Can we measure how relevant is WingTsun martial arts training to your life? Most assuredly not. However, in a way similar to when you were a child learning the ABCs of the English language, the first form of WingTsun™ called Siu Nim Tau contains the ‘ABCs’ of WingTsun. All of WingTsun’s ‘little ideas’ are in the form. The techniques are each represented in the sequence of movements which later are expanded greatly in separate applications to form sentences (fighting applications). Your first day at class is like your life at your first day in school as a first grade student.
It is quite evident after a student has been with the Wing Tsun programs for a number of months that if a student focuses on a technique consistently and performs many thoughtful repetitions, skillful execution of the techniques is the result.
The very act of training a simple technique many repetitions parallels the lessons we learn in life exactly in that we have all heard the term ‘practice makes perfect.’ Many adults have not had to learn any such physical skills since childhood. The change for the better in the adult student’s outlook is sometimes spectacular.
Many of us have had the experience of needing to finish an important project. In order to see it to its conclusion, we need to forgo a few perceived pleasures, lock ourselves away, so to speak, and concentrate on this one ‘little idea.’ WingTsun’s first form is called Siu Nim Tau. Its meaning is little idea form.
In learning the WingTsun techniques well, our movements become automatic. When the time comes to defend ourselves, our body takes over and defends without thinking. This is similar to driving a car. Have you ever noticed than you can drive a familiar route and your actions become so automatic that you do not remember when you put on your turn signal, when you shifted to a higher gear, or down shifted when you turned a corner? This is because your cerebrum, which is involved in computations, and logical and emotional thought, is not really involved in this process. It is your cerebellum which controls reflexes among other things.
In Wing Tsun system, we compete only with ourselves. Is it not true that in most circumstances where we may blame and curse another person for their apparent success, it is not their success that angers us but our own failure? This competing with ourselves in WingTsun training is a good lesson which reverses this tendency. It is one reason that we have to leave our ego at the door when we begin WingTsun training.
In learning to borrow the force of our attacker in the Wing Tsun system we learn to not clash force with our attacker, but to yield at first so as not to be overcome by it, then return the force. We yield, then we borrow and then we return it. In order to yield, we should probably not hold an opinion about this ‘attack.’ This approach also works in life. By butting heads with somebody who has assumed a rigid position in this hypothetical argument, nobody really wins. Stubbornness and previously learned values and ideas are difficult to change during a single moment. However if you yield, you can use the force of their argument against them and then you have a chance of winning them over.
In the WingTsun sticky hands (chi sau) drill, it can become a small fight as in ‘kuo sau’ (fighting practice). It is an example of how a mission to solve a few problems is very similar to this activity in WingTsun training. It can reach a stage where it is downright competitive. In the sticky hands training, we look for the shortest distance to the target and yet also look for the open area by feel, not by sight, and where we are not clashing force with our opponent. Just like many times in real life, we look for opportunities to enter our opponent’s world so that we may win. We must also maintain an upright posture and give no sign, facial or otherwise through our arms that we are about to move or that we are a threat. In competitive situations either at work or play, we see these situations occur. Although we like to win, sometimes we lose and there is a lesson in losing as well.
We cannot always win but we can keep going. When we cannot win we ‘stay with what comes’ as in the WingTsun motto, if only for a moment. In life, we stay with what comes for a few months or years until the situation changes. Then we can follow through with our original idea as in the motto ‘follow through as it retreats.’ When the right opportunity shows itself, the WingTsun motto teaches that we can ‘spring forward as our hand is freed,’ and thus realize our intention or ambition.
Let us say that you are on your way to an important meeting with a client or a supervisor. You are accompanied by a colleague who asks you what you are going to say at this meeting. You reply, “I do not know. It depends on what the other person says!” It is the same as with WingTsun idea of fights. If you ask a high ranking student of the WingTsun system what they would do if somebody takes a swing at them, the response should be, “I do not know. It depends on what the opponent actually does!” We cannot truly predict with accuracy, the way a future event unfolds. In WingTsun, we move according to how our opponent moves paraphrasing Grandmaster Leung Ting’s words in the original video, Authentic Wing Tsun Kung Fu. Attempting to predict the future is not a productive line of thought. Your opponent or non-opponent has free will and will also react unpredictably. The only way to know how you will react is to go ahead and live that moment.
– Sifu Keith Sonnenberg