It is my strong belief that what makes Wing Chun the force throughout the world of martial arts are the fighting principles and concepts that run through all of the forms right from the opening of Siu Lim Tao to the closing of Biu Gee.
Centreline theory and the simplistic approach to the situation that you might be facing, reducing the number of responses to a minimum, only expanding with the necessity of need and circumstance not classroom boredom.
Along with the physical principles of fighting, are the philosophical approaches to conflict scenarios, the removal of instinctive emotional reactions and replacing them with learned responses to specific situations via evaluation, allows the individual to remain as relaxed as possible in stressful confrontations.
The understanding of the different levels of violence that exist on the street, from the abusive youth to the drug effected psychopath, there is no one ‘panacea’ technique that will cover all the situations possible.
Hindsight is the most intelligent of responses, we all know what we should have done after, and the answer is to have the knowledge available to you at the moment of threat, not the action replay if you have been fortunate to survive.
It is the Wing Chun philosophy of SELF and how the individual inter-reacts with the surroundings that inspires me most with its simplicity yet power.
Understanding of the mechanics of the body in confrontation, applied to a simplified model of the dynamics of physical collisions that are the processes of multiple body part connections in fighting, the production of energy, the alignment of kinetic energy vectors and the knowledge of reactant energy that are simple statements of the Newtonian Laws of physics.
Straightforward knowledge of how things work through experience and practise, identifying and analysing the movements of the parts of the body that are active and tense in a technique and those that are passive and relaxed.
The simplicity of the basic unmoving stance as a tool for understanding and strengthening the legs took me years to legitimise using pure and simplistic concepts and the knowledge from the turning stance applied to all situations in understanding the three stages of realistic use, eye-opening.
The centreline theory is one of the pillars on which Wing Chun is based; it begins in the first lesson and develops throughout an individual’s career in Wing Chun. It is simple as nose-to-nose, yet it can become complex with the variety of differing approaches to lines of defence and attack depending on situation relevance, but it will always come back to the simple ideas dealt with in the first lesson when nose-to-nose.
The power of the Wing Chun punch is the ultimate of any punch in the martial arts world, the simple front punch from Siu Lim Tao is a statement of the mechanics of the arm and shoulder, the turning punch using Chun Kiu utilises the whole body in a punch and in Biu Gee the punch is made complete with the knowledge of energy vector alignment. The only other place I have seen an equal application of understanding is in Jack Dempsey’s ‚Championship Fighting‘. I consider it a pure Wing Chun book related to punching.
I have never liked the concept of ‚BLOCKING‘ as the term infers many things that are inappropriate. ‚My view‘, a phrase you will hear throughout my writings, is that it is more important to ‚cover‘ an attack than ‚block‘ it, because the word creates an image of the attacking ‚limb‘ being stopped, rather than the ‚line‘ of attack being ‚covered‘. This may seem pedantic, but that is the way I teach, in my view it is the smallest of details that can make the biggest of differences in application on the street.
Once your arm has achieved the objective of preventing the attacking strike being effective it is released to become a striking weapon in its own right. The smallest part of a second that it takes to adapt the use and realign the structures involved in changing defence into attack are of the utmost importance in the fast non-stop reality of street confrontation.
To ‚BLOCK‘ creates a visualisation of forming an impenetrable structure that exists as long as an attack is in process. Whereas as soon as the ‚COVER‘ has been effective in protecting the line of attack its job is done. A cover can be merely getting out of the way making sure the line of attack has been neutralised.
Probably one of the least appreciated aspects of Wing Chun, many styles use grappling or trapping, but in my view they are all the same thing, it just depends upon the timescale that you are using to analyse the situation. From breaking the distance down (Chum Kiu/Bridging), finding the arms (Entry techniques), controlling the opponent (Chi Sau) to finishing the conflict (Biu Gee/Off loading), ‚CONTROL‘ is evident throughout in all its forms.
