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Below is a list of points which we found greatly improved the training of our younger kung fu brothers and sisters.
If your Sifu hasn’t told you yet, you SHOULD be training everyday. For those that have been training for a while now, you are definitely aware of the benefits of practice and its positive impact on your classroom time. Simply put, the more you train by yourself, the better you will absorb Wing Tsun in class.
In this post we will outline a six step strategy to help you get your training schedule in order and quadruple your Wing Tsun Skillz in three months.
We recommend you read the entire article because at the end we have a seemingly obvious BONUS STRATEGY that almost no one does.
Action #1: PUNCH STUFF (Not just the air)
In the world of Wing Tsun, everyone talks about how wonderful the chain punch is. Most assume they mastered the “bicycle punch”, but never take into account whether they have developed the correct biomechanics or not. While punching stuff is often prefered, punching into the air for time does have it’s benefits.
- First of all it is far more convenient to punch the air as it can be done anywhere at any time. For example, I used to punch when commercials came on the TV. It was a game to see how many commercials I could punch through.
- Air punching builds endurance of the arms for all things Kung Fu, like chi sao. Depending on your perspective, punching the air can be superior for endurance training than punching stuff since you don’t have to worry about the soft tissue breakdown (and discomfort) of the MCP joints (knuckles)
- The biggest difference with punching into the air is that you must ACTIVELY SLOW AND STOP EACH PUNCH. This, of course is far superior for developing CONTROL of your punching than punching stuff. And, control is superior to just watching as your fist bounces off your training partners head. Remember NOT to lock-out air punches at the elbow. Instead, quickly stop the punch with a little bend left at the elbow. This will start to build up the tendon and ligament strength of both arms especially at the elbow. Try to build your ability to ‘stop’ a full speed punch so quickly that it creates a ‘snap’ (and not just when you are wearing a long sleeve shirt.)
- Train endurance for time! New studies regarding cardio-vascular fitness suggest that the benefits of 15 minutes of aerobic training are THE SAME as 3 bouts of 5 minutes of the same activity. Moreover, you should consider specific functional training. For example if you are training for an event, like a chi sao competition of 3 rounds, 3 minutes, with 1 minute breaks between rounds, then start by punching 3 rounds, 3 minutes…however,
- Keep in mind that there is a traditional wing chun chain punching protocol which is skill level-specific: 1st third sil lum tao- punch for 3 minutes. 2nd third- 6 minutes. This goes all the way through to biu gee so that by the time you start the wooden dummy, you should be able to punch for 27 minutes. Imagine punching ‘stuff’ for 27 minutes – DON’T DO THAT. (Please note, the amount of punching time your level require’s you to punch may vary from school to school)
Arguably, you have to ask yourself, are you punching stuff? Are your fists making contact with hard objects? In Wing Tsun we punch with the bottom three knuckles, are your knuckles conditioned to handle the impact of punching someone?
The answer to this question brings a whole philosophical discussion to the table. Yes, punching someone in the head with a completely unconditioned fist will surely find you in the emergency room with a hand fracture (most commonly a ‘boxers fracture’ involving the 5th metacarpal).
Long story short, work punching stuff into your regimen, a Wall Bag or a Heavy Bag will do. Get accustomed to having your hand hit things.
Here are two items you might want to consider buying:
1. Wall Bag – Most folks first step to conditioning their body to deliver a punch.
2. If you want to take the extra step invest in a pair of Bag Gloves, not sparing gloves. Bag gloves will protect your hand from injury when working a punching bag or focus mitts. Whereas Sparing Gloves protect the other person, so don’t mix them up. Any non-bulky MMA style bag gloves you find at a sporting store should be fine.
Homework Assignment #1 Optimize your Wing Chun Training by simply Punching more, increasing your endurance, and your hands ability to absorb and deliver shock.
Action #2. Utilize the Internet and Modern Technology
In today’s day and age it’s silly not to take advantage of what modern technology has to offer. Below are four examples of the unlimited tools that are very actionable and that can be utilized TODAY.
If you haven’t heard about it already, google offers about a billion different FREE applications. For our purposes the most useful is “Google Documents.” This application allows you to “share” your word documents, in other words give others permission to see what you wrote as well as add to the document themselves so YOU can see what THEY wrote.
What we recommend is you pick a Wing Tsun brother/sister and start comparing your training regiment. Make sure you date everything and take careful notes of what you do. This way you will give yourself a bit of pressure and see what everyone else is doing. Peer pressure yourself into training more.
Thanks to youtube every single Kung Fu style is exposing their secrets 😉 You may have to hunt around for some quality material, but when you find something interesting, ask yourself “As a Wing Tsun person, how would I react to this situation?” or “How many different responses to the same attack can I come up with?.” Work your Wing Tsun Mind.
- Stop playing Angry Birds and put that Camera on your iphone to use.
