A young man, attending Indiana State University (here in Terre Haute, Indiana), wrote to me, recently, and asked the following:
I used to study Wing Chun before I moved to Terre Haute. . . . I noticed that you just did your Siu Nim Tao form much slower than my Sifu did. . . . Why is that? How fast or slow should my form go?
These are excellent questions for any practitioner to ask their instructor. That said truth is that I cannot answer them fully on this platform. I will, however, give you some insight into why forms are performed at different speeds.
Besides the fact that Wing Chun’s forms are taught in different ways, there are levels of training each student must go through in order to master the form, itself. (I’ve written about these in another blog, so I won’t repeat myself too much here. I recommend you review that blog.) Depending on what level of learning a student is will change how you see that person performing the form; for example,:
- 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. At first, the form looks chopping, but, later, as the student becomes more confident in the form, it becomes smoother – more fluid-looking.
- 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. During this phase of learning the entire form is slowed down to a crawl. (It was said, by Grandmaster Ip Man’s students, that Grandmaster Ip Man could take up to thirty minutes just to do the first half of the form.) The form remains fluid, but it is much slower than the first phase of learning.
- 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. This phase of learning the form deals with the two means of releasing energy (among other things), so the first half looks different than the second (each dealing with each means of energy-release). It, also, looks much different than the first two phases of learning. While it remains fluid, some parts are slow while others are (at the point of release) quicker.
There’s no way for me to demonstrate this on this platform in a way that makes sense, nor can someone show you this in videos. Understanding comes with time and attention to self-development and mastery of each phase of learning, and that doesn’t come without good instruction.
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