View Full Version : Can Principles be Taught Non-Verbally

Chum Kil
05-31-2001, 10:46 PM
What are your thoughts on this. Can the technique speak for itself.


Have little and gain;
Have much and be confused.

05-31-2001, 11:50 PM
Yes. Otherwise, the highest masters would be the ones with the most books.

06-01-2001, 12:08 AM
My Sifu once refered to forms as a way for a preliterate society to pass down information. I tend to find Wing Chun to be "self correcting" if you practice with dilligence. I often know when something is wrong when i preform a technique. Once in awhile I know what is wrong and in a few cases i can even fix it :D

06-01-2001, 02:41 AM
I think any verbal instruction of principles is solely there to help the student conceptualize the art. The real meat and potatoes of the transmission of Wing Chun will always be in the dynamic kinesthetics ("feel") of what you are trying to accomplish.

As an example, you can verbally explain the principle of intercepting, but you'll never be able to get someone to apply it until you actually start throwing punches at them.

Nothing in Wing Chun is static, or is "posed". My sifu likes to pull a funny joke on intermediate students when he teaches seminars. He'll walk into the room and say, "Alright, everyone show me bong sau." Anyone who actually lifts his arm up to pose it gets a verbal reprimand, then he explains that bong sau is only ever really seen against pressure from an opponent. No pressure means no bong sau.

If you're opponent doesn't give you anything to respond to, you either stand there and smile at him until he gets bored, or you chain punch him until he quits twitching. Either option is based solely on your personal preference. :D


Sunt hic etiam sua praemia laveli
"Here too virtue has its due reward."

06-01-2001, 04:25 AM
I'd say yes to Watchman's observation. When my teacher shows me a principle or concept by demonstrating its application on me (ouch) I get it a lot faster than if he just describes it in words.

I agree with OdderMensch's take, that the forms are 'self-correcting'. That right there is non-verbal teaching of principles :)

kungfu cowboy
06-01-2001, 08:16 AM
Before we as a species had language, we were able to teach and learn how to hunt, to warn of danger, etc, and many other species without a formal language also learn through observation. It predates any other form of learning. (or so they tell me)

06-01-2001, 11:45 AM
Well, I think that although the forms do indeed contain all the concepts and information one needs, it is far more helpful to have somebody explain them as you are learning them.

Are you supposed to somehow absorb the theory and infer the concepts just be placing your body in a certain position? It could work, but Im sure it would lead to a multitude of different inferences and concepts by different people. Possibly to a set of different lineages and students convinced that their way is t

For example, can somebody really be expected to grasp the concept of Lut Sao Te Chung in the first section of SLT without ever having it explained to them? I would think it extremely difficult.

kungfu cowboy
06-01-2001, 12:22 PM
Of course, I don't think that anybody is arguing that the evolutionarily sophisticated ability to communicate by vocalizing sounds (or even the written word) that represent concepts or things (aka languange) that two or more individuals share is an extension to learning, a sometimes superior method, more often than not increasing the rate at which understanding is obtained, and facilitating learning of the subject in question; but that wasn't the question. ;) (I like run on sentences)

06-01-2001, 11:34 PM
I was thinking about something like this a while ago...I don't know if it's possible to teach principles reliably completely non-verbally, in the same way as I don't think it's possible to teach principles reliably without any demonstration. The best way to go, I think, is to employ some sort of combination. The perfect combination will differ according to the student, I would imagine. Some people learn better visually, some people learn better by feel, some people learn better verbally/conceptually. I'm big on words, so I like to have things explained to me...

"Bees on the what now?" - Homer Simpson

06-02-2001, 10:40 PM
It seems to me that the lessons learned best, are the ones where we discover the understanding of a concept by ourself. A book can give you the answer, but a good teacher will stimulate your mind and give you clues....being able to gauge your progress through their years of experience and tell you precisely what you need to know. This is where the real excitement of learning a MA comes from, self discovery.

