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Introduction to Sil Lim Tao

Introduction to Sil Lim Tao

From Wing Chun Journey

by Craig Sands


Sil Lim Tau is the first of the hand forms of Wing Chun Kung Fu.  All the basic hand movements used in Wing Chun are contained in Siu Nim Tao. There is minimal leg movement in the form; the feet only move to set up the stance in the initial movements.

Siu Lim Tao:

  • defines the centreline and teaches students where their hands should be relative to it
  • teaches students how to execute Wing Chun strikes correctly
  • reinforces the correct elbow position
  • instills correct breathing patterns
  • facilitates force generation in short range Wing Chun strikes

Great emphasis is put on relaxation while performing Siu Nim Tao. This facilitates efficiency of movement and hand speed

Grandmaster Ip Ching describes Sil Lim Tao:

“Since Sil Lim Tau is the first form, many people think that it is only a beginning course. This is partially true. I consider Sil Lim Tau the basic of Wing Chun. Many of the movements of Chum Kiu, Biu Gee, Muk Yan Jong (Wooden Dummy), even Bat Cham Dao come from Sil Lim Tau. So Sil Lim Tau is not just the beginning course, but an important foundation”  

Sil Lim Tao is divided into three sections, with a total of one hundred and eight movements. Each small section has its own aim in practice, and various meanings in application:

Section 1:

The first section is for training the basic strength of the wrist and elbow. The strength is in the formation of the major hand positions of Tan Sau, Fook Sau, and Wu Sau.  This section concentrates on developing good structure, relaxation and Gung Lik or “Elbow Energy.” It is performed slowly and without muscle tension.   This part is like a preparatory meditation, although for beginners it is taught without any coordination to breath, and the focus is simply on remaining mindful and “in the moment.”

Section 2:

The second section is the training of using the strength and power.  This section begins to develop Fajing, or the “release of power.” You begin to use both hands simultaneously while maintaining a solid stance. To release power efficiently you should stay completely relaxed and wait until the last moment of the movement.

Section 3:

The third section is for training correct position of the basic hand movement into your muscle memory. Movements include Pak Sau, Tan Sau, Gaun Sau, Huen Sau and Bong Sau. The practitioner must concentrate on executing each movement’s position correctly.

To effectively develop and use Wing Chun you must use the first sections of Sil Lim Tao to train the basic power and strength. There are no short cuts – once the movements of the form have been learned, they must be practised seriously to train the power and strength. When practising the first part of Sil Lim Tao it has to be slow – to train for the strength one has to be serious, and to be serious one must do it slowly.

Since economy of movement and energy are mainstays of Wing Chun Kung Fu, it is important that each action be smooth and effective. The body must respond without hesitation and be able to protect itself with a minimal amount of expression. It is for this reason that the “centerline” is such a vital factor.

Grandmaster Ip Man described that in “Sil Lim Tao or ‘little idea’, the ideas of daily matters, such as money, work, hate, love, etc…. ‘decrease to as little as possible, or even none’, so that the practitioner may ‘concentrate only upon practising’. “

Siu Lim Tao also provides the seed that begins the growth of certain attributes necessary in Wing Chun Kung Fu. An important development is the training of “internal power.” This energy is not mystical – just the ability to meet an opponent’s force with just the right amount of energy to stop it.  For this spring-like effect to occur the hands have to be emptied of tension.

Sil Lim Tao invokes the body and mind to stay relaxed and alert so that energy can be provided instantly to the hands. The hands must learn to move instinctively and respond naturally so that the overall effect is to economize every action to a useful end while conserving energy.


Source: https://wcjourney.wordpress.com/the-forms/introduction-to-sil-lim-tao/


The Mechanics of Wing Chun Empty Hand Forms

The Mechanics of Wing Chun Empty Hand Forms

by Chinatravel.com

Siu Nim Tao (“Little First Training” [小念頭]) – This is the basic, or fundamental, form on which all other forms in Wing Chun build. Not surprisingly, therefore, the focus in Siu Nim Tao (note that Tao is often written as Tau instead, just as any move, block, etc., whose name ends in –ao is as commonly written as –au)), which is also sometimes referred to as Siu Lim Tao, is on structure, posture and stance, the perhaps three most important aspects of WCKF and which rely on a knowledge of Rooting, as described above.

The stance is defensive, with the feet, slighlty pigeon-toed, barely far enough apart to prevent the WCKF fighter from falling over, with the legs very slighty bent, for the sake of elasticity, and the knees close together so as to protect the groin (the easiest way to come into this stance, called the horse stance, is to stand with the feet pressed against each other, then, with the weight on the heels and keeping the heels together, spread the feet at the toes to a 45 degree angle, then, shifting the weight to the balls of the feet, spread the heels until the position of the feet is very slightly pigeon-toed). The posture: the spine is held straight, the chin slightly lowered (to protect the throat), which has the effect of raising the crown of the head slightly, though some postures require the head to be held level. From this position, a number of hand moves, most involving only one hand at a time, will be performed, but keeping focus on the center line and the posture.

Siu Nim Tao does not involve turns, and thus one says that it does not involve footwork. It does, however, involve hand moves (both defensive and offensive) launched from the 4 “directions”: moving forward, moving backward, and with the opponent at a right angle to one’s own position, either on the right or on the left. Siu Nim Tao is divided into three stages, the first of which concentrates on performing the hand moves very slowly.

The first moves are naturally defensive, blocking moves involving one hand at a time – with power seated in the elbow and forearm only – but since the defensive and the offensive in Wing Chun are as intimately linked as the Yin and the Yang, every defensive move leads to a positioning where it can glide over into an attack with the other hand. Thus a typical block with the one hand is potentially followed up with a punch by the other hand, though in the first stage of Siu Nim Tao, the emphasis is on the defensive. Each of the moves are performed very slowly and deliberately, and with relaxed arms except for the slight tension in the relevant muscle (tricep or bicep), depending on whether the arm is being extended or retracted, and with focus on posture, structure and stance.

