Monday, 15 July 2013

Seminar. England, September 2013 Gary Lam Wing Chun


Sifu Gary will be delivering a Seminar in the UK this September.

This is a unique opportunity for anybody with a vested interest in exploring Wing Chun function.
This event is open to absolutely anybody with an interest in Southern Chinese Kung Fu, Close Quarters Combat, and touch enhanced Martial Arts.
There will be discussion to accompany drilling methods, systemised and tested by one of the few Wing Chun men to actively pit his skill against a variety of fight stylists.
This year, there will be a number of Gary Lam Wing Chun students on the ground, so you will have an opportunity to meet and discuss with friendly individuals already familiar with this material.
Many of these drills were passed to Sifu Gary direct from Sifu Wong Shun Leung.

The Venue is Warrington,

Pyramid & Parr Hall
Palmyra Square South


Saturday 7th 09:00 - 16:00 will cover:

Chum Kiu
Biu Gee
Structural Set Up and Function

Sunday 8th 09:00 - 16:00 will cover:

Crossing Hand Drill Work/Strategy
Chi Sau Application

Transport links to the town are excellent, with free car parking at the venue and a two minute walk from the train station.

We are also situated 30mins drive/train from both Liverpool/Manchester and 1h50mins from London Euston on the Glasgow Express (no stops).

Everybody is welcome regardless of lineage. If you feel Sifu Gary's training methods can contribute to your movement, output and mindset, we are happy to help you as much as we can.
We have a culture of hooking up for food and drinks in the evening, so you will have plenty of time to meet Sifu Gary and talk to him in person about his ideas and experiences too.

As we are all aware, nobody is getting any younger, and as popularity increases, the opportunity to meet and work closely with individuals of this generation is reduced.

Booking is £61 per day and tickets may be purchased through PayPal at:

This weekend is set to be a lot of fun.
If you require any further info prior to booking or a list of local hotels etc. contact me via email and I can send the relevant information over to you.

Look forward to hearing from you,

Happy training!!

Kind Regards

John Lobb

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Relative Value Of Chi Sau (Part 3)

I’d like my students to develop confidence through tried and tested output not regular praise.
Personally, I want to improve constantly and know that my choices and output refine each time I use the Chi Sau mechanism for assistance.

To keep a student operating within fixed drills, or allowing students to experiment within Chi Sau without regular guidance would be akin to keeping water in a bucket.
The water is fixed and remains under my complete control.
Unless I put my hand in the bucket, or tip that bucket, nothing will change. People would never be in a position to experience the truth of their flow against the outpouring of others.
If we view the water in the bucket as human energy requiring expression, what happens when it is somebody unfamiliar ‘tipping that bucket’? If I tip in unexpected direction, that water might well splash about all over the ground.
The point is, until people transfer technical play to experience with consequence – nobody knows what will happen.
You can modify drills, and assume people will behave a certain way - until the bucket is tipped unexpectedly, you just don’t know!
At least water from a pipe has movement, flow and direction, a concentrated point for output and focused pressure to get it where we want it. Lat Sau Jik Chung.

I can’t presume that without Chi Sau, my students could work to an equal capacity in building skill.
I remember how I climbed up a mountain. I wouldn’t advise my students to walk round the side - I know what can be seen from the top. I wouldn’t want them to miss the view.
In passing on Chi Sau, I am digging a channel and pouring people in. They have free flowing movement and the benefit of experimentation – the same way I did. I have guidelines and suggestions based on experience to assist them in experimenting and working things out for themselves. I would much rather that, than to be sat at the bottom of a bucket as my teachers little experiment. You have to be your own experiment!

As discussed, there are some things missing from Chi Sau, useful things, but as a bridge for the emergence of touch based skill, I don’t see how you could be without it.

You cannot replace Chi Sau with sparring in a traditional context and expect better results. As a competent Kick boxer, when I first viewed Chi Sau – that was a pull – I knew I couldn’t do it! That’s why I learnt how to do it.
And as somebody who spent the best part of eight years, not dabbling, but cross training rigorously in Wing Chun and Thai Boxing side by side, I have built solid assertions on the correlative value of each, what is the same, what is different, what may permeate from one to the other, and what for that matter cannot.
My teacher Sifu Gary Lam is no different – that’s why he is my Sifu.

