Wing Chun does not lend itself to athletics (sport) or aesthetics, and although some do not teach it that way, it is, by purpose, a method of physical self-defence. Some instructors opt to teach other, more traditional aspects, such as health benefits and the spiritual side of the art. So depending on what you want from it or how it is taught, determines what you get from it. Although I have belief in it philosophical and spiritual side, for me it is a fighting system and it is taught as such. Nowhere in all the Wing Chun forms is the fighting element more evident than in the 3rd empty hand form in the system, Biu Jee.
An Overview of the Wing Chun Forms (Empty Hand)
Siu Lim Tao Form
Each empty hand Form in Wing Chun has its own purpose. For instance the first form, Siu Lim Tao (小念頭, Meaning:Little or Small Idea) is the first form of the system. Siu Lim Tao is split into 3 sections and each section has its own aim. The first section deals with developing the basic strength in the Wrist and Elbow and is often performed quite slow to concentrate and build up energy, a bit like dynamic tension. The second section deals with the execution and release ofthe power developed in section one;it is executed in an ‘On/Off’ manner. The best way to describe this is when you punch a target, whilst traveling to the target the muscles are relaxed and the power is ‘Off’, just before impact the muscle tense for a split second. This is when the power is ‘On’. The third section is for training of correct position of basic hand technique; you must concentrate on executing each movement’s position correctly.
Chum Kiu Form
The second form, Chum Kiu (尋橋, Meaning:Seeking the Bridge), like Siu Lim Tao,is split into unique sections. The first section teaches the student how to use techniques in conjunction with shifting (turning the body) whilst developing power from the hip. This is something that is not seen in Siu Lim Tao as Siu Lim Tao is performed in a stationary position. The second Section deals with mobility; here the basic stepping and shifting are used in conjunction with the hand techniques as well as being introduced to the basic kicking and elbow techniques. The aim of the form is to use techniques with mobility to ‘bridge’ the gap between yourself and the opponent, all the kicks are executed below the waist and can be used to intercept other kicks, stop advancing opponents (aggressively or defensively) or be used and an harassment from which to execute other attacks. In conjunction with the forms, students learn drills and application which their understanding of the forms and help develop solid fighting ability and solid self-defence. After completing these two forms as well as drills and application the student should be able to pretty look after himself quite well and be a competent fighter. But what if, in combat, a mistake is made; you are caught off guard or get injured. You need something up your sleeve, an insurance policy.
Biu Jee – The Insurance Policy
Biu Jee (鏢指) literally translates as ‘Thrusting or Darting Fingers’ and is the final empty hand form taught in Wing Chun. Traditionally it is said it said that Biu Jee is only taught to the most loyal of students as the techniques are so deadly that you can kill people with one blow. Well, simply that’s a pile of Dog poo!! (I could use stronger words)!! Statements like this are just fabricated by some instructors to attract inexperienced, gullible students and to make them stand out from other clubs. Any Wing Chun instructors out there that lay such statements I would advise to treat with dubious care.There is, and should be, no Secrecy in Wing Chun.
Biu Jee is the last empty handed form, as stated previously by the time we reach this form we should be at a competent level and pretty much be able to look after ourselves. By that I mean we should be able to execute and apply techniques to most real combat situations and react to an attack automatically with little thought. The assumption here is that we KNOW the attack is coming and we have full control of our position and we have not made a mistake either by over committing or incorrect application of technique. No matter how skilled we are,mistakes can often still be made.You can get caught off guard or execute a counter attack incorrectly, Biu Jee gives us an idea ofwhat we could in these circumstances.
The form builds on the knowledge and techniques gained from previous forms. Footwork, Huen Ma (circle step) is introduced building on Chum Kiu footwork. This allows you to step around any obstacles e.g. a leading leg, get behind the obstacle and gain control or execute trips or takedowns. It also allows you to fully change direction in the event of an unexpected attack or counter. Aggressive downward elbow techniques (Kop Jarn) are introduced, these can be used as an outright attack or as an escape route should the arms become pinned or engaged. We are also shown the thrusting finger technique also as an attack or escape route and where power is concentrated to the end of the finger tips. Basically a whole range of techniques designed as ‘Emergency’ reactions to help you tip the balance back in your favour when things aren’t so favourable.
Biu Jee completes the empty handed forms by building and perfecting techniques and using them in whole different manner. It is the intent of techniques that differs from previous forms. The use of power is further explored to produce powerful blows over very short distance, we also take into account the areas targeted when executing technique. No longer are the strikes aimed at the generic areas such as head or body but narrowed down to specific, more delicate areas like the throat, the eyes, or the nose. The purpose of the form is to cause harm and neutralise attackers in unfavourable situations, the more you understand about Biu Jee, it is here you see the nature of Wing Chun takes a more sinister turn. The student goes from learning and understanding standard techniques to execution and application to cause maximum injury. In any situation you have to ask ‘What if this happens?’, ‘How do I deal with this situation?’ in combat nothing is straight forward and things don’t always go to plan. Even Bruce Lee mused at one point ‘It is only a fool who predicts the outcome of a fight before the fight has happened’, Biu Jee tries to answer these questions and give you another way.
First we drill the technique, then we learn all about their application then we pressure test. This is important as it gives the opportunity see how things MAY work. One thing bear I in mind is in the safety of the Kwoon or Dojo you don’t have the fear of getting hurt or the uncertainty of the incoming attack. The only way to familiarise oneself with that kind of fear is to be in a situation that induces it. Something we should try to avoid really. Whichever way you look at it violence and self-defence is a very nasty business these days there is ‘No honour amongst thieves’, gone are the days of one on one, society has basically deteriorated. Biu Jee is a very useful ‘Sidearm’ to have in combat situations and it’s a sad fact that the only way to beat violence is by avoidance or if you have no choice, use ‘Bigger’ violence. Biu Jee, with its vicious technique and combat philosophy give you a ‘Bigger’ violence.
When someone performs the moves in Biu Jee with the correct intent and execution, it can have an effect on the nature and mentality of the student. The purpose of the very last movements of the form is to bring the person back to a normal mental state and re-address the balance; other theories suggest it is to simply regain the centreline. The first theory would make a bit more sense because when concentrating power into such technique can place your head in a very dark place. You need those tranquil movements to bring you back to normal. It is not too difficult to see why it is a good ‘Insurance policy’ and how it fits in with the progression of the Wing Chun system. Without proficiency in the first two empty hand forms, Biu Jee is really ineffective. This is why the guidance of a good Sifu (instructor) is essential in this or any other martial art for that matter.