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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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.

 

careered-india-career-opportunities-in-indian-ngos-8-638

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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W.C.W. STABILITY – MOBILITY pt.2.

STABILITY.

In the context of these posts Stability is ….

: the quality or state of something that is not easily moved.  {Merriam Webster Dictionary}

Balance is an integral part of Stability, balance is the ability to maintain the line of gravity (vertical line from centre of mass) of a body within the base of support with minimal postural sway.

mobilitystability

From a Martial Arts perspective our Stability / Balance needs to be functional against incoming force, to maintain balance against an incoming force our Base of Support {in the case of a Human Being the line between the Feet}, must be aligned to the Line of Force.

Most Wing Chun students believe that the Yee Chi Kim Yeung Ma is a balanced and stable position, but it is not, it is in fact a locked, ill balanced position that holds you in place due to the fact that the Legs have been adducted and are falling forwards into each other offering mechanical support.

This is easily tested, if a position is balanced it will be possible to move in any direction without shifting your Centre of Gravity, simply by pressing your Foot into the ground.

Test 1. Adopt the Y.C.K.Y.M. Settle in and Settle down, once you are still simply step forwards without shifting your Centre of Gravity, phase 2, regain your position then step backwards without shifting your Centre of Gravity.

Test 2. Adopt the Y.C.K.Y.M. Settle in and Settle down, once you are still have a partner come and firmly push you in the Chest with the intention of moving you, phase 2, regain your position and have your partner repeat the push from the rear to the middle of your Shoulder Blades.

The Y.C.K.Y.M. is extraordinarily good at redirecting forces through our Body to the floor, but only when there is a complete absence of Tension.

If a Body is in balance or out of balance it makes little difference if it is in a tense or relaxed state. I do not think that you would call the Eiffel Tower relaxed. A relaxed Body has the quality of a Jelly, it can absorb and dissipate energy, but do you really think a Jelly is Stable?

“It must be Jelly ‘cause Jam do’n’t wobble like that”

I am not trying to disparage the Y.C.K.Y.M. it is an exceptional “Training Stance”, it is just not very good as a Fighting Stance for the reasons already tested.

Any position can be forced to work, but only natural balanced positions can work naturally.

Why is  the Y.C.K.Y.M. such an exceptional “Training Stance”?

It is the fact that it is a “Locked Stance” and not a “Fluid Stance” that makes it so well suited to experience your Centre of Gravity and to discover how to move through various poses with the least amount of negative effect to your Balance / Stability.

It can allow you to discover how to move your Arms without working against yourself, disadvantaging yourself, weakening your position every time you engage an opponent.

Essential knowledge, powerful stuff.

If you observe the progression of movements through the A, B, and C sections it is clear that there is a progression from close in to the body and easily performed through to full extension away from the Body and dynamically performed, every direction is encountered, up, down { the double handed Jit Sau / Dai Sau to begin}, forwards, backwards { Tarn Sau / Tor Sau} diagonally {Garn Sau} and even helically {Bong Sau} each and every one of these movements affects your Centre of Gravity in a different way.

There are movements with a single Arm that have the potential to spin the Centre of Gravity out of balance horizontally, there are upward angled movements that have the potential to spin the Centre of Gravity Vertically and there are dynamic Palm Strikes that can create both disturbances.

Each and every movement is a challenge to control and maintain your Centre of Gravity.    The “B” Section is particularly complex as it uses both Arms through all planes of movement, forwards, backwards, up, down, left and right.

Going forwards in your training this is the most important Section to understand with regards to your Centre of Gravity mainly because the Chum Kiu Form is pretty much the “B” Section coordinating with the waist.

EXTENDING AN ARM.

If we observe ourselves as we move from the ready position through Tarn Sau, firstly gently drop the Arm so that the wrist is placed on the Centreline {this Act of itself can completely destroy your position}, rotate the shoulder so that the wrist now travels forward along the Centreline feel how this movement is trying to pull you out of shape.

