As time management and productivity guru, Brian Tracy, exhorts his audiences, one needs to have clarity about one’s goals and to always question whether what you are doing right now can be done better, or not at all. It is all-together too easy to get stuck in a rut and lose sight of what you’re doing it all for. I hope the martial artists among you will find similar inspiration in Yun Hoi‘s musings about whether you are still on the right path to your goal of excellence in gung fu.
Here in Australia, if you are renting out a property and the tenants completely trash the place or don’t pay their rent on time, you don’t have much legal recourse to evict the vandals promptly. The law is on the side of the tenants. Likewise, as I was recently told, if somebody is being physically aggressive with you, unless you respond within 3 seconds it is you who will be taken to court. I am immediately reminded here of what Wing Chun sifu Gary Lam said: “If you cannot finish the fight in 3 seconds, don’t tell me you are doing self-defence.”
There was an interesting point posted by my Facebook friend Jai Harman, that although grappling on the ground like our Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu friends are fond of doing is extremely dangerous and unwise in a real fight situation (imagine frolicking on the floor trying to choke the assailant while having your skull cracked courtesy of his girlfriend’s creative use of her stiletto heels – true story, by the way), it is still handy to add standing grappling (qin na / 擒拿) to your arsenal of techniques.
I quite agree with Jai and am happy to say that in the line of Yuen Kay San Wing Chun taught in our gwoon we have the full curriculum of close-body fighting and qin na (we call it kum na in Cantonese) thanks to the contributions of the imperial marshal Fung Siu Ching (the famous disciple of Red Boater Dai Fa Mien Kam). But like I always say to our junior students, unless your gung fu is so good that you are superconfident that you can overpower and control your assailant without getting seriously injured yourself (think facing multiple, knife-wielding attackers intent on finishing you off), I would not rely on any technique to merely control the opponent.
Yes — the law is not on your side if you are deemed to have used “excessive force”. As a former policeman who used to train at our gwoon once remarked, using Wing Chun vs aikido or jiu-jitsu would not shine a favourable light on the person defending his life. So what do you do? Try to control your opponent hoping you won’t get sued? Or give it all you’ve got, and go home to your loved ones alive?
It is interesting that Yuen Kay San was in fact a lawyer. One of his combat advices is about pre-emptive striking. Hardly a case of self-defence (more like self-offence) in the legal system of this day and age.
My sifu Yun Hoi will expand…
The Chun (春) in Wing Chun is a beautiful metaphor rife with meaning. Literally meaning the season of spring, we can deduce youth, life, refreshing change, rejuvenation. The art of Wing Chun is indeed quite young compared to the traditional gung fu styles practised in the feudal China of the 1700s. On the mountains of Omei, our two monastic founders, Ng Mui and Mui Shun, sought to inject new life in the prevailing, stuffy notions about martial arts of that era. The result was a revolutionary, new martial art stripped of unnecessary and inefficient concepts, strategies, principles and last, but not least, techniques. The fluidity and martial relaxation evident in accomplished Yuen Kay San Wing Chun practitioners, such as sifu Yun Hoi, is an embodiment of this life quality of spring. Rigid and overly tense execution of techniques are what I’d call “dead” techniques because one does not have the wherewithal to quickly change in mid-flight, or react with razor sharp sensitivity to the opponent’s reaction. And overly floppy strikes, in contrast, are “lifeless” because they lack the power to inflict its intended damage.
Another great and revolutionary martial artist, none other than Miyamoto Musashi (1584 – 1645) on the other side of the western Pacific Ocean pulled off a feat similar to that of Wing Chun’s founders in the same era. Musashi breathed new life into the prevailing sword fighting arts of the samurai in Japan. He wrote his insights gleaned from a life time of life and death challenge matches into the famous “A Book of Five Rings”.
Which art is better? This is a favourite topic of discussion among martial artists. There are no easy answers to that, but one should be careful of too quickly dismissing the effectiveness of any art other than our own. Having had the great good fortune to have studied under martial arts giants both from Japan and China to a very high level, sifu Yun Hoi is very well placed to give an informed opinion based on his own life-long experience on both sides to comment on the quality and effectiveness of both karate and Wing Chun gung fu. Musashi’s words, which are the title of this blog, do not just refer to mere technique…