Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: THE UPPER TORSO IN BIU GEE.

Wing Chun is both a Martial Art and a Body System, From the point of view of the Body System the first Form teaches us how to become aware of the joints that control our Arms and how to use them efficiently, the Chum Kiu teaches us upper and lower body co-ordination, teaches us body unity and how to maintain it while moving and the Biu Gee teaches us how to activate and use the muscles of the Torso and Shoulder girdle, how to best manage our muscles for better performance, but it is not just the movements of the Biu Gee Form that this is related to, this is just another aspect of the Little Idea so it relates to everything that has gone before as well., once we understand how to activate the muscles when opening the upper torso we should do it in all Forms, equally when we use our Arms in any Form or application it should be done with the ease of the first Form, only the speed differs, this is how the system works.

Before exploring how to manipulate the shoulder girdle we must open the chest. Opening the upper Torso is a method of improving the overall structure and stability of the upper body, it is a physical stretch that involves the Pectoralis Minor in the chest and the Serratus Anterior in the upper back, the only difficulty in this is becoming aware of them, the easiest way to find them is to take a very deep strong breath and feel what is stretching. Activating the Serratus Anterior allows us to move the Scapula and produces forward pressure to the Arms improving force transmission. Once identified we can manually activate them to open the chest, this should be in a side to side direction and not front to back or up and down, being able to keep these muscles activated while moving the Core is not difficult but it does take time and effort, posing the arms for the flying elbows should be done by this opening of the chest and not with the arms themselves.  Performing Biu Gee without moving the arms is a bit weird but very educational.

There is a bit of a misconception that tension is bad for us in Wing Chun, this is mainly due to the way the English language uses the word “tension”, muscle tension is caused by contraction, this is of course detrimental to the practice of Wing Chun but the tension we are talking about is created by stretching, tension caused by extending a muscle improves everything we do. Think R. Buckminster Fuller and Tensegrity. The structural improvement brought about by opening the chest allows any strain to be taken up by a vast network of muscles instead of it loading the spine.

 

 

An issue we cannot ignore is the role of the mind in using our body, in my Sifu’s school there was a saying “let your mind do the work”, it sounds quite groovy and many people drifted of in all kinds of directions with this, the thing is our mind does not and cannot do the work, only the body can do the work and the body is controlled by the brain, mind is software – brain is hardware.  Since the 1960’s it has been hip to talk about mindfulness and to be expected it is begining to sneak into Martial Arts, in meditation or zen practice mindfulness means to not use the mind, to just experience what is, mindfulness is achieved by “not doing” so it is hard to credit the mind for not doing if it is not doing it.  My Sifu believed in manifesting Mind Force, I am not trying to say that Mind Force does not exist, I personally do not think it does though, and that is the most important thing to consider about the mind, it distorts reality to suit our own personal ideas, prejudices or agendas, it is a filter that is affected by everything we have ever experienced, whatever side we may fall on the fact is that the mind thinks and the brain does, even if Mind Force was real it would need to ask the the brain to carry the work out, and brain uses muscles to do everything, even breathing.

 

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Articles, Food for Thought

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: WHY BIU GEE MUST BE PHYSICAL

 

He was asked “how do we know when we are on the right path”? He replied “you know you are on the right path when you do not know where you are , as soon as you think you know where you are, you are lost”!

Unfortunately for me the last 30 years have been marred by chronic back problems as result I have spent way too much time in the company of sports science doctors, osteopaths, muscular skeletal specialists and neurosurgeons, people who know how the body works, one thing I took away from this is that none of us are truly aware of why our body does what it does, in most cases we have it completely wrong, even those who know academically what is going on tend to fall for the same trap.

Most of this stems from the fact that we confuse our Mind with our Brain, but our Mind is not our Brain, there is a significant separation, mind works on the body via conscious thought whereas the brain works subconsciously.

From the brains perspective everything it does is to protect the body, to keep it healthy and keep it alive, nothing is about Martial Art, or Ballet or Football, but from the minds perspective everything is related to the the activity we are involved in.

For example no matter what the activity the instant we have the intention to move our arm the brain activates the muscles of the spine to support and protect the spine from the consequences of the intended action.

This is not Mindfulness, or Nim Lik or Chi, they all reside in consciousness, this is the brain – body link that works the same with babies as it does with Kung Fu Masters. Our body is making choices aimed at self protection it is not about the creation of outward forces.

INPUT v. OUTPUT.

Since the 1960’s and the coining of the term “Training Effect” our understanding of why our body changes through exercise activities has been hijacked, we now all believe that adding extra load through exercise conditions our muscles, makes us stronger and fitter and this allows for better force or energy output, but in reality our body – brain develops stronger muscles and a more robust system to deal with the incoming consequences of the increased activity. 

