About Mushin

Wing Chun researcher and teacher.

Learning a Musical Instrument, Not

Play Pipa is a technique that appears twice in the Yang style 108 form. Below is an extract from a longer video of Grandmaster Dong Huling showing its application in push hands.

The pipa is a Chinese musical instrument, somewhat like a guitar, but with 4 strings and a pear shaped body. Below is a picture showing how the pipa is typically held when played. Does it not resemble the way GM Dong applied the technique?

GM Dong’s video shows the way the Play Pipa technique is normally executed on the opponent’s outside position. For beginners this is a safer position to apply the technique without having to worry about the possibility of the opponent trying to punch you with the other hand.

However, our point is that a technique should as far as possible be able to be applied even when we are standing in the front gate of the opponent’s position. To safely use Play Pipa and not be punched we need to address the elephant in the room by examining the use of strategy. In this case the strategy is to distract the opponent before we apply Play Pipa and for this purpose we are borrowing a move from the Fast Form as shown below :-

The video below gives a more detailed explanation of how the use of a strike to distract can also help you to land the position :-

And it goes without saying that once you get the arm locked you should use proper leverage to jack the opponent up and away.

For the purpose of learning we did not include those parts of Play Pipa that can cause injury.

Reference – The leverage principle is explained on page 68 of TaijiKinesis Vol 2 : Learning the Taijiquan Form. The part of the application that can cause injury can be seen on page 336.

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Quarterly Challenges

In another 20 days time the 100-Day Yum Chui Challenge will end.

After this the 100-Day Challenge will be converted to Quarterly Challenges so that we can have 4 challenges in a year. In this way we can master at least 80% of the core syllabus of SKD Level 1 by end of 2019.

Unlike the majority of challenges on the internet the Quarterly Challenges will run non-stop. Members who take part will push themselves to train daily. Even if they do not end up mastering the challenge, the daily training should at least leave them with a level of competence.

The serious member should also carry on with the 1st Quarter Challenge (previously known as the 100-Day Yum Chui Challenge). They should continue up to Day 300 for that extra edge in mastery.

SKD Member Training

We are nearly 3/4 of the way through the SKD 100 days Yum Chui challenge.

One of the SKD members from Australia came for training in Level 1 syllabus. The objective is to bring him up to speed on knowledge and skills so that a training group can be formed there.

Level 1 training covered the refinements and application of Yum Chui and Chau Chui, integration of techniques into a arm contact training platform, and 6-blocks (practice and application).

Some of the training is shown below :-

Yum Chui training

Arm contact training

6-blocks training

Watch all 31 short here.

Kicks Galore

Its kicks galore last week and this week as I taught my kicking method to a student. My kicking method is divided into two phases :-

a) External phase – this is described in the eBook “2-Dots : Six Learning Steps for Mastering Wing Chun’s Kicking Model ” and the verbal teaching of Master Leong Lin Heng

b) Internal phase – this is the method of using intent that is transmitted through the lineage of Grandmaster Wei Shuren

I started off my teaching with Kick No. 4 of the 4 kicks taught by Master Leong Lin Heng. I like this kick because it is so unexpected, so sudden and so weird that its difficult to guard against it even when it is executed at a slower pace. It is a good illustration of the usefulness of using kicks.

The next step is of course the principles of kicking. A good place to start reading about it is in the eBook 2-Dots mentioned above. But for my student it is not necessary to read as I have told him what he needed to know and trained him in it.

Our emphasis is to use it within push hands, not as a fixed, dead drill but as a live response when the appropriate situation arises whether when given or created. Now he has an extra area to focus on in push hands.

Some videos that are extracted from the lesson this week :-

Last Day

Today is the last day of Chinese New Year.

I haven’t written anything here between the eve of Chinese New Year and now partly because of time constraint and partly because of inspiration. Granted, there are lots of things to write about but if the topic doesn’t stay in my mind for a few days then its not something I feel is important enough to write about.

There is the more detailed stuff I would like to write about, something I want to do if I can retire from work. This material consist of information delivered to students but not captured on video.

When the information is recorded it would have appeared in the public videos on the Facebook page “Learn Tai Chi in Singapore” or on unlisted videos posted to Youtube but made available only to specific students in the Slack group.

Why am I bringing this topic up? Well, its something a student said last night. He thinks I should just go ahead and reveal the information anyway because its difficult enough for him to make sense of it even though he is learning it and he thinks most readers won’t be able to see through the maze so easily.

Actually, there are two sides to it. One is the more complicated stuff that is for those who have learned martial arts before and the other more simplified material for those who are not as crazy about the usage part.

The complicated stuff is that which unravels the principles, their meaning, how to bring them to life in your practice and application. The simplified stuff is less heavy on the traditional stuff, more on using modern analogies to put the point across.

For example, to lower our arm such that we can generate power is easy when we do it quickly and with forcefulness. However, this could make our movement much bigger than we would like it, exposing ourselves unnecessarily to a counter.

The principles point to us a better option that allows us to generate the power but not open up ourselves at the same time. This requires using intent precisely and this is where the problem starts.

Knowing what is to be done and actually doing it is the problem. We know what to do, we think we are doing it but we are not doing it. Throw in the need to be exact to the point of subtlety and everyone ends up not getting it.

