October 2012

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by Raymond Horwitz Adapted from a Black Belt article by Eric Oram and Robert W. Young Photo by Rick Hustead

Practice is the key to mastery in any martial arts style. Execution of thousands of strikes, kicks and blocks against a partner is the key to integrating the strategies and techniques in a such a way that they become second nature. However, live partners are not always available. So the next best thing, of course, would be a stand-in — and that’s where the wooden dummy comes in for the practice necessary for mastering kung fu techniques when a human partner’s participation isn’t possible.

Training devices such as the wooden dummy have been used by China’s Shaolin Temple fighting monks for more than 2,000 years. “There was a corridor that consisted of 108 wooden dummies representing 108 different attacking techniques,” says wing chun 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.”

In this kung fu techniques video, William Cheung demonstrates how kung fu practitioners can use a device such as the wooden dummy to practice their own defenses and counterattacks. William Cheung then demonstrates the practiced kung fu techniques on his training partner and senior disciple, Eric Oram.

KUNG FU TECHNIQUES VIDEO Grandmaster William Cheung Demonstrates Wing Chun Kung Fu Training Techniques and Applications Using the Wooden Dummy

Construction and Functionality of the Wooden Dummy for Wing Chun Kung Fu Training

“The three arms on the dummy can represent strikes to the middle and upper gates and can be either punches or kicks,” explains Wiliam Cheung disciple and wing chun techniques expert Eric Oram. “The leg of the dummy teaches the wing chun practitioner to move from one side of the dummy to the other, keeping in mind where the opponent’s lead leg is at all times.”

The First Modern Wooden Dummy for Wing Chun Techniques Practice

“In 1951 my brother George Cheung … persuaded Hong Kong-based wing chun legend Yip Man to commission a carpenter to build the first wooden dummy outside of China,” William Cheung recalls. “It was built and installed on the rooftop of my family’s house on Argyle Street in Kowloon, Hong Kong. I’ve been training on wooden dummy ever since.

“In 1956 [George] went to Sydney, Australia, to attend university. He brought that dummy to Sydney with him. When he moved in 1959, he placed it in the care of a friend who ran a gas station. One winter’s night when the temperature plummeted, [George’s] friend used the dummy as firewood to keep himself warm. It was a sudden and tragic end for the first modern wooden dummy.”

Safety First in Your Wing Chun Kung Fu Training

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

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Adapted from  How to Develop Chi Power by William Cheung

The Nature and Origins of Chi Power in Wing Chun Kung Fu TrainingThe 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.”


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, 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 tire, 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:

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; one from the right. The human pressure points are the breathing points for the meridians. There are eight other extraordinary meridians which 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 particularly 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.

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Since our childhood, coaches have been making kids stretch before any physical activity. As I played hockey on a competitive level for 10 years, I can confirm that our coach used to make us stretch only before a practice or a game because our bodies were ”cold”. Before every practice, we had about 10 minutes of stretch before we began. As we grow older and create our own opinion about things, we end up questioning ourselves on when the stretching exercises should be properly performed. Is it better to stretch before of after exercises but also why… There is no correct answer to these questions existing in actual the literature. Further research need to be done, but we are able to see a certain tendency in today’s literature.

First of all, we can ask ourselves what exactly is a stretch. By definition, a stretch is a movement that creates more space between the insertions of the muscle to put that muscle under tension. Each muscle has two parts: the muscle belly, which is the part that can contract, and the tendon which is composed by collagen fibres. That second part does not contract but is the link between the muscle belly and the bone. When we maintain a gentle stretch on a muscle, there is a relaxation of the Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO) which are located in the muscle belly. On another hand, when we do a quick stretch on a muscle, that stimulates the neuromotor fibres within the muscle belly, which provokes a stretching reflex. This last reflex is used to help contracting a muscle that is very weak or inhibited. If we are facing a tensed muscle or a spasm, a continuous gentle stretch would help recover the muscle’s full length, prevent retraction, and reduce muscle tension. When we practice sports, continuous stretches are often used and we will focus on this type of stretch for today.

Now we will consider when the continuous stretching should be performed. As mentioned, in some sports it is common to stretch before beginning the activity. Some of the older beliefs lead people to believe that stretching before an activity would reduce the risk of injuries. According to various researches, it would not be recommended to stretch before performing an activity. Indeed, according to a meta-analysis (Gremion, 2005), the stretches do not have any protective effects if performed before the exercise. To use stretching exercises prior to an activity does not reduce the risk of injury, bone lesions or soft tissue injuries. Several things have a strong correlation with the risk of injury, for example individual shape, age or general stiffness.

