Articles, Weekend Headspin

WEEKEND HEAD SPIN: IS CHI SAU JUST A GAME TO BUILD SPIRIT?

It is my belief that the way most people play Chi Sau {my Sifu Jim Fung would refer to it as Hong Kong Sports Chi Sau}, is not in their best interest, I don’t think that it teaches functional skills that can transition into fighting, and that it is totally impractical for dealing with violence.    However I happen to think that Wing Chun is really clever so why do we have it?  Why do we have Chi Sau?

Let’s take a side step for a minute, many Martial Artists students attach elevated importance to the unarmed combat styles that various countries militaries adopt, the U.S. Marines practice Brazilian Ju Jitsu, the Israeli Defence Force uses Krav Maga, the  Red Army uses Systema and the implication is that these styles are chosen because they are so deadly. 

But this is far from the case.

Soldiers carry 2 guns, a knife, a flashlight, a tactical pen and usually travel in large groups, even special forces operate in 4, 5 or 6 man teams, and never forget that the Bad Guys all have guns as well, unarmed combat is simply not a consideration.  The reason any military has an unarmed combat program is to help bonding, develop and maintain martial spirit and to keep the guys literally fighting fit, 3 of my Uncles were Royal Marine Commando’s in W.W.2 they all wrestled or boxed in their units, but they only ever shot at the enemy.

Another very important consideration in an armies choice is that the preferred fighting style must deliver bonding, martial spirit and fighting fitness without causing major physical injury, you cannot go into battle with damaged soldiers.  In many ways a martial art style picked by any army is quite unsuited to real self defence.

According to popular history Wing Chun was originally developed and used by the Ming freedom fighters {genuine and active underground political organisations, not a social media group}  trying to undermine the occupying force of the Ching Government, this was a dangerous practice to be involved in so they needed to keep spirits high and fitness levels up because they could be called upon to use their Wing Chun to evade capture, escape or even save their lives at any given minute, this is where Chi Sau fitted in, not as a genuine fighting system but as a means to bond as a group and stay ready to act.

A lot of what people do in Chi Sau flies in the face of Wing Chun Fist Logic, but that is O.K. because Chi Sau is not meant as a component of Wing Chun, it is simply an ancillary exercise, it is only a problem when students depend on it to be more than it was intended for.

If we can see this it becomes clear that polite, social Chi Sau, the kind practiced by most schools, is of little use to any one.

Ramp it up.

 

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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: IS FIST LOGIC MISSING IN CHI SAU?

WING CHUN IS FIST LOGIC

 Wing Chun is a Fist Arts therefore the logic behind it is Fist Logic, which at its most instinctive level simply hits things.  Wing Chun is first and foremost about hitting  people. No matter what drill or activity we are involved in we should always measure it by the Fist Logic metrics of Simplicity, Practicality, Directness, Economy of Movement and Minimal use of Brute Force.

The five main Logics are not stand alone ideas, we cannot use one or two and ignore the rest, if we claim to do Wing Chun they must all be present.   They are “The Five Principles” and as close as Wing Chun comes to dogma.

There are sub logics that evolve from combinations of the Five,  sub logics are not so strict as the Five and allow some latitude, exceptions to the rule because reality is never like training.

Simultaneous defence and attack is a Sub Logic that is paramount to the Wing Chun Idea, where ever possible this approach is taken literally but in its wider sense it means hit at the earliest opportunity.

Another important sub logic is never using two arms to defend against one, we cannot implement simultaneous defence and attack if both arms are defending, in its wider sense though we can use two Lan Sau’s or Jit Sau’s to ward of a stick or high kick, we can employ a double Lap Sau to propel someone into an obstacle or a wall.

Once we seriously consider our actions by this metric, which means become serious and honest about Wing Chun it becomes clear that any action where a Bong Sau is used for defence is not working in accord with the Five, Bong Sau defies Fist Logic and if we can see past the theatre that is Chi Sau this means that it is not a working Wing Chun option. Thinking that Bong Sau is a viable option leads into all kinds of bad practice and misunderstanding, that infects all of the Chi Sau drills, the understanding that many students end up with from the Lap Sau drill also defies Fist Logic, and as such Wing Chun because there is a moment where we use two arms to defend against one.

 

 

Other important sub logics are to never fight force with force, to never carry our opponents weight, but Chi Sau play ignores this to a large extent as we grind, grind, chug, chug.   If we cannot see drills for what they are then they become something they are not and where never meant to be,  they become a parody that only works with friends in the training hall and they fail to deliver the intended result when it is really needed.  We need to see the seductive safety and elevated opinion of Chi Sau practice for what it really is.

