Siu Lim Tau
The Siu Lim Tao is the first form of the Wing Chun system, this first form is the most important of all the forms as everything you learn after that, at some point, relates to what you were taught in the Siu Lim Tau, here is an analogy, think of Siu Lim Tau as being taught to lay bricks, you can have a go at laying bricks and cementing them yourself, and you may succeed, but did you do a good sound job when laying them, are they straight, is your wall of bricks flat or wonky, you see there is a right way and a wrong way to lay bricks, if we taught you to lay the bricks correctly then you will build a good straight strong wall and then maybe move onto bigger buildings. This is why the Siu Lim Tau is so important, yes it is the beginner level but it is also the master level at the same time so feel good about learning it.. it is a really exciting journey
Grandmaster Ip Man described that in Siu Lim Tao or ‘little idea’, the ideas of daily matters, such as money, work, hate, love, etc…. ‘decrease to as little as possible, or even none’, so that the practitioner may ‘concentrate only upon practicing’ Siu Lim Tao.
Siu Lim Tao is divided into three sections, with a total of one hundred and eight movements. Each small section has its own goal in application, and various uses when applied. The first section is for training the strength of the wrist and elbow. The strength is in the formation of the hand positions of Tan Sau, Fook Sau, and Wu Sau.
Once the basic hand positions have been learned at this stage energy should be applied and this section should be performed very slowly.
While section one of the form teaches us to build up then energy, the second section teaches us to release that energy, this energy can be used half soft, half hard. This is easily demonstrated when throwing a punch, your arm travels at great speed but the muscles are relaxed, this is the soft part. But just before you make contact with your opponent, your muscles in your arm tense up for a split second, this is the hard part. This later develops into full delivery of the kinetic energy of your arm and body into the target, without compromising balance.
The third section is for training correct position of the hand movements into your muscle memory. Movements include Pak Sau, Tan Sau, Gaun Sau, Huen Sau and Bong Sau. The practitioner must concentrate on executing each movement’s position correctly.
This is the second form in the wing Chun system and it is called Chum Kiu, this builds on the knowledge learned in the first form Siu Lim Tau and teaches the practitioner how to use these skills under different conditions. The first section of Chum Kiu teaches how to use turning and techniques at the same time, for example the Bong Sau and Wu Sau with turning and body shifting. This is teaching the practitioner to use the hips to develop power, something which is not seen in the first form. It is also teaching the practitioner about body positioning when using techniques like the Bong Sau which becomes considerably more effective when combined with body shifting (turning). It also introduces to the student, two way energy this enables the practitioner to deliver more devastating blows with relative ease.
The second section introduces stepping which is unique to the Wing Chun system in that the balance is on the back leg and there is no weight on the front leg thus allowing the front leg to be used for blocking and kicking, this stepping, when combined with Bong Sau from various angles, enables the safe bridging of the gap between the practitioner and his/her opponent. This is why Chum Kiu translates as ‘seeking the bridge’.
Chum Kiu also introduces the Wing Chun practitioner to three different kicks, a lifting kick to block other kicks are a front kick which can be aggressive or defensive but never flashy, and a turning kick which again can be used to stop the advance of an attacker or strike them. As stated earlier the Wing Chun kicks like hand techniques are non committal and do not compromise the balance of the practitioner in any significant way as the balance is on the back leg and due to their exceptional speed but lack of height.
Chum Kiu also teaches us to use both hands independently of each other, you do use both hands at the same time in certain parts of the Siu Lim Tau but they train the same technique on both side to save time.
Biu Gee is the third and final hand form of the Wing Chun system and is generally only taught to trusted Wing Chun practitioners. Biu Gee contains advanced techniques and emergency escapes.
Bui Gee teaches how to perfect the use of ‘inch energy’, enabling the practitioner to develop power through very short distances. It also builds on the two way energy developed in Chum Kiu.
Biu Gee footwork is known as circle stepping or Huen Ma and is essential to the Wing Chun system. Again this builds on the Chum kiu style thrusting stepping or Biu ma. Huen Ma enables the rapid but safe change of direction enabling the practitioner to avoid an attack and swiftly counter attack.
Biu Gee also introduces the practitioner to elbow strikes, the elbow in Cantonese is ‘jarn’ and Kop Jarn, is a downward elbow. Kop jarn can be used to attack at very close distance where punching or palming with the hand is not an option. Kop jarn can also be used to block an incoming attack when the practitioner has his/her hands trapped. This is one of the reasons Biu Gee is said to contain emergency escape techniques and by finalising the use of power and energy in techniques, and providing the practitioner with options to escape a bad situation such as being pinned, trapped or recovering from a fall.
Each empty hand form builds on the lessons taught in its predecessor, this is why they are meant to be learned in order, first learn to walk then learn to run then always finish first.