On Tuesday of last week, the Wing Chun kung fu class at Dojo Chattanooga on the North Shore was neither "fast as lightning" nor "a little bit frightening" to observe.
Instead, 10 students, some with eyes closed, were feeling their way with hands and arms making a slapping sound with a brother or sister opponent.
It is called Siu Lim Tao, known as one of the first of the hand forms used in Wing Chun.
Students learn under the direction of the teacher, called a sifu. Trevor Haines watches his students practice their techniques as they expand their subconscious minds in a discipline of hand and arm moves.
"Wing Chun is pretty popular right now in name recognition because of the Ip Man movies," Haines said. "And it's also quite popular because it was Bruce Lee's original art before he developed his own art of Jeet Kune Do."
Legend speaks of a young Chinese girl, Yim Wing Chun, who was being pressured into marriage by a bandit warlord some 300 years ago. The teen was taken in by a Shaolin Buddhist nun and trained to defend herself with moves that ignored size and weight, regardless of gender.
According to lore, Ng Mui, the Shaolin Temple nun who developed this style of fighting, drew her moves from animals like the crane.
"In Chi Sau, it's about feel," Haines said. The sensory contact of "sticky hands" is the training method used as you feel your way into this brand of self-defense.
But it is not all hands and feel. The sifu takes the group through the first set of a reach, pull and strike hand routine called Si Lim Tao. Then the teacher calls for the students to choose a partner for the next exercise of Sau, meaning hand or arm.
"Kung fu is taught on a family structure," the instructor said. "Sifu literally means 'father.'" Your teacher is your father, his teacher was his grandfather, and his teacher would have been his great-grandfather, according to Haines.
Here locally, the "Dojo" in the name Dojo Chattanooga, "literally translated means, Place of the Way," Sifu Haines said. "This is a way of progress, personal improvement."
Practicing martial arts since the age of 10, the teacher says he values the relationships with his students.
"A lot of schoolteachers have an opportunity to make an impact for a year in a child's life. I get an opportunity to have decades with them. That is most rewarding," he said.