VALENTINES HIGH SCHOOL, CRANBROOK ROAD, ILFORD, ESSEX, IG2 6HX
REPORT BACK BY GEORGE NAHLIS
We attended the first seminar of 2018 of The Wing Chun School, which was delivered by Sifu Garry McKenzie. Once again it was a no nonsense, tell it like it is (and do it too!) affair. Characterised by Sifu Garry’s uncompromising meticulous approach to teaching and practising the martial art of Wing Chun. We were guided, in a step by step manner throughout the sessions.
As always with my reports, you can’t learn wing chun techniques just from this write up. Students will want to practice what is described here. You’ll need to go to your Sifu to get the practical details and be taught this if you missed it or want to clarify the techniques discussed here. Remember also that if you attended the seminar then get together with others who also did so and practice!
There were two things which Sifu Garry made sure to check upon from the last seminar. Firstly, he asked “Had we improved our continuous punching over three minutes? Secondly what was the state of our centre line punch (for a reminder visit http://www.thewingchunschool.co.uk/articles then come back and read on.)
Purpose of the seminar
Chi Sau is the main part of any Wing Chun system. Understandably then, the effectiveness of our Wing Chun will depend on the quality and state of our Chi Sau . To develop our wing chun as an effective combat system requires us to be steadfast practitioners, with an unwavering and determined approach to our development in this martial art.
At the seminar, Sifu Garry therefore asked some important questions. He asked, “What is the point of Chi Sau?”. In addition, since there is no chi sau on the street, he asked, “What is our attitude when doing chi sau?” On this point Sifu Garry commented, “If you chi sau with anyone, that is no indication at all of your or their combat skills”. That last line worth reading again!
The purpose of the seminar, Sifu Garry explained, was to help students “practice chi sau to help you combatively”. He continued, “Students should ask themselves ‘Are you doing chi sau with a combative mind or just point scoring?’ As soon as you touch hands, your opponent will know what time of day it is. Talk is cheap, but you’ll know when you touch hands. You might be able to see by how someone carries themselves, but touch is best. They’ll know when they feel the danger. My partner/opponent will know I’m there and they’ll be saying I haven’t got a choice but to get myself together.”
So Sifu Garry went on to explain that our basic number one strike in bong lap sau chi sau must be far superior to our opponent’s, the level must be higher. He also warned of the feature of advanced students who have left the basic elements of wing chun behind and carried on with the “advanced” stuff. Their level is just not there and they get caught by strikes from beginners/less advanced students.
OVERVIEW OF THE SEMINAR CHI SAU FOR COMBAT
Note: A common feature of many of the drills is that we concerned ourselves with applying a one-two combination and also practised for and expected our opponent to throw a one-two at us.
Chi sau is not just about basic strikes and counter, the technical stuff. There are some basic requirements. If a student trains he/she never lets him or herself stop for a rest in the training. Doing this means they are not serious in their training. There is no break. Therefore conditioning is the first prerequisite. Secondly is to never complain if you get hit. Rather your opponent is helping you to find areas to develop, since weaknesses have been revealed in some aspect of your wing chun.
The seminar focussed on three of the four chi sau that we practice at The Wing Chun School. These being bong lap sau chi sau, pak sau chi sau (which was developed by Sifu Garry) and Pun sau. Dan chi sau has no combative element as it is concerned with teaching structure and position of the three seeds of wing chun (bong sau, tan sau and fuk sau).
BONG LAP SAU CHI SAU
Bong Lap sau chi sau is about the whole body doing the chi sau (stance, structure, attitude within the technique, that is forward energy).
When you first engage with your opponent you have to test what they have from the word go. As soon as you touch hands what is the state and level of their stance and structure? For your bong sau to be good you need a good stance, not to be wobbling on first contact. The whole body is doing the technique. If your opponent wobbles when you first clash, then that may well help to psyche them out from the outset. Thus, having no stance means having a weak bong sau.
The bong lap sau chi sau is not performed as a playground pitter patter game, it must be explosive. Hold the opponent’s arm firmly for the lap sau and punch forward with intention. Don’t just practice or roll lightly and then explode when doing the attacking technique. Chi sau then, must have intention.
