Sei Ging....the "Four Energies" and Wing Chun

KPM

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People that are familiar with the southern Chinese martial arts often associate the “four energies” with the Hakka arts….Southern Mantis, Bak Mei (White Eyebrow), and Dragon style. Many people don’t seem to realize that the older versions of Wing Chun and Weng Chun contain these elements as well. These four energies are explicitly part of the “18 Kiu Sau Principles” of Tang Yik Weng Chun, which are its guiding “keywords.” They are also part of Ku Lo Pin Sun Wing Chun. They are included in the “mental methods” of Chu Sau Lei Wing Chun. CSL Wing Chun is a “modern” system, but its keywords are taken from Sum Nun Wing Chun and Gu Lao Wing Chun. When Ip Man began teaching in Hong Kong he dropped a lot of the more traditional aspects of the system, including the use of keywords. So some branches of the Ip Man system continue to use these “four energies” to an extent without naming them or putting much emphasis on them. Some branches don’t make much use of them at all. But to deny that they are a part of Wing Chun is to take a rather narrow and uninformed view of the different varieties of Wing Chun methods available.

This is not a recent “add on” to the system. The fact that they are present in both Tang Yik Weng Chun and Ku Lo Pin Sun Wing Chun….both of which are “old” systems…should clearly indicate this. Wing Chun and Weng Chun are different systems. One might say they are cousins. But they shared a common root approximately 150 years ago. The fact that the “four energies” are found in both systems suggests they were there from the beginning.

These “four energies” are almost always grouped together. They are:

浮 Fou = Float or Rise. This is usually translated as “rise” when you are doing it, and “float” when you are doing it to someone else!

沉 Chum = sink, lower

吞 Tun = Swallow or sometimes translated as “suck” as in to “suck someone in”

吐 Tou = Spit or expel


Sink and rise are pretty self-explanatory. They suggest motion on the vertical plane…up and down. Everyone has Chum/Jum Sau and Jut Sau in their Wing Chun. These employ the concept of “sink”. Another example is from the movements that close each section of the dummy form in Ip Man Wing Chun. Each section typically closes with a double Jut Sau (sink) followed by a double Tok Sau (rise). Some people do this using only the arms, which doesn’t really embody the concept. But some do it use sinking and rising with the body, which is more in line with the keywords.

These concepts are trained explicitly in some of the Pin Sun short sets. One of these is called “Saam Gin Choi” or “Three arrow punch.” This is a pivot with a straight punch, then you drop your weight (sink) with a punch that drops straight downward, and then you raise your level up (rise) as you do a rising punch towards the throat…all with the same arm. One variation of the set even uses a Gwai Ma with the second punch, which involves bending one knee and dropping it towards the ground. This “sinking” with a Gwai Ma to punch low is also found in the Tang Yik Weng Chun dummy form.

Swallow and Spit suggest motion on the horizontal plane but take a little more explaining for most people. Swallow is to take in or absorb force and energy. Spit is to put out or expel force and energy. Pin Sun Wing Chun even has a technique called “Tun Sau” or “swallowing hand.” This is simply a Tan Sau that moves back instead of going forward. Chu Sau Lei WCK does the same thing. But they just call it a “Tan Sau” whether it goes forward or moves back. It is considered “spreading” either way! This is simply a manifestation of the idea of Yin and Yang. The Tan shape can go forward to meet and deflect with a Yang energy, or it can move back to absorb and deflect with a Yin energy. In Pin Sun the same is true of the Bong and the Gan. A Bong that collapses so that the elbow goes forward while deflecting and absorbing (swallow) is called a “Got Bong” or “cutting Bong.” This is very similar to the elbow motion in most Ip Man Biu Gee forms. A Gan that pulls in while deflecting is called a “Got Gan” or “cutting Gan.” Both of these are found in Tang Yik Weng Chun as well, because it seems to be common sense for many techniques to have a Yin and a Yang aspect making use of the concepts of “Swallow” and “Spit.” Pin Sun has a short set that embodies the “Swallow” and “Spit” concepts as well. The “Baat Gwa Lung Na” or “Eight direction dragon grab” set is essentially a Lop Sau with both hands while pivoting. The double Lop goes all the way back to your hip. This is “swallow” to its fullest expression! This is a Kum Na technique intended to yank an opponent right off of his feet. At the very least it will disrupt his structure and balance and create an opening for your strike. The two-man version of this set involves one person punching, the other intercepting the punch with a Lung Na, and then returning a punch of his own so the partner can do the Lung Na. But more than just being a set up for the partner to do the Lung Na technique, the punch represents the “Spit” that comes immediately after the “Swallow.” It real use you would do the Lung Na to disrupt the opponent’s balance and immediately punch back into the opening you have created.

