Sunday Siu Nim Tau

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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

 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

 

I’ve taken up photography.

My wife is a wonderful photographer and she’s showing me the ropes.

I’m not good at it just yet but I do my best and I’m having fun. And the fun? That feels like the most important part right now. I have this great Fuji X100 and I admit, I feel like a guy who’s got  great car, a Ferrari, but doesn’t quite know how to drive it yet.

There’s f/stops, shutter speeds, “film” speeds. I do a lot of experimenting.

Then there’s this whole business of looking, of seeing.

It’s interesting learning what takes my eye, what makes me want to take a photo of something. To learn that and to learn about photography in general, feels a lot like the learning process of kung fu training. You must have what’s known as beginner’s mind, a concept from Zen practice. Beginner’s mind  is a state of keeping the mind in a fresh, learning, open state. It’s  about forgetting or putting down what you thought you knew about something.

This kind of mind can be applied to anything and everything.

With beginner’s mind, you cast away assumptions, prejudices, any preconceived ideas.You’re always in a place to take in new information. In Zen practice, it’s always a process of going back to beginner’s mind.

Beginner’s mind.

Students hear me say all the time that in order to be good at kung fu you must always go back.

Back to the start.

Back to the fundamentals.

You must also go back on the inside.

Do the inner work on yourself, on your ego. On all the mental things that will keep you from getting any better. You may have fear, anger, lack of confidence, a fragile sense of yourself or an overblown sense of yourself.

If you can’t go back into yourself to do this deep inner work, you will never get better at the physical techniques.  

Unexamined internal life holds us back.

Our ego holds us back.

These character issues? Ditto.

Because that’s the process. Train the physical skill long enough to get good, then go back: back to the beginning or the basics, and back into yourself.

Going back is key. Those that do the inner work find themselves not only better at the techniques, but becoming a better people as well.  And THAT is what martial arts training does best. It makes us better people. Better physically and mentally. Better members of society.

And now, I’m going back again. This time to learn photography. And I’m fine with that because I trust this process. I’m very curious and don’t know where photography will take me. Maybe I’ll be able to show my pictures some day. But that’s down the road. Right now, I’m enjoying the journey.

I’ve always enjoyed the process of going back. I’ve seen the results in my Ving Tsun and in my life. Ving Tsun teaches me something new every day. And it will teach you too if you’re listening and looking.

 

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Taste Your Food!

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

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February 10, 2019

 

Why Would You Eat but Not Taste Your Meal?

Over the last several years, I admit, I’ve become a foodie. I love eating and tasting new kinds of food. Any kind of food, from any country. While I follow a plant-based diet 99% of the time at home, when traveling or out to dinner with friends or students, I’ll stray a bit from that way of eating when offered the chance to experience a local dish or enjoy or something that’s been prepared for me especially. I really enjoy myself!

I’ve also discovered the joy of cooking. I’ve got a whole shelf jammed with cookbooks. I watch cooking shows to learn even more. I read a lot about food and food cultures around the globe and how different people prepare and eat their food. It’s incredibly interesting. And yes, I loved Anthony Bourdain and I’m not afraid to admit that Jacques Pepin is a hero of mine.

One thing I’ve learned about cooking is that in order to be even halfway decent at it, you must first learn how to taste the food. You must learn how different ingredients go together, what will flavor what, which spice will give you the taste you want, how much salt, or cumin, or pepper to use, etc. You have to become familiar with your ingredients and seasonings.

I’m definitely not a professional chef, not even close. But I’m learning all the time and I cook decently. Learning how to cook has opened up a whole different approach to eating. Now, when I eat, I really take time to taste the food. I try not to gobble it down without fully experiencing what is on my plate. I’m much more mindful when I eat and consequently I enjoy the whole experience so much more. I’m learning more about food and cooking while I’m eating. Not only do I enjoy the food more but it also makes me a better cook.

You’re probably wondering, “What in the world does all this have to do with martial arts?”

