CWC beginners - what should I train?

When students start learning Wing Chun, they often struggle to find things they can train on their own. For this reason, I've decided to write this beginners training guide. It's is far from a comprehensive list of things to train, but it will help you get started and offer some options and tips along the way.

A rather obvious, but good place to start is by practicing the techniques you've learnt in your most recent class. if you don't have a partner, drill the motions on your own visualising how your techniques will interact with those of your partner. This will help to engrain the mechanics of each technique and improve your coordination.

Throughout your on-going training, you might find these things useful: 1. Write training notes. 2. Train using a mirror. 3. Use a camera to record yourself. Each of these tools can help to identify where improvements can be made as you continually track your progress.

First form

Your main focus of study is the First form (Siu nim tao). This is the sequence of movements done at the beginning and end of every class. Your on-going task will be to apply the concepts and techniques contained within the Form in dynamic situations such as; chi sau, sparring, fighting and in everyday life. In my opinion the First form is the heartbeat the Wing Chun. If you can develop a good understanding of the First Form, you will have layed good foundations which will be with you for life.

Developing a thorough understanding of the First form will take time and it should not be rushed. It is better to work through the Form methodically absorbing a little bit at a time or you could risk training bad habits into your system which might prove difficult to replace. Your Sifu will guide you through each From, helping you make any corrections needed so don't worry too much about mistakes, because trust me, they're going to happen. Just don't bite off more than you can chew in one go, because there is a wealth of knowledge contained within the motions of the From and everything means something.

The First form is divided into three sections. If you don't know where each section begins and ends, check out the First form article, or ask your Sifu at your next lesson. Remember, the sequence of the Form slightly varies from school to school although the three sections are usually divided in much the same way.

Make it your goal to develop a detailed understanding of each section before moving on to the next. This doesn't mean just learning a sequence of movements. It means gaining an understanding of what each tool is for and how you can apply them.

On a slightly deeper level, one must learn to recognise a technique not only by what it looks like, but by how it feels. At first, you'll find yourself often looking down at your hands and feet. Checking if they resemble what you saw demonstrated by your Sifu or senior, but after a while, you won't need a visual confirmation anymore because you'll know what the correct journey and end point of a technique feels like. This is an absolutely essential skill which is initially developed in your Form, then to be carried into the dynamic application of the art. In a manner of speaking, it refers to a heightened level of self awareness.

Punching

This basic punching drill focuses on correct structure, energy, coordination and directness. It is not the complete punch, but rather one part of the overall striking mechanism. Once you can do this correctly, you'll be ready to add the other components to your punch, making it more rapid and powerful.

When practicing the punching drill, hit the same spot each time keeping your eyes focused on the target. When you throw each strike, you should be occupying and protecting your centre line. This is more about learning to eliminate inessential tension than how hard you can hit, so don't try to make it something its not. Keep it simple.

A brief reminder of the basic punch. Yat chi kuen - sun character fist

1. Open your First form stance (Yee gee kim yeung ma). Both heels parallel, shoulder width apart and with your toes angled in.

2. Establish a guard hand position with your left hand forward. (mun sau).

Close both fists, but do not clench them. Also note that the elbow of your rear arm should stay tucked in, close to your body. Your lead fist should be held in a vertical angle.

3. Pull or sink your left elbow (extended arm) back toward your body while simultaneously extending your right arm.

Your right fist should travel in a direct path along the centre line driven by your elbow to the target (do not fully extend your arm). Stay relaxed throughout this action. The full definition of your punch will be applied at the end of the outward motion.

Your retreating left left arm will pass underneath your right arm protecting the centre line throughout the exchange.

4. Complete the action by placing your rear fist (left) above the elbow of your extended arm. Your lead fist should be in a vertical angle with your thumb covering your first and middle finger.

Summary

Left arm

Pull your left arm back toward you keeping your elbow (left) near the centre line while it is being retracted (sink the elbow). This will cause your left fist to lower as it is drawn back. When retracting, your fist should loop round the back of your right elbow before being positioned above the right elbow crease.

Right arm

Extend your right arm (fist) forward, keeping your fist in a vertical angle throughout the motion (yat chi kuen - sun character fist). Allow your arm to travel relaxed along the centre line and apply the full definition of the punch at the end of the motion.

Stay safe

Poor joint support can lead to injury so ensure that your knuckles, wrist and elbow are correctly aligned when you punch. This is another consideration when practicing the basic punch. You should be checking that your joints are correctly positioned with each punch thrown. This is an advantage of learning the punch striking air, because at this stage your mistakes will not injure you. Soon you'll be able to use a wall bag or other training instruments to help strengthen the muscles which support these joints, but its important that you get the action right first.

The basic punching motion should look like this.

I suggest training everyday. You don't have to train for hours at a time, but you should aim to develop something specific and stick to it throughout each session.

First form - Do as much of the Form as you know picking out any weak points throughout the sequence. When your finished, go back and repeat motion, or combination of motions until it feels and looks better. If you only know a hand full of the steps, practice them repeatedly and ask your Sifu what there purpose is if you don't already know. Don't just do moves for the sake of it, find the reason.

Punches/ various strikes - Use a mirror or fixed point to ensure you're hitting the same spot with each strike. 3 sets of 30 should be enough to get you started, but its not about simply throwing your arms 30 times. It should be about precision and development. ensure that you travel through the correct channels and arrive at the right destination switching off all inessential energy.

Previous class content - Go through the motions learnt at your last class. Remember, "new info fades fast" so you need to refresh it in your mental and muscle memory if you want to improve. Try to break the information down, practicing the footwork and positioning in isolation, then adding in your hand techniques so you can understand their connection to the whole.

Footwork practice - Practice one of the 5 steps on the Central Wing Chun basic training list. If you don't know the various footwork yet, ask Sifu at your next class, but if you are on your first few lessons, focus on the above for now as you need to develop a good stationary structure before complicating it with a lot of motion.

If you need any advice please get in touch and I'll try to answer your questions. You can reach me at neil@centralwingchun.co.uk

Train smart!

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