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: FIGHT? ATTACK? DEFENCE?

Is there a difference between being in a fight, attacking and defending ourselves?

Blog posts do not benefit from being overly long so this is a lead in to the main article.

We may not like to admit it to ourselves but everyone that takes up a Martial Art does it because at some level it is a response to fear, we keep it up because it appears to answer that doubt that makes us fearful, however it is still about fear.

The real work is finding out what we we are afraid of?  Finding out if we can we ever truly resolve this issue?

Thinking that we can do one thing, such as overcome fear, by practising something else, such as a Martial Art has us sliding in the direction of self delusion.

Fear happens at a level of our being that is incredibly difficult to deal with, it is not in any way a physical thing so how can it possibly have a physical solution?

What are we afraid of?

The future?  The unknown?

I doubt if any of us know, we may think that it is getting into a situation that we cannot get out of in one piece, hence the Martial Arts training.

This idea is deeply rooted in the thought / hope that as a trained human whatever happens we can handle it, the fear issues arises from the self doubt that surrounds that claim.

We must get our head on straight.

What is a Fight?  What is an Attack, what is Self Defence? They are not synonymous.

To answer a question first we must be clear about the question.

Martial Arts do not teach us to fight, they teach us how to do that particular Martial Art.

In the wider M.A. community there is a distinct difference between Sports Fighting and Traditional Martial Arts, and that is that Sports Fighters fight, Traditional Martial Artists defend.

As it stands this is reality, even if we do not wish it to be our reality.

Many people’s Ego’s prevent them from seeing this, and by extension accepting it, working with it and becoming a proficient Martial Artist because of it.

When students first come to my school I ask them “Can you fight”?

Usually they say no, that’s why I am here.

Everyone can fight, but not everyone can fight well, M.A. training is about improving what you can already do, taking it to a higher level, we can never learn something we do not already know, at least to some degree, without some sort of prior knowledge we would have no where to start.

But we can all fight.

At some time or another we have all thrown Teddy from the pram, swatted a fly or stamped on an ant, we instinctively know how to be violent.

All training is tapping into and expanding this, if we think it is for anything else except violence why would we choose to use it if we get into a violent situation?

Surely we would choose something that we relate to violence such as throwing Teddy from the pram, swatting a fly or stamping on an ant,

Time: the Future, or the Past,  is horizontal, “Now” is vertical, where they intersect is where we are, always. Where we think the danger lives is always down the line, what ever it is we fear it is not happening right here right now, but we think it may be coming, so we prepare.

If something does happen it will no longer be down the line, it will be here and Now, preparing for or fearing something that may happen in the future is not learning how to deal with Now.

Everything happens Now.

To be in the Now we must know what is happening, if we are fighting, attacking or defending, leaving that decision to hope and random guesswork is not a recipe´ for success.

 

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Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: RELEASING TENSION

RELAX WHAT?

I wish I had $1.00 for every time I was told to relax my arm during early training, I would be even happier with $0.50c for every time I was told to relax my shoulders in Chi Sau, I would be a wealthy man.

Relax, relax, relax it used to drive me mad, as a result I very rarely use the “R word” in my own teaching, instead I ask my students to identify and remove unneeded tension.

It is the identification of the tension that sets the greatest challenge because we are usually unaware that we are carrying tension and even less aware that we are creating tension, we are just the us that does everything everyday, which to ourselves is quite normal.

When you consider the claim that Wing Chun is based on normal human body movement it is easy to see how we let this one go through to the keeper.

But there is a method, and it is really simple, if someone says release the tension from your shoulder and you are not aware that your shoulder is tense, add some tension, in fact add as much as tension you can, you will be in no doubt about shoulder tension when you do this, after all it is you doing it, now just stop whatever it is you did to create the tension.

Tension released.

This may or may not solve your current dilemma but that is not the purpose. The purpose is to learn how to identify tension.  When we observe what is going on in this newly and deliberately tensed shoulder we will find that it is not just the shoulder that is tensing, muscles work in groups, none of them work alone, perhaps the shoulder is not to blame.

When we tense our shoulder often our Pectoral Muscle also tenses equally, through playing about with this idea of tension / release we can find that sometimes all it takes to release tension from the shoulder is to release the tension from the Pec.  Sometimes all it takes is a calming thought, after all the root cause of physical tension is mental tension.

