“A core part of the way I train people is around the interplay of themes or principles and habits. The habits are what we can actually train…the principles are what we are trying to embody.”
Josh Waitzkin, on The Tim Ferris Show
When I started writing this blog in 2012, I was mostly driven by my desire to create the sort of resource (map) that was lacking when I started trying to find and then learn a functional approach to Wing Chun.
It’s no secret that many people who have trained in various Wing Chun schools discover their “skills” are not up to handling the sort of attacks they encounter from other fighters using other styles. I looked for 8 years (because I’m crazy like that) until I found a teacher whose approach to Wing Chun (if you put in the hard work) was capable of handling any comers.
I always knew it existed and I found it and then I wanted to share what I had learned. I wanted to share the the short-cuts I’d eventually found, and most importantly, the basic ideas. Ideas are ultimately what make the difference. As my Sigung says, “An ox works hard all day, but when night comes, he’s still an ox.” You need the right ideas so you can train smart and not waste your time.
Over the course of writing hundreds of posts, I’ve discovered my “wheelhouse” or place in the Wing Chun community.
My job is to find the best ideas in Wing Chun and the best ideas from outside which can support Wing Chun and present them in a clear and simple fashion. To put it more bluntly, my job is to separate the “shit from the Shinola” and present my findings. Like a museum curator, I sift through the vast amount of information and bring only the jewels to your attention. The real and the true.
The best ideas from outside Wing Chun often come from either other styles (Boxing, BJJ, etc) or the sciences, such as Engineering and Psychology. They often show up inside books, such as The Art of Learning.
One of the most important skills you have to learn in order to go from beginner to intermediate as a fighter (or anything really) is the intelligent self-assessment combined with goal setting.
You have to check yourself, see where you are, and figure out how to take the next few steps. This is what my Sifu calls a “training direction.”
“If even for a blink of an eye you can control two of the other guy’s limbs with one of yours, either with angle or timing or some sort of clinch, then the opponent is in grave danger. The free hand can take him apart.”
Waitzkin’s book is a chronicle of how he learned to learn. This is a key concept and deserves emphasis.
The most valuable skill you can possess in the world is to know how to learn.
He goes into great detail examining the skills he developed on his way to becoming first a child prodigy chess player (he was the subject of the film Searching for Bobby Fishcher), then a world class Tai Chi Push Hands fighter (under William Chen), then a black black in Brazilian Ju Jitsu under Marcelo Garcia (considered by many to be one of the best pound for pound submission grapplers in the world, with whom Waitzkin started a BJJ school in New York).
Waitzkin boils his lessons down into principles and methods for going deeper into your art. His book took me a long time to read, because its deep and very nuanced.