DEEPLY PASSIONATE ABOUT WING CHUN AND ITS ORIGINS, SIFU MAURO GIBIN HAS BEEN ON A QUEST TO UNCOVER THE INTERNAL ROOTS AT THE FOUNDATION OF WING CHUN—A QUEST ANY TRUE LOVER OF WING CHUN SHOULDN’T MISS.
How did you start your martial art journey?
I became fond of Wing Chun because it immediately fascinated me with its quick applications. When I started, I was looking for a functional self-defence system. During these past years, I’ve been fortunate to work with many famous masters in the field. In 2009, I met my current teacher, Sifu Sergio Iadarola, who has literally revolutionised my technical skills and knowledge. Today, after many years, I must say the search for an effective system of self-defence has given way to a journey of study and development that goes well beyond the technical, involving Body, Mind and Energy!
What do you believe to be the most important attributes to be developed through Wing Chun training?
I believe that Wing Chun, as numerous martial arts, is able to radically change the practitioner. If studied and practised under constant and knowledgeable guidance, I believe that Wing Chun is a great tool for personal improvement. Practising it, and being in agreement with the Traditional Chinese Medicine maintains the health of the practitioner, both physically and mentally. We read countless stories of practitioners, who initially were weak or fragile, and after just a few years of practice, have become strong and great fighters.
Likewise, I think that Wing Chun, through its logical and practical architectures, represents a powerful vehicle to improve the intellect’s abilities, perceiving the world with different perspectives that differ from the conventional, a quality I believe to be priceless.
Please explain the meaning of Chi Sau and what the emphasis should be while practising it?
When you are talking about Wing Chun, the first thing that comes to mind is Chi Sau. Of course, this is an essential exercise, but I think is overvalued in many ways. We have to focus on the practice of Chi Sau, while equally focusing on other exercises, such as Lat Sau, Kiu Sau, Guo Sau, etc.
Chi Sau plays a fundamental role in the study and development of the body’s management, which are the basics of the practice in any martial arts, but not for this—it needs to become almost the only training tool. Chi Sau has the main objective to develop the “listening skills” (Ting in Chinese). In this practice, the continuous research of the Four States (Stick, Adhere, Join and Follow) must be a natural work to educate our body and our synapses to be in the proper state of connection with our partner.
I’m particularly careful while practising Chi Sau with my students, to let them focus not only on using their arms to stick to the opponent’s ones but to pursue the true meaning of Chi Sau, which is to be glued to the opponent’s roots.
What is the meaning of the forms and how important are they?
I like to divide forms into two main categories: the “Educational” and the “Training” forms. Thanks to the enormous wealth of knowledge from numerous lineages, studied by my teacher, Sifu Sergio Iadarola, I feel more than ever that my luggage of forms is full, allowing me to be able to find “an answer to every question,” something that makes me even happier when I see this knowledge passed onto my students.
Educational forms are like the “encyclopaedia” of the movements, techniques, strategies, and concepts founded in Wing Chun, and for this reason, their deep and complete study is absolutely necessary to understand what we are doing. It’s important to progress gradually in the study, and once the curriculum is completed, the general framework of the system will be clear, and it will become a tool of continuous improvement for the rest of your life.
What I believe should be avoided, however, is to practice frantically for hours on forms (Educational), thinking this practice increases our ability proportionally with the hours or effort invested. For this reason, there are forms (also derived from ancestors systems of Wing Chun such as White Crane), which I believe can work better as a “skill boost” for the practitioner. These forms are, today, the main core of my training schedule.
In order to find the correct balancing point between those two types of forms, we have to go back in time and find out how they were in the unique 1700s’ single set, Siu Lin Tau (which was later divided into Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu and Biu Tze). There we find those two elements fused into a single practice, certainly not easy to understand and train, which is why I think “modern” methods, as the three forms, are fundamental to approach the study of this art nowadays.
What do you believe to be the most important geometry and principles in Wing Chun?
What I think is important in Wing Chun is definitely not a geometry or a technique. I certainly believe principles are the cornerstone to understanding the system, although many often talk about it, but struggle, while relating them to practice. Many of the answers you seek are enclosed in mottos found in the Kuen Kuit, which I believe are vital to understanding what’s behind the system.
How worried are you that Wing Chun is being gradually watered down?
I believe, on average, the Wing Chun of today has already been too diluted. The blame for this is definitely in the different way of life that generations of the last hundred years compared to those who established (or created) the original system. Modern society and the context of everyday life brought us to a gradual, but inexorable, distraction from practice and self-cultivation that has “lost the way” of parts of the system, which I think were very important, like many aspects of the internal work.
What would you consider to be the core essentials of Wing Chun?
Highlighting a more essential point than others is really hard, but I think the heart of the system is the body’s control and management. It’s something that has no limits to its improvement and is the starting platform from where everything that we learn and practice is placed. A proper study, analysis and development of the structure is the ideal starting point, and it is the one with the biggest room for improvement for the practitioner.
How important is the footwork?
The footwork is crucial because it’s what’s most needed when we deal with an opponent in space. In the IWKA Wing Tjun system, we favour rapid movements that angle from side to centre (Yao Pin Yap Sin), while trying to keep both feet in contact with the ground and a balanced distribution of weight on both legs in order to ensure rooting and structure.
What do you think about this modern approach of developing Wing Chun as an internal style?
I believe Wing Chun (at least at its roots) was an internal style, just like Bagua, Taiji, Xing Yi, and others. Historical and cultural events have made it known in large-scale types of practice that deliberately ignore this aspect for the purpose of rapid learning in terms of “self-defence.” I believe every true lover and practitioner of this art, who’s dedicated his or her life to Wing Chun, has a responsibility, sooner or later, to deepen these aspects, which in my humble opinion are the real treasures of this art.
Do you believe that internal development is needed to make Wing Chun effective?
It depends on what you mean by “effectiveness.” If we are talking about a technical applicability in a combat-defensive way, I don’t think the internal aspects of this art are needed. In fact, I think this is the main reason, in history, they have been “set aside.” However, if by “effective” you mean the exploit of the full potential that Wing Chun is able to give, I think these aspects, sooner or later, have to be a forced passage for the practitioner who loves the art and believes to be an eternal student.
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