|Not just a punching bag|
By Jasan Fujii
One of my biggest pet peeves is sloppy feeding or feeding with out a purpose. To elaborate, one partner (A) takes time off to rest as he feeds his partner (B), while B works his Wing Chun techniques. Why does this piss me off? Well because, 1) it's not "rest" time, and 2) the sloppy feeding results in the building of improper techniques and a false sense of security for the person being fed (B).
If you are feeding someone, you should be working as well. This is your chance to help your partner by observing him/her to see if they are properly executing the correct technique, executing the technique correctly and are helping them to build a solid foundation from which to build on.
Your feeds should resemble more of what you and your classmates would encounter on the street. Why? Because when those punches do come on the street, you are less likely to freeze because the punch is familiar to you-- as opposed to freezing because you are so use to seeing a Wing Chun punch delivered to you over and over again in class.
At a recent seminar I attended, Dr. Stanford McNeal told us as we were working and feeding our partners not to just stand there like a bunch of dummies or punching bags. This is not time off and just because we were feeding doesn't mean there's nothing to work on. As we feed we should be thinking about what our next move was now that our initial technique has now been blocked/disrupted. To look at our partners and see where they are open. Where they can be countered. Which counter we can use given our current position, etc. By doing this, Dr. McNeal said, we will develop our fighting mind and spirit.
But, wait. There's more! Even when you are working your basic drills, pak saos for example, as mundane and boring pak saos can become, ask yourself this: do I really have these down? Are my paks as good as they should be? Am I moving my partners arms because I'm executing the technique correctly, or is he/she moving them for me w/ lazy technique? How's my stance? Is it strong? Am I coming out of my stance to punch? To pak? To Tan? To lap? Even as you are feeding punches so your partner can work his/her pak saos, you should be working on your chain punching. Keeping your elbows in and punching in a straight line instead of drumming down. Are your punches relaxed? If you do not learn to relax your punches you'll never last a 4 minute round, believe me. How is your stance as you feed? Are you moving when pak'ed hard? Are you flying forward when lap'ed?
There is so much to perfect in the basic drills, yet that is why they are basic drills. Without a basic foundation, your building (Wing Chun) will collapse. So, don't mistake working with your juniors and newbies as time to take a break, even though it may not be as rigorous as full moving Chi Sao and Chi Gerk, it's still time to work and perfect your basic techniques and understanding of the art (and a c hance to set a good example to the person you're working with).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A student of John Kang, Jasan Fujii teaches Wing Chun in the San Francisco Bay Area. He can be reached through his website at http://www.wingchun-sf.com.
Examples of Poor Feeding
Beating the Drum
Out of range/Sloppy Feed
Out of range
| One such precision and sensitivity drill introduced in this article focuses on the concept of the centerline -- the first and foremost principle of the Wing Chun system. To a Wing Chun practitioner, the centerline represents both a prime target on an opponent, and a vulnerable area to be defended on oneself. This is because the plane between two antagonists' centerlines is considered the shortest line of attack. In addition, hitting an opponent's centerline eliminates any rotational "bleeding off" of an attacker's power, thereby both increasing striking effectiveness and also pushing back and unbalancing an enemy. Some practitioners also follow the Chinese medical point of view that the vitally important Ren (conception), Du (governing), and Chong (penetrating) meridians, as well as several vital Mu (alarm) and Jiao Hui (crossing) acupoints, all fall along this line. |
While chi sao training constantly emphasizes the protecting and taking of the centerline, the practitioner may sometimes become too concerned with chasing or trapping hands, and lose site of Wing Chun's intrinsic regard for simplicity and efficiency. Others may be unresponsive due to the use of too much muscle and the lack of contact reflexes.
The crossed chuan sao (shoveling hands) motion at the beginning of Wing Chun's three hand forms. Many schools teach that this movement helps a student measure the centerline. The starting position for this drill originates from this opening.
Starting Position: The arms rotate so that the blades of the hands and forearms face forward. Elbows drop in medially toward the centerline slightly.
ISOLATION - A DECONSTRUCTIONALIST'S APPROACH
|In order to ameliorate these problems, we attempt to isolate certain aspects of chi sao movements through various sensitivity, precision, and relaxation drills. Once such method, the Hands-Crossed Punching Drill specifically focuses on awareness of the centerline, while embracing the Wing Chun reliance on directness, relaxation, and sensitivity. In this drill, one student feeds off-center punches while another, whose hands are crossed, counters with an excluding (contacting to the outside surface of an opponent's arm) or including (contacting the inside surface) punch toward his feeder's centerline. Through repeated practice, the student will develop a perception of subtle changes in both his and his partner's hand positioning, as well as in the direction of force.|
1. With the trainee's hands in the aforementioned starting position, the feeder places his own two fists so that they occupy the center. The feeder will either punch toward his partner's facing shoulder or opposite shoulder, being certain to exaggerate the motion off of the central plane.
