Gresham’s Law 2

That Cho Gar Wing Chun is largely or should I say nearly completely displaced by Ip Man Wing Chun in Penang is one of the disturbing trends in the Wing Chun world today.

What is even more disturbing is how many are importing internal arts elements into Wing Chun, modifying it and then calling it Wing Chun. I mean do they even know what doing this means?

Let me spell it out what this means – it means that the art that they originally learned is deficient, that the chest pounding talk about proud tradition and lineage is meaningless, if they have to modify what they were handed down from the generation before. In short, the transmission is incomplete and broken once it has been modified and its characteristics changed. OK, you can say you improved on it but if something is already optimal how do you optimize it further? If you could then it was not optimal to begin with.

Don’t get me wrong – if there is something wrong with your art and you need to tinker with it to fix it fine but don’t claim that its been traditionally handed down when it is no longer the case. Some of course get it right by labelling the style as Master X style Wing Chun which means that though Master X learned from say, Grandmaster Z, the style transmitted by Master X is no longer what Grandmaster Z passed down but has been changed by Master X.

Which of course leads to the interesting question – do they even know what are the unique characteristics of their style of Wing Chun? What sets their Wing Chun apart from other arts in terms of theories, principles and applications?

Every style of Wing Chun share common elements but they also have their own differences. The common elements are what make Wing Chun stand apart as a style in its own right. Writing a lot of theories and giving long video talks do not an art make. The thing that long video explanations are good for is as a solution for insomnia. If you want to demonstrate your understanding of Wing Chun don’t post long, boring, rambling explanations. Instead, show how you do it cause action speaks louder than words.

If you spend enough time researching Wing Chun you will find that it has a set of principles that define how the movements are articulated which in turn define how they are applied. You don’t need to write a book, make that not even a long chapter, to explain it. A good model can be explained in less than 1 minute but will take a lot of time to put into practice. Today this has been turned on its head by the tons of videos out there professing to offer explanations on the true art. As we Chinese put it “saliva more than tea”.

Some masters like to say that Wing Chun is internal and give long winded explanations that don’t always hit the mark. I’d say all the explanations are meaningless unless you know what internal really means. The problem is most masters don’t know what they don’t know with regards to internal.

For example, if a Wing Chun master’s mastery of internal is the same as say Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s then he would be able to demonstrate the type of power that GM Wei has. However, I have to say that I have not seen any Wing Chun master, not even GM Tsui Seung Tin (who had superb power), who can exhibit a similar mastery. So in this respect the internal of Wing Chun is clearly not the same as the internal of Tai Chi. If you don’t believe me all you have to do is read the book on the 22-form by GM Wei and compare it to the Wing Chun Treasured Texts by GM Tsui. Its like comparing an A-level book to a doctorate level book. Or watch the videos of both grandmasters and you can see that both approaches are as different as day and night.

Wing Chun is Wing Chun. It has “yau” (soft) and “kong” (hard) but these are meaningless terms without understanding the actual feel. Many “kong” becomes what we term as “ngaang kok kok” (硬搉搉). I had one teacher who had the fighting techniques but his sticking hands felt “ngaang kok kok” (maybe that’s why he hated doing sticking hands which is a first for a Wing Chun master cause most Wing Chun masters would happily touch hands). By comparison, his teacher (whom I also learned from later) had the soft touch which can turn hard suddenly on contact and back to soft.

The hands of my teachers in Tai Chi felt different from the hands of my teachers in Wing Chun. Sometimes you see them apply techniques in a similar manner but the feel is different. One of my Wing Chun teachers sometimes used a neutralizing method that is similar to what we do in Ngok Gar Kuen but though the outer appearance looks similar the feel is not the same.

When you learn an art you’d want to know what makes it unique, not just know that Ip Man the pseudo fictional movie character could beat down a room full of Japanese martial artists. If you know anything about the style you would know that Wing Chun the art doesn’t work that way against more than one opponent. In fact, the way the movie Ip Man depicted that fight is just wishful thinking though it is an enjoyable action scene.

The traditional arts are dying in two ways – (1) lack of interest to learn (2) transformation to something it was not, losing its physical identity and possibly the characteristics that made it effective. If you love the traditional arts do something to arrest and possibly reverse the decline. Otherwise, in the future the “premium” art that you thought you are learning could well be just the “McD” burger served on expensive porcelain plate.

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Gresham’s Law

I don’t know what to think but its kinda interesting (or disturbing) when I typed “Penang Wing Chun” in the Facebook search and the results show that the Wing Chun that is found in Penang today is dominated by Ip Man style.

What happened to Cho Gar Wing Chun? Did it go underground? Did it become irrelevant? Did the popularity of Ip style overtake and displaced it?

Rest in peace Uncle Cheong. Its fortunate that you didn’t have to see what happened to the art you practiced today.

Be Inspired

You don’t have to know 1,001 ways to fajing if you are interested in the combat side of Tai Chi. You only have to know how to get the position and apply one good strong power. This is what I normally focus on.

However, when you eat the same food too many times you get sick of it. So yeah, sometimes we can take a side trip to the fajing world to reaffirm our interest. Mind you, as it is our first form, the 108, already has enough fajing methods for you to play with.

