Feather Ruffling


Analogies – are they any use at all?

Lets Ruffle some Feathers.
Lets Ruffle some Feathers.

I have been training in one form of Martial Art or another for over 50 years, in that time I have heard so many analogies that started off as being quite useful thought maps but ended up just being buzz words.

Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee.

When people hear this they do not think Boxing, they think Ali, it is now a Buzz word for Ali and no longer brings up thoughts of mobility and direct action.

It has completely lost its Mojo.

Its use by date has come and gone.

As an Instructor I sometimes use analogies to try to get a Student to draw a Mental Picture from which they can then extract a feeling they can work with so that they can mentally and physically perform the task I want them to perform. It has some minor value.

In my experience when a student uses an Analogy he is simply using it as an excuse to justify why he is still  working on an old problem instead of engaging new ones.

Where am I going with this?

I quite simply do not understand why so many Wing Chun people obsess over the First Form, and I do mean obsess.

When I question them the most frequent answer is that “The First Form is the foundation of the whole system, and if you build a house with weak foundations it will collapse”.

They use the Analogy of building a house to learning a Martial Art.

 Déjà Poo {I have heard that Shit before}.

But is this analogy relevant?

Is this analogy trapping people inside their own fear of being tested?

Do people obsess on the First form because if they are still working on it it cannot be wrong – yet.

I took up Wing Chun in my late 30’s, I had over 30 years experience in other Martial Arts, what initially impressed me about Wing Chun was the almost complete absence of Bullshit, it talked the talk.

But it did not take too long before my seniors started with the Fairy Stories.

I was first given the house building metaphor when I asked why it would be 5 years before I was taught Chum Kiu and asked why everyone was so Gung Ho on the First Form, once enlightened I happily pointed out that there are literally thousands of Great Houses in Europe that are 400, 500 even 700 years old that where built with NO FOUNDATIONS.

This was soon changed to “it is not so much about foundations as when you lay the Bricks, if the first layer {Form} is wrong then everything will be wrong, so we make sure that we lay one layer {Form} at a time and get it totally right”.

This was hilarious, the person telling me this was a Public Servant who knew nothing about Bricks whereas I had actually worked with a Bricklayer and laid thousands of Bricks, when I pointed out that his explanation had absolutely nothing in common with how Bricks are actually laid he suddenly needed to be somewhere else.

I know what he was trying to say, but when you lay Bricks you do well to lay as many Courses as you can, the mass keeps everything true, single layers always twist.

By now it was not about the Bricks or the Forms, it was the fact that the Senior responsible for my training had no idea what he was talking about.

How could I take anything else he said seriously?

As Human Beings {a group I only just qualify for} we are more than happy to suspend reality, it gives us a break from our everyday routine, you only have to look at our Myths and Religions to see the truth of that, and do not ever get me started on the “Internal” aspect of Martial Arts, we love Fairy Stories, we all deeply want Magic to exist and we know that Kung Fu Sifu’s can fly.

But it is crap.

Analogies are not real experiences, they are imaginary, if you take them as being real then your training becomes imaginary and that opens the door for all manner of mysticism, Chi and Empty Force.

My Sifu, the late Jim Fung would very politely inform everyone that there was no such thing as “Internal Kung Fu”, there was only hard work and deep understanding of what it means to be a Human, since his passing even some of his most Senior Students are pushing the “Empty Force” Bandwagon.

As I have already mentioned I use analogies with my own Students, but as soon as they break through and begin to experience it as a human Body I get them to discard the analogy and develop a deeper understanding of where their own body is taking them.

An analogies working life in my opinion is at most 45 minutes.

As Instructors we have great influence on how our Students act and think, we have a responsibility to keep it in the Realm of the Real and to drag improvement out of people that come to us for assistance, even if it scares them.

It does not matter how long I spend thinking about it, my Head will never be the Flame of a Candle and my Shoulders will never be the melting Wax running down the side of the Candle.

But Head up – Body down is something I work with everyday.


1 thought on “FEATHERS WILL FLY.”

  1. Can we really do away with the hocus pocus now? I see a couple posts after this one it gets a bit “the knee bones connected to the thigh bone”, but are we really there yet?
    If you’re saying, “lets try to get rid of the hocus pocus”, I’m totally with you, but if you’re saying “we know enough to do it”, then I’m raising an eyebrow…


Disagree, tell me why, if you agree give me a Pat on the Back

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.