Every wing Chun teacher has their own special angle, this is not surprising perhaps as it is a martial art that seeks to exploit them – angles that is. Teachers will each tell you that their method is the essence of Wing Chun and – for them of course – that is true. There is no off the shelf mode of teaching, so in this sense, the space for interpretation is wide; provided that they can persuade anyone their method is worthwhile. Wing Chun’s freedom can also be its frustration, as moving between teachers often means developing a whole new style. But in this freedom there also lies excitement, challenge and diversity.
Wing Chun teachers vary as much as their students. They are big, small, thin, fat, old and young, and come in varying states of fitness. This one was sincere, polite and solid with a open kindly face. He has a strong reputation in Wing Chun, amongst his many accomplishments he has advised on the set of the Ip Man movies.
It’s always difficult when taking a class with a new instructor. No experience is fine. Experience under another Wing Chun instructor, less so. The teachings of another provoke a critical eye. It certainly can’t be the case that another Sifu was able to teach you something worthwhile. It is necessary to demonstrate the failings of your previous schooling and the benefits of their own method. It was with excitement, and a tinge of trepidation, that I approached the class.
I was paired with a man just short of five and a half feet tall and weighing sixteen stone, we were of course testing balance. Taking it in turns to push against our partner, the exercise tested our stance’s ability to absorb pressure. It is needless to say that I was at a slight disadvantage. A strong stance will absorb and ground pressure without effort, acting like a lightening rod by channelling and dispersing energy.
The class focused on energy. How to absorb energy and how to channel energy? While an anatomically well executed stance can disperse, channelling energy from the waist can magnify outward force. The mechanics are similar to those employed in swinging a kettlebell. Force comes not from the arms, but the legs, waist and core. A push forward from the arm can achieve little when compared with the energy of the whole body acting in unison.
He had been learning for one month, I think that translates to four or five classes, and my sixteen stone partner had picked up an abundance of knowledge over this short period he was eager to share. He was excelling at the exercise, a feat he put down entirely to his expertise at this newly adopted art. I wasn’t grateful. Although he was a challenging partner and I could rest assured that each inch he moved was well earned.
The class felt like very clean Wing Chun. It was teaching a technique of energy transference that felt very primeval. Perhaps this is true Wing Chun. Could it be that my other teachers hadn’t taught me the real deal? Is this it, pure human energy, channelled from and through the body? Perhaps, I’ve found the essence of Wing Chun!