Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: RELEASING TENSION

RELAX WHAT?

I wish I had $1.00 for every time I was told to relax my arm during early training, I would be even happier with $0.50c for every time I was told to relax my shoulders in Chi Sau, I would be a wealthy man.

Relax, relax, relax it used to drive me mad, as a result I very rarely use the “R word” in my own teaching, instead I ask my students to identify and remove unneeded tension.

It is the identification of the tension that sets the greatest challenge because we are usually unaware that we are carrying tension and even less aware that we are creating tension, we are just the us that does everything everyday, which to ourselves is quite normal.

When you consider the claim that Wing Chun is based on normal human body movement it is easy to see how we let this one go through to the keeper.

But there is a method, and it is really simple, if someone says release the tension from your shoulder and you are not aware that your shoulder is tense, add some tension, in fact add as much as tension you can, you will be in no doubt about shoulder tension when you do this, after all it is you doing it, now just stop whatever it is you did to create the tension.

Tension released.

This may or may not solve your current dilemma but that is not the purpose. The purpose is to learn how to identify tension.  When we observe what is going on in this newly and deliberately tensed shoulder we will find that it is not just the shoulder that is tensing, muscles work in groups, none of them work alone, perhaps the shoulder is not to blame.

When we tense our shoulder often our Pectoral Muscle also tenses equally, through playing about with this idea of tension / release we can find that sometimes all it takes to release tension from the shoulder is to release the tension from the Pec.  Sometimes all it takes is a calming thought, after all the root cause of physical tension is mental tension.

We are all different so unfortunately there is no magic bullet.

Using a mental approach to releasing tension is not a “Mothership Activity”, it is not mumbo jumbo, simply stop trying so hard, do not be invested in doing things to a certain standard, throw away the need for a “Result”.  Removing EGO is essential for this, the mental approach requires personality change, attitude change, surrender to now without any hope of reward, I am only half joking when I say that this can be achieved quicker and often cheaper by seeing a shrink and sorting out all that stuff that stops you sleeping. Happily reducing physical tension will also help reduce mental tension, the physical approach must be approached absolutely and completely physically, no “Mother Ship” hybrids.

We do ourselves a solid if we divorce this practice from our Wing Chun training, the benefits will flow through to our Wing Chun effortlessly once we see the big picture.

1.Sit in a comfortable position, in a chair, on the floor whatever is natural and easy.

2. Crunch up your toes as hard as possible. Observe on a feeling level what is going on. Stop Crunching your toes {Release the tension}. Observe on a feeling level what is going on.

3. Crunch up your calves as hard as possible. Observe on a feeling level what is going on. Stop Crunching your calves {Release the tension}. Observe on a feeling level what is going on.

4. Crunch up your thighs as hard as possible. Observe on a feeling level what is going on. Stop Crunching your thighs {Release the tension}. Observe on a feeling level what is going on.

Continue up your body, buttocks, as a group genitals – anus – perineum { Mullah Bandah}, tummy, back, pecs, shoulders, chests, biceps, triceps, forearms, hands, fingers, neck, throat, cheeks, lips, eyes, ears, scalp. The more of the muscles and genuine moving bits that are not bones you can include the more complete a picture you create.

When the set is complete tense everything at once, the totality of your being, observe and release.

If time is short and a full program cannot be completed do a truncated set of something like feet, buttocks, arms, hands, neck, resist the temptation to only do things relevant to Wing Chun training, this is a recipe for failure, use Wing Chun specific tension / release only when you are training, otherwise keep it vague, let it exist in its own right as a tension / release exercise.

Do not look for any specific outcome, this will just invite in the EGO and begin mental tensing, remain connected by feeling image alone, in time you will simply KNOW what it means to be tense and how to release it.

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY. OPENING THE JOINTS.

 

Words are a vehicle for painting pictures of IDEAs.

This post in a similar vein to last weeks post where I mentioned how some Wing Chun explanations are at best just not what is happening.  Over the years I have been accused of trying to re-invent the wheel,  re-invent Wing Chun, I am not and never have been, for one thing you cannot re-invent a concept, and we are all at great pains to tell the general Martial Arts Community that Wing Chun is a concept and not a method.

I am not even trying to re-interpret Wing Chun, I am simply trying to use more accurate descriptions, to update it, we still operate to a very large extent on Chan Wah Shuns explanations as passed on to Ip Man and then whoever happens to be our lineages head.

Words are a vehicle for painting pictures of IDEAs.

Am I changing the words? … Yes.

Am I changing the IDEA? …No.

In Wing Chun practice it is quite common to hear people say “open your joints”, in fact having the ability to open the joints is held as integral to understanding Wing Chun, but how do we open our joints?

