Learning Unique Skills

It did not take me long after beginning WingTsun™ training to figure out that I was learning certain high level skills in the martial arts. I had studied another style for eight years and during that time I read and read some more. We did not have the internet so I just read books and magazines about what exists in the martial arts world. At the time, I never thought I would have an opportunity to dive straight into the “deep end” of the practice of high level skills found mostly in the Chinese martial art systems.

To learn such skills was not glamorous or exciting at the time. When you learn it, you find out that “sticky hands” in the martial arts is not something you get while making candy or pouring syrup on your pancakes. High level skills, similar to “chop sticks” on a piano, require decidedly unglamorous repetition. “Sticky hands” as Bruce Lee called it is the skill used to defeat an enemy with their own strength. It is better known among the Chinese people as “chi sau” (chee sow) which translates as “energy hands.” It is more of a mental skill than a physical one. By creating an image of a spring that presses gently against an attacker’s forearms, you train the arms and the mind to agree to this photograph in your mind – that of a metal spring clinging to his arms magnetically. This is where you get used to the idea that the human mind can accomplish almost anything and this time, it is a very useful skill. You begin to see that if you drop something, your hand can easily follow it and catch it. You can coordinate your hand with an object in mid air. Catching a punch is no problem. Feeling his oncoming force is no problem. Using that force is no problem when combined with the CORRECT footwork. In a real fight, your body moves automatically according to your attacker’s force.

With a skill such as chi sau in your muscle memory, self defense skill is several times more effective. You can feel your attacker’s force and conveniently not be in the path of an attacker’s force and simultaneously make use of his force in counter attacking.

In WingTsun, the high level skills go farther than just chi sau. The premier lesson is footwork. Energy training in the footwork equals the chi sau training and might be even more important in self defense. We do not put any weight on the forward leg in the WingTsun fighting stance. This develops very strong core muscles in the legs. It also allows a fighter to glide across the floor without shifting weight from one foot to another thus telegraphing a forward step or a kick. A kick is twice as fast because A) we do not delay the kick by taking the weight off the forward leg first -the weight is not on the forward leg – and B) the distance we kick is not as far so it reaches the target faster. In addition, we kick to the lower part of the body to rob our attacker of his ability to stand up or move against us.

The idea of keeping the same leg forward during stepping until one changes direction is very unique to this system. This keeps the practitioner from crossing his or her legs in the process of the step and creating a weak point by which an attacker can cause you to fall down with a simple kick to the lower body or by throwing a long stick between your legs in a real fight.

The skills of chi sau (upper body) and the footwork (lower body) are just two of the higher skills in the WingTsun system that are different from any commonly taught martial art today. WingTsun practitioners consider them both practical and vital for true, failure-proof self defense skills. The side benefits amount to increased awareness of body positions, posture, hip position, shoulder carriage, muscle tone in all these areas, hand-eye coordination, and remarkable and supple hand skills.

© Copyright 2009, Keith Sonnenberg, All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction With Out Permission.

Sifu Keith Sonnenberg can be contacted at (480) 668-9220 or sifusonnenberg@wingtsunaz.com

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