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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: CHI SAU, WHERE TO FROM HERE? pt2

 

Does this mean that I think Chi Sau as a practice has no value?

Absolutely not, I think Chi Sau is a great exercise once we look in the right direction, I think it can be truly amazing, a genuine crossroads to endless possibilities

My teacher Sifu Jim Fung was a very pragmatic teacher, he taught Wing Chun as a fighting art, his training class was usually Form Analysis, Power Production and Real World Applications, he rarely taught Chi Sau, if we wanted to practice Chi Sau we were advised to turn up early and roll with our fellow instructors before he commenced teaching, this meant that to a large extent we were left to our own devices. Many of the more senior students travelled to Hong Kong to train with my Sifu’s Master, and this heavily influenced the way Chi Sau was played, Sifu would tongue in cheek call this Hong Kong Sports Chi Sau, when I asked him why he saw it this way he told me that in his opinion no one was trying to learn anything, everyone was just trying to score points on their partner, in his own early training Sifu Jim only trained privately one on one with his master Chu Shong Tin as a result he never took part in the social side of Chi Sau, he was my Sifu and to me his opinion mattered so I asked him how I should change my approach, Sifu Jim always maintained that Chi Sau was just a means to an end and not an end in itself, that the Chi Sau collective of Lok Sau, Lap Sau and Gwoh Sau where exercises to develop dexterity, learn how to free up the shoulder joint while moving it and increase range of motion, it was not meant for application, he would advise to never attack in Chi Sau and to never try to do Chi Sau if you are attacking, he would say that the essence of Chi Sau was  “Loi Lau Hoi Song, Lat Sau Jik Chong”, stick with what comes in, follow what goes out and when the hands are free strike, so what we should be looking for in Chi Sau was not a way of manipulating our partner but a way to find a position where our hands are free, if we add to this thought the maxim accredited to Chan Wah Shun “Ying Siu Bo Fa, Ying Fu Sung Yung”, which translates along the lines of structure neutralises, footwork dissolves, the only conclusion we should come up with is that we should be implementing physical movements like pivoting, shifting, stepping wherever possible, however this movement should not be to apply pressure to our partner but to find this free position where we can work unhindered.

I was fortunate in the fact that I ran a sub-school or branch for my Sifu so he would spend five to ten minutes with me {and my wife who I trained with} every training evening as he did with all branch leaders, this eventually ended up as him teaching me how to teach myself a better approach to Chi Sau.  Usually I would simply roll Lok Sau and Sifu would apply ever increasing amounts of force to my arms pushing in the shape of a strike, my task was to learn how to take that force into my body, after a few minutes we would change roles so that I could feel how he would adjust the pressure in his arms to alter the return force of my actions, at five to ten minutes a week this was no crash course by any means but as I trained with my wife who was also an instructor he would show us how to work this at home. Over the years he would give us advice on how to take this training forwards by introducing Chum Kiu concepts, Biu Gee concepts , this was not secret information often it was vague and thinly detailed he wanted us to find our own way, he once said to me “if you look closely you will see that nothing is what we think it is in Chi Sau, especially Fook Sau”, but never expanded on that thought.

Interestingly he advised us to give away all of the fancy trimmings such as Running Palms, Trapping, over arm Bong Sau moves or pushing each other around the room as he maintained that all of these ideas only come into play if we are directly in front of someone having made contact with both arms, and the only reason to ever be in that place is to play Chi Sau, most of the work he wanted us to do was about receiving and shedding force, and to understand that “outside goes in, inside goes out and nothing goes forwards”.

Does this mean that I think Chi Sau as a practice has no value?

Absolutely not, I think Chi Sau is a great exercise once we look in the right direction, I think it can be truly amazing a genuine crossroads to endless possibilitiesChi Sau is multi faceted yet so many people only look one way, things we should be learning is how to deal with the physical aspect of being pushed around, violently pushed around and not guided like a shopping trolley, then more importantly how to avoid it, how to counter it and how to reorient ourselves into a stronger position, and most of all how to do it right now.     As I say this was not secret information, Sifu would tell all the class that only one person should do Chi Sau and that person should only be defending and moving while the other person only attacked, sadly it wasn’t what many people wanted to hear, and so they did not hear it, we have all been guilty of this over the years, in more than just Wing Chun, if you doubt it ask your parents or your partner…..

The following video was from a very active training session and towards the back end of the video I am a bit loud and pumped, I apologise if I sound like I am talking AT YOU and not to you, it is not my intention.

 

 

If we can be honest, and as Martial Artists who believe that somewhere along the line we will need these skills, it is best not kid ourselves up, what I am describing makes a lot more practical sense than grind, grind, chug, chug of Hong Kong Sports Chi Sau even though it is not so much fun.

