The Beauty and Building Blocks of Wing Chun
Kim Sifu here! The following article was posted with the permission of Sifu Angela Minerva, who is the rightful author of the article. There is great insight into the art here. The article was originally posted on March 10, 2014 at 10:07 am. I have embedded the post at the end of the article. You may contact her there or through her website www.phoenixwingchun.com.
The Beauty and Building Blocks of Wing Chun
In understanding the beauty of Wing Chun there is no end. Wing Chun has been said to be a thinking man’s art. The physical body has limitations. We can constantly push ourselves to our limits and learn how to continually develop and ask more but nonetheless eventually there is a limit to what we can accomplish physically. The mind; however, has no limit. There is no end to the potential of our minds. In truth we barely tap the surface of what we can accomplish intellectually. Hence the beauty of this art. It is developed in a way to stimulate the mind. It is a constant cycle of presenting new information to be grasped and understood and then built upon in a manner that again adds new information in a constant cycle that is only limited to imagination. If you look at the overview of the system it is indeed an example of this core philosophy. The forms are the user manual or encyclopedia to lay this model of teaching throughout generations.
We begin with Siu Lim Tao which means little idea or thought. You can process this meaning to be separate little ideas are contained within the form or you can process it to mean that after much study you will come to the place where it will require little thought to use these movements. It teaches the student structure and foundation. The core aspects to the system are studied. The form is divided into three parts which each have significance and importance. Amongst the various lessons learned the first third teaches the student to build their strength and to move one hand at a time in one movement. The second third continues to build and challenge by teaching the student how to use the strength/energy developed in the first third and to use both hands at the same time with the same movement. The last third of the form then builds upon this by teaching the student to flow from one movement to the next with the same hand introducing the idea of recovery and following through.
Once a desired level of accomplishment has been achieved in understanding Siu Lim Tao the mind is challenged again with Chum Kiu. Seeking the bridge. This can be processed to mean you are seeking the bridge with an opponent or seeking the bridge from the fundamentals levels to the higher levels and the bridge necessary to travel that journey. Here the student learns how to move the structure they have attained in Siu Lim Tao. Again there are three parts to this form. The first section teaches the student how to move the structure with turning movement putting the emphasis on the waist. The second section teaches the student how to move the structure with stepping movements of biu ma. The third section teaches the student how to move the structure with the stepping movements of bik ma. It also adds the challenge of using both hands together with separate movements and some kicking. This form mobilizes and puts into use the lessons learned in the first form. The stepping is very simplistic to add another building block to challenge and work the brain more. Most of the stepping at the chum kiu level is moving the front foot forward while the structure is sitting on the back leg.
Once the student becomes comfortable with this new skill set the student is again challenged with new information with the third form. The third form Biu Gee seems to be one that is questioned the most in necessity. I want to briefly lay out the importance so that the student can realize the value. There are many who say biu gee is not necessary. There are many who say biu gee is only for emergency. There are many who say if you have siu lim tao and chum kiu you have all that is necessary. Wing Chun is a system that has very few forms and they are meant to be a constant cycle of building. It would seem to me that if you only have two out of six parts of a user manual you will be able to use the item but the use could be limited to a third of the possibilities available. The best approach is to understand the entire user manual so that you know how to make use of all the possibilities available. To those who say biu gee is only for emergency I would say that if you are ever in a fight that is indeed an emergency and this information is now critical. One should never think that another fighter will not be skilled enough to challenge their abilities. If a situation arises that requires a fight it is a wise student who realizes the opponent could very well have some skill. We teach a basic principle that when you are in a fight you will get hit. It would seem foolish not to teach what to do if you get hit. You don’t have to step into the ring so to speak to realize that fights are messy and not typically pretty examples of great technique on display. I relay the forms as building in this manner to my students: Siu Lim Tao teaches you how to approach an opponent right in front of you, without moving. Chum Kiu teaches you how to move around an opponent. Biu Gee teaches you what to do when your opponent moves around you. How to recover the centerline when your opponent has gained the line is necessary to complete training. It would be nice to think we are all so good no one could ever move around and get the advantage, but it is also unrealistic. Biu Gee teaches more than just emergency techniques as well. It teaches you how to use the whole body to issue power to the furthest extremity. Be it the fingers, fist, palm, or elbow. As chum kiu turning emphasizes the waist in turning biu gee adds the shoulder to that as well. It also adds more to the stepping concept by shifting the weight from sitting on one leg to the other and then stepping. We really emphasize this idea in our dummy training, but it is here in biu gee as well.The next form in our training stage is the dummy form. Remember that the dummy training is taking the knowledge from the empty hand forms and applying it. RIght off in the first section of the dummy form we see siu lim tao stance, then we shift with the chum kiu stance, then we immediately step around to the side with the biu gee footwork. The dummy takes all the information taught in the three forms thus far and emphasizes the application of this information. This is why it is frequently called the fighting applications. There are many many benefits to the dummy but one of the primary purposes is the emphasis on application of the movements learned. Of course there is the addition of new kicks as well and having a training tool when a partner is not available and the side benefit of the conditioning and so on, but primarily it is the honing of the application.
The next building block and challenge comes by way of the weapons. We conclude our training with the pole and the swords. Basically we have a blunt weapon and bladed weapon. A long weapon and a short weapon. This information can be interchanged in the sense that the long weapon can become bladed as in a spear and the short weapon can become blunt as in a stick. The chances of fighting with a 9 foot pole are very limited and some would disregard the lessons learned at this point as non essential due to that fact; however, this again is a section to the user manual that you do not won’t to pass over. This information can be applied to empty hand every bit as much as the knife section. The development of power in the short range punch is very evident in pole section. Two way energy again is worked in a greater way in the pole section. The footwork in the weapons section both pole and knife is crucial to complete understanding of empty hand work. The weapons in Wing Chun are also designed to cover the spectrum of possibilities be it long, short, bladed, or blunt. If a student fails to learn the weapons forms they are missing a third of the user manual and that is quite a large chunk. It is the most advanced training and valuable for application with empty hand work. The pole teaches the momentum or transferring power from back to front and using the legs for lifting and sinking. This third of the manual is where the greatest power is achieved. The knife footwork is also so essential and practical for fighting applications. There is great emphasis on sitting on the front leg as opposed to the back and how to apply that concept.
Wing Chun is a beautifully designed set of building blocks with a constant cycle of challenging the mind. Once you have studied the user manual and learned the six forms the process of learning is never ending. The journey you can take of constantly researching and experimenting how to apply the information given in the user manual is only limited by the imagination. May our minds be constantly challenged by new ideas and the ever learning process.
Sifu Angela Minerva