Mixing it up, ramping it up

Inspired by talking to Ron Goin about training for chaos – more on which anon – I decided to share a little of that love and inspiration with the Ving Tsun (Wing Chun) class at Combat Science 101 last night. Had I thought about it, I might not have trailed it on the class’s Facebook page in advance as the turnout was modest, but I’m happy to ascribe that to seasonal festivities and a morbid fear of damp weather. My aim was to transition from fundamental, technical Ving Tsun (VT) training through functional, combative exercises to near-exhaustion, then introduce a final pressurised test which would draw on those fundamental skills.

We began the class with a run through of the first two free hand forms of Wong Shun Leung VT, Siu Nim Tau and Cham Kiu. After some free punching practice, static and moving, concentrating on structure and good mechanical advantage we moved on to Dan Chi Sau, a contact reflex exercise where the practitioner learns to punch along advantageous lines of attack when the limbs are in contact with another’s. Setting up good form, base and lines of attack we raised the pace in order to raise the heart rates.

After a round of dynamic stretching exercises followed by a few rounds of press-ups, crunches, squat thrusts and free squats, we arrived at the meat of the session, the Vagabond Warriors inspired functional ‘mental fortitude’ test. Working in pairs for two minute rounds for two circuits, the stations were:

  • Tyre flip and sledgehammer: one partner flipped the tractor tyre, approximately four foot high, jumped in and out of it then repeated the sequence. The other partner then performed five overhead strikes to the tyre with a ten-pound sledgehammer. Partners swapped roles half way.
  • Bag drag and carry: pulling a 30lb bag across the length of the hall, then hoisting it up on the shoulders before running two lengths of the hall with it. Partner repeats. The students added their own variation on the second circuit, namley that one partner sat on the bag while the other pulled. Naturally, this made this exercise hell on earth.
  • Sprawl and barge: a simple exercise which seemed to mainline lactic into the legs! One partner holds a large kick shield, the other performs a sprawl then shoulder barges the shield at full force; this also trains the shield holder to brace and absorb impact. Partners swapped roles half way.
  • Ball smash and sword cuts: this turned out to be the rest station, after a fashion. Using a wooden sword (bokken) cut down then diagonally down left-to-right and right-to-left continuously. Using an 8lb ball, squat, drive up then smash the ball with some gusto into the mat. Partners swapped roles half way. For the second circuit we substituted hitting press ups for the ball smash: press up then hit the mat once with each hand, second press up then hit the mat twice with each hand, working up to the tenth pressup with ten hits with each hand.

Then, it was on to the focus mitts. The brief was to hit full force but attempt to retain some technique despite the rapidly encroaching fatigue; one set of punches was with VT advancing footwork (seung ma), the other was with triangulating tracking step (sam gok ma). The pad holder then crossed his arms on his chest and allowed the puncher to shove him backwards.

Finally, we set up some VT-based milling to burn out (as if we needed it). Both participants wore head guards and light MMA gloves for protection, with the aim of punching continuously at the opponent, constantly attempting to use superior footwork to outflank him and gain the better hitting line. I was extremely please to see that all retained their composure and discipline, sticking to the game plan and driving forward throughout the drill, quickly recovering and adapting when it all started to get a little messy. And, despite the fact that at this point we were all sweat-soaked and exhausted, most wanted to repeat this drill but time ran out.

We finished by discussing and emphasising the fact that this kind of training gave us the context to our training, and gave us a small glimpse of the environment in which we would have to ‘go to work’. The smiles told me I may have to ramp it up even further next time …

Thank you to those hardy students of Combat Science 101 who gave their all for this session.

No students or tyres were harmed during training.


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