The biggest threat we will ever face is our own unpreparedness.


What is the underlying reason for a Martial Art?

Any Martial Art not specifically Wing Chun.

At its most basic level every Martial Art is a tool to solve a specific problem.

As important as it is to become as capable as we can in our chosen style, our tool of choice, it is of even more importance to understand the problem we are training to deal with.

Reflective of how I teach the why’s and the where’s of what we are working on get more attention that the how’s, before we try to learn how to deploy the tool we are learning how to use we first try to identify the problem, identify the options.

Because of this approach it is important that my guys maintain personal honesty, no Kung Fu movie daydreaming, my own part in this process is to encourage everyone to question everything I teach, this leads to some revealing foresights, the most revealing being that many do not know what problem they are trying to solve and this makes it almost impossible to look past simple technique.

If we do not know the problem how can we hope to choose an appropriate solution?

In many ways learning a Martial Art is the same as learning how to use an Adjustable Spanner , we learn the theory behind it, why, how and where it was invented, then in a controlled environment we work through possible reasons to use the Adjustable Spanner, different situations, different size nuts, bolts or whatever we imagine we may come up against.

Then we go out on a job, just us and our Adjustable Spanner and pretty soon realise that while an Adjustable Spanner is better than nothing, it is  not better by very much.

Let’s take a mental side step, we and our Adjustable Spanner prepare for a D.I.Y.  Job, nothing life threatening so when we get overwhelmed by our unpreparedness we call in a professional who turns up with a complete toolbox of spanners, metric and imperial, open ended and socket, even Allen Keys.

Why so many tools?

I am tradesman, and yes there have been times when I have used the wrong tool for the job, as most tradies have, but it is only when for some reason I have not been properly prepared for the things I needed to do, and I assure you that it was never a good situation, only my previous experience and my ability to adjust and bend the rules that deep down I knew should not be bent got me through.

The biggest threat we will ever face is our own unpreparedness.

I am not a fan of the old cliche´ of “expect the unexpected”, for what I hope are very obvious reasons, but I do think we can ask how do we  “prepare for our unpreparedness”?

The first thing would be to stop treating our Martial Art as an Adjustable Spanner and increase the content of the virtual toolbox.  But even this is nothing more than a Band-Aid if we are to be honest, a box full of the wrong tools is of less use than a Shifter.

A good place to start would be to list all the possible problems we could face, write them down, make a real list, then against each problem write down what would be an appropriate solution, then check this solution against the style we are training.

I think we all know that having the answer to a problem is not the same as giving the answer to a problem, call it performance anxiety, exam nerves, even when the problem is physical and the answer is physical the ability to give the answer or use the solution is mostly mental.

The most important aspect of our mental training is understanding, only when we have a good understanding of the answer will we have the confidence to use it.

We must attain a deep understanding of what our Martial Art is even before we try to understand what it does, I have been teaching Wing Chun for more than 20 years and if I call up just one observation it would be that the majority of students do not come anywhere close to understanding what it means to be a “Counter Attacking Martial Art”.

This is a philosophy not an operating method.

Depending on how deeply we connect to this and how accurately align with this is the difference between our IDEAS working or as we see in far too many Youtube videos failing miserably.

As a philosophy what does it mean to “Counter Attack”.

This is at the heart of Wing Chun, this is our FIST LOGIC.









This month, April, we are focusing mainly on the whys and wherefores of kicking in Wing Chun, and my guys are asking some interesting questions and making strange observations that show a general misunderstanding about the where and why of kicking.

A great deal of this misunderstanding stems from the fact that many students  do not understand what comprises an attack and why we choose to not go down that path, as a result they do not properly understand what it means to counter attack.


Some teachers are naturally aggressive, some are naturally defencive, and this is reflected in how they approach kicking, we really need to see that both of these approaches are equally wrong from the perspective of Wing Chun’s counter attacking philosophy, this is compounded by the unavoidable fact that the reality of kicking or facing a kick is difficult to explore in training without a genuine attack taking place , a method that when employed usually freaks people out.

