Wing Chun Forms/Siu Nim Tau
Siu Nim Tau teaches Wing Chun concepts and basic techniques. Without the foundation provided by the concepts, you will not master Wing Chun. The techniques are useful in an unarmed fight.
In this part you learn the proper height and width of your stance.
- The Wing Chun basic stance is not a fighting posture—unless you fight with your hands in your armpits—but does demonstrate most of the basics that go into a proper fighting posture. Your weight is balanced in all directions, and you are ready to move in any direction. Your feet are far enough apart that you can't be pushed over easily. With your knees together you can protect your groin against kicks and knees. Your torso is upright and you are looking straight ahead. Your hands are up high enough that it takes some effort to keep them there. Even though they aren't doing anything useful right now, you have to pay attention to keep your hands in position. See the Chum Kiu form's write-up for for discussion of stances.
- Once you find your proper posture, keep your legs and torso in position throughout the form. Only your arms move in Siu Nim Tau.
- Start by standing straight with your head up, feet together, toes pointing forward, and hands at your sides. It's a loose position of attention.
- Raise your arms forward, keeping them straight, until they are at shoulder level. Form your hands into loose fists.
- Bring your hands back to the "rest" position, with your fists alongside your chest and almost up to your armpits. The elbows are pointing straight back and the forearms are level with the ground. Keep your torso upright throughout.
- While you are moving your arms back, get your legs into the horse stance. Bend your knees. Point your toes out, then swing your heels out. Your feet should be shoulder width apart when you are done, with the toes pointing inward. When you are in horse stance, your weight is evenly balanced left and right and forward and back. Your knees are slightly together.
- Double Gahn Sau, stopping with wrists together centered in front of your body. Wrists should be near waist level. Left wrist in front of right.
- Without separating wrists, raise and rotate arms to chest level, palms up. Left wrist on top of right.
- Return hands to rest position.
- Bring left fist to the center of your chest, about a fist and a half in front of the chest. Knuckles are up-and-down, with the wrist slightly cocked so the pinky, ring, and middle knuckles form a flat hitting surface. Keep arm muscles relaxed.
- Punch forward with the left hand. Hand moves straight forward, directly in front of your breastbone and a little below shoulder height. Punch quickly but keep your arm relaxed until the last six inches of the punch, then snap the hand forward with power. To properly execute the Wing Chun punch the arm must extend fully. Due to the slightly upward motion of the travelling fist the full extension of the arm does not damage the elbow joint if performed correctly. If there is a slight downward arcing of the fist (like with a hammer fist or backfist style strike) then the full extension of the arm will damage the elbow joint (locking out). This is how it is taught from the Ip Man -> Ip Chun lineage. One can visualise this by a darts player throwing one of his darts. The arm moves to full extension in the correct motion without damaging the elbow joint.
- Tip: Punch in the air to practice the motions. You can see and practice the movement more clearly if your hand isn't hitting anything.
- Tip: Punch a heavy bag. After your technique is good, it's important to practice punches against a real target. It's much harder to keep the punches going so you will improve your strength and endurance. You will also train your hands and arms to take the impact. Practicing only in the air trains your muscles to pull the punch before impact, which is bad technique in a fight or competition.
- Tip: Do not punch through the target. Any energy used pushing the target away is wasted and all energy should be directed toward the centre of the opponent, not through them. This is converse to styles such as Karate where breaking is practiced and one must punch through the brick. Ip-Chun demonstrates this by punching a melon. Upon opening the melon the inside is found to have become pulp.
- Tip: Keep elbow in when punching. This uses the power of the large muscles of your chest. Demonstrate this by holding your fist in centerline and having someone push it toward you. Compare with pushing against your fist with your arm to the side with your elbow out—a hook punch. The leg, hip and back shape is of paramount importance in absorbing the oncoming force, not just the upper body. One must make sure the entire body posture is correct in order to direct components of the oncoming force into the ground.
