Archive for the ‘Wing Chun’ Category

Bong Sau notes

August 11, 2008

When I asked here “is Bong Sau a deflective technique” well the answer is no, apparently. Bong Sau is certainly not a block, but neither is it a deflection; it is used purely for sensing where your opponent’s arm is and once you have made contact, and have that information, then the technique has fulfilled its purpose. One of the Sifus tonight gave us a demonstration to show that you could hardly see the technique when he applied it. As soon as he made contact and knew where the strike was coming from then, quick as lightening, he went into another technique to deal with the strike.

When practising the bong lap drill tonight my partner and I slowed it down considerably which I found very useful. Fast drilling of the techniques is rewarding and afterwards you feel as if you’ve had a good work out, but as we’re learning we also need to slow down and think about what we’re doing. My training partner gave the useful analogy of learning to write; when you learn to write as a child you start very slowly but as an adult you can dash off your signature in no time. I suppose Wing Chun is similar to any other manual skill, such as carpentry or bricklaying, in that you need to start slowly but you’ll get faster as you progress to master craftsman stage, i.e., Bruce Lee 🙂

Wing Chun (notes on importance of relaxation)

January 9, 2008

This week Sifu reiterated the importance of relaxation and of maintaining the correct structure. When practicing fook sau or tan sau, and when your partner is pressing into you, concentrate on maintaining the angle of the shape (by using your triceps); if you try to counter by tensing your biceps and using strength you will fail if you are weaker, and even if you are stronger you will tire yourself.

To paraphrase Sifu:

Tension slows you down – tension in the muscles decreases speed.
Tension shows intention (your opponent can see or feel what you will do next).

Unfortunately, Monday night I yet again got bruises on my arms through not applying the tan sau structure correctly. Tonight one of the instructors took me through it slowly and it was interesting to feel how tan sau should be when applied properly. There should be no clashing, but friction, as your opponents arm travels down yours as the blow is deflected rather than blocked. Wrist must be kept straight in line with the forearm and fingers extended. The clash seemed to occur perhaps because I wasn’t turning enough in my stance or wasn’t turning the arm fully into the tan sau position (the arm should “corkscrew” up into position). I was perhaps also pushing outwards with the forearm rather than concentrating on the centre line.

Bong Sau and Tan Sau notes

December 5, 2007

The wrist is on the centre line and when turning from bong sau to tan sau (as in the 3rd section of siu nim tao) the wrist should stay in the same place. Tan Sau stays roughly a fist and thumb distance away from the body with the elbow in line with the hip. Both bong sau and tan sau can be higher or lower depending on the height of your partner (tan sau should point roughly at your partner’s throat/chin as you can strike more efficiently from that position).

Bong sau is not necesarily a deflective technique (is it a deflective technique at all?) but is used to gain information. Once you’ve turned out of the way of the strike bong sau is put into place to tell where your opponent’s arm/elbow is and then you can countermove from there. From when you are in the basic stance bong sau moves through the centreline and then “corkscrews” up into position at the last moment to avoid clashing.

Chi Sao

December 3, 2007

Tonight during Wing Chun training we concentrated almost solely on Chi Sao which my Sifu describes as “play fighting” in that it is not an all out brawl, there are certain rules and niceties and the attitude should be that you are there to learn. Sifu’s useful analogy was that of tiger cubs playing – they need to learn to hunt but they don’t want to kill each other so they go through all the motions but with their claws in; so there’s an element of trust involved as well as assertiveness (and controlled aggression maybe?)

One of the more difficult things I find about Wing Chun is that you’ve got to get over your British reserve and get physically close to people. I find this difficult, especially with a training partner I’m only mildly acquainted with. During Chi Sao I feel stupid because I don’t know what move to make next. I feel silly and embarrassed when someone gets through. I feel guilty and embarrassed when I get through someone’s defences and usually end up apologising for it. Also I feel that the men I train with are just indulging me and fear that they think they would get more out of training with another male. I also suffer from what I call “body dyslexia”, for want of a better phrase, which means that I may be able to do the moves when practising on my own but that it all goes to pot and I forget my left from my right when paired up with a training partner.

I think it true to say that during Chi Sao I’m just a bundle of conflicting impulses with a cloud of free floating anxiety on top.

I wonder if this kind of contact is perhaps easier for men because as children they’ve usually played some sort of contact sport at school (it may have changed for girls now but netball was about the only contact sport I did at school).

Controlled aggression may play a part in it but one of the guys I consider to be very good at Chi Sau seems to have absolutely no ego – if you get through (not that I often do!) he doesn’t take offence but always wants to know why and asks you to repeat what you did more slowly so that he can learn from it.

There is definitely a lot of cognitive processing going on during Chi Sao and I’m not quite sure what kind of body and brain combined intelligence is involved, but it appears to me that there’s great deal of skill involved in predicting your partners moves and coming up with a skilful countermoves.

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.