06-03-2001, 03:32 AM
I think to really understand, is not by the answers but the questions we ask ourselves.
Is it the techniques we aspire to learn or the principles of that technique?
I think that is why S.L.T is the most important form. Everything is there!
If you don't question but accept answers then what has your art become? Just parrot fashion learning, is no way to find the path.

Chum Kil
06-04-2001, 06:45 PM
Great answers everyone.


I know what you mean, there have been times when I knew something was not right (Feeling).


Feeling. Like Sifu Heimberger's analogy. Reminds me when I first arrived here in Utah. This guy here at work wanted to find out what Wing Chun was about, he asked me what I would do if we were about to fight, I said probably nothing. He looked at me pretty funny. I said I won't do anything until I see you move or actually attack. He said then we just would stand there. Right. He says that sucks. OK, I said if I go on the attack I would probably do this (Entry Technique). He didn't know what happened, but I was on top of him, chain punched him a few times. He looked at me and said "I'll have to remember that hop thing". Pretty funny.

Frank Exchange

Agree with you 100%

Kungfu Cowboy

Me too Me too Me too Me too

S. Teebas

Yes, but some people do not like to seek answers.

Cloud One

Yes, S.L.T. is the answer. "Seek and you shall find".

Again, thanks


Have little and gain;
Have much and be confused.

06-05-2001, 12:07 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> Yes, but some people do not like to seek answers. [/quote]

Then i guess MA's are not for these people! After all....isn't that what it's all about???

06-05-2001, 12:40 AM
I think that the fact that you can teach a dog not to crap on the carpet effectively demonstrates that non-verbal teaching is effective.
I would have brought up Helen Keller,but .....

06-05-2001, 02:02 AM
But, Mikey, look at it this way. It would be a lot easier to get someone who's willing and has a good grasp of whatever language you're using not to crap on the carpet (e.g. by saying "Please don't crap on the carpet") than it would be to train the dog. What's more, it would be hard to transmit more complicated ideas to the dog, for example "You can crap on the carpet when it's raining, but only on Thursdays and Wednesdays. If you crap on the carpet at any other time it's only acceptable if you also crap once on the sofa and then twice on the kitchen floor". Yeah, it's a weird example, but you see what I'm saying. As for Helen Keller, she just used a different language (Braille, I guess).

"Bees on the what now?" - Homer Simpson

kungfu cowboy
06-05-2001, 06:09 AM
Ok, I agree with everybody that keeps stating that learning is easier with language, but I believe the original question is just concerned with whether or not learning can even take place without a verbal component. So, why keep bringing up that point?

(I seriously need a life.)

06-05-2001, 01:50 PM
To answer the original question, Cowboy, yes learning can take place, but is it learning anything useful?

Again, think of the Lut Sao te Chun section at the beginning of SLT. Imagine 10 beginners shown how to do this section with absolutely no explanation. Once they have mastered it, imagine asking them what it was for?

You would get 10 different answers. Maybe one would be the "right" answer, maybe another had come up with a perfectly good and useful but different answer, but the other 8 would be garbage.

As an aside, imagine if they subsequently went on to "master" wing chun, then formed their own lineages... ;)

We might well have a situation like today. So perhaps in the past, people always taught non verbally, and this gives us the range of WC styles we have today. Hel, just a thought. :)

kungfu cowboy
06-05-2001, 02:19 PM
Yes, learning is usually better when you use a shared language to make sure everybody is on the same page. I am not trying to advocate that observational learning is better; just that it is possible. Or something.

(I seriously need a life.)

06-05-2001, 07:39 PM
If you are asking "Can a Wing Chun master bridge a language barrier and teach students that do not share his language?" I would have to say yes. By constantly correcting the students movement so that they correspond to the principles and concepts the knowledge can be transfered.