This speaks to the point that these older versions of Wing Chun include a Kum Na or grappling element to them. It should be obvious that any kind of standing grappling is going to use “sink, rise, spit, and swallow”….you are going to be pushing, pulling, pressing and lifting in some form or another. The fact that Ip Man Wing Chun does not include a Kum Na component is very likely why people that are only familiar with Ip Man Wing Chun do not believe that the “four energies” are part of Wing Chun. But while the "four energies" are most clearly seen in a standing grappling context, they are an integral part of the punching and defending methods as well.

I should also mention that these four are seldom used in isolation. They are typically going to be used together. For example, when you do a Tok Sau on the dummy you don’t lift straight up….which is what “rise” would suggest. Rather you lift up with a forward vector. So there is a bit of “spit” in your “rise.” Likewise, when you absorb an incoming force you don’t just move straight back, there is an aspect of “sink” used as well.

Some of you are probably thinking that “swallow” goes against the idea of forward pressure in Wing Chun. It does! But Wing Chun shouldn’t be limited to ONLY doing forward pressure! There is a time for going right up the middle with forward pressure and a time to use angling and absorbing. To only do one without knowing how to use the other is a bit one-dimensional. As I already pointed out, if you have a Kum Na element to your Wing Chun, then angling and absorbing are just naturally going to be part of it. This angling and absorbing ability is part of the reason Ku Lo Pin Sun Wing Chun is called what it is. “Pin Sun” means “sidebody” and refers to this angling and absorbing ability using the pivot. So the “four energies” are very important to the body dynamic in Pin Sun Wing Chun and are found in nearly every technique in some form or another. The same is true of Tang Yik Weng Chun. TYWK does not use a pivot in the same way as Pin Sun, and the body dynamic is not exactly the same....but it still employs the four energies in some way in nearly every technique.
 

dudewingchun

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Nice info. I just want to add that in a Ip chun book I have he did specifically mention that the Wing chun Ip taught when he Ip chun was a kid in Foshan compared to the stuff he taught in Hong kong was a bit more complicated with its terminology and Ip had simplified it. Just something I read in a book authored by Ip chun & Michael Tse.

Just going to add this on this thread since its the same topic really.

Quite often when I spar with my muay thai training partner, when he throws a hook ill use my CSL tan and spread/swallow, shift to the side slightly following his footwork and then with the same hand shoot out another punch while his hand is coming back and while his other punch may be coming around the other side or down the middle I cover with the other hand with a CSL wu cover or just biu sao or Tan. Works quite good for me. All about timing.

It is the Chu Sau Lei application of Tan/tun which is slightly different to a normal Ipman wc Tan. But when im doing it I will sink into my stance and link my body to give me structural power then once thats done and his hand is on its way back, I rise slightly/springy and shoot my front punch with the same hand.

Just some experience I have had not in training but in sparring against a non compliant partner.
 
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geezer

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,KPM looks like you were writing this very informative post right when I was posting my last response over on the other thread dealing with "tun-tou" or swallow-spit. I mentioned that I had heard about mainland branches incorporating these energies but knew nothing about them. This post of yours addresses that topic perfectly.

