Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday




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.


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