Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: TWO OF EACH,NOT JUST ONE.

A BIG word in Wing Chun is Centreline what pattern are we superimposing with this IDEA?

Words are important, they are how we describe what we perceive as reality to ourselves, words are how we approach abstract concepts, how we manifest IDEAS and voice our thoughts, if we are using the wrong word or just using the a word the wrong way we are describing our reality in a way that is not happening.

The human Brain is a self organising pattern maker that dislikes chaos so much that it actively creates non existing patterns from it, this is what allows us to make our way through difficult aspects of life, but the patterns it makes are not real,  we only think they are, once the brain creates a pattern that works it will always choose this pattern, the brain superimposes this pattern over everything we experience, it makes sense to us and it obviously works because we are still here.

The fact that the pattern works is not a sign that it is the best or even appropriate pattern, it gets rusted on so we keep using it, because this story is of our brains own making most of us do not have the tools to question it, that’s why we have such high respect those that can, the creatives, the engineers, scientists and artists.

In every training session for the first couple of years we are bombarded with new information, tonnes of it, the thing is our brains can only process four pieces of information at once so we miss most of what we are told and make our pattern from what may well end up to be random IDEAS, there is no way of knowing if we are all picking up the same four pieces of information, chances are we are not, so we are all trying to make the same pattern with different pieces of information which we then superimpose over every similar situation.

A BIG word in Wing Chun is Centreline what pattern are we superimposing with this IDEA?  Is it close to reality?

Centreline is a way of dividing the body into a left side and a right side, it is about ourselves and does not in anyway interact with anything else, it is a frame of reference.  Centreline does not go from ourselves to another person, this is not its function, thinking that a Centreline does go from us to our partner / opponent is using the word in the wrong way, we are misunderstanding the IDEA, we are no longer describing reality. Centreline is simply a way of understanding that our body has two separate sides.

Simultaneous defence and attack is a by-product of Centreline thinking, two independent, individual, separate sides of the body doing two very different things, it is the same process as rubbing our tummy while tapping our head.

The IDEA that gets superimposed by the Y.C.K.Y.M. The Siu Lim Tao and the way most people play Chi Sau is not the best IDEA for a fighting martial art.

Seeing the Y.C.K.Y.M. As a working position leads to a very one dimensional view of Wing Chun, it leads to lazy and inflexible thinking, due to this we come to the idea that there is only one ball and only one triangle formed by both of our arms meeting in the centre, this is of course a misunderstanding, the theories around the ball and the triangle are part of the theory of our defence, in Wing Chun we do not defend with both arms {except for a couple of extreme situations}, so when playing Chi Sau we are maximising our training time by practising simultaneously but independently defensive ideas with both arms, they are not working together.

For some students this concept is difficult to come to terms with.

Accepting that the Y.C.K.Y.M. is the rear leg position of Chum Kiu opens us up to understand that each side of our body does act independently, and of course this is an aspect of Centreline theory, the left deals with the left or the right deals with the right while the other hand strikes out.  Thinking that there is only one ball or only one triangle situated with its central axis on a line from our sternum to our partner / opponent is an idea that gets drummed into us subconsciously by playing Chi Sau in the Y.C.K.Y.M. and that is why most of what we learn here is only really applicable to playing Chi Sau and not of much use for genuine conflict.

Each of our arms, from the shoulder to the wrist {in Biu Gee to the finger tip}, are the diameter or the axis of a ball, 2 arms = 2 balls, each of these balls has the ability to move through 90 degrees on the transverse plane, in other words the axle can point straight out or sideways, this allows for a coverage of 180 degrees using both arms.

Our arms also acts as a side of a triangle with its base angles on our sternum and our shoulder, and just like the balls these triangles can be opened to over 45 degrees on the transverse plane { further sideways positioning if required would be brought about by pivoting} , a very interesting exercise is to perform the Tarn Sau / Tor Sau movement from the S.L.T. by moving Tarn Sau out down the hypotenuse, Tor Sau in and back down the opposite side and then Woo Sau across the adjacent side to get back to the starting position.

