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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: CHI SAU, WHERE TO FROM HERE? pt1

This is a topic I feel very strongly about, I want to give it more than the usual sideways glance but I realise that for most people these days time is short so it is in four pieces, this is the entre´, the main course comes next week followed by dessert then cheese and possibly port.

CHI SAU, where to from here, the context to why I think this way.

I have seen more than my fair share of violence, in all truth most of it was of my own making, I either started it or my actions inspired others to start it, very little was random.  I grew up in an era when just looking at someone was reason enough to kick on.  “WHO’  YOU LOOKIN’ AT” was a license for trouble to many people back then.

I have been involved in enough violence to know how little I truly know, I have seen enough violence to know how little there is to know, that in many ways there is nothing to know, that it can’t truly be known.  Violence is like a virus that comes back every season mutated just enough so that last years vaccine has no effect. This is the case even in the semi controlled arena of sports fighting, we have seen fighters lose a match, demand a rematch, go away for a year and study what went wrong, how they lost, how their opponent got the upper hand only to come back and lose to the very same move as if they never saw it coming.

I have been involved in the Martial Arts for more than 55 years, some styles I became really quite proficient, good enough to understand that what we train and how we train it could never work against violence.

Thinking that any martial art can be enough to overcome violence is like arguing with someone that does not speak our language and pinning all our hopes on speaking louder than them and waving our arms frantically.

We should not try to compare any martial art to violence, they are different languages, we should see a martial art as a Rosetta Stone that can give us hope of a translation and through this some understanding, the shapes are different but the meaning is the same. Even if we see violence as Egyptian and martial arts as Greek it is only the translation that brings understanding, no matter how good a translation is it is never truly accurate. We cannot claim that this is right or this is wrong, it is all just an approximation.

But we cannot deny that the message on the Rosetta Stone was always Egyptian in nature, even as we read the Greek version.

Wing Chun is not the answer to violence, but like the Rosetta Stone it can lead us to an understanding of what is going on, lead us close to parity, it matters little how we translate violence or what we translate it into at its core it is still and always was just violence and can only be connected to by other violence.

This is a major hurdle for many people, the only way to beat the thing we hate is to become it, a better version of it, a meaner more violent version of itself.  For many this pill is too hard to swallow no matter how long they train, they talk about not really doing it for the fighting, yet they all know deep down that this is the only reason for Wing Chun to exist and they know this well, this path leads to denial of the truth of violence and denial of the truth of Wing Chun, makes the training we do in Wing Chun look foolish, false, like a fake martial art.  The antidote to denial is honesty, we need to be honest about what we think, what we do and what we train.

Lt. Col.Dave Grossman writes in his book “On Combat” ..

“Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: You didn’t bring your gun; you didn’t train. Your only defence was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy.   Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by fear, helplessness, horror and shame at your moment of truth”.

The only thing we have in Wing Chun that comes anywhere near what it is like to be in a violent situation is Chi Sau, the similarity is remote at best but it is what it is, and what it is  reminds me of the tale of “The Emperors New Clothes”  if we wish it to be more than a folk tale we need to ramp it up, I do not mean turn it into a slap fest, that is as useless as it is unnecessary, it is the emotional involvement and the thinking and the tempo that needs to change, to be useful as a tool to develop fighting skill it needs to be more physical and less social.  We must stop denying the truth about Chi Sau, stop looking at it as being special, practical, a genuine option and appreciate it for what it is, or at least what it could be.

 

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Articles, Weekend Headspin

WEEKEND HEAD SPIN: IS CHI SAU JUST A GAME TO BUILD SPIRIT?

It is my belief that the way most people play Chi Sau {my Sifu Jim Fung would refer to it as Hong Kong Sports Chi Sau}, is not in their best interest, I don’t think that it teaches functional skills that can transition into fighting, and that it is totally impractical for dealing with violence.    However I happen to think that Wing Chun is really clever so why do we have it?  Why do we have Chi Sau?

Let’s take a side step for a minute, many Martial Artists students attach elevated importance to the unarmed combat styles that various countries militaries adopt, the U.S. Marines practice Brazilian Ju Jitsu, the Israeli Defence Force uses Krav Maga, the  Red Army uses Systema and the implication is that these styles are chosen because they are so deadly. 

But this is far from the case.