We are all different so unfortunately there is no magic bullet.

Using a mental approach to releasing tension is not a “Mothership Activity”, it is not mumbo jumbo, simply stop trying so hard, do not be invested in doing things to a certain standard, throw away the need for a “Result”.  Removing EGO is essential for this, the mental approach requires personality change, attitude change, surrender to now without any hope of reward, I am only half joking when I say that this can be achieved quicker and often cheaper by seeing a shrink and sorting out all that stuff that stops you sleeping. Happily reducing physical tension will also help reduce mental tension, the physical approach must be approached absolutely and completely physically, no “Mother Ship” hybrids.

We do ourselves a solid if we divorce this practice from our Wing Chun training, the benefits will flow through to our Wing Chun effortlessly once we see the big picture.

1.Sit in a comfortable position, in a chair, on the floor whatever is natural and easy.

2. Crunch up your toes as hard as possible. Observe on a feeling level what is going on. Stop Crunching your toes {Release the tension}. Observe on a feeling level what is going on.

3. Crunch up your calves as hard as possible. Observe on a feeling level what is going on. Stop Crunching your calves {Release the tension}. Observe on a feeling level what is going on.

4. Crunch up your thighs as hard as possible. Observe on a feeling level what is going on. Stop Crunching your thighs {Release the tension}. Observe on a feeling level what is going on.

Continue up your body, buttocks, as a group genitals – anus – perineum { Mullah Bandah}, tummy, back, pecs, shoulders, chests, biceps, triceps, forearms, hands, fingers, neck, throat, cheeks, lips, eyes, ears, scalp. The more of the muscles and genuine moving bits that are not bones you can include the more complete a picture you create.

When the set is complete tense everything at once, the totality of your being, observe and release.

If time is short and a full program cannot be completed do a truncated set of something like feet, buttocks, arms, hands, neck, resist the temptation to only do things relevant to Wing Chun training, this is a recipe for failure, use Wing Chun specific tension / release only when you are training, otherwise keep it vague, let it exist in its own right as a tension / release exercise.

Do not look for any specific outcome, this will just invite in the EGO and begin mental tensing, remain connected by feeling image alone, in time you will simply KNOW what it means to be tense and how to release it.

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY; ROTATION

analogies are at best only similar, they are never the same

I have mentioned in a previous article how I see Chum Kiu as an expansive set of movements and that I see Biu Gee as a compressive set of movements, this is a product of the type of rotation used in each Form, the most common type of rotation in Wing Chun is Eccentric Rotation, rotating on an axis that is not in the centre. Very few Wing Chun Instructors, myself included, have any real medical understanding of how the body works,  as a result we take some liberty with our explanations, we all mean well but often miss the mark.

In Wing Chun everything is powered by rotation, from the outset every time we connect with a partner / opponent the contact point, our wrist / bridge, is on the outer edge of a rotating spherical shape, hence the analogy of the Ball that gets used.  What takes some time to become fully aware of is that the vast majority of the rotations are coming from an axis point that is not in the centre of the sphere, the rotation is eccentric rotation, all of our arm movements are eccentric rotation due to the fact that our arm connects to our shoulder on part of the circumference of the imaginary ball not somewhere inside it, we do not rotate around our shoulder but from our shoulder, this point is important to be comfortable with.

When we engage in Chum Kiu we refer to moving from the hips, the hips are on the outside of the body, the rotation is anchored to the supporting leg that is also on the outside edge of the body, pivoting is moving in an arc from one supporting leg to another, the weight shift and lateral movement inherent in this type of action is one of our power generators, this is sometimes referred to as shifting our axis, I prefer to see this as moving to a new axis, either way it is not a fixed central axis, rotating on a fixed centre is spinning and does not increase power.  There is no need to over think this it is what our body does naturally, it is how we walk for one thing.

Biu Gee upper body movement {and it is only upper body movement that we study in Biu Gee, the waist is always Chum Kiu and the arms are always the first Form} is the only concentric rotation in Wing Chun, our complete shoulder girdle rotates around our central axis, our spine, which is firmly anchored on top of our pelvis which allows for rotation that is independent of the pelvis even though it is usually used in conjunction it is two actions working independently side by side and not two becoming one.

