The Siu Nim Tau is the first set of movements of Wing Tsun kungfu. The literal translation is the “Little Idea Form.” The first section of the form is done slowly. We are told by our instructors that doing it daily is important and the slower the better. The form has multiple benefits including a deep breathing subset which has a de-stressing benefit.
After you perform the Siu Nim Tau, is that the end of it? Are there not lessons we can gain from this form, this practice?
The answer is yes. One lesson is that we can further understand what is meant by “speed.” It seems this is an easy question that is already answered when we see speed or feel as though we are moving fast. However, everything is relative, and speed is as well. Not all fighting requires speed. In Wing Tsun, it turns out that timing is vital. In addition, Wing Tsun uses the shortest distance between two points and this gains the advantage over a faster opponent using a more circular route.
The most interesting benefit to learning the lessons of the Siu Nim Tau is extending the idea to your other practice. In the beginning it can be helpful to slow down your practice movements. I have seen students do this in several different ways. They slow down, perhaps ten percent from full speed and gain no benefits. They are tense, and their rigidity and haste cause them to continue the same mistakes. Then there are students who move too slowly, and their method creates a tentative and too careful a practice. They are trying to keep track of all the parts: their feet, their legs, their knees, their shoulders, their hands and getting none of it right.
This is causing you to realize that you must practice the pieces and parts individually first and then combine them when the pieces and parts become coordinated. The goal, of course, is to get the whole body moving together as a unit.
Getting the body moving together as a unit goes to self-defense but also to other daily activities and muscular and skeletal health issues.
-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg