Sunday, 11 November 2007

In need of updating: why I changed clubs

So, I thought it was about time I updated this blog. It has been a long time since I wrote anything. Since then I have changed clubs and travelled Asia for 5 months, to China, Hong Kong, Tibet, Nepal & India. I will write about my experiences regarding martial arts in a later post. Without sounding like Im having a bash at my old club I think I should explain the reason I left. After getting my black sash and beginning to attend seminars of other Sifus I began to question my art. My Sifu had always talked about validating things, so I wanted to validate what I was doing for myself. Now in the class it is very easy to say ok, so this guy is throwing 2 punches and I can do these techniques and Im in a good position. However, when you do this same technique against someone who isnt just standing there to take it, the result is not as successful. I also began to question the reason why we always do drills. So now I had learnt the whole system and I thought "what next?"
People always say, once you reach black you start learning, but I felt like I wasnt doing anything anymore. In short I was teaching and doing warm ups, while the Sifu was in the back room drinking tea. I thought to myself, "am I really developing?" So I had got to a stage where I had become totally stagnant, and on top of that I had a closed minded attitude towards other styles. I was always fault finding when I looked at other stuff, instead of thinking, well why do they do this. Now I realise that you cant criticise one element of a different system without understanding the whole.
So anyway, I decided to go along to the Foshan Wing Chun class and to do some private tuition with the Sifu. He was able to answer my questions and restore my faith in the fact that Wing Chun was an alive, conceptual art. Suddenly, things fell into place that had previously felt scattered and awkward.
Following that I had to take a break for 5 months, while I travelled around Asia. During my time in China & Hong Kong I met a couple of Sifus there from various styles and I also had a lot of time to think through my Kung Fu. I think this time to reflect helped me find the cause of my ignorance. Basically I had been looking for someone to come along and be a master and show me the way. So I accepted the first who came along and developed a close relationship with him. I began to believe everything he said and became like a robot, I wasnt myself.
Now I have come to the realisation that I am my own master, and that in this life people will come and go, and they will show me which way to turn next and then I must decide for myself and then move on. There is no humble monk who will come along and tell me the meaning of life or whatever, I must take it into my own hands.
So now I feel that everything fits into place, whereas before things were clashing. For example I was led to believe that Wing Chun is Wing Chun and we do what our Sifu says and anything else will hinder our progress. However I now see that all things fit into it, not go against it. I now understand when Bruce Lee says about the man who goes to a Zen master and asks him questions. The master decides to serve tea and overflows it so it spills everywhere. The man says "what are you doing, the cup is full, it cant hold any more tea!"
So the master replies "see, likethis cup you are so full of your own opinions and ideas, whatever I teach you ,there is no room to take it in."
So I guess what Im saying is that in this life we should be open minded. Dont get sucked in to other peoples bullshit, and if you have a doubt in your mind, dont keep quiet. Speak up, find an answer to your doubt, however that may be. Most people become stagnant because they develop a comfort zone. They dont want to affect the status quo or whatever. Its when you step into the danger zone, and are on the edge, that you really develop. So, if you have a doubt, dont just ignore it, whats the worst that can happen, your questions are answered? What Im saying applies to life, not just martial arts. Dont allow your mind to be someone elses prisoner, conquer it, its yours after all!!
Maybe people will read this and say "oh, what disrespect to his old Sifu" or that i am talking crap. Well I dont care, coz I dont want my learning to be held back by blind respect. I think I have a little insight into Bruce Lees thinking now.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Foshan vs Hong Kong Wing Chun

Although the Wing Chun I study comes from Yip Man in his later years in Hong Kong, I have recently visited and trained at another club, who come from a very different lineage. They trace their lineage back to Lun Gai, the first student of Yip Man in Foshan, bafore he fled to Hong Kong.
The main differences I noticed was that they placed more emphasis on the physical side of training, for instance the warm up was much more intense, involving press ups and such. The Hong Kong style is much more yielding to force, whereas looking at the Foshan style you can see how a younger Yip Man would have practiced, putting much more emphasis on power and directness.
Also looking at the forms the first thing I noticed was that whereas in Hong Kong style we place most of the emphasis on correct angles and positions, their emphasis was placed on the development of power. Also their forms were more flowery, ours looks more refined.
Also I noticed that they placed more emphasis on footwork drills than we do, when we practice Chi Gurk it is a freeflowing exercise similar to Chi Sau, whereas they practiced set drills more akin to Dan Chi Sau/Lap Sau. Whereas we practice more Chi Sau and set drills to ensure correct positions, they seemed to practice more sparring and grappling type exercises. The Foshan style also used a lot of armlocks as well, which we do not.
So to conclude I feel that from attending this other class I feel it has given me a greater understanding of Wing Chun, enabling me to see how Yip Man progressed through his life. I would not like to say that either style is better, only that they both reflect different aspects of the art. It is evident how Yip Man liked to simplify things, as looking at the Foshan Wing Chun it is much more traditional, Hong Kong Wing Chun appears more practical and faster to learn. The Foshan Wing Chun however does seem to have a much larger syllabus, incorporating a larger variety of techniques and applications of things.