How Do You Know It Works?
The ability to successfully use Wing Chun or any martial art in a real life
situation can be difficult. First of all you must learn to understand your
own body and mind. Once you are able to do this, then you will have the
capability to understand your opponent in any given situation. This, however,
When practising Wing Chun or any other style for a long time people often to
question themselves as to whether a technique really works. I believe that when
practising each drill or form the technique needs to be internalised. It should
have the time to soak into the mind and body. Otherwise, the technique will not
come out freely when the opportunity and situation arises.
Each technique should be given time to grow. All the techniques in the Wing Chun
system are valid, they all just used in different ways depending on the dynamics
of the situation.
The answer as to what works and what doesn't work eventually needs to tested, and
this comes to light when sparring or doing drills with an opponent; but each
person must know when they have won or lost in order for them to improve and
understand each technique and know how and when to use it. They shouldn't be just
clouding their minds by seeing how many hits they can exchange.
Wing Chun is both strategic and tactical and could be compared to a game of
Chess. It needs a cool, clear head and experience.
Wing Chun Forms
Siu lim tao, chum kiu, biu jee, pole, knife and the wooden dummy - these are all
forms used when practising.
Each form is an extension of each other. The siu lim tao (first form) will teach
the practitioner to stay in a position feeling their own movement and
understanding their body, as well as feeling each technique in movement.
Whereas chum kiu (second form) teaches one to move the body and legs in
time and coordination with each other. In a sparring scenario you may not have
the time to think so the body will have to take over. After studying these
forms very well you will acquire the necessary skills and you will be able to
implement these in practice. Each movement in the forms, no matter how
small or subtle they may seem is used in real application.
In sparring you learn how to go from siu lim tao to chum kiu and visa versa, or
even into biu jee. These forms dont work in isolation. They can be mixed
using any combination of forms. i.e. a person may punch straight into
your face, but you have no time to respond with a punch so biu sao (thrusting
finger) may be used. Some times you can see the punch coming and so you may
be able meet the punch with a punch. Therefore, the technique utilized from a
particular form will be dependant on scenario presented.
Testing Your Chun
It can be amazing seeing a dialogue between a number of Wing Chun practitioners about the rights and wrongs of certain techniques or motions. And you can see a huge exageration of these sorts of encounters in cyberspace, which lends itself to even more diverse and widespread communication.
Trawling through the www, you can see the passionate die-hards vermently defending the position of their tan sau or the weight distribution of the front and rear legs in their stance. I recently saw about 60 emails messages in one thread discussing the merits and pitfalls of having the weight 100% on the back foot.
The same happened recently with my teacher and myself and a friend of mine from a nearby school of a different lineage in London. He was keen to understand the position of our gan sau technique. So rather than get caught up with aforementioned type of discussion, which typically gets nowhere, my teacher simply asked does your way work, to which he replied yes. So Sifu did a low hook into his lower section. The defending gan sau sought of flew uselessly in the air as a fist connected with his lower ribs. Pain seemed to be a great teacher and reality in this instance. Sifu then showed him a different way, to which he managed to stop the same force easily.
Memories started flooding back into my friends mind as to before he did his 10 years of Wing Chun and he was studying Choy Le Fut. He recalled how his teacher showed him how to do the same technique in the latter effective method. However, he decided to blindly follows his current Wing Chun teachers rationale and did it the other way. All well and good, but he hadnt tested it out. Fortunately, he found out its effectiveness in a non-hostile situation. So, whether it the height of the tan sau or the position of the stance. Dont take anything for granted. Test your chun.
Learning How To Learn:
I have found that it can be extremely difficult to comprehend everything that one first learns and know how to put it into practice; it takes time.
I always express to my students to learn how one can hit and why one gets hit, and not just concentrate on winning at any cost. I have seen many students run into situations without thinking and getting hit just because an opponent does not care if he gets hit. Their attitude is that whoever is the strongest will win.
I teach my students to look at martial arts as an art form and to develop a strong, positive, mental attitude. This is because some people are born to be submissive and feel fear at the thought of being attacked, so one must learn to overcome that fear and then begin training. If one does not trust, how can one fight? It is a way of life and helps one to understand oneself and help others.
I find that it is very important to elaborate a little on attitudes, philosophies and morality, as well as on the technical side. I think that if one can use the basics very well then he knows he is on the right path. I find that each student learns what not to do after practicing for a long time. One thing about any art form is that one can spend a lifetime practicing. However, if one does not have the basics he will come to regret it later, it is my conclusion that there are no secrets in any art form, but merely the details that compose each art form.
One must know their own ability in order to successfully use the art in a real life situation, but this depends on whether one trusts himself. Some people can not overcome fear so they need to learn how to do this. One thing I always stress to my students is that nobody can perform for you, you have to perform for yourself One will know what he can do in practice when he touches an opponents hands. There will be no false security in his fighting ability.