If you are asking "Can a person discover the principles and concepts on their own simply by mimicing the movements of a master?" I would point out that legend has it that people would spy on the masters to try and learn their secrets. Therefore the movements were designed to hide the principles and concepts without violating them. I'm not saying that it can't be done, only that the forms and exercises weren't designed to tranfer that kind of knowledge

06-05-2001, 11:32 PM
I think the question was"can it be done"
,not " which is more effective".
I think my answer addressed the
primary question.
Clearly, there are more suitable means of
conveying principles and ideas,dependant upon
the situation and participants in said situation.
Interestingly,I believe Anarcho raised a couple
of points in reply to my last post.Is the recipient of this teaching capable of understanding the concept you are trying to convey?is there a barrier(language,physical or mental handicap,education,etc.)which must be
overcome?how receptive to the teaching method
you are using is your "student"?
how capable are you to teach this concept?
I believe this demonstrates that there can be
no universally superior method of communication,
which is what I believe to be the root of this dicussion.

06-05-2001, 11:54 PM
my friends wing chun have same texnic. in first time have difrents but in last you can see allmoust same texnic in all w.c. stylle if is wing chun that is end of road is same for all in w,c, - friendly tiger_1 ( cant be difrent in same strategy and same philosophy of style) :cool: :cool:


06-06-2001, 12:48 AM
speach is an extremely low-bandwith medium. THe proccess of learning a martial art is primarily subconcious, your body learns from the body of the instructor, you learn by mimicking his example.
I've intructed several SiDi, and I've tried talking and not talking. Only very rarely does the talking do any good.
not only that, but with non-verbal instruction they learn to pay more attention to the body, which a skill worth developing in itself.

06-06-2001, 03:14 AM
I find that the more you try and describe with words the more confusing it gets.
For example how would you convey 'emotional content' to a student? or keeping structure whilst being relaxed?
There seems alot of parodoxes!!!
Principles are unique to the teacher as is his face. What I mean is there are different opinons about these techniques from different teachers.
Which one is correct?

06-06-2001, 03:59 AM
Oh, okay. If the question is "Can anything ever be learned non-verbally?", then I think the answer is, transparently, yes. Otherwise noone could ever learn anything, unless they were born with language skills. I was assuming that the principles being learned were complex and conceptual, at least in comparison to the kind of conditioned responses you can elicit from animals.

kungfu cowboy
06-06-2001, 08:30 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> the kind of conditioned responses you can elicit from animals. [/quote]

Actually, I've heard these are quite fun! :D

(I seriously need a life.)

kungfu cowboy
06-06-2001, 08:33 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> the kind of conditioned responses you can elicit from animals. [/quote]

Actually, I have heard these are quite fun! :D

(I seriously need a life.)

kungfu cowboy
06-06-2001, 08:35 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> the kind of conditioned responses you can elicit from animals. [/quote]

Actually, I have heard these are quite fun! :D

(I seriously need a life.)

kungfu cowboy
06-06-2001, 11:45 AM
Um, ok...this was not intended. Nothing was being posted, so I kept reposting. Terribly sorry.

(I seriously need a life.)

kungfu cowboy
06-06-2001, 03:14 PM
Hmm, now that I have been mulling this over (read actually read the question) I think I need to revise my answer.

"Can principles be taught non-verbally." Does this mean is there an actual awareness of learning a principle, meaning that it can be duplicated in the correct environment, with intent, and understanding when and why to apply it?

(I seriously need a life.)

06-06-2001, 04:31 PM
the greatest teachings can only be transmitted non-verbally, via direct mind to mind transmission.

Only in America do we have drive up ATM's with braile on them.

kungfu cowboy
06-06-2001, 04:37 PM
Is that true? I didn't know that! LOL!

(I seriously need a life.)

06-11-2001, 04:26 PM
Are you saying there is only one true language?
That buzzing feeling you get when you connect with someone whether by voice or sight?

kungfu cowboy
06-11-2001, 04:52 PM
I didn't realize that was your signature. I was referring to the ATM thing.