Taking the First Step

Today is the first day of 2018.

The first of January is also a Monday, the first day of the week; a most fitting day to start the new year. And to accompany it on this lazy afternoon the song “Monday, Monday” that first hit the airwaves some five decades ago.

The last day of 2017 was a cold, wet night. The cold, gloomy weather continues this afternoon with a dull, overcast sky; an indication of a wet day ahead sometime.

Outside the street is quiet. At home it is a day of solitude; a time to reflect on journeys past and the journeys to be. We can’t change the past nor recover back the hours, days, years lost to inaction, procrastination and dreaming. Only thing we can do is to not waste any more time from today, affirming to move onward with deeds rather than words of action.

There are things we can control and there are things we cannot control. I can control my learning, practice and writing of the combat arts. It is a continuing journey not just in the knowing but in the doing, the mastery of ourselves.

So we can reflect on our martial arts goal for 2018. We can think about what we want to learn, to become better in, to master. More important, what are the steps you will take and will actually carry out to attain your objectives.

We want to learn many things, pick up more skills but more frequently than not what we want to do remains on the wish list because it takes effort, a lot of effort, more effort than we think, more effort than what we are willing to invest in to reach our goals. So our desires remain firmly in the firmament of our dreams.

Whatever you want to do you need to take the first step forward and keep moving ahead. The days will pass us by quickly and before you know it Tuesday, 1 January 2019 will have arrived.

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Boji-Lite Module 11

Click on the page for BojiLite for background information.

In the earlier modules we learned about the use of strikes. However, strikes by themselves are basically useless unless your opponent cooperates by standing still and letting you hit him without resistance.

Otherwise, you can assume that no opponent will allow you to hit him so easily. You can expect the opponent to move, to block and to hit back.

In short, knowing how to strike is only one part of the story. To be able to use the strikes successfully you must be able to not allow yourself to get hit as you are trying to hit.

In order to do so you must pay attention to the following basic factors :-

a) Instinctive guard posture
When you throw a strike the opponent may try to hit back in the same instance. The opponent may also hit after blocking or evading.

To avoid getting hit by the opponent you would need to be either have a defensive shield up at all times or at least be able to marshal a defense into place in a split second.

Below is a picture of a simple guard posture that most people can take too easily without a lot of thinking. This is not the guard we normally use in Pok Khek but nevertheless, it has its usefulness so we shall use it here.

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To form the basic guard posture follow the steps below :-

PK-Mod11-2

You can verify if you set up the basic guard posture properly by checking to see if you can turn your body easily and put body weight behind your strikes.

An example is shown in the video above where the ability to rotate the body to throw two Fong Chui and two Chau Chui is checked. Note – a Fong Chui is basically a Yum Chui but performed with a vertical fist.

b) Distance control
Since Yum Chui, Sao Chui and Chau Chui are long range strikes you must be able to control the range in which they work.

For example, if you move too close to the opponent then your long range strikes will not work. Of course, over the long term you should learn different techniques and tactics for different ranges.

As such, your ability to use the Leung Yi Bo is of paramount importance in that the footwork allows you to control and adjust the distance to allow the strikes to be effective.

In the video I am illustrating the correct range to deliver an abbreviated and shortened Sao Chui by focusing on how to use the proper range through the control of the movement arc. The strike was done at a slower pace as it was for the purpose of teaching.

In the first instance the arc of the Sao Chui was cut short after impact. As such, though the force can allow me to spin the opponent’s head around it did not move him significantly.

In the second example I stood closer but the striking arc is too short hence the force is not strong.

The arc used in the third instance enabled a greater range of movement hence the power issued is greater allowing me to spin the opponent’s head and knocked him back.

c) Position, position, position
This refers to where and how you are standing at any moment in time relative to your opponent.

Why is position important to us. Let’s take a look at the video below :-

In the first scenario after I cleared the way I would launch a Yum Chui. If my opponent were to step straight back then chances are the Yum Chui would land.

However, sometimes my opponent may choose to step to my left side. If he managed to get there I would be exposed to his attacks because at that moment in time my left side is my blind side.

Fortunately, he has to step to position himself at my blind side and I could counter faster by not having to step. So I used a backfist to spoil his game. If I do the backfist properly I might be able to hit the side of his face instead of just blocking his way.

In the second scenario, my opponent managed to get to my blind side since he was able to quickly intercept my left Yum Chui strike. In this scenario he would stand a high chance of winning since he has the position.

In the third scenario my opponent reacted a bit too fast and I quickly changed my Yum Chui to a backfist to jam his intercepting arm. If he attempts to push my left arm away I can grab and pull it to my left side.

My pulling response caused my opponent to lose his balance and exposed his entire left side. Because I am holding his left arm he is unable to use it to block and when he is pulled off balance he ended up blocking his right arm with his body.

By studying different scenarios we learn about the importance of position in attack and defense.

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Boji-Lite Module 7

Click on the page for BojiLite for background information.

Now that you have learned about Yum Chui, Sao Chui and Chau Chui you can enhance your skills by using hand pad and other training aids.

a) Use of hand pad to refine biomechanics in-situ
You can get a training partner to hold a hand pad for you to work your strikes against while standing in the same spot.

