Full of skill or stuffed with knowledge? – Sifu Kasper Lund Nielsen

Sifu Kasper Lund Nielsen, 4. TG WT, National Instructor Denmark, on the debate initiated by Grandmaster Kernspecht concerningn the value of Chi-Sao in WingTsun ...

I am glad about the long awaited "back to the basics"!

Dear Si-Fu,
While advertisers have for some years apparently been able to reach consumers with slogans such as "Back to Basics" or "Reduce to the Max" with great success, and self-help books intended to help readers simplify their all-too complicated lives are selling like hot cakes, our martial art is moving towards optimisation by a return to its intrinsic roots – thanks to your efforts and above all in the context of your focus on "implanting reflexes" in Chi-Sao. 
As a purist , I am particularly pleased about this development. Everything in life develops and constantly changes. Sometimes it is important to let this process happen, but sometimes one also has to apply the brakes. Or to put it graphically, if a hot-air balloon is to rise, it must first get rid of its ballast.
Some years ago, in my dissertation for the 3rd Technician grade, I detailed my own thoughts about Chi-Sao and the forms as training methods. The following is a brief extract from this dissertation:
"The creation and implantation of movement patterns at the neuronal level is central to learning WingTsun. These pre-programmed movement patterns both allow us to feed our random access memory with other information and thoughts, and allow movements to begin automatically (...), which is of particular importance with respect to the speed required of WingTsun in
certain situations.
The stability of such patterns can only be assured by the unchanging nature of a limited number of basic elements. It is in these terms that our forms should be seen, as they collectively form the grammar of our martial art and every movement they contain is a term in our shared language base (...) The most important aspect for us is to define our terms, and in classical teaching the instructor does this as follows: he shows the student a movement or a particular sequence of movements, answers any questions he may have and lets him practice what he has seen. I have already said that mechanical learning is senseless; a student who merely imitates what he sees learns nothing new. Instead he must link the learning material with his existing knowledge on the basis of his body’s prior motory and mental state. This is precisely where WingTsun is distinctive: anybody can learn it, as we build on the psychomotory capabilities and skills of ordinary people. While we study our martial art, this prior knowledge changes from the usual capabilities of the body and mind to more and more sophisticated skill, as the forms gradually school us and build on each other. The second important aspect I have mentioned is the ability to solve specific problems, for a beautifully executed Biu-Tze form alone does not make us good fighters. Firstly, it is our own experience that teaches us how we should behave in possible combat situations, though of course it is not appropriate to go in search of physical confrontation in order to gain this experience. We first learn to adopt certain forms of behaviour through role-playing during training, but most importantly of all, the entire system of WingTsun is based on "experience". By practicing my forms and their applications in an abstract framework, I gain experience in understanding my own body, AND the body, movements and intentions of my partner". (Kasper Lund Nielsen, extract from 3rd TG WingTsun dissertation submitted on 10.10.2002)
One final remark: In my view WingTsun is not a martial sport but a martial art. And an art consists of more than a few more or less subtle, perfected techniques. It is that "certain something" that makes an art special and fascinating – in our case feeling and acting on both the mental and physical level.
Accordingly I would like to thank you, dear Si-Fu, for making our art, its power and beauty an experience and a joy with your untiring commitment.

Best wishes,

To-Dai Kasper Lund Nielsen
4th TG WingTsun
National Instructor Denmark