The Painful Truth

Pain is a fact.

True in life, true in Self-Defense. You can’t permanently avoid it. Thus, the next question is how to handle it. In WingChun training, not only do you learn to deal with pain, but also how to make it a positive tool.

Why is pain inevitable in Self-Defense? Simply, someone attacks you and you defend yourself. There is an assumption of contact ranging from a slight impact to a hard collision. In other words, the interaction varies from slow and weak to fast and strong. Accordingly, the resultant pain can be high or low. However, to be considered an actual Self-Defense threat, a critical threshold of speed and power is necessary. Hence, at least a certain amount of pain is expected.

Taking pain as a given, how do you respond to it? Some cringe even at the suggestion of pain. Others like pain. So pain is just a sensation. Experiencing it as positive or negative depends on the experiencer. With training, your perception of and reaction to pain will change.

kamnasaoIn WingChun, we are realists in regards to pain. Not sadists or masochists. We don’t enjoy giving or receiving pain. It is merely accepted as part of the process of practice. Furthermore, since we use pain productively, we are also pragmatists. But isn’t pain a bad thing? How can it be an asset?

Firstly, being aware of pain allows you to safely strengthen your body. Specifically, your skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones gradually become tougher. Training stimulation signals your adaptive mechanism to reinforce these tissues. The density of your physical weapons increases.

Secondly, you reframe your relationship to pain. In the beginning, you are pain averse. A little slap on your arm triggers fear and discomfort. You may get offended or angry. Later on, even a serious punch or two is no big deal. Of course, you still feel the striking force, but it no longer stresses you out.

To successfully create this better body condition and calmer mind state requires correct training. Quantity of pain is related to intensity of training. So you should train above the level of functional improvement but below the level of permanent injury. Within this minimum and maximum, growth occurs; whereas, being too soft or hard precludes it.

As your courage and confidence stabilizes from consistent practice, you are less afraid of pain. Pain doesn’t bother you as before because you understand the purpose it serves. That is not to say you like the occasional bruises, aches, and strains. But you appreciate these side effects as natural consequences of learning to defend yourself.

Pain means you’re alive. Without it, you’re not.

2 thoughts on “The Painful Truth

  1. I can’t resist myself to keep on re-read this writing again and again. I particularly like the statement “we are realists in regards to pain”. This indeed makes me realize the practitioner does not love pain to show how macho he is. The closing statement indeed awake me – Pain means you’re alive. Without it, you’re not.

    Thanks for insight sharing Sihing Paul! Take care!

  2. Hi CN,

    Thanks for your honest comments. I’m glad you enjoy and understand our realistic approach to WingChun. We experience a wide range of training sensations: contact, impact, pressure, pain. As long as we keep practice intensity below a level that would create pathological injury, but high enough to stimulate physiological progress, this process is positive. In response, we develop more physical stability, strength and density — not to mention greater psychological assurance, calmness and sovereignty.

    Best,
    Sihing Paul

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