About Mushin

Wing Chun researcher and teacher.

Fajing Not About Power Only

Fajing is not always about generating power.

Sometimes its just timing. Using timing means to listen, or perhaps to probe to elicit a response, then allowing the response to be heard, understanding what the energy feel is saying and exploiting it.

Fajing can also be about to use your partner’s weakness against him.

For example, if he tries to enter without a proper root then he has already unbalanced himself. All you have to do then is to get under him and launch him the moment his energy is receeding after he tried to use it.

This is why my teacher from the Wei Shuren lineage doesn’t teach fajing on its own. Instead, he stressed learning the principles embedded in the form. His explanation is that when the principles fall into place fajing will happen.

Otherwise, if you learn fajing separately from the form when you try to use fajing it will look forced. You will also not be able to use it naturally as part of your arsenal of techniques, creating a feel of fajing is fajing and technique is technique, instead of fajing and technique is inseparable.

One reason why we don’t always have to fajing hard is because to fajing hard is like spending money unnecessarily, except in this instance you squander your strength and energy. Instead, use only as much as you have to and fajing then becomes a fun, relaxing exercise.

Prison Officers Training Update

Its interesting to see that our prison officers have updated their training.

I had a student who used to work as a prison officer. Given his background I thought he would be an adept at using control techniques.

Imagine my surprise that though he knew about using locks he couldn’t use them effectively if I am giving some resistance and not standing still. Puzzled, I probed further and found out that they were taught to handle one inmate not on 1-to-1 basis but three officers to one inmate.

The question that came to mind was what then would he do if he were alone at the moment he needed to defend himself. The next thing I thought of was what would happen if there was a prison riot and inmates outnumber the officers.

I didn’t know who handled the training but it didn’t seem well thought of. So I guess its nicer to see this video of updated training until I actually looked through the video.

I am not a self defence expert so I shouldn’t comment too much. But the following questions kept popping up in my mind :-

a) Right at the beginning of the video you see a simulated training on kneeing an inmate, pushing him away, going for the baton and stepping back while ordering him to get on his knees. Why do this?

This reminds me of movies where you see the victim managing to get hold of a weapon, hitting the assailant with it once, then running away only for the assailant to get up, come after him (or her), hitting him (the victim) more violently, and recapturing him. Whenever I see this I would ask why not hit him (bad guy) a few more times? Why not find something to tie him up? Why not find a weapon? So many questions?

The logic is not everyone will comply to a command to stay down. Some will keep fighting. So why give up an advantage? I guess there must be some procedural and legal reasons for doing so.

b) At 0:17 I can see some kneeing techniques. I wonder why they don’t get a Muay Thai trainer in for this seeing that the way they are doing the pulling the head movement do not seem efficient and expose them to a takedown if the inmate were to rush forward or even just fall forward.

c) At 0:24 I see elbow strikes being practiced for close quarters combat. I used to learn something like this when I was learning Wing Chun. I would suggest to get the training partner to attack the way an inmate would actually do so. A better simulation may reveal the problems with this type of technique.

At 0:40 you see the partner not following up after the officer stepped away. If the partner had put her head down and continue charging forward I wonder if she can still draw her baton.

d) At 1:00 the claim about avoiding force is commendable. So is the claim about using behaviour control but still what happens if things do not work out the way they are supposed to. What then?

e) At 1:13 I had to smile when I saw the training against multiple opponents. It reminds me of movies where the bad guys stand around waiting for their turn.

Seeing this video informs me that there is a difference between techniques used in prison and what we would do in real life whatever it is that we do individually.

I wonder who they consulted for this type of training. Maybe they should pressure test it by inviting inmates to attack at random to see if the officers can really use their training. OK, stupid idea – they will never do this.

Knowing the techniques is one thing, being able to use it under pressure knowing that you can be injured seriously is another.

That’s why we keep training, never assume that bad guys only attack one way. As Tuhon Apolo said its the attack that you don’t see coming that gets you.

