Back To Basics…

If you are anything like us, all the recent Wing Chun interviews really got you thinking.   Almost all the Sifu’s we spoke to brought up how the forms are something like an encrypted text book.  This is something we should ponder in an effort to find it’s true meaning.  In the age of the internet, frankly we couldn’t help ourselves and decided to venture over to EverythingWingChun.com to check out a few DVDs, aka the cliff notes of Wing Chun.

 

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In my opinion, you’ll never master the Wing Chun system from watching a DVD, but it does provide you with a few really good points of reference.

1.       You get to see how other people train . If you fall within the category of “everyone else’s Wing Chun sucks except for my Sifu’s,” I suggest you click away NOW.  Wing Chun is a thinking person’s art, meaning you have to think about the movements you are learning and how to apply them.  This includes looking at other styles and figuring out how they may attack you.  If you agree with this statement, it is your duty as a student of Wing Chun to learn what else is out there.  By seeing how other people train, you’ll learn more about your martial art, and pick up a few things you like, discarding those you don’t.

2.       Excellent motivation.   Seeing “masters” in action is simply COOL, enjoyable, and fun.  Personally, after watching a few DVD’s, it almost always alters my training plan for the better.    I immediately start thinking how to gain the attributes I just saw flash before my eyes.

3.       Similar to point number one, you get to see different “takes” on Wing Chun.  Kung Fu requires hard work, since the rooftop fights in Hong Kong are behind us; one of the best ways to see what is out there is to just check out a few DVDs.   No matter how many times your Sifu tells you, you’ll never really know what’s out there until you experience it yourself or at least see it.

To refer back to point number two, being a local from New York, I really enjoy learning about what’s around me.  If I learned anything from living in China, it is that you don’t have to travel to the middle of nowhere to learn “good Kung Fu.”  Everyone thinks you have to travel to mountains of Shao Lin to get decent Kung Fu, in reality you can travel to bigger cities, like Hong Kong, Shanghai, NYC, etc, and learn good, if not better Kung Fu.  More often than not, higher level martial arts practitioners are normal people too.  Not everyone, but many people want to live in areas where there are higher levels of income and might even enjoy the buzz of bigger cities.   Which resulted in me coming across a DVD from Sifu Vingrove A Thomas, a fellow New Yorker.

 

Why is history important?

If you’re into the “lineages,” from what I can gather Sifu Thomas family tree is something like this:

Ip Man →  Moy Yat →  Lee Moy Shan →  Vingrove A Thomas

 

I’m sure I’m leaving out a number of important details, but in an effort to express these gentleman’s qualifications, I think this more than says it.    Every single person mentioned above is well known in the Wing Chun community.

 

Which is why I decided to pick up his DVD Sil Lim Tao, The Basics

From the title one would think this is for someone who is just starting Wing Chun, but it is much more than that.   It serves as an excellent reference for anyone who wants to learn, or more importantly revisit Sil Lim Tao, the first level or form in Wing Chun.

In my opinion, Wing Chun is too complex to just brush Sil Lim Tao aside, once you have moved onto the next level. It is something that must be constantly revisited and thought about.   With the objective of filling in the gaps I once missed, I decided to give this DVD a go.   As Sifu Thomas puts it in this presentation, “Sil Lim Tao is the most important form in Wing Chun.” Here, you will master the basics that will follow you around for the rest of your life.   If you do not have a complete understanding of the first form, it is time to let your ego go, take a step back, and fill in the holes you missed.

 

So… How is his form different?

In the second section, we get to see Sifu Thomas works his magic and perform the Sil Lim Tao form. This is one of the first times I WATCHED SOMEONE on a screen doing Sil Lim Tao and thought “this guy is powerful.”  Keeping in mind that Sil Lim Tao is a form that is done standing still, that is no easy feat to accomplish. He truly reminds us that every single form in Wing Chun, including Sil Lim Tao, is a full body form.   To sum it up in a few words, while watching him, I felt as if I was a fly that could be flicked off at any second.  Admittedly, you may need a trained eye to take all this in, but to convey this type of energy is a very rare skill set.

