Wing Chun Training For Speed
Speed is a much used word in the world today. We live life at a much faster pace, cars are quicker and computers make calculations performing the tasks many thousands of people used to do. But are humans a lot faster than a 100 years ago?
As so many of us drive at 70 mph on motorways and drive on 30mph roads with oncoming traffic and narrow passes to judge between parked cars etc. are we able to think and move so much more efficiently?
Certainly people are getting taller, heavier and more muscular, but are they really much faster and stronger? It would seem that the answer is yes. The world records for sprinting and weight lifting are being beaten with each successive year (all the more impressive that Seb Coe still held the world 800 metre record for so many years). But these acts of amazing ability are of individuals who are pursuing a goal and dedicating so much time to that one end. Better understanding of training, biomechanics, nutrition etc. have facilitated these improvements.
However, as a teacher of martial art it has not been my observation that the general students are so much faster. There are still individuals who are quick but no discernible difference has been noticed over the years. Instead it has been an observation that there are more sluggish and unmotivated persons in a class than ever before. Sometimes it is a wonder how they even get to a class at all.
In the world of television 24 hours a day, video and computer games, many more of the younger generation have developed an interest in martial art through media and games. But the reality of the training and discipline needed to perform the moves from say…Tekken 2 are way beyond their expectations.
It is a shame that so many of the general public believe that the skills of the martial artist are tricks to be learnt quickly and easily, once the ‘secrets’ are told. The fantasy world of Cain in ‘Kung Fu’ is not a romantic notion but a harsh reality built on blood, sweat and, dare it be said, tears.
There are, however, different kinds of speed:
- Perceptive Speed
where a person is familiar with the possibilities available in a situation and can anticipate an opponents move thereby limiting the opponents chances of success, thus making the opponent work hard to ‘catch up’.
You could work very fast and still make no real advance on someone with good perceptive speed. A motor racing driver tends to read the road well ahead and reduces the chances of having to make sudden or rash moves that will put them in danger or lose them time.
- Speed of Movement
relates to the acceleration of a movement over distance and the ability to repeat that move time and time again. Sprinting requires a good deal of continuous, repeated and rapid contraction and relaxation. Most students can punch one arm followed by the other very rapidly. In fact in a class we timed students repeatedly punching mitts and most were managing 10 per second. However, when a person is asked to repeatedly punch the same arm the speed is dramatically reduced and the muscle very quickly fatigues.
- Speed of Recovery
is possibly one of the most important factors in determining the fitness of a person. Endurance is obviously a strong indication, but the speed of recovery is used extensively by doctors, health workers and coaches to gauge the improvement and intensity of training, i.e. how much, how long how hard, how fast a session should be.
- Cognitive Speed
where the eyes play an important role in how the person reacts. In martial arts it is obvious that the ability to see an attack as it approaches is of paramount importance. This cognitive speed could also be used with the idea of Visual Acuity where a person sees very well but does not overreact. Clay pigeon shooting would require good cognitive speed.
Speed is affected by familiarity with a situation or action. In all activities that a person performs a certain amount speed will be gained by constant repetition, the muscles will tend to move more efficiently and thereby increase the potential for greater speed. This familiarity in martial arts is particularly useful as there is no place for a break in reaction/action when your health is at risk!. This quality is built through time and effort and is generally termed experience. It is a major factor in winning a confrontation.
Economy of Motion is a fundamental principle in Wing Chun. All martial arts would aim to move as economically as possible, but in Wing Chun it is such an important aim that it is one of the central theories around which the entire system is built. If one is moving economically the physical speed may be less, but the effect is very often to beat your opponent even if they move very fast. Simple principles like controlling your centre line, intercepting your opponent’s technique, result in simultaneous counterattack and defence. To perform and react well requires the experience to ‘read’ or anticipate moves without hesitation or panic, and then to move well technically and with commitment.
So how does one develop speed? This is a separate topic to be discussed in the next issue. However. as stated, repetition is a good start. It is a method of familiarising the actions required. However, it requires steadfast discipline and a conscious alert, mind in order to remain focused. The Wing Chun Style also has empty hand, weapon and equipment forms.
Shadow sparring helps develop visualisation skills. If you can’t imagine the move, it is unlikely that you can perform that technique in situ. Sparring with a partner is the easiest if you have a receptive controlled colleague. Sparring with a good partner and a third person to coach and offer advice is certainly of great value.
Motivational help is also useful in order to push you to your limits and even beyond. You need to learn to move more economically, efficiently and to be able to remain concentrated and alert. If, when training, music keeps you stay focused, and feel timing, then use it. If you use a friend to help you, they must be realistic and not expect the ridiculous of you. It is harder to train through the ‘wall’ than to be shouted at like you were it. Try to develop a training plan and look to make reasonable progress over weeks or months rather than end up tired, burnt out and good for nothing, with your motivation at even lower point and your health deteriorating rather than improving. Overtraining is much more common than people think. If you are tired, recovering slowly, sleeping poorly losing appetite developing niggling injuries then the indications are there for overtraining.
There has been a lot of work done on athlete’s states of mind when they break world records. By far the most pervading comment was that it was ‘easier’, like there was no effort. This area is called ‘The Zone’ and appears to be a moment when the mind and body work harmoniously. However, constant hard work, and effort along the way are needed to achieve this Zone.
Most people who stay within martial arts express the fact that they wish to understand themselves better. Training facilitates this. You have to suffer the agony to experience the ecstasy.
Recently it was stated that it takes approx. 10 years for people to become true masters of any activities. It appears that at this juncture the brain simply gives in and allows you to become more ‘natural’ in your techniques. This applies to people learning any activity.