Depression and Wing Chun
Many people at this time of year look forward to Christmas, whether that be shopping, parties, social events, family get-togethers or the wrapping and sharing of presents (to name just a few), but not everyone feels this way, in fact there are many people who do not look forward to these things and perhaps even dread this time of year.
It is estimated that 15% of the entire adult population will experience depression at some time in their life.
Right now in the UK alone 20% of the population is suffering with depression and anxiety, so what can we do about it?
Of course if you know of someone who has depression and want to help them, try giving them time and consideration, without just saying, “Cheer up, it’s Christmas!” as to anyone suffering with depression, that is one of the worst things you can do.
In fact this approach would only highlight the issue and add weight to it, but what if you are not the supporter but the sufferer, what can we do for ourselves?
The easiest (and worst) thing to do is to hit the bottle, especially when there is so much of it around at this ‘Festive’ season. Being depressed can make you feel low on energy and so this is where Wing Chun can play a part, especially when we look at Wing Chun’s, Siu Lim Tau.
Wing Chun’s first form, Siu Lim Tau, translates as ‘Little Idea’ because when we train the form we are thinking of only one thing, creating energy, especially in the first section where we focus on energy from the elbow, but how do we create this energy and is there more to it?
Obviously in order to be able to commit ourselves to focusing 100% on thinking only of the elbow, we would need to have studied the pattern in detail, otherwise how can you commit all of your thought to this development if you are constantly trying to remember the next move in the sequence?
To someone who has yet to begin their studies in Wing Chun, we can get away by just learning the moves of the first section. Within this first section we see the elbow pushing forwards and pulling back through three various shapes of Tan, Jum and Fook while building elbow energy, NOT muscle.
Tan Sau (‘Palm Up’ position)
In order to do this successfully (after learning the simple pattern of course) we need to rely on our imagination by trying to split your mind into four equal parts.
First you must tell yourself that the Tan Sau (and Fook Sau) MUST move forwards, no matter what.
Secondly you must convince equally yourself that there is a massive resistance against this forward intention.
Next we start to move onto the tricky bit, by telling yourself that the first and second rules must both be applied but while doing this, you CANNOT use muscle.
Now if these first three stages have been carried out correctly, and convincingly, we should then start to be aware of something else presenting itself.
This is the Forth area, the mystery box if you will, here you will begin to feel that there is something else available to you, something which also feels like a strength, but is not just that of muscle, this is you beginning to feel energy.
This new feeling will feel more skeletal rather than muscular, as you try to lose any tension in the forearm making it feel to the touch more like that of cooking a rare steak rather than a well done one. It is vital for the beginner to know that this will not be some kind of an instant super power, with a force emanating from your arm the likes of which you have never known.
Elbow energy is something that will need to be discovered before it can be built upon, therefore, when we talk of resistance against the forward intention, do make sure this is only light to begin with, after all you wouldn’t go to the gym and expect to lift the heavy weights on the first day would you!
Ip Ching (Son of Ip Man) once said to me:
“Tension in the hand develops energy from the elbow”
What this means is that, by simply twisting the wrist and straightening the fingers on a Tan Sau (a little), will assist in helping you to imagine resistance, however this is often misunderstood with too much tension being applied, resulting in no energy being discovered. Now as regular practitioners of Wing Chun will know, after training Siu Lim Tau properly you will feel energized and more alert, something that will of course benefit those with depression, but more than that we are training the affects of distraction.
Within our bodies we have red blood cells to carry oxygen and white cells to help kill off diseases, but this is very difficult for them to do their job when we bombard ourselves with stress, strain, nerves, tension and so on.
You may think, well what about when we sleep, do they get a chance to work then? Unfortunately not, this is why we have bad sleep due to tossing and turning, bad dreams and restlessness etc.
Giving ourselves a reason to direct 100% of our focus on something, anything in fact, but in this case the elbow, allows our body to do its job, to protect us from the inside out and to make us feel better.
As Ip Chun said:
“You don’t stop doing Wing Chun because you got old you got old because you stopped doing Wing Chun”
The most important thing about depression is that you do not suffer in silence, so talk to somebody about your situation, your doctor should be the first point of call as you may be able to get help through CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), using discussion to change the way you think and therefore behave. In failing that they may even be able to prescribe medication to help you regain focus, but either way:
Give Wing Chun a try too, it may well be the life changer you need.
A recent discovery also found that stretching in the morning after sleep can help reduce depression, and when you think about it this is exactly what animals do, ever seen a cat or dog stretch after a nap, natures antidepressant.
So start your day with a stretch and a little Siu Lim Tau, it may do you the world of good and help give you the confidence to take things further in the new year should you wish to extend your Wing Chun training to partner work.
If you or someone you know have been affected by this article, further information and help with depression can be found at NHS.co.uk
Information on Wing Chun’s Siu Lim Tau can be found at WingChun.Online
This full article is available in my regular column at Wing Chun Illustrated (December edition)
Thank you for reading, and keep strong.
You are not alone. X