Women can be extremely pragmatic, simple and direct in their attitiude and actions but in the same moment be frustratingly complex and challenging.
However, saying all that, I may not understand them fully, but I know they exist and I find (most) women fascinating , intriguing and beautiful and the good ones have the ability to enrich your life while making you a better person just by being around them on a regular basis
Now read again the above blurb but change the "Women" references to "Wing Chun" and you'll begin to see where I am coming from.
You don't need to believe in silly fairytales about a Buddhist nun creating an efficient system of fighting by watching a crane and a snake but still recognise that Wing Chun has many female characteristics in its make up as well as how simple and direct it can be as well as delving into the depths of complexity and shining a mirror into your very being and make up within the training process. It will soon highlight if you're weak, big headed, impateint, lazy, full of excuses, too head strong, over confident or cocky, living in cloud cuckoo land (Ip Man film franchise land) or if you have patience, perseverance, dedication and a work ethic to get anywhere and improve yourself at all.
Since I last travelled to Sheffield to have an introuction into the Chu Shong Tin Wing Chun methods , a year has passed and in that time in my classes we have been working towards opening up our Wing Chun thinking and applying as much efficiency into whatever we do, from impact pad striking, to partner drills, form pathway tests and Chi Sau.
Obviously with only a very small amount of insight I am not in the position to pass on any part of their method with anything more than my interpretation of what I experienced, but thats really what we all do as we learn from others and I feel we made some progress along the lines of being more balanced, aware and efficient if nothing else along with a better understanding of when we were jamming up, fighting against force and overly relying on speed, structure and alignment - all aspects their method does not require to the same degree or in the same way as any other Wing Chun ive encountered in over 20 years.
I had however begun to get a bit desponant due to the distance and cost for me to learn this method to a good enough degreee to be able to pass it on and had started to look around for other potential clubs to visit.
However personally I was still very intrigued to learn more and meet up with Dan Parr, Mark Ho and Jon Jones again as they were so very helpful and genuine as were their students on my last visit, so I arranged this trip and took another two days off work to go up with an open mind to see if anything they showed me last time had sunk into my grey matter.
So not to completely parrot what I wrote in my previous blog I will try and condense this part but bear in mind over these two days we covered only 4 or 5 areas and I wrote 13 pages of notes on this alone!
Mark again warmly welcomed me into his house with a large pot of hot Chinese tea and we sat and talked for a while on what had happened since my last visit and many aspects of how Chu Shong Tin taught and approached his Wing Chun in the last decade of his life which they aim to pass on as accurately as possible. We again covered the essence of the method via standing practice, fundamental sung actions, Yi Sik (intent methods) accepting force exercises using your body as a conduit to receive and issue as well as how this applies to the Siu Nim Tau actions and Chi Sau (mainly Tan, Bong, Fook)
I began to recognise that although in my classes we had opened up and had more ability to handle greater forces and allow joints to open and rotate, there was still too much structure, muscle activation and alignment required for us which Mark doesn't need in contact, he felt immovable again yet soft and present and breaking contact or speeding up for me would have been fruitless, he was there and had my balance before I knew Id begun to lose it...all with a smile and no real apparent intent.
I left buzzing again and went for a two hour walk around that area of Sheffield for something to eat and clear my head a bit after an already long day, then walked a couple of roads up from where I was staying to Dan's house and a lift to the evening class. I will say at this point that I feel very comfortable in the company of Mark and Dan (and Jon) who accept ive been around the Wing Chun block a few times but are not ever trying to impress or compare what they do, only try and help you improve your understanding and skills and explain how they practice and teach Wing Chun.
The first hour was comprised mainly of standing practice and forms training. (Standing practice is a whole body awareness scan to recognise and release tensions in the body and joints which also centres your balance and settles and focusses the mind before form practice and training).
Their classes are conducted in an open Hong Kong style where students come in and train what they require and want to train for their level, past the new starter stage anyway, train with who they want to train with and the three Sung Wing Chun instructors are on hand to help and adjust and advise as needed.