Stop Fake Tai Chi

I saw this commentary video “Stop the Spread of Fake Tai Chi” from Aiping Tai Chi on the promotion by taichisystems.com on learning Tai Chi online.

Many good points raised such as not giving a person a certificate and turning them into a qualified teacher on the basis of a piece of paper.

She explained about the importance of learning Tai Chi properly instead of just chasing after styles that offer hollow learning sanitized of its cultural heritage.

She took umbrage at the website’s offer of a certification learning program because she didn’t believe that it is possible to teach Tai Chi properly this easily.

She examined a video of the instructor demonstrating Tai Chi and explained why she does not think the instructor understood the art properly.

She contrasted this with a video of her own teacher to highlight the difference between what authentic and fake Tai Chi is.

She then had a look at some examples of applications put up at the website and pointed out what is wrong with them.

This is what I think of the fake versus real issue. You can’t stop people thinking that their fake Tai Chi is real any more than you can stop people from teaching fake Tai Chi even when they know its fake. There will always be people defending fake Tai Chi so criticizing them just reads like sour grapes.

I think its pretty pointless to say that someone’s Tai Chi fake and saying that your Tai Chi is authentic. How do you know that your own Tai Chi is really authentic? Who decides this? Tradition? Lineage? Cultural background? You can say that your Tai Chi is authentic and even put your teacher’s video up to justify the claim and I am sure someone will find grounds to point out that your teacher’s demo ain’t so hot either.

That’s why over the years I took a leaf out of the field of engineering to examine my own learning. No teacher will say that their Tai Chi is fake, I mean, they are not stupid, right(?), especially not if they want to teach because they have an itch to teach cause it boosts their ego and make them feel important.

In mechanical engineering when a motor is installed in a plant it should be commissioned and data collected to establish that the installation was properly carried out and the motor is running in accordance to the specifications agreed on between seller and buyer.

An example of this would be the buyer agreeing to accept the motor as long as it is within acceptable vibration limit. But then what constitutes an acceptable vibration limit? The buyer may agree to accept the seller’s proposed vibration limit if the seller is also the motor manufacturer. However, if the seller is not the manufacturer then both parties may agree to use an ISO standard for this purpose.

Even then this can be problematic because they are many ISO standards out there and both parties have to agree on the particular standard to be used. For example, an ISO standard that is meant for a ship should not be applied to an ISO standard developed for a plant on land. Why is this so? The reason is that ships are moving so the vibration acceptable limit for a motor operating on a ship is easily double that of a motor in a land plant.

At this point we should ask what is a reference standard? Why should we refer to it? Standards are like guidelines developed from good industry practices over a number of years. They would normally agree on which practice to base a standard on, form a committee to review it before codifying the information into a standard. The people in the committee are made up of experts from the industry and they can take years to review (sometimes more than a decade) the information before they finally come up with a reference standard.

Now in Tai Chi we do have reference standards. They are called the Tai Chi Classics. Whether these body of writings are actually written by the people who are claimed to be so is another question. There are also disagreements by some styles whether the entire body of works should apply to them.

This is what I think – if Tai Chi was originally one art then what is the problem of applying the Classics to all the styles of Tai Chi? Of course, some Tai Chi styles may have branched off into some other areas of specialization, negating some of the principles that would previously have applied to them. But still wouldn’t a large body of principles still be applicable?

So if we use the Tai Chi Classics as a standard to refer a performance wouldn’t that be better than using your opinion to label someone’s Tai Chi as fake? Instead, just term it as in-compliance or non-compliance. This is how ISO audits are carried out – if you do not conform to some parts of the standard then those parts are labelled as not complying to the particular clause and we have to rectify them.

Today with the abundance of information out there we can even add knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics to our assessment arsenal. We then have three areas to check our performance. If we want more we can add more. You can add push hands and sparring ability too down the line.