The importance of preventing your opponent from having a line of attack by manipulating their body structures so destroying their effective alignment is the essence of Wing Chun, mini grapples and traps exist, but only in the aftermath of hindsight that they can be seen as they occur too fast for the eye or opponent to perceive.
‚Hindsight‘ is the most intelligent of states, we all know ‚after‘ what it would have been best to do, the secret is to have the best understanding to make the best choices at the time, that is the reason for training; to be best prepared.
SIU LIM TAU
Siu Lim Tau is the first form of Wing Chun and has much in it that is new, both physically and intellectually for the beginner, however there is so much in the form that its importance continues throughout the career of a Wing Chun practitioner in the way that it reminds and keeps simple the mechanics and concepts that are the basis of Wing Chun.
MEANING OF ‚LITTLE IDEA‘
‚Little Idea‘ has been translated many different ways, the one that I prefer relates to it being a form of meditation. My view of meditation is simply learning to focus on ‚SELF‘ as with the legend of Bodhidarma and why he began the 18 Lohan principles that developed into the Shaolin system, because his disciples were not physically strong enough for his rigorous form of meditation and kept falling asleep instead of focusing on developing ’self‘ The ‚Little Idea‘ from what I was told means all the ’small thoughts‘ of life, „what am I doing today?“, „how can I afford this?“, „what was I doing last night?“, even „Is she really going out with him?“, it teaches the individual to focus on themselves, their movements and concentrate on many aspects of the body structure and function.
It took me years of analysis to justify and put into simple terms the stances of Wing Chun, now the power of the concepts of the stances, whether stationary, turning or moving, the stances are fundamental to the understanding of how the body links together to create the complex energies involved in conflict collisions.
OPENING OF FORM
The concepts and principles of the first form can be taught using the movements the opening of Siu Lim Tao alone, it is important to develop what I refer to as ‚STOP POINTS‘, hesitations after each movement to start the process of self-analysis that help the individual to ‚teach‘ themselves about what they already know as ‚right and wrong‘. Initiating self-learning processes that will continue in importance, throughout Wing Chun practice.
There are several important aspects that are covered by the first third, meditation, breathing, centreline, muscle development, fixed elbow, joint alignment, striking and controlling energies, understanding wrist, elbow, shoulder and posture in structure and function in energy production and use.
With the second third comes the understanding of ‚USING ENERGY‘, knowledge of relaxation and tension, as well as defining the parameters of usage of energies developed in the first third, the first steps toward ‚INCH ENERGY‘.
After developing and learning to ‚USE‘ the energies, the next stage is to learn how to ‚APPLY‘ them, also simple defensive responses to attacking lines in, and the initial defence of a vulnerable elbow. One of the biggest downfalls in the world of Wing Chun is the widespread way so many instructors try to define the forms by using the movements of the forms literally as applications rather than abstract methods of understanding the mechanics of the systems involved, this leads to misunderstanding and adaptations due to the fact they cannot get the techniques to work directly as in the form and question their practicality.
The first introduction to Chi Sau teaches the practice of two vital learned responses essential to practical Wing Chun and although can be practiced in a variety of ways, it must be maintained in its most simple format throughout a Wing Chun career to fine tune and understand the purity of the learned responses concerned.
As with Dan Chi, Lap Sau teaches the practice of a further two vital learned responses, I acknowledge the variety of ways of investigating the mechanics of Lap Sau but the essence of it and its effectiveness in real confrontations needs to be identified, honed and maintained in its simplified version to keep it pure for the next generation to take onboard and develop in their own ways.
Street applications of techniques and principles from the form must be done outside of the form, understanding that the forms are an abstract sequential library of body movements NOT a catalogue of practical moves. In the early days it must be understood that the techniques will lack full practicality due to the fact that the majority of body energies and fighting concepts are missing as they are contained in the other two forms.
There are an infinite number of training routines that can be made up from the forms, what is important is that they adhere to the concepts and principles of the form being practiced. I feel that it is important also to be aware of where a technique is introduced into the system as to whether a practitioner can be expected to have sufficient experience to fully appreciate the underlying principles of the technique, otherwise bad habits can become installed as a student adapts the applications to work within their experience level.
