The most important thing is to know which path we wish to follow.

I was working with one of my senior guys not so long ago working on a challenging aspect of the Biu Gee Form when he said….

“but to do that I need to use strength, I feel like I am using muscle”.

My answer was to ask how else he expected to move his arm if he did not engage his muscle and use strength.

The idea that anyone can be competent at any physical activity without exerting physical effort, using strength, is a myth.

Before we proceed it is important to understand the historical difference between “External” and “Internal” Martial Arts in ancient China. 

External arts were a Chan Buddhism way of preparing the body for combat, not only in dexterity and coordination of technique but also training the body to be able to withstand physical punishment while having the emotional detachment to be able to ignore the implications of that punishment, this is exemplified by the Shaolin Soldier Monks.

Internal arts were a Taoist way to prepare the mind-body for personal growth, a way of transcending as a human being into the ‘Superior Man’ , Taoist Alchemy as found in the styles of Wudang mountain, central to all internal arts is Zahn Zhuang, standing meditation, the ultimate goal in Taoist arts is to transcend not fight.

Throughout its short existence Wing Chun has always been about fighting, although it has no overt spiritual affiliations it has always been considered a Buddhist art more than a Taoist art.

The disparity between Buddhist and Taoist arts goes along way to explaining the mess that Wing Chun finds itself in and the differences of opinion from one school to another.

The Taoist method of training is often referred to as soft, the aim is that through years of training, of doing less and less, a truly relaxed state can be achieved, a state of stillness, of not doing, Wu Chi, this is of course a spiritual goal and is deeply rooted in circling Chi and energy work.

The physical aspect of the Taoist method is to use physical interaction as a feedback loop to explore the level of relaxation in your own mind-body to determine how close we are to Wu Chi.

If however Wing Chun is approached as a fighting art then it needs to include calisthenics and powerful physical exchanges, systematic recruitment of muscles, kinetic linking and deliberate introduction of tension to transfer the power of momentum brought to bear by rapid movement that can only be accomplished by using strength in a fit body.

The most important thing is to know which path we wish to follow.

Many westerners unknowingly undertake Taoist training methods but expect Buddhist outcomes.

This is a zero sum game.

My Sifu’s school was guilty of promoting this confusing nether world, telling students that they were learning how to fight while teaching them the methodology of how to aim at becoming more than they are.

The school was guilty of misrepresenting the use of softness as fitness,  promoting relaxing as fighting.  The school even had its own motto emblazoned on its badges, shirts and other merchandise “Fitness with a purpose”.

Students will always believe what they are told, it is after all what they are paying for, telling them that softness works really messes them up when they are confronted by the fact that it does not, through the years my partners would complain that I was dominating them because “I was using strength”.

They would get quite precious when I pointed out that in most street fights so will the Bad Guy and that their real problem was not what I was doing but what they were failing to do.

They did not have the skill, knowledge or ability to deal with incoming superior strength.

Due to the fact that everyone in the school was working on softness they had never been confronted by genuine aggression and as a result had no answer to it.

All martial arts promote self awareness, knowing ourselves.

We cannot do this if we do not know what we are training, or at the very least understand the relationship between the method and the outcome.

Buddhist method or Taoist method are both brilliant but also very different, they bear different fruit come harvest time.

If you wish to be a better human use softness, be relaxed.

If you wish to be a better fighter use physicality, be strong.




There is a wonderful book I often refer to when I am looking at deepening my understanding of the purely physical aspects of my own training,  “Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise” by Peter M. McGinnis, this is an extract from the summary at the end of one of the sections.


1. Develop a theoretical model of the most effective technique.

2. Observe the actual performance.

3. Evaluate the performance by comparing it to the most effective technique.

4. Instruct the performer by providing feedback about discrepancies between the actual performance and the most effective technique.

This approach is of course identical to teaching Wing Chun especially when using the Forms as references and practical examples of how to mechanically perform a movement.

Here is an extract from the summary of another section…


A basic principle of training is specificity, Biomechanics can improve the specificity of training by identifying specific aspects of technique that need to be perfected by identifying drills and exercises that mimic specific aspects of the technique.

Five steps are involved in a qualitative anatomical analysis:

1. Divide the activity into temporal phases.

2. Identify the joints involved and their motions.

3. Determine the type of muscular contraction (concentric, eccentric, or isometric) and the predominant active muscle group at each joint.

4. Identify instances when rapid joint angular accelerations (rapid speeding up or slowing down of joint motions) occur and where impacts occur.

5. Identify any extremes in joint ranges of motion.

Again we can see that Wing Chun training is pretty much in accord with this method, and this is why I personally have no problem ignoring the traditional line of thinking in Wing Chun and progressing everything from the perspective of Modern Sports Science.

It is clear to me that Wing Chun was always heading in this direction until it got negatively influenced by shonky marketing, dogma and pseudo mysticism.

A Sports Science approach would be first and foremost to understand the purpose or goal of the skill we are learning and the desired outcome once this skill has been learned?

For instance when we do Tarn Sau.

What are we learning?

What is the desired outcome?

I have made this point many times before if we do not know why we are doing something how can we ever know if we are doing it correctly?

Let us expand our thinking for a moment from why do we do Tarn Sau to why do we do any of the movements, even why do we do any of the Forms at all?

The desired outcome that we expect individually from doing the Forms could be really and quite remarkably different but the process should remain the same.

1. Develop a theoretical model of the most effective technique.

2. Observe the actual performance.

3. Evaluate the performance by comparing it to the most effective technique.


From the perspective of Sports Science all training is task specific so there is only ever Function.

There is no value in practicing something that has no useable objective, apart from anything else one of the fundamentals at the heart of  Wing Chun’s Fist Logic is PRACTICALITY.

