Welcome to the 4th edition of our Wing Chun community newsletter.
Plug in the 3rd-7th October 2014 for our Federation Conference in Sydney. Details should follow in our Winter edition.
Our newsletter seems to be expanding each edition which is great. The variety of subjects is marvellous. Knowing that so many of us travel to train with O/S Masters, brother & sisters it would be great to see more of this type like Candice's this newsletter.
I had a little trouble changing the format of some articles submitted this time around & in one case couldn't alter it within Mailchimp or an external editor at all. So please send me your documents with as little or no formatting as possible especially in respect to line spacing, colours & font etc.
Of late our little Federation has been very busy indeed...so tuck in & read!
Yours in Wing Chun,
Melissa and Corey Slade
Chinese New Year
By Damien Rainer
It was with great pleasure that the Adelaide Wing Chun Academy was able to participate in this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations held in Adelaide.
This year was the Year of the Horse on the Chinese lunar calendar cycle, and the Chinese New Year Street Party was promised to be one of the city's major events of the year expecting tens of thousands of visitors. Not only Moonta Street but also Gouger Street was closed to traffic to make room for a huge variety of spectacular dancers, performers, martial arts demonstrations, lion dancers and fireworks. Chinatown was turned into one massive outdoor restaurant during the festival. The entire Chinatown precinct was colourfully decorated for the occasion with more than sixty market stalls offering all sorts of hand made and artisan goods.
For the Adelaide Wing Chun Academy this presented us with our first opportunity to publically demonstrate our Wing Chun Kung Fu. The club turned up in numbers to support the demonstration team, hand out flyers and be a part of the celebrations. This also presented us with the opportunity to promote the Australian Wing Chun Federation, and to bring more awareness that our lineage of Wing Chun lives on after Sifu Jim Fung’s era.
I would like to thank Seth Piszczuk of Full Circle Wing Chun, for contacting me and passing this demonstration on to us.
Check out photos from this event below in our photo gallery.
A Collaborative Coaching
by Jacob Smith
It is the writer’s opinion that to learn through
practical experimentation is more beneficial than
being handed arbitrary answers. Not only is the sense of achievement severely limited in a situation where a student is presented with a solution they did little to attain themselves but also, more importantly, no personal development (One would expect the very reason to be training in the first instance) will take place.
While teaching a prescribed curriculum can offer structure, it is usually fixed and does little to cater to different people’s needs, ability or interests. It also in most cases restricts the student to the answers provided by the curriculum (i.e. those within the confines of the teacher’s understanding) and little else, limiting the practitioner’s actual potential.
On the other hand free training while enjoyable can become unfocused and frustrating as progress must be self gauged and regulated. It also offers the pitfall of restrictions imposed by oneself, to not attempt things which are difficult, uncomfortable or simply not thought of.
Therefore a middle ground between these two methods would be useful for those interested in practicing and learning. It is the purpose of this article to discuss one way such a method may be implemented to bring about a faster and more satisfying transaction of knowledge.
The proposed purpose of this method is to develop the following attributes.
- A deeper understanding of concepts gained through self discovery and collaboration
- Fresh and varied perspectives on existing concepts
- Alternate methods of training to give greater choice to future and existing participants
- Input, criticism, evaluation and discussion of newly developed ideas from a wide group of peers
- A broadening of horizons into otherwise overlooked areas of training
The process of this method can be broken down into four main steps.
involves the teacher describing a scenario to the student. This may be as basic as 'how would you stand in a quiet, non threatening location', to 'how would you move past two people blocking your way', to 'what can you do if you are restrained by somebody and can only use one limb' etc. This is entirely up to the teacher presenting and is really only limited to their imagination. Ultimately though, the situation is only a means to an end as hopefully the following processes will demonstrate.
lets the student come up with potential ways to achieve a desirable outcome. They are allowed to find what works for them at that particular time and with their current skill set. While testing the method, a wide variety of partners and levels of intensity should be used to ensure all boundaries of the solution are explored.
takes place when a student has either achieved some level of success with their method or has become stuck. The teacher now offers suggestions based on the principals of the system to allow the student to modify their way to improvement. This may include changing the criteria of the situation to include doing it in the most efficient way possibly. Alternatively, a suggestion to make alterations to perform the same action with as little effort as needed, may be useful. This will really depend on the teacher’s ability to see what is necessary at that moment to improve the student’s skill in that particular exercise and what the student is currently able to take on board.
is one of the most important steps. It occurs to allow the student to voice what they have difficulty in achieving during the course of that exercise. This then leads to the group devising drills which can be practiced to overcome this problem. For example a student notices they tense up at the moment of contact. The group comes up with several practices that can be performed to let the practitioner get accustomed to contact and gain a higher awareness of their body during this initial moment of touch. Depending on the overall skill of the group the teachers input during this step may be minimal.
