Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday



Sometimes the habit we have of analysing everything to the finest degree prevents us from seeing just how natural Wing Chun is, how it borrows from natural movement, and does not, as is sometimes claimed, create its own methodology.

This is not a slight at Wing Chun, this is why it so brilliant.

There are literally hundreds of footwork patterns in the Martial Arts, dozens of different ways to rise, drop, shift, step, twist, wind or unwind but at their heart they are all the same, they are different ideas about moving a single part of a unified body to a specific place for a deliberate reason.

Creating a stable frame and learning how to manipulate that frame without compromising its viability is what is usually referred to as structure, some students allow the word structure to become a monster that outgrows the simple girders, cross-members and strapping that holds us together, structure becomes a metaphor for everything, in doing this they miss the simplicity and beauty of being human and transform into to some new sub species, a divergent genus, Homo Chunner.

Structure is nothing more than the frame that holds us up, mostly bones.

Once the frame is established we develop ways to move it, this is done by maintaining the shape of the frame and moving the heaviest bit, the heaviest bit is of course our centre of gravity  , when that moves everything moves, but if we move only the C o G then we leave some of the frame behind, we break our balance and potentially fall over, when we move we move everything. Consciously.

Because we use the outside world as a frame of reference, even if we are not aware of it, moving inside of ourselves is often not seen as moving at all so it gets called sinking or dropping, this movement is a major part of all Martial Arts, even when moving linearly or laterally we benefit from sinking, from dropping our weight as we move.

To be effective Martial Artists we must be able to move vertically, as naturally as we move horizontally, there tends to be an over reliance on standard, horizontal, movement in many Martial Arts, the obvious exception being Sumo which works relentlessly on rising and dropping, even their forwards movement into contact is an exercise in rising and dropping.

Why do we sink into our stances, why do we drop our weight at all?

Saying something along the lines of Stability – Mobility is only a tiny part of the reason and one that can blind us to what is really happening.

If we can assume the attitude of an engineer and look at everything from a Cause and Effect perspective we are a lot closer to the function of  Wing Chun and further away from the fantasy.

Why do we drop our weight? What is the Effect we are looking for?

If you think it is Stability why do we wish to be stable? Is that the desired end result, the effect. If we are in a dynamic environment Stability should be seen as a cause not an effect.

So much of what we spend time labouring over is just the transition from Cause to Effect, obviously things will work better if the transition is smooth and correct but it is not the transition we are after, this thinking leads to people getting obsessed doing Forms and then beaten up in car parks.

This is compounded by a pet bugbear of mine, Instructors not using good explanations in ordinary language, for instance telling someone to move their centre is just plain wrong and does not help them separate cause from effect, although it is a minor thing we should say move from your centre, simply adding the word from automatically introduces the idea of how to move it, where to move it and the reason for moving it in the first place.

If I am dropping my weight what is it I actually want to drop?

If I am attacking it is my fist, if I am defending it is my bridge.

Only when my fist or my bridge are connected to my centre of gravity will dropping my weight be of any value.  Of course this is equally the case when moving in any direction.

The good news is that when my waist drops 15 centimetres so do my shoulders, unless of course I am not aware that I drop my waist for the purpose of pulling my shoulders down and forget to keep them connected.  When my shoulders drop down my arms drop with them, my bridges or my fist come with the arms, unless of course I am not aware that I drop my shoulders to pull my arms down and forget to keep them connected.

This is a common error with many students, they leave bits behind, this is a real danger for people that mainly work with Forms instead of dynamic exercises, they overlook why they are doing it.

There are literally hundreds of footwork patterns in the Martial Arts, dozens of different ways to rise, drop, shift, step, twist, wind or unwind but at their heart they are all the same, they are different ideas about moving a single part of a unified body to a specific place for a deliberate reason.

Cause and Effect.


Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday



Trying to talk about CAUSE & EFFECT is really a challenge, trying to show it in a video is equally difficult simply because it needs to be experienced personally, and for reason I will explain it cannot be achieved through normal everyday training.

In many ways CAUSE is the creation of TENSION and EFFECT is the resolution of the TENSION.

Wing Chun is the training we do to make us better fighters.

Fighting is a tool we use to end a personal dangerous conflict.

Conflict is what we are involved in when we are trying to resolve inter – personal tension.

In Wing Chun we try to redirect and dissolve tension, if you did  Aiki-do or Cheng Hsin you would be looking to join with or harmonise tension, one thing that is universal is that you cannot resolve tension by adding more tension.

Even if it is a completely different type of tension.

Conflict is an exercise in Cause and Effect, the Bad Guy does something towards me, that is causality and what happens next is the effect his action creates, CAUSE AND EFFECT is reaction and not response.

