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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: BONG SAU – FLAT EARTH THEORY OR JUST LOST IN TRANSLATION.

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The mistake is not in thinking that Bong Sau is a defence the mistake is in thinking that Bong Sau is a particular shape.

Once upon a time the whole population believed that the Earth was flat,  that the moon, the sun and all the stars circled around the Earth.  Everyone knew beyond doubt that when Christopher Columbus sailed away he would fall of the edge of the world and be lost forever.   This was common knowledge to the whole community, history teaches us that holding an alternative view to this common knowledge could have very bad consequences, disagreeing with the majority sent many a heretic to the flames.

There were some seriously egged faces the day Chris came home.

As Westerners so much of what we think we know about Wing Chun depends  just as much on someones translation as their skill or knowledge, I have spoken of this before, Jim Fung {my teacher} spoke excellent english, was well educated, very intelligent and possessed high skill and deep knowledge of Wing Chun if any one could translate this thing we do well it would be him, yet he would say that so much of Wing Chun does not translate into english, sometimes close but never really accurate, no cigar.

In the past few post I have pointed out how certain practices, Y.C.K.Y.Mah and Chi Sau in particular have the tendency to lead us into weird territory, we end up like passengers on an abandoned space ship who do not know what levers to pull or buttons to press, we find the instruction manual but it is in a language we don’t speak, we really have no choice other than guessing and hoping, when it appears to work we think ourselves clever and it becomes the new normal, we rewrite the book.

If we cannot trust the translation we must fall back on Fist Logic, “if I use this can I hit them”?   At the very core of Wing Chun, at the centre of the beating heart of our Fist Logic is simultaneous attack and defence, it is this  practice more than anything else that sets Wing Chun apart from other Martial Arts.

A no brainer that states the obvious is that our simultaneous attack must strike the opponent, this needs to be pointed out, some people appear to forget it.

One of the most popular tools for Wing Chun training is Chi Sau, of the many things that Chi Sau teaches us,  the co-ordination of our Arms is of great interest, if one arm circles forwards the other arm circles back, if one arm circles upwards the other arm circles down, this is repeated through different planes and angles all brought about by shoulder rotation.

The action that most Wing Chun practitioners call Bong Sau rotates forward, up and across, while the other arm rotates back, down and across, in Wing Chun any movement that goes forwards is an attack, thinking that Bong Sau is a genuine, useable defensive structure just because most people believe it, is lining us up with the folks that thought the Earth was flat.

If my defending arm is moving towards my opponent then my attacking arm is moving away from him, this is flying in the face of simultaneous attack and defence, this is not Wing Chun thinking, this is not Fist Logic. It makes little difference what past master told us that the Earth was flat the proof is clear that it is not, when Fist Logic speaks all other voices should be ignored.

Looking back at my own training I cannot actually remember anyone of any significance telling me that Bong Sau was in reality a defence, quite the opposite as it happens.

To the best of my knowledge Sifu Jim Fung only ever held one seminar, sometime in the late 1990’s, in this seminar Sifu Jim clearly stated that Bong Sau was a punch, not that it was shaped like a punch, but that it was plainly and simply a punch.

Something worth pondering on is that It did not change how we all played Chi Sau, but the truth was out there.

Why do we think that Bong Sau is a defence?

In Wing Chun’s genesis fairy tale a nun watches a crane defend itself from a snake by deflecting the attacks with its wings, Bong Sau is the Wing Arm, the mistake is not in thinking that Bong Sau is a defence, the mistake is thinking that Bong Sau is a particular shape, every time the snake attacked the crane flapped its wing and deflected it, Bong Sau is the flapping wing.

When we move our arms in any shape, in any direction we are flapping our wing.  Bong Sau is HOW we move our arm, not where or why, this means that everything is Bong Sau, anything we do is just us flapping our wing, terms like Garn Sau, Fook Sau, Tai Sau, Chum Sau etc, are the intention behind why we flap that wing.

 

Wing Chun’s Fist Logic is pretty much bullet proof, if I cannot hit you immediately then what I am doing is potentially not even Wing Chun.

 

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: BIU GEE POWER SHIFT

 

When I was a schoolboy I really liked and enjoyed Track and Field Sports,   at my school if it was summer in was Pentathlon {Decathlon in the final two years}, I would train hard, ask a lot of questions and get help from anyone, student, teacher, coach or rag and bone man that I thought knew something valuable, sadly eagerness and amassed knowledge can never compete with natural ability so in the end I became a Chef and not a Decathlete.  I did however learn how to learn and how to source good information and recognise blind alleys, flights of fancy or wishful thinking.  When I first began training Biu Gee it was at the hands of senior students, my Sifu would oversee the training but only got involved if you asked him to get involved, some of the claims made for Biu Gee by my seniors would immediately set of my B.S. radar but when I questioned the validity of the claims I would get treated as some kind of heretic, so I did what I have always done and started my own research.

