Someone asked me how slow to play the Saam Pai Fut section of Siu Nim Tao.
If this question was asked a decade ago I would not be surprised because back then there were so many unanswered questions. But since the door was opened to the non-Ip Man Wing Chun styles and the internet also opened up the world I am surprised to get this question now. I guess certain things never really change.
I suppose the first thing we must do is ask “why” rather than “how“. If you know the “why” then the “how” can be easily answered. To do so we should ask also the “what” of it.
When we practice a martial art are we practicing conceptually or practically? What this means is that we can practice the movement as a complete technique eg a Pak Sao technique (one hand parry, one hand punch) or we can practice the technique conceptually i.e. just focus on getting the Pak Sao parry correct. In SNT the Pak Sao is practiced conceptually more than practically because if you were to use a Pak Sao technique you would certainly be in a stance that allows you to use your body’s momentum more efficiently rather than stand in the goat clamping stance in which you can shift your body weight forward.
To get back to the Saam Pai Fut section question this means you can go slow or go at a faster pace depending on what your focus is. Some may said that “traditionally” Saam Bai Fut has always been practiced slowly. Yes, that’s true but then traditionally no one has ever said how slow is the correct slowness.
So if your focus is on developing the gung lik then slowness is what you should go with. In this respect you go as slow as you should (as opposed to can) in order to maintain the feeling of connectivity and alignment and whatever it is you are supposed to be working on.
Once you managed to do those things consistently you should try going faster to see whether you can still maintain the same. There is no point to keep doing slow all the time. You have to sometimes go faster because in practical application you would not be moving slowly. So if you can’t do it fast then you will not be able to use it.
After you have mastered the slow and fast of Saam Pai Fut by all means go back to doing it slowly as long as you don’t slow down to the point of falling asleep…….. OK, this is a joke.
However, if your focus is on the usage part then moving at a faster (not F1 speed) is better because it will teach you about keeping the flow going. This is also a way to train your mind to keep the focus amidst fast movement (finding stillness in motion). Doing Saam Pai Fut faster will teach you about controlling a specific area in relation to the opponent’s bridge arm. I won’t try to explain it here because this type of thing is easier to show than to write a bunch of words about it. Chapter 19 Hand Techniques in The Ip Man Question is related to this point particularly the cycle shown on page 129 (2nd edition).