Siu Nim Tao – “Some food for thought”

Siu Nim Tao is the first form in Wing Chun which includes 108 movements. All the hands of Wing Chun are incorporated within this form. Siu Nim Tao is possibly one of the most underrated, misinterpreted and least understood martial art forms in existence.

One of the secrets and least regarded aspects of Wing Chun and the form is that it can foster character development and the potential power development is unlimited. By understanding that you are not competing with someone else or trying to reach perfection, as this is unattainable (by “aiming” for “perfection” you have already limited your Siu Nim Tao power and development, please understand that by “labelling” your Wing Chun with the expectation of perfection, you have already placed the “concept” of a  limit on an unlimited style ). What you are trying to do is increase your power, understanding and therefore skill, day by day, form by form, hand by hand, you study, practice and improve your Siu Nim Tao.

Some reading this may put forward the argument that once you become a “Master” you have perfected the form. I would debate this by the simple fact that I have witnessed Sifu Fung Ping Bor constantly and consistently improve his Wing Chun power and therefore skill and teaching prowess.

To practice Siu Nim Tao, you must first and foremost have a competent Sifu who is willing to guide you through your Wing Chun development. Initially you will be copying the movements and whilst you don’t understand why you are doing what you are doing, the Wing Chun process has begun. How you answer the following questions can help you check and determine where your skill currently is and possibly where it will end up (remember character development is an essential component of Wing Chun, without understanding this concept at some point in your Wing Chun walk you will never reach your full potential):

  • Am I prepared to empty my cup and let my Sifu fill it?
  • Do I want to improve my character?
  • Am I humble and teachable?
  • Will I put in the hard work required to increase my Wing Chun skill?

Remember, success in Wing Chun is not just about who you can “beat”, it is about the motivation and concept behind it. If you follow the path of being better than others you will never reach your potential Wing Chun skill level. Rather choose the path that Sifu recommends which is “if you can increase the skill level of your training partner to a level that makes it hard for you, then you will increase your own skill level exponentially in direct correlation to the amount that you apply this concept”. Iron sharpens iron, but if iron rubs against wood it remains the same and the wood gets deformed, not stronger. If you apply this latter concept then neither you nor your training partner will improve, it only results in your partner being discouraged while you have your ego stroked, which ultimately leads to character degradation, resulting in Wing Chun being rubbished by other martial arts exponents as the essence is gradually watered down or worse still, lost altogether. I hope the reader is starting to get an idea that Wing Chun has a lot of depth and life application if the practitioner is prepared to empty their cup and once again the ultimate key is a hard working, well skilled Sifu who practices what they preach and can teach the application through direct experience not just by hypothesis or futile debate.

The foundation of Siu Nim Tao is the stance. It is important to note that the skill and power of your hands and consequently Chi Sau are directly related to this stance. The power which is developed through correct implementation of the stance is “inertia”, which when related to physics, means the property of matter by which it retains its state of rest or its velocity along a straight line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force. The stance is not about magic or secret techniques which give immediate results. Rather, it is about logic, physics and common sense. Every healthy fully functioning person that can stand has a stance. Siu Nim Tao makes you aware of this and teaches you how you can better use that stance through correct structure of bones and optimal use of joints, muscles and tendons to develop power, which allows you to have a “powerful” Siu Nim Tao as opposed to something that “looks good” which when tried and tested in the fire of physical confrontation is about as much use as wet matches.

Siu Nim Tao does not involve stiff muscles or locked joints as this works in contradiction to the development of inertia and the application of this power through the hands. Your whole body must be alert when practicing Siu Nim Tao this includes and is not limited to the mind, eyes, joints, muscles, feet, fingers and toes. It is about the best use of the whole body in unison not just the top or lower half, legs or hands. Initially your focus will be limited to just the hands or the feet etc but this is the path you must take, just as a baby learns to sit, walk, run and then swim or drive a car.

Sifu Fung Ping Bor has been practicing Siu Nim Tao every day for more than 50 years, spending up to an hour at a time on one single form. That requires a character which is disciplined, committed and one which speaks volumes with action not just mere words. Sifu leads by example, he doesn’t say “in the old days my Wing Chun was good”, rather his skill, teaching and demonstrations resonate that today in the present his skill is increasing, going from strength to strength regardless of age or the limitation other practitioners may perceive or believe. He is a Sifu who is willing, skilled and knows how to impart his knowledge and the practical applications of Siu Nim Tao to his students.

Sifus commitment to excellence and hard work earned him the nickname “Lightning Hands” and his remarkable Wing Chun techniques are from this consistent, persistent and intense daily training over the last 50 years. Sifu is a present testimony that Siu Nim Tao is a way of life, that there are no excuses or easy ways out, but that hard work and the intelligence to apply practice and theory will put you on the Wing Chun path of unlimited potential.

Written by Richard Bulley.