An example of how you can assess anyone’s Tai Chi performance :-

a) If you can see it done its probably more external than internal

b) If you can explain it easily then the level of performance is most probably beginner rather than advanced level

c) A performer may look soft and composed but if the leg is shaking then probably its not relaxed. If its not relaxed, then the rooting will be off and the ground force connection will be disrupted

d) If the movement is not economical in motion or efficient in movement then the movement will probably be impractical cause there are gaps in the movements

e) If the movement can only performed faster by moving faster instead of moving more efficiently then the performer needs more practice

Mind you the above does not tell you if a performer can apply his Tai Chi. That’s another story altogether for another day.

Lesson Number Five

This week is the fifth lesson.

Grasp Sparrow’s Tail – 2nd sub-movement fell a bit short because it did not mirror the application. This is important – you don’t just move. You move because you are doing a technique.

When you do it right at the end of the movement your right hand should be grasping my right wrist and your left forearm on my body and your left leg in a position that is checking my right leg.

In the 3rd sub-movement this week I added in 3 steps for the following :-

a) How to move the right arm to close the right side of your front door. A good test of correct biomechanics is when I give your some strength when my left arm is on top of your right arm you should be able to close your position. This is an illustration of the principle of not going head-on against the opponent’s strength. So there are three steps here – i) thumb movement ii) arm movement iii) waist movement

b) Raising the right arm to form the cross involves three steps at the learning stage. Once you get it all three steps merged into one smooth step. The steps – i) Right thumb move right wrist up to left wrist ii) Use shoulder to guide right wrist into position iii) Finally, use hip to get the right wrist into final position

c) I didn’t touch on the third sub-movement of getting the right leg to step out which is another three steps. The purpose of this is to train the single leg balance, feeling the ground and training the leg to be able to kick in accordance to the principle of every step hides a kick

From Grasp Sparrow’s Tail to Ward-off a reminder on using the left hand to properly do the scooping action. This allows for the left hand to defend the left side properly depending on whether the opponent’s right hand is attacking high or low.

Press – revisited how to change from Rollback into Press. The function of the left hand to check and control the opponent’s right hand. How to properly align the right hand to control the opponent’s left arm and be able to issue power easily.

Common mistake is the right elbow misalignment in Press. When the right elbow is not positioned properly you allow the opponent to counter your Press attack.

A misaligned elbow also makes it difficult to issue power not to mention the ability to follow up easily. When you position the right arm properly you can change easily from one attack to the next and counter opponent’s attempt to get away or defend against your Press attack.

From Press to Push – the transition calls for the passing of opponent’s right arm from your left hand to right hand. This sets his right arm to be sealed against his chest, then you can apply Push attack.

If opponent tries to pull his right hand back to strike you the position of your left hand in Press should allow you to instantly attack him before he can hit you. If he is fast and has his strike coming back quickly then you use Separate Hands on the inside to intercept, pull and apply Push strike.

The lesson of Separate Hands and Push can be applied to the first sub-movement in Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. Instead of intercept, turn to neutralize and attack, you can just use the same right arm to intercept, neutralize and attack. This is how understanding the basics can translate a multi-step movement into a singular movement, making it efficient.

Lesson Number Four

Lesson Number 4 this week. No fidgeting in Beginning Posture. Good beginning.

Alas, I spoke too soon. The stance and hand characeteristics took on a wushu flavor. Why would this happen? There goes my plan to teach Single Whip.

From nothing to something. From simple natural standing we can form a basic stance with attendant arch.

Shift the weight and we have a forward or backward stance depending on whether the weight is forward or backward. However, he did an arch-less stance which weakens the stance and cause the connection to the ground to be lost.

A backward stance with a straightened front leg is bad because it makes it easier for a takedown to be used against the leg. A simple hold at the ankle and press at the upper thigh and down he went, after clearing his leading arm out of the way.

