Any serious student of modern Wing Chun has encountered multiple names or representations of the first level of Wing Chun Kung Fu knowledge and learning. In some families it is called "Siu Nim Tau" meaning "Little Idea Head (System)", while others refer to it as "Siu Lim Tau" or "Little Drill Head (System)". Many discussions have arisen as to which is correct. In Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kung Fu, both are correct, but they do not refer to training in the same way. Each represents a different approach to training with a specific military purpose attached to that approach. The Siu Nim Tau training track was employed to develop leaders who could reproduce combat warriors in whatever numbers were required. Out of military necessity, very few practitioners were trained to this level of knowledge. In contrast, Siu Lim Tau training was employed for the vast majority of practitioners who were expected to "produce" results on the battlefield, but were not expected to "reproduce" fellow warriors. In truth, this is how military training has been approached for millennia.
From a technical standpoint, when Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kung Fu was created in the Southern Shaolin Temple 330 years ago, it represented a true paradigm shift in combat thinking. Its main purpose for existence was to employ the culmination of Shaolin philosophical and physiological knowledge in support of battlefield strategic and tactical necessities the remnants of the Ming Dynasty Army and numerous revolutionary societies could use against the conquering Ching Dynasty. Maximum combat efficiency in use of resources (physical and energetics alike) was the imperative that drove the creation of this style around martial self-awareness in relation to space, time, and energetics. In essence, it required both philosophical and physical comprehension of the realities of human hand-to-hand combat. Complete three-dimensional control of the shape of the battlefield and all of its players, as well as complete control of the interactive relationship between space and time, became the central focus of the science that developed as Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun.
Creation of the maximum efficiency required for human combat mandated strict adherence to the laws of physics and the realities of human structures, geometry and physiological motion. All movement had to be natural and realistic for the human body. All structures had to support maximum strength and power delivery with the most economic use of space and time while simultaneously precluding the opponent from any efficient use of that same space and time. In other words, the opponent was compelled to fight in the Hung Fa Yi warrior's universal reality. The opponent was never allowed to fight in his own subjective reality.
During the past 18 months much has been written and published by the Ving Tsun Museum about the history of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun and its philosophical core surrounded by scientific principles. In essence, that information highlighted the Siu Nim Tau track of training for leaders and reproducers of warriors. Included in the information presented were the philosophy of Saam Mouh Kiu (Three Connecting Bridges) representing the three stages of martial reality and the Wing Chun Formula with its 1-line, 2-line, 3-Reference Point, 5-line, 5-Stages of Combat, and 6 Gate theories. Also included were discussions of the principles of Yee Ji Kim Yeung Mah, Leung Yi Mah, Bun Yuet Mah, Saam Dim Bun Kuen, Saam Dim Yat Sin, Triangular Theory and numerous others. All constitute the technical knowledge base of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun training. All build upon one another to create a knowledge base that leads to the Wing Kiu (true focus) stage of martial reality. For example, the 1-line concept gives the practitioner the core of human structure and balance. The 2-line, 3-Reference Points, and 5-Line theories give the practitioner 3 dimensions. Combined with Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun's Triangular Theory, all give rise to comprehension and efficient use of the 6-gates of offense and defense universal to human combat.
Wherein the above principles, concepts, and theories are absolutely essential to training at the Siu Nim Tau technical knowledge level, they constitute an expense of human and time resources that cannot be militarily defended in terms of training common combat troops in large numbers. Every troop does not need to know how to defend against every threat or every weapon. In battlefields of 300 years ago, armies adopted the fighting style of their respective generals. Therefore, troops to be employed within the sphere of influence of any given enemy army needed strategies, tactics, and body skills tailored to the specific style or threat to be confronted. A teacher with extensive technical knowledge could quickly create reaction drills and body mechanics drills that would counter specific threats without having to train troops for threats not anticipated in that same region. Since large numbers of troops are needed for production, rather than reproduction, a simpler, more efficient training track is needed to produce effective fighters in 6 to 8 months. Such a track is provided in Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun's Siu Lim Tau training. It was used 300 years ago to quickly train practitioners who did not require the knowledge to reproduce and be just as easily used in much the same way today. Siu Lim Tau employs body mechanics and reaction drills in conjunction with a clever structural heuristic called "Triangular Theory" to build true martial reality skills into warriors without having to train their mental awareness of how those skills were gained or could be replicated in others.
By way of example, we'll identify some of the body mechanics drills employed by Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun's 4th Generation leader, Hung Gun Biu, to train combat troops. The name "Hung Gun" means a high level revolutionary leader given the responsibility for fielding fighters. Hung Gun Biu's real name is unknown, but he may have been a nephew of the Chan family with the birth name of Chan Biu. The attached Hung Fa Yi lineage chart reflects that the second and third generation leaders were indeed inheritors of the wealthy Chan family whose members both supported and were trained by Jeung Ng, the 1st Generation leader of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. It is known that Hung Gun Biu also had a direct connection to the Red Opera.
Siu Lin Tau training under Hung Gun Biu began with wrist and elbow and punch structure development. The first exercise focused on moving the punching hand wrist from the centerline of the body to a reference point described by triangular theory. That theory reflects an isosceles triangle with the striking point of the fist forming the apex and the nose and diaphragm forming the root of the two equilateral sides of that triangle. Another triangle is formed by the elbow of the striking hand forming the apex with the two equilateral sides terminating at the centerline and the shoulder line on the striking hand side of the body. Once the reference point was mastered through drilling, the punching structure would be emphasized with the same drill, but the punch would extend beyond the reference point out to the upper gate (nose level) centerline.