LINKS TO CHUM KIU
At the end of Siu Lim Tao is a link to Chum Kiu, from a stationary single arm use, to a whole body concept. The three downward energies and three punches are the first time both arms are used together and I am not an advocate of the ‚cleansing of the forearms‘ technique because as an application it requires more than first form knowledge where a simple punch in the face makes more Wing Chun sense and there are much more important principles that can be introduced and understood.
Whereas Siu Lim Tao teaches the individual about the mechanics of the shoulder unit as well as the static stance, Chum Kiu is concerned with the whole body, and as such has far more information to take on board and therefore is the form that takes the longest to get to grips with, the understanding of turning, stepping and kicking take time as the last time the brain had to analyse the working of the legs was as a child learning to walk and run.
The co-ordination and linkage of arms as well as the legs and torso must be a patient process, the retraining of the sub-conscious control of limbs and actions must be active thinking processes not just routines.
UNDERSTANDING ‚BRIDGING THE GAP‘
In Biu Gee we are taught how to apply the techniques of Wing Chun can be used in real confrontational situations, apart from other aspects of body mechanics, Chum Kiu also deals with the concepts necessary to ‚bridge the gap‘ between yourself and your opponent. From ’no contact‘ to ‚one arm contact‘ and then ‚two arm‘ contact‘ i.e. finding the arms, onto ‚controlling‘ and ‚off loading‘.
Understanding ranges and the dealing with the possibilities of what happens when the breaking down of the distance between you and your opponent occurs, whether you initiate the move with an ‚entry‘ technique, or you defend with a ‚cover‘, are essential to successfully developing a complete knowledge of the conflict scenario.
WHOLE BODY CONCEPT
Identifying, isolating and individually practicing the various body parts involved in production of energy, so that they can be used together with a cumulative effect.
Investigating the production and use of energy through turning, where you turn on the foot and drive from the contact from the floor.
Investigating why’s, how’s and variables of stepping; moving your self and applying energy to others.
The first third of Chum Kiu is packed with turning knowledge, whether linked to defence or attack, as well as covering ‚entry‘, ‚control‘ and ‚off loading‘ techniques. The second level of vulnerable elbow defence is also covered with the Lan Sau.
The main theme of this section of Chum Kiu is in ’stepping off‘, or moving yourself, the ‚lifting kick‘ and covering and returning to centreline are also dealt with, in addition to ‚outergate‘ energy.
‚Driving‘ energies, ‚dropping‘ energy, double ‚control‘ and ‚off loading‘ energies and techniques are introduced as well as all round fighting capability and using technique from where you are. Understanding ’stepping back‘ into a forward structure (?) is introduced.
CHI SAU BASICS
Starting out on the long journey that is Chi Sau; keeping it simple and straightforward and developing in a logistical sequence of new techniques and concepts that take time to absorb.
KICKS AND LEG TECHNIQUES
Changing the focus onto the legs alone, to isolate and comprehend what you are trying to achieve with leg techniques.
The reality of street conflict is that more than often than not, the combatant will not be square on to you when the fight is initiated and can also be in the form of a multiple attack and therefore differing angles of threat which have to be understood and neutralised, by using an abstract, rather than application led development of changing centrelines a greater flexibility of use in the real world will be gained.
DYNAMICS OF MOVEMENT IN APPLICATION
It is too easy to get lost in the ‚biomechanics‘ of confrontation, but with simplified dynamics you can visualise what you are trying to achieve and identify when you are practicing effectively or not.
WHOLE BODY EXERCISES
More awareness of ‚SELF‘ as a whole, to understand how the body parts are constantly being used together on a subconscious level but need to be isolated to develop individual energies before being brought back together to work in unison. Too often the subconscious use of the ‚whole body‘ is flawed as it has been developed in childhood when the application was for non-combative purposes.
There are also natural ‚protective‘ instincts that need to be over-ridden if full power is to be transmitted into an opponent.
