Self-Confidence and Chi Sao

Discussion in 'Wing Chun' started by wingchun100, May 26, 2017.

  1. wingchun100

    wingchun100 Senior Master

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    During one of my many epiphanies lately, I was talking with Sifu about what I can do to improve my Chi Sao game. One of the things he said was, "Move with conviction." In my mind, I translated that to mean, "Be confident that your tools will strike."

    Here's something else I realized though: even if they don't strike, then you need to be able to say to yourself, "Okay, well...that didn't work. Try something else." After all, aren't there several memes floating around the internet that say things like, "It's not how many times you get knocked down; it's how many times you get back up?" :)

    I do feel this is true though. When a confident person "fails" at something, they say, "What can work next time?" A non-confident person says, "I failed. I suck. I'll never amount to anything."

    What the non-confident person doesn't realize is that, in life, we will actually fail more than we succeed. How many times were Edison's experiments a bust before he invented the lightbulb? But once he got it right...well, that was it! He was done! However, if you play the numbers game, then it SEEMS like he was a failure because he failed a bunch of times, but succeeded only once.

    So at first I said to myself, "Well, I need to do chi sao more often. Then I will be more confident in my ability and start to realize that I DO know what I'm doing. I mean, Sifu already tells me I do have good hands and good skill."

    That's when it hit me: Sifu is not the first person to tell me I have good skill. But it doesn't matter. By that I don't mean I don't care what he says. What I mean is: the whole flippin' WORLD could tell me I am good at chi sao and it wouldn't matter.

    I need to know it INSIDE.

    Those of you who have read other threads of mine may know this, but I am going to restate it here: this is a common issue throughout all parts of my life, not just chi sao. Self-esteem. Self-confidence. Whatever you want to call it, I've always had a problem with it. But now I am working on it. Slowly but surely. And I can't explain why, but for some reason I feel there is a breakthrough on the horizon.

    So the truth is not "doing more chi sao will make me more confident." Rather, it's that being more confident will make me better at chi sao, not to mention countless other things.

    Hehe...maybe I should have posted this in Philosophy or Health, but oh well. It's something worth sharing no matter which board it technically belongs on.

    And I can say that...with confidence. :)
     
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  2. mograph

    mograph Master Black Belt

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    I think we need to focus less on our mental state and more on just doing what needs to be done.

    Do you know, leaving the mind out of it, what "moving with conviction" feels like from a biomechanical point of view?
    Don't worry about doing it "right." Do what you know, use what you have. Use your senses to tell you how it feels. Not right or wrong, but .. smooth? Relaxed? Loose? Does it have mass behind it? Does it feel calm and natural or unstable and uncertain? Do what you know, use what you have, and Sifu will correct you.

    Don't worry about having the right mindset -- fist goes here. Body goes here. Smooth it out. Feel the ground. Polish it. Try again.

    You already know that you can do some Wing Chun, so you belong in the room.
    Sifu gave you advice, so he thinks you can handle it.
    So you belong there just as much as anybody else does.
    You have permission to practice.
    Give yourself permission to make mistakes. They're a necessary part of any growth.

    You might think there are two states of self regard: "Bad me" (not confident) or "good me" (confident).
    There's a third one, and that's "let's get to work."
    You see? There was no "me" there in the process. You just do what needs to be done: the punch, the kick, the movement.

    People with true confidence don't think they're great; they just do stuff.
    They accept that they are involved in a process, and they do not judge themselves as below-par if the product isn't optimal, nor do they judge themselves as good/great/accepted if the process is working well. They evaluate the process (the practice) and the product (the move); not their self.

    They just practice. Refine and repeat.
     
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  3. wingchun100

    wingchun100 Senior Master

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    I agree on some levels. However, I do think if confident people have a moment where they sit down and reflect, they DO think they are great. Or if that would be crossing over into arrogant, they at least think, "I'm pretty good."

    As for me, this is the part of the process where I find myself. Much like when you train your reflexes, I need to train my MIND, my way of thinking, to reach that state. I'm getting there, slowly but surely.
     
  4. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    I agree with this. In fact, it brings to mind something I'm dealing with at the moment.

    I teach a small group ...just a handful, so I know each student well. One of my intermediate students has exactly this problem of confidence. On a good day, his chi-sau isn't bad at all for his level. But he is less experienced than most of the other students doing chi-sau, so he feels inferior. Even when working with me, he whines, "Sifu, I've been working at this for a couple of years and I still can't beat you. I don't know what's the matter with me!" I respond along the lines of, "Look I've been working at WC since 1979 and if I can't best you at chi-sau, what the heck are you paying me for!!! Understand that it's hard, and have some patience."

