Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kung Fu Fighting

Let's take a moment to look at what characteristics define real kung fu application. In other words, what does real kung fu look like? This is not about practice or drill work, but in actual application.

1) If you clearly show your technique, that is NOT kung fu. That includes whether you show definitive tan sao punch, regardless of how structurally or positionally correct it is, it is still not kung fu. When applied, kung fu technique is not distinguishable. Only function is distinguishable.

2) if you must pull back to throw the next attack, that is not kung fu. Chinese boxing relies on going forward regardless of where your limbs are.

3) If attacks travel in a straight line, that is not kung fu. Sure, in training there are techniques and weapons that travel in a straight line, but in application there is twisting and circular rotation from the ground up and within the delivery of the attack.

4) Attacks are not delivered from specific points, like the fist or first knuckle. Instead, the whole arm is the weapon, and if the contact point happens to be the first knuckle, then so be it.

5) There is no definitive offense/defense in each movement, instead, all movements contain elements of defense and attack and the possiblility to transition into a defense or attack. This explains why in 1), there is no clear technique. it can't be one or the other - it has to be both.

6) Kicks are seldomly delivered above the waist. In practice, especially in other arts, kicks are delivered at various heights. But this is all training. In reality, kicks are delivered below the waist to hide the kick, as well as minimize the compromising situation of throwing a kick. Also, the opponent is in a compromised position or controlled position at the limbs, in which a kick can be safely delivered.

7) Kicks/punches are not repeatedly thrown simply by the limb itself. Kicks and punches are thrown using the entire body. The whole body is the fist.

As you can see, the defining characteristics are very involved and clearly shows why kung fu training is long, painful and takes a lot of determination in order for it to be applicable for fighting. Unlike other arts, it takes a heck of a lot in order for it to be functional. Chinese fighting is incredibly different from any other martial art. I'm not saying other arts can't hit hard, or aren't effective - i'm simply saying that if you want to deliver an attack in true chinese form, it's gonna take a lot. Maybe that explains why so much has been lost, or that only forms competition is popular or that kung fu has been given such a bad wrap.

Until then.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Shadow Boxing

Ever tried shadow boxing? Doesn't sound so "wing chun" does it? But I have to say it's a very good drill. Extrememly good. Especially since it's very unlikely that we incorporate it into the regular class curriculum. So why even consider it?

1) Cardiovascular - when done in rounds (eg. 30s rounds or 60s rounds for 5-10 rounds) it can be an intense cardiovascular workout.

2) Full power - you can practice launching your attacks at full power if you wanted to. There's no restrictions - you don't have to worry about hurting your partner since there isn't one.

3) Creativity - you can unleash your creative side as there is no restrictions to the type of attacks you want to throw. You don't have to just throw chain punches or fak saos, you can do whatever you want to.

4) Movement - you'll move in a way you've never moved before. You'll discover ways to unleash powers that may seem very "unwing chun" like but delivered in a "wing chun" way. You'll discover what your body has to do in order to allow you to move like that...and learn the restrictions that you may have been inflicted on yourself during training.

Of course, i'm not asking that you forget about wing tsun or what you have learned. I'm asking you to take the idea of shadow boxing and incorporate into your knowledge of wing tsun. It's a tool for you to expand your horizon beyond the chain punch, tan sao, bong sao...or just a way for you to move from one move to the next as smooth, fast and as hard as you can for several rounds. It's exhausting..and the next day, incredibly painful .

Try it.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Interdependent RElations

The WingTsun kung fu curriculum can be compared to as that of an ecosystem - each building block affects the other building blocks, which ultimately determines where your kung fu progress will be. 

If your stance training is not good, it will affect chi-sao, forms training, etc. If your chi sao is good, but your forms training is not, again your kung fu will be limited. 

Much like other chinese kung fu systems, the entire curriculum is made up of different stages that precede free fighting.  This means, forms training, then basics training, then stance training, then partner exercises, then chi sao, then more chi-sao, then drills, then back to forms...it's a long ways away. 

What this means is that you can't skip out on one and expect brilliant results. All the training is connected and dependent on each other. This is what makes kung fu and wing tsun so damn difficult to learn and takes so long to apply. Which also explains why so many can't use it to fight and instead, just stick to forms competition or resort to some psudo-kickboxing.

Sure, one can be a good fighter without all the pieces, but just not a skilled practitioner of a kung fu system, like wing tsun/chun/etc. 

It's imperative to realize that the end product is not about just chi-sao or just about wooden dummy, or collecting all the latest and coolest clips, books, magazines and tricks. It's about doing everything.

Simple enough, eh?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Internal vs. External

The debate continues: what is better, "internal arts" or "external arts"? First, the question must be answered: What is the definition of "internal" or "external arts"? Well, herein lies the problem. No one really knows. I'm sure there are those that think or believe they know, but extensive research as well as those within real kung fu circles, know that there really is no real distinction between an internal art or an external one.

Conventional thinking generally defines internal arts as soft arts, like tai chi or bagua, while external arts are thought of as hard-striking/training arts, like hung gar or shaolin fist. Well we have to go back to yin/yang theory - every art has both yin and yang, which means, a complete kung fu system, regardless of style is has both yin/yang aspects, hence both internal and external training forms and methods.

Some feel that "internal arts" is defined by the location of which an art originated (eg. wudang), but again, I doubt this.

An art that is completely external or internal is not combat kung fu anymore. It's not kung fu. Sure it could be a fighting system, but doesn't fall under the definition of Chinese kung fu. And this can't be any truer. Experts in internal arts are the last ones to deny that the system is soft and should be applied as such. Tai chi is to be used for combat (at least, used to) and we all know combat is ugly, gruesome, sloppy and well..full contact.

What's interesting is that in terms of my WT journey, some would classify the class to be a hard style, while others would call it soft. It depends on what was being taught that day. In my experience, I've noticed my Si-Fu take a turn for the "softer" route..but i'm not sure if this is because it's in his own recent discovery, or simply because it's time for me to learn this stuff and he knew this all along. Let me make it clear, that when I say softer, i don't mean weaker..but instead a more internal approach - the idea of not even being there for the attacker to hit, rather than deflect, wedge or bong, or whatever term you want to use.

If this is true, then perhaps internal or external is not means of classifying kung styles, but rather a means to distinguish levels in expertise, regardless of style. For example, as a student progresses, he moves from an external understanding and application to an internal one. interestingly, in the english language, I could say that as expertise is gained, the art is further "internalized" so well into our bodies and mind, in which one could use less effort to defeat an attacker, which could be interpreted either by an attacker, witness or defender as being a softer art. But note, this would be true in any style of combat.

Until then.

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