2a. If the feeder's punch comes in on the same side, the trainee counters with a rising including punch (contact along the inside of the feeder's forearm). The unengaged hand should return to the wu sao guard position. Note that the punch must rise slightly in order to deflect the feeder's attack.
2b. If the feeder punches toward the opposite shoulder, the receiver should use a dropping excluding punch (contact along the outside of the feeder's forearm). The other hand should return to the wu sao guard position. Note that the punch must drop slightly or else both parties' vectors will neutralize each other.
NOTE: In total, a feeder has four options: right punches to the right and left, and left punches to the right and left. In all cases, the receiver should counter with the motion that meets the least resistance. Any increased pressure between the partners' arms (e.g, if the trainee attempts an including punch against a feed to his opposite shoulder)is a sign that the trainee's motion was incorrect. As students get more experienced at sensing the feeds, the feeder should reduce his attacks' deviation from centerline.
INTEGRATION - THE ROLE OF CHI SAO
|Of course, taken as a singular movement, the Hands-Crossed Drill resembles the fixed, "if A, then B"-like attack-counterattack techniques prevalent in many other martial systems, and therefore becomes a "dead" drill that lacks adaptability and flexibility. Therefore, it is virtually meaningless unless integrated back into the rapidly and unpredictably changing conditions of chi sao practice so as to make the skills developed "live."|| |
From poon sao, Will's high fook sao crosses the centerline
Sensing that Will's hands have crossed center, Angela converts her fook sao into a straight punch toward his centerline.
From Poon Sao, Angela executes an indoor pak sao with punch
Will puts up an wu sao to protect himself from the punch; however, it strays too far laterally off-center.
Sensing the wu sao is off-center, Angela turns her pak sao into an including straight punch while her other hand covers Will's other hand.
APPLICATION - WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Further, chi sao is not an end, but a means of putting Wing Chun fighting theory into motion. Just because something works in chi sao practice does not mean it will work in an actual physical exchange. Therefore, the contact reflexes and all techniques developed in chi sao should be combat-applicable lest they become a waste of training time and violate the system's adherence to economy.
|1. Starting position: Angela stands in a ready position, facing off against Will who has assumed a conventional lead stance. Note she is just outside the maximum reach of his back kick. |
2. Following the Wing Chun maxim, "No hands, ask hands," Angela angles forward to her right while using a chuan sao motion to induce Will to put his hand and create a bridge.
|3a. If Will's hand crosses the central plane, Angela angles to her left and changes bridges with an including punch. |
3b. If Will's hand does not cross the central plane, Angela steps forward with an excluding punch.
VARIATION - ANOTHER VIEW
The Crossed-Hands Drill can be modified to include stepping, or adapted to sharpen other Wing Chun motions as well, including bong sao, tan sao, lap sao, and kuan sao. Each drill, including its integration into chi sao and adaptation toward combat would take an article in itself. However, following our style's theme of "making Wing Chun your own," the authors will leave it to you to experiment, tweak, and event variant drills of your own.
|In a journey through the martial arts section of your local yellow pages, you will undoubtedly discover a long listing of instructors with the title of Master, and some with the even loftier title of Grandmaster. To the Western mind, which still has a residual tendency to exotify Asian cultures, the concept of Mastery might conjure up the image of unparalleled physical and mental prowess. Coupled with claims of martial "purity," "authenticity," and "tradition," this unquestioning acceptance of Mastery can lead to subtle and overt exploitation. |
While I have no doubt that many of these instructors are highly capable and knowledgeable, their use of Master or Grandmaster actually strays from tradition. These titles are a purely Western construct, vestiges of 1950s WWII and Korean War veterans who brought back stories of incredible martial feats. Neither Chinese nor Japanese martial jargon uses of these terms, eschewing them in preference for the more modest Sifu and Sensei (1) – both just simple words for "teacher" (disclaimer: since I only know Chinese and Japanese, I cannot speak for other Asian languages). Master and Grandmaster are simply erroneous translations that found their way into martial arts culture when it was transplanted to America.
