A thinking, tailored and radical approach to mastering Tai Chi.
I like what Shinzaburo said about not telling his own people how to make a bag exactly in this video on craftsmanship.
He further said that an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) manual means bags can be made without error and they may need if they go for the mass market.
But having a manual also means they can’t go beyond that which I think he means cannot go beyond a certain standard because the positive point of having an SOP also leads to a negative point of holding a person back if what he does is not within the procedures laid out in the SOP.
In many ways, the practice of martial arts is similar to this. A teacher guides us, gives some instruction and then we are expected to put in the practice. A teacher who wants to really teach you won’t feed you all the answers.
Instead, he teaches you enough to get you going and then you practice to find your own answers. Unfortunately, this can lead to two negative outcomes :-
a) The teacher who is not as knowledgeable can hide his ignorance and lack of knowledge by saying that he cannot show or explain the advanced material until you get there. The irony is that you can’t get there because following this teacher is like following the mother crab which wants to teach you (the baby crab) how to walk properly
b) The student who lacks initiative will not be able to go beyond what has been laid in front of him. He falls back into the argument that we must follow SOP or be considered an outcast. You might think that in today’s information rich internet such an attitude would not survive but all you have to do is take a look at the Wing Chun cults out there and you’ll see many a prime example of this type of mentality
The teacher shows you the way, imparts the SOP to you and you put in the practice. There is a minimal time for everyone to put in before they get it. Some may take minutes, some days, some months and some years. We all learn at a different pace. Some must practice a lot to get it, some need to analyze it before they see it and some need to do both. There is a formula to suit everyone. The thing is not to get bogged down by rules and conventions unless by not following the rules you may end up harming yourself.
What you need to see to make progress is that how you move today is different from how you moved yesterday and how you will move tomorrow. If after a period of practice you still do things the same way then you are stuck in a rut, you may not made any progress. Some weeks I keep practicing at a certain time daily and I don’t seem to make a lot of progress. Then I would sit back, analyze what I have been doing, ask what if questions, test them out (you know the whole point of failing fast many times in order to find the right path, right?) quickly, analyze again, and then I will put it to the grind, go slow, then faster, then even faster to see if it will fall apart under the pressure of speed, making adjustments along the way, or even throwing out the entire approach and relooking again at the process.
Here is an example of how to solve a problem – the first time I saw Tuhon perform what we call the Reverse Series I was like and wondered if I could ever do it. Seeing Tuhon move made me see stars. Later I saw Tuhon taught it in an instructor weekend video. The movements seemed more doable now that Tuhon broke it down into steps. The first thing I tried was this simple step about how to change from a forward grip to reverse grip. And I left it at that until I got to learning it some time later.
This time around Tuhon taught the basics of how to get it and it wasn’t that bad, actually after I did it a few times I could grasp it. The one problem area was the switching. I found that as long as I moved at a certain speed it wasn’t as difficult to switch as I thought. However, if I slowed down to a certain speed and below switching became difficult. And what if I waited too long and had moved towards the end of the movement, yes this made switching slightly more difficult too. Another problem was if I did the other three Series before the Reverse series my fingers might be a bit stiff by the time I came around to doing switching and that affected the speed of the movements. So now I have a few problems to solve :-
a) How to do the Reverse Series at the same quick pace as the other series?
b) How to switch whether the speed of movement is faster or slower?
c) How to switch if my fingers are stiffer from doing the entire double sticks series a few times in a row?
d) What to do if in the process of switching my fingers gripped too slow or wrongly? How to continue the flow and minimize the interuption to the pace of the flow as if there was no mistake?
e) Do I always have to switch behind? Yes, the logic why we do so makes sense. But what if I don’t have the space behind to turn, like when I practice on the balcony and I can’t turn more. How do I adhere to the logic of protecting my hand from being attacked while its in the midst of swtiching?
f) Should I always have to move faster rather than slower to make it easier to do the flow? What if I move slower because I can’t move at the usual faster speed? This actually happened when I practiced on the balcony. In working on solving this question I found that I could turn my body slightly differently to accomodate the smaller and tighter space in which I have to move
There is no one way of learning that works for everybody. Find the way that works for you. The above is the way that works for me. I guess this is because this is how I was taught to learn Wing Chun and Tai Chi. To me its a case of if it works then let’s continue using it. If it doesn’t then find out what would work and learn that, adapt it to my learning and make it work.
