Towards the end of the previous post, Training in the Barry Lee Ving Tsun Martial Arts Academy, I mentioned that prior to mid 2012 the development of the training in my kwoon had taken a different direction in some respects, especially with regard to progression of the students, and it was simply time for me to move on and find my own way.
By this time I had students who had begun working on the dummy, doing preliminary pole exercises and were ready, willing and able to progress with their training. Of course I had seen this moment coming, and had been in preparation for it for some time.
I had been training the entire system for years, thinking about the forms and how they interrelate, had been in discussion with other WSL lineage sifus regarding analysis of the forms, also testing my understanding in every way possible, yet, as is the way, it was when I began teaching the rest of the dummy form, the Biu Ji, the pole and knives material that I really learned it thoroughly.
Further than this though, through training the Siu Lim Tao doing 3 hour forms and developing an understanding of the Basic Training Stance, years of working on teaching practices, I had developed an understanding of what the Ving Tsun system is, a model of the system which greatly enhanced the way to teach it and understand it. I consider an appropriate model for this system to be a 3D sphere, with all of the parts of the system eg SLT, stance, tan sau, etc being sections of the sphere. Each section is roughly placed and the sphere is rather large and haphazard. As further pieces are added, ie as the student progresses through the system, the pieces already in place are being honed to become a better fit. The model is that of a smart sphere, in that each piece communicates, feeds information into every other piece. By the time the final pieces of the sphere are being added, the pieces have all been honed to fit closely, are all intercommunicating, and the sphere has become an elegant living entity. The process of honing each part and of the parts increasing their connectivity is an endless process. Every part of the system is there for a reason, and always requires work and development, correction and improvement.
From this model, it seems to me that the student needs to get all the pieces of the sphere, all the components of the system in as brief a time as possible. I’ve found it takes a year or two to teach a student to get to this point, depending on training time and other factors. Everything introduced to the student continues to get worked on the entire time, so that by the time they are learning the knives, their stance, SLT and other forms, stepping and chi sau are all very good. Because they are being given the entire system to work on, it all makes very good sense, and they can make excellent use of the system in a very short time.
They see very soon how the system all links up.
Just as importantly, having finished progressing through the system, now no longer impatiently looking forward to the next thing, they now begin to go into it, and very rapidly at that.
Again, further than this, I encouraged the students to participate in the development of the system as we were training it. Anything offered by the student would be looked at, thought about, discussed, tested, and only then either rejected, refined or accepted and practiced. The kwoon became a laboratory, and the entire system was put under the microscope.
We incorporated the use of the appropriate and optimal pivot points for each relevant movement, into the forms, drills and applications training.
We developed an entirely new air dummy form, which allows each idea it’s full expression of power, and with finishing movements where appropriate.
Through biomechanical analysis we improved striking power and efficiency, as well as improving the dynamics of stance and movement.
Also, and amongst much more, we began to develop the feeling of the centre activating and initiating all body movements, thus again increasing power and economy of motion.
Throughout this entire process, I maintained total transparency with the students regarding sourcing of my material whether this was directly from the Barry Lee instructors or elsewhere. Whenever there were any developments, the students were made well aware that it was up to them to adopt the revised method or continue as they were, though it never did occur that anyone chose to continue with outmoded (for us) ways. Not that new ideas weren’t challenged.. quite the contrary. Everything was put to the test. We made mistakes, and learned through them. We found things by accident. We found things that the system had hidden under our noses for generations.
The training and teaching experience at Lake Macquarie was the most valuable experience I’ve had in my Ving Tsun life to date.
Some of the students from those years are continuing to train and a few going on to teach, and I find this extremely gratifying.
In mid 2014 I left Lake Macquarie for family reasons, and am still incorporating some of the discoveries of that time into my Ving Tsun as I settle into teaching in a new area and getting on with the process, shaping those parts of the sphere and watching how they shape each other, and observing a little of what is going on in the larger sphere, the Ving Tsun world.