Eight Pattern Wing Chun Kung Fu

The Eight Essentials

 

 

The Eight Essentials are concepts, which mark important milestones in the mastery of Wing Chun. Each of them requires skills, which are specific to Wing Chun and can only be obtained through devoted training and great patience. Many students give up again before they have mastered even one of these essentials. But reaching one of these goals feels like an epiphany and gives you a great advantage above all others.

黏 (nim, sticking)

The concepts behind the sticky force and the "forward pressure" in Chi Sau. This skill is usually obtained early on in Dan Chi training. Nevertheless it is a challenge and an important milestone. The difficult part is to get your brain to combine data from different sensory channels so that you can keep constant (light) pressure towards the wick line ("forwards pressure") even when the opponent / training partner is changing and even while "giving in".

When you have mastered this concept, it feels as if you could magically attach your arm to someone else's arm so that both move around together without any effort on your part. As soon as the geometry allows, your arm will strike like a whip and the attack is initiated without any conscious effort. You only add power as soon as you realize that you are going to hit.

盤 (pun, examine)

The name refers to Pun Sau (often written "Poon Sau" and usually translated as "rolling arms") and implies the coordination of your two arms which act independently according to your opponent's / training partner's movement. The hard part is to get the brain to stop taking away the focus from one hand as soon as something happens with the other hand, and then to stop your brain from directly interfering with the movements with the conscious part at all. (Except for abstract interference like speed, power or orientation towards the opponent.)

You will realize that you have mastered this concept as soon as your arms (or at least one arm) appear to be doing stuff on their own. You will know it shortly after it happens for the first time, in the moment when your consciousness picks up the arm again because then you will realize, that the arm has done something while you have been "away".

 

力 (lik, power)

Besides the "sticky force", there are eight power generation methods in Wing Chun. Some of them are very easy to master, some very hard. The "long bridge rising power" (mostly called "one inch power") is usually the first to be taught because it is essential for the correct Wing Chun stance. Absorbing power from an opponent and redirecting it to the ground (and giving it back again) can be achieved with the same kind of muscle chain.

When you do it right, you can punch very hard even without a step or upper body movement while standing completely upright. You will no longer be pushed back into a hollow-back position, instead you will remain without visible changes. The forces are generated and the counter forces absorbed by your "structure". Similar epiphanies exist for the other seven power generation methods. Most of them require your brain to learn a completely new muscle-chain-reaction (an automatism similar to muscle contraction patterns which are used when running) and initiate it with perfect timing.

You will know that you have reached this goal, when your legs automatically absorb an unexpected push during Chi Sau (the kind which would have broken your stance usually).

 

身 (seung, body)

Similar to Pun, but including leg attacks and footwork in general. Since footwork follows its own concepts, it is more than just a matter of transferring skills from your hands to your legs. But your brain has already done a similar learning task once (for Pun), so it may feel a little easier this time. When you have mastered this essential, you are never in doubt of where to place your legs, you are extremely hard to bring to the floor, if you are on the floor, you always know how to move, so that you get up again first, you can easily defend against any kick and it is nearly impossible to defend against your close combat kicks.

You will know that you have mastered it in a similar way than with Pun. It doesn't feel like walking with obstacles anymore. Your legs seem to follow you (your consciousness) around in a way, that allows them to kick at any time and your legs also seem to automatically defend you against kicks.

 

流 (liu, flow)

The "flow" is one of the most important goals in Chi Sau training. To "flow" means to move around freely in the vast network of possible Chi Sau patterns. Obviously it requires a training partner, who has already mastered the flow. And it requires that both partners cooperate in a certain way (the initiative has to be given up voluntarily each time the other one tries to take it).

You know that you have mastered this skill, when there are no more obstructions and stops in your Chi Sau. You will never have to rely on greater force or higher speed again, because your brain has found a way to adapt to someone else's movements continuously in real time. This will also open the gate to the kind of training required for 刀 (dou, knife).

樁 (jong, stake)

This symbolizes the wooden dummy. Besides the shadowless kick, the reborn power, special footwork and many other concepts, the wooden dummy teaches us to work with the inertia of the opponent's / training partner's body parts at very high speeds and power levels.

This allows us to "freeze" or predict parts of our opponent's body for a short time while we move. We jokingly call it "beaming" sometimes because when you are the victim it feels like "one second he was here, the other second he was there". This is due to your brain being shocked into skipping a few milliseconds while the Wing Chun practitioner executes a very fast step, often with your involuntary help.

Besides complaints from your training partners you will know that you have mastered the skill, when your Jat Sau turns your opponents arm into stone and you footwork doesn't feel like you pushing yourself away from the planet but more like you kicking the planet around, so that you have to hit the opponent in the end to be able to stop again. More importantly, you can manipulate your opponent into giving you force or stability in exactly the direction which you need. On neurological terms, this is an easy skill: you "just" have to train very precise high speed movements.

棍 (gwan, pole)

Mastering the long pole means two important things. For one thing it is the highest possible challenge for your proprio-reception (pressure- and acceleration sensory in your body). It requires much more precision than all other sticking exercises because the pole is too smooth for normal sticky force and it's length multiplies every movement and thereby also every mistake.

The other thing is that the pole is a very heavy object, which can only be moved quickly in certain ways, making use of it's center of gravity, changes in the grip positions and special footwork. But besides high precision motor skills you have to transform your brain's Chi Sau pattern processing system to allow for the work with the pole, which is geometrically and in other ways much different from an arm or leg. If compared to Dan Chi, in Chi Gwan YOU are the elbow. And this is just ONE further way of applying Wing Chun concepts to a physical problem.

Usually, this skill will be mastered, when you can "flow" with the pole. Another way to test it is your ability to do Chi Sau with one arm against two.

 

刀 (dou, knife)

This essential is similar to the one above in many aspects. But there are additional characteristics. First of all, while in the pole program the first move may be the last one, in a knife fight it usually is the last one. There is no margin for error, contact between a knife and any body part can end the fight.

But this doesn't mean that we cannot use our Chi Sau skills to analyze and predict the opponent's movements and adapt accordingly. We just have to avoid the normal optical pathway, because it is too slow. This is achieved by training Chi Sau with less and less pressure, until there is no contact any more.

You have mastered this skill, when you "feel" the opponent's / training partner's pressure without contact, the way you usually feel it in Chi Sau. The brain uses a lower level pathway for this, which in nature is used for fast optical reaction in certain situations. To train this system for conscious use is the key to this essential. Due to the high Chi Sau precision from all the previous learning steps and due to the experience in interpreting very small signs in the opponent, using this skill you can actually trick your opponent into believing that you can predict his movements (which in some way you actually can).