We do not, in fact we cannot, unless someone is abnormally formed or has developed something akin to Arthritis the skeleton is always exactly how it is meant to be, if you are able to deliberately change the way a joint works you would need to put it in an unnatural position, put it in an incorrect place, dis – locate it.

So why is it such a big thing, and not just in Wing Chun, yoga is full of it, pilates, most body methods talk of opening the joints.

Joints just do what they were designed to do, elbows and knees and wrists flex, shoulders and hips rotate, and they do this through a range of movements that is completely natural, forcing a joint to exceed this range of movement is a dislocation, preventing a joint of moving is a seizure, early in our training it is most often a case of us force closing the joints, or rather to put them under sufficient pressure to prevent them moving correctly and naturally.

When anyone talks of opening the joints what they should really do is ask their students to stop forcing them to seize up, or at least desist in putting them under excessive pressure.

Fang Song as a natural Chinese speaker knows it, does not translate into anything like what relax means to a natural English speaker, and it is more to do with the English usage of relax, to be more accurate and I believe more helpful we could ask them to release the tension instead of the usual mantra of relax.  We all know how to release tension even if we think we do not, simply make a fist as hard as you can and then let it go, Voilà tension released.

If we think of the shoulder for instance, what is the rotator cuff and what is its purpose?

Our rotator cuff is made up of muscles and tendons that keep the ball (head) of our upper-arm bone (humerus) in our shoulder socket. It also helps us raise and rotate our arm.

Each one of these muscles is part of the rotator cuff and plays an important role:

• Supraspinatus. This holds your humerus in place and keeps your upper arm stable. And helps lift your arm.

• Infraspinatus. This is the main muscle that lets you rotate and extend your shoulder.

• Teres Minor. This is the smallest rotator cuff muscle. Its main job is to assist with rotation of the arm away from the body.

• Subscapularis. This holds your upper arm bone to your shoulder blade and helps you rotate your arm, hold it straight out and lower it.       source webmd.com.

Keeping it simple the Rotator Cuff holds our arm in place in the shoulder and allows it to raise and rotate,  As an ex tennis player and ex Judoka I have had my fair share of R.C. injuries, most of them caused by enforced opening of the shoulder joint that results in a tear of even a dislocation,  Preventing the opening of the shoulder joint is one of the primary functions of the R.C. The burn sometimes felt when playing Chi Sau is the R.C. complaining that we are placing it under unwanted strain.

If we think of the action of Tarn Sau from the perspective of the R.C. if we do not allow our shoulder to extend as the elbow rotates to centre we place it under strain, this is one reason the the Sun Punch as done in the first Form is not a practicable punch just an expression of the theory.

Understanding what movements work against our joints operating normally, and removing them from our practice is a much easier and far more fruitful endeavour than trying to “open the joints”, something our bodies where never intended to do.  Telling people to relax is often not the correct approach, we need to tell them what to stop tensing and why.

Although the words are thought of as being synonymous, relaxing and releasing tension are not the same thing.  Opening the joints, and not creating the problems that close them in the first place are not the same thing. As the next generation of Wing Chun Masters, for our students benefit, who will in time be the Masters that follow us we should try to be more correct with our language, and not a translation of something we can never know was spoken.

 webmd.com. is as good a place to start understanding how the body works as any other, but always cross reference.

 

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Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY. BROKEN POSITIONS

FIGHTS HAPPEN AT HANDSHAKE DISTANCE

FIGHTING RANGE

In the last post I mentioned that we aim to be in the right place at the right time. easier said than done because as a counter attacking martial art the first choice of where to be will never be ours, we will be under pressure, more than likely already in physical contact in a place of the Bad Guy’s choosing, so how do we turn it around and put ourselves in a position of dominance?

For me this is the main practical use of Chum Kiu, and of course what we should be exploring through the practice of the Form itself.

Mainly due to this Blog I get quite a few visitors that come to work just on Chum Kiu, from the beginning I ask them “why do we do Chum Kiu”? The answer are usually somewhere between”For movement {it is our footwork} or to create power”.  As I have said elsewhere Chum Kiu is not about moving, it is about stopping, or to be more precise re-stabalising, what we are exploring through Chum Kiu is where do we shift our weight to when we shift our weight?

This is an aspect of Chum Kiu that is difficult to explain in writing, it is even difficult to demonstrate on video because it really needs to be felt.

And of course why do we do that in the first place?

