Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I'm a Fighter Not a Lover...

Most say they take karate/BJJ/kung fu/thai boxing so that they learn how to fight. In other words, person A takes karate so that he can fight. What about person B who wants to defend himself?
1) Should he learn how to fight or 2) Should he learn self-defense? The answer is 2.

It has to be realized that self-defense and fighting are two very different beasts. In essence, fighting is all about "being there" while self-defense all about getting "out of there". Because the purposes are different, the perspectives, training and mindset are also different. Many confuse the two as the same, and that is a huge mistake.

Self-defense is not about whether you punch with the first two knuckles or the last three knuckles and fighting is not about running away from an aggressor. Fighting is not a true measure of self-defense, and neither is self-defense a measure of a good fighter.

It's interesting to note that once this is distinguished, the battle between MMA vs. WT (or substitute with any martial art of your choice) takes a very different turn. Neither is superior over the other.

Think about it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Seminar Part 2

Well last Wednesday we had part 2 of the first 2008 WT seminar. It was another exhausting evening, with the first part of the seminar focusing on repeating certain sections of the chum kiu over and over again. You sure see a wide range of performance even within the same grades. This is expected - some just get it, while others are still on their search.

For the second part of the seminar, I was fortunate enough to be called on for some blind folded chi-sao. My partner was Steve - a personal fitness trainer - who's working on his 1st technician grade. For those of you who say you can't/shouldn't combine weight training and WT, well I would recommend you take a look at Steve (as well Emin Boztepe for that matter...) and reexamine your opinion (you lazy ass).

2 things I came away with from this chi-sao exercise.

  1. The attitude of your partner is extremely important in making this drill exciting, encouraging, competitive, yet friendly and mutual
  2. So much is "lost" under the stress of not being able to see. Sure you know where your partner's arms may be, but you don't know where you are, what you might trip over, what hits you, etc. All these factors collectively contribute as stressors, over stimulating your senses and distracting your brain from "good Wing Tsun". The result? What shines (actions that you can perform well) under this situation is what you REALLY know.
So after all this, what do I know? I know that chain punches are my best friend...and that I need to work harder. It's definitely a good diagnostic test. I highly recommend it. But make sure you have a good partner. If s/he's just killing you all the time, or not giving you the opportunity to return the favour, what good is your time spent with that person? The drill is simply that - a drill and a drill for both partners. Why waste your time with such a selfish partner? You know who I'm talking about - THAT guy who won't take hits and/or let you perform the drill.

Also keep in mind that chi sao is not a measure of fighting skill, much like how the ability to hold one's breath is not a measure of one's swimming ability.


I'd highly recommend you give blind folded chi-sao a go.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

With Performance, Comes Function

Monday night we had part 1 of the first 2008 WT seminar (Part 2 is on Wednesday) and one thing that I took home with me after that (exhausting) session was that with performance, comes function. On the surface, it seems very obvious, but upon retrospect, it makes a whole lotta sense.

It's all about repetition to getting it right - doing it over and over again until the function of a particular movement is discovered. Lets use tan sao as an example. When starting out, you and I both know we are doing nothing more than mimicking tan sao. As much as we want to believe we can perform tan sao - we know that, in the back of our heads, we don't know anything about it. After how many hundreds upon hundreds of repetitions (performance), finally, tan sao is discovered. You understand how it works, what it does and how it happens. Bingo - that's function, my friends.

Once the function of tan sao is discovered, it's up to you if you still want to continue expressing it through tan sao. Hey, if your arms do what tan sao is supposed to do, why does it have to look like tan sao, right?

Like a chef, once he understands how to peel an apple with paring knife, he can use a cleaver to do the same thing. Sure you can fluff up an egg w/ a whisk, but a fork could also do the job, yes?

Ultimately, you can't cheat to find function. It comes through repetition, trial and error, and a bit a of faith. Once you got it, you have to own it - that's right, make it your own. If you want to continue using tan sao, go ahead. If you don't want to, use something else that serves the same purpose as tan sao.

And have fun doing it.

But you gotta make sure you can do tan sao. Without discovering tan sao, you can't deviate from it. How can you deviate from point A if you've never even got to it in the first place?

Your wing chun is bad because you did not defend with a tan sao/punch. FALSE
Your wing chun is bad because you could not defend with a tan sao/punch. TRUE

Monday, February 18, 2008

The WT Vehicle

The WT curriculum is made up of 3 primary components:
  1. Lat-sao
  2. Chi-sao
  3. Forms training
Yes classes will be comprised of other exercises, but these 3 make the foundation of the WT curriculum and other drills are simply variations of the above 3 core components. Now, it is said that what makes WT so different from other wing chun/ving tsun schools is the lat-sao and chi-sao sections. These are pre-determined sections that are taught to student's at their specific grading level. This idea provides some advantages:
  • Students progress in a logical manner,
  • Students create a foundation required for the next level
  • Instructors have to teach ALL aspects of the WT curriculum, not just those that he/she likes to do or can successfully pull off.
Of course there are disadvantages too (eg. increases costs, very business oriented, not inline with traditional student/disciple way of teaching, etc)

Yes this is all fine and dandy, yet under the idea of functional Wing Tsun - the idea is to defend oneself, to knock a guy out, to pummel the attacker to the ground so that you can escape. In essence then, chi-sao, lat-sao and forms training only helps you punch someone better, harder, and faster. What that also means is that WT is, in the end, nothing at all. Wing Tsun is nothing more than the path you have chosen to learn how to knock someone down. It has no say on how you knock a person down, or what techniques you pulled off to make it happen. As long as you're safe and the attacker is down - you, my friend, have just exemplified the meaning of functional wing tsun.