It should be noted that the purpose of some movements is difficult to define, but even in these cases the expected outcome should be clear.

If for instance we look at developing a relaxed manner of moving by doing the S.L.T. Form once we can move in a relaxed manner what do we do now?

What is the purpose and objective of this relaxed manner of movement?

For the sake of this conversation let us stick with Tarn Sau but it could be any shape, any movement or sequence.

What is the outcome we would expect from using Tarn Sau?

Above all else here it is imperative that we are honest and approach this from a personal perspective and not from some default idea that an instructor suggests.

We learn nothing by living someone else story.

For me I would use Tarn Sau to intercept and redirect force from an attacker on either the inside or outside of an incoming arm.

To achieve this I would need to be in a certain place, in a certain shape at a certain time with enough foreknowledge of what is happening to even have the chance to use Tarn Sau to achieve my objective.

Can we develop this ability by practicing Tarn Sau everyday in the S.L.T. Form?

Can we develop this ability by practicing Tarn Sau against static resistance in training?

It becomes very clear very quickly that there is a great deal more to achieving my objective with Tarn Sau that just understanding Tarn Sau.

Many Wing Chun Schools place great importance upon the Forms, especially the First Form and then on Chi Sau which is really only another Form anyway, very little is aimed at genuine Functionality.

All training must be task specific to be useful.




Balance and Stability:

Keeping it simple Balance is maintaining equilibrium when motionless against nothing but the Force of Gravity.

Balance is motionless, if we are moving it is more accurate to talk about Stability.

Stability is maintaining or regaining Balance against outside forces, including forces created by ourselves, as in our own movement.

Balance is motionless and Stability is maintaining or regaining Balance, therefore Stability is about remaining or becoming still.

Some confusion arises because frequently Stability is referred to as either Static Balance or Dynamic Balance, especially if we include coordination, in this context :

Static Balance refers to the ability to maintain the body’s centre of mass within its base of support, as in standing still.

Dynamic Balance refers to the ability to move the centre of mass outside the body’s base of support, while maintaining postural control as in moving.

Balance and Coordination.

 Dynamic Balance is the ability to stay upright or maintain control of body movement, and Coordination is the ability to move two or more body parts under this control, smoothly and efficiently.

As always the best approach is to do your own research and form your own opinion.

Three important principals of Balance / Stability.

  1. A broader base of support {wider feet} increases stability.
  2. Keeping the line of gravity central inside the support base increases stability.
  3. A lower centre of gravity increases stability.

From a Wing Chun perspective, the lower stances / positions of the Chum Kiu and Baat Cham do are more Stable than the higher stance / position of the First Form {S.L.T}.

Getting back to the previous statement that “Balance is motionless and Stability is maintaining or regaining Balance”, it is more useful to think that Stability is about remaining or becoming still, we can see that the movements activated through the various Wing Chun Forms are not so much about moving to or from an opponent but rather moving from one position of equilibrium to another, moving to a new position of Stability, they are about stopping.

This is an important factor in power production and in keeping with the Conservation of Momentum Theory.

If we use the Chum Kiu Form as our testing ground the cycle of movements should go from being still {Static Balance} through the sequence or movement of choice, for instance the lateral shifting with Dai Sau and Bong sau {Dynamic Balance} culminating in stillness at the completion of the sequence or movement {back to Static Balance}.

The movement of the arms adds extra complexity to maintaining Balance by introducing new vectors but the main take away for the arms is in developing coordination of the upper and lower body, the action should fill the same time period, both stopping and starting,  as the movement of the legs and waist. 

If one moves they all move if one stops they all stop.

The Wing Chun Forms are subtle and use minimal movement deliberately, because of this it can be difficult to observe the movements in detail, it is often easier and more effective to have stand alone exercises to study this, once we are familiar with the connections between Balance, Stability, Coordination and Movement the understanding can be transposed onto the various Forms.














What we train is not what we will do if we find ourselves in a violent situation, this is not the problem it may at first appear, it is the same with every Martial Arts Style, what we will do is try to get out of that situation and hopefully our training will influence the decisions we make.

The position we train in, the orientation to our partner / opponent is unlikely to be where we will find ourselves, the Bad Guy will make that choice, and you can put money on it that if they can they will make sure that it will be as good a spot for them as possible and a bad place for us.

Our first response must include repositioning, preferably as we intercept the attack, this is something we need to accept, understand and be comfortable with.

We will all have our own preferred place to be where we feel comfortable that we can do our best work, a very large part of our training should focus on securing that place, that position.


An overview.


Adopting a better position.



None of our forms can teach us anything except how to move in a particular pattern, all Forms are solo training, it is only once we get a partner to provide resistance or force that we can begin to explore how to use this pattern to reflect the Fist Logic that is Wing Chun.

Because none of our Forms can ever teach us anything practical they can never be seen as right or wrong.

Here are some IDEAS to begin your own exploration of Chum Kiu.

These Vid’s are quite old, the information is sound although the presentation leaves plenty to improve, I will update them in the not too distant future.

Using the Body to support the Arms.

An Intro to Pivoting.

More on Pivoting.

An Intro to Shifting.

More on Shifting.

Easy Partner Training.

Active Chum Kiu.



Biu Gee is by far the most complex of the first three Forms, the Jewel in the Crown, as these are stand alone videos from my old Blog there is some repetition of information.

Transitioning from Chum Kiu.

Meeting the Biu Gee

Biu Gee Rotation.

Overview of the Power Shift.

Overview of Power Production

Biu Gee Shoulders

Opening the Upper Torso.

Understanding our Biu Gee Shoulders.

Adding forces in Biu Gee.