Sifu of Wing Tsun Kung Fu - Student of Sifu Ralph Hänel's WingTsun-CoreConcepts

Monday, December 20, 2010

Journey to soft pliable effective power

You may have heard before that in martial arts, softness wins in the end. I agree with this point. But, any softness should be backed up by good structure. To develop a soft, pliable, effective power, do you think it is better to start out strong or weak?

It may be easier to develop softness from a strong but stiff structure, as opposed to starting out weak and then adding both pliability as well as strong effective power. At least at the beginning. But then again, like most things, both paths have good and bad points.

I am influenced by my preference for subtraction over addition, for example as it relates to art sculptures. I have always enjoyed cutting or carving by subtraction (wood or soapstone carving), rather than building or molding by addition (clay-work).

When strong?

In the simplest sense, when we start out strong, in order to develop the desired pliable softness, it is done through subtraction. Have you seen photos of GM Kernspecht before his WT days?

Also, when strong to begin with, it is easier to overcome any weaknesses during training, if the softness is not yet trained properly. While training this way may not be as effective in the long run, doing so would at least give the trainee confidence in being somewhat successful in the meantime. It buys the trainee time while the proper strength and softness is developed.

The bad point? The same... relying on the brute strength too much and forgetting to develop the effective pliable power.

Remember the first WT principle of force? Free yourself from your own force.

When weak?

In contrast, when we start out weak, we need to develop both the softness at the same time as effective power, which requires strength at some point as part of the equation. This developmental approach requires both addition and subtraction throughout the path, which might be a bit much to juggle at first. Also, when weak, there is nothing to backup any failure of applying the softness correctly. And thus self-confidence may suffer.

When training, if there is no structure to begin with, then working on softness can often result in collapsing (of whatever little structure there is to begin with). It may actually result in giving way too much, with bad consequences.

The good point? Having a truly empty cup starting from scratch, and building the essential tools and backbone from the very start.

Which is better?

With this all in mind, is one journey better than the other?

Ideally, via these two different paths, there should be a similar end result, but only achievable with the right training methods.

What do you think?

In fact, what are the right training methods for these two different spectrums, and everything in between?
Are there different training methods unique to each person? Or simply different amounts of the same training methods needed?

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