By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart. -- Confucius

Wing Chun Concepts Level Two

Wing Chun Kung Fu is an interesting blend of what are called Hard Skills and Soft Skills. Hard Skills are high-precision actions that should be peformed accurately and reliably every time. When you practice the forms and the drills, you are focusing on movements that follow an ideal model of economy and efficiency. Doing them over and over, you are building repeatable precision.

Soft Skills cultivate intuition. Soft Skills develop the ability to quickly recognize patterns and opportunities, and to flow around any presented obstacles. The Keng Jing ("Listening Energy") aspects of the two previous drills gave us a glimpse into Wing Chun's approach to the three Rs: Reading, Recognizing, and Reacting.

As we begin our journey into Level Two, we are going to focus much more on the Hard Skills. We move away from the slow, meditative movements of the first section of Siu Lim Tau and learn crisp, sharp and quick motions that must be coordinated with both hands. We will explore a completely different set of techniques in the Lap Sau drills, and practice with the precision and reliability of a Swiss watch. If Soft Skills are the "three Rs," the Hard Skills of Level Two can be thought of like ABC: Always Be Consistent.

Kung Fu Carpentry

In The Little Book of Talent, author Daniel Coyle explains that to develop reliable Hard Skills: "You need to connect the right wires in your brain. In this, it helps to be careful, slow, and keenly attuned to errors. To work like a careful carpenter."

Being precise in the beginning is vital for building strong Kung Fu skills, because those first practice reps are building the pathways for future actions. The Chinese masters would equate this to the forming of a mountain road. The first time a heavy cart was pulled along a path, its wheels would cut ruts into the ground. As other carts followed, they tended to follow those same grooves until a permanent road became carved into the mountainside.

According to Dr. George Bartzokis (neurologist at UCLA), "Our brains are good at building connections. They're not so good at unbuilding them."

Like the careful carpenter, we have to pay close attention to any errors or bad habits, especially in the beginning, and fix them before they become engrained. As you work through the second section of Siu Lim Tau and the new drills, start slowly. Measure and evaluate each move. Break it down into simple moves, then repeat it and perfect it before you add more.

Taking the time to carefully learn the fundamentals is the key moment of investment. Build the right pathways now, and you will be much better at building both complex Hard Skills and effective Soft Skills later on.

NEXT: Siu Lim Tau: Second Section
The second section of the Siu Lim Tau form is quick and concise, but contains a rich selection of new techniques and deep new concepts. In particular, it teaches how to coordinate movements of both hands and the same time, and introduces the concept of Fa Jing or "Releasing Energy."