Sifu Shaun Rawcliffe - Palm strike

Proprioception – The Sixth Sense

Most people are familiar with the 5 senses: Hearing, Sight, Smell, Taste and Touch and their importance to us on a daily basis. It is not impossible to live without one or two of these but it does make life a little more difficult.

During the middle of the last Century Neurophysiologists added a ‘Sixth Sense’ to the list called Proprioception, which is the sense of balance, position and movement in space. Proprioception means ‘to feel within’ and is sometimes referred to as the ‘eyes of the body’.

The sense is reliant upon receptors in the joints, muscles and the organs of balance in the inner ear. Using these you are able to judge your position and mass in space and be aware of the amount of muscular tension that you use in order to keep you there.

Most of the movements that you execute throughout the day are automatic and are not, under normal circumstances, dependant upon great thought by yourself. Reaching this state, ordinarily, is good and it allows you to deal with, and respond to, everyday tasks that life throws up. However, this situation can also lead to the suppression of feedback that you are getting from your body telling you when you are over contracting your muscles. As a result of this you will learn to disregard the messages that are telling you that your muscles are getting tight and fatigued. The inherent danger here is that if it is not checked your tensions and erroneous positions will start to feel normal and become embedded within the programming of your body.

Tuning in to this sixth sense is a good way to awaken the feelings and become more aware of your balance, position and movement in space. As practitioners of Wing Chun we have a lot to gain by using our 6th sense to enhance the control and precision with which we use our bodies.

In 1890 a Tasmanian called Frederick Matthias Alexander devised a technique to help himself overcome vocal difficulties that doctors were unable to diagnose. With the use of mirrors and a personal study he concluded that his problems were due to misuse of the postural mechanism and that this was probably the culprit of many of mans ills.

Frederick progressed his technique and in 1932 described, in ‘The use of the Self’, his process of self-discovery and the technique that he had devised. Today the ‘Alexander Technique’ is widely recognised in many circles as a reliable and effective form of self-help, which achieves success by enabling you to ‘tune in’ to your sixth sense.

Conclusion

Wing Chun is renowned for its accomplishment of effective, REAL self-defence but it also runs a bit deeper than that. The mechanical and physical principles that are taught also use proprioception and as you ‘tune in’ to your sixth sense you will gain other advantages from your Wing Chun and not just the obvious ones. Integrating these principles in your daily life will mean that there is every chance you will greatly increase your quality and length of life. You only have to look at Master Ip Chun to see proof of that.

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