Some may see this difference as being more semantic than actual, but think what happens when we have an overuse injury, we tell everyone or perhaps our doctor tells us that we tried to do too much, it is an output problem ,when in fact the truth is that we did not put enough support in place for the load we were asking our body to carry, this is an input problem.

It makes very little real difference which perspective we hold either way the result is the same, and this is the reason that we must approach Biu Gee as a genuine conditioning exercise and engage it physically.

In application Biu Gee is capable of producing remarkable power, and when we contact something that power is returned to us via Newton’s reaction force, if we have not prepared the body to work easily with that increased load the consequences could be quite dire, getting injured in the middle of a violent encounter will not help things at all.

Bill Giu needs to be done right up to the limit of our physical body {however it is advisable that we approach our limit incrementally and with caution}, in this way we will in time be able to perform Biu Gee with much more effort than we would ever need to use and the reaction force incoming load will never be more than the body can support. It is important to do this from as early as possible, there will come a time in our lives when we can no longer improve our body, only maintain it. In the mid / late 1990’s Grand Master Chu Sheong Tin was at my Sifu’s School, when we began to discuss Biu Gee he asked my Sifu to demonstrate because he was now to old to ask so much of his body.  There was no doubt that he could still do Wing Chun but by his own admission he could no longer do Biu Gee as it should be done.

Over the last few decades there has been a movement within some quarters of the Wing Chun community to use no physical force, instead to use Nim Lik, Thought Force, Mindfulness or Chi, I do not wish to poke at this particular wasps nest but all of these things are aspects of  the mind, of consciousness, the body is controlled by the brain subconsciously.  It should be obvious that the conscious can never override the subconscious, because it is just not aware of it.  We cannot know something unknown.

Many years ago when I was involved in Yoga and Meditation we had a visiting Swami from India, when asked at a workshop “He was asked “how do we know when we are on the right path”? He replied “you know you are on the right path when you do not know where you are , as soon as you think you know where you are, you are lost”!

 

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Articles, Video's, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: VORTEX POWER.

 

Biu Gee is a very physical set of moves, it is approached in a completely different way than the first 2 Forms, it is the hard edge of  Wing Chun training that all too often gets left behind in the name of softness.

In the last post I mentioned that Biu Gee helps us observe the addition of forces, but what is the mechanism that creates these forces that we wish to add?   When we begin Biu Gee training we are often told that the movements create Vortex Power, but what is vortex power and where does it come from?  

Personally I do not like any explanations of Biu Gee that refers to turning the spine, apart from being incredibly simplistic this leads us away from what it is we are really doing, which is of course Core Winding, leads us in the wrong direction, once this added to the misunderstanding around not using strength in Wing Chun it is no surprise that few students are proficient at using Biu Gee under pressure or resistance.

What is Core Winding?

Core Winding is the deliberate and very physical activation of the deep internal muscles of the body, all of the Pelvic Floor muscles, spinal muscles such as the Multifidus, and the Transverse Abdominal, activating these groups does of course kick in all the intermediate muscles of the abdomen and spine as well, relegating the co-ordination of this collection of very powerful muscles to “Turn the Spine” is really not very helpful to a deeper understanding of what we are about, it is far more accurate and far more useful to think that we use muscular force to turn our Trunk or our Torso, the spine is the flexible support for the Trunk / Torso and in no way capable of turning it.

The Spine has 5 sections, the Coccyx, the Sacrum, the Lumbar, the Thoracic and the Cervical but for our purposes the Coccyx and Sacrum can be seen as one, each of the now 4 sections are interconnected to the extent that when we start to turn our waist the muscles in our neck get activated, doing some basic research on how the deep internal muscles work on the spine will greatly improve Biu Gee understanding and practice.

There is an aspect of Biu Gee that is physical conditioning for the muscles that control our spine, performing Biu Gee in the same manner as S.L.T. or Chum Kiu will not deliver this, Biu Gee needs to be pushed so we can condition the muscles, doing Biu Gee should leave you feeling slightly overextended. Just doing the Form is no guarantee that we are exercising the correct muscles, we cannot strengthen muscles that our brain cannot activate, and it cannot activate them if it does not know they exist so firstly we have to find that muscle and wake it up, mental imaging is a vital part of this, the wet towel imaging is really helpful, as we ‘wind’ our Core Muscles they contract and condense in the same way as when we ring a wet cloth, this creates an inward pull, the spiral action of the winding creates progressive acceleration along the spine, this is what is referred to as the Vortex,  the more aware we are of these muscles and the more aggressively we can activate them the more powerful the inward or centripetal pull of the force.