    He cannot accept that learning these skills takes most of us a long time, and consequently he gets so frustrated and angry that sometimes he has to stop training and sit off to the side for a while. If this guy can't get over his unrealistic expectations, he will never succeed. The rest of the group just accept that chi-sau can be difficult, so they train, and gradually they get better.
     
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  5. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    It comes back to being prepared to loose. In training especially, people are scared to take risks for fear of the consequences. The confidence comes in making that leap fearlessly.

    Grappling is very common for this because to advance position you often have to risk loosing position.

    Loosing position means either looking like a fool or being underneath a fat sweaty guy. Or both.
     
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  6. mograph

    mograph Master Black Belt

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    Sorry, nope. We think, "I can do this" after some training, and seeing evidence that we can do this. There's a difference.
    Sorry, you're wrong by focusing on your mind like that. You're looking in the wrong place. I spent years thinking that way. Only by focusing on the training, and not on myself or my mental paradigms, have I been able to achieve a level of calm confidence. I learn something and it becomes the new normal. I remember it, but keep training. At no time do I think "I'm pretty good," because I don't need to hear that or think that. Also, if I were to think that, it would feel bad to notice the areas where I need work. "Oh, maybe I'm not as good as I thought."

    Instead, I might think "my follow step feels okay. But my fist might need work. Is it at my hip or too far back? Let's try a few." I focus on the training, not my self-esteem. This focus also makes it more likely that Sifu would correct me, because I look more focused, and I'd look more receptive to criticism because I wouldn't take it personally.

    But I and others can only show you the door, as they say.
     
  7. wingchun100

    wingchun100 Senior Master

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    Maybe that is how you train, think, and feel, but that doesn't mean it's my path. And just because you can show someone to a door doesn't mean that is the one they should walk through. You seem to be making an assumption that there is only one "door," in other words, one gateway to the ultimate truth that should be universal to all. I'm sorry, but that's just not true.

    Poor self-esteem means you will do EVERYTHING poorly. You will never think you are good enough, even if you had Ip Man himself saying your chi sao was good. I've lived with this all my life, so no...I'm not "wrong" in my approach. I'm not "wrong" to say that, outside of training, people like me need to do things to improve their confidence/self-esteem.

    And to respond to one thing you said...how if you thought you were pretty good, but then would say "I'm not as good as I thought," how is that confidence? Confident people would simply recognize and accept an area where they aren't good. Like if you had a confident physicist who said, "I am awesome at physics, but I could not write a poem to save my life...and that's okay."

    It might sound like Stewart Smalley from SNL, but it's true.
     
  8. wingchun100

    wingchun100 Senior Master

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    PS: When a person suffers from low self-esteem/depression/anxiety/whatever you want to call it, they CANNOT focus on "what needs to be done." That is the nature of those issues...the current that runs through whatever they try to do in life. Whatever it is they are doing, they never feel like they are good enough at it, no matter how many external sources of validation say otherwise.

    To be fair, I guess that we could look at it as what needs to be done is the work in regards to those underlying concerns, because once they are resolved, everything else in life will follow suit.
     
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  9. mograph

    mograph Master Black Belt

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    That was my point: it was not confidence. Saying "I'm pretty good" is not confidence, because sooner or later, if you continued to train, a flaw would appear and that world view would fail. This is why many people reach a plateau at some things: they don't want to change their belief, in the face of a less-than optimal performance, that they're not as good as they think.
    No, what works is focusing on what needs to be done, not on our self-esteem, which is a subjective and illusory evaluation, subject to confirmation bias.
    Mmhn, nope. I said in my post that I had suffered from low self-confidence, didn't I? As long as I focused on my "self," this thing that I had made up and nurtured, I didn't get anywhere. I swung between "I'm the sh*t," and "I am sh*t." Or, people could praise me, and I wouldn't believe them. But, if I focus on my work, or my training, that goes away. I don't change the value of my "self" based on how smoothly my fist moves -- I evaluate the action, not myself. And I accept that it is a process.
    In short, my "door" advice was not a one-size-fits-all or ultimate truth, it was one meant especially for you.
    No, it means that you think you will do everything poorly. Language is important, yes? I realize you said used "think" below, but the fact that you wrote it here says something.
    Why do you need to improve your confidence/self-esteem in order to train? Just train. Focus outside this construct you have of your "self." Focus on process and product without letting your performance affect yourself. It seems clear that every time you evaluate your performance, you attach an evaluation of your self-construct to it. Learn to control your thoughts and focus on what you are doing. Try meditation. Try mindfulness practice.
    You're mixing two views there: the "awesome" is an evaluation of self, while the "poem" is a (colourful) description of observed behaviour and an evaluation of the poems (product), not the self. Be careful. It's only about the self if you want it to be so. A confident physicist could say that he couldn't write a good poem but would also say things like "that paper got a good reception at the conference." "I'm grateful for tenure." "My research funding is going well." "That book was rather successful." Do you see? Evaluations not of self, but of process and product. Remember when I mentioned process and product?