The effect or result of practising in this way is that it conditions the forearms in readiness for real combat. It is known that when we practice we are encouraged not to be bashful or shy about expressing our wing chun, we should be giving our best in order for us to see if the person can handle it.
Practice: One of the basic practices we did was bong lap sau chi sau moving up and down the hall vigorously, as said before. The bong sau redirects the punch and we turn, the step back is a third component and allows us to additionally get out of the way or move away and also find the angle we need to affect a counter strike.
If our opponent’s bong sau is good then we need to have a good stance, and as said above, not wobbling but trying to psyche the opponent out with our forward energy and stance.
PAK SAU CHI SAU
This is a chi sau specific to The Wing Chun School and was devised by Sifu Garry McKenzie during his boxing circuit days. At the time he found it a challenge to close the distance against his boxing opponents. He devised this chi sau as a way to close the distance whenever a jab was thrown by the opponent. He then took this into the wing chun practice and developed it further for combat.
With pak sau chi sau comes the need for speed, Sifu Garry warned against cutting corners, and in the need for speed, dropping hands or not maintaining contact with the opponent when closing the gap.
The following drills were done up and down the hall:
A basic requirement to develop good combat skills is to ensure our hands stay up in chi sau and in the mêlée of an attack or a counter. The Siu Lum Tao form teaches us from the outset to place a wu sau in the centre. We need to use and maintain the wu sau in this same position, in all our chi sau.
Drill 1 – Within the pak sau chi sau from our maan sau, rather than the standard pak and punch, we will pak and punch and then throw a cross, like a one two. At the same time we keep our wu sau hand up to avoid getting hit by the opponent’s lead jab or cross.
Drill 2 – Alternatively to drill 1, perhaps he throws the cross as above and we use the wu sau and turn into scalene triangle and punch. So this means that as soon as he pak saus we go into a scalene and punch. This means we must once again keep the wu sau there.
Drill 3 – This was a sneaky approach where we pak sau and throw a hook immediately instead of a straight punch. It is a very unexpected attack and will catch someone whose hands are not up and ready.
Drill 4 – Should your opponent do this to you (drill 3), your main defence is to keep your wu sau hand there so he can’t throw the hook and you can punch with the other hand. Followed up by a chain punch or a one two.
OTHER DRILLS PRACTISED
In bong lap sau chi sau, instead of completing a lap sau we step to the side whilst we pak sau the opponent’s punching hand, and our bong sau is converted into a punch, and then throw a cross
Sifu Garry explained the importance of a good stance, ensuring that we maintain a tight structure so that the opponent cannot get in. He reminded us of the importance of chi sau with forward energy, not flailing our arms and elbows out nor up and down. The intention is to unseat our opponent and always ensure we have a tight structure as a form of defence whilst we also are going forward looking for openings and weaknesses to exploit and to launch an attack at the right time. He also emphasised the need to step forward in a direct line on the centre, rather than step out to the side which would invite a counter from our opponent and create openings from where we could be attacked.
The basic drill practised was moving forward with a tan sau towards our opponent. And also moving forward with a bong sau towards our opponent. Developing the foot work and ensuring that the structure was maintained at all times. This drill benefits both you and your partner in maintaining structure and footwork.
Our pad work is characterised again by keeping the hands up at all times, for both the holder of the pads and the person responding to attacks.
We practised pad work backwards and forwards, ensuing we kept our hands up and with the wu sau position at all times. Our opponent would then throw a hook, which we blocked with our wu sau solidly and threw a jab at the same time to stop the opponent, then followed up by a cross. It’s a one two combination.
We practised pun sau, with a turn at the bong sau in order to occupy both hands and lap sau with our fuk sau and punch through the centre of the opponent’s position. The key to this move was to trap the lower arms whilst we lapped the upper arm.
Sifu Garry has worked tirelessly and in a committed and dedicated manner to developing his wing chun and also in developing The Wing Chun School. He encourages and cultivates the highest standards for students and Sifus. He attends gradings at branches around the country and abroad and runs the gradings and classes at Hackney HQ. Acting as guide, teacher and advisor to the many sifus and students that seek his time and help. In this endeavour he has been equally and magnificently accompanied by SI Mo Julie, who works again tirelessly and with commitment to ensure the school runs smoothly, doing all the background administration, planning the Hong Kong trips and seminars, arranging gradings, licensees and uniforms across all branches, and ensuring the sifus are up to date with their health and safety and first aid, child protection, as well as managing the School and Sifu Garry’s diary. Si Mo also teaches in many classes. Thus between them both, Sifu Garry and Si Mo Julie have created one large and extended family, which we know today as The Wing Chun School.
