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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY; PSYCHO-PHYSICAL, NEURO – MUSCULAR CONNECTIONS.

When I wish to look deeper into my own training I usually look towards sports or dance that share the same movements

All movement is a psycho-physical process, an outward expression of inner intent therefore we should engage our thinking and feeling to create a mental image to both inform and match the movement, there is a ton of empirical evidence that show the Human Brain fires up identically to thinking about an action, watching the same action or performing that action this is the Neuro – Muscular connection  I refer to.

Many people refer to this type of training as “Internal”, I am not a fan of this term as it too easily slips away into mumbo jumbo that practitioners cannot explain in general terms and is brought into disrepute by too many Chi Masters, another aspect of “Internal” that I am uncomfortable with is that at its heart “Internal” ideas stem from meditation practices, they are not very dynamic, whereas Psycho – Physical and Neuro – Muscular ideas stem from sports and application of sports science knowledge, very dynamic.

When I wish to look deeper into my own training I usually look towards sports or dance that share the same movements, in general sports and dance have easier accessed and far more accurate information about how best to use the Human Body. When I see any physical action used in sports or dance I try to find them in our Forms, they are of course present but hard to find due to their subtle appearance in the Forms.

With the next few posts I will try to explain my thinking on integrating the psycho – physical through comparing Chum Kiu and Biu Gee applications to the application of these same ideas in Basketball, Wrestling and Dance.

Sinking and rising on a purely physical level is straight forward manipulation of the Centre of Gravity, each action is the opposite of each other, but when we engage our mental image we do well to move along the lines of sinking the pelvis but rising the chest, when we take force into us we take it into our pelvis, this brings with it a feeling of condensing and settling into ourselves but when we issue it we should think of issuing it from our chest, this brings about a feeling of rising and stretching.

Wing Chun employs progressive training, each Form introduces separate components that require combining as we progress, through the First Form we develop and IDEA of  Body Unity, we create the Frame or Wing Chun Body, the Chum Kiu introduces sinking and rising of the Frame and the Biu Gee introduces compression and expansion of the Frame.  Intuitively this gives birth to becoming a heavier or a lighter presence, interpretations of stability and mobility.

Traditionally Chum Kiu shifting is done in a pretty flat lateral manner that does not develop a great deal of momentum, but if we add the Core Winding from Biu Gee to the shift it at once becomes dynamic and far more natural, the more we can integrate Biu Gee dynamics into the Chum Kiu the more fluid, powerful and natural we move.

 

 

 

When performing any exercises, or in fact when doing any Form, we can make these moves over large so that we can identify everything more easily, but in real application they would want to be a relatively small, large movement tends to be slower and less powerful than small movements.

 

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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

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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Articles, My Own Opinion

FEATHER RUFFLING TIME:

PUNCHES END THINGS

 

Lets Ruffle some Feathers.
Lets Ruffle some Feathers.

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If we get into trouble we want to get out of it as quickly as possible, if we get into a fight we want to win it, this is patently obvious.

We achieve these results by moving well and hitting hard.

You don’t, won’t and never will achieve this through defence.

Chi Sau is Defence, most Structure work is defence.

This is is the paradox within Traditional Martial Arts, T.M.A, training that focusses the majority of its time on using structure to resolve incoming force, it teaches defence.

If we look at most Wing Chun Videos, including my own, we see a collection of Cut downs, Pak Saus, Garn Saus even Holy Cows performed against resistance from a Big Burly Bloke, what are these Vids teaching?

My explanation to my own Students is that we are trying to teach them to trust themselves, trust their FRAME based on the fact that if nothing else, they can stop the Bad Guy hitting them no matter how big he is, and hopefully they will be upright long enough to fight back, even while I explain to them that no one defends in a Street Fight.

What most T.M.A are not teaching is how to end what is going on.

In your own training how much time do you spend on developing your Striking, especially your Punching?

What is the Ratio?

Punching 5 : 1 or is it more like Other Things 5 : 1.

Punching ends fights, hopefully for you, defending stops the other guy ending the fight, basically it keeps the fight going.

Q:   If you are drowning does your chance of survival increase the longer you stay in the water?

Something that I am quite critical about with Modern Day Wing Chun is that so often the rhetoric is not justified by the training.

Wing Chun talks up devastating power, the “One Inch Punch” but its approach to striking, especially punching is extremely naive, basic concepts are fine for beginners but why maintain them once the lesson has been absorbed, where is the expansion and refinement? The shape and action of the Sun Punch from the First Form is an introduction to the CONCEPT of Punching, and not as it has become to the majority of Wing Chun Students the METHOD of Punching.   The act of trying to punch down a line from your Sternum contracts your upper Arm into your Shoulder and creates tension in the Pectoral muscles negating maximum power and weight transfer.

