can be used for fighting, this is compounded by the fact that the information is presented drip fashion over all of the Forms, as a result there is the potential for Instructors to become fixated over individual aspects when the aim is to mix and match the ideas so they can be freely adapted to the rapidly changing chaos of a Street Fight.

The final product, so to speak, is not presented anywhere at all in any of the Forms, in many ways it does not really exist until we create it in situ, this is the good news because it allows us to create something individual yet suitable for every possible situation where functional movement is needed.

The bad news is that we have to find it for ourselves, it cannot really be taught, the ideas can be shared of course but we cannot be spoon fed.

The building blocks are to be found in Chum Kiu, Biu Gee, the Knives and the Pole Forms, I omit the first Form because it simply does not move the relevant parts, no other reason, it is always a vitally important aspect of creating the conduit and connectivity, but here I am just looking at movement.

Chum Kiu introduces Pivoting and Shifting, I use the word shifting to describe motion initiated from the back leg in relation to the direction of travel, if we were to move backwards it would be from the front leg, some people refer to this part of Chum Kiu as stepping, its just a word.

This is entry level Wing Chun movement, but what is it we are moving?  Is it our hips, our waist, our legs or feet?

  It is all of these but we should look at it through the lens of cause and effect, what we are moving is our weight.  Shifting and pivoting are mechanisms that we use to shift our weight without loosing body unity, balance or structural alignment, basically maintaining the integrity of the Wing Chun body that we develop through out the first Form.

This is the first of a series of posts that I hope will help us get a different perspective on functional movement, it is not really about how to shift or pivot, whatever method you presently use will work just fine, it is more about why we shift or pivot and how eventually all our movements are made by combining different aspects and combinations of shifting and pivoting.  In saying that I am going to share my own ideas about how to approach pivoting, the beginning of the long slow learning curve of Wing Chun movement.

Before we start it is important that we know what a pivot is, in real terms and not just Wing Chun, a Pivot is a change of position or direction over a single point, we cannot pivot over two separate points, Chum Kiu does not and cannot pivot over the centre axis or Wing Chun Centreline, Biu Gee can and does and we will deal with that in turn but Chum Kiu can only rotate over the side axes, which are of course our legs.

 

 

Pivoting is how we move our weight and not our body, the body simply follows the weight, balance is more important that shape. No style has the best pivot, no style has the most correct pivot but all styles have preferred pivots, understanding why Wing Chun chooses to pivot the way it does is as important as being able to perform it.

Pivoting can be performed either what I refer to as “passively” this is a small rotation where our body mass stays in pretty much the same place just the weight shifts as in all the pivots from the Chum Kiu, or “dynamically” where we rotate a large circle that moves the unsupported foot to a new position as in the “half moon” step from the Baat Cham Do.

In Wing Chun irrespective of what method we use to pivot there are two criteria that must be met

1. We must remain in balance.

2. We must not create tension in the legs or body.

Strictly adhering to these criteria and keeping an open mind about the mechanics will teach us the best way for our own body to pivot, we are all different so instruction should always be treated as a starting point and not a destination.

 

 

 

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WING CHUN WEEKEND HEAD SPIN; THE BIG QUESTION AT THE MIDDLE OF EVERYTHING.

HOW DO WE MOVE FORWARDS TOWARDS MASTERY?

NEXT STOP MADNESS AND CONFUSION.

Does reaching Master Level have anything in common with surviving violence?

There is a saying that my Sifu used, and many of my fellow students still use that I absolutely and completely disagree with….  Wing Chun is easy to learn but difficult to Master, maybe like so many things in Wing Chun this saying simply does not translate clearly to English, because in English this statement is an Oxymoron.

Improving in any Martial Art, but especially Wing Chun is not really about the physical training, it is not about power production or dexterity, it is not about footwork or punching, it is not about Chi Sau or Forms but these are the things that consume our time, this is what we consider to be the work, but is it?

I know from personal experience that in the Chaos of a street fight there is precious little thinking going on, it is only in hindsight that we can garner any idea of what we did to survive, and then we try to retrofit those actions to reflect our training, as if our training was even important, only the outcome is ever important.

Does reaching Master Level have anything in common with surviving violence?

These oblique ideas need to be justified if we truly wish to be in control of our own training and have it fulfil the role we wish it to play.

How do we do this, how do we shape our involvement and propel our training to the top level?

Many people in Wing Chun focus the majority of their training on the Siu Nim Tao Form, which if it works for you is just fine but how do you know it is the best approach if it is the only approach you use?  We benefit in any endeavour by using multiple approaches, by having different result  expectations, it may be a cliche´but it is also true that “If you only do what you have always done you will only get what you always got” so hoping to achieve upwards momentum by continually working on the Siu Nim Tao is more of a hope than a plan, personally I believe that only working on one Form is procrastination, it is lazy,  growth and improvement require feeding with a complex diet, they need dynamic involvement.

