WING CHUN WEDNESDAY; THE 7TH FORM REDUX. I first posted this article in 2013.

The 7th Form of Wing Chun Kung Fu.

The “First Form” is not the Siu Nim Tao.

My Sifu, Jim Fung, would say that there is only one Form in Wing Chun, the Siu Nim Tao, and that everything else was a refinement and expansion upon this Form.

He would also then say that the Siu Nim Tao Form was not the Siu Nim Tao but just a place to begin looking for the Siu Nim Tao, and that it takes many years before the Siu Nim Tao Form becomes the Siu Nim Tao. Statements like this always stuck in my Head.

Sifu Jim would bring his own Master, Chu Sheong Tin to Australia from Hong Kong almost every year, and we would then benefit from Seminars held by our Sigung, after one such Seminar, Sifu Jim advised me to send to Hong Kong for a V.H.S. Recording {do you remember V.H.S. That was a long time ago} that G.M. Chu was involved with on behalf of the Ving Tsun Athletic Association, it covered a set of Workshops that G.M. Chu hosted to prepare a group of very senior Students for their Final Inspection by the V.T.A.A. to become accredited Instructors {of interest Australia’s H.C.H. Wing Chun Sifu Susana HO Cheuk Har was on this course}.

My Sifu with his Sifu.
My Sifu with his Sifu.

At one point while working on some Biu Gee movements one of the applicants was struggling with a section when G.M. Chu remarked that the reason he found it so difficult was because he did not understand Siu Nim Tao {he did not do this to rebuke the Man, it was almost a passing comment, but it stuck with me} this was a Level 6 Student with many years training with genuine Masters in Hong Kong that did not understand Siu Nim Tao, my immediate thought was “what makes me think that I understand it at all then”, I was only about 3 or 4 years into my training and Level 1 at that time.

Understanding {not just practising, there is a difference} Siu Nim Tao took on greater importance in my own training from that day onwards.

On Sigung Chu’s next visit to Australia at a Seminar I attended on Chum Kiu Form, G.M. Chu referred to us bringing everything from the “First Form” {he used the term First Form not the Siu Nim Tao Form} into our Chum Kiu, a few days later at a Chi Sau Seminar he again referred to the “First Form”, I made a mental note to discuss this with my own Sifu once all the information had settled into my thinking.

I had pretty much forgotten about my “Mental note” to my self when I read an article that said Great Grand Master Ip Man’s Nephew, Lo Man Kam, spoke with G.G.M. Ip prior to his Death where G.G.M. Ip said that he wished he had condensed all the Wing Chun Forms into just one Form, so I spoke to my Sifu, about the “One Form” idea, and about Sigung’s term “First Form” he used for Siu Nim Tao Form , from what I remember of the conversation Sifu Jim had no knowledge about G.G.M. Ip’s plans but personally did not see the point, after all he reminded me, it is already just one Form in 6 pieces.

The Form he referred to is of course the Siu Nim Tao, but it is not complete until you have seen it evolve through all 6 refinements, you do not learn or progress to Chum Kiu, you simply refine the “Idea” that began in the “First Form”, in Bill Gee you add further refinement to what has gone before, in Mok Jan Jong {the Wooden Dummy} you attempt to link the “Idea” into a useable and personal Form {that will and should be slightly different for everyone, and will in fact evolve as each student evolves}, to a large extent this stage of training is about Defence, the Bart Cham Do {Butterfly Knives} and the Lok Dim Boon Kwan {the Long Pole} introduce the movement and thinking that allow you to convert the “Idea” of Defence into the “Idea” of Attack, in this way you complete the Six Forms and finally grasp the complete “Idea” of Wing Chun.

The 7th Form.

Sifu Jim was a very, very talented Pianist, he knew that I also studied Music so he would often use Musical analogies to help with his explanations, in this case he said to think of the Forms as you would a Musical Scale {i.e. Doh, Ray, Me, So, Far, Lar, Te, Do} you start on one note and return to that same note one Octave higher to complete the Scale.

“My interpretation of this is that you cannot understand the Siu Nim Tao Form until you have at least a “working understanding” of all 6 Forms , { although the 5th and 6th really just show you how to turn your earlier lessons from Defence to Attack, very important in regards of using the System but we are just recycling the “Idea”}, once you start to think in this way then the Siu Nim Tao Form is the First Form, and of course the Seventh Form”.

I have experienced this myself when I began working on the Dummy, problems I encountered on the dummy could only be properly addressed by going back to the relative Form, often this would mean tracking something all the way back to the beginning and addressing the same issue in all of my Forms, this  helped me understand what my Sigung was implying when he said that we must bring everything from the “First Form” into our Chum Kiu and beyond Chum Kiu into the whole System.

With regards to my own progress my Sifu advised me to seek the Siu Nim Tao in the second Form, as the Chum Kiu appeared to make more sense to me, he said that once you understand it is everywhere it makes no difference where you look for it, it will be there, a little like the Dorian Scale where you start on the second note {i.e. Ray, Me, So, Far, Lar, Te, Do,Ray} and return to it an Octave higher, it is just the Major Scale removed a step.

If we accept this suggestion of the 7th Form then we must also have a 13th, a 19th and even perhaps 25th and beyond, as we move our knowledge forward one Octave at a time, revisiting all of the forms again and again, each time with a better understanding of how they work together seeing them as a complete System.

