Monday, 31 July 2017

Chasing Tradition for the sake of tradition

Chasing tradition is like chasing hands. It's fun and makes you look great to people who don't know better, but its still not WC. At least...not to me.
This isn't to say that Traditional WC isn't WC. I'm merely trying to provide a personal distinction between literal and figurative definitions, being that 'Traditional WC' is the water that sits and doesn't move, while real WC changes and evolves to suit its environment and application without veering away from the largely important concepts of being Simple, Direct and Efficient.
Like Wong Shun Leung said, "WC is a skill that needs to be trained and refined". Its a set of skills and tools, based on humanity, that needs to evolve as we evolve, as has all of our tools through time. As it grows it needs to change, to get simpler, and to get more efficient, in the context of its application. One needs to find how the concept is applied to oneself where we are all marginally different from each other. One may be more flexible on one side of the body, so perhaps we don't have to compensate as much on that side. Whereas the other side might be very limited in flexibility, and our body position may have to be calibrated to accommodate. This calibration doesn't necessarily mean that you're no longer adhering to WC's tenets. It can actually fall further in line.
Saying that, its growing simplicity can be found to be quite difficult when applying a scientific approach to it.
Just like any other learned skill. Funny that...isn't it?

There is nothing to say there isn't a place for tradition in the world. The Traditional movement can still provide for self-defence, effective application, and discipline. It can lead to a stronger sense of community and belonging as you become part of something 'bigger-than-yourself'. And yet, within these systems you can find people who Believe a technique will work simply because they're told. The traditional world isn't alone in this. Sadly this has just as much to do with the individual as it does the movement.
I don't believe in Chi as a manifest form of energy. I just don't see any scientific evidence that can be proven, time and again, across a broad spectrum of people. I can appreciate it for how I perceive it, as a mental exercise that can be used to picture the flow of 'energy' (or more so, intention) to make the learning process easier. Add to that the human ability to self-convince oneself of a 'truth', and you've instantly a great big puddle of woo-woo. I look at religion the same way, as a mechanism to appease and support an individuals need for greater meaning, social support and philosophical (incorporating morals and ethics) guidance. In the end it looks different when portrayed by different people. Yet WC, allowing for the different body types, can look the same. Not identical, but the same. Effective in the same way.

I trained Yang Tai Chi for 4 years. It was a slow process but I loved it. It was awesome!
I still think its pretty great, but I don't need to believe in Chi to appreciate it. Tai Chi is often referred to as a traditional system, involving idea's of Chi, Jing and other seeming mysteries. For me, these concepts are more about explaining a difficult idea in a way which is favorable to the person its being explained to. It always delights me when i find a video of a Tai Chi teacher explaining the physics of why, and how, it works. Its nice that we can now put reason and physical evidence behind Tai Chi, and we can  explain the mechanisms at play.

As such, there is a place in this world for Traditional WC. We need to learn our history and appreciate it for what it is...evidence that we're growing as an organism and stretching our muscles. It's evidence that we are AWARE of our place in the world and the struggles involved in maintaining our presence. However, like science, we must move forward reinforcing those concepts that are still true and changing those aspects that hold us back.

This same mechanism is available to students of WC. We can appreciate the tradition we've adopted, we can believe in Ng Mui, we can argue about which school is the true inheritor of Yim Wing Chun. But none of this will help when someone tries to mug me. Or rob me. Or molest me. Only the ability to defend myself, or not, will be in evidence. That will be the proof to the pudding

Sunday, 2 July 2017

So I'm back...

Its been a bit of laziness, sick family, my sickness, that have kept me away and other very poor excuses for not posting.
The good news is that I'm still Chunning my Wing, and our classes are still rocking.
With the new location we're training three times a week, and I've been building a Mook Yan Jong with my coach. We'll be putting that up in the class when its done, and I'll post pics here in a bit.

This blog is predominantly for my own personal growth, so I tend to go on about the same, or similar, things.

We'll talk soon

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Gah! I'm exhausted...Melbourne is awesome.

Last week I got back from a trip to Melbourne to visit Sifu Darren Elvey.
 What an understanding of VT he has.

Its ego can barely stand going to Darren's classes in Melbourne. This isn't a negative reflection of him...quite the opposite in fact.
I go there to get my compass reset.
Darren is a Dr Fu in my opinion. I go there to find out 'what's wrong?!', only to be told the VT version of eat better, drink water and get exercise...which is, relax what you're doing, simplify what you're doing and train the fundamentals until they can't be undone...which means you're forever training those simple ideas.

