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The True Way of Wing Chun Chi Sau

Renegade Wing ChunChi Sau (translated – sticky hands) is a special training exercise unique to the fighting system of Wing Chun Kung Fu; it teaches sensitivity & adaptability and provides a reasonably realistic platform for the Wing Chun man to practice his techniques. (Primarily those used in close combat range.) There are three basic forms of Chi Sau practice: Dan Chi Sau (single hand), Poon Sau (two handed “rolling hands”), and Sheung Chi Sau (free flow practice). The goal is to be able to apply all the movements from Wing Chun’s three empty hand forms affectively and efficiently. Smoothly adapting to your opponents movements and reactions to your movements. In advanced stages Chi Sau is practiced while standing on a small table, while blindfolded, or both.

A lot of people practice Chi Sau as a sort of tag game where the one who gets the most hits wins, but this is not the true way of practice. In reality, at the close range in which Chi Sau is practiced striking or “tagging” is the easy part. Not getting hit is the hard part. The concentration during Chi Sau should be on sensing your opponent’s energy and reacting to his movements, a difficult task when you are spending all of your energy on attacking. Furthermore a good Wing Chun man will use this energy against you in a real fight utilized the theories of “Simultaneous Attack and Defense” and “Two Directional Force”. In the long run if Chi Sau is continually practiced in this manner the Wing Chun man will begin to subconsciously rely on this aggressive method as a combat strategy. Over relying on reckless aggressive attacking at close range is a sure way to get “popped” by an equally aggressive and determined opponent.  And, it will most likely lead to grappling as your opponent will also be in range to trap your hands as he tries to stop your attack. This situation is very much the same way as how MMA fighters end up clinching just before they go to the ground. Needless to say once you go to the ground your striking ability will be severely limited. I always advise my students that if they are intent on entering and fighting at close range, then they had better be well trained in grappling and ground fighting. Or ~ (I should add), have the power to take their opponent out with one or two punches.

To develop close range combat efficiency and work on solidifying your standing structure the best way to practice Chi Sau is at a moderate speed, combined with short bursts of energy, and intervals of fast movement. While at the same time moving smoothly in and out from all out “Trapping” (hand immobilizing) to simple “Rolling Hands”. Engaging and disengaging with your partner in a rhythmic yet broken pattern. Maintaining a calmness of both mind and body.

The new fad in Wing Chun is Chi Sau competitions. This once again goes against the true purpose of Chi Sau and Kung Fu in general. As Chi Sau competition begins to flourish the fear is that many students (and teachers) will gain a false sense of Kung Fu superiority through their doing well in these competitions with no true measure of whether their striking was effective or not. This illusion will overshadow the true essence of Wing Chun Kung Fu which is in the ability to transmit power and energy into the target as simply and affectively as possible. In an interview with Black Belt Magazine Ip Ching (Son of Grandmaster Ip Man) was asked which elements of Wing Chun his father practiced the most. He said that it was Sil Lim Tao form and Punching. This is very interesting. Many Wing Chun men would choose to dominate their opponent (or at least try) with complicated hand immobilizing attacks. I on the other hand, would prefer to end the confrontation with a simple single direct attack. That is combat efficiency.

© Copyright Todd Taganashi 2017

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The Warrior Hunter

Taganashi Renegade Wing Chun

“A Warrior Hunter knows that his death is waiting, and the very act he is performing now may well be his last battle on earth. He calls it a battle because it is a struggle. Most people move from act to act without any struggle or thought. A Warrior Hunter, on the contrary, assesses every act; and since he has intimate knowledge of his death, he proceeds judiciously, as if every act were his last battle. Only a fool would fail to notice advantage a warrior-hunter has over his fellow men. A warrior-hunter gives his last battle its due respect. It’s only natural that his last act on earth should be the best of himself. It’s pleasurable that way. It dulls the edge of his fright.”

~ Carlos Castaneda

© Copyright Sifu Todd Taganashi 2017

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The Way of the Tiger

Tigers are solitary animals and although they can be social they prefer to be alone.
The tiger is tolerant but territorial and will never back down from a fight.
They do not hunt or roam in packs and will avoid interaction with other predators.
Powerful, fast, and agile the tiger is one of the true warriors of the animal kingdom.
The spirit totem of the tiger brings honor, courage, loyalty to one’s inner-self, and independence.
These are the Ways of the Tiger.
They are my ways.

~ Taganashi

© Copyright Sifu Todd Taganashi 2017

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A Strong Will Can Pierce Stone

The story that I am about to tell is very old. I heard it first when I was about 13 years old. I am telling it to the best of my ability as I remember it.

The story is set in feudal Japan.

Once there was a young newly married samurai couple who were very much in love. The young couple shared a deep love for nature. Every day they would take a long walk in the forest together. One day while on their walk they were ambushed by a tiger. Although they both fought valiantly, sadly the young woman was killed and dragged off by the tiger.

Heartbroken by the death of his love and ashamed that he could not save her. The young samurai vowed that he would train himself and one day get revenge on the tiger. Knowing that his enemy was very fierce he trained himself diligently in the ways of archery and swordsmanship. Day after day, week after week, and month after month he trained with only one thought in mind, to kill the tiger. Each day after training he grabbed his sword and bow would take a walk along the same path where he and his wife encountered the tiger. Hoping to have a chance at his revenge.

Many months went by and the young samurai was beginning to feel he would never find his nemesis. Until one day while walking he saw in the distance a tiger sleeping beside a tree. Certain that this was the tiger who killed his beloved he slowly and silently drew an arrow. He thought about his wife, their lost dreams and their lost love. With all his love and all his hatred he loosed the arrow. The arrow flew deftly through the air and landed dead center of its target penetrating deeply. Tossing his bow to the side the young samurai drew his sword and moved in to take the head of his enemy. As he moved in closer he was shocked to see that it was not a tiger, it was actually a striped stone. But how was it that an arrow made of bamboo could penetrate stone?

