10 Short Wing Chun Articles
A series of short articles from Sifu Chuck O'Neill (my si-hing). I've ordered the into a way that makes it easier to flow from one to the next.
These can also be found on his website at the bottom of the page here:
FORMS TRAINING, ARE YOU WASTING YOUR TIME?
While I was teaching and also doing my own training I noticed several students practicing their forms (Sil Lim Tao, Chum Kiu, Biu Jee). But what amazed me the most, was that they were doing the forms in a passe way. Just going through the motions, and not minding what they were doing or how they were doing it.
I understand that there are times when we just aren't into training our forms, but that should be the exception, not the rule. Most of us don't put our mind and spirit into our forms. But if you want to excell in your chosen martial art, and what to get the biggest bang for your training time here are a few tips to help you through it.
Become One: Connect your Mind with every motion of your body. Think and feel every motion, your body should have a unity that can generate 'effortless power', but look graceful.
10 to 1 Rule: For everytime you do your form at 'Normal' or 'Fast' speed, do it 10 times slow. Now I know some of you are thinking, 'But traditionally my form isn't done that way!', well, that may be true, but if you really want to get the mechanics down, and KNOW where your body is during every motion, do it slow. By slowing down the form, it is like doing it 10,000 times.
Feel the Power: Focus on where your body should be generating power during any given movement. There are several ways to do this, but one of the ways it to put a 'Mind of Pressure' in each move. Meaning pretend there is some pressure that is giving you some resistance trying to prevent you from doing the action.
SIL LIM TAO - THE KEYS TO UNLOCKING THE WING CHUN SYSTEM
Body Bump: Get a partner to push or 'bump' you after every move. This will help you know if you are balanced and rooted properly. Now Don't have your partner give you so much force that you can't stay rooted.
The Wing Chun Martial Arts system has only three 'empty hand' forms while other martial arts have dozens of forms. Coming from a Tae Kwon Do/Kenpo Karate background I found this amazing.
How could they teach everything you needed to know about empty hand combat in just three forms?
As I practice Wing Chun, I'm finding that everything you really need to know is in the Sil Lim Tao (or Little Idea) form.When I teach, it's interesting to watch people doing the Sil Lim Tao (SLT) translated 'little idea' , especially those that don't understand what is really being taught. It's almost like pulling teeth.
They have the look of, 'Man, this is so beginner stuff. Let's do the Chum Kil (searching the Bridge) or Bil Jee (Thrusting Fingers).' And if you ask what principles or concepts that are taught in this form, many can only name one or two.
If you do not learn the principles and concepts in the SLT you will never be able to truly master this form or any of the others. While doing Chum Kil, I discovered this first hand when Sifu corrected one of my positions.Looking at the finished position I found that what I was doing before broke a principle found in SLT. The principles and concepts in the SLT are 'instant checks' when you are doing your forms.
When you do chi sau (sticky hands) the SLT has all the hand positions you'll ever need, (because the remaining hand positions for the most part are only variations on the SLT ones). If you stick to the principles and concepts taught in the SLT you'll have everything you need for effective chi sau.
What are the principles and concepts in Wing Chun's SLT? Here are a couple: (you'll have to do some research to find others and their explanations.)
1) Centerline Theory
2) Elbow Theory
3) Gates theory
4) Unification/Structure Principle
5) Angling Principles
By mastering the principles and concepts you can discover the keys to the Wing Chun Martial Arts System.
CHUM KIU - SEARCHING THE BRIDGE
Some things to ponder while you train your Chum Kiu form from Wing Chun:
Chum Kiu the second form in the Wing Chun system is both simple and complex in theory and in physical application. Chum Kiu moves the Wing Chun practitioner from remaining stationary (Sil Lim Tao), and introduces them to both movement and engaging two new 'engines' or 'power sources'.
