There are three main elements to Wing Chun: form, drills and fighting.
If we were to compare building skill in martial arts with building a house, form would simply be the plan of the house, drills would be the walls and roof, while fighting would be the finishing touches, floors, windows, tiles, colors.
Fighting is the end result while form
and drills hold everything together.
While I agree that we need form to understand what we are doing and drills to further extend that understanding and add practicality, I think that a healthy focus on fighting is essential in the study of Martial Arts.
Truthfully, I shouldn’t even need to point this out, but a lot of people are teaching “fighting” without ever giving students a chance to fight.
At the same time, a lot of people want to learn self-defense, without ever wanting to put themselves in a real-life, live pressure, fighting situation.
You cannot learn how to swim without jumping in water.
Teaching a fighting art without the fight is like somebody coming into a boxing gym, saying: ‘Hey! I wanna be a champion boxer! I’m not gonna get hit am I?’
And somebody replying: ‘No! You’re gonna get the shit beat out of you’.
What I mean by that is, you cannot be comfortable and become a champion. Performance, success, winning is the opposite of comfort.
It’s not about the easy way.
If martial arts would be easy, you wouldn’t be doing it in the first place, because there would be no challenge.
We love to be challenged, we love to smash through obstacles.
Without stress and the chance to overcome our problems, we would live a hell of a boring life.
Dying is easy!
I think that we were put on this earth to grow.
We were put here to be challenged, to be broken into pieces so that we learn to put ourselves back together again, to fall on our face so that we can learn the immeasurable power that we have inside, the strength to get up and take another step.
Life is not supposed to be easy. So, why should fighting have to be any different?
We feel discomfort when we engage in the unfamiliar. We feel uncomfortable when we are not in control, when somebody else calls the shots, when we react instead of acting, when we try to cure instead of working on preventing.
Discomfort is like muscle fever. You feel pain when you have it, but you know that that’s where all the growth is. You know that you can’t build muscle without it.
After a while, you start to look forward to it. You associate it with growth.
Fighting is the same, the more pressure you get, the better you become at handling it.
While this may sound logical, very few people teach Wing Chun this way.
For mainly two reasons:
1. Students want to ‘defend themselves’
While the concept of self-defense is correct at it’s core, I think that it’s being misinterpreted in the martial arts world. I was a victim of this kind of thinking for many years.
I used to think that if I am good, I have to be able to stop anybody trying to hit me. I was putting my-self in a defensive position right from the beginning.
That’s like being given a choice between becoming a wolf or a sheep, and you choose to be the sheep, just because it’s morally correct.
If Sifus would tell soccer moms, that their kid is going to learn how to poke somebody’s eyes out or hit their neck so hard, the opponent will not be able to breathe, how many children do you think would still be learning martial arts?
Yet, in a real self-defense scenario, there are three simple steps: avoid, negotiate, traumatize.
Drills alone are not enough. You need that emotional chaos, the stress of being hit, of being out of control. Get out of that damn comfort zone!
2. The Demi-God syndrome
People love a good legend.
And some other people take full advantage of this fact. So, some martial arts teachers portray themselves as this unstoppable force of nature.
You see videos of this ‘phenomenon’ all over the internet. It’s like watching a magic show at a kid’s party.
In these cases, students are being brain washed and become extremely compliant with the teacher.
When this happens, progress is impossible.
There is no progress without pressure, without stress, without a problem to solve. In this case, both the student and the teacher stop growing.
When people do Chi Zao with pressure, things change. It doesn’t look so pretty.
Let’s say that a ‘master’ with 20 years of doing Wing Chun would do Chi Zao with someone training in the art for only a year.
You immediately notice the master’s perfect structure, his perfect Chi Zao, and the structural power that he possesses. While at the same time, the beginner, has some shitty angles and absolutely no structural power.
They start to roll hands in Chi Zao, and what do you know? The beginner effortlessly goes into the master’s defence.
He’s not one of the master’s students. He hasn’t been conditioned to make it easy on the master.
Suddenly, there’s not much of a difference between the two.
They both go in.
How is it possible that a beginner can easily penetrate the master’s defense?
The answer lies in the question.
When this happens, the problem is exactly the defense. The master is trying to ‘control’ and defend. He is reacting instead of taking the lead and hitting. Just simply hitting the guy.
When you do Chi Zao with somebody outside your school, outside your lineage, you‘d better be prepared for the worse. It’s not going to feel like anything you’ve done before.
If your Chi Zao is good, and your partner’s Chi Zao is shit and you spar, you are going to get hit.
The concept is something like that quote from Mark Twain, ‘don’t argue with fools, they will drag you to their level and beat you with experience’.
The fact is that when you do Chi Zao with somebody that is worse than you, and you get hit, you are playing his game.
Whenever you start playing your opponent’s game, you lose.
Does this mean that we should only do Chi Zao within the safety of our school?
The only way for you to get good at doing Chi Zao with people from other lineages is to actually do it, and let them be honest and express themselves.
Let them try and hit you.
We learn from our mistakes, and we expand our knowledge from failing and getting back up on the horse.
The way to win in these cases, especially if the opponent is chasing the hands, is to be the one setting the game, setting the rhythm. Have him play your game, not the other way around. Be the acting force not the reacting/ defending element.
I encourage you to go out of your school and test. Test what you know and test what you can do. Cross train. Make your own martial art.
Read some of Bruce Lee’s books and go out and expand your knowledge, of course, within the limits of your own personal safety and that of others.
You wouldn’t want to go to jail or have somebody call the police for something as stupid as sparring session. Choose your sparring partners carefully.
Learning to fight with compliant partners is like being a lion in captivity who is being fed every day and is bored out his mind.
Learning under pressure is like learning to hunt.
What I’m trying to say is that we essentially have two hands and two legs. The only difference between each of us is mind set and standards.
There’s this Wing Chun practitioner on YouTube that is going around to do Chi Zao and learn from some of the most famous Wing Chun Sifus in the Wing Chun community.
I found the videos to be very interesting. And I think that it goes to show how important training with an un-compliant partner can be.
From what I understand, in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there is a certain level of honesty between the practitioners in sparring.They both fight to win. No compliance.
That’s how skill is born.