How to Play Good Siu Nim Tao

By Moy Yat | January 1, 1990

Moy Yat Playing Siu Nim Tao

Siu Nim Tao is a form that is easy to learn but not quite so easy to play well. One must keep several things in mind in order to achieve a high caliber of Siu Nim Tao. Of course, the most important requirement is to know all the movements in the proper sequence. The movements are in themselves simple ones, but it is essential that they are performed frequently, in a relaxed manner. A relaxed mind and body is the key to perfecting them. One in fact must not play Siu Nim Tao unless one is in the mood for it; you do not force yourself to play it. Regimentation is not the way; frequent practice must arise from desire. Another vital consideration is the attitude with which Siu Nim Tao is approached, namely, trust and faith in the form. One needs to have complete confidence in the wisdom of the movements without any intention of modifying them. Although it is difficult for a student to judge whether Siu Nim Tao is being played properly, there are basic checks for determining if the positioning is correct. For example, there is a direct relationship between a correct tan sau and bong sau; if one hand positioning is correct and if it is changed to the other, then both hand positions will be correct. Therefore, one technique serves as a check for another. Another important check is the distance of the elbow from the body. In certain techniques such as a tan sau and fuk sau, the elbow should be a fist and one half from the body, or the technique will be (chuk kiu) short and jammed.

However, the best judge of a well-played Siu Nim Tao is the student’s Sifu. After a year or more, it is the Sifu’s responsibility to correct and explain all the intricacies of Siu Nim Tao. But only with continuous practice can Siu Nim Tao be improved.

Perhaps this would be a good time to clear up a misconception about Siu Nim Tao. Because of Siu Nim Tao’s slow speed and the great attention to detail and relaxation, many people have been led to believe that a person of a gentle, quiet nature is best suited to play Siu Nim Tao. In fact, Tsui Shong Tin, a Ving Tsun Sifu was nicknamed “King of Siu Nim Tao” because of his gentle nature, rather than his proficiency at performing the movements of Siu Nim Tao correctly. The truth, however, lies elsewhere. Wong Sheun Leung is also an excellent Siu Nim Tao player. Only a good, reputable Ving Tsun Sifu and diligent practitioner can give a disciple a good Siu Nim Tao. Disposition, character, and soft-spokeness have nothing to do with it.

text excerpted from the book: Ving Tsun Trilogy, by Moy Yat. Published by Winner Sports, Brooklyn, NY 1990.