Punching down that Sternum Centre Line is DEAD WRONG, there are 3 sides to a right angled triangle, the adjacent side, the opposite side and the hypotenuse, the Sternum Central Line is the ‘opposite side’, to effectively transfer power you need to expand down the ‘hypotenuse’.

Very few Students hang around long enough to study Bill Gee, as a result many get the fanciful idea that you can Punch without using maximum effort, attack with softness, { in YODA’s voice} “much amusement from this one is received”.   Instructors may amaze or inspire you with soft little pokes that jolt you on your feet, but will that really work?    It is quite astonishing how much punishment the Human Body can endure and the Human Mind ignore, think State of Origin.

Attacking with softness will not cut it.

I was trained for many years by one of the very best Wing Chun Masters on the Planet, after about 12 years diligent training I was introduced to Punching Mechanics that I had been shown as a 9 year old Junior in my Boxing Club.

There is no doubt that my Sifu could punch with great power, but very few of his students could replicate him, the correct approach to the work of punching was not there, if we were lucky Sifu would give us a snippet of advice that would lead us forward, a reward for being a diligent student, but it was more luck than planning, if we did not get it at that time we had missed our chance to expand our knowledge, meanwhile at my Boxing Gym all of the well trained guys had a punch like a falling fridge.

Punches END things.

After almost 25 years in the Wing Chun Community I find it really distressing that the vast majority of Wing Chun Students,pretty much everyone that has trained for less than 10 years, cannot Punch effectively, not on the move and under pressure at any rate, even sadder is the fact that they think they can.

Most people try to Punch too fast, too hard and too often, I have hit people, they move in unpredictable ways once hit hard, landing effective multiple punches on the same target is a fantasy unless the guy keeps walking into you, just like your partner in training, just like Oliver Twist he stands there asking for more.

But it is not just Wing Chun, it is all T.M.A. Too much defence, 1 or 2 good punching mechanics and practically no instruction of how to bring about the environment to land your Punch when the other guy does not want to be hit.

And absolutely no instruction on how to Punch from the wrong position, everything is about being in the right position.

Real fights do not have “right positions”.

In theory Wing Chun and many other Southern Fists use just 1 defence and then step in and deliver a multitude of attacks finishing it off there and then, I have had a good few fights, and since my early teenage years I have had the ability to hit really hard but very few situations turned out to be one defence and then goodnight Irene, landing a solid Punch is as much to do with the other Guy being in the wrong place as it has to do with you being in the right place, I have knocked guys out cold in the Street, but never with the first Punch.

Unless it was a Sucker Punch.

T.M.A training, Wing Chun included, tends to be about building confidence, and there is nothing wrong with that, but this is just FEAR MANAGEMENT, and by pretending that what your doing is a viable Martial Art that will work against a nasty human the way that it is taught in the Training Hall is doing nothing to get past that FEAR because deep down everyone knows it is improbable, in many ways it is embedding FEAR into the Psyche and eroding any confidence that has been built up.

Knowing that you can hit people and really hurt them builds a great deal more confidence than knowing you can perform a Cut down on  Big Dave the Power Lifter.

To be really effective 60% of our training should be Punching, or at least Striking but Punching is the ‘go to’ tool in a street fight, after all if someone is a true believer of the Art then they are going to use simultaneous Attack and Defence and launch into Continuos Punching, 1 defence then multiple attacks { if you need to hit someone 6 times then the first 5 sucked}, I realise that very few part time Martial Artists have the patience or focus to do this, I realise that to most people that do Wing Chun it is just a hobby, but if somewhere in the corner of your mind you hope to use your training if you get in trouble then your training needs to be around 40% Punching and 60% other stuff.

And your training motto should be “Lights out MOFO, I am not playing”.

Well thats my opinion at any rate.

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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

W.C.W. CONTROLLING THE ENVIRONMENT.

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It is not exactly uncommon for a highly skilled  Martial Artist to get beaten up by an ordinary bloke in a violent confrontation, deep down this worries a lot of people that train, but why does it happen and can we do anything about it?

There is a saying in the Military “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”, hundreds of years of conflict have proven this to be true. For any plan to work it requires all present to be on the same page, the enemy rarely co operates because they are working to their own plan. Victory usually falls to whoever controls the fighting environment to their own advantage, and not always the best trained or most skilled.

