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Welcome to the official blog of South London Wing Chun Martial Arts Club located between Balham and Clapham South tube station.

Wing Chun is great for improving Health and Fitness, Self Defence and Confidence.

You can read our latest entries bellow, or view our Pages (links above).

Greet what arrives, escort what leaves, rush upon loss of contact...- Wing Chun Trinity

Back to School

December 18th, 2012 by admin

Class is back after the holidays, this Thursday 10th of January.

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Universal Footwork

August 10th, 2011 by Paul

I am going to make the case that Wing Chun footwork, despite different terms and apparent unique “stances”, is really just one universal system, with a common thread:

  1. Maintaining the distance between the feet. Around shoulder width.
  2. Using the supporting leg to do the moving rather than than heal-toe “gait”.
  3. Feet should be parallel or slightly turned in never turned out.
  4. The distribution of weight shifts whilst turning to allow legs to be lifted in an balanced way.
  5. Upper body glides as one, and upright and level.
  6. Turning power comes from the hips not the feet.
  7. Feet turn at the heals not the balls of the feet.
  8. Feet should be grounded (flat footed) after a step.

What I’m not going to do in this entry is too much of the “how?”. This needs to be taught in class. I will cover in another entry: Wei Ma (opening), the basics of stance (which is important to the footwork working), and Yiu Ma (turning power), which is a big subject with lots of nuances such as sinking and rising. I’m just going to show the basic effect of turning without the power so other examples make sense. Yiu Ma after stepping will not be shown.

Neutral Footwork

Neutral footwork is something that is taken for granted, but is the essential factor that makes footwork work. Any idealised footwork, in practice, needs constant adjustments, little shuffles and sidesteps, in order to respond to the situation. Also neutral stance is useful in that you don’t go around in a “forward” fighting stance all the time.

This is the basic approach. Beginners might use this for getting out of the way or getting used to distance. The leg you use to move is dependent on what feel right at the time. There isn’t a “specific” leg.

Click on the diagram (left) to play the footprints, grey denoting previous position. I have put arrows where necessary and also a pelvis in dotted white to show the position of the body, as well as a blue dotted line to give a rough idea line between the shoulder is facing.

Bellow are profiles of the footwork. I have tried to blur stages where you wouldn’t stop / it is momentary.

Angle Step

When you need to turn and face something, angle step is used, especially toward the centreline.

This example is a bit academic, as you also need a little space to get out of the way (shown the next example), and also it is awkward but still possible to turn on the supporting leg, it is more natural when done with the push and pull of the control and attack with Yiu Ma.

Generally you don’t turn more than 45 degrees, as the purpose is to face, to have both arms to your disposal. This is an example of how you can do it as a drill, I’m not always going to provide profiles for every stage, just enough to get the basic idea.

Please ignore the blurring, in this case I got over zealous…

Progressive Footwork

This is how angle stepping will be used much of the time with a side step built in. Simply speaking it is getting out of the way. However in Wing Chun we want to intercept the attack, counter attack and control them at the same time.

There is a myth in Wing Chun that we don’t go backwards. This is folly. However simply retreating or stepping to the side aren’t usually desirable because positioning is everything.

You can receive an attack and end up in a better position, where they are not facing you, but you are, and you have gone forward (also known as outer gate positioning).

What might be confusing is the closeness. That is deliberate because you are also going to intercept and control the attack. The principle is you don’t stand in the way, so you don’t take the full brunt, but also controlling the attack as it comes in so you can get to and take advantage of the better position.

More to follow on next page….

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Stance and Handedness

July 19th, 2011 by Paul

Lots of people get bit confused when they first start learning Wing Chun. Knowing the moves is one thing, coordinating them is another. They are often puzzled as to why they are having trouble with what should be, and is in principle, a simple idea. But fear not, all it takes is a little practice. In my experience people surprise themselves with how quickly they can pick things up, despite initial frustrations.

What is interesting is the number of people that can just do it off the bat are pretty rare. I’ve met about two, and I’m not one of them.

People are used to doing things sequentially rather than concurrently. Furthermore, seasoned martial artists and boxers, are often the ones that have it toughest. Some need to get used to simultaneous control and attack, which can be quite alien. They are also used fighting a certain way such as orthodox or southpaw, and ask which is the lead hand, etc.

What may surprise people, is we train both side equally. We don’t promote bias, so a weak side should be equalised as much as possible. Of course there might be a natural tendency always, but that doesn’t mean that it dictates how you fight to a large degree. The sides and stance don’t determine fixed roles of particular limbs.

Some people swear by the idea that a particular stance and lead give and advantage, and not doing that will be a disadvantage. We don’t subscribe to that at all. First of all, training the areas that are difficult, if anything in the long term improves your overall awareness, and ability. So it is definitely worth doing. Secondly being typecast and lacking adaptability, doesn’t always bode well.

In terms of stance, we talk of the neutral “goat” (Sil Lim Tao) stance and also the turning stance, and different types of foot work like arrow, triangle, circular, jamming, etc. But really it is just one universal stance footwork and the principles are consistent throughout. I hope to discuss this in more detail at some point.