There are some unwritten, unbreakable laws in Wing Chun that we must never stray from in any of our training.

Example. … Wing Chun is governed by Fist Logic, it should therefore be obvious that if we are using our feet in any way it is to support or complement our Fists.

Example. … Wing Chun is a Counter Attacking Martial Art, we genuinely believe that to commit to the first strike places us in a weakened position.

How do we resolve these examples when kicking?  If we fail to resolve them we are moving away from Wing Chun, away from our core training values and to a certain extent now training a different Martial Art.  On face value this may not appear as a problem, it works in the M.M.A.   But in the split second we have to decide on our response to an attack do we choose Wing Chun’s philosophy or our new kicking philosophy.

Wing Chun does not attack!

We Counter Attack, this is not some clever word play there is a world of difference between the two approaches, a difference that will do more than just influence our decisions.

Without meaning any disrespect to anyone the majority of Wing Chun Instructors have never been in a serious fight, their ideas and philosophies are heavily influenced by action movies and watching Competitive Sports Fighting Styles such as Muay Thai, Kyokushin Karate,Kick Boxing, T.K.D. and M.M.A. where kicking is used to great effect mostly because of the competition rules that make kicks a viable option.

In my own experience of chaotic street fighting people only kick to start the fight  or to finish them off if one guy is on the ground, very rarely do people kick in the meat of a fight, it is just to risky, if someone is kicking they are now fighting on one leg, something our brain will abandon the second we think of it.

In a Street Situation, with the participants in normal pants and heavy shoes it is super simple for either person to catch the incoming leg and then it is game over.


The foremost reason people try to kick is simply to be able to attack while out of Arms reach, for any kick to be effective requires perfect positioning, perfect timing and perfect contact, there is very little wiggle room when throwing a kick.

The easiest and quickest way to neutralise any kick is to control the space.   Move in, move out it doesn’t really matter just move.  If we ever get kicked it is not because the attacker was skilful, it was because we were negligent, asleep at the wheel or maybe just lazy.

An average fighter can more easily land 2 or 3 powerful, technically good, quite accurate punches than they can pull of a half arsed kick.

It is a difficult task for a Top Professional Fighter to pull off the “perfect kick”, even the mighty Baas Ruten missed a good few.

If we are counter attacking then like it or not first we respond to someone else attack, this is the core of what we do, over time our we developed a clever and sophisticated system of  jamming, redirecting and generally out thinking incoming kicks, it is a system that allows the Bad guy to be the architect of his own downfall.

Our own approach clearly demonstrates the many weakness’ and dubious value of kicking , if we can defend against kicks so successfully, and we can without doubt if we stick to the prescribed Logic, why would we ever expect them to work against someone else?

Why would we choose to kick in the first instance?



All of our kicks are support actions that allow us a better opportunity to counter attack with punches.

Bridge the gap if there is one with a feint kick as in Chum Kiu, land and punch, if a kick is inbound jam it then step in and punch, if the opponent controls our arms in some way either hook or stamp kick to the lower legs as he releases the arms punch and punch some more.

Even with the legs we still use FIST LOGIC.



As the month proceeds and me and my guys dig in to what it means, what it’s worth and any other whats including Alan, I am sure I will find more to ruminate on, stay tuned.





Sadly a lot of Wing Chun students are very lazy, focusing on Form practice exacerbates this.

As a generalisation Wing Chun players are the least fit and most ill conditioned of any Martial Artists that I have personal experience of, part of this stems from the misunderstanding about do not use Brute Force.

There is a consensus that just becoming proficient at Wing Chun will be enough to get the job done, this is a BIG call, dangerous ground.

Let’s look at it through a different prism.

I can swim, I have been able to swim for so long that I do not remember learning, there was one period of my life that I swam a kilometre every work day in my split shift, I would use different strokes for different laps, freestyle, breast stroke, backstroke even butterfly so there is no doubt about my ability. I no longer swim with this intensity but I still have the physical skill.