As students and sifus we acknowledge and appreciate this and are grateful and also willingly we support their work. We therefore showed our gratitude for the efforts of Sifu Garry and Si Mo Julie through a presentation ceremony which we sprung on them both at the end of the seminar. It was most skilfully announced by Sifu David McKenzie, Sifu’s brother. Suffice to say, Sifu Garry was taken unawares, and both Sifu and Si Mo were very emotional in reaction to the gifts and sentiment (see photos).
Sifu Garry in his response was gracious and appreciative (and a little embarrassed by all the fuss we had made over them both!), and Si Mo was likewise needing to find a hiding place to conceal her blushes (and perhaps a tear) . Sifu Garry observed how we were a family at The Wing Chun School Students, and instructors and students alike do what they can to ensure the school thrives and maintains a culture of learning and dedication to developing ourselves and the art of Wing Chun.
Here ends my report back on the seminar, this is every students’ work in progress, keep practising and speak to your Sifus for help and support, seek each other out to train and get together. Keep it real and maintain the combat attitude.
VALENTINES HIGH SCHOOL, CRANBROOK ROAD, ILFORD, ESSEX, IG2 6HX
REPORT BACK BY GEORGE NAHLIS
We just had our much-anticipated seminar delivered by Chief Instructor, Sifu Garry Mckenzie. The seminar was a full on physical seminar in which Sifu Garry took us through some bread and butter skills that all students should have whether beginner or advanced. The seminar helped all students crank up the combat attitude.
With well over 100 students and instructors participating we were reminded that we are but one large family of students. All working together and supporting one another to learn wing chun.
Personally I always look forward to these seminars, because we get a detailed seminar along a theme, and always get plenty of practice and hands on experience. Getting hands from all the students, of all sizes and strengths and qualities is so very valuable to develop our experience and skill.
The seminar was structured in such a way that it benefitted beginner advanced and intermediate. The techniques utilised were the basic or fundamentals and accessible to students of differing ability and skill. There were some key learning points to take away and implement, and over this last week I have heard students and instructors alike saying that they had been “training” or doing “lin gung”, as is explained below. So what did the seminar tell us about our combat strategy and philosophy?
1. We were asked to think about what the most important thing is that we have to defend ourselves in a real situation. Students answered eagerly and well. The answer coming back from Sifu Garry (Si Fu) was that “You are the weapon – do not neglect the body conditioning”. To achieve this, a wing chun martial artist must maintain good stamina. Sifu stressed the importance of punching and training every day, saying “you must punch every day to be serious about your wing chun and be a martial artist. In this way you are preparing and in readiness for combat. In days of old, if a martial arts Sifu ordered students to do 1000 or 2000 punches a day it was done without question. But things have rather changed nowadays.
2. Lin jap and Lin gung. SIfu explained to students that we must understand the difference between practice, as in class practice to develop the techniques, this being “Lin Jap” in Cantonese, and training to condition oneself and push oneself to become better and combat ready, this being known as “Lin Gung”.
3. Sifu relayed the advice that one should not fear the man (or woman) who knows one thousand techniques but has only practised them a few times, rather s/he should fear the man who knows only a few techniques, such as a punch or a kick and has practiced it thousands of times. (An often quoted saying made famous by Bruce Lee). Combine this practice with the resultant development in stamina, and it is possible to appear that you have released a poltergeist during a combat altercation. It will not come out if you have not practised diligently. Once the introduction was done the seminar got into the practical activities, and it was all systems go!