The style of wing chun (or any martial art for that matter) has nothing to do with the ends, only the means. If you can't get to the end of the tunnel, use a different vehicle. If you do get to the end of the tunnel, what do you care about the tunnel anymore?

As such, comparing one style to the next is not a question of which one is more effective, but which is more effective in teaching the you how to defend yourself?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Delicacy of Wing Tsun

Wing Tsun is crap. It's unrealistic, the stance is weak and immobile. It's behind the times of MMA, cross-training and full contact fighting. It's only good for its demos but have no real competitors in MMA. It's filled with "arm-chair" instructors, has a drawn out curriculum, costs an insane amount of money for very little, and is no where near hardcore in its training as, let's say kyokushin, thai boxing or brazilian jiu jitsu. Oh, and the common excuse given by many studying the art is "I could do it, but I don't want to hurt you." Boztepe is a fraud (as he's shunned away from some challenges), Leung Ting is all about the money. They have no idea of what a real grappler can do nor any sense of fighting against a truly uncooperative partner.

So for those of you that practice WT - what say you?


Monday, February 11, 2008

Concept 2: Stance

When advancing or when advanced, how should the weight be distributed - 100% of the weight on the back leg? front leg? or 50/50 on both? Does it matter? Yes!

WingTsun teaches the student to learn how to deal with bridging (closing in on the opponent), attacks and defense with all weight on the back leg. It's incredibly difficult. On the surface, it adds the benefit of being able to use your front leg at any time, without having to shift weight from the front leg to the back leg. Unfortunately, it's also incredibly uncomfortable, awkward and unnatural. Combine that with your standard techniques of the WingTsun system, and you have yourself a funny looking kung fu art.

Functional Wing Tsun's focus does not care about where/how the weight's distributed. With years of training on sitting on the back leg, the concept of using your front leg for attack/defense is ingrained into your muscle memory. You should have this natural awareness in your front leg (similar to mun sao) without actually having to distribute all the weight to the back leg. What does this mean?

Well, to all those that say WT stepping is slow - that's not true now. To all those that say that there's no weight behind the punches - that's not true now either. Just imagine - if you can fight with 100% weight on your back leg, just imagine the damage you can do with the more "natural" 50/50 weighting?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

There is No Spoon

In the Wing Tsun system (and other chinese boxing systems), the "secret" behind hitting is to be completely relaxed. Mind you, we are not saying that you should be weak or limp, but to maximally release any tenseness from your limbs (and body for that matter). To develop this, the teacher repeatedly reminds the student to stay relaxed, to keep the fists open, to lower the shoulders, etc etc. As the student progresses, he learns to release all this tension from his body which, for the most part, results in a very weak punch, but then he gets to the next level where he gradually increases the power/force in his punch in which a heavy, yet relaxed, punch can be summoned at any time. Unfortunately, many wing chun/ving tsun/wing tsun students may not get to this level and confuse relaxed punching for powerful punching. (Which explains some of the horrible wing chun punching you see on YouTube).

To me, hitting in Wing Tsun is like "accidentally walking into a chair", while hitting in other arts (like karate, as an example) is like "to walk into a chair." The latter appreciates the presence of the object, while the former assumes the absence of the object. The idea of "absence of the object" is key to Wing Tsun hitting and incredibly difficult as our minds know what we see since we see what we see. To go beyond what your brain and eyes are telling you is incredibly difficult (especially under the stresses of a fight). As such, developing Wing Tsun hitting is not an easy task.

But have you ever accidentally walked through a chair? Notice how your leg just walks right through it, unknowingly, unphased and displaces the chair. Sure, it hurts RIGHT after, but for that moment - you hit it Wing Tsun style, baby! BUT, should I ask you to kick the chair, already your mind is inhibiting your body, subconsciously telling you that you HAVE to hit it, only to psych your body out resulting in you kicking at the chair. Kicking at the chair can do good damage by strengthening localized muscles in the leg used to kick it, but walking into the chair uses the entire body - and it is the sum of the entire body's muscles used in unison that is greater than what a kick could do. That is Wing Tsun hitting.

So you get the idea (hopefully) and as your training progresses, you can increase the UMPH! into your punch, while maintaining that same mentality of "walking into the chair" but with any and all of your attacks. Not easy but that's the idea and explains how a good hit doesn't require big biceps.

Monday, February 4, 2008

WT trademarked?

Wing Tsun (WT) is different from that of wing chun (WC) and ving tsun (VT) not only in spelling but to differentiate itself from the other Yip Man lines of wing chun and to specifically refer to the Leung Ting system. As such, Leung Ting has trademarked the name and as such, some people may not be allowed to use the same spelling.

A few observations:
  • WingTsun is inconsistently trademarked, either as "TM" or "R". So the question remains, is it a registered trademark or just trade marked?
  • If it's just "TM", at the end of the day, there isn't much protection for LT.
  • If it's registered, is it registered in Canada? US? or both? Considering the lack of WingTsun schools under him in Canada, I don't see it being registered in Canada.
You know what that means? I get to use WT for my own selfish purposes.

Oh and I just checked the US Trademark Electronic Search System - "WingTsun" is not active. As for Canada, nothing has even been filed.

Until then.

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