As the old sayings go, walking into a library doesn’t make you a genius, walking into a gym doesn’t make you healthy and that $900.00 top of the line Craftsman brand toolkit does no good if it sits on the shelf. The deluxe toolbox is of no use if you never build anything with it. You can read all the books on building a bookshelf, watch YouTube videos, purchase top shelf tools, join the Handyman Club BUT until you get in the workshop and fuck up and learn and fuck up again and adjust you will never EVER build that shelf. Once you build that first shelf it is one hell of a lot easier to build the next one. The first one is the hardest. If you really want to change- and I mean REALLY– then you eventually reach a point where the only thing that satisfies you is acting on information you have poured into your head. Wing Chun training is no different...
I remembered an old quote I read about old monks in a European monastery who sought to “pray without ceasing,” meaning letting each act of each day be a prayer or offering to God, rather than sitting around all day chanting. Made sense to me – I mean, if that was the case, nothing would get done and people would eventually come, steal their crops and take all their shit away. I like that quote so I began thinking about it and then began changing my approach to training. Now I feel like I get to train all the time and I’m a hell of a lot happier of a camper. Plus, like I always say with any cool shit I wasn’t clever enough to coin on my own, I liked it so much I stole it, tweaked it and made it mine, hence my new term “train without ceasing.”
Wing Chun works because Wing Chun is designed to work. It’s not designed to circulate energy throughout the body. It’s not designed to have the practitioner mimic an animal (sorry all you “wing chun is based on the motions of a snake fighting a crane 300 years ago” folks…it’s not. Sounds sexy, I know, but still, nope) and Wing Chun was most definitely not created as some physical portal to higher consciousness. Everything about Wing Chun-its’ forms, techniques, structure and application-is designed to be applied combatively. Wing Chun was designed as guerilla warfare to overthrow an oppressive regime. Period.
In both Wing Chun and in my personal fitness regimen, I prefer to train in silence. Always have, always will. Just give me a space with no distractions where I can tune out the outside world and tune in to what I’m doing and I’m set. I’m not against music when teaching class, hitting pads or the heavy bag and sparring – I actually prefer and find music to be much more enjoyable and useful in this context – but for private solo training, I have found that doing so in silence increases my body awareness. Wing Chun is based on body unity, and being able to apply the Wing Chun system as a means of functional, practical and effective self defense and combat skill boils down to how well the art is ingrained in your muscle memory and subconscious mind.
In the pantheon of Wing Chun training, the “how-to” aspect occupies far too much of the time. Now obviously in order to improve at something you first have to learn how to do something, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I am talking about is the fixation on “how-to” skill at the expense of the other aspects of training that are more important in the furtherance of your ultimate goal of combat effectiveness and efficiency and practicality in self-defense; aspects that force you to venture out past what you are comfortable with. These can be mental, emotional or even psychological aspects of training or they can be a next level of physical aspects such as sparring or full-contact training, scenario self-defense work or even chi sau with a new partner whose motions perplex you.
In Wing Chun training, we have a built in mechanism to address this issue, and that mechanism is Chi Sau training. In order for Chi Sau to have any merit to you in your practice, it must be based on the principle of being ASSERTIVE. Don’t mistake being assertive with being aggressive. The two are actually on opposite ends of the spectrum. Being assertive is all about finding an opening and imposing your will dispassionately and without emotion; you simply take purposefully directed action when presented or if none presents, make an opportunity by creating an opening.
The last of Sgt Rory Miller’s 4 Basic Truths of Violent Assault as laid out in his book Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence, which should be on the nightstand of any martial artist who actually wants to be able to use their art in real life, states that attacks happen with MORE POWER than most people realize. For those who train in a martial art and especially for us Wing Chun folks who seek to understand and apply our system for real-world encounters, we have no choice but to approach our training from this point of view. We need to bank on being sucker-punched, ambushed, grabbed, blitzed or any other way you want to put it.
In a ny self-defense encounter, awareness is key; proper training to handle a surprise and forceful attack is imperative and hitting an opponent’s vital targets in a quick, nasty and brutal way is ESSENTIAL. Your Wing Chun training, for it to be effective in the street, in a bar scuffle, in an alley while walking to your car or in a supermarket parking lot, must address all of these factors. Wing Chun IS effective in a real fight. Wing Chun IS effective for self-defense. Wing Chun WORKS-but only when it is trained properly.
Fights start quickly and most often, the one who gets the first shot in wins. It’s the old “firstest with the mostest” theory, and it is true. Real violent assaults are quick, ugly and overpowering. Wing Chun is designed for self-defense and as such its drills need to reflect the quick and violent nature of the street’s attacks. Remember, professional thugs will attack HARD and FAST. You have to respond with more of everything they bring to the table. You have the tools to do just that within Wing Chun.
If someone attacks you they must enter your space. Training with purpose; training with this first of the 4 Basic Truths in your head will rewire your muscle memory to react to an attack launched in a close-quarters situation with an attack of your own to their vital areas (eyes, throat or balls)-save the rapid fire punches to the face baloney for the Ip Man films unless you like cutting your hands on teeth or busting knuckles on a cheekbone or a forehead. NO thanks, I’m sticking with thumbs to the eyes, chops to the throat and whacks to the balls. Never fall into the pit of thinking that just because you train Wing Chun you are prepared to handle an attack in close range.
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