Today if I fell from a boat just half a kilometre from the shore would I be able to swim to safety, I have the skill, but I do I have the conditioning?

It would not be the best time to find out.

I have played a great deal of sport that required running, when I was involved in these sports it was standard to run 3 to 5 kilometres per day at a reasonable pace, easily enough to escape a gang that meant to hurt me and maintain the gap between us ’til I reached safety.

Could I do that today? Anyone could find themselves in the middle of a riot, or even more scary in this day and age a terrorist attack.

It would not be the best time to find out.

Just training Wing Chun will be fine and dandy if all you need to deal with the problem is Wing Chun, but it wont be, just Wing Chun is never enough, violence is complex.

How about the whole do not use Brute Force? Often misunderstood as do not use strength.

The argument for not using strength is not very convincing, why should we not use strength?

The standard answer is that if we do a stronger man will always win, I have to call B.S. on this one, yes he would win if it was an equal test of strength, but it will not be, it will be a fight, first in best dressed.

How do we know he is stronger?

Looks cannot be trusted, many well muscled, strong guys that lift metal do not know how to use that strength in other situations, like a fight.

If he is weaker why chance the odds on having more skill when we can pick him up and throw him out the window?

With regards to smaller opponents Manny Pacquiao is a smaller man, how would our skill go against him?

One of the main reasons serious Martial Artists laugh at Wing Chun is because of the lack of physical conditioning required to reach the intermediate and advanced levels of Wing Chun training.

The overwhelming reason when Wing Chun fighters lose to other styles is always conditioning, never skill, this calls into question the value of a high skill level in Wing Chun if there is no conditioning to go with it.  Fighting and training are two very different things.


Sadly a lot of Wing Chun students are very lazy, focusing on Form practice exacerbates this.






Life does not resemble training, never did, never will,

I think that as a result of the focus on Forms, Kata, Drills, Chi Sau or whatever we call them, as Martial Artists we are guilty of overlooking the obvious, it is only the end result, the PRODUCT of all of our training that really matters.

You disagree, then imagine this, we find ourselves in a situation were violence is unavoidable, inevitable and we are given the following choice beforehand ……….

  1. To perform our chosen Martial Art flawlessly without error in accordance with everything  that the Martial Art stands for displayed and intact for all to see, but sadly get the living shit beaten out of us.
  2. To fight in a way that made us look like we had never undergone a days training in our life but finish victorious without a single scratch, bruise or blemish to our person with the opponent left as a crumpled mess in the dirt at our feet.

I know my choice.

If you chose “3” to fight perfectly and win you are living in dreamland, and I hope you know it.

People in the Martial Arts community that have never had fights, let alone lost one or two badly, develop distorted ideas based more on hope than genuine expectations.

They have no idea how foolish they sound to people that have experienced violence first hand when they go on, and on, and on, and on, and on about how Forms, Kata, whatever { insert favourite word here} are more important than Function.

Forms, Kata etc are important without and beyond any shadow of a doubt but how can any type of training be more important than the ability to win?


If we are in a sporting contest then skill is often the deciding factor, if it is a chaotic street encounter then the deciding factor is more often than not luck.


There is a well know and often used maxim / quote that goes “The harder I train the luckier  I get” that somehow implies that training itself is enough, that does not sound quite right to me, however there is an earlier similar maxim that says  “The more you know, the more luck you will have” which to me speaks of experience and understanding over simply training.

I like maxims / quotes, they act on me as seeds of creative thought that allow me to look at the same thing in many different ways, getting this post back on track with Product over Process in respect of being in a violent situation two more maxims / quotes come to mind.

Maxim #1. “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” 

This Darwinian sounding quote begs the question “how does building the basis of our training around the uniformity of doing the same or similar Form or Kata day after day, week after week, year after year in any way prepare us for change or equip us with the tools for change”

The absolute opposite of change is uni-form-ity.