 

 

One ball, one triangle thinking has a direct and quite negative ramifications for how we strike, but the main danger is that it creates inflexibility in our thinking.

In a violent situation a rigid body under the control of a flexible mind will always destroy a flexible body with a rigid mind.

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: CHI SAU , ARE WE APPROACHING IT RIGHT?

THIS IS WHAT WE DO, BUT WHAT ARE WE REALLY LEARNING?

 when I heard Master Chu Shong Tin say that in reality Chi Sau is used before contact, I was instantly intrigued

Many years ago I was at a seminar on Chi Sau at my Sifu’s school hosted by our Sigung ,Chu Shong Tin, during the evening he {C.S.T} said that in reality Chi Sau is used before contact, I had always been confused by Chi Sau, as an ex boxer and ex judoka I found it really hard to see how it could be used to defend ourself and really easy to see how it set people up for a beating, so when I heard Master Chu Shong Tin say that in reality Chi Sau is used before contact, I was instantly intrigued, with my sifu translating I asked CST what he meant, he told me that it was how we connected to incoming force and make it point somewhere else {turn it away} as he spoke did this action like a pivoting Kwan Sau, I thought for a brief second and then asked “so is it a little bit like Chum Kiu”? This amused CST mightily and as he was laughing at me said “It is not like Chum Kiu, it is Chum Kiu”, it was not long before this statement brought about a paradigm shift that made me look at both Chi Sau and Chum Kiu in a more cohesive way.

I am not trying to imply that I know a secret, there are no secrets, sometimes we just don’t listen.

However when I started bringing in Chum Kiu concepts to my own Chi Sau, shifting, changing stances, pivoting, my fellow Instructors that I rolled with would ask me to stop it and roll properly, they complained that I was making it difficult for them to practice Chi Sau, this of course just convinced me that I was on the right track, why would I wish to learn and practice something that someone could deal with? When I told them that it was C.S.T. that told me they just said that I had misunderstood him and carried on as before, grind, grind, chug, chug. The problem was snowballing, taking on a life of its own, Adherence to thinking of the Y.C.K.Y.M as a stance and working only with the movements of the  Sil Lim Tao had completely closed their minds.  All they were all learning was a new dance and the skills they practiced had little real world application.

If we have the wrong thinking towards the Y.C.K.Y.M. it affects everything we do, or at least the outcome of everything we do, it leads on to the misunderstanding of what a guard is, it leads to standing still in front of a moving opponent, it leads to hey diddle diddle push the spear down the middle, it leads us away from safe positions and into troublesome ones.  The way most Chi Sau is played we place ourselves in a position that is the weakest fighting position we would ever wish to find ourselves in { and instead of working out how to change this we stay there chatting}, we do not notice this because our partner is also in a weak position doing the same thing so no one has the advantage, we will not have this luxury in a real situation,  in the rarefied totally fake environment that is the training hall what is often referred to as good Chi Sau tends to resemble a front loading washing machine having an epileptic fit, and looks nothing like fighting.  It becomes its own game, and like most games it cannot be played properly unless all participants know how to play it, everything rapidly falls apart when someone does not know the rules.

 

 

My Sifu always stated that “Chi Sau was a means to an end, and not an end in itself” that it had no real purpose it was just a way for us to work things out, but whenever I asked someone I was rolling with what they were working on they would just say Chi Sau, for them at least it had become and end in itself.  If we look at videos even from the schools of famous masters, even C.S.T. we see students grinding their arms together and pushing each other about in ways that do not in any way resemble fighting.

Grind, grind, chug, chug.

At its core Wing Chun is working with a series of IDEAs, but IDEAs are not foolproof, delusions start of asIDEAs, for a delusion to survive other more rational IDEAs must be destroyed, only then can the delusion grow.

Y.C.K.Y.M. is one such delusion..

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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: IS THERE REALLY SUCH A THING AS A WING CHUN GUARD?

It should be obvious that a style can only have one set guard if it only ever fights against one set style.