As the practitioner shifts his weight to the balls of the feet, the hips move slightly forward, and the reverse of this applies for a backward movement. This is a fundamental part of Rooting, and it helps to absorb strikes, meaning that it will reduce the chance that the practitioner will be knocked over or knocked down. For defensive purpoes, the practitioner should be aware of his inner gate (the area in between the arms) and outer gate (the area immediately outside the shoulders) at all times. The elbows are kept tucked close in to the sides, slightly in front, when the arms are not being extended or retracted.

In the second stage, both arms come into play, the tempo is increased, the hand moves of the first stage are repeated, but with greater precision, and new ones are added. This stage is a bit artificial in the sense that in a real-life, or sparring partner – or even Wooden Dummy – situation, only one arm would typically be used for a block; the point of performing them with both arms simultaneously is to demonstrate that the move can be performed with either arm, but, additionally, with the speed with which they are performed in the second stage, performing them with both arms gives a greater feeling of balance, and, should one ever be attacked by two assailants at the same time, one would know how to block two strikes simultaneously.

Sliding from the one move to the other, but remaining stationary, is a central part of the second stage practice, since, in actual fighting, sparring, etc., situations, the practitioner glides from one move to the other in response to constantly changing contingencies.

The third stage involves focusing on directing one’s movement along the center line. That is, the lessons learned from the previous two stages, once trained to a level of proficiency, are made subsidiary to (become second nature to) the attack or retreat along the center line. In this stage, the arms, when at “rest” are held upright in front of the torso, bent at the elbow and with the palms of the hands facing inward. The elbows are held close in to the body to protect against a strike to the abdomen.

Combination moves are practiced in the third stage. These can be high defensive blocks that shift to a low defensive block with the same arm, or it may be a defensive block with one arm followed up by an offensive block with the other arm, including “escape” moves where the practitioner strikes an opponent who grabs one’s wrist; the contingency here is never to try and wriggle the trapped arm free first, but to strike the assailant with the free hand, thus making it easier to retrieve the trapped wrist if the assailant hasn’t already, in a reflexive response to the punch, released one’s trapped wrist. Parries and other defensive moves are said to take place in the inner gate, while a punch or a kick is said to take place in the outer gate.

These three stages make up the entirety of the Siu Nim Tao form, which demonstrates yet again that Wing Chun is essentially a very simple martial art with a simple – but entirely adequate – repertoire of moves.

Source:  https://www.chinatravel.com/facts/the-mechanics-of-wing-chun-empty-hand-forms.htm


Siu Nim Tao

Siu Nim Tao

By Evan Tate


Siu Nim Tao
The first and most important form in the art of Wing Chun.

There are almost as many variations in the Siu Nim Tao from as there are different lineages of Wing Chun. Some masters wanted to keep everything “original”, others saw the need for improvements. Others wanted to emphasize a specific aspect over the other. Not one of these variations are “more authentic”, or “more correct” than the other.

The “Little Idea” (as Siu Nim Tao is often translated) conveys not only the most common techniques used in Wing Chun, but emphasizes certain skills to be learned.

Usually, the first 3 sections of the form are performed relatively slowly (with exception of the strikes). One may wonder why the third section, where the Tan Sau extends from the centerline, turns to a Wu Sau, withdraws, and then forms a Fuk Sau before extended forward once again? This occurs three times on each side.

In Chinese Martial Arts (Wu Su), repetition is often a way of encoding the importance of a certain skill. Yes, sometimes there were also religious meanings, but nonetheless it was important to convey the importance of a skill to the warrior.

One interpretation of this repeated movement is that the practitioner learns to relax his/her energy before dispersion within a short distance. As the hand moves outward along the centerline, the abdomen is pressed together, the back is arched slightly, as the hand comes forward to strike with the Wu Sau, the back is straightened. As the hand returns, the body is contracted once again.

Some lineages may not practice the Siu Nim Tao in this way, and as said above, that’s OK. May southern Kung Fu styles emphasize the importance of being able to strike with full power in short range distance. The idea of the “One-Inch Punch” does not only exist in Wing Chun, or Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. This is an older concept that also exists in Southern Mantis and other styles.

From the fourths section, the movements become faster and some sections having many movements. Each technique is demonstrated on either side of the body. Only in the last section do the arms work together displaying two different arm positions.

During the entire form one is standing in a stationary position. The “Yee Ji Kim Yuen Ma“, aka “Character two, goat-clamping stance”. The legs form a chinese character number 2, a short line (between the knees) and a long line (between the feet). From above this is also formed between the toes (short line) and between the heels (long line). The knees are put under tension toward each other as though one would hold a goat between the legs and trying to prevent it from running away.



This stance strengthens the legs and trains discipline. One would not always fight in this position, by all means no, but it is an important to understand the flexibility of this stance.

The Siu Nim Tao, just like many chinese kung fu forms, is NOT a fighting sequence but merely a “toolbox”. It displays various “ideas” of the art. Actually, one could decide to perform the sections of the SNT in a different sequence and it would not really matter. The purpose behind the form would not really change.

In later forms, Chum Kiu and Biu Tze, there are very few “new” techniques. There are only new “ideas” of using the techniques in those form. But more on those forms in future posts.

The Siu Nim Tao is so important to Wing Chun that it is said, if your “Siu Nim Tao is poor, your Wing Chun is poor.”


Source: https://wingchunsihing.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/siu-nim-tao/


The Siu Nim Tao Kung Fu Form, and Why we train it…

The Siu Nim Tao Kung Fu Form, and Why we train it…

by Warren Ash

Hi Everyone…

Now we are entering into our 6th Kung Fu week of 2016, I’d like to talk to you about a group of ancient exercises we practise every single class whatever level you are… The Forms.

In Wing Tsun there are three empty handed forms, one Wooden Dummy and two Weapon forms. The first three you learn being: The Siu Nim Tao that translates into ‘little idea’, then the Chum Kiu that means ‘bridge seeking’ and finally Biu Tze that translates into ‘thrusting fingers’. In this blog I’ll be focusing on the first form in the Wing Tsun system.