Maxim #2.  “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet”. There is something about this maxim that just makes sense, skilled or not, lucky or not we need the physical wherewithal to both deliver and take a blow, being attacked is the impetus for all our training.

I have had the misfortune to lose a fight badly, in competition and in the wild.

It sucks.

And for a few days so did I because I could not chew.

I have hit men hard, real hard and watched them take the best I have and spit it back at me, like it or not this is what we train for, everyone gets a turn at losing.

It is how we come back from defeat that really makes us what we are.

Think on that and ask “will my Process in any way help me recover”?

“Will the trust in my Product survive for me to fight again”?

Life does not resemble training, never did, never will, sitting in the comfortable centre will not prepare us for when the going gets weird, but how do we prepare, is there even a way?

Training uniformly in the comfortable centre will not prepare us for what happens out at the edges, we must mix it up before we are pushed over that edge.

I cannot resist a last maxim – quote

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




I want everyone to improve their conditioning, we do not do Hong Kong style Wing Chun so we need to have a decent baseline conditioning and know how to activate the kinetic chain.

Everyone including seniors will be expected to do the small circuit before commencing training in the studio, it should not take more than 5 minutes, but feel free to do multiple circuits, remember this is conditioning and not strength training so use lighter bands as opposed to heavier bands.

Hopefully this will inspire some of you , although I would like it to be all of you, to buy a couple of resistance bands and set up a space at home, bands cost between $5.00 and $20.00 and the anchors, which are just heavy duty door handles, cost me $10.00 so there is no large outlay.

Not using BRUTE STRENGTH is a governing principle in our FIST LOGIC, however never doubt that a conditioned person can produce more base load power cruising without using overt effort than an unconditioned person can produce flat out using BRUTE STRENGTH.

Train hard, fight easy, the opposite of this is just not very attractive.



I am working on some footwork drills that you can do at home so watch out for them.




Everything begins with Intention, we must know what it is we wish to do


From the outset we must realise that there is no way to talk about the Warrior Mindset, all we can hope for is a way to talk about approaching the Warrior Mindset.

We do not seek it out and find it, the Warrior Mindset finds us as a result of our work.

The Warrior Mindset is open to two very different interpretations, a Martial Warrior is a soldier that fights other soldiers, and a Spiritual Warrior is a man that fights the baser elements of himself.

Martial Arts conflate these two ideas with very mixed results, mainly due to unrealistic expectations of progress through mystical osmosis.

Martial Arts are the messenger and not the message, but they do provide the tools to translate the message.

Translate not interpret.

Wether we are a Martial Warrior fighting for our lives, or a Spiritual Warriors fighting self ignorance it all hinges on being in the present, the Here and Now, at all times.

Martial Arts provide this by giving us a ritualistic training method, a way of developing singular focus by working hard at performing all of the movements flawlessly, by focusing on what we are doing to the exclusion of all other distractions.

It is simpler than it sounds, it could be any movement, any shape done in any way but as human beings repetition and ritual are very powerful aids to success, this is the genesis of all Martial Arts Forms.

There is a great deal of wisdom available to us from such diverse sources as the Toltec Shaman of Mexico, the Buddhism of Tibet, the Egyptian Book of the Dead and of course all of the Martial Art Classics, but there is also new knowledge from more recent travellers on this road from both he military aspect such as Lt. Col. Dave Grossman to the more cerebral approach of Dr. Gavin Becker.

We would profit greatly from visiting more than one library.

This essay is intended as an entrée to encourage and entice you to seek out the Grand Buffet.


Everything begins with Intention, we must know what it is we wish to do, what we hope to find, if we do not know beforehand what we are looking for we will walk right past it when it turns up.

The next step is CENTRING.

It will more than likely take longer to read how to do these exercise than it will to do them, they can be looked at as a suite of exercises all interchangeable with each other or as one big extended exercise. Intention is the key so we must decide how we wish to proceed, know what it is we want to do.

Are we centring our body awareness? Are we centring our mental awareness? Or are we centring our spiritual awareness? Do we even know if there is any difference?

