You cannot feel that you are not feeling what you dont feel
A student wanted me to examine him for a master grade. Unfortunately, however, he fundamentally confused reacting by his tactile sense, i.e. ”feeling”, with reacting to visual stimuli: he did not e.g. perform a Bong-Sau because his hand was being pushed down, but because he saw something approaching him whose angle of attack might lead to a Bong-Sau, provided of course that the opponent does not change course, which he could consciously or unconsciously do three times in one second. In short, he was far short of having good tactile sensitivity but thought he possessed it. I was unable to pass him, as he lacked all the prerequisites such as looseness, sensitivity and timing.
But he did not really believe me, for after all he felt ”something”. He did not believe that over and above what he was able to feel, there was much more he could not feel. As I currently see it, he was lacking at least 70% of the sensitivity which a master should possess. A master above all must distinguish himself by this particular skill, for after all he is no longer a "Technician". As a Practitian he must already have mastered the techniques, and arrived at the goal to which they were meant to lead him. The "technical" way has come to an end, and now continues at another level. The ability to really feel is one of the most important transitions from Technician to Master, which is why I attach particular importance to it.
That is how it is: a physical sense - in this case the tactile sense – can only ever tell us what we perceive, but not what we fail to perceive.
Or to put it in a nutshell: the student does not feel that he is not feeling what he doesn’t feel.
The situation is similar to the so-called ”blind spot”. While I could probably prove that we all have a blind spot (where our eyesight is concerned), I am still looking for an experiment with which I can prove to my students that there is much more to be felt than they actually feel.
As a matter of fact, scientists are unable to explain why we are not conscious of being unable to see. The amazing thing is not so much our inability to see, but rather that we do not see that we do not see.
I have spent almost my entire life actively exploring the tactile sense, and in recent years I have specialised in using my sense of touch (both with my body and the long pole).
Tactile exercises were however too tedious or boring for my examinee, even after I explained their importance. He preferred to exercise his memory with set sequences, or act out prestigious forms in front of the mirror and dance around training equipment.
For a whole hour I privately demonstrated to him (to avoid offending his sensitive ego) that he was completely unable to interpose anything whatsoever between his neck and my hands, never mind cause me even the slightest of problems.
I thought he had taken all this on board, but next day his colleagues confided in me that he had come back from this private audience full of triumph: "I was able to counter all of Sigung’s attacks, he was seriously impressed."
You should trust your master when he tells you that you are not yet feeling enough. You should not automatically assume that he merely wants to sell expensive private lessons.
Learning WT requires a good deal of trust. Trusting that the system can be learned, and trusting your partner not to thwart and exploit your first tentative efforts to give way. It takes some considerable time before investing in weakness proves to be a strength, and this is preceded by the frustration of doing without something which would enable you to assert yourself, namely strength and resistance.
At first you are pushed around by the primitive force of others, and it is only after a long process of inner development that weakness becomes a real force against which any resistance is useless.
I am talking about a process that takes years. Many make the mistake of practicing some ability to give way in drill-like situations, like some sort of trick, and then combining this with sheer speed, muscles honed in a fitness studio and aggression born of fear.
The result is the nightmare partner of every Chi-Sau session, the one who only wants to show himself and others that he is superior. He believes he is better than others because he is able to use activity (!) to protect himself from attacks and deliver his own successfully.
Unfortunately he will be able to maintain this apparent superiority for quite a few years, namely by blocking, holding, pushing away and feinting.
I say “unfortunately“ because this means he has brought his own progress to an end. He fails to understand ”absence of intent“, and has manoeuvred himself into a cul-de-sac from which his ego will not let him escape.
In fact it is by no means the point of Chi-Sau to defend or attack intentionally, as ”it” will do it all for us. We only need to let ”it” happen, i.e. relax. By virtue of being prepared, we only need to use the possibilities that present themselves of their own accord owing to the potential or tendency of a situation.
Regrettably I have students holding the highest teaching grades who find themselves in the above trap and have made themselves inaccessible to rescue attempts. When I try to show them their error, they speed up, become hectic and try to block me or jump back to prevent something which they should in fact permit in order to progress further.
Imprisoned by pride and fear, and failing to consider what WT actually could be, they will never progress if they continue to rely on resistance in order to protect their essence with armour. They should be changing their entire way of thinking, rather than asking about some unknown combination or the next secret dance steps.
It was for a good reason that I reduced my weight, and therefore my muscle mass, by almost 30 kg many years ago, tipping the scales at less than
69 kg in early 2007 (I now weigh 80 kg again). Foregoing strength in this way has completely changed my WingTsun, and with it my effectiveness. Doing without physical strength has proved to be the best investment of my life!
First you must give up your strength, and trust the WT principles to have their effect over time. When the first positive results show themselves (and they always do!) after a long period of frustration, you can become even softer because you are less afraid. If you become even softer, you will be even more successful. This is a positive spiral that brings a great deal of satisfaction.