If you’ve trained Wing Chun for a while, you may have tried your hand at sparring or fighting with Wing Chun. How do you build confidence in the techniques you’ve learned? You drill and drill the Wing Chun techniques every class, but when you go to spar, what happens ? The techniques you drilled don't come out, you can't do them, or if you do them, they don't work the way they did in the drill. Here, I'll explain why.
Confidence is trained in the drills. So, as you see the techniques you’ve learned work in sparring, your confidence increases. However, it’s not enough to just train the techniques in the drills. You must also be mindful of your own mentality and thought process when training the drills. This is the key to determining if you are successfully building the body mechanics to execute the techniques or if you’re just stagnant in the drills. It’s not very difficult to do many of the drills mindlessly, without focus, as a matter of routine especially as you become more advanced and familiar with the correct movements.
The five keys to training drills successfully are:
1. Be present- don’t anticipate. Although you know what movement comes next, wait until the last minute before you execute your technique. This will train you to respond upon reaction and not just because you know what’s coming next. It also helps to break up the rhythm during the drills. If your partner is feeding you a jab for example, have him/her change the speed between jabs. In other words, keep it unpredictable. Of course, this applies only when you’ve developed proficiency in the movement and drill and have a good idea of how to execute whatever the technique is. It’s easy to successfully execute a technique in response to a partner’s feeding attack if you know what he’s feeding and the pace he’s feeding it. Switch it up by changing the timing of when he feeds you, being unpredictable as in a real fight. Also, feel free to switch up what he feeds you. Maybe 2 to 3 different attacks at random and have you respond according to the drills you’ve already trained. Again, this is more advanced.
2. Take advantage of committed energy- Know that a drill designed to defend against a straight punch will vary depending on how committed the punch is. The same defense will not work against a quick jab as it will against a fully committed straight punch. This is important to understand because often we train Pak Sao or Pak Da against a jab for example, but our partner leaves his arm extended after he jabs so we can apply the Pak. This is not a jab. Maybe this would be considered a fully committed straight punch, but even so, he should bring his punch back relatively quickly. The difference between a committed punch and a jab is a committed punch usually uses more energy, is stronger, extends further, and takes longer to retract allowing you to Pak, Lop, or apply some other technique. A jab is quick and generally doesn’t allow much time to counter. This is important to understand because if you think you can apply the same technique against a seasoned boxer as you can against your fellow classmate feeding you an easy punch in a drill, then you’ll be very surprised.
3. Focus on the small details- Remember the basics. As you advance in the drills, it’s easy to forget the basics, your foot alignment, structure, balance, use of energy, etc. The small details are what make Wing Chun the system that it is. Many of the techniques look similar to those found in other martial arts, but the difference is in the intent, focus, and energy usage in those techniques.
4. Mindset- Once you’ve developed proficiency in the drill and you’re past the learning stage, your mindset should be as if it’s a real fight. Obviously, you’re not drilling to hurt your training partner, but your mindset is serious, focused, and alert. Your partner much also exhibit the same mindset. Again, you’re not trying to hurt each other, but in the later stages of your learning, your partner should be attempting to hit you when he’s feeding you punches. So often, training partners feed bad punches that don't reach you, lazy techniques, and sloppy kicks. If you become used to this as the norm, then when you go to fight a real fighter, you will be unfamiliar with the speed and intensity at which he throws those same attacks. Train how you fight.
5. Train to be an athlete- Although Wing Chun is not a sport and is intended for reality-based self-defense, you should train with the same intensity as anyone preparing for war. Whether your war is in a ring or cage or on the streets, train for battle. Athletes and special warfare units tend to have an insane work ethic. They wake up early and go to bed late. They put in the hard work to develop skill in their respective trades. If Wing Chun is just a class to you, then you’re missing 90% of what this art is all about. What is Kung Fu if not hard work?
These are just some tips to help your drills from becoming stagnant and to help build confidence in your techniques in sparring. Often the drills are more helpful than continuous sparring or fighting. Sparring is important, but in sparring, it becomes difficult to improve basic movements and techniques. In the heat of battle, you just execute the only way you know how to either hit or not get hit. Going back to the drills with the right mindset and focus allows you to reinforce the basics. Finding the right balance between the two is important, but that balance must include proper drilling, mindfully. I hope this article has been helpful for you. Thank you for reading.
Wishing you peace and compassion.
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