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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: CHI SAU, WHERE TO FROM HERE? pt2

 

Does this mean that I think Chi Sau as a practice has no value?

Absolutely not, I think Chi Sau is a great exercise once we look in the right direction, I think it can be truly amazing, a genuine crossroads to endless possibilities

My teacher Sifu Jim Fung was a very pragmatic teacher, he taught Wing Chun as a fighting art, his training class was usually Form Analysis, Power Production and Real World Applications, he rarely taught Chi Sau, if we wanted to practice Chi Sau we were advised to turn up early and roll with our fellow instructors before he commenced teaching, this meant that to a large extent we were left to our own devices. Many of the more senior students travelled to Hong Kong to train with my Sifu’s Master, and this heavily influenced the way Chi Sau was played, Sifu would tongue in cheek call this Hong Kong Sports Chi Sau, when I asked him why he saw it this way he told me that in his opinion no one was trying to learn anything, everyone was just trying to score points on their partner, in his own early training Sifu Jim only trained privately one on one with his master Chu Shong Tin as a result he never took part in the social side of Chi Sau, he was my Sifu and to me his opinion mattered so I asked him how I should change my approach, Sifu Jim always maintained that Chi Sau was just a means to an end and not an end in itself, that the Chi Sau collective of Lok Sau, Lap Sau and Gwoh Sau where exercises to develop dexterity, learn how to free up the shoulder joint while moving it and increase range of motion, it was not meant for application, he would advise to never attack in Chi Sau and to never try to do Chi Sau if you are attacking, he would say that the essence of Chi Sau was  “Loi Lau Hoi Song, Lat Sau Jik Chong”, stick with what comes in, follow what goes out and when the hands are free strike, so what we should be looking for in Chi Sau was not a way of manipulating our partner but a way to find a position where our hands are free, if we add to this thought the maxim accredited to Chan Wah Shun “Ying Siu Bo Fa, Ying Fu Sung Yung”, which translates along the lines of structure neutralises, footwork dissolves, the only conclusion we should come up with is that we should be implementing physical movements like pivoting, shifting, stepping wherever possible, however this movement should not be to apply pressure to our partner but to find this free position where we can work unhindered.

I was fortunate in the fact that I ran a sub-school or branch for my Sifu so he would spend five to ten minutes with me {and my wife who I trained with} every training evening as he did with all branch leaders, this eventually ended up as him teaching me how to teach myself a better approach to Chi Sau.  Usually I would simply roll Lok Sau and Sifu would apply ever increasing amounts of force to my arms pushing in the shape of a strike, my task was to learn how to take that force into my body, after a few minutes we would change roles so that I could feel how he would adjust the pressure in his arms to alter the return force of my actions, at five to ten minutes a week this was no crash course by any means but as I trained with my wife who was also an instructor he would show us how to work this at home. Over the years he would give us advice on how to take this training forwards by introducing Chum Kiu concepts, Biu Gee concepts , this was not secret information often it was vague and thinly detailed he wanted us to find our own way, he once said to me “if you look closely you will see that nothing is what we think it is in Chi Sau, especially Fook Sau”, but never expanded on that thought.

Interestingly he advised us to give away all of the fancy trimmings such as Running Palms, Trapping, over arm Bong Sau moves or pushing each other around the room as he maintained that all of these ideas only come into play if we are directly in front of someone having made contact with both arms, and the only reason to ever be in that place is to play Chi Sau, most of the work he wanted us to do was about receiving and shedding force, and to understand that “outside goes in, inside goes out and nothing goes forwards”.

Does this mean that I think Chi Sau as a practice has no value?

Absolutely not, I think Chi Sau is a great exercise once we look in the right direction, I think it can be truly amazing a genuine crossroads to endless possibilitiesChi Sau is multi faceted yet so many people only look one way, things we should be learning is how to deal with the physical aspect of being pushed around, violently pushed around and not guided like a shopping trolley, then more importantly how to avoid it, how to counter it and how to reorient ourselves into a stronger position, and most of all how to do it right now.     As I say this was not secret information, Sifu would tell all the class that only one person should do Chi Sau and that person should only be defending and moving while the other person only attacked, sadly it wasn’t what many people wanted to hear, and so they did not hear it, we have all been guilty of this over the years, in more than just Wing Chun, if you doubt it ask your parents or your partner…..