There is another relatively large stumbling block when it comes to advancing in Wing Chun, most of the important work is in understanding how to “NOT DO” certain things, such as not fighting force, not creating tension in the body, not using overt strength so the real difficulty becomes how do we learn how to not do something by actively doing something?

This is quite a conundrum.

Anchoring our training in any single Form not just the Siu Nim Tao is always self limiting bordering on self defeating. Each Form has a core learning objective often multiple core learning objectives that only begin to make sense once they are viewed in relationship to each other.  For instance what does the Siu Nim Tao teach us about moving our body or accepting force?  What does Chum Kiu teach us about driving our energy out to the edges of the Body or Core winding.  What does Biu Gee teach us about moving around and negotiating an opponent? What does the Dummy Form teach us about extending our awareness and energy out to power a weapon?

Ultimately we must ask ourselves what does Wing Chun teach us about anything that is not Wing Chun?  Because when the brown gets airborne it will not be Wing Chun, interpersonal violence is chaotic and complex, it is mind numbing in the extreme, every event is the sum of its parts so at best it will be only 50% Wing Chun and that can only happen if we are able to remain 100% Wing Chun, which of course we will not, next stop madness and confusion.

Violent situations are complex, infinitely complex and every changing, people on the other hand are finite, as finite as a brick wall, or a glass ceiling.

A painting of a Horse never won the Melbourne Cup.

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY; STANCE AND GUARD.

 

I have had Guys say to me “Yeah but if I did get in a fight I would not do this though, I would ….. Blah, Blah, Blah”  and I say to them “So you would deliberately choose to not use something you have worked at for all this time, on this day of all days you would step outside the box and try something new”?

 

I recently had a conversation with a Wing Chun friend up the coast about stances and their value, he asked me my opinion on stances, we where on messenger so I decided to go over it here, I know he reads this Blog {Bore Da Boyo} ,this is a post from 18 months ago but it does set out how I think.

In Wing Chun nothing causes confusion quite as much as talking about our Stance and Guard.

It is quite amusing when you think that Stance and Guard are concepts not practices, concepts of themselves are not real, they are abstractions and generalisations, they are the raw material that we build with, just like the cup you drink Tea out of was once simply Clay.

STANCE.

What is a Stance?

A stance is a static, fixed position that does not change, this is the same for Wing Chun or Political opinion

In Wing Chun we have 5 widely accepted Stances.

The Goat Grabbing Stance from the S.L.T. Form, the Turned Stance, the Front Stance, the Cat Stance from the Chum Kiu and the Horse Riding Stance from the Knives, 6 if you include the the Hanging Horse stance which is really a bit of a show off  stance once you understand they are all non functional.

The 5 Stances are really 5 components that can be mixed and matched as needed by the unfolding situation, no matter what your philosophy is about interpersonal violence deep down you know you will not be standing still.     As a result of Stances being Static Constructions there are no genuine Stances in a fight, all Stances are training vehicles, they have certain benefit and all have definite weakness none are complete and none are useable.

Stances are stable platforms from where we can explore the relationship between our Body and the Governing Concepts presented in each Form.

I have heard Instructors talk of there being  “Moving Stances”, but that is incorrect and shows a stunning lack of understanding.   Think about it, if you can be deemed to be in a Stance while moving it means there is no correct place or incorrect place to be in a Stance, no right way to stand or wrong way to stand, no good shape or bad shape. Once we move, the Stance simply stops existing, we can move out of a Stance, move into a Stance but movement is always and only movement.  The most important lesson to learn is how to  regain  a Stance as it will be the Bad Guy that either breaks our Stance or causes us to break it.

GUARD.

What is a Guard?

A Guard is a neutral position from where in defence we can cover all the vulnerable angles of access equally, while in attack we can launch all of our weapons, Hands, Feet, Elbows even Head to all of the opponents accessible targets equally.

It is not a shape it is an IDEA, a Concept.

What is often spoken about as being THE Wing Chun Guard is in fact just the proximal and distal limitations for our Arms on a line towards our opponent, if we place our Front Hand further forward or our Rear Hand further back towards us they are no longer capable of fulfilling their role as a Guard, the Front Hand begins to tense and fails at absorbing incoming force, the Rear Hand is too close to prevent a punch landing on us when we connect to the opponents wrist.  There are other problems but these are enough for us to not overstep the Boundaries of the Guard position.

The Hands could be anywhere on this line and still function effectively, the most natural position would be both Hands level at two thirds extension.  This line is of course a plane, the Sagittal Plane when moving forward and backward and the Transverse plane when our Guard Hands slide up or down to cover more area, think Garn Sau / Dai Sau.

The first distinctly Chum Kiu movement, the Arms extending down the Shoulder line, is also a Guard Position Concept, these are the outer limits where our Arms can still absorb and transfer force, if we turn our thumbs inwards, palms forwards from this position we find ourselves in or around the natural two thirds extension position.  If we rotate this unit we are almost doing Chi Sau, which is how the Guard is meant to operate and why we practice Chi Sau in the first place.

