High-Tech Arm.

Technique is your basis in WingChun. By technique I mean the accuracy, efficacy and quality of your movements. It displays as being clear in your intention and clean in your action. This depends on right knowledge and ample practice.

If you are swimming, precise technique allows you to glide faster and longer through the water. Swinging a high-tech titanium bat lets you hit harder and farther than a wooden one. In Self-Defense, poor technique decreases the likelihood and increases the difficulty of successful application, which is dangerous in a survival context. Such sloppiness is often due to forcing and rushing. You can amplify, rather than substitute, technique with power and speed.

There are consequential visual, tactile and, especially, functional differences between merely good and extremely great technical performance. How do you hone the latter? Here are several suggestions I’d like to share with you:

1. Take good notes.

Besides improving recall, writing things down during (or preferably after) class tests your ability to articulate the details of motion. Doing so creates a recursive loop between your brain, hand, paper and eye. Thus, the effort to put ideas into words reinforces them. In order to verbally describe a series of techniques, you must know them well. If you cannot, then they are not trained enough. Try listing the techniques in the Siu Nim Tau (Small Intention) Form, a Lat Sao (Casting Arms) sequence or Section Flow.

I love drawing diagrams, especially mind maps. These are graphical catalogs of conceptual information. A recommended exercise is laying out subcategories of Gerk Fat (Leg Methods); in other words, Ma (Stances), Bo (Steps), and Gerk (Strikes). Furthermore, give a few examples of each such as Ji Ng Ma (Meridian Stance), Su Bo (Pivoting Step) and Bong Gerk (Winging Leg). Next, you can do the same with Kuen (Punch) and Sao (Arm) techniques.

2. Train each frame.

All WingChun techniques have a defined starting and ending position. The transition between them is what you employ for attack. Thus, there are three phases to a technique — its preparation, execution and termination. Preparation is deliberately placing your limb in starting position. Execution is releasing from starting to ending position. Termination is abruptly stopping at ending position.

For instance, the pre-Tan (preparation of Tan Sao) from the second part of Siu Nim Tau poses your forearm in front your chest. Your wrist is anterior and superior to your elbow and medial to the torso center. Tan (execution of Tan Sao) is deltoid flexion of the shoulder and triceps extension of the elbow. Finally, post-Tan (termination of Tan Sao) is biceps contraction.

Every frame of partner Exercises and Applications may also be analyzed in terms of the preparation, execution and termination frames. IAW Chi Sao (Adhering Arms) coordinates six techniques: Bong Sao (Winging Arm), Tan Sao (Spreading Arm), Fok Sao (Subduing Arm), Ngoi Tsong Kuen (Outside Thrusting Punch), pre-Tsong Kuen and Jing San Ma (Frontal Body Stance). Can you figure out their timing and combination?

3. Study some anatomy.

By understanding your body more, you can control it better. You don’t have to become a specialist, but a basic grasp of anatomy and physiology is helpful. Focus first on the skeletal system. Identify the main bones and joints, especially of the limbs. Then read up on the muscles that move them. Memorize the names for their primary actions too.

Specifically, I’d suggest studying the following terms. While you do so, locate or perform them to maximize retention and enjoyment! Begin with:

  • Arm: radius, ulna, humerus; brachioradialis, biceps, triceps, deltoid
  • Hand: carpals, metacarpals, phalanges, interphalangeal joints
  • Leg: tibia, fibula, femur; iliopsoas, quadriceps, biceps femoris, gastrocnemius
  • Foot: calcaneus, tarsals, metatarsals, phalanges
  • Torso: clavicle, scapula, sternum; trapezius, latissimus dorsi
  • Positions: anterior, posterior, superior, inferior, ventral, dorsal, medial, lateral, contralateral, proximal, distal
  • Actions: flexion, extension, supination, pronation, rotation (external, internal), adduction, abduction; contraction (concentric, eccentric, isometric), relaxation

4. Get external feedback.

You may feel hesitant to appear awkward, clumsy or stupid. But don’t be afraid to honestly look at yourself, because that is the only way to advance. The simplest method is utilizing a mirror, ideally full-length, to see your limb and body positions and motions. Perform your Forms and Exercises facing frontally and laterally. Even when training with a partner, it is informative to occasionally halt a frame and watch your side reflections for postural misalignments like elevated scapulae or anterior head tilt.

Moreover, if you have the means, a video camera can provide additional dimensions of feedback. Rear and top angles can be viewed. You can play back footage in very slow speed or even pause to catch minutiae. Compare old and new recordings to witness how your technique changes over time. Hopefully, your progress is obvious!

5. Learn from everyone.

The above is opening your eyes to observe yourself. But regardless of your level of self-awareness, certain aspects of your technique are only visible to others. Most mistakes that stunt your progress are subconscious. That is why working with an experienced teacher is indispensable. He or she will shed light on hidden points that you will never discover alone. These may be subtle corrections that substantially transform your technique. Interacting via Regular Classes and Special Events is important; however, nothing replaces the keen attention you receive during Private Lessons.

Let’s not forget continually calibrating your techniques with as many training partners as possible. Individual variations of diverse people refine and broaden your own expression. One person may make your technique stronger, another will ameliorate its efficiency. Without frequent guidance of your Sihing, Sije or Sifu, as well as consistent cooperation with fellow students, your path is ultimately blocked. WingChun is an exacting system, so you must prioritize technique.

If you found this article helpful, please share it. And let me know what other strategies you’ve found to upgrade your technique. Just post them below: