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The Nature and Origins of Chi Power in Wing Chun Kung Fu Training

Adapted from How to Develop Chi Power by William Cheung
Photo by Rick Hustead – December 16, 2013

Wing chun kung fu martial arts grandmaster William Cheung as seen in Black Belt magazine.The aim of wing chun kung fu training is to develop physical, mental and spiritual awareness. These elements transcend to a higher level of life.

Self-awareness, self-respect and a duty to serve should be the goal of every martial artist.

The practitioner should meditate on these principles and make peace through the study of kung fu — a way of life.

Origins of the Chi Power Exercises

The word chi in Chinese can mean different things. In the direct translation, it can mean “air” or “breathing.” However, when it is taken further, it can mean “energy,” “temper,” “tension” or “endurance.”

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The Nature of Chi Power in Wing Chun Kung Fu Training:
Yin/Yang and the Five Elements

The Nei Ching, or the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, is the earliest known text on chi power. lt is believed to have been written during the reign of Emperor Huang Ti (2697-2596 B.C.). The Nei Ching elaborately outlines a systematic method of therapy:

The root of the way of life, or birth and change is chi; the myriad things of heaven and earth all obey this law. Thus chi in the periphery envelopes heaven and earth; chi in the interior activates them. The source wherefrom the sun, moon, and stars derive their light; the thunder, rain, wind and cloud, their being, the four seasons and the myriad things their birth, growth, gathering and storing; all this is brought about by chi. Man’s possession of life is completely dependent upon this chi.

— Nei Ching

The Chinese structured their universe out of ever-changing energies. The balance and harmony of these energies they call “tao.” Tao is not a thing; it is merely a word.

Tao contains the totality of all energy. It exists in the constant state of movement and change out of which all things evolve.

One is expressed as …

Expression of tao in discussion of wing chun kung fu training chi concept.

Image source: How to Develop Chi Power by William Cheung

… and out of this oneness evolved two, two perfect circles evolving and revolving within the one, the tails of each indicating movement, the eternal revolution.

Yin/yang symbol in discussion of chi energy in wing chun kung fu training.

Image source: How to Develop Chi Power by William Cheung

The dark energy is yin, and the bright energy is yang, each holding the seed of each other, and through their continuous evolution, they gave birth to all things and created their polar opposites.

The Five Elements and Their Cycles of Interaction

The Chinese believe that there are five earthly elements: fire, earth, metal, water and wood. There are two cycles illustrating the interaction between these elements:

The cycle of generation — Each element generates or produces the succeeding element. Thus fire produces earth, earth produces metal, metal produces water, water produces wood, wood produces fire, fire produces earth.

The cycle of destruction — Each element destroys or absorbs the succeeding element. Fire destroys metal, metal destroys wood, wood destroys earth, earth destroys water, water destroys fire.

Interaction of the Five Elements

Chart for five elements energy interaction in wing chun kung fu training.

Image source: How to Develop Chi Power by William Cheung

Body Equilibrium in Wing Chun Kung Fu Training

The elements, together with yin and yang, will determine the state of balance and equilibrium within the body. The live elements, as assigned to the organs and bowels, are the following:

Text chart of body equilibrium factors as they pertain to energy in wing chun kung fu training

Image source: How to Develop Chi Power by William Cheung

Each organ and bowel is governed by two meridians: One flows from the left and one from the right. The human pressure points are the breathing points for the meridians. There are eight other extraordinary meridians that provide for energy to continue its cycle of circulation, regardless of whether any one of the organs or bowels becomes decreased and blocks the meridian’s circuit. There are other human pressure points that cannot be traced to have any connections with the meridians.

Timetable of Meridians Governing Organs

Following is a clock showing the times of the day that the meridians of the organs and bowels are most vulnerable. This is one of the basic principles by which Chinese doctors in ancient days treated illnesses. Furthermore, there is a relationship between organs, which are opposite each other on the clock.

This relationship is governed by the interaction of the five elements. Treating the gall bladder, for example, which belongs to the wood element, benefits the heart, which is of the fire element.