- Tip: Three inch punch. Your arm should stay relaxed until just before impact. The power of a Wing Chun punch comes from contracting your arm muscles in the last few inches, plus shifting to put your torso's and legs' muscles into it. In training yourself to punch correctly, begin with nine-inch punches. Practice keeping your arm relaxed for most of the distance, only contracting at the end. Once you have the technique down, perform three-inch punches, contracting your muscles the entire distance. Enhance the punch by shifting into it. Advanced practitioners can work on performing one-inch punches and still put decent power into them.
- Tip: Practice palm and finger strikes. The mechanics of a palm or finger strike are almost the same as for a punch. Wing Chun has four palm strikes, all demonstrated in Siu Nim Tau, and several finger strikes, of which only the eye gouge is demonstrated in Siu Nim Tau.
- Open the hand. Circle the hand around, then return to the rest position.
- Tip: For the form, pause after the punch to highlight each movement. When practicing punches outside the form, and especially when sparring or fighting, pull your hand back after striking. If you leave your hand sticking out there, it can be grabbed.
- Repeat with the right hand.
- Perform this section slowly. It should take at least thirty seconds, and thirty minutes is not unreasonable. (Yes, your arms will be tired after holding them out for fifteen minutes each. That's part of the reason for doing it so slowly.)
- Breathe normally
- As you move your arms, do not move your shoulders.
- Tan Sau with left hand, coming to centerline by the time it's extended.
- Huen Sau, then bring left hand back in a Jut Sau along centerline until it's about a fist in front of your chest.
- Tip: Think of the elbow pulling your hand back. Jut Sau is done with a jerking motion, with the wrist performing the block.
- Relax left hand into a Fuk Sau and extend along centerline.
- Tip: Think of the hand pulling the arm forward. This simulates riding along the opponent's arm as he retracts it.
- Huen Sau and Jut Sau as before.
- Fuk Sau as before.
- Jut Sau as before.
- Turn left hand so fingers point upward and palm is to the right. Bring hand to left shoulder then return to centerline. Extend hand forward in an upper palm strike. Turn palm up, Huen Sau, then return left hand to rest position.
- Application: Use your arm when doing the palm strike to control your opponent's arm. Compare elbow position with the spade hand and choose a strike according to where your opponent's arm is.
- Note: It's traditional to wu sau to your opposite shoulder. We have you go to the same shoulder because an outer wu sau combined with an upper palm strike control the opponent's arm better.
- Repeat with the right hand.
You can defend all around yourself without turning to face the attacker.
- Left hand Gum Sau next to the left hip.
- Right hand Gum Sau next to the right hip.
- Both hands strike diagonally down and backward behind waist.
- Application: This can be a bladder strike against someone close behind you.
- Application: The Gum Saus to the sides followed by the rear strike can break a grab around the waist from the rear.
- Perform a double Gum Sau to the front.
- Application: As with most double-arm motions in Wing Chun forms, the double Gum Sau is for stylistic reasons. In a fight you will normally block with one hand while attacking with the other.
- Bring forearms horizontally up in front of face, left over right, with left hand pointing to the right and right hand pointing to the left.
- Extend arms to the sides, fingers pointed for maximum reach.
- Application: This can be a block, an attack, or a "keep away" move.
- Bring forearms horizontally in front of face, right over left.
- Application: Changing from left over right to right over left suggests the technique of pressing your opponent's arms against his chest with one arm while striking him high with the other. After the strike, drop that hand to cover the opponent's arms and strike with the formerly covering arm.
- Drop elbows and move hands forward into a double Jong Sau.
- Application: Jong Sau, or Structure Hand, is the forward half of Wing Chun's Ready stance. (The rear half is Wu Sau.)
- Application: Jong Sau can block an incoming centerline strike merely by being along centerline. The opponent will to go through or around your arm to hit you.
- Turn both palms up in a double Tok Sau.
- Application: Tok Sau, or Elbow Lifting Hand, is used when your blocking hand is below an incoming high punch. It is a soft alternative to the hard High Bong Sau block of a hook punch.
- Turn both palms down.
- Application: The arms are in the ending position of Biu Sau. Similar to Jong Sau, Biu Sau can block simply by being in the way of a punch. Biu Sau also works similarly to Tan Sau, with much of the effectiveness coming from forward motion.
