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, Wing Chun Wednesday

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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Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday

W.C.W. CREATING LIMITATIONS.

 

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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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