While each of the hand positions(bong sau, etc) are found in the Sil Lim tao form individually, it is in Chum Kiu that we learn to put two hand positions together. To give you the analogy that Sil Lim tao is the 'letters' in the Wing Chun alphabet, Chum kiu is the formation of letters into words. For example in Sil Lim Tao we are introduced to the hand positions (or letters) of Bong Sau, and of Wu Sau. When found in Chum Kiu, they are put together to form a familiar but different 'word'. Much like taking the letter 'a' and the letter 'n' and making the word, 'an'.
While Students are told to unify their lower and upper bodies together to make a singular unit, it is in Chum Kiu that this is tested and power is put into the system. For many practitioners, this is a 're-learning' experience, or more possibly a 'refining' experience. It is during the learning of the Chum Kiu form that Wing Chun practitioners learn to apply the Keun Kuit (Fist saying), "Power comes from ground." For if the Wing Chun practitioner does not learn to apply this concept, the power they do generate will be limited to muscular tension through the upper body, relying on an inefficient method of power generation. For when Wing Chun practitioners move, their bodies should move with them. Neither the hands or legs should lead the body, but together in harmony following the 'intent' or 'mind' of the Wing Chun practitioner, following two other Wing Chun keun kuit, "Fist come from Heart" and "Hand and feet go together."
It is during the training of Chum Kiu, that Wing Chun practitioners also learn to 'cross the bridge', this I feel is a better meaning of the form than 'searching the bridge'. We find that in Chum Kiu, the practitioner never overextends, but moves his (or her) body forward toward the intended target. This movement phase in the Wing Chun training system, is focused and intentioned. It is my thought that the founders of Wing Chun knew that adding movement to early into the system would prevent the Wing Chun practitioner from learning the concepts of Centerline, facing & unification which are found and isolated in Sil Lim tao.
We also find kicking for the first time in the Wing Chun system. Interestingly enough, of the three empty hands forms (Sil Lim Tao, Chum Kiu and Biu Jee), kicks are only found in the Chum Kiu form. This brings me to ponder what the founding members of Wing Chun knew about kicking. Some studies have shown that it takes a significant amount of hours to become an effective kicker. Maybe this is why in Chum kiu only two kicks are introduced. Both of which can be quickly learned and executed by beginner Wing Chun practitioners. But when allowed to practice for a longer duration, the student gains added power, flexibility and increased balance. Depending on your sources for Wing Chun Keun Kuit, you may find one or both of the following maxims, "9 times out of 10, a kick misses." and/or "9 times out of 10, a Wing Chun kick does not miss."
THIS PART OF THE FORM IS FOR THIS APPLICATION...
I've had some interesting conversations with a few people about the Sil Lim tao form. For some reason the conversation got directed to what the application of particular parts of the form was for.
The basic conversation went like this:
Person 1: 'I think this part of the form (insert movement) is for (insert application)'.
Person 2: 'Sifu (Insert popular Wing Chun instructor) said this part of the form is for (insert different application).'
Person 3: 'I don't think so, I think Sifu (Insert different popular Wing Chun instructor) has it right, and that this part of the form is for (insert different application from Person 1 or 2).'
So you can get the idea. It now becomes a debate of what a particular movement is used for. Now don't get me wrong, it is good to look at the possible applications of movements in a form, but it's not good to ONLY focus on the applications. I have found that it is more important to look at the principles and mechanics within the movement, so that you can derive variations of an application, and not be limited to one way of thought.
I find it interesting in seeing the different interpretations of the form movements by different practitioners of Wing Chun (Ving Tsun, Wheng Cheung, etc). These interpretations are not necessarily right or wrong, just different. But if you look at the principles behind the motion, you will be able to see if it is Wing Chun, or something other than Wing Chun.
But what really concerns me most is the ,'So and so said this.....'. This blind belief that this is the only way to apply a movement is not only wrong, but shortsighted. Any movement should be viewed and tested, much like Bruce Lee said, 'not to follow blindly' or the Apostle Paul in the Bible, 'Test everything'. With that being said, I appreciate a person's view point and respect it, along with the person who made it. This is more important than proving who is right and who is wrong. Because sometimes it is better to be kind, than right.
