The Muk Yan Jong Is NOT for Dummies

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  by David Peterson 


Wing Chun Malaysia - Sifu David Peterson - The Muk Yan Jong is not for DummiesThere is a very simple, but extremely important and much-overlooked fact that few people practising Wing Chun seem to understand about the ‘Muk Yan Jong’ form – it must NOT ever be viewed in purely “black & white” terms with regard to concepts and/or applications. The ‘Muk Yan Jong’ is a complex, multi-faceted training tool that has many “shades of grey” and chief amongst its requirements is the need to have a very active imagination in order to actually discover the full potential of what is contained within it. It is a training tool that has so much to offer practitioners of the system, but for most, never delivers all that it could because it requires a very special kind of thinking. The ‘Muk Yan Jong’ is NOT meant for Dummies!!!

One of the most respected and innovative Wing Chun teachers of recent memory, the late Wong Shun Leung Sifu, believed that the most important consideration regarding the ‘Muk Yan Jong’ form is the need for the Wing Chun practitioner to appreciate the fact that there are certain things that the ‘Muk Yan Jong’ is NOT: it is NOT a conditioning tool; it is NOT a ‘Chi Sau’  training exercise or substitute for “hands-on” experience; it is NOT meant to be interpreted as a set of rigid sequences to be applied in rote fashion in combat – to practise and/or attempt to apply it as such is a recipe for disaster (to do so presumes far too much knowledge of the opponent, and to think in that way will lead to the Wing Chun practitioner getting him or herself into a situation that is extremely difficult to recover from or escape).

 

Herein lays the true nature of what the ‘Muk Yan Jong’ IS there to teach us. It is primarily a means to learn the basic skill of RECOVERY. It isn’t there to teach us how to have unbeatable skills, extreme power or unstoppable attacks. It is there to provide us with the best means possible to overcome what is our very worst enemy of all – our natural human capacity to make mistakes. No matter how much we think we know or how good we think our skills are, somewhere along the way, we all make mistakes. In combat, any mistake can lead to defeat, unless we have an effective means of RECOVERY. This is the purpose of the ‘Muk Yan Jong’ form, to show us what the most typical mistakes are, and then go about programming into our neural systems, the best possible solutions and skills to deal with these.


Along the way, the form also reinforces and trains skills and concepts that are found within the three basic forms (‘Siu Nim Tau’, ‘Cham Kiu’ and  ‘Biu Ji’), as well as improving distance, timing, footwork, power generation, positioning and co-ordination, to name just a few of the attributes it can develop and enhance. Much of what is contained in the first half of the form (approximately 60 movements in) emphasise ‘Siu Nim Tau’ and ‘Cham Kiu’ principles and tools. As we progress through to the second half of the form, we are introduced to more “unusual” or specialised ideas which in many instances, are more along the lines of what is contained within the ‘Biu Ji’ form, though not exclusively so.

img_sifu_davidP8The ‘Muk Yan Jong’ form contains several variations of the basic kicking techniques of Wing Chun (only two basic kicks are introduced prior to this; ‘Dang Geuk’ (“ascending heel kick”) and ‘Waang Geuk’ (“horizontal/side kick”), in the ‘Cham Kiu’ form), thus expanding both the repertoire and the adaptability of the Wing Chun student with regard to the use of the legs for attack and defence. Interestingly, of these kicking actions, all but one are considered to actually be ‘geuk’ or “kicks” with just one action referred to as ‘tui’ or “leg” – this is because the four ‘geuk’ actions are for attack, whilst the ‘tui’ is considered an emergency recovery action, not one that would normally be considered as a primary weapon of attack.

With regard to numbers, there has been much debate over the years as to how many techniques make up the form. Some insist that it is 108, others that it is 116, whilst for others even more. Each camp offers up reasons for their assumption, most of it mere speculation or hearsay. Basically, the number of techniques is NOT really a matter for concern. As Wong Sifu was known to say many times, we should be concerned with learning combat skills, not mathematics. Hence, not only is the number not of any real consequence (if one actually counts every single movement as one action, the number is somewhere around 180!!!), ultimately even the order of the sequences is not really that important, so long as you try not to leave anything out of the form. In addition, subtle variations within the sequences or in the actual actions themselves are really not of any great concern, so long as the basic concepts of the system, as well as logic and reality, are always adhered to.

