What a paradox, accept that we are play-acting but do not pretend it works.

Settle in guys, this is going to be a long one, this post has been bubbling away for years in one form or another, mostly it is fueled by the questions students ask me in ‘one-on-one’ lessons where we have more time and motivation for exploration.

Firstly we must, as always, remember that the most important attribute for a Martial Artist to develop in their training is honesty.

At some level, we all know that training is not fighting, that training is nothing like fighting, that what we cover in training is nothing like what we will face in a violent encounter.

This is not in any way a negative assessment, there is no other way to approach training, and this is the same for every Martial Art style.

We will never use the things we think we are training, but teachers like myself insist that Wing Chun is a supremely effective method of self-defence once we understand the deeper aspects of the work. 

Deeper aspect, Duh!!

Sometimes when I try to explain this stuff to you guys you look at me as if I am a retired physics teacher that has double-dosed on his meds and needs a sit-down and a cup of tea.

What are we learning/studying then?

We are learning/studying the exchange of force between two people.

How to accept it, how to store it, how to issue it, and if needed how to develop it out of our natural body and its natural movement.

The vehicle we use for this, the testing ground for our theories, is Wing Chun Kung Fu and in particular how to engage an attacker.

From this perspective, the perspective of the exchange of force, things like attacking, defending, punching, re-directing, kicking, borrowing, and anything else we care to mention are all the same thing.

One shape. One movement. One body.

The difficulty is recognising that we are not trying to learn and understand Wing Chun, we are trying to learn and understand the forces that operate it and the ‘Concepts’ Wing Chun uses to realise those forces.

Once we get this, every move we make can be called Wing Chun, in fact, every Martial Art and every Sport can be called Wing Chun.

I know that this is just a bit ‘Out There” but hang in, a light might turn on.

So the work becomes understanding the difference between the real and the unreal, the difference between what we are doing and what we are learning.

Don’t get me wrong, the technical side of the things we are learning will work just as it says on the box, but it is a case of building a skyscraper with good steel as opposed to building a skyscraper with poor steel.

They both may look the same but put them under extreme pressure and one stays up and one falls down.

Do not blame the architect, blame the builder.

Once we accept this dichotomy that nothing we are doing will work but that’s O.K. Because that is not what we are learning, the practicality of the technique we are doing becomes a bit of a moot point.

But we must be aware of what and why of our training or we are simply learning ‘shit’ that will get us done over.

In training, we often talk about developing Simultaneous Attack and Defence.

Let’s not get distracted by the fact that it is not possible to attack and defend at the same time, just as we cannot jump up and fall down at the same time, it is an exercise, a concept and a learning tool that is well suited to the task.

As we stand there fully aware of what is coming and our training partner, who means us no harm, whose role as a partner is to aid our development, PRETENDS to throw strikes at us which, in all honesty, would not put a hole in a wet paper bag, we PRETEND to deal with it.

The ‘Attack’ was never real therefore the ‘Defence’ was never real.

This is obviously ‘play-acting’, and that’s O.K.

As I say, short of going ‘full retard’ [Ben Stiller in tropical thunder]and getting stuck into each other, there is no other way, even in the so-called ‘Reality Based’ Martial Arts which in all honesty is the biggest play acting of all, a far, far deeper immersion into self-deception than Wing Chun could ever be. 

Training has always been this way, and it has always been this way because it is the only way.

We are not the first generation to misunderstand our training, to think that the techniques we train will work when the chips are down and someone means us harm, only to find out too late that they do not.

What a paradox, accept that we are play-acting but do not pretend it works.

Back in the 16th Century, when Self-Defence meant staying alive, the Sword Master George Silver wrote about ‘Reality Based’ Training” in his treatise on Swordsmanship, ‘The Paradox of Defences’

“These schools pay no attention to defence. Because of this, they die like flies. Then they point to these deaths and say, ‘See how deadly our art is?'”

It makes me think of Krav Maga.

Let’s pull this back in.

The purpose of Wing Chun training is to understand defence.

By understanding defence, I mean understanding Defence as a ‘Concept’ and not as a technique to stop a strike.

Defence is the art of preventing external forces from having a negative effect on us.

During training, if we look closely at ourselves and do not get involved in the scenario we are using, we observe that the aim of everything we do is to accept and as a result lessen impact forces.

To take the incoming force into ourselves and then move it somewhere else.

It is not possible to accurately portray this with words, it needs to be experienced, it needs to be felt to be understood.

Imagine throwing a large soft medicine ball with a friend, if we stand still and attempt a hard catch the ball almost knocks us over.

Sifu Isaac tells us that ‘to every action, there is a reaction of the same magnitude in the opposite direction’.

What hits us with the medicine ball exercise is the contact forces pushing us into the ground and the ground returning that same force.

When someone throws a punch or just pushes our hand it is the same.

Force pushes us into the ground and the ground pushes back.

What creates the contact forces is attempting to stop the movement of the ball.

If we move on contact with the medicine ball, prevent that impact force from travelling through my body to my foot and reaching the floor in the first place there is no return force as such.

Sifu Isaac’s first law, Inertia, if a body is at rest or moving at a constant speed in a straight line, it will remain at rest or keep moving in a straight line at constant speed unless it is acted upon by a force.

This is accepting force and redirecting force, keeping the force moving, shapes or stances are unimportant only moving the force matters.

The alignment of our internal structure and correct movement of our external structure allow the force to travel uninterrupted.


Now imagine throwing the ball back to our partner.

What did we do? Where did the force come from to move the ball? how do we throw it faster, farther?

This is the real work.

Hitting people is child play, I know, I was once a child, however, hitting people hard from any position is a very special skill.

At 3:00 in the video, I talk about James getting his force back, the reason is that his force is now travelling through me to the extent that he is now trying to move the planet, obviously, he fails and gets his own force returned by the stability of Mother Earth.

The big girl was on my side.


I wouldn’t tell you if it wasn’t true.



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