When word of this reached his village everyone asked the young samurai to demonstrate how he could pierce stone with his archery skill. Time and time again he tried but his arrows would always bounce off the stone. As much as he tried he could never repeat the act again.

The moral of the story is that all men (and women) have the ability within themselves to do great things. And although hard training is important, it is the mind and the heart that matter most.

This story is the basis for the ancient proverb …

 “A strong will can pierce stone.”

~ Taganashi

© Copyright Sifu Todd Taganashi 2017

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The Traditional Martial Art Teacher

Since most of my students call me Sifu, I am often asked;

What is a Sifu?

So many times have I been asked this question that I have a well prepared answer. (The following quote is from my website.)

“The word Sifu is written with the Chinese characters 師傅 and  師父. The character 師 means “teacher”, while the meaning of 傅 is “tutor” and the meaning of  父 is “father”. Sifu is a role model; his words and actions represent not only himself and his school, they represent his teacher, and his teacher’s teacher. He is not overbearing or feared by any man nor does he fear any man. His training and understanding brings a peace of mind which can be felt when you are in his presence. In the west most will think that they pay their Sifu for Kung Fu lessons with money and tribute; it is an investment. But the true investment is made by the Sifu in his student.”

But is that it? Are all martial art teachers considered a Sifu?

The criteria for being a martial art teacher is always changing. Generally speaking, a martial art teacher should be an expert of a specific style or method of boxing (unarmed combat), skilled in the use of a wide variety of modern and traditional weapons (specializing in at least one), and he should have (at least) general knowledge of healing, herbal medicine, and philosophy. With these skills and qualities, one could be described as a Sifu (in China), Sensei (in Japan), or Guru (in India).

The second most frequently asked question is;

What is the difference between traditional and modern martial art teachers?

The main difference between traditional martial art teachers and modern martial art teachers should not be measured in movement or combat efficiency. The main difference is that with traditional martial art teachers a large emphasis is placed on the development of character, humbleness, and non-aggressive behavior. Most modern martial art teachers only concentrate on the physical and many teach overly aggressive tactics that very often lead to legal problems for their students who “go too far” in a fight.

If we are to look at martial art schools from a personal development perspective, with self-defense ability as a side benefit, we can draw some basic conclusions concerning the differences. In most modern martial art schools students are taught to take a violent, aggressive approach to personal combat with little or no consideration of how that mindset will transfer into their normal daily lives. I will not get into any personal opinions of the type of character this develops. In contrast, traditional martial arts students are taught to remain calm in combat and to minimize any overly aggressive behavior.

In my core art of Wing Chun Kung Fu many teachers can be accused of teaching their students to be overly aggressive in close combat. They do not understand the deeper meaning behind Wing Chun’s Centerline Concept.

The Centerline Concept is based an imaginary line that runs straight down the center of the body. The theory of protecting one’s own centerline and attacking the opponent’s centerline is the core of most of Wing Chun’s fighting strategy — but it goes further than that. The Centerline Concept also represents the state of mind in which a Wing Chun man seeks to be undisturbed mentally and remaining focused (centered) during a fight, while at the same time forcing his opponent to lose control mentally and become “un-centered.” When the Kung Fu student learns this it will transfer into his everyday life. The results are obvious.

If your teacher or school falls into the category of only teaching fighting, it does not mean that they are bad teachers (or school.) What it means is that there is only a limited knowledge that can be transmitted through this method of teaching. And in the traditional sense these teachers cannot be called a Sifu, Sensei, or Guru. Furthermore as the student grows older the knowledge and skills attained through this method of teaching will eventually dwindle with age. Some will say that MMA and hybrid unarmed combat systems are the new era in martial arts. But I disagree. In this ever changing world, I believe the ways of wisdom, honor, and tradition will always prevail.

~ Taganashi

© Copyright Sifu Todd Taganashi 2017

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Speed is Not Part of the True Way of Strategy

I have seen many Wing Chun Kung Fu demonstrations where through means of hasty speed and aggression the onlooker is meant to be impressed. Attackers are dispatched with a flurry of empty punches in the air. The Wing Chun man attacking like a maniac. And we are supposed to believe that if the punches had connected his opponent would have been easily defeated. Having been in real close combat situations, I know that this is all hype and complete non-sense. And the truth is, this type of kamikaze strategy will most likely get you killed.

Perhaps it is age and experience that leads the expert martial artist to the strategy of “The Calm Mind and Body.” And, the knowing that speed (as it is related to the correlation between himself and the opponent) is a combination of (1) Timing, (2) Movement, and (3) Positioning. This is then combined with an understanding of the rhythm between oneself and the opponent. Speed like this cannot be taught, it can only be experienced.

A quote by Miyamoto Musashi serves to validate my essay. In the words of the famous 16th century military strategist…

“Speed is not part of the true Way of strategy. Speed implies that things seem fast or slow, according to whether or not they are in rhythm. Whatever the Way, the master of strategy does not appear fast.”

To explain this better let’s take for example a champion tennis player. They always seem to be in the right place at the right time, moving effortlessly from volley to volley. While at the same time forcing their opponent to hurry back and forth across the court through perfect placement of each ball return. Testing their opponent’s skill and endurance. If we as martial artist can reach this level then obliviously we will see speed as only a prerequisite to power, not a means or strategy to win a fight.

~ Taganashi

© Copyright Sifu Todd Taganashi 2017