A Fortune Cookie

Remember when the fortune cookies that we got after a meal at a Chinese restaurant had the silly sayings inside them and seemed to be meaningless entertainment?  I believe that most still are.  However I have had a recent run of good sayings inside these little deserts. 

The latest is:  “Attention is the mother of memory.”

How true this is.  If we want to remember something, we have to pay attention. All too often in this speeded-up culture we are not paying attention and we forget a lot. 

When it comes to WingTsun training, the attention part is even more important. During any training, whether it is in the training hall or not, one’s attention to each movement reaps rewards that multiply later.  WingTsun is one of those rare arts where detail really is important to function. It has nothing to do with appearance or being judged on the beauty of one’s technique.

The most important place to start investing one’s attention is in the footwork and stance.  The correct position is where it begins.  Then as a student gets the positions correct, he or she can start focusing on the correct energies placed into the stance and footwork and later, the hand technique will be easier to master.

A student who uses this step-by-step approach will see how WingTsun works with the correct stances and footwork and it functions according to the gravity and the energies that make the world work as it does.

Recently tests were done to determine whether we can pay attention to two things at once in an effort to determine the validity of “multi-tasking.”  The tests determined that “true” multi-tasking does not exist.  Although it may seem like we can do two thinking tasks at one time, the truth is that the brain jumps back and forth at a high rate of speed from one task to the other and back again.  All of one’s attention is not on both tasks at the same time.  Complex thought processes are a function of the cerebrum (big brain)…processes such as complicated calculations, judgment calls, language, behavior, etc.  This is why the art of WingTsun trains movements into ‘muscle memory’ which is taken up by the little brain.  Actually most of the ‘muscle memory’ is not in the muscles but in the cerebellum (little brain) which lies at the base of the cerebrum (big brain) and at the top of the spinal column.  The cerebellum takes care of less complex tasks such as muscle movement and coordination, reflex and organ functions.  Techniques in WingTsun are trained so that they become mechanical.  This requires quite a bit of repetition.  Thoughts are not slowed down by complex decision-making in the little brain and so two motor-functions can be performed simultaneously. This is an important ability if a self-defense trainee expects the technique to actually work in real life!

Attention starts with the performance of the Siu Nim Tau.  Sometimes we think we are paying attention and then sometimes we are actually paying attention. Frequent training gets us to know this concept of “attention” sooner or later.

After training try to picture in your mind’s eye, yourself doing the movement exactly correctly and more skillfully than you have already done the movement in class.  This is an excellent enhancement to your learning the movement effectively.

©Copyright… Updated for 2012, Keith Sonnenberg.  All rights reserved.  No reproduction without permission.