In the "WT" that formed the core of my WC training, we always maintained forward (outward) "springy energy" and so would not withdraw force towards our own center. On the other hand, many techniques like jum, tan, lap, gaun, etc., especially when applied with a turn, can create a "suction effect" that can definitely pull an opponent forward and off-balance. Yet in fact our own energy, although perhaps light and yielding, is still directed outwards. So in this sense, I see the concept of "tun-tou" being applicable to what we do.


Maybe, even in Yip Man WC, we have retained all four of these classic energies, but have made the movements so minimal in our quest for simplicity and efficiency, that it is not outwardly apparent, and most of our branches don't even talk about them any more. But if you look hard, perhaps the traces are still there ...and are still functional as well.
 
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KPM

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In the "WT" that formed the core of my WC training, we always maintained forward (outward) "springy energy" and so would not withdraw force towards our own center.

---Yes. Even in Pin Sun or Tang Yik Weng Chun you would not use "swallow" to draw something into your own center. If the amplitude is large enough that something would approach your center you pivot so that it is going past your center and not into it.

On the other hand, many techniques like jum, tan, lap, gaun, etc., especially when applied with a turn, can create a "suction effect" that can definitely pull an opponent forward and off-balance. Yet in fact our own energy, although perhaps light and yielding, is still directed outwards. So in this sense, I see the concept of "tun-tou" being applicable to what we do.

---Exactly! But in a Kum Na application, one might not direct the energy outwards until the lock is set or the trip or toss is executed. So in some cases is these older versions of Wing Chun, it can appear that you are drawing someone directly into your center. But the point is that you are controlling the action and bringing them in so that you can then "spit" them out! Like getting sucked into a the center of a whirlwind and tossed right back out again! ;-)


Maybe, even in Yip Man WC, we have retained all four of these classic energies, but have made the movements so minimal in our quest for simplicity and efficiency, that it is not outwardly apparent, and most of our branches don't even talk about them any more. But if you look hard, perhaps the traces are still there ...and are still functional as well.

---I think that is true. If you look for them, they are there. They have just become somewhat "muted." A lot of Ip Man Wing Chun has lost the ability to use the body for power generation. Its almost all arm and step with hardly any body dynamic at all. The four energies are a body dynamic, not just an arm motion. They are intimately connected with the use of the Kwa. When Ip Man Wing Chun guys started tilting the hips and "locking" the Kwa, the ability to use the four energies was hampered. Those that keep their weight back near the heels are going to have a hell of time trying to do "sink" and "rise" very well with the body.

---Also forget to mention the coupling of "Swallow" and "Spit." When one side does swallow and the other spit, this is pretty much the definition of producing powerful torque in a technique. Its not just pivoting or turning. Its a wrenching or ripping torque. Most Wing Chun does this to some extent with the Lop Da.
 
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KPM

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I thought of another good example of "spit" that everyone should know. It is the use of the "butterfly palms"....Wu Dip Jeung, or Po Pai Palms. With this double palm technique it is not really a strike and not really just a push. It is both, or something in between. You "expel" the opponent forcefully....spit! You can see a perfect example of this if you look up one of Gary Lam's videos that shows him doing Chi Sau and using this to launch his partner into the mattress! Sometimes his partner is practically lifted up off of his feet. This is "spit" or "expel."
 

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In the "WT" that formed the core of my WC training, we always maintained forward (outward) "springy energy" and so would not withdraw force towards our own center. On the other hand, many techniques like jum, tan, lap, gaun, etc., especially when applied with a turn, can create a "suction effect" that can definitely pull an opponent forward and off-balance. Yet in fact our own energy, although perhaps light and yielding, is still directed outwards. So in this sense, I see the concept of "tun-tou" being applicable to what we do.

Is this consistent with the idea of lin siu dai da?
 

