Weekly Siu Nim Tau
January 20, 2019
In Ving Tsun we have Siu Nim Tau, the first form, which can be translated to Little Idea or Little Beginning. It’s from this first form, this little idea, that everything else in the system comes.
Every week Sifu Matt offers these blogs, these little ideas, as reflections from his practice to help support yours.
Thanks for reading,
When you understand one technique, you know one technique. When you understand a concept or a principle, you know a thousand techniques.
I found this in one of my old kung fu notebooks. It was something I’d written on a Hong training trip. To be honest, I don’t remember if it’s something that my Sifu said or what. But I know why it’s in there and I know what it’s talking about.
It’s talking about the fact that ving tsun is a concept or principle-based system of kung fu. As opposed to other systems which have vast collections of techniques. Ving Tsun doesn’t have that many techniques. As for hand techniques, there’s only 18 or so. Only eight kicks. All very simple and and all easily learned.
So, with so few techniques, what makes ving tsun work? For us practitioners, how do we know what to do and when to do it?
To understand this we have to realize that ving tsun operates on principle and theory. Because it’s not a collection of techniques it works differently. Everything relies on principles. We talk about thinking in the “ving tsun way,” based on these principles.
Ving Tsun is not a this technique to counter that technique way of dealing with an attacker. Ving Tsun doesn’t think this way. In an approach of technique vs technique, things only work when they go according to a specific plan; as a series of actions practiced in the safety of the school.
Students are encouraged to think: When this attack happens then I do attack number 20, and so on.
But fighting is not choreography.
Self defense is not dancing.
Because the minute that first punch is thrown, everything else, all your dance moves, all your choreography, goes right out the window.
The only thing you can truly rely on is your ability to respond, built from your forms practice, from your sensitivity, built in chi sau, which is what we train in ving tsun.
What we train in chi sau, is how to put the technique into effect, in the moment, based on conditions right then and there, not as part of some pre-imagined dance choreography. Because unless you a stunt guy in an action movie, where all goes according to plan – that shit don’t fly. If the attacker doesn’t do exactly what we expect, in a technique vs technique system, we’re screwed. But in a principle based system, like ving tsun, we can prevail
We sense, even if we have not been touched directly, personally by violence, that it’s the very nature of violence to be unpredictable.
For good measure, here’s a definition of violence from the dictionary we keep at home:
behavior or treatment in which physical force is exerted for the purpose of causing damage or injury, intended or kill …
So, let that sink in.
Let’s go on.
You never know when or how someone will attack you. It’s all just an estimation. So, if you train in a this technique vs that technique approach, you are setting yourself up for potential disaster in a real violent situation in the real world.
In ving tsun we have a formula that guides us. This formula tells us what to do. That is what we train: the formula of ving tsun. The formula is a set of concepts.
For instance, the centerline principle:
The principle state that the shortest distance between you and your opponent is from the center of your body to the center of your opponent’s body. That’s where a lot of vulnerable targets lie, along this line throughout the length of the body, which can be found in the space as wide as the eyes throughout the torso.
Another principle is of economy:
We train to do nothing that’s not absolutely necessary in a violent encounter.
We don’t jump around. We don’t move until we need to.
That’s not to say that ving tsun doesn’t have foot work or movement, quite the opposite. We have it but it’s very economical; Tight. Intentional.
In ving tsun, we train not to clash our brute force against our opponents’ brute force. Why not? Because clashing force against force will ALWAYS favor a bigger, stronger opponent. As your attacker will almost always be bigger and stronger than you because that’s how they pick out a target. It’s just logical. So going force against force is a zero-win game.
This is where the beauty of ving tsun really shines. The formula tells us that it’s better to redirect the power coming at us every time. This principle says it’s ALWAYS better to deflect than block a violent force head on. Every single time.
This is one tiny micron thin slice of ving tsun theory. There’s so much more of course. But we can start here for now.
Principles like this can save your life. Better than any basket of techniques based on imagined events in the future.
I’ll take theory and principle every time.
How about you?