I have to work on some computer issues I am having so I am posting from an Internet cafe. Here is something I wrote a little while ago about the subject of "vulnerability". Thanks to Dan for sending this my way.
Why being vulnerable is important
If you want to think about it simply, two people are in a struggle. If you struggle to win everything, the stronger person wins. If you are the weaker party you have to negotiate. Wing chun is about that negotiation. If you are the stronger party, you don't need it. You need it when you are outgunned. When you are outgunned a good negotiator tries to identify exactly what he or she wants and is willing to sacrifice anything to keep the important parts. In wing chun, we don't want to get hit or give up the control of our balance.
In order to get what I want, I will give up ground (you can push me), I will let you win any struggles that don't result in my getting hit or losing control of my balance. As a matter of fact, I will go ahead and allow you to do as much as you want to do and edit out the parts that result in my getting hit or losing my balance as delicately as possible so as not to cause you any discomfort. That is the cooperation part. The more I allow the other party to be free and do what they want, the smoother it will go and the freer I am to move. So only interrupt their movement for important reasons like if you are going to get hit otherwise.
All this leads to the vulnerability issue. Vulnerabiltiy is just a fact, you are imperfect, weak and can be hurt. Hiding that or locking up or pushing so as not to seem vulnerable will keep you from doing the above. You hide the reality of the interaction from yourself so you can't really feel what is going on and get what is in your interest. It is sort of how socially awkward people often try to hide their weakness and emotions because of their incorrect belief that allowing the flaws to be obvious will result in their being rejected.
This is why I often suggest that people chisao, or hit on girls or dance with the assumption that what you do is wrong, terrible, inadequate...just accept it and yet continue to "play" and be fully in the moment. How do you do things when you aren't worried about the outcome? When you are free to feel and react as you want? Most things are beyond controlling so you have to let go.
To me, this relaxing and letting go is what "kungfu" or being in the zone or effortless mastery or whatever is all about. You let go of fear and expectation and yet fully participate and then the real "you" starts to emerge. It's pretty cool.
I also see you can see this same fear play out in many different venues. People don't take risks because they could die. They don't follow the career they would like because they might not make money. They lock up rather than fight because they could get hurt. They don't talk to the girl because they could get rejected.
All the things that lead to people not putting themselves out there tend to happen anyway in my experience. Run everyday and you will still die, don't fight back and you will still get hit, people who get their colons cleansed die too. The real problem is that if you don't let go and let yourself express itself, who are you and what is the point of your life?
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Anyone who has taken my class knows that I would really prefer to call what we do something other than wing chun. The reason I do call it wing chun is that otherwise people may think I am one of those guys that did a little karate, a little jujitsu and a little wing chun and just combine it in some willy nilly way and call it Will-fu or something. Yuck.
Wing chun is a fighting and training system created by one or more people (I will leave the details of that statement to all those budding kungfu scribes). Most versions involve 6 forms, two weapons and chisao. Chisao is a training method that essentially helps you train fighting in a non-cooperative manner without constantly getting punched in the face.
From studying wing chun, you may discover better ways to move your body, you may learn better ways to generate power, how to relax so that your speed and reactions increase. You may learn better ways to interact, lead, follow, use your opponents energy. I think it is important to remember that all of these things are not wing chun, they are simple physics. For me I try to follow the physics as closely as I can. As you observe the physics you will see simple principles emerge and you will begin to notice the principles at work in other activities such as social dances like tango or in wrestling. I think it is important to do things the "wing chun way" only as far as it corresponds with reality. If it doesn't, dump it. I am sure that many will say that using whatever works IS the wing chun way.
Friday, August 28, 2009
When people talk about Wing Chun, they ofter refer to being "sticky". It seems to me that a lot of people use this word but don't seem to know what it means. If two people are moving their hands together in some kind of cooperative or coordinated movement. That is not being sticky. If two people who have studied Wing Chun for many years do chisao so they move in kind of Wing Chun style patterns, that is not being sticky.
Sticky is when you are moving toward a person with your hand, arm or other body part, and they want to stop you so they resist, they now have no choice but to move with you in another direction since they resisted getting touched or hit, they are "sticking" to you. Another way to think about it is you put the person in the position of having a choice, they can get hit or stick to you. Either way, you "win".
If you continue to keep your pressure aimed at them, they will continue to stick to you. Constant forward force or perhaps I should say steady forward force is required to be sticky. If the person pulls their hands back or moves backward, this forward force will result in you walking forward. I am not trying to be critical, but I don't understand how chisao is performed or how people can stick if neither person is generating forward force.
Chisao can be performed without this forward force, but it becomes a reaction time drill rather than a truly interactive drill. Without the forward force, whoever moves fastest will win. With the forward force (generated at the feet), better wing chun skill will prevail (ha!, what a silly word).
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Gravity pulls your body down so there is no need to push down when you walk. If you push down against the ground, your body will pop up which is inefficient. The "trick" is to push your foot in the opposite direction in which you wish to travel...back to go forward, right to go left and so on. Also keep your body relaxed but straight and try to push your pelvis rather than upper body. The last most important thing is to pay attention to what is around you rather than your legs or your body and breathe naturally.
