Sifu Yost, I noticed that there are different ways people do Siu Nim Tao [the first empty-hand form in Wing Chun, for those of you who don’t know what this guy’s talking about], and was curious which way is the correct one?
Well, one reason you’re seeing different ways to perform the first empty-hand form is because people learned different ways of performing those forms. Another reason is they never learned the different levels of performing each form. So, I’ll try to introduce you to what I mean in this blog.
Point 1: There are different ways taught to perform a form.
Take Grandmaster Ip Man, for example. He taught the first empty-hand form (called Siu Nim Tao) three different ways over the course of his career. (Something I take pride in is that I’ve learned all three of them.) Now, you may be asking, “What’s the point?” Here are a couple:
- He taught based on the student’s current needs and biological disposition, so the student could learn all that each form had to offer – from where they were.
- He matured as a teacher, and found that teaching the form a certain way guaranteed his students would learn the Wing Chun principles the way each form intended them to be learned.
As long as the principles are being learned by the student, the form is correct. It’s when the form is lacking the principles of Wing Chun that it was intended to teach that the form is a problem, or incorrect. I have seen a few versions of some Wing Chun forms that excluded some of the principles they should, so this isn’t something we can take for granted. That’s why it’s best to learn from someone who can empower you with a traditional approach to learning Wing Chun.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying traditional in the sense of impractical. I mean learning Wing Chun as it is, so you can apply it to the practical.
Point 2: There are different levels to learning each form.
Many practitioners, especially those in their first year or two of training, don’t even realize that one form has different levels and means of learning. Here’s an example of what I mean:
- Someone just learning a form, for the first time, will go through a mechanical-phase of learning. This is the phase of learning the form where they ask: What am I suppose to do? Where am I suppose to do it? And, learn the physical motions and the form’s routine.
After they perfect that first step, most students move onto what’s called the Nim Lik phase of learning. This is the phase of learning that uses the form to do several specific things, including: increase one’s mental focus, develop and utilize the right mind-intentions, and build stamina in mind-body relationship. This phase of performing the form will look a bit different than the first and third phases of performing the same form; because, it has a specific use-intention. If it were performed the same way the other two phases were it would not focus on such things as necessary to help the student achieve the goals of this level of training.
- Then, there’s the phase of learning that deals with energy. An example of this is: Where do I release energy in a particular motion, and why? What’s a waste, and what’s efficient? Where’s the energy coming from? So on and so forth. As with every other level of training, this level of training will look a bit different than the others; because, it has a specific focus or use-intention in mind. If it were performed the same way the other two phases were it would not focus on such things as necessary to help the student achieve the goals of this level of training.
Have you learned all of these forms and versions?
Yes. I have. Over my twenty-plus years in Wing Chun, I have been blessed to have worked with masters and grandmasters in the martial art system, who’ve taught me these things. That said: There’s always room to grow, and I look to do so every day.
The beauty of learning these is that one always has the potential to learn more every day.
Do you have a question for me? Write to email@example.com and I’ll try to answer your question promptly.
Empower yourself to life!™
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