Some subsequent drilling sequences are pictured in this article. They follow a logical progression of drilling from a stationary posture, then advancing to an attack stance with the same structural drilling of the wrist-elbow-punch. This trained the body mechanics of moving into an opponent's space. Subsequent exercises incorporate chain punches and strikes and ultimately, exercises with partners to include Paak Da (redirect / punch), Gum Da (trap / punch), etc. The nature of any technique or strategy / tactic could be trained through such drilling. For example, the nature of Hung Fa Yi Paak is to redirect up/down or left/right. All directions could be trained with body mechanics drilling. Each exercise enabled the trainer to drill the structural time frame of space into the body mechanics of the trainee without expending the time and resources to communicate and teach in-depth concepts, principles, and philosophies.
After body mechanics training, skill and challenge exercises are employed to determine whether true combat skill levels have been reached. Weaknesses are quickly identified and appropriate drilling is resumed to correct them. The ultimate tests of combat worthiness are the actual combat applications and they are trained at every skill level in Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. All exercises and drills reflect the exact same motions to be employed in actual combat, so retraining is minimal and "deconditioning" of training methodologies is unnecessary.
Hung Fa Yi's Two-Track training system fully addresses the military training imperatives of any organized fighting force. Siu Nim Tau track training provides complete technical knowledge for developing a few highly skilled and knowledgeable leaders / trainers. These leaders in-turn are equipped with the ability to instantly assess the strategies, tactics, structures, and tools of the enemy and quickly develop/adapt body mechanics and reaction drills that build the necessary Wing Kiu skills into front line warriors. Those same warriors are able to express the entire Wing Chun formula in their bodies and weapons without the lengthy training time required to develop the in-depth knowledge of their leaders. They are not, however, prepared to develop new drills/exercises to counter different threats. Nor are they prepared to reproduce other fighters. These abilities lie only within the grasp of the select few practitioners given full Siu Nim Tau track technical knowledge. Certainly, there are more advanced levels of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun training to include Chum Kiu and Biu Ji skill and knowledge levels, but, under the guidance of skilled trainers, even Siu Lin Tau level fighters could be employed in combat including the use of weapons as well as hands and feet. This proves the effectiveness and combat training efficiency of the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun system.
A Note About the Authors: Grand Master Garret Gee is the 8th Generation inheritor of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kung Fu. He directs the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Federation and its Headquarters School in San Francisco. Master Benny Meng, Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum, is a 9th generation disciple of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun under Grand Master Gee. Sifu Richard Loewenhagen is one of the founding committee members of the Ving Tsun Museum and currently serves as its Director of West Coast Affairs. He is also a 10th generation disciple of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun under Master Benny Meng. The authors are full time teachers of Wing Chun Kung Fu and are available for professional seminars on historical, as well as technical, aspects of the Hung Fa Yi art and its training methods. Garrett Gee can be reached at 219 Monterey Blvd, San Francisco, Ca, 94131, phone: (415) 587-2898 and email: HFYWC101@AOL.COM. Benny Meng can be reached at Ving Tsun Museum, 5715 Brandt Pike, Dayton, OH 45324, phone/fax (937) 236-6485, and emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Richard Loewenhagen can be reached at Meng's Martial Arts of Arizona, 3029 N. Alma School Rd, Suite 218, Chandler, AZ, 85224, phone (480) 820-2428 and emailed at email@example.com.
The following three progressions demonstrate how the ideas and structures learned in the Siu Nim Tau form are developed, drilled and applied in the Siu Lin Tau progression.
Siu Nim Tau Little Idea Beginning
Sifu Benny Meng demonstrating the punching sequence at the beginning of the Siu Nim Tau form. The fist, wrist, elbow, and arm positions are the proper structures for application. The concepts learned in the form are practiced through drilling.
Starting position. Wrist on centerline. Elbow at triangular position. Extended punch at the High Reference Point.
Siu Lin Tau Little Drilling Beginning
Jeremy Roadruck drilling the fundamental punch through the Siu Lin Tau exercise in the air. This sequence drills the student to perform with the proper body mechanics without consideration of a second object.
Drilling the wrist move to the proper starting position, straight - not bent. The fist structure is proper, ready to be used for striking.
Drilling the elbow to move to the triangular position supported by the second hand, aligned to deliver the strike with the whole body.
Drilling the knee to move to centerline, covering the lower gate, before moving forward.
Drilling the body to move and strike together, completing with proper six gate structures.
Mike Mathews and Chango Noaks demonstrating the Siu Lin Tau training with a partner. Chango is striking to Mike's head and Mike is responding by covering his gates and responding with punches.
Initial position. Mike is being attacked and is only aware of it peripherally.
Sighting Chango's attack, Mike moves to cover his gates.
Mike regains his facing and covers the attack by setting up his Jong Sau and Two Line Defense.
Mike clears Chango's strike and moves against Chango's flank to counter-attack at the same time, gaining an advantage in both time and space.
Mike continues to dominate the time and space by stepping further to the flank and applying an additional strike.
Proper punching structure from different angles