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Is this consistent with the idea of lin siu dai da?

I agree, this is the correct question to ask when applying any technique, i.e. "Is it as direct and efficient as possible?"

In certain circumstances using a body turn and causing the "suction effect" I referred to above may be the most efficient way to remove an obstruction and deliver a strike, especially when confronting very powerful attack from your opponent. By using your opponent's force to turn, you off-line and establish a better angle to counterattack. Any disruption to your opponent's balance just helps that much more.

One thing we sometimes forget in talking about lin siu di dar (simultaneous defense and attack), and da sau jik si siu sau (attacking hand is defending hand), is the axiom: never clash force. If the direct route is obstructed we have to remove the obstacle or go around. If we can't be perfectly efficient, we act as efficiently as possible.
 
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Vajramusti

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Yikes. Interesting comments by "Geezer" and "KPM". My own view is as follows
Ip Man wing chun contains many principles, concepts and applications.
After 40 years of wing chun I have yet to see how any additions from Tang Yik, Gulo,Pin Sun etc are necessary. The more Ip Man wing chun is done, the more petals of understanding unfold. Thus kum na does not need to be added on or imported. The seeds of kum na are there. The Tang Yik dummy pole work is impressive to look at- but not necessary with Ip Man's stream lining of kwan work.

There are stages of development in chi sao work- one can do kum nao out of chi sao.
 

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I believe it is there already and agree with Joy.
But is it wrong in looking elsewhere for confirmation if it hasn't been emphasized in ones training? There are a number of aspects in my journey that I had but didn't realize until seeing other training. Sometimes we can't see the forest because of the trees...until another points it out or we allow ourselves to view from a differing perspective.
 
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KPM

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^^^^^ Exactly! That's why I said that the "four energies" were present in Ip Man Wing Chun but for many have become somewhat "muted" or deemphasized. Same for any Kum Na applications. Someone might not even realize that a certain movement has a Kum Na application until it is pointed out to them or they see someone from another system doing something very similar. Joy mentions Ip Man "streamlining" things. I think this is true. He had "streamlined" the empty hand methods a fair bit when teaching in HK. Unfortunately that can mean some things don't get much attention.
 
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KPM

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. Any disruption to your opponent's balance just helps that much more.
.

To me, disrupting the opponent's structure and balance IS an attack! It is attacking their core! I think there is no difference between throwing a punch that you know is going to be answered so that you can set your opponent up for the next punch...and "sucking them in" to attack and destroy their balance so that you can set your opponent up for the next punch. Both are "attack by combination", to use Bruce Lee's terminology. ;-)
 

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One thing we sometimes forget in talking about lin siu di dar (simultaneous defense and attack), and da sau jik si siu sau (attacking hand is defending hand), is the axiom: never clash force. If the direct route is obstructed we have to remove the obstacle or go around. If we can't be perfectly efficient, we act as efficiently as possible.

Which kuen kuit do you mean?
 

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Hi KPM,

An interesting read, but I fear I may be missing the point - these four things listed are very general descriptors of energy concepts, AFAIK, all CMA have style specific versions of the four things you mentioned. There are more specific descriptors per style, as you mention the 18 Paired Kiu Sau in Weng Chun and in Wing Chun, Loi Lau Hoi Sung. The descriptors you mention are more akin to asking "Would you like to have lunch?" vs Loi Lau Hoi Sung being "Would you like to have lunch at this specific restaurant?"

Are these four things new info to you? Old hat here.
 

geezer

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Which kuen kuit do you mean?

Not anybody's "kuen kuit" in particular (although injunctions against crashing against a strong bridge or powerful opponent are contained in several kuit). However, I'm just referring to the general rule that you avoid crashing force against force. That is fundamental in the VT I train. Isn't it part of yours as well?
 
