As some of you know, I’ve been out of training for a year with a shoulder injury.
On Wednesday, I had my first private with my Sifu (Greg LeBlanc) and last night I had my first class in over a year.
As has been my habit when returning after a break, I’m starting at the beginning again. I asked to begin with Dan Chi Sao and the stance and as always, we immediately found a few issues with the way I was doing things!
The basics are the bread and butter of the system and something we should all return to again and again, to see the elements with new eyes. This is the meaning when they say “go back to the well” or “return to the source.”
The stance and the structure of the punch are far more important (in every way and especially in a fight) than the third or fourth fung hao drill (even if these hands seems more fun or sexy). I remember when I first started Wing Chun how we were all so anxious to get to learning the Siu Lum Tao. Once we sort of learned that we all wanted to learn Chum Kiu. Then halfway through that, we were already eyeing “Biu Gee.” Or the knives. Or the pole.
Happiness in the form of martial excellence was always just around the corner embodied by the next form. But eventually I realized that we misunderstood. We thought the “secrets” of power were hidden in the higher level drills (or why would they be higher?). Later meant better. Later meant more advanced. Which meant more power.
This is completely wrong and I’ll tell you why.
In the Wing Chun songs, they warn us that the highest skill is not held by whoever has been learning longest. Learning the pole earlyish is actually a good idea, because it ties directly into developing structure, and exposing flaws in your stance. You have to sink. You have to move as one unit, shifting your weight in a manner very similar to taking position.
But the knives (Baat Jam Do) are refining tools that help refine angle but are not of much use to a beginning or intermediate student who doesn’t have a sold stance or a unified grasp of doing what we call “Wing Chun actions.” In fact, the goat ma type stepping style (turning sideways off the line of attack) can be confusing to students if there are exposed to it too early – that’s why it is saved till later, not because its a super deadly secret held back only for the worthy.
I am interested in refining the heart of the system I now have (to some degree) in my body.
Bong Sau, Tan Sau, Fook Sau. The three terrors, that like elements change from one into the other as fluid deflections/attacks. These are what I want to study because getting these down, really developing a sunken stance that is solid yet mobile yet connected to the ground, this is the path to martial excellence and scary power. The patient and determined pursuit of a solid stance, a machine-like punch, and reliable mobility are the path to refined skill.
So I’m starting these series of posts where I want to talk about these basics as I’m studying them and thinking about them.
My training plan is currently to go into the school 45 minutes early and to knock out the basics: do the dummy three times, the pole three times, do the Muay Thai drills on the banana bag for as long as I can last with my shin pads on, hit the wallbag for a while, building up my tolerance, do X-stepping to help develop my mobility, do the first three forms, then stretch and relax a little bit before class.
But the most important form is the Siu Lum Tao. The most important drills are the wallbag and X stepping. The basics. What you learn in the first 6 months.
So I’m planning to get into a lot of detail about exactly how to do each Sau and the other basic elements of the system, such as the stance and stepping and so forth.