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, 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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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: CHI SAU:  INTENTIONS / CONCEPTS.

WHAT WE LEARN IS NOT THE SAME AS WHAT WE USE.

There is a complete suite of mental intentions that we can work on when we play Chi Sau that are of as much if not more importance that rolling arms, however we should not allow ourselves to believe that these are fighting techniques, they are just seed trays for IDEAs, for creativity.

Everything we do requires deliberate intention, without it our Brain may not be able to help our body when needed, it simply will not know what we are trying to achieve.  There are a number of conceptual objectives that can be explored and developed through Chi Sau, most objectives are quite obvious and automatic once they have been identified, some are applied simultaneously even if we are not aware of them but it does benefit us to isolate them and become familiar with the concept.

Asking.  Applying mild pressure to our partner to get an indication of his state of being, relaxed, tense, aware or oblivious, it can be done with the hands or the body.

Running, if too much pressure is detected we can run our own hand away from the pressure to an unguarded area and strike.

Slipping. Similar to running if the pressure is too weak we can literally slip through and strike.

Leading. Deliberately reducing our own pressure to encourage our partner to move to a position we can take advantage of, can be just hands or by body movement.

Borrowing. Using our partners power to move us or spin us into a return strike.  This is the same as leading except initiated by our partner.

Uprooting. Taking our partners balance away not necessarily in an upwards direction. Glide them away.

Sinking. Applying downwards pressure through the bridges by dropping the C. of G.

Evading.  Using Chum Kiu shifting to bodily evade the line of force.

Dissolving. Using Chum Kiu rotation to turn away partners force.

Pushing, Using Chum Kiu rotation and shifting to aggressively expel our partner away. i.e. into a wall.

Dragging. Using Chum Kiu rotation and shifting to aggressively tear our partner out of their stance.

Shocking. A short sharp jolt as a push or pull to create stiffness in our partner.

Ejecting, {waving}. Using Biu Gee floor to arm wave force, Chum Kiu rising with shifting and / or rotating,  along with rapid angle expansion to bring about a dynamic explosion of force.

Swallowing, {vortexing}.   Using Biu Gee core winding,Chum Kiu sinking with shifting and / or rotation, rapid angle contraction to draw partner in.

As I mentioned last post there are many aspects of Chi Sau that only really have value when playing Chi Sau the principal offender being Gor Sau {trapping and light Chi Sau sparring} these are ways of developing the ability to redirect and tie up a partners hands in real time, they differ greatly from school to school but as they are only used against fellow students it is almost irrelevant how you do them. 

There is a quite widely held belief in some schools that Gor Sau is applicable to “Real Fighting”, even though some of the exercises or traps would work in a “Real Fight” why would we ever be in a position to use them?  If we have intercepted a strike with one arm as we always try to we would be striking them with our other arm and not trying to tie them up, if we found it necessary to defend with both arms we would be kicking simultaneously or just throwing the Bad guy away.

Playing Chi Sau is great fun and educational, there is nothing wrong in playing Chi Sau as long as we understand it is only playing.

Below is some footage from our Saturday morning training, Saturday is usually an impromptu workshop of some kind so I  have the camera running just in case we get something good happening Fly on the wall kind of view and then I post it on the Members page, they are a bit rough and ready, only really intended for domestic consumption but they do highlight some of the intentions from Chi Sau.

 

 

 

 

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Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY; MY PERSONAL APPROACH TO CHI SAU.

SIFU & SIGUNG. THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME.

CHI SAU:   AS I SEE IT AND TEACH IT.

The Chi Sau drill is pretty much the centrepiece of Wing Chun training, it is a complex drill that continually evolves as our understanding deepens, it allows us to study and explore all of the shapes, movements strategies and concepts contained within each of the empty hand Forms in a dynamic and semi-antagonistic environment.

When I was training Chi Sau with my Sifu he would tell me “Chi Sau is a means to an end, not an end in itself”, this is probably the wisest and deepest lesson I ever received on Chi Sau.

Although Chi Sau contains all the moves from the empty hands it is mostly centred in Chum Kiu, we seek the bridge, and then seek to manipulate the bridge of our partner all the while supporting our arms with our body two of the central ideas of Chum Kiu, with regards to Chi Sau the other two Forms, Siu Lim Tao & Biu Gee can be seen as preparation and extension.

Most of us begin Chi Sau when we are still at the Siu Lim Tao level of training, this can create understanding issues that in some lineages never get rectified,  Siu Lim Tao is a CHI KUNG set that teaches us the very important attributes of Body Awareness and Motor Ability, it is a method of conditioning and preparation for the work ahead, S.L.T. is not intended to make physical contact, it has no real regard for the positioning of opponents or the directions of incoming force, Chi Sau done from a S.L.T. perspective tends to be performed in quite the wrong place and quite the wrong way for it to effectively and effortlessly transfer to real fighting.  This does not mean it will not work, it just means it will not work as well as Chi Sau approached from a Chum Kiu perspective.

S.L.T. inspired Chi Sau tends to be relatively static, both wrists in the centre, body still, Y.C.K.Y.M. arms at ultimate angle, it is a closed system that discourages creativity and creates an over reliance on the work done by the Bridges.

Chum Kiu inspired Chi Sau is driven by the body, the Arms are still a little restricted remaining mostly at ultimate angle but the ability to turn and shift the body bring about different relationships between our own bridge and our partners, the rotation introduces multiple vectors that can simultaneously push and pull at our partners bridges opening them up, closing them down and breaking their balance. Chum Kiu Chi Sau rotates up {cranial rotation}, down {caudal rotation}, centre out {lateral rotation} and into centre {Medial rotation}.