 

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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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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY. BROKEN POSITIONS

FIGHTS HAPPEN AT HANDSHAKE DISTANCE

FIGHTING RANGE

In the last post I mentioned that we aim to be in the right place at the right time. easier said than done because as a counter attacking martial art the first choice of where to be will never be ours, we will be under pressure, more than likely already in physical contact in a place of the Bad Guy’s choosing, so how do we turn it around and put ourselves in a position of dominance?

For me this is the main practical use of Chum Kiu, and of course what we should be exploring through the practice of the Form itself.

Mainly due to this Blog I get quite a few visitors that come to work just on Chum Kiu, from the beginning I ask them “why do we do Chum Kiu”? The answer are usually somewhere between”For movement {it is our footwork} or to create power”.  As I have said elsewhere Chum Kiu is not about moving, it is about stopping, or to be more precise re-stabalising, what we are exploring through Chum Kiu is where do we shift our weight to when we shift our weight?

This is an aspect of Chum Kiu that is difficult to explain in writing, it is even difficult to demonstrate on video because it really needs to be felt.

And of course why do we do that in the first place?

Firstly lets never forget that the Wing Chun fighting range is close range, closer than our Chi Sau position, Handshake distance, less than one arms length, the space that is taken up when the Bad Guy grabs us by the throat, at this range Stability is more important than Mobility, but do not doubt that we will be moving, if for no other reason than as a result of our nervous system responding to the incoming attack. If we are lucky we will be aware of the attack and in some control of our movements, if we are shifting or pivoting it is an attempt to shift or pivot without compromising our Stability, the smaller the move the better, the less we are destabilised the more chance we have of gaining the upper hand, often regaining our good upright posture from a broken position is all that is really needed.

If we have been surprised and experienced a Spinal Reflex Action then our first move is to stop moving, or rather regain stability. If you think back to the last post our attackers forward pressure on us is returned to him by his own actions as we regain stability.

Let’s not slip into Wing Chun la la land here, unless we are being attacked by a complete dummy our position will be broken.

Something I have observed over many years of teaching is that when students engage in Chum Kiu analysis they begin in a perfect position and then pivot or shift, this is of course the correct way to start as it allows us explore the IDEA from an easy position, however once we are familiar with this way we really do need to explore doing the postures from a broken position, after all it is not how we start or how we move that is the real learning objective, it is how do we finish?

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FIGHTING RANGE from Derek Evans on Vimeo.

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In life the journey may be important but in a fight there is only the destination, everything else is just transport.

It does not matter which particular posture we choose to work this with, in time they are all the same, a good place to start is the Lan Sau.

Once we learn how to regain our good position we simply hit whatever is in range, this in turn will move the opponent and allow us to engage from the position we train in, in fact we will more than likely need to chase him down or pull him back to keep him in the Kill Zone.

The Wing Chun fighting range is anywhere we can hit the Guy, from a one inch punch to a fully extended Biu Gee finger jab.  Let the Bad Guy be the architect of his own destruction, let him come unto us.  This after all is the Wing Chun way.

 

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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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W.C.W. CREATING LIMITATIONS.

 

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Most of us understand instinctively that to be truly competent at anything, Kung Fu, Sport, playing a Musical Instrument we only accomplish it once we can free ourselves up, free up our thinking, free up our emotions, be uninhabited physically,  give our body permission to choose what it believes to be the best option.

This is a paradox that as Humans we seem to meet at every juncture, every turning point in our existence, unless we set ourselves free we will usually fall short of our goal, our best efforts are hampered by our own limitations.

But where did these limitations come from?

The short answer is ourselves, short but not very helpful.

The longer and more complex answer is that we worked hard and long to put these limitations in place, we chose to do this consciously and deliberately.  The first step to Freeing Ourselves Up is to understand and accept that this is what we did, and possibly what we are still doing.

When we began Kung Fu training we had nothing, no ability, no knowledge but of greater importance no limitations, but that is not such a good thing, without limits to work within it is easy to wander off and get lost, in time limits become limitations, however without limitations to escape we can never set ourselves free , so we really had no choice but to introduce some, there is no other way.

In respect of Wing Chun all of our Forms, all of our Chi Sau all of our training is to a certain extent the systematic creation of limitations.  The building of a cage that from day one we intend to escape from.

To be able to grow in an environment fraught with limitations we instinctively become creative, expansive.

Limitations are the Bridge that spans the gulf between ‘not knowing’ and ‘knowing’.

All of our Forms, all of our Chi Sau, all of our training are nothing more than the plans to a gilded cage, they are important, indeed essential if we ever intend to transcend from trying, to doing, the big question is ‘how and when do we break out’?

To continually work on the same things may seem like a way to improve but how can it be? How you trained last year, last month, last week is what it took to get you to where you are now, how can doing the same thing possibly take you anywhere else, if you always do the same thing you will always get the same result, all constant repetition does is force your knowledge to stagnate, progress is movement, progress is change.

Learn the Form, but seek the formless. Learn it all, then forget it all. Learn the Way, then find your own Way.   

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