Clearly any camera will do in this situation, when you work your forms, record yourself. Take accountability for your training and see what you are doing wrong. We guarantee you’ll be surprised of what you’ll find. That also goes for those of us who are just starting out, you’ll develop a mental edge by recording yourself while performing Sil Lim Tao. This way when you finally get back to class you’ll have a very clear picture of what aspects of the form you’re not sure about and you’ll have the ability to compare yourself to your upperclassmen.
- Meet new people
Check out Meetup and see if you can find any local groups that Chi Sao for fun. Or if you’re brave, create your own ‘chi sao workshop’ group and see what happens. If you choose to create your own group, make sure you make the guidelines very clear. If you’re like us, we prefer to omit douchebags and people who arrogantly want to tell us “why they are so amazing.”
Homework assignment #2 – At the very least, Set up a gmail account and find a few classmates who are into the idea of comparing training notes. Also start hunting for youtube channels with quality content and subscribe to their channel.
Action #3 Put your Pride on the Side
Don’t go to class with the goal of killing your Kung Fu brothers and Sisters, nor with the intent of proving ANYTHING to ANYONE. You are there to learn only! For example, there is nothing wrong with asking a classmate, who is BELOW YOUR LEVEL and happens to do something very well, for advice regarding that particular skill. Pride will prevent this. Not only will you limit your ability to train by beating the crap out of each other, you will also limit your growth as a Kung Fu person.
Work the drills your Sifu gives you with the goal of mastering the aspect of Wing Chun you’re currently working on, not simply “beating the other guy.” If you get hit a few times (or a lot of times) while trying to work on a specific drill or Chi Sau application, ITS A GOOD THING, keep it up until you get it down.
Homework Assignment #3: Leave the ego at home, listen to what your opponent is doing and apply what your Sifu is trying to teach you.
Action #4 Don’t Got a Wooden man or Wooden broom?
Most of us simply don’t have the cash or the space for a wooden dummy. No matter what your level is, you can benefit from an attachmate. Don’t expect to beat the crap out of it, it can not take the beating of a real wooden dummy,use it for placement and memorization. When you finally reach the Wooden Dummy level its not easy to remember all the movements, use the attachmate to help you memorize the form, so when you finally get to class you can spend time working the dummy, rather than trying to remember what’s next.
This also applies to people who have yet to reach the Wooden Dummy level. For instance, you can work your Wing Chun mind by envisioning the attachmate arms as a jab/punch. How would you react? How many different counters can you come up with that are appropriate for your level? WORK YOUR WING TSUN MIND.
As an alternative you can also go with the free option, a simple broom or mop. Prop the broom up on a chair or large object to simulate a punch (or kick) coming at you. Again how would you react? How many different counters can you come up with that are appropriate for your level? WORK YOUR WING TSUN MIND.
Homework Assignment #4: Similar to a boxer shadow boxing, try to think up situations from youtube or class and what your response would be. The goal being, to get yourself thinking like a Wing Tsun person.
Action #5 Don’t Forget About Your Feet.
Everyone always comments on how “Wing Tsun people have fast hands.” This is true, but if you don’t have a “horse” to back up your hands you’re just asking for problems. Not developing this attribute is like asking a boxer not to bend his knees or shift his core power into a punch.
Without a proper “horse” you will not be able to:
- absorb shock (i.e blocking people)
- throw powerful punches (you want punches to hurt)
Are you practicing your:
- Horse Stance (old School Kung Fu training that works)
- When you train in class, ask yourself “am I bending my knees?” Don’t assume that you have perfected this attribute simply because you have reached a certain level of Wing Tsun.
Don’t forget about kicking either. Remember to break out that chair and kick over it and apply similar drills that you would for punching.
Action #6 Keep a Log
Buy a notepad or break out the iphone and keep track of what you learn in class. This way you can reflect on what you learned and what you should do. Giving you PLENTY of stuff to practice. When class ends, take a moment and write down everything you worked on. I used to voice record details of specific drills we worked on in class, then transcribed it into a word document at a convenient time.
Homework assignment #6 Don’t be lazy and write down what you learn. In today’s society we are too busy busy busy to remember everything. Plus, writing it down will reinforce everything you learned in class.
BONUS ACTION: Ask Questions
I’m always surprised at how many people pretend like they understand what’s going on. Chances are if you’re not sure what’s going on, a large number of people also don’t understand. You’re dishing out money for Kung Fu class, you might as well take advantage.
Whenever I’m lost on something I almost always shoot my sifu an email or if I’m embarassed I would pull him aside after class.
What if my Sifu doesn’t do email?
EMAIL US. We answer ALL our emails, just don’t be surprised if it takes a few days to get back to you.
Extra Homework: Ask questions!!! And sign up for our newsletter so you can have unlimited access to our email.
Many thanks for reading!
What was your biggest takeaway from this post? Which action are you going to do first?