So the solution is to make this more accessible by simplifying it, taking an experimental route to learning it, putting aside certain important considerations for the moment. And yes, it gets the job done, students learn much faster. But let’s not kid ourselves, they still need to tighten up their movements and achieve the requirements of the principles.

Or maybe not. As long as they do not intend to learn how to apply the art then this does not matter. The requirements only make sense when we have a combat problem to solve. Without a problem there is no need for a solution.

Yes, we learn Tai Chi as a tool to solve certain problems. To learn Tai Chi effectively we need to ask what these problems are. If you don’t know then whether you learn Tai Chi or not is not important. When you know then you may find that Tai Chi is useful in addressing those problems.

Lately, I have been focusing on pushing the longer learning students to flesh out their push hands game. I made my case to them that if they want to play with outsiders (and some of them do or are doing it) then they must have a problem solving approach instead of pushy-pushy here, pushy-pushy there in a reactionary manner.

Doing so calls for strategies. In turn, this calls for techniques to support the strategies. The techniques must be supported by workable internal and external considerations, stuff that we train in our form.

So for example, we train the lotus kick but can we use it? Master Leong taught Grandmaster Nip’s application of the lotus kick in a manner that I have not encountered in the teachings of other Tai Chi teachers.

For this reason I did not want to video this teaching because it is something that most of us would not have thought of. As such, it is can be something to catch the opponent by surprise, particularly when used with a certain strategy.

In the old days such applications would be considered a secret technique of a style. It would not be something that is readily taught and hesitantly explained. I know of course that knowledge will die out if not passed on. So I pushed it to students to learn it, to make it part of their push hands game, eventually to be applied more freely, much more freely.

Then our Tai Chi would not see its last day so fast and may perhaps linger a little longer for those who seek the way to find it, an art old, lost in a world modern, increasingly at a loss to the ways of the old. A pity. So make it relevant, make it applicable.

RIP Hawkins Cheung

Today is the eve of Chinese New Year. A day where the cleaning should be done and cooking in progress for the annual family reunion dinner.

Coming home from the supermarket, I was thinking of how to cook the red leek for the family gathering tomorrow while looking at Facebook.

One post stood up. Hawkins Cheung had passed away on 3 Feb 2019.

Hawkins Cheung was a contemporary of Bruce Lee; both having learned from Ip Man. Though he was not as well known as the other practitioners from the same generation such as William Cheung, Wong Shun Leung and Tsui Seung Tin, nevertheless Hawkins had the skill. More importantly, he approached Wing Chun from the perspective of combat problem solving.

I remember one example of this – Hawkins said that he had a problem using Wing Chun against Karate practitioners who moved in to attack and just as quickly moved out of range. He figured that since he can’t beat them, why not join them.

So he did, and ended up with fast forward moving footwork, the principle which has become part of his Wing Chun. A reminder of his Karate learning can be found in the form of a ring that Hawkins wore.

If you happen to have a copy of the year 2000 documentary It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Kung Fu World!!! (大踢爆) you can see Hawkins demonstrate his super fast footwork in it.

Screenshots from the documentary :-

From Hawkins I learned that people who claimed to be your friend are not always so. I was learning the Wing Chun knives from him and he asked whether I knew why the person who introduced me to learn would do so. I had thought that it was a friend thing.

Hawkins said that the real reason was because he did not want to teach this person the knives. So this person (let’s call him R) introduced me to learn. Once Hawkins agreed to teach me, he (Hawkins) could not refuse to teach R.

True enough, after my first lesson R went to see Hawkins secretly and made him teach him (R) the knives. However, Hawkins was a lot smarter than he looked (he was from Hong Kong after all) because he could even predict what R would do next after learning the knives.

Hawkins anticipated that R would want to compare notes with me to see if he (Hawkins) had taught him everything. So Hawkins told me not to tell him everything. This was of course a dilemma. But since Hawkins was then my teacher I agreed to it.

And I’ll be danged if R didn’t corner me and asked me to show him what Hawkins had taught. I showed him everything, well almost everything. R was so happy when he thought that Hawkins hadn’t taught me the entire set. He was positively beside himself.

So there you go – an important lesson from the late Hawkins Cheung, one that proved to be useful down the road, better than learning any form or technique. You can think that your fellow martial arts classmate, friend, pal, buddy, whatever you think your relationship is with this person is good, close, buds – but the reality is he could be hiding a knife behind that smile.

On the other hand the teacher may not always be an angel either but then a teacher for a day is a teacher for life. If you can bond with the teacher it would be easier to suss out his character. If you can speak in the teacher’s native tongue this would be a big help. With Hawkins this was easy since both of us speak Cantonese and ate chicken feet; stuff that being Americans, R and his students would not touch with a 6.5 foot pole.

Aside from Wing Chun Hawkins had also learned Wu style Tai Chi. However, he demonstrated some Chen style Tai Chi movements to me and he looked pretty good.

An interview with Hawkins Cheung appeared in the book Martial Arts Talk: Conversations with Leading Authorities on the Martial Arts. I recommended my SKD learning group to read this because a lot of what Hawkins said in the book is relevant.

The last time I saw Hawkins Cheung he was happily doing push hands in Kowloon Park.

Rest in peace Sifu Hawkins Cheung. I can imagine the reunion in Wing Chun Heaven tonight with Ip Man and Bruce Lee.