Typically to experience this type of energetic, you would have to meet the person.  For instance, you would have to play Chi Sau with him/her to see what is going on. In Sifu Thomas’s case, you can experience a part of him just by watching.

Think about it. How many times have you flipped on YouTube and thought “DAM! This guy’s Sil Lim Tao form is explosive!”  For me, this was one of the best parts of the DVD, it was so inspirational, as I write this, just THINKING about it, makes me want to run outside and train this form.

 

 

No Frills or thrills.

Although the instruction is certainly luxury quality, Sifu Thomas runs through the applications with a “no nonsense attitude.” Very direct and points out the purpose of each movement. Perfect if you are looking to clear up some things you may have glazed over in the past.   

In the beginning of the DVD he points out that “Gong Fu” (Kung Fu) means hard work, to achieve this, one has to work hard throughout their entire live, never expecting to master everything in one day.  For someone like myself, these types of comments really reel me in, expressing that there is no “magic” or secrets to be held back, just straightforward Kung Fu discipline.  

That being said, this video is all content. If you decided to purchase this DVD, just keep in mind it’s simply an accomplished Sifu sharing his knowledge, not something filmed or recorded with the same quality as Ip Man 2.   Watch it with the intent to learn, not eat pop corn.

 

What does this move do?

Sifu Thomas starts out by giving out the general applications of each section of the form. He goes through it piece by piece explaining what each section of the form actually does and its purpose.  As he states, there are countless applications for the different sections.   What I really liked about this section is that it gets your brain turning, more like a push in the right direction.  Something to give you a general idea of what is going on, so that you can “decode” and figure out further applications.

He also gives a play by play breakdown of all the different names of the sections/moves.  This section is done with a Cantonese speaker, its pretty good practice, and a good refresher if you aren’t clear what certain things are called.

 

Applications

The majority of the DVD is Sifu Thomas explaining general applications of each section of the form, as well as teaching a number of training drills.   He also speaks a lot about footwork drills, sensitivity drills (entry level Chi Sau Drills), conditioning drills, and push horse drills, and a variety of many other drills.

I really enjoy watching push horse drills, it is something rarely spoken about outside of a classroom. From what I understand, many styles of Wing Chun do not train similar drills. If you are unfamiliar with the drill, it is the “downstairs” of Chi Sau. Basically, a partnered drill that you do with your stance/horse while “Chi Sau’ing.” The difference being, you are only focusing on the feet/stance/horse.   Why is this important? You give it the extra attention your footwork needs in a partnered situation.   Where many talk about the importance of “stance” and how you need to use it during Chi Sau, few people bring up how to develop it.

 

Holy Conditioning Drills!

I also really enjoyed watching the last section of the DVD, where Sifu Thomas went into a number of Wing Chun hand conditioning drills.   If you have the space, he runs though a number of IMPORTANT drills that most of us seem to have forgotten about.   Our Sifu always tells us to make sure we condition our hands, but the majority of us never seem to find the time for the drills presented in this video.

If you have the space or an area that offers hand bags, this is a MUST WATCH section. He explains the proper way to condition your hands for a Wing Chun person, not just mindlessly smashing away.

As a side note, if you don’t have the cash for a wooden dummy, but are willing to invest some time into building a much cheaper  “Three Star Jong.” which I can best describe as a “hand conditioning station,” this could be the answer to your prayers.   This is not to say hand conditioning is less important than a dummy, but if you are looking to bang away at something, it might be worth checking out.

We are not suggesting the DVD will teach you how to build the thing, but if you are a handy person, it should be somewhat straightforward.

So what now?

We hope you enjoyed this article, we did our best to summarize the components of this DVD, if you feel there is something we must add, please let us know.  Simply put, you really have to meet Sifu Thomas in person or at the very least watch it yourself to fully grasp what this man has to offer.

Who should buy this DVD?

·         Someone looking to fill in the gaps in their Sil Lim Tao (the first form) knowledge.

·         If you do not study this lineage, it will give a better perspective of the different flavors of Wing Chun that is out there.

·          Motivation/inspiration seekers – I always get charged up when hearing highly skilled individuals talk about their passion.

Written By Scott

Edited By Grammar Master Mike

 

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