There is a purposeful and distinct connection between the progressive development of the Chi Kung skills in the Wing Chun system, and the final advanced training offered with the Wooden dummy, 6 & Ĺ point long pole, and the 8 slash knives. For those uninitiated to the vast Chi Kung skills woven throughout the whole Wing Chun system, the idea that the dummy and weapons have anything to teach regarding chi is most likely absurd. However, the insightful practitioner will realize that the advanced training given through the dummy and weapons is fundamental to acquiring deeper Chi Kung skills and application. Traditionally, the dummy, pole, and knives constitute the last three phases of a discipleís path within Wing Chun. They have been taught last for very good reasons. Obviously, one needs to have previously acquired solid skills in the foundation aspects of the art in order to benefit from investing in the advanced training offered. But this is not the most important reason. When one understands the deep importance of chi kung within Wing Chun skills, one can see that the advanced training offered in the dummy and weapons requires solid competence with all the other internal skills given prior to this point. Without demonstrable abilities in these other internal skills, the training on the dummy and with the weapons will be superficial and will not contribute much at all to the studentís overall abilities.
It is essential that the student has already developed considerable skills in rooting, placing, and releasing energy through his body. His stance should be solid and the energy deep. He should have learned how to draw energy from that root through correct practice of the Sil-Nim-Tao form. He should be fluid and coordinated with his motions. Complex motions should fit together with perfect timing and correct alignment, and his mental focus should be such as to be able to place his energy within the desired limb at the precise moment. These skills are obtained first in the Chum Ku form and further developed by correct practice of the Biu Tze form. Comprehensive and correct Chi Sau practice also deepens these abilities. Additionally the student should be able to use chi to strike with. He should be able to demonstrate significant, manifest power through the short punch, the thrusting and sinking palm strikes, and the thrusting fingers motions. More adept students will also be able to manifest releasing skills within the kicking techniques. These skills are acquired through correct practice and understanding of the Bui Tze boxing form, advanced Chi Sau practice, and in depth Chi Kung power training. If the student has adequate abilities with these chi kung skills then training on the dummy and with the weapons will bring a significant increase in martial skills.
The Wing Chun Wooden Dummy Set is intimately associated with Chi Kung skill development and understanding. The essence of the dummy set is found only in understanding it from the perspective of chi. Many misunderstand the significance of this training tool. The dummy is not about hardening or toughening up your body. It is not a punching bag, and it is not designed to be "bashed" on. The dummy is for increased sensitivity. It is about learning how to hit with energy or chi rather than just your body. The dummy teaches the disciple how to use Far Jing correctly. It is about refining and combining all the Chi Kung skills developed to this point and using them synergistically. And at its most secretive level the dummy is about understanding the principles and practicing the application of Dim Mak.
As with any new skill one acquires proficiency with the dummy by progressing through a series of phases. First, one learns the order of the movements for the dummy set. Once the practitioner can perform the dummy set without having to stop and think, he can then move on to the second phase, which focuses on polishing and correcting each sequence. Here, he begins to correct the timing of combined motions and the speed of the dummy movements as well as the exactness of each position. In this second phase, he also gains some understanding of the application of the dummy techniques. Once this stage is mastered, he can move to the third phase of focusing upon using the movement of the dummy. Here he must learn to hit the dummy with the right energy, with a Far Jing release rather than simply hitting it with his body. He must learn the precise time to strike the dummy within each sequence. This requires that he "listen" to the dummy both with his feelings to catch the rhythm of its movement, and with his ears to hear the crisp sound the hardwood makes when hit correctly.
Upon mastering these skills, he moves to the forth phase where he will be able to perform the dummy set with seeming effortlessness, yet the dummyís motion and sound will show that great power is being released. It is also at this stage that the practitioner learns to place energy in the dummy and draw it out at key times throughout the set. In this way, the dummy becomes almost a living partner as the advanced practitioner embraces it with his chi. At this level of skill and understanding, the practitioner is doing an advanced form of Chi Sau with the "living" dummy. Then, when his teacher feels his student is ready, he can be initiated into the fifth and final phase of the dummy Chi Kung skills. The fifth phase is to unlock and understand the abstract applications of the sequences as they pertain to meridian point attacks relative to Dim Mak. The dummy is the perfect tool to teach Dim Mak. The dummy set is full of Dim Mak theory and techniques. The truth is one never really appreciates or understands the Wing Chun dummy set until the Dim Mak knowledge within it is opened up. Each sequence represents very specific strikes and patterns of attacking the energy of your opponent to switch him off. As one learns to strike the dummy with energy, one also learns how to strike the key Dim Mak points correctly. This is the apex of knowledge and skill on the wooden dummy.
From the wooden dummy, the disciple progresses on to training with the long pole. Some schools do not emphasis or even teach the long pole. Perhaps it is because they feel it is an obsolete weapon and too long and clumsy for modern man. Or, perhaps because in the Wing Chun history they learned that the pole was added several generations after Ng Mui, the founder, by a shaolin master who traded the pole skills for some Wing Chun skills. Some feel because it is based upon a different kung fu system it really doesnít belong in Wing Chun. This is a mistake. The long pole may have originated from shaolin, but then so did Wing Chun. The long pole adds significant value to any personís Wing Chun skills, especially when you understand that the long pole is a magnificent energy weapon. It both challenges and improves your already quite advanced Chi Kung abilities. The pole teaches you to really extend your energy along its length and beyond. Its weight adds to the development of significant wrist and forearm strength in a way that packs your arms with chi. And the long pole form teaches a great deal about leverage, rooting, hiding your lines, and releasing chi into the tip of the pole. The Chi Kwan or pole clinging exercises greatly challenge and improve ones sensitivity and the use of deep listening Jing Chi Kung skills. Plus the pole further maps out Dim Mak points that are to be tapped with the energy at the point of the pole to switch off your opponent.