A proper forward or backward stance has traceability, like a son has matching DNA with the mother. No matter how we move we can always revert back to the basic stance. So in essence we are just practicing one stance throughout. What differentiates each of the stances is where the weight is and how the unweighted leg is positioned.

In turning or in stepping the characteristic of the basic stance is ever present. The shape of the stance when the weight is forward can be applied as an uprooting technique like water floating a boat.

Because of this we have to keep the mind full focussed. We have to do the process carefully so that at the end of the movement we have a proper stance. It is easy to get the 2nd sub-movement of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail wrong and end up with an improper stance once we lose track of what we are supposed to do.

This time to make it clearer I added another component to the process. This breakdowns the movement of the hip, knee and foot so that it can match the movement of the arm more closely such that they move in a coordinated manner.

The same logic applies to the 3rd sub-movement where we end up in the posture of grasping the tail of a sparrow. A wushu like stance makes it difficult to control the amount of strength to use. When we fish we want the bait to move like a living worm to invite the fish to take a nibble.

In using strength we shouldn’t be applying peng jing indiscriminately to all and sundry. Some movements require a lot less strength whereas some require more. Calibrating the amount required is what the training of form is partly about.

A proper technique allows you to entice and lead the opponent’s strength to land on empty space. As this is happening you enter with your response. Place it at a good angle and the movement itself takes care of the neutralizing and issuing.

Again, using the leading hand to come up to the bottom of opponent’s arm like water supporting it but not carrying his strength, then floating his arm to unbalance his body. This leads to the opponent’s closed arm position to open up allowing you to enter to attack.

Done properly you do not feel that you are trying to carry the opponent’s body weight. Instead, you feel as if he is floated up by an energetic force. This is the role of the arch in the stance to neutralize and return the opponent’s force using the principle of Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion.

Mind Trains Body

Visualize a point in space. Fix it in your mind. Now point your left index finger at it.

Next, move your left index finger towards it. As you move let your left index finger pull your left arm and your left leg towards the target.

Keep moving your left index finger towards the point in space even as your left foot lands on the ground and you shift your weight from your right leg to your left leg.

At the end of the movement check if your left index finger is still pointing at the point or is it pointing somewhere else.

If you didn’t get it the first time try again and again until you get it. It is not a difficult thing to do correct or is it? How many tries did you go through before you got it. Did you get it within an hour or take a few days to get it?

If you did not get it what was the reason why you couldn’t get it?

Most of the time you would think you got it. So it is good to use a video or get a spotter to help you check if indeed you are doing what you think you are doing.

You may find it easier to actually hang an object for you to point towards. Try it if this is what works for you. Once you can do it with an object try going back to doing it without an actual physical object.

Most people who do this think they are able to point to the point in space when they fail to do so. It is easy to deceive ourselves to think we are doing what we are not.

To be able to do this simple thing you need to be able to keep your mind on your left index finger all the time first and foremost.
When you can do this then you need to assign some of this attention to the other parts of the body that is involved in the movement chain. All this while you must keep your mind still trained on your left index finger so that the entire body coordination is still whole.

You keep practicing until the entire movement chain is smooth outwardly yet on the inside you can feel how each part of the chain is moving in its turn in terms of changes in velocity, getting the relevant mass lined up behind each other in preparation to be able to trigger the mass to move sinuously like the rising and falling of a wave.

The better your body control the less outer movement you need to use, to the point where a slight downward movement will be like an ocean floor suddenly caving down to displace a body of water to create a tsunami, in this case an energetic wave consistent with rising (Peng) and falling (An) characteristic of an actual wave.

The movement in this experiment is the second movement after Beginning Posture that leads up to Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. Though this movement can be used to learn how to generate power, we must never divorce it from the application. If you do not keep the application in mind then what happens is that you will end up exaggerating the wave motion in an attempt to generate more power.

