Category Archives: Martial Arts

Exploring The Art Of Wing Chun

According to legend, Wing Chun, a form of martial arts that focuses on in-fighting and defensive combat skills, was created during the 17th century by a Buddhist nun named Ng Mui. Legend has it that she narrowly escaped the destruction and attack on the Shoalin Temple in Southern China, the reason she ended up developing intense self defense fighting skills. During this time, accurate historical recollections states the Shoalin monks were being severely pressured by the Manchus due to their dedication and loyalty to the Ming. Because of this circumstance, many of the historical records associated with the early creation and teachings of Wing Chun including those related to Ng Mui, are mysterious and hold a kind of mystical reverence still to this day.

Later, in 1893, Ip Man, also called Yip Man by some, was born and grew up to become the most respected sifu and master of Wing Chun the world has ever known. He knew the art of Wing Chun was going to slowly die if it was not taught to the world. He accepted the legend surrounding Ng Mui about her influence on this form of martial arts and relayed as such to all of his students, one being the legendary Bruce Lee. Ip Man’s techniques became the basis for the styles and techniques created by Bruce Lee. Ip Man taught Wing Chun until the age of 70. He died in December of 1972, leaving behind an amazing legacy and a son, Ip Chun, that chose to carry on his father’s dedication to Wing Chun.

Carrying On The Legacy

Ip Chun is still teaching Wing Chun techniques today in Hong Kong. Most of these techniques are based on in-fighting, a combat circumstance that places opponents in close proximity of one another as though in small room. Most of the movements used in Wing Chun are made mostly with the upper body, arms and hands. While few kicks are used, many still speak of Wing Chun as being one of the deadliest forms of martial arts ever taught. One reason for this belief is due to everything Wing Chun includes being for self-defense.

Ip Chun teaches still today at the age of 88 at one the most renowned Wing Chun schools in the world. In fact, Ip Chun is one of the founding fathers, alongside his father Ip Man, of the renowned Ving Tsun Athletic Association. One interesting aspect about Ip Chun is his interest in the real origins of Wing Chun. While he does seem to admire the legend surrounding Ng Mui, he delved further into Wing Chun history and learned about a man named Cheung Ng being responsible for some of the early Wing Chun forms. Cheung Ng, a Shaolin Temple student, was already excelling in martial arts before the temple was destroyed. Wing Chun was the form of martial arts being taught in secret as the best way to defend against the Manchus.

The Controversial Wing Chun Defensive Style

Wing Chun training includes techniques promoting forward focus. Trapping and blocking for increased defense is based upon the alignment of an opponent’s bones, impeding strikes through jamming or trapping an opponent’s limbs. Bear in mind the movements are always in a forward motion, along with a pushing back of an opponent’s advances. Trapping techniques have been the debate of effectiveness in many other forms of martial arts. However, in a self-defense scenario, trapping an opponent for allowing the advancement of defensive strikes is highly effective. The greatest aspect of Wing Chun effectiveness is the event of defense and offense movements at the same time. Simple moves like Pak Sao, meaning a fast smack or Lop Sao, a pulling and jerking move, coupled with simultaneous strikes are extremely effective.

Close range fighting can be treacherous in the self-defense scenario, especially with techniques like Biu Sau being used. Biu Sau describes the striking of soft areas like the neck, eyes and pressure points. Biu Sau techniques are designed to quickly take out an opponent’s abilities to strike altogether. Along with the natural reflex motion of Bong Sau, close range strikes form an opponent can be quickly evaded and stopped. During close range attacks, Ding Jarn is also used to avoid being taken down by an opponent. Ding Jarn is the use of the elbows as deflective protection through applied forward force.

The Great Health Benefits of Wing Chun

For many students of Wing Chun, the greater level of optimum health is an excellent benefit of Wing Chun training. The increase of coordination and the level of strength promoted through training sessions is great. Connecting the mind and body, especially during an attack in close proximity, is extremely important for success in defeating an attacker. The mind and body connection students learn under the training of an experienced sifu is amazing and can lead to control over many other circumstances in life that have nothing to do with fighting or self-defense. Students should always remember some self-defense is necessary in situations that involve opponents that are neither human nor animal for that matter. Many opponents include life issues that can be detrimental to a student’s well being just as much as being attacked by another person. Wing Chun training helps students to have greater levels of control over real life situations that can arise to provoke anxiety and stress.

Another benefit of Wing Chun is the improvement of speed and reflexes experienced by students. Being faster and having greater reflexes can help to avoid falls or other accidents that could cause physical harm to the body. Simply being faster is an excellent benefit for avoiding spontaneous and disastrous accidents. An interview with Ip Chun when he was 84 is revealing about his thoughts of how Wing Chun produces a healthier mind and body. In fact, he believes the greatest benefit of this form of martial arts is all about the health benefits instead of the skills of being able to fight and defend oneself against an attacker.

