Sunday, 22 April 2012

Wing Chun – Comment on Sticky Hands


’d like to add a few comments to yesterday’s clip on Sifu Samuel Kwok’s demonstration of chi sao – Wing Chun Kung Fu’s “sticky hands”. As a reminder, numerous martial arts include different types of sticky hands or push hands practise in their syllabus. Well known examples are Goju Ryu Karate, Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu, the martial arts of the Philippines and Indonesia, etc. All are effective.

In the 1999 demonstration, at around 1:25, the narrator explains how the sequence is used to develop the energy…”so the techniques have power”. The type of power he’s referring to is like a coiled spring – but a spring that is always in motion. This type of self defense energy – as well as life energy – is based on song, a word in Cantonese describing a mental and physical state of relaxed awareness.

Famous Wing Chun teacher Ip Man and his student Bruce Lee


Much like other systems of Kung Fu, Kwok Sifu uses fa jing, an explosive type of force. His fa jing is fluid; it appears, suddenly, while his hands roll. That’s one of the reasons behind the rolling action of the hands – you never know when fa jing will appear.

At 2:35 of the 1999 demonstration, the narrator makes a point about the “listening” skill of the hands. This type of training is designed to bypass a reliance on sight. He reminds us that it’s all about “what you feel”. The skin becomes a radar system. You can sense an opponent’s intentions across the “bridge” of the arms. The blindfold segment in the 2005 demonstration is an extension of Wing Chun’s skill of “listening’ with the arms.

Please notice throughout how relaxed Kwok’s arms are yet his techniques come from the entire body.

Relaxed force is a type of force. Some may claim that techniques that are relaxed lack power. I have seen a very large and powerful man suddenly drop to his knees from the pain of being slapped on the forearm. Relaxed force is real force!

Wong Shun Leung, Wing Chun's "King of the Talking Hands"


The Wing Chun strategies employed by Kwok Sifu – seeking, trapping, redirecting the opponent’s force, following the opponent’s limb back to its home, etc. – appear and disappear in fluid motion. These same strategies can be useful not only in self defense but in everyday life as a way of dealing with stress or with situations that can erode your dignity as a human being.

I’ve often seen the look on Kwok’s face in Kung Fu, no matter what the system. Please notice that he doesn’t just “stick” with his hands, he ‘sticks” with his look!...yet his look doesn’t appear to be a form of tunnel vision. He doesn’t focus on one particular point to the exclusion of the rest of the field. Kwok is like a good chess player: he sees the entire board.

I’ve also seen the following in Kung Fu. Notice how, at around 3:25, he looks briefly over to his right while his hands keep on rolling. All practitioners of push hands or sticky hands end up doing this. They can continue “sticking” while, for example, talking to someone off to one side. It comes from experience…and confidence. It also breeds confidence. There’s nothing arrogant about doing so; it’s just an extension of the skill, a natural progression from basic eye to eye contact. The glance to one side also develops the skill to defend against more than one opponent.

Lastly, I’ve found a fair number of Kung Fu teachers to be charismatic. Kwok is charismatic. It could be because of his skill or his confidence or his experience. Or maybe some charismatic people gravitate to the martial arts and continue to grow from within the arts.

Please watch the clip a few more times; you’ll probably see a lot of things that I missed!

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