Forms are sequences of movements which students can practice when alone, making most efficient use of time without a training partner. The forms of Wing Chun Kung Fu contain densely packed summaries of all techniques within the system. Each movement has many applications and can be interpreted in many different ways. Teachers sometimes claim to have invented new techniques when they've actually just interpreted classical techniques in ways which they've not previously seen or known.
Siu Nim Tao roughly means Way of the Little Idea and is the first empty-handed form of Wing Chun.
Siu Nim Tao incorporates all of the ideal movements of the Wing Chun system, often in their most elementary form, and often difficult to fully understand, each being densely packed with multiple applications.
Each technique in the Wing Chun system has different applications to the next, but should one ever find it difficult to spontaneously select the most appropriate technique in a fight, whether due to confusion, surprise or otherwise, provided that the opponent is within punching range, one should do chain punches either until one feels safe enough to do otherwise or the opponent leaves punching range. Siu Nim Tao, therefore, appropriately ends, in withdrawal of the hands after a burst of chain punches.
Yee Gee Kim Yeung Ma (the opening of the basic stance) incorporates all of the elementary leg movements required in kicking and turning between stances.
The basic stance, which one stands (or 'sits') in, trains both left and right arrow stances simultaneously, as each arrow stance is based on its rear leg, and the basic stance represents two rear legs.
Siu Nim Tao is often organised into sections for structured teaching purposes, and there can be considered to be three main sections. Two movements at the end of the second third of Siu Nim Tao involve fast sweeping actions with outstretched arms. These movements can easily disturb one's balance, thus practitioners learn the value of keeping the body weight centred and the limbs bent in order to best maintain their balance.
Saam Pai Fat (three prayers to Budda), performed near the start of the form, should be performed very slowly. It can be considered a form of meditation, or tai chi, developing vital energy through slow movement and deep breathing. Saam Pai Fat involves an aspect of dynamic tension, building elasticity in the arms through stretching and warming the tendons, particularly during Huen Sao. Later on in the form, this energy is released with fast and powerful striking in all directions, supplemented by slow movements throughout, and climaxing with a burst of arm clearing and chain punching.
When one recognises, that the slower one performs the slow parts of Siu Nim Tao the more energy one has to release in the fast parts, one learns the value of relaxation.
Siu Nim Tao, the way of the little idea, is to map great through narrow, teaching beginners the art of fighting by breaking it down into its bare bone simplicities. Little becomes more, much becomes delusion. Thus, to keep things real, not deluded, one should maintain practice of Siu Nim Tao, even after one thinks one has mastered it.
Siu Nim Tao is a condensed expression of Wing Chun, or at least it once was. It may today be a messed up version of its founder's 'little idea', or it may be an improved version. It may be simultaneously better in some ways and worse in others. Before one can make a confident guess on this, one would need to do a lot of research.
There is a lot of the form which few people in the world understand; and perhaps nobody will ever understand it as much as it's founder. Perhaps nobody will ever know exactly what the founder was thinking when they created the original Siu Nim Tao.
As Siu Nim Tao is a rather well organised sequence of movements, it is not always as useful a training aid as the more random, instantaneous and natural Chi Sau. Siu Nim Tao requires no training partner though, and therefore is useful for solo practice, like all of Wing Chun's forms.
Practicing Siu Nim Tao means practicing most of the movements in the Wing Chun system, and therefore is a useful suppliment to ensure a holistic session of solo practice. The original 'little idea' may have included all of the essential movements of the Wing Chun system.
There seems to be some form of Tai Ji Quan within Siu Nim Tao, including Soft Tai Ji (with smooth movements) and Hard Tai Ji (with dynamic tension); both with deep, slow breathing.
Some of Siu Nim Tao's movements seem to make little sense because they're not accompanied by other movements which would typically accompany them in application. For example, the Bong Sau would be used simultaneously alongside the Wu Sau, or a Fook Sau, or another technique. Many single-arm movements would be combined simultaneously with leg movements and/or movements with the other arm. The arm may take a seemingly misaligned path in Siu Nim Tao, but when simultaneously combined with stance turning, the arm could be taking a straight path aligned relative to the opponent.
Also spelt Cham Kiu and other ways, this is the second of three empty handed forms.
Also spelt Biu Tze and other ways, this is the third of three empty handed forms. Biu Ji means Pointing Finger or Thrusting Fingers, and takes the practitioner beyond the idealistic boundaries set in the first two empty handed forms.