More crucial than anything else, it is extremely important that one never loses sight of the fact that the ‘Muk Yan Jong’ is a piece of training equipment, simple in construction (a trunk of wood with three “arms” on two levels, each representing both the left and right sides, and both the inside and outside, with the mid-level arm representing mid-level kicks as well, and a single “leg” protruding from the front), and mounted in such a way that it cannot move more than a few inches in any direction. As such, the Wing Chun practitioner has to move around the ‘Muk Yan Jong’ when, in reality, the opponent is able to move at will. Thus, when playing the form, many of the actions and the direction or angle of movement, or the actual position of the hands will NOT be the way in which these actions may end up being applied in actual combat.

It is therefore very important that one has an active imagination and uses it during practice, visualising things that are not actually happening, such as arms moving or not being present, or one arm representing two arms, and a host of other possibilities. In this way, the ‘Muk Yan Jong’ truly comes “alive” as a training tool that goes way beyond its very simple construction. A key to getting the very most out of using this equipment is to make sure that one slows down, giving every movement equal importance and attention, checking every angle and technique for accuracy, and learning to apply the very best possible body structure so as to ensure the development of flexible, explosive power that can be applied without the need to over-exert the body. One needs to “feel” every movement and make sure that they develop a fluid and natural means of moving from start to finish.

Win Chun Malaysia - Sifu David Peterson - The Muk Yan Jong is not for DummiesThere is absolutely NOTHING to be gained by trying to complete the form as quickly as possible, or to try to bash the hell out of the ‘Jong’ – there is only one dummy in such an exchange, and it’s NOT the equipment!!! Just as in the practice of the basic forms, the emphasis should be on the things that really matter – accuracy of movement, structure, balance, angle, distance, and so on. The whole idea is to upload the best possible information into the neural system in order for the very best possible application of the concepts and tools contained in the form. If you want to work on speed or power, there are far better ways to do so, and more appropriate equipment to do it on.

Yet another essential fact to accept is that the various sections of the ‘Muk Yan Jong’ form are NOT set sequences that must be applied exactly as they appear in the form. Quite the opposite is the truth – they are simply a very clever arrangement of concepts, strategies and techniques that can be utilised in ANY combination that a particular situation dictates. Like a toolbox containing all the very best tools to deal with ANY situation that we may ever come across, the sequences of this form (just like the sequences/sections of ALL the forms in Wing Chun) are there so as to allow for natural and effective absorption into our neural system, such that the body has no problem finding the right tool for the job under the pressure of actual combat, without the need to stop and think about it – that is a luxury that real combat does not allow.

Over the years I have seen what can only be described as “suicidal” interpretations of the movements in the ‘Muk Yan Jong’ form, where various “masters” try desperately to find a scenario that would permit the sequences to apply as per the order in the form. These interpretations of the form are tantamount to teaching their students to die in the street, such is the impracticality and unrealistic nature of what is being demonstrated. If nothing else, these attempts to justify their “combat thinking” only serves to prove that they have never been in a real fight in their lives! Instead, Wing Chun practitioners should look at the sequences as a means of learning to flow naturally from technique to technique, learning to adapt and open their minds to the prospect that anything can and will happen on the Pavement Arena.

In closing, I would encourage all Wing Chun devotees, regardless of lineage or style, to take a step back and re-think what they are getting from training on the ‘Muk Yan Jong’ and to see if they can change their approach such that they start to see the infinite number of advantages that this form and equipment can provide for them. Don’t just hit the ‘Jong’ like a robot, or with unrealistic expectations, or with a plan to apply each sequence verbatim in a scenario that will never occur. Instead, open your mind to fact that the form is a doorway that can take you way beyond what you first perceived Wing Chun to be, and that the ‘Muk Yan Jong’ is no Dummy – it is one of the best all-round training devices ever invented. Don’t be a Wing Chun Dummy, ...use what it has to offer you to make you opponent wish that you were one!

 

Editors note: This article was originally published in Wing Chun Illustrated magazine, Issue 1 (2011)

 

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