A study from Kovacs even demonstrated that a stretching exercise performed before an important effort requiring strength, speed, and endurance, can reduce up to 30% of the athlete’s performance. The decline of the performance can last up to 60 minutes after stretching (Kovacs, 2006). It is important to look at these results with an open mind; for an injured person it may be beneficial to stretch before an activity. In brief, a general warm up before performing an exercise is a prerequisite. That warm up can be composed of lightweight ballistic stretching, for example a soccer player who balances the leg from front to the rear to warm the muscles. In 2012, there are still many people that aren’t able to differentiate a warm up from stretching.

Then, one can question the relevance of performing a stretch while performing an activity. My researches on this issue remain inconclusive. There is currently no research which proves the beneficial or adverse effects of stretching during an exercise. I, as well, do not recommend intense stretching while performing an activity. It is possible to assume that the answer to the question should we stretch while performing an activity is similar to the previous one on stretching before the exercise. The stretch creates, among other things, a higher risk of injury through a misalignment of the sarcomeres fibres and a high risk of muscle ischemia. However, again, a person who has an injury could perform of light stretch while exercising to maximize the rehabilitation.

Also, in several sports, stretching is neglected after the activity. One realizes in seeking through literature that there is more evidence on the benefits of stretching after an activity. Thus, it is recommended to always stretch after a physical exercise. It is important to stretch the muscles within 15 minutes after the end of the activity in order to leave enough time for the motor units to reduce their activity. The stretches should last between twenty to thirty seconds and be repeated three to six times per muscle group. This will allow the muscles, which shrink sometimes from strengthening, to regain their full length (Fortin, 2007). A stretch which lasts for less than 20 seconds is considered a loss of time. With less than twenty seconds, the components of the muscle do not have the time to deform and stretch to their full length. On the other hand, there would be no additional benefits if we maintain a stretch for a minute compared to thirty seconds. Therefore, stretching helps to keep the flexibility of the muscle, to reduce tensions and to relax an individual. It is also important to note that the literature does not show that stretching will prevent pain and stiffness post-exercise.

Finally, one has to consider that the level of controversy is still high in the literature regarding the benefits of stretching and when it should be performed. Stretching exercises have an important role in maintaining the optimum length of a muscle or a group of muscles. When a person does not stretch or stretches poorly, he might develop several injuries, such as chondromalacia patella, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, muscle tears, etc. Remember that many injuries are due to muscle imbalance and that they can be prevented by using a proper program mixing strengthening and stretching.

Anick Bernier

Physical therapist

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by Raymond Horwitz

Philippine Martial Arts Alliance and Phillipine Combatives System founder Julius Melegrito demonstrates sinawali using two kali sticks in this exclusive kali sticks video as excerpted from his DVD Philippine Fighting Arts — Volume 2: Double-Stick Tactics and Applications.

“Sinawali, also known as two-stick drills, are very very important because they are a bunch of striking patterns,” Filipino fighting arts master Julius Melegrito says. “The good thing about this is that we’re giving you a basic foundation and we’re putting names to it so you can understand exactly what they are. These are really fun to do, especially when you do [them] with a partner. The first sinawali we have is called ‘open.’ And the open [sinawali] is basically the first open strikes.”

KALI STICKS VIDEO

Basic Sinawali Demonstrated by Filipino Martial Arts Master Julius Melegrito

Julius Melegrito proceeds to describe the open strikes of basic sinawali, using his kali sticks to gesture:

Sinawali Strike 1: toward opponent’s left shoulder

Sinawali Strike 2: toward opponent’s right shoulder

Sinawali Strike 3: toward opponent’s left knee

Sinawali Strike 4: toward opponent’s right knee

“If you apply that [practice of kali sticks] with a partner,” Julius Melegrito explains in his video demonstration of sinawali, “you want to make sure you have better control. You don’t want to hit too hard. Although those [moves] are all striking and you want to try to hit [your opponent in a real fighting situation], the good thing about practicing with a partner is that you just want to make sure that you have good and proper control of the sticks. Your job is not to devastate the sticks and knock [them] out of [your partner’s] hands. Your job is coordination.”

The above sinawali-demonstration video is an excerpt from Julius Melegrito’s kali sticks DVD titled Philippine Fighting Arts — Volume 2: Double-Stick Tactics and Applications, which features an array of techniques and drills for self-defense using kali sticks that the author has taught to both law-enforcement and military personnel during the course of his career.

Presenting the theory and application of fighting with kali sticks, Philippine Fighting Arts — Volume 2: Double-Stick Tactics and Applications includes topics such as striking patterns, counterstrikes, proper holds, partner drills, sticks vs. empty-hand techniques, applied footwork, single- and double-stick tactics, knife applications and disarms.

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