Dan spent quite a bit of time with me kindly at the start, pulling and prodding my arms, shoulders, back, neck and hips, like being at a chiropractor but without the pain to loosen the joints up and show once loose you can accept an incredible amount of force without it affecting you in the slightest and no need for stance or power from the ground or any of that usual Wing Chun dialogue (certainly no references of jin flow pathways and sinking the chi - although sinking the Brie or Tea and exploring pathways to Gin seems pretty viable up in Yorkshire thankfully)
I spent some time sticking hands with all the instructors and 3 or 4 students of varying levels all of whom were very polite, helpful, informative and skilled - a real good indication of how they are taught, and was pleased this time round that I handled myself much better in these rolls than last year when I literally couldnt do a thing with anyone, although at times just getting close to touching them you bounce off this invisible solid rubber wall and take yourself off balance in the process...impressive and useful self defence skill indeed.
My private lesson before leaving Wednesday lunchtime was with Dan Parr in his garage training space, equipped like my personal training shed with wooden dummy, poles, knives, pads etc and thankfully a heater and hot cup of tea. Mark, Dan and Jon all approach teaching the method in a slightly different way but all arrive at the same destination. On top of force handling, joint release and Chi sau that we covered, I wanted some questions answered despite feeling how powerful and effortless this internal Wing Chun method was in the form tests and Chi sau practice, myself and many of my more experienced students had the obvious doubts to if it could potentially stand up to some nutcase grabbing you round the throat, smashing you against a wall and trying to remove your head from your shoulders!! (ie..can it work against smackhead psychos?)
Now although ive been punched in the head more times than I like to remember in boxing and milling (no rules boxing) in the Royal Marines, kicked in Muay Thai classes by professional fighters and experienced street level violence on three occasions, as well as being choked almost unconscious and physically dominated in jiu jitsu and been hit close to full power lots of times by Wing Chun instructors far better than myself over the years with aggression, power and speed ...Dan calmly adapted his Man sau and Wu sau hands in more of a Geoff Thompson type fence and applied Wing Chun method and theory to close down any options and space I had and stole my balance and position in an instant making me feel more threatened than I ever have with no real effort or intent ...but he also explained that nothing is infallible, Mike Tyson in his prime got hit thousands of times every fight, Bruce Lee got hit too and their club are not into teaching "Psycho Wing Chun" to smash the living granny out of people...
An attacker on the street is aiming to put force of some type onto you to affect you..whether thats a push, pull, punch, kick etc...its still force..and will have to be in your personal space, onto you very much in Chi sau range...this method involves sensible and objective training to defend yourself with better use and access to your whole body mass and develop the ability to handle more incoming force, control the opponents balance and actions and also to hit with unimpeded power should the need arise ...on the flip side the Wing Chun martial art can be practiced and explored for a lifetime if you have the dedication and persistance to walk the path and put the required time and effort (kung fu) in for the majority that have no intention of wanting to learn how to fight and survive a street attack anyway
Those that do can do so and pressure test as they see fit until confidence is improved and questions answered, once the basics of the method have been learnt and internalised (you cant be a formula one racing driver if you cant drive or have the opportunity to drive and never get in your car ; read, turn up to training regularly)...its good but its no magic wand.
Another simple way to improve self confidence for fighting as Dan mentioned and I have alluded to many times in class, is to spend a month or two hitting the wallbag several thousand times every day, or hit a heavy bag in the same way...that way even if you cant defend anything you will know you can hit without thought hard and effectively (ps YouTube not required)
In closing, as you may be able to tell and like Brittany Spears sang about...Oops they did it again, I was very impressed and returned on the train once more feeling like a better person and itching to get some hands on practice. Mark and Dan were more philosophical about my potential transition to this method and said obviously it will be a process and take time but whatever I wish to cover in my classes is upto me but to try and follow the path set out, make what we do more efficient and tweak things as needed as and when I can return upto them, which will be in a few weeks time at their long weekend "Sung Wing Chun International Gathering" with over 40 people to train with, all of whom have experience in the method, many with Chu Shong Tin directly in the last 10 years of his life.
I also have invited Mark and Dan to come down to Bury St Edmunds one Sunday this year to hold a 3 hour seminar so you have the opportunity to feel some of what I have yourself ...details and dates to be confirmed.
This is the path of Wing Chun practice I wish to explore and intend to do so but as my current students know I am an open book and happy to cover in class whatever I know from my experience to help you all improve while im on the path to improving myself and own Wing Chun.
"Do basic stuff better" Mark Ho