How can we ever hope to understand softness without some element of resistance to measure it against?
Softness and not using strength are a really tricky things to introduce students to, partly because of the difficulty of articulating what it is we are really doing and partly because it is counter intuitive.
It is important to understand that we always use strength and we are never soft, without the use of strength we could not even stand up, and our body does not change its physical condition at will so what we mean by ‘do not use strength” or “softness” tends to be shorthand for a variety of complex ideas that we need to get straight in our heads before we can hope that they will materialise in our body.
Hurdle #1. We all think differently.
Training is real and goal driven while concepts are imaginary. Softness is a concept, how do we adequately justify a concept that is mental through training that is physical?
The goal of all training is to acquire competence, competence requires a high level of trust, trust requires a high level of understanding, understanding is a function of our mind, it is a completely mental process that cannot be learned backwards, i.e. from body to mind.
Despite the practice paradox of training first then thinking about what we have just trained, everything starts with thinking, then understanding and then competent action.
Spending hours doing any action, such as footwork, exciting combinations or even just one of the Forms, without the understanding of what it is we are doing is of limited value but without some kind of physical involvement how do we hope to know what we are thinking about?
How do we make it real?
If we consider that the bulk of our training is solo training how do we introduce a tactile element that can give us the subject matter to later sit and think about?
The default almost knee jerk answer to any problem in Wing Chun is ‘do the Form”, this is so over simplistic, doing the Form without understanding is not going to take anyone anywhere, paradoxically once we do understand the Form there is no longer any need to keep on doing it, once we gain knowledge, gain understanding it is ours for life, this is the way of all learning, who ever felt the need to take time off from university to go back to primary school?
Most of the breakthroughs and most of the grind are done on our own, as such how do we add that feedback element that we need as humans to create the bridge from imagination to reality?
To give us that “Food for thought”.
Hurdle #2. We all train differently.
How can we ever hope to understand softness without some element of resistance to measure it against? This is the same problem all practitioners of all styles face when doing unsupervised training.
I have a number of practice ideas that on the surface appear to be quite silly things to do, but in practice have proven to be very powerful tools to help us advance our thinking in pursuit of softness and not using strength, especially in a “Solo Training” situation.
A shortcoming of any conceptual system is the lack of a realistic and useable frame of reference, my funny elastic band training may not be everything we need, it is just a good place to start.