I stem from what is now Tai T’sung Kung Fu, an organisation that was built through blood and sweat with the emergence of Wu Shu Kwan in 1960’s England. There was, and still is, a heavy focus on producing caliber martial practitioners capable of dominance when facing, Thai Boxers, Kickboxers, Chinese, Japanese and Korean stylists. That code was burnt into my identity a long time ago. It forces me to remain pragmatic about my training methods as someone who’s roots were embedded in that culture. They remain exceptional fighters in their own right and are still producing International champions capable of beating the Americans, Russians, and Chinese across a variety of disciplines.
Between 2003 and 2009, there was some exceptional talent on the mat at Dave Jacksons Warrington Muay Thai, at that time you could just rock up and access European, Commonwealth and World Championship fighters, people like Asa Zamany, Homer Mohammed, Abdul Arif, Shaun Johnson, Brain Austin (Daywalkers) all people who helped me implicitly in providing perspective and refining my skill.
Do you think then, with all this knowledge and experience at my disposal, I would have persevered with Chi Sau if I didn’t value it as a constructive activity?

Chi Sau is doing its own thing. If there comes a time when I want to openly express my dissatisfaction for it, I would naturally assume that first and foremost, it was time for me to apply a little additional thought, focus, and patience in formulating a training regime that produces the type of output I desire. Adapting emotional response through supplementary work involving contact has a beneficial effect on Wing Chun output - Chi Sau can remain experimental, but the attitude we bring to it will be better tuned when balanced with contact activities.
When coached with direction and understanding, Chi Sau can be used to produce a unique ability for strike range fighting that cannot be gained from static drill work and cannot be gained from hitting and being hit back. This is because independent interpretation of stimuli (feeling), is a base requirement when holding fast at our range. With this in mind then, how else exactly could we acquire the skill of timing, whilst using random pressure as guide?
Fixed form/fixed drill is the production of attribute.
Chi Sau should operate to test and measure the efficiency of those attributes, and the ability to deploy those attributes at the right time repeatedly, or again we risk landing in territory of the assumed.
There is no substitute for building sensitivity to the unknown. Drill work can be played reactively, but it will always remain highly predictable. After a drill is absorbed, it rarely emulates the timing displayed in live encounters.
Some people still diminish Chi Sau on the basis that it has not been picked up by MMA/UFC camps. If you are looking at Chi Sau as the refinement of feeling and adaptation, they are practicing this all the time. The expression is channeled in the most part through BJJ, wrestling and clinch work. Like Chi Sau, this training is alive, but their choices remain different.

As someone who has had the privilege of watching people like Michael Bisping fluctuate in and out of his gym I can tell you that with respect to the diligence of their training regimes, time essential for cardio and development of split disciplines, it would be entirely impractical for them to begin engaging in Chi Sau once fight training, difficult to find a good teacher who could adequately integrate Wing Chun adaptation into their game, and a nightmare in removing all the open palm,
‘soft spot’ striking that would result in disqualification should it be used. What a headache.
As Bruce Lee is hailed as the father of modern MMA I think we can say that something went horribly wrong, or terribly right!

I think we can be unduly concerned with the opinion and practice of other people when comparing Chi Sau.
Everybody is different, and some by the grace of aptitude, hard work, and experience are accustomed to learning and embodying more in Wing Chun than others.
Wing Chun is so inherently linked to our nature that it begins to exemplify the character and intellect of each of us in turn. 
Ultimately it is so balanced within Yin and Yang that it operates as its own self sorting mechanism. People gravitate here, people gravitate there… some have longevity in Wing Chun development, whilst others plateau, or disappear to do something different.
Attachment to ideas, control, and habit is not the bendy rattan. A stubborn lump of wood stays sunken in one spot, whilst another shatters itself by virtue of its fixation.
When something is inflexible, we say ‘it’s got no give’, and until this realisation manifests in the individual, there is no change.
After a time, development is firmly fastened within a disposition.

Feeling should be balanced with striking, so we may adapt to circumstance with surety. This way we pull the maximum out of experience, and the maximum out of ourselves. I write about intuitive qualities capable of taking command, but to rely solely on that, would produce somebody reliant on responding to movement without the nature to proactively take the fight to the opponent. I develop Wing Chun as two tier, with no time to think I try to respond naturally and instinctively, otherwise, strategy is imposed to solve the problem regardless.