Why this stage is deemed important is because this is where each student is given the individual tools they need to progress their own development, which will hopefully start to occur more and more independently outside the classroom environment. Initially it may be vital for the teacher to ask specific questions to prompt the student to be aware of certain changes of state to then extrapolate on but ultimately the student should go through this process themselves. Another reason this step is useful is that it highlights areas of practice potentially overlooked by other students. Understanding one class mates mistakes and the methods used to overcome them can lead to others own development.
Collaborating with other schools, training groups or individuals using this method would be extremely useful for several reasons. Firstly it offers a useful knowledge base of beneficial practices which can be shared amongst a wider audience. Next it allows for a greater level of input to better evaluate and discuss methods produced by students. Finally the variety of input from different areas would help in making sure training is not limited to one’s own groups’ particular area of focus.
To achieve this, it is suggested to use a shared internet site to which videos of presentations, experimentations and extrapolations can be posted. From this it is hoped some discussion, further presentations and most importantly actual training can develop. At the very least this method should give a practitioner something to think about outside of the class.
by Candice Birch
Contrary to the title this article is not related to drinking all you can and stealing microphones. That story is for another time.
This is a little tale about the overflowing effects that resulted from our recent training over in Hong Kong. During our stay in the whirlwind that is Mong Kok, we had the privilege of meeting and training with two exceptional Wing Chun exponents Sisuk Alex Man and Sisuk Eddie.
We spent a week with Sisuk Alex, who welcomed us into his home each night and patiently guided us for hours on end. I was, and still am, impressed by Sisuk Alex’s teachings. He got right to the point of business. His wording was technical, direct and easily absorbed. After only a short period of time I was amazed at the improvement that I could see, and feel, within my stance, structure and SNT. Alex has a great sense of humour, he has humility and treated us with respect. He also held us to a high standard which has set the benchmark for any further learning’s and progression. If I didn’t do it right, he told me. At no point did he let us off lightly by allowing us to do “something kind of like what I’m wanting you to do”. It was either good or bad. I was humbled and appreciated his honesty.
We had a short period of time with Sisuk Eddie so our training was very specific. We touched on a few SNT aspects and then looked at the relationship between Chum Ku and SNT. Our subsequent discussions and training reinforced the upmost importance of having the solid foundation in SNT. Sisuk Eddie is a happy and very friendly person who was also generous with his time and teachings.
The trip has changed my attitude of having a somewhat whimsical approach to grasping a true understanding of Wing Chun. I've turned toward a renewed seriousness that is driven by a greater respect of my instructors and wanting to honour their knowledge as well as time they take to pass this onto me. I feel a greater passion to see myself grow further and develop how the mind and body relate to Wing Chun. Overall this has revitalised my love for Kung Fu and provided me with a deeper appreciation of why Wing Chun is a challenging form of martial art.
I highly recommend going to Hong Kong or even travelling to other schools over the country to meet your fellow Kung Fu brothers and sisters. It’s wonderful to compare notes, renew ideas and birth new friendships with those who also love Kung Fu.
Thoughts on Muk Yan Jong
by Seth Piszczuk
Currently the Wooden Dummy occupies a large part of my own Wing Chun practice; as such I thought I’d try to put some of my thoughts regarding this training apparatus down on paper. Partly to solidify my own ideas, partly as a means to gain feedback from my peers and finally as a means to possibly inspire others to re-assess or begin their own training into the Muk Yan Jong (Wooden Man Dummy).
Please be aware that these are my own thoughts, and not necessarily the same as what you may have been shown or understand yourself. I’m approaching this as a student explaining my personal training in the fourth form, not a master dictating what you should or shouldn’t do. I invite anyone to offer me some feedback to continue to learn and improve myself.
Key concepts the Dummy has taught me:
The cyclic nature of force. Every movement in the Dummy form contains both inward (drawing) and outward (attacking) forces. It is important to look for this in each action. When applied in this fashion the Dummy’s own centre is always the focal point for force.
Some simple examples to illustrate this:
Tan Sau and Palm Strike, rather than pushing the Tan Sau outward in the same direction as the strike, the Tan Sau instead applies a drawing energy, itself then empowering the corresponding strike through the whole body acting as a circle or ball.
Garn Sau, as the high arm (Tan Sau) applies a forward energy towards the Dummy trunk, the lower Garn Sau applies drawing energy into your own body.
Kwan Sau, the high Tan Sau this time applies the drawing energy, whilst the low Bong Sau applies the forward attacking energy.
Why is this important? This simple idea gives an important tactical lesson. Through ensuring the force you apply forward is always matched by an equal drawing force your target is effectively held in place. Once you engage and enter the range of striking, you do not want to push the target away (of course there are reasons where this might not be the case, such as if you were trying to escape rather than fight), rather it is ideal to keep the target within your striking range to continue the barrage of attack.