The thing we are after is what T.S.Elliot referred to as the Still Point of a Moving World.

At the still point of the moving world, there the dance is ………  except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance.   {Burnt Norton 1935}

The ultimate aim is to BE HERE NOW,

Your breath is always in the here and now, you can’t pay attention to a past breath so if you are paying attention to your breath, you must be in the present.

As simple as the following exercise is it is exceptionally powerful.

This exercise is best done outdoors standing upright but it is just as effective sitting in a chair even laying in bed.

Breathe in through the nose, a full breathe, hold for a second or three and breathe out through the mouth, breath it all out hold and repeat, and repeat and repeat.

I do not recommend attaching any importance to the actual breathing, no Wim Hof  Method or Pranayama, as wonderful and powerful as they are they are intended for different outcomes and could end up both distractive and destructive.

While you breathe observe your breath, feel it, hear it, watch it as it moves through your body like a living thing.

What effect does your breath have on different parts of your body, do your shoulders move as you breath?

Do they tense?   Do they relax?  Do they behave the same on Inhalation and exhalation?

Get to know your breath and how every part of your body reacts when you breathe, even down to your toes.

Your body is a bellows, feel your chest widen sideways as you inhale and recognise the muscles that do this, then feel it naturally contract as you exhale.

This exercise can be done for a minute or an hour.

This is not centring, this is just us settling in and settling down preparing the body and mind for centring.

The 5 Sounds.

Breathe, settle in and settle down, keep breathing.

Locate and identify a sound that is near you, for instance the sound of your own breathing, listen to it for a short while.

Find a second sound slightly farther away, perhaps a bird, a creaking branch, identify it and place its position in space and notice its relationship to you, is it in front, behind, higher, lower, left, right that kind of thing, listen for a while.

Find a third sound again farther out, maybe a door slamming, a motorbike, identify it and place its position in space and notice its relationship to you and its relationship to the last sound. Listen.

Find a fourth sound even farther out, identify it and place its position in space and notice its relationship to you and the other sounds. Listen.

For the fifth sound listen right out at the edge of your hearing, it may be just a rumbling, identify it and place its position in space and notice its relationship to you, listen to it and let it fill the air. Breathe.

Think again of the first sound, it is still there at the centre of all that is around you, as are you.

The 5 Feelings.

Breathe, settle in and settle down, keep breathing.

In a purely physical sense feel something affecting your body, it could be the wind on your skin, the sun on your head, your feet pressing the floor, if you are sitting or lying down there are many other possibilities, your shirt collar on your neck in short anything, firstly feel everything separately one at a time, just like the previous exercise feel it, identify its position is space, listen to it.

Repeat 5 times and then finally feel all 5 things simultaneously.

The 5 Expansions.

Breathe, settle in and settle down, keep breathing.

#1. Close your eyes and see yourself as if from above, see the immediate space around you on all sides, this is well suited to doing indoors sitting down, see the room, see the furniture, breathe easily as you observe the surroundings. Realise that even from here you can still see yourself.

#2. Inhale and expand to a height were you can only see the house that has the room you are sitting in, see the space around the house, trees, cars, neighbours, breathe easily as you observe the surroundings. Realise that even from here you can still see yourself.

#3. Inhale and expand to a height were you can only see the city or area where your house is, breathe easily as you observe the surroundings. Realise that even from here you can still see yourself.

#4. Inhale and expand to a height were you can only see the country you live in, breathe easily as you observe your surroundings.

#5. Inhale and expand to a height were you can only see the planet Earth from space, breathe easily as you observe your surroundings. Realise that even from here you can still see yourself. At the centre of it all.

The 5 Positions of a Warrior Mindset.

Breathe, settle in and settle down, keep breathing.

#1. Measure every decision, every action against the undeniable fact that you are going to die.  Maybe not right now, today, but quite possibly later on today.    When measured against our ultimate demise all problems are seen for what they really are and shrink into insignificance.

