Being interaction within Wing Chun Kung Fu requires the correct understanding and application of positioning skills. This is the most basic level of being interaction. Positioning is achieved by correctly and accurately applying the techniques or positions of the system in relationship with the positions or techniques of your opponent. Positioning includes all hand/arm techniques, stances, leg techniques, body orientation or alignment, and use of correct centerline principles. Positioning not only demands that these techniques are correctly placed, but they must all be contextually correct. Contextual integrity includes the correct texture or relaxation levels, correct transitioning motions from one position to another and correct position with regards to the context of the opponent. Positioning is the chief corner stone base or foundation upon which all of the other being interaction skills are built. If positioning is incorrect then all other skills inevitably fail. Therefore, if one is unable to connect with ones opponent the first place to look for the problem is positioning.
Balancing is the second foundation principle of being interaction. Once positioning is established and mastered to a proficient level one begins to focus upon balancing. To balance correctly one must look to correctly balance A) within the position, B) between the opponents position and your own, and C) between the different positions as you transition for one to another and as you hold one position with one limb and another with a different limb. Thus balance has three perspectives within which it is to be applied. To balance within the position requires an in-depth understanding of the position or technique being used. The shoulder, elbow, and hand must have the correct emphasis upon them for the specific position being used, or the technique will be out of balance. The heaviness of the feel or pressure on the opponent must be able to balance the heaviness or pressure he exerts upon you. At first this is accomplished by equaling his pressure with your own. However, at more advanced levels one learns to balance pressure with intent rather than physical weight. To balance the pressure or weight of your opponent is to achieve a balance between you and your partner. Then to maintain the same internal balance within the limb and between you and your partner while changing positions and from one arm to the other is to be balanced in the third perspective. Balance should also apply to the level of resolve, intensity of desire, speed of motion, and the force or power of the attack. Essentially one balances himself internally, and then mirrors or reflects the opponent exactly. To achieve this one must learn to sense or feel these aspects of the opponent and then reflect them back. If you notice that the opponent is out of balance in some way then you have found a weakness and can exploit it to defeat him. Then feel his movements and move with him. My motions should exactly mirror his. I move at the same speed and in the same direction as his movement. By so doing our limbs stay stuck together. There should be no sliding on each other. If this occurs then one person is not moving at the right speed or direction or he is starting his movement after his partner instead of with his partner. When sticking is done correctly an observer would not be able to tell who initiated the motion. It would appear that both parties just began moving at the same time, and the motions are in perfect harmony with each other.
Sticking is the third key and solidifies the foundation for true being interaction within the Wing Chun system. Once positioning and balancing are achieved and mastered to an adequate level of proficiency then we can deepen the connection with your partner by applying the principle of sticking. To stick effectively the contextual relaxation level of each position must be high. Oneís limb should essentially "melt" into the limb of your partner. The intent within the technique that is "melting" into your partner should be to balance his light pressure with an equally light pressure forward towards his mother line. With this established we then feel his movements and move with him. My motions should exactly mirror his. I move at the same speed and in the same direction as his movement. By so doing our limbs stay stuck together. There should be no sliding on each other. If this occurs then one person is not moving at the right speed or direction or he is starting his movement after his partner instead of with his partner. When sticking is done correctly an observer would not be able to tell who initiated the motion. It would appear that both parties just began moving at the same time, and the motions are in perfect harmony with each other.
Once the three foundation keys have been mastered and produce a locked connection, the next step is to awaken and enliven that connection. The principle of springing achieves this result. To spring you apply a light constant forward pressure within each technique towards the opponentís mother line. At first this may appear to be very difficult but with practice it becomes a natural state. Every technique, from the stance to the hand position that connects with the arm of your partner, will have a light, 4 ounce "spring" pressure within it. This spring pressure will yield to a stronger force, but will always be intending forward. So even when the arm is pushed back it is trying to go forward with a constant, even, 4 ounce pressure. If the arm is released unexpectedly it will spring forward instantly, without any delay. The spring in the stance comes from the rear leg and the waist. The combination of all the body springs can produce an effortless release of impressive force when coordinated together. Each limb must be trained to spring independently from other limbs. Each position will have a slightly different spring motion, which must be balanced within itself and between the limbs. The ability to have independent springs in each limb requires some dedicated effort to obtain, but is an invaluable asset once obtained. It is not uncommon for a practitioner with independent springs to be just as surprised that he hit you, as you are that you have been hit. With springs the limbs begin to "think" for themselves and find openings all by themselves.
