Archive for September, 2007

Wing Chun (trip to Hong Kong)

September 30, 2007

The first two weeks of August I went to Hong Kong with my Wing Chun kung fu class, a mixture of training and holiday. Our Sifu, Shaun Rawcliffe, is brilliant and takes real care of his students. He took around 40 of us and we all had a great time and the trip was extremely well organised. As someone pointed out it was incredible that for such a large party of people no one got lost, there were no accidents and no-one fell out with one another.

The purpose of the trip was to be trained by the Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Chun who is now in his 80s and still going strong. Our Si Gung, Ip Chun, did a seminar for us where one of the things he pointed out was the importance of relaxation. If you are relaxed and not worrying about getting hit then there is less chance of you freezing, getting hurt and forgetting to put what you have learned into practice. Also if you’re too tense you will not move with the speed that some of the techniques require.

The Wing Chun system is said to be one of the most efficient and effective systems of Chinese Kung Fu, and even though it’s a fighting system designed to be used at close range, it does not rely on bulldozing your way into an opponent using a lot of physical strength. One of the Chinese students that I train with said that he and his son took up Wing Chun because it was more suited for smaller framed people. Indeed, this is what made me take up the system as it was, allegedly, developed by a woman therefore I reasoned that it would be suitable for smaller, less muscular people.

(The only martial art that I’ve ever practiced is Wing Chun but earlier on in the year I went with Nad to see the World Tae Kwon Do championships and was surprised at how many women were competing. I’ve heard that martial arts such as kick boxing and tae kwon do attract more female students quite possibly because these systems have a higher profile and more publicity. The majority of students in the Wing Chun classes I’ve attended are male.)

The techniques Wing Chun uses to deal with blows tend to be deflective, rather than blocking, techniques. Tan sau and bong sau are techniques used to deflect blows to the upper body and one of the questions I asked Sifu was why I kept on getting bruising on my arms when practicing these. He told me that if I got bruises that I needed to be looking at my technique and that I was clashing with my partner, as in using a block, rather than deflecting the force of the blow away from me. So I needed to look at my technique to find out where the clash was occurring.

The fact that the system is touted as being one that does not rely so much on physical strength made me think that it was one of the more easier martial arts to learn, however, I now think that it is one of the more difficult. (Though I may be wrong about this as I’ve only ever studied Wing Chun and therefore have nothing to compare it with.) A lot of what makes Wing Chun effective is the bodily structures that it uses to deal with incoming strikes to the body and getting these structures correct I have found to be no trivial matter. A subtle movement one way or the other can make the difference between the technique working and getting it completely wrong or it not being so effective. I think it is also easier and more natural to rely on physical strength, especially if you are strong anyway, and I’ve noted that the people who seem to do well at Wing Chun take an almost a scientific approach, move very tidily and try hard to get their stance and structures correct. Thankfully through practice with training partners I am finding that the structures do work for me when I get them right.

I’ve been practicing Wing Chun for about a year now and am still a bit miffed that I’m not like Bruce Lee 🙂 But of course this is completely unrealistic. What I realise now is that Wing Chun will take me years of training and even then there’ll still be something to learn. It’s a lifetime’s work but perhaps, like yoga, it can be something that you get better at as you get older.

As for Hong Kong I found it to be a marvellous place and a very beautiful city. Considering it’s so built up and with so many skyscrapers their architects must be wonderful to have created a
skyline that is a thing of beauty. It is also a very safe city and I had no problem walking back to the hotel on my own in the early hours of the morning. The only thing you have to watch out for are pick pockets. It’s also an easy city to get around with a very efficient metro and train system. If you go Island hopping by ferry (I went to both Lantau and Lamma island as well as to Macao) you can see beautiful, sub-tropical countryside and lovely beaches.

My flickr stream gives an idea of what you can see if you visit Hong Kong.