Starting a martial arts club was a risk, not so much financial but there was an element of burning bridges with our old training partners by rejecting their training methodology. Probably the biggest risk was to the ego; not attracting new students would feel like a rejection of not only the art but a thing which absorbs a large part of my/our lives. Also we did not want in any way to damage the name and legacy of Chu Shong Tin.
Three years on and it is a relief to say that Sung has actually have had some success, we have infected the lives of at least two dozen people enough that they regularly leave the comfort of their couches to come and train with us Maybe they do not go to bed with wing chun on their minds and wake up with it still there (like me), but I have a suspicion that for some it may have moved from interest to obsession. I wish people could train more, come both nights of the week, but as students become part of the family you realise that everyone has their own lives and problems, work and kids etc, so I do really appreciate it when they come to class.
The club has changed this year, Mark, Jon and I are very comfortable to teach what we believe without any nod to what will commercially attract students. We are probably the only club in the UK that has students undertake standing practice for 40 mins+ at the start of lesson, in fact probably one of the few in the world. As I say to every new starter, we do not do drills; CST wing chun does not have drills! We are all about learning to reconnect to our mind/bodies and utilise our mass in a manner which will not work if you drill it to fix it in habitual routine movement.
Things I am proud of this year are seeing a couple of students make fundamentally important internal connections, moving a large group of students on to Chum Kui; making connections with Mike Arnold in Wales so his large club can become involved in CST methodology; Rini has started to teach Sung principles in the Netherlands and Mark & I have taught successful seminars in Prague. Our family is growing. Also personally I have invested a lot of my time and money to improve my body awareness by training in the Alexander Technique; most Wednesdays I have got up at 6.30am to visit Manchester to be part of an Alexander Technique training school. I think that the 120 hours of hand on training I have had this year has improved my teaching so this is something I will continue to do.
A club takes a long time to establish, entering our 4th year will mean that we have students with many levels of ability who can now pass on their knowledge to new starters. I am hoping that a handful of students will start the Bil Jee form. The most exciting event is likely to be the gathering in April 18. There will be 40 of us training over an entire weekend; we could probably get 50 or 60 people but I am actively turning people away or putting them on a waiting list. There will be an exciting group of people coming from the UK and Europe who have been and training with the likes of Sisuk Ma Kee Fai, Nima King, Alex Man, John Kaufman, Tony Psaila and of course Chu Shong Tin, so a fantastic chance to share and practice with our extended family.
The only sad thing I take from this year is losing students. People need to move home to find work, they have children or illness strikes but it is hard to see someone who you have shared the investment in time and effort with leave us. The one thing I do hope is that they take with them some of the improved body awareness that they learned and it continues to help them in their lives, even if their wing chun never reached a level that they could use it in a martial way.
I am pretty sure that we will have some other exciting events this year. Our friend Mark Allanson is visiting next month and so I am hoping he will share some of his vast experience of our lineage with us and our students. Also we have been asked about more seminars in the UK and Europe which we are keen to do. Ideally I would also like to think about either inviting one of CST’s students to give seminars here or alternatively organise a group to visit Hong Kong. Onwards and upwards!
The first stage (and for most the only stage they reach) relates to holding and moving positions; tan sau, bong sau etc. The development point from here is by learning to release associated areas of tension the movements it results in power improvements, enabled by letting go of the shoulder, scapulae, the hips etc. For most experienced wing chun students this is the peak of their internal journey.
If you relax one muscle (or set of them) it will just move the tension somewhere else. It was tense for a reason (a misguided idea that it will protect you) and your body will lock somewhere else to do the same job. You have to learn the relationship between each of the muscles and how they can create a virtuous circle of shared ‘tone’. You have to accept force into your body, it is how you accept it in and deal with it which is the key to internal arts.
I do not think that you can do this work on your own, maybe one in a million can. Through body contact I can give you a feeling of how I deal with force, where I direct it and how I can give it back. I can then talk you through the process once you get an idea. It takes time but I can pass on that process and you can develop your own way. Doing SLT on its own without this guidance will not do this and relaxation without a guiding purpose will lead to collapse. This cannot work in a McDojo, your teacher has had to have followed a similar path or they are just reciting someone else’s words. It is very rare in wing chun, how many do you see teach like CST? How many can put a hand on you and affect changes beyond the contact point? Judge a teacher on how they feel and what changes they can elicit in you.
I have recently read discussions on forums of how the chum kui form works. Do you move from your centre of mass? Do you move your centre of mass around an external point? Where is your centre of mass? Can you create a false centre? How does your centre change when in contact with someone else?
You can happily do the chum kui form until you have worn a hole through the floor all the way to Australia, but muscle memory and theory will not help you deal with force. As soon as you are contact with someone you have entered a relationship. If you have not in someway mastered the basics of the relationships mentioned above you will tense up and you will push back. If you are not able to accept force and deal with it there can only ever be one direction of force affecting your opponent. Although it can be effective pushing in a diagonal is not multi-directional force.
Chi sau is you forum to learn how to deal with force, if you know how to deal with it there is no need for a contrived plan about how to pivot, no thought of heels or toes or barber’s poles, this is just stuff for beginners to notice what they are doing and allow change to happen.
Your own mind/body is in a constant flux and just trying to teach it a drill, or isolating a muscle in your arm or learning to hold your temper will not have much effect on how you hang together as a person. A more powerful method is observation, subtle direction (intention) and for WC students the indirect processes passed to us by CST which can elicit much bigger change to how to move and interact under pressure. If I have to punch you in the face, I do not want you to feel my hand but my unimpeded body mass going through you, and if I focus on localised body distractions this will make that impossible to achieve. Once contact has been made, a relationship has established and I need to ensure my system takes on control to my benefit and not the other way around.
Perhaps it would be easier to get people to punch and kick pads for two hours!
Keeping you up to date with what is happening in class