Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Kick is Just a Kick

I think it was in the Tao of Jeet Kune Do that I read a statement to the effect of: “A kick is just a kick” then as you progress “A kick is not just a kick” and then as you master the art, “A kick is just a kick”.
 
I had no idea what that meant..or at least, pretended that I understood. Here’s my current understanding now that WT has given me a new perspective:
 
Beginner: A kick is just a kick. A punch is just a punch.
 
Well it’s as simple as that. At the beginner stage you learn what a punch or kick is, how to throw one and that it’s purpose is to hit an intended target.
 
Intermediate: A kick is not just a kick. A punch is not just a punch.
 
At this stage, you realize that your kick can be other options instead of just kicking. It could become a really long step, it could be “jammed” and converted into a knee strike, it could be “diverted” and have to react as a defensive maneuver. Same with the punch – the punch could turn into a tan sao, or diverted into a fak sao, depending on the type of contact it receives as the punch is delivered.
 
Master (although I’m not saying I’m a master, just the proper word escapes me at the moment): A kick is just a kick. A punch is just a punch.
 
As the student progresses from an intermediate level to a more expert level, he realizes that regardless of all the options a punch can turn into (bong sao, fak sao, lap sao, etc) or a kick can turn into (bong gerk, yap gerk, knee, foot stomp, ankle strike, etc), he still wants to be able to hit the opponent. Ideally, with his initial intended attack (hence a punch or a kick) as this maximizes efficiency while minimizes time/energy loss and extraneous variables.  
 
So we come full circle. Very yin/yang wouldn’t you say? How Chinese kung fu is that?? Good sign in my opinion.
 
Until then.
 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Respect the Basics

Unlike the conventional training methods of wing chun, WT takes pride in teaching its lessons by providing different scenarios to the student. Sometimes its defending yourself against a drunk asailant, others its just a variation of a particular chi sao section. With such variety, it's easy to see that many of the basic fundamentals are lost or, to say the least, not focussed on.

Take for example, the front kick or the forward step. Can you perform these with accuracy? How about with precision? Is it robust-can you apply it under various situations? In other words, there needs to be some kind of quality control in the basic foundations in which bong sao or fak sao rely on.

Yes, this type of training is tedious and just plain boring. But you're fooling yourselves in thinking that this isn't needed. I mean, ya it MIGHT work without knowing all the basics...but just imagine what you could produce if you "mastered" the basics.

Kung fu is not for everyone. This is why, back in the day, there was much involved and testing in the selection of a student (stand in horse stance, learn just a few stances or moves)- it is an "interview" process conducted by the teacher to select the student with the right character to handle the "boring" stuff.

Just cuz its boring doesn't make it less important.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kung Fu Part II

To add to my last post, we will now examine the physiological characteristics that define kung fu. These points are found in all styles of REAL kung fu. Even though you may be learning from a legitimate instructor, if he/she has not taught these to you or if you have not absorbed and incorporated this into your training, then what you are practicing is NOT kung fu. So, to the points we go.

  1. Head: held straight up and neck relaxed. It should feel as if a plate is resting on your head and the sky is pulling your hair upward.
  2. Eyes: eyelids are normal and relaxed, not bugging out or tense. The mind is responsible for awareness and feeling, not the eyes.
  3. Nose: breathing is normal, even and gentle and through the nose.
  4. Mouth: Lips closed, but with no tension. Tongue touches the roof of the mouth.
  5. Shoulders: Sink the shoulders, relaxed.
  6. Back: the spine should be held straight, not caved in (to the point when the chest expands due to overstretching the spine).
  7. Chest: relax, to not puff out the chest. Keep it "empty" and let the back lead and the chest follows.
  8. Stomach: should not be tense, but pliable like a suede leather bag. Also led by the back, and the stomach follows.
  9. Hips: provide support for the waist and lead the hips.
  10. Buttocks: 90 degrees from the ground. They should not stick out.
  11. Rectum: misconception to seal the anus. This is not healthy, instead do not pay attention to the anus and remain as is, focusing on relaxation of tendons, ligaments, muscles of the entire groin area.
  12. Elbows: weighted and heavy.
  13. Hands: relaxed and waiting. Punches/attacks originate from the spine, to the shoulders, elbows, wrist and then hands.
  14. Knees: relaxed and coordinate with the ankles/feet. The legs lead the way, as such, the knees are vital.
  15. Feet: relaxed and are lead by the ankles. Feet and toes should naturally grip the ground without extra tension.
So how does your style fair?