The following video was from a very active training session and towards the back end of the video I am a bit loud and pumped, I apologise if I sound like I am talking AT YOU and not to you, it is not my intention.

 

 

If we can be honest, and as Martial Artists who believe that somewhere along the line we will need these skills, it is best not kid ourselves up, what I am describing makes a lot more practical sense than grind, grind, chug, chug of Hong Kong Sports Chi Sau even though it is not so much fun.

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: IS FIST LOGIC MISSING IN CHI SAU?

WING CHUN IS FIST LOGIC

 Wing Chun is a Fist Arts therefore the logic behind it is Fist Logic, which at its most instinctive level simply hits things.  Wing Chun is first and foremost about hitting  people. No matter what drill or activity we are involved in we should always measure it by the Fist Logic metrics of Simplicity, Practicality, Directness, Economy of Movement and Minimal use of Brute Force.

The five main Logics are not stand alone ideas, we cannot use one or two and ignore the rest, if we claim to do Wing Chun they must all be present.   They are “The Five Principles” and as close as Wing Chun comes to dogma.

There are sub logics that evolve from combinations of the Five,  sub logics are not so strict as the Five and allow some latitude, exceptions to the rule because reality is never like training.

Simultaneous defence and attack is a Sub Logic that is paramount to the Wing Chun Idea, where ever possible this approach is taken literally but in its wider sense it means hit at the earliest opportunity.

Another important sub logic is never using two arms to defend against one, we cannot implement simultaneous defence and attack if both arms are defending, in its wider sense though we can use two Lan Sau’s or Jit Sau’s to ward of a stick or high kick, we can employ a double Lap Sau to propel someone into an obstacle or a wall.

Once we seriously consider our actions by this metric, which means become serious and honest about Wing Chun it becomes clear that any action where a Bong Sau is used for defence is not working in accord with the Five, Bong Sau defies Fist Logic and if we can see past the theatre that is Chi Sau this means that it is not a working Wing Chun option. Thinking that Bong Sau is a viable option leads into all kinds of bad practice and misunderstanding, that infects all of the Chi Sau drills, the understanding that many students end up with from the Lap Sau drill also defies Fist Logic, and as such Wing Chun because there is a moment where we use two arms to defend against one.

 

 

Other important sub logics are to never fight force with force, to never carry our opponents weight, but Chi Sau play ignores this to a large extent as we grind, grind, chug, chug.   If we cannot see drills for what they are then they become something they are not and where never meant to be,  they become a parody that only works with friends in the training hall and they fail to deliver the intended result when it is really needed.  We need to see the seductive safety and elevated opinion of Chi Sau practice for what it really is.

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: FIST LOGIC – THE PARADOX OF DEFENCE.

 

There are many schools that teach people to hit while playing Chi Sau, from my point of view this is a MASSIVE mistake

In violent situations or even match fights no one defends themselves, you cannot win by defending only by attacking, Wing Chun is about 99% defence, we should not kid ourselves about this and let our ego start rambling on about counterattacking,  counter attacking is a defensive option, Wing Chun is about 99% defence.

Q.   If we can’t win by defending why do we train our defence so much in Wing Chun?

A.    Paradoxically it is to give us the confidence to engage in relentless attack, which is the only way to a successful outcome, shock and awe.

The main take away from Chi Sau and Chum Kiu should be absolute confidence in the ability of our arm structures to not collapse under pressure during lateral movement, with little or no overt, active involvement from ourselves, just the posing, moving of the arm shapes, a skill acquired through Chi Sau and the lateral body movement found in Chum Kiu. This gives us the ability to step up and knock people down, even under attack, without consciously dealing with the incoming strike.

Only once we genuinely believe that we cannot be hit will we be free from thinking about how to stop a hit, and of course once we are no longer thinking about stopping a hit we have all the time in the world to think about dominating our attacker.

There are many schools that teach people to hit while playing Chi Sau, from my point of view this is a MASSIVE mistake, if our training partner keeps hitting us how can we ever reach a place where we no longer think about getting hit?  If we are constantly hitting our partner, another Wing Chun stylist how can we believe that the Wing Chun structure can weather the storm as we are go about proving that it cannot?

