Often enough I get asked about how to train when you only have a short period of time. After all, not everyone has the luxury of having most of their day to devote to training. What if you only have 30 minutes to an hour for your training outside of class? In part, the answer depends on what your training goals are for the day. Do you want to work on over all physical fitness, do you have a training partner available, or will you be doing your training solo? Here’s three brief answers on how to approach each scenario.
1. 30 Minutes is Good
First of all, actually, 30 minutes is a decent amount of time; you can get a lot done. 30 minutes is perfect for developing good over all physical fitness, which keeps you healthy and improves your Ving Tsun too. You could go for a nice brisk walk, or a run, do some weight training etc. What resources do you have at your disposal? Do whatever exercise you enjoy.
If you’re training your Ving Tsun, in addition to training your forms which only take a short period of time, (you can go through all three forms in about 20 minutes) what else can you do to improve your chi sau skill?
2. Train with a Buddy
Well, then, we’re at number two: nothing beats a live training partner. Training with another person is the only way to build your skills under pressure. I’ve seen certain training devices with springy arms etc., that claim to be able to build chi sau skill, but I’m not convinced that these have any benefit at all. Why not? Because these are “dead” devices; they cannot fight back and give you the pressure you need to train your sensitivity and reflexes.
3. Solo Training of Punching
But what if you’re training alone and still want to build your chi sau skill? This brings me to a third answer to the 30 minute training dilemma.
Well, there are two key practices for you:
- Turning punch
- Stepping and punching.
That’s it. Simple and direct, just like Ving Tsun. Maybe you were thinking I’d say something more advanced, more esoteric. But no. If you want to build your chi sau skill without a training partner, you can hardly do better than simply turning and punching, and stepping and punching. Both of these exercises can be trained solo. I’ll do my best to break this down for you.
Turning Punch and Yiu Ma
The turning punch is such a great exercise because it trains the power of our waist and stance. Using what is known in Cantonese as, Yiu Ma training, the turning punch trains us to coordinate the Yiu Ma with our hand techniques; essential for developing powerful punches. Punches made only with the arm or the upper body lack power no matter how big you are. Even a very large and powerful person will always be limited in their capacity for generating power if they don’t develop their Yiu Ma. In other words, the real power comes from the ground, is generated by the legs, then transferred to the upper body and finally to the fist. These parts of the body are known as the six points: ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow and wrist. It is through the coordination of these six points that the turning punch trains so effectively.
Turning Punch and Two Directional Energy
The turning punch also trains us to use what is known in Ving Tsun as two directional energy, in which one hand pulls back as fast or faster than the one going out to strike. Two directional energy greatly increases the speed and power of our strikes. One hand pulling back can use Lop Sau (pulling hand) to borrow an opponents energy while the other hand simultaneously sends out a strike. Coordination of the six points and two directional energy are essential for good skill in chi sau and our ability to use the system of Ving Tsun in an actual self defense situation.
Another way to train the turning punch is by varying the speed and timing of our punches during workouts. Start at one speed, then pick up speed on the next couple of strikes. More like a 1-2,3 rhythm, with the first punch coming out at one speed, the second coming out faster, immediately followed by the third coming out fastest of all.
Stepping and Punching
The next thing is stepping and punching. Many people are under the impression that Ving Tsun does not have very much footwork. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the most effective and powerful steps we have is the triangle step, which comes out of the Baat Jam Do (8 cutting knife) form of the Ving Tsun system.
Fights are dynamic, they move around. We cannot prevail by just standing in one place, throwing punches. It’s essential to coordinate our stepping so that we transfer the power from those steps into our strikes. This again trains the Yiu Ma, because we’re turning, stepping and generating force with the step and a slight twist of the waist. But, we’re also training the ability to chase opponents as they back away, and training to close the gap and attack first, should that be your decision.
Finally, train sensibly.
Throwing too many punches in the air can lead to a wicked case of Lateral Epicondylitis or in layman’s terms, Tennis elbow, which is not only painful, but can slow down your training because you must take time away from your passion to let it heal. Believe me, not fun at all! So when you train, know your limits, and be careful. Throwing 100 or so punches with perfect form is better than throwing 500 of which the first 100 are perfect and the next 400 sloppy.
So there you have it. Thirty minutes is more than enough time to build your skill if you use it wisely. Pretty simple. Not complicated. Remember the old kung fu adage, “Do not worry about the 10,000 techniques your enemy knows and trains once, worry about the one technique he knows and trains 10,000 times.
Thanks for stopping by, Sifu Matt