4. The first half of the seminar looked at developing that endurance through practice in a non-pressured situation. Students were able to test their own stamina and mental endurance under no-pressure or threat by doing some basic exercises. Simply chain punching focus pads for 3 minutes continuously. Suffice to say, no one really lasted the 3 minutes without slowing, faltering and some struggling to continue! A real eye opener. This was followed up with similar timed drills using turning punch, arrow walk up and down. Sifu then concluded by explaining the purpose of the drill. Ideally we would like the fight to be over in 3 seconds, but it could go on for much longer, therefore we should train and expect a fight to last up to three minutes. Therefore we must train at full force for three minutes on all the basics. This is so because we may not just be faced with one attacker with one heart and one pair of lungs. Rather we may be faced with two or more attackers, in the former case, two hearts and two pairs of lungs fighting one person. This demands a high level of stamina and also other elements to be brought into “Lin Gung” or training.
There are four important elements to work into our training. As well as stamina or physical endurance, we have to work on speed, power and accuracy. Some of these can be built into the simple 3 minute drills as above. There are numerous other ways to develop these which this review won’t be addressing and which every instructor of The Wing Chun School will help students to develop and integrate in their training.
The first half of the seminar Sifu Garry commented on the modern phenomena of what I might term as arm-chair or spectator martial artists. In a voice expressing astonishment and surprise he explained that today’s martial artists like to be impressed by others, for example on YouTube etc and to also praise others’ work. But these same martial artists neglect to develop themselves. Sifu Garry said he was not impressed by anyone, but is certainly impressed by someone who trains and follows their system, in whatever martial art they are involved in. They are better to look at their own training. We follow a system, and that is why we can see that system expressed in all the students.
The second half focussed the students on being able to utilise their skills, their body and techniques in combat scenarios. That is, when we are attacked, when under pressure, what have we got in response? Do we have a punch, the footwork, that works under pressure?
Again Sifu kept things very simple and basic. Attacks consisted of a basic attack from a front approach, and either using a straight jab or kick or a hook punch coming from the front or rear hand. Students were asked to utilise either a side step (pong ma) or an angle step (gok ma) or in later drills a darting step (biu ma). The drills were designed to enable us to practice taking the angle on a forward approach using gok ma, and countering with a one two combination. Or else biu ma and use of biu sau (or a simple palm to the face) then a kick to the groin area followed by a one two combo.
In this section SIfu explained the importance of pad work and how to operate the pads for the partner/act as coach. Pad work was done precisely to develop accuracy and position, and later to develop some speed and reaction. The scalene triangle or rather turning the upper body via the waist to evade oncoming rear or lead hook using a tan or biu sau and simultaneously delivering a straight punch, then a chain punch pursuit. These were later developed using pak sau chi sau and also bong lap sau chi sau. Students had an opportunity to practice being elusive in their striking and not telegraphing their attack during bong lap sau chi sau with fast palm (jing jeun) and chain punch. We were then shown and practised bong lao sao chi sau with jing jeun, where our palm strike is stopped and push back at us forward and we let hand go past and punch in a one two or more combo, once again turning and using hips to evade and counter and chain pursue. It showed how the scalene triangle was formed with the use of hips turning and maintaining the wu sau position in a combative mode. Palm relaxed, forearm up and ready to punch.
As I said above students were certainly enthused by the seminar, and it was an eye opener and a challenge for many. One student commented that “I loved the seminar and that it used the basic techniques within self defence to devastating effect.”. Another commented as follows “top draw seminar and an eye opener and thank you”, and a Sifu said “My student went as it was his first seminar, he loved it and can’t wait for the next one.” Another student commented, “The seminar was well paced and well balanced. It was engaging as well as informative with a high quality content all put together in a simple language. 10/10. So far attended 3 seminars in the last 2 years and even though they were all great, this one still managed to stick out. I always make sure I’m free for any of those as not attending would be a considerable loss.”
What I really enjoyed was going round assisting with the coaching I could see how the students from every branch really tried to implement the elements, they were putting 100% into their efforts and bringing the drills to life. There was no ego in there at all to get in the way, just wanting to learn and improve.
There are some great photos of the seminar and also a video to follow. Sifu thanked us all for coming, and all who helped before and on the day. We also gave our thanks to Si Fu Garry for the seminar and how he had made it so interesting, relevant and practical, as always. As is customary we took group photos at the end and then headed on for a celebratory meal, where being amongst The Wing Chun School Sifus and students, is always fun and good to catch up and was enjoyed by those who attended.
I’m looking forward to the next seminar. In the meantime Sifu reminded us to keep training so that the next seminar can build on what we have covered.