What is the Siu Nim Tao?

The Siu Nim Tao (SNT) is the first aspect of Wing Tsun that you will be introduced to in your first class at one of our schools. It is not like a kata that is a choreographed pattern of movements that are practised in Japanese and Okinawan martial arts such as karate, judo and aikido, where the student practises set techniques intended to be used in combat but the SNT teaches us how to move using the basic shapes and principles of the system.

What stance do we practice in?

Although the Siu Nim Tao is practised with the lower body stationary and only the upper body moves, the first thing you do in the SNT is get into your practice stance, the IRAS. The internally rotating adductor stance, more commonly known as the IRAS is the practice stance used in the Wing Tsun system.

With the knees bent, heels facing outwards and the toes facing inwards, the stance engages the adductor muscles. The adductors are located on the inside of the upper leg and the provide the most power and stability for the hips and the femur (the longest and strongest bone in the body located in the upper leg).

The IRAS teaches us have our feet grounded strongly with the internal rotation of the knees engaging the adductors and the body weight sinking into the ground. The first seemingly strange angle of the feet in the iras teaches us where to place our feet and weight in the fighting stances.

Why do we learn the Siu Nim Tao?

The Siu Nim Tao is one of the best training methods to begin learning Wing Tsun because it most importantly (in my opinion) teaches us how to move! Where to place our hands, what shapes make, to work along our centreline with forward pressure and it also makes us more aware of where the parts of our body is in space in relation to the rest of our body. For example, close your eyes and reach your hand out in front of you and then touch your nose. Easy? Yes, that is because you know where your hand is in relation to your nose due to the sense is called proprioception.

What can I use to help me practise at home?

There are various youtube videos on the Siu Nim Tao but here is the link to the official EWTO (European Wing Tsun Organisation) video as there are many, many variations of the SNT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFuQdoXX_gg. Once you learn the sequence you can practise in front of the mirror to work on the details you are given in class as the mirror gives the perfect reflection of you!

I hope you enjoyed last week’s blog on why we exercise in class!

Remember if you don’t understand something don’t hesitate to ask one of the instructor team. Have a great week!

Source:  http://www.martialartssoutheast.co.uk/siu-nim-tao-kung-fu-form-train/


Siu Lim Tao – 小念頭

Siu Lim Tao (Siu Nim Tao)- Little Idea

by West Coast Wing Chun

Siu Lim Tao 小念頭 is most often translated as “little idea”.  If we look at the Chinese characters we can understand a more in depth meaning.

小 is understood as meaning “little”.
念 is understood as meaning “think, study”.
頭 is often translated as “head”, but may also mean “first or start”.
The Siu Lim Tao Form  is the first open hand form of Wing Chun. There are 108 movements in the form, presented in three parts. The form is conceptual, presenting the concepts of energy, motion and position in a fixed context.

The Stance

The Siu Lim Tao form is comprised entirely of the Yee Gee Kim Yeung Ma Stance (Character Two  二  Frontal Adduction Stance).  Stepping and turning is not introduced until the second form of Wing Chun, the Chum Kiu form.   Attention must be given to correct foot, leg and hip positioning so the stance optimizes its stability, mobility and ability to lever power from the earth. Additional focus must be given to earth points on the bottom of the feet, as well as the hui yum point on the underside of the pelvis to facilitate proper chi flow.

Siu Lim Tao is a single-handed movement; even in the second part you are using both hands symmetrically, so it is still single-handed. ~Ip Chun

The First Section

The first section of the Siu lim Tao form introduces us to two of the seeds or family motions of the Wing Chun Kuen, the tan sau and fook sau. Proper breathing, stance integrity, and relaxation are heavily emphasized to facilitate the development of internal power. However, direct focus and intent must be placed on the underside of the elbow to build jahn dai lik (force/tension beneath the elbow). Careful attention must be given to practicing the motions slowly to facilitate muscle memory.

The motions are as follows:
Seung Guan Sau
Seung Tan Sau
Lop Sau
Sam Pai Fut or Praying Thrice to the Buddha (Slow) Section:
Tan Sau, Huen Sau, Wu Sa
Fook Sau, Tan Sau, Huen Sau, Wu Sau (Repeat 3x)
Pak Sau, Jek Cheung

The Second Section

The second section of the Siu Lim Tao Form, often referred to as the Long Bridge section, teaches us to use the energy that is built in section one, in a combined soft and hard capacity. Here, we start to develop the first aspects of Fa Ging or whipping power. The arm is like a whip; it remains soft and relaxed until the moment of impact when we add last minute energy to the motion, and then become relaxed immediately after. The strike becomes like the crack of the whip only through the use of the soft/hard combination of energies.

The motions are:
Left Side Gum Sau, Right Side Gum Sau,
Rear Gum Sau, Frontal Gum Sau
Lan Sau, Fak Sau, Lan Sau
Jum Sau, Tan Sau, Jut Sau
Bui Sau, Gum Sau, Tai Sau
Ji Si Sau, Lop Sau

The Third Section


In the last third, you are applying the techniques. ~Ip Chun

The third section of the Siu Lim Tao form shows us correct flow and positioning of motions. For example, after practicing the Bong Sau, the third seed of the Wing Chun Kuen, the student drops his elbow into Tan Sau. This sequence reveals the vulnerability of the Wing Arm position. Careful consideration must be given to hand positions while understanding that when an opponent is present hands may need to be adjusted based on the height of the opponent. The movement must be slow and deliberate.

