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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Watch this practitioner - what snappy form!

Wow, watch this practitioner doing the 108. Doesn't matter if you approve of Wing Chun or not. You can't fail to see this practitioners short range 'fa ging' power being snapped out. This is the 'snake style' ,I feel, coming out in her expression of Wing Chun. Those side-kicks she does come out of no where and are really angled nicely. Lovely dummy too - can't fail to want to own that piano black object.
When she does combination of strikes she doesn't pause between them to admire her handy work. she blasts them out, as If they were musical notes they would be triplets, (one beat sliced into 3). You can learn from her, whatever discipline your into, as she has good form.
Someone one the youtube web site said watching her is like a view of what Beautiful Springtime must have looked like ! IN the comments she replies she has been doing this 40 years ! OMG - she looks 20.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Some Videos I Made Earlier

Here are some vids on the dummy. They have the pegs taken out of the base to make the dummy move about and absorb energy. They are a drill on the dummy, involving backfist and a trap; boxing slips, and short and long range palms. I corrected one palm set, and tried it a new way. The videos had to be fixed from portrait angle, from phone, using software. Otherwise you would have to turn your head 90 degrees. I chose that angle as it allows for capture of body and dummy length. I am fond of portrait angles, but know of someone who is vehemently opposed to this camera angle and prefers landscape. This is an aesthetic rift that has emerged.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Funeral - by M.Quoist

Here is an extract of parts of a Prayer / Poem by Michael Quoist.
I read this today in memory of my Mother.

People were following:
The family - some crying,
Some pretending to cry ;
Friends - some grieving,
Some bored or chatting.

Leaving the cemetery, some of the family were sobbing: "All is finished".
Others were sniffling : "Come, come, my dear, courage, it's finished !"
Some friends murmured: "Poor man, that's how we'll all finish."
And others sighed in relief: "Well, it's over".

And I was thinking that everything was just beginning.

Yes, he had finished the last rehearsal, but the eternal show was just beginning.
The years of training were over, but the eternal work was about to commence.
He had just been born to life,
The real life,
Life that's going to last,
Life eternal.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Heavy Metal Dummy

NGC - Pan Ing Lan on this metal Dummy.

I have never seen this design before. It looks like a modified Choy Le Fut dummy. Watch this man clank his arms on this metal object. I would not try this at home children. I wonder if he helps himself out by angling in his muscle to buffer his bone as it clashes. If you 'sheer' in your movements you could get some use out of metal as a medium on the dummy. I have stuck a metal pole in the bottom arm of my dummy as an experiment and it is functional but it makes a clashing noise at it buffers the main body of the dummy. Also without a whole and metal pin there are no lap sau, (pulling hand), type moves, for what that is worth.

Watch him go behind the dummy - that is interesting. You can get a choke on that maybe. The base of the dummy is not raised that high either. Also those arms are sprung loaded at the front. That could be used for Thai clinch type moves. The hand conditioning looks 'very dedicated' - his knuckles are testimony to this. I read somewhere if you train your finger tips like this, it will impair any fine skills you may need your fingers for - piano, threading needles etc. I guess your nerve endings become less sensitive.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Owning Strawberries

Do you see this image. It represents a character of a short cartoon on the web and is also on Youtube. Its the evil strawberry.

After much thought and consideration I believe this character represents any learning activity that creates grief an displaces the learning goal in a distant place - a forbidden fruit if you like. Its a parable.

In any learning activity that does not come easily, it is hard not to feel frustrated and angry and act like this child - sour grapes !

The key to all this in acquiring a hard skill - and I am thinking of sweeps and throws in martial arts for me at the moment - is resilience. Its a characteristic of the learner that needs to kick in when a barrier to the learning goal emerges. Not dealing with set backs can make you give up and in adult learners who have unrealistic goals, this can happen. I teach adult learners social sciences. Some are very grade aware and have high goals and expectations for obtaining these high grades that makes the subject matter irrelevant almost. Learners in this category are high risk suspects when it comes to managing setbacks and wanting to give up their study.

