Following on from my post ‘Hitting the Mat’ about the start of my Aikido journey, this one is about my other martial arts challenge; Wing Chun. This really does actually involve quite a lot of hitting Matt (in a non-domestic violence way of course), so I can put into practice what I learn in the lessons and, as always, he is a willing (but far more experienced) training partner. To this end, we now have a wall bag and some focus mitts at home so I can get used to actually punching and hitting, although it is a little disconcerting when I am told to “hit hard” and I’m actually hitting as hard as I can.
Once again, after watching some Wing Chun and Matt showing me some of the system, I decided I wanted to give it a go, so Matt, having practiced this some years ago and recently going back himself, sent me along to Sifu Mick at Combat Arts Scotland. So, for the third time in my life I walked into a Martial Arts Club (not a dojo!) and asked to learn their art; the intimidation of this never seems to go away. However, as always, I was welcomed in with open arms.
Wing Chun is a wonderful system and gives you a few good moves straight out of the box. From a self defence point of view, this is the best system I have seen. The whole essence of Wing Chun is fighting close in, which for shorter people has some serious advantages. Generally speaking most people fight at a longer distance, and if they are taller this gives them an advantage. Matt’s reach for example is much longer than mine, so whilst he will be in punching range, I will be hitting fresh air, which all starts to feel a little Scrappy-Doo. Fighting close in is somewhat intimidating and it is clearly a distance that most people don’t like (in training beginners, including me, always back away), but once you see the advantages and practice it, it really makes a lot of sense.
The first form, Siu Lim Tao, is a fighting system in itself. It is composed of 108 moves in total and starts with the left arm, as this is generally the weaker arm for most people. We practice this form over and over and then, Sifu Mick breaks down parts of the form and we use them in application. Once we’ve covered a basic move he adds to it and adds to it with various options, so you aren’t learning a set defence to a predictable attack, you are learning to fight on both sides, be versatile and instinctively react.
Now, I have only been doing this for about a month and a half, so I am nowhere near any good at this, in fact I can’t even totally remember the first form as yet. However the fun is in the training and the repetition, drilling things over and over again, sometimes getting them right and sometimes ending up doing something more akin to Pat-a-cake, until someone more experienced comes and saves you.
The other major advantage of this class is practicing with people of all different sizes and levels and actually seeing how to defend against taller people and (for some in the class) smaller people, male and female, older and younger.
I have found that this art becomes addictive very quickly, and I frequently throw a surprise attack at Matt in the house, just to see how he defends it and to see if I can counter it (one day I am sure I will manage this).* Once again I find that this is pushing me to my limits, making me aware of my own capabilities and it is somewhat surprising to find just how strong and fast you can be.
Last week Sifu Mick spoke about working towards gradings, so right now I should probably type less and practice more, but I will continue to update this journey, once again, hopefully for many years to come.