The motions are:
Pak Sau, Tsang Sau, Huen Sau, Lop Sau (Left Side)
Pak Sau, Tsang Sau, Huen Sau, Lop Sau (Right Side)
Tan Sau, Guan Sau, Tan Sau, Huen Sau, Wang Wa Cheung, Tan Sau, Huen Sau, Lop Sau (Left Side)
Tan Sau, Guan Sau, Tan Sau, Huen Sau, Wang Wa Cheung, Tan Sau, Huen Sau, Lop Sau (Right Side)
Bong Sau, Tan Sau, Tok Sau, Huen Sau, Lop Sau (Left Side)
Bong Sau, Tan Sau, Tok Sau, Huen Sau, Lop Sau (Right Side)
Left Tut Sau, Right Tut Sau, Left Tut Sau
3 Lin Wan Kuen,
Tan Sau, Huen Sau, Lop Sau

Source:  http://westcoastwingchun.com/training/forms/siu-lim-tao-2/


Siu Nim Tao: The KEY to Making Wing Chun Practical and Effective

Many of my posts thus far have dealt more with concepts and realities of self defense and personal protection; they have been quite broad and intentionally so.  It was necessary for me to approach things in this way to set the tone for my approach to and interpretation of training in Wing Chun.  That is all well and good, but now I want to shift gears a bit and begin to focus on the more specific technical aspects of the system as it relates to the reality of combat and fighting.

When someone begins their study of Wing Chun, after the initial explanations of concept and theory, stance and structure, they jump right into the practice of the first form, Siu Nim Tao.  Literally translated it means “small idea” and is the gateway for anyone who wishes to gain proficiency in Wing Chun.

 SNT: Chinatown’s “Newbie” Test

Training in Chinatown, when I walked in the door and looked in at class I could tell right away who was new.  Each and every class we all performed the  Siu Nim Tao form together, as a class, before branching out and working on our respective tasks while the newbies still stayed pigeon-toed, hands straight, eyes looking at the clock or stealing glances at the more aggressive exercises the more seasoned folks were engaging in.  If I came in late and saw someone in the back of the room or right in front near the mirror, hand outstretched in a tan sau or slowly drawing the wu sau back, after we had already broken off into our respective skill levels I knew they were just getting started.

What Most People Think

All too often, many new folks who came in would be instructed in this form, one section at a time, and instructed to run through each section until further told.  Many grew a bit discouraged and left within a matter of a few weeks or so.  What I wish these people would have realized is the benefit received from training this form repeatedly. I myself have grown to appreciate the brevity and potency of training this form more and more as my years in Wing Chun pile up.

So many times, the first form is treated as something to “get through” in order to progress to the next phase of training or part of the class where you start doing the cool shit like rolling, stepping or entry drills.  Coming up the ranks I was just as guilty as anyone of this-I wanted to get through the for so I could start learning the second form, the stepping, chi sao drills and all that jazz.  Much attention is placed on the more “advanced” sets of Wing Chun while the first form is treated as something to be endured while waiting for the real training to start.

Ironic, isn’t it?  You bet.

What the Reality Is

The reality is that all advanced techniques, concepts and principles germinate and are found in the Siu Nim Tao set.  Indeed, all techniques, concepts and principles found in Wing Chun originate from the Siu Nim Tao set.   I can’t state it any plainer or beat this horse dead enough: you cannot expect to become proficient in Wing Chun if you neglect this form, period.

One of the best references I have ever seen on the application of the SNT form is the SIU NIM TAU SEMINAR DVD from Sifu David Peterson.  I have watched this DVD more times than I can recall and periodically do so to refresh all of the core concepts in my mind.  If you are looking to unlock the keys to what make this form the core foundation of Wing Chun, pick it up HERE and make use of it.  Often.


The term “structure” in Wing Chun is used so often it at times runs the risk of losing its’ meaning when people pay lip service to it but it does not reflect in their own execution of basic principles.  One of the first things taught in SNT practice is proper Wing Chun body structure through the use of the yee jee kim yeung ma or “goat gripping stance.” This is Wing Chun’s bread and butter, its’ Alpha and Omega. Without this key principle, you have nothing to build on and your Wing Chun will suck.  The structure derived from regular, focused practice of the SNT form is the introduction to this bedrock of training.  There are always levels of detail to anything inWing Chun, but for the sake of a good once-over for now the key points of this “foundational fortress,” as Sifu Gary Lam puts it, are listed below:

  • Inward tension on the thighs (specifically the inner thigh or adductor muscles)-this allows the body to truly operate as one unit especially as training progresses and movement is introduced.  If you have neglected or half-assed your SNT training and then begin stepping or the second form, you will wobble like the one Flying Wallenda guy that didn’t make it across the tightrope.  Rotation on the center axis without proper inward tension on the thighs is just not gonna happen.  Want to muddle through the first form to get to the stepping drill?  Forget it. It has been said that all footwork necessary for Wing Chun is contained in the first form.  So true-it is the inward tension of the thighs that propels the body forward in both forward and retreating stepping.  Stepping in and of itself is a stretching and snapping back of a proverbial bungee cord between your knees-an inchworm effect that slingshots you forward as one unit.  Without inward tension, stepping looks like walking through the mud with boots on, clop-clop!  No structure and as a result, you have the power of one of the surviving 90 year old midgets from the Wizard of Oz in your techniques.  I think I’ve whipped this dog enough, so let me just say it again: you cannot shift, step, advance, retreat, punch, strike or piss drunk in an alley if your body is not locked in as one unit, not only from the inward tension on the inner thighs but also with my next point…


  • The pelvis must be tucked forward with the anterior or front of the pelvis slightly higher than the rear.  Put your hands in front of you like you are holding a bowl, and then tilt it like you are drinking out of it.  Get the tilt?  Good.  Now put your hands on your hips in the same fashion, with the thumbs facing backward and the webbing of your hand digging into the side of your body like a 5 year old who is about to throw a tantrum. Tilt your hips up from the front and down in the back as you gently squeeze your ass in and pop the hips forward.  Now you’re locked in proper alignment of the hips; not leaning forward like you’re trying to win a limbo contest or sticking the ass out like you just got off the mechanical bull.  Ever watch a drunk guy piss in the alley or even stand up when he is a breath away from falling?  You are witnessing the power of the Wing Chun stance at work.  The body knows how to right itself to maintain balance, which is why this dumbass’s pelvis is tucked forward his shoulders slouch-which, just like before leads me to my next point…


