About half of the new students who come to our class have never practiced wing chun before. For the other half, it can be a revelation. Although they are initially comforted that the movements appear the same to their previous system, once we get hands on it becomes apparent there are major differences. For most it is a shock; not only can we demonstrate the generation of force with little effort, we can help them achieve it with what appear minor adjustments. The problem comes in the next few classes as the realisation hits in that without us there all the time to assist in the 'minor adjustments', they are in for a lot of hard work. At that point the majority decide this method is not for them.
Even though I have only ever trained in the Chu Shong Tin system, I know what it is like to start again. In 2008, with 6 years experience under my belt, I took off for Hong Kong to polish up my skills. In my mind my understanding of wing chun was pretty good, I was honed to be the martial arts equivalent of a Mini Cooper, a car which had revolutionised rallying with the introduction of front wheel drive. Unfortunately this 1960/70s technology which worked well for me in the UK had been superceded in Hong Kong by the equivalent of the Audi Quattro with its 4 wheel drive system. Never mind the idea of internal wing chun, the basic structural engineering of the 70s had moved on and I was struggling to catch up. With each subsequent visit to Hong Kong I would keep trying, but each time they had improved, by constantly refining, upgrading and redefining excellence. Every visit was a painful process of starting again.
I was lucky that during the process I was not alone. Mark and Jon were with me each step and together we researched, developed and trained together. As a team we challenged and supported each other over every hurdle (and still do).
This art is as difficult to learn as your mindset chooses to define it. I love it so it is never a chore. For those wing chun practitioners really wanting to understand it you are going to have to open up the bonnet, strip it down and figure it out yourself. It is much more than just adding a few go faster stripes and a spoiler. To extend the driving analogy, you can pretend you are in charge of a 4 wheel drive rally car by just racing down a straight road, but once you reach a tight corner you will have to accept the truth. The good news is that if you attend the class you are not alone in this, we are all on the same journey, some of us ahead of the others, some of us stuck in cul de sacs, but as a club we are committed to everyone moving in the same direction.
The final comfort on offer is that if you commit to this you will get better, it is a matter of effort and application. Like in all arts the appearance of effortless is a result of countless hours of effort.
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