Articles, Food for Thought

WEEKEND HEADSPIN. THE TAKE AWAY FROM BIU GEE.

Learning all of our Forms is the second most important thing we will ever do in our training, the most important thing for us to do is to learn how to forget them.

Of all the Wing Chun Forms Biu Gee is by far the most complex and far reaching, I am not trying to imply that it is difficult or advanced, just very, very deep, and a great deal of this is because through Biu Gee we are forced to reexamine everything we thought we knew from a more profound and dynamic perspective.

Above all else Biu Gee is closest to the manner in which we will make contact with an opponent in real time, as paradoxical as it sounds Biu Gee is the way we should use Chum Kiu, but we should not really be surprised by this, after all Chum Kiu is essentially Biu Gee inverted.

Question.   How deep is Biu Gee?

Answer.      As deep as we can make it.

Biu Gee introduces the universal physical IDEAs that are in play whenever we are using Wing Chun, but these IDEAs are not found in the movements of the Form itself  but in the way Biu Gee creates the moves, the way it employs applied kinesiology, and of course the more we each understand the facets of applied kinesiology the more we will take away from Biu Gee, it is simply not enough to turn up to class and ask Sifu we must hit the books, engage in serious research or at the very least ask Google.

Understanding the Conservation of Momentum Principal will revolutionise everything we know about striking. Understanding how Torquing increases force will change the way we pivot for ever. Understanding the Kinetic Linking Principle will have us creating power instead of using force. Kinetic linking expresses force as a wave and as such understanding the Doppler Effect will make us more effective in both defence and attack.

When we take our new knowledge back into our Forms the aim should be to see how all of the laws of natural science exist in their own right the Forms simply allow us to see these laws from the singular perspective of Wing Chun, but it is the science that is the real magic.

Learning all of our Forms is the second most important thing we will ever do in our training, the most important thing for us to do is to learn how to forget them.

Learn the form, but seek the formless, learn it all, then forget it all, learn  “The Way”  {Dao}, then find your own way.

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY” : SHOULDER GIRDLE AND BIU GEE.

 

When we first begin training Biu Gee it is quite hard to not focus on the Arm movements, the flying elbows, the darting fingers and fail to see what is going on within the engine room of our body that is our torso, it is of great importance to understand that everything that we will ever do with our arms was introduced through the First Form, that is why we constantly revisit it.

Biu Gee is about kinetic linking that manifests surprising amounts of power to effortless movement, enabled by a kinetic chain that starts at the floor and ends in our fingers, for this to happen we need a refined combination of movement and stability especially in the upper torso.

The shoulder girdle is the transition point where the energy / power created by the body is transferred into the arms, any over softness, over stiffness or misalignment here will result in major power loss and potential injury.

The central learning objective with the shoulders in Biu Gee is what is sometimes referred to as the shoulder girdle slide, the manipulation of the scapulae this can be clearly seen and felt in the opening flying Elbows but it is present in all articulations of Biu Gee to a certain extent, understanding that all arm movements in Wing Chun originate with the scapula is a genuine epiphany.

Although we refer to the shoulder girdle or pectoral girdle in the singular there are of course two of them, one on each side of our body, they can be used independently or in unison, the shoulder girdle is made up of three joints and more than a dozen muscles, in fact if we include the rotator cuff and the neck we can be choosing from up to twenty muscles every time we rotate the arms in the shoulders, to go into what they are and how they interact is beyond the scope of this post but I do recommend a bit of research into it to source your own information.

For whatever reason there is very little accurate anatomical information available in Wing Chun, explanations are usually along the lines of “shoulder pushes elbow, elbow pushes wrist, rotate the shoulder, drop the shoulders” while this is obviously correct its generality is less than helpful and very easy to misinterpret and go down the wrong path, when I teach my students I encourage them to establish a personal lexicon for what we are doing, after all words are just labels we use to describe things, it is not the label we are after, changing the words we use to describe what we are doing will not change Biu Gee, a rose by any other name is still a rose, but it will quite likely speed up comprehension.

 

 

The words we at Wing Chun Sydney use in our training to describe the various functions of the shoulder girdle are press, push, pull, roll, slide, open and close, when articulating the shoulder girdle every action will contain two or three of these IDEAS, this may create confusion for some students so I encourage everyone to feel what is going on when they do something correctly and describe it to themselves in their own personal way, my words are just a starting point. 

 

 

Movement and stability is a sliding scale matrix, if we are completely mobile we have no stability and if we are completely stable we have no movement, by the time many students begin Bui Gee they have already gone down the wrong rabbit hole with regards to strength, but more problematic is there perception of softness / stiffness.

Softness and stiffness is also a sliding scale matrix, if we are too soft everything gets pushed out of alignment and we cannot transfer energy, if we are too stiff we create blockages in the kinetic chain and we cannot transfer energy. There are parts of our our frame that are not meant to move, and these can be held quite rigidly and still transfer energy and of course there are parts of our frame that require free movement, stiffness here will impinge on their effectiveness, the thoracic spine region or rib cage is a prime example of the former and the shoulder girdle is a prime example of the later.  Biu Gee gives us a platform to explore this, to find out how to tie together the rigid rib cage with the fluid shoulder girdle.

