Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY; LOOKING FOR EASY.

I JUST LOVE THIS SINGLE CHI SAU DRILL.

One obvious attraction of Wing Chun to new students is that there is no requirement to use strength, in fact it is frowned upon, softness and relaxation are the sought after conditioning. Observing a typical class you would be hard pressed to see anyone breaking a sweat or moving dynamically, no one applying effort.

I know there will be people reading this thinking  “He should come and train with us” but I assure you no matter what you think your Wing Chun class is doing it is nothing compared to Boxing Gym, a Judo Dojo or a Ju Jitsu Club, all of which I have been involved with at one time or another in my more than 55 years in the Martial Arts so I am talking from experience.

When was the last time someone left your class to go to the emergency ward  to get stitches inside their cheek, to get an arm relocated or to have a sprained wrist strapped up, over the years all of these things and many more have happened to me in the course of an ordinary evenings training.       In 25 years of Wing Chun training I have never seen anyone cop even a half serious injury, I have however seen a few people get a bit of a tap leave early never to return.

Not getting beaten up at training is in no way a negative thing, however training that brings no real test of a persons mettle is of dubious value in self protection, it is after all violence, fighting, we anticipate.

I consider myself to be a Martial Artist that now focuses on Wing Chun as opposed to an out and out Wing Chun practitioner, as a result I do not feel any obligation to uphold the opinion that Wing Chun is flawless and superior, because it quite simply is not, like all other Martial Art styles it has holes in it big enough to drive a fist through, often just being aware of the holes is all that is needed to avoid them, pretending they are not there just increases the chance of falling in one, any way at the end of the day it is not the style that gets us out of harms way, it is intention and effort.

There is a well respected and oft proven maxim in combat sport that states “Train hard so that you can fight easy” how does this relate to training that is soft and effortless?

As a fighting art Wing Chun becomes so much more effective if you have other skill sets that you can then apply Wing Chun thinking and strategy to, this is where Wing Chun really starts to shine, understanding that to win you really do have to go “Hard” and if we choose Wing Chun thinking we need to develop how to do this with minimum effort, not softness, the thing is that if you have no personal experience of what it means to go “Hard”, to go “Beast Mode” how can you ever do it without effort?

This is the disconnect that plagues Wing Chun, you cannot learn to be “Hard” through “Softness”.

On a more positive and encouraging note by using Wing Chun thinking and application it is more than possible to soften up something considered too hard without loosing all of the associated benefits of that said hardness.

There is no “HARD” training in Wing Chun so if you are training to develop an effective skill set some needs to be brought in from outside, we need to bring in training that hurts, training that is physical and will leave us with overuse soreness, we need exercises that break every rule that Wing Chun stands for we need to feel the issues that come with difficult to resolve conflict.

Kung Fu translates to something on the lines of achievement through time and effort, not softness, not looking for easy.

The majority of Wing Chun students join schools because of self defence issues, most are not looking to develop a lasting skill set, just some quick easy solutions to potential problems, but they get sucked in by the fairy stories that get told, that they can develop into serious and dangerous martial artists by standing around and doing very little, they get told tales of famous masters that stood around doing little for hours on end and eventually became the best in the world, this appeals to the inherent laziness deep inside all of us, and of course plays into every schoolboy Kung Fu Fantasy.

In life, every single aspect of life, sport, work and play you get nowhere without hard work and effort.

The really big worry with the schools and students that are “Looking for Easy”  is that not only do they buy into the IDEA that you can win a brawl without training hard, but that they could be literally staking their lives on it if they expect wishy washy Mothership thinking to get them out of deep and serious “You are here” doo doo.

so that is what they mean by Internal!

GO HARD OR GO HOME.

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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

CAN SOFTNESS STOP A HARD PUNCH?

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS SOFT FORCE?

Eventually this is the most important consideration in many of the Martial Arts, and especially the Traditional Chinese Martial Arts, and by extension Wing Chun.

It is my firmest belief that as students we must present ourselves open and empty to be truly honest and capable of moving forward, our answer to the idea of softness and where it resides in our own training will define our understanding or highlight our  ignorance of the dynamics involved in personal violence.

Softness is not a FORCE.

Softness is the antithesis of FORCE.

Soft Force is an Oxymoron, something that contradicts itself, so we should stop thinking of soft force and try to develop a wider understanding of softness as a condition in relationship to a Martial Art.

