Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver Blog
The Wing Tsun reverse-engineering story
First off; it’s a story, no more, no less. Based on historical research? No. It is not just the origin of some martial arts that is buried in a mountain of fables for cultural reasons or due to political, meaning business interests. Real and wannabe experts have over the years revealed important pieces of history, of which some in the end turned out to be fragments of some people’s martial arts business agenda.
All glorifications of historical figures and origin stories aside, many forget that all martial arts are man-made, often forged over a long period of time.
Now back to the topic which is based on a few written down notes, after talks that happened almost 25 years ago.
It was the early 90’s. After long days of hard training at the Langenzell castle, we enjoyed lengthy leisurely dinners, somewhere near Wiesenbach or in Heidelberg. This is how it started. With some of the at the time advanced technician grades, we began to talk about an imagine-what-if scenario. And no, I won’t be naming any names.
What if Wing Tsun was at one point in time, even partially, a made to order fight system, demanded by members of the triads.
Many existing Kung Fu styles used double knives, butterfly knives, short swords. They were easy to conceal. Worked well against long or short weapons. Also against flexible weapons. Seems like a logical choice for weapons used by future assassins.
This kind of ordered fight system was surely intended to be taught in a relatively short time with the vision of vicious applicability.
Now you got a number of double knives experts together and had them teach new recruits. Some prospective practitioners may have turned out not to have sufficient striking, slashing and stabbing power. Wrist exercises like the triple-wagging hand may have been introduced. Supported by piercing punches, whisking arms and thrusting fingers, all added to prepare the students to work with the butterfly knives. Those single drills eventually forming a pre Biu-Dje set of technical training tools. Somewhat resembling a weaponless copy of the future double knives form.
Now the instructors noticed that their new trainees couldn’t produce adequate power out of their whole body movements. To support their training, turning stances, steps and kicks were introduced. Steps for mobility. Kicks as balance and structure exercises. In coordination with arm techniques a rudimentary form was created, which later build the Cham-Kiu form.
Maybe it became apparent that the apprentices still lacked fundamentals, didn’t have enough wrist power, stiff shoulders. The stance wasn’t rooted enough. The elbows weak. The need arose to form stretching and elongating exercises, whilst preparing mentally for the rigorous training. The foundation was laid for the first form, including breathing exercises.
The first form becoming an inner, a ChiKung form, strengthening the upper three joints; shoulders, elbows and wrists. The second form focused on technical recommendations and to generate force in the lower three joints, the power generators or engines if you will. The ankles, knees and hips.The third form used the spine as the seventh “joint” to connect and combine the lower three and the upper three engines, thus generating a power flow from fingertips to toes, encouraging whiplash-like whole body motions that culminated in Wing Tsun’s unique ways of employing the double knives.
The next generation started at the new beginning, the new first form, the Siu-Nim-Tau form.
I don’t care if you think it’s silly. I still like that what-if story.
Yesterday you said tomorrow!
Today on Sunday I met one of our former students at Costco. We were briefly talking about how he misses his training. He misses the training partners, the ones who helped him many times to achieve the ‘high’ you get after a workout that you thought you can’t get through.He keeps dreaming about mastering Kung Fu one day. The Yip Man movies got to him, reminded him of the opportunities he keeps missing year after year.He misses the comradery, the open-air classes, the seminars, the beach classes.
I meet him about three times a year.
Read above again. It is every time the same talk.
I told him to come to class tomorrow. But he is busy.
“Yesterday you said tomorrow!”
It reminds me of the ‘Songify this’ version of a motivational speech, my daughter showed me. By Shia LaBeouf. Nothing I could add.
Your life is your lifeThe forms, the repetitionsYou should get to the pointWhere anyone else would quitYou’re gonna wake upAnd work hard at itJust do itNothing is impossibleJust Do ItYesterday you said tomorrowJust Do ItDon’t let your dreams be dreams!The more often you do itThe more light there will be!
Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhRXn2NRiWI
P.S.: Once you listened to the song, you won’t be able to read the text lines anymore. You will sing, or at least hum them.