Soldiers carry 2 guns, a knife, a flashlight, a tactical pen and usually travel in large groups, even special forces operate in 4, 5 or 6 man teams, and never forget that the Bad Guys all have guns as well, unarmed combat is simply not a consideration.  The reason any military has an unarmed combat program is to help bonding, develop and maintain martial spirit and to keep the guys literally fighting fit, 3 of my Uncles were Royal Marine Commando’s in W.W.2 they all wrestled or boxed in their units, but they only ever shot at the enemy.

Another very important consideration in an armies choice is that the preferred fighting style must deliver bonding, martial spirit and fighting fitness without causing major physical injury, you cannot go into battle with damaged soldiers.  In many ways a martial art style picked by any army is quite unsuited to real self defence.

According to popular history Wing Chun was originally developed and used by the Ming freedom fighters {genuine and active underground political organisations, not a social media group}  trying to undermine the occupying force of the Ching Government, this was a dangerous practice to be involved in so they needed to keep spirits high and fitness levels up because they could be called upon to use their Wing Chun to evade capture, escape or even save their lives at any given minute, this is where Chi Sau fitted in, not as a genuine fighting system but as a means to bond as a group and stay ready to act.

A lot of what people do in Chi Sau flies in the face of Wing Chun Fist Logic, but that is O.K. because Chi Sau is not meant as a component of Wing Chun, it is simply an ancillary exercise, it is only a problem when students depend on it to be more than it was intended for.

If we can see this it becomes clear that polite, social Chi Sau, the kind practiced by most schools, is of little use to any one.

Ramp it up.

 

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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: IS FIST LOGIC MISSING IN CHI SAU?

WING CHUN IS FIST LOGIC

 Wing Chun is a Fist Arts therefore the logic behind it is Fist Logic, which at its most instinctive level simply hits things.  Wing Chun is first and foremost about hitting  people. No matter what drill or activity we are involved in we should always measure it by the Fist Logic metrics of Simplicity, Practicality, Directness, Economy of Movement and Minimal use of Brute Force.

The five main Logics are not stand alone ideas, we cannot use one or two and ignore the rest, if we claim to do Wing Chun they must all be present.   They are “The Five Principles” and as close as Wing Chun comes to dogma.

There are sub logics that evolve from combinations of the Five,  sub logics are not so strict as the Five and allow some latitude, exceptions to the rule because reality is never like training.

Simultaneous defence and attack is a Sub Logic that is paramount to the Wing Chun Idea, where ever possible this approach is taken literally but in its wider sense it means hit at the earliest opportunity.

Another important sub logic is never using two arms to defend against one, we cannot implement simultaneous defence and attack if both arms are defending, in its wider sense though we can use two Lan Sau’s or Jit Sau’s to ward of a stick or high kick, we can employ a double Lap Sau to propel someone into an obstacle or a wall.

Once we seriously consider our actions by this metric, which means become serious and honest about Wing Chun it becomes clear that any action where a Bong Sau is used for defence is not working in accord with the Five, Bong Sau defies Fist Logic and if we can see past the theatre that is Chi Sau this means that it is not a working Wing Chun option. Thinking that Bong Sau is a viable option leads into all kinds of bad practice and misunderstanding, that infects all of the Chi Sau drills, the understanding that many students end up with from the Lap Sau drill also defies Fist Logic, and as such Wing Chun because there is a moment where we use two arms to defend against one.

 

 

Other important sub logics are to never fight force with force, to never carry our opponents weight, but Chi Sau play ignores this to a large extent as we grind, grind, chug, chug.   If we cannot see drills for what they are then they become something they are not and where never meant to be,  they become a parody that only works with friends in the training hall and they fail to deliver the intended result when it is really needed.  We need to see the seductive safety and elevated opinion of Chi Sau practice for what it really is.

 

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WEEKEND HEAD SPIN: REALISTIC TRAINING DOESN’T EXIST.

 

There is a maxim in the military that says “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”

All Self Defence Martial Art styles suffer the same conundrum in that nothing they do has very much in common with reality, none of the training methods or drills are anything like what it is like to be attacked, there is no way around this simply because only an attack is anything like an attack, pretence is pretence no matter how well intentioned, even the Reality Based Self Defence Systems suffer the same problem, pretending harder does not make anything any more real.

Is this a problem?    Not really, not if we are aware of the learning objectives present in any of our drills, and that hopefully we do not get distracted by stuff that is really nothing more than the box the learning objective comes in.