In the case of a Chinese martial arts instructor, the term Sifu (shi-fu) (2) is the combination of two characters: "teacher" and "father." From this terminology, we see that martial arts school, or kwoon (wu-guan) is viewed as an extended family unit with the Sifu at the center. The Sifu's teacher is the Sigung (shi-gong), or "teacher grandfather." The Sifu's wife is the Simu (shi-mu), or "teacher mother." Male students who began training before you, and are thus senior, are your Sihings (shi-xiong), or "teacher older brothers;" female seniors are your Sije (shi-jie), or "teacher older sisters." Students junior to you are your Sidai (shi-di) and Simei (shi-mei), or "teacher younger brother" and "teacher younger sister," respectively. Your Sifu's own Sihing are your Sibak (shi-bo), or "teacher older uncle"; his Sidai are you Sisuk (shi-shu), or "teacher younger uncle." His Sije and Simei are your Sigu (shi-gu), or "teacher aunts." There are extended relations such as cousins, great uncles, and so forth; however, these terms are not used as often.
This familial view stems from Confucian thought, which played an integral role in the development of Chinese culture. Just as Confucian values extolled the virtues of respect for elders, parents, and teachers, we find clear lines of respect toward seniority and instructors within a Chinese martial family. However, the various titles do not imply a higher level of capability. Further, the linguistic names for relationships all use the term shi, or "teacher." I believe that this tell us that we can learn from any one in our martial family, regardless of their seniority with relation to ourselves.
Of course, there are teachers outside of your own martial family, whom we call Sifu . (Shi-fu). In this case, we use a different character and pronunciation for fu, which also means "teacher." It is a title of respect, from which the English term Master probably arose. Ironically, many professions use this Sifu, including taxi drivers, cooks, and the like. Some teachers, who are widely recognized for their ability within their own martial style and in the martial arts community, might posthumously be referred to as Josi (zong-shi), which literally means "ancestral teacher." Perhaps the term for Grandmaster stemmed from this term. Yet another similar concept is that of Sijo (shi-zong), which is Josi flipped backwards. It refers to the founder of a specific system. For example, Sijo Bruce Lee is considered to be the Sijo of Jeet Kune Do.
Traditionally, a student might have two different kinds of relationships with his Sifu. Regular students are called Siuto (xue-tu), which translates to "student." These are the various people who join the class; some stay for two classes, some stay forever. It does not really matter, just as long as they learn or at one time learned from the teacher. This relationship is based on Confucian respect: Once a teacher, always a teacher - Even if you get better than your own teacher! In fact, it reflects very well on your teacher if you surpass him. Traditionally, you can only have one Sifu, though nowadays, people are constantly switching and changing their instructors.
Another, deeper relation between Sifu and student is the Todai (tu-di), which is often translated as "disciple." After a formal Tea Ceremony, where everyone dresses up in their Sunday's best and the Todai kneels while serving his Sifu tea, he is virtually considered an adopted son. This requires a lot of dedication and responsibility. Traditionally, it meant jobs such as keeping the school clean, collecting tuitions, and other similar duties. Then and now, it creates a lot of room for abuse from an unscrupulous Sifu, who may often hold out the potential of learning secret or advanced technique - for a fee.
Because of these potential abuses, and also 50 years of rejecting traditional Confucian culture, modern mainland China embraces a martial culture similar to that of Japan. Instead of using familiar relationships, a teacher is simply called laoshi — which can be translated as "teacher" or "coach." Even so, regardless of whether your instructor is your Sifu or your Laoshi, the Chinese mind never views him as your Master. Such terms are reserved for religious leaders, saints, and the like.
2. Since workers from South China first brought Chinese martial arts to America, Cantonese terms were used. I therefore use Cantonese descriptions, with standard Mandarin Romanization in parenthesis.
| Sensei, the Japanese term for teacher, literally means "first" "born." |
Sifu (shi-fu), the Chinese word for your own martial arts instructor, means "teacher father."
Kwoon (wu-guan), the Chinese word for martial arts school, literally means "fist hall."
Sigung (shi-gong) is your Sifu's teacher; it literally means "teacher grandfather."
Simu (shi-mu) means "teacher mother;" she is your Sifu's wife.
Sihing (shi-xiong), is the Chinese word for "teacher senior brother."
Sije (shi-jie), is the Chinese word for "teacher senior sister."
Sidai (shi-di), is the Chinese word for "teacher junior brother."
Simei (shi-mei), is the Chinese word for "teacher junior sister."
Sibak (shi-bo), is the Chinese word for "teacher senior uncle."
Sisuk (shi-shu), is the Chinese word for "teacher junior uncle."
Sigu (shi-gu), is the Chinese word for "teacher aunt."
