Anyone who has become proficient at a certain skill, be it playing a musical instrument, perfecting a tennis serve or swinging a baseball bat, knows that repetition is the mother of skill. That is undeniably true, however, there is a world of difference between practicing the skill and pulling it off in a pressure scenario.
Why does the baseball player consistently clobber the ball in the batting cage but freeze up and choke at the plate?
Skill is not enough.
The player has mastered the skill, but he has yet to functionalize it; that is to say, pull it off when it really counts.
How do you functionalize a technique?
This, to me, is a hindrance; a pain in the ass. Why? Easy. Functionalizing takes time!!
For us, being Wing Chun folks, we are practitioners of an art whose techniques are very small in number. Ironically, that which makes Wing chun so effective for the street or the ring can also be its’ biggest downfall if this one key concept goes undeveloped. Our job is to never let that happen.
Anyways, how do we functionalize our Wing Chun to make it functional, practical and workable for a self-defense scenario? A few of the more obvious ones are listed below:
- Every few weeks, train in street clothing. Forms, stepping drills, pak sau, lop sau, gum sau, chi sau, dummy, pole, knives-the works. If you are used to practicing in a uniform (which as a Wing Chun guy or gal, why you’d want to wear the button down kung fu get-up in the first place is beyond me) or even in a school T-shirt and gym shoes, train once in a while wearing slacks and dress shoes. Believe me, different feel…but last time I checked bad guys don’t just attack folks when they’re coming out of the gym, so it behooves us all to train in different clothes now and again, particularly those more restrictive such as slacks or dress shoes, which have less traction and thereby are more unstable to train with. To train for the street you must think outside the training hall.
- Adjust the lighting in your practice area. Use a black light or even a strobe light to throw off depth perception. Chi sau with a strobe light on?! Wow. That’s some trippy shit. Try it out and you’ll see what I mean…you’ll also see why the “sticking” of “sticking hands” is so important. Parking lots, dark sidewalks, alleys-every possible street situation can be mimicked if only in theory.
- Pirate Chi Sau. As for chi sau, everybody wants to do the cool “blindfolded chi sau” stuff. Looks badass…but let me tell you if you want to try something more challenging, try chi sau with an eyepatch on. Why? It’s easier to chi sau with no sight than with depth perception thrown off from one eye being out of commission. Train with the mindset of the eyepatch being dust, sweat or blood in your eye. Have at it. Switch the eyepatch every other round if you really want to mess with your brain.
- Play loud music such as that you would hear in a nightclub or bar. You can even play music you cannot stand to already put your body in an unfamiliar state or a state of annoyance. This one is fun to do. Get creative. From Perry Como to the Wu-Tang Clan-try it all.
- Vary your training surface. Practicing outside, in a parking lot or on surfaces such as gravel or concrete mimic the conditions one may find oneself in should a physical confrontation ever occur. add that to dress shoes and you may find some holes in your stepping or structure that need to be shored up. No problem. That’s why we do it now…like the old saying goes, “cry in training; laugh on the battlefield.”
- Develop scenario drills. Create situations involving one on one, two on one, etc., as well as certain scenarios that do not involve someone actually attacking you but being verbally belligerent. This will train you to assess a situation and its accompanying potential legal ramifications. These are just a few of the infinite ways to train your Wing Chun skills to become highly functional for straight up, no bullshit self-defense. I don’t know about you, but that’s why I love and train Wing Chun. For scenarios, a good face mask such as the Pro Force Thunder Padded Combat Headguard pictured here is worth the price paid 10 times over. The metal cage ensures a much stronger and durable protection for your face than the clear plastic which can and does crack quite a bit. As a bonus, the throat is covered which allows for knifehand or fung hau strikes to the sides of the neck. Start using it ASAP.
NOTE: It goes without saying that MMA style gloves are a requirement with this type of gear. I have always felt the Combat Sports Pro Style MMA Glove, pictured here, an excellent value for the price. My only criticism would be that after a few years (my experience) the velcro begins to lose it’s grip but that’s after a few years of constant use so what the hell, right? Still a small price to pay for a damn good deal on a durable pair of gloves and besides, as modern-day sage Tyler Durden said in Fight Club, “hey, even the Mona Lisa’s falling apart” so I guess I shouldn’t bitch. Do yourself a solid; check out my review of these HERE, pick up a pair of this or another style you jive with, make good use of them and watch your confidence in training and application skyrocket.
Above all else, resist the temptation to break structure or alter technique; The techniques and structure of the system DO NOT need to be modified; they need to be functionalized. More on that later…
Remember -Wing Chun is for SELF PRESERVATION and in self-preservation, functionality is KING!
Train Smart, Stay Safe