  • The chest is slightly concaved and the shoulders slightly slouch.  The 2 biggest mistakes made on the upper body are just like the ass-hip alignment of the lower body: either the shoulders are back and the chest is out, or the body curls over like a candy cane and takes on the posture of a 15 year old with skinny jeans and moppy hair who has the posture of an 80 year old with osteoporosis because he’s hunched over his cell phone or playing Call of Duty for 9 hours a day.  If the shoulders are out and back, you’re gonna get knocked over pretty easily since your hip tuck is already leaning you back without proper shoulder and upper torso curvature to balance it out.  If you’re too hunched forward, you can’t generate enough power to do much of anything and will end up over-committing with your upper body to try to generate any forward pressure, which your opponent will, of course, pick up on right away spin you around like you’re square dancing and punch you right in the face.  As the saying goes, moderation is the key, and in this case it rests right in the middle: Inhale, and think of the way Charlie Brown exhales and his body just sinks.  There is no forced curvature of the back; it just sets into a quasi-slouchy posture where the chest slightly caves, the shoulders slightly round and the body gently sets into the ground.  When viewed from the side, there is a slight “S” curve from the head, down the shoulders, to the hips, down the legs and into the heels. At the same time there should be a straight line from the ears through the shoulders down to the heels.  That is the line of force which generates from the “S” curve.  Combine this power of the “S” with the inward tension of the thighs and you have a coiled spring ready to shoot out.

Everything that makes the SNT form an essential component of your Wing Chun training has its’ roots in this stance.  Short-change this principle and you’re building a McMansion on a patch of sand instead of a poured concrete foundation.

The Shortcut to Ass-Kicking Skill

I always tell my students when they say they are too busy to practice at home or they have to travel or whatever else: If nothing else, practice the first form every single day with full attention and intention because when it comes right down to it, I’d rather fight someone who practices all the fancier, flashy stuff but neglects SNT any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Train Smart, Stay Safe

source: http://makeyourwingchunwork.com/siu-nim-tao-whats-the-big-idea-anyway-part-i


What is Wing Chun’s “Nim Tao”?

What is Wing Chun’s “Nim Tao”?

By Grandmaster Chu Shong Tin


Excerpt from a discussion with Wing Chun Granmdmaster Sigung Chu Shong Tin

Firstly, I want to begin by speaking about the history of Ip Man‘s arrival to HK and how he was able to spark such a fervent following in the Wing Chun style. Ip Man, in around May 1950 another wing Chun practitioner named Li Man introduced Ip Man to the HK Restaurant Workers Union where he began teaching wing chun. As it is known, Ip man was a man of small stature and at the time the Union’s chairman was Leung Sheung.

Leung Sheung was a very tall and broad man and if at first glance, he was probably twice the size of Ip Man. So when he was first introduced to Ip man he expressed doubt and skepticism in Ip man, saying, ‘So this is master Ip man?’. And as Ip Man having met many people in his lifetime that possessed a great amount of life experience, saw him and knew Leung Sheung’s intentions and replied, “You seem like you don’t believe in me [my power]. Here, why don’t you test me?”

This was suggested by Ip Man himself. Such a small and timid man versus a young and hefty man; and the former was the one to initiate the challenge. In this instance, Leung Sheung very eagerly accepted, saying, “Okay, okay, let’s do it”. Ironically, when the two touched hands Leung Sheung was immediately thrown 10 feet across the room and fell on the ground. To this Leung Sheung thought it very peculiar about what had happened and immediately asked Ip Man to take him in as a student.

Thus, Wing Chun was brought to the HK Restaurant Workers Union. Okay, so now we come to speaking about Wing Chun’s structural element, to which I wish to share my own interpretation and introduce it to all of you. Actually, Wing Chun doesn’t really have much style to it. It’s really just simple movements conglomerated together and then split up into three different forms. And each form is to exemplify the core concepts of Wing Chun.

Siu Nim Tao, for us practitioners will know – you place your hands out, throw one or two punches and revert the fists back, do a few movements and then revert the fists back again. That means every movement in every section introduces the function in each section. And so the functions of each section are amalgamated to form Siu Nim Tao.

The second Wing Chun form uses Siu Nim Tao function in addition with the body mass to mobilize the power from within. Thus Chum Kiu is marked by its usage of the body’s movement. Siu Nim Tao has no movement, one just stands there and does the form. Chum Kiu begins to move the body and utilizes one’s body mass to move in unison with the Siu Nim Tao hand movements. In this way, Chum Kiu is able to express its combat potential. And the third one, Biu Jee, not only incorporates body movement but also a rotation of the body.

As we may know, anything with heavy mass, once conjoined with a swift rotational movement, will generate a great amount of force. Therefore, the core concept of the third form uses the whirling rotation of mass to generate a particular kind of force. So, this is just in general what the functions of the three Wing Chun forms entails. They are all just made up with a few hand movements and aren’t necessarily considered a style of sorts. That is to say, it is a just very simplistic style but the most interesting is Siu Nim Tao. That is just my personal opinion. So how come the whole of Wing Chun you have this one form called ‘Siu Nim Tao’ [Little Idea form]. Actually, the name ‘Siu Nim Tao’ (Little Idea) seems totally irrelevant to martial arts. So this Nim Tao I thought was very interesting. From the very first day I learned I thought it was very unique. There were a few times where I’ve asked Ip Man why this style has something called ‘Siu Nim Tao’. The first time I asked, Ip Man replied “It means you have to ‘Lap Nim’ [establish an idea/thought]” and he didn’t explain any further. After a while I inquired again “What’s the meaning of Siu Nim Tao?” and he said “Well it just means to Lap Nim”. Again he just said this. And I asked one last time “Why is this form called ‘Nim Tao’. And why is it just a little bit?!” *chuckles* “Well that means you have to Lap Nim‘!!”. I asked him several times and all he said was ‘Lap Nim’ so I didn’t ask him again…

And I just abided by the way Ip Man taught me to do the Siu Nim Tao form. And was that called ‘Lap Nim’? Well, I didn’t know. All I did was practice Ip Man’s teaching, “Do not use any force, relax your arms and legs, and practice slowly. And then you will understand”. However, after I trained Siu Nim Tao for a long time, gradually my illnesses disappeared and my power kept increasing. And then after experimenting I thought “I’m really actually quite powerful”. Then I  inquired about it with Ip Man and he said “Well, this is the function of the Siu Nim Tao form.” And I thought, “How can the Siu Nim Tao form teach people to be this powerful?”. Then I just kept patiently researching and analyzing how I am able to generate this much power.