Sifu (shi-fu), is the Chinese word for "teacher teacher;" it refers to a martial arts teacher outside your own martial family
Josi, (zong-shi) is a great teacher of a particular martial style; the Chinese word literally means "ancestral teacher."
Sito (xue-tu), is a student; the Chinese word means "study disciple."
Todai (tu-di), is the Chinese word for disciple, meaning "disciple younger brother."
What's Your Pedigree?
The Importance and Shortfalls of Martial Lineage
Just as owners of purebred dogs concern themselves with the purity of their pets' pedigree, the martial art student should seriously consider the authenticity of their lineage. This means understanding whom your teacher learned from, whom this Grand-teacher learned from, and so on-- all the way back to the legendary or actual origin of the style. The importance of the birth of the style, and your relationship to that origin, lies within the way that martial systems are learned.
In Chinese martial arts, we consider systems to be "transmitted (傳)" or "passed down," and not merely "taught (教)." The verbs used imply that a student does not learn a martial style like he studies mathematics in grade school, but rather inherits the art from his teacher. It assumes that he is more than just a face among many in a classroom, that his instructor has put significant effort into morally and physically cultivating this student based on his own abilities and limitations.
Because of this personalized manner in which a martial art is passed down, the source of the style becomes all the more important. More than just a collection of techniques, a martial system embodies a set of traditions, ideals, and theories. If the well from which these traditions emerge is tainted, then it sullies everything downstream. For example, many Wing Chun practitioners can trace their lineage back to Grandmaster Leung Jan - a far more reputable origin than say, Sifu Bob who taught himself from a book. Likewise, a teacher of Chen Taijiquan who learned in Chen Village from a member of the Chen family might have better insights than someone who simply mimics a group that gets together every Sunday morning in the park.
Therefore, an authentic lineage shows that the source of the style is sound. However, just like the "telephone game" we played as children-- where an original message may degrade or even change completely as it passes down a line-- a martial art has the chance of changing, evolving, or distorting as it passes from teacher to student to grandstudent to great-grandstudent. The farther away from the art's origin, the less likely it will resemble the art as envisioned by its founder. Direct students of Gichin Funakoshi might be more likely to teach Shotokan Karate accurately than a great-great-grandstudent who learns it six generations down, in a community center thousands of miles away from Tokyo's Shoto School.
Of course, this evolution of a style can sometimes work out for the better. Exceptional practitioners will always add unique insights into their art, codify ideas, or rediscover techniques that had been lost. Jigoro Kano simplified several families of Jujitsu to create the standardized art of Judo. Later, one of his powerful grandstudents Mitsuyo Maeda took it to Brazil, where his student Carlos Gracie tested and adapted it to the streets and his small-statured son Helio injected finesse and precise mechanics to contribute to the development of Gracie Jujitsu. Other styles have been created in similar fashion, such as Bruce Lee'screation of Jun Fan Kung Fu and Jeet Kune Do; or Chan Heung's fusion of the Choy, Lay, and Shaolin styles in Choy Lay Fut. However, these extraordinary individuals are the exception rather than the rule, and teachers are not uncommonly less skilled than their own instructors.
Therefore, a good lineage is often the starting point for solid martial skills. However, it can also breed complacency. Unfortunately, some students who know they have a good teacher and a good source sometimes assume they can achieve a high level of skill without putting in the same amount of effort. They believe that by going through the motions without putting their heart, mind, and sweat into it will allow them to achieve their teacher's hard-earned level of ability. But we can logically surmise that you will never become a good weaver without weaving or excel at pottery without practice, regardless of how good your instructor is. What makes martial arts any different? It is not the years of practice but rather the hours of effort that really count!
In addition to the pitfalls of complacency, good lineage can also breed arrogance. Some students will often rave about how good their teacher is, and assume that they are the only ones learning the "real" thing. Think about all the political rivalries that tore the Wing Chun community apart in the '80s. Or the posturing that fragmented Kyoukushin Karate into four major branches. Sure, exceptional teachers may be rare; but if you think that only 1 in 100 "get it," then out of the millions of martial arts instructors and students out there, a significant number must be good! Everyone brings their own unique insights, experiences, and mental and physical characteristics to their art, and each interprets and manifests based upon these original attributes. It is unsafe to assume that just because your instructor is awesome that he is the best or that he has a monopoly on the truth.
Taking all of these factors into account, what good is lineage? In my opinion, it should serve as a motivating factor in your own practice. If your teacher is good and comes from a solid line, use that to inspire yourself to improve and excel. It should become a springboard for your own dedicated training and not a weight that holds you back or alienates you from the martial community as a whole.