Say what?


There is only one way a human frame can absorb force

There are some unavoidable problems when training Wing Chun, or probably any Chinese Kung Fu for that matter, if the instruction is in English.

The problem is the language itself, or more accurately the way we as English speakers use the language.

There are two areas in particular that misleading terms are used constantly in instructing Wing Chun, I will quickly repeat myself here, it is the fault of the way we use language and not the fault of Wing Chun.

This is when we talk about relaxation or talk about not creating tension.

We must understand some very basic things about muscles, they are either active or inactive, put simply we use them or we do not use them, the term for an inactive muscle, a muscle that is not used, is RELAXED.

If I use a muscle to the extreme of its potential of 100% activation it is being used 100%, obviously.

If I use a muscle to 50% of its potential activation it is still being used, in fact it is still being used 100%, I am still using the whole muscle I am just using it at 50% of its potential strength, this 50% is a measure of the level of output of that muscle in that activity, it is just a value.

If I use a muscle at 5% of its potential activation the muscle is still being used 100%, I am still using the whole muscle, but only at 5% of its potential strength, 5% of the potential output.

A relaxed muscle is not activated, it is not used at all, 0% of its potential strength,  zero output.

Being relaxed is an end state, it is binary, a muscle is either on or off, active or relaxed, relaxing is not a doing thing, it is not a process it is a product, there is no sliding scale, we cannot be 25% relaxed. 

We cannot relax incrementally, we are either relaxed or we are not but how often are we told or we tell others to relax and once they have relaxed tell them to relax some more?

This is a language usage problem that I have been guilty of myself, but all the same there is no avoiding the reality that it is wrong to tell students to relax.

All we can do is decrease the output level of the activity, which can be done incrementally and can be held at 25%.

In the same vein we tell students to not create tension in their muscles when the only way to activate a muscle, the only possible way to use it, is to contract it, to put it under tension.

How does this manifest itself in our training or teaching, is it really such a big deal?

Let us use as an example the analysis of Tarn Sau. When we instruct a student to relax, to remove the tension from their arm because they will not be able to absorb incoming force we are not telling them anything that is even close to what they need to do.

There is only one way a human frame can absorb force, this is human biomechanics, this is science.

Our body absorbs force by transferring the force to our muscles, where contractions in the opposite direction absorb the force. Some force is also absorbed by our bones and body tissue, but within sport most of our force absorption occurs in our muscles. In order to absorb large forces safely, our body seeks to absorb the force by increasing the time of absorption, increasing the movement length used to absorb the force, or increasing the area in which the force is absorbed. The body will also apply a force in the opposite direction, usually using an eccentric contraction.

I sourced the above information here.

This misunderstanding has serious and very negative flow on effects, some students develop the idea that they can be successful in physical situations without themselves being physical.

How does it end up being taught this way?

I have been training people in Wing Chun for well over 20 years, the vast majority of the hundreds of students that I have helped did not stay in training for more than a few months, a year at best, this is a well known issue in our community.

 I can look back and see that without making a conscious decision about this I spent no time at all trying to introduce new students to the particular semantics of Wing Chun’s verbal instruction {I do these days from day one}.

Once someone had been with me for a couple of years I would go down this path with them, in depth, but subconsciously I did not see the value in expending the time or effort with people that may  be gone in the next 12 months, I would justify this by telling myself that I did not want to overwhelm them with too much information.

If an Instructor does not speak English as a first language they may not even be aware of this problem because it is how they learned to describe the instruction from their instructor, so they just repeat what they were told themselves trusting that their own instructor was more familiar with English.

If this Instructor influences students that go on to influence their own students the problem grows exponentially.

As Students or Instructors we must work hard to not be that guy.



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