Developing a different attitude to learning - seeing it as a long haul issue and seeing the intrinsic pleasures are a way to overcome set backs. Josh Waitskin talks about this in his disciplines of chess and Tai Chi. Of how the apprenticeship of learning *IS* the goal. Leave the learning train - lose the attachment to the discipline almost is what comes across. It is a psychological condition coping with set back.

Why am I talking about this ? Yesterday I was going sweeps and I am re-learning and re-learning and not really making head way in this set of moves. I have been here before with Vale Tudo and some of the moves there, which I could not really adapt to. I know what to expect and what is happening to me when I am learning however. I have realistic expectations to a degree with this aspect of martial arts. This realistic view aids me. I could get red faced like this child here, but I just have to accept the moves are hard. I did this while learning parallel park. I can remember the sweat under my arms and the pressure n my face when learning this manouvre for my driving test. I decided to take all pressure of myself and say I will get it when I am ready. Not rushing this. Love the learning and relish the innocence.

This is similar to my feelings of chess. Those innocent days in 1987 when I was learning from books and reading how the Sicilian defence creates asymmetry and nodding at the principles but not really getting them are to be cherished. The mystery of it all does add something. Chiseling away at the mystery is good too, however.

The big difference academia, chess and martial arts and driving here is the sensory motor side. Its very binary in terms of having a skill on the latter 2. You have the technique or you don't. You park in line and can see it for yourself. You can apply a sweep or not. No in between.

You work to get that strawberry in time or you don't.!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Seeing is believing ?

This is a training video with 2 others. I saw what I looked like 'doing boxing' type moves. For a few years now I have been told 'chin down'. I thought I had this idea down by 2005, but it crept back up. Here in this video it creeps up when I try and deliver upper-cuts. OK I am aiming to deliver uppercuts for my friends defences, but if he counters, my chin is on a plate.
You can hear Granmaster K telling me chin down. I have heard this a hundred times. BUT now I see it.

Yuk. I look a poor sight. I disgrace myself.

So what ? This shows the value of video and the idea of seeing is believing. Think of how people put bias on 'eye witnesses'; 'Doubting Thomas' came to believe only when he saw; and the statement 'I will believe it when I see it'. Well this video is massive and got me thinking about video too in general.

Its not totally true that seeing is believing is it. We see lots of adverts on TV and don't believe them ...because we have critical skills. Watching and seeing are interpretive acts. We are matching things up in our heads to what we see.

The issue is these skills can be sharpened.
When it comes to watching martial arts instructionals, we can arrest these skills - excessive reverence can be a cause. Master X or so and so's student does this - it MUST be true. It’s a trap.

Worth thinking about too is how old is this material ? Has the practitioner moved on and changed or modified their techniques ? Maybe they have had a Pauline conversion and renounced their style all together since that video was made as there were flaws in their approach !?

Do you have another instructional that has this same type of material - if so then contrast the techniques. Get a friend in to watch with you to help contrast the moves. Take time to tooth pick their differences. Maybe the practitioner isn't verbalising something that they need to that your friend sees ?

Remember to look at the feet - even in hand techniques. The feet show weight distribution for example or how to move the upper body. They are tied often to the hands. If the camera cuts-off the feet then maybe you have to search down the tape or DVD for an example or find another example elsewhere.

Keep a log of what videos you have seen or own. This will act as an index to look up this or that move. It shows you too how far you have moved in your 'journey'.

Search for reviews on your instructions before or even after you buy them. These can be useful in verifying the value of what you have
. The BJJ community is very vibrant in reviewing instructionals that come out in its domain. There is something very different about BJJ / Vale Tudo knowledge and its socially shared nature. I wonder if its something to do with the physical proximity of training mano-a-mano that creates this ?!

Write notes to accompany your DVDs. These could be stick-men that break down a move. The pause function and A-B repeat is excellent for this [If you have never used the latter - THAT is your homework ok!]. Give your notes to your friends - it could be questions like I don’t get move @ 22 mins in - can you work out what this means ? Or do you trust that arm-lock @ 52 mins ? It could be an index of moves in writing.
After a few viewings the details will melt away or go 'fuzzy'.

