The popular perception of Wing Chun Kuen is that it is a simple and direct martial art.
It is certainly direct, but it is not at all easy. The skill can be as simple or as complex as you
like, but the greatest feat is to make something complex look very simple.
Wing Chun Kuen is a very pure martial ant it’s training syllabus consists of only three empty hand forms, one wooden dummy form and two weapons forms, the Bat Jam Dao (Eight Cutting Knives) and the Luk Dim Boon Gwun (Six and Half Point Pole). How can such a small amount of movements produce such a good martial art? One that is both very good for self defence and one that is good for your health?
Wing Chun’s past is very unclear. The part that is agreed upon is the last one hundred years or so and this is perhaps the most significant. In this time Wing Chun passed through the hands of Leung Jan and Yip Man. What linked these two great masters together was their quest to simplify Wing Chun. This process of simplification made the skill purer and more concentrated, they reduced it down to make it stronger just as a chief would do to make his source stronger. Nothing has been lost and if you practise correctly then you will be training many things, perhaps without even realising it. However, if you do not know what you are doing then you might miss it all and you will not know how to apply it. If this happens then the genius of Yip Man and Leung Jan will have passed you by.
If you have studied Wing Chun for any length of time you will have heard that the first form ‘Siu Lim Tao’ is the most important. It might sound boring, but its true! Many Chinese Martial arts talk of form (xing) and intent (yi), in fact one of the most famous styles takes this as its name, Xingyiquan. However these principles of form and intent apply to everything.
What is meant by form and intent?
Take your fist as an example. As a weapon it is useless unless you have both the correct shape (of the fist) and the intention (correct attitude and mental focus) of actually using it to strike something. Without the correct shape or form it is nothing and without the intent which gives it its purpose it is also nothing. So form and intent is in essence yin and yang, inside and outside.
But what does this have to do with Wing Chun and Siu Lim Tao? Siu Lim Tao is a sequence of techniques, so of course you have perform each movement with both correct form and intent, but what is the intent of Sui Lim Tao itself? I would argue that the movements and techniques, etc. are the shape or form, so what is the intent?
To answer this question you should look at the name of the form. Many people see the name, but do not look any further into it. Often it is translated as ‘Little Idea’. In this context it is used to mean that it is the basics of the system. This is true, it is the basics of the system, however, since we have a little idea, there should also be a ‘big idea’ a Dai Lim Tao (this is balance yin and yang). So what is the Big Idea? Actually there is no Big Idea. Sui Lim Tao tells us to reduce our thoughts, reduce them to nothing. Only when there is nothing is there no yin and yang and so no small or big. When you are performing Sui Lim Tao you must have many thoughts, even if you are thinking only about what you are doing. Your mind will wander to you legs, you shoulders, your arms, your elbows, etc., as you continually correct your posture and your movements. Gradually, as you become more correct you only have to pay attention to certain parts of your body, and as you progress these reduce and with them so do your thoughts. Ideally, you should have no thoughts, because you are performing Sui Lim Tao perfectly. Though perfection may not be achievable it is what we strive for. This search for perfection, reducing to nothing, is the approach you should take when studying Wing Chun Kuen. When you perform all the forms, when you practise Chi Sau (Sticking Hands) you should reduce your thoughts, and as with Sui Lim Tao as you get better, the number of thoughts will get smaller.
Don’t compromise yourself, search for perfection, not just in how you perform the movements, but also in how you follow the principles of Wing Chun Kuen. However,
always remember to enjoy the search, it just a game.
Article taken from Qi Magazine, Issue 25 – 1996, Page 35
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