There is a trade-off between power and speed. In application we need to be timely when the need is there. If you are too slow to get into position then you will not be able to get into place to generate power. And when you get into position you have a split second to issue power before the opponent fights back.

So between speed and power you should go for speed because speed is basically a matter of change in velocity. The change in velocity is termed acceleration which is found in the formula for Force = Mass X Acceleration.

The form trains us to move in the manner of an imperceptible wave, controlling the rate of velocity and amount of mass that should be used in various techniques. Sometimes you need a hammer to do the job but sometimes you need to use a thumb.

Training the form is not about training fajing only. Training the form is training the use of techniques and understanding how various force models can be used with their attendant timing, angles, position, etc.

Training the form is the beginning of the study of the means to an end. Push hands is another piece of the study puzzle. When you have learned how to move like the wind, execute techniques like the falling of incessant autumn rain, pound with the force of a wave, and flow like a river then you can learn to apply the techniques more freely.

Lesson Number Three

Added two movements on the third lesson – Separate and Push.

But before that did a review. The fidgeting is still there, not as bad, so I left it at that.

Grasp Sparrow’s Tail – added one detail – after pluck to get the body weight behind the grabbing hand. Emphasized not to lose this control when moving the left hand and shifting weight from right to left. Reason – do not lose control once you have grabbed the opponent’s hand otherwise he can exploit it against you.

Oh, a problem with navigation when moving the left hand and left leg out. The movement is to be linearly to the side. However, at the last minute the linear motion became a curve.

It is a slight deviation in the movement path, however, that is enough to leave room for opponent to grab your left hand when your arm enters his space, enabling him to throw you instead of you throw him. Root cause – awareness not 100% throughout, inattention to the entire process; mind not kept on the lead hand causing the off course steering at the last moment.

Step forward into Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. And the stance is too narrow. This is an issue with traceability.

Went back to basics as defined in Beginning Posture. How is a stance formed. How do we actually shift weight. How to keep the stance strong and primed to fajing.

From lower body to upper body. Need to keep the left hand guarding properly. How can the left hand be used?

Two possibilities in how to use left hand in push hands to guard and open up opponent’s door for you to enter with your own attack.

How to dissipate opponent’s strength when he intercepts your right arm. Option of not changing to another Ward-off by using neutralizing energy or by changing to Ward-off.

How to use position of posture to neutralize, intercept, open door and enter. Softer response to neutralize first then attack vs faster, more aggressive counter to continuously attack like wave pounding.

Addressed the question of the opponent’s left hand response. How to preempt a counter-attack by delivering a stinging strike. Example of how a light strike can work instead of relying on heavy, fajingy pushing.

Had to explain how to do basic push hands by just doing horizontal circling. How to use the movements of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail for meaningful learning instead of meaningless pushing. Going back to the use of just Grasp Sparrow’s Tail, Ward-off and Rollback for a simple game of push hands to learn strategy and change.

Dyson & Tai Chi

I read an interview with James Dyson in last week’s The Sunday Times entitled “No Such Thing As A Silly Idea”.

Whether you agree with him or not, his comments can nevertheless be useful to us in learning Tai Chi.

Comment No. 1 – “Knowing what has worked in the past really doesn’t help you at all now. In fact, it does always the opposite. It’s a hindrance.”

Opinion No. 1 – Its a no-brainer to say that the most obvious example is this was when BJJ met the striking arts in UFC and we see strikers being defeated left and right.

However, I will talk about this in the context of Tai Chi instead. The thing about knowledge is that it can be a double edge sword. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we know a lot just because we learned a lot or is learning from a knowledgeable / famous master. However, until we know the boundaries of our knowledge we cannot really say that we know a lot and by extension what we had learned may not be as helpful as we thought.

Nowhere is this more obvious than when I switched to learning the Yang style of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s lineage. If you look at some of the videos of people playing the forms from GM Wei’s style you might think that in terms of flavor there is not much different though the same techniques are played differently from that in Yang Cheng Fu’s descendants’ style. This typically is the problem of making the mistake of thinking that you can bring your previous learning experience from other Yang styles to GM Wei’s style.

