Confronting the demons of fear and inadequacy head-on. Nothing is better for eliminating hesitation in taking action than gearing up and GETTING HIT! More people should get smacked around in training a bit more-it would do them a world of good.
How many times have you practiced a certain skill but were unable to grasp it? The harder you tried, the harder it was to perform this skill, until finally you just didn’t care anymore, and then – BAM! You performed the aforementioned skill flawlessly and with ease.
It seems that I had to re-learn this idea every time I learned a new skill in Wing Chun: poon sau rolling, stepping, pak sau entries, keeping the wu sau hand up while moving in. I could go on listing them but any more and I’d probably start weeping, but you get the point. Self defense has no room for ego or feelings of doubt or fear, yet self-defense training often involves extensive work in dealing with those topics.
The good news is that once I adopted the mentality of “I’m going to come in here, focus on each drill I’m doing at that moment, put the work in, and f**k it, I’ll get it when I get it,” things became easier for me and my skills started to improve.
How does this work?
Once I stopped thinking about it and turned off the mind chatter the skill became much simpler. I put no undue pressure on myself; my mind silenced and I got out of my own way. That’s how!
Personally I have always had a hard time not comparing myself to others in my training, especially those who started after me but perhaps were more physically gifted than myself or could pick up information more quickly, or those whose body types were more conducive to the Wing Chun style.
It was only after I began to hone in on the mental aspect of my training I made the choice-the conscious choice-to stop the comparison and de-focus my mind from where I thought I should be. I was then able to allow my mind to relax and naturally gravitate towards whatever task I was working on but only in such a way that it was fully present in that moment.
In Wing Chun, martial arts, all things self-defense and life in general it seems that the thought process is where the most damage is done to obtaining the results you seek. For an art based on simple, direct and efficient skills leading to practical and effective responses to self defense situations, this is a real kick in the nether-regions, conceptually speaking.
When learning how to pak sau entry, for example, you begin to count to yourself as you roll, “one…two…three…NOW” or something similar. If you screw up the rotation or miss your “shot” your partner can sense the hesitation in your roll, and will capitalize on it. I earned many a welt on my face from doing that so I know what I’m talking about here.
In my 20 years’ plus of martial art experience I have found that the overwhelming majority of martial systems and self-defense courses of study fall short because they tend to make too many presuppositions, which is no bueno.
For example, the techniques taught for the most part tend to be very attack-specific, which presupposes that an attacker will approach you in a certain way, with a certain technique, coming at you from a certain angle. Another assumption made is the environment in which you will be attacked.
Anyone who doubts this statement need only drop by any “self-defense” course being taught at a local martial arts school. I’ll bet you 10 dollars you’ll most likely see people barefoot, wearing pajama-like uniforms practicing intricate multiple-move techniques against very specific attacks in a clean, spacious studio with wide open spaces in which to practice.
Does that sound realistic to you? Me neither.
As Wing Chun folks our art/system is tailor made for conceptual adjustment and editing on-the-fly to adapt to damn near any situation short of a bad guy parachuting down and landing on your head (which after thinking about it, the final section of the 3rd form covers that one too, so never mind!) but in spite of this why do so many folks out there say “Wing Chun people can’t fight?”
I submit to you that maybe it is because as a collective we have been unwilling to step out of our bubble of presupposition; that is to say, we have been a bit hesitant to approach or training in a more conceptual vein. This will force our minds to de-focus and our brains to shut off and react. In effect, this process will force us to get out of our own way.
Perhaps the most dangerous assumption made (unbeknownst to them) by many students of martial arts is to presuppose that the attacker has a similar value system as them. This is due to the fact that teaching students restraint in their techniques while in a psychologically and emotionally stable environment has no element of reality, and as such, the idea that whoever is attacking you has different values to begin with because, well, they’re attacking you for no reason is simply not a valid issue.
All presupposition is basically rooted in the fear of being unprepared. That fear, in turn, is rooted in the subconscious belief that we are “not good enough” at Wing Chun and therefore need as many Aces up our sleeves as possible.
The beauty of proper training is this: as you begin to address these above mentioned factors into your training, your self-image changes as your self-confidence grows. You begin to worry less and less about “what if’s” and instead quiet your mind and carry yourself with a measure of confidence and coolness, secure in your ability to handle any situation that should come your way. This can only come about through proper mental training.
That is the end goal of all training; to be prepared without being obsessed. Remember that hyper-vigilance is just as ineffective as extreme carelessness and obliviousness. The end goal-actually the only goal-is relaxed confidence while being rooted in the present at any given moment.
Once you can overcome the fear of taking action, your assertiveness can take root and you will then be truly able to understand and apply Wing Chun’s golden rule loi lau hui sung, lat sau jik chung, which means “receive what comes, follow what goes and when there is no contact, move forward.”
Proper training, in order for it to be effective, must address certain points. Wing Chun training is no different. Techniques such as verbal diffusion of a particular threat, rationalization, and the concept of de-valuing yourself in the eyes of your attacker should be taught and implemented into scenario response training.
Remember, in a self-defense situation, Murphy’s Law will undoubtedly come into play, so the less mind-clutter you have going on the better off you will be, be it techniques or your mind racing through the “what-if?” file cabinet. Proper training can help minimize this aspect as well, so that when faced with a situation, you will be able to allow your Wing Chun to work for you by responding in a simple, direct and efficient manner, removing yourself from the threat as quickly and with as little effort as possible.
This can be done either by using your “verbal judo” to deflect aggression, removing yourself from the area, or if need be steamrolling the shitbag who decided to give you no other choice-just like training, his aggression and unwillingness to diffuse the situation let you know where he wanted you to hit him!
Knowing the proper place of the Psychological aspect in your Wing Chun training and working constantly to keep it under your control is key. This can be trained not only in the manner I described above to deal with frustration when practicing a new or difficult skill, but also in your forms training.
Focusing entirely on each motion, having no thought of anything else but exactly what you are doing at that moment, almost puts you into a moving meditative state. All insecurities, frustration and self doubt begins to dissipate because at that moment you couldn’t give a rat’s ass; you are you and you are perfect. You are applying one of my favorite quotes from Bruce Lee’s masterpiece on fighting, Tao of Jeet Kune Do:
“Turn into a doll made of wood. It has no ego; it thinks nothing, it is not grasping or sticky. Let the body and limbs work themselves out in accordance with the discipline they have undergone.”
Understanding-I mean really understanding-the psychological aspect of your Wing Chun training, especially for self-defense and street application, is the only way to make your self-confidence sprout up like Jack’s magic beanstalk. Get a handle on your mental game, sharpen your mental edge and make yourself that much more dangerous to anyone stupid enough to attack you or your family. It’s that simple.
Train Smart, Stay Safe
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