What winds up must also release, I am the first to say that videos are no way to asses the ability of a person, but so many people learn from videos that they cannot be completely ignored or excused, I am yet to see a single Biu Gee video that talks about actively and deliberately releasing the tension that is set up through Core Winding, my own sifu Jim Fung thought the un-winding every bit as important as the winding and he treated them as separate stand alone elements and not just a reverse in direction, without understanding the release, which is of course every bit as physical as the winding, it is almost impossible to come to an understanding of the “left to right – right to left” power line of Biu Gee.

Biu Gee is a very physical set of moves, it is approached in a completely different way than the first 2 Forms, it is the hard edge of  Wing Chun training that all too often gets left behind in the name of softness.

 

 

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: BIU GEE & THE ADDITION OF FORCES..

At the basic level all our Forms are primarily about learning how to move, learning how to control and improve our range of motion and understanding how to use of body efficiently, at the surface level it is no more than a dance, the shape and sequence of any Form is simply a memory aid, learn the dance and we will always remember the individual moves so that we can revisit and rework them at a time of our own choosing, learning individual moves in isolation will foster the ability to come up with new pairings in new directions, help us to understand the why and not the how, help us to see the IDEA.

One aspect of the IDEA in Biu Gee is the addition of forces, this is the powerhouse, and it can be verified by basic high school physics, when two or more forces are acting upon the same body moving in the same direction these forces accumulate.

When I was first introduced to Biu Gee I was told to imagine that I was turning individual vertebrae one at a time rising up my spine, this is a very poor mind image because if we are moving our vertebrae individually we are only creating one vector and so we cannot be adding forces, it is also physically impossible this is not how the spine works so we are pretending to do something that is outside the realm of possibility, this is a slippy slope for Martial Artists.

The first flying elbow rotation in Biu Gee introduces the idea of adding forces, the waist turns independent of the rest of the body and creates force, the torso turns independent of the rest of the body and creates force, the shoulder girdle turns independent of the rest of the body and creates force, the arm rotates in the joint of the shoulder independent of the rest of the body and creates force, the body shifts its axis and creates force,  in application all of these actions need to be in motion at the time of contact, but when working on the Form we can isolate them to get a better understanding of how to bring about the forces we hope to add together and a clear idea of where they came from in the previous forms.

Although there is lower body movement in Biu Gee if we look closely we see that this is Chum Kiu movement, Biu Gee sits on top of Chum Kiu, keeping this in focus allows the upper body to work independently of the lower body or to work with a different movement of the lower body, the flying elbows are equally at home with the Chum Kiu shift as they are with the pivot or even if required from a static position, it has to be this way or it will be of zero value in the unpredictable environment of a violent encounter.

To a very large extent Biu Gee is the opposite side of the coin to Chum Kiu, especially when we look at where we place our weight, Chum Kiu receives force and as such the weight is in the rear leg and the awareness sank into the lower Dantien, Biu Gee issues force so the weight is shifted to the front leg and the awareness raised to the middle Dantien, as a generalisation we could say that in Wing Chun we take everything into our tummy but send everything out through our chest.

 

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: BIU GEE, MASS IN MOTION.

 

The first thing we notice in Biu Gee is the pace and effort that is injected into the Form, and as an IDEA it is drawing attention to the fact that we need to move quickly and aggressively.

 

Back in the early days of all Martial Arts they were genuine fighting styles that were expected to deliver genuine skill sets to deal with real and present dangers, Wing Chun is no different, there was no time to spend extended periods studying the intricacies of the Art, it needed to be learnt quickly and it needed to work, it is just not feasible that it would of been presented in anything like the way it is today, much more likely is that everything we know up to and including the Biu Gee would of been taught in the first few months with what we now teach as the first three Forms being the “A’, “B” and “C” sections of the original Form.

This makes a great deal of sense,  the contents of the S.L.T. and Chum Kiu offer very little in the way of defining a working fighting skill, they are just methods to prepare the body and introduce the underlying principles that establish the thinking behind Wing Chun fighting, it is not until Biu Gee that we begin to look at how to move dynamically, how to create power by manipulation of our body weight, completely new ways of using the body that almost contradict the first two Forms.

Frequently it is only possible to understand things looking backwards from a new vantage point, which is why the practice of extended study of the first Form makes zero sense to me, if anything we should spend that time on the last Form and reflect on where everything came from and why.

As the final installment of the early training, Biu Gee should influence and colour everything that came before it, once we are at Biu Gee level the basic hands and body movement from the first two sets should be reworked with the attitude of Biu Gee.

The first thing we notice in Biu Gee is the pace and effort that is injected into the Form, and as an IDEA, as a working concept this is drawing attention to the fact that we need to move quickly and aggressively if we wish to survive a violent encounter, but of equal importance is the way the Biu Gee manipulates our balance and stability to generate power, the weight shifts that present our mass forward to the target, the core winding that generate genuine torque.

 

Biu Gee is the true heart of Wing Chun.

Mass in motion is the heart of Biu Gee.

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