It is not what we train for and it is not what we do but still there are things in these fights that we can and should learn from …………
After my last post at the weekend 2 different students sent me 2 different links to recent YouTube videos with Wing Chun Master taking on an MMA fighter, it did not go well for the Wing Chun men and cast our art in a dreadful light, I was embarrassed for all of us. Here are the links if anyone has not seen them Fight 1 with the same MMA guy that humbled the Tai Chi Master, and Fight 2, incredibly in this fight the MMA guy had one hand behind his back at times, truly disturbing. It is very sorry viewing, but it is what it is, the world has changed, when Wing Chun was in its heyday in Hong Kong in the post war 1950’s it was really just skinny young men fighting other skinny young men, no one was fighting fit, no one was particularly strong so there was no real need for conditioning, but in todays world of M.M.A. and its global T.V. coverage everyone mug that fights is strong and conditioned. The 2 Wing Chun masters where not as conditioned as their opponents, that is the first big mistake. But it is not just these 2 guys there are dozens of videos on the net of Wing Chun guys getting taken to the cleaners by other styles, they can’t all be doing it wrong, there must be something fundamentally wrong with many of the different Wing Chun training methods.
Wing Chun is a self defence system and I have pointed out quite often on this blog that self defence and competitive fighting are not the same thing at all. For any Martial Artist of any style to go into the ring with a conditioned and experienced Combat Athlete, and these guys are Athletes their training regime alone would wreck most Martial Artists, is just plain stupid. It is not what we train for and it is not what we do but still there are things in these fights that we can and should learn from.
The most glaring problem in all these sorry episodes is that Wing Chun men do not move like fighters, where is the movement training in Wing Chun? The nearest we have to movement drills are Chum Kiu and the Knives, but performing them as they are in the Forms themselves is just far to one dimensional to be practical. But there was another big problem for the 2 Wing Chun masters, they both “Gassed” really early in the bout, being gassed is when your breathing cannot supply oxygen to the muscles, they both ran out of breath.
In general Wing Chun does not offer any information about breathing, when I asked my Sifu about breathing and Wing Chun the answer was some variation of “just breathe the way you usually breathe, just like normal” this is all well and good until we realise that most people do not breathe correctly in the first place, this is often not picked up on because most Wing Chun training is pretty low impact so no one experiences getting gassed, the 2 masters totally gassed out, mainly because they both moved too frenetically to avoid gassing out, moving too much is every bit as bad as not moving enough, if you watch a good boxer a lot of the time they are almost walking to conserve their breath and energy, this takes a lot of discipline and a lot of training it is a long way from “just breathe normally”.
If Wing Chun ever hopes to be able to match M.M.A. type of fighters, and the world is becoming full of them, we need a much better approach to movement, to be able to coordinate the hands and feet when moving quickly takes a high level of skill that needs constant training, to coordinate the body and the breathing when moving quickly is also a high level skill that needs constant training, where is the breathing training in Wing Chun? Neither active breathing or dynamic movement can be learned from any of our Forms, we need to enhance our basic training with a stand alone practice if we wish to be able to fight like a fighter.
There is a simple test we can do on ourselves to see if we are breathing correctly, stand in a relaxed comfortable manner with our arms by our sides and eyes closed, now just breathe and observe what is happening, especially the experiential feeling that is happening. Is the body rising up slightly and then settling back down? Inhale – get slightly taller, exhale, return to starting position is what many people experience but this is not the correct way to breathe. Our last two ribs are not connected to the sternum, they are the floating ribs, they are that way to allow the chest to expand laterally when we breathe correctly, when we breathe in we should feel as if we get wider not taller.
If we wish to perform any action with power then we should exhale as we do it, when we consider that the majority of the moves in Biu Gee are meant to be performed with power then we would do well to sometimes change how we do the Form so that the majority of the moves have an exhalation, we can then start to make mental connections to our breathing and our actions, hopefully in time they become habits, this of course means temporarily abandoning the idea of continuous and smooth movements, we need pauses between moves so we can inhale, then exhale on the action, the Forms need to be alive, if we do not breathe we die.
To a large degree the movements of Chum Kiu, Biu Gee and even Chi Sau share a great deal in common with swimming, researching the different breathing methods used by world class swimmers can help us develop our own user friendly training program for improved Wing Chun.
I am still embarrassed.