IMPORTANCE OF PRECISION
The importance of precision is obvious with any learned physical skill; it helps hand-eye co-ordination, then onto greater control and precision, from the hand to the wrist, elbow, shoulder, back/stomach, hip, thigh, calf, ankle, balls of the feet and so to the floor.
Biu Gee is the ‚fighting ‚form of Wing Chun, it was said that Yip Man once stated if he had taught a student Chum Kiu that he would jump off the roof of the club if they was beaten in a fight, such was his belief in the content of the first two forms, yet it is only after Biu Gee that you are released as a complete weapon designed to devastate an opponent.
The more relaxed nature of the stance into an ‚advanced fighting stance‘, forward facing, more upright and with the weight on the balls of the feet, is an application preparation, ready to act without telegraphing intent or knowledge.
PHILOSOPHY OF ‚THRUSTING FINGERS‘
My view of Biu Gee is that it is the ‚off loading‘ form of Wing Chun, by that I mean hitting. There are the so-called ‚emergency‘ techniques, which though I understand the validity of the applications, too many are too specific to be of wider use, I prefer using the moves of the ALL of the forms as concept or principle based, rather than application led.
The form is full of Man Sau, Biu Sau/Gee and Cup Jarn, finding, striking and finishing.
CHANGE FROM LEARNING CONCEPTS TO APPLICATION
As with all of the Wing Chun system the learning process is a balance of opposites, a statement of the Ying/Yang theory. There is learning and application, ‚doing‘ and ‚thinking‘, these are two totally different mechanisms or brain processes involved and to utilise them fully the knowledge development functions of each must be understood and linked together as two sides of a coin. One without the other makes it incomplete.
OPENING OF FORM
The changes in the opening of the form signifies a change in intent, widening the application of legs to defensive principles of covering changing attacking lines and introducing to striking with the same hand in succession, along with in-contact ‚twitch‘ energies.
Introducing the Cup Jarn and the variations to its application, and the ‚what if‘ response to three basic scenarios and the third level defence of the vulnerable elbow.
Concepts and principles involved with double Gan Sau, Man Sau, Huen Sau and Biu Sau.
Introducing another dynamic tension technique, and the bringing together whole body concepts in real applications of, find, control and finish, and the ending of the form understood as a ‘warm down’ technique.
THEORY OF ONE FORM IN WING CHUN
Years ago I heard of the story that Leung Jan was reported to say that the person who would do the most for Wing Chun was the one who would bring it together in one form.
And I have witnessed the idiotic attempts of those trying to fulfil this prophecy by simply creating a hotchpotch of the Siu Lim Tao, Chum Kiu and Biu Gee, without any thought or reason.
It is not in the creation of a new form that is required, but a change in the appreciation of the forms that are already in existence and how they are approached, developed and understood.
By appreciating the three forms as simply parts of one form rather than three separate forms, you can begin the important process of visualising Wing Chun as a complete system, working from isolating individual body parts and understanding and developing the mechanical processes, to the bringing together of the whole body as a single unit dealing with physical confrontation.
From the point of contact with the floor, to the fingertips, the three forms cover all aspects of personal body mechanics involved in collisions.
From learning to perceive attacks to the individuals centreline and defending it, to focusing on the opponents centreline as a main object of attack.
From strengthening the legs, posture and upper body, to learning to bring them all together and use in application.
From learning to relax, meditate and breathe healthily, to developing intent of violence rather than practising aggression.
The forms can cover all aspects of personal body mechanics and psychological development related to conflict.
PROMOTION OF SELF-DEVELOPMENT
By the time an individual has got to and beyond Biu Gee they should have a good knowledge of self-analysis, not just being able to be self-critical, whether positive or negative, as to the correctness of movements and application of forms, they should be also be able to identify their personal learning requirements, becoming aware of the developmental stage of Wing Chun that they have attained.
Recognising the stage of development that that they have achieved and identifying the path of future steps or training regimes that have yet to be taken to fulfil their potential, are more to do with the appreciation of SELF, than the physical ability of the individual.