I often trained very diligently under Ip Man’s teaching of the Siu Nim Tao form. At that time, I was also a very skinny and weak in health. I was just the height I am now (5’10?), and I weighed 110 lbs. And just to show how skinny I was, my biceps at the time were as skinny as my wrist that I could encircle it with my hand just *like this*. I was very skinny at the time. Skinny and very weak in health. And what a shame. I have been researching and analyzing for so many years that it is not until recently that I’ve been able to understand it a little bit more. That is just a really big shame. Actually, when one practices the Siu Nim Tao, one will eventually discover ones own Nim Tao. There are many facets to the human brain and it wasn’t until recently, through researching with neurologists, that I’ve been able to understand more about it [Nim Tao]. They said, “Your Nim Tao is of another region in the brain that differs from the region that we are accustomed to using (i.e. for thought and regular mobile functions such as picking up objects). The Nim Tao you speak of comes from a small part/region of your brain.” And so I thought perhaps I am using this small part of my brain to produce the kind of force I can generate. So I continued my research.

Now I’ve been teaching for many decades and I have the ability to take a person who has no power/force and adjust/fix them up so that they will be able to produce a great amount of force; but only when I am guiding them. Once I’m removed they will not be able to do it themselves. Well this ‘Nim Lik‘ [Idea/Thought power] was demonstrated by me twice in the [name of some event/gathering]. The first time I was standing with one leg on a weight scale and had two foreigners push against me. And as they were pushing I lead all of their force onto the scale so that the harder they pushed the heavier I got. So the Wing Chun Athletic Association has a video record of this which is still in circulation. In the second conference, I demonstrated using two fingers on each hand to take up another person’s arm and moving it elsewhere *demo* [with resistance I’m assuming]. The second demonstration, there were three foreigners who were pushing against me and I needed to push the three of them back. So these are all demonstrations of ‘Nim Lik’. So I really think it is such a shame that it’s only within the last 2-3 years that I’ve figured out how one can breakthrough to achieving one’s Nim Tao. Before I had broke through my own Nim Tao but I did not know why or how. But now I know how.

So there are two stages in achieving one’s Nim Tao. In the first stage, Wing Chun’s stance requires the practitioner to have an intent to “Tai Gong” [lift up the anus]. The second stage, after you have done the ‘tai gong’ and are able to relax the muscles in your lower body [pelvis down], you have to begin to expand the joints in your spine beginning from the tailbone. And from the tailbone you must use a little bit of thought [little idea] to bring the [chi/energy] up through the spine. Once you are able to rush the Qi, passing through each section of your spine and towards the top of your head then you will have activated your Nim Tao.

Speaking about it is very simple. And since I’ve figured this out I have been consistently teaching and advocating this method to my students. When I am helping them train, I can use my hands to guide their Qi/Intent or whatever, until it reaches the top of their brain and they will be able to generate a great amount of power. Thus, I hypothesize that once the Qi reaches up towards the top of the brain,this is what we call ‘Nim Tao’.

So recently I’ve been in discussion with the neurologists and they have said that, “Yes, that part of the brain controls the involuntary muscle movement” and they said “that that Nim Tao can enable one to express their potential power”. So actually Siu Nim Tao can help us to activate our Nim Tao…what that part of the brain is called I don’t know, we just call it Nim Tao. In this way, we can tap into a kind of involuntary power embedded in ones’ potential so that we may use it voluntarily.

Hence, I think that this is the most outstanding element of the Wing Chun system. Alright, so I think this is all I will have to say for today.

source: http://pantherwingchun.com.au/index.php/what-is-wing-chun-nim-tao/


Siu Nim Tao

Wing Chun First Form – Siu Lim Tao

By Penglay Martial Arts

After long time spent in Wing Chun and practicing several different styles of the art I will try to present my understanding of Siu Lim Tao , Wing Chun’s first form meaning .There are numerous explanations and interpretations of the form and its name . In most cases explanations don’t go further than literal translation and explanation of each character in the name . Eaven this simple way of explaining the meaning of the form’s name have deep implications on training and training but it Is far from complete and full meaning of the name .We also have to be aware of the fact that Wing Chun, at the very beginning had only one form and name of that was –Siu Nim Tao. One form contained and defined the complete system . Later from well know historical reasons one long form was divided to three forms  but name of the original , old , long form stayed and was given to first of three new forms. All three forms were equal parts of the old long form but only the first part continued to exist with same name, the other two parts( forms) got new names. Coincidence ? Or there is a specific reason for this ?

To know the real meaning of Siu Lim Tao we have to go beyond the simple meaning of the characters in which the original name of the is written . Frist we have to be aware that Sui Lim Tao is a name and a name cannot be translated directly , literary but rather has a specific meaning, important and know to Wing Chun practitioners . Like it was said before, today , the most common interpretation doesn’t go beyond simplest translation of each character of the form’s name and tries to give that translation some logical meaning and context . These translations and interpretations are not wrong , and no matter there are pretty different interpretations ,they are for the most part correct but they are far from to be full and complete. I , also do not have full and complete meaning of the form, and that is the beauty of it , but I will return to this fact later. To reveal the meaning of the form we have to start with several simple facts . People who named the form lived in a very different world from today , their mind frame was completely different from anything we can find today and their thoughts and actions were driven by reasons we can’t fully understand today . Words had different meaning at that time and were used in a specific manner in a specific situation from specific group of people , just like today people from specific occupation have their specific vocabulary and sometimes even common words have very different or wider meaning .