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KPM

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Hi KPM,

An interesting read, but I fear I may be missing the point - these four things listed are very general descriptors of energy concepts, AFAIK, all CMA have style specific versions of the four things you mentioned. There are more specific descriptors per style, as you mention the 18 Paired Kiu Sau in Weng Chun and in Wing Chun, Loi Lau Hoi Sung. The descriptors you mention are more akin to asking "Would you like to have lunch?" vs Loi Lau Hoi Sung being "Would you like to have lunch at this specific restaurant?"

Are these four things new info to you? Old hat here.

Not new to me! But new to some in the forum I think....at least as coming from a Wing Chun perspective! I only started this thread because in other threads a certain person had said that these things have no place in Wing Chun, and that if any Wing Chun system had them....then they have to have been "grafted on" from another system. I was simply pointing out how wrong that viewpoint is!
 

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I tend to agree with the viewpoint that they might be 'grafted on'.
As Eric has pointed out, WC already has LLHS which covers WC 'energy concepts' to a deeper level than these more common descriptors. If someone claims WC always had them from the start, then we shouldn't have to look to non-WC systems for validation. Now, if we look at the one small sub-branch of WC (Pin Sun) that most accept as a more simplified/streamlined training method of WC, then it seems more logical that these more common & simplified ideas were used in place of the deeper WC concept of LLHS.
(and nothing against pin sun as a competent fighting art in this statement, just referencing what is commonly accepted of the branch)
 

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Hi KPM,

An interesting read, but I fear I may be missing the point - these four things listed are very general descriptors of energy concepts, AFAIK, all CMA have style specific versions of the four things you mentioned. There are more specific descriptors per style, as you mention the 18 Paired Kiu Sau in Weng Chun and in Wing Chun, Loi Lau Hoi Sung. The descriptors you mention are more akin to asking "Would you like to have lunch?" vs Loi Lau Hoi Sung being "Would you like to have lunch at this specific restaurant?"

Are these four things new info to you? Old hat here.

Agree, there is nothing specific here. Doesn't compare to the theory of the same in SPM, for example. I would like to know if there is more to it than this?

At the same time the way it is described it appears to contradict certain VT maxims. Confusing.
 
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KPM

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I tend to agree with the viewpoint that they might be 'grafted on'.

---Like I pointed out earlier, its also part of Tang Yik Weng Chun, which has stayed pretty independent of the Wing Chun streams. I've been told Fukien White Crane has them as well. So it wasn't "grafted on" from anywhere else. It was simply part of the martial culture of southern China.

If someone claims WC always had them from the start, then we shouldn't have to look to non-WC systems for validation.

---I'm sorry, but that comment makes no sense.

Now, if we look at the one small sub-branch of WC (Pin Sun) that most accept as a more simplified/streamlined training method of WC, then it seems more logical that these more common & simplified ideas were used in place of the deeper WC concept of LLHS.

---No it doesn't. Pin Sun is an older version of Wing Chun. Perhaps the concept of LLHS is a more recent and deeper refinement and addition to the system?
 

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Not anybody's "kuen kuit" in particular (although injunctions against crashing against a strong bridge or powerful opponent are contained in several kuit). However, I'm just referring to the general rule that you avoid crashing force against force. That is fundamental in the VT I train. Isn't it part of yours as well?

I haven't heard that one. Can you show me some examples of what you mean?
 

guy b

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As Eric has pointed out, WC already has LLHS which covers WC 'energy concepts' to a deeper level than these more common descriptors.

This is the puzzling thing about it. If you look to any of the systems which are based on these concepts, you find a detailed and non contradictory conceptual base coupled with a strategic approach which is fully consistent and in fact based upon these ideas. You also find physical movements which are much more suited to these concepts than those in wing chun. Why would wing chun include these ideas, but not in any fundamental way, and lack the tools and strategies to make them work effectively? It doesn't make sense.

Is there more to it that is not spoken about publicly? If so then would it be possible to talk in generalities about this without revealing the detail?
 
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