Begin with a little idea
WingTsun™ begins with a set of movements called Siu Nim Tau. This name translates as Little Idea Form. The first third of this set of movements is done slowly. Learning how to move patiently and slowly through a set of movements over several minutes challenges many new students. It is revealing how many people rush through this set. We are trained in our modern world to get things done quickly and only quickly. WingTsun can be a study of opposites, looking at life as fast or slow. The name Little Idea is significant in its deeper meaning. On the surface it means “basic concept.” On a deeper level it means that the student is learning a little idea that is too important to brush off or run past. A farmer would not plant a seed on the surface and then let the wind blow it away or fail to water it. The seed, after all, carries the DNA of the plant. The Siu Nim Tau carries the DNA of the WingTsun system.
Full benefit of the form’s practice can be received by breathing properly, in through the nose with expansion of the abdomen followed by the chest. After this, the breath should be released through the mouth by moving the abdomen inward, followed by the chest. Continued practice of this breathing trains the student to control breathing and give the body’s breathing mechanisms beneficial exercise. The profound effect on the mind and body is often overlooked but it exists none the less.
The second section of the form is done with two hands moving at the same time doing the same movement in order to further define one’s center. It is done at moderate speed. This set of movements is recognized as a set of personal self defense techniques against attacks from the rear, side front, mostly against grabbing attacks of various kinds. We still have not moved our feet from the basic training stance.
The third section of the form uses more advanced versions of techniques from the first section as applied in punching, kicking or grappling attacks. Our feet do not move from the basic training stance during the entire form. The person practicing the form can only focus on the hand movements, breathing and body posture. Meanwhile the legs get stronger because of the long period in the stance.
Key techniques from the first and third sections of Siu Nim Tau are the “seed” techniques of the sticky hands exercise of WingTsun called “chi sau.” See the blog entry on “Sticky Hands.”
It is said that the Siu Nim Tau is the “meditation” of WingTsun. This is actually true and true to its spirit in that the mediation is done at the same time as the movements and the stance practice. During its development, a need existed to teach people self defense more quickly than the ubiquitous Shaolin kung fu of the time.