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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY; UP STUMPS AND OFF TO THE PAVILION.

 

more a passing comment than a conversation

 

I have been writing this blog for more than 10 years in one format or another, and it has been a great journey, I have been able to organise my own thoughts in such a way that I have become a far better instructor than I was previously.

Blogs by their very nature are brief snapshots, in terms of interpersonal communication they are more a passing comment than a conversation, and at this point in my life I feel I have more to offer than just a passing comment.

The fact that the blog is Wing Chun centric created its own problems, there is a lot of great idea’s in Wing Chun, but there is also a great deal of nonsense, sadly it is the nonsense that gets most of the oxygen and the great ideas that get misunderstood.

No matter where one sits in the Wing Chun tent it is first and foremost about violence, from our perspective stopping someone from using violence against us, which of course we accomplish by employing more effective violence of our own, but no one really wants to talk about this.

So much happens before we would use our Wing Chun that never gets so much as a cursory mention in traditional Wing Chun training, but this is the stuff that saves lives, not Tarn Sau – Bong Sau, not Nim Lik, not Dai Gung.

My senior students and I have evolved our training to a state that is both more complex and yet simpler than anything we have done before and it is exploring this that my next foray into Cyberspace will entail, it will still be examined through the lens of Wing Chun, after all it is what I do. 

If you like the way I approach the work and are interested in knowing when the new format comes about simply follow this blog or notify me of your interest I will let you know when we get there, the plan is to post only once a month but with better and deeper content, if you are a follower of this blog you should get automatic notification from WordPress.

 

wingchunsydney@internode.on.net

 

As of this writing I am not planning on sharing the new site to Facebook, no one takes Facebook seriously anymore, it has just become an advertising platform, associating with it makes us all just look like salesmen.

 

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDY: TRAINING BACKWARDS.

 

It is a confusing, challenging dilemma but it is not insurmountable, understanding that IDEAs do not need specific orientation is the key,

 

WE ARE DOING IT BACKWARDS.

A few of my guys are doing a lot of technical and free sparring at the moment and certain things are becoming pretty obvious, namely that nothing works the way we train it, this is no big surprise to me I have known this for years, it is the old chestnut of Form v Function, students that expect their training to just work the way they train it  get the surprise of their life and find things just a little confusing.

Part of the difficulty they encounter stems from the fact that to a very large extent we approach training for fighting backwards.

What do I mean by this?

The bulk of traditional Wing Chun training is set around understanding the Forms and using Chi Sau, these IDEAS are then tested against some type of resistance, a partner applies pressure and we execute whatever movement of the Form we are working on.

Chi Sau is constant forward pressure against equally returned resistance.

Everything we do in this type of training begins with contact, for instance the partner holding a wrist to prevent Tarn Sau, static resistance, people touching arms.

Here’s the rub, in any physical encounter, contact, touching arms, is the end point not the beginning, to be effective and useable the sequence needs to be ran in the opposite direction, most of our training begins at the end point, hands on, very little of our training deals with how to get there. 

A typical Form training progression goes –

  1. Initiate {make} contact.
  2. correct alignment and body structure,
  3. focus on task,
  4. introduce intent and move.

If we are fighting the progressions needs to be –

  1. move while creating intent.
  2. focus on what is needed.
  3. bring about correct structure and alignment.
  4. make contact.

 

 

The disparity between how we train and what we need to do if we intend to effectively use our training create a very real problem that we must get sorted out before we ever need to use it be that sparring or fighting.

It is a confusing, challenging dilemma but it is not insurmountable, understanding that IDEAs do not need specific orientation is the key.

When faced with a tricky question I look to sports, in this instance tennis, the application for a tennis forehand and a tennis backhand are the same in every detail except how we physically position ourselves to perform these shots, the racquet head and the ball do exactly the same thing and are affected by exactly the same forces.

A key requirement for using Wing Chun is patience, as a counter attacking Martial Art we really do need the Bad guy to attack us first, teaching students to step in as they counter attack is only possible against a feed, it is not possible against a genuine committed attack, this of course begins the confusion.

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: MOVING OUR MASS.

 

Some things move and somethings get moved, understanding what this term means can make effective even dynamic movement really easy

We cannot move bones, it is not how our body works, muscles move bones, however it is an easy interface, a decent frame of reference but we should recognise it as nothing more than a useable form of shorthand.

Moving the Hips, moving the Spine, moving the Centre or similar terms are shorthand, not actual, in all instances when we move we advance our kinetic chain and as such each link so to speak only affects the link that is next in the chain, our feet move our legs, our legs move our pelvis,  because our centre is located somewhere inside our pelvis the expression “move the centre” appears to make sense.

But it is false.

Some things move and somethings get moved, understanding what this term means can make effective even dynamic movement really easy, when students struggle to move correctly using either the Chum Kiu or Biu Gee methodologies it is usually a recruitment of moving parts issue and nothing to do with the Forms at all.

A good “non Wing Chun “ place to begin understanding the Chum Kiu method is by observing what is happening when you push a shopping trolley around the supermarket, with the Biu Gee method a good “non Wing Chun” way is to observe what goes on as you reach behind yourself and down to pick up the T.V. remote that you knock off the arm of your chair.