This also ensures that you maintain focus to the centre, rather than attacking the arms. The Dummy shouldn’t move or slide around and you should never be at risk of breaking one of its arms.
Striking Power. The Dummy teaches a very important method for power development. Oddly enough I came across this by trying my hardest not to hit the Dummy. This seems strange like so much of Wing Chun, abstraction and thinking outside the square are the keys. When I was told to “Never ever hit the Dummy” by a senior in HK it made me think of how to apply the strikes without hitting.
I now think of all the strikes as rolling, caressing or layering into the Dummy. Basically, rather than striking the Dummy with just the final structure of a weapon (ie, palm striking with the heel of your palm), instead (using the palm as an example) make initial contact with the fingers and roll smoothly through the top of the palm, down to the heel , only drawing back the fingers at the end of the movement.
Why? What you are training here is the activation of every joint at the moment of contact. Each joint is a potential accelerant for your force into the target. The maximum potential force is only possible when every joint is accelerating towards the focal point at the moment of contact. The Dummy provides the unforgiving structure of an immoveable object, so just trying to smack it hard will result in you bouncing off. Through deliberately caressing your strikes into the Dummy you can learn not only to activate the joints more effectively, but also to deal with the resultant force coming back into your stance.
The example given is a palm strike as it’s easy to imagine and apply. The same is true of all other strikes in the Dummy form; punches, forearm strikes and kicks. Rethinking how you hit the dummy opens up a huge amount of productive practice.
Stance Practice. Seems obvious, practicing your stance... We do plenty of it in the other forms too. The Dummy however provides a unique advantage in stance practice, as it actively tests it.
Each section of the Dummy finishes with the hands performing either or both lifting up into the Dummy (upward palm strike), or dragging down (sinking or choking hands). These movements are a lot like the repeated Huen Sau (circling hand) in the other forms, in that they look like simple punctuation to define the sections, but they are actually one of the most important things to practice thoughtfully.
Applying force forwards and up into the Dummy naturally will drive you away from it. This is the same as someone pushing on your chest to check your stance for dealing with front-on force. Applying force down and back on the arms will pull your body up and towards the Dummy. This is like someone pushing you in the back or pulling on your guard. Each time you do this, you are testing yourself. Also, you ensure that you return to correct position before commencing the next movement. Without this self checking it is easy to deteriorate your core structure over the course of the form and over focus on the arm or leg movements.
Arms and legs work together. It is interesting when you look at the kicks on the Dummy form, that each kick is combined with a corresponding arm movement. The kicks are not performed simply by themselves. The arm movements show you the nature of the kick, so you can relate the kick to something you already know.
The core Wing Chun movements of Tan, Fook and Bong apply just as much to the legs as to the arms, and when you think about putting the same force into the leg as the arm, it can greatly change the nature of the kick. Look at each kick in the form, identify the core movement involved, and try to recreate the feeling of the arm movement with the leg. Also, by using the same movement with top and bottom halves of the body, we start to properly use the body as a coordinated unit.
Development of the empty hand forms. The Dummy contains actions from all three empty hand forms. However I think it’s a mistake to think you can’t practice parts of it without a full comprehension of all the preceding forms. Each movement of the Dummy can be expressed as a simple joint rotation exercise related to Siu Nim Tao. When you learn to incorporate the body force more fully with Chum Kiu, the same movement can be practiced with a different effect, a different force and a different outcome. The movements can change again with Biu Jee.
An example is the opening movement of the form. At a simple level, your arm can reach into the centre, contacting the Dummy’s limb and provide you simple feedback on your stance. Basic Siu Nim Tao structure. You can do the same movement using body pivoting and applying body force into the dummy as per Chum Kiu. You can progress this to utilise the full rotation of the shoulders independent of the spine, applying the dynamic pivoting of Biu Jee.
The Dummy is a tool to test all of your understanding, and as long as it is practiced with reference to the other forms, I don’t believe it is wrong to practice at least parts of it quite early in training.
Recovery? Some lineages place a great emphasis on the Dummy being a series of recovery exercises, i.e. getting out of bad tactical positions. It is my thought that the basic tactic of Wing Chun is to attack and dominate the centre with our full body force. This being the case anything beyond the first section of Siu Nim Tao can be viewed as a recovery, as everything we need in an ideal world is expressed within the first few movements (“Just punch him down the centre!” to quote Sifu Jim). The world is not ideal though... That’s why we practice so many more options and methods for developing our power. The Dummy indeed contains a lot of tactical recovery positions, but this is not a unique component of this form.
When focusing on the broader concepts the Dummy teaches you, including the few examples above, the movements themselves and the sequence become less important. You don’t need to know an application for every action to gain something from it. Although as you practice it with a focus on developing the correct force, the applications become obvious, and you’ll find them popping up within general training.