If anything, your previous learning can be a hindrance to learning GM Wei’s style. I had to practically relearn GM Wei’s Tai Chi style from the ground up once I realized that what I had learned from the Yang styles of Cheng Man Ching, Dong family, Yang Sau Chung and Nip Chee Fei was of little help to mastering GM Wei’s style, if not an obstacle.

It is only when I go back to the beginner’s mindset that I could change my physical habits. GM Wei’s style is not just about outer movements but how what you are thinking of can affect the way your body moves and reacts. Once you know what this is you can read the Tai Chi Classics and things that do not make sense will now make a lot of sense.

So Dyson’s comment can be taken in this manner also, that your past is a hindrance to your present and therefore future. This is especially true in today’s fast changing technologies that look set to change a lot of things across many fields of knowledge and industry.

Comment No. 2 – “I think naive curiosity, naive questioning, wrong suggestions, are good ideas.”

One reason why I don’t join many forums is because people that flock together tend to be of the same feathers. They have a tendency to agree with each other, shouting down those that they don’t agree with.

Innovation comes about because of questioning the status quo. If we agree with everything we will still be living in caves and hunting with stones. You will be surprised at how closed minded Tai Chi people are. A number of practitioners have told me that they consider zhanzhuang to be super important. One of my friends even told me zhanzhuang is the secret to mastering Tai Chi.

They are so super assured that zhanzhuang is the way that they have never considered the alternative argument that zhanzhuang is not the way (or not the only way). They never thought to ask me why. They never asked why the Dong family, GM Wei and some masters don’t have zhanzhuang practice yet these masters have superb skills. In fact, I doubt anyone who considers zhanzhuang to be the way can explain how GM Wei did his fajing but for us what zhanzhuang people do for fajing is so obvious that to call it a secret is doing a disservice to those who want to uplift the practice of Chinese internal arts.

Comment No. 3 – An experienced person will only put forward a sensible suggestion, which might work, whereas a native person, or a young person who is unafraid to make mistakes, will ask the wrong question, will make an outrageous suggestion, which might actually be a very good idea.”

I am relatively new to learning FMA. I was taught that we can hold the blade with a forward grip or an ice-pick grip. We could also switch from one grip to the other while we are wielding the blade.

Forward Grip
Ice Pick Grip

At one point I thought why not hold two blades in one hand? Wouldn’t this eliminate the need to switch from one grip to another if I want to switch the way I am holding the blade? The question why anyone would want to switch grip is another matter.

This is not a new idea. In fact, there is a weapon from the style of Yin baguazhang called Judge’s Pen (goggle it) that sparked off my thinking (past experience can matter sometimes…….) in this direction. I played around with it while holding two knives in one hand. Seems like a good idea.

However, the reality is that unless a real blade is made this way this idea is not practical. Why?

Firstly, a real knife handle may be thicker and oval shaped, making it difficult to hold two knifes in one hand. Secondly, how will you carry the blade in a concealed manner? How will you draw it out quickly when required without cutting yourself? So what seems like a good idea is not a practical idea. But who knows, maybe someone will make this into a practical idea, which begs the question how does a Yin style baguazhang practitioner carry a Judge’s Pen?

Comment No. 4 – “Being very open to every suggestion and not ever saying ‘that’s a silly idea, don’t be so stupid’ – that’s my style. I like the unobvious suggestion…I get very worried when someone says they’re an expert.”

There’s nothing wrong with being an expert. The problem is when their mind is closed even when they are obviously wrong. They want to argue until a corpse can come alive, to use a colorful Chinese saying.

The basis for creativity is to not be afraid to ask what to others would be obvious stupid or even impossible questions. Remember the assumption that things heavier than air can’t fly (Lord Kelvin said that heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible). So for a long time if someone brought up the idea of flying they would be laughed at. Yet birds can fly. So obviously the assumption that things heavier than air cannot fly is not true.

