In both Wing Chun and in my personal fitness regimen, I prefer to train in silence. Always have, always will. Just give me a space with no distractions where I can tune out the outside world and tune in to what I’m doing and I’m set.
I’m not against music when teaching class, hitting pads or the heavy bag and sparring – I actually prefer and find music to be much more enjoyable and useful in this context – but for private solo training, I have found that doing so in silence increases my body awareness. Wing Chun is based on body unity, and being able to apply the Wing Chun system as a means of functional, practical and effective self defense and combat skill boils down to how well the art is ingrained in your muscle memory and subconscious mind.
When I mention how I prefer training in silence, I often get responses ranging from the quizzical look and a “wow, really?” to the adamant head shake and “Nah man, f**k that, I need something-music, TV, anything!” I just laugh to myself and think, “why?” Now I’m no pseudo-esoteric ascended master wannabe, but I know this much: if I am dependent on X to motivate me and X doesnt show up, I’m pretty much screwed.
Activity vs Productivity
In today’s day and age most folks are distracted. Now I know we are bombarded with stimuli all day and we have no choice but to adapt but nowhere is this dependence on distraction more evident than in a fitness center.
Look around next time: I can guarantee you will see folks with their eyes glued to a magazine or book as they stumble on the treadmill or casually pedal a stationery bicycle, both with the intensity and vigor of the zombies from the original Night of the Living Dead. What these folks don’t realize is if they put more effort into their treadmill or bicycle regimen they wouldn’t have to be there half as much.
I personally saw a guy once get to the gym, change, head out to the floor, get all warmed up -and then grab his keys and head for the door. A bit confused I asked him where he was going. His response was – no shit – “I left my iPod at home. Whats the point, right? I’ll just get it in tomorrow.”
So let me get this straight: you are dedicated enough to wake up at 6am, drive to the gym in the dark, get dressed and warmed up- and just because you forgot your little magic boom-boom box, you can’t focus your mind on what you are doing for 20-30 minutes and are actually going to just go back home? In the immortal words of Drill Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, “you gotta be shittin’ me!”
In today’s world of cell phones and multi tasking, what is needed is NOT another efficiency shortcut that allows us to do yet another thing simultaneously. What people need is an escape; a retreat within themselves to quiet the mind and get in touch with their bodies as they train for self-defense, fitness, combat sports or any other reason. There is no other way.
Slow Down To Go Faster – For Only 15 Minutes
Wing Chun as a system of self-defense and fighting is based on feeling. How can you expect to ingrain a technique or particular motion into both your subconscious mind and muscle memory if you don’t allow yourself to FEEL it?
Try this each day for a week and see if it helps:
- Find a place in your home or even work on lunch break that is quiet & private where you can be undisturbed for 15 minutes.
- Run through the first form, Siu Nim Tau, naturally and calmly, paying attention to each motion and feeling each movment.
- Perform the Chum Kiu & Biu Gee forms the same way.
- Finish your session by performing the Air Dummy, or Hong Jong, set. This one will be a bit trickier as you will have to imagine the dummy in front of you as well as making contact with it as you reposition yourself around it.
If you can’t do it at night, get up 15 minutes earlier. I’ve driven 15 minutes each way to a forest preserve on lunch to do this, and I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night (no joke). Commit to 15 minutes of quiet training and watch what happens.
You can reinforce your solo silence training with regular watching of the forms on instructional DVDs. By watching these on a constant basis, your ears will pick up subtle details that will seep into your subconscious after repeated viewings and be expressed through your motions as you train. Click HERE to pick up my top choices that I know will ramp up your progress and cut down your learning curve.
Master Po’s Lesson
Proving that I am by no means immune to the “guilty pleasure” pop culture references, I leave you with the dialogue from one of my favorite scenes from the original Kung Fu TV show.
Master Po: Never assume because a man has no eyes he cannot see. Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Kwai Chang Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Master Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Young Kwai Chang Caine: No.
Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?
Young Kwai Chang Caine:(looking down and seeing the insect) Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Master Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?
-fast forward twenty years; Caine, now an adult, is ready to graduate from the Shaolin Temple. Before leaving the familiarity and confines of the Temple for good to enter into the world, teacher and student share one last moment together.
Kwai Chang Caine: Goodbye Old Man, my Master.
Master Po: What do you hear?
Kwai Chang Caine (smiling): I hear the Grasshopper.
Both men bow and part ways.
Our goal in training should be just that: total awareness in training which will allow for total freedom in fighting application and, like it or not, fighting is what we train for.
Deny that and you delude yourself.
Train Smart, Stay Safe