This being said, the tactical applications of the Dummy are very interesting and worth exploring, perhaps I’ll do so in a future article!
On Clubs and Competition
by Daniel Pitman
It’s interesting sitting at the cogs and gears of a university sports club. It’s even more so with a Wing Chun club. The non-profit aspect is inspiring, and liberates the club from some burdens. It certainly doesn’t mean we have no money or equipment though, and as member numbers increase so does the potential to realise a kind of equilibrium where ideal training conditions support themselves.
This is the report [edited] I wrote for the sports assoc. on our year in 2013:
With the passing of Grandmaster Jim Fung in 2007, the Australian Wing Chun community was at a loss, and struggled to maintain any coherence or unification. The Adelaide University Wing Chun Kung Fu Club, founded and supported by his organisation, also found itself isolated.
Thanks to the efforts and foundations laid since then, notably by Blues award winners Aleksis Xenophon and Peter Fraser, acting President Chris Boyce and Senior Instructor Seth Piszczuk, 2013 was destined to be a great year.
The club took its biggest steps towards becoming an independent and full spectrum “school” in its own right. This was further reinforced by winning an AUSport Club Development Grant, which has seen us become one of the best equipped Wing Chun outfits in Adelaide.
Midway through the year Daniel Pitman
[woo!] joined the committee ranks in general administration and promotion duties. Aleksis Xenophon and Peter Fraser have retired from the committee, and will be greatly missed
[edit- Aleksis will be back soon!].
The club has developed a strong new identity, including logos, uniforms, procedures, and all with much enthusiasm from our members. We found some great new and old friendships at the 2013 Australian Wing Chun Federation Conference, with several members in attendance.
The club has a truly unique social element. BBQs, outdoor training sessions, regular meals and coffee adventures after training, a bit of paintball and range shooting, and we tote the most hilariously overactive Facebook forum. Several prizes within the club were given out in 2013 for dedication (Jason loi), developed technique (Amy Wooldridge), and realised potential (Nancy Ly). Senior Instructor Seth Piszczuk was awarded the prestigious BatTom award for his outstanding service to the club and for his critical contribution to the greater Wing Chun community during his term as AWCF president and founding member.
Perhaps most importantly, we have initiated a sustainable payment system for our instructors
[much to their surprise], and we have developed a range of flexible and great value payment options for our students.
[which makes a lot of work for me]
In 2014 we look forward to a far more aggressive recruitment campaign than has been realised in previous years, a new addition to our instructor stable, Paul Cardle as well as several high level grading possibilities looming amongst our own senior students.
I’d estimate we have at the heights 30 members, both part time and full time, constantly fluctuating. I can safely anticipate more over this year as our identity and reputation are becoming a lot more extraverted around the campus. As we approach the 30-40 student range finances flow a little easier and equipment, social occasions, and instructor payments become well balanced.
This kind of financial equilibrium is jackpot material for any Martial Arts School, and engineering the finances to make the equilibrium feasible is I suppose a bit of luck in this case initially but also a legitimate goal from here on in. It’s the ideal training environment. The investment is made in the form of marketing and recruitment, the goal is X number of students, and the goal must include enough students to not only break even, but allow for future investments in acquiring more students and retaining existing ones (through engagement both in training and through the social environment). LESS recruitment means higher fees, higher fees means higher dropout rate, and then sadly the ol’ “Adelaide Spiral” begins. There aren’t many cats in this town, but we all want fur coats- Dig?.. should have used sheep in the analogy.
On a TOTAL side note, many of you witnessed the active Facebook thread about the idea of a set of AWCF competition standards. The well fanned flame of a topic became a little bit more about whether or not full force sparring is constructive or destructive to training, but also touched on the sheer impossibility of judging whether or not the combatants are actually “wing chunning” or not. Some really great instructors said some great stuff in there. But, the ember hasn’t died just yet.
The University Sport Association recently insisted that we come up with grounds for an award in the area of competition for our club...well INSISTED!
So we might be “in line” with our fellow martial arts clubs. Sigh..
Our first attempt read; Letter of recognition for competition:
Successful participation in a legitimate martial arts event, competition, championship, or tournament, whilst clearly operating as a Wing Chun exponent, regardless of outcome.
Sounded fair, but the complaint came back that other clubs insisted in a top three position, and that we should include that as well. After much deliberation and after consulting the Facebook thread in question, the following email was composed in response:
I see your point Sara, and this touches on a common misunderstanding I recently have been delving into with my seniors.