No one said it would be easy.

 

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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: THE UPPER TORSO IN BIU GEE.

Wing Chun is both a Martial Art and a Body System, From the point of view of the Body System the first Form teaches us how to become aware of the joints that control our Arms and how to use them efficiently, the Chum Kiu teaches us upper and lower body co-ordination, teaches us body unity and how to maintain it while moving and the Biu Gee teaches us how to activate and use the muscles of the Torso and Shoulder girdle, how to best manage our muscles for better performance, but it is not just the movements of the Biu Gee Form that this is related to, this is just another aspect of the Little Idea so it relates to everything that has gone before as well., once we understand how to activate the muscles when opening the upper torso we should do it in all Forms, equally when we use our Arms in any Form or application it should be done with the ease of the first Form, only the speed differs, this is how the system works.

Before exploring how to manipulate the shoulder girdle we must open the chest. Opening the upper Torso is a method of improving the overall structure and stability of the upper body, it is a physical stretch that involves the Pectoralis Minor in the chest and the Serratus Anterior in the upper back, the only difficulty in this is becoming aware of them, the easiest way to find them is to take a very deep strong breath and feel what is stretching. Activating the Serratus Anterior allows us to move the Scapula and produces forward pressure to the Arms improving force transmission. Once identified we can manually activate them to open the chest, this should be in a side to side direction and not front to back or up and down, being able to keep these muscles activated while moving the Core is not difficult but it does take time and effort, posing the arms for the flying elbows should be done by this opening of the chest and not with the arms themselves.  Performing Biu Gee without moving the arms is a bit weird but very educational.

There is a bit of a misconception that tension is bad for us in Wing Chun, this is mainly due to the way the English language uses the word “tension”, muscle tension is caused by contraction, this is of course detrimental to the practice of Wing Chun but the tension we are talking about is created by stretching, tension caused by extending a muscle improves everything we do. Think R. Buckminster Fuller and Tensegrity. The structural improvement brought about by opening the chest allows any strain to be taken up by a vast network of muscles instead of it loading the spine.

 

 

An issue we cannot ignore is the role of the mind in using our body, in my Sifu’s school there was a saying “let your mind do the work”, it sounds quite groovy and many people drifted of in all kinds of directions with this, the thing is our mind does not and cannot do the work, only the body can do the work and the body is controlled by the brain, mind is software – brain is hardware.  Since the 1960’s it has been hip to talk about mindfulness and to be expected it is begining to sneak into Martial Arts, in meditation or zen practice mindfulness means to not use the mind, to just experience what is, mindfulness is achieved by “not doing” so it is hard to credit the mind for not doing if it is not doing it.  My Sifu believed in manifesting Mind Force, I am not trying to say that Mind Force does not exist, I personally do not think it does though, and that is the most important thing to consider about the mind, it distorts reality to suit our own personal ideas, prejudices or agendas, it is a filter that is affected by everything we have ever experienced, whatever side we may fall on the fact is that the mind thinks and the brain does, even if Mind Force was real it would need to ask the the brain to carry the work out, and brain uses muscles to do everything, even breathing.

 

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Articles, Food for Thought

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: WHY BIU GEE MUST BE PHYSICAL

 

He was asked “how do we know when we are on the right path”? He replied “you know you are on the right path when you do not know where you are , as soon as you think you know where you are, you are lost”!

Unfortunately for me the last 30 years have been marred by chronic back problems as result I have spent way too much time in the company of sports science doctors, osteopaths, muscular skeletal specialists and neurosurgeons, people who know how the body works, one thing I took away from this is that none of us are truly aware of why our body does what it does, in most cases we have it completely wrong, even those who know academically what is going on tend to fall for the same trap.

Most of this stems from the fact that we confuse our Mind with our Brain, but our Mind is not our Brain, there is a significant separation, mind works on the body via conscious thought whereas the brain works subconsciously.

From the brains perspective everything it does is to protect the body, to keep it healthy and keep it alive, nothing is about Martial Art, or Ballet or Football, but from the minds perspective everything is related to the the activity we are involved in.

For example no matter what the activity the instant we have the intention to move our arm the brain activates the muscles of the spine to support and protect the spine from the consequences of the intended action.

This is not Mindfulness, or Nim Lik or Chi, they all reside in consciousness, this is the brain – body link that works the same with babies as it does with Kung Fu Masters. Our body is making choices aimed at self protection it is not about the creation of outward forces.

INPUT v. OUTPUT.

Since the 1960’s and the coining of the term “Training Effect” our understanding of why our body changes through exercise activities has been hijacked, we now all believe that adding extra load through exercise conditions our muscles, makes us stronger and fitter and this allows for better force or energy output, but in reality our body – brain develops stronger muscles and a more robust system to deal with the incoming consequences of the increased activity. 

Some may see this difference as being more semantic than actual, but think what happens when we have an overuse injury, we tell everyone or perhaps our doctor tells us that we tried to do too much, it is an output problem ,when in fact the truth is that we did not put enough support in place for the load we were asking our body to carry, this is an input problem.