Paramount to this self-development is the guidance of the sifu/sensei/trainer/master/guru/teacher/facilitator/whatever, they must be open minded enough to allow an individual to become their own person, rather than a carbon copy or clone of them. Those that maintain the pedestal of the demigod can only restrain the development of the ability of the individual.
Just as Ying and Yang depicts the balance of opposites, the ‘good teacher and bad teacher’ scenario reflects in the knowledge passed on, not the system it is based on, all martial arts that have stood the test of time have shown that they work and should be respected, that cannot be said for ALL martial artists/instructors.
REALISTIC UNDERSTANDING OF CHANGING CENTRELINES
Basic nose-to-nose understanding of the centreline starts in Siu Lim Tao, where you are also introduced to the possibility of changing directions in the second third. Chum Kiu relates to the three varying centreline concepts, straightforward from square out from the centre of the body, 90˚ left and 90˚ right.
By focusing on just these three points you can learn to be accurate with your delivery as well as appreciating the varying lines in and out from the body along the centrelines.
In training Chum Kiu can be diversified to cover so many aspect of physical confrontation; I use Chum Kiu to begin the process of developing ‘INTENT’. ‘Intent’ is a term I use for visualising the reality of violence and the response that the level of violence offered requires to be nullified.
From Chum Kiu to Biu Gee, there is another leap in developing centreline concepts and from the Wooden Dummy comes another level of questioning of situation led application rather than the abstract, exaggerated techniques of the forms.
LINES OF DEFENCE AND ATTACK
As the understanding develops the ‘lines in’ takes over importance rather that the simple nose to nose centreline concept. These can be easily identified from the attachment of the limbs to the body; arms are attached to the shoulder, the legs to the hip, so that the angles of attack are restricted by this simple statement.
One word of warning though, always beware of the one-armed Aborigine, as if he pulls his false arm off and throws it, you will not only be unsure of the angle of attack but when it will hit boomerang fashion!
There are many aspects of dummy training that I have re-evaluated over the years, as with the entire Wing Chun syllabus, I have to have reasoning to back up the concepts and principles of practice; yet it must maintain its simplicity and adherence to basic science and commonsense.
MOVEMENTS AND CHANGING CENTRELNES
The simple unmoving structure of the dummy forces the practitioner to move around and change the alignment of defence and attack concepts, yet it must be remembered that with all the forms that it is an abstract and exaggerated.
To keep an open mind as to the ways that the techniques can be applied realistically, relating to the underlying theoretical application rationale can be difficult through the obvious abstract physical nature of the dummy itself.
One of the many other advantages of the dummy is that it lets you use full power without holding back with respect for the training partner. It is a mistake to think of the dummy as a conditioning tool, it does have that effect but mainly as a side effect rather than a primary objective.
LINKING TECHNIQUES AND CONCEPTS
As with the three forms it would be a mistake to think of the techniques of the dummy form as literal applications.
However all the techniques from the form can be practiced as realistic applications when linked to the appropriate concept from the section of the form that is being investigated.
It is only in the way that the theories are related to the form that are abstract due to the physical nature of the dummy; the theories themselves are simple and straightforward.
The obviousness of the concept being evaluated is stunningly mind-blowing and always begs the questions and statements;
“That’s so simple I could have thought of that!”
“It’s so obvious why don’t others say this?”
“I can see how it works, but why can’t I do it?”
I can only answer questions related to my personal views and beliefs and leave it to others to justify their own explanations, I am open to discuss theory and application with anyone, I have put myself on the ‘pedestal’ of being an instructor so must be able to justify my thinking through reasoning, not just using my experience and position to batter down any student who has the audacity to question me.
I said earlier that I promote questions as it shows students are thinking for themselves and not being obedient sponges.
Once the basic theories of Wing Chun have been identified and understood, by placing them into the techniques of the form so that they can be repetitively practiced, and then taking them out and analysing the basic concepts behind them in a real application format, we can build belief in the system and its methods.
