why is this stuff so hard
You know intuitively that you can produce a lot of power by pushing and pulling. If you have practiced this type of martial art before you also know that by relaxing and being a bit clever with subtlety, position and timing, you can make that pushing and pulling be very effective. In fact this is the basis of most martial arts whether they claim internal or external.
There is another way which does not involve pushing or pulling, but it is so different it is hard to see. The brain tricks us because we can hardly perceive our own effort so we think we are totally relaxed. We are still tricking ourselves. If you really commit to giving up, then your mind will perceive great risk. With no pushing or pulling what is left? Your mind will believe you will be hit or knocked over and tension will kick in. If you can just hold out for a bit longer the muscles have a chance to elongate, to balance and a structure can take shape which is innate within you, the same structure that stopped you falling over when you learned to walk. Our wing chun takes place at that point where you neither push or pull, you just set up your structure and allow movement to happen. Any force acting on you is dealt with by the bodies balancing mechanism. It takes a strong will not to react with habit, fear, compliance or anger; it is hard to hang onto an idea when faced with force and risk. But the whole point of training is to introduce these ideas in a safe environment and develop them. If you do not try it in class, how can you expect it to work anywhere else?
This is not a lecture, I am talking to myself.
When you reach for your cup of tea, you can just use your arm to support the movement but as you accept the weight of the cup it will cause you to tense your forearm and shoulder. This is because the effect of gravity on the cup is slightly overbalancing you. No big deal with a small object, but if you are then reaching further, say grabbling a 2 litre milk carton across the table, the strain will have more on an effect on your balance and your lower back. Try thinking about this differently. Once in contact with an object it becomes one with you in respect of how gravity effects you. Instead of allowing it to pull you forward. relax and let the weight drop into your elbow, down your back and into the floor. Let your centre take the weight and allow your body to organise how it deals with gravity acting upon it. Gravity is the one constant in life your body is born to deal with.
Several people have said to me that I chi sau differently from everyone else; they cannot work out what I am doing. That is because (good or bad) my movement is an expression of who I am and how I deal with gravity, it is not about contrived movement, position or technique. I do not want to conform to anyone else’s’ idea of what chi sau is, I want to make a connection so as to join you to my body’s own sense of gravity. I do not want to connect a tan sau or fook sau with your arms, I do not want to stick; if I seek your centre it is for you to try to stop me and in a sense your force decides what arm movement becomes appropriate. By joining for a brief moment gravity has an effect on both people and by accepting and aknowledging that bigger picture the choice then is to control and hit, or extend the practice for longer and engage in chi sau. You can take the force of the other person and allow the floor to support it, or allow your body to organise itself so the other person has to deal with your entire weight (without pushing). The true skill is then to maintain that control of how gravity effects both people throughout chi sau, so you cannot be hit but can choose to hit from as many positions as possible.
Chi sau without this idea, without this concept is just chasing hands. It is virtually worthless unless any opponent you meet in life is smaller and less aggressive than you, otherwise they will overpower your arms and hit you. You have to see the bigger picture of how you set up your body to deal with gravity (through standing practice), of how you move your limbs and body whilst connected to your centre (SLT, Chum Kui) and how you apply your body mass to someone else (chi sau). Without that it is mostly grown men playing patter cake patter cake.
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