Once we accept that nothing we or anyone else does in training is even remotely similar to what we will do if we get into serious trouble, the reality or unreality of the training becomes of little consequence,  whatever we are learning will need to be adjusted to fit the situation we find ourselves in so the learning objective ceases to be such a physical action and more of mental understanding of the desired outcome, a method to effectively navigate the possibilities presented by the scenario.   It is not what we train or where we train it, just the intention behind the action, if we truly understand this doing anything anywhere has the potential to bring benefit once we see it as an extrapolation of intent.   Chi Sau and Lap Sau are frameworks for us to work on an intention, the physical aspect of these practices is not the same as how we would use them, they are not functionally correct, if we know what we are working on it is easy to see what is real and what is packaging, it becomes easy to find the 5%.

There is a maxim in the military that says “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” .  I experienced a similar thing in my time as a sports fighter in the ring and on the mat, very rarely did anything even remotely approach what I had prepared for, and when we think that in combat sports we already know a great deal of what to expect due to the rules in play and research on ones opponent, this is a significant point often overlooked by traditional martial arts stylists who tend to believe that everything they do is a stand alone mechanism that will work in a plug and play kind of way, that it will all do what it does in training, this is why so many Martial Artists have major issues with street violence.

As a boxer a large chunk of training time is spent on things that are supportive of fighting and not specific to any one outcome, conditioning, co-ordination, slipping, dodging and footwork , set patterns that everyone knows and to be effective need to be adjusted to suit personal physiology and different opponents, a great deal of this training is never intended to be used as taught, it is the seed from which endless possibilities grow.   In the Japanese martial arts this is the function of Kata, in Wing Chun this should be the function of the Forms and Chi Sau, but it is not, these things are looked upon as being complete in and of themselves, they become venerated, unchangeable, this is a mistake.

Seeing the Forms and Chi Sau in this way, unquestionable and faultless only renders them impotent and makes it almost impossible to realise their genius.  Forms and Chi Sau { as a collective this includes Lok Sau, Lap Sau and Gwoh Sau} are Wing Chun drills.  Forms are Solo Drills, and Chi Sau is a Partner Drill, to really understand them it would make sense to know what a drill is.

A drill is a mechanism that allows us to repeat the same action over and over again so that we can become familiar with it by observation over extended time.  Drills are composed of 3 components, the mechanism that drives the drill, a context for the drill and the learning objective.   At least 75% of any drill is the mechanism that drives it from one action to another, with partner drills this includes the mechanism that allows the drill to change from one person to the other, 20% of the drill is simply placing the learning objective into a context that can be understood from our own styles point of view, that leaves the learning objective as being only 5% of the drill.

Do we readily see what we are learning in our drills?   It is very easy to get side tracked into studying the mechanism and the context and not focus on the learning objective, this is what happens to many students when they practice any Chi Sau drill but in particular Lap Sau.

A question that should be asked of any training drill is “how did I get here and what am I hoping to achieve”, this can help us differentiate between training artefacts and Fist Logic.

 

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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: FIST LOGIC – THE PARADOX OF DEFENCE.

 

There are many schools that teach people to hit while playing Chi Sau, from my point of view this is a MASSIVE mistake

In violent situations or even match fights no one defends themselves, you cannot win by defending only by attacking, Wing Chun is about 99% defence, we should not kid ourselves about this and let our ego start rambling on about counterattacking,  counter attacking is a defensive option, Wing Chun is about 99% defence.

Q.   If we can’t win by defending why do we train our defence so much in Wing Chun?

A.    Paradoxically it is to give us the confidence to engage in relentless attack, which is the only way to a successful outcome, shock and awe.

The main take away from Chi Sau and Chum Kiu should be absolute confidence in the ability of our arm structures to not collapse under pressure during lateral movement, with little or no overt, active involvement from ourselves, just the posing, moving of the arm shapes, a skill acquired through Chi Sau and the lateral body movement found in Chum Kiu. This gives us the ability to step up and knock people down, even under attack, without consciously dealing with the incoming strike.

Only once we genuinely believe that we cannot be hit will we be free from thinking about how to stop a hit, and of course once we are no longer thinking about stopping a hit we have all the time in the world to think about dominating our attacker.

There are many schools that teach people to hit while playing Chi Sau, from my point of view this is a MASSIVE mistake, if our training partner keeps hitting us how can we ever reach a place where we no longer think about getting hit?  If we are constantly hitting our partner, another Wing Chun stylist how can we believe that the Wing Chun structure can weather the storm as we are go about proving that it cannot?