Wing Chun is a lifelong study in body mechanics, application of force, sensitivity, etc. That as one progresses in the art, one's viewpoint and understand will also change, develop and grow. So that what their understanding of the art today will be different 20 years from now. Man I love this art.
So keep an open mind, an open heart, and always use kindness, respect and understanding with others, not just in Wing Chun but in all martial arts and in life!
LEVELS OF CHI SAU LEARNING
While teaching, training and continuing to learn, I have found that Chi Sau (Sticky Hands) as from my observation (4) four levels of learning. These four levels that I'm discussing is strictly in the physical sense (kinetic).
Level 1: Hit and Don't Get Hit
In 'Hit and Don't Get Hit' or Level 1, we first explore Chi Sau. As beginners, the game of chi sau is about hitting your partner and trying not to get hit. But in most times we focus on hitting or making contact with our partner while sacrificing our defenses. This is the first, and easiest level to learn. And in many cases we stay at this level the most.
Level 2: Position
At the 'Position' level, we see that not getting hit, is not just about fast hands, but also good positioning. While we may still play at Level 1, we start to explore the power of positioning. We play with footwork, and angling.
Level 3: Controlling/Shutting down/Jamming
In Level 3, we start to look at how we can use position, along with good structure to jam, or shutdown our partner's incoming forces. This level can take years to learn, let alone master. Elements of timing, distancing, sensitivity, balance disruption, and Centerline control are at play. At this level, your partner knows when he's been shutdown or Jammed.
Level 4: Manipulating
At the 'Manipulating' level, the Wing Chun practitioner spends time, not shutting down his opponent with obvious techniques but with subtle manipulation of the incoming forces, and slight changes in positioning and structure. When done properly, the partner can't clearly understand what happened, other than he ended up in the wrong spot. At this level it appears that Hitting and not getting hit is not objective, but the focused study of incoming force and how to manipulate it.
During a person's lifetime of learning, one will bounce back and forth from the different levels, particularly if one is focused on learning the lessons at each level. And from what I can tell, it requires good partners that want to learn those same lessons in order to understand. And as the eternal student, I don't think one can force how fast you can learn each level. It requires that "Eureka I found it!" moment.
CHI SAO TRAINING - GETTING BETTER
Chi Sau is a major component in the Wing Chun curriculum. Chi Sau can become an obsession to many Wing Chun practitioners. One of the most significant ways to get better of Wing Chun Chi Sau is to put 'Time in the Pattern'. But the big problem is that if you just 'spend time in the pattern', you will be gaining very little in the way of advancement.
If you want to get better at your Chi sau, you need to train intentionally. Sometimes the best thing to do is to find a partner that you can work with, and is willing to help you work on areas of your Chi sau. Some of the things that you can focus on:
1) Lines of Force
3) Coordination flows
4) Individual techniques
It's important to remember that Chi Sau is a total sum of individual parts brought together into one motion.
CHI SAO - THE LINK BETWEEN FORM AND FUNCTION
was working through some drills and disarms, and I found it interesting that much of my wing chun forms came into practice. But the most interesting thing was how easily I flowed between one technique and circumstance to another.
As I looked later at the training, I noticed that much of the flow was because of the chi sau training and push hands that I do. Now let me explain, when I and some of my Gung fu brothers do chi sau or pushhands, it is unscripted. So what happens, happens. We are more interested in understanding the flow of the force, rather than trying to force a particular technique.
There are many who believe that chi sau is about making a particular technique work. And they are correct, to a point. When training with a partner, and you want to perfect a technique, it must be trained together. Your partner must give you the proper 'stimulus' to flow into that technique. If you need to muscle your partner into that technique then you are doing it wrong. In Wing chun, there is a proverb, 'Beginners Must not use strength'. So using muscle to force a particular technique isn't the best idea.
