by Susanna Ho
Twenty years is not a very short period of time but yet it is not really long in the martial art world. During this period of time, it was full of challenges, excitement, happiness, depression, frustration, pain and other different types of feelings. But up till now, I can still say that I enjoy practising Wing Chun.
When I first started off with martial art, I wanted to learn one for self-defence and I selected Wing Chun as it was founded by a woman. When I started leaning it, I first thought that it was a more easy and a simple art to train. As time passed by, I found out that Wing Chun is an art easy on movements but very hard on using our body correctly during the movements and be coordinated with the mental side.
When we talk about Wing Chun, the word “relaxation” must come up straight away. But I found out from my teaching that most of the students are too concentrated on relaxation and end up become sloppy. Although “relaxation” is very important in Wing Chun, in my opinion, it is more a final result we will achieve if we can manage the skills. Therefore, during the training and especially for the junior students, they should work on the basics, like structure, linking, shadowing and rotation, than just want to be relaxed. Instead of keep asking ourselves to relax, in the beginning one should work on less forcing and holding ourselves or do it as relax as we can when we try to develop our skills. During rolling and sparring, we should not just work on relaxation unless we have developed up to a certain level of skills, otherwise, we need to back off all the time. Instead, we should try to find a way to do our structure properly when moving so that we do not need to hold our ground which will cause tension or depend purely on movements to release the pressure all the time. Another problem will appear especially for the juniors if we just work on “relaxation” because they will be afraid to use their body because they will worry that they will force their muscles then they cannot fully utilized themselves to the limit.
I am lucky to be a student and have my own school at the same time so I can experiment the different ways of thinking at different positions. As a student, we always want to learn more and think that we are ready to move on to the next stage. By saying so I do not mean that we have to be a hundred percent right in one thing before we move on to the next one. We need to be able to manage a skill to a certain level then by learning the new stuff, it may help us to disclose the weaknesses of the previous one that we think we have managed. But what is the right level of a skill before we can move on will depend mainly on the experience of the teacher.
In a view point of a student, they always want to have some standards like what is a right structure, what is a proper Bong Sao to guide whether they are doing things right or wrong. But unfortunately, Wing Chun is an art that does not have a standard on the positions or shapes. Wing Chun, in my opinion, is more an art that help us to manage our body efficiently and be able to use it towards the opponent to its maximum. In other words, the way that make our skills work is more important than the physical positions. If we understand the proper method to maximize our power so whenever we can feel any tension of the opponent if they are bigger or the same size as we are that mean they cannot use their skills as efficiently or on the other hand, our skills are not good enough to deal with that type of force.
As a teacher, both holding back the progress of their students or teaching too quickly are not good enough to be a good sifu. A good sifu need to be able to demonstrate whatever they ask their students to do and if they cannot manage the skills very well at that time, they need to admit it to their students. I believe that a proper demonstration is better than explanation in thousand words. In my opinion, students do not need to manage one skill perfectly before they move on to the next one. They just need to show that they can use that skill constantly at least for a certain amount of time and know how to put it back on whenever they forget to put it on. This judgment is very difficult to make especially if the sifu are pretty new in teaching. They can make better decisions when they got more experience. When I now look back about eight and a half years ago, I could not believe that I have the courage to open up my school with the skills at that time.
Although a skillful sifu will always help our training better but their responsibility is to guide us to train at the right path and give suggestions in working out the skills. If the students can response properly under their teacher’s instructions, it does not mean that they can control their body to manage the skills and do it again without the instructions. Therefore, the main responsibility on progress is still depended on the students because they are the only one that can control their own bodies. Wing Chun is a special art that cannot be able to improve purely just by training hard. If we keep working hard on the wrong direction then it will be more difficult to get rid of the previous bad habits when we found out the mistakes. A correct attitude of the students in training is very important and they should not completely rely on their sifu to tell them how and what to do.
Everyone need to have an open mind during training. We are not Saints. Therefore, sifu can be wrong and students can be right sometime. Therefore, I always encourage my students to have open discussion. Through discussion, we can find out different view points which help us to see thing from a different angle. We should not afraid that we may say something stupid or foolish or want to hide our weakness by just listening to others. Communication is very important in training. If the sifu does not know what the student is thinking when he try to work out the skill then the actual problems may not be discovered. On the other hand, if the students do not try to understand what their sifu actually want them to do, they may only push their bodies too hard.
As Master Chu Shong Tin has said before, “Practicing, discussing and questioning are the best ways to success”. On top of that, I think we should add patience, logical thinking, try to develop the skills as relax as we can and trust what we are working on.