The Importance of 'Letting Go'
Paul Simmons (9/2001)
One of the most difficult aspects of the art of Wing Chun Kung Fu is in learning how to 'Let Go'. Not using strength, that is, muscle, as a response to strong incoming force calls for a change in attitude, as well as a proper physical structure. This article deals with the importance of 'Letting Go', both physically and mentally; physically, in the sense of using the correct Wing Chun structure in order not to use muscle and, mentally, in the sense of not being concerned with winning by trying to overpower your partner/opponent.
When one has muscle it is especially difficult to overcome the urge to use it. Mostly, this is a result of being unable to let go of the need to fight back, something which is quite instinctive. Through practicing Siu Nim Tau, one can begin to feel two thing; the first is a physical sensation in the body - as the stance improves and the spine straightens it is easier to relax and allow the movements of the form almost to find their own way to the target. The second thing is that through focusing the mind on the correct idea what YOU have to do, a connection can be made with the body, so that two things can happen simultaneously; focus and an awareness of structure.
It should be noted that the Siu Nim Tau form is not a series of techniques, but rather a set of exercises for both the body and the mind. When people ask what you should think of when doing the form, the answer might well be - 'The Form'! This is not thinking in an analytical way, but more an awareness of being able to release the tension from the muscles. That is, the mind can work with the body.
This is what is meant by a change in 'attitude'. Siu Nim Tau can open up a new way of thinking; not based on physical movements, but on the 'right ideas'. One of these ideas is to do with not using purely physical strength; that is, not opposing strength with strength. This ability to let go tension from the body and the mind is especially applicable when practicing Chi Sau.
It is a common reaction to tense up in the arms, shoulders, neck and legs when your partner applies force. This is because the brain responds with the 'fight or flight' syndrome. We often stand our ground simply in order to protect ourselves, out of instinct. However, with the change in attitude or idea, in combination with correct stance and structure, the need to oppose force diminishes. The mind is somehow focused, but not on your partner. It is focused on doing what YOU have to do; straight back, focus on the target and relaxation of the muscles. Only then can the joints operate smoothly and efficiently, in the way they are meant to work, that is, by rotation and not by pushing with the muscles.
In the second form, Chum Kiu, this idea is further developed by being able to use the body mass. Using the structure and the ideas of Siu Nim Tau, it is imperative to 'Let Go' in order to move your mass and to pivot. This depends on knowing how not to 'push', which of course, uses muscle. For those of us who have some muscle, this is a most difficult task, so I now try to concentrate on how to do my Wing Chun correctly and not to worry about stopping my partner; that is, to use my mind in a different way.
It is a constant source of frustration to be doing Chi Sau with my Sifu, and continually fight back when greater force is applied. How to let go, absorb the force and redirect it, while at the same time trying to focus on my target, can only be achieved by releasing the tension from the body and by relieving my mind of the strong desire to stop that force from reaching me. Then, the principles of Wing Chun can work. One has to let go of the idea that strength can always prevail. I am certain that Wing Chun works, but only when applied correctly, both physically and mentally. The key lies within the forms, with your training partners and with your Sifu, but most of all, it lies within yourself. Try 'Letting Go' of the need to win and you might be on your way to the next step in your Wing Chun development.
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