I’m ready. I’m looking forward to the challenge. Can’t wait to gain new skills. Yesterday’s session was great, but today’s…absolutely terrible. Why is it that our abilities can fluctuate so much? Learning an art isn’t plain sailing; bad training days can shift your focus from that positive appreciation of what you’ve learned, to staring into that expansive gulf of what you haven’t. I thought I had the basics, and maybe I did, but an hour and a half of light sparing and holes emerged in my technique, these grew to the point at which I began to question whether I had a technique: cue existential crisis.
They started small, like the first loose threads in a cable knit jumper, but quickly I was left fumbling in the tangled yarn of my former technique. It’s difficult to stay motivated after a knock to confidence. The problem probably stems from a change teacher. I’ve had to learn a slightly new approach. This has meant altering my stance. The new sifu does not follow the more traditional method of having the feet in straight alignment, one in front of the other. He rather believes that the legs should be spread slightly to shoulder width, as it provides more stability.
I have adjusted, but in stabilizing my stance, I have destabilized just about everything else. A shaky foundation brings down the house; because I have been concentrating on my footwork, everything else has suffered. Wing Chun isn’t restricted to the arms; the body has to move together with legs and body generating, or dispersing, the energy behind each movement. After repeated practice the body will fall into techniques automatically. However, when an element is changed, the whole action has to be revised.
A disadvantage of learning Wing Chun is that each Sifu practices his own interpretation. This can mean a lot of revision. I’ve trained at different times with four different Sifus, which has meant four slightly different interpretations of just about every aspect of Wing Chun. It’s not a standardised martial art and so there is no one for a sifu to answer to but himself, and if the Sifu wants a stance with the legs spread a little wider, then that’s what he is going to get.
This is the frustration and the blessing of Wing Chun. It’s not mainstream; it relies on teachers with experience who really know what they are talking about, to pass down the knowledge. Their experience, and perhaps a slight measure of arrogance, means that each teacher brings his own twist. This all contributes the efficacy and continued relevance of Wing Chun, but it can also mean a hell of a lot of re-training. The solution is an easy one: repetition, repetition, and more repetition. Wing Chun is a relatively simple martial art with a limited syllabus, perhaps then it is for the best that I’m savouring it by revising each technique from several angles.