It makes very little real difference which perspective we hold either way the result is the same, and this is the reason that we must approach Biu Gee as a genuine conditioning exercise and engage it physically.

In application Biu Gee is capable of producing remarkable power, and when we contact something that power is returned to us via Newton’s reaction force, if we have not prepared the body to work easily with that increased load the consequences could be quite dire, getting injured in the middle of a violent encounter will not help things at all.

Bill Giu needs to be done right up to the limit of our physical body {however it is advisable that we approach our limit incrementally and with caution}, in this way we will in time be able to perform Biu Gee with much more effort than we would ever need to use and the reaction force incoming load will never be more than the body can support. It is important to do this from as early as possible, there will come a time in our lives when we can no longer improve our body, only maintain it. In the mid / late 1990’s Grand Master Chu Sheong Tin was at my Sifu’s School, when we began to discuss Biu Gee he asked my Sifu to demonstrate because he was now to old to ask so much of his body.  There was no doubt that he could still do Wing Chun but by his own admission he could no longer do Biu Gee as it should be done.

Over the last few decades there has been a movement within some quarters of the Wing Chun community to use no physical force, instead to use Nim Lik, Thought Force, Mindfulness or Chi, I do not wish to poke at this particular wasps nest but all of these things are aspects of  the mind, of consciousness, the body is controlled by the brain subconsciously.  It should be obvious that the conscious can never override the subconscious, because it is just not aware of it.  We cannot know something unknown.

Many years ago when I was involved in Yoga and Meditation we had a visiting Swami from India, when asked at a workshop “He was asked “how do we know when we are on the right path”? He replied “you know you are on the right path when you do not know where you are , as soon as you think you know where you are, you are lost”!

 

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Articles, Video's, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: VORTEX POWER.

 

Biu Gee is a very physical set of moves, it is approached in a completely different way than the first 2 Forms, it is the hard edge of  Wing Chun training that all too often gets left behind in the name of softness.

In the last post I mentioned that Biu Gee helps us observe the addition of forces, but what is the mechanism that creates these forces that we wish to add?   When we begin Biu Gee training we are often told that the movements create Vortex Power, but what is vortex power and where does it come from?  

Personally I do not like any explanations of Biu Gee that refers to turning the spine, apart from being incredibly simplistic this leads us away from what it is we are really doing, which is of course Core Winding, leads us in the wrong direction, once this added to the misunderstanding around not using strength in Wing Chun it is no surprise that few students are proficient at using Biu Gee under pressure or resistance.

What is Core Winding?

Core Winding is the deliberate and very physical activation of the deep internal muscles of the body, all of the Pelvic Floor muscles, spinal muscles such as the Multifidus, and the Transverse Abdominal, activating these groups does of course kick in all the intermediate muscles of the abdomen and spine as well, relegating the co-ordination of this collection of very powerful muscles to “Turn the Spine” is really not very helpful to a deeper understanding of what we are about, it is far more accurate and far more useful to think that we use muscular force to turn our Trunk or our Torso, the spine is the flexible support for the Trunk / Torso and in no way capable of turning it.

The Spine has 5 sections, the Coccyx, the Sacrum, the Lumbar, the Thoracic and the Cervical but for our purposes the Coccyx and Sacrum can be seen as one, each of the now 4 sections are interconnected to the extent that when we start to turn our waist the muscles in our neck get activated, doing some basic research on how the deep internal muscles work on the spine will greatly improve Biu Gee understanding and practice.

There is an aspect of Biu Gee that is physical conditioning for the muscles that control our spine, performing Biu Gee in the same manner as S.L.T. or Chum Kiu will not deliver this, Biu Gee needs to be pushed so we can condition the muscles, doing Biu Gee should leave you feeling slightly overextended. Just doing the Form is no guarantee that we are exercising the correct muscles, we cannot strengthen muscles that our brain cannot activate, and it cannot activate them if it does not know they exist so firstly we have to find that muscle and wake it up, mental imaging is a vital part of this, the wet towel imaging is really helpful, as we ‘wind’ our Core Muscles they contract and condense in the same way as when we ring a wet cloth, this creates an inward pull, the spiral action of the winding creates progressive acceleration along the spine, this is what is referred to as the Vortex,  the more aware we are of these muscles and the more aggressively we can activate them the more powerful the inward or centripetal pull of the force.

What winds up must also release, I am the first to say that videos are no way to asses the ability of a person, but so many people learn from videos that they cannot be completely ignored or excused, I am yet to see a single Biu Gee video that talks about actively and deliberately releasing the tension that is set up through Core Winding, my own sifu Jim Fung thought the un-winding every bit as important as the winding and he treated them as separate stand alone elements and not just a reverse in direction, without understanding the release, which is of course every bit as physical as the winding, it is almost impossible to come to an understanding of the “left to right – right to left” power line of Biu Gee.

Biu Gee is a very physical set of moves, it is approached in a completely different way than the first 2 Forms, it is the hard edge of  Wing Chun training that all too often gets left behind in the name of softness.

 

 

 

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