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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review Wing Chun Kung Fu: The Wooden Dummy. Rawcliffe.


Of books that are on the wooden dummy, this is 'up there', with Randy Williams' work. That means if you are interested in the 4th form of Wing Chun, you should own this book.

This book talks about the authors acquisition of knowledge about the dummy, his source of knowledge and examples of sketches and notes he made from his interaction with Ip Chun, (Yip Man's son). Insights gleaned for instance relate to the meaning of some moves, such as the upward slapping hands - tok sau - movement that separates the sections. The book reveals this could have been just a re-calibration move to make sure the arms are in place, before the next section.

What is more important, however, is the books delivery of the form. It achieves this well by it's attention to detail in the written comments. The sections are broken down and verbally explained well. I am focusing on the words - not the pictures alone - which are detailed and in colour, as well. The written description tells you where your force should be going and which direction. This is really vital and pictures alone could not deliver this information. No YouTube video can deliver that, either.

The book uses bullet points well to zero-in on core ideas and mistakes and this draws the readers attention well to the essentials. 2 novel aspects in this book, (which Rawcliffe also uses in his other book on Wing Chun), is to have 2 sections written by a physician, offering physiological insights into what the moves mean for the body, and how the body adapts itself. And, there is a section on learning and how drilling works - using the types of learning styles, (kinesthetic, visual, auditory etc.). This is novel - relative to other books - but again Rawcliffe does this too, in his other book, as he gets a teacher involved to write that section - good.

Problems with a book are the constraints of publishing - space. The pictures and the descriptions are not always on the same page and you will have to flip over, to co-ordinate them. Also the Chinese terms may not be the same terms you know / use for the shapes you have at your club / school, (remember to translate is interpretive). Yo umay have to put your own mental translation in. Finally, if there was space for foot-patterns then this book would be the best book ! Because Wing Chun is a positional art, in that you need optimal angles to maximize forces and achieve the claims this art makes for it's effectiveness. To do this, then, you need to know you are stood in the right space, the right angle etc.etc. Foot patterns would help here.

Finally, now in an internet age, the 116 moves are no longer a secret. You can use this book in conjunction with online video too, to see moving interpretations of this form. Some practitioners are hard, some are softer in their use of energy on the dummy - even within the same lineage. In fact, that is one area that needs to be noted. Interpretation. The dummy form has been interpreted and modified in Wing Chun_s < Plural intended. A comparison of these interpretations would be very useful.

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