In order to get the most out of your practice, you must learn how to taste your food.

  • How many times have you scarfed down a meal without taking time to taste it and really experience it?
  • How many times have you had a training session but not shown up for it mentally?
  • Yeah sure, your body shows up for the session but the mind is left at work or at home or on the bus or somewhere.

 

I know I’ve done it. And I bet you have as well.

Just as you sit down and eat without tasting the food, you blow through a form or chi sau practice without tasting it; without experiencing the moves, without feeling them in your body. I can say for sure, that if you train this way, you could practice for ten years, twenty years, and you wouldn’t get anything but exercise. Your Ving Tsun certainly wouldn’t be even one lick better.  Of course, exercise is great but you can get exercise just walking your doggie! But practicing without being fully present, you wouldn’t ever develop the skill that it takes to perform Ving Tsun. You would always be just dancing around the outside of it.

I long ago discovered the concept of deep practice and it changed entirely the way I practice and has made all the difference. If you want to learn more about it, I recommend Daniel Coyle’s book, “The Talent Code.” I learned that mere repetition will not take you where you want to go. The idea that it takes 10,000 hours to master something is a bit flawed. It takes more than dogged repetition, it takes fully engaged practice with the body AND the mind. You have to pay complete attention and feel the moves in your body. You must seek to dig deep and fully understand what makes them work and why.

This is particularly important when practicing Ving Tsun, since it is a principle-based art, not a techniques-based art. Technique-based arts have many forms to practice; many techniques and combinations that have to be memorized. You have to build this HUGE catalog of this technique vs that technique approach to learning.

The art of Ving Tsun doesn’t have that many techniques. We have 18 empty handed techniques. Instead, Ving Tsun is based on a set of principles that teaches us how to use the techniques we do have. This requires the practitioner to absorb these into the body and mind. You must learn to embody the art itself.

You must learn to think in the Ving Tsun way.

To think in the Ving Tsun way successfully requires deep practice. It requires that you slow down. Feel the art in your body. You must taste the art.

Doing it this way means that every time you practice, you get a little bit better. Each and every time. And all that adds up in pretty short order. That’s what we all want after all, isn’t it? To get better than we were yesterday, even if it’s just a little?

When I practice, I always do it alone. Just me and the wooden dummy. Just me and Ving Tsun. No other people.

Very rarely, I’ll have some music on, but not usually as I find it distracting. I need to be quiet and alone. Because alone I can practice deeply. I get and keep my mind in a certain state of concentration. I’m fully involved and engaged with what I’m doing. I feel the art and moves in my body and I go very deep.

Being around others distracts me and since I know this about myself, I don’t practice that way.

I practice in a way that supports my best possible effort and attention.

I’ve tried practicing around other people but I get so much more out of it alone. Students ask from time to time if they could practice with me. My standard answer is a big NO. It’s nothing personal. It’s how I am. It’s how I practice.

As a sifu, there’s not much that’s more important to me than maintaining and improving the art I’ve devoted my life to. I find that every time I practice in this deep fashion, whether it’s forms or chi sau, (Chi sau is another aspect of ving tsun that requires deep practice. If you are not fully present and concentrating in chi sau, it will not work out well for you) I get better. Just a little bit better than last time.  I’m sharper, quicker, my energy is better, I’ve got better sensitivity etc. It ALL gets better.

If you want to have good kung fu, good Ving Tsun, you must learn to slow down and taste your food. Slow down and taste the art of Ving Tsun. You’ll get so much more out of it this way.

After time spent with deep practice in Ving Tsun, you naturally begin to bring the same attention into other areas of your life. You learn to be fully engaged with what you are doing, be it work, washing the dishes, being with your loved one, anything.

And being fully present, you get better at those things and have better relationships. And your whole life gets better. Better than it was yesterday. Not a lot. Just a little bit

And isn’t that too, what we all want?

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?

 

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.

 

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!

 

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