A “form” is a set of movements in a specific sequence that the practitioner repeats over and over again. It can be performed with empty hands or with various weapons. Either way, they are a series of self-practice movements that usually don’t require a partner. If you live in Hong Kong, you’ve probably seen elderly people practising their forms in a park early every morning (Tai Chi or Wing Chun forms).
Some martial arts styles have many different forms, each with hundreds of movements. Each of these forms is a sequence of movements related to a predetermined pattern of attack and defence, meaning that the movements relate to an imaginary fight sequence, and they’re generally limited to this content.
The drawback of such forms is that in a real self-defence situation there are no set sequences or prescribed manners of attack. So while your mind is full of these hundreds of pre-determined sequences of attack and defense, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to respond effectively when attacked.
Wing Chun Forms
The Wing Chun Forms are different, in that they don’t teach you a set of sequential movements for attack and defense. Instead, they’re very intelligently designed to cultivate a set of logical principles that apply the natural laws of physics and geometry. To develop the necessary qualities of power, speed and efficiency of movement. These principles can then be applied to any martial situation or scenario. Similar to when you learn to play chess, it’s better to learn the principles of playing rather than learning a series of separate, predetermined moves and counter moves.
The Siu Nim Tao Form ‘Little Idea’
But the fruits of the Wing Chun forms go way beyond self-defence skills. The creator of Wing Chun wanted us to know this by naming its first form ‘Siu Nim Tao’, which can be translated as ‘Little Idea’. This suggests that its essence is to do with the development of a particular mental state. Which becomes the foundation for the practice of all the other forms of Wing Chun.
Here is a video of Sifu Nima King demonstrating and describing the CST method of Siu Nim Tao:
Thus, while practicing the forms in Wing Chun, instead of focusing on any martial quality, your intention is completely on the present moment. The condition of your body and mind in that moment. Within this mindful state, over time you’ll learn to deeply relax the muscles and joints of your body. You’ll open up your posture. At a deeper level, this enables you to release the energetic blockages in your body, which then leads to inner health and balance.
The beautiful thing about Wing Chun’s empty hand forms is that you can practise them anywhere, anytime. Whether it’s in the comfort of your home, when you wake up in the morning to start the day with a relaxed focus. During your lunch break, or even at the office when you need a quick 10-minute rejuvenation for the body and mind.
There are 6 Forms in Wing Chun: 3 empty hand Forms, 2 weapons Forms and the Wooden Dummy Form.
The Three Empty Hand Forms:
Siu Nim Tao, or ‘Little Idea’ (Siu Lim Tao)
This is Wing Chun’s first form. It helps you become familiar with the Wing Chun stance and structures, and the Centreline Theory. The ultimate goal of this form is to cultivate the ‘Nim Tao State’.
Chum Kiu, or ‘Bridge Seeking’
This is the second form, and it teaches you to apply the Siu Nim Tao state and principles while moving the body using your centre of mass as the engine, which leads to extremely powerful yet effortless movements.
Biu Gee, or ‘Darting Fingers’
In Biu Gee, you will practise moving with maximum speed. Within this form you’ll be able to realise your body’s maximum potential to develop power.
Here’s a video of Grandmaster Chu talking about the three empty hand forms of Wing Chun in a seminar he did at our school two years before he passed away:
The Wooden Dummy
Mook Yan Jong, or ‘Wooden Dummy’
It is perhaps the most recognisable feature of Wing Chun Kung Fu. The wooden dummy is a very useful tool. It enables you to practise and apply the structures and principles you’ve learned in the above three empty hand forms.
The Two Weapons Forms:
Bart Jarm Do, or ‘Eight Chopping’/’Butterfly’ Knives
The knives are the original weapons of Wing Chun. They’re used as extensions of your arms and require sufficient control and significant power of your wrist joints.
Lok Dim Boon Guen, or ‘Six and a Half Point’/’Long’ Pole
The Pole Form was not traditionally part of the Wing Chun system; it was added only a few generations ago.
It’s important that you gain a sound understanding of the essence of each form through persistent before you start learning the next form. Moreover, it’s like learning how to stand first before you can walk. With that foundation it’s easy to learn to run. At Mindful Wing Chun we’ve created a curriculum to guide you through our grading syllabus.
The Beauty of Wing Chun
There is so much more that could be said about the beauty of the Wing Chun forms, but words cannot fully describe the potential blissful feelings that you can obtain by practising them. Nevertheless, here’s an explanation of the Wing Chun Forms by “The King of Siu Nim Tao”, Grandmaster Chu Shong Tin.
“The structure of Wing Chun Kung Fu is so reliable and precise that it fits into the logic of science. Therefore, viewing it from any angle, I consider that Wing Chun is really a masterpiece of a martial art. In fact, Wing Chun, which is so well organized, together with its nicely designed structure, has reached the pinnacle of perfection. Starting from the basic training to the highest level. One will learn and discover more and more gradually if he can analyse and practice persistently. As time goes by, one will find that practicing Wing Chun is very interesting. I have practiced Wing Chun for over forty years and I still have a lot of fun in it. It is really one of the greatest enjoyments in my life…
[By the time he passed away in 2014, Grandmaster Chu had practised Wing Chun full-time for 64 years]
How to achieve the highest level in Wing Chun?
…The characteristic of Wing Chun in relation to its structure and formation is that every one of the three forms has its own thought and theory. The different functions of the three forms will merge forming a perfect way in attack and defence. Together with the practice of the Wooden Dummy, it is considered that Wing Chun, being so perfect, has no need for improvement. Furthermore, if one wishes to achieve to the highest level, there is no shortcut. All he can do is to carry on thinking and practicing.”
Read also: Chi Sau Explained