Assumptions can be wrong. What is today correct may also be wrong tomorrow (flat earth versus round earth argument). So it is this way with the argument with zhanzhuang being the secret to developing fajing skills in Tai Chi. I say that this is not true because any beginner can learn to do fajing without having to learn zhanzhuang. They don’t even need to learn forms or to put in years of practice.

There is a difference between being able to use freely (requires years of practice) and being able to do fajing in controlled environment (does not require years of practice, just a few minutes of instruction and tinkering the movements for proof of concept). The latter is proof that it is important to know what you are doing clearly and not be caught up by outdated dogma that is enslaving you.

So in this sense when an expert, someone who proudly tacks a sifu before his name, tells you that you take years to learn how to fajing take it with a few spoonful of salt because it is not true. Even if I don’t tell you the basis of my argument you can figure it out easily with the help of a physics textbook and a partner willing to be your guinea pig. Once you figure it out you will probably slap your head for not seeing it for the simple thing that it is.

Learning from Master Wong’s Knife Defence

Master Wong is very entertaining. Some of his videos on emptyhand techniques are not bad. Then he put out videos on the Wing Chun weapons and I was kinda like meh…..

Yesterday, I saw his video on defending against a knife attack. He is still entertaining.

His explanations sound so convincing too. It even looked effective and could work against someone who does not know how to use a knife and just thrust without any idea of follow up.

However, I am more worried about the attacker who knows how to use a knife or an attacker who repeatedly thrusts and slashes with speed.

I have seen different techniques against the basic thrusting / stabbing attack in Master Wong’s video. One of the more recent ones is from Master Yang Jwing Ming.

Whether dealing with emptyhand technique or weapon attack the problem is always the unknown factor i.e. I don’t know what the attacker will do or not do.

In this example, if the attacker just thrusts with the knife and leave his arm there you can get away with anything. Similary if he thrusts and slowly withdraws his knife for another attack.

The problem starts when the attacker thrusts fast, withdraw as fast (including stepping back). Then its not easy to do the technique Master Wong showed.

Add to it the possibility of the attacker slashing as a follow up to the thrust whether when he is in forward position or does so when he withdraws his blade and you have a different dimension to the problem.

Shall I then add the possibility of the attacker using his other arm to fend off your attempts to defend against his knife?

How about if the attacker switches hand?

When you consider these few points you will see the loopholes in the responses that Master Wong demonstrated.

He may have more effective techniques that he did not show to the public (most masters do) but for the ones he showed the following pictures below are the things that come to mind when I looked at what he showed. I am not even an expert in defending against a knife attack but the problem areas below are what I spotted with a beginner’s eyes.

Example A
Example B

Example A and B – Master Wong showed this as the first movement in deflecting the knife thrust. The problem I see with this response is that the neck is wide open to a slashing counter. However, as seen in Example E Master Wong has anticipated this. This is good as long as the opponent is not able to flow with your deflection and take advantage of it to insert his slashing attack in between the timing required for you to move your hands up as shown in Example E.

Example C

Example C – before Master Wong secured the hold in Example F he ended in this hold first. This is not a secure hold and by twisting the blade to face up, the opponent can slash upwards as he step back. But once you get to the one palm down, one palm up position in Example F then the hold is secure. The problem is before you get to this secure position.

Example D

Example D – Master Wong does foresee the possibility of a follow up slashing counter as shown here.

Example E

Example E – a question I like to ask is if I can foresee the attacker trying to slash me as shown in Example D then would the attacker be smart enough to anticipate my response and have a counter ready to both my hands coming up to protect my throat. If the opponent has experience using a knife then bring both hands up to protect myself is an invitation for the attacker to slash my stomach. Because I am reacting to his attempt to slash my throat first it means that the attacker is ahead of me on the attacking beat and the moment my hands come up and he quickly lowers himself to slash my stomach I will not be fast enough to counter the follow up attack.