I personally do not see the point in spending many Years studying the “First Form”.

My own understanding of the “First Form” changed completely once I progressed to the Dummy and Beyond.

The “First Form” is not the Siu Nim Tao.

A Map is not a Country.







one thing that I know builds real confidence is not being where the Bad Guy wants us to be

Wing Chun is a Martial Art, it is intended for violent situations, If  we do get in to a situation and we hope to be the person that comes out on top, unless it is just as we say back in England “Handbags at thirty paces” which is a way of saying a duel without dangerous weapons or evil intent, then good movement, body unity while moving and avoiding the line of attack are essential, and as much as I love Wing Chun this is not to be found in most the training, go to any seminar or workshop that are supposedly working on the finer details of the style and everyone just stands around practicing relaxation, practicing softness and practicing absorption of force, most seminars focus on the first Form, a Form that is not even intended to make contact, a Form that is in fact Chi Gung.

Relaxation, softness and absorbing force are not in my opinion the finer details, these are baby steps and certainly not giant steps that lead to a great leap forwards. The tendency to stand in one place and train does not teach students environmental awareness and control.

Too few students ever reach the training level of the Mok Jang Jong, at least under the supervision of an Instructor that understands it, many students get themselves a dummy but use it like a wall bag, this misconception is not helped by a popular video of Master Ip Ching breaking a Dummy Arm during a seminar, the audience loved it, obviously the Dummy Arm was damaged but it does not stop students thinking the dummy is about power.

Wing Chun application is almost exclusively about breaking the opponents line of attack, either by redirecting the opponent explored through Chum Kiu pivoting, or taking oneself off the line as in Chum Kiu shifting, choosing to move oneself or move the opponent is irrelevant, it is the changing of the incoming line of force that is important, the Dummy and the Knives make this very clear yet all the Seminars that I have attended when the Dummy or Knives are explored these things are never mentioned, it is always about power and attacking, never about movement and repositioning.

We do not need more power, we need better movement, if we can reposition ourselves to a place where the Bad Guy cannot defend himself we can hit him till the cows come home. Trauma is cumulative, three 40 kilo strikes deliver the same damage as one 120 kilo strike, and they are so much easier to perform and land on target.

As an Instructor I know that helping students develop confidence is as important as technique, and I am as guilty as the next man for using rhetoric that allows us to feel all powerful, to big up ourselves, to overstate the effect that certain defences or strikes will have on an unhelpful adversary, it is part of the play acting, most students are not stupid, deep down they know there is a bit of self delusion going on, but one thing that I know builds real confidence is not being where the Bad Guy wants us to be. We all understand that there is a very real chance that our interceptions may fail, that our technique will be found wanting, you can all but guarantee it, fights are chaotic, how do we build confidence if our training has us standing there like a stunned mullet because we miss-timed the interception, it makes the next attempt even more fraught with anxiety, but if the failed interception only finds clean air not only are we relieved but we are in a position to launch a counter attack.

No matter what level a student is at they should work on the Knives Form and on the Pole Form, only Donny Yen and his fanboys think that these are real weapons, this is not real weapons training, and anyone that thinks it is real weapon training has some serious issues, this is where Wing Chun has its footwork drills, this is where you learn to move off line.  Once you learn the dance, because it is just a dance, get creative, mix and match the movements. 

Wing Chun is a system not a style.





A constant idea in my posts is that what we learn and develop in the individual Forms is just the beginning of the training and not the aim of the training, the real work is combining everything until we see that there is only one move in all of Wing Chun, one IDEA, all the Forms progress naturally into the next Form, every Form contains all the aspects of the previous Form or Forms so that there is little benefit to be achieved by anchoring all of our training in any one Form, whatever Form we are currently working on contains everything up to that point.

Many students choose to deny it but Siu Nim Tao is not a Kung Fu Form it is Wing Chun Chi Kung, this is why we can keep going back to Siu Nim Tao no matter how advanced in our training we are, basic conditioning exercises are a part of every training regime even for world class elite sportsmen, the first real Form from the point of view of Kung Fu is the Chum Kiu, everything we do with a partner MUST be based in Chum Kiu, with Siu Nim Tao we are doing the important and essential exercising and conditioning our mind and body in anticipation of doing the work but not as we may think training for action.

Real progress is not measured by how well we do any individual Form but rather how well we transition from one Form to the next and how we meld them into the one operating IDEA, this ultimately is what Wing Chun is.

Transitioning from Chum Kiu into Biu Gee, or in fact from any of the Forms to its successor is not really very difficult once we understand the various nexus that link the Forms, these usually appear at first as the same movement or sequence done in a different place or at a different angle of rotation, it does not matter where we start, after all eventually there is only one move so they are all the same in essence but it is easier to make the initial break through consistently working with a well known and already understood idea, something such as Lan Sau {in many ways everything is Lan Sau, when it rotates we call it Bong Sau},  and in particular how we use Lan Sau to engage our various centres or Dantian, the first thing to observe is how Chum Kiu connects to and is driven by the lower Dantian while Biu Gee is the territory of the upper Dantien the gate to both paths is of course the Shoulder Girdle.

By observing and understanding how and why Chum Kiu deals with force coming via the Lan Sau differently than Biu Gee is the beginning of  genuine Wing Chun knowledge.



Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Wing Chun Wednesday




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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