An unfortunate reality is that a fair amount of modern Wing Chun is getting confused and hybridised with Tai Chi, Tai Chi pushes the opponents body mass, case in point Peng, the ward off, which is a very large aspect of Push Hands, Wing Chun chooses to not take this path,  Wing Chun chooses redirection, redirection is to go somewhere else or to send incoming force somewhere else, we shift, we pivot we step away.  A great deal of what is being taught as Chi Sau is closer to push hands than it is to Chi Sau. Many  Wing Chun practitioners think PAK SAU………….  but perform PENG.

Hardness and Softness are values, measures, delineations of types of contact, not of application, for instance it is well within my own skill set to make soft contact with an attacker using a steel pipe, which is, as everyone knows, as hard as steel.

Don’t say that!!!!

Being in a relaxed state has very little to do with softness, when drunks fall over they hit the ground just as hard as anyone else, being relaxed does not make someone any lighter.

If someone throws a punch at us there is no way we can affect the amount of force they use, or wether or not their striking arm is tense or relaxed, we have very limited control over the conditions of contact, contact is an aggregation of many factors such as stability, speed of movement, direction of movement and relative weight of the two respective points of contact.

The best we can do is affect how heavy the contact is. Softness is a contact issue.

What we refer to as soft contact can be achieved by various means such as redistributing the contact force along a greater contact area {shearing}, accepting the force and allowing it to pass through us {absorbing}, or by accepting the force and allowing it to settle into our centre and physically move us {following} or similarly reside in our centre and then purposefully take it somewhere else{leading}, in all likelihood in application it will be a combination of some or all of the previously mentioned.

I also feel that we would all benefit from changing the rhetoric, even if soft force existed why on earth would we want to stop anything? Stopping something requires a minimum of equal force and usually greater force.

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY; DEFENCE AGAINST KICKS.

NOT THE BEST RANGE TO FIGHT AT DUDE!

“If you train for what happens most, you will be ready for most of what happens”!

In the basic Wing Chun cannon there are numerous idea’s about how to defend against kicks, just like most training, in most styles, most of it will not work in a random street event.

This is not the problem it seems if we truly understand what it is we are training, we are training the IDEA, all of Wing Chun is about the IDEA, all of the various physical training we do is about building confidence, developing dexterity and allowing us to explore the IDEA.

There are no techniques in Wing Chun, if you truly expect what we do in training to work in real time against a non compliant aggressor all I can say is best of luck with that.

The only think that we can expect to work is the IDEA.

One of the things I always say to my students when we deal with a kicker is that Kicks are like Sticks, unless the opponent is highly skilled kicks are one dimensional, they are stiff, predictable {easy to see where they are aimed at} and only deliver full power from a set distance usually delivered with the foot.  In saying that if the opponent is highly skilled, a good kicker can cause serious problems.

In my own experience people rarely kick in a street situation once the action commences, they will kick to get things going and keep kicking until  the two guys come together, and of course most certainly kick the stuffing out of anyone that falls over, ironically it is their own intention to do this {and the knowledge of how easy it is to fall over if you are fighting on one leg} that prevents them from trusting kicks mid fight.

In any violent encounter the person that gets the upper hand is rarely the person with the best technique, most power, the fittest or the strongest it is usually the person with the better strategy, the person that can get in a position to dominate the situation with their own thinking before their opponent, or alternatively just stop the opponent from using their own thinking.

Attacking the opponents strategy is always the key to success.

What is a kickers strategy?    Why do they kick?     There is really only two reasons.

Fist and foremast it is range, a leg is longer than an arm and this allows an attack from a relatively safe position, or at least a position where they cannot be punched, it allows the kicker to dominate where the action takes place. Kicks that do not even make contact are useful for keeping that distance between the fighters extended,  they allow the kicker to break his opponents rhythm and in dong so effect his strategy.  Prevent this from happening and you are half way home.

Secondly is the perception of power, while a well delivered kick can generate great power first it needs to be well delivered, from a stable well balanced position, this is much harder to do in a violent encounter where chaos is king than it is in training or a ring. Kicking requires confidence, self trust and above all else being in the right place at the right time, which requires both people to play their part in being in that place, check out the picture above,  if you do not do him the favour of being in that place he cannot kick you.  

It is very, very hard to kick a dynamically mobile person because by its nature kicking is almost static, it is not a mobile form of attack, effectively the kicker stands still on one leg and trusts his technique {even if they themselves are not aware of this}, once the kick has not had the desired effect the confidence dips and the kicking stops.

