SIL LIM TAO

 

The First Form or part “A”.

If ever I use the terms Internal or External it is to delineate between the Imaginary {Mental} aspects and the Real {Physical} aspects.

I am not going to go into how to physically do the S.L.T.   If you are in training you have already been shown one way and as the movements and the shape are relatively unimportant it is best keep to what you know.

What I want to speak of is how to connect with it.

To the best of my knowledge Sil Lim Tao translates to “the Way of the Little Idea”, this is important, it is not the Little Idea itself, only a way to approach or discover it.

It is not the shape, it is not the movement, it is the reason behind the shapes and movement. 

The most important learning objective in the Form, in fact the only learning objective of any real value in the Form is about understanding what it means to be a body.

Not just anybody.

Our own body.

 Understanding the relationship of  each part of the body to every other part of the body, and then to begin to understand how to move while maintaining the awareness of these relationships, and ultimately to do it all from the perspective of performing Wing Chun, which if you are a person that thinks there are six forms in Wing Chun instead of just one, moving from the perspective of performing Wing Chun is a culmination of all six Forms. 

Over all there is very little movement in the First Form, only the arms move, everything else is still, deliberately still, deliberately neutral.

Everything except the arms is disconnected so that later we can re-connect them correctly.

To think at this time that  the arms are in any way connected to this still, neutral body is moving in the wrong direction.

There are really only two things to understand here, what needs to be done to keep the body still, and what needs to be done to move the arms without disturbing that stillness.

Keeping the body still is not as some people think, it is not achieved by simply turning movement off any more than moving is commenced by turning stillness off, it is active, it is deliberate it is focused and it is only achieved when the whole body works together.

Stillness is active, we cannot achieve it by just turning things off.

For my shoulder, my hip, my elbow, my knee, my hand or my foot to be still I must be aware of their position not only in the world around them but also in the spatial relationship between them.

Only when everything is in the right place at the right time can there be stillness, this is the beginning of the manifestation of “Body Being”.

As you stand, quite still, become aware of the two different ways of perceiving our condition, the “Head” rising up and the “Body” sinking down, and balance them so that neither is overpowering the other, this constant antagonistic movement brings about a powerful type of balance and equilibrium, an active almost energetic neutrality with unlimited potential, there is nothing physical being done here yet, this is just the thinking.

Many Chinese Kung Fu’s call this the tension between Heaven and Earth.  The feeling of “Head Up, Body Down”.

From the perspective of “Body Being” all of the arm movements in the Form are about not disturbing the tension free stillness, maintaining the energetic neutrality of the body, this is a difficult IDEA to put into writing it really needs to be experienced first hand, it is a condition similar to a sprinter n the blocks waiting for the starting gun.

 As we progress through the pattern of moves that make up the S.L.T. each section brings in a different type of movement, each section increases the complexity of the move creating greater challenges to maintaining the tension free stillness of our body, making it more difficult to keep our “Body Being” active.

This is the sole function of the Internal / Mental aspect of the Sil Lim Tao Form, energetic neutrality. 

Some of the most important things to identify and understand within the first Form exist before the arms make their opening move.

Only from true stillness can true movement arise.

MOVING THE ARMS.

Here again I am not going to try to tell anyone how to move their arms, keep to what you know, what you are comfortable with, after all Wing Chun uses normal human body movement, every move should be just as we would pick our keys up from the table.

There are only two things we can do with an arm, open it or close it, even if it is rotating it is still opening or closing, keeping it still is not doing anything at all with our arm.

All of the arm movements in the first Form are variations of the same opening or closing movement, or more accurately different physical manifestations of the same thought that opens and closes an arm, the variations are natural deviations caused by how the arm sits in the shoulder joint at different positions through a rotation, and sometimes because of the effect gravity has on a moving arm.

This is why the actual shape of the moves is unimportant, if your intention is always the same your body will try its best to always do the same thing, the shape may change but the thinking remains, Bong Sau is the shape the arm assumes as it tries to perform Tarn Sau while it is rotating. 

Until we reach a point where we have personal awareness of our “Body Being” we need a mechanism to guide the training.

The first step 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.  This is the little IDEA.

The pattern of the Form is not as important as we might wish to think, it is just an aid to memory, what is important is that we are accurate, deliberate and consistent. By accurate I mean that we need to be spot on, deliberate means thinking of nothing but that move , where we are placing it, after all different moves do go to different places and how it is unfolding, and by consistent I mean hitting the Bullseye every time, thinking the same thought.

Be totally involved in the physicality of what you are doing, no zoning out in dreams of ascending power, if you are thinking of circulating energy you are no longer paying attention to the movement and how it feels, to a very large extent you are no longer doing the Form at all.

PERFORMING / PLAYING THE FORM.

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 performing / playing the whole Form in one go as each move is the same move, 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 without awareness and attention 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.

Do not invest the first Form with non existent qualities, it touches nothing and it does nothing, it is just ourselves learning how to drive this vehicle we call Body.

PARTNER TRAINING.

Once the pattern has been memorised and can be performed easily it is time to work on the condition of the arm, a partner will hold the wrist while a move, any of the moves, is performed. The aim here is not to try to affect the partner but to set up a feedback loop to observe how the arm operates against resistance, the thought should be of pushing ourselves away from the partner and not the partner away from us.

Because of the resistance we should be able to identify if we are creating the movement by primarily using our joints or our arm muscles. While in a position of static resistance practice isolating the elbow joint and moving it independently, then practice isolating the shoulder joint and moving that independently and finally combining the use of both of the joints simultaneously.

The awareness should be on the return force created by the resistance to the movement, once this is identified it can be used to check the alignment of the whole body by tracking its passage through the arm into the body and down to the floor.

At first this practice is done with selected, single positions against static resistance, later on the arms move from one position to another for instance Tarn Sau to Chit Sau, the same idea of pushing ourselves and not our partner and allowing the return force to enter into us and pass through us is in play through out the exercise.

It should be easy to see how this progresses into an exercise where both parties can be active, this of course is Chi Sau.

For people that think of Chum Kiu as being a seperate Form any exercises that need a partner should be considered as a Chum Kiu exercise, Chi Sau is a Chum Kiu exercise.

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