And of course the shoulder line is a plane, the Frontal Plane, when seen from this perspective we have created a Box in front of our chest, this is the basis of the Gate Theory.

The Wing Chun Guard is not an Arm shape as much as an indication of the Functional Parameters that the system works under.  Your Arms will work perfectly anywhere inside these boundaries.

Every Guard position has inherent weakness, Hands in the Centre leave us open to round house attacks, Hands on the Shoulder line leave us open to down the middle attacks, knowing this can be used to our advantage, leading the opponent into our strongest defence.

Myself I prefer a wider Guard Position  encouraging Hey Diddle Diddle attacks, it also looks way more passive not letting your attacker think you have a skill set, and can be a counter measure to adrenalin induced tunnel vision.  The more widely accepted Wing Chun guard position of hands in the middle or centre encourages people to attempt wide attacks, once you factor in that Wing Chun is meant to be an answer to street violence, and that on the street the most common attack is a wide attack this guard plays into the attackers strength?????????????

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POSITIONING.

Positioning is not a concept it is a practice, it is fluid and changeable, its shapes and movement are dictated by the situation at hand.   In training we stand square to our partner, this gives us access to all of our Tools for both attack and defence.

This is a great strategy.

But our training partner also does Wing Chun so they stand square to us, even when trying to be the Bad Guy.   We have now allowed the Bad Guy access to all of his tools.

This is a terrible strategy.

This is repeated and reinforced in Chi Sau, stay square, keep all tools in play, but again so is our partner, our ersatz opponent, we are setting up the situation to give the Bad Guy the best possible chance of beating us.

I have had Guys say to me “Yeah but if I did get in a fight I would not do this though, I would ….. Blah, Blah, Blah”  and I say to them “So you would deliberately choose to not use something you have worked at for all this time, on this day of all days you would step outside the box and try something new”?

Wherever possible as the opponent moves, or even in a stand off type of situation where the Bad Guy is trying to get in our face and intimidate us, eating up our space,  we would slide, shift or turn to be more to one side of our opponent than staying central, this is one of the Chum Kiu Concepts, depending on the situation we may of  pressed in as we shifted to the side taking out his near sides tools, in a stand off situation we could be already be pressing his Arm in towards his centre because the Bad Guy stepped into us, creating a situation where the opponent would need to try to make space to strike or be forced to hit across his body and leave him open for a trap and control, or perhaps we shifted back as we slid sideways forcing him to overextend his strike sacrificing his balance and make it easier for us to turn him and take all of his tools off line.
We would remain square to our opponent all through this exchange but at no time do we want our opponent to remain square to us, this action can be grooved mentally and physically in Chi Sau, whether you turn your partner or turn yourself is of no importance, if it ends with your partner loosing access to half his tools and you do not it is all good.

How we train is how we will fight, after all that is why we are training!!!

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WING CHUN WEEKEND HEAD SPIN; CHOOSING A DIRECTION IN CHI SAU.

Chi Sau allows us to explore what we can do once we touch arms with an opponent, if we wish to make the most of our training time and to develop a deeper understanding it makes sense to firstly ask ourselves

Why do we touch arms with our opponent?  

Questions like this never have a right / wrong answer, they are open ended and can have many answers, being as truthful as we can be will help us understand the difference between what we think we are training, what we are really training, what we are actually learning, what we can take away from our training and use, often our answers will not be what we think they are and will bring up other questions in unexpected directions that can lead to new discoveries about both ourselves and the usages and value of Chi Sau.

For instance

Q.  Why do we touch arms with our opponent?

A . To absorb and redirect their force.

This sounds reasonable and much like basic Chi Sau explanations until

Q. If we absorb and redirect their force and still get hit is this correct?

A. Hmmm.

Obviously the reason we touched arms with our opponent was in the first instance not about absorbing or redirecting force after all.

Let’s try again

Q. Why do we touch arms with our opponent?

A.  To prevent them from hitting us.

An answer that appears to tick the right boxes until

Q. Do we really need to engage their arms to prevent them from hitting us?

A.  Hmmmmmmmm.

Let’s try again

Q. Why do we touch arms with our opponent?

A.  Because they are attacking us.

Perfectly acceptable

Q. Did they attack our bridge or did we intercept their strike?

A.  HMMMMMM

Without attention to the details Chi Sau becomes a social diversion that gets turned away from its main purpose of allowing us to find answers to problems we believe are likely to happen in a violent encounter, it becomes a game that is played for its own sake and diminishes its use as a training tool for fighting.

In Chi Sau we can work on attack, defence, how to move, how to stay still under pressure, how to redirect or how to smother but they should all be guided  by the idea of what the Bad Guy is trying to do to us, the question the Bad Guy is asking and the answer we wish to develop to deal with it.

Just rolling arms and talking about old times will not cut it when things get real.

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