One of the best things about working techniques with the proper stimulus is that when you do practice 'free form' or 'unscripted' chi sau you naturally flow into a given technique because the stimulus is there and you trained for it. By training for sensitivity and stimulus, you then are able to work outside of a 'textbook' answer.
Doing Taiji pushhands also serves a great purpose. In pushhands, you are working constructively to develop the sensitivity of knowing where your partner's center of gravity is and how to manipulate that mass to take your partner's balance, all the while, without any scripted movements.
So when you train chi sau, remember to work through your techniques with the proper stimulus, and understanding when a particular technique would work.
ENTERING INTO TRAPPING
ENTERING INTO TRAPPING
Wing Chun is great for trapping, but I always hear from some that it doesn't work or they can't get into trapping range. I think that there is a couple of issues when looking at trapping, mindset, timing, & distance.
Mindset - If you limit yourself into thinking that there is only one way to trap, then you may be missing many opportunities to trap. Or your understanding of it's use, may also lead to your frustrations. Lets start by defining what a "trap" is.
What is a trap - Well, a trap as I define it, is anytime I can limit the movement of my opponent (either his arm, leg, body, etc). This is a trap. When looking at a trap, consider them either in two terms "simple" or "complex" traps. A simple trap is limiting one limb with one limb, a complex trap is when you use one of your limbs to trap (or limit) two or more of his limbs.
How a trap can be used - When using a trap, don't think of a trap necessarily as a 'submission' type technique. Think of a trap as part of a solution to bigger problem. If my objective is to strike someone, but their limbs are in the way, by pinning or limiting the movement of a hand out of the way, I can facility my strike. The other thing to consider is that a trap doesn't stay permanently. In the ideal world it would, but reality is you may only have a trap for 1 or 2 seconds at a time.
How to get punched in the head while doing a trap - There are a few way to fail at trapping and get yourself punched in the head. Here are a couple of ways:
Forcing the Trap: You are trying to force a trap to happen, and as such you are not listening to what is really going on. This would be the equivilant of having a conversation with someone, but both of you are talk at the same time, and also talking about two totally different subjects.
Chasing the Trap: You saw the opportunity but it came a moment to late so you chase after it. This is much like chasing an armbar in BJJ or chasing a weapon disarm in Kali. If you focus on chasing the trap, you will surely miss it, and get a hit at the same time. In Wing Chun there is a saying, "Chase the center not the hand." In this case, when you chase the trap, you are chasing the hands.
Trying to Keep the Trap: This is as bad as chasing the trap. If you managed to trap the hands, you've placed a few hits in, but now your opponent has started to find a way out of the trap, and you now start to either Force the Trap or Chase the Trap. In Wing Chun there is another saying, "Accept what comes, Follow what goes, loss of contact strike." So if you're trap starts to fall apart, accept it, and continue to flow with what is happening. Just be happy that you were able to get the trap in the first place.
Wrong Distance: So you see the possibility of a trap, but you are either too close or too far from your opponent. Trapping occurs at a very specific range. It is located between Boxing and Stand up grappling, somewhere around the clinch but not quite. If you are too far, you're using the wrong tool at the moment you should be kicking or boxing, if you are too close, you should be looking to clinch or grapple.
When trying to learn trapping, I believe in starting in isolation, so you can see the trap possibilities, but then move to training the trap in chi sau with a partner.
Video removed for racist terms and bad language.
I have been working with and learning more formal Wing Chun Kuen from students of Gary Lam.... Love the stuff... Of course I integrate my knowledge of Northern Taiji Quan and Western Boxing (Combatives) to help me guide the application of the physical aspects of the system. I work with the Shaolin Dummy and one of my own creation... Thoughts are welcome..... G
SSG/US Army Ranger (Retired) G. Singh, M Ed., MSIR
ATCQA Professional, Retired Owner of Angel's Gym
Author of Jade Dragon Article Series, Illusive Pugilism
Author of The Art of Western Tai Chi Ch'uan
Last edited by Simon; 08-Sep-2012 at 12:40 PM.
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