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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: BONG SAU – FLAT EARTH THEORY OR JUST LOST IN TRANSLATION.

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The mistake is not in thinking that Bong Sau is a defence the mistake is in thinking that Bong Sau is a particular shape.

Once upon a time the whole population believed that the Earth was flat,  that the moon, the sun and all the stars circled around the Earth.  Everyone knew beyond doubt that when Christopher Columbus sailed away he would fall of the edge of the world and be lost forever.   This was common knowledge to the whole community, history teaches us that holding an alternative view to this common knowledge could have very bad consequences, disagreeing with the majority sent many a heretic to the flames.

There were some seriously egged faces the day Chris came home.

As Westerners so much of what we think we know about Wing Chun depends  just as much on someones translation as their skill or knowledge, I have spoken of this before, Jim Fung {my teacher} spoke excellent english, was well educated, very intelligent and possessed high skill and deep knowledge of Wing Chun if any one could translate this thing we do well it would be him, yet he would say that so much of Wing Chun does not translate into english, sometimes close but never really accurate, no cigar.

In the past few post I have pointed out how certain practices, Y.C.K.Y.Mah and Chi Sau in particular have the tendency to lead us into weird territory, we end up like passengers on an abandoned space ship who do not know what levers to pull or buttons to press, we find the instruction manual but it is in a language we don’t speak, we really have no choice other than guessing and hoping, when it appears to work we think ourselves clever and it becomes the new normal, we rewrite the book.

If we cannot trust the translation we must fall back on Fist Logic, “if I use this can I hit them”?   At the very core of Wing Chun, at the centre of the beating heart of our Fist Logic is simultaneous attack and defence, it is this  practice more than anything else that sets Wing Chun apart from other Martial Arts.

A no brainer that states the obvious is that our simultaneous attack must strike the opponent, this needs to be pointed out, some people appear to forget it.

One of the most popular tools for Wing Chun training is Chi Sau, of the many things that Chi Sau teaches us,  the co-ordination of our Arms is of great interest, if one arm circles forwards the other arm circles back, if one arm circles upwards the other arm circles down, this is repeated through different planes and angles all brought about by shoulder rotation.

The action that most Wing Chun practitioners call Bong Sau rotates forward, up and across, while the other arm rotates back, down and across, in Wing Chun any movement that goes forwards is an attack, thinking that Bong Sau is a genuine, useable defensive structure just because most people believe it, is lining us up with the folks that thought the Earth was flat.

If my defending arm is moving towards my opponent then my attacking arm is moving away from him, this is flying in the face of simultaneous attack and defence, this is not Wing Chun thinking, this is not Fist Logic. It makes little difference what past master told us that the Earth was flat the proof is clear that it is not, when Fist Logic speaks all other voices should be ignored.

Looking back at my own training I cannot actually remember anyone of any significance telling me that Bong Sau was in reality a defence, quite the opposite as it happens.

To the best of my knowledge Sifu Jim Fung only ever held one seminar, sometime in the late 1990’s, in this seminar Sifu Jim clearly stated that Bong Sau was a punch, not that it was shaped like a punch, but that it was plainly and simply a punch.

Something worth pondering on is that It did not change how we all played Chi Sau, but the truth was out there.

Why do we think that Bong Sau is a defence?

In Wing Chun’s genesis fairy tale a nun watches a crane defend itself from a snake by deflecting the attacks with its wings, Bong Sau is the Wing Arm, the mistake is not in thinking that Bong Sau is a defence, the mistake is thinking that Bong Sau is a particular shape, every time the snake attacked the crane flapped its wing and deflected it, Bong Sau is the flapping wing.

When we move our arms in any shape, in any direction we are flapping our wing.  Bong Sau is HOW we move our arm, not where or why, this means that everything is Bong Sau, anything we do is just us flapping our wing, terms like Garn Sau, Fook Sau, Tai Sau, Chum Sau etc, are the intention behind why we flap that wing.

 

Wing Chun’s Fist Logic is pretty much bullet proof, if I cannot hit you immediately then what I am doing is potentially not even Wing Chun.

 

 

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