Articles, Weekend Wonderland

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY; ROTATION

analogies are at best only similar, they are never the same

I have mentioned in a previous article how I see Chum Kiu as an expansive set of movements and that I see Biu Gee as a compressive set of movements, this is a product of the type of rotation used in each Form, the most common type of rotation in Wing Chun is Eccentric Rotation, rotating on an axis that is not in the centre. Very few Wing Chun Instructors, myself included, have any real medical understanding of how the body works,  as a result we take some liberty with our explanations, we all mean well but often miss the mark.

In Wing Chun everything is powered by rotation, from the outset every time we connect with a partner / opponent the contact point, our wrist / bridge, is on the outer edge of a rotating spherical shape, hence the analogy of the Ball that gets used.  What takes some time to become fully aware of is that the vast majority of the rotations are coming from an axis point that is not in the centre of the sphere, the rotation is eccentric rotation, all of our arm movements are eccentric rotation due to the fact that our arm connects to our shoulder on part of the circumference of the imaginary ball not somewhere inside it, we do not rotate around our shoulder but from our shoulder, this point is important to be comfortable with.

When we engage in Chum Kiu we refer to moving from the hips, the hips are on the outside of the body, the rotation is anchored to the supporting leg that is also on the outside edge of the body, pivoting is moving in an arc from one supporting leg to another, the weight shift and lateral movement inherent in this type of action is one of our power generators, this is sometimes referred to as shifting our axis, I prefer to see this as moving to a new axis, either way it is not a fixed central axis, rotating on a fixed centre is spinning and does not increase power.  There is no need to over think this it is what our body does naturally, it is how we walk for one thing.

Biu Gee upper body movement {and it is only upper body movement that we study in Biu Gee, the waist is always Chum Kiu and the arms are always the first Form} is the only concentric rotation in Wing Chun, our complete shoulder girdle rotates around our central axis, our spine, which is firmly anchored on top of our pelvis which allows for rotation that is independent of the pelvis even though it is usually used in conjunction it is two actions working independently side by side and not two becoming one.

As I mentioned in the last post each Form has its own associated set of IDEAs that we ultimately need to resolve into the unified Form that is the Siu Lim Tao proper, this is why my reference of choice is the first Form most of the time instead of Siu Lim Tao Form.

words are just vehicles for painting pictures of IDEAs.

The most difficult part of teaching anything is in finding the correct way to describe the event we are involved in, Wing Chun is full of descriptions designed to create an image in our minds eye, we create analogies to aid understanding, balls, triangles and centre lines for example, analogies are at best only similar, they are never the same, when something is not the same we are to a very large extent talking about something that is not what we are involved in, it becomes misinformation to a degree, some of the analogies I use in my own teaching method are “Inflatable Skeleton and Overcoat Body”, very useful to create an image feeling but completely false when faced with the reality of what is happening.

Most of the standard explanations for Wing Chun rotation that I have heard are in the same vein, useful in painting mental pictures but completely false when faced with the reality of what is happening.

Something we all know instinctively but have difficulty understanding is that bones are not something that  move of their own accord, they need to be moved, and it is whatever is moving our bones that brings about rotation, not our hips, or shoulders and definitely not our spine. As someone that has undergone 6 spinal operations including spinal fusion and pinning I know intimately that vertebrae are not intended to move individually, at my Sifu’s school it was referred to in this way during Biu Gee instruction, the IDEA that you can rotate the vertebrae one at a time in an ascending order may help draw a picture but it is not how the spine works, when anything twists or winds it compresses becomes smaller and more dense, think of wringing a face cloth.

Unwinding has a very real and important part to play as well, although it is an integral part of Biu Gee it is often overlooked, to a certain extent all Chum Kiu rotation is unwinding, hence my describing it as expansive.  Another of my own analogies is that Chum Kiu opens the cupboard doors and Biu Gee closes them, a useful mental image that has nothing to do with what is occurring.

All rotation is the result of specific engagement of the core muscles, the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae (sacrospinalis) especially the longissimus thoracis, and the diaphragm. Minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, and trapezius.

Is it any wonder Wing Chun Instructors just say move your hips.

As understandable as it may be are we any better off taking this approach?

I think not, from a personal standpoint I can easily and readily feel my muscles even when relaxed, but though I live with constant back pain I am relatively unaware of my spine, and I am not even sure I have a shoulder girdle.

All rotation is muscular, all rotation is core winding, Chum Kiu rotates  a flat plate and Biu Gee a vertical pole, both rotate horizontally, Big Gee may traverse a helix but any chosen set point is rotating horizontally.

Chum Kiu rotation is a very complex arrangement of all of the deep abdominals, the engagement of which will vary at different positions in the weight shift, luckily for us our brain will take care of the details.

Biu Gee is controlled mainly by the Sacrospinalis and oblique abdominals, but is of course anchored and assisted by the deep abs and diaphragm.

