One reason that my art, Shaolin Wing Chun is referred to as “Shaolin” because all Wing Chun originated in the Shaolin Temple. More importantly our main focus is on three areas of development, 1) Self-improvement/Chan (Zen) 2) Health and fitness 3) Combat/Self-defense skill. Collectively these are known as The 3 Treasures of Shaolin. A major concept of Chan or as the Japanese call it, Zen, is the concept of the Triads; Internal and External. The Internal Triad consists of what we think, feel, and do (things that are 100% under our control). The External Triad refers to time., space, energy; the environment that we cannot control. The art teaches us to control the internal and harmonize with the external.
Additionally, we consider our art to be Shaolin in nature because we employ the Shaolin Halls method of development. Any fan of vintage Kung Fu movies, or 90s hip-hop, for that fact, can tell you about the 36 Chambers of Shaolin, maybe even 108 techniques. How about the 72 secret arts? Well, it all sounds pretty esoteric, if not downright intriguing. Coincidentally, all these numbers are divisible by 6, which is what I really want to talk about: the 6 Halls of Shaolin.
The 1st Hall is referred to as Gei Bun Gong- Basic Exercises is the translation. However, 1st hall is not only limited to basic physical conditioning to build strength, flexibility, and stamina; it also refers to basic life skills, such as attitude, hygiene, communication, knowing right from wrong, and very commonly understanding how to act of adapt in YOUR own time and space.
2nd Hall is called Gei Bun Dong Juk- Basic Movements. This is where your technical skill evolves. We practice drills and forms in fixed patterns in order to develop reflexes and muscle memory. We practice basic movements in all ranges of combat.
3rd Hall can be referred to as San Shou or San Da. Basically this is live application; skill challenge or sparring. You are putting to use your mental and physical conditioning of the 1st hall combined with the skills acquired in the 2nd hall in order to effectively “harmonize” with an opponent. Effectiveness is the goal. Can you prevent an opponent from imposing their will/reality on to you? Can you create time advantages and own your space? Can you effectively resolve this conflict on your terms?
Every solid, legitimate martial art has Halls 1-3, even if they do not refer to them as such. From Karate to Krav Maga, if you can identify first, second, and third hall in your training, you are most likely in a good place. To be honest this concept of the Shaolin Halls methodology can be applied to a number of skilled endeavors whether they be athletic, artistic, mechanical, scientific, etc. Think about it.
What makes Shaolin Wing Chun special to me is this next bit, Halls 4-6. I have not spent as much time in or around other martial arts as I have Shaolin Wing Chun to say from experience, but Shaolin Wing Chun is the only martial art that I know of that employs the concepts of these additional halls in their teaching methodology .
Wing Chun Happens in Halls 4-6. So once you have become effective through training Halls 1-3, how do you improve? You get more efficient. Hall 4 represents efficiency, Economy of Motion; you get good results with less effort Your expression becomes more fluid and efficient because of detachment from the limbs, and the lessons that the body has learned from experiencing reality. Hall 5 is one of the definitions of Wing Chun- Maximum Efficiency. We not only want to obtain good results with less effort; we want our efforts to be so efficient that nothing can be added or subtracted from our technique to improve the result The absolute best result with the absolute least amount of effort is the purpose of Wing Chun. At this level you are able to also detach from your environment, in addition to your body. The ultimate goal is Hall 6- Emptiness; simply the ability to “live in the moment” or “live in reality”, reality = change. To be empty is to lack expectations, biases, preconceived notions, regret, or anything else that binds us to the past or future, so that we may live our lives in the only time frame that truly exists, the present. “Live in the present” is another way to say adapt to change, because the present is ever-changing. In a combat situation, the ability to adapt to change is crucial for survival. In day-today modern life, the ability to adapt to change ensures we have fulfilling, purpose-driven lives. Grand Master Moy Yat said, “When you have one foot in the past and one in the future, you are pissing on the present.” Be present, be engaged in the precious moments of your life, don’t piss on them, my friends.