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How drills become skills by Wayne Morrison

Hi Guys

This is a great share from my student Wayne.


Trying to develop any skill requires consistency in practice, dedication and focus. Depending on an individual’s attributes, ability to learn and time available to train, the process of acquiring a skill can be different for everyone. In Wing Chun our forms give us the blueprint of the system, everything we need can be found within them. However, to develop the skills we need to take them away from this environment and train it in drills. Drills allow you to take a specific element to focus on so that it becomes ingrained into your DNA. Once you have added that layer of skill you can dispose of that drill and move on to another one. It is not about accumulating the most drills but is about enhancing the skills. After all who has time to practice a thousand drills a day?


In Wing Chun we have various types of drills that allow us to develop the skills we need. This includes: solo drills (static and moving), partner drills (static and moving), Chi Sao, Sparring, Wall bag, Wooden Dummy, heavy bags, focus mitts, the list could go on. The importance when doing any drill is to understand the thread that runs from one drill to the next, after all the same drill could be done by two people each working on developing a different attribute or skill.


In this video I give an example of how we can take an underlying skill as a thread through a number of drills. Each layer allows me to take the skill to a new level with the end result being a skill that is applicable in a combat situation, after all we are Martial Artists so that should be the end aim. As I say, once a drill has been mastered, we do not have to continuously repeat it, that said the drill is always there to go back to should we feel that we need to reset and focus. The underlying skill which is the focus of this video is the correct use of our bows and body structure in receiving and issuing force (that is what my mind intention was anyway, you could do the same drills with a different intention). In the video I take the drills through 5 layers, from a static solo drill to a free moving application drill. Below I will briefly outline what these drill stages are:


  1. The first layer is a simple sink, press, rise drill using the dummy. The focus here is to connect the bows correctly ensuring that the Jut Sao (sinking element) and Tok Sao (rising element) is done through the bows with correct hip and elbow connection and without holding tension in the shoulders.
  2. We now move to a Tan Da, still static but with the hip opening. Again, the focus is on using the bows ensuring no tension in the shoulder. We seek the bridge first using Man Sao before receiving the pressure on the Tan Sao, sinking our weight ensuring we load the weight correctly whilst simultaneously using the cutting punch to control the other bridge. The dummy is a great tool for this allowing us to feel if we are pressing with the arms as opposed to the hip, whether we are carrying tension in the shoulders, or applying pressure through the hands as opposed to the elbows.
  3. Once we have the basics of this down it is time to play around linking multiple attacks together whilst maintaining correct structure and use of force. In the video I show this first using a Jut Sao palm strike then adding a Tan Sao and chop after.
  4. After developing a strong static base and correct use of bows, working from a singular attack to multiple it is now time to add in movement. We look to bridge the distance with the dummy using our spring punches, the idea not being to hit the dummy or destroy the arms but to enter and use the correct bows again to generate force behind the strike. Once that bridge is made we can absorb with our Tan Sao and Cutting punch again and then from here add follow up techniques.
  5. The final element to be free with it. Moving around in a relaxed manner and applying the attacks and defensive energies as if in a sparring/ fight situation. The focus not being on hand shape but rather the correct use of body mechanics in a relaxed state.


The ability to use the bows and correct body structure has now gone from a very static drill, through a series of more obvious drills (where the Wing Chun hand shapes and punches are obvious) resulting in the final layer, a practicable application of the bows and body structure in a free-flowing combat situation. When I hear people saying they don’t see Wing Chun in our Iron Wolves fight team’s competitive exploits I know that they are just unaware and not conscious to the multiple layers of skill. Wing Chun is not defined by hand shape/position, rather it is the correct use of our body mechanics guided by the principles of the system that results in correct Wing Chun.


So, to recap, any drill you do should be for the development of a particular skill, be conscious to what it is you are doing and why you are doing it. Once you have gained competence at a drill don’t be afraid to discard it or file it away should you need to re-centre yourself to the key element of the skill. Look for progressions within your drills, adding layers of depth and understanding will help refine and further develop the underlying skill. Most of all, enjoy what you are doing.

24 July, 2020

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