Thursday, 7 February 2013

Using Siu Nim Tao (Part One)

It is said that Dat Mo retired in his later years to the Shaolin Temple and taught the monks a series of exercises which were developed to form the basis of Shaolin Temple Boxing (Kung Fu) so their bodies would not deteriorate whilst spending long periods in meditation.

As Dat Mo was said to be the father of Kung Fu, even though the development of Wing Chun took place many years after his death, I suppose we should expect that as a refinement of old traditions, Wing Chun should still be concerned with deep thinking and the connection of mind and body. 

Dat Mo is still associated with the idea that spiritual, intellectual and physical excellence, are all equally important and interdependent in the pursuit of enlightenment. 

Although enlightenment may appear to be rather macro and beyond the casual pursuit of the modern martial practitioner, if Dat Mo had forged his temple activities in Shaolin with the implicit intention of upgrading these qualities, Wing Chun as a refinement of Shaolin wisdom should continue to embody these things. 

Hopefully you can draw a parallel and a level of acceptance that even if enlightenment does not factor into your daily practice, if we took Wing Chuns’ body feeling, structure, and attunement to pressure, as a ‘physical’ upgrade, awareness, study and refinement  as the mindful component, and the resultant conceptualisation of experience , inducing a change in perspective and emotion  to produce a degree of ‘spirituality’, it would seem that although our personal motivations may be detached from the original tradition, the correct teaching and absorption of Wing Chun is still in keeping with Dat Mo’s ethos. 

With this in mind, we can begin to appreciate how complete martial training can be, in the personal development of people. As long as we practice, this process will operate continually behind our training to upgrade our natural ability and improve our human experience. This is Kung Fu.

Relaxation and focus are important attributes. They help to keep us alive! Everybody knows what a killer ‘stress’ is, and without ‘focus’, if we had no access to supermarkets and were reliant on hunting to eat, we would starve. (In this day and age without focus you might have a road accident).

Relaxation and focus are, without shadow of a doubt, core components of functional fighting. Relaxation aids acceleration – hence power, relaxation also aids our ability to change position and absorb impact. 

Without focus to the target, we lost before we began. Relaxation and focus are (not surprisingly) core components of the Siu Nim Tao form. 

Outside of contemplating the practical application of my forms, I like to ground myself in the knowledge that every repetition is gradually refining relaxation and focus that I can put to use in any way I like. I want relaxation and focus to be so embedded in my personal makeup that it permeates into everything I do. Something built through physical and mental diligence. I recognise that relaxation and focus help me in everything I do. 

Meditation is concerned with training the mind for the purpose of self cultivation and self realisation. More often than not individuals employ relaxation to enhance this focus. Siu Nim Tao is the first form of Wing Chun and you can view it as a standing meditation.
We can use a standing meditation to isolate and explore anatomical adjustment within a structural framework. 

Siu Nim Tao is, a catalogue of postures and positions that are useful when fighting within striking distance. Its practice requires that we donate time to self assessment – assessing how the joints bones and tendons can work cohesively to support combat within striking range – to remain connected, strong and stable. This in my opinion is the difference between Wing Chun and most other striking arts – we use a balanced grounded, magnetic quality to adapt to our opponent, rather than delving in and back out of striking range. It is important then, that we develop a cohesive connected body state to achieve this or we will be bumped off balance or sacrifice power and timing in our shots.

Wing Chun as a skill, is geared to produce a relaxed state so that the latent power of the human form may manifest via its relationship to bone structure, gravity, and the mind.
This is the root of maximum impact with minimal effort.

The Siu Nim Tao form is a vehicle for this development.
Although Siu Nim Tao is seldom recognised as a meditative process it has direct parallels to other
types of meditation. As Siu Nim Tao is usually the access point for Wing Chun, from the outset we
are exploring relaxed transition through the form’s movements.
The beauty of Siu Nim Tao is that if we are paying attention to how we feel inside (our relationship to the mechanics of our body) mental progression takes place at the same rate of physical progression as we contemplate the efficiency of the body moving to exact each change.

Enhancing relaxation through movement, and contemplating the practical intention of each change,
the form will serve to upgrade our thinking feeling and doing simultaneously. So our physical
progression matches our mental progression – something you could not achieve whilst sat cross
legged with your eyes shut in standard meditative poise.

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  1. thanks a lot for the insightful article, to which i can only subscribe. i practised wing chun for 3 years, but broke off because of final exams.

    years later i immersed myself in earth based psychology and shamanic practise, and i realized that i often unconsciously performed short parts of the siu nim tao in everyday situations to center myself.

    this, finally, led to picking up form practise once more, and this time more consciously than back in the days - i immediately profited.

    now i am thinking of taking lessons with a "sifu" of "wing tai", some more meditative version of wt.

    like the way sifu gary lam moves (or does not :)
    would love to train with him someday...

    cool page, keep it coming

    yours, jochen


Article from 2006: Wing Chun Illustrated - Proximity.