Siu Nim Tau (“The Little Idea Form”) is the first of three “empty hand” forms the Wing Chun practitioner learns. Actually, “learn” is not quite the right word here. As long as a person practices Wing Chun they will study the first form over and over again, and they will practice it every day.

The three “empty-hand” or non-weapon forms are:

1. Siu Nim Tau: “Little Idea Form”
2. Chum Kiu: “Seeking the Bridge”
3. Biu Jee: “Thrusting Fingers”

After the student has learned these forms, they are then introduced to the Wooden Dummy movements and the two weapon forms—the Long Pole and the Butterfly Knives.

All of these forms are embedded or encoded within the first form. In other words, Siu Nim Tau contains within it the concepts and principles of the entire system. For this reason alone it needs to be performed slowly and thoughtfully. As one’s Wing Chun improves, so does one’s understanding of Siu Nim Tau, and as one’s understanding of Siu Nim Tau improves, so does one’s Wing Chun. It is therefore the beginning and the end form of Wing Chun.

The first form teaches us how to delete the myriad thoughts that are going through our brain, to quiet the mind. Not to think, but to feel. When done correctly it teaches us patience. Loukas recalls that his own teacher used to say that in a fight we must never rush in, never fight angry, and only hit when the opportunity arises. This is just one of the many “attitudes” that Siu Nim Tau teaches.

Qigong and Wing Chun

Many Qigong (Chi Kung) practitioners who have come to study Wing Chun have been amazed by the advanced qigong and energy work contained in Siu Nim Tau—particularly the first part of the form. Like some of the most advanced qigong forms found in the so-called “internal” or “soft” arts, its movements are outwardly quite simple, but performed slowly with attention to energy and body alignment, they enable the practitioner to develop an extraordinary understanding of rootedness necessary for advanced energy work. Typical of advanced practice, the skill in performing Siu Nim Tau lies in paying attention to the details and letting the form reveal to you an understanding of your own body structure and alignment.

Among the many things that this form prepares the student for is touching hands and testing one’s Wing Chun with a partner. It does this by developing the ability of the student to move his body without thinking; to refine and improve his structure; to “bypass” the mental block that often hinders or delays an appropriate response and free the practitioner to move swiftly without hesitation.

At The Basement school, students who could not do a long first form were not allowed to touch hands with other practitioners. A novice can be recognized by how quickly they perform the Siu Nim Tau. Sifu Loukas’s beginning students are advised to increase the time spent in the form gradually. Beginners should not perform Siu Nim Tau in less than fifteen minutes. Advanced practitioners should be performing the form for thirty minutes to an hour every day.

Details are Important

Another mistake that beginners make is rushing to memorize the hand shapes and arm movements without paying attention to the details. In order to perform Siu Nim Tau correctly you should pay attention to:

1. The movement of the hands. (These should move in a constant flow without stopping. As much as possible, you should follow the path that aligns correctly to your centerline and body structure.)
2. The position of the hips
3. The position of the shoulders
4. The position of the spine
5. The elbows
6. The horse stance

This may sound like a tall order but by paying attention to the following points you can begin to develop a good understanding of Siu Nim Tau.

Make sure the upper body does not slouch. Stand as if there is a string or line of energy extending out from your spine and upper body pulling your head upward. This is sometimes called rising yang energy. Keep your knees bent and your feet pigeon-toed in the horse stance. Rotate your pelvis thrusting your hips forward and upward and squeeze your thighs together as if holding a ball between them and rooting downwards from your lower body. This is sometimes called sinking yin energy.

When you begin to practice Siu Nim Tau in this way, energy is generated from the heels up through the lower body to the hips, from the hips along an imaginary line connecting to your elbows, and through your arms into your hands, making the hands feel like a whip. This is called lat sau chi chung—”forward hand energy.”

With diligent practice, the lat sau chi chung becomes more pronounced, and the practitioner is able to feel the hands moving like a whip, driven with energy generated from the lower body and through the hips into the elbows. “Only when the first form is practiced in this manner,” says Sifu Loukas, “is the whole body engaged in the form. And only then do we have mind and body connected, working together.”

Wong Shun Leung would remind Sifu Loukas that when someone is thinking before executing a “technique” they are not doing Wing Chun. This needs to be remembered at all times— during the forms, when doing drills, when practicing chi-sau with a partner. This idea of “not- thinking” starts to become a reality when you can relax and be at ease with Siu Nim Tau while at the same time performing it as accurately as possible.

Basic Hand Shapes

Now that we have clarified the important details of Siu Nim Tau, we can look at the basic hand shapes that are found in the form. As mentioned earlier, beginners often make the mistake of rushing to learn the hand shapes first rather than thinking about the energies, lines, and structures mentioned above. In a sense, the hand shapes are secondary to those more important considerations. There are three basic hand shapes in the first form:

1. Tan-Sau (remember Tan-sau Ng?)
2. Fook-Sau
3. Bong-Sau

When making the hand shapes, it is worthwhile remembering that the structure is stronger when the hand shapes form three angles rather than two.

The above is an excerpt from Wing Chun In-Depth: Skills for Combat, Strategies for Life by Munawar Ali Karim and Loukas Kastrounis, Publication Date May 2023, YMAA Publication Center, ISBN: 97815943992449275.