Exercise 3 - Skating
Stand on one leg and relax. Don't try to keep your balance. If you fall just trade legs. Now, push your pelvis and trade legs. Keep the upper body relaxed and perpendicular to the ground. Make sure you don't bounce and that your head stays at the same height. Keep your attention outward and stay relaxed and move in all directions at varying speeds and rhythms.
The first step to doing wing chun, or really anything, and moving naturally is to first just “be”. What that involves is relaxation. We need to engage the body as little as possible. Most people are unaware of the tension they carry around all day that affects all their movements and interactions.
Relaxation is one of the most important concepts for learning wing chun or any other skill. Everything must be as effortless as possible from the beginning. If not, later when movement is involved it will be jerky and less effective and smooth. Basically you will reach a point where you stop improving. So first we need relax as much as possible while doing nothing.
Exercise 1- Let go
Lie down on the floor or a bed and relax all your muscles. Now tighten up your all your muscles and let them go again. Pay particular attention to tightening and relaxing the face, jaw, neck, shoulders and upper back. Now wake up your mind as much as possible and pay attention to what’s around you…the smells, sounds and what you see. The point is to take the body as close as possible to zero effort or maximum relaxation while the mind concentrates on the environment as much as possible. This may sound simple, but it is very important to actually do it a few times (or for the rest of your life). Next try doing the same thing while sitting or in other positions.
Exercise 2.- Standing
For this exercise, I just want you to stand. Standing requires muscles to hold you up and to keep you balanced. What we want to do is figure out how to use as little effort as possible while remaining standing. Stand and start relaxing until you start to slump. Now, imagine that there is a string holding the top of your head up for you. Let go of as many muscles as possible until you start to slump. Think of your body as a Jenga set that is precariously balanced and delicately move your bottom over your feet and your chest over your bottom and your neck over your chest and your head over your neck. The more all these areas are in alignment, the more balanced you will be so you can relax more. Later, I will talk about the wing chun stance and how that can help you relax even more and why it is the way it is.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Thanks to all for the class inquiries.
Maybe the best way to tell you what we do in my classes is to tell you why I started teaching or what led me to do so. I studied all kinds of martial arts when I lived in the US like Taekwondo, karate, aikido, judo, and thai boxing. I always felt like I was pretty good, but there were plenty of people better and I kind of leveled off and stopped improving somewhat. When I came to Taiwan, I studied wing chun under a famous teacher. I went there 6 times a week for about 3 years slowly improving. I liked wing chun but I just didn't think many of the wing chun people I met had ever actually fought or could even really defend themselves. I then totally changed my approach when i got injured and changed my way of thinking about wing chun and fighting and the basic way we control our bodies. This changed everything. Suddenly, I got better very quickly and everything was easy and relaxing. I spent the next 3 years trying to teach the other people I trained with how to do it but I met with a lot of resistance. I got bored and began studying jujitsu and going around to other martial arts schools and trying to find people that were skilled. I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for and a couple of people asked me to teach them.
I started teaching them about 8 years ago and I wasn't a very good teacher. I just tried to tell people what I was doing. Then I tried a different way and experimented while I tried to improve my understanding of everything related to movement, interaction, and fighting. Now, my classes are going very well and the students are seeing a lot of improvements.
So what the heck are we doing? The best way I can say it is that to do any athletic endeavor from basketball to marital arts to dancing well, there is a "natural" or athletic way to control your body. 99% people use an inefficient or "unnatural" way. What we do in my classes is first learn how to move this way. Then, we learn how to have physical interactions and the basic principles that work in interactions from wrestling to dancing. Then we learn to fight. Here we start with chisao from traditional wing chun because it is a great exercise when done properly. Then we move on to the whole spectrum of fighting but in such a way that it gets into the body and becomes instinctive.
For those interested in the classes, I can guarantee that you will learn some very interesting or amazing things about how the body and interaction works. I can't guarantee that you will get in great shape very quickly. The beginning stuff has to be done slowly so that you don't revert to old habits. After a couple of months the pace will pick up greatly and it will become better exercise in the traditional sense. The stuff you learn will apply to the way you walk, the way you play music and dance and many other areas. While we will talk about this stuff occassionally, we concentrate on fighting.
Also, as far as learning to fight or practical skills, that will be fairly slow as well, the easiest way to get up to speed quickly if you want to defend yourself is take about 6 months of thai boxing or wrestling. What we do will take a little more time, but will totally change the way you move and/or fight. I am not trying to make people fighters, I am trying to make them incredibly talented fighters. That isn't easy so, depending on the person, it can take some time.
As for other stuff, I have around 12 students right now. Two-thirds have studied many forms of martial arts for many years and most of the others have no experience and sometimes little interest in fighting in general (they like the movement stuff). We are all very laid back and joke around a lot and all get along well. We all love martial arts and talking about stupid stuff but really can't stand hippie dippie qi talk and arguments about which style can kick ass or lineage or any other kungfu nerd type stuff. We are just regular guys and girls.