To fine tune the beneficial effects of springs and to negate any negative effects one must then focus on accurately directing those springs. If your opponent has the skills to keep his pressure constantly towards your mother line then you must likewise direct your spring pressure towards his. This then becomes a deeper application of balancing. The direction of the spring pressure needs to be specifically understood for each individual technique. Although they all generally aim towards the opponentís mother line there is specific fine-tuning needed for each position. If your position is correct, and matches and balances your opponentís position then the direction of the spring force will also match your opponentís force. If it does not you will become open and he will spring into you. For example if he holds a Tan Sau with a slight forward and upward spring pressure then you must apply a Fook Sau onto his Tan with a slight forward and down pressure into his elbow area. The fine-tuning of direction is the key to the Wing Chunís famous impenetrable defenses, and is the key to opening up your partnerís defenses. If your opponent is pressing away from your mother line then you release his pressure because it poses no threat to you and you spring into his mother line taking advantage of the opening created when his hand goes off his line.
Weighting the limb correctly will add chi to the connection. This does not mean just pushing harder or heavier. Weighting the limb is done through applying relaxed intent. The weighting must also be done without breaking the balancing principle. Each position may be weighted differently depending upon how it is applied and what the opponent is doing. The three weighting points of the arm are the shoulder, elbow, and hand. The hip, knee, and foot are the corresponding points in the legs. The immovable elbow principle of Wing Chun is a demonstration of weighting the elbow in the Fook Sau technique. One weights a specific part of a limb by first relaxing the whole limb deeply, then applying direction to that relaxed weight and placing you intention in that point to be weighted. Deeper skills are needed to weight several points simultaneously. Weighting positions chi into the limbs at key points readying the chi to be released explosively as is taught in the Biu Tze boxing form.
Once intent is directed into the limbs to weight the arm or leg we can begin to see a deeper aspect to our connection with our partner. The directed, forward intent can be changed from one side of the connection to the other without any physical movement at all. This change is intended from within the mind. As this is done we notice that the connecting bridge (Ku) has several gates within it. These gates are either opened or closed, depending on where the intent is placed. Within each limb there are three gates; the shoulder, elbow, and hand in the arm, and the hip, knee, and foot in the leg. It requires great skill and ability to keep all three gates closed at any one moment. This is even difficult when static positions are held, it becomes almost impossible when in motion. Ku is the art of listening to the bridge and noticing which gates are opened or closed. Once you notice which gate is open then that is the invitation to attack. An open gate is an invitation in, if you attack on a closed gate you will always be blocked. It is like walking from one room to another by going through the wall instead of going through an open door. By reading the shifts in intent while the arms are charged with chi we learn to discover when and where to attack. This is the art of controlling the bridge, or Ku.
In Wing Chun the fundamental focus of listening is to experience someone else's experience in the present moment. It is not anticipating what he may do nor is it figuring out or judging what might be happening. Listening is simply being open to experience him without filtering that experience through the categories of the ego mind. The first thing we listen to is our own body, energy, and the condition of the physical forces around us. By listening to these we blend and align with these conditions. Then we move to listening to the movement, intention, and energy of others. This requires a quiet, attentive state of mind. This is a non-thinking state known as a state of no mindedness, or mu-shin. Any attempts to rationalize, dissect, or apply meaning and understanding to what is received is in the way of true listening. Any evaluation of the moment must be reserved for a later time so as not to replace the moment of listening with a moment of contemplation or reflection. Listening may be compared to hearing in a conversation. However, in Kung Fu it is felt within the whole body as your body receives another bodyís experience. This includes all that the other feels, intends, thinks, emotes, holds as a view, or does in any one instant. In listening all this is received at once as the total experience of the other. When listening is performed at its best or deepest level an inherent sense of connection develops between you and what is received. As the ability develops you learn to respond to another's energy without any mental analysis of what you have heard. Listening is not something mystical or magical, it is found in the very obvious, the very person or condition that is present before you. Listening is receiving what is simply the case. We must listen to what is and not to some notion or belief about listening. Listening is done to know what is there in the relationship between you and your partner.
