My Way of Wing Chun

The Learning Curve

Wing Chun Wisdom by Sigung Ip Chun (Part 1)

Those of you who know Wing Chun will know of it effectiveness, even for those who do not posses the muscles of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the acrobatic ability of Jackie Chan. Such is the ingenuity of the Wing Chun principles, means that it is suitable for everyone, even the smallest can be deadly! Perhaps the best example of this today is Grandmaster Yip Chun. Barely more than five feet tall his size belies his skill. Playing Chi Sau (Sticking Hands) with him is an astounding experience!

Recently he visited this country to give a number of seminars. The seminar he gave for us was excellent, his knowledge and very friendly nature meant everyone learnt a great deal and came away very happy. At this seminar he invited us all to ask any questions we cared to ask. What follows is a account of what was said:

Q: Does more Chi Sau practice improve your skill?
YC: Yes, sure. The more you practice the more skill you will get. Practising with a partner is especially important in Wing Chun. Even for me, if I don’t practice Chi Sau I won’t improve my skill. When you practice Chi Sau you must understand its concept, you must understand that you are training to develop your skill, not just to beat your partner! The more you relax, the more you take it easy, the better. Treat it like a game, so you will reach a high level quicker and you will be more effective.

Q: What affect does the forms of Wing Chun have on your health?
YC: When you practice Sui Lin Tao (the fist form), the bodies temperature will naturally rise. Especially during the first part of the form and when you use some energy you will feel very warm. This reaction will naturally have beneficial effects on your health. However how you catch the health benefits of the forms depends on how much you concentrate on the exercise. During practice any distracting thoughts will reduce the benefits. Of course most beginners have a lot of thoughts. This will not harm you, but you wont benefit as much.

Q: Does practising the Wing Chun punching harm the elbows?
YC: Sometimes you may hurt the joints a little, depending on how you practise. The reason for this is that the upper and lower arm are connected at the elbow. Normally the is a lot of space between the bones. When you straighten the arm the space closes, when you punch quickly the joint will close very quickly. So people who train too hard may hurt themselves.

During practise you may hurt other parts of the body. Practising the shifting stance may strain the knees and back, Chi Sao practise makes the shoulders ache, and a lot of punching makes the elbows ache. The elbows usually take longest to recover. But any damage and stiffness is usually a result of those people who are beginners. Basically, any part of the body may get injured, but especially the elbows and fingers, but if you practise correctly any damage will not be permanent.

Q: If the body is stiff or tense would the practise of Wing Chun be of benefit?
YC: If you learn some other forms of martial art you can make the body very strong, but at the same time you become stiff and tense. This is because of being too tough and aggressive. Through Wing Chun you can improve your old style and relax the body! Why? Because Wing Chun is not a hard style, not a soft style. Wing Chun does not tell people not to use force, Wing Chun tells people how to use force. In Wing Chun, when you need to use force you totally use it, else you use none. Because no matter how strong you are , if you only use force you will just exhaust yourself. Therefore we conserve energy , not waste it!

Q: Is it harder for a big strong person to train then?
YC: Do You ask because I am so small? (laughs) In my opinion, if an art is passed down through hundreds of years and has survived, then it is fit for everybody to learn. However if two people have the same standard then size will count! I am not the perfect example of Wing Chun because my family is so small. Wing Chun should suit everybody, but the big strong person will normally take longer to develop, usually because it takes such people longer to relax and let go. If they can let go then they can reach as high a standard as anyone.

Q: How important is natural ability in the skill compared to the amount you train?
YC: Actually your question is about peoples reaction to training. When I look back, over thirty years, helping my father and my own teaching, I have seen many people practise. Some develop very quickly, some learn slowly. The point depends on how each person reacts to training. It doesn’t matter how clever they are. For example one of my students is very good for studying at school. He attended a management training course, and of the thirty who took it he was the only one who passed! But for Wing Chun he is the slowest learner! He tries many methods to improve but he still finds it difficult. So some people pick up quickly some slowly.

Q: Should Chi Sau be none aggressive?
YC: If you are too aggressive when you practise, then you have broken the first rule of Wing Chun. When you need to use energy and when you don! So you don’t need to be aggressive all the time. Man Gung (Yip Man) said ‘ If you practise with someone who doesn’t know Chi Sau, and you find them aggressive, don’t be scared because his level is not high. But if you play with some and you don’t feel any energy, then be careful! maybe his level is very high!’ So aggression means he doesn’t know how to use his energy, if you partner is gentle and soft, then be careful, this person knows how to use his energy, and has the key to the Wing Chun door!

To be continued…

Sources:
[1] Darryl Tam, Wing Chun Wisdom, Qi Magazine no. 3, pp. 19-21 (Apr/May 1992)

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