- Double downward wrist block.
- Application: Wrist blocks are an advanced technique because they require greater precision and power than the basics.
- Application: See also Bil Jie for more applications of wrist blocks.
- Thrust fingers forward in an eye strike.
- Application: one-two with a block and a strike
- Low double wrist block. (TODO - figure out the Chinese name)
- Double monkey paw strike.
- Application: The monkey paw strike is similar to an upper-cut punch. It doesn't have as much power, but it has slightly longer range. Arm and elbow position are slightly different, so it might be faster to go from a block to a monkey paw rather than to an upper cut.
- Return hands to rest position.
- Rear guard hand in case you miss with the front hand.
- Follow up a defensive move with an attack.
- Left hand Wu Sau to right shoulder. Return hand to centerline.
- Left hand spade hand to the front. Palm up, Huen Sau, then return to rest.
- Application: You can use your striking arm to control your opponent's arm after you deflect his punch.
- Repeat with other hand.
Cover different areas with minimal motion.
If your hand is high and you need to block a low strike, you can move just your forearm and hand and still cover the low area. More generally, this section demonstrates the principle of using as little effort as possible to attack and defend.
- Perform a Tan Sau with left hand, bringing hand to shoulder height.
- Tip: Do not shift with the Tan Sau.
- Application: Tan Sau blocks medium-to-high strikes coming from the front. The useful range is from the middle of the ribs to the top of the head.
- Application: Tan Sau is often performed with a shift toward the blocking hand or with a side step away from the blocking hand. The combination of block and movement will keep you from being hit by even a powerful strike.
- Application: Tan Sau is often performed with a punch with the other hand.
- Without moving anything except the left forearm, perform a left hand Gahn Sau.
- Application: Gahn Sau blocks low hand strikes, from around the bottom of the ribs to around hip level.
- Application: Gahn Sau is normally performed with a shift toward the blocking hand.
- Without moving anything except the left forearm, perform a left hand Tan Sau.
- Note: This isn't a "real" Tan Sau because the arm is moving outward, not forward. The principle of Immovable Elbow is the key point.
- Huen Sau with the left hand, going from palm up to palm forward with the fingers to the left.
- Perform a left hand Side Palm Strike at rib level. Turn palm up, Huen Sau, and return left hand to rest position.
- Application: It is not necessary to bring the hand back from Tan Sau position before performing the side palm strike. Beginners may wish to get the extra travel distance to gain power, but you should practice to develop power with as little travel as possible. See "Three-inch Punch", above.
- Repeat the section with the right hand.
Demonstrate how to flow around a strong attack.
- Relieving pressure. Because Wing Chun is usable by a smaller person against a larger, stronger one, an important principle is flowing around the opponent's strength. This is called relieving pressure. When an attack is too strong for you to block, shift, get to the other side of the strike, and let it flow past you.
- Bong Sau and Tan Sau easily flow into each other. If a punch is breaking down your Bong Sau structure, pivot the arm around the contact point to a Tan Sau and shift to facing the other way. Your new Tan Sau should steer the punch past you.
- Left hand Bong Sau. Right hand stays in rest position. Don't shift or otherwise move.
- Application: The Bong Sau doesn't lend itself to a strike with the other hand. Normally you will use a Bong Sau just long enough to deflect a strike, then shift into something else. ("Bong Sau comes and goes like the wind.") You may also kick while blocking.
- Left hand rolls into Tan Sau. Shoulder and wrist don't move.
- Application: You can use a Bong Sau to relieve pressure from a Tan Sau as well.
- Application: When actually relieving pressure from a strike, you normally shift or step to get your body out of the way.
- After a slight pause, drop fingers and do a left hand Low Palm Strike. Palm up, Huen Sau, return left hand to rest position.
- Tip: The pause is partly to point out that the Tan Sau and the Low Palm Strike are separate moves. The pause also allows you to get your hand into proper position for a hard strike and to focus your intention.
- Repeat with right hand
- Relieve pressure
- Break a wrist grab
- Low block
- Attack after defensive move
- Left arm Gahn Sau, stopping with the wrist at centerline.
