Fan sau—smanshoaw, what do these terms mean? I could say something like: “Don’t do X or else Y and Z may happen, instead you must do A, B and C”. But then it probably isn’t going to make a whole lot of sense to most who have only just stumbled upon this martial art. Even those that have some experience may well be play acting in front of their computers right now, trying desperately to figure out what the hell I’m on about with their monitor still in one piece.
Anyway, I’m learning too. Fortunately, I have some great teachers to help me: Sifu Tony and Sifu Kam. ‘Sifu’ being the paternal title you give to a senior instructor who takes class. So hopefully I can recall what I have learnt in good faith, or else there will be hell to pay…
Right, what have we been covering of late? Well let’s throw ourselves in the deep. You won’t necessarily know the core moves or how to apply them, but that does not matter. What you can perhaps come away with, is the general principle. I’d call it a philosophy, but then it is 100% practical and 0% metaphysical.
In the process of sparring, you might do a move such as a strike, nothing unusual there. This may result in a hand being left ‘out front’ (we are not covering other legs here), which is a big generalisation, I’ll admit, but these can be useful to help grasp concepts such as this.
The principle is…not leaving it out there. But not only that…doing something with it as well.
Don’t treat it like a dud or has been, or your adversary will take the upper hand for real. You can wait to react to your opponent, to ‘catch’ them, but this only really works if you opponent is playing ball. This is why training with beginners is good because you can’t predict what they are going to do even in a set routine.
It does feel odd at first, but you tend to work out for yourself organically, which of your core techniques (which you may have learned) can be applied whilst returning, depending on the specific situation. Without going into too much detail, you are basically dealing with the biggest threat and taking control. Back and/or down a little is very effective, whereas too much pushing and pulling telegraphs and can be used against you, because it over commits you. Don’t worry if that doesn’t mean anything to you.
This article so far covers part of fan sau or ‘returning hand’, but NOT the only part, by any stretch. A summary of Fan Sau would be the antithesis of set combinations. It is about total flow, total variation of power, speed, everything. You are controlling your opponent, whist simultaneously attacking, using two or three limbs. That is the idea of Wing Chun, staying engaged and taking control, most importantly continual and sustained attack. It is not something where you move back and forth, and chip away OR just react to block, then strike. It is much less mechanical than that, much more devastating.
Back on track. I have been told to apply this concept to every single exercise we are doing from now on, with few exceptions. However to start off we did an interesting routine, which is unrealistic but very useful when you then go to apply it to real life. It is about responsiveness, how quick can you be. It is all very well saying you must do something, but unless you can get there in time the move is wasted.
I will describe this in the next article which will be called ‘Quickness Exercise’