Attack the strategy, attack the confidence, trying to actually defend against or attack the leg is a lot more difficult than we may come to think from our training  experience where we know what is coming and it is pretty much all half speed.

Kicking comes in two flavours, even for Wing Chun, swinging kicks {hook kicks, roundhouse kicks, reverse kicks, axe kicks} or push kicks {the leg version of a straight jab, low heel kick, thrusting kick}, in street situations the majority will be swinging kicks, just as in a street situation the majority of punches are swinging punches.

There is a very old adage in self defence systems, “If you train for what happens most, you will be ready for most of what happens”!  Most of our training should be defending swinging kicks no matter how many times you see a front kick used in the “Octagon” or the “Ring”.

Movement is the key, shifting sideways into the direction of a swinging kick prevents it from developing its full force, shifting forwards into a push kick means that even if the kick lands the return force will adversely compromise the kickers balance, shifting diagonally towards the kicking leg will achieve both to a certain extent.

There is a conception that you should not use arms to defend against kicks, the thought being that legs are so much bigger and more powerful that they would break arms, this is complete silliness, especially from the perspective of Wing Chun, if you understand and use Wing Chun correctly {look around the internet you will see that many people do not,  there are a great many schools out there in Chunland that are doing some form of  Tai Chi hybrid, many schools say PAK SAU but then use PENG, many schools idea of CHI SAU is closer to PUSH HANDS}, correct Wing Chun does not block, it does not carry weight or stop force, it re-directs, it moves, it shifts, it turns, it does not stand still in the Goat Grabbing Stance waiting to be hit.

Pretty much every school, including my own, teaches Wing Chun from what is basically the Chi Sau position, this is a training position that in reality is very difficult to defend {which is one of the reasons we use it}, especially from kicks, this is not where Wing Chun does the work, Wing Chun does the work almost shoulder to shoulder and shifted  down one side, just like most of the moves on the Dummy taking this position against a kicker requires we move second allowing the kicker to be committed to his action.

The goal should always be to take control of the space, once in control you can do anything you know irrespective of your level of training.  Kickers will usually set themselves up well out of contact range, people that practice a pressing aggressive Wing Chun need to be careful that they do not get sucked into the attackers hit zone and get finished off on the way in. This set up position means that unless the kicker is very highly trained they will first step to a position that they can launch the kick from, depending on their skill level and size {Leg length} this could be a movement of as little as a couple of inch’s or as much as a foot and a half, but they always step, the simplest thing is that as soon as they step, before they begin to swing a leg, you step in to join them, put your own front foot next to their front foot and punch them in the face, your punch will more often than not land before their kick even begins. If you can step up to an attackers front foot you can just as easily step on that foot, or the leg it belongs to which is really all Wing Chun kicks do, we just do it dynamically.

Wing Chun is a fighting art, if we are using it we should not be overly concerned about being hit, instead of reacting to avoid a kick we should step into it and literally embrace it, catch it,  with the guys leg now in our possession and in or under our arm we can simply pluck off the low hanging fruit, if you get my drift, 

 

punch him in the face, push him over or attack the supporting leg, just keep it simple. This is easier done against a swinging kick but it can done to a straight kick by arrow stepping from Biu Gee.

If someone does use a straight push kick shift sideways as we do through Chum Kiu slap it aside with PAK SAU, then slide forwards and attack, or pivot as we do in Chum Kiu and use LOW BONG SAU to redirect it away, then slide forwards and attack, you could even elect to palm strike or hammer fist it away if you have the time, this will cause some pain and confusion to the kicker making it easier to step in and then it is business as usual.

Although we teach kick jamming, and it works well in training, in the chaos of a street fight this approach has a lower chance of success than redirecting. There are no do overs in a street fight, no second chances so it pays to play the high percentages not the low percentages, apart from that if you get enough notice of the incoming kick to jam it you may as well just kick it.

Most students trepidation and even fear of facing kicking comes from watching M.M.A, Muay Thai or Kick Boxing Matches, watching highly skilled fighters in a controlled environment and not from real personal experience,  because this is the only world they know when it comes to kickers they think everyone is a powerful and fast kicker when in reality very, very few people are.

As a person that trains for self-defence we should keep in mind that Combat Sports are not Street Fights, for one thing both guys in a match fight are there to hit each other and are not overly concerned about getting out of the way of their opponents, that is why so many kicks land on their target, no one actively tries to avoid them, in fact in Muay Thai it is common to see people walk into the other guys kicks to put themselves in a better position to establish the clinch.

