In line with most Chinese martial arts, ‘forms’ are an essential part of Wing Chun Kung Fu training. A form is a combination of different stances, footwork patterns, blocking movements, evasive actions and striking and kicking techniques. They are created to represent the fundamental moves used in a real fighting experience, all combined into one.
Different martial arts styles have unique characteristics which can be clearly distinguished in the execution and movements of the forms that represent them. Thus, northern styles can be distinguished and differentiated from their southern counterparts (including Wing Chun).
Training one’s forms serves multiple purposes. Forms teach practitioners to train the body to move in countless different patterns, such as advancing, retreating, defending and countering in time. With sufficient practice, the movements included in forms become reflexive actions that can be used by a practitioner spontaneously in an encounter.
Wing Chun Kung Fu comprises three open-handed forms, one wooden dummy form and two weapon forms. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll focus on the first of the openhanded forms, Si Nim Tau, which provides the key to the techniques one needs to know to defend themselves from most likely attacks.
The first, and most important, form learned and practised in Wing Chun is called Si Nim Tau, literally translated as ‘a little idea’. The meditative nature of Si Nim Tau makes thoughts of daily matters of love, hate, money, work etc. disappear. Si Nim Tau comprises the foundations of Kung Fu upon which all succeeding forms and techniques depend. When practising this, fundamental rules of balance and body structure are developed.
In fact, Ip Ching, one of the five grandmasters of Yip Man, said, “Si Nim Tau is not just the beginning course but an important foundation. When we learn English, we first learn the 26 letters of the alphabet. If we cannot handle the pronunciation of each letter, then our English will never be good. The magnitude of the first form, Si Nim Tau, in Wing Chun is the same as that of letters in English.”
Si Nim Tau comprises eight parts, and each part is a range of techniques and changes in the practitioner’s energy. In five out of the eight parts, the left hand leads the movement followed by the right hand. In the other three parts, both hands are used simultaneously. Si Nim Tau does not consist of any footwork, and this is only later introduced in the next form. Si Nim Tau starts from an initial stance called Gee Kim Yeung Ma, which focuses on building leg muscles and balance from standing and connecting the whole body’s energy to the ground. One’s legs are slightly bent with toes facing inwards and the body centred, and their hands are placed by their sides in a 90-degree angle with the fist facing forward.
Personally, after starting Kung Fu, I practised Si Nim Tao daily and learnt the names of vital movements. Since then, it has become far simpler to understand and learn techniques as well as specific movements. When starting Wing Chun, it is a necessity to master Si Nim Tao, as this knowledge will guide you through the rest of your journey. On my Youtube Channel, VedantJM, there is a video of me going through this form.