Hold the Center
The centerline is a meaningful point of balance in all things: birds flap their wings on either side of a centerline; the tiger chasing a gazelle accelerates its limbs on either side of a centerline; Earth rotates on an axis in a gravitational well created by the sun; and an atom, if split at the center, unleashes an atomic blast. The center is a source of immense power. Accessing it is very difficult because so much of life is about things external to us: who is taller or shorter, stronger or weaker, fatter or thinner. And, the electronic devices that you hold connect the center of your experience to your consciousness, bypassing your center of mass, and internal power. The study of Wing Chun is a way to play with it!
Yip Man was quoted as saying this about the center: “[h]old the center. Punch from the center. . . If you attack as if you were performing the form, you will be hit. Use the concept. The concept is more important than looking at photos in a magazine of a so-called master.” The center, similarly, is defined as follows: “a point or part that is equally distant from all sides, ends or surfaces or something; a point or axis of rotation; and a point from which an activity or process is directed, or on which it is focused.”
In Wing Chun, similarly, the gravity line or “mother line” is described as the balance point between the front and back of the body. Once found, this line is said to induce a feeling of stillness and weightlessness in you. The centerline divides you into left and right hemispheres. In terms of balance, I prefer that you think of yourself as standing on thin ice that you might fall through (as opposed to rooting), and being pulled upward at your brain stem by a light balloon. Small movements of the centerline create balance and comfort in me and imbalance and discomfort in you. Consequently, small movements of your centerline or mother line create balance and comfort in you and imbalance and discomfort in me. Through this exchange of energy from the centerline, which originates at the center and is expressed outwardly in limbs, you begin to share the spirt of Wing Chun with another.
In Siu Lim Tao, the form begins with you standing there with your arms at your sides. The essence of the art is present. You have both the centerline and a point of balance. Lean too far left, right, forward or back and you will fall. Your legs feel heavy while your upper body feels light or normal. Some joints and muscles may naturally relax downward; but, you might feel others tighten lifting upwards. You might try to correct your stance by standing even more correctly straight and rigidly. But, this is not a relaxed state. It is you trying to be perfect when life never is. The truth of kung fu is that your shoulder might be tight on Sunday and loose the following day, while your ankle is sore on the next day. Relax those areas starting at the center of you. To move, adjust your center: “hold the center. Punch from the center.”