"You don't smile much, do you?" It was the head security guard. I'm not the only volunteer who has issues with him. He is a persistent practical joker, and occasionally takes out his frustrations on what he considers to be the easiest targets. It was a moment in the day when I could have done without him being there, to be honest.
His hands came up to perform a double slap on my face, just like Eric Morecambe used to do. He has landed one of these on me before but, this time, my hands came up in a double bil sau, stopping his hands in their tracks. He then dropped his hands and came towards my ribcage. Both my hands dropped into a double gaan sau. I don't have much control over my left hand, so it hit the inner part of his arm with more force than I intended. "That's better." he said, referring to the fact that I was now smiling.
I don't have the swiftest reactions in the world. Recently, I haven't been training wing chun as conscientiously as I should. I had quite a lot on my mind when the slapping attempt was made. I asked myself how I had stopped two incoming attacks which happened in quick succession, when I had previously failed to stop a double slap from the same person. The point is that I didn't have time to think. I just acted. Even now, I'm hoping he doesn't realise that I have some training in a combat art. A consequence of my actions, according to other volunteers, is that he was in a foul mood for the rest of the day.
What's going on?
This wasn't an exercise in chi sau. That's a good thing because, although I am recently getting much better, I am not, in any way, good in chi sau. The contact reflex came into play, but the initial double bil sau effectively plucked an attack (or two, I suppose) out of the air. When contact with the opponent's arms was lost, enough information had been given away through the contact and subsequent loss of contact that I instinctively dropped my arms into a double lower gaan sau.
The last time I had a chance to see my wing chun working was in a sparring session with an MMA type. I was lucky. He had all kinds of preconceived notions about wing chun, which completely misled him regarding what to expect from me. To cut a long story short, he had been watching YouTube videos and paying too much attention to the comments. He underestimated me. I love it when people underestimate me.
In wing chun class, my wing chun is poor. In circumstances where I am trying not to use it, my wing chun is good enough. I say it is good enough for a reason. I've always known that the forms of wing chun, or indeed any martial art where kata, taolu, hyung, jurus, anyo or other set sequences are practised, represent ideal expressions of techniques. Anyone who understands wing chun, for example, will know that my double bil sau/double gaan sau sequence couldn't possibly have stuck to the centreline principle. It is unlikely that we will ever perform techniques exactly as they appear in the forms. Instead, the forms should be regarded as a method to lock certain responses into our neural pathways, to rewire our brains. If, in the heat of battle, these responses are enough to stop us being hit, they may not be perfect, but they are good enough.
When I am practising alone, my training is basically the forms of wing chun - sil lum tao, chum kiu and, at this stage, the beginnings of biu jee. There is no chi sau, no sparring (those things require a training partner).
I also practise the twelve zone striking drill which is common to balintawak, kombatan and modern arnis as well. I have found this useful in improving my coordination and hand speed. On top of those benefits, I have a better understanding of weapons than I would otherwise.
A bit of a boost
Over the weekend, an old friend took part in a cage fight. He won the fight quickly. If you're interested in that kind of thing, there is a video of the fight.
I have a compiled version of Alan Gibson's works on wing chun. Previously, these were published as the "wing chun works" series. In his introduction to the series, Alan explained that most practitioners reach a stage where they question whether wing chun is truly effective, and he named the series with his answer to the question. It's a sentiment that I echo.
After the dismissal of my chosen combat art, by people close to me, seeing it work provided a welcome boost. Again, it seems that I am at my best when I am not consciously trying to do wing chun. The message seems to be that we must practise, practise, and practise some more, but when we have to actually use this stuff, we just allow our limbs to act as they have been trained to act.