Due to the rather brutal nature of martial arts events, I think expecting victory defeats the purpose of competing. If our student looses his bout but adheres to his wing chun training, I would be infinitely more impressed, because the wing chun mindset (lets call it a zen) is not easily summoned in the heat of battle. It is considered bad training or even destructive to even spar without a strict adherence to Wing Chun principles, especially if abandonnned to defeat your opponent physically. Its not a typical sporting attitude I know, but the attitude is that once a student masters his Wing Chun under the pressures of combat, he becomes "un-deafeatable" anyway. I know this sounds.. conceited.. but Wing Chun is designed to fundamentally undermine any physical-force based martial arts such as those which are predominantly found in combat sport.
There has been some debate raging at the AWCF, mostly due to me asking, about whether or not to develop a competition soley for Australian Wing Chun exponents, but it is generally agreed that the competitive culture and focus would be an ugly distraction from the important facets of the art. Exponents have and will compete in open martial arts events, but rarely is the ability seen to remain so 'zen' during such ferocity. In history, those masters that have remained so zen, have competed extensively and done so virtually undefeated, which is probably how this attitude came about. In essence, the looser can learn more.
Thus our instructors genuinely applaud any student who would test that aspect of themselves, rather than achieve any victory despite "bad training". Fighting is akin to golf for us. The game is against yourself, and your human opponent is simply considered another course to play on. Once you can put the ball straight in the hole, the terrain stops mattering.
Hopefully you can understand why we would ask to be considered as a kind of exception. Can we stick with what was in the last draft?
Wanky, no doubt, but it worked. I hope I did justice to all the instructors that contributed to the topic. It’s a tough topic, but I think that a healthy attitude to competition is a worthwhile virtue, even if competition isn’t your goal. The tough bit (other than competing) is deciding what healthy attitude means, because that is all intertwined in the mysterious context of what Wing Chun IS… hence, flaming Facebook thread.
Wing Chun Tea House Club Update
by Corey Slade
The WC Tea House on the 01 Feb 14 moved back to my old club in Port Lincoln now run by Reality PT & MMA. This was to facilitate a group environment for all our Wing Chun clients (predominantly from PL) rather than have them driving up to Tumby so often. Our small group of around 9 practitioners now have the ability to roll with & support each other.
On a different note I presented our first ever AWCF grade to Terry Baker who has been training with me for some 13 years now prior to the last 2 years due to two knee ops! Sadly for us Terry is leaving the Eyre Peninsula to live in Coffs Harbour with his partner Amanda. However he's keen to find training buddies over there on his arrival over the next two months.
Our friendship has spanned some 16 years mainly through the Martial Arts & I know that in this time the teacher has learnt much from the student. Goodluck to you & family & thankyou mate for sharing both your challenges & your support, friendship & that slightly twisted pommy humour!
5 Day Kids Dragon Pole Weapon Intensive Review
Summer Break 2014
The kids of Tumby Bay had a real treat this holiday. I mapped out a basic subject structure straight from Sigung's Book including; a brief history, possible applications of pole skills transferred to everyday objects, arrow punching, dumping, advancing, darting, pinning/flicking, & peeling. I then designed 5 lesson plans including games around these subjects.
We played games such as 'partner touch'n'go', 'sticky poles', 'paper break', 'balloon jab' & 'power shots' to focus mitts. At the end of each session we referee'd Dragon Pole Jousts between participants & instructors for defined time periods with each jouster earning points for legitimate strikes. Occasionally we sat down after a joust & asked the other kids to give constructive feedback to the jousters.
The course was restricted to 10 kids & they absolutely loved the sessions & are of course asking when the next intensive is on. They all went home with a torso protector & padded Dragon Pole & a new sense of confidence in sparring at distance. I got to play with kids for 5 days & learn more about the pole myself!
If any club is interested I did a lot of searching for suitable padded poles internationally including 2 orders to SMAI, & an American Escrima company. All poles were either too flexible or hard to hold or too expensive.
None of them incidentally offered adequate padding on the ends!!
In the end I made them all myself from Tasmanian Oak round stock in 1.8m lengths (5ft i think), coated with 2 pieces of plumbing pipe closed cell foam which was really easy to slide over the pole but also grippy enough not to move. I then left enough foam over-hanging each end for a hand grip. I cut half of it off lengthwise & doubled this back onto the pole to secure with duct tape. All up I think it cost me $22 per pole plus my time which was still cheaper than the cheapest, nastiest ones I could buy!
The closed cell foam maybe a great idea for our regular poles (non tapered) if we were to use for adult sparring. The foam could be slipped over & removed as required.
A Little Intent
Wing Chun is a wonderful invigorating martial Art
that provides both mental and physical stimulation. The basis for this enjoyable satisfaction of mind/body unification is training based around the Siu Nim Tao Form.
It is very easy when undertaking any physical training program, whether martial art, sport or any other activity to get caught up in constantly measuring the mind/body achievement instead of simply endeavouring to embrace excellence in day to day practice. I would like to discuss my thoughts on this issue.