In the past many students have told me they only like to practice with certain people. This is because some students have attitude problems by beating the weaker students or beginners. If students just hit or beat someone who is weak with no fighting experience, how can he improve. I tell my students to assume that his opponent is physically strong and intelligent and knows something, therefore one will never take anyone for granted. I also say that if they lose a fight not to worry because they are still learning. What one should do is understand why one lost and try to improve oneself, but I have found that some students do not like to lose even in a playful fight or some just do not play at all just in case they lose. I tell all my students to play to enjoy, then one will get many aspects from it. If one fights all the time without thinking about what one is doing he will not benefit from it. Everyone can learn from each other if they want to because everyone knows something; even if it is a little bit, it could be important. Some students and even teachers think that when you have practiced for a long time there is no need to practice anymore techniques, but they seem to forget that one needs to practice what has been learnt in the past if he wants to keep it.
Students who hit too hard or fight with no control in practice will find that no one will want to train with them. Later these students end up practicing by themselves, because they have an attitude. What these people do not realize is that their standard will drop and they will have no one to show them their holes or correct them. My students are taught that it is a two-way progression so they all need each other to improve. It is important that all students in the school get along with one another, but it if there is an attitude problem or bad atmosphere in the school no one will benefit in learning because there is not a balance.
Whilst practicing I make the taller, stronger students practice with the smaller students in order that the smaller students get used to a bigger, stronger and more powerful opponent so that he does not feel intimidated by him. Learning how to relax in a fighting situation can he difficult. One can only learn this by sparring. To test oneself one has to put into practice what has been learnt When sparring with other classmates there is not enough time to think, your reaction must be instantaneous so each student has the opportunity to find out what can he done. What one must understand is that what works for one may not work for another, therefore one must understand why it did or did not work; there is always a reason. If it were a real fight there would not be a second chance, this is why we practice.
Some people think that some techniques do not work. I find that it is not that it does not work, it is the technique being used and at what time. For example, if your opponent hits the lower part of your body and you block in the middle, what has happened is that you used the wrong movement. It all depends on the situation Wing Chun is not a fixed art, one can not move unless your opponent reacts Therefore one needs to think a lot for oneself. When in a fight it is just himself and his opponent. I have always said that Wing Chun can be performed effectively, it all depends on the individual. The art is fine it has been here for centuries. I find that there are a lot of theories based on principles of engineering and strategy. The art is also based on elementary geometry. It all comes down to when fighting who has the advantage or disadvantage to determine the winner.
Practitioners from other systems tell me that Wing Chun never does well in competitions. This is correct. Wing Chun is an art form not just for fighting. I tell my students why they should not go into competitions or ring fighting, It is not because they cannot fight, it is because there are so many rules they will lose mainly because they will not be able to use 90% of their techniques. Things such as knees, elbow, fingers, grabbing, pulling and kicking low cannot be used if one wants to trap their opponent, and there is also a referee. But I do tell my students that if they want to try, they would have to learn boxing, high kicks and wear gloves which turns things into a different ball game; one will not be going in there using Wing Chun.
I find that using Wing Chun is a tool kit of movements, if one cannot use them in practice why waste ones time learning them! There are three forms with techniques and just like any other system they are there for a reason.
Knowing that there is always more to learn and experience is our greatest teacher.
What Is The Right Way?
When learning Martial Arts we always ask ourselves, are we learning it the right way? Only tine will tell. The teacher cannot answer this for you, he can only teach what he knows.
Learning Martial Arts all depends on what one is looking for. For example, some people prefer physical training, sparring, or keep fit training. Others look for a non-contact art form, or something that can give them, a strong, positive mental attitude.
How does one know what is right for them?
In he past I have found that the best way to find out which art form is the right one, is to shop around and see how each art differs. For example, when one goes to buy a pair of shoes one has the choice to decide whether to buy an expensive pair or a cheaper pair. It all boils down to what one can afford. Just like when one learns Kung Fu he/she has to decide whether they have the patience and perseverance; but at least they had the chance to see the distinction between the two.
Most of the time we put trust in our teacher and we sometimes do not ask questions about techniques or positioning. But if we do not ask, how do we know that we are on the right path? We sometimes look at our Kung Fu teacher as more than just a teacher. We must realise that teachers are humans too. Teachers are there to help their students improve and give them a sense of direction; the fighting aspect is extra. We are all looking for a good teacher, but what we must also understand is that every teacher is looking for a good student.
If one wants to learn, it must be a two way process. For example, if a teacher does not want to teach, how can one learn, and if the student does not want to listen how can the teacher help them to improve. So if both teacher and student do not get along with each other no one will benefit, especially the student, because the teacher already knows.
The Art Form
I always say to people who come down to my school, that if they wish to learn my art form it takes time just to do the basics.
If one goes to collage or university to get a good education he/she would have to study for three to four years, after which time that person is ready to go out into the work force where the learning process continues. Likewise, if it has taken many teachers over 10 years to be efficient, how can one expect to become efficient in a couple of years.
One thing each person has to learn is to open their eyes and mind and learn to think for themselves. One must not put all the pressure on the teacher for him or her to progress; everyone has the ability to improve them self.
I always tell people to look around at other Kung Fu schools, and whether they come back or not I am extremely happy that they have found something which, they can relate to; mainly because we are all family in the Martial arts world.