Wing-Chun Kung-Fu & Brain Development

Posted By : Sifu Kaplan
Date: Oct 18, 2012


Note on this article: Wing-Chun contributes to our lives great deal and help us live a better and quality life when its principles are well understood and applied to our lives. In this article I tried to keep the benefits of Wing-Chun for brain development. It is quite a wide subject, though. Therefore you will see only a short extract taken from the whole body of a chapter dedicated to the very subject. A book on 'Wing-Chun for a Quality Life' is almost ready for all contributions to our lives soon. Respectfully - Sifu Murat Kaplan

Wing-Chun Kung-Fu & Brain DevelopmentRelying on biomechanics and correct use of the body structure and angles, rather than the brute force, Wing-Chun is a perfect art for any possible actual self-defense and combat. However, defining Wing-Chun with these qualities ONLY would not be fair, because in addition to well known benefits of martial arts defined as '13 principles' such as posture, position, timing, distance, power, the way, reaction, guts, aggressiveness, controlling, decision, reserve and adjustment, Wing-Chun - when practiced correctly - will lead to balanced development of the 3 vital aspects: physical, mental and spiritual. If done under professional trainers' guidance, all sports activities are good for physical, mental and spiritual health. But very few of these sports help in brain development as much as Wing-Chun does.

Experts recommend exercise programs that rely on balance, strength, and coordination. Wing-Chun trainings exercise the brain's balance and coordination centers, and by doing so they stimulate the part of the brain used in problem-solving, memory and goal setting. Wing-Chun, as an exercise program, provides such benefits as young practitioners learn techniques which involve fine hand and eye coordination as well as coordinated strength. In every class Wing-Chun students learn new techniques while perfecting their skills that they have already learned. From the first lessons, with one of the basic stance trainings 'Yee-Chi-Kim-Yeung-Ma' (Character Two Adduction Stance), students already start exercising balance, strength and coordination. Siu-Lim-Tao, the first empty hand form of Wing-Chun, is practiced in a Yee-Chi-Kim-Yeung-Ma stance or (Dok-Lap-Ma stance for advance students).

Proper practice of Siu-Lim-Tao enables the student to develop proper abdominal breathing, independent arm movement, focus, stance/stability, and proper energy, which will eventually lead to Chi-Gong exercise. Siu-Lim-Tao also trains the student to generate forces from the center-line. Since Siu-Lim-Tao develops proper structure, stance, centerline, hand-eye coordination, chi development, body unity and the power of proper intent, Chum-Kiu adds and develops three more energies. These are forward momentum, pulling momentum and turning momentum. These energies add significant power to all Wing-Chun techniques though coordinated movement of the body along both linear and circular paths. Practicing Chum-Kiu will lead to a heightened awareness and understanding of the ways in which these movements enhance and magnify natural body power 'chi'. The nature of this form is to train your body balance by playing the form. The more you practice this form the better your balance will be. Chum-Kiu is a bridge to a greater understanding of the Wing-Chun system.

Though there are various other benefits of this prominent art's empty hand and weapon forms, Wing-Chun trainings also turn out to work on brain development in several ways. Cross lateral motions could be one of the most vital of them. When we say 'working cross laterally' we actually mean 'working across the body'. While doing so, the brain builds better cross lateral connections across the corpus callosum* in the brain. (*corpus callosum: connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres and facilitates interhemispheric communication. from Wikipedia). Research has shown brain development in both hemispheres from using the body and mind in unique ways. Wing-Chun has been linked to increased intelligence, memory, creativity and concentration.

In order to better understand the benefits of Wing-Chun trainings to brain development, we need to have a short survey on our brain: Our brain weighs a little more than three pounds (approx. 1.3 kg), yet it consumes about one fourth of the body's total oxygen intake. Our brain is a loom weaving strands of ten million neurons into our thought process. Our whole mental process consists of neurons transmitting certain chemicals between each other across gaps known as synapses. Each cell can communicate with every other cell at terrific speed. In one cubic millimeter of our brain, there are one billion cell connections, which totals about 400 billion junctions in a gram of brain tissue. Our brain manage the duties of the other 70 to 100 trillion cells in the body. A single neuron may receive information from numerous other neurons via thousands of synapses (junctures). Our brain can detect any touch (and pain) through millions of touch sensors that cover the surface of our skin. Some areas are more sensitive than others. Our skin is able to sense various pressures such as using fingers to play a musical instrument, the feel of grass under your bare feet, or even when applying pressure point or Chin-Na (joint-lock) techniques on a training partner during a drill or Chi-Sao exercise.

Wing-Chun's Dan-Chi-Sao (single sticking hand exercise) and Sheung-Chi-Sao (double sticking hand exercise) well serve this purpose at the very early stages of Wing-Chun training curriculum as they develop the sensitivity throughout well-designed drills. Research shows that our brain can thrive and improve with age if we keep it in good working order, exercise it daily and allow it to develop greater capacity to absorb information that helps us to stay sharp. Let's think of our brain as a muscle. The more we flex and strengthen this muscle, the more it develops. And let's think of it as mental weight lifting. If our brain is not challenged daily, our mind will begin to deteriorate at a frightening speed, as our mind becomes starved for novelty and challenge. Brain power depends on the number of dendrites we have at our use. Dendrites are extensions of nerve cells which receive incoming information.

New information and new skills spur dendrites to branch out as tree roots do. This branching out triggers millions of new connections (synapses) between nerve cells. Our brain is like a computer that is upgraded with a larger memory board, which allows us to perform greater skills and to remember more complex things, if used and exercised daily. New activities, like any set of movements (Forms like Siu-Lim-Tao, Chum-Kiu, Biu-Gee, Wooden Dummy, etc.) arouse reticular information in our brain, which is a nerve cell system located in our brain stem. After we learn a new skill, it soon becomes routine. Our brain receives less stimulation and the reticular information operates at lower levels of activity. Obviously, to keep our minds alert and on the cutting edge is to learn new skills and receive new information that awakens the reticular formation and exercise them on regular basis. To serve this purpose free Chi-Sao exercise is the best as we face continuous challenges with every move our Chi-Sao partner tries to reach us using numerous techniques spontaneously. Grandmaster Ip Chun, at the age of 87, is a good example for this with his good memory, active and alert mind, and healthy body. Because, for a practitioner learning (or practicing) a new form is where learning advances and more difficult forms and routines come into play. This is where the proverbial “killing two birds with one stone” is put into action. Not only are we exercising our mind but, at the very same time we are enhancing and further developing new skills in Wing-Chun. We will immediately notice in a martial arts competition that those who are able to perform advanced and intricate empty hand or weapon forms well seem to be very intelligent individuals. Because reaching higher levels of proficiency continues to massage and stimulate the brain.

Lots of respect, Sifu Murat Kaplan

Ip Man Wing-Chun, Samuel Kwok Lineage, Turkey