    By the way, I wouldn't conflate low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, as those are specific constructs referring to specific attitudes and behaviors. However, if you think you suffer from depression and/or anxiety, you might want to get a professional diagnosis so you can proceed along a course of treatment.

    One thing you might want to reflect on is how strongly you are resisting my advice. I suggest that you are confident in one area at least: you want to see yourself a particular way, and you will defend that view with vigor, as you have shown here. I suggest you turn that certainty toward your training.

    In the end, I'm trying to help you. Good luck.
     
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  10. Phobius

    Phobius Black Belt

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    I both agree and like this message.

    I believe many should take this to heart. There are no confident people, just people knowing exactly what to do and others admiring them for being confident. What we all need to do is try to make every day slightly better than the last. We are not good, we are just better. Better is far more than being good, because better is improving. Good is not changing.
     
  11. Martial D

    Martial D Senior Master

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    It's about hitting the zone man. You'll know you're there when it seems like your movements are happening though you, rather than you willing them to happen. It's like you are observing yourself. This is as true of chi sau as it is of video gaming, playing sports, many other things.

    Instead of focusing on self confidence, try forgetting yourself altogether.
     
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  12. Cephalopod

    Cephalopod Green Belt

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    The problem with linking your self confidence on any level to your chi-sao ability is that if you are not seeing the big picture, it can mess with your head.

    If you frequently play chess with an opponent who has a significant skill advantage on you, get accustomed to losing. Because you will lose. Every time. Over and over. I have been there. There is no element of luck in the game so unless you have a troope of scantily clad Brazilian samba dancers* right behind you, you lose.

    * This attempt at humor, though weak, is certified non-sexist. It can work for both genders. So...Ha! ;)

    The consistent pattern of losing tells a part of your mind that, frankly, you suck at the game. It's not easy to observe that, through each game, your skills are slowly improving.

    And so it is with chi-sao. I've been practicing nearly a decade with my friend and sihing. He could wipe the floor with me 9 years ago and guess what...he wiped the floor with me last weekend.

    I might be tempted to believe that I haven't improved that much or that he has some natural attributes that prevent me from being his equal. But it couldn't be further from the truth. My skill has improved immensely (I'm not being immodest, I just was really bad in my early years :)), it just that he has improved as well. Like we are on a boat in a lake, me sitting on the deck and him on the cabin top. From my perspective I haven't moved at all with respect to him but all those years of chi-sao have poured a whole lot of water into the lake and we have both gone up a great deal.

    Of course this phenomenon holds true in reverse for students that are junior to me and with whom I have trained for several years.

    All this can make the self-assessment of your skills, and the development thereof, inaccurate and subject to confirmation bias like Mograph pointed out. Definitely underlines the necessity of training with those from outside of your school.
     
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  13. wingchun100

    wingchun100 Senior Master

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    Again, I must disagree that there is a problem with linking self-confidence to chi sao. As I said earlier, there is more failure in life than success. Think of how many times a scientist might fail at a given experiment before he succeeds. The confidence comes into it when I say to myself, "Sometimes my chi sao partners might mop the floors with me, but it doesn't mean I'm not getting better. Train more, and I will return the favor someday."

    Dominating in chi sao is not what builds the confidence because, as you said, if I couldn't land a single attack, then I would feel like crap. The confidence comes first...not just in Wing Chun, but in GENERAL. In LIFE as a whole. THAT is the big picture.
     
  14. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    Yeah. But you have to apply your technique with confidence it will work or you are not really applying your technique.

    Especially important if they are better than you.
     
