by Jim Roselando
One of the main criticisms by the modern practitioner would be that it is pointless to look into our arts roots as today’s fighters are not the same as the boxers from the time when Wing Chun was developed! Well, times may have changed but the human body has not, and, the reason for the research is to help us understand what was the goal (or purpose) of the training (when the union of the Emei Snake & Fukien Crane took place) which was the paradigm shift for a martial art development process. The new system was rooted in two giants of Chinese martial and health arts, which explains why our art was designed to be more effective and efficient than other systems. This article will address some of the core coaching from the Wing Chun ancestors and how we can utilize their teaching to maximize our own development today!
The art of Wing Chun Kuen, just like any art, has many aspects of training. Solo, footwork, partner, sticking hands, dummy, free fighting and other elements that all need be developed, but one of the key aspects in developing the practitioner is a proper solo cultivation. So, why we practice is quite simple. “To develop and integrate our whole body.” This brings us to one of the common stories we have all heard which is that “wrong training is harmful to the practitioner”? Well, what kind of wrong training are the ancestors talking about? What could be done in training that could be harmful to the body and boxing? So, lets address some of the coaching of Wing Chun Kuen ancestor Yik Kam with regards to the solo cultivation!
One boxing classic states: Internally train the breath and Qi. Externally train the muscles, tendons and bones. This is the clearest guide for understanding what is to be cultivated during your solo practice, and, will develop the right stuff needed to activate and integrate your entire body. These two simple phrases will be the guide for keeping us from swaying off the path when it comes to understanding what two aspects our solo practice will develop! They are the core of how to train the internal, and external, aspects of our body with our martial art. The inside training is thru stillness (this training is specifically targeted/isolated in the first section of the first set) and moving works the external training but in our art they are both exercised thru our solo practice and the result of the training will be the foundation for the qualities famous to our art. This would be the ability to use qualities of joining, sticking and spring shock force with a centered wholesome body. The offensive and defensive tools of our art are being simultaneously developed during solo training but this article will focus on the core engine building and not its extensions.
The training concepts for solo practice that come from Wing Chun ancestor, Yik Kam, are actually quite simple and come directly from the ancestral Kuen Kuit (boxing poetry). Keep in mind that the art of Wing Chun is a “natural state” or soft form of Boxing. This means, the main purpose of Wing Chun’s solo training is to condition your whole body while simultaneously developing the tools and dynamics of the art. The platform of development, and conditioning, during solo practice would be:
The primary purpose of the solo practice is designed for loosening up the practitioner! The two easiest aspects to grasp during solo training would be the physical & mental. The physical body must be released and every part of the body must be open and softened from your daily exercise. The second aspect of training is the mind. If the mind cannot relax then how can the body? So, as one begins to gradually quiet the mind via the breathing awareness, the training of loosening of the physical is being developed at the same time.
There are direct relations with the process of quieting the mind and the breathing layer of training. A quiet mind is the result of breathing awareness and this brings us to understand something about energy. For without a relaxed body, mind & breath there is no energy cultivation. So, bringing awareness to your posture, relaxation and breathing is the foundation of the Boxing Sets exercise. During your solo training the breathing must be effortless and this requires a gradual and natural process to Sink the Qi to the Dan Tien thru lower abdominal breathing. The Zheng Qi energy will eventually cultivate and transport from the Dan Tien throughout the entire body creating a fully integrated but dynamic structure. When all the first four areas are cultivated the practitioner will have Ging (soft wholesome force) that drives our Wing Chun and is the result of this specific path of the solo development! A body that is elongated and released thru solo practice will have the quality of heavy and light with a greater range of elasticity to the body thus taking the foot off the break while driving your martial art!
If the art of Wing Chun was designed to be highly efficient then it had to be very simple. The goal of the solo training was to return the body to the natural state while developing the tools and dynamics of the art. Keep in mind that to develop your body and mind still requires time and effort. This is the Kung of Kung Fu! Solo training without this methodology would actually deplete us and close off the body as a result of the training which brings understanding as to why; Wrong training is harmful to the practitioner! Wrong development will harden the body and close off the joints, which depletes sensitivity, shock force and many other key elements. A tense breath and body obstructs the flow of blood, which disturbs your ability to respond and react in a dynamic situation. If one utilizes the simple five stages of cultivation for their solo practice these concerns need not apply and you will be on the fast path to famed state of Sung (letting go) thanks to a little coaching from the ancestors!