Drilling the Basics

By David Peterson

It never ceases to amaze me how people are always seeking some kind of “advanced” training, or “secret” skills in their quest for martial arts proficiency. Year after year, it’s the same story as students come and go in my school: “When do we learn the “advanced” stuff?” or “What are the “secret” techniques?” …same old questions, time and time again.

What a pity that some people just can’t accept that it is SIMPLICITY that makes Wing Chun the effective system that it is. In fact, I always maintain that the “most advanced” techniques and concepts in Wing Chun are the ones that you learn in your very first lesson, namely:

  1. the basic stance (‘Yi Ji Kim Yeung Ma’) – the basis of ALL footwork, including kicking, in the system.
  2. the basic punch (‘Yat Ji Chung Kuen’) – the primary weapon in the system and the basis of ‘Centerline’ theory.
  3. advancing footwork (‘Saam Gok Bo’) – the footwork of attack.
  4. defensive footwork/side-stepping (‘Tui Ma’) – the basic introduction to the footwork of counter-fighting.
  5. the first section of the ‘Siu Nim Tau’ (“young idea”) form – the origin of ALL the basic concepts of the system.

The reality is that in actual combat, less is always better. Having one or two techniques that can always be relied upon, developing a simple concept-based approach that is adaptable and flexible, …this is the way to truly prepare for actual combat. Trying to both master and apply hundreds of different techniques or set sequences for scenarios that might never occur is, quite frankly, a recipe for disaster.

Wing Chun is best described as a concept-based system, as opposed to a technique-based one. Thus, to be able to apply this system in a spontaneous and totally adaptable way, one must fully understand those concepts and drill the body in a way that best loads those concepts, and the attributes that drive them, directly into the neural system. In the heat of combat, there is little time to think and plan; actions need to be instantaneous and there is no room for error.

Drilling the basics, constantly and with varying degrees of intensity, is the way to successfully develop and enhance these skills. While some may view this as repetitive and boring, the bottom line is that unless we have done this foundation training, all the tricks and all the theory in the world will amount to very little when the proverbial hits the fan. The five areas mentioned above, practised rigorously and regularly both alone and with partners, will be the very skills that will enable us to survive the initial onslaught of the adversary and deliver the necessary pain to put a stop to their aggression.

Just those five areas alone can provide the basis of dozens of fantastic  training drills that can raise our skill set and prepare us for the pressures of combat. The tools for ‘Chi Sau’, ‘Paak Sau’, ‘Lap Sau’, “Four Corners” (‘Da Sei Mun’), “Pressure Training” drills, and a host of other possibilities that space here does not allow to expand upon, are ALL involved, developed and utilised by firstly working on them individually, even before practising forms or combinations.

Forget about the “what ifs” and so-called set responses many often waste hours practising for. The basics are what we need to survive, so it’s the basics that we should be concentrating on, not just when we are training alone, but also when we have partners to train with. Instead of trying to get clever with fancy movements or experimenting with sequences that will never find a situation to be applied to, the intelligent Wing Chun practitioner should drill the basics of the system until they are as natural and automatic as breathing.

Who cares if your friends think that you are spending too much time on the “simple” things, or that your techniques just aren’t “pretty” enough. When it’s all said and done, the house that remains standing after the storm is the one which has the best foundations under the ground, not the one that looks the flashiest up on top. Spend the time, …put in the effort, …make sure that you have the very best foundation that you can achieve, and then you just may have a good chance of weathering whatever storm may come your martial way.