#2. Always do your best. Your best is going to change from minute to minute; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to when you are sick.  Whatever you are doing, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, and the negativity that goes with it.

#3. Realise that it is not about you. Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own story.  When the actions of others have no importance there is no self doubt.  Even in a antagonistic situation it is not about you, a soldier just kills another soldier, not a singular individual person.

#4. Understand the power and greatness of not knowing. All of our problems arise from known things, all of the great answers are as of yet unknown, the things we think we know are the cages that we bind ourselves with. Not knowing is not just a state to be endured; it’s a state of possibility and, a state of power. Creativity is a consequence of not knowing.

#5. Be impeccable. This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82.    

Warriors have an ulterior purpose for their acts which has nothing to do with personal gain. The average man acts only if there is a chance for profit.   Warriors act not for profit, but for the spirit.



Using our training to do the work.

Opening up the way to translate the message, how to do the work that will hopefully lead to the Warrior Mindset manifesting.

As I have already mentioned first of all comes INTENTION.

Do we intend to be Martial Warriors or Spiritual Warriors?

The training is the same, so right here right now we do not need to choose, but be assured the final set of stairs are very different.

Let’s make a start, although it is in no way a prerequisite most of the people that will even attempt this work usually have a decent level of basic training, some knowledge of Forms or Kata and a level of understanding about the effort and commitment needed to be competent in the Martial Arts.


Q.  Why are we training?

A.  Hopefully to develop a Warrior Mindset.

Q.  What is training?     

A.Training is way to become better, not a chance to prove how good we are.


Think a while on that last statement   “Training is way to become better, not a chance to prove how good we are”.

For a student that has been training for 12 months to a master that has been training for 60 years this statement holds true.

The main aim is to take ourselves out of the equation, to become a witness to the unfolding event and not a participant, only in this way can we respond as opposed to reacting.

This is a life skill, not just a martial skill.

I teach, and we train Wing Chun so I will use Wing Chun references but it is just a method and could of course be used with any style, any system.

Pick a movement from any of the Wing Chun Forms, just one movement, get access to as much knowledge and understanding that you can about this particular movement, get it straight in your head before you attempt to force it on your body.

As Human Beings everything we do is a complete body action, if your Form of choice is the First Form where the only moving parts are your arms, do not make the error of not seeing this as a complete body action.

Stillness and movement are part of a singular continuum, just like sound and silence, hot and cold, they both describe each other, no matter how still my body is my blood and spirit still move.

Let us use the most basic and well known movement, Tarn Sau.

As we perform Tarn Sau what is the top of our head doing? What is the arch of our foot doing? What is our spine doing?  If we happen to be a person that agrees with the idea of circulating energy what is our Chi doing?

So much to think about, so many body parts to track, so much to be aware of and yet we have not even mentioned the shoulder or the elbow or any other part or aspect of the arm, still we are without doubt talking about Tarn Sau.

It can be any movement from any Form, it is always our whole and complete body, no gaps, no omissions, this in turn creates a condition of singular and concentrated focus that removes us from the world of not doing Wing Chun and drops us squarely into the world of doing Wing Chun.

We are removed from the world of NOT NOW and manifest in the world of ONLY NOW.

Being in the NOW allows us to witness what is happening and make a suitable response instead of just a hopeful reaction.


I will finish with two of my favourite quotes / parables.

Firstly the Taoist Scholar Chuang Tzu.   This is a reworking of the Empty Boat Parable, I do not remember where it came from but I really get it.

A man is crossing a river in his skiff in a storm when suddenly another skiff collides with him.  He becomes angry and begins to shout until he notices that the skiff is empty, that it has broken its moorings and is loose on the tide.  Noticing that the skiff is empty and loose on the tide he stops shouting because there is no one to shout at, suddenly he realises that we are all skiffs in a storm loose on the tide and that there is no one to shout.

The second is from the great composer Igor Stravinsky, or quite possibly not the internet is a fickle bitch.

