108 movements...

geezer

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I posted a similar thread in the Chinese MA forum. Anyway, the number 108 has held special significance in Hinduism and Buddhism for thousands of years, and this has extended to a great deal of Eastern philosophy and folklore in general. Apparently this is due in part to the numerological qualities of 108. If you add the digits of 108 (1+0+8) you get the highly significant number 9 (yeah nine?!--don't ask me. I got this off Wikipedia). The same holds true if you multiply or divide 108 by 2 or 4. Apparently this was important enough to lead to a great many secondary religious associations with this number including attribues of various deities in Hinduism, the number of prayer beads in Buddhism, and so forth. Sort of like the significance of the numbers three and seven in Christianity.

Anyway, this appears in several places in Wing Chun/Tsun, perhaps because of it's supposed Buddhist roots stemming from the nun, Ng Mui, or perhaps just as a by product of Chinese folk culture. At any rate the most obvious place the number 108 appears is in the number of movements in the wooden dummy set. But other sets can also be said to have 108 movements depending on how you do them, and more importantly, how you count them. Depending on what you call "a movement" and whether you count double-handed movements as one or two moves, and so on, you can make almost any of the forms come out to 108 ...even the very short Long Pole set (now there's an oxymoron for you). In my lineage it has only 27 movements. Note: 2+7=9 (Wow, nine!). Thats because its exactly one fourth of 108. So, repeat the form both left and right, a total of four times all together and, voila! 108 movements.

First of all, Why does any of this matter? Wing Chun/Tsun isn't Buddhism or any other kind of religion. It was created to be a faster, more efficient method of self defense precisely because it dispensed with this kind of "poetic thinking". Unlike the southern Shaolin arts that it supposedly evolved from, it is simpler and more direct, with fewer forms and ornate movements, and generally less "poetic" names for it's techniques. We don't have any moves like, "monkey stealing pears in the moonlight". We have simply sun-fist punch, palm-up arm, wing-arm, and so forth. Simple terms like boxing, not poetic allusions.

So when my old Chinese sifu (of the Yip Man lineage) first went back to Fatshan (Fo'shan) on the mainland in the 80's to research the roots of WC/WT, he found that many of the older Wooden Dummy sets had more than 108 movements. Not necessarily more techniques, since repetition played a role, but the sets tended to be longer. After a lot of research, he came to the conclusion that the 108 movements his sifu, Grandmaster Yip, taught later in Hong Kong had been trimmed down and streamlined, ending up with "the perfect number" of 108. But in the process, perhaps it had been trimmed a bit too much. So eventually he got together with Yip (Ip) Chun and put out the book 116 Wing Tsun Dummy Techniques, adding back in some of the movements that had been dropped. This is the version I train.

Interestingly, this book actually has 117 movements shown in the photos. And I know my old Sifu can count. Ask anybody who ever did business with him! But, of course, he would never publish anything without concealing or altering a few details. So if you learn from his books, posters or videos, there will always be something missing. That's annoying. Anyway, I digress. My question to you guys is, "does your dummy form have 108 movements?" And, "does the number 108 figure into other aspects of your lineage?" Also, if anyone out there studies in the Ip (Yip) Chun branch, does he count 108, 116, or some other number of movements in the mook yang jong set?
 
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geezer

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Yep, that's where I got most of the background info. So anyway, I've decided that it might be a good idea to use this number as much as possible ...for good luck at the very least. Not just fudging the count to make all my forms come out to 108, but other things as well. Maybe tomorrow. It's getting late now. I think I'll turn-in for 108 winks.
 
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