Weekly Siu Nim Tau

Weekly Siu Nim Tau

January 20, 2019

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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,

Sifu Matt

 

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:

Violence:

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:

Of motion

Of time

Of energy.

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?

 

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No One Here but the Fighters

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Humberto, by day he works at UPS. The rest of the time, he trains ving tsun and keeps very close ties with his family.

Humberto is a senior student at the school. He’s been studying here since about 2011. Originally he came because he made a new year resolution to be more fit and because he’d seen the original Ip Man movie which really inspired him; seeing Ip Man being so focused and relaxed in so many really challenging situations.

After the film, he did his research and looked for ving tsun schools. After his first visit to the school, the atmosphere just felt right and he decided that this was the place.

What keeps Humberto going?  He says that every day there is something new to learn; Maybe adding to something you already know but you add something new to the puzzle.

He says, “I enjoy training. I came here to learn to fight but in time that changed. Now I see that isn’t about fighting really its about having a humble soul, having inner strength.”

Today his main focus is helping beginners to come up in the system and to complete his own training. He says this helps him be better too. He says, “When you know something and you teach it to another person, it’s like you get to teach yourself twice, which always helps.”

The things he learned here transfer to the rest of his life. Accepting when things go wrong, he learned not to panic but learn there’s always some way to fix the situation, just like in training and chi sau.

Sifu Matt introduced him to meditation too and that was something he’s stayed with since day one because it makes a difference in his kung fu and in his normal, every day life.

Every year he renews his resolution to train for another year, to stay in shape, to defend himself if necessary. He really loves that Sifu Matt doesn’t hold back in the way he teaches him and everyone else. He always shows him the right way in training.

“I never thought I’d be helping out in teaching but when Sifu asked me to do it I said I would try my best and now I help others learn and advance in their own practice. Its an honor to help out like that.”

Glad to have you with us Humberto.

 

No One Here but the Fighters

So, confession time, we are definitely stealing a line from the great David Mamet movie, “Red Belt,” which if you haven’t seen, we highly recommend. It’s a story about the struggles of a traditional martial artist to survive in the world which devalues tradition but who ultimately comes to prevail in the same way he teaches his students to prevail.

There’s a great scene in which the instructor is working with a woman who had been raped, teaching her how to successfully turn the knife on her attacker.  He says to her, to affirm her status as a fighter not a victim, “It’s alright. There’s no one here but the fighters.”

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This is Matt Johnson, the teacher at the Ving Tsun Self Defense Academy. He first started studying a martial art at a very young age as a solution to intense bullying he experienced at school.

When he found ving tsun, finally, he felt all his questions had been answered in looking for an art that was complete and comprehensive. He discovered what all serious traditional martial artists eventually do, that the art would refine not only one’s ability to prevail physically against external threats but also refine the inner person to be gentler, calmer, more patient, disciplined and determined. He learned we can prevail against the inner and outer enemies.

The practice or path of ving tsun is a Way, in which the whole person comes to be cultivated, following a code of conduct and martial ethics which guides all aspects of behavior. The idea is to be a better person in the world. Be of service. Do no harm.

Many people think training in a martial art is first of all about the fist. And yes of course, there are very practical applications for all that self defense training but more important is the inner work. The fist is the way in, the beginning, not the final destination.

All students who walk through the door here are fighting a variety of battles in their every day lives. It’s part of who we are as human beings. Everyone has stuff going on; struggles of all kinds professionally, personally, spiritually.

Here at the VTSDA Sifu Matt works hard to teach ving tsun in a way that helps each student learn to prevail not only physically but in all these other areas of life too; to be able to deal with whatever comes along the way with more grace, grit, determination and resilience.

So here too, it’s alright. There’s no one here but the fighters.

We will introducing you to more of the students from the school in this series, we call, “No One Here but the Fighters.”

We hope you enjoyed reading this. If you did, please feel free to share. You can follow the school here and receive our blogs each time we publish, as well as on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Sunday Siu Nim Tau: The Backstory

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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,

Sifu Matt

New Training Videos for Week Two: 2019

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One of Matt teaching the second form to a student. 

And…

Matt doing chi sau with a student.

 

Thanks for watching!

 

If you like these videos please feel free to share them.

 

Sunday Siu Nim Tau: A Little Idea

January 13, 2019

Every Sunday a little something for you to keep in mind.

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LET GO OF MASTERY

Mastery of an art

Whether martial or writing

Is not what I seek.

I seek nothing.

There is just practice

Daily

Unending

….this is the  Way.

     – Shinzen (David Nelson)

 

The above speaks to the importance of routine and letting go of the idea that we will attain some elusive goal as if it were an end point. We must let go of the idea that we will attain mastery. Instead, it is the dedication to steady work, the love of the steady work, that is the path on a day by day basis.

WHAT WOULD THIS LOOK LIKE?

Simply, routine.

Routine effort is key. Without it we wander, aimlessly wander through our day. Having a routine keeps us on track, centered, and moving ahead. Seeking nothing other than to stay on the path we have chosen for ourselves. This is how we progress. This is how we get better at what we do. Be it writing or martial arts, drawing or painting, photography or music making. Whatever it is, practice is the way. Practice is the path and the destination. We aim to get better but release the idea that there is a final goal, a day, a moment when we say I’m a master now. I can stop working so hard.

In fact if we are lucky, we may be like the famous Okinawan karate master, Gichin Funakoshi, who, the story goes, was very old, yet still teaching, sitting on his bed doing a simple block over and over with deep concentration. He shouted, I think I finally understand this block!  He loved the hard work, practiced every day with discipline until his final days.

We must make an everyday routine. Something we show up for no matter what. No excuses. This is the discipline.

Want to get better at something?

Show up. Do the work. Do the same thing at the same time, day in and day out. This process of intentional practice is the Way.

You don’t have to practice for hours on end. If you have that kind of time, great, but if you don’t and an hour is what you have, use that hour well. If thirty minutes is what you have, use those 30 minutes like the precious minutes they are. That’s enough time when you do it every day.

Every day.  That’s the challenge.

I’m fortunate. I’ve made kung fu training, ving tsun, the center of my life. I have the time to devote to it. I’ve made it my job. I must practice every day to keep my skills up and so I can do what I tell my students they need to do. Anything less would be hypocritical.

And yet… sometimes even I fail at sticking fully to my routine. And when this happens, it shows. Maybe others don’t notice but I do. The sharpness I want in my ving tsun isn’t there.

But because I’ve made a routine of daily practice, this doesn’t happen often. Sometimes, I realize I actually need to take a day off. I listen to the body and give it the rest it needs and this becomes part of the Way. Because I have this daily discipline, this routine, when I fall of the path, I feel it acutely and my dedication, my habitual energy of practice pulls me back into routine. As a result, I feel happier, more content knowing I am being true to my Way.

You can do this too. If you struggle with creating and sticking to a routine, ask yourself what do I need to do to shift this? Do you need to put it into your calendar? Do it. Do you need to tell a friend or a training partner your plans so you can help keep each other on the path? Then do that.

When you choose a Way for yourself you are making a powerful statement about the kind of person you want to be. Dedicated. Disciplined. Ready to do the hard work for its own sake. This is the Way.

When the Way is Open, Charge Ahead

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We are very excited to have our YouTube channel up and running again.

Here’s a short video to start things off.