When rehearsing for the upcoming debut of the Firebird Suite, the first violin came to Stravinsky and told him that he was quitting the orchestra because the violin solo was just far too difficult for him to play, Stravinsky laughed and said “of course it is, what I really want is to hear someone of your skill level trying to play it”.




Say what?


There is only one way a human frame can absorb force

There are some unavoidable problems when training Wing Chun, or probably any Chinese Kung Fu for that matter, if the instruction is in English.

The problem is the language itself, or more accurately the way we as English speakers use the language.

There are two areas in particular that misleading terms are used constantly in instructing Wing Chun, I will quickly repeat myself here, it is the fault of the way we use language and not the fault of Wing Chun.

This is when we talk about relaxation or talk about not creating tension.

We must understand some very basic things about muscles, they are either active or inactive, put simply we use them or we do not use them, the term for an inactive muscle, a muscle that is not used, is RELAXED.

If I use a muscle to the extreme of its potential of 100% activation it is being used 100%, obviously.

If I use a muscle to 50% of its potential activation it is still being used, in fact it is still being used 100%, I am still using the whole muscle I am just using it at 50% of its potential strength, this 50% is a measure of the level of output of that muscle in that activity, it is just a value.

If I use a muscle at 5% of its potential activation the muscle is still being used 100%, I am still using the whole muscle, but only at 5% of its potential strength, 5% of the potential output.

A relaxed muscle is not activated, it is not used at all, 0% of its potential strength,  zero output.

Being relaxed is an end state, it is binary, a muscle is either on or off, active or relaxed, relaxing is not a doing thing, it is not a process it is a product, there is no sliding scale, we cannot be 25% relaxed. 

We cannot relax incrementally, we are either relaxed or we are not but how often are we told or we tell others to relax and once they have relaxed tell them to relax some more?

This is a language usage problem that I have been guilty of myself, but all the same there is no avoiding the reality that it is wrong to tell students to relax.

All we can do is decrease the output level of the activity, which can be done incrementally and can be held at 25%.

In the same vein we tell students to not create tension in their muscles when the only way to activate a muscle, the only possible way to use it, is to contract it, to put it under tension.

How does this manifest itself in our training or teaching, is it really such a big deal?

Let us use as an example the analysis of Tarn Sau. When we instruct a student to relax, to remove the tension from their arm because they will not be able to absorb incoming force we are not telling them anything that is even close to what they need to do.

There is only one way a human frame can absorb force, this is human biomechanics, this is science.

Our body absorbs force by transferring the force to our muscles, where contractions in the opposite direction absorb the force. Some force is also absorbed by our bones and body tissue, but within sport most of our force absorption occurs in our muscles. In order to absorb large forces safely, our body seeks to absorb the force by increasing the time of absorption, increasing the movement length used to absorb the force, or increasing the area in which the force is absorbed. The body will also apply a force in the opposite direction, usually using an eccentric contraction.

I sourced the above information here.

This misunderstanding has serious and very negative flow on effects, some students develop the idea that they can be successful in physical situations without themselves being physical.

How does it end up being taught this way?

I have been training people in Wing Chun for well over 20 years, the vast majority of the hundreds of students that I have helped did not stay in training for more than a few months, a year at best, this is a well known issue in our community.

 I can look back and see that without making a conscious decision about this I spent no time at all trying to introduce new students to the particular semantics of Wing Chun’s verbal instruction {I do these days from day one}.

Once someone had been with me for a couple of years I would go down this path with them, in depth, but subconsciously I did not see the value in expending the time or effort with people that may  be gone in the next 12 months, I would justify this by telling myself that I did not want to overwhelm them with too much information.

If an Instructor does not speak English as a first language they may not even be aware of this problem because it is how they learned to describe the instruction from their instructor, so they just repeat what they were told themselves trusting that their own instructor was more familiar with English.

If this Instructor influences students that go on to influence their own students the problem grows exponentially.

As Students or Instructors we must work hard to not be that guy.