One of the really negative things that we learn without realising when hitting during Chi Sau practice is to stand there and get hit without doing anything constructive about it, like getting out of the way for instance, the self depreciating part of our inner self sees this and it erodes our confidence in Wing Chun,  this makes it so much harder to not think about being hit, and to freely engage in relentless attack.

Let’s face it , when we find ourselves in trouble {and we should approach training from the point of view of when and not if} we will not try to use Wing Chun at all, we will only try to get out of trouble, if all we are doing with our training is learning Wing Chun we are not learning how to get out of trouble, most Chi Sau playing teaches people to stay in the kill zone, even when getting continuously hit.   From a practical application standpoint Chi Sau the way most people play it teaches them how to loose, now that is a paradox.

Should we train softly or hard? 

Again paradoxically, if we ever hope to fight hard we absolutely must train softly and never hit our partner with enough force to cause pain, even light pain.

Hitting our partners or preventing them from successfully performing a technique or action may make our ego feel good, but we are not doing anyone any favours {least of all ourselves}, when our partner is failing in their attempts and just getting hit they will not think that we are awesome, they will just think that Wing Chun sucks

And from the other side of the coin, the self depreciating aspect of our inner self seeing that our partners Wing Chun is no match for our pretend attacks could lead us to thinking that perhaps Wing Chun does suck and cause us as so many others before us have done to loose faith in Wing Chun and walk away.

Chi Sau can teach us a great deal if we know what to look for, but it does not teach us how to deal with violence, so many students think it does and when it fails, which it must, they are devastated.

Is there a way to practise Chi Sau that can successfully transfer to violent situations?

There certainly is, but it depends on vision, creativity and the acceptance of reality , something in short supply with most Chi Sau players, we should try to find ways that put our opponent in an indefensible position, this requires a deliberate plan of attack, a predefined idea of how we would like things to unfold that has little to do with basic, preliminary Wing Chun Logic {Fist Logic} and a lot more to do with straight up taking the bad guys balance away and shifting to the blind side, it requires movement and a change of orientation, we can move ourselves or we can move the bad guy, usually it will be a bit of both slipping laterally as in Chum Kiu while rotating the upper body as we do in Biu Gee, all the time taking their balance with clever use of latching, which of course is Lap Sau.

Like many other Chi Sau related training methods Lap Sau is practised in a way and position that will never be used in reality,  the value of any Chi Sau position drill is as a method of learning the “how” of arm mechanics and not a recommendation of “where” to use them, think about the basic Lap Sau drill from the point of directness or practicality, two of the main pillars of Fist Logic, why would anyone ever choose to defend a straight attack with Bong Sau?  In the Lap Sau drill Bong Sau is just a perch, a convenient starting position so that we have consistency in the training.

One of the earliest pieces of Fist Logic I was given was to never try to strike over or under someones Arm as they could defend themselves almost accidentally with a reflex, the standard Lap Sau exercise does just that.  A post about Lap Sau is for another time but if taken at face value most Lap Sau training flies in the face of Fist Logic, it is quite ineffective, and it leads to using strange Bong Sau / Lap Sau / Side Slash combinations that are way to convoluted to be genuine Wing Chun. Think economy of movement, another pillar of Fist Logic.

Yet another paradox, we are more responsible for our partners training than we are for our own { don’t panic it works both ways}, if we ensure that our partner always succeeds the self encouraging aspect of our  inner self begins to see how effective Wing Chun is, and we begin to trust it, when our partner ensures that we succeed, we conveniently forget that they are helping us to succeed we believe it to be personal skill, and our own trust in Wing Chun grows.

I have thought this way for many years, when I share this thinking usually people say we cannot learn how to defend ourselves by assisted success at training, I ask them to think about that deeply, because what they are implying is that we can only learn to defend ourselves by assisted failing at training.

Really?  W.T.F.

If we go back to my original point if we get in trouble we will not be doing Wing Chun we will only be trying to get out of trouble, to add to this we will not get out of trouble by defending only by relentlessly attacking, all being well our defence will not be tested after the initial counter attack as we will always and only be in the bad guys face.

The ability to take it to the bad guy non stop is more about confidence than anything else, we develop confidence by succeeding in training.

 

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: TWO OF EACH,NOT JUST ONE.

