So, with all the background notes we come to the forms (see previous blog posts around standing meditation and symmetry). In Wing Chun there are three "empty hand" forms, the dummy form and then two weapons forms:
● Siu lam tau 小念頭 - Get started here
● Chum kiu 找橋 - Watch our video here
● Biu ji 錶指 - Watch our video here
● Muk yan jong 木人樁 - Video coming soon!
● Luk dim bun gwan 六點半棍 - Video coming soon!
● Baat jaam dao 八斬刀 - Video coming soon!
The sword form is usually the last learnt as it is obviously the most lethal. The form is often taught "closed doors" - to chosen pupils who have shown themselves (psychologically) suitable and capable to the sifu. Furthermore each form builds on, develops and extends the capabilities of the previous form: for example the stepping movements taught in the sword form can be used to augment chi sao. This natural progression applies to both the ideas embodied in the forms and the physical conditioning the practitioner gains.
In class you will learn the first two forms in two ways: as the form and deconstructed. The reason for this is there might be a temptation to see the form as a fighting method: if the opponent does attack “x” then I must respond with defence “y”. Rather the form should be seen as a condensed showcase of the tools on offer within the system and drills to hone your muscle memory.
As mentioned before the form can be practised in two ways - externally or internally. If you wish to work on these externally then focus on building speed or strength. If, on the other hand, you wish to unlock the full potential of both the system and yourself, it would be better to work through them internally as soon as you are able and are confident you can judge your own centre of balance.
A note on equipment: should you wish to purchase heavy bags/speed bags etc then be aware of your goals and needs. If you wish to develop external proficiency then, to an extent, a heavy bag would be useful. However, as it needs gloves to protect the hand and wrist, the gloves/bag are not suitable for some of the strikes in kung fu/wingchun. Should you wish to practise internal strikes then these too can be done on a heavy bag (with the limitations previously mentioned) but a better option might be a canvas/leather wall bag filled with rice (or a cushion or a strike pad). The advantages and disadvantages are there for you to consider. A speed bag to practise dodging and weaving plus a wall bag might be the best combination if you wish to take a more “kung fu” path. If you wish to focus on a more external system, a heavy bag and/or a speed bag might be of more use.
Working the form will give you the ability to practise at home and get a feel for the neutral; how to (re)connect to it at all times no matter where your hand or foot is located. What follows will not be a step be a step guide to the forms, it will be ideas that can be explored in the class and as you reflect on the form, its function, meaning and meditative aspects. Nor will the external be dwelt on much - suffice it to be said either punch as hard as you can or as quickly as you can and hope the other person is weaker or slower.
The first form you learn is the Siu lam tau - or "little idea". This form is best done slowly - more tai chi than kung fu - as it focuses on correct hand positioning and connection to the neutral. Other forms have a different rhythm, some sections are done quickly which suggests they are more suited for external or southern internal expression and others that are performed slowly - suggesting they are more suitable for northern internal expression.
The form is usually split into three sections for ease of learning/memorisation. It is possible that, given the length of the forms from Wingchun's parent discipline - Hung Gar - the first three forms were actually one long form that was subdivided into three for ease of memorisation.
The "little idea" in the first form is that you are in "perfect" neutral - and can be seen as a progression from the stillness of Zhan Zhuang meditation, building in more upper body movement. In this way one can concentrate on finding and returning to the neutral. You can focus on arm movement and relaxation without having to worry about maintaining neutrality whilst moving - which is then developed in the chum kiu form.
When performing this form always listen for the neutral ... you should always feel heavy feet when going through the form. When you are confident with connecting with the feet, then you can add in the bi-directional stretch to generate even more power. When contracting (returning the arm toward the body or closing the body to generate power etc. etc.) you should feel heavy feet, top of the head and hand(s) connected as the body expands for a strike. If there is a disconnect or you feel tension, then you have extended the arm too far or contracted too much.
As such then this form is the key to understanding the internal wing chun system. Without it none of the subsequent forms or chi sao will have power - save what you can bring through your own strength or speed.
Written by Andrew Correia (Senior Student)