Starting the move
1. Many people do not start from the right position. This is important. Affirm the training stance position prior to starting this – in fact any – move. Make sure your posture, stance, head position are all correct.
2. Don’t shuffle about or do preparatory moves. Don’t look around the class. Like the Nike ad says “Just do it”.
3. Don’t look down at your hands as you do this, or any, move. Look directly ahead at your imaginary opponent.
4. Some people get ready first by putting the hands in front of themselves, and then shoot downwards. It is better to shoot directly from the waiting position into place. It is a basic principle of VTK that everything should be done in the shortest distance in the most direct and efficient way that does the job.
Finding Centre Low
1. One cross high and low is enough. Some people do 2 high and one low, or other combinations. Another principle of VTK is only do as little as you can that will get the job done. This technique’s job is to find the centre, not do multiple blocks. There is no reason, as part of training, not to repeat moves endlessly if necessary, but the “formal” form only has one low and then one high.
2. Not straightening the elbow fully. Above is a whole class doing it. Many people keep their elbows bent for the centre low position. This is not correct for several reasons. One is that you can find the centre best with straight arms. If you bend them, it is possible that a beginner might bend them different angles, and thus be in the wrong place. Straight, and they are the same length, and make it easier to find the centre. The other point is that practising to lock out your elbows will strengthen your strikes, especially the punch, and strengthen the elbow joint, which is a weak point of the body.
3. The arms are not crossed evenly, on the same place in both wrists. You can’t find your centre if you don’t meet the arms on the same point. The point is just over the large part at the end of the forearm that meets the wrist.
4. Some people shoot the hands outwards in a scooping motion. This is incorrect. They should shoot directly downwards at about 60º. You are not lifting or blocking anything.
5. The arms are not crossed along the centre line of the body. For some reason, some people can’t keep them crossed on the centre. It should be.
6. Bending the wrist or fingers. Keep then straight and together. This should be kept this way throughout the entire of training, but it is probably the commonest error found in the system. While the fingers are relaxed, they are not limp and bent, and apart. They are together, and straight. When flicked, they should spring back into place.
7. Too close in for the cross. Often here the hands are not far enough away. They should be a fist and a thumb to the inside wrist from the ‘Dan Tien’ which is basically just below the belly button. Measure it and make sure it is correct. Sometimes people are also too far out.
Here is an example of being both off-center, not crossing at the same point on both arms and the fingers and wrists are not really straight and together. With the little fingers sticking out like that, they would be easily broken in a fight.
Moving from Centre Low to Centre High
1. Moving the hands (or where they cross) in an arc when you move from lower centre to upper centre. In VTK the hands almost never move in a circle, especially in SLT. The centre of the cross doesn’t move in and out from the body or moving in a circle. VTK is about straight lines. From the upper centre, cross the simple way by just lifting them up vertically from the lower centre cross.
2. Moving the elbow too much when going from low to high centre. The elbows should barely move as you go from low to high. This is not a technique and you are not shooting them forwards into you enemy. You are simply measuring out the centreline, with your hands like a compass, and the elbow is the fulcrum. The fulcrum should not move.
3. The hands should rotate on each other, and not stick hard to each other. If you stick, then the place the hands are crossed moves along the arm instead of staying on your centre.
4. The hands should not come inside each other. They should simply lift straight up. In the picture above, in order for the left hand to be outside in both the top and bottom movement, the hands must have been pulled back and rotated internally and not lifted directly. This is incorrect.
5. Some people shoot out with the hands as they lift them. This is incorrect also.
Finding Centre High
1. Too far out or too close for the cross. They should be a fist and a thumb from the centreline of the body, out from the ‘dan tien’ (about an inch below the belly button) for centre low and from centre high. Centre high is found by drawing lines 45 degrees from the points of the shoulders until they cross at the sternum, a couple of inches up from the solar plexus.
2. Ensure the wrists are not bent, and the fingers are together. It is very common here to have the wrists bent.
1. The elbows should pull the hands back directly from the ‘cross’ to the waiting position of the Neutral Training Stance. There should be no “getting ready” or chambering, no extraneous movement, just move directly to the sides. The elbows should do the move, not the hands.
2. The vast majority of beginners do not reaffirm their position at this point, but simply move onto the next section without checking. This compounds any errors, making the whole form, the entire system, deteriorate from the beginning.
- These moves are not techniques, but reminders of the most important theory in VTK, Centreline theory. The crossed arms aren’t a block, no matter what you have read in magazines. If someone tried to block a kick with the low x, the student would get punched in the face. Besides, unless you lean, another error, you will still get kicked in the groin. Likewise, if you use the upper x, you leave your groin open to attack. VTK never ever uses two hands on one. Rather we use one hand to control two of theirs. In the “Old Days”, that VTK Dreamtime, they didn’t have mirrors to check your centre. What they had at that time was a bamboo pole stuck in the ground. Or they used a string on a weight as a vertical line. This was used as the reference, and the finding the centre was in reference to this vertical line. When Yip Man started teaching in Hong Kong, the apartments naturally had no dirt, so he got an old paint bucket and cemented in a bamboo pole. This bamboo pole is currently in someone’s private collection, I forget who. Anyway, this is the function of the finding the centre, not a strike. I usually simply get people to use the corner of a wall or some other vertical line when they practice on their own.
- The elbows don’t move, certainly not shooting forwards, or worse, upwards, in order to make the x into a block or strike. The elbows are a pivot point for measuring the centre. Moving them means the centre isn’t accurate.
- It is also wrong to separate the moves into garn sau and tan sau or biu sau as some people think. This is wrong for several reasons. The first is that the movement simply can’t be bent into that shape without destroying its function. The second is a design misunderstanding. In the overall design of VTK and of SLT, the first technique of Siu Lim Tao is actually the punch. The form – the whole system – is logically constructed, with most important techniques and ideas at the beginning. The most important technique is the punch, so this is the first technique. The most important idea is the centreline theory, without which the punch isn’t as effective. And even more important than centreline theory is that the stance must be good, or everything else is a waste of time. This is why the stance is first, then the centreline, then the punch. This logic follows through the entire system, (with a few notable deviations). The most important things are taught FIRST.
- Finding centre low isn’t done with bent arms. If you keep your arms bent, then when you move to centre high, it will be in the wrong place. Also, it’s good to get a habit of always straightening your arms. Even though this is not a technique, there is no reason you can’t use short-range power as if it was a technique. However, the rules about conservation of shape and consistency in training in VTK means that you should act as if they were techniques, with the fingers together and movements snapping, teaching good habits. You can shoot your hands downwards as if it were biu sau. You can snap your hands into place as if it were tan sau. But it isn’t. (This is why some people are confused about this.)
- Centreline theory doesn’t mean that we always stand face to face with the opponent, nor that we come back to this position once lost. Centreline theory merely states that we face his axis. We line our own axis up with that of the enemy, and place our hands on this line, and Face this line. We stand with our shoulders square to this line. If the enemy is facing the other way, naturally, we do not position ourselves so that we end up face to face, nor turn him around, but face his axis and hit him from behind or the side, or whatever part of his body is between the two axes. In fact, we should want to turn him away so that we can face his axis but he can’t face ours.