Firstly lets never forget that the Wing Chun fighting range is close range, closer than our Chi Sau position, Handshake distance, less than one arms length, the space that is taken up when the Bad Guy grabs us by the throat, at this range Stability is more important than Mobility, but do not doubt that we will be moving, if for no other reason than as a result of our nervous system responding to the incoming attack. If we are lucky we will be aware of the attack and in some control of our movements, if we are shifting or pivoting it is an attempt to shift or pivot without compromising our Stability, the smaller the move the better, the less we are destabilised the more chance we have of gaining the upper hand, often regaining our good upright posture from a broken position is all that is really needed.

If we have been surprised and experienced a Spinal Reflex Action then our first move is to stop moving, or rather regain stability. If you think back to the last post our attackers forward pressure on us is returned to him by his own actions as we regain stability.

Let’s not slip into Wing Chun la la land here, unless we are being attacked by a complete dummy our position will be broken.

Something I have observed over many years of teaching is that when students engage in Chum Kiu analysis they begin in a perfect position and then pivot or shift, this is of course the correct way to start as it allows us explore the IDEA from an easy position, however once we are familiar with this way we really do need to explore doing the postures from a broken position, after all it is not how we start or how we move that is the real learning objective, it is how do we finish?

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FIGHTING RANGE from Derek Evans on Vimeo.

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In life the journey may be important but in a fight there is only the destination, everything else is just transport.

It does not matter which particular posture we choose to work this with, in time they are all the same, a good place to start is the Lan Sau.

Once we learn how to regain our good position we simply hit whatever is in range, this in turn will move the opponent and allow us to engage from the position we train in, in fact we will more than likely need to chase him down or pull him back to keep him in the Kill Zone.

The Wing Chun fighting range is anywhere we can hit the Guy, from a one inch punch to a fully extended Biu Gee finger jab.  Let the Bad Guy be the architect of his own destruction, let him come unto us.  This after all is the Wing Chun way.

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY. WING CHUN SPRINGY FORCE

Springy Force, sometimes referred to as Forward Force is one of the conceptual aspects of Wing Chun that means different, often very different things to different Instructors, I am not talking about Constant Forward Pressure, I see Springy Force and Constant Forward Pressure as two separate and almost unrelated IDEA’s, it is at times like this that the inherent weakness of a “Conceptual Martial Art” hits us smack in the face.

This is the stuff that fuels inter school arguments and turns intelligent students into, well, lets call them myopic partisans.

Wing Chun’s original traditions are oral, so for me I tend to start with the words used, and the pictures that those words evoke.

What are the qualities of a spring?

  1. A spring compresses { or stretches} under force.
  2. A spring decompresses { or contracts} as the force weakens and returns to its natural state.

This is a completely passive action, if no force is applied it is impossible to tell a spring apart from a helical shaped steel statue.

The compression / decompression that the spring undergoes is the result of an outside influence, and not a reaction brought about by conscious choice or even training.

“Stick with what arrives, follow with what departs”.

We do not bring Springy Force into existence, but obviously we lay down the conditions for it to spontaneously appear.

We build the spring.

One thing that a spring is not is resistant to force, it is not rigid or tense, so an important component of the spring is a lack of tension, the ability to accept the incoming force and allow it to pass through to the ground, in certain Constructional and Mechanical Engineering examples springs are used as supports that are only expected to carry weight, to compensate for vibration and only ever compress, never push back.

This is a very good approximation of Wing Chun Springy Force.

Another characteristic of a spring is that as the force is decreased the spring decompresses, eventually returning to its uncompressed state, a spring can never get any bigger than its natural size, Springy Force does not and never can expand.

There are schools that teach Springy Force as an active, physical pressing  thinking that Springy Force will automatically turn your defence into an attack by virtue of your decompression becoming a strike.

Springy Force does not and never can expand, it goes against the laws that rule our universe, expansion is pushing, pushing is not good Wing Chun.

HOW DO WE BUILD THE SPRING?

This is a surprisingly tricky thing to come to terms with both physically and mentally, mainly due to the fact that we must integrate three distinctly individual aspects of  our Wing Chun training, S.L.T. Chi Sau and Intention.

There is a potential weakness in the way a lot of schools analyse the S.L.T. in that the student expands his Arms structure against incoming force, this can easily lead the student to think that Springy Force actively presses outwards, if you are training with a highly knowledgable Instructor this is  not such a problem as they will clearly explain why you are doing it backwards, but at this stage most people are taught by relatively Junior Instructors and receive mixed messages.

Chi Sau is a method to “stick with what arrives”, to roll the incoming force down the helix and into the ground, what is difficult to grasp early on is that this is the same mechanism that once the force weakens allows the force to return up the helix, “follow with what departs”, there is no need for anything to change, it is completely passive.

If there is an “active ingredient’ then it is Intention, but it is the Intention of S.L.T. the blueprint that we develop and not the Intention to action.