Watch the video once and let it gloss over you - this is 'looking'. Then once you have a 'mental map' of what is there focus on a portion to train on that day. And a new portion another day. This creates 'seeing'.

Write reviews. This verbalises your thoughts and forces you to evaluate what you have seen. Evaluation is a high level cognitive skill. Practice it. It goes beyond mimicry or description.

Treat your DVDs with care. Avoid scratching them and implore your ruffian friends not to scratch them when you lend them. If they do get scratched, then there are some remedies like tooth paste being wiped into the scratch.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Can't see properly ?

I have a migraine now. My vision has gone all spangly and I cannot see that well. It is not good. I can be sick too with numb arm and messed up speech - like a mini stroke in this situation but this isn't as bad as when I was a teenager.
What if I was out and about and some delightful youth wants to cause a confrontation ? Goodness what nightmare.

What isn't addressed by self-defence literature is what to do if you cannot see properly and need to defend yourself. I wear glasses and if these get knocked off, then with my minus 9 vision I am looking at burrs. With migraine vision I am have blind sports.

Crazy moneky guard would be a good fail-safe here, as you don't have to be that active in your defense - no searching for bridges or interacting on a high reflex demanding defence like a pak sau.. To be honest you may not see it coming with a migraine. You would have to feel the attacker if you could not see them. Here grappling chi sau (for want of a better word), would be of value in searching for that bridge if you want to make contact.

I have tried sparring with no contact lenses in. I did get hit more but it wasn't that bad. If the light was failing that would be worse. At night I could not run as yo wont see where your feet are being placed too easily. With no glasses imagine loosing your keys to your car ! I have a spare pair of glasses in the car thankfully - its required by law in some states.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Learning forms

I am learning a form at the moment. To do this needs a special form of concentration, slow repetition, frustration and imagination.
I am getting the core of the form of a DVD and this is a good medium vs VHS. The DVD player has A:B Repeat function and this allows you to segment the sections. My method is to plough through these segments and not dare move on until you 'get' the shape your on.

Once you 'have' that segment you go back to the start and re-stack the units so far. This needs discipline as you want to race ahead and get it over and done with. You may have to turn the sound down or off, as the repetition of phrases can be unbearable BUT on the other hand the ideas are being vocalised too and if you are an 'auditory' learner, then you may pick up these commands and make them meaningful.

To make the shapes stick in my memory I develop silly names / ideas and thread these together like a mini-story. The form I am focusing on has these 2 circular hand shapes at the start. I told myself they look like the 'Mr.Man' character Mr. Dizzy.

It is worth seeing the form 'done properly' by different people so you can see what is the margin of difference in expressing the shapes. In this DVD there is an elbow strike that hits an arm with a slap in one expression, or slides along it in another. Sometimes that hand is up like a prayer hand, sometimes it is flush to the forearm. A few years ago this difference would have phased me. "It must be one or the other or its all wrong", I would have thought. But forms are seldom like that totally. Its the idea/s in there that they signify that count more. I know this from the Wing Chun forms, their deviant expressions and simialrity. If you learn to look then you learn to see. I.E. Wood through the trees. The big idea can be expressed in varying ways.

Breathing is meant to me mapped on to the in and outward moves - or ying and yang type moves. This is hard. I find it hard to belive that the practitioner in the DVD gets a full breath in sync. with his moves. Only way I can get close is to go very S-l-o-w like tai chi nearly. It may pick up when I can swithc of my brain and do the moves with out thinking.

I know there is a debate out there about forms and why bother etc. etc. this isn't the place to go over this. But I would rather know them then not and realise they are the basis of teaching / learning and keeping the inventory of moves and ideas in your face. Without the forms you may regress into technique collecting. I think JKD could be accused of this.