Pay attention to good form and balance. Articulate the body mechanics correctly each time.handpad

Begin slowly before increasing the speed of your strikes. Watch out for bad habits such as excessive learning and turning the body too much.

Your training partner can also help to spot your mistakes and provide feedback.

b) Use of hand pad to train accuracy whilst stepping
This is similar to (a) except your training partner will need to move as you are stepping.

c) Use of other training aids to enhance solo training
You can also use other training equipment when you do not have a training partner as shown below :-

i) Punch ball
I actually like the punch ball because you can use it to practice Yum Chui, Sao Chui and Chau Chui.

I have not come across one that is made for adults. The one I saw at Decathlon (shown below) is for children which means that its short and too light for a Sao Chui strike.

Bag-6

I actually tried a Sao Chui on it to test its suitability. One strike and the entire punch bag moved.

But if you are a short person and prefer to train light strikes, focusing on linking the strikes in a continuous manner then the punch ball is a good choice.

ii) Free standing punching bag
The free standing bag would allow you room to move around it while practicing your strikes.

Bag-1

If you were to practice the more advanced skills like delivering Sao Chui continously while moving in a circle this would be perfect.

iii) Punching bag on stand
The stand allows you to hit the punching bag hard without fear of it moving or falling over. A great tool if your focus is on delivering hard strikes one after another.

Bag-2

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Boji-Lite Module 6

Click on the page for BojiLite for background information.

a) Introduction to Chau Chui
Chau Chui which is a type of hooking punch. The Chau Chui can be used at a longer or shorter range depending on application.

b) Power in Chau Chui
The power in Chau Chui comes from torquing of the hips combined with a forceful upwards digging in motion of the fist on impact. The video below shows how to move the body and arm to generate a penetrating force :-

Points to note :-

i) Find the functional distance
ii) Test your striking arm’s range
iii) Define the arm’s movement arc
iv) Check body turning
v) Place your intent behind the opponent’s body

c) Chau Chui in-situ
Below is a video showing how Chau Chui is performed :-

i) Stand in Leung Yi Ma
ii) The striking arm is held behind your body while the leading arm is held in a backfist posture
iii) As you turn your body perform Chau Chui by moving your striking arm in an upward moving arc

d) Chau Chui with stepping
To perform Chau Chui with Leung Yi Bo simply execute the strike as you step out along the diagonal line.


e) Basic partner practice
A simple partner practice calls for the partner to act as a dummy by offering his arm for you to drill against.

i) To begin the practice use a backfist against the live dummy’s right arm. The purpose of this movement is to clear the way

ii) Follow up with a Chau Chui to the opponent’s ribs once the way is cleared

iii) To end the technique use your left hand to detain the opponent’s arm whilst delivering a Sao Chui to the opponent’s head

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Boji-Lite Module 5

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In Module 5 we  take an extended look at the topic of Sao Chui. This study is divided into three parts.

a) Sao Chui with stepping
After understanding how to perform Sao Chui in the same place we next examine the practice of stepping whilst delivering Sao Chui. The video below shows the basic way of doing so :-

i) Begin by standing with your right arm forward (other variations can be used, if desired)

ii) Begin the technique by using the right hand to describe an anti-clockwise circle in the air. This is a method of opening up the opponent’s guard. At the same time turn your body slightly to the left to simulate an evasive movement whilst prepping the left arm to deliver the Sao Chui

iii) Step diagonally to the right and deliver a left Sao Chui. In this instance we use our right palm as a target for the Sao Chui instead of moving it to the left side of our head

b) Sao Chui basic partner practice
To do the practice of Sao Chui with a partner we do a different way of stepping. The difference betwen this and that explained above is the addition of a twisting step before we do a diagonal step as shown below :-

i) First we step off the line by twisting the leading foot (example right foot). This is the same twisting step found in Tai Chi’s Brush Knee, Twist Step movement.

ii) As we twist the right step, we clear the way with a right backfist (OK, I know I didn’t cover the backfist in the 12 modules, just trying to keep things simple). The backfist can also be used to attack – remember the video of Master Wong which I posted in Module 4?

iii) The right backfist is followed by a left Fei Sao which is another clearing movement. The Fei Sao can also be used as a counter to opponent’s attempt to strike you.

iv) Once the way is cleared step into the space with left leg and unleash the right Sao Chui.

I know doing Sao Chui with a twist step is not easy or simple another more. Below is a video in which I do the Sao Chui at a faster pace and followed by example of usage.

 

c) Setting up to deliver Sao Chui (variation 1 & 2)
Below is a video showing how you can practice Sao Chui by asking your training partner to act as a static dummy for you to practice against.

Variation 1 (from 0:00 to 0:12) – in the first instance we use the Fei Sao to jam the opponent’s bridge.

Variation 2 (from 0:10 to 0:12) – in the second example the Fei Sao is used to open up the opponent’s leading arm.