A BIG word in Wing Chun is Centreline what pattern are we superimposing with this IDEA?

Words are important, they are how we describe what we perceive as reality to ourselves, words are how we approach abstract concepts, how we manifest IDEAS and voice our thoughts, if we are using the wrong word or just using the a word the wrong way we are describing our reality in a way that is not happening.

The human Brain is a self organising pattern maker that dislikes chaos so much that it actively creates non existing patterns from it, this is what allows us to make our way through difficult aspects of life, but the patterns it makes are not real,  we only think they are, once the brain creates a pattern that works it will always choose this pattern, the brain superimposes this pattern over everything we experience, it makes sense to us and it obviously works because we are still here.

The fact that the pattern works is not a sign that it is the best or even appropriate pattern, it gets rusted on so we keep using it, because this story is of our brains own making most of us do not have the tools to question it, that’s why we have such high respect those that can, the creatives, the engineers, scientists and artists.

In every training session for the first couple of years we are bombarded with new information, tonnes of it, the thing is our brains can only process four pieces of information at once so we miss most of what we are told and make our pattern from what may well end up to be random IDEAS, there is no way of knowing if we are all picking up the same four pieces of information, chances are we are not, so we are all trying to make the same pattern with different pieces of information which we then superimpose over every similar situation.

A BIG word in Wing Chun is Centreline what pattern are we superimposing with this IDEA?  Is it close to reality?

Centreline is a way of dividing the body into a left side and a right side, it is about ourselves and does not in anyway interact with anything else, it is a frame of reference.  Centreline does not go from ourselves to another person, this is not its function, thinking that a Centreline does go from us to our partner / opponent is using the word in the wrong way, we are misunderstanding the IDEA, we are no longer describing reality. Centreline is simply a way of understanding that our body has two separate sides.

Simultaneous defence and attack is a by-product of Centreline thinking, two independent, individual, separate sides of the body doing two very different things, it is the same process as rubbing our tummy while tapping our head.

The IDEA that gets superimposed by the Y.C.K.Y.M. The Siu Lim Tao and the way most people play Chi Sau is not the best IDEA for a fighting martial art.

Seeing the Y.C.K.Y.M. As a working position leads to a very one dimensional view of Wing Chun, it leads to lazy and inflexible thinking, due to this we come to the idea that there is only one ball and only one triangle formed by both of our arms meeting in the centre, this is of course a misunderstanding, the theories around the ball and the triangle are part of the theory of our defence, in Wing Chun we do not defend with both arms {except for a couple of extreme situations}, so when playing Chi Sau we are maximising our training time by practising simultaneously but independently defensive ideas with both arms, they are not working together.

For some students this concept is difficult to come to terms with.

Accepting that the Y.C.K.Y.M. is the rear leg position of Chum Kiu opens us up to understand that each side of our body does act independently, and of course this is an aspect of Centreline theory, the left deals with the left or the right deals with the right while the other hand strikes out.  Thinking that there is only one ball or only one triangle situated with its central axis on a line from our sternum to our partner / opponent is an idea that gets drummed into us subconsciously by playing Chi Sau in the Y.C.K.Y.M. and that is why most of what we learn here is only really applicable to playing Chi Sau and not of much use for genuine conflict.

Each of our arms, from the shoulder to the wrist {in Biu Gee to the finger tip}, are the diameter or the axis of a ball, 2 arms = 2 balls, each of these balls has the ability to move through 90 degrees on the transverse plane, in other words the axle can point straight out or sideways, this allows for a coverage of 180 degrees using both arms.

Our arms also acts as a side of a triangle with its base angles on our sternum and our shoulder, and just like the balls these triangles can be opened to over 45 degrees on the transverse plane { further sideways positioning if required would be brought about by pivoting} , a very interesting exercise is to perform the Tarn Sau / Tor Sau movement from the S.L.T. by moving Tarn Sau out down the hypotenuse, Tor Sau in and back down the opposite side and then Woo Sau across the adjacent side to get back to the starting position.

 

 

One ball, one triangle thinking has a direct and quite negative ramifications for how we strike, but the main danger is that it creates inflexibility in our thinking.

In a violent situation a rigid body under the control of a flexible mind will always destroy a flexible body with a rigid mind.

 

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