Example F

Example F – good response from Master Wong. If there is a weakness in this counter it is that the attacker can still get out of the control. If he can do this he can easily switch knife hand and re-attack Master Wong. This time Master Wong will be way behind the attacking curve since both his arms are attached to the attacker’s right arm but Master Wong does not have any hand to check the attacker’s left hand with the knife now.

I do this analysis as part of my own study in how to defend against knife attacks rather than a post to take down Master Wong. By understanding what not to do I gain a better understanding of what to do.

Dealing with a knife attack or any types of attack is not so much a case of I am right, you are wrong. Instead, it is a case of given this response what can I do to avoid getting stabbed or slashed, and at the same time be able to counter effectively.

Effectively in this sense means how to prevent the attacker from continuing his attack and take away his weapon. In this regard I need to eliminate his ability to move and change.

This is why in Kali our study of how to handle knife attacks is based on knowing both sides of the equation – the defender and the attacker. We learn how to defend including how to take away the knife, and then initiate our own knife attack. When the glove is on the other hand (or blade in our hand) how can we use the knife and prevent the attacker from being able to defend himself.

Lesson Number Two

A week passed by very quickly. Lesson 2 came and passed for new student.

First a review of Lesson 1. Correction number one – eliminate unnecessary movements in the hands before raising hands in Beginning Posture. Root cause – slight hunched back leading to palms facing unnaturally.

Correction number 2 – hand lead the body in sub-movement 1 of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail, differentiating joint movements and strength usage clearly. Also, how to shift the vertical axis from one side to the other without compromising balance. Mindfulness in left hand grasp and control.

Correction number 3 – fingers in left parry hand at commencement of sub-movement 2 of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. Control body angling. Importance of positioning to remain offensive even when parrying. Right arm closing movement re-emphasize again the holding hinge concept, aligning the right wrist to body to facilitate neutralizing, closing the posture. How to properly raise the right wrist to form cross with left wrist, passing the imaginary opponent’s right fist to land into space, as you open up a space to enter for your right hand. Again, not to lose balance by unneccessary moving of vertical axis causing sway and tilt. Showed student how to move without causing axis sway and tilt after he tried but could not move if I impose a restraint on his left shoulder to check his vertical axis. Correct placement of right palm on target area and left hand on guard after completion. The how and why of this application, addressing loop holes in posture, how to set up for a follow up movement from the start, possible strikes in this position. Check correct holding of sphere in right arm, sphere holding between left hand and right hand.

Correction number 4 – sphere rotation in Ward-off, control superfluos body turning, how to rotate properly to apply movement as a technique. Left hand curve, wrap, bind and control, contribute to unbalance attack and power issuance. Beware of elbow to body disconnect, define appropriate elbow-body connection.

Correction number 5 – defining the physical path for Rollback in the mind – visualize it, map it, move and feel. How to maintain structure and pressure while relaxing before neutralizing, avoiding collapsing of right arm structure or opening up space for opponent to enter. Proper structure of right arm in Rollback, proper timing to change from Rollback to Press. Mother-son relationship in right arm-left arm movement correlation. Whip palm attack in Rollback, if required. How to use elbow position to control opponent’s left arm when attacking without creating a gap for opponent to counter.

Correction number 6 – changing right arm structure at end of Rollback to beginning of Press. Left arm control – definition, process and applications. How to issue power using momentum from application of stance shifting for instant result, no waiting for years of training to master or having to learn secret qigong method or complicated fajing processes, merely using intuitive method most people already know as they are likely to have performed before at home. Using a spiral movement to neutralize, bind and control before issuing power throgh the same right arm. Single arm power generation for better control and defence; illustration of how facing wrongly in Press and using two hands leave student exposed to a counter.

So much for the second lesson this week.