Siu Nim Tao is the first form you learn when training in Wing Chun and so can be seen as the founding form. There is very little movement of the body apart from measuring out/closing the stance and a series of mainly single arm movements. At a basic level, practicing this form provides many aspects of learning the Wing Chun system such as developing correct body structure and alignment, centreline movements, wrist strengthening, joint rotation, focus, concentration, and of course relaxation or letting go of mind/body tension.
Once we achieve a certain accomplishment in Siu Nim Tao we get excited about jumping into Chum Kiu so that we can start to achieve the further accomplishments of pivots and steps, coordinating these with more complicated dual arm movements. We start to look at multi vector force concepts and again excitement builds as we progress towards being able to practice to Biu Jee. This seems to further increase the repertoire of arm movements by introducing elbow strikes and long range movements along with spinal rotation. The vortex theory of Biu Jee emerges to add a whole new dimension to the fighting theory.
We then come to the Mook Jong Form which gives us a training tool to work with as a partner. Again the excitement grows and we get working with the Mook Jong. We bring our experience of achievement in the previous forms together and build further understanding of positioning and range, how to use the body rather than the arms to generate power and to apply it onto the dummy effortlessly with minimal physical effort.
Progressing to the Baart Jum Do and Lok Dim Boon forms we find each has their own inherent nuances in applying force through the weapons. While moving ever more efficiently and powerfully, we extend our body through these weapons, developing our understanding of fulcrums and leverage in their applications. We complete the Wing Chun Training Program and feel blessed to have been through the journey of measuring our achievements.
I feel however that many who focus on this progression of achievements miss out on the sublime levels of depth in what the Wing Chun system holds, that is the complete or 'holistic' mind/body experience it has to offer.
My Question now is how much have you actually achieved throughout this measured journey and what is the driving force and common denominator throughout it all? Many will answer these questions with stating their accomplishments of having achieved proficiency in all the “techniques’ within the forms. They will say the common denominator is the building up of complexity in movement between each form and that this lays the foundation for the next. While this line of thinking is very true and valid it is also very limited and remains a superficial, surface level response.
The deeper answer to these questions I believe is simply Siu Nim Tau: ‘a little idea’. How can this be? We often refer to the ‘Nim Tao State’. What is this? Is it the ability to stay relaxed and apply movements while maintaining that relaxation or tensionless muscles? Is it ingraining the movements of the forms to be able to recall them on cue effortlessly? Or is it simply building a little idea?
The ability to stay relaxed and apply the movements while maintaining relaxation or tensionless muscles –
This is important, however there must be consideration of how it is actually achieved. While correct body structure and use of biomechanics plays a large role there has to be more to it as this explanation remains only as physical. Any time you remain in the physical realm, muscular effort will be required. If there is muscular effort there is a limit to what can be achieved.
Ingraining movements of form to be able to recall them on cue effortlessly –
This statement is a misconception as the movements themselves are not the important thing. The forms describe structures and movements that are designed to be efficient and effective, however, it is not the movements themselves that are critical but rather the biomechanical principles behind the movements and structures. The forms provide a means to train and develop these critical biomechanical principles more in a way that calibrates the body to function in a particular fashion. Once calibrated, the body can perform any movement imbued with this calibration whether it appears in any of the forms or not. In fact each form is really an extension of Siu Nim Tao form in that they apply the same movements through greater ranges of movement. For example the elbow strike in Bil Jee originates from the Bong Sau in Siu Nim Tao and Chum Kiu forms and is then taken through an even greater range of motion with Biu Jee.
Building a little idea –
The human body is an amazing instrument that is naturally very strong and inherently powerful. The key to unleashing this inherent power is in the mind and this is where the little idea comes into its own. The term 'a little idea' is a bit of a misconception when thought of semantically. I feel a better term is 'a little intent(ion)'. Intention requires purpose, it is not just an idea which can be a little fickle and unfocussed. You have to build your ability to draw on your intention in order to engage the body’s natural true power and set it free to do seemingly incredible things.
We have heard stories of a woman picking up a car to pull a child out from under it. This is a feat that would not normally be able to be repeated. In that given moment and under that duress the woman would not be concerned about whether or not she could do it. She merely decided that the car was going to be lifted off to save her child. This is intention. However having done it once and then trying it again under normal circumstances she would rely on muscle strength and ultimately fail as the intent has not been drawn into the equation. We also see similar amazing examples of this power with people having psychotic episodes where it can take 5 or 6 people to try and restrain them, often unsuccessfully. Once again such a person is not in a state of worrying whether they are able to free themselves from the restraint but rather purely driven by the intention of their goal and letting the body do what it has to do to achieve it. The intention drives the power.
