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Many branches, same root

January 27, 2017

Recently at Wing Chun, I was having a word with a Peter a senior classmate about the first form Sil Lim Tao, when Sifu came over and joined the conversation about the hand transitions in the first section.

Sifu told us than we he trained in Hong Kong with Chu Shong Tin (whose lineage we follow)he was taught that the transition come from the wrist being at right angles to the forearm, before the little finger rotates underneath to face forward.

However one of his teachers Sifu William Lai a long time student of Chu Shong Tin, makes the transition via the tan sau (with the palm up) hand position, as does the head of our parent association Master Samuel Kwok.

So both my Sifu and his teacher of this lineage (Sifu Lai), both taught this form by Master Chu Shong Tin yet both seem to do this hand transition differently, I wonder who initiated the change, the teacher or the student?   Is it the student’s responsibility to pass on their teacher’s art undiluted, or is it the duty of the student to surpass their teacher?

Remaining true to our roots, and spreading our branches.

I’ve seen this many times before in during my ‘Aikido years’ training with students of O’Sensei or second generation students, even though they came from the same source i.e. O’Sensei their techniques were vastly different.

Sensei Riley (7th Dan Shihan) the senior instructor of White Rose Aikido, used to explain this, as different students picking up on different things while watching the same technique, so some may focus on the hands, some the feet, others may look at the overall movement, etc, etc.

Of course we also have the fact that O’Sensei himself changed the way he taught Aikido, you have the pre-War (WWII) harder strongly Ju-Jitsu based training, compared to the post-war lighter more flowing style.

So it would also depend on when the students trained with O’Sensei – as to what kind of Aikido they were exposed to.

Many branches, same root.

I my personal experience in both Karate (Wado-Ryu) and Taekwondo, I’ve seen various teachers make changes to kata and poomse, as they re-interpret the forms to suit their own understanding and application of the form.

(The whole topic of ‘Bunkai’ and application deserve more space that I can give here, and will appear in a future blog…)

Again is this a question of  right or wrong?  Or is it a natural evolutionary process?

How many changes and adaptations can we make to the forms, before they become new forms and not the forms of our teachers?

When I taught Taekwondo at the Ki-Taekwondo clubs, I always taught the Taegeuk and Poomse forms, to the strict guidelines set out by the World Taekwondo Federation, I didn’t see it my place to change the form to suit the application, as I personally saw this as a disservice to my students, who may for whatever reason change clubs at a later date, so their Taekwondo would be ‘pure’ in that sense.

So as well as respecting the root’s of our past, we also have to nurture the seeds of the future.

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