These two qualities proactive/reactive - strategy/response, provide choice.
Training only to react would always leave me on the back foot, it would inhibit my choice to be affirmative in adapting circumstance. It would not be in keeping with ending violence in shortest possible time-frame.
To consider Wing Chun as the balance of Yin and Yang necessarily there are two quite separate characters requiring development.

An inability to strike willfully stems from an inability to recognise opportunity.
If you wish to bridge before every attack, you are predictable.
With no proactive strategy, you are one dimensional.
Without experiencing impact, you are ill-prepared in both receiving impact, and in causing malicious damage to an adversary.

Whilst fighting, to be in a position to cause damage and fail through lack of experience or confidence is incompetence. Training has to be balanced within the truth of eventuality or you will not be working to the aim.
When we view the success of popular martial arts in a fixed environment, there are usually rules attached. Attached to rules is etiquette, and in light of a victory, that individual will meet applause from the crowd. If however somebody is using cruelty and intent to full capacity, they would not and could not, be applauded for their actions.
As an exponent of Wing Chun, to compete with sportsmen and let the time on the clock dictate your behaviour or supersede an intention to finish the opponent immediately, would mean Wing Chun is not being used in the context of the design.
In contrast, Chi Sau / Gwoh Sau, opens play to engineer position, striking and finish, and closes as we would if taking someone captive or rendering them unconscious with no exception to tool or target. This is a much closer match for Wing Chun output than any other sport based training can provide.
Concepts and principles provide the guideline, not the rules of the ring, not the time on the clock.
Ironically, the contact and injury both sustained and delivered whilst involved in sport based martial arts, has been a powerful component in forging my approach to Chi Sau, and my attitude to engagement on a great many levels.

Currently, I believe there is a lot of positive activity, with people looking introspectively at the function and premise of Wing Chun training.

We can only hope that it leads to us being more open, honest, and balanced about what we choose to spend time on as a collective. Hopefully this opinion might help us to consider what stands to be gained or lost from Chi Sau practice as something that cannot be detached from Wing Chun development or identity. Hopefully we operate with clarity and defined goals that address the chaos of unpredictable violence, and retain processes that may aid us in transforming effective training into effective engagement to produce competent individuals who can cope in the thick of it, or we are most definitely wasting our time.

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Friday, 15 March 2013

The Relative Value Of Chi Sau (Part 2)

There has been a lot of development in Martial Arts since the emergence of MMA and UFC.
Wing Chun must remain dynamic to ride that wave, not for adaptation to fight sport but as an expectation of common output that we have the greatest likelihood of encountering.

Chi Sau is a core vehicle for producing relaxation whilst adapting under pressure. It exists to foster practical spontaneous change. It also operates to manifest an individual’s expression of feeling based skill. It is a mechanism for building connotation of pressure, intention, and danger that does not exist solely on what the eyes perceive. This is advantage.

As a mechanism for skill enhancement, Chi Sau ensures we do not inhibit the gifted, or leave in our wake a school of cardboard cut-outs identical to their teacher and lacking in individuality.
If we lack coaching ability or care in leaving people to change during Chi Sau without the necessary experience to address their mistakes, then we should reassess our role as a teacher in providing guidance associated with fighting success.
Without discussing and practicing Chi Sau we remove a student’s ability to express Wing Chun freely, and diminish potential for success when using touch to assist in combat independently.

What could take Chi Sau’s place in providing students with the independence to experiment and build solid assertions on how to apply their Wing Chun effectively?  

Everybody is entitled to an opinion, but if I was ever to imply that my experience was so great that I could afford to remove Chi Sau from my syllabus and transmit an equivalent degree of skill to a new generation without it, I would have to be extremely confident in my training methodologies and the aptitude of my students, before removing such an intricate piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
Everybody makes mistakes, until the human race loses the propensity to make mistakes, Chi Sau remains appropriate to training.
I have never met a respect worthy exponent of Wing Chun that hadn’t absorbed themselves in some sort of Chi Sau practice as part of their development. A characteristic of each and every decent teacher I have come across is their uniqueness of output and the ability of that uniqueness to remain underpinned by the core concepts and principles of Wing Chun via Chi Sau.