Sports commentators often comment about a sports competitor being in the ‘zone’. “Look at that determination in the face” they say. These sports competitors are applying this idea of intent within the context of their respective sports. At times they look like they are performing in automatic mode. Their Instincts are heightened, their accuracy is precise and nothing can go wrong. To achieve excellence in our Wing Chun we need to find a way of realising this tangible intent within ourselves and every person will have to find their individual way of expressing it. One of the ideas I suggest to my students is to imagine yourself in a room with your children. You have a deadline to meet and need quiet so you can concentrate but the kids are not cooperating and are distracting you by being noisy. You have asked them a number of times to quiet down and after persevering for an hour you finally turn on them with the classic 'death stare' and command them to be quiet. This is not uncontrolled rage or anger, rather it communicates an intention that they understand they can't resist. In this state you will find the face, temples and jaw are relaxed, the shoulders and chest are relaxed and you elevate your spine. Your power is tangibly flowing from an inner stillness and mental alertness, absolutely honed to the point of your intention.
Our Wing Chun journey comes full circle, beginning and ending in Siu Nim Tao. Therefore Siu Nim Tao form now becomes not only the basic first form but also the most advanced form, or perhaps better described as a concept in the Wing Chun system. Irrespective of which form we are training the true lesson is to develop the intention behind the movements not only the idea of the movements themselves. In this way you are always training Siu Nim Tao by utilising the different sequences of the different forms as catalysts for generating force by intention. This is the real achievement of Siu Nim Tao.
Mindfulness and Wing Chun
by Vincent Brown
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment and non judgmentally”
Seeing that there are a myriad of instructors more qualified to talk about the complex aspects of internal kung fu and training principles, I would like to share my experience with mindfulness practice and how I feel it has benefitted my training.
Mindfulness is a relatively new method that has been growing in popularity in work environments, schools and the military as a method for reducing stress and increasing overall mental wellbeing. Based on Eastern meditation principles and backed by Western scientific studies, the core concepts revolve around practicing to become more aware of your mental processes as a way to increase your focus and reduce the reflexive actions caused by emotions and thoughts.
Attitudinal foundations required for mindfulness practice include: patience, trust in the validity of your experience, a non-striving attitude and the ability to let go/let be. Sound familiar? Basically, mindfulness is a health-centred approach to the same mental state that we seek in Sil Lim Tao and infuse in our Wing Chun practice.
Exercises are similar in nature to much of our practice. Awareness and meditation exercises are generally utilised, as well as “mindful movement” practice where the practitioner attempts to bring awareness to their mind and body during purposeful movements. This may be done in any everyday activity, such as brushing your teeth or walking down the street, and involves becoming aware of your muscles, sensations, movements and thoughts without attempting to change them. With practice, it becomes a state of “observing” your actions and allowing them to happen in a natural way, much the same as the Sil Lim Tao state of mind.
Of particular interest are some of the training concepts mindfulness is built upon and their relation to Wing Chun practice.
Patience: Anyone who has stuck with their Wing Chun training for any decent amount of time will no doubt have realised the vital role that patience plays over the course of our training. To attain any decent level of the internal power on which our lineage bases much of its strength, years of dedicated, intense training are required. The greatest benefits only come with diligent (often boring for beginners) practice. There are no shortcuts.
Trust: Trust and faith in your training, whether it be trusting that practising simple exercises for hours on end will lead to obtaining the same mind-bending feats of power that senior practitioners demonstrate, or faith that releasing your muscles and joints will counter-intuitively result in an increase in the amount of force able to be generated, is a quality that cannot be overlooked.
Non-Striving: A non-striving attitude towards training does not mean apathy and laziness towards training, but a patient & diligent approach where results are more allowed to develop rather than forced. In essence, this attitude is about not trying too hard. Enjoying the journey rather than getting caught up in the end result, which can be frustratingly detrimental to progress.
Let go/let be: Finally, the ability to let go/let be, which can be akin to the “relaxation” we seek to infuse in every movement and thought, is equally important to mindfulness as it is to Wing Chun. Letting go of the tension held within the muscles and the mind by accepting your situation and allowing your body to move are vital components of good Wing Chun practice.
I always enjoy seeking the similarities between our martial art and other activities and art forms, as I feel that active comparison can highlight and reinforce concepts and ideas with the potential to introduce a new perspective that may not have been previously considered. I encourage all practitioners of our martial art to continually analyse and reappraise your training habits and understanding of how our system works. There is always room for improvement, even at someone of Sigung Chu Shong Tin’s level.
The growing interest and scientific research into the health benefits of mindfulness and Eastern meditation represent a shift in future approaches towards Western health practices, and suggest a promising future for the understanding and recognition of our unique style of Wing Chun kung fu.
