Sil Lim Tau (小念頭) - Introduction
The first form of Wing Chun is called Sil Lim Tau and roughly translated as "Little Idea." The Little Idea concept is that from a small idea or concept, things can grow, or be nurtured in to something really quite magnificent, such as acorn that may grow in to a large oak tree.
Sil Lim Tau contains approximately 90% of the hand movements of the Wing Chun System.
Sil Lim Tau teaches the student basic hand/arm movements, positions, energies and techniques.
It shows how the Wing Chun hand tools can be used with either hand/arm and how they are used with regards to the Centre Line. Sil Lim Tau shows how to move from the Inner Gate to the Outer Gate and the outer gate to the inner gate.
Sil Lim Tau is performed in a fixed stance called the Gee Kim Yeung Ma, which means that there is no physical footwork involved, a lot of the hand positions require footwork or movement of the feet to make the hand positions work correctly, i.e. turning or stepping. Therefore Sil Lim Tau contains "implied footwork." To back up this theory further, the feet in Sil Lim Tau are positioned throughout the form in a neutral position, toes pointing inwards and they are also in the centre position of what the next form Chum Kiu turns through, so in effect you are learning how to maintain a good balance whilst turning.
The Gee Kim Yeung Ma stance in Sil Lim Tau has emphasis on the structure which helps the student to root/ground themselves to the ground; the form also develops power and control from the hips.
Sil Lim Tau introduces 4 angles of attack and defence which are front, behind, to the left and to the right of the practitioner. Throughout Sil Lim Tau there is also a great emphasis on the positioning of your elbow (immovable elbow theory), which is used for maintaining control of you own centre line and also to controlling an opponent.
Mastering Sil Lim Tau, takes many years of practice, therefore perfection cannot be rushed, much like the acorn growing in to a fully mature oak tree.
Sil Lim Tau - Understanding
First Section - Gung Lik - Nurture of Energy
The first part of Sil Lim Tau is opening of your Gee Kim Yeung Ma stance; this is the basis of your structure. The Gee Kim Yeung Ma stance is held throughout the form and you are stood with the knees slightly bent and the feet pigeon toed. This forms a triangle and distributes the student's weight evenly over each of the feet. This gives you the uprightness for strength.
The first hand positions of the form define the centre line, showing what to defend; this is followed by a two straight punches. This shows how to defend your centre line, i.e. the best form of defence is attack. The first section of Sil Lim Tau should be done slow, with the emphasis on the positions and energies of your elbow and forearm. It shows that the energies should come from the elbow and not from the whole arm. Each position there is focuses on where the elbow energy develops from and where it should be directed to. This section develops the student's strength in the arms & wrists as the tension comes from the elbow and the triceps should be tense when pushing forward in the Tan Sau and Fook Sau positions and the bicep should be tense when pulling the arm back in the Wu Sau position.
The Gee Kim Yeung Ma stance emphasises the structure of Wing Chun. The hips should be pushed forward and head back (Tun = swallow) whilst the stomach should be tense (Sau - pull in and retract) and the ribs crunched together (Lap - Grab). The body should also be sunk too (Chum - Sink or root), Tun Sau Lap Chum, swallow, pull in/retract, grab (ribs) sink/root. The Pak Sau at the end of this section is at 45˚ across the body brought back to centre and then a vertical palm strike. Pay close attention the position of the elbow as it should point out to the side. This technique is applied when attacking from the inner gate. Your elbow protects you against an opponent's arm coming over the top of your own arm and striking you.
Second Section - Fak Ging - Power Execution
The second Section of Sil Lim Tau should be performed at a comfortable pace and the movements should be both crisp and sharp with the emphasis on the positioning and energies. Everything in this section is done with both arms simultaneously; these movements are not double handed positions, but show the student that each of the movements can be done with either arm and on inner or outer gate. This section also shows how efficiently you can move your arms from one position to another, which also emphasises how closely, linked the hand movements are.
During this section you develop short range power, speed, and fluidity; therefore the student needs to remain relaxed throughout this section to ensure that the movements remain sharp and fluid.
Third Section - Kei Bhun Sau - Basic Hand Movement
The third Section of Sil Lim Tau has great emphasis on the fact that everything moves forward and down your centreline towards your opponent.
The third section has basic hand combinations and opens with a Pak Sau and a palm strike with the hand at 45˚. This is the first combination which is side to side. Pay close attention the position of the elbow as it should point down to the floor. This technique is applied when attacking from the outer gate. The elbow is to pin/cut across an opponent's arm therefore leaving you free to strike. We then move on to multiple hand positions which are performed at different heights. This is the second combination which is up and down. This refers to the fact that you can defend yourself both high and low with the same arm against multiple strikes thus keeping it simple, it also emphasises that you may have to alter your positioning of your arms depending on the opponent or oncoming strike(s).
The next part of this section is the third and final combination which is twist in, twist out. This shows how to move from inner to outer gate using Bong Sau & Tan Sau. It shows that you can defend multiple strikes with the same arm by twisting using the elbow and emphasises the importance of the elbow positioning.
The end of the section shows how to escape from a wrist grab, it is shown in such a way that an inexperienced Wing Chun practitioner or newer student may see this as that you are strike the opponents grabbing hand and try and remove the grab, however Wing Chun philosophy tells us to strike when you hand is free, thus this part of the form shows us that if one hand becomes trapped then to strike with the free hand.
This completes Sil Lim Tau
The second form is Chum Kiu, amongst other things this introduces the student to foot work.