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  15. DanT

    DanT 2nd Black Belt

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    The way I was taught Chi Sao is to roll slowly... like how a clock ticks. Tick you're in bong, tock you're in tan. Nice and smooth and slow. Then when you execute a technique: Jik Jeong, Gum Da, Lap Da, Tan Da, Bong Da, etc, you EXPLODE into the position, and then stop the attack 1 cm away from the opponent. Eventually you continue into other techniques to follow up etc. The lead technique has to explode into position with zero telegraphing.
     
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  16. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    I agree about the slow roll and the explosive, non-telegraphic attack, but we always make contact. We control our force at the surface, but always make contact. Chi sau is taught through sensation ...not just the sensation of slipping over your partner's bridge, but by the impact and pressure of the attack itself, which disrupts your partner's center and sets up the next move.

    I also like emphasizing angle and position over speed. Sometimes if you set up an attack right, you don't have to move like lightening. You can attack at a very modest speed, your partner will feel and see it coming, and yet is powerless to stop it. When I can pull that off I feel a surge of evil glee! :D
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2017
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  17. DanT

    DanT 2nd Black Belt

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    I agree, as students advance they start tapping and hitting each other a bit in order to flow to the next technique. But for beginners I don't want them to be jumpy and I also want to teach them control. For beginners I only let them do lead techniques anyways.

    As for being able to attack at modest speed and with little power, I get it because I'm able to do it, but I'd prefer to use that opportunity to work on my power and speed as well. Kill 2 birds with one stone. So I'll occasionally do a technique slowly and make people laugh because I'll still get a clean hit, but I prefer to go fast and powerful so that I'm working on my power and speed.
     
  18. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    There is much truth in this, Steve. A lack of confidence in your technique will probably cause you to under-commit, hesitate, and be more stiff (or, oddly, over-relaxed and limp). Just as over-confidence in a technique can cause over-commitment, rash entry, and either over-use of power or a lack of real power in the movement (often seen in blocks that are too soft).

    Interestingly, a lack of confidence and a lack of skepticism can produce some of the same results: a dogmatic view that the technique is "right", regardless of results. Both can lead to a failed technique being seen as "there's nothing wrong with the technique - it must be me". There are certainly times when the technician is the problem, but there are also times there's something wrong with the technique, itself (it may simply be inappropriate for the situation, or it may be a technique without a strong fundamental base).

    Improving your own confidence will help in many areas of life - as I'm sure you are aware, by some of the comments you've made lately. And it will certainly improve your technique. It will likely also improve your understanding of WC, as you'll be more willing to examine it, looking for the strengths and weaknesses (all arts/styles have them), and deciding how to address each.
     
  19. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Actually, there's a lot of evidence that state of mind affects physical ability. Sports psychologists (and great athletes) have known this for a very long time. What you're proposing is that someone should "just do it", and this can have effect over time. However, it's not a magic pill that quickly changes confidence. What it does do is set someone on the road of accomplishment (as they see themselves improving), which has an effect on confidence. So, though you seem to be countering Steve's OP, you're actually saying the same thing, and actually recommending an approach.

    For Steve: To that point, one of the things to consider is how your movement affects your psychology. There's burgeoning evidence that our physiology has a more profound effect upon our psychology than previously thought. So, moving with conviction can actually improve your confidence. Here's my recommendation to build on what Mograph started here: pick something specific to work on (perhaps one segment of a form, or a specific combination) and work on looking more confident in it. Look at how your instructor performs it. Look for a video of someone you think looks extremely confident (actually that - not just someone who doesn't look timid) to you while doing that thing. Now figure out what it is that makes them look so confident to you, and work to look that way by emulating whatever it is. Don't worry if it feels odd (it probably should). Just do it that way, and focus on feeling what it feels like to move with that kind of confident motion. Imagine being that confident as you practice it. Become an expert at doing that one small segment. As you do it, remember that there's always going to be a way to improve even this thing you're becoming expert at, and you'd love for someone to help you do this thing even better. "Corrections" just improve your expertise.
     
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  20. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't think most people with real confidence think that much about it. That self-consciousness is part and parcel of your confidence issues. There are areas I'm quite confident in. In most of them, if I stop to think about them, I know I've got some skill, but am at least as much aware of the things I could still improve. The areas where I have confidence issues are where I think more about whether I'm good or not.

    Those who actually often think about how good they are (and come to the conclusion that they are VERY good) are likely not as good as they think they are.123
     

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