Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday




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.   

Articles, My Own Opinion




Lets Ruffle some Feathers.
Lets Ruffle some Feathers.


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

We achieve these results by moving well and hitting hard.

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

Chi Sau is Defence, most Structure work is defence.

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

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

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

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

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

What is the Ratio?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attacking with softness will not cut it.

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

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

Punches END things.

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

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

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

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

Real fights do not have “right positions”.

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

Unless it was a Sucker Punch.

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

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

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

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

Well thats my opinion at any rate.

Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday



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

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

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

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

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

What is the Environment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do we know when the fight is over?

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

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

What is the Concept behind our Exit Strategy?

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

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

How do we use it to our advantage?

How do we work this into our everyday training?

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

Wing Chun Wednesday



When someone first embarks on Wing Chun they are required to teach their Body how to move in accordance with Wing Chun objectives, they do the first Form, Single Chi Sau and then Double Hand Chi Sau more as a preparatory exercise than real study of the Style.  Depending on how quickly their Body adapts this can be anything from 6 months to 3 Years, in todays time poor world it is likely to be a minimum of 2 years simply due to available training time.

A result of this is that often Students spend a  lot of time doing exercises preparing them for Chi Sau thinking that they are actually doing Chi Sau and when they get to the place were their Body is capable of doing the movements they do not realise that they have not started training yet, and think that what they have been doing up to this time is actually the way things are done, often they never change this thinking.

At the beginning it is very difficult to deal with the abundance of information that is constantly coming in, mental overload is almost instant and it is no surprise that we all think that what we are doing is training instead of recognising that all we are doing is preparing the Body and being introduced to some working concepts.

When we are introduced to the movements of Single Hand Chi Sau we are also introduced to the “IDEA” of not carrying our partners weight, this usually called Running Palms, but whatever you call it the practice is to teach us not to carry our partners weight, when we begin Double Arm Chi Sau the first serious exercise we do, Lok Sau,  is actually all about carrying weight, but this is a Foundation exercise that is to introduce us to absorbing force, allows us to receive physical feedback so that we can feel where resistance is held in our Bodies and to realise that our partners force cannot stop us from rotating our Arms, in many ways this is not Chi Sau, it is a Foundation exercise practiced while we continue to become familiar with the Chi Sau action, but if students are not made aware of this {they usually are but due to the aforementioned Information Overload it get lost in the noise} and kept aware of this it becomes the way that Chi Sau is performed from that point forwards.

In Chi Sau, as in all Wing Chun there are only 2 actions that we employ when we meet incoming force, we either Redirect it or Control it, we do not actively try to absorb incoming force, this should be happening naturally due to a lack of physical tension {that we train through Lok Sau}, so it would be one or the other but it could be both under certain circumstances.

What we never do when we meet incoming Force is to try to return the Force back where it came from, this is obviously Force against Force and creates a 50 – 50 situation where the stronger Man wins.

If Students do not keep this in the front of their mind when they perform Bong Sau they invariably drive their Elbow back at their Partner.

If you can feel your partner as you perform Bong Sau you are beginning to carrying his weight, if you push back at this weight you are fighting against his Force with your own Force.

In Single Sticking Hands we avoid carrying our partners weight by releasing our Arm, Running Palms, in Double Chi Sau we are introduced to another method to avoid carrying our partners weight, redirection via rolling away.

Once you feel your Partners Body, his weight,you have established the existence of a force Vector, it is actually your Partners force Vector and you want to move it away.

Chi Sau is an exercise for us to explore our defensive tools, if we employ a type of thinking that has imaginary Circles or Balls then the Circle or Ball is between me and the contact point, not the partners Body, thinking that your partner is the opposite side of your Circle only makes you return force and try to fight,  Chi Sau is a defensive exercise.


A common practice is for Students to try to Strike as they come out of Bong Sau, while there is definite value in being able to strike from a defensive posture we would do well to have a Talking Heads moment here……

And I ask myself …. Well ….. How did I get here?

What would need to happen for me to be attempting this move?

This is not about right or wrong, everything is right if it is done for the right reason and of course wrong if it done for the wrong reason but if you do not know why you are doing it then there is no chance of you knowing what you are trying to achieve, in my experience the majority of Students do not know what they are trying to achieve except hitting their partner on the chest.

Not exactly a fight ending move.

I played Chi Sau with my Sifu most Wednesday evenings for 12 years, not once did he hit me in the Chest!

Occasionally if I failed to maintain my Fook Sau correctly so he would reach through and tap me on my Chest to let me know, somehow this became a Strike with Students.

If you are still at the beginning stage of Wing Chun, and time spent training is no indicator that you are not, then what I have described will quite accurately describe how you play Chi Sau.