Gravity is working against you, and even though you may not be aware of it your Body is applying tension to prevent you falling over or twisting, this is your Body – Mind micro-managing your shape to retain equilibrium.

Equilibrium is not the type of balance we are after, Equilibrium is just a stalemate between two opposing equally out of balance forces.

There are a number of methods to combat this, or at least join in and gain a measure of control, some are mental methods and some are physical methods, it is unimportant which method you adopt, only results have any real value.

MENTAL.

In some forms of Kung Fu there is a practice referred to as Marrow Draining, as you extend your Arm you Imagine that the very Marrow of that Arm is draining back into your body, essentially the idea is that the draining Marrow acts as a counter balance to the extending Arm through a weight exchange, the Arm gets lighter and the body gets heavier, obviously this is not really happening, this is a method of enlisting your Imagination to be able to communicate with your Body – Mind, but the Key is Imagination, so it can be anything that makes sense to you, Water, Sand, Chi, Marbles it really makes no difference non of it is real, but it must be real to you.

If you believe in Cosmic Forces then use them, if you do not then use Marbles, or any other device that you can clearly and strongly Imagine.

The clearer you can see your chosen method the clearer will be the communication with the Body – Mind, the clearer the communication the more appropriate and less forced will be the action taken by the Body – Mind as it micro-manages your Balance.

PHYSICAL.

In the previous Video I spoke of rotating the Head so that the Chin moves back and up, there is another way to achieve this that is more suitable to our purpose, I roll my Shoulders up and back so that I can “PUSH” my Scapulae down my spine,  it is very important that this is a physical push and not just trying to let them drop, the engagement needs to be “Active” and “Constant” it does not however need to be very forceful.

Like the Chin back method this will cause your Sternum to rise so we simply fold it back into our body, this will in turn allow the Diaphragm to compress and contain the Centre of Gravity.

Extending the Arm from this position becomes an extension of the rotary down force, as such it aligns with Gravity and causes less disturbance, it is almost impossible to promote the Shoulder in this position so it acts as an anchor against twisting.

These are just the methods I use and there are many more that would do just as well.

Methods are nothing, results are everything so play with as many as you can find until you find one that suits you, and if at all possible use more than one in concert.

All and every Form in Wing Chun is a vehicle for you to explore the relationship between yourself and your Body through a range of actions.

Body Mind / Brain Mind.

I am of course referring to the Amygdala, Hippocampus and the Neo Cortex but most Kung Fu Students are Romantics and not Realists if you mention the Amygdala et al. their eyes glaze over and you lose them, but once you say the Body – Mind they are wide awake and all Ears.

When any Body part receives a stimulus a “Chain of Command” event is triggered,  it sends a request via the Central Nervous System to the Body – Mind, who in turn sends it on to the Brain – Mind to decide a course of action, once a decision is made the Brain – Mind relays the message back to the Body – Mind who then informs the Body what action to take.

This is almost instantaneous ….. but not quite.

In cases of emergency or acute stress the Body – Mind will act without sending the message upstream by choosing a preset or default action. This happens 100% of the time whenever the Body experiences a loss of Balance.

If your actions or shapes create ill balance your Body – Mind will kick in before your Brain – Mind even has the Email.

Why is this of any importance? All training, all learned knowledge is the domain of the Brain – Mind.

This is of of immense importance to Students that are engaged in Internal Kung Fu, or try to engage Internal Energies.  Chi, Kundalini, Nim Lik or whatever you align to are all products of the Brain – Mind and as such will be over ridden by the Body – Mind.  The ability to control your balance with Thought Force will not be an option, so learn how to move in balance from the beginning.

 

Wing Chun’s greatest strength is that it’s a Conceptual Martial Art.

Wing Chun’s greatest weakness is that it’s a Conceptual Martial Art.

 

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WHAT TYPE OF DAY IS IT FOR YOU?