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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: STABILITY, DO WE UNDERSTAND IT?

 

Of all of our stances the Goat Stance, Y.C.K.Y.Mah, is the least stable and the least suited for accepting force

What do we mean by stability.

To most students stability is the ability to stay still or remain in place, such as maintaining our Y.C.K.Y. Mah stance {Goat Grabbing Stance or Goat Stance} against pressure while playing Chi Sau, this is very much the IDEA that comes through when training in the First Form.

But is this the only way to look at stability, is it even the correct way when we are talking about dynamic, antagonistic situations?

Stability is also defined as “the property of a body that causes it when disturbed from a condition of equilibrium or steady motion to develop forces or moments that restore the original condition”.

From a dynamic antagonistic perspective “to come back to the original position from a condition of steady motion” begins to make stability look a great deal more like a product of Chum Kiu than a product of the First Form.

Sometimes looking at what we do from a purely mechanical perspective can give us a clear indication of what we should be doing instead of just doing what we have been told or what we think we are meant to do.

What are the requirements for stability?

The things that have a great impact on stability are the height of the Centre of Gravity {CoG}, the size of the base of support {in our case the width of the feet}, the orientation to the line of force and the weight of the object.

We cannot do much about our weight { we can of course borrow weight from our opponent / partner but that is a different topic} but we can easily and readily adjust the height of our CoG, the size of our base of support and our orientation to the line of force.

The lower the CoG, the larger the base of support {width of the feet} the greater the stability, the higher the CoG, the smaller the base of support stability is diminished.

If we compare the Goat Stance of the First Form with the Front Stance from the Chum Kiu we find that the Goat Stance has a higher CoG and a much smaller base of support than the Front Stance of Chum Kiu, the obvious result is that the Goat Stance is  less stable, even without the implications of orientation to the line of force.

If we follow the progression of our training on to the Horse Riding Stance from the knives and pole we are bringing in even more stability, but this is not how much of mainstream Wing Chun explains itself.

This is science not opinion and it is independently verifiable so there is no need to take my word as truth, Google it.

Of all of our stances the goat Stance, Y.C.K.Y.Mah, is the least stable and least suitable for accepting force, but this is the opposite of what is most often taught. 

As I pointed out in an earlier post the Y.C.K.Y.Mah comprises of 2 rear leg positions and is how we are introduced to the mechanics of Chum Kiu movement through activation of the adductor muscles, it prepares for movement, not how to stand still.

Allowing the physics to just be physics what we should be thinking is whether we wish to be still or be mobile, how to move from a position of stillness or how to achieve stability from movement and what is the best way to accomplish this. 

This is of course one of the two the central learning objectives of Chum Kiu, the second being how to support our arms with our body which is another aspect of bringing in stability.

This leads us on to weight shifting {which is expanded and refined through studying the Biu Gee Form} and understanding what is actually doing the work, where we want that work done and what we hope to achieve through the work, in this instance I am talking about work in a purely mechanical sense, as in work and load.

 

 

Every Middle School kid in the world understands that stability is the cornerstone of power production, stability is the cornerstone of force absorption, why is it then that most of our training is done from the least stable of our stances?

There is a reason, a good reason, Wing Chun is a very clever martial art, but here as in so many instances in Wing Chun the messenger is getting mistaken for the message.

Would you try to push a stalled car from the position of the Goat Stance, and if not why not if it is such a good stance?

 

 

 

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WING CHUN WEDNESDAY: FIST LOGIC – THE PARADOX OF DEFENCE.

 

There are many schools that teach people to hit while playing Chi Sau, from my point of view this is a MASSIVE mistake

In violent situations or even match fights no one defends themselves, you cannot win by defending only by attacking, Wing Chun is about 99% defence, we should not kid ourselves about this and let our ego start rambling on about counterattacking,  counter attacking is a defensive option, Wing Chun is about 99% defence.

Q.   If we can’t win by defending why do we train our defence so much in Wing Chun?

A.    Paradoxically it is to give us the confidence to engage in relentless attack, which is the only way to a successful outcome, shock and awe.

The main take away from Chi Sau and Chum Kiu should be absolute confidence in the ability of our arm structures to not collapse under pressure during lateral movement, with little or no overt, active involvement from ourselves, just the posing, moving of the arm shapes, a skill acquired through Chi Sau and the lateral body movement found in Chum Kiu. This gives us the ability to step up and knock people down, even under attack, without consciously dealing with the incoming strike.

Only once we genuinely believe that we cannot be hit will we be free from thinking about how to stop a hit, and of course once we are no longer thinking about stopping a hit we have all the time in the world to think about dominating our attacker.