Meridians governing organs in the body relative to wing chun kung fu training

Image source: How to Develop Chi Power by William Cheung

The Death Touch

The death touch, or dim mak, is a specialized technique requiring the striking of a particular human pressure point at a certain time of the day and season. This deadly art was developed by highly skilled kung fu practitioners through the centuries and is based on this relationship between the human pressure points, the various organs and chi power.

Because wing chun was developed by a woman, the emphasis is on the efficiency of the strike — and dim mak is one of its secret specialties. Nevertheless, a lot of the training is devoted to healing the victims of the death touch with the use of different combinations of herbal formulas and massage of human pressure points.

To learn more about chi power in wing chun kung fu training, be sure to read How to Develop Chi Power by William Cheung. In addition to further discussion of human pressure points and meridians, wing chun kung fu training master William Cheung will show you basic arm movements, a form to improve your chi power and chi sao exercises to engage your opponent’s chi. Permalink: http://www.blackbeltmag.com/daily/traditional-martial-arts-training/wing-chun/the-nature-and-origins-of-chi-power-in-wing-chun-kung-fu-training/

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How the Wooden Dummy Can Enhance Your Wing Chun Training

by Eric Oram and Robert W. Young
Photography by Rick Hustead | Lead photo provided courtesy of William Cheung – December 17, 2012

How the Wooden Dummy Can Enhance Your Wing Chun Training

“I fear not the man who practices 10,000 techniques once, but the man who practices one technique 10,000 times holds my respect.”

The gist of that old Chinese saying is obvious: The key to reaching the highest levels of any martial art is practice. Only by executing thousands of repetitions of your style’s blocks, kicks and strikes will you be able to use your strategies and techniques in a natural and spontaneous way. Without that kind of preparation, in a fight you’ll be forced to think about what you should do next when you ought to be doing it.

Traditional wing chun kung fu instructors address the need for practice by emphasizing to their students the importance of developing their reflexes. They stipulate, however, that you cannot rely on just any set of repeated movements to hone your ability to defend yourself. To ensure that you respond with optimal timing, balance and accuracy, you need to learn the lessons of the wooden dummy and integrate it into your wing chun training.

Enter the Wooden Dummy

For more than two millennia, the fighting monks of China’s Shaolin Temple have used clever training devices to supplement their martial arts education. Legends tell that the old southern Shaolin Temple in Fujian province featured a unique collection of man-made warriors.

Wing chun training grandmaster William Cheung during wooden dummy training.“There was a corridor that consisted of 108 wooden dummies representing 108 different attacking techniques,” says wing chun training expert and Black Belt Hall of Fame member William Cheung. “The monks would move down the hall and practice their defenses and counterattacks on them.”

After the Manchus razed the temple three centuries ago, one of the few surviving masters, a nun named Ng Mui, constructed a training device based on the principles of those dummies. “The positioning of the three arms and one leg of the wooden dummy was designed for 108 specific techniques parallel to the 108 techniques performed on the original dummies,” William Cheung says.

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In the old days, dummies were built using a large central trunk — sometimes as long as 9 feet — with a tapered bottom, he continues. “A hole would be dug in the ground, and the dummy would be buried about three feet or four feet deep with gravel packed around it,” William Cheung explains. “The gravel would give way slightly when the wooden dummy was struck in order to soften the practitioner’s contact point.”

In traditional Shaolin kung fu, hard contact with a training dummy was used to condition the practitioner’s arms in preparation for combat. Although some martial artists still aim for that goal, wing chun training does not focus on making direct contact with the device’s wooden appendages. Instead, it uses the dummy to instill the ability to deflect or release an opponent’s force. This principle is particularly important for people who must fend off a larger or stronger assailant or who simply wish to employ a more efficient and fluid method of defense.

William Cheung Demonstrates Wooden Dummy Exercises
for Use in Wing Chun Training

Reap the Benefits in Your Wing Chun Training

Wooden-dummy workouts help you develop all the attributes needed to actualize wing chun’s avoid-using-force-against-force principle: correct angle (of deflection), balance, accuracy, timing, mobility, positioning, speed, flow and power. But the training also endows you with numerous other skills and abilities.