Chi Sau could be viewed as a pipe that students pass through, every so often we hit a knot and between us, we work to untie those knots so free passage in the correct manner may continue.
It is the free unexpected nature of exchange, and the students’ reactive coping mechanisms therein that makes Chi Sau practice a progressive journey and a valuable time tested tool for self assessment.
As a measure of skill, students and teachers alike should factor how intelligent and successful their output is personally. Grounded in the commonalty of violence. Balanced against fight experience.

The problem we have is, Chi Sau is being used as a drill to build skill in avoiding injury. When we remove risk from Chi Sau, Wing Chun is removed completely from its domain. When you remove risk, people act on false opportunity. The probability associated to chance is skewed.

Attitude and change should be ingrained through risk and opportunity. Risk and opportunity in the form of aggression. When it is not, we are participating in a false reality. Without the head splitting honesty of consequence, we have only fight experience as balance and gauge.  Without adequate experience or tutelage, you are playing blindfold Chi Sau... without the blindfold.

Chi Sau should provide opportunity for honest reflection. (not at how well we fight, but at how well we sense and adapt to stimuli in the immediate). However, when two parties connect with poor skill, when two parties fail to acknowledge the damage associated with injury, when two parties are not examined by a competent, honest reflection is subdued by ‘what if’s’ and recognition hidden by non-contact.

Wing Chun is currently marred by a lack of respect. Bowing is usually sycophantic, (empty courtesy at best). Seldom an act of acknowledgement and respect.
Respect is recognition. Practicing fighting without the recognition of being struck, fosters very little respect and understanding between individuals. When we are enjoying ourselves, we don't tend to pay it much attention - because we are too busy....enjoying ourselves! When something unpleasant happens, we are inclined to stop and examine that thing, in the hope we can prevent 'it' happening again. I have hit a lot of people and have been hit repeatedly under controlled conditions. I bow or touch gloves before I do that. I bow after I hit them to convey my respect to them, and I bow at the end to convey appreciation for the opportunity to reflect on our interaction.
Outside the gym, when you hit people, some of them want to shake you by the hand – Same difference.

Without dishing out a bit of danger and pain once in a while, we should not expect respect from others, because we have not created a snag in their subjective reality. Neither should we expect a conditioned emotional response to violence and pain, if we have not experienced it with some regularity. Fighters understand this, they can sniff the uninitiated out in a second. Bottom line - individuals who do not grasp the actual and consequential are a danger to themselves. They are unaware.
Sometimes, you have to burst a lip to burst a bubble. This is natural, behaviour adapts, a handshake extends...
Emotional processing of shock and pain, and emotional competence therein is actually more important in building competent individuals than the physical mode of exchange. Without this process, behaviour will not adjust to cope.
The development of Kung Fu has always involved pressure, conflict, and affliction.
Suffering will always catalyse development. From the beginning of history we can track invention next to suffering to either alleviate or accelerate just that. Suffering and survival are inexplicably linked. We need only glance at nature to confirm this. Suffering and survival accompany evolution.

There have been two standout events in my training that led to great change.
The first was falling five and a half feet onto solid concrete at sixteen, smashing my back during a training session in my garage. This took me out of my regular training regime for the best part of two years.
The second was during my Level Two training with Sifu Gary, where over-training with the Dragon Pole led to open cuts becoming infected. This in turn led to me being placed on an intravenous drip and two minor surgeries. I was about 24 hours away from septicemia.
On my return to the UK I was cut open again to remove more infected tissue and it took the best part of eight weeks for it to grow back to skin level and a further twelve weeks to recover from the massive hit I experienced after two months of consecutive antibiotic treatment.

From experience, when you train with resolve through pain and discomfort you access a certain faculty. When you train everyday for long periods of time, you build a certain energy that has to be used up. When you are forced to stop, that component remains active, it keeps going. In both episodes, when that energy could not be used for any more physical practice, it rerouted its self to do something entirely different instead. Something unexpected and useful. I am using this as an example to relay a message. Vitality is cumulative and stimulated by suffering. Suffering is natural, inevitable. Suffering in combat is probable. Fear of suffering is a block. Embracing suffering is a skill. Practicing suffering is depth. It can be a stepping stone to an upgraded state.

Teaching fighting with a zero contact policy that extends across all activities, can do more harm than good. Chi Sau is essential, but it is useful to balance it with some actual.