See video below for an interview posted in 2009, for an enlightening look into this form of martial arts by one of the greatest sifus known to the world.

Taking the advice of Ip Chun and taking advantage of all the positive benefits of Wing Chun can allow an amazing transformation to take place in the mind and body of dedicated students.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi – A Practice for Mind and Body

For hundreds of years, long before the emergence of modern medicine, people have been practicing tai chi for optimal health and spiritual growth. But what is tai chi? And what is it about tai chi that has kept people practicing this art form for all of these years? Tai chi is a mind body exercise that connects slow, steady movements to breath. Complete concentration on the body and the body’s energy can lead to a meditative state while practicing tai chi that is said to promote optimal physical and mental health.

Tai Chi
Tai Chi

Tai chi, or more formally, tai chi chuan, is a form of Chinese martial arts that has its origins in the Sung Dynasty, years 960-1279 C.E. Created by the legendary Taoist master, Chang San-Feng, the art-form of tai chi was developed to keep the body’s life force, chi, flowing freely. The ancient Chinese believed that blockages in chi are the causes of many physical and mental ailments. They attributed everything from minor illnesses, to disease, to mental illness and mood, and even thought processes to the state of a person’s chi. They believed that by mindfully flowing through the poses of the tai chi practice a person could remove blockages in chi to obtain optimal health. They also believed that well being involves a balance of two opposing internal forces, referred to as yin and yang. The movements of tai chi also work to create an internal balance between these two opposing forces that is essential for chi to flow freely. Since the time of Chang San-Feng, the art form has been past down over generations and many variations have emerged. All forms, however, have three things in common; slow movement, breath, and meditation.

Now, in the modern day era, millions of people around the world still practice tai chi on a regular basis. As it turns out, many of the tai chi health benefits, which people have been attesting to since its origin, have been backed up by modern-day medical research. Some of the most well-studied tai chi benefits include its effectiveness as a stress reducer and a mood booster. Tai chi is referred to as moving meditation by many health care professionals, and for good reason. As you practice tai chi and focus on the slow, purposeful movements, as well as your breath, your mind lets go of daily stress and worry, bringing on a sense of well-being and calm. Research supports that daily tai chi practice can actually be used as an effective treatment for depression and anxiety.

Tai chi can also be used to treat and prevent aches and pains, as well as disease. Since it is a slow, low-impact exercise it is an exercise option for people at all fitness levels, and is particularly helpful for those with limited mobility and joint injuries. A report published by Harvard health indicates that tai chi can be used to reduce arthritis pain, maintain bone density, reduce heart disease and heart failure, lower blood pressure, slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease, improve sleep quality, and reduce the risk of stroke.

With all of these health benefits it is no wonder that more and more people are taking up the practice each year. If you are thinking about giving tai chi a try you can either go to a local studio for a group class or personalized instruction, or order instructional videos to assist you in learning the basics. It is also helpful to study up on the principles that are at the core the tai chi practice. This will help you understand how the poses increase energy flow in your body.

If you are considering taking your first tai chi class, there are a few movements and postures that you may want to be familiar with before beginning. Almost all tai chi moves begin in Wu Chi, or horse stance. In this posture, your feet are placed shoulder width apart. Your knees should be slightly bent and your back should be straight, with your pelvis tilted slightly forward. Your shoulders should be relaxed and the tip of the tongue should touch the roof of your mouth.

From this beginning pose you will be directed to flow through several tai chi moves. In one of the most basis moves, often referred to as ‘parting the wild horse mane’, you will slowly slide your left foot to the left side of your body, with your knees bent. As you are sliding your foot, bring your left hand to belly button level with palm facing up and your right hand to chin level with the palm facing down. Then, pivot your torso to the left. As you do this slightly extend your arms, so that your left palm faces your nose and your right palm turns down toward the floor. parting-wild-horses-mane

After this pose you will often flow through a set of motions referred to as ‘the white crane spreading it’s wings.’ From where you left off in the previous pose, shift your weight into your left leg. That leg should be bent to a ninety-degree angle at the knee joint and your right leg should not be bent. Lower your right hand, palm down, to hip level. Now, reverse the positions of your hands so that your left hand moves to hip level, palm down, and your right hand moves up to eye level, palm turned sideways. As you are moving your hand position, shift your weight back into the right leg, only this time, keep both legs slightly bent.

crane spreading wings

There are many more movements and variations that you will learn as you begin your tai chi practice. Your instructor will guide you through the movements and the benefits that they have on your mind and body. As you progress in your understanding of this ancient art form of martial arts you will start to recognize the calming and balancing effects of the practice as well. Most people who practice tai chi report feeling a sense of strong overall well being at the completion of their practice.