I'd gotten so caught up in controlling the centre line and having my elbow come back to the centre a fool...I'd collapsed my entire structure. My shoulders would be caving towards my chest and I'd be tired in no-time.
Now, I'm about a metre wide at the I have concerns about letting my opponent get in, but i guess the secret is Lat Sau Jik Chung for the most part, and Facing for the rest.

I don't move a lot because people can't move me. Being big and heavy allows me to have a wonderful relationship with gravity...but that often leads me into standing my ground when it isn't reasonable and being slower to respond to changes in direction.

While I've spent a year or so concentrating on my bong sao, my next two points of concentration will be adjusting my tan sao and keeping my shoulders square and relaxed without allowing them to collapse.
As an extension of this I'll also be concentrating on facing, keeping close to my opponent and eating their space. My first name means Always Hungry, so it seems appropriate.

I get frustrated as i still find myself falling into the situation of, 'if i learn a new way to do x then my skill level will increase and y will be the result!'...fucking moron.
I need to keep it simple.
Move forward.
Become efficient.
Square up.
Keep close.
And every new thing i discover means reapplying these ideas and finding them taking on new meaning.
(now i don't mean a new technique, i mean discovering an aspect of WC which is new to me...).
Sure a magic pill, or Neo's "I know kung fu" ability would be outstanding...but we don't got it so i'll keep on with the slow boat.
WC is a long road and i'm not prepared to head in another direction.

On top of this I was lucky enough to spend time with the class, eat with a couple of them and get great feedback from all of them.
And in Chinatown in Melbourne there is my favorite little bbq restaurant which does the BEST roast pork with crackle. THAT is why gravity and i work so well together! baaaahahaha!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

My perception of Siu Nim Tao...

When I was first being taught Siu Nim Tao I had so many questions for my Sifu...and he couldn't answer many of them. Actually he didn't give ANY straight answers, merely put on his, "Mang I'm gonna get esoteric on his ass! That'll teach him to question me!", face and hit me with some nonsensical reference to something he'd seen on the Discovery channel that referenced a passing sort of fashion.

I didn't understand his meaning then, and I sure-as-hell don't remember the detail. It's been scrubbed from my brain like CO2 in a re-breather. And yet I completed Siu Nim Tao, Cham Kiu and half of Biu Jee, 3/4 of the Mook Yan Jong and I'd just begun the Luk Dim Boon Kwan.
I thought I was the bees-knees (a positive, local reference), or colloquially referred to as...The Shit.
And yet I couldn't explain the fundamental ideas behind anything I had learned. What I had been taught is to respond with POWER ANGLES for everything.
I was never taught why Tan Sao would work in certain applications of force, and not in others.
For us Fook Sao was merely a way to lock onto an opponents arms to they couldn't escape, and thus we trained to chase hands. This further developed into grabbing for the sake of control. Essentially we were training for failure.

In the last year I've been watching the David Peterson Seminar DVD's and been consistently having my mind blown.
Admittedly, my Coach has been explaining these points clearly in class...however I've always found class isn't the best place for retention, and the ability to re-watch a dvd is priceless. It gives me the chance to rewind and watch again, while still allowing me to have, "that-sounds-familiar" moments.
As such the CK dvd has changed how I Chi Sao, has improved my ability to teach (we all participate in the transfer of ideas, however the final say is always belongs with Coach).

Now, I know that if one was to use a single word to explain SNT it would be STRUCTURE. That simple statement I got from David's dvd. More importantly though is that I have a growing understanding of the 'Why' behind the idea.
The reasoning behind the repetition of certain movements also makes sense. The importance of the fook/wu pattern becomes clearer. Rather than being the boring part you rush through, it ends up having significance and value, pushing you to engage the right muscles, drive from your elbow, keep the elbow connected to your waist and thus the ground. It prepares you for things you won't understand until CK

The form provides a legitimate foundation upon which you can build a quantifiable skill set.

The form's of WC are tool-kits of consequential actions providing insight into the minds of great practitioners.
Merely understanding this one concept has changed how I look at WC, how I analyse it, how I judge it's teachers, and how I judge myself.

An example.
From my very first lesson some 15 years ago (ish) I had been taught to seek the center with my Tan Sao. I had to have it, that's just how it was.
The angle of my Tan in relation to my body didn't matter...the desire for forward intention wasn't there...I had to win the center because it was more powerful...blah, blah, blah.
I got hit several times chasing that white rabbit.
I spent a lot of time confused until I stopped looking and just believed. Sifu shall it be.
So when it was later explained to me by Coach, Darren Elvey, and David's DVD that, 'while having your Tan Sao in the center is ideal, it's more important to maintain a Tan Sao perpendicular to your body to ensure connection to the waste as a support for your structure', I became deflated about my wasted time, while growing a cheeky smile at being able to improve.

