Rob had just done a great job of trimming my two New Forest ponies feet, as before he had taken his time and also explained what had caused the problem as he was working. Kate, an excellent horse trainer, was doing some desensitisation with one of the ponies near by as I gave Rob an overview of the Wing Chun system of kung fu. Forward feeling I was explaining means that you keep the pressure on until you win, never back off and keep going forward. That’s how you have to be with ponies volunteered Kate, she’s right I thought it’s the same principle exactly applied in a seemingly different situation.
The footwork in Wing Chun.
The essence of Wing Chun could be summed up as the best form of defence is attack. Footwork in Wing Chun is always taking you forward, it might be in a direct straight line or at an angle but it allows you to swallow up any space that opens up between you and an attacker limiting their options and overwhelming them. Tai Chi teaches retreating steps, step back and whirl arms or repulse monkey, different names in different styles but the same idea. Some of the most skilful boxers are those that can deliver a knockout blow while going backwards much to the appreciation of the crowd, Wing Chun has no time for any of this, the footwork drives you forward all the time.
The only other option in Wing Chun to moving forward is to stand your ground, this is a higher skill. While your upper limbs control and redirect the attackers energy away from your centre the feet don’t move, this is practiced in Wing Chuns sticking hands exercises.
Herd leadership, move those feet away and give me your space.
Horses are herd animals and natural followers. The more eyes and ears that there are means less chance of a surprise attack from a predictor, there is safety in numbers. With an established leader the herd can relax, there is a decision maker all that the herd has to do is instantly follow their lead in the blink of an eye. The herd leader is constantly reasserting dominance by making herd members give up their space, move those feet before I bit or kick is the constant message. It could be the only spot that’s shaded away from the flys or the shelter of a bush from a cutting north wind, at the leaders approach move those feet and give up your space.
A good horseman is a good leader and can give a nervous flight animal who’s main aim in life is not to be ambushed and eaten the confidence to relax. Being relaxed means that a pony is free to get on with its other main aim in life, eating!
To be a good leader the horseman must be in control of the ponies feet be it in the saddle or on the ground. By controlling the ponies feet you make it yield but if you move your feet backwards and give space in pony language you are being submissive! Being submissive around a large strong animal who’s instinct is to fill any power vacuum and take on the dominant role, expressed by barging biting and kicking, is not safe for a weak vulnerable human!
In both natural horsemanship and Wing Chun you are trained to stand your ground or move in but never give ground by stepping back.
With an aggressor on the street or a horse in a field one thing is the same, give them an inch and they will take a mile!
Wing Chun, relentless attack.
In Wing Chun the student is taught to deliver a continuous flow of rapid attacks. Once you have taken the initiative and attacked the main aim is not to let your opponent have any chance to regain the upper hand, you must keep pounding them until any resolve to fight is utterly crushed. Forward feeling is expressed by overwhelming Wing Chun speed and closing down the distance, you must be all over them like a rash. When the opponent retreats be it an inch or a mile you stick to them like glue, keeping on the pressure until their spirit is broken. Wing Chun is not a sport it’s about your survival in a dangerous situation, loosing is not an option.
With ponies you have to win every time.
Native ponies are only a few generations removed at most from living in the wild, indeed many still live a pretty natural life in a few places such the New Forest in Southern England. The heightened awareness needed when fending for yourself in at times a very harsh environment means that these ponies don’t miss a trick! Any gap, be it in a fence or in a humans mind is seen and exploited in a heart beat. These clever characters are always learning so when dealing with them you have to be on the ball, this means being fully aware of what is going on in the here and now which in a natural setting is uplifting in itself.
I will until a good maxim.
If for instance you ask a pony to step back you must persistently ask increasing the pressure that you apply as needed until the pony steps back. If at any time your command is half hearted and you give up before you have won the pony will have learnt that if it stands it’s ground you will stop being a pest because you are not a serious leader that it should respect! By always wining and getting the pony to step back the response will become as immediate after a while as it would be to the herd leader out in the wild, deep in the greenwood of the New Forest.
This type of forward feeling is needed by anyone working with horses and ponies because if they do not respect you when you are in the relatively safe position of having your own two feet on the ground who is going to call the shots when you are hurtling along in the saddle?
Forward feeling in everyday life
The attitude of forward feeling can be seen in many walks of life, it would distinguish the top salesman from the average and we all remember that no nonsense teacher that the whole class respected. Taken to its extreme forward feeling is A brutal form of fighting developed by a Buddhist nun designed to deal with a bandit rapist.
Freedom of choice is a contradiction in terms
~ Old saying
Our modern world, by accident or design, has made people fickle distracted and uninterested in the big picture. Perhaps by experiencing disciplines such as Natural Horsemanship or Wing Chun people can be reminded of these common sense principles that are the foundation of firm assertive leadership that gets things done?