The variation to be used during application depends on how the opponent reacts. As you can see in the Master Wong video in Module 4 if the backfist is used to attack instead of clearing the way. The opponent’s reaction to the backfist in that instance allowed the Sao Chui to be implemented right away.

Another example of using the backfist in this manner is when it is followed up with a Yum Chui. As soon as the opponent’s arm is cleared out of the way quickly deliver a Yum Chui as can be seen at the end of the video.

Master Leong taught a few ways to use Sao Chui. My preference is to use the variations that allowed me to use Sao Chui against taller people hence I am less inclined to use the backfist to attack right off. However, we do have a partner practice that works on the use of Sao Chui in this ferocious manner.

First time I did the partner practice with Master Leong I was surprised that he could easily reach me with his backfist and Sao Chui even though I was trying to hit him with straight punches. It was one of those milestones that marked the beginning of my journey outside of Wing Chun.

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Boji-Lite Module 3

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In Module 3 we explore the following training topics :-

a) Yum Chui with stepping
You should be familiar with the basics of performing Yum Chui as outlined in Module 2 before doing the training in this section.

In Pok Khek Kuen beginners learn to step using the Leung Yi Ma by moving along a zigzag pattern. Refer to Module 1 under IV) Basic stepping pattern for more information.

To perform the training here you perform the Yum Chui as you step along the zigzag pattern as shown below :-

As usual, take your time to familiarize with the basic motions. Once you are used to it then you can try going faster.

Thereafter, you slow back the pace but this time work on the power mechanics. Articulate the key motions properly. Once you are more familiar you can try going for speed without making sloppy movements.

b) Yum Chui basic partner practice

You will need a partner to practice the basic Yum Chui partner practice. The partner’s role is to offer you a target to aim at. The basic Yum Chui partner practice is shown below :-

A key objective for the basic Yum Chui partner practice is to train your ability to keep your eye on the target as you are delivering your punches while moving forward.

Go for a slower pace in the beginning. You can work up to a faster pace when you are more familiar.

c) Yum Chui attack and defense partner practice

The next Yum Chui partner practice will require you to learn two roles. The first role is to be the attacker delivering Yum Chui strikes and the second role is to be the defender against Yum Chui. The video below shows how the attacker role transitions into the defender role :-

 

Once you are familiar with moving forward to attack with Yum Chui and stepping back to defend against Yum Chui you can begin to work on the Yum Chui attack and defend partner practice as shown below.

 

When you go through the Yum Chui attack and defend partner practice go at a leisurely pace so that you can pay attention to the following factors :-

a) Distance – make sure your stepping brings you into the correct range. If you are too close then you will not be able to extend your arm properly. If you are too far your strikes will fall short

b) Accuracy – keep your eye on the target to ensure that your Yum Chui is landing on the target that you are supposed to be hitting

c) Control – keep your eyes on your training partner at all times. If you are the attacker you want to keep your effective striking range and if you are the defender you would want to turn your body at the right time and turn enough to neutralize the punch

The video below is an example of what can happen if your training partner is not able to handle a faster pace. At the end of the video you can see how my student lost control of his striking in the first part and his defence crumbled in the second part as I increased the speed of striking. I was not even hitting hard.

Have fun with the second part of Yum Chui training.

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Holiday Intensive

It came out of the blue. It was the last thing I expected to hear.

But there it was, my student saying that he intends to spend more time training at home during his holiday. It is good news because it signaled a commitment to learn.

I gave him some ideas on what he could work on and how he could improve his skills. I have been waiting for him to improve so that I can complete teaching him the form that he has been learning for a few years. I know I am a stickler for details when it comes to teaching Tai Chi.

The thing about improvement is that there is no magic formula. It depends on the individual and how badly he / she wants it. Learning is not linear, it rarely is. This is why it is difficult to pick up refined skills in a group class.

Learning a skill is like sharpening a sword. Slow and easy. Day by day. Learning can be slow in the beginning until you hit your stride. The important thing is not to give up.

I do understand that today it is difficult to teach traditional arts to today’s students because they want fast results and they need it to be relevant. The truth is not all arts need a long time to learn. However, mastery is a matter of how much time you are willing to put in. If you put in more time you will certainly get somewhere.

Sometimes we look at traditional arts as irrelevant but a punch is a punch, and many solutions to the question of handling violence can be found in the traditional arts. You may think the arts are archaic but that is only when you do not look far and deep enough.

This means that you need to spend time thinking and analyzing whatever art you choose to learn in addition to putting in the time to practice as much as possible. I used this post as the basis to see if it is possible to put together a short, intensive training program.

My criteria for this training course which I dubbed BojiLite are as follows :–

i) Compact syllabus that can be learned quickly

ii) Techniques that are easy to pick up

iii) Movements should natural, intuitive and logical

iv) Improvement in skill within a few months

v) Learn less to master more

 

If you have the time over the year end holiday season give it a try. Currently, it is a work in progress as it is something I do for a hobby.

I have already written the first module which should be simple to learn and practice. Remember not to move without knowing why you are moving. Know the reason, practice it, revisit the reason, practice again and your understanding will be physically instead of intellectual. Have fun.

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