 

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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: FIST LOGIC – THE PARADOX OF DEFENCE.

 

There are many schools that teach people to hit while playing Chi Sau, from my point of view this is a MASSIVE mistake

In violent situations or even match fights no one defends themselves, you cannot win by defending only by attacking, Wing Chun is about 99% defence, we should not kid ourselves about this and let our ego start rambling on about counterattacking,  counter attacking is a defensive option, Wing Chun is about 99% defence.

Q.   If we can’t win by defending why do we train our defence so much in Wing Chun?

A.    Paradoxically it is to give us the confidence to engage in relentless attack, which is the only way to a successful outcome, shock and awe.

The main take away from Chi Sau and Chum Kiu should be absolute confidence in the ability of our arm structures to not collapse under pressure during lateral movement, with little or no overt, active involvement from ourselves, just the posing, moving of the arm shapes, a skill acquired through Chi Sau and the lateral body movement found in Chum Kiu. This gives us the ability to step up and knock people down, even under attack, without consciously dealing with the incoming strike.

Only once we genuinely believe that we cannot be hit will we be free from thinking about how to stop a hit, and of course once we are no longer thinking about stopping a hit we have all the time in the world to think about dominating our attacker.

There are many schools that teach people to hit while playing Chi Sau, from my point of view this is a MASSIVE mistake, if our training partner keeps hitting us how can we ever reach a place where we no longer think about getting hit?  If we are constantly hitting our partner, another Wing Chun stylist how can we believe that the Wing Chun structure can weather the storm as we are go about proving that it cannot?

One of the really negative things that we learn without realising when hitting during Chi Sau practice is to stand there and get hit without doing anything constructive about it, like getting out of the way for instance, the self depreciating part of our inner self sees this and it erodes our confidence in Wing Chun,  this makes it so much harder to not think about being hit, and to freely engage in relentless attack.

Let’s face it , when we find ourselves in trouble {and we should approach training from the point of view of when and not if} we will not try to use Wing Chun at all, we will only try to get out of trouble, if all we are doing with our training is learning Wing Chun we are not learning how to get out of trouble, most Chi Sau playing teaches people to stay in the kill zone, even when getting continuously hit.   From a practical application standpoint Chi Sau the way most people play it teaches them how to loose, now that is a paradox.

Should we train softly or hard? 

Again paradoxically, if we ever hope to fight hard we absolutely must train softly and never hit our partner with enough force to cause pain, even light pain.

Hitting our partners or preventing them from successfully performing a technique or action may make our ego feel good, but we are not doing anyone any favours {least of all ourselves}, when our partner is failing in their attempts and just getting hit they will not think that we are awesome, they will just think that Wing Chun sucks

And from the other side of the coin, the self depreciating aspect of our inner self seeing that our partners Wing Chun is no match for our pretend attacks could lead us to thinking that perhaps Wing Chun does suck and cause us as so many others before us have done to loose faith in Wing Chun and walk away.

Chi Sau can teach us a great deal if we know what to look for, but it does not teach us how to deal with violence, so many students think it does and when it fails, which it must, they are devastated.

Is there a way to practise Chi Sau that can successfully transfer to violent situations?

There certainly is, but it depends on vision, creativity and the acceptance of reality , something in short supply with most Chi Sau players, we should try to find ways that put our opponent in an indefensible position, this requires a deliberate plan of attack, a predefined idea of how we would like things to unfold that has little to do with basic, preliminary Wing Chun Logic {Fist Logic} and a lot more to do with straight up taking the bad guys balance away and shifting to the blind side, it requires movement and a change of orientation, we can move ourselves or we can move the bad guy, usually it will be a bit of both slipping laterally as in Chum Kiu while rotating the upper body as we do in Biu Gee, all the time taking their balance with clever use of latching, which of course is Lap Sau.

Like many other Chi Sau related training methods Lap Sau is practised in a way and position that will never be used in reality,  the value of any Chi Sau position drill is as a method of learning the “how” of arm mechanics and not a recommendation of “where” to use them, think about the basic Lap Sau drill from the point of directness or practicality, two of the main pillars of Fist Logic, why would anyone ever choose to defend a straight attack with Bong Sau?  In the Lap Sau drill Bong Sau is just a perch, a convenient starting position so that we have consistency in the training.

One of the earliest pieces of Fist Logic I was given was to never try to strike over or under someones Arm as they could defend themselves almost accidentally with a reflex, the standard Lap Sau exercise does just that.  A post about Lap Sau is for another time but if taken at face value most Lap Sau training flies in the face of Fist Logic, it is quite ineffective, and it leads to using strange Bong Sau / Lap Sau / Side Slash combinations that are way to convoluted to be genuine Wing Chun. Think economy of movement, another pillar of Fist Logic.

