The Wing Chun Curriculum
Siu Lim Tao
The first form in the Wing Chun system is called Sil Lim Tao or sometimes referred to as Siu Nim Tao. Its translation or for a better word, its interpretation, provides the reference point of the whole system. Sil Lim Tao is not just the name of the first form in Wing Chun, it is the foundation in which the whole system is built upon. Like with many aspects of Chinese Kung Fu or even Chinese culture, concepts and principles are open to interpretation. In Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM, a common theme when it comes to the method of patient care, often a TCM doctor will answer ‘it depends’. Chinese Kung Fu is no different. Fundamentally, Sil Lim Tao is training your intent and mindset to reduce complexity. Conceptually, one outlook is that you mayhave watched many kung fu films and now you want to start learning high kicks or fancy training techniques. Sil Lim Tao brings your mindset back to the key fundamentals, like knowing how to stand properly. Technically, this refers to the centreline theory, the Wing chun hand shapes and positions such as Bong Sau and Tan Sau. Furthermore, it places great emphasis on correct posture, breathing, concentration and thus relaxation.
The second form in the Wing Chun System is often referred to as ‘Searching Bridge’. But what does this really mean? Think of the two words being used, searching and bridge. At the point at which you learn Chum Kiu you should have grasped somewhat of a concept (and practiced) the first form Sil Lim Tao. This means that you would have been able to, at the basic level, apply the foundations in the techniques. Techniques such as Bong sau, Tan sau and Fook sau. Commonly, known as the three seeds of Wing Chun. Once you have achieved this, you naturally would want to ‘search’ or be more adventurous. You want to be more combative and see how it works. Think of it logically, when you are ‘searching’ and you find a ‘bridge’, what is the purpose of a bridge? It is for you to walk on and get to the other side. In Chinese Kung Fu, the bridge refers to the hands and in combat its purpose is to get through, to hit, to strike. Hence, Chum Kiu. Simply put, when you have reached the Chum Kiu level, you should have grasped the basics of Siu Lim Tao and you are now applying more movement by utilising your hips known as ‘yiu ma’ in order to generate more force into the applications.
The third form in Wing Chun is translated as ‘darting fingers’. Darting or Biu refers to the type of energy used. If you have ever had an acupuncturist use acupuncture needles to treat you in the traditional way, ie without the guiding tube, you will see that they are relying on a specific type of energy to insert the needle safely and painlessly through your skin. It’s a darting type energy. Now, imagine that energy applied to your fingers. This form is taking the different stages that you learned through your development from the first and second form where you have learnt how to apply energy and power through relaxation and movement. We now include even more weaponry such as the fingers and elbows. The third form takes an even more humble approach by accepting that nothing is perfect and because of this, you may need a back up plan to be effective.
Mok Yahn Jong or the Wooden Dummy
One of Wing Chun’s most famous training apparatus. Frequently, seen in many Wing Chun movies such as the IP Man movie starring Donnie Yen. The wooden dummy is your training partner that doesn’t get tired. The development areas here teach you the correct hand positions, foot positions and angles. Furthermore, once this level is attained you can then learn to strike the dummy correctly and condition your body weapons. Your natural weapons such as your knuckles and palm strikes. Footwork plays a big part, knowing how to step and when to time that step with strikes.
Chi sao or often referred to as ‘sticking hands’ is a Wing Chun training method that enables the practitioner to develop sensitivity. This sensitivity connects through the arms, however, it also travels and links to various joints of the body. On the outside, it may look like two people waving their hands together. However, do not let the arms deceive you because the forward energy is generated by the whole body. The three ‘seeds’ of Wing Chun come into play, Bong sao, Tan sao and Fook sao. These form a crucial part of the foundation and once the fundamentals are attained, the practitioner can now ‘play’. What does that mean? It means they can express themselves through techniques using concepts and principals. One thing to note, this form of training is not fighting, but it can develop skills that can be used to fight.
Types of Chi Sao
Bong Lap Sao Chi Sao – The first type that you learn. The momentum or ‘roll’ as many Wing Chun Practitioners call it, is based on a Bong Sao (helping hand) in conjunction with Wu Sao (Protecting hand), followed by a Lap Sao (Grappling hand). It focuses on the basic key fundamentals such as keeping your elbows in, center line positioning and expression of correct technique. Feel free to watch this video to have a better understanding – Click here
Dan Chi Sao – Known as Single Sticking Hands. The ‘Dan’ translated in Chinese is the same as booking a ‘single’ room in a hotel. It isolates one arm per time with the majority of the training maintaining the hands in constant contact, hence ‘sticking’. The three seeds of Wing Chun namely Bong Sao, Tan Sao and Fook Sao (which should have been planted by now) become further cultivated or ‘watered’ through this training method.
Pak Sao Chi Sao – Unique to the Wing Chun School family devised by my Sifu, Sifu Garry McKenzie. Its purpose is to address the mid-range. Wing Chun is very known for it’s close quarters combat, however, you need to get to that range first somehow. It’s like having a great bow and arrow, but if you’re not in the right range, it won’t be effective. Therefore, we mustn’t neglect the long and mid-ranges. The ‘Man Sao’ or asking hand, Wu Sao and the ‘Pak Sao’ or clapping hand come into play even more. The emphasis here is on the ‘touch and go’ reflexes and applying forward energy.
Poon Sao or Double Sticking Hands – The most commonly seen type of Chi Sao. This is basically Dan Chi Sao or Single Sticking Hands, but now using two arms. All Wing Chun techniques, concepts and principals can now be expressed through play. Feel free to watch this video – Click Here
Wing Chun Weaponary
Luk Dim Book Kwan or the Six and Half Point Pole
When it comes to the Wing Chun weaponary, the standard of the Wing Chun practitioner becomes more apparent when you see how thay play their weapon forms. Like with padwork, you cannot hide behind the weapons. It becomes very clear when you can wield the pole or the pole wields you. A real Wing Chun pole is heavy. It does require strength and power. But, the right type. Playing the pole consistent to the system means using minimal and direct movements. Increased power is achieved through body unity combined with relaxation.
Baat Charm Do or Eight Chopping Knives
Why is it called the eight chopping knives? Because there are eight sections to the form, they are knives and they are used to chop. The knives are an extension of the empty hands and now the Wing Chun practitioner learns how to channel their energy into these points. By now, the Wing Chun practitioner would have done a countless number of time the huen sao or circling hands and the knife training helps further strengthen the wrist power. Precision and good form play a crucial part.