Moving through WSLVT I have been given something tangible that I could look into and question. I have been welcomed to disprove it where possible and to always be the skeptic.
I love this.
In our class the n00bs can be shy, and yet they're encouraged to question. Anyone who has been in class for a reasonable period is welcome to share their opinion. Everyone understands that they don't entirely know how it works, but there are others to ask to confirm or explain. And teaching is a wonderful path to understanding...have you ever noticed how beginners often discover a hole in either your explanation, execution, or perspective? Outstanding!
We discover and grow together. There is very little distinction between teacher and student beyond understanding.

Wong Sifu referred to SNT as 'Young Idea', in reference (I believe) to the growing of an idea from a simple thing into one of great complexity and beauty. This is possibly where the 'Little Idea' came from, something which could increase,(however I must bow before folk who actually speak Cantonese or the Foshan dialect my posts will likely show...I tend to swap between the dialects because I don't know any better. I'm still learning after all).
I like this Young Idea perspective.
I like the association this has with evolution when I think about the concept. The further down the path I get the more my previous knowledge grows and evolves.
Except for the stuff I forget. 

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Creating habits to support your training...

Every time someone new walks into our school, I celebrate. Sure it means a bit more stability for the school, but more importantly it means another person has found their way here to experience something I love. When push comes to shove we don't need a building to train in, though it does make it easier for n00bs to feel comfortable. It's also useful not being blinded by rain or catching our death of cold.
Before I got my shit together, kicked depression in the nuts for a while and delved heartily into WC again, my brothers were training in a few different locations. They were at each others houses, in car park buildings...anywhere they were protected from the weather. They spent a few years doing this...just they three.
A building is only important a) for protection (it gets really wet and cold in winter in our southern climes, and b) students and prospects expect it. There's a misconception that the better the location, the better the kung fu will be. The regular occurrence of McDojo's proves this isn't always the case.

My brothers created a habit amongst themselves by training at least once a week when they could all make it.
It took me a long time before I was able to temporarily change a habit that lead to my attendance improving, resulting in a sudden rise in skill. I had a habit of getting home, lying down and having a bit of a snooze. This would often lead to my not waking until after class.
I wasn't doing very well at improving, and that reinforced the idea that missing a class or two wouldn't make any difference. I knew I was wrong but depression and lack of motivation allowed me to look the other way and ignore the obvious. Thus I created the habit of not attending classes.

I don't remember how it happened. I'd spent weeks thinking about WC, how much fun I'd previously had learning it and just how hard our simple system really was. I like to think that I realised I love to be challenged, that the cognitive requirements I needed to move forward were available to me and that my aptitude was merely...sleeping. I eventually woke up to that challenge and met it face on.
I've since created a new habit, though it's still not locked in, of not going home first.

My routine began when I would head home from work.
I'd get home, lie down, set my alarm, and snooze. The reward was sleep. I love sleep and yet I starve myself of it at times during the week.
It took me a while to realise what the cue was and I thought it was many different things before the truth hit me. It was boredom. Sure I was tired but that wasn't driving my habit. I was bored. I finish work at 5 pm and we don't start class until 8pm. I'm usually not hungry so I don't bother with food. So I'm left twiddling my thumbs.
I broke this habit my interrupting the routine.
On my way home I stop off at a local mall, grab a coffee or a little nibble, and generally just walk around for about 10 mins. Then I go back to my car and have a snooze.
The only changes are that I might eat and I don't go home. Instead I find myself waking up every few minutes to make sure I haven't missed the alarm. This simple change in routine had a huge impact on my drive and perception. I get enough sleep to be alert in class and I'm eager enough that I don't sleep through the alarm.

My reasoning behind sharing this overly detailed experience is that we, (and I'm sure most other schools do too), have new students regularly who are all keen and ready to learn. However after a couple months they tend to drop off, always promising to come back, but only dropping back in from time to time. (This is excluding folk who just don't dig the class for whatever reason).
Admittedly some of them are scholastic students, some actors, some do shift-work...there are many legitimate reasons for their not being able to make it.
We've looked into whether its a quality issue with our classes and the typical outcome isn't an issue with our teaching...its time. A lot of people are just too busy. Kung fu is still seen as a fun pastime. Its up there with, swimming, going to the park, going to the gym...or learning a new language. It's either a bit of fun, or something which is Really Interesting, but something to be taken up later.

