Usually, it takes about 20-30 days of continuous practice to create a new habit. Participating in lessons three or four times a week helps develop that new rhythm. Lessons provide a good practice environment while instructors and students provide a nurturing support system. Practicing in lessons with the aid of instructor (especially for private students with one on one work) helps students become aware of the abundance of chi. During this period, it is important for the instructor to explain the differences between external and internal practices and what students can expect to learn physically and mentally, as well as what they might expect to come across emotionally and what to do about it.
Role of the Wing Chun Instructor
The instructor should also explain the challenges of Wing Chun, which include:
• Remembering the physical movements.
• Not comparing their learning rates to others.
• Slowing down and not over doing it.
• Feelings of awkwardness.
• Letting go of competitiveness.
• Problems with self-image.
First pillar: Wing Chun research
Potential students discuss to their friends, fitness practitioners, chat on forums and social media sites. They read books and research on the internet about practices that can help them achieve their goals and find more understanding. They find something that matches them intellectually or emotionally. They find that it seems right, makes sense or they think it will solve their particular problems.
They look for intellectual confirmation to strengthen their view. They narrow their choices to a few.
Second pillar: Beginning Wing Chun
At this stage, people research what instructors and lessons are available. They may take an introductory class or weekend seminar and talk with practitioners, students and instructors. They may purchase a video and try a practice on their own. They find out about the challenges involved and then must make a decision if it is something they want to do.
Third pillar: Committing to Wing Chun training
At this stage, people commit to a class several times a week. External factors matter: the setting of the class, the personalities of the instructor and other students.
Fourth pillar: Practicing Wing Chun outside of Class
“The teacher leads you to the gate, but only you can pass through”
At some point, students must take wing chun unto themselves and make it their own.
True advancement begins with practice outside of class. The instructor will show what the next learning phase is and ask students to practice in order to progress. At first, beginners will feel happy to learn the basic movements and get better at them. But, the bigger challenge is to learn them well enough to feel their impacts deep inside the body and mind and develop the new inner rhythms that will lead to adopting wing chun as a daily practice. When students begin to practice outside of lessons, their practice is often erratic. There is no support from their instructor or other students when they encounter moments of forgetfulness or awkwardness.
There are also the very real challenges of encountering negative emotions without anyone to provide guidance. In addition, there is the inherent slowness of the process in learning and remembering the moves and feeling the benefits. The best strategy for success at this stage is for students to find a consistent time and place to practice—a time that is held apart and becomes routine and inviolable in a place where the practice cannot be interrupted.
Fifth pillar: Committing to Wing Chun Mastery
Students have stuck to the lessons long enough to learn basic movements and have developed the practice habits that bring about new internal rhythms. While practicing wing chun, there will be breakthrough moments when new plateaus are reached.
In these moments, students suddenly feel more agile and alive; their minds and spirits have moments of great clarity and focus; they feel moments of total relaxation combined with a new ability to handle tensions and anxieties. They recapture the sheer joy of learning they once had as children.
Sixth pillar: Facing Challenges in Wing Chun
Kung fu energy practices inherently come with inner difficulties to overcome and pass through. Plateaus may be followed by periods where not much seems to happen, the practice seems to be going nowhere and self-sabotage is likely. This is where students feel their negative energy and the effects of the accumulations of negative emotions.
They may quit just before a new summit is reached and sink back into self destructive habits. Wing chun brings them increasingly into contact with their ego and the flow of their energy. When they begin contacting that energy—for better or worse—they will contact areas of their emotions or thinking that may make them feel out of control.
When they start traveling in unfamiliar territory they might become uncomfortable and afraid of working through these feelings. They become fearful of what they may encounter and stop practicing.
One of the warning signs of self-sabotage is disassociation. Students do the movements on automatic pilot and remain unaware of their effects. They will have to make peace with themselves before they can pass through it and head towards the sublime. With diligence and perseverance students will build a foundation that will effectively and increasingly enable their practice.
Seventh pillar: Wing Chun Re-Inspiration
In the period that follows a plateau or an encounter with a self-destructive habit, students need approach their practice gently and find ways to challenge themselves with small successes so that their practice inspires them again.
Students should try:
- Focusing on relaxing particular body parts as they do the movements ( i.e. softening their shoulders or relaxing their stomachs)
- Practicing one movement over and over.
- Doing movements extremely slow.
- Making their movements more connected and smooth.
- Relaxing into one posture and hold it for a minute or more.
- Thinking of ways to continuously re-inspire themselves will keep the practice fresh and alive.
- Satisfaction must come from the inside and increasingly this is what the practice of wing chun can provide.