Becoming consciously aware of and then actively using our core muscles may be a challenge at first, especially if we have spent years convincing ourselves that we are moving our bones, but the difference in stability and power are worth the effort. Never forget that deep down we all know we cannot move bones and as such we also know that we are pretending to do something that is not humanly possible.

In my teaching method I use a great many exercises that are not directly related to Wing Chun, exercises that derive from ballet, from sword play and of course ice hockey, these exercises greatly improve effective movement that in turn improves all Wing Chun practices, I no longer teach pivoting in any way my Sifu taught me, instead I have everyone focus on identifying and engaging all of the core muscles relative to the action, as a result my students pivot much better, much sooner with far less struggle, it helps that I do not teach anyone under 18 years of age, most are in their late 20’s to 40’s, so most students already have body skills associated with their work that engage the core on a regular basis, one of my guys is a Brick layer, he spends 8 hours a day engaged in what is essentially Biu Gee rotation laying bricks, I have plumbers and landscapers that use shovels for many hundreds of hours a year, once we tapped into this they took to pivoting like Traffic Cops take to Sunglasses.

This is too big a subject to do any credit to in a blog post, hopefully it will encourage you to do some independent study outside of the Wing Chun method, once you understand what your body needs to do to rotate effectively you can call it anything you want, describe it anyway you want, words only make true sense to the person that speaks or writes them, words are just vehicles for painting pictures of IDEAs.

 

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Articles, Weekend Wonderland

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY. THE LANGUAGE OF WING CHUN.

 

“A CIRCLE IS A SHAPE AND NOT A SIZE”

What language is Wing Chun best described by?

What I mean by this is what language is needed to fully understand Wing Chun?

Cantonese?       No.

Is it English?     No.

Is it German?    No.

The language  of Wing Chun is Mathematics.

Whichever tongue you speak it is still about circles and triangles, straight lines and helices, the natural Wing Chun language is maths, leaning towards the dialect of geometry.  Mostly two dimensional Plane Geometry, this is why we talk about the centreline when we are in fact referring to a plane {a clear understanding of this blows a great deal of what is put forward about the Wing Chun centerline theory clean out of the water}.

Our first challenge is to truly understand what a circle is, we all think we know but I sometimes wonder if we do,  even the briefest observation of early Chi Sau can have us doubting this.

What is a circle?

The most important thing to keep in front of us at all times is that a circle is a shape, big circles, little circles and other circles are all the same, a “A CIRCLE IS A SHAPE AND NOT A SIZE” is somewhat of a mantra at my school.

Circles can also function as a centreline, dividing space into an inside and an outside, without this IDEA to help us navigate by Chi Sau can become very one dimensional. If you find the idea of a circle being a centreline a bit odd then you do not understand the function of a centreline, I will expand on this in an upcoming post.

Another interesting speculation is, how do we think that circles rotate? Many people, without missing a beat, will say clockwise or counter clockwise, but what direction did circles rotate before the invention of clocks?

What direction did they rotate before the creation of language, before the appearance of mankind?

Think about this for a second or ten, where do they rotate from?

A very large part of what we do in Wing Chun utilises eccentric rotation, are we aware of this?   Do we even understand the difference between concentric and eccentric rotation?

In Wing Chun forms Chum Kiu utilises eccentric rotation and Biu Gee utilises concentric rotation, Siu Nim Tau is stationary so uses neither, but it also uses both as we will see in a later post on the nature of rotation in Wing Chun.

I have mentioned before that for some years now I see Wing Chun as having only one movement, many years ago my Sifu advised me to try and think smaller, to make Wing Chun smaller, and to try to see that all moves are the same move, this is not as hard as it sounds, the only difficulty is understanding what the words mean, once you “Grock” it you cannot understand how you did not see it from day one.

For starters compare Huen Sau and Garn Sau, you can of course start anywhere compare anything, because they are all the same move. If we remove unnecessary values such as in / out, up / down, big / small, left / right or any other values you may use what are we left with?

As my Wing Chun began to become smaller and smaller the concept of the IDEA started to emerge more and more, eventually it became as clear as day that there are no moves in Wing Chun, only the IDEA, only a point.

But what is the IDEA? What is the point.

Potential.

If we think of potential from the point of view of mathematics another door opens, in physics potential is the ability to do work, chemical energy from a battery is a potential form of energy, elastic energy in a stretched rubber band is a form of potential energy, the most commonly referred to form of potential energy in physics is that of gravitational potential energy. This is energy that is stored due to an object’s position.  This is where our puching power comes from.

If we just allow things to happen, they happen.

In Wing Chun the work we develop the ability to do, is of course Wing Chun, and in understanding this, the point, the IDEA itself begins to get bigger and bigger, everything is same one move but it is everywhere.

Wing Chun becomes fractal.

Still Mathematics though.

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Articles, Weekend Wonderland

AUSTRALIAN WING CHUN’S LOSS IS NOW 10 YEARS ON.