If you think about how we deal with the variety of upper body attacks, redirecting, shifting, pivoting why would it be so different with lower body attacks?  Why would we need two different approaches to the work?  With legs your shin becomes the bridge if needed and your foot becomes a Pak Sau.

I have had a fair share of street fights in my life and apart from kicking it off, excuse the pun, very few people kicked me and those that did failed to hurt me and stop my strategy of controlling the space, stepping in and doing the work.  Personally I would prefer to face a good kicker than a good boxer any day of the week, boxers use dynamic movement, to a very large extent kickers stand and kick. When I lost fights or took damage it was mostly from punches, sticks, or other improvised weapons, unless as I said earlier, if you end up on the floor we all know what happens, there is no effective defence against our own bad decisions.

There are a great many ideas out there as to what technique to use in what situation, and as I said at the top of this piece none of them will work, but the IDEA behind them will work, moving a leg away is just moving a leg away, who cares how we do it.  Most if not all of our training against kicks is done with a partner that does not kick like a Kareteka, a Muay Thai fighter, a Kick Boxer or even just a mental street kid, forget the technique and study the IDEA behind it.

The preponderance of schools that extoll the virtue of the Y.C.K.Y.M. set students up to lose against even a half decent kicker, the key is movement and not being where the attackers strategy needs you to be.

 

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.  General George S. Patton.

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: MOVING THE FRAME

Our brains prefer to work with images over words, anything we can do to imagine or visualise what we are doing will help us develop a deeper and more personal understanding of the work. The more diverse our imagery, the more varied the scope of our imagination leads to a much more rounded understanding.  Best of all because it is personal it only needs to make self to ourselves.

With my approach when we start to look at moving the frame we break it down into a number of individual ideas, sub sets or templates if you like, although we work on them separately they are all different aspects of the one more complex template, this can be a bit confusing and often sounds slightly contradictory, the best way to view it is as if it is a Photo Montage that you build up with different separate image layers and then unify into a new distinct image that at times can be unrecognisable from the original ideas and the component parts.

 

The separate layers would be called “T”. Bar,  “I” BeamBounding Box, later we introduce another layer called “X” Cross that deals with energy transmission.

All are 2 dimensional analog representations of a 3 dimension shape in space. This manner of description may come across as unnecessary techno babble but I believe to truly explore and discover something we do well to separate it from the familiar, the usual, especially something like Wing Chun where so many students develop deep emotional investments in the opinion of single individuals that it makes it difficult for them to find their own way, learn their own truth.

Everything arises from awareness, and awareness arises from imagination, the creation of mental images, for me this is made easier by using the Photoshop analogies of using layers. The first step is to image our body with each distinctive shape inside it, and to work on them until we are happy with the result,  the beauty of the Photoshop analogy is that at any time I can return and work on individual layers, these changes will of course have a direct effect on the overall image, but there is no need for me to change everything every time I develop a deeper understanding.

Maintaining the “T”. Bar motionless is introduced through the first Form, in many ways it is not being used at all and we are just becoming aware of it, the Torso Centreline is not functionally active until we begin Biu Gee.

Moving the “I” Beam from its base is introduced through the second Form, this is really just an introductory idea, a beginning phase, once this is understood we realise that the second Form is more accurately represented by a Bounding Box than a “I” Beam, it is never the centreline we want to move, never the horizontal portion of the “T” Bar, it is the side axis’ the vertical edges of the Bonding Box that correlate to shoulder / hip alignment that we wish to become aware of and control.

Rotating the “T”. Bar is introduced through the third Form.

Moving the Frame is not about Wing Chun, treating it as a stand alone discipline will allow us to advance rapidly as we do not waste valuable training time trying to justify it to outside limitations.

Once we know how to move the Frame effectively we simply take advantage of the information and plug it in to our Wing Chun.

Wing Chun thinking is at best the thinking of the early 20th Century, a lot of its methodologies no longer stack up to modern day scrutiny, but it is only the methods that struggle, not the IDEA itself.

All of these imaginings exist simultaneously, so when the “T” Bar rotates it can be seen to rotate on the base of the “I” Beam that itself does not move.  When we rotate the Shoulder girdle in Biu Gee we do not incorporate the waist as part of the Biu Gee movement, the waist is on a different layer, Chum Kiu.   To be expected once the image is flattened there are no longer individual layers and no unconnected, separate movement.