What can be done on one side, can be done on the other.

The important thing is we don’t judge, everyone get the coaching that is require to get them up to speed.

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Ken Clarke says it’s OK to hit Burglars with Pokers

June 30th, 2011 by Paul

Yes you heard right. The cigar smoking, pork pie wearing eccentric Justice Secretary Ken, is actually being sensible. Would you believe it?  He said you can stab them too, or run them over with a lorry (ok I made that bit up). After the whole “serious rape” gaffe he needed get back on the public’s side. So this is one way I guess.

Most of us are not middle class enough to have iron poker lying around our wood fires, so I thought that was a very Clarkesque way of putting it. It kind of reminds me about those old by-laws that says you can shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow except on a Sunday, or an episode of Poirot perhaps.

I must admit Ken has always been a maverick, even in the 80s and 90s. I can respect him for that. He is about as liberal as you can get in the Conservatives. That is liberal in the old meaning of the word, rather than Liberal Democrats.

In all serious this is not meant as political post. You can probably tell I’m not a Conservative. However the law does need to be clarified. The whole notion of reasonable force, and self defence as defined in law is frankly clueless and unrealistic. It is about time something drew attention to this issue.

Note: These sorts of situations are thankfully still rare for most of us. The whole point of these laws are to allow you to defend yourself should you have to, so you don’t get treated as a criminal for doing so. However any situation like that can obviously go both ways, sometimes it is best to make a quick exit.

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The Science of Mind and Body

April 24th, 2011 by Paul

What is heart rate variability and why train it? You can monitor the heart rate/the raw pulse line, fairly easily. Although there are some rules of thumb that you can can follow, training this directly isn’t very good because it is crude, everyone is different and it is context specific. HRV is basically how the intervals between heart beats varies. Variability itself is not a bad thing, it means the heart is responsive. Think of a responsive engine.

However it is how your heart responds that is more to the point. If it responds with a ‘misfire’ or is jittery it is not a coherent response. If you have good variability as well has high coherence that means you body can respond to stress and shock better, rather than in a downward spiral. This directly affect how you feel, and how you feel affects you physiologically and so on.

Enough talk, here are some diagrams, sort of a before and after. First the before:

You see a jaggedly line showing my HRV over 5 minutes using HeartMath coherence coach. It is OK for a first attempt, and I didn’t score too badly because the the challenge level was low. I’m not getting nice big looping variations, there is one big spike but other that there isn’t much variability. The line is jittery and not particularly smooth which means my heart is not the coherent in response to change. You can see the percentage value I stayed in low, medium, and high coherence according to that challenge level.

Like I said while you are recording you are using a coach, which is includes a pacer which is basically a dot moving along a sine wave, and the feedback which is a traffic light system which tells you if you are in low, medium or high coherence at that point in time.

Now After:

Fast forward some months I’ve run the gauntlet increasing the challenge level gradually until I reached high. Then I started at the bottom again and worked my way up, but this time I didn’t use a coach instead I’m sitting breathing with my eyes closed in a ‘mindful’ way. A major part of the success is developing my own variation of sinusoidal breathing (I will explain that later).

So what does it say? Well you have what the call in the business as ‘lovely loops’, with a slight wobble in variability near the end but recovered nicely. 75% is high coherence with the longest duration in high 3 minutes out of a total of 10 minutes. There is no low coherence, and just dipped in an out of medium.

Ok this is one of my better performances, admittedly. However nowadays I’m more often than not ‘in the zone’.

The interesting thing is the heart rate. It is bit higher than the first example at 85 rather than 63. You might think the higher heart rate is bad but not necessarily. My heart turning over nicely, with no ill effects.

One of the main aspects of this kind of practice is you are learning a kind of focus that is outside of your everyday thoughts, and instead learning to ‘be in the moment’. Things don’t phase you how there would normally. No matter how resilient you are I’ll bet you that things going on around you like background noises affect you physiologically. Intrigued? Read on…

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April 21st, 2011 by Paul

There will not be as class on 21st April and 26th April. Next available class is Thursday 28th of April.

Have a happy Easter.

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March 26th, 2011 by Tony

Relaxation is the key to responsive reflexes. If muscles are tense, the response time is slower. The greater the relaxation the quicker you reach the target whether intercepting or striking.

In the beginning some students find this concept of relaxation hard to master, and wrongly believe that brute strength should be the dominating factor. Use of strength provides slothful ‘telegraphed’ force which a Wing Chun practitioner will use to their advantage, especially the rigidity of tense muscles, which is easier to manipulate.

Using strength comes at another price, it consumes concentration and energy. The more work you do more tired and mentally consumed you get, resulting in breathlessness, fatigue and total collapse of awareness to what is happening around you. It is a vicious cycle, which is fruitless.

It is through Chi Sau that a student learns how to control their movement and breathing. This is achieved through relaxation and learning to switch energy on and off, where the power behind a technique, is momentarily energized at a point in time just before contact. A chain of energy from the ground to hip, elbow, then wrist becomes concentrated and focused at the point of impact.

