Considering we are all studying this amazing Chinese fighting technology of Wing Chun, few of us seem to know much about China and the Chinese beyond the basics. If you have Amazon Prime, check out The Story of China, a 6-part BBC documentary by historian Michael Woods. Its a lavish series which brings the history in clear and simple terms. A smart and engaging series which should required viewing for Wing Chun practitioners! I see some of the episodes are on Youtube also.
“If my opponent does not move, then I do not move.
At my opponent’s slightest move, I move first.”
“Often it is in the very first instant, the intention to move, in which technique is lost.”
“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.”
Earl Nightingale, Lead the Field
Wing Chun is both a system for fighting and a way of thinking.
Fighting successfully requires thinking differently about problem-solving.
I like to think that one of the elements I bring to my discussions of Wing Chun is a diverse and stimulating array of ideas from outside Wing Chun that illuminate the system in unique ways.
This one is a bit of a stretch but I thought it was interesting. I was reading a book on writing called The Art of Plain Talk. The goal of the book was to help writers clear their prose of clutter and get to the point with speed and clarity.
The writer of the book began with a discussion of the Chinese language (and I would be interested to hear from my Chinese speaking readers what they think of his argument).
He explained that Chinese a simple language, in the sense of being constructed with simplicity. It is known as a “grammar-less tongue.” It has no no case, gender, tense, articles, or irregular verbs (all the things that make English and other European languages difficult to learn).
The Chinese language used to have such elements (what we might consider frills and flourishes) and jettisoned them all thousands of years ago, turning the language into a “streamlined, smooth-running machine for expressing ideas” in which “words are stripped to their essential meaning and purpose.”
According to the author, most languages experience this winnowing process and English is in the midst of such a change (although at a glacial pace).
The Chinese language is just much, much older and so further along in its process.
Of course, hearing a word such as “simple” and a phrase such as “stripped to … essential meaning” made me think of Wing Chun.
The Wing Chun system, like the Chinese language, is a result of a synthesis and a winnowing process, jettisoning all complexity and leaving only elements that help it function. We are left with a small yet deep system, whose essential character is directness.
It delivers its “message” without flourish or preamble.