Wing Chun solo practice is to my hectic life what church is to the devout or what an open-air nature park is to a claustrophobic.
If my practice is in the evening it is my means to peace of mind and a mental “RESET” button after a long day. If I choose to or my schedule forces me to instead train in the morning, my solo training sessions serve as a way to set my mind on the right track to approach the day ahead in the right way and in the proper mindset and mentality.
Either way, my training time is a sacred little chunk of each day that I am very protective of, chiefly because I know the value of solo training in terms of making my Wing Chun skills functional, practical and effective.
Wishbones and Backbones
I love the following quote:
“Stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be.”
When taking or later teaching a class, I was in a sense forced to show up and commit myself to the day’s training since I would be interacting with others.
Solo training is much easier to blow off or skip, as no one is there to hold you accountable-no one, of course, except you.
Now some may say, “what does that have to do with self defense or using Wing Chun on the street?” Fair enough. Here’s my take on it:
If sh*t goes down on the street, in an apartment hallway, on a subway car, anywhere-it only boils down to YOU and what you can do tho save YOURself and those around you. I don’t care if a cop station is on the next block, if you need to meet an attacker head-on and retreating isn’t an option then the cops might as well be on the moon.
It’s easy to be motivated when you are in class or when you have people who come to you for lessons; to maintain that level of motivation for maintaining your consistency in training and constantly striving to improve your skills and, in so many words, keep sharpening your Wing Chun machete means that you have to be in touch with the reasons both why the art of Wing Chun was created and why you began training in the first place.
So-crates Was Right!
I loved the Beverly Hillbillies television show growing up. Out of all the characters on the show, my hands-down favorite was Jed Clampett’s nephew, Jethro Bodine. He was hilariously stupid and simple minded and yet fancied himself a smart and educated guy which always made me laugh out loud. Whenever he would attempt to discuss something academic he would frequently try to quote famous philosophers such as Socrates, or as he called him, “So-Crates.” Hilarious!
Its ironic that one of Socrates’ most famous quotes is more applicable to Wing Chun than damn near any other quote or saying out there:
If something should come up that requires you to take action to defend yourself or your loved ones; to fight using your Wing Chun in a true life or death self defense encounter, the ONLY thing that will save your ass is how well you know yourself and your abilities and my friends, there is just no other way to get there quicker than to add regular, purposeful, properly intentioned and consistent solo training into your regimen.
3 Steps To Solid Solo Training
Try these 3 steps the next time you train solo and you will in short order begin to reap their rewards.
- Have A Goal Each Session. Maybe your aim is to finally make that damn lop sau drill work out by performing it in the air by yourself until you get all the little parts down. Maybe your goal for the day’s training is to really get a grip (pardon the pun) on your stancework. Maybe your biggest challenge for that day is working on making your entries from chi sau smoother or to be more aggressive in sparring by shadow boxing Wing Chun style with the image of a classmate who gives you a hard go of it or training partner who whipped your ass a bit last time. Whatever it is, by approaching each session with something in mind to focus on as you go through your training for the day you channel your mental forces to expand your awareness which will trickle into much quicker skill development. Long story short: train with a goal in mind each and every session. It could be the same goal as last time, it could be a different goal. Doesn’t matter-just make sure you have one.
- FEEL. When doing forms-and in solo training you should be running through all of your forms each session, it’s not like we have a ton of ’em-feel each motion and how it relates to the idea of body unity. When practicing the stepping drill or any chi sau entries against an imaginary opponent, feel the inward tension of the thighs and the elbows forward as you either attack or retreat. When sparring or chi sau rolling in class be aware of your opponent’s energy not from an esoteric, cosmic, “monk on a mountaintop” point of view but rather from the point of view of the someone in front of you being intent on doing you grave bodily harm. Not every drill will call for direct force and action in a combative sense, for example the stepping drill, however by keeping the end goal in the back of your mind at all times while concentrating fully on the task at hand you allow your subconscious mind to connect the dots while you just focus on what you’re doing right now. You can then borrow that feeling in your motions for your solo practice. This way it gives you a frame of reference for the feeling you are to inject into your solo regimen. Seems counter-intuitive and maybe even a little goofy but it works. How? Don’t know and couldn’t care less. All I care is that it works. NOTE: I have found the right instructional DVDs to be a staple in my solo training that reinforce all of the points in each form that translate to effective fighting skill. Check out my honest opinion and review of those I use and have found to be most valuable HERE.
- Focus on the MOTION not the Move. Too many folks practice the techniques of Wing Chun and then seek ways to apply them. Seems logical, right? It is a logical progression- but it’s still wrong. If you focus on a technique you get tunnel vision in your ability to try and apply the technique. By focusing on the techniques in forms training with attention to their feeling in the body, you begin to feel and sense the underlying motion of the technique. That is what you will call on if and when shit gets real; not a technique per se, but a gross motor skill motion behind a technique (Click HERE for a great resource on integrating this type of training into your solo Wing Chun practice). There are many folks out there who would like to argue with that point and believe that their lightning fast whipping pinkie finger strike to my left temple will be pulled off flawlessly if I were to jump out from behind their car at 11:30 at night in a Walmart parking lot. All I have to say to them is this:
Wanna play Scrabble? My letters are B, U, L, L, S, H and T. Wonder what I can spell….
We all WISH we would be able to pull off our Wing Chun moves in a streetfight or a self-defense scenario.
Wishing doesn’t mean a damn thing. Doing gets it done. And so, as the saying goes, we all need to yank out our wishbones and strap on our backbones a bit more and get up close and personal with the guy or gal in the mirror because when it comes down to it he or she is the only one we will have to rely on to watch and maybe save our asses.
Train Smart, Stay Safe