Between 1988 and ’98, at the beginning of my studies I was in that “lucky” position to learn and teach at two Wing Chun schools which used westernized education style. It wouldn’t be truthful to say that it was not a good method but despite that, it was an astonishing difference when I met with the traditional educational style in 1999.
I don’t want to compare the two styles here or speak about the disadvantages of the westernized education although; having experienced in the first hand I know them well.
I think it’s much more important to present the traditional education style, because that’s how Lo Man Kam grandmaster teaches in his school at Taiwan, and we teach like that in our every Lo Man Kam Wing Chun classes too.
So what is the essence of the traditional way of teaching kung fu? We don’t want to teach the students by making them practice “X” number set combinations and sections, but teaching them the basics and how to use and combine them freely, how to get a good “feeling”. It is not in our focus to teach one or two techniques at every training or week but to make sure that what is known can be used as well, ever more precisely, faster and better. Let us not forget the proverb:
Who grabs a lot, takes little.
Our school, as well as any other school which educates in the traditional style, puts great emphasis on effectiveness. It does not matter if a student only learns the basics in one year if he or she can use that knowledge to defend against an average street attacker.
Just like you can only build the walls of a house on a stable foundation, in the Lo Man Kam Wing Chun schools the students only allowed taking the next step in their studies if the already taught techniques are adequately practiced and they can use them as well.
Let’s see it step by step:
You have to learn to stand. It’s seemingly a trivial thing, everybody can stand, but not every stance is the same. While learning the “Yee ma” stance the students shown how to “take root”, how to take the proper structure and how to maintain it.
As the baby first tries to figure out its hands, how to use them, the practitioner of the Lo Man Kam Wing Chun also starts with the learning of the basic hand techniques. In this helps the Siu Nim Tao form, which name can be translated as a little idea, or a little insight. This form teaches the student the basic hand techniques.
Basic exercises. This means that we do not practice the basic techniques in the sequence presented by the form, but we combine the different blocks with a punch. Here the student learns an important principle of the Wing Chin, simultaneity. It means that the block and the punch should happen in the same time, and not one after the other. With this principle, the Wing Chun practitioner’s reaction time is halved and the adversary can be surprised with this uncommon method. At first the students learn the combinations on their own, than later with the help of a partner, who’s attacks are predetermined at first and random later, as in a real fight. Of course the intensity of the attacks (speed and power) is always kept parallel with the abilities and skill of the student.
The learning of rotation, step and sidestep. So far the students were standing still and could only use their hands when defending. This was useful because:
1. It made the pupil to concentrate on his or her hands, allowing the faster learning the usage of them while defending and counter attacking.
2. The disciple perfected the usage of his or her hands (force, direction, angles, etc) because he or she could only rely on them when defending, it wasn’t allowed to withdraw or turn or step aside from the attack. Te student had to defend perfectly if not the attacker was able to punch him.
After the elementary understanding of the turning, the disciple joins it with the previously learned basic exercises. Next are the forward and backward steps, of course in a short time combined with the basic exercises. Finally we link the steps and the turning and make the evasions in every direction. All in all we defend against an attacker by evading the attack while trying to contact with the attacking hand. This is important because of the cohesion (sticky hands) and skin reflex. (More information can be found under the Basic principles menu.) At this part of the training there is a kind of “free fighting” forming between the students, (naturally adequate to their skills and knowledge) because the attack followed by a counterattack, and the former attacker blocks and attack again.
This is the beginning of the practice in pairs. A very important part of the Wing Chun is the sticky hands and feet. This means after we made contact with the adversary’s hand or leg, we don’t depend on our sight mainly but on our touch and feeling of the skin. This makes our reaction faster and more accurate.
First the students learn the how to stick to one hand with one hand, with a relatively set, basic movement, and the attack from it plus three possible reactions to the punch. We call this exercise Dan Chi Sao, aka one sticky handed exercise. Then the basic movement of the two handed sticky hands, the Pon-sau – Won-sao techniques had to be learned, the possibilities of offense from this movements and the correct answers to them. As soon as the disciples familiar with these forms of attacks and the possible answers, they start practicing the free Chi-sao, meaning either of the two can attack however he/she wants and the other defends however he or she wants, because an attack can be blocked many ways.
Chi-Na techniques. These techniques means attacking joints, nerve points, violate parts of the body (for example: testicles, throat, eyes, etc). Now the students learn how to apply the techniques formerly used against an unarmed attack, against an armed attacker. (The weapon of choice could be knife, stick or a bottle)
The next step is the study of the Chum Kiu form and techniques. This form and level of training helps, to perfect the principle of cohesion, enlarge the power of our punch and teach us the Wing Chun kicks. Although this form only teach us a few new techniques but it’s very important to practice it constantly because it helps improving the skills necessary in a fight.
The next step is the study of the Biu Jee form and techniques. This form called the “first aid” form. It teaches us how to escape or turn around situations when the opponent has the upper hand. It develops the ability of the usage of the joint energy and “bridge stealing” (distance stealing).