One of the really negative things that we learn without realising when hitting during Chi Sau practice is to stand there and get hit without doing anything constructive about it, like getting out of the way for instance, the self depreciating part of our inner self sees this and it erodes our confidence in Wing Chun,  this makes it so much harder to not think about being hit, and to freely engage in relentless attack.

Let’s face it , when we find ourselves in trouble {and we should approach training from the point of view of when and not if} we will not try to use Wing Chun at all, we will only try to get out of trouble, if all we are doing with our training is learning Wing Chun we are not learning how to get out of trouble, most Chi Sau playing teaches people to stay in the kill zone, even when getting continuously hit.   From a practical application standpoint Chi Sau the way most people play it teaches them how to loose, now that is a paradox.

Should we train softly or hard? 

Again paradoxically, if we ever hope to fight hard we absolutely must train softly and never hit our partner with enough force to cause pain, even light pain.

Hitting our partners or preventing them from successfully performing a technique or action may make our ego feel good, but we are not doing anyone any favours {least of all ourselves}, when our partner is failing in their attempts and just getting hit they will not think that we are awesome, they will just think that Wing Chun sucks

And from the other side of the coin, the self depreciating aspect of our inner self seeing that our partners Wing Chun is no match for our pretend attacks could lead us to thinking that perhaps Wing Chun does suck and cause us as so many others before us have done to loose faith in Wing Chun and walk away.

Chi Sau can teach us a great deal if we know what to look for, but it does not teach us how to deal with violence, so many students think it does and when it fails, which it must, they are devastated.

Is there a way to practise Chi Sau that can successfully transfer to violent situations?

There certainly is, but it depends on vision, creativity and the acceptance of reality , something in short supply with most Chi Sau players, we should try to find ways that put our opponent in an indefensible position, this requires a deliberate plan of attack, a predefined idea of how we would like things to unfold that has little to do with basic, preliminary Wing Chun Logic {Fist Logic} and a lot more to do with straight up taking the bad guys balance away and shifting to the blind side, it requires movement and a change of orientation, we can move ourselves or we can move the bad guy, usually it will be a bit of both slipping laterally as in Chum Kiu while rotating the upper body as we do in Biu Gee, all the time taking their balance with clever use of latching, which of course is Lap Sau.

Like many other Chi Sau related training methods Lap Sau is practised in a way and position that will never be used in reality,  the value of any Chi Sau position drill is as a method of learning the “how” of arm mechanics and not a recommendation of “where” to use them, think about the basic Lap Sau drill from the point of directness or practicality, two of the main pillars of Fist Logic, why would anyone ever choose to defend a straight attack with Bong Sau?  In the Lap Sau drill Bong Sau is just a perch, a convenient starting position so that we have consistency in the training.

One of the earliest pieces of Fist Logic I was given was to never try to strike over or under someones Arm as they could defend themselves almost accidentally with a reflex, the standard Lap Sau exercise does just that.  A post about Lap Sau is for another time but if taken at face value most Lap Sau training flies in the face of Fist Logic, it is quite ineffective, and it leads to using strange Bong Sau / Lap Sau / Side Slash combinations that are way to convoluted to be genuine Wing Chun. Think economy of movement, another pillar of Fist Logic.

Yet another paradox, we are more responsible for our partners training than we are for our own { don’t panic it works both ways}, if we ensure that our partner always succeeds the self encouraging aspect of our  inner self begins to see how effective Wing Chun is, and we begin to trust it, when our partner ensures that we succeed, we conveniently forget that they are helping us to succeed we believe it to be personal skill, and our own trust in Wing Chun grows.

I have thought this way for many years, when I share this thinking usually people say we cannot learn how to defend ourselves by assisted success at training, I ask them to think about that deeply, because what they are implying is that we can only learn to defend ourselves by assisted failing at training.

Really?  W.T.F.

If we go back to my original point if we get in trouble we will not be doing Wing Chun we will only be trying to get out of trouble, to add to this we will not get out of trouble by defending only by relentlessly attacking, all being well our defence will not be tested after the initial counter attack as we will always and only be in the bad guys face.

The ability to take it to the bad guy non stop is more about confidence than anything else, we develop confidence by succeeding in training.

 

 

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