Weapons Chambers, a support tool for teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu
The video-clip, from which you may have found your way to this blog post, shows only a few options described further down. Options are shown in the video with wider and extended movements to develop a better feel for whole-body motion. To create a vision. It doesn't show sparring or fighting.
Our motion training following two of my favourite quotes by Stop Chasing Pain, Perry Nickelston:
"Fast, we do what we know (habit). It's easy to fall back into poor habits. Slow, you learn new patterns.Embrace slowness in movement!"
"Do a movement pattern slow and then you own it. Structure requirements change. Momentum is often an inherent 'cheat' to cover up a glitch in the pattern."
I had fantastic opportunities since the mid 80’s to learn from a variety of amazing WingTsun instructors. Among many aspects worth mentioning, what was one of the major qualities that set them apart? They were constantly evolving and used ALL the techniques out of the pool available within the system.
Yes, I am talking about WT techniques, first presented as neatly packed tool boxes in our (one-man) forms, then trained in movement recommendations in our two-man forms, the Chi-Sau sections. Both are initially movement pattern which we need to train slowly at first, before we own them. Before they can be the base for instinctive, elastic and fluid motion.
Now I hear some say, that the master is supposed to exist in ever-changing motion, not bound by techniques, always adapting, ever progressing.
Absolutely; but most mortals have to start somewhere. You cannot be the formless top-skilled master out of nothingness. Everything needs to have form first. An idea that evolves into a technique, which turns into a movement, which becomes non-stop fluid and explosive whole-body motion. Concept based motion.
For many years I observed that numerous practitioners typically only used their favourite techniques, their preferred drills. While that is the decision of the individual, a good instructor should be responsible enough to present the long-time student with a multitude of options, exploring the whole ART of the martial art of Wing Tsun Kung Fu.
So, I started at seminars to ask the following question: “What does a samurai, a knight, a Roman soldier and a Wing Tsun practitioner have in common?”
I do get some very interesting answers. Imagine, any of the four needed in their time to know all the weapons in their weapons chambers and their use, if it was the long or short sword, the knives, the battle ax, the staff, the spear. You imagine the time period, you name the weapons.
Funny moment in class. One evening one student could only think of a single Fak-Sau, part 4 of the Siu-Nim-Tau. I said, imagine the knight walks in the castle into his weapons chamber and all he finds is a lot of spiderwebs and one single rusty sword in the corner. Wouldn’t be the best start to get ready for battle.
Here and today I am not talking about the concepts behind the technical exercises. So, I usually resume with my next questions:1. How many punches do you know? In which forms do we train what punches how? 2. How many palm-strike variations do you train, where, in which form and how?3. How many Lan-Sau and Fak-Sau variations do you have in your weapons chamber?4. Do you know the contents of your Biu-Dje weapons chamber?
Don’t get me wrong. I do not promote endless dead technical drills, while the “attacker” is frozen in his first attack. I do not mean useless fancy technique series.
Simply put, do you know what tools you train in your forms? Can you take advantage of the technical solutions, the mobility options?Can you switch while training, between working with pressure and responding on mere impulse?Are you capable to respond instantly and complete?Move from linear to circular to spiral to lifting to ‘hooking’ punchesUnderneath or above?Defensive or offensive?Vertical and horizontal and diagonal Fak-Saus? From the ground up and over the top?Sliding actions?Folding whole-body motions?Pulling and pushing scenarios?The preceding are only a few questions, thoughts, training possibilities.And it is OK to have a different opinion and viewpoint. Many forget that all martial arts are man-made. They weren’t handed down from somewhere while singing a lovely hymn.That also doesn’t mean that all solutions are right.
The idea of the weapons chambers is a visualization tool, a teaching and training tool. No more, no less. It helps to explain technical recommendations. Switch easily between wave-like palm-strikes, whiplash-like Fak-Saus, thrusting or piercing punches.
Then the evolution from movement (techniques) to motion (moving in the moment) will have a better basis.
Instructors don’t forget, some “only” want to learn to defend themselves. Others yes, want to explore the martial ART of Wing Tsun Kung Fu with all of its facets.