If you would like more information about mindfulness practice or to view research articles demonstrating the health benefits visit:
Thoughts On Balance
By Damian Rainer
Balance is a concept that I have found over my journey into Wing Chun to be kept in the front of my thoughts. Most of us go through stages in our training where we vacillate from one extreme to the other in search of
what usually lies in the balance between the two, and from searching and gaining experience we start to settle into this point. There are many ways we can think about balance, as an example, here are a few:
- Balance of training styles (some divide as Internal & External)
- Finding the balance of what we intellectually understand and what we mentally and physically can understand
- Physical balance of one’s physical structure in relation to incoming forces and out going forces
- Mental balance of one’s mental structure in relation to incoming forces and out going forces
- Our own balance throughout mobility
- The balance of one’s own forces inside the body from any type of movement
- The balance between too slow and too fast in an application or exercise
- The balance between applying too much force or too little when connecting to an opponent
- Taking force away from the contact point and balancing it over the whole of our structure
- The balance of our individual training programs and how we allocate practice time
This list can go on to cover everything that we could possibly think of when we say “Wing Chun” as that is our chosen medium. I’ll take the first two points off the list as an example for this article.
- Balance of training styles (some divide as Internal & External)
How we train and what we focus on needs to be in balance. Over the years I’ve seen many students on the floor pursuing many different paths. This is fine as Wing Chun can offer growth for many and present that in different ways. However the common thread comes up that people don’t know what they are training for, or have not concluded what it is that they want to gain from taking up Wing Chun. Many take note of what senior practitioners are training and get the idea that this is the way for them, not taking into account that most senior practitioners have learnt the applicative system at some stage of their journey, and are working on the deeper concepts. Once again this is fine if that’s what they want to develop, but its usually the case that people are out of balance in the development of Wing Chun as a complete Martial Art.
Some have the expectation that training many years of only internal structure and force generation will see them right in a real life situation to use Wing Chun, as a Self-Defense or Martial Art system. Unfortunately they are out of balance if they are wishing to develop the martial side of the equation.
Subjecting oneself to pressure their applicative system enables one to work on developing a calmer mindset and speed up the thought process. Preforming under pressure, drilling so the mind and body innately can respond and deal with the chaos of application, gain the reflex to adapt to changes of direction, and condition for the heavy physical pressure the mind & body under goes in real life situations, can only be attained through the more physical side of training.
On the other side some dismiss the internal development as too soft and miss the point that could take them into the development of the further realms that Wing Chun has to offer, which can be a life time pursuit of continuous improvement to “empowering” their martial system. But for these people they can never know these qualities, or be enriched with the benefits, if they don’t go down the path to develop them. The internal side is more difficult to develop, as one has to get real quiet and patient to discover the path.
I am of the opinion that both these mindsets are out of balance if the goal is to discover Wing Chun as a “Complete Martial Art System”, both sides of this equation need to be brought together and not separated from one another.
The mind is something that as humans we have to work on, the mind needs to find balance, learn to settle and focus for longer periods without racing thoughts, in all areas of life, as well as in our situation to be able to perform Wing Chun in the training hall or on the street. If we think deeply about this, everything is a product of our mind and how we relate to what we experience. If we hang onto one way of training and disregard the other there is the first blockage or point of tension, making the division….unless we clearly define that we are only after what one side has to offer, knowing what we are foregoing by making this division in our training. I think “little Idea” can also be part of this theory as it stems from thought.
- Finding the balance of what we intellectually understand, and what we mentally and physically can understand
Embarking on a path of learning and delving into a chosen pursuit is an enriching rewarding experience. We soon discover that “the more we know the less we know”, & if we stay on the subject for long enough it becomes a discipline that we dedicate our spare time to delve into deeper and deeper.
The rewards are bountiful which keep us hooked on the pursuit for years to come. From my experience as a student and teacher I have found we can intellectually understand something before we physically engrain the understanding through the mind and body. Usually we are containing a mental understanding only to the level that we are able to understand at that point in time, meaning that at a later time we get a new understanding of what we thought we understood, that is relative to the level that we are ready to take on.
Physically we need time, the body takes time and practice to become familiar and make the connections physically & mentally to what we think we understand, where as with our intellect we can continue to think further and further ahead, coming up with concepts and theories that may or may not be on the right path. Sometimes this can present a problem whereby we forget what we can actually achieve in our current state, and lose sight of the most important area’s of training relating to the current state of ability.
Its important for a student to know where the balance of “thinking and doing” is in their own training, both elements are needed for growth, but knowing where this point is relative to where the students progression is at, and not losing sight of this point will help the student achieve their goals and ongoing discovery within the system.
Adelaide Chinese New Year Celebrations in Chinatown 2014
- By the Adelaide Wing Chun Academy Demo Team-
Adelaide Uni Wing Chun Demo Photos - 2014
Australian Wing Chun Federation Photos - Miscellaneous