I am a martial artist that does Wing Chun, and not a Wing Chun disciple, this allows me the luxury of being able to look at Wing Chun as it is, or at least as I personally see it instead of seeing it as how someone else sees it. Seeing what is really going on instead of seeing what I have been told is going on is important because something that causes a deal of confusion for all of us in Wing Chun is that there is no definitive “Right Answers”, this is the nature of a concept based martial art, that is why it is so important for all of us to continually question the conventional wisdom no matter who the source is, traditional Wing Chun information is significantly outdated compared to what we know today with regards to human movement and how the Human Body works.

Before we look at the misunderstood  Wing Chun Guard position we would do well to understand what a guard position is and what it is trying to achieve.

Any guard position is a precursor to action, a ready position for either attack or defence, if it hopes to be able to choose either option it needs to be neutral in its attitude, it cannot be pressing forwards and it cannot be pulling back.

From a self defence perspective neutral attitude also implies that the guard should not look overtly threatening, as this could escalate an argument into a fight.

No guard positions should compromise balance or obscure vision.

The position of the guard is a place where the hands are equidistant to all of the areas that need to be protected, each style has different defence options and that is why each style has a different guard position. We need to keep all of our bases covered, to be able to reach any base from the guard position in the same amount of time. 

Facing opponents from different styles with different attacks from our own potentially requires different guard positions, known and practiced alternatives that can be performed on the fly, or it needs to be a completely neutral and central position that can be easily and quickly moved to react to any threat.

Does the Wing Chun Guard fit this description?

It should be obvious that a style can only have one set guard if it only ever fights against one set style. The misunderstood version of the Wing Chun Guard is most effective at stopping attacks that come hey diddle diddle, straight down the middle. The one style that favours this type of attack is Wing Chun itself, the Wing Chun Guard is best suited to defend against another Wing Chun fighter.

Is that really who we are training to defend ourselves from?

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: FIXING THE Y.C.K.Y.M.

 

the biggest mistake most students make is to relax their legs, we need to learn how to add healthy tension into the structure to make it alive

These recent failure of the two Wing Chun Masters against M.M.A. fighters has been making many of my guys reassess their take on Wing Chun, firstly for all of us it is important to accept that they where genuine Wing Chun Masters, the organisers of the event obviously wished to discredit Wing Chun so how could they hope to do that if these guys were not recognised Masters, someone somewhere would of pointed out to the world that this was a set up and called Bullsh*t, but that has not happened.

The reason Wing Chun fighters do so badly against competitive fighters is that they genuinely try to do Wing Chun instead of just fighting.  Wing Chun is not really suited to Mano a Mano situations, our main weapon is surprise, followed by a quick finish and off home for a cup of tea, as a result of this if the Wing Chun fighter does not get the quick finish they can struggle quite badly, there is no “Plan B” in Wing Chun. 

Wing Chun is a clever martial art but it is not very technical, it is nowhere near as technical as western boxing for instance, a great deal of what is passed on as Wing Chun, even by the very top masters, is naive in respect of fight craft and strategy, the Wing Chun stance and guard is completely ineffective but I do not think that it was ever meant to be used for real, it is just a simple frame of reference to begin training from but unfortunately it has taken on a life of its own and now students try to use it with predictably bad results.

The Yee Chi Kim Yeung Ma is a conditioning exercise for the legs to prepare them for the work to come in Chum Kiu, to condition any muscle it must be activated the biggest mistake most students make is to relax their legs, we need to learn how to add healthy tension into the structure to make it alive. The  idea that the Y.C.K.Y.M. is a fighting stance has permeated mainstream Wing Chun and the flow on effect is that everything is being done in the wrong place at the wrong time from the wrong direction, look around, most Wing Chun schools teach only one angle of attack namely front to back and hey diddle diddle straight down the middle, it is great when it works, and it will work against an average street mug, but it will rarely work against an experienced fighter as our two unfortunate Wing Chun masters found out.

 

 

The real training in Wing Chun begins with Chum Kiu, everything before that was just isometric exercises, if we can look at the Y.C.K.Y.M as two separate legs, the rear legs of the stances introduced in Chum Kiu we realise that it shows us how to move, not stand still, there is some very clever stuff going on in the Y.C.K.Y.M once you abandon the idea that it is a stance, but only when you know where to look.