Perhaps the most obvious is toughness. “Because wing chun uses the palms and forearms to block kicks — for example, the rolling block and the cross-arm block — it’s necessary to toughen these weapons, and that’s what wooden-dummy training does,” William Cheung says.

Even though the dummy is an inanimate object, it can still help you polish your visual and contact reflexes during wing chun training. It does so by teaching you how to execute blocks and strikes in concert with each other, thus making them almost simultaneous parry-and-counter combinations. Just before you execute your counterstrike, there’s a moment of contact when your parry deflects the incoming blow — or the arm of the wooden dummy that represents the limb of the assailant. This contact is your cue to unleash your strike. To an observer, however, your full-speed block and strike appear to arrive simultaneously.

Over time, making contact with the dummy becomes your trigger to launch a counterattack. The result is the development of your contact reflexes, which constitute an essential element of real-world combat proficiency.

Using the wooden dummy in your wing chun training also builds your visual reflexes. It requires a little more imagination and focus than does the sharpening of your contact reflexes, however, for you must pretend not to know what comes next in the form you’re doing. By allowing yourself to be surprised by the next strike, you force your eyes to visually lock onto your wooden opponent before following up.

William Cheung and Eric Oram Demonstrate the Application of
Wooden-Dummy Exercises in Wing Chun Training

Stay Safe During Wooden-Dummy Training

Because wooden dummies are usually made of teak, it’s essential to practice all your offensive and defensive moves slowly and softly at first to minimize the impacts your body is forced to absorb. Then, as your accuracy and technique improve, you can put more energy and intention into it.

“In wooden-dummy training, the blocking areas of the arms are the palms and the inside and outside of the forearms,” wing chun training master William Cheung says. “With the lower extremities, it’s the outside and inside of the legs just below the knees.”

Whichever body part you use to make contact, care must be taken to minimize the impact between your body and the wooden dummy — especially your bones and pressure points.

“When striking with the hands, your primary weapons are the heel of the palm, the side of the palm, the knuckles and the phoenix knuckles,” William Cheung explains. “With the feet, the ball of the foot, the side of the foot and the heel are used. If the wooden dummy is adequately padded, the elbows and knees can be trained, as well. However, without proper padding, serious injury to the arms and legs may result.”

Always remember that the deflection of the incoming force is your goal. You are not out to meet an opposing force head-on. According to William Cheung, if you take pains to implement that principle before you try to gradually build your speed and power, you’ll heighten your ability to deflect while reducing the risk of injury.

“Beginners can benefit from the wooden dummy without unnecessary risk of injury as long as they are patient and cautious during the early stages of their training,” William Cheung says. “The key is to make light contact until the body is sufficiently conditioned.”

The ultimate goal of wooden-dummy training is the establishment of a good basic skill set you can tap into when you train with a live partner. That will enable you to respond with the right movements and principles without undue thought. Then, no matter where your martial arts journey may lead, you’ll be as prepared as you can be to handle any contingency that emerges — with an old wooden friend as your guide.

About the Author:
Eric Oram is a freelance writer and senior disciple of William Cheung. He has taught wing chun for two decades. When he is not engaged in wing chun training, teaching or writing, he works as an actor and fight choreographer. To contact
Eric Oram, visit lawingchun.com. His book, Modern Wing Chun Kung Fu: A Guide to Practical Combat and Self-Defense is available in our online store. To learn more wing chun techniques from William Cheung, check out Wing Chun Kung Fu. In this five-DVD set, William Cheung — a student of Yip Man, a longtime friend of Bruce Lee and a member of the Black Belt Hall of Fame — demonstrates wooden-dummy exercises, empty-hand forms, reflex training, chi sao drills and more!

Click here for a variety of books and DVDs by William Cheung and Eric Oram!

Permalink: http://www.blackbeltmag.com/daily/traditional-martial-arts-training/wing-chun/how-the-wooden-dummy-can-enhance-your-wing-chun-training/

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