IDENTIFYING BODY MECHANICS
The beauty of the dummy form is in the fact that it introduces the body to ‘reactant energies’ the feedback that occurs when there is a collision, we can thank Isaac Newton for his Laws and by taking them at their most basic, we can visualise what is actually going on at the moment of impact.
The dummy offers the resistance and therefore the opportunity for the brain to analyse the ‘feeling’ of the muscles coming into play and being used.
BUT ONLY IF IT IS MADE AWARE OF THAT IS WHAT IT IS DOING!
If you are not looking to solve a problem them it will remain a mystery.
If you are not aware of what you can achieve, then it will remain unobtainable.
If you rely on hindsight to learn, you must survive to do so.
Wing Chun is simple knowledge and understanding of body mechanics applied to conflict scenarios and as a learning program it must be kept pure and de-personalised.
REFERENCING BACK TO FORMS
Continual referencing back to all three of the forms to increase the depth of knowledge of a technique is an essential process of self-development.
The techniques of the forms never change from the first lesson to the end of days; they only develop through understanding the ‘ifs and buts’ that are inherent when applying them as your experience level grows and the ability to visualise differing situation led application.
The two weapons of Wing Chun are without doubt redundant as far as ‘weapons of war’ are concerned. The value of both the pole and the knives however cannot be denied if they are appreciated for the benefits that they offer, once more from an abstract rather than practical viewpoint.
When I began my Wing Chun training I was told of the existence of two pole forms, a 6½ and a 3½ point pole form, the 3½ point pole form was supposed to be the most advanced. (There are many who disagree with the existence of the 3½ but we are all allowed our opinions!)
It took me years of analysis, cross referencing and visualisation to understand and develop ‘my view’ of the pole forms, but I believe that eventually I have a concept and principle led theory that not only justifies their practice and existence, but gives them a vital role in developing and completing Wing Chun as a holistic system of training.
BART CHAM DO FORM
As with the pole forms it took me many years to justify the knife form to be relevant in a modern realistic application led system, after my Sifu I was the first to learn the full Bart Cham Do and the first to perform it in public in the U.K.
There are those that do not think of the knife form as anything else than an anachronism, without use; however I have spent the years not only teaching it to students, but also developing an insight to its depth of use and application to the system as a whole and especially in the development of ‘twitch energies’.
To understand ‘My Chi Sau’ it has to be experienced through actual contact, you can get some idea from video or downloads of past seminars, but as I have been developing my understanding of it continuously over the last twenty six years and especially in the last dozen or so with relation with the teaching of personal body mechanics and ‘twitch energies’ so it needs practical rather than theoretical discussion.
DAN CHI SAU/LAP SAU/BASIC ROLLING/BASIC TECHNIQUES/DEVELOPING UNDERSTANDING/IDENTIFYING RELEVANT/REPETITIVE PRACTICES/INTRODUCTION TO ENERGIES AND THEIR LINKAGES/ADVANCED CHI SAU METHODS AND APPLICATION
Entry techniques are the steps ‘onto the bridge’ that Chi Sau represents between forms and fighting.
UNDERSTANDING THE ESSENTIAL ASPECTS OF ENTRY TECHNIQUES AND THEIR RELATION TO REALISTIC APPLICATION
Off loading is the steps ‘off the bridge’, the end point to a conflict situation, once an opponent has been identified, asked a question, controlled, they are then eliminated ASAP.
KNOWLEDGE OF THE SEQUENCE OF REAL APPLICATION FROM ENTRY TECHNIQUES THROUGH CHI SAU TO OFF-LOADING
So ends my ‘brief introduction to TJ Wing Chun!
I offer a variety of seminar formats so that you can chose which suits your needs and that of your students.
There are to be a number of downloads available of my past seminars to give you an idea of ‘my style’ and content of the seminars to show I am value for money.
I am a name known to a few, not Chinese, or ever taught by Yip Man, all I offer is my experience and knowledge with the will and ability to get others to understand themselves the way I understand myself.
To simply know Wing Chun, as simple as it is.