Through S.L.T. training we discover where our arms belong, where they operate efficiently, it is the Intention of having our Arms in that place, or more accurately one of the many places that we discover through Chi Sau, not pushing or trying to force them there, just the knowledge that that is where they need to be that creates Springy Force.

Springy Force comes into existence through the laws of physics and not through Wing Chun training, our training really only teaches us how to not inhibit it.

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: THE ATTRIBUTES OF WING CHUN’S TRINITY.

TARN ; FOOK ; BONG

A standard training model in Wing Chun is to study the bio-mechanics of all the Forms, especially the first Form the S.L.T.  As a result training tends to become full of statements like “Rise up, sink down, focus forward and relax” as important as these things are they have the potential to lead people away from the true purpose of  Wing Chun, which is of course fighting.

In the lineage that I am from there are almost 500  moves in the 6 combined Forms, it is inevitable that people will get lost and start thinking that at least some of these moves are important, that these moves are a representation of what Wing Chun is, start believing that to be successful in a fight you must relax, or whatever buzzword you are connected to when in truth most people who survive violent street encounters do not recall what they did that was so successful, usually it was a lucky punch that saved the day.

As Arnold Palmer once noted when a spectator called one of his shots lucky  “it sure was, and the harder I train the luckier I get” so training is important if we ever hope to get lucky.

What should we be training?

What should we look at taking away from that training?

What are all the Forms and all the buzzwords teaching us to understand?

Learning a Form or even all the Forms will only teach us how to do a Form, Chi Sau will only teach us how to do Chi Sau and relaxing will only ever help us to relax.  People will of course argue with this but all Human training is task specific, this is mostly due to the way that our brain stores information and has little to do with the methods of past Masters.

What is our training trying to teach us?

Keeping it simple, and Wing Chun always tries to keep things simple, it is teaching us how to absorb force and how to deliver force, it is teaching us how to hit another person and how to avoid being hit by another person.

That’s it.

Every move in every Form can be used for defensive purposes or attacking purposes, so it cannot be the move itself that is important.

If we think about it we can parry with a punch, we can strike with a Fook Sau, studying punches and Fook Saus, as punches and Fook Saus in their own right is pointless.

We should study what it is they are trying to achieve, once we understand this we can do it with any shape, any movement, any name.

We are of course talking about Intention, but Intention is a wide subject so in this instance I prefer to call it the “Inherent Attribute”, or even easier just the  Attribute of the move.

Ip Man stated that there are 3 Hands {Sau’s} in Wing Chun, Tarn Sau, Fook Sau and Bong Sau, everything else stems from them, this is why the first Form is at the core of Wing Chun, it introduces the Trinity for our examination.

It is the Attributes of this Trinity that everything is built upon, not the shape or where it is situated in the Form.

The Attribute of  Tarn Sau is redirection, although we have a shape that we call Tarn Sau we could redirect incoming force with any shape, hence Dai Sau and Bill Sau appearing as variations of the Tarn Sau shape, in fact a Fook Sau latch operates as a redirection and when doing so could be seen as working as a Tarn Sau. The Attribute of Redirection.

The Attribute of Fook Sau is control, for me the Chi Sau aspect of
Fook Sau is about controlling my own space behind my bridge and not an attempt to exert control on the opponent, however if wanted to I could control my opponent by pressing with a Pak Sau or Chum Sau even folding the elbow over but either way Fook Sau is about control, it matters not what I am using if I am controlling my space or controlling my opponents Arms with any shape. I am involved in the Attribute of Fook Sau. The Attribute of Control.

The Attribute of Bong Sau is movement, Bong Sau is the Wing Arm, whenever or wherever we move our Arm we are flapping our Wing, all our Arm movements are us flapping our Wing.  If we follow this rationale then every time we move our Arm anywhere we are performing Bong Sau, if we are performing the movement we normally refer  to as Tarn Sau I am flapping my Wing with the Tarn Sau attribute, when performing what we normally refer to as Fook Sau I am flapping my Wing with the Fook Sau attribute, and when I strike I simply put a hand weapon such as a Fist, Knife Hand or Palm on the end of my Wing.     Bong Sau,The Attribute of Movement.

So much less to learn. So simple.

From this perspective Chi Sau becomes almost ethereal, all I do is control my own space behind my bridge, it is just Fook Sau, yet my partner is constantly redirected, he gets only Tarn Sau.  No different input is needed from me, just like Magic.

This approach to training simplifies all applications, I either redirect or control, and of course strike.

The latter Forms teach us new ways to use our whole body, a Butterfly Knife or a Pole to redirect or control.

First an foremost of the Wing Chun Principles is Simplicity.

 

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