What is diagram Wing Chun?
Diagram Wing Chun is what we practice here at Barcelona Wing Chun. This is the method of Kung Fu that I have learnt from Sifu Michael Louison. When I first met Sifu Louison and watched him and his students practising at his school in London, I was amazed by how easily they moved, how they could attack and defend along countless lines, and how the martial art they did looked so clean and perfectly applied, even under pressure. You could see techniques being applied from all the different forms, with confidence and conviction.
This comes down to the method that Sifu Louison uses to teach his art and this is the method that we follow at Barcelona Wing Chun School.
Sifu Louison uses diagrams to show how his Wing Chun works. Once you begin to understand the diagrams, what each line means, how many ways they can be applied to your own practice, you can appreciate their true limitless potential. They can be used as a framework to analyse each movement, as an aid to improve your structure and understanding.
The diagram shows us paths. As in normal life, when we first come to a path that we are unaware of we are unsure of what to do. If we travel the same path many times we no longer have to think about what we are doing or where we’re going, we enter the subconscious and just go.
The diagram contains straight lines, angles, circles and square box concepts. What at first seems to be a 2-dimensional diagram, can later easily be appreciated as a 3-dimensional space. The lines or paths can be travelling towards you, or you are travelling along them. They could be different levels of attack or defence. The diagram could eventually be imagined as a space where 2 or more people are in combat, displaying the movements between each person.
Now when you analyse your Wing Chun kung fu based on the diagram and try to adhere to the diagram in your movement, you have a good conceptual framework from which to work. Obviously, there are plenty of other points of theory that you will require along the way, but they tend to link back to the diagrams in some way.
Our method of training Kung Fu
The above theory coupled with a solid method of practising ensures that our development of skill is progressive. It is one thing to understand a theory, but quite another thing to be able to put that theory into practice. Therefore the method with which we train our Wing Chun is very important.
For someone to be able to manifest any skill, they need to be able to develop it through repetition, within a mindset of study, not combat. As Sifu Louison explains, everyone that comes into a kung fu school, or Kwoon (which translates as a training hall for Chinese martial arts), can already fight. They may be more or less able to fight but everyone has that innate ability. What you need to learn in a kung fu school is technique. So you have to leave their ego and the fight at the door when you enter the school. Once you have the techniques, you can then couple them with your innate fighting ability to bring them out in combat. Then you’re fighting with technique.
Together with technique you also need structure, sensitivity both in contact and visual which leads to correct timing, knowledge and courage. To successfully apply your Kung Fu, you must have all five skills. If anyone of them is missing, it won’t work.
At this point, it is important to mention that within each Wing Chun form, there are a vast amount of techniques. The system comprises of 3 empty hand forms, Siu Nim Tao, Cham Kil and Bil Jee, the wooden dummy, the pole and the knives. The question is, what happens to all these techniques when we see the majority of people sparring or fighting using Wing Chun on YouTube. Nine times out of ten nothing comes out, or perhaps just the straight-line punch. The problem I think is that students practice these forms like a performance or choreography, but have not extracted their techniques and developed them in a live situation so therefore crumble and fall back to their innate ability to fight without technique.
Our method at Barcelona Wing Chun School ensures a steady progression, gradually instilling techniques into our system. To begin with, we use drills to study the techniques we learn in the forms, bringing them to life in set patterns. We have to continually analysis all the points of the drill, making sure that our movements are spot on. After all, if you can only perform a technique to 60% of perfection within a set framework with no pressure, when you need to use it in combat it will never come out. The drills are therefore the absolute backbone of a solid method.
Once the student has a few drills down in their training, we can then begin to bring them out in a structured type of light sparring, where we feed the student certain lines to bring out techniques they are capable of performing. At this point, it is essential to maintain the mindset of study, not fighting, so that the student can develop a state of relaxedness while bringing out their techniques, without any ego.
If you can maintain this state of calm, internalizing the techniques so you don’t have to think but rather just feel what is going on, then you can develop confidence in your techniques and can bring them out maintaining a relaxed state even under pressure.
To test this theory, we can gradually increase the pressurize on a student to see if they can maintain their technique, or at which point it begins to fail. Then we return to the drills with these details in mind. In this sense, we have a method which is cyclical and constantly developing.
As you advance along your journey, you will learn and develop more techniques. You will be using and used to more paths from the diagram. This gives you more confidence in being able to use your Wing Chun in self-defence and you are confident to bring your techniques out under pressure. You should approach the study of the martial art with a continuous analytical and scientific focus. The style you practice slowly becomes part of you until you don’t have to think about anything. Your body is calm, your mind is in a quiet state, you feel how to react to the energy coming towards you with ease. The journey to mastery requires, time, patience and practice. Lots of practice!
If you are interested in training Wing Chun Kung fu in Barcelona, please feel free to get in contact