Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

WING CHUN WEDNESDAY. STRUCTURE, CAUSE AND EFFECT.

 

Sometimes the habit we have of analysing everything to the finest degree prevents us from seeing just how natural Wing Chun is, how it borrows from natural movement, and does not, as is sometimes claimed, create its own methodology.

This is not a slight at Wing Chun, this is why it so brilliant.

There are literally hundreds of footwork patterns in the Martial Arts, dozens of different ways to rise, drop, shift, step, twist, wind or unwind but at their heart they are all the same, they are different ideas about moving a single part of a unified body to a specific place for a deliberate reason.

Creating a stable frame and learning how to manipulate that frame without compromising its viability is what is usually referred to as structure, some students allow the word structure to become a monster that outgrows the simple girders, cross-members and strapping that holds us together, structure becomes a metaphor for everything, in doing this they miss the simplicity and beauty of being human and transform into to some new sub species, a divergent genus, Homo Chunner.

Structure is nothing more than the frame that holds us up, mostly bones.

Once the frame is established we develop ways to move it, this is done by maintaining the shape of the frame and moving the heaviest bit, the heaviest bit is of course our centre of gravity  , when that moves everything moves, but if we move only the C o G then we leave some of the frame behind, we break our balance and potentially fall over, when we move we move everything. Consciously.

Because we use the outside world as a frame of reference, even if we are not aware of it, moving inside of ourselves is often not seen as moving at all so it gets called sinking or dropping, this movement is a major part of all Martial Arts, even when moving linearly or laterally we benefit from sinking, from dropping our weight as we move.

To be effective Martial Artists we must be able to move vertically, as naturally as we move horizontally, there tends to be an over reliance on standard, horizontal, movement in many Martial Arts, the obvious exception being Sumo which works relentlessly on rising and dropping, even their forwards movement into contact is an exercise in rising and dropping.

Why do we sink into our stances, why do we drop our weight at all?

Saying something along the lines of Stability – Mobility is only a tiny part of the reason and one that can blind us to what is really happening.

If we can assume the attitude of an engineer and look at everything from a Cause and Effect perspective we are a lot closer to the function of  Wing Chun and further away from the fantasy.

Why do we drop our weight? What is the Effect we are looking for?

If you think it is Stability why do we wish to be stable? Is that the desired end result, the effect. If we are in a dynamic environment Stability should be seen as a cause not an effect.

So much of what we spend time labouring over is just the transition from Cause to Effect, obviously things will work better if the transition is smooth and correct but it is not the transition we are after, this thinking leads to people getting obsessed doing Forms and then beaten up in car parks.

This is compounded by a pet bugbear of mine, Instructors not using good explanations in ordinary language, for instance telling someone to move their centre is just plain wrong and does not help them separate cause from effect, although it is a minor thing we should say move from your centre, simply adding the word from automatically introduces the idea of how to move it, where to move it and the reason for moving it in the first place.

If I am dropping my weight what is it I actually want to drop?

If I am attacking it is my fist, if I am defending it is my bridge.

Only when my fist or my bridge are connected to my centre of gravity will dropping my weight be of any value.  Of course this is equally the case when moving in any direction.

The good news is that when my waist drops 15 centimetres so do my shoulders, unless of course I am not aware that I drop my waist for the purpose of pulling my shoulders down and forget to keep them connected.  When my shoulders drop down my arms drop with them, my bridges or my fist come with the arms, unless of course I am not aware that I drop my shoulders to pull my arms down and forget to keep them connected.

This is a common error with many students, they leave bits behind, this is a real danger for people that mainly work with Forms instead of dynamic exercises, they overlook why they are doing it.

There are literally hundreds of footwork patterns in the Martial Arts, dozens of different ways to rise, drop, shift, step, twist, wind or unwind but at their heart they are all the same, they are different ideas about moving a single part of a unified body to a specific place for a deliberate reason.

Cause and Effect.

 

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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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Articles, Weekend Wonderland

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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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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