But Tai Chi fajing skill level is like a deep, dark hole as how my teacher once said. This video of GM Wei Shuren is a constant reminder of the skill level we can work towards.

His fajing is light and crisp, with minimal movement and effort. It doesn’t mean he does not have fajing that can cause serious injury. He did but stopped demonstrating it when he nearly caused serious hurt to someone once.

Anyway, consider this a good source of inspiration and motivation. Keep on training.

Vesak Monday

Vesak Day is a good day to reflect on wether we want to be enslaved or to be enlightened.

Rituals can enslave or they can enlighten. So is the same of habits, outlook and biases. All these color our view of “what is” so that we see and hear what we want to rather than “what is”.

To overcome this at times it is good to take a contrary view. For example, if someone tells you that having a lineage is good, take the opposite view. In this way, you train your mind to be truly open by having your own honest dialog unencumbered by having to fit in and meet the expectation of others.

This is not something many will understand and why the true seeker walks a lonely path. This is also why many seek those of similar views and disposition because many are afraid of being on the outside, the odd one out, preferring to blend in and craving the company of many, even if this stands in the way of their progress and eventual enlightenment.

Many famous people walk the lonely path when they were seeking the way. Some who come to mind include Miyamoto Musashi. Muso Gonnosuke, Mas Oyama, Wu Yuxiang, Wang Yongquan, Huineng, Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Einstein, Isaac Newton………

Sometimes the views of those who are outside the establishment are far ahead of what is the norm. So much so that it threatens the establishment; the movers and shakers who are shaken are then stirred into action to preserve the status quo. Their means include disproving, putting down the new views / findings and even character assassination because it threatens their livelihood, perks and society standing.

Knowledge particularly enshrined knowledge can degrade and be misinterpreted over time. The skyrocketing of a field from obscurity to mass popularity can also cause it to lose its way. Case in point – Tai Chi and Wing Chun – two very popular and effective combat arts but now has been distorted and misrepresented such that any seeker of the true way has his work cut out for him.

First, he has to separate the wheat from the chaff. That the true knowledge is obscure makes this difficult. This is why we sometimes say that one is fated to get it or not; I suspect its more of a case of luck, of being in the right place at the right time.

Secondly, once you get the knowledge you have to make sense of it. This depends on your intelligence, your dogged persistence, and most importantly, your willingness to let go of your own biases, outlook and previous knowledge to see what is as is and to find out what it is that you don’t know that you don’t know.

Thirdly, you have to keep working on it, revising again and again what you have, what you thought you know, not be afraid of questioning, reviewing, testing, checking and correcting as many times as you need to, over as many years as is required.

Never set your knowledge in stone. This is why sometimes it makes bad sense to learn from a school that claims to have knowledge that is already fixed, unchanged, received from the past, with ranks to climb.

True knowledge is rarely like this, even messy which is why it is a challenge to learn. Of course, as you build up you should also tear down, decumulating even as you are accumulating.

True complexity resides in simplicity, not in burdensome complexity that overwhelms rather than allows us to see through the mess of tradition. Differences are only meaningful if they are truly meaningful, otherwise they are but marketing tools to stand out from the crowd, an excuse to move up the price chain.

On Vesak Day I remember what my teacher said about the objective of learning Tai Chi simply to be to put in the daily practice rather than try to master it.

Keeping your eye highly trained on the objective can make you miss out on other things. Instead, just enjoy the daily ride and pay the fare of time to take the journey that at the end will allow you to arrive at your destination.

Contact Training 5

We can create an opening to attack or we can wait until an opening presents itself.

In the clip below my student presented a good flow with strong, sticky movements so unless I purposely created an opening there was no getting through his defence.

But as we flowed and flowed, a slight deviation in his movement flow was detected and I seized the opportunity to attack. This is why when we play hands we put 110% awareness into it.

The clip below presents a different take on how to attack. This time instead of letting the flow of movements open up the space to attack, I used pressure to crowd in, wedge and attack.

Thereafter, I used the same attack over and over again. I didn’t need to change the technique because my student could not solve the technique.

Contact Training 4

Circle, spiral, twist, turn, come in, escort out, snare, trap, lock. A round of push hands can provide us training in these various movements of the arm.

When you can movement seemingly free, yet adhering to a fuzzy pattern of movements you can begin to use it to find and create an opening for your attack.

In the second part of the clip I go through a few patterns of movements using them to probe until I found the opening.

Though we are playing movement patterns we should be careful not to become fixated with only one set of movements. Let the movements flow freely, yet find the pattern in the movements.

Then you can change at will in response to a stimulus. So if in the midst of movement my student tried coming too close and pressuring my arm against my body, I kept my awareness and moved from inside to outside while neutralizing his attack and returning a counter.

Contact Training 3

Why we do form training so much?

This is because this is one way to train ourselves to be familiar with our own movements.

In the beginning of the clip my student is attempting to apply a technique but his movement is not filled with confidence hence the uncertain feel I was getting.

When you know the movement really well you can move so much better. It is not unusual for a student to think that a lacklustre technique is acceptable. It might be when he is training with another student but it will not be if he is doing it with someone at a higher level.

When you know your movement it is like a highly tuned and sensitive instrument, so much so that a slight deviation will set off an instant response.

Otherwise, you can run round and round in circles and still cannot find the opening for your attack.