We must be sure to not confuse moving with changing location. The fact that my Elbow moves from point “A” to point “B” while performing Bong Sau  does not mean that I am in reality moving my Elbow.

Movement as a power producer is always and only about momentum not relocation, revisiting the “conservation of momentum theory” can clear things up in a couple of minutes.

As I mention at the end of the video, the usual resistance training that we do in Wing Chun approaches situations in reverse, this is not a problem if we understand this, but taking our training at face value can create very real problems.

 

 

I reintroduced sparring about a month ago and it now constitutes most of our training time, sparring is not fighting, but it is a great deal closer than Chi Sau or 4 corners drills, the compression of time and space brought on by an advancing sparring partner really shines a light on the problems caused by not understanding that we train in reverse.

It is easily fixed, but until it is fixed it really messes people up.

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: APPROACHING SOFTNESS.

 

 

How can we ever hope to understand softness without some element of resistance to measure it against?

 

Softness and not using strength are a really tricky things to introduce students to, partly because of the difficulty of articulating what it is we are really doing and partly because it is counter intuitive.

It is important to understand that we always use strength and we are never soft, without the use of strength we could not even stand up, and our body does not change its physical condition at will so what we mean by ‘do not use strength” or “softness” tends to be shorthand for a variety of complex ideas that we need to get straight in our heads before we can hope that they will materialise in our body.

Hurdle #1. We all think differently.

Training is real and goal driven while concepts are imaginary. Softness is a concept, how do we adequately justify a concept that is mental through training that is physical?

The goal of all training is to acquire competence, competence requires a high level of trust, trust requires a high level of understanding, understanding is a function of our mind, it is a completely mental process that cannot be learned backwards, i.e. from body to mind.

Despite the practice paradox of training first then thinking about what we have just trained, everything starts with thinking, then understanding and then competent action.

Spending hours doing any action, such as footwork, exciting combinations or even just one of the Forms, without the understanding of what it is we are doing is of limited value but without some kind of physical involvement how do we hope to know what we are thinking about?

How do we make it real?

If we consider that the bulk of our training is solo training how do we introduce a tactile element that can give us the subject matter to later sit and think about?

The default almost knee jerk answer to any problem in Wing Chun is ‘do the Form”, this is so over simplistic, doing the Form without understanding is not going to take anyone anywhere, paradoxically once we do understand the Form there is no longer any need to keep on doing it, once we gain knowledge, gain understanding it is ours for life, this is the way of all learning, who ever felt the need to take time off from university to go back to primary school?

Most of the breakthroughs and most of the grind are done on our own, as such how do we add that feedback element that we need as humans to create the bridge from imagination to reality?

To give us that “Food for thought”.

Hurdle #2We all train differently.

How can we ever hope to understand softness without some element of resistance to measure it against? This is the same problem all practitioners of all styles face when doing unsupervised training.

I have a number of practice ideas that on the surface appear to be quite silly things to do, but in practice have proven to be very powerful tools to help us advance our thinking in pursuit of softness and not using strength, especially in a “Solo Training” situation.

 

 

A shortcoming of any conceptual system is the lack of a realistic and useable frame of reference, my funny elastic band training may not be everything we need, it is just a good place to start.

 

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: THE WEAPON SETS.

 

It is the weapon sets and not the dummy set that allow us to combine all of the aspects of the earlier sets and ultimately discover the “Little Idea”.

 

Saturday morning training is all about deeper understanding, my senior students attend and to be honest I learn as much as I teach most of the time, this week we worked on the Baat Cham Do.

The first thing to understand about the Baat Cham Do, and the Luk Dim Boon Quan for that matter is that they are not real weapons, and the training we do with them is not weapons training.

From the perspective of weapons the movement of both sets is pedestrian and the applications one dimensional.

I know many people that disagree with this statement but they have not trained real weapon styles and I have, firstly I studied Bo Jutsu, Japanese staff training and later Doce´ Peres Philippine sticks and knives training, I assure you that the Wing Chun weapons sets are not comparable.

Why does a clever style like Wing Chun have these components?

My Sifu once joked that the main purpose of the Knives was to practice the Pole, and that the main purpose of the Pole was to practice the Knives, that is worth thinking about.

It is really tempting to say that the weapons are there to hide what we are working on from outsiders or casual students, this fits nicely with the belief that for many years Wing Chun was a secret martial arts style, unfortunately if that was the idea it also hid it from many normal students, this is so noticeable when you watch them moving, they lose their shape, their body unity and their stances.

This is the purpose of the Knives and the Pole, maintaining body unity while changing stances, coordinating hands, feet and body weight, and developing focus and projection of intention.

In Biu Gee we project our intention to the end of our fingers, in the Baat we project it out to the tip of the blade, and of course with the pole we extend that projection out towards infinity.

It is the weapon sets and not the dummy set that allow us to combine all the aspects of the earlier sets and ultimately discover the “Little Idea”.

 

 

As always the greatest strength / weakness of Wing Chun is that there is no standard way of doing things, we all need to find our own way, and this is mine.

 

It may be different from what you or your favourite Guru think but at least it works as a learning tool.

 

 

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