This is the connection between listening and joining. When listening is in place the first type of extending or outreaching has occurred. Extending is to reach out with our feeling attention to connect with the other person. Once we have made a feeling connection with every part of another's being (the body, mind, and energy) then we are extending. This can be done at first with physical touch and then without a physical connection. When you can feel every part of the others whole body through the part with which you have made contact then you have extended. The ability to stay in feeling and physical connection to the entire body, motion, and intention of your partner as he changes is the fundamental component of effective chi sau. Extending is key to the practice of Wing Chun. Whenever the mechanics have become familiar then the practice of reaching out with your feeling attention should dominate your kung fu performance. Extending is done to connect with what is there in the relationship between you and your partner.
Following is to move with the partner-- sticking to him if he moves away and yielding to him if he comes forward. Following can be done in countless ways, but all are done in relation to your partner and are determined by your partnerís actions. All action must be based upon the actions and intentions of the partner. To follow completely you must not only follow the physical movements of your partner, but the intention of his mind and the direction of his energy. To succeed at doing this you must learn to sense intention and energy and follow it as it changes. Thus we need to listen to know what's there, outreach to connect with what's there, and following to stay with what's there.
Joining is the production of, or result produced within the context of following. Once listening, extending, and balance is our constant state then we follow and join whatever is there in activity. When we begin to think of creating a result or volitional act we are susceptible to the biggest danger in kung fu practice. In leaving behind the principles of being and interaction, by pursuing activity to produce a desired result, we override our clear inclusion of the true condition in that very moment. Thus by focusing on doing what is necessary to produce the result we come from a disconnected state in the relationship and are likely to produce unbalance and disharmony in the interaction. This unbalanced state is ineffective and produces openings and opportunities for your partner to get in on you. True joining comes from a different state to the competitive win/lose dynamic fostered by the intention to produce a result through exertion and effort. Joining can only come from a cooperative state, which is balanced and effortless. Implicit within joining is the principle of neutralizing. Neutralizing is listening to and balancing with the changing conditions as they occur. In joining we implicitly neutralize in order to maintain the same balanced state that existed before motion or change occurred. In neutralizing we simply maintain a harmonious balance as we follow and join with the changes of our partner. This is not necessarily an act of volition, nor is necessarily passive, but is simply a response that returns balance to imbalance, harmony to disharmony. Neutralizing is implicit in joining and encompasses joining completely. Joining returns the activity to its balanced state and blends the motivation of the other's activity with its expression. For example if the others activity is motivated by an intent to do harm this same intent to harm will be blended in the response which serves to balance the activity. By joining, his imbalanced motive will be manifest by your response unbalancing him physically. In order to engage in this activity and still remain in a balanced or centered state of being we must give up any desire towards results other than abiding in, or returning to, harmony and balance in the whole or total condition. In joining we allow the energy to extend or flow and the tissue to bend or stretch because that is what they do naturally and effortlessly. In joining, we merge our energy and tissue with our partners in effortless harmony and from this we can have effortless power.
Leading comes out of joining. Once the tissues and energy of two are joined their motions, intentions, and feelings become one. From this condition one of the partners can begin leading without disrupting the established harmony or balance. By extending the feeling intention of the mind/energy in response to and in harmony with the motions and intentions of the partner a deeper merging occurs which will allow the intention/energy of the one to lead that of the other. The mu-shin no mindedness state is essential to the successful application of this skill without falling into the "intention to produce results" trap. Leading can occur initially on the physical level when tissue is joined and balanced. All actions and motions are in relation and connection with the movements and intentions of the partner. In this balanced exchange leading comes by listening to, embracing, and joining with slight initiations or imbalances produced by the changing dynamic in the joined context. In listening to the truth of the exchange and perceiving these imbalances one may project his intention into these imbalance areas to lead the motion, intention, and energy of your partner into a direction which ultimately manifest these openings in physical consequences.
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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