- Application: Normally you would shift along with the block. For purposes of the form, do not shift.
- Place outer edge of right hand at outer side of left elbow, palm up. Simultaneously do four things: pull left arm to the left; twist left hand so it's palm up; scrape right hand down left forearm; rotate right hand to palm down.
- Application: The simultaneous move-and-twists are for escaping a grab. If you can, start breaking the grab before it's firm on your arm; it's much harder to get away from a grip than from a reach.
- Repeat, switching left and right.
- Repeat the first way.
- Three quick centerline punches, left right left.
- Tip: Thousand punches: Perform 100 punches, alternating hands. Leave a slight pause between each punch. After the 100, shake it out and rest a moment. Then perform 200 punches, two at a time. Punches can alternate hands or be with the same hand. If you punch twice in a row with the same hand, make sure each punch has proper form and each punch has a snap. After the 100 sets of two, shake it out and rest a moment. Then perform 300 punches, 100 sets of three. Rest. Then perform 400 punches, 100 sets of four. This exercise trains you to punch rapidly yet forcefully—very useful in competition or fights. Don't start practicing this until you have good form for your punch. Otherwise you'll just be practicing bad form.
- Application: Multiple attacks—don't rely on a single powerful strike.
- Application: More generally, Wing Chun does not rely on size or power to block or strike. If a move cannot be successfully performed by a small woman against a large man, it's not being done right.
- Bring your hands back from punching position and cross your wrists in front of your chest. Continue bringing your fists back, up, and forward, dropping your elbows as you do so. Bring your fists back to the rest position. At the same time straighten your legs, bring your left foot to the right, and push your hands down past your hips. You will end up in a loose position of attention, the same as the starting position and a few inches to the right.
- Perform the form with the "warrior mind". Think of how to apply each move. Imagine an attack coming and picture yourself blocking it. Most importantly, don't simply go through the form's motions while you're thinking about work or your favorite TV show.
- Once you have learned Siu Nim Tau, practice it in different positions. Practicing in deep horse stance is an obvious variant, strengthening your legs without needing other changes. Doing the form while sitting lets you get practice in when you have a few minutes to kill. It also trains you to fight while sitting, which is a useful skill.
- Wing Chun forms are textbooks, not mock fights. While the forms in many other martial arts run through a series of moves as if you were going against an opponent, Wing Chun forms simply demonstrate the concepts and basic moves of the style. If you're ever practicing or looking for holes in your personal style, go back to the forms. Look for basic moves that you're leaving out. Review your technique in light of the concepts.
- Wing Chun is designed so a smaller person can defeat a larger, stronger attacker. Most techniques are designed around this principle: flow around the opponent, using soft blocks rather than hard, relieving pressure rather than resisting it, using many lighter punches rather than a single fight-ending power punch. If a technique will not work for a smaller person fighting against a larger, it's not Wing Chun.
- There are several difficulties in Siu Nim Tau. First of all, this is the first Wing Chun form you learn. Many Wing Chun concepts, such as center line theory, are not common. Whether or not you have other martial arts experience, it may take a while to fit these concepts into your style.
- Wing Chun has a great many blocks. Many of them are variations on a theme, and almost all of them work on the principle of gently steering an opponent's attack away from center line. Which block to use depends on where the attack is coming from and where your hands are in relation to the attack. You do not plan ahead to use a Bong Sau followed by a Tok Sau to block the next two attacks; you use whatever block comes naturally from positioning.
- Performing Siu Nim Tau is both easy and difficult. It is easy compared to other forms–no jumping, no difficult timing between moves. On the other hand, the form is so clean and straightforward that every move has to be precise, a balance between crispness and smooth flow. If you are performing in front of an experienced practitioner, you'll have to be good. Any mistakes will be obvious because there is nothing to distract the audience.
- Wing Chun is not a "sided" style. All moves in Siu Nim Tau are performed with each hand, either simultaneously or one after the other. (Normally they will not be performed simultaneously outside the form. Simultaneous execution is only for demonstration of technique.) This carries through to later forms, where almost all techniques are demonstrated to both sides. (The few which aren't done on both sides could be.)