Josh Waitzkin in his book 'The Art of Learning', however, does say it is possible to become a form collector in its own right. To avoid that you need to know the applications too. I have to go over the applications and the form again to keep it in mind, to avoid just doing funny shapes. I know from studying the Wing Chun forms that the applications are myrriad from the same moves. They can be literal or very abstract. The DVD only scratches the surface with applications, the man says so too You will have to use your imagination to eek out the meainings of this. One way to do this is by analogy.

Here is a link to someone useing imagination to the application to the same shape:

Another way to mix things is to do the form in differnt ways. Hard like uber-Karate. Soft like Tai Chi. Mixed mode etc. This could benefit you in different ways, breathing, reflex etc. This form I cannot do very fast and I am in slow mode for now. The DVD has the masters student doing it in 4 angles, fast too. This is useful.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A dummy on the dummy

Nice animation here. I bet its based on a real actor / real modeling of a Wing Chun practitioner, as there are breaks in the footwork pivots. (Doesn't matter).
Good angle chosen to capture depth.

If you didn't go pigeon toes does it matter, so long as you fuse your spine base and pelvis ?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stop Smoking the Bong Sau

This video is from
These people could be seen as 'rationalists' in the sense they seek to expose the mysticism in the martial arts : death touches, deadly screams and other mystical claims by equally mystical gurus.

Here they have a video of Wing Chun. They make fun of it. The message of this site is to test the claims made by the arts and not take it on faith. I can see why Wing Chun is fair game for this, as the culture around it does prompt some mystical attributes. The tradition and lineage worship isn't helpful. The search for the 'pure' and true lineage keeps away any conflicting evidence that may arise.

One interesting comment in the text to this video was the idea that there are diminishing returns from studying traditional MA. The more you do the less you get out of it hour for hour. You become so good your trained to be 'bad', as you become 'stylized'. I.e. Sculpted into inflexable and inappropriate responses.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Vietnam Wingchun Nei-gia Kuyen. (Look for Human Dummy @1.20)

Wow - look at this at about 1.20 into the video. They have a human dummy to assist the demonstration of the form. How novel.

The shapes in this variant look like 5 animal system.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Form and function squashes the debate

Look at the Wing Chun wooden dummy. Really stare at it.

Look at the length of the arms. Look at that leg. See how short they are from the body of the dummy.

'That' short, means it's a short range system and most of the moves, (not all), in the 108 reflect that you will be in this short range. (Only the kicks on the flank are where disengagements in that space occur - but you come back in).

So what ? The forms leading up to this 108 set are now being deployed with more footwork. You are in a showcase now of what fighting may look like, to a degree, in this optimized set of skills. When you specialize you leave things behind. This system has voluntarily left behind the long range kicks - it hasn't got any. This means it doesn't want you to get into a long distance game. No kick-fencing. It does give you tools to smother long low kicks, however. It does know 'others' do things that way.

Also in the form there are no long range punches. The arms partly influence this. They are so short, you have to do a calculated shuffle if you want that in. Look at the Choy Le Fut dummy. See how long the arms are on that - the central movable one. That is designed that way, as CLF, as long range aspirations in it. Design means intent - or at least it used to in the Middle Ages.

All this tells you of the design assumptions in Wing Chun's aims and optimizations. It has a small content because it only specializes in a limited range. THAT is its specialty. IT didn't claim to do anything else if you ask me. (assuming we have the perfect knowledge set of 'Wing Chun'), then it is a deliberately limited art to get you up and running. THAT story of Beautiful Spring time is to reinforce that point. SHE had a short term goal that needed seeing to. To 'sort out a bully', in a short time frame. Things had to be excluded.

The 108 repeats and drills many shapes and explores different scenarios of a 'small' array of moves in a short space.

Carrying on from this I would not even bother getting dragged into 'is Wing Chun good for sparring with'. No, it isn't as that uses space tactically - back and forth - and kick boxer / boxers have different appreciation of that space in sparring.