I have always been heavily involved in sports, right up until my late 40’s I was still playing club level competition tennis and golf, I would not go so far as to say I was a stand out player but I was definitely a serious player, over the years I sought out professional level coaching in every sport I was engaged in, at their root all sports are more alike than different so understandably I found it easier to approach Biu Gee from the direction of other sports and then work back, it allowed me to see the simplicity of everything we do in Wing Chun, which after all is supposed to be based in normal human body movement, and allow my body to make its own choices based on my own previous experience.

Things that I have a personal knowledge of that really helped when it came to Chum Kiu and Biu Gee were the Discus, Shot Putting, Speed Skating, Tennis, Golf and Rugby, when we understand what we are looking for they are all doing the same thing, as I keep saying in this Blog, we are not so much trying to learn Wing Chun as remembering how to move effectively and then using it for Wing Chun.  If we look at the ready position to throw a discus, put a shot or start a speed skating race it is the same as the Chum Kiu Huen Ma.  Coincidence? I do not think so, and once they move it is laterally.

 

Things I recommend getting a better of idea of are what is referred to as stacking and unseating, both are introduced in Chum Kiu but easy to overlook.

 

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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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W.C.W. BREAKING RIBS, KNOCKING PEOPLE OUT.

Edmonton - April 9, 2009 -Kris Andrews (Edmonton, in white shorts), left, takes on Anthony Osbourne (Miami, FL, in red shorts) in the blue corner, at the Blunt Force Trauma boxing card at the Shaw Conference Centre. Andrews wins by decision.

More than once my Wing Chun Brothers have commented upon my approach to teaching Wing Chun as being overly aggressive, my Sifu’s son branded me a Thug, all because I believe that when you hit someone you should really hurt them, and that you should always be looking to knock them out.

Why do I think this way?

Because I am a kind person ……………………… really.

Let us look at a typical situation, a Guy throws a straight punch.

ME….... take the blind side, punch him in the ribs really hard, fight over.   1 Blow to the Bad Guy.

Typical Wing Chun…  Counter pierce, cut down and multiple straight punches, let us say 4, hook kick and a palm strike or 2, fight over.  7 Blows to the Bad Guy.

I do not see how I can be looked upon as over aggressive when I strike many times less than a typical Wing Chun Student.

A solid punch to the Ribs will very often finish a fight right there and then, I know this from personal experience, more importantly I know this from both sides of the story.   It is the same thing with Knock Outs, you get to go home and you have caused a lot less damage to the Bad Guy.

There is a great big misunderstanding about Knock outs, many people think that you need to hit people really hard, this is incorrect, Neurological Damage can be produced with very little effort, and that’s what a “Knock Out” is, a Neurological Shut Down, on one occasion when I was Boxing I tried to dodge a Right Cross and just did not get completely out of the way, the punch barely clipped my chin, I did not even feel the contact but a split second later my Knees turned to rubber and the next thing I knew I was looking up at the Referee.  There was not even a mark on my Jaw where the Glove hit.  If it is done right it does not take much.

Another thing to be aware of is that not all “Knock Outs” leave people asleep on the floor, that is the Typical “Out Cold” Boxing knock out, there is also the  “Technical Knockout”, where a person is awake and standing but unable to see, hear, move and of course they are unable to defend themselves or fight you, and then there are “Flash Knockouts” that simply turn everything off for a brief instant of about 2 to 3 seconds, people comeback from these as if nothing happened, except of course they have no knowledge of what happened in that lost time.

Blows to many parts of the Body can bring about a  “Knock Out”, a hard blow to the Liver or Spleen {which are situated beneath the Ribs just below the Chest on the right and left side respectively}, can shock the system into simply shutting down, but usually most  “Knock Out” blows are blows to the Head that produce the shut down by Concussion, Brain Stem Damage or Interrupted Blood Flow to the Brain, it is not unusual for there to be a combination of the causes involved in a single Knock Out.

Concussion is caused when the Brain slams into the inside of the Skull.

Brain Stem Damage is caused when the Brain rotates inside the Skull.

Blood Flow Interruption is caused by a blow to the Carotid Artery and / or the Vegas Nerve, both situated in the side of the Neck.

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It is important to understand that it does not take all that much to knock someone out, it does not take special training, you do not need to be a Martial Artist, all it takes is a blow to the Head. You yourself could be knocked out just as easily by the blow you are defending yourself from.

There is an Elephant in the Room when we talk about “Knock Outs”, and that is that sometimes the person that goes down does not get back up, but before you stop training remember that it could just as easily be you, what we need is to be talking about it with our Instructor and Training Partners, being actively aware of it and involved in shaping our training to minimise the possibility.

The majority of people that die from Knock Outs die as a result of falling backwards like a plank and banging their head on the floor, it is the impact of the Brain inside the Skull that does the damage, if you can somehow build in a way to control how and where the fall will happen, sideways, forwards or straight down, then you will greatly reduce the chances of the Elephant stamping on the Bad Guy. If you push people push them down and not back,  if you pull people pull them sharply downwards so they do not spin.

If you are in a violent situation, when the Red Mist of Anger or the White Fog of Anxiety descends you will not be thinking you will be too busy fighting, I believe you would do well to build this into your training routines so that it has a chance of being automatic.

This is what I teach to the INCa’s, especially as everything we do leads to P.H.O.P.O.  Push him over and piss off.

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