The “X” Cross is less structural than the others but equally important to consider as it plots the optimal path that all energy takes as it enters and exits the Frame, high to low and its reverse, left to right and its reverse, in use there is a natural connection between the left foot and the right hand,  the right foot and the left hand irrespective of whether we are accepting force or emitting force.

 

 

 

Exploring this will allow you to understand why Wing Chun uses Chum Kiu structures to make contact and not the Y.C.K.Y.M.

 

 

 

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Food for Thought

THE IDEA IS NOT THE KNOWLEDGE, THE IDEA IS SIMPLY THE KEY.

WING CHUN is firmly based in the pursuit and study of  THE IDEA, the SIU NIM TAO, weirdly in many ways this turns Wing Chun into an imaginary Martial Art, a mental construct, perhaps not a genuine, useable reality.

As a result of this weirdness a great deal of what we do, the physical bits of our training if you wish, is simply a distraction that keeps our bodies occupied while our mind interprets the IDEA and in time extracts the knowledge that many confuse as the IDEA.   Once understanding of the IDEA reaches a certain level there is no distinction between Chi Sau, ironing a shirt or mowing the lawn.

If this epiphany has not yet happened for you yet I can well understand people thinking “What is this guy smoking”?

The IDEA is not the knowledge the IDEA is simply the key.

If someone were to read back through all of my Blog Posts they would notice a sudden and quite dramatic change in the overall feel of my posts from about 5 years back and more acutely about 2 years back, I quite simply reached a place of no doubt.   I am not trying to say that I now know all there is to know, that is of course impossible, but I had reached a place that no longer needed sustained improvement, there was and still is plenty of room for improvement, just no pressing need, the impetus now is mostly maintenance.

What is it that I no longer have any doubt about?  What knowledge has the key unlocked?

The answer is so simple….. ME {or in your own case YOU}.

If I get in trouble  I”  will use Wing Chun and not the other way around, it is I” that does any Form and not the other way around, it is  I” that plays Chi Sau and not the other way around.  It just took me a long time to understand.

My own Sifu, Jim Fung once said to me that “the first 20 years are the hardest”, it may be coincidence but it turned out to be that was the timeline in my case.

The Great Leap Forwards was not understanding what goes where, when and why but rather identifying what was surplus in my practice, a little like the parable of the uncarved block.  If you FOCUS on taking away what is not the carving you will be left with only the carving.

And of course accidental perfection.

This is very clear to me now but what is not clear is can I teach this, is the passage of time all that is really required, on a different occasion I asked my Sifu …………

Q.   “What does it take to become a Master”?

A.    “Turn up to training and pay attention, one day you will just wake up a Master”.

My Sigung, my Sifu’s Sifu, Chou Sheung Tin, realising his time was coming to a close radically changed his teaching methods in 2000, he did it to pass on what he believed was the core knowledge of Wing Chun to as many people as possible so they could learn as quickly as possible, and in doing so preserve the style.  In the rear of his book there are testimonials from his closest and long standing students that basically say that after 10 years hands on training none of them achieved the goal before his passing.

His way was just for him.

Many of us humans do not really know why we do things in the manner we do them, but we will always try to find a way to explain it to make it appear that we do, that it was us all along and not some cosmic hiccup, we seem to be adverse to the IDEA of it just being inherently easy for someone, the ubiquitous “natural”, we like to think they had a major hand in bringing it to be, when in most cases they did not.  We like to think we can be as good as others that have gone before, when most cases we can’t.

When Bruce Lee died so did Jeet Kuen Do.

One time I was really struggling with some of the IDEAS from Biu Gee and my Sifu said “Stop trying so hard, no-one every gets it anyway, when I was training  I often did not understand what my own Sifu was telling me to do, never mind what I was doing”. 

None of us can follow, none of us can lead, we can only hope to find our own way and learn our own Wing Chun.  This does not in any way imply that we do not need assistance, but we should seek guidance and not instruction.

A way to turn IDEA’s into action.

As a final reference to my Sifu, I once complained to him about the quality of the instruction I was receiving when I turned up to training, he calmly looked me in the eye and said “Derek, when you come to see me you should not come as an infant needing to be spoon fed, but as a student looking to have his homework marked”!

SIFU AND I.

This was always the way with Kung Fu, at least before it became a business.

 

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