Yet another paradox, we are more responsible for our partners training than we are for our own { don’t panic it works both ways}, if we ensure that our partner always succeeds the self encouraging aspect of our  inner self begins to see how effective Wing Chun is, and we begin to trust it, when our partner ensures that we succeed, we conveniently forget that they are helping us to succeed we believe it to be personal skill, and our own trust in Wing Chun grows.

I have thought this way for many years, when I share this thinking usually people say we cannot learn how to defend ourselves by assisted success at training, I ask them to think about that deeply, because what they are implying is that we can only learn to defend ourselves by assisted failing at training.

Really?  W.T.F.

If we go back to my original point if we get in trouble we will not be doing Wing Chun we will only be trying to get out of trouble, to add to this we will not get out of trouble by defending only by relentlessly attacking, all being well our defence will not be tested after the initial counter attack as we will always and only be in the bad guys face.

The ability to take it to the bad guy non stop is more about confidence than anything else, we develop confidence by succeeding in training.

 

 

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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: CHI SAU:  INTENTIONS / CONCEPTS.

WHAT WE LEARN IS NOT THE SAME AS WHAT WE USE.

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.

 

 

 

 

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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY. WING CHUN SPRINGY FORCE

Springy Force, sometimes referred to as Forward Force is one of the conceptual aspects of Wing Chun that means different, often very different things to different Instructors, I am not talking about Constant Forward Pressure, I see Springy Force and Constant Forward Pressure as two separate and almost unrelated IDEA’s, it is at times like this that the inherent weakness of a “Conceptual Martial Art” hits us smack in the face.

This is the stuff that fuels inter school arguments and turns intelligent students into, well, lets call them myopic partisans.

Wing Chun’s original traditions are oral, so for me I tend to start with the words used, and the pictures that those words evoke.

What are the qualities of a spring?

  1. A spring compresses { or stretches} under force.
  2. A spring decompresses { or contracts} as the force weakens and returns to its natural state.

This is a completely passive action, if no force is applied it is impossible to tell a spring apart from a helical shaped steel statue.

The compression / decompression that the spring undergoes is the result of an outside influence, and not a reaction brought about by conscious choice or even training.

“Stick with what arrives, follow with what departs”.

We do not bring Springy Force into existence, but obviously we lay down the conditions for it to spontaneously appear.

We build the spring.

One thing that a spring is not is resistant to force, it is not rigid or tense, so an important component of the spring is a lack of tension, the ability to accept the incoming force and allow it to pass through to the ground, in certain Constructional and Mechanical Engineering examples springs are used as supports that are only expected to carry weight, to compensate for vibration and only ever compress, never push back.

This is a very good approximation of Wing Chun Springy Force.

Another characteristic of a spring is that as the force is decreased the spring decompresses, eventually returning to its uncompressed state, a spring can never get any bigger than its natural size, Springy Force does not and never can expand.

There are schools that teach Springy Force as an active, physical pressing  thinking that Springy Force will automatically turn your defence into an attack by virtue of your decompression becoming a strike.

Springy Force does not and never can expand, it goes against the laws that rule our universe, expansion is pushing, pushing is not good Wing Chun.

HOW DO WE BUILD THE SPRING?

This is a surprisingly tricky thing to come to terms with both physically and mentally, mainly due to the fact that we must integrate three distinctly individual aspects of  our Wing Chun training, S.L.T. Chi Sau and Intention.

There is a potential weakness in the way a lot of schools analyse the S.L.T. in that the student expands his Arms structure against incoming force, this can easily lead the student to think that Springy Force actively presses outwards, if you are training with a highly knowledgable Instructor this is  not such a problem as they will clearly explain why you are doing it backwards, but at this stage most people are taught by relatively Junior Instructors and receive mixed messages.

Chi Sau is a method to “stick with what arrives”, to roll the incoming force down the helix and into the ground, what is difficult to grasp early on is that this is the same mechanism that once the force weakens allows the force to return up the helix, “follow with what departs”, there is no need for anything to change, it is completely passive.

If there is an “active ingredient’ then it is Intention, but it is the Intention of S.L.T. the blueprint that we develop and not the Intention to action.

Through S.L.T. training we discover where our arms belong, where they operate efficiently, it is the Intention of having our Arms in that place, or more accurately one of the many places that we discover through Chi Sau, not pushing or trying to force them there, just the knowledge that that is where they need to be that creates Springy Force.

Springy Force comes into existence through the laws of physics and not through Wing Chun training, our training really only teaches us how to not inhibit it.

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