In the end people look at WC as a hobby. I guess for most people it has to be just a hobby.
The limitation with this thought frame is that WC is a skill-set. If you don't use it or practice it regularly, it will cease working as well as you want it to. If you're new to WC your progress will be stymied by your limited application of time. How many of us wouldn't have learned to write if we hadn't spent so much time at school learning?
Some folk may have a natural aptitude but they'll always be the minority. The greater number of folk will always have to work hard to improve and its up to us to create the environment to grow our WC.

After all...don't we value something more when we've had to work hard for it?

Gawwdamn I'm getting lazy! And stuff about Lat Sau Jik Chung

I need to update this thing more. If only for my own review...

I've had a lot going on and I've got plenty of excuses to explain why...however, they're only excuses.
I've committed myself to my WC...perhaps I need to commit myself to this blog equally.

Monday night I missed my first class for close to a year. This is pretty good of me, and it was due to a legitimate reason. I get Gout. I don't drink, I don't eat that much meat and I don't eat seems sugar is my devil. With Easter just past...I delved into a few eggs and ended up on the punishment side of the interaction. What's more is the gout is in my Ankle! Damn my genetics!

It's all merely motivation to improve my health, my diet and all this will lead into my WC improving.
For the last year or two I've been concentrating on getting my Bong Sao sorted, and executing it in a way that doesn't require strength and won't further damage my Rotator Cuffs. This worked and after visiting Melbourne for the WSL Border Incident, and training a little with John Smith...I've found my skills have improved heaps! Having said that, my arms have become heavy again...I'm using too much force. While I don't have the downwards force which would slow any of my defenses or attacks, I do find myself locking my muscle a bit too much (both in Bong and other manouvres) and thus I end up to stiff, slow and unresponsive by comparison to where I believe I should be.

As such my current goal is to work on Lat Sau Jik Chung.
I realise many other schools of thought/lineages also apply LSJC, however I've noticed the WSL schools are particularly dedicated to the idea. So I feel pretty fortunate.
The last school I was in (a Lo Man Kam/Leung Ting bastardization) talked about forward intention, but there was a distinct impression that no-one really understood the application, or how to train it.

I still don't fully understand the concept and I expect its something I'll be trying to understand for quite some time, however I comprehend enough to concentrate on building my experience with it.

Why do we train it? To answer this I'd have to ask back, Where is my opponent?
As I understand it, the purpose of training LSJK comes back to three important concepts of WC. Directness, Simplicity and Efficiency.
My opponent should be directly in front of me.
The simplest form of defense in this application is to attack.
The most efficient way to do this is to allow your attacks to commit themselves without conscious thought. The moment you have to think about doing something, the moment will pass and you'll miss your opportunity. Merely thinking the thought will be too slow. This is one reason why we train with Chi Sao, building a sensitivity so as to react in an habitual manner. LSJC is an extension of this idea, or perhaps more accurately...LSJC is the engine which drives the mechanism.
It's not merely keeping a constant forward pressure, as this can evolve into using too much strength, over-committing to a particular attack or defense, and result in either or both of your arms becoming a lever to be used against you. When your arm isn't malleable and has to deal with oncoming force, the resultant forces can change your positioning and attack vectors. 
As such I want all of my defenses to become attacks as soon as possible.
I want all of my attacks to be in line with my oppontents.
And I want this to happen as soon as possible...oh, did I already mention this point?

Our system isn't about looking flashy. I perceive it as being about smashing through your opponents defenses and doing a great deal of harm in a short period of time.
I see it being about my survival.
For me it's about having to be honest with myself and acknowledge that it doesn't matter how strong I am...physics will always win. If my structure isn't supporting my strength, or if my opponents structure diffuses my strength, then I have a problem. If my strength slows me down, I have a problem.

I certainly don't understand enough of the specifics pertaining to LSJC yet, so I'm going to have to spend much more time training it. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

Monday, 22 February 2016

A week in paradise, perfect for Kung Fu!

Sup kids, how's practice going?

I've recently returned from a week in Kiama, Australia, training with both John Smith and Greg LeBlanc.
With respect, both men are Sifu's of high calibre and knowledge, who can add insight to your current thought process and change your perspective on something you thought you 'knew'.
Greg is a top student of Gary Lam's and thus referred to John as Sisuk, being his teachers brother. I could really say the same things about both teachers and praise them until i gush rainbows, so I'll stick to some of the things that stood out about each and try to paint my deeper experience as a verbal mosaic with which you can create your own internet-opinion.
Failing that I'll just go on and on about how awesome they are.