The normal methodology for Wing Chun training is to learn preset ideas for dealing with attacks, on no level at all is this two individuals joined in the same event or situation that can experience a Cause and an Effect, this is two people both with their own agenda, this is trying to resolve tension by adding more, all be it different tension.

This type of training does not allow for the observation of Cause and Effect.

Students have said to me that the Bad Guy’s attack was the Cause of them using Wing Chun to defend themselves {the Effect} but this is just an attempt at retro fitting reality to align with an unbending Ideology.

Blind Faith!

If you are choosing to defend yourself and use your training this is a response to a stimulus and not an Effect, this is the training paradox, what is happening is happening now.

All Causes of any event lie in the past, and all Effects of any event lie in the future, consciously using your training puts both people in the same place at the same time, they are either both causing the event or both displaying the effect of the action.

In many ways this is the difference between the reality of a violent situation and the fantasy of training.

This is a very deep and complex area of work, it is very rarely physical, and more often emotional over mental, and it is almost impossible to approach until you have reached a place where you are dealing solely with incoming and outgoing Forces, a place where Forms {and their analysis} are no longer a Material aspect of what you do.

I agree with most other Instructors that Forms are a very important aspect of training, but they are solo training, and unless you intend to fight yourself they teach little of useable value, they show you how to begin the work, how you align yourself to the concept, but they are not how you progress, to move forwards you need the assistance of a partner, how else can you explore Cause and Effect?

Since causality is a subtle metaphysical notion, considerable effort is needed to establish knowledge of it in empirical circumstances.

Unless you deliberately and purposefully approach your training from the position of Causality both you and your partner in the exercise will be the Cause of the ongoing event and as such you will not experience the effect, and it is understanding the effect phase that teaches us the most.

Understanding the Effect Phase will inform you of the best possible way to deal with any similar situations to the Cause you are working on because the Effect from this Cause is the very thing you want to avoid happening.

Understanding the Effect Phase will create more effective responses.

As I mentioned earlier it is hard going to connect to this work, especially if you have not yet freed yourself from the narrow set idea’s of traditional training ,  but that does not mean that you cannot engage with the work, in fact it is only through doing this work in the dark so to speak that you can create the environment for the light to turn itself on.

I am of the opinion that it has always been this way in Wing Chun, if not why do we have Man Sau?


MAN SAU from WC INCa’s on Vimeo.


Cause and Effect are like a Question and an Answer, and Man Sau is the Asking Hand.

Man Sau was explained to me about 22 years ago very early on in my training, but it took a good 15 years before I began to understand that we learn precious little by questioning we only learn by listening to the answer.

We learn by understanding the Effect of actions done both to us and by us, it is a two way street.

The reason it takes so long to understand this is that the quality of the answer is commensurate with the quality of the question.

This work is deep.

In Wing Chun circles people play fast and loose with the term sensitivity and sensitivity exercises, and in years gone by I was amongst their ranks, claiming all kinds of  sensitivity benefits to Chi Sau and the Forms, I was talking the talk, I was a Wing Chun Fox Mulder.

I now know that sensitivity needs to be approached specifically with sensitivity in mind or it will just slip by unannounced, and this is very much part of the question and answer of Man Sau.

The consensus on sensitivity is that we are training to be sensitive to the actions and intentions of our partner / opponent but do we really think we can be sensitive enough to perceive someones intentions in the split second that genuine violent contact lasts?  Especially if you consider the mental state you will be inhabiting during an attack.

The truth is and always was out there.

It is MY OPINION that any sensitivity I seek to grow and identify needs to be a sensitivity of myself, a sensitivity to the Cause and Effect of my own actions.

In all the fights that I have had, and there have been many, the only constant was ME.

Mechanically the Human Body is more clever than complex, we use similar mechanics to do a very wide array of movement, and the vast majority Human Bodies share this same limitation of movement.  If I understand how my Body works then I am at the very least going to be in the same Ball Park with how my opponents Body works.  If I have a good understanding of the Cause and Effect of my own actions the chances are that they will be the same for my opponent so I can shape my training to accommodate any benefits or failings that I may discover while exploring the concept of Man Sau.

Despite the fact that we call it Man Sau, the “Asking Hand”, it is a concept that can be understood with all or any part of our Body.

It is very difficult to make any kind of sense of this by just writing or even Video, it needs to felt, to be physically experienced and it needs to be firmly supervised to prevent it from slipping back into established shapes or techniques. The biggest problem is that it is only a different Mental approach, a different type of intention, Wing Chun is comprised of normal human Body movement so everything we ever do is to some extent utilising some established shape.

And it is very hard to find a unique way of referring to something that is in many ways something we are more than familiar with, something we think we already know.