Ten years ago tomorrow,  March 18th 2007, the Wing Chun world said goodbye to my Sifu, Master Jim Fung, in that time literally thousands of Australians have been introduced to his Wing Chun, but sadly without his guidance, it is mind blowing how many people Sifu Jim reached, he personally taught for well over 30 years, with Schools and Sub Schools in South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, with as many as  1000 new students per year across the 3 states, to this day there are dozens of his students, myself included that run Schools in Australia and I think that it quite likely that Sifu Jim has had some input into the Martial Arts life of as many as 50,000 people.

This Saturday is also International Wing Chun Day, a day to look back and appreciate the bigger picture, appreciate the people that brought Wing Chun to the world.

While I am very aware that my Sifu may not of discovered Wing Chun had it not been for his Sifu, Chu Sheung Tin, and that C.S.T. would of trodden a different path, more than likely Dai Ji if it had not been for the appearance of Ip Man, and that Ip Man would never of discovered Wing Chun if it was not for Chan Wah Shun teaching in the Ip families temple { we cannot go any father back than Chan Wah Shun with any certainty that we are talking about real people} for me Wing Chun is and always will be Sifu Jim Fung.

 

AVE ATQUE VALE  Sifu.

Weekend Wonderland

SOMETHING TO THINK ON.

wing chun sydney

CRANE ARM, SNAKE FIST. 

Even as recently as 200 years ago, in China  not many people read or wrote, as a result any important ideas or information was passed on orally, and the most reliable way of passing on information orally was to build it into the narrative of a story.

I think by now everyone knows that there never was a Nun, a Crane, a Snake, a Tofu Seller’s Daughter or a Warlord, they were and still are convenient symbols, but we also realise that the story holds some important keys to understanding the early days of Wing Chun, keys that can still be of great use today in unlocking the nature of this thing we do.

The Nun observed the Snake attacking with quick, direct, straight attacks, and it showed the Crane using its wing to redirect the Snakes strikes offline. This became the foundation of our defence, using our Wing {Bong Sau = Wing Arm} to redirect incoming force.

The second half of the story shows a working class female that with just 12 months dedicated training could defeat an experienced and aggressive Warlord. Implying that through Wing Chun training you could be Battle Ready in a short period of time, and not like the competing Shaolin Kung Fu’s that required a lifetime, it was an advertising campaign aimed at young men, after all if a girl could do it they could do it better, very much a desired skill in Qing period.

In our present age of instant information and the web, with Youtube Video’s and 1,000,000 web sites dedicated to Wing Chun we would do well to look back to the simplicity of the original story, especially the first part {every man and his dog are retelling the second part in their own words} with the Crane and the Snake.

WING ARM.

There is only one move in Wing Chun, and that move is Bong Sau, the Wing Arm.

The original story does not say how the snake attacked, high, low in the middle and it does not matter because every strike was deflected with its Wing.

Deflect up, deflect down, deflect into centre or deflect out from centre, redirect or control all with the same moving, Flapping Wing.

In early training we speak often of the “Ultimate Angle”, this is just the Crane opening its Wing prior to flapping it, everything we do is accomplished by flapping the Wing.

Everything is Bong Sau, the Wing Arm.

In application we talk about Tarn Sau, this is using the Flapping Wing to redirect incoming force.

We talk about Fook Sau, this is using the Flapping Wing to control incoming Force.

We talk about Garn Sau, this is sweeping {or ploughing} away incoming force with the Flapping Wing.

We talk about Jit Sau, this is slicing through the incoming force with the Flapping Wing.

Every action is just a description of what we hope to achieve by using the Flapping Wing.

Everything is Bong Sau.

The 108 moves {depending on lineage} of the Siu Nim Tao are teaching you how to manipulate your Bong Sau to fit any situation, they are not stand alone moves.

Making the connection of how each move is Bong Sau will save you many years of fruitless training.

SNAKE FIST.

If you think about how a snake strikes it is not always from the same place or same position, but it is always straight at the target from wherever it may be, this is the driving idea behind all Wing Chun Strikes, the Fist moves from where it is to where it needs to be going in a straight line with no chambering, this is the idea expounded in the Sun Fist movement in the First Form, but our Arm could be anywhere, from any shape of the Flapping Wing we can strike straight at the Target as is the case with a side slash, in fact we would be unlikely to ever find ourselves in the position as performed in the Sun Fist movement, like all other aspects of the First Form this is just introducing the Concept.

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Articles, My Own Opinion, Weekend Wonderland

THE CULT OF THE CHERRY PICKER

wing chun sydney

Here in Sydney Australia there are more Wing Chun Schools than MacDonald’s, or it seems that way in any case, every week my Facepage is pushing me to like the page of someone else is offering instruction, in itself this is not a bad thing, the more people that get access to Wing Chun the better.

But there is another aspect that I do not think is very good.

Cherry Picking Students.

Continue reading “THE CULT OF THE CHERRY PICKER”