If you watch carefully the most simple of things, like an adult getting out a chair, you will witness a lot of grunting and groaning, perhaps even a huge amount of power being generated and internalised into a body. It is like an unintentional game of tug of war being played against the spine, causing long lasting damage without much conceivable benefit. The human body has evolved to work perfectly (watch a child under 5 years old and you will see this), but once the mind gets involved in consciously (or subconsciously) controlling our movement there soon develops an internal battle of pulling and pushing which ultimately damages our health. Animals move beautifully as they are not conscious of their movements, we on the other hand are told from childhood how to walk, stand and sit to the point that our natural movement instincts are totally overridden.
When a new student starts a class, be they new to wing chun or with several years of experience elsewhere, when I touch their hand to test their movements I feel the same tell tale tension. They feel my force and automatically not only do they push back at me in order to equalise, but they also push against themselves using a system of connected muscles through their body. One part of the body braces against the next, and even if their arm is relaxed it is likely that the movement in anchored to the scapula for support. Unless they are a lot bigger than me, it is generally not difficult to cause them to loose their balance with a small rotation of my arm.
You can read these words, watch endless videos on youtube, but experiencing what it means to release and let go of the muscles which we have come to rely on for so long is only going to happen if you train properly with an experienced teacher. We all think we are doing it correctly, but the truth is the tools we are using to gauge our body awareness are faulty, and the whole point of training is to recalibrate those tools. This takes a lot of internal practice with hands on guidance by a teacher.
So the truth is that we are all capable of producing a great amount of internal power, but unfortunately we are literally turning that power on ourselves throughout our day by overusing muscles and pitting one against the other. Tight hamsrings, compressed lower spines are a result of YOU tightening those muscles yourself. No one else is doing it to you. Think of what you could do with that power if it was released and your muscles could elongate to their full length! That is the potential which wing chun has to offer. We need to stop fighting with ourselves before starting to think about fighting w
Now I am an old man I laugh as I drive into town at the young drivers racing between the lights. With all the noise, the swerving and braking they think they are getting there quicker, but in reality most of the time I am still behind them as we approach more lights. Some people resort to short cuts, dip in here and there, avoid one hurdle, but eventually the distance travelled is much greater than going direct.
The issue with the stop start approach is that it is inefficient. Your car will not get tired, but your fuel is burned up and if it was your body doing the work you would be knackered very quickly.
In wing chun we know where our destination is, our intention is to get there, but not at the expense of our own state. By remaining calm and relaxed we stay in control.
We get a lot of new students come to the class who have previous wing chun experience. Most of them have learned the idea that speed is the essence of power and skill, but they lack the key ingredient of applying mass to the equasion. Everything aligns behind the fist in order to drive in... but it is too late, they have forgotten that whilst they have been tensing into that great position their whole structure has been compromised. Speed is great at delivering the vehicle to the destination, but not if the vehicle falls apart before it gets there. You may as well throw a paper aeroplane.
If you take the analogy of throwing, once you let the object go you no longer have control of the trajectory mid flight. What if the target moves? If you have this idea of using a punch it will disassociate from the mass of your body and you will be relying on the weight of the arm, the acceleration and amount of leaning you put into it. Powerful and effective sometimes, but there is better. The arm should always connected to the centre, releasing away but releasing the mass forward at the target and able to adapt to changes and interference. The punch is not about getting the hand in at all costs, but making sure the connection made (whether it ends up being their face or their arm) is with your unified body mass. To increase your speed but lose this crucial ingredient is the quickest way to go backwards in your training.
Speed is crucial in a fight, but relying on it during training can mask a lot of problems. Trying to learn to do something quickly and then hoping to learn to do it well afterwards will teach you bad habits and not much more.
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