We don’t know for sure when was the first version of Wing Chun appeared , but we can guess with a great amount of certainty  it was at the beginning of 19th century. What we know is , that first version of Wing Chun appeared among Red Boats opera troupe and it contained only one , long form , named Siu Lim Tao. The fact is , many of the Red Boat’s actors were members of the resistance . The other important fact , they were , being actors , better educated than most of the other people of their time. One other thing is also important to have in mind , at that time martial arts were not meant for ‘outsiders” , public teaching was not invented yet and it was something unthinkable , martial arts were kept in secret and terminology used in particular style in most cases was understandable only for the people who were initiated into the teachings . Often, terminology was deliberately confusing and meaningless and it would have no sense to outsiders, especially if martial artists were involved in revolutionary secret societies.

So , what Siu Lim Tao小念頭, actually means. At the beginning , like it was said before , Wing Chun system had only one form, Siu Lim Tao ,and complete teachings, concepts , principles and techniques were in that form . Name of the form had at that time much wider meaning than it has today , at least that is what I believe after decades of practicing and historical research .

Simple translation would be: 小 means small , 念頭 means idea , so the translation would be little or small idea . But if know the form , if we are involved in Wing Chun, and you have to be in order to understand the form and its meaning , it is obvious that this explanation of the name doesn’t cover the whole content of the form , not even the technical part.

First form of Wing Chun is an embodiment of Taoism in technical, conceptual and philosophical way and name of the form implies exactly that.

Tao is a way”, “path”, or “principle”, an “idea” . Small idea reflects the ultimate one .

Just as in Taoism , The term Tao means “way”, “path”, or “principle” where Tao denotes something that is both the source of, and the force behind everything that exists , first form has the same meaning and significance for Wing Chun , it is a source  of the system and the force behind it .

First form completely mirror Taoism in every aspect , all major concepts and principles of Taoism are major concepts and principles of Siu Lim Tao , and also they do not have same name , they are identical in their nature and can be explained using exactly same words .

One of the most important things taught in the first form is how to respond immediately and appropriately to all the changes that occur moment to moment. It is how the fight is developing, a changes happened from moment to moment . This Wing Chun principle is identical to one of the major Taoist virtues known as ”Ziran” . Ziran is defined as naturalness and spontaneity – responding immediately and appropriately to all the changes that occur moment to moment , exactly the same as we define ability and skill to react properly in a fight , to have necessary skills and respond immediately ,without thinking ,where Wing Chun becomes our nature and it spontaneously ‘speaks” when it is necessary . Large part of the system is dedicated to developing this kind of skills , chi sao , various level of sparring and some other drills and exercises .

No opposition , is one of the most important concepts of Wing Chun and again it mirrors one of the most important principles of Taoism, Wu Wei , where this Wing Chun principle of “no oppositions” have its origin , or it is more accurate to say this principle is Wing Chun expression of Wu Wei. Wu wei is typically translated as “non-action”. This does not mean that nothing is ever done. Quite the contrary, what this means is that one acts only with purely natural actions, or actions aligned with the Tao. Such actions contain no willfulness or controlling tendencies, no willful strategizing or trying to force things to go a certain way. Instead, those exhibiting wu wei simply go with the flow of things. This is exactly how “no opposition” is explained in Wing Chun . In the original Taoist texts, wu wei is often associated with water and its yielding nature. Same way is used in Wing Chun , technique , just as wu wei can assume any form or shape it inhabits. Wu Wei shaped the technical content and fighting strategies of Wing Chun , all hand positions , wrongly known as “blocks” are designed to offer no direct opposition to the incoming force but to disperse it or change its path .Footwork is developed following the same principle as well as body structure . Body is alight in a specific manner that allows neutralization of the incoming force by simply conduct it to the “ground” in a same manner that the wire conduct electricity. A great amount of power going on through the wire , but there is no opposition in the wire to all that power so the wire stays undamaged , it is the same with wing chun body structure and incoming force .


Three Treasures” of Taoism also play important part in a set of principles from first form.

Jing  -sperm/ovary energy, or the essence of the physical body .We all operate with our physical bodies , in Wing Chun we use the body In a very specific way to achieve our goal .

Qi  – vitality energy, including the thoughts and emotions. Qi in Wing Chun can be explained on two ways . First is the combat explanation where Qi is defined as a biomechanical efficiency . This biomechanical efficiency is what old masters called “internal” and it is a basic foundation of Wing Chun and proper understanding is necessary in order to have proper power generation , structure, ability to manage incoming force ect .

Second definition of Qi is the most common one where qi is a form of life energy, or life force.

Shen  -spirit or spiritual power as well as mind. In wing chun this concept represents one of the most important principles of the art – intention . “Intention” is one of the major fighting principles but it is purely mental process that effects physical performance and quality of technique execution .Without intention structure of every movement and position as well as the body in general will collapse .

At the end , how come such important and complex set of principles contained in th first form can be named “little idea” ? Using ‘little idea” to describe such a great amount if information clearly associates with Yin and Yang , represent the interplay of opposites. The concepts of yin and yang are central to Chinese religion and philosophy . They form the dynamism of the Tao, or the way of all things. Life is lived inside the interplay of opposites: up and down, hot and cold, male and female, dry and wet, outside and inside, high and low, joy and sadness, peace and war, exertion and rest, life and death, and so on. Yin and Yang symbolize this interplay that is at the center of life’s dynamism or energy. Wing Chun style and its fighting concepts have their deepest foundation in this principle . Wing Chun is soft , internal , offers no opposition but expressed techniques will be hard on the opponent , soft, relaxed body will be a hardest obstacle to the incoming force .