The environment of a violent confrontation is chaotic, anti social and messy, the environment of the training hall is orderly, social and controlled.   It is a big ask to expect a smooth transition, but it is achievable.

When I say chaotic and messy I am not referring to emotional factors, they are influenced just as much by how our day has been, if we have had enough sleep or if we have eaten well as they are by any training, I am talking about the where and when of time and space, the Environment that the trouble takes place in, and this can be worked on in the training hall if we adopt a more holistic approach.

Nothing we do in training will be of any use to us, only the thinking behind it, the idea or concept of the work, this is mainly because nothing will happen in the same physical space, same head space or same time frame as it does in training, add to that the the Bad Guy will not be helping us and will definitely have his own plan so the environment will be completely different and we will be faced with the dilemma of changing the work to suit the environment or changing the environment to suit the work.      I believe it is far more beneficial and in fact easier to change the environment, apart from anything else if we change the work we are no longer using our training.

What is the Environment?

The Environment is the totality of the unfolding event that is a violent confrontation, it is an event that is 50% our effort and 50% our opponents effort, trying to control our opponent is a dubious choice so what we are really talking about is controlling our relationship to our half of the environment, controlling only where we are and only what we do, while it is completely impossible to make our training replicate  genuine violence we can make a real fight unfold like training by bending and moulding what is happening to be as similar as possible to how we do the work in training.

Most training is unstructured to a large extent, segmented into single attack and defence ideas occasionally linked into some kind of scenario that is obviously just a collection of the same single ideas, to be honest there is not really any other way to do the work, even Chi Sau ends up just the same old thing after a while, and then there is the whole aspect of training being a social pastime and the false positions that this allows us to inhabit without being aware that we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, not much can be done about this in a physical way, training is not fighting, sparring is not fighting only fighting is fighting.

“Only the thinking, only the concept of the work will be used”, if we accept this then we would do well to know what concepts are in play, what are available at our level of training and which ones suit our mentality.

And then actively and deliberately involve the Concepts in the training instead of expecting them to somehow crystallise out of the training.

Conceptually are we aggressive or defensive in our approach to the work, we cannot be both because they are opposing mind sets, simultaneous attack and defence is not a concept it is a practice, an application that we employ if we are being aggressive or being defensive.

Making this simple distinction will bring about changes to how we position ourself and how we move in and around the training space, our environment.  In generic training when a partner throws a punch he is standing right in front of us, in the “Kill Zone” this is not going to be the case in reality, the opponent will not be where it suits us and not him, we will need to either allow him to step into the Kill Zone or we will need to take the Kill Zone to him, both are valid and equal, but to be effective we need to know our approach before the event.

In the same vein when a partner / opponent throws a punch at our head what is the principal result we want from our action, is it to prevent him making contact, is it to redirect his blow, is to take his balance, all very much from a defensive approach or is it to hit him hard, cause damage or to set up a situation for a chain attack, the aggressive option, again all are valid and equal, and many may well happen at the same time but we need to focus on just one aspect or we will be in two minds.

Much is spoken of Intent, often in a very small itemized way of having Intent in our strike, but what is our Intent for the whole situation, how do we see it starting, what happens next and how does it end?  If we do not have an imaginary story arc and some possible options to these stages of the confrontation how do we lead it to a conclusion, how do we know when to stop.

If we have not already decided how it ends do we just keep kicking him until he stops moving?

How do we know when the fight is over?

In competition fighting it is easy, the Referee holds up our hand but how about a Bar Fight or an argument that has escalated to violence over a Car Parking Spot?

After you knock him out do you buy another beer,  go and do your shopping?

What is the Concept behind our Exit Strategy?

At my School the Principal Concepts in play are to destroy the Bad Guys Balance, anyway you can, cause damage, any way you can, put him on the floor, any way you can and to leave the scene immediately, basically to fight to Escape, these simple ideas shape everything we do.

These are the concepts that we can and would do well to think deeply on and then try to include and absorb through training.  Have an idea of how a situation could escalate into violence, even if we expect the Guy to throw a punch there will still be some element of surprise when it launches, in our Minds Eye see it play out to the end, observe what the Bad Guy does, how we respond, see how the Bad Guy moves as he attempts to change the environment from somewhere that he cannot hit us to somewhere that he can hit us, how do you prevent this?

How do we use it to our advantage?

How do we work this into our everyday training?

I will give some of the ideas we incorporate into our training in future posts.

WHAT TYPE OF DAY IS IT FOR YOU?
WHAT TYPE OF DAY IS IT FOR YOU?