As soon as this chain reaction is fired off, there is a sudden and immediate relaxation in preparation for the next thing. Lack of relaxation means there is delays becuase you can’t turn on an off in an instant. Instead of holding your breath, normal steady breathing is used. Overall because you are doing less work due to being relaxed and not breathing erratically as a result, you conserve more of your energy.

Learning relax reduces stress, tension and panic, ultimately it leads to having better control over situations. Relaxation is one of the main key elements developed in Chi Sau and mastering this opens the door opens to a more sophisticated form of reflex called sensitized reflex.

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March 7th, 2011 by Tony

Motor reflex is reacting to stimulus without thinking, such as incepting a punch (which would also be combined with an attack). The more you practice, the faster your reflexes are. As coordination improves, you are able to use that to respond faster.

There are couple of ways of improving motor reflex: Repetitive and spontaneous.

With repetitive training one or many techniques are practiced over and over again in a stereotyped way. This type of training enables you to develop and refine techniques, but can prove to be ineffective in the real world, as repetitions are scenario based. Since no two situation are ever the same, scenario based training is limited.

In Wing Chun, training has a different emphasis, cultivating the use of energy through Fan Sau. This demands both a high degree of coordination and quickened motor reflex, so requires a more effective approach for improving the reflexes, which lies in the practice of unpredictable, unchoreographed partnership training. More random freestyle sparing are encouraged through the framework of Chi Sau, and are countered by the reflex action of techniques in muscle memory.

Chi Sau is a varied method of attack and defense training, providing fertile ground for the development of reflexes, to deal with what cannot be predicted. It is through this, that reflexes improve not only in quick delivery, but also responding to shifts in an opponent’s ‘energy’, regarding any subtle or not so subtle changes changes such as push, pull, raising an a arm, loss of contact, etc.

Relaxation is a prerequisite to good reactions, because tense muscles simply do not respond well, and they also make it very difficult to be sensitive to changes in the opponents energy.

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February 28th, 2011 by Tony

Once techniques have been committed to muscle memory, coordination then kicks in. Coordination allows you to carry out synchronous and simultaneous movements smoothly, with good timing and ultimately without thinking. Coordination provides the building blocks for putting techniques together in a more autonomous fashion. As coordination improves so does timing and awareness in space, and therefore it will perfect your techniques. The better coordination you develop the easier to becomes to learn new applications.

During Chi Sau, practice a high degree of coordination is developed. The awkwardness of the combined rolling seems a strange and somewhat of benign activity at first, but its significance must not be underestimated, as it provides the foundation on which to improve. With Chi Sau, coordination is developed not only using individual moves but also double and triple combinations carried out at the same time. Wing Chun can require coordination of both arm and legs, so you could be using three limbs in concurrent motion.

It is this concurrent coordination that new students find most difficult to get their head round in the beginning. Some may become despondent, but through perseverance and practice, as the body commits many an action to muscle memory, it becomes accustomed to moves a high degree of coordination. To the point that it is second nature.

Through Chi Sau training Fan Sau is cultivated. This is where coordination is taken out of the realm of repetitive sequences, to a level where synchronous actions are independent of choreographed moves, and instead rely on pure coordinated reaction at a specific moment in time. Where you handle what is present using your autopilot.

Coordination is not only about being synchronous, it is also about awareness. The more you practice a technique the more familiar you become with it. You have confidence in its versatility. As you become more accustomed to a technique, that sets the wheel in motion improvement in reflex speed and accuracy overall.

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Muscle Memory

January 11th, 2011 by Tony

What is muscle memory? The human body, with its brain, is like a super-computer that stores information, from which it recalls to process and make decisions. That much is obvious. Of course, when you are taught something or experience an event you remember it, and though through time, sickness or injury the memory can fade. Nevertheless through repetition that memory becomes more deeply ingrained. So when you need to recall it becomes much less a conscious process and much more automatic.

This especially applies to movement. When you teach your body to do something over time the body and brain work together as a whole and become adept to the action. From this coordination, and spacial awareness are developed. With this applied learning your body effectively stores these prototype actions into “muscle memory”.

To commit a technique to muscle memory requires many hours of repetitions, either in a specific manner or by improvised actions. Two examples of committing to muscle memory are learning to ride a bike and swimming. Once you know how to do these you don’t forget even if you refrain from doing these for some time. Your stamina and fitness levels may fall, but you won’t forget how to do these entirely. It is the same in Wing Chun, once you have committed actions through Chi Sau to muscle memory these will remain with you for the rest of your life.

With time it becomes easier to store techniques into muscle memory, the body becomes more skillful at learning new moves faster and with greater skill and coordination. Physiologically and neurologically you body will change to suit how it is being used. However the rate at which this happens varies so don’t feel bad if it is not all smooth sailing, that in itself will help you body learn, you just have to keep trying.

Wing Chun demands a high degree of repetition of techniques not only in a fixed method but also more spontaneous and improvised. After all, what is shown one way can be used in many other ways. In Wing Chun, this concept enhances a student’s ability to commit actions to muscle memory and adapt to use these in many different ways and combinations. Muscle memory forms the basis for “auto-pilot” responses, which is a characteristic of Wing Chun advancement.

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