Counter-Intuitive = Traditional???

Being counter-intuitive seems to run against what is considered to be correct. One of my counter-intuitive approach is not to practice zhanzhuang.

Well, actually its not really my approach so much as the TC styles that I got the skills from do not teach zhanzhuang nor see the need to have it. Even one of my WC teachers said that you don’t learn to fight by standing still.

It is very surprising that many are adamant that zhanzhuang is a must to obtain internal skills ala the movement started by Wang Xiangzhai. Granted I can see some advantages but there are also disadvantages that may not be apparent.

This is what I call sit left, see left; sit right, see right perspective. What this means is that if I sit on the left side of the bus I tend to look out the left side and see things on the left predominantly. This makes me ignorant largely of the view on the right unless I make it a point to sit on the right side on another journey.

This is the same for the zhanzhuang advocates. They didn’t get anything from not doing zhanzhuang and got something from it so the natural conclusion is that this is the right approach. For me it was similar in that I got nothing from not doing zhanzhuang, got something from it and only when I didn’t do it any more that I receive much more from it. So it becomes a sit left see nothing, see right see something, now sit back left see much more.

Sure, I have heard the arguments that zhanzhuang is traditional training as a reason for having it. But there are many more “traditional” styles that don’t practice zhanzhuang than practice it.

So why should I not practice zhanzhuang?

This is a case of the advantage gained from it may be a disadvantage unless you understand what the disadvantage is. The irony is that you would not know what the disadvantage is unless you are prepared to go beyond it by letting go.

Some weeks back I came across a 400 years old Koryu style. This style is unique in that it has many approaches that run contrary to what I have learned about Koryu styles (at least from what I have read in English, maybe the original Japanese writings would point to something else or maybe the indoor approach is different, I don’t know…..) and the way the weapons particularly the katana is used.

Today I saw a new video. This video advocated the use of the katana by using one hand to hold it rather than two hands. What???

Most styles teach how to use the katana by holding it with two hands unless they are using two swords at the same time in which each hand holds one sword. However, this old style advocates using one hand as an advantage. Crazy, right? Until I heard the arguments and saw the katas and partner practice they developed to teach this one hand approach.

Towards the last part of the video the master presented a partner practice. The host of the video who is a newly joined student of the school who has learned other katana arts before noticed that the master was using an unstable stance and asked him about it.

The master is aware of this fact and said to the effect that the use of an unstable stance is a purposeful training device to teach the use of the body’s natural reaction when affected by an external force acting on the body. This plus the use of one hand also made it easier to borrow the impact force of the opponent to amplify the speed and power of your own response.

And there you have it – an explanation from a traditional style that goes to the heart of what I do in TC in the use of small stances and not practicing zhanzhuang.

Our use of small stances make it easier for the body to react, adapt and adjust to an external force acting on us. And our non-practice of zhanzhuang is similar in reasoning to the use of one hand rather than two hands to hold the katana. So what students think of our TC as a counter-intuitive approach is not really so. At least in this 400 year old style they already have it and thus in this instance counter-intuitive = traditional!

In conclusion, a key to learning to use the techniques could lie in understanding the body’s natural reaction by using a moving form to teach the body to go through the process of receiving, adapting, adjusting, recalibrating and retuning in a split second in the transition from defence to countering techniques (internal snobs would want to use the term “energies” rather than “techniques” except that you can’t fight with energies but require techniques as a means to contain and deliver the energies). This does not require the learning of zhanzhuang because when learned too early the advantages acquired also come with disadvantages which typically is not understood until they are pointed out and no advocate of zhanzhuang will want to point out the disadvantages even if they know it.

Under the broad sky there are many approaches. I seek not the traditional but the path that leads to results for me. This is journey so far for me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s