The most important thing is to know which path we wish to follow.

I was working with one of my senior guys not so long ago working on a challenging aspect of the Biu Gee Form when he said….

“but to do that I need to use strength, I feel like I am using muscle”.

My answer was to ask how else he expected to move his arm if he did not engage his muscle and use strength.

The idea that anyone can be competent at any physical activity without exerting physical effort, using strength, is a myth.

Before we proceed it is important to understand the historical difference between “External” and “Internal” Martial Arts in ancient China. 

External arts were a Chan Buddhism way of preparing the body for combat, not only in dexterity and coordination of technique but also training the body to be able to withstand physical punishment while having the emotional detachment to be able to ignore the implications of that punishment, this is exemplified by the Shaolin Soldier Monks.

Internal arts were a Taoist way to prepare the mind-body for personal growth, a way of transcending as a human being into the ‘Superior Man’ , Taoist Alchemy as found in the styles of Wudang mountain, central to all internal arts is Zahn Zhuang, standing meditation, the ultimate goal in Taoist arts is to transcend not fight.

Throughout its short existence Wing Chun has always been about fighting, although it has no overt spiritual affiliations it has always been considered a Buddhist art more than a Taoist art.

The disparity between Buddhist and Taoist arts goes along way to explaining the mess that Wing Chun finds itself in and the differences of opinion from one school to another.

The Taoist method of training is often referred to as soft, the aim is that through years of training, of doing less and less, a truly relaxed state can be achieved, a state of stillness, of not doing, Wu Chi, this is of course a spiritual goal and is deeply rooted in circling Chi and energy work.

The physical aspect of the Taoist method is to use physical interaction as a feedback loop to explore the level of relaxation in your own mind-body to determine how close we are to Wu Chi.

If however Wing Chun is approached as a fighting art then it needs to include calisthenics and powerful physical exchanges, systematic recruitment of muscles, kinetic linking and deliberate introduction of tension to transfer the power of momentum brought to bear by rapid movement that can only be accomplished by using strength in a fit body.

The most important thing is to know which path we wish to follow.

Many westerners unknowingly undertake Taoist training methods but expect Buddhist outcomes.

This is a zero sum game.

My Sifu’s school was guilty of promoting this confusing nether world, telling students that they were learning how to fight while teaching them the methodology of how to aim at becoming more than they are.

The school was guilty of misrepresenting the use of softness as fitness,  promoting relaxing as fighting.  The school even had its own motto emblazoned on its badges, shirts and other merchandise “Fitness with a purpose”.

Students will always believe what they are told, it is after all what they are paying for, telling them that softness works really messes them up when they are confronted by the fact that it does not, through the years my partners would complain that I was dominating them because “I was using strength”.

They would get quite precious when I pointed out that in most street fights so will the Bad Guy and that their real problem was not what I was doing but what they were failing to do.

They did not have the skill, knowledge or ability to deal with incoming superior strength.

Due to the fact that everyone in the school was working on softness they had never been confronted by genuine aggression and as a result had no answer to it.

All martial arts promote self awareness, knowing ourselves.

We cannot do this if we do not know what we are training, or at the very least understand the relationship between the method and the outcome.

Buddhist method or Taoist method are both brilliant but also very different, they bear different fruit come harvest time.

If you wish to be a better human use softness, be relaxed.

If you wish to be a better fighter use physicality, be strong.



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