How’s the grey matter going; are there some gears turning round in there, any sparks and smoke coming out of the dome yet? I’m sure that if you’ve given some thought to my last posting – some good, serious thought – and sprinkled it with a bit of logic (which often helps in Wing Chun, as it has a great deal of logic running through its training methods), you’ll have worked out an answer for the outside arm (the fook sao)’s counter, where we left off at the last post. At least I hope you’ve given things a bit of a stir in the ol’ pot and challenged yourself to do a bit of thinking. In any case, let’s pick up where we left off.
A (tan sao) had initiated a palm strike to B from the inside, aiming toward B’s face in a linear attack. B (fook sao) launched an attack to counter the strike, adding a bit more oomph to it by ‘squeezing’ the elbow in and down toward the centreline, forcing A’s strike to be deflected away from the centre. Sensing the energy of the redirection, A used a circle to borrow B’s linear energy, to rotate its shape into a bong sao, continuing forward and applying pressure to neutralise B’s attack. All the while, A remained true to the core principles of going forward with the force and applying pressure to defend by attacking. So where now, does this leave B?
Just as A had to feel B’s energy and ‘accept’ it in order to work out the path of least resistance and find the place where the change in the flow had to come, so too must B do the same. If B persists in trying to “win” and continues to try to force his bent-arm punch through, he/she is likely to stiffen up, allowing his/her structure to be disrupted by A. B ends up fighting force with force and locking up, or usually tries to extend the arm in a last ditch effort to hit A. If the latter happens, B’s made a huge mistake, giving away good structure for a bad one, trying to sneak the punch through despite all the signals to the contrary. By providing a long lever to A, B also provides a great opening for A to exploit on the inside line, which A can do by extending the bong sao arm into a thrust to B’s face, while also taking B’s centre of gravity. From there, A can pretty much have his/her way.
B must therefore find the ‘point of no return’, that place of change that will occur through the interactive flow between the arms and then must make a change that is appropriate to deal with the change of A’s intention from a palm strike to a bong sao. Instead to trying to force a round peg through the square hole as we’ve just discussed in the last paragraph, B must realise that A’s rotation to a bong sao has created a new line from which A can now pressure B. That line too, gets neutralised by a circle as B also learns to put a cog onto the arm.
As B starts to feel A’s arm rotating to the bong sao, B should then rotate his/her arm from a punch into a tan sao. That rotation now puts a different energy onto A’s structure, neutralising the bong sao and applying a downward-feeling pressure onto A’s arm, although B is continuing to apply a forward and threatening pressure without pushing A’s arm downward. B remains true to the basic concept of applying forward force to defend A’s counter with an attacking energy from proper use of his/her structure and understanding of core principles of the system. The counter is thus countered, and this is only one of an infinite number of changes that can/will occur through Wing Chun’s unique chi sao training; it is what gives us an edge because we learn through constant repetitions, to deal reflexively and unconsciously with changes in combat. OSF gets dramatically reduced and we learn to take obstructions and changes as just part of our training.
If you think of the single-arm chi sao drill, in the greater scheme of life, like the beginnings of your childhood education, carry the parallels through on your own.
Further variations that come from the single-arm drill are learned as you discover the pluses and minuses of being on the inside or the outside, of using your left arm instead of your right, of changing the drill here instead of there, and of general and infinite experimentation that will come from pressure changes, direction changes, timing changes, combination changes, etc, etc. You are limited only by your imagination and enthusiasm to expand your horizons. Think of these as your primary school days, mostly having fun and learning good and proper habits that will take you into adolescence.
Move on to double-arm drills, or seung chi sao, where everything gets a bit more complicated. We’re moving into high school now, where one supposedly is trying to narrow down options as to what to do with one’s life. Puberty, hormones, first loves and broken hearts, applying for and getting your first job, learning to drive, drinking to excess and all the ups and downs which come with such experiences. Parallel that with learning luk sao (rolling hands) and random gor sao (free fighting), coupled with all the variations that doing different things with two arms simultaneously will bring. We may as well add footwork in, and kicking, and anything else you want to toss in, and we’ve moved on to university studies and life careers, and even marriage if it’s in your cards.
Don’t forget too, that all the while, your repeated and consistent training of such drills not only forms good physical reflexes, coordination and skills but it also lessens the effects of the OSF‘s that come with changes in the routines and drills. The progressive and modular design of Wing Chun’s training methods allows for a gradual progression of stress inoculation to occur in the mind as well. This aids immensely in one’s abilities to remain calm and in control mentally and emotionally when change disrupts one’s routines, be they physical or emotional ones. Handling changes and the stresses that come with them becomes easier to accept and to deal with in all facets of your life.
In Wing Chun, we really do have an ideal system of martial arts and self-defence, but scratch it a little deeper and you can also find, through its thorough and logical training methods, an excellent framework from which one can live and enjoy a full and enriched life as well.
Musings by Sifu Dana P Wong is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.