 

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: THE VIEW FROM 30,000 FEET.

FROM UP HERE EVERYTHING IS A COMMON DENOMINATOR.

 

Deconstructing the Forms and reassembling them in different patterns is the key to mastery. Breaking apart the practiced sequence even the direction of travel is enlightening.

When we are training in Wing Chun something that should be held front and centre in our mind is that Wing Chun is based on normal human body movement, if for some reason we are struggling with any particular action or any section of any form it is because we are not moving like a normal human.  Once we get past the dance, at their core all Forms are just dances, Forms function as an observation deck into how much we understand about our own body, they are not really teaching us anything, we already know how to move ourselves, placing special emphasis on any particular set of movements is a trap that binds and blinds, it prevents us from understanding the totality of the Wing Chun system, the end game of which is to be able to create power on the fly, from any position, any shape with any part of our body.

There are ideas introduced in Chum Kiu that are not repeated in Biu Gee that we are meant to take along with us just as we are meant to bring the ideas from the First Form with us into Chum Kiu. In particular in Chum Kiu we have a Bong Sau / Dai Sau movement that is performed in the first section with a pivot and in the second section with a shift. This is a clear indication that all arm structures can be performed either pivoting or shifting.

All arm structures.

Biu Gee is predominately performed with pivots, but if we follow what was introduced in Chum Kiu the moves can also be done shifting, and of course we see that in the Dummy with the Kwan Sau and Garn Sau movements being performed with shifting in the first section and pivoting in the second and third section of the Dummy Form.

By the time we complete our study of Biu Gee we have been introduced to the complete repertoire of movement in Wing Chun, but it is still to a large extent a jig saw that needs putting together, looking ahead we see that there is backwards shifting and stepping in the Knives and the Pole, the straight back shift to the cat stance from the Pole is introduced in Chum Kiu albeit in two separate parts, the lateral curved backwards shift in the Knives was introduced in Biu Gee.

Deconstructing the forms and reassembling them in different patterns is the key to mastery, bringing forward the idea from the S.L.T. to use only one hand breathes new life into the Chum Kiu and Biu Gee, performing the opening sequence from the S.L.T. with the movement and aggression of Biu Gee is exactly what we do with the Dummy and of course in application.  Breaking apart the practiced sequence even the direction of travel is enlightening.

For reasons I really do not understand the majority of the people that I began this journey with over 25 years ago base the majority of their training on the First Form, do not mistake me I know that the First Form is important, the first step of any journey is important, we cannot build without foundations but unless our training is imbued with the knowledge of the Chum Kiu and Biu Gee it is of no functional value, the First Form is an imaginary Form in the very realest of senses, everything that we can come to understand through the First Form can be learned by studying Chum Kiu and Biu Gee but there are numerous aspects of the later Forms that can not even be approached through the First Form, focusing on the First Form is not enough if you expect to be dealing with nasty, violent and more than likely larger people.

People train for many different reasons, but at the end of the day Wing Chun has a specific objective to achieve, and that objective is to defend ourselves, which Form, if any, is the best training to prepare us for this? In Wing Chun how we approach the work is of as much consequence as the work itself, if we perform Biu Gee the same way as we perform S.L.T. then we are in point of fact still doing S.L.T.  If we do Biu Gee the same way as we do Chum Kiu then we are in point of fact still doing Chum Kiu, this is not necessarily a negative, it also means we can perform S.L.T. with the aggression and intent of Biu Gee and still be doing Biu Gee!

Standing still moving slowly will most certainly help us understand how our joints work and how to use them correctly but it does not energise a kinetic chain, it does not increase velocity, it does not create greater momentum and as such is not representative of dynamic contact especially the type we are expecting if we ever get into a violent situation.

We should ask ourselves what is normal human body movement in respect of a Martial Art. 

Wing Chun is a system, although we have six Forms all the relevant information is in the first three, the Dummy combines the three into one and brings into being a workable whole, Knives and Pole Forms add complexity and difficulty due to the tools themselves this allows us to approximate challenges in controlling our body mass and balance that we may face when confronting the force of an opponent.

How we train is how we will fight, how could it be any other way?

 

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