“Little Idea” is everything but small , yet ,such a great amount of information , the most important parts of the art ,actually the art its self is expressed by small things , short name and simple , small number of movements.

Siu Lim Tao as well as Wing Chun art is the highest peak not only of Chinese martial arts achievement in a technical sense but also in philosophical and theoretical . First form is amazing tool and it will allow the practitioner to fulfill all his needs for technical knowledge . But first form is more than that , it is , like I said before , an embodiment of Taoism, and just like the philosophical system from which is derived from , first form will allow the practitioner to learn, advance and understand the art as much as he wants and is capable for.First form will follow the practitioner and provide all the answers accoridng to his skill level , education, culture , intelligence , interests ,ect. Technical level of practicing and understanding is just a basic level, a first step in a path of knowledge , intellectual and psychological growth ,in some cases it can be even a spiritual path. First form will give practitioner what he needs , and more , as long as he is ready to explore , to learn , to experiment , to think and to feel . Through constant effort, personal sacrifice, concentrated hard work, aspiration toward perfection first form is transformed and becomes effortless , from physical and psychological point of view .Physical movement and mental effort get close to one another and the boundaries between them are slowly loosening. Siu Nim Tao grows and develops between body, mind and spirit until they eventually unite in order to continue to grow together. Then, everything happens spontaneously, there is only awareness of what is happening, but there is no conscious effort. From this point Siu Nim Tao stops to be something separated from the person, stops to be an activity , stops to be a way of life , it becomes a life its self , involved in every movement , thought , becomes a part of every conscious and unconscious action.

Source: http://penglaimartialarts.blogspot.ro/2016/01/wing-chun-first-form-siu-nim-tao.html


Siu Nim Tao, do we really need it?

Siu Nim Tao, do we really need it?

By Bogdan Rosu

Siu Nim Tao or the Little Idea is the first of Wing Chun’s three forms. It’s when the practitioner gets introduced the art’s core concepts.

A very compact form of training, containing 80% of the art’s concepts, the first form acts both as a map to Wing Chun’s fighting method, as well as a way of creating and strengthening structure.

Siu Nim Tao is a code.

In other words, without the proper understanding of how and when to use the concepts learned in the form, Siu Nim Tao remains a set of movements and nothing more.

The form does not show you what you have to do, nor how you can apply the concepts that you are learning. While practicing it, you are planting ideas into your subconscious and nervous system.

But, without the proper guidance, you may never know how to express those concepts in the real world.

As Dr. Robert Chu stated, “Siu Nim Tao is rooted firmly in developing the body structure. The Yee Ji Kim Yeung Ma posture is the foundation of all Wing Chun Kuen. It is wrongly understood that Yee Ji Kim Yeung Ma is an inflexible rooted stance, but the stance is instead dynamic” (Dr. Robert Chu, Siu Nim Tao. Is it Wing Chun Without It?, Wing Chun Illustrated – Issue 11, page 6).

So, not having the right information can lead to misunderstanding the form’s practicality and using only a small part of your potential as a Wing Chun martial artist.

Chasing Hands vs Chasing Center

While doing the first form, we are actually reprogramming the way we move. For example, Tan Zao is not a natural reaction.

A natural reaction would be chasing hands or addressing the obvious threat and not its cause, the opponent’s center.

Wing Chun teaches us to always chase the center and never the hands, to go to the core of the problem, thus not wasting energy uselessly. And we learn this concept in the first part, when we slowly do Tan Zao forward.

After being introduced to this idea, we then apply it in Chi Zao, in drills, in free sparring and of course in Fighting.

You are what you train.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous article ‘How to Gain Authentic Skill in Wing Chun’, there are three main elements to Wing Chun: form, drills, and fighting.

All three are interdependent, but will be expressed differently. You cannot fight using Siu Nim Tao nor can you fight using pure drills.

The more you focus on one element, the better you get at it. So, you cannot expect to be good at fighting if you only train form.

Fighting is spontaneous.

It’s when you have this out-of-the box mentality and use what is most comfortable to you, your sharpest tools, while at the same time maintaining structure and a calm emotional state.

Drills have the role of expanding your tool set and acquiring new skills, on the other hand, form is when you keep those core skills active.

If we were to compare Wing Chun to a car, form would be the engine, drills would be the body and fighting would be driving the car.

While you might be able to drive without knowing anything about mechanics, becoming a professional driver, may require more than basic knowledge of how your car works.

In other words, anybody can throw a punch, knocking out or controlling somebody bigger than you is an art.

The three elements form, drills, and fighting have the same core elements, like structure, speed, precision and emotional state, while the way we physically express each of the three is very different.

Are we wasting our time?

There is a debate going on about the practicality of doing form, and are we actually wasting our time practicing it.

Some think we might be better off training the wallbag or sparring, instead of sitting in front of the mirror, looking weird with our toes pointed inwards.

We need to accept the reality that most people lack even the most basic understanding of this skill set called Wing Chun. So, lack of understanding often leads to changes in the basic concepts of the art. Like the need to do form.

We suddenly don’t need it anymore.

Well I think we do. But form is not enough, form must be completed with the right information regarding structure, regarding how to use the concepts, and why you are actually doing it the way you are.

A very useful explanation of Siu Nim Tao came for me, from Gary Lam, he has an excellent DVD and I recommend you buy it immediately, especially if you are just starting out with Wing Chun.

I do not receive any money for recommending this, I just consider it a very useful resource that you should definitely think of buying.

Would you build a house without a plan?

Siu Nim Tao is simply the plan of the house. After you have a well designed plan, you start building the house, making the necessary adjustments, and giving it a personal touch.

In my opinion, Siu Nim Tao is necessary, but we should not get lost in it. It is still a very basic, beginner’s way of training. It’s like cleaning your engine.

We still continue to practice Siu Nim Tao, just to make sure that everything works the way it should.


Source: http://addicted2wingchun.com/siu-nim-tao-do-we-really-need-it/