How to Train Forms: 3 ideas to consider
In Boxing and Kickboxing shadow sparring is used to develop practical fighting skills. This approach is effective and valuable because it relies on repetition of movement and technique to develop muscle memory (see The Importance of Shadow Sparring for Wing Chun). In a similar fashion, the forms of Wing Chun are vital to improve your martial arts skills, while giving you an understanding of physical structure and your use of energy (see How Forms Improve Chi Sao). Yet, very few people practice their Wing Chun forms in a concentrated but focused manner.
The objective of this article is to help you gain a structured approach in how to train the various forms in Wing Chun. This advice will also help new beginners get started with practicing the forms. After all, if you know how to train the ideas in the various Wing Chun forms, then you will be able to maximise the benefits from the forms with a minimal amount of time.
The Common Mistakes in Practising Wing Chun Forms
The most common mistake is to repetitively practice a form from beginning to end. This approach does not develop the quality in specific hand movements as there is less time spent on those moves overall. For example, the opening punch in the various Wing Chun forms is characterised by acceleration. However, there are only two punches at the opening of each form, hardly enough to improve (or develop) your acceleration of the opening punch if you train the form once from beginning to end.
Likewise, improving the ‘Gung Lik’ in the first section or ‘Fa Ging’ in the second section of Sil Nim Tao requires specific focus and practice and this must be done in a repetitive manner. After all, repetition is key to improvement. Therefore, it may be more productive to focus on a specific energy of a form within a single training session, rather than exhausting yourself doing both. Quality over quantity is important more important when developing power and energy for martial arts.
So How Should You Practice a Wing Chun Form?
An obvious starting point is to find an appropriate space to practice your forms. While, you don’t need martial arts or gym equipment, a mirror is essential when you are starting out. Mirrors are crucial for self practice because they allow you to see your centre-line and self examine your own mistakes. Here are our tips:
- Pay close attention to your use of energy and the correct dimensions of the shapes you are practicing, especially when you are a beginner to Wing Chun. However, more experienced students should at some stage avoid practicing their forms to often in front of a mirror. Instead you should attempt to ‘feel’ the form that you are practicing. That is, know when to relax, when to contract, and how to develop forward energy (Lat Sao) in your movements. This can only be achieved by taking the time to feel how your body moves, not by looking at your shapes or actions in a mirror.
- Another important consideration is to decide on which form and then section that you wish to practice. However, you must be clear on what you wish to focus on at that point in time. For example you may wish to focus on the strength or frames in Jum Sao or the acceleration or contraction of Gum Sao. Either way think first about what aspect you are trying to achieve.
- Once you have chosen a specific action or a range of actions (e.g. Bong to Taan Sao) to link together. Repeat this sequence for as long as possible. Generally, you should practice the elements of your forms for at least 20 minutes. During this time you should be able to perform thousands of repetitions of specific combinations of actions. This will only enhance your ability over a very short period of time.
More experienced students should always focus on the links between the various Wing Chun forms. Once you have identified these connections, practice them together as sequences of movements. Do not be afraid to overlap certain ideas from one form to another. This will not only enhance your martial arts ability, but your understanding of the concepts behind these techniques. If you are unsure where to start, get some advice from your Sifu.
A small investment of your time focusing on your forms can drastically improve your martial arts skills and even your self defence ability. Yet, it is not good enough to simply know the forms, you must be able to apply them in practice, and this is why it is essential to break down the forms into individual sequences of actions.
While repetitive action develops muscle memory for the actions of the forms, Chi Sao practice allows you to put the concepts of the forms into practice. See How Forms Improve Chi Sao for further discussion.
Now go train..
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