There are many schools that teach people to hit while playing Chi Sau, from my point of view this is a MASSIVE mistake, if our training partner keeps hitting us how can we ever reach a place where we no longer think about getting hit?  If we are constantly hitting our partner, another Wing Chun stylist how can we believe that the Wing Chun structure can weather the storm as we are go about proving that it cannot?

One of the really negative things that we learn without realising when hitting during Chi Sau practice is to stand there and get hit without doing anything constructive about it, like getting out of the way for instance, the self depreciating part of our inner self sees this and it erodes our confidence in Wing Chun,  this makes it so much harder to not think about being hit, and to freely engage in relentless attack.

Let’s face it , when we find ourselves in trouble {and we should approach training from the point of view of when and not if} we will not try to use Wing Chun at all, we will only try to get out of trouble, if all we are doing with our training is learning Wing Chun we are not learning how to get out of trouble, most Chi Sau playing teaches people to stay in the kill zone, even when getting continuously hit.   From a practical application standpoint Chi Sau the way most people play it teaches them how to loose, now that is a paradox.

Should we train softly or hard? 

Again paradoxically, if we ever hope to fight hard we absolutely must train softly and never hit our partner with enough force to cause pain, even light pain.

Hitting our partners or preventing them from successfully performing a technique or action may make our ego feel good, but we are not doing anyone any favours {least of all ourselves}, when our partner is failing in their attempts and just getting hit they will not think that we are awesome, they will just think that Wing Chun sucks

And from the other side of the coin, the self depreciating aspect of our inner self seeing that our partners Wing Chun is no match for our pretend attacks could lead us to thinking that perhaps Wing Chun does suck and cause us as so many others before us have done to loose faith in Wing Chun and walk away.

Chi Sau can teach us a great deal if we know what to look for, but it does not teach us how to deal with violence, so many students think it does and when it fails, which it must, they are devastated.

Is there a way to practise Chi Sau that can successfully transfer to violent situations?

There certainly is, but it depends on vision, creativity and the acceptance of reality , something in short supply with most Chi Sau players, we should try to find ways that put our opponent in an indefensible position, this requires a deliberate plan of attack, a predefined idea of how we would like things to unfold that has little to do with basic, preliminary Wing Chun Logic {Fist Logic} and a lot more to do with straight up taking the bad guys balance away and shifting to the blind side, it requires movement and a change of orientation, we can move ourselves or we can move the bad guy, usually it will be a bit of both slipping laterally as in Chum Kiu while rotating the upper body as we do in Biu Gee, all the time taking their balance with clever use of latching, which of course is Lap Sau.

Like many other Chi Sau related training methods Lap Sau is practised in a way and position that will never be used in reality,  the value of any Chi Sau position drill is as a method of learning the “how” of arm mechanics and not a recommendation of “where” to use them, think about the basic Lap Sau drill from the point of directness or practicality, two of the main pillars of Fist Logic, why would anyone ever choose to defend a straight attack with Bong Sau?  In the Lap Sau drill Bong Sau is just a perch, a convenient starting position so that we have consistency in the training.

One of the earliest pieces of Fist Logic I was given was to never try to strike over or under someones Arm as they could defend themselves almost accidentally with a reflex, the standard Lap Sau exercise does just that.  A post about Lap Sau is for another time but if taken at face value most Lap Sau training flies in the face of Fist Logic, it is quite ineffective, and it leads to using strange Bong Sau / Lap Sau / Side Slash combinations that are way to convoluted to be genuine Wing Chun. Think economy of movement, another pillar of Fist Logic.

Yet another paradox, we are more responsible for our partners training than we are for our own { don’t panic it works both ways}, if we ensure that our partner always succeeds the self encouraging aspect of our  inner self begins to see how effective Wing Chun is, and we begin to trust it, when our partner ensures that we succeed, we conveniently forget that they are helping us to succeed we believe it to be personal skill, and our own trust in Wing Chun grows.

I have thought this way for many years, when I share this thinking usually people say we cannot learn how to defend ourselves by assisted success at training, I ask them to think about that deeply, because what they are implying is that we can only learn to defend ourselves by assisted failing at training.

Really?  W.T.F.

If we go back to my original point if we get in trouble we will not be doing Wing Chun we will only be trying to get out of trouble, to add to this we will not get out of trouble by defending only by relentlessly attacking, all being well our defence will not be tested after the initial counter attack as we will always and only be in the bad guys face.

The ability to take it to the bad guy non stop is more about confidence than anything else, we develop confidence by succeeding in training.

 

 

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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. 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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