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ralph haenel, hänelwingtsun, wing tsun kung fu instructor, author, publisher, self-defense expert Sifu Ralph Haenel, learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu since 1984
Changing lives, one punch at a time.
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Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver Blog
Saturday, 7 January 2017

The Push-Button Toy and a Wing Tsun training method

This is simply a visualization of one of our training methods. The desired result is a continuous whole-body motion, maintaining a for us favourable mobile and elastic structure whilst setting up the training partner, forcing him into pushing or pulling actions. Either one leads due to our setup to the training partner’s attempt to close or open our structure.

Many of us remember the push button toy version of, for example, a giraffe or a donkey. They are also called floppy toys, thumb toys, collapsing toys, dancing toys or bendy toys. The hollow base contains the pushbutton and a spring. The strings, often fishing line, attach to the pushbutton and are fed up through the figure which sits on top of the base.

Now imagine the point of contact established with our training partner is this push-button. May it be on our forearm, elbow, upper arm, front or side of the shoulder, even the chest.

Two typical training scenarios of many, assuming contact via forearm to forearm.
1. The Wing Tsun response Tan-Sau has been initiated, yet the elbow locks in a certain angle. The whole arm ends up being tense and is being used like a handle by the training partner to instantly push us out of balance.
2. The partner’s action causes the Wing Tsun response Bong-Sau. The elbow angle between upper and forearm gets smaller leading to an collapsing position, one gets hit.

The right training will enable you to maintain a chain-linked structure. The angles of the wrist, elbow and shoulder in relation to the attack and each other are floating, neither one in this chain is resisting nor collapsing. Any impact or pushing is being sent like a wave through the contact point into our structure, often via wrist, elbow, shoulder, spine, hips, knees, ankles.
The visualized push-button toy effect.

To achieve even better results, I make it for myself more difficult by training Chi-Sau while under any circumstances remaining on my toes. Or I stand on my heels. Might feel or look initially a bit weird. But it dramatically increases your ability to adjust to attacks, pulling and pushing, grappling. You will greatly improve your balance.

It also works the other way around. Almost like pushing yourself off the ground, the chain works through your ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, elbows and wrists into the stance of your training partner, often surprisingly easy pushing him out of balance or effortlessly crushing his positions.
To clarify the “pushing yourself off the ground” part. You initially learn in (Wing Tsun) Chi-Sau to feel and interpret your partner’s actions via your arms. Now imagine your feet having a similar awareness of the ground. It’s OK if it sounds a bit silly. Your whole body is a shock absorber or a whip between the floor and the contact point with your training partner.

Don’t cheat with speed or strength. Always train slow first. And I mean really slow. Somebody who for a moment looks at your training, will think that you are not moving at all. Yes, that slow.
Paraphrasing what my Si-Fu said a long time ago: “To train in slow motion is the best training method in the world, that fails more than 99% of the time.” Of course, we asked him as to the why. His answer: “Because most guys find it boring, don’t have the patience. They rather wrestle, compare their strength. They try to speed up, test who is the fastest.”
All that is OK, if you compare the final achievement of your training. It is not suitable to build, let alone finetune one’s skills. And it only favours the stronger and faster student.
Remember, we are talking about a training method. I am not saying that one should fight juiceless, without speed or strength.
I am often being asked about the type of contact pressure during this type of training. I typically demonstrate three versions:
1. I make contact. Partner pushes or punches and collapses my positions.
2. I make contact. Partner pushes or punches and due to my tension, I get pushed back.
3. I make contact. Partner pushes or punches and I minimally respond and have already hit back.

Then I ask about the difference in how the contact was felt in all three scenarios and the answer is always, that all three felt the same. So, it’s not about the amount of pressure but its quality and that of the movement.

A last example. Have you ever in an elevator closed your eyes and touched the braille, trying to guess what floor it announces? Most of us feel the raised dots but can’t read it at all. But with training it can be read. A blind person can read an embossed braille newspaper very fast, that doesn’t mean he would push holes into the paper.

Meaning, you can have sufficient pressure that the partner can barely feel or not at all. Important though is the fluid mobility and maintenance of an elastic structure, which should neither collapse nor resist.

Once you move well and have achieved above qualities, now you add during training your speed and your functional strength.

In the end, in your Wing Tsun, your elasticity, mobility, fluidity and power, all come together.

Posted by ralph haenel at 1:26 PM PST

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