In its optimised space - if you can get the other person in that zone - that is what Wing Chun is for. Wing Chun is good at what Wing Chun specializes in. Pull it out of the ideal shape and its less useful. That is why I would not get pulling into, a verbal debate in the same way. That too, is out of range, by design. If you bring Wing Chun into different terrains with claims for it, then its a pain. You have to show how you can fight with others in different ranges in your ideal structure, (that makes it Wing Chun still and not become de facto kick boxing). Or you have to cite others who can - and this leaves you in a virtual world of possibilities not your own experiences. So don't bother. That argument is out of range too. Stay away from that and 'stick' to the aims and claims of 'the design'. That dummy is the design.

Short aims. Short arms. Limited content.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Will the real Robin stand-up

I have to defend the honor of the wooden dummy sometimes from non-believers and this needs Super Hero like skills.

This is in fact the Robin that came to aid me in the previous post and gave me magic powers. The picture is of the Boy Wonder doing Gum Sau, and that is a roof top dummy on the edge of the picture.

The Robin was correcting my Bong Sau - or wing arm technique.

Bong sau is good if your hands are low by your sides, say you are carrying shopping. None of the Wing Chun literature tells you that. They assume bong sau is from stance. We are not in stance in everyday life. When we are suprised we have no defensive / offensive structure. So we need to think about that one. Upright stance IS our structure when surprised - or is it a lean back - becuase we are shocked ?

Boxers have a version of bong sau when they drop the lead arm and hide behind their shoulder. I think Fillsack on youtube does it in some boxing sparring he shows. This is a conscious effort to drop the lead arm, that was up in the first place, into that shape.

Wrestlers have their bong sau to get rid of a one armed grab around the neck, in a shrug like motion. I have once done it then after than never did it again in sparring.

Bull fighters have a bong sau like action with their cape BUT their footwork is the real deal as it angles off in a box-step / spiral. This type of step-off to the side and slightly forward can be seen in Master Wong's 116 video - which I have below somewhere. It comes early on, and is followed by a dumog-like action / lap sau. That is some good footwork for that form and its not in Yip Man's version.

The 'A' frame in grappling 'in guard' is a supported bong sau. Bong sau is in Kali when you block a straight thrust with your stick - again matador.

On the dummy Bong sau can be sticky with a diagonal forward motion, that crushes the opponents structure. OR it can be ballistic and you can bounce off them. You can have inner-gate bong sau - the first section of the dummy has this and you repeat it often. Its to correct a mistake and you get to the outside gate with your step circle slide footwork as you tan sau.

Here are 2 pictures from

Here is an outer-gate 'wing arm'. That leads to 'the-very- hard-to-do-in-a- struggle', lap sau. Nice finesse here actually that the lap sau is on the same arm, that has been bumped right by the bong sau.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Hands make the way - but not on the dummy

Did some drills today for aiding sweeps in Silat. Si-gung Sackvill showed me them in the garage academy. I put gusto into drilling them slowly, as if it was 2004 again and I was going over my dummy form and the sacred 108.

Anyway, what I wanted to day today was get the dummy involved into the Silat swing of things and do the sapu on that. You can't on the dummy with all the pieces are plugged in. Hands make the way for you to impale yourself.

So you have to take out the leg, and the central arm and one of the top arms. This leaves on arm left pointing on the triangle 'V'. You have to imagine you have made the way and left the path free now (no hardship) and then you can 'uproot' and have a flush - or near - flush torso to the dummy body and push that away on a 'T'.

I used the 'T' there as the 'I' part of the 'T' is me coming in and the cross-part is the force for the opposite lever for the top half. Next comes the foot which needs some imagination or an air sweep the other way 'L'.

My dummy is in a trough, so the thing can rock forward that helps too.

I hope this is all worth it and I have not got a fundamental flaw in here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Getting a Wing Chun Wooden Dummy - was it worth it ? 5 years on.

Hi people,

I got my Wing Chun dummy 5 years ago in winter of 2003. As I had written earlier on this blog, I had coveted the dummy for about 9 months before paying for one. It is a fair amount of money and I had to do some research into which one to get, what type and even should I get one.