As I mentioned in the last post each Form has its own associated set of IDEAs that we ultimately need to resolve into the unified Form that is the Siu Lim Tao proper, this is why my reference of choice is the first Form most of the time instead of Siu Lim Tao Form.

words are just vehicles for painting pictures of IDEAs.

The most difficult part of teaching anything is in finding the correct way to describe the event we are involved in, Wing Chun is full of descriptions designed to create an image in our minds eye, we create analogies to aid understanding, balls, triangles and centre lines for example, analogies are at best only similar, they are never the same, when something is not the same we are to a very large extent talking about something that is not what we are involved in, it becomes misinformation to a degree, some of the analogies I use in my own teaching method are “Inflatable Skeleton and Overcoat Body”, very useful to create an image feeling but completely false when faced with the reality of what is happening.

Most of the standard explanations for Wing Chun rotation that I have heard are in the same vein, useful in painting mental pictures but completely false when faced with the reality of what is happening.

Something we all know instinctively but have difficulty understanding is that bones are not something that  move of their own accord, they need to be moved, and it is whatever is moving our bones that brings about rotation, not our hips, or shoulders and definitely not our spine. As someone that has undergone 6 spinal operations including spinal fusion and pinning I know intimately that vertebrae are not intended to move individually, at my Sifu’s school it was referred to in this way during Biu Gee instruction, the IDEA that you can rotate the vertebrae one at a time in an ascending order may help draw a picture but it is not how the spine works, when anything twists or winds it compresses becomes smaller and more dense, think of wringing a face cloth.

Unwinding has a very real and important part to play as well, although it is an integral part of Biu Gee it is often overlooked, to a certain extent all Chum Kiu rotation is unwinding, hence my describing it as expansive.  Another of my own analogies is that Chum Kiu opens the cupboard doors and Biu Gee closes them, a useful mental image that has nothing to do with what is occurring.

All rotation is the result of specific engagement of the core muscles, the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae (sacrospinalis) especially the longissimus thoracis, and the diaphragm. Minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, and trapezius.

Is it any wonder Wing Chun Instructors just say move your hips.

As understandable as it may be are we any better off taking this approach?

I think not, from a personal standpoint I can easily and readily feel my muscles even when relaxed, but though I live with constant back pain I am relatively unaware of my spine, and I am not even sure I have a shoulder girdle.

All rotation is muscular, all rotation is core winding, Chum Kiu rotates  a flat plate and Biu Gee a vertical pole, both rotate horizontally, Big Gee may traverse a helix but any chosen set point is rotating horizontally.

Chum Kiu rotation is a very complex arrangement of all of the deep abdominals, the engagement of which will vary at different positions in the weight shift, luckily for us our brain will take care of the details.

Biu Gee is controlled mainly by the Sacrospinalis and oblique abdominals, but is of course anchored and assisted by the deep abs and diaphragm.

Becoming consciously aware of and then actively using our core muscles may be a challenge at first, especially if we have spent years convincing ourselves that we are moving our bones, but the difference in stability and power are worth the effort. Never forget that deep down we all know we cannot move bones and as such we also know that we are pretending to do something that is not humanly possible.

In my teaching method I use a great many exercises that are not directly related to Wing Chun, exercises that derive from ballet, from sword play and of course ice hockey, these exercises greatly improve effective movement that in turn improves all Wing Chun practices, I no longer teach pivoting in any way my Sifu taught me, instead I have everyone focus on identifying and engaging all of the core muscles relative to the action, as a result my students pivot much better, much sooner with far less struggle, it helps that I do not teach anyone under 18 years of age, most are in their late 20’s to 40’s, so most students already have body skills associated with their work that engage the core on a regular basis, one of my guys is a Brick layer, he spends 8 hours a day engaged in what is essentially Biu Gee rotation laying bricks, I have plumbers and landscapers that use shovels for many hundreds of hours a year, once we tapped into this they took to pivoting like Traffic Cops take to Sunglasses.

This is too big a subject to do any credit to in a blog post, hopefully it will encourage you to do some independent study outside of the Wing Chun method, once you understand what your body needs to do to rotate effectively you can call it anything you want, describe it anyway you want, words only make true sense to the person that speaks or writes them, words are just vehicles for painting pictures of IDEAs.

 

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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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