I know I mentioned how to keep the shoulders relaxed at the end of Part 1 of the Body Conditioning series but I want to delve in to it more and explain the importance of having relaxed shoulders in Wing Chun.
Chi Sao, Tan Sau, Bong Sau, Gan Sau, Fook Sau, punching, and all any other moves that involve using our arms require the shoulder to be loose. Once your shoulders are relaxed, the rest of your body follows. Wing Chun becomes the most effective when we’re relaxed.
For many beginners, and even intermediate students of Wing Chun, keeping the shoulders relaxed is one of the hardest things to do. It’s a natural reaction to resist an attack by defending with force and strength. It takes a lot of training to overcome this bad habit but it’s definitely possible.
Here are 3 ways to train your shoulders to relax.
This is something you can do anytime and anywhere. Once you feel yourself stiffening up while you’re walking down the street or when you’re sitting at the dinner table, or whenever you feel tense, drop your shoulders.
2. Stretch your shoulders. You can do this by going into Tan Sau and pulling your elbows towards your centerline with the opposite hand.
In addition to stretching your shoulders, you’re also conditioning your elbow to be closer to your centerline.
3. Be aware of your body. Of the three, this is the hardest to do because Wing Chun already requires doing multiple things at once and adding this to the list won’t make training easier. But if you can recognize what makes you tense up, you can use that knowledge to focus on figuring out what you can do to keep calm and relaxed when facing the situation.
For me, one thing I notice when I Chi Sao is that my right arm and shoulder are much tenser than my left side’s and I believe the reason for that is because I’m right handed and I usually begin rolling with my right arm. During intense Chi Sao sessions, it’s my opponent that tells me to loosen up because they can feel my arms stiffen up before I do and they take advantage of this. So to adapt, I become aggressive by striking instead of waiting to defend when I feel myself getting stiff. It’s not always a good tactic to cover myself with a frenzy of strikes but it helps condition myself to react.
Ultimately, the benefits of this training is to keep us relaxed. Remaining calm and adapting to challenging situations keeps us fluid and from not overreacting when facing new challenges, whether in Wing Chun or in life.