Some of the key milestones in learning to use chi with this weapon are as follows: First, performing the exercises correctly, which pack the energy into your arms. Second, learning to generate the characteristic vibration along the length of the pole. Third, taking that vibration and refining its application within each of the 6 striking motions from the form. Forth, learning to Biu with the pole so that the chi can be heard shooting down the length of the weapon and releasing out of the end. Fifth, learning to place listening intent or chi within the weapon so as to feel another weapon sliding and moving along the pole and also to feel when the tip of the pole makes contact. This skill is sometimes is seen demonstrated by an advanced practitioner performing blindfolded pole clinging. These progressive Chi Kung skills will develop as the disciple's physical long pole skills are refined. It is important that the pole is fashioned from a strong hard wood so that it can hold and carry the energy within it. Some poles made of lighter softwoods do not avail themselves to developing these advanced energy skills. The length and weight of the pole is also significant. 8 to 9 feet long is the usual length, although some have worked with poles up to 12 feet in length. The weight will depend upon the type and quality of hardwood. Both the weight and the length of the hardwood pole aid in the development of chi skills as the practitioner learns to place his energy in to the weapon and feel with it as if it were a part of his body.
After working towards mastery of the dummy and pole skills, the final stage of advanced internal skills is introduced through Wing Chunís 8-slash sword form. The swords of Wing Chun have been known by several different names. Some have called them knives and the form the knife set. The term butterfly knives is often used to refer to this weapon. Twin swords are another way some refer to the Wing Chun swords. Some confusion may exist regarding these terms because there are other kung fu systems that use two swords that are very similar to the ones used in Wing Chun. These weapons are not unique to Wing Chun only. However, Wing Chun does use them in a way that is unique and singular to the system. The sword form and training is obviously an extension of the whole of the Wing Chun system. The motions and exercises are characteristically Wing Chun in appearance. The principles and strategies of combat taught in the knife set are also characteristically Wing Chun and fit perfectly with all that has been established in the Wing Chun training previous to learning the swords. Other systems often perform their skills with similar sword but it does not resemble the Wing Chun sword form much at all. Wing Chun is a practical system, it is not showy or flashy. The same holds true for the weapons in the system. The pole form is not a showy form but a very practical exercise. The 8-slash sword form is also not very spectacular from a demonstration point of view. It is a very practical training sequence, just like the three boxing forms in the Wing Chun system.
Even within the Wing Chun family there are differences between sword forms, and there seems to have developed two slightly different sword designs. Both designs have far more in common than they do differences. However, the specific design difference is seen in the width of the blade just before it curves up to make the point. One design of swords has a parallel width from the handle up to where the edge curves up to the point. In the other design, the width gets thicker so that the blade is widest just before it curves up to the point. This is a minor difference, but it is significant when you are learning to express chi within the swords. With the wider blade, it is easier to outwardly manifest the chi. It has more weight towards the tip and the energy will cause a resonance within the blade that can be heard audibly. Hence, it is sometimes said that the skilled practitioner can make the swords sing. With the narrower bladed swords, this sound is less obvious. In fact, often the vibration will be present but the tone is at a pitch that is beyond human hearing. The wider blades make a deeper vibration with the energy and therefore, can be heard. Also the extra weight makes it somewhat easier to generate this vibratory expression of energy at the beginning stages. Other than this distinction, the energy skills can be expressed in either sword design, but are less obvious with the narrower bladed swords.
The skill required to be able to presence the chi into the blades is advanced. The short metal blades of the swords are much more difficult to place the chi into than the long hardwood pole. It requires a deeper releasing skill to generate this energetic vibration. Essentially the student learns to release energy from the hands and fingers in the Biu Tze boxing form. Then deepens that skill with the dummy and the pole. Then the final challenge is to further refine this vibratory chi release to be able to presence it into the short blades of the swords. Many practice for years before they can successfully manifest this skill with the short swords. The benefit of this skill is that when it is practiced and done correctly there is great power generated in the cutting motions of the blades. With the vibratory energy in the blades, a slash from one of the swords will be devastatingly powerful. A skilled practitioner can slice deep into his target with a seemingly short, effortless motion. Much like the deceptive short punch; a seemingly insignificant gesture with the sword can carry some impressive cutting power. It is not unlikely that a skilled practitioner could easily slice through a limb, dividing both flesh and bone using these energetic skills with the swords. In addition to this Chi Kung skill the sword form teaches the disciple to use significant energy skills in the advanced footwork of the sword form. He must learn Biu Ma or shooting stance skills. This requires him to be able to shoot his chi from his feet as he steps with great acceleration and agility. All of these skills add significantly to the practitioners overall skills. The refined ability to presence energy into the dummy and the weapons enhances the skillful practitionerís ability to extend his chi and influence others from a distance.
Dr. Scott Baker earned his Ph.D. in Psychology from Brigham Young University in 1995. Born and raised in New Zealand, he began his training in Wing Chun there in 1972 under the direction of Master Tam Hung Fun. He is now a member of the Yuen Kay San line under Zopa Gyatso. Si-Fu Baker resides in New Zealand.
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