Overall I would say yes. I am glad I got the dummy. The deep indulgence of learning the 108 moves and the research around that were exhilarating. The effort needed to go through the moves, cross-check and adapt and verify were quite time consuming. I had to make adaptions to my knowledge. When I went to Australia I had come back with some new Wing Chun knowledge that added finesses to what I had learned. 'Chasing the arm' was something that reinforced the need for forward focus - e.g in tan sau make sure you don't use it as a wax on wax off block when sparring when scared.

The searching for video knowledge was useful. Seeing the diverse uses of the dummy were interesting. Jospeh Simonet and Randy Williams are two good diverse starting points. The JKD literature on the dummy isn't as good as I felt it should be. Although Lucay Lucay does use sticks on his dummy.

Also there have been moments of doubt when using the dummy. A learned friend - in sync. in the spirit of 'aliveness' from Matt Thornton, had said the dummy was not a good tool and to forget it. This is because trapping doesn't work.

This was in 2004. Already there was an emergence of a different way of thinking in martial arts and the dummy was not part of that. This put much dissonance in my mind. Why spend time doing forms on it if they are not of value. Bruce Lee said this, but he still has his sets on the Wooden Man. This is the argument on the next level.

After some thought and training in garage with friends I can say that the dummy is of obvious value when there is stiff arm energy. When there is a constant pushing type force for you to feed off. When there isn't don't expect to have much dummy knowledge flow in to be of value off you. I think, that it is worth training the dummy in a non-stick ballistic way then too.

The number of dummies on the market has increased - and designs have diversified. E.g. you get half dummies on sale now.

I use my dummy outside and if I costed out the time I have used it in 5 years then it is value for money as I really do use it. I think there are untapped uses for the dummy out there - for MMA type drills that would work, for example plum Thai head hold can be mimicked and escape too. (Maybe I do a video).
Silat uses of the dummy are out there but rare. Only seen one Silat dummy video on YouTube (which is linked below in a previous post). Simonet has handshapes that are Silat like in his form.

These days I split up my form into mini drills. I rarely do the whole form. The reason why is the upright stance needed for it isn't that useful I find and in sparring my chin must not come up. A couple of times I have hooked punched and my chin surfaces to get countered. The tension between tradition and practicality does rankle with me sometimes. But its my journey and my body. I am responsible for my training and evaluating what is best for me. The (traditional) form can't dictate what I can and can't do.

Of all moves on the dummy probably pak sau - slap hand - is the one that comes out in sparring the most. Bong sau very rarely sees the practical light of day - beyond weapons. Tan sau is of use and getting it pushing into the body of the dummy is good practise. Double garn sau does have some uses I have found out in its 'jaws' you can catch a committed stab energy.

When I was doing the research in 2003 for the dummy the arguments against classical and traditional training were only angry rants on forums. I didn't know they were a real issue - due to BJJ and Cage fighting. Now if I had been exposed to this argment and the people I now know and share with I wonder if I still would buy a dummy now. Mmmm. The people around me would not be sympathetic to it. That may infleunce me. Its my like of Wing Chun that goes back to 1988/9 that put the seed in my head. The symbolism of the dummy is quite strong. The VHS instructionals were like £30 or £50 in the 80s. And the wooden dummy was seen as one of the last hurdles in the journey. I think this has an issue in sympathising with it. It makes you desire it as you are getting closer to the unobtainable goal. I just jumped in later unoffically and untraditionally, as we can these days, with no apprentiships.

Dummies don't hit back. This is true. Learning not to flinch and turn the head can only come from human interaction in training. This could not be obtained from dummy training.

Friday, January 09, 2009


I was training today on the dummy. It was frosty but the ground was nice and hard. Not like Somme 1916. When I train sometimes a robin comes and watches me. The robin is a small bird with red chest. It is very brave. I think it thinks I will churn up the ground for worms with my dummy being some strange machine.

Something odd today, however. The robin came within inches of me and would not go away. Its really trying to say something you sense. I waited for it to go a distance away and got some bread and threw it in another direction so I could carry on training, I wonder if the clacking of the dummy actives the worms that the robin wants ?

Cheep cheep.