Listen To Your Form


The number one question among new students at my school is usually, “how can I do my form perfectly?”. My answer to them is “If you could do it perfectly, you no longer need to do the form”. From here, we can gather some interesting information about the purposes behind doing the form.

I can say here, that the act of “doing” is very important. The form is neglected across the Wing Chun world, or it is not practiced often once the moves are learnt. The act of doing it, is inherently training your body and mind to do Wing Chun, but more on that later. 

Another point I would like to bring up, is that many people add things to their form. I am quite guilty of this also. I do not mean adding movements, but I mean adding thoughts or “ways of doing” the movement that I had learned outside of the form. For example, once I worked out how to a tan sau under pressure in Chi Sau, I went back and added that idea to my form. The result of this was more tension, and training the form in such a way that I was training something I had already learned back into the form. I have heard other Sifus discussing this, and concluding that this is correct, and you should be putting all the functional things you have learned into the form. This is where I disagree. 

This is where I come back to one of the points about the form. You are supposed to be doing it incorrectly, otherwise it would have nothing to teach you. You are not supposed to be teaching the form the way you think the movements should be. Our Sigung Chu Shong Tin often said, practice the form as relaxed as possible, and advocated that the least effort should be applied in the forms. If you do it this way, you do not have to worry if you are doing it correctly, if you are tense or not, or anything like that. You are there for the ride. The form will be teaching you how to do Wing Chun, and not the other way around.

I can try to give a few examples, and hopefully follow up with some video in the near future. One example is just the position of the arms when they are resting in the first form. They are held with the fists by the ribs. If you do this, you will feel tense. If you are worried about tension, you will not keep your arms in this position, you will move them to a more relaxed spot. If you do this, you will not learn the purpose of having your arms there. There is no fighting purpose for them being there, so there must be a reason. Spend some time in this positon, and over time it will feel more and more relaxed, and one of the purposes becomes clear. It can show you how your shoulders move in a much more effortless way. 

Another example is the fook sau movements in the form. If you do these as relaxed and as effortlessly as possible, you will find your elbow joint opening up. Is this what the form is trying to teach you? I feel when I do the form that this helps keep my elbows open for the rest of the form. If I was not trying to do the form as effortlessly as possible, then perhaps I would not be listening to it, trying to determine what it is that I am supposed to be learning from it.

A further example of this is turning your joints. Many outside of our lineage would not have heard of this term, and will be confused when I discuss it. However, many inside the Chu Shong Tin lineage will have heard of this term. In my experience, I have heard of this term for a long time. At first I thought about my joints turning, and I thought I could create some sort of power. Someone would hold my arm, and I would turn the joint and forcefully bring their arm down. Being honest with myself, this was not correct, and I was just pushing down in a very strong way that people are not used to dealing with. What I have learnt from listening to the form is to just relax and let the arm’s joints turn, open and close like they do in all the movements naturally, and not to try to do (force) the turning for them. For example, when your arm is relaxed, the joints move freely. If you stiffen your arm, even with noone holding you, it is difficult to move. Trying to turn your joints while your arm is moving freely is superfluous, they are already turning. The difficulty is doing it under the pressure, and the form does teach you how to do it. By listening to it, and being aware of your joints turning, opening and closing, etc, you may start to understand what it is happening. After a lot of practice and observing what is being taught by Siu Nim Tau, under pressure it becomes much easier to do, and your joints move and by thinking about them, and you can also get them to move so the person holding finds it very difficult to resist. Meanwhile, to you it should still feel like the form (not you changing the form to create more power).

 To conclude, while practicing the movements of the first form, do not worry if you are doing the form incorrectly or not, the process of doing the form incorrectly is teaching you the qualities of Wing Chun Kung Fu. Your shoulders, elbows and wrists will all be moving in the way that is intended, regardless if your form is perfect or not and herein lies the real training. The main purpose of this article, is to encourage students to do the form more often, and to avoid teaching the form, and to let it teach you. I will leave you with one important Wing Chun maxim for Sil Lim Tao: “Practice once a day, more will cause no harm”.



Phillip Warburton,

Principle Instructor,

Internal Kung Fu Australia

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