In the space of a few days Grand Master Tse went through all the forms of the Wing Chun system – sometimes covering the whole form and other times introducing certain sections. For some of the 23 students this was the first time to ever see a certain form. For others it was a welcome chance to dive deeper and to see the Grand Master’s movements up close.
After a big English breakfast at the canteen the days would start with a long Siu Lim Tao – Wing Chun’s first form. When performed slowly the form can take an hour or more and from the outside it looks like nothing much is happening – the body is completely still and the arms only move a fraction every minute. Inside, however, there is a lot of power building – a power called Gong Lik. Standing still like this for a long time can actually be exhausting for a beginner – the legs will start shaking uncontrollably and the arm will cramp or go numb but with time and continued practice the internal power develops and it starts to feel effortless – every part of the body will feel connected, relaxed and stable.
After Siu Lim Tao, GM Tse would continue with the other forms – choosing one to focus on at a time. GM Tse would have everyone follow his movements and then demonstrate on his own to make details clearer and let people ask questions. Then he split the students into groups to polish the form under the guidance of a senior student. As Wing Chun is a martial art GM Tse asked us to choose any movement and have him explain the martial application – he would demonstrate the technique on a student and then have everyone practice the technique in teams of two. This really helped with learning the forms as knowing what the movements mean makes it easier to remember. There was also great satisfaction in trying out the techniques on fellow students in the flesh rather than imitating on-line!
For the Tsum Kìuh form we enjoyed working with the forearm techniques and the kicks and there was an interesting explanation of the difference between using Tsum Kìuh Sáu and Màai Jāang Kyùhn to attack the opponent’s elbow. The Wooden Dummy was very exciting and having three dummies standing ready in the big hall had built up a good level of suspense. GM Tse taught the 4th section of the form and explained that it is the same section that actor Donnie Yen uses when playing Ip Man in the movies portraying our famous Wing Chun ancestor. The dummy is not supposed to be hit hard – the focus is on precision of structure, angle and distance. That being said, there is a fair bit of beating to the forearms. The next day quite a few people had bruises to show and GM Tse shared a story of himself learning with his master Ip Chun. Ip Chun had told him that the bruises were actually a good thing and that they should not be rubbed or massaged – they should be left alone as the bruise would help stimulate the bone and make the area stronger. After this story, we wore our bruises with a certain level of satisfaction.
The Six-and-a-Half Point Pole was my own favourite this year. It is quite heavy and thus tests your ability to use your body optimally. The best part was left to the end as everyone got to spar against one-another with the poles – extremely demanding but also great fun! We also got a chance to win a free dinner – the person to hold the Pole outstretched in horse stance the longest won – the prize went to a happy Daniel Nwume.
The Biu Zi form presented some good techniques for using the elbow to attack and how to regain control if someone is controlling your elbow. GM Tse also showed how to defend against a Kāp Jāang with a Jám Sáu. The last form of the course was the Baat Jáam Dōu. GM Tse taught the first and fourth section. The knives can be fairly heavy and so help strengthen the wrists.
In the evenings we had some delicious meals – two of them at the Vineyard Cantonese restaurant. Cantonese food is very varied and with a big group like this we had the chance to share many different dishes. After dinner we would all meet up in the big Queen Mother Hall to socialise and Chi Sau together. It was so much fun and time would seem to fly. One evening the night guard even had to ask us to leave so he could lock up! The last evening for Chi Sau was the most exciting as everyone got to Chi Sau with GM Tse. It was interesting to see how he would handle different types – tall, short, strong, fast, wild. In the end everyone learnt a good lesson both from doing Chi Sau with GM Tse and from watching him with the other students.
GM Tse started the course by laying out the goal: socialise and deepen the skill. What a success! Somehow learning and improving is vastly more efficient in a group when having fun. Our Wing Chun ancestors must have known this as the third ancestor instruction says: “Love your Kung Fu brothers and sisters – unite and enjoy being a group”. Now we can look forward to the two Chi Sau days later this year where we can meet up again and go even deeper!
by Paul Hogg