Logan's Herald Journal ArticlePublished by Sifu on 2009/1/19 (795 reads)
By David Sweeny and Eli Lucero
Sunday, October 26, 2008 4:19 AM CDT
You won't find flying kicks at Logan Kung Fu Academy. Nor will you see off-balance spins, exaggerated punches or any number of other over-complicated techniques.
"We don't do pushups. We don't stretch," says Sifu Jim Poulsen.
Wing Chun principles are meant to simplify.
Take a simple axiom of mathematics: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. So why, Poulsen wonders, do boxers throw hook punches? It's not the fastest strike. Moreover, because a sweeping motion is all arm, it generates minimal power. A hook may intimidate, but there's no real oomph behind it.
For maximum power, Poulsen says, a Wing Chun martial artist tries to create straight points — shoulder to elbow to wrist, for example — within his or her body structure. Hands, arms, torso and legs synchronize in Zen-like balance.
"You've got to lock it all together; tie your shoulders to your hips," Poulsen instructs his students. "If I try to use just my arm I can't do it."
Business manager at Nate and Andy's Quality Auto Sales by day, Poulsen teaches Wing Chun Kung Fu on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights at the Logan Kung Fu Academy. Here, punch power is generated through relaxed, controlled speed — no clenched fists, no body tension allowed.
"The human body can do amazing things," says Jo Gao Gabe Ayala, one of Poulsen's assistant instructors. "But the beautiful thing about Wing Chun is it's flowing the way the human body wants to move."
Ayala contrasts the martial art form with ballet. Dance is graceful, he says, but unnaturally so, because beauty is forced upon the body, causing injuries from hip to toe.
Wing Chun, on the other hand, is organically beautiful by design. It's unpretentious yet effective, stressing an economy of motion that empowers students of all ages and abilities, Poulsen says.
Grandmaster Ip Ching, 73, still teaches two days a week in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, a world away, Poulsen leads a Wednesday evening class for kids, passing the art of Ip's ancestors to students as young as 5.
Wing Chun students begin as white shirts, advancing to gray and then black. Jo gaos and sifus are qualified instructors. Students first learn empty-hand forms, beginning with Su Lim Tao, and progress to Chi Sau — literally, "sticking hands" — which is unique to Wing Chun. As the name implies, fighters remain in constant contact, relying on touch, rather than just sight, to find openings for attack. Attack and defense become one, says Poulsen, as a "balance of powers and energies takes place" between opponents.
Advanced artists learn two weapons forms: Bot Cham Doe, or knives, representing all short weapons, and Look Boon Dim Kwan, or pole, representing all long ones. Black shirts practice with a wooden dummy, Mook Yan Jong, which is the "perfect training partner," Poulsen says, because it absorbs impact and recoils, "hitting" back on a straight line every time. "It forces me to use correct lines, correct power," Poulsen says.
Whereas Japanese art forms are rooted in geography — they're developed by shorter, stockier people for shorter, stockier people — Chinese Wing Chun is built on principles. Some are derivatives of science: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Others have a distinctly Confucian flavor: Look at nothing, see everything. All contribute to a an adaptable framework that allows each student, regardless of gender, age, height or weight, to apply Wing Chun within his or her ability.
"Kung fu" itself translates from Cantonese as "Excellence obtained over a long period of time through hard work," Poulsen says. "People have the idea that kung fu is a martial art. It's not."
Instead, it denotes a mastery of one's art. Musicians have it. So do gymnasts.
"In China," Poulsen says, "Even a butcher can be said to have kung fu."
Named for its first student, Wing Chun is almost 300 years old, having survived by the thinnest of family threads, Poulsen says. Passed between generations, it's only blossomed in the last 50 years or so. Ip Man, the father of Grandmaster Ip Ching, fled to Hong Kong in 1949 to escape Red China, which outlawed the practice of martial arts. Since then, celebrity students, from Bruce Lee to Robert Downey Jr., have contributed to the art's emerging popularity.
Poulsen has taught Wing Chun since 2000 and plans to teach as long as he's able. Through CAPSA, he's led risk reduction courses geared toward girls in middle school. And he plans to start a dynamic meditation course.
"I want to teach Wing Chun to everyone who wants to learn," Poulsen says. "This is what I want to do the rest of my life, whether it's to one person or 1,000."
To that end, Poulsen, himself a continual student, visits Beijing and Hong Kong for two weeks each fall to study with Ip Ching. The trip is available for Logan students, who meet kung fu brothers from as far as Turkey and New Zealand. They experience the heart of Chinese culture and get to learn from the grandmaster himself, the last of a proud Wing Chun lineage.
The Logan Wing Chun Academy is located in the basement of the Allstate building at 580 N. Main. Adult classes are taught from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; a class for children is offered from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays.
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