If we take the experience of being struck and damaged occasionally as microcosmic episodes of suffering, we may begin to examine the propensity for accelerated change produced via mind/body stabilisation (healing, calibration, change). Suffering can be a powerful accelerator in building strength. What do you think Shaolin was doing? There is a lot to be lost, if training bypasses the risk of (potential) suffering. In doing so, you make yourself unavailable to this process of transformation. To eat suffering with all its trials and tribulations is a natural process. Without a little suffering, arguably, we have not demonstrated Kung Fu.
Suffering can enhance and empower you, make you stronger than you were by unlocking abilities you may not have realised.

By participating in fear, judgment, feeling and injury, whilst practicing Kung Fu, we are chipping into this stuff on a daily basis. You can’t escape suffering, but you may well benefit from it. Become acquainted with it, adapt with it, and recognise opportunity in the change relating to it. You can season yourself in the unpleasant on a’ little and often’ basis, or you can wait for something truly traumatic to occur and take the hit all at once. With respect to the latter, a process of change will ensue, but the results may not be identical.

Chi Sau should be balanced with other activities so a mentality and physicality can emerge to be injected back into Chi Sau play. Striking without the limbs in touch, engagement, pressure testing, and the collection of rotational force are, in my opinion, things that should be trained on a supplementary basis to Chi Sau. Being clipped occasionally, hitting bags, holding bags, and being thrown into mats are all very important in the scheme of attribute.

Activity devoid of potential suffering or suffering itself, cannot adequately instil qualities and comprehension born from the nature of violence. Fright, pain, and injury, can have a lasting effect on psychological and physical states (both good and bad, depending on the accumulation of resilience). Respect and understanding are born out of shared honesty. Courage and strength through repeated experience. There is an internal component to competence built through the recognition of, or actuality within - unpleasant experience.  Chi Sau prepares you for modification, but it is not an all encompassing mechanism for fight competence with risk removed. Beware.

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The Relative Value Of Chi Sau (Part 1)

Chi Sau is a tricky topic because it means so many different things to so many different people. Prior to the 1950’s there were not so many people involved. Now masters and teachers in this discipline are numerous, and so a multitude of individual experiences and interpretations are spewed out for the masses, each differing in its focus and practicality.

For this reason, Chi Sau practice is practically impossible to quantify as the permutations of posture, strategy of teacher, fight experience and physiology of teacher and student, bear down heavily on output before we even begin to bring a ‘state of mind’ into the equation.
If we draw into consideration the personal experience of individuals, there are a variety of circumstances that would begin to dictate how functional Chi Sau practice might be in the development of skill for use whilst fighting.

We could ask ourselves,

  • Do I possess prior experience of fight behaviour and contact?
  • Can I recognise body mechanics and a relationship to gravity?
  • Was I engaging, and discussing with senior grades and teachers with a fighting background?
  • Have I experienced other exponent’s hands and methods outside of one school or lineage?
  • Was there transmission of experience and dedicated passing of plays to address change?
  • Do I comprehend when I am struck, and the availability to strike safely from a variety of positions?
  • Am I humble? Am I patient? Have I donated sufficient time with superiors to the practice of Chi Sau?

There is so much to consider, so many variables, so many good and bad circumstances and predicaments, it is not surprising that so many approaches co-exist.
But a couple of things remain constant.
The above list dictates to some degree, skill, perspective, experience and honesty.
For successful transfer to fighting, the above list is not optional. For practical transfer from teacher to student, a list like this should operate as a prerequisite for improving fight competency from one generation to the next.

If, as a tick list you are incapable of ‘ticking’ the boxes above, there is a blind spot in perspective, a blind spot that you might wish to address, and a blind spot that might leave martial artists and  potential students with an opinion that Chi Sau is non functional in the development of fighting. More importantly it could leave you with your teeth in your hand.

Wing Chun development needs to be checked against real time eventualities on a contextual basis. If you do not posses a battle checked model for Chi Sau, teaching and training is dangerous. If your understanding and experience cannot adequately pull apart an exchange within striking distance to encompass attack methods familiar and unfamiliar to Wing Chun combat form, then necessarily it is time that you speak with a teacher, or examine other types of fighting in preparedness to meet that and cope accordingly.

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Article from 2006: Wing Chun Illustrated - Proximity.