Set training aims in your Chi Sau Training, decide what learning objective you wish to explore, if you do not have the knowledge at this time to do this yourself then ask your Instructor to set a learning objective, if your Instructor does not have the knowledge to do this then seek assistance from someone that can.

If you engage in contemplation here is something that I heard from Grand Master Chu Shong Tin many years ago…….

 “You do not need to be in physical contact to use Chi Sau skills”.

If Chi Sau can be used without touching, why push?

Articles, My Own Opinion



plan and balls


There is a conundrum at the centre of Traditional Martial Arts, the majority of students do not like violence, they genuinely hope they will never need their training and if a situation did arise they would rather talk it down than test their knowledge.  While this is very civilised and sensible it does have a profound input on how they view their training, what they think it is for, its relevance to survival is never considered because they have no frame of reference to equate to and no goal to aspire to.

A genuine puzzle.

Training is what it is, TRAINING.

Sparring is what it is SPARRING.

Neither of them are FIGHTING.

It makes no dif. what style you do, what it is called {Reality Based Self Defence????  w.t.f.}.

What we do in training is not and never can be what we need, and instead of helping us grow a pair this knowledge has the potential to emotionally castrate us.

But this does not happen to everyone, so it is obviously not inherent in the training.

At my School we do a lot of partner imposed resistance training, based on maintaining your structure and powering it with your Centre of Gravity alone, no Arms or Legs just Centre, insanely physical and awesome fun, very few people no matter how long they have trained {most of my Students are over 5 years training} manage to keep their Arms out of it, although I will cover this aspect in a later post it is important to understand that we are ‘hard wired’ to use our Arms, it takes great focus not to use them, and focus is the first casualty of violence.

The exercises and Drills we practice have little resemblance to Default Wing Chun training, but then neither does true violence, so they pretty quickly take you into unfamiliar territory, Indian Country, where its a good day if all you end up with is an arrow in your hat.

A great many Students from every style are capable of performing well in their respective Training Halls against their fellow travellers, solving the usual problems with the usual method, because basically they are engaged with someone that moves the way they move and thinks the way they think, they are almost taking themselves on, but once the partner / opponent is moving, thinking and acting differently the Standard Operating Procedures begin to fall down.

Students of most styles truly believe that their style is capable with dealing with anyone anywhere, as Instructors it is what we tell them after all, but this is really just a Bonding mechanism, “us against the world and we are winning”.

There are contradictions and complexities involved in all Martial Arts, there is not one single style on the planet that does not have holes in it big enough to drive a Bus through, or at least a Fist, Combat Sports have a system of rules that affect a persons thinking to the extent that they may not see ready opportunities to close the problem of a Street Fight down at an early opportunity.  Traditional Martial Arts focus way too much on defence something that can prevent a “Win at all costs attitude”, in truth no one defends in a Street fight, it is all about attack.

Wholesale systemic limitations are very real once you cross into ‘Enemy Territory’, holding your Guard on the Sternum Centre Line as we do in Wing Chun becomes extremely problematic if you have adrenaline imposed tunnel vision, holding your Guard each side of your Head like a Boxer invites an attacker to drive your own fist into you, holding your Guard extended forward invites an attack to your fingers or the back of your Hand the list is much longer than you may think and it is in all styles.

There is no ‘Right Way’.

Once I hear an Instructor or a Student saying that there is a correct way to do something, especially a Form Movement, I know I am talking to a Zombie.

I mentioned in an earlier piece that I was not convinced in the value of seminars, my senior student works in the city in a large financial institution, in his building there are 3 other persons that train at Wing Chun with another School,  all 3 travel to Hong Kong at least twice a yearend attend every seminar or workshop that pops up, when they began occasionally playing together at lunch time about 6 years ago my student was very much the junior, now they cannot touch him.

Every trip to Hong Kong, every seminar just appears to throw more options in the mix making it more chaotic and to my student at least they have not progressed at all in all that time.   They have an open invitation to come and visit me but they decline because they are happy where their training is at despite the fact that my student is improving and they are not.

To me it appears that they are no longer involved in improving their ability, they now have a Hobby, collecting ideas and going on holiday together, flocking.

Surely the only measure of improvement in any Martial Art is that you are becoming a more effective fighter.

Today is my Birthday, I am now 63, I am not as strong as I once was, not as fast and not as mean, the reason I still train and train diligently is to replace these failing attributes with improved skill, everything is perishable, Entropy is an aspect of the Universe, the never ending decline, to be happy with your present level and condition is to begin to sink into the pit.

As the Gentleman above so succinctly puts it, the goal should be to forget plans.