This is found in Adam Hsu's "the Way of Kung Fu"

Until then.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kung Fu

I'm reading this book by Adam Hsu. The author has a background in long fist kung fu, bagua and tai chi. It's a very interesting read. Coming from a traditional method of training, you can see that he's got a lot of experience in real kung fu and not just that flashy stuff that we usually come to think of "kung fu". Given his experience with various styles, the author has been able to determine certain characteristics that make kung fu distinct from other martial art styles yet stay within the confines of what would define kung fu as kung fu. Anything that deviates from these characterstics, whether its wushu or encompasses these characteristics whether its karate, it is considered kung fu.

Beautifully, all the characteristics are encompassed in the WT i'm learning. That's a good sign ;)

Here's what he calls the DNA of kung fu - the building blocks that are found in real kung fu, regardless of lineage, style, etc.

- a strong foundation: horse stance

- an offensive/defensive action stance: empty leg stance

- kicks do not use the arms for balance (the arms are busy controlling or dealing w/ attacks during the kick)

- entire body finishes moving at the same time

- punch from the spine

- both fists hit the same target

- split attention (hands/feet are independent of each other)

- joints are never locked (at first i thought this contradicted WT punching, but soon realized a lot of the locking of the punch is for training/stretching purposes)

- never hyperextend the shoulders and back

- Breath through the nose

- Qi is held in the dantian (sink...)

- Internal and external must go together

- No preparatory action (don't pull your fist prior to punching)

- All movements contain chan si jin (silk reeling energy or rotation/drilling energy generated from the ground up and through the entire body and focused out to the fist)

- Global awareness (see all around you, mind is trained and relaxed)

- Multi purpose movement (defensive/offensive techniques are interchangeable)

- Double layered training (improves health, mind, physical abilities, not just "to fight")


Until then.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Relax!

WT is all about maintaining relaxation – it’s one of the primary solutions to the many situations that arise. Of course, here’s where I insert the disclaimer that “relaxation” does not mean to be weak, but simply (in my opinion) to not give the opponent any of your strength or rigidness to work off of. Phyically, this entails that the WT student keeps shoulders low, elbows sink, qi is not stored in the chest but in the dan tien, etc.

Reality is, for many of us however, that being tense during a confrontation is so normal of a tendency (and such a natural response) that should it be ignored? Could it be ignored? Can we really “relax” when buddy is throwing a punch at us?

My answer is No. You cannot be relaxed as you want or think you should be. But you CAN be more relaxed relative to the attacker. In class, we are surrounded by other WT students who have also been taught to be relaxed, to attack, etc. So what does that mean? It means that we are constantly reminded of our inability to relax every week. What we sometimes forget is that the attacker that we may face one day is very unlikely to be another WT/WC stylist…what may seem “stiff” to you may be seem as incredibly “relaxed” to him.

Does this mean we should strive for mediocre relaxation? Of course not. This is just one way of looking at things. Gotta keep up the practice. It’s kind of like giving presentations in front of a huge audience. First time, tenseness creeps up and is visible to the audience. As you keep doing it – trying to relax but keep putting yourself in stressful situations, eventually, inside, you may feel that you were tense but the audience can’t see it. And finally, after more practice, you are able to perform your presentation without the slightest of hesitation. Yea, you might be nervous before you get on stage, but once you’ve started, you’re calm and collected and was able to focus that nervous energy into a quality-delivered presentation. Same goes for WT.

