The Aerodynamics of Siu Lim Tau
In Siu Lim Tau I have always believed that applications must be open to interpretation, and the pattern must never change.
In my school, over the past thirty years I have refined the Siu Lim Tau Form, creating almost checkpoint like stages throughout, and this has made my method of teaching the Form an easy way of guaranteeing correct technique, and in a manner that it will not be forgotten as the years go by.
For the last week in April my family and I enjoyed a wonderful holiday in Dorset, in the south of England, where we rented a house, a house with a swimming pool.
Every day we were in there as a family and I’d be splashing around, while supervising my children of course, but as I didn’t want to neglect my training, I decided to combine the two, by playing Siu Lim Tau every day, in the water, this is where things started to change.
While training in the water I was reminded of a documentary I watched many years ago where it was mentioned that the movement of Sting Rays and Manta Rays underwater was almost identical to that of a bird in flight, so instead of simply attempting to force my positions through the mass of water, I decided to search for the most aerodynamic method.
Something I found very exciting and immediately rewarding.
When throwing the first punches down centre, ask yourself, is your fist fully closed throughout the move, if so, it shouldn’t be.
A closed fist in transit would only slow you down (as the water will prove), a closed shape is that of a punch, but the punch itself does not actually exist until we reach our fully extended arm position.
When the punching action is in transit, the hand should be relaxed, and therefore the mid knuckles should almost be leading the way, a little like the bow of a ship, with the hand only clenching and making a fist at the very end of the strike.
When changing from Tan or Fook Sau’s to the Mun Sau, instead of thinking of a downward pressure of the wrist, try to focus more on the blade of the hand cutting forward, in fact most of these corrections were easy and obvious to apply, until it came to the Pak’s.
Playing the first section was proving easy to get very fluid, but when it came to the inside Pak at the end of the section, the feeling of pushing a mass of water sideways, felt sluggish and clumsy, but by relaxing the hand, just a little (and therefore the shape) this allowed the fingertips to slightly take the lead, giving the following intended Pak the chance to cut through the water/air much faster.
Changes made in the second section were to be immediately beneficial, especially during the Gum’s travelling down the side of the body, again instead of pushing downward with a flat palm, causing mass resistance to against the water, a smoother option was to lead with the blade of the hand and only finalising the shape of the Gum at the very end.
The third section initially, was met with this same mass water resistance when an outside Pak was played directly, but once again, adopting the slightest of a lead with the fingertips created a much faster technique.
As for how to apply the Bong Sau quickly through water, well, for this I was instantly taken back to a time in the early 1990’s in Hong Kong, where I was lucky enough to be training at the VTAA, together with Sifu’s Ip Chun & Ip Ching and also Master Chu Shong Tin.
As Master Chu Shong Tin was known as ‘The King of Siu Lim Tau’ what better Master to draw experience from!
What he taught me was a technique where, using the movement from Tan Sau, he would roll to Bong in a way that pushed an opponent away with great force.
This method saw the Bong not moving upward via a simple elbow lift, but by thinking of the hand rotating forward like that of a corkscrew.
Not only did this always have great success for me in Chi Sau, but also worked perfectly in my underwater Siu Lim Tau, showing zero resistance and perfect fluidity (so once again I thank the great Master for sharing this with me, R.I.P. Master Chu Shong Tin).
The final part of the Form, (the scraping low Garn’s) can also be greatly improved upon by thinking of the blade and the fingertips being the lead, not in energy you understand, merely as a way of showing the path.
This whole ’Training under water’ experience led me to focus not only on the Siu Lim Tau, but on all aspects of my Wing Chun, just to see what other fractions can be shaved off.
With the basic principles of Wing Chun being, ‘Conservation of Energy and Minimum Movement’, this journey of discovery, I think, is one we should all be paying attention to.