as baby humans play acting is how we learn to deal with the world around us, not only to survive but to flourish.
Most education methods in the modern world are more about remembering than learning, people advance to university by passing exams, they pass because they remember their lessons more than understand them, as a result we all know some people that are very well educated but basically dumb, as thick as a brick.
Very few education models teach people how to think, how to break apart a problem to be able to approach it from various new directions, how to learn and think creatively, and of course these methods become how people themselves choose to engage with the learning process.
To be expected we also see it in Martial Arts instruction, students just accept everything they are told without questioning its validity and get lost in the training, never understanding that the training is not the art, training is only a method that leads to being able to do the art. Being able to paint a horse will never give you a ride to market.
Training is just a map, and a map is not the country.
Ask yourself what is the core of my Martial Art? What is it I wish to take from it? How does the training I do help to enable me to achieve this?
In Wing Chun we have the Chi Sau drill or sticking hands, of itself Chi Sau is of very little value in application, I will go into this in later but for now lets just say it is a wonderful tool with which to explore our understanding of how the first three Forms combine to give IDEAs and options for fighting, especially if we can realise some of the Biu Gee actions.
One almost unavoidable problem with Chi Sau is that people very quickly get locked into someone else’s thinking, they trap themselves in shapes and responses, very few students roll two Bong Sau structures against two Fook Sau structures, very few students learn under arm Lap Sau manoeuvres and very few use Chi Sau as a way to learn creative footwork. Another downfall of Chi Sau from the perspective of functionality is that a great deal of the training and the things we all work on are aimed at improving how we play Chi Sau, much of what makes for good Chi Sau play will never come up in a street situation, running palms is totally unnecessary in an environment where we attack and defend simultaneously, Bong Sau as deployed in Chi Sau is a loosing technique in a street fight, being good at Chi Sau may gain kudos in the Club but if we do not know how to use it to learn how to beat genuine bad guys then it is of little use.
This is part of the great dichotomy in Wing Chun, especially in Chi Sau and why the greater proportion of the Global Martial Arts Community think Wing Chun is a bit of a joke, so much of what we do is in a very real sense practically useless, it is no more than play acting, but as baby humans play acting is how we learn to deal with the world around us, not only to survive but to flourish.
For Chi Sau to fulfil its potential in our training we must know what we are hoping to learn before we begin and not just hope to remember what we were shown.
In my early training there were many of my fellow students that were technically better than I was, especially at Chi Sau, but once the playing became a little serious, as it always does at a certain level and I began to step out of the normal Chi Sau Box they would struggle to come to terms with what I was doing, they would say I was cheating, using strength or using my Judo knowledge they had failed to learn how to break apart the problem and find a solution, they wanted answers they could remember, they had not trained how to teach themselves how to solve rapidly evolving problems. The complaints would make me giggle, because bad guys never use strength or use a different style.
What use is Chi Sau if it can only be used against someone else playing Chi Sau?
The problem of remembering as opposed to learning is exacerbated in a school like my Sifu’s that was based around gradings, progress becomes linked to learning and remembering the next Form, the next technique or the counter to a certain technique, the path forward is obvious and unbending, this does little for creativity or spontaneity, it encourages remembering at the cost of learning.
Dynamic problem solving is not having 5 different ideas on how to stop a single attack but rather one idea that stops 5 different attacks.
Wing Chun in essence is very small, there really is very little to learn or master, but if it is approached as something to be taught and remembered it gets bigger with every new piece of information.
Chi Sau in particular needs to be seen for what it is, and not for what we would hope it can become, it is a way to learn ideas that we can take into fighting and not a way to fight, a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Learn the form, but seek the formless. Learn it all, then forget it all. Learn The Way, then find your own way.
The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.
Hunter S. Thompson