Alignment is the positioning of the arms, body and feet so that they are aligned to transfer force to and from the ground. The joints of all limbs are only gently held into position to prop up the whole body as one integrated unit. This allows the arms to be very relax and yet powerful.
Locking the joints up will cause tension in the joints and the muscles locking it. This tension attracts stress as a result of concentration of force in that area. When you are young and strong, you can get away with using strength. There is no skill involved. You might as well go to the gymnasium to increase your muscular strength. However when youth and muscular strength wane with age, you can’t rely on strength anymore. That’s where our alignment approach comes in.
Using Tan Sau as an example, the way it is held will determine whether you are using strength or aligning to the footcentre. The key is in the elbow. The elbow needs to sink down and its angle not less than 90 degree. If the angle is less than 90 degree, you are forced to use your tricep muscle to hold the arm against a force pressing against you. Similarly if the elbow is not sunk, the incoming force gets trapped in the elbow and shoulder. This is quite a common problem with beginners. The sinking of the elbow actually helps draw the force down to the footcentre.
Alignment is extremely important in sticking hands. Wing Chun sticking hands trains the practitioner to sense the opponent force and then take advantage of it. The ability to sense accurately and ahead of time is dependent on how relax the arms are. A relaxed arm is extremely sensitive. Without the power from a strong structurally aligned arms, a relaxed arm will be empty. Being relaxed without substance is like being strong without flexibility. You don’t require skill to be relaxed without substance or strong without subtlety.
The alignment exercise also help you develop a good posture. The interesting thing with the exercise is that the more upright we are the less effort is required to transfer force. The uprightness is a gentle and slightly concave upright posture. It is relaxed and comfortable. However if the uprightness forces the chest to protrude, tension will emerge and it will become more difficult to transfer force to and from your footcentre.
Our power is derived from the life force of the universe called chi. The alignment process facilitates the flow of chi through our body. As the body and limbs are held together in a relaxed and gentle network of inter-linking chi channels, obstacles to chi flow are significantly reduced. The whole body will also become united where the hands are no longer the hands but part of the monolithic powerhouse.