Sunday Siu Nim Tau: Keep Your Eye on the Ball

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Sunday Siu Nim Tau

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

February 3, 2019

_DSF4129photo by Hillary Johnson

Recently my wife got the job of taking photos of a remarkable man named Jack. He’s 91 years old and still plays tennis nearly every day. My wife needed an assistant but nobody was available so I went along.

This guy really impressed me. First of all, he didn’t look anything like 91. More like 61. Watching him play tennis was like watching any master. He made it all look easy. He moved across the court with the grace of a man who’s taken most of his life to master this game. I was blown right out of my shoes watching him.

We had lunch after the photo shoot, so I was able to sit and talk with him a bit. During our conversation he said something that’s stayed with me ever since. We were talking about the game of tennis and he said, “In tennis it’s all about keeping your eye on the ball You take your eye of the ball and the game’s over.”

Wow, I thought. Isn’t that true.

Later when I was sitting at the cafe having my usual cup of coffee before teaching my evening class, those words came back to me with such force I had to write them down in my journal to reflect on.

“Keep your eye on the ball.”

My dad used to say the exact same thing to me when he was trying to teach me how to hit a baseball. I was very young, maybe seven or eight years old. We stood together in the front yard, in the pools of shade of the giant red maple my dad had planted years before. I clutched a yellow plastic bat in my hands. He stood about six feet away and would toss the white wiffle ball to me underhanded. “Don’t take your eye off the ball,” he’d say as he tossed it. When I would miss it, I’d get frustrated. He’d say, “ Don’t get frustrated, that won’t help. You just have to keep your eye on the ball.”

So, it’s not like I hadn’t heard it before.

But this time, when Jack said it, it was different. It resonated deep within me. It occurred to me that this is something that applies not only to sports like tennis and baseball but to everything, to life itself.

Setting goals and having the discipline to go after them is one way of keeping your eye on the ball. Staying focused and not letting anything pull you off the path you’ve set for yourself is keeping your eye on the ball.

In kung fu practice, keeping your eye on the ball means making sure you make the time to practice most, if not all days of the week. It must be something you do every single day. Skill in kung fu is cumulative. It builds slowly over time with consistent practice. To have good skill, one must make it a daily routine. You must keep your eye on the ball. This is how you progress in Ving Tsun. And this is how you progress in all aspects of your life as well. 

Because the way we do one thing, is the way we do all the things.

DSCF5691photo by Hillary Johnson

 

 

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THIS WEEK IN VING TSUN

Lots pf great training at the school last week. Here are a few snap shots of what folks were up to. Notice, the notebook! Taking notes is a really good idea.

 

Also note the long pole, which is very advanced practice.

 

Photos by Hillary Johnson

Overcoming Obstacles in Kung Fu Training Through Teaching

 

Almost inevitably, as time passes and kung fu training continues, day after day, hour after hour, after endless sweating and working of sore muscles, a practitioner may feel they’ve run into a brick wall or a plateau in terms of building and improving their skills. This is likely to manifest differently for each of us. We might experience a feeling of staleness, of boredom, or sense of lack of excitement which we associate with progress.

These plateaus are crucial times. When we don’t progress, we may have a tendency to worry. Many a kung fu player simply throws in the towel and quits. I’ve seen it time and again. During the last 27 years I’ve spent immersing myself in the art of Ving Tsun, I’ve definitely experienced some of those moments myself.

So what did I do? Well, in the years before opening up my academy and teaching students, it was sheer determination that kept me going. But in the years I’ve been teaching when it’s happened I find that just teaching to the best of my ability, breaks me through any barrier. Partly, it’s a matter of inspiration. Teaching inspires me because it always sends me and the student back to the basics. Revisiting them makes our kung fu better. Every. Time.

The Chinese have a saying, “to teach is to learn twice.” By going back and teaching beginners a practitioner teaches themselves as well. This is one of the keys to constant forward progress. Help teach. I know it works. I’ve seen it in myself and I’ve seen it in many students. So my advice to mid-level and advanced practitioners when they come to me with this problem is this: come into the class and help teach the junior students. Sometimes when I offer this advice the students don’t understand. They may wonder how teaching a student more junior to themselves will help them get better. But I tell them to just trust me, to trust the process.

Helping beginners helps us find where our own understanding of a technique or form may fall short. That leads us to ask our Sifus questions that gives us the missing concept or understanding and fills in that gap. And this can start a whole new growth spurt for you. So if you are an advanced student don’t be selfish with your knowledge. Help teach the junior students and watch your own kung fu take off again!

 

Advanced Fighting Training

 

 

Every week, we spend time making sure the more advanced students get the chance to dig into their training and really see where the rubber meets the road. How do they apply techniques under increasing levels of pressure. Before anyone dons protective gear, they try things out slow and gradually build up speed. Everything is analyzed and examined. What works? Why does it work? What didn’t work and why not? Take it apart. Break it down. Make your ving tsun your own.

 

Sifu Matt and Aaron
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Sifu means business. You can see it in his face.

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S0075437 S0075438Mat D and Humberto

 

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Robert and Chris