This is another clip from last week’s SKD Zoom class.
I was explaining the similarity between a movement from our sequence and its biomechanics.
The longer version of this clip touches on how SKD biomechanics is easier to do than Wing Chun biomechanics in the areas where they are dissimilar. This is especially for those who have a bigger chest from lifting weights.
Anyway, we are following the SKD path because it is more natural in terms of how our body moves. Another plus point is that SKD can integrate well with Kali. In this way we can get more mileage out of SKD.
We don’t have forms in SKD. We have drills.
Our drills can be organized into a sequence for daily training to ensure that we do not miss out on working on an essential drill.
This is an example of a single handed drill :-
This part illustrates what our learning routine looks like :-
This comes from the last part of the learning routine. The expecation is that the learner will be able to move like fast flowing water while attacking powerfully like a tiger.
In this video I am explaining where some of our SKD applications come from :-
Our Yang style Tai Chi form can look simple and non-aggressive.
However, a lot of applications are concealed within the unassuming movements.
In this video I point out how the movement of Single Whip and Cloud Hands are applied.
In SKD our body posture is in many ways similar to the way we use a long pole.
I am currently stitching together the drills I have taught so far into a sequence. I would prefer not to have any forms so having a sequence is a compromise.
In this video I am explaining how to position the rear hand properly. I am going through this in relation to the long pole as it provides an easy way to self-check the posture.
I am expanding on my explaining of using the long pole to align the body here :-
Finally, here’s a picture of Master Leong using the long pole to thrust :-
The is the first knife drill I learned in Kali. Its practice really works my speed, strength and stamina.
Last year we had a class challenge to do 10,000 repetitions of this drill. I pushed myself to complete the challenge over a few days for both left side and right side.
The drill below teaches the basics of blade cutting and thrusting as shown below :-
Yesterday, I had some time to practice in the morning so I went through a few drills.
I am looking into starting a group to practice Kali basics on a Friday evening. If interested please contact me.
In Tai Chi we stress control of the vertical axis because it is one of the more important keys in allowing us to rotate and move about quickly without losing our balance.
In this video from this week’s SKD Zoom class I explain this principle :-
When we use the vertical axis in conjunction with other principles we can turn quickly to get our circular strikes out like cracking a whip. This video illustrates this point :-
In this week’s SKD I delved into the principle of axe chopping to deliver a strike.
Interestingly, in a non-mainstream Wing Chun that I learned we have a punch called Tup Chui which is literally Hammering Punch in which the punch is not straight out but delivered in a downward curving manner. My final Wing Chun teacher also punched in this manner and he is able to punch really fast and powerfully using this process.
I had also encountered this way of punching in the Biu Jee form of the Ip Man style when my senior taught me this version from one of Ip Man’s lesser known disciple. This punch is performed at the end of every section.
The video below is an introduction :-
Here is where I mentioned the axe chopping in relation to Xingyi’s Pi Quan :-
In SKD this is how we use arm swinging to develop the chopping power :-
To be able to apply the chopping strike we use Tai Chi principles to learn how to relax and control our arm and body acting in concert to deliver the strike.
The arm-whole body movement is my adaptation of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Step Back Repulse Monkey from his 22-form. The arm rolling into backfist movement is the final movement in Repulse Monkey.
It was a cold day yesterday as is today.
I stood on the balcony, going through moves from the single stick and double sticks. Somehow the swings got faster and faster, and before I knew it I was taking moves from here and there and just making up the sequences as I went along.
Tuhon said that the basics for flowing freely resides in drills such as the angles of attack, the loading positions, the single stick vs double sticks drills, etc. This is why we are urged to drill them by the thousands.
I don’t really know how many times I have practiced the drills. I just practice them.
When you have practiced arm swinging for a few months your arms will become relaxed, like a whip.
When your arm is relaxed you can move it like a fish moving its tail as it swims. Apply the principle to the use of a straight sword and you have a flowing cut.