A question was asked on a forum about drills and do they teach anything other than a reaction to a set response. Pointing out that that may not be of value. I don’t agree with that, and I answered the question, but I thought I would go into more detail for you guys here.
I think all drills are gateways to skills and an important part of learning any martial arts. Wing Chun is a fast close-range art, therefore drilling to understand quadrats, positions and timing are very important.
One must understand the purpose of the drill then also feel the opponent’s pressure and feel what is the correct course of action. Repeating a drill with controlled pressure is the beginner’s level.
The beginner’s level teaches the student the correct angle, direction, distance and so on. Plus, timing and basic sensitivity. If you stay at this level and do not progress, then that is a limited way to train.
The next stage one must read and feel pressure changes in Chi Sao to make it live. That’s the live intermediate level.
The Intermediate level the student has awareness of the options and now works to develop experience of different pressures and the impact of countering them. Linking and delinking are key at this point in order to adjust and control the attack. Including awareness of the opponent’s attack, your defense and your counterattack, plus your opponent’s reaction to that. The feedback loop continues until the goal is achieved. It is very important when learning this level that one invests in loss and doesn’t just try to win at all costs. What this means is that one must learn to calibrate the correct timing. Therefore, as the opponent attacks you may let the attack land and watch it the first time. The second time you try to feel the attack and adjust to it lightly, this allows a finer timing and awareness to develop. This may be repeated many times. Then the end of this stage is you can feel and adjust with more awareness and with smoother response
Then one’s whole body becomes aware of all these levels and factors and no set pattern is required for it to be successful in combat. That’s the higher more advanced level.
So, drills are very important in all martial arts. But knowing the way to train them is equally important. The drill must develop and become a live drill. Arts like Wing Chun, Wrestling, BJJ, Kickboxing all have massive drill training, but they all have controlled live environments. Wing Chun has Chi Sao which has a goal of control and striking which has been drilled, wrestling has live rounds with the goal of takedowns and pinning which have been drilled, BJJ has rolling with the goal of applying submissions that have been drilled, Kickboxing has sparring with the goal of landing combinations that have been drilled.
I hope that was helpful.