CHI SAU CLUB
Chi Sau Club was formed in 2007, by several instructors from the International Wing Chun Academy, following the passing of their sifu, Grandmaster Jim Fung. Grandmaster Fung was a student of the legendary Grandmaster Chu Shong Tin.
The instructors at Chi Sau Club aim to pass on the teachings of Chu Shong Tin in a pure and unadulterated fashion.
The Training Process – Internal vs. external
The development of skill in an internal style is generally approached in a very different fashion to that of external martial arts. By external martial arts, I mean those that place importance on strength and physical conditioning as a means to developing power. Accordingly, my definition of an internal style is one that believes that physical strength, size, muscularity etc, will not improve one’s ability to a significant degree. Simply put, an old man or woman with small stature and little brute strength, should still be able to produce devastating force entirely through virtue of their skill, rather than natural physical attributes and conditioning of the body.
In this article I will outline the training process that I apply, and the outcomes sought during each stage of development. While there is a specific order to this, each stage will overlap to some extent, and various skills will be developed concurrently.
Posture/stance – tai gung
The first aim in this approach is to be able to stand correctly. Students are taught a kind of standing meditation. Before adjusting our posture we need to be able to feel the body properly. This is an ongoing process and, while demanding to begin with, is tremendously gratifying in itself, rather than just a means to an end.
I begin with asking the student to stand in the wing chun stance, (feet shoulder width apart, knees bent, toes pointing inward). The student should then straighten their back and relax his/her entire body. People who have trouble concentrating may find this quite difficult, but with a little persistence, they will very quickly notice a heightened sensitivity in perception of the body. Initially, this is probably brought about by the quietening of the mind that occurs when one is forced to stand still in this fashion. I remember a student asking my Sigung, Chu Shong Tin, what was the main quality required to become good at wing chun, his answer, ….. patience.
Eventually, as muscles relax, students become aware of tension in the way they stand. Shoulders may be pulled back unnaturally, the chest is often held in a rigid fashion, the lower back may locked and immovable. After a short time most students are amazed to find just how awkwardly they stand normally, and how difficult it is to release the tension in their muscles. Part of the difficulty comes from the way the student perceives relaxation. Often relaxing is seen as drooping, sagging, with muscles hanging off the skeletal frame. This is incorrect. Relaxation should be considered as a type of expansion, an open relaxed hand, rather than a tense gripped fist. As one relaxes correctly, there is a feeling of more room in the body, as if all muscles, tendons and bones etc, had moved apart from each other, as if the body had grown in the same way that the universe expands. As the muscles around the spine start to let go, one becomes aware of each individual vertebrae. The spine has a natural springiness and in time, each vertebrae seems to float apart from the other. The student will feel as if he/she is getting taller. Each vertebrae will move to a more comfortable, aligned position. When this state is achieved, I can push on a vertebrae, or the whole spine and it will give, with a natural springiness. This is known as getting the spine to ‘sing‘. During this period of the training process, I help by pointing out areas of tension. By touching various points on the body, particularly around the spine, I help the student to become aware of what they need to work on. It is important to not try too hard. Adjustments must be done in an unhurried calm manner, or they simply transfer tension to other areas.
If successful, the student will feel a significantly heightened awareness of the body and an improved ability to control muscular tension. In a process similar to many internal arts, energy is drawn from the area around the anus and perineum up through the spine and centre of the body to the nim tao point, at the top/back of the head near the crown. From here, the energy can be sent back down through the body to expand the joints.
These qualities are now applied to the task of learning the forms. Many schools pretty much ignore the process of attaining correct posture and alignment of the spine. The consequent level of relaxation may be quite inferior and training will progress slowly if at all.