4/06/2008

reflections on wing chun

Some people have asked me about Wing Chun training, so I will try to put a few thoughts down here.
I am still very much a novice in Wing Chun (aka all sorts of spellings such as Ving Tsun, but I find the Wing Chun romanization more credible as it matches Cantonese transcription - although should I be capitalizing the name of all the martial arts; guess not), so cannot really discuss it with any masterful authority. However, I am starting to see certain things in it that I had little idea about at the beginning - although I was first introduced to Wing Chun very briefly back in Hong Kong through a couple of people, and also through watching some training videos of Jackie Chan, who is a real pro on the wooden dummy practice. I didn't understand where you were supposed to start learning such moves.
Wing Chun is very much about short range combat, namely using the forearms to deflect punches and counter with hand strikes as an opponent gets sucked in towards you. It is paradoxically simultaneously very technical and very simple. It can be a very effective system, although I've come to see that many systems can be effective if it works on the principle of speed, so I don't believe Wing Chun can necessarily 'outclass' other martial arts. As in almost any aspect of society, speed wins out nearly every time.
I'm still very much in the bumbling around stages, turning knots with my terrible co-ordination. Also, after being very sick last year, I am still really struggling with strength. However, I am very lucky to have gotten this far, and I think I can eventually make it back up there. I'm using Wing Chun as an intermediary as part of my recovery process. Wing Chun training is actually quite good as a low impact recreation, and thus can be recommended for those reluctant to get into highly explosive martial arts such as karate or taekwondo. Except for the stances which I find put a lot of strain on the knees (ironically, I never had any knee pain when doing repeated high impact taekwondo kicking), it's very easy going on the body when in controlled training sessions.
Wing Chun does have some very strange stances which I cannot reconcile myself with. The idea is that the stances are supposed to make you anchored to the floor by placing you in a low sitting position and give you a stability which makes it easier to maintain balance when struck by an opponent. For me, I find myself that a prolonged Wing Chun stance makes me very flat-footed and sluggish on my feet. Again, I would rather have the speed to move around my opponent, and not face them head on. Wing Chun also has forms which require being in the main Wing Chun stance, and again, it's just not dynamic enough for my liking if I can't move my legs and feet.
I sorely miss the kicks of hapkido and taekwondo. There are several kicks which form part of the Wing Chun arsenal, but they are ironically slow and don't match the effectiveness of the arm techniques. The focus is on arm techniques. That is not to say that Wing Chun techniques are restrictive. Quite the contrary. Moreover, you only really need one or two moves performed well to overcome an opponent in any case. Personally though, my preference for the dynamics of hapkido self defence - those being very long sweeping kicks or self-defence sequences which require the use of the whole body momentum as arcing leverage - means that Wing Chun just doesn't fit my natural physical response ability, regardless of whether it is more practical or not as a defence/offence option. I guess this difference could be mirrored in why some people like baseball but not cricket when both sports are about hitting a ball with a stick. The dynamic subtleties in physical to psychological sensation transference is quite different with different movements.
I pray be that I will have the chance to return to a hapkido class one day. I've decided that I like hapkido the best of all because of the range of skills that you need to train in makes it eternally fascinating and challenging, and that it still has all the fancy kicking that attracted me to martial arts in the first place. However, I am intent on sticking to Wing Chun in the mean time because I can see that it has value in working on punching techniques. In Korea, even in Gongkwonyusul, all class punch training was done into the air. I became quite good at punching the air! However, in Wing Chun, the importance of practicing with controlled contact is stressed, and I can positively say that I'm pretty hopeless at punching people for real!! It's something I can aim to work on. I also hope to gain from Wing Chun class a better detection at an opponent's movement. I struggled with this from day one of taekwondo training, and continued to get kicked to the head right until my last class, simply because I focus so much on what I'm doing with the idea of 'looking technically right' that I cannot focus on what the other person is doing at the same time. If this can improve then Wing Chun will do it's job for me - if I make another posting of Wing Chun of this length again, then it might be doing even more than I set out to achieve in this martial art!! However, I don't feel at this stage that Wing Chun will consume me even as much as 0.1/10th of what taekwondo did, especially as I can't afford to train more than once a week, which is totally insufficient for adequate development in a martial art. As a substitute, I've now gotten out an old Chinese wushu manual that I bought in Korea, and am training for my first full wushu sword form...utilizing an umbrella!!! If I perserve to see the whole form through (either that or a gust of wind will have destroyed the umbrella before I complete the form), I will endeavor to put a video of it on YouTube.

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