Until then.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Story

I was again away from this city this past weekend. Ran into some people who were discussing their martial art (muay thai) and brought me into their discussion. Of course, I keep my mouth shut about my experience with WT since no one asks and just let them describe how great the art is (which I completely respect). Totally understanding that excitement they feel, I let them do their thing and bask in that happy feeling in a completely open minded way. For those of you who know me, hopefully you can attest that the last thing I would do is march in and either “show off” how good WT is or how bad non-WT arts are. (I’m more of the perspective of “it’s the singer, not the song”.)

Anyway, the conversation then (of course) goes into “dissing mode” and these guys start dissing the likes of aikido, karate and kung fu..”kung fu’s great for movies but not real life” I agree with them..cuz I believe the same (that the kung fu portrayed in movies is generally more for looks rather than application). Finally one guy asks me what I do. I say, with pride, “kung fu” and a smirk. The next question is “what style”, and I reply with “wing tsun”. Then the usual “you guys only fight close range” or “you’re good at hand trapping, right?” and the “you guys don’t kick above the waist”..followed with ..”that’s a girl’s style!” Anyway, Iet them continue with their questions and try my best to answer it in a professional manner and how this and that is true or are misconceptions “we can/do fight long distances, we can deal with circular attacks, the history of WT is not well known. Blah blah blah”

So then, like clockwork, comes the part where they want to see it in action. Mind you, these guys are studying thai boxing – brutal and hardcore with, like me, years of “on/off” attendance. So in typical WT fashion, we cannot show them a move, instead we respond to “throw an attack”. Given that I know he’s a thai boxer, I thought he’d come in w/ the low roundhouse. Knowing how painful they can be…I was nervous and slightly tense from the anticipation. That tenseness and nervousness morphed into this revving energy where I just wanted to pummel right through the guy. Arms were not as relaxed in class, feet were not as flat on the ground as they are in class. Ankles, knees, thighs were ready to peel off the line and my arms were not super relaxed, but slightly tense yet (in my opinion), pliable.

Maybe I got lucky, but the guy stepped in perfect distance to land a right low roundhouse kick. Again, it was almost like clockwork – probably not fair since what I anticipated came true..and I simply charged forward with one step to intercept his step/kick initiation and landed a palm/push straight into the facial area just enough to let him know. His amrs tried to parry/cling onto my attacking arm and it was “so forced” that my second chain punch/hit followed with chocolately smoothness. These were not strong hits by any means, just enough to let him know of who’s got the advantage.

Distance opens up. So I let him “try again”. This time he tries a punch or something..i don’t even really remember but I was so roaring to go that I just rushed right into him at the earliest of commitment of his attack and that seemed to have shut things down again. Last try..he jab/fakes and tries to go for his take down. For you BJJ guys, to his credit, I don’t think he’s had much experience (he could’ve been a newb). Natural reaction was to control the head and neck, which I was able to and back up he came. I said, like in class, to “continue attacking” from his compromised position and somehow I locked his arm. He was using a lot of force, so I had to use more than what I thought I would have needed to as well.

At this point, I made my point and that’s all I cared about. This is when they were really curious about this “wing chun”. Gave me a better opportunity to explain the misconception of WC and how, in my experience, WT takes things apart and teaches in a more non-chinese way to handle non-WC attacks. The next thing guys tend to pick on after this is that our hits don’t look powerful, especially with the palm/push or whatever..since well there’s no actual hard contact. This is when I showed them the inch punch or something like that and give them a few good thumps to the chest and stomach just to give them an idea of what a hit to the nose may do. Now I can’t say if it’s true or not but they did tell me they were pretty convinced and surprised to see this – they’ve never seen kung fu in application before. And before WT, neither have I.

Of course, they’ll still stick to the muay thai and I’ll stick to my WT.

Popular Posts