Going into this I expected to go over only for a weekend seminar with two high level teachers.
I was a little intimidated by the prospect, not having a great deal of confidence in my own ability. This isn't meant to reflect badly on the people I learn from, more a reflection of how we can hold ourselves back by denying ourselves a little pride.

I'd seen recently that Gary Lam had been introducing ideas into his WC that veered from WSL's teachers, such as internal energies etc, however I hadn't paid too much attention as I had my own shit to worry about. He's been in the scene for a while and will likely have his reasons for doing it. The REAL issue is that i listened to opinions forged by people who did not have first hand experience. I forgot my own mantra...opinions are merely opinions.
Because of this foolishness I expected a few woo-woo ideas from Greg. In a way it worked out positively for me as I was pleasantly surprised by what I encountered.
Firstly, and most importantly, what lovely human being he is.
I've met a few Chunner's in my time, most of them from NZ, and most of them being complete douche bags. They gain some skill and imagine their rock-hammer is actually a sledge. It ain't buddy, and remember there's always someone out there that can take you down a notch.
Well Greg...well shit, he wasn't this at all. He's a humble cat that still considers himself a student, willing to listen, and learn from, everyone he meets. Often you'll meet people like this and consider them to be insincere, nobody could be this nice. Something just doesn't feel right about them.
Greg exudes sincerity and a genuine desire to see everyone progress to their potential.
And it only gets better...this man has power and structure in each of his strikes. To say he is powerful is to suggest it might be a bit dark in a mine shaft.
I'm a big man and can physically affect most people's structures, however Greg could disrupt my momentum and structure without a great deal of effort. He wasn't using his strength, he was merely using WC's concepts as they're meant to be used.

John is a student of Wong Sifu. He touched hands with the great man and listened to his stories, learned from his experiences and passes these lessons on to a new generation.
John was working the week of the seminar, and still offered to put on extra classes for anyone who turned up early. The seminar was on Friday and Saturday...I arrived Monday.
We got in contact after I'd arrived in Kiama, and he suggested we catch up that night for some training. I was NEVER going to say no to such an offer.
I expected a few people to be there, but it was just me. I almost shat.
John then spent 2ish hours taking me through simple ideas I thought I had a good understanding of...low elbows, connection to the waist, hitting the target with all of my body mass. Sheesh, I was, hmmmm....wrong.
He took me through really interesting concepts about bridging and structure, maintaining my line while attacking my opponents core, and helping me to increase my advantage through my mass. Reminding me that the best defence to a punch is to hit your opponent.
When I walked out of his Kwoon that evening, I'd already improved. I was fortunate to experience this same scenario throughout the week.
Each evening the group would get a little bigger and I'd get a little better.

In the entire week there was only one injury...and that happened to me on the last day.
I got a tiny cut on my nose from my opponent. I have to fess up and admit it wasn't my opponents fault. I was pressing him during an exercise where I'm testing him then throwing random punches and Mr Opponent has to figure out how to bridge, getting the best line and affect and not being caught out. Brother O.P.P is a skilled practitioner and I knew he could take it. I also knew he didn't get a lot of opportunity to defend against a HUGE adversary without John's skills. IE one that would through daft shit that a trained man wouldn't, and yet might still chance an impact.
While pressing him and driving him backward, I started to lose my wind. I'd been training for 5 days, this was the 6th, and I was exhausted. My body started to hunch and react differently than it should. So basically I put my face where it shouldn't have been. Now I wear this as a badge of honour! All that time and only this little hiccup...and the ladies love scars right?

The further I travel with my Ving Tsun, the more my ideas are being turned on their head.
Before being introduced to VT, my experience with WC had been unhealthy...I guess I'd become skeptical of the motives of men. And yet every teacher I've encountered have been decent human beings. They all share everything they can, they encourage questions...and they don't condescend.

Besides learning from two great men, I met and made new brothers of so many interesting individuals. Only one other student was a dick. And even then, we sorted our differences over a beer and all was good. We made the choice to not train together, and neither of us lost out in this deal.
In my last school there were people I hated. I don't get that weight anymore.

Remember, regardless of the style or system, you don't have to put up with McDojo bullshit, cult scenarios, or bullying behaviour. The world is now flush with option and possibility. Just down the road you may find the school best suited to you. Don't put up with second rate behaviour from your teacher, or yourself. If you have to move for it, maybe thats for the best...they say travel is good for the soul. What I really think they're saying is that travelling can grow you as a person and help you discover things about yourself you wouldn't have otherwise. Couple that with training in a positive environment you consistently want to return too...well, how can you not grow into a better person?

It cost me money to attend another country to learn. What I got in return is far beyond anything I could put a number on. I feel. The sleeper has begun to awaken.