The Biu Gee addition of a mobile shoulder girdle and core activation adds diagonal and front {proximal} to back {distal}, back to front rotation as well as the ability to extend and retract the shoulder itself creating an incredibly unstable platform for our partners arms.

To simplify the explanation of rotations if we intercept an arm on the outside of our own arm we move it {our own arm} out to our shoulder line, if we intercept an arm inside our own arm we move it {our own arm} in towards the centre, to prevent this being a one dimensional single vector as we move out we move up { i.e.Tarn Sau to Dai Sau} as we move in we move down {i.e.Biu Sau to Fook Sau}.   The aim in redirecting any arm is to put it in a position where it no longer points at us so that should our partner try to punch it would not hit a target and is in a position that is difficult for our partner to apply their body mass to our bridge.

All Chi Sau practice should be task driven, it is training and as such we need there to be a recognisable learning objective, understanding what you are doing, why you are doing it and why it is working will help you discover how to stop your partner doing it to you.

Chi Sau sparring is great fun without doubt but we rarely learn anything from it, work hard on making one thing work, if you partner can prevent that try to find out why instead of just doing something else.

There is a complete suite of concepts, intentions that we can work on in Chi Sau that are of as much if not more importance than that of rolling our arms, I will go over these next week.

Complete Chi Sau would incorporate all aspects of both the Chum Kiu and Biu Gee Forms { if your training is sufficiently advanced it should also incorporate the extensions to these Forms brought in by studying the Knives and Pole}, it should contain  body movement that rises, sinks, rotates and shifts at the same time the arms should individually rotate up, down, side to side and in and out.

 

 

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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: CHI SAU, REMEMBERING OR LEARNING?

CAN YOU HEAR ME UP THE BACK?

 

 

as baby humans play acting is how we learn to deal with the world around us, not only to survive but to flourish.

 

Most education methods in the modern world are more about remembering than learning, people advance to university by passing exams, they pass because they remember their lessons more than understand them, as a result we all know some people that are very well educated but basically dumb, as thick as a brick.

Very few education models teach people how to think, how to break apart a problem to be able to approach it from various new directions, how to learn and think creatively, and of course these methods become how people themselves choose to engage with the learning process.

To be expected we also see it in Martial Arts instruction, students just accept everything they are told without questioning its validity and get lost in the training, never understanding that the training is not the art, training is only a method that leads to being able to do the art. Being able to paint a horse will never give you a ride to market.

Training is just a map, and a map is not the country.

Ask yourself what is the core of my Martial Art?    What is it I wish to take from it?    How does the training I do help to enable me to achieve this?

In Wing Chun we have the Chi Sau drill or sticking hands, of itself Chi Sau is of very little value in application, I will go into this in later but for now lets just say it is a wonderful tool with which to explore our understanding of how the first three Forms combine to give IDEAs and options for fighting, especially if we can realise some of the Biu Gee actions.

One almost unavoidable problem with Chi Sau is that people very quickly get locked into someone else’s thinking, they trap themselves in shapes and responses, very few students roll two Bong Sau structures against two Fook Sau structures, very few students learn under arm Lap Sau manoeuvres and very few use Chi Sau as a way to learn creative footwork.  Another downfall of Chi Sau from the perspective of functionality is that a great deal of the training and the things we all work on are aimed at improving how we play Chi Sau, much of what makes for good Chi Sau play will never come up in a street situation, running palms is totally unnecessary in an environment where we attack and defend simultaneously, Bong Sau as deployed in Chi Sau is a loosing technique in a street fight, being good at Chi Sau may gain kudos in the Club but if we do not know how to use it to learn how to beat genuine bad guys then it is of little use.

This is part of the great dichotomy in Wing Chun, especially in Chi Sau and why the greater proportion of the Global Martial Arts Community think Wing Chun is a bit of a joke, so much of what we do is in a very real sense practically useless, it is no more than play acting, but as baby humans play acting is how we learn to deal with the world around us, not only to survive but to flourish.

For Chi Sau to fulfil its potential in our training we must know what we are hoping to learn before we begin and not just hope to remember what we were shown.

In my early training there were many of my fellow students that were technically better than I was, especially at Chi Sau, but once the playing became a little serious, as it always does at a certain level and I began to step out of the normal Chi Sau Box they would struggle to come to terms with what I was doing, they would say I was cheating, using strength or using my Judo knowledge they had failed to learn how to break apart the problem and find a solution, they wanted answers they could remember, they had not trained how to teach themselves how to solve rapidly evolving problems.   The complaints would make me giggle, because bad guys never use strength or use a different style.

What use is Chi Sau if it can only be used against someone else playing Chi Sau?

THAT’S CHEATING !!!

The problem of remembering as opposed to learning is exacerbated in a school like my Sifu’s that was based around gradings, progress becomes linked to learning and remembering the next Form,  the next technique or the counter to a certain technique, the path forward is obvious and unbending, this does little for creativity or spontaneity, it encourages remembering at the cost of learning.

Dynamic problem solving is not having 5 different ideas on how to stop a single attack but rather one idea that stops 5 different attacks.

Wing Chun in essence is very small, there really is very little to learn or master, but if it is approached as something to be taught and remembered it gets bigger with every new piece of information.

Chi Sau in particular needs to be seen for what it is, and not for what we would hope it can become, it is a way to learn ideas that we can take into fighting and not a way to fight, a means to an end, not an end in itself.

 

Learn the form, but seek the formless. Learn it all, then forget it all. Learn The Way, then find your own way.

 

The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.

Hunter S. Thompson

 

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