Pieces of the Puzzle

A training sequence or kata or taolu seems like a linear sequence of movements. This is a simplified understanding of what it is.

In SKD the training sequence no. 1 is designed more like a puzzle palace in that what you see is not necessarily what you get. You learn the sequences. Then you learn how to decode them to extract the information that you are supposed to get.

Caveat – extracting the information requires you to practice until the movements are habitual, instinctive and flowing. When you reach here some of things you are supposed to learn will come out by themselves especially if you couple your learning with partner practice.

If we were to lay out everything we want a student to learn then he will end up with tons of drills to remember and this can be self defeating if the goal is to liberate him rather than enslave him. The question is how to learn less but end up with more instead of remembering a lot to learn less.

Nowadays when we go to supermarket and buy a chicken we are not given the intestines and internal parts, much less the curdled blood. However, in the days of past my mother would slaughter a chicken, keep the blood, curdle it to go with soup or porridge, then clean the intestines which is delicious deep fried or braised. Even the butt is eaten. Nothing is wasted.

In the SKD training sequence nothing is wasted. From the opening salute to the closing salute there is something to be learned. So when a students skips the salute part he is missing out on something.

In the salute part we put in the learning of the footwork pattern. There is the obvious stepping pattern. There is also the hidden pattern.

The obvious pattern is the side step, the step back and the lateral step. The pattern that is hidden is the step forward pattern and this is derived from the last three sequences. The logic here is that if you can’t get to the side position then you can’t step forward to continue your attack.

This begs the question – if we can side step how do we defend and attack with the hands. This is found in the fourth part where we work the Yum Chui, Chao Chui and Sao Chui if we want to use a long range aggressive response. We can continue the attacks using these three strikes or add in the movements from the three arm swinging drills from the second part.

If the preference is for a more sneaky, small frame movement type of response then the third part is where we should look. In this part we have finger thrust to the throat and groin slaps. The follow up here will be the 6-movements from the second part.

Everything learned from the first part to the fourth part is then used within the fifth and sixth parts.

The seventh part is where we can integrate our study of Kali into SKD. That’s one purpose. There is a secondary study that is hidden here. This study is an expansion of the use of Charp Chui as well as leading into the study of other things.

The Training of 6-Blocks

6-Blocks or technically Mid Range 6-Blocks is our SKD beginners training for learning how to use the hand to control the space in front of us. We also have a Long Range 6-Blocks and a Short Range 6-Blocks.

I call it 6-Blocks rather than some fancy, long name because its easy to pronounce and easy to remember. When used properly the blocks can be a hard block or a soft block. It all depends on the objective.

The 6-Blocks is a shortcut way to learn how to define a doorway, the doors and how the doors move in the manner of a swinging door panel. This is based on the traditional CMA principle of hands acting as swinging doors. We define the space so that we know where to position and mobilize our hands to when defending and attacking.

The movement of the 6-Blocks is designed such that it teaches us how to move circularly from Point A to Point B in line with the 6 directions of movement when defending.

In the beginning we learn to define the alignment of the arm in relation to the body. When necessary we can use a stick as a training aid to understand this principle. We strive to move exactly so that in time to come when our movement fall short or over extend we know how to quickly adjust ourselves to correct the problem.

Once we understand each of the six movements we learn to move them in keeping with the principle of up-down, in-out and left-right. We first learn to move using less strength so that we can flow by adjusting the brakes and accelerator in the course of moving.

With familiarity we can learn to move very quickly. We can also move out of sequence, to respond as required.

After the soft phase of movement we then learn the hard phase of movement. This is when we learn how to use the blocks as attacks. To be hard requires the ability to accelerate your movements from a low velocity to a high velocity and suddenly applying the brakes to stop the movement cold, producing a concentrated momentum force. Internal stylists require to this type of movement as fajing.

We can extend the solo training to learn about movements 7 to 9 which extends the basic usage of the 6-Blocks. We also learn how to block and punch whether by punching with the same blocking hand or with the other hand. We should also practice 6-blocks with stepping.

To learn how to apply the 6-blocks we then engage in partner training. We can start off by using the 6-blocks to do slower paced push hands and graduate to fast paced push hands. After this phase we can then attempt to use 6-blocks more freely, with or without contact.

Power Training in SKD Training Sequence No. 1 (2nd Part, Section 2)

There are three arm swinging drills in this section.

The swinging moves are big, expansive making them suitable to be used as a normal qigong exercise if that be your poison.

We use the arm swinging to train long range power. The good thing about using arm swinging is that they are easy to learn and easy to remember.

If you are training for power then you would need to learn how to use the stance to do the swinging, to accelerate the movement of the striking arm, to generate the power, and to use the swinging for attack and defence.

Though the basic arm swinging movement is a long range movement, you can shorten the movement to use it at a shorter range.

Each of the three arm swinging movement has a range of applications. The transition from one movement to the next teaches how to change between the arm swings when used as attacking techniques. This needs to be studied to understand how to keep up a steady barrage of strikes, how to change when opponent attempts to defend against your strikes.

Arm swinging drills introduce the principle of using a sharp drop to power a strike which involves the study of how to accelerate your body movements and the use of dantian to connect to the back to pump the power out to the striking part.

Power Training in SKD Training Sequence No. 1 (2nd Part, Section 1)

Form should not be separated from the function.

Similarly, power generation should not be separated from the technique.

This is one of the current problems facing Tai Chi practitioners. Instead of training the power generation together with the technique they tend to focus solely on the power generation.

As a result, the power generation process is clunky, taking too much time to set up and consequently slow rendering it impractical against any opponent that won’t stand still and keep moving.

Slowing down a movement then suddenly speeding up also does not an effective fajing make. Such method can look nice but try it against a moving opponent and you will find that it is too slow to be of use.

When we do SKD training the first consideration is that the form, function, power, speed and change must all be present in each and every technique.

For example, in between the salutation and the three basic arm swinging exercises we have a 6 movement sequence that teaches the hand to attack and defend quickly a defined space.

The entire sequence teaches a very clear cut basic method of power generation based on the use of compress-release.

But that’s not all. Right at the beginning of the sequence there is a detail on how to connect to the ground using the stance.

In addition, there is also the matter of how to bring the hand up and in the process priming the body to be in a state of compression before releasing the power in the next movement.

As you keep practicing and becoming more and more familiar with the movement you will be able to cut off excess and unnecessary movements. From this point you should be able to move efficiently using only the amount of movement and effort necessary.

Once your body can feel the subtlety in the entire flow of movement from the feet through the body to the hands you will be able to issue power with little prior preparation. At this stage you should be able to issue the power over a shorter range.

The flow of movements in this part also teaches how to attack and defend non-stop. You can use the techniques with or without contact.

If you can’t seem to get the power generation in this part you should focus on the power generation of the three swinging arm drills. Read the second part here.

Decoding SKD Training Sequence No. 1 – Part 7

The seventh part of the Training Sequence is the last part. When the fifth and sixth part is considered together with this part you can notice an overall strategy of control if you have been practicing consistently.

A series of mid range techniques is introduced while moving linearly forward. The last part teaches the twist and step method for changing your position quickly.

In addition, this part serves as an introduction to how we integrate iKali with SKD. The empty hand techniques here can be used with a weapon such as a knife, tactical flashlight or tactical pen.

For this purpose we just need to teach how to access the weapon from the place that we are carrying it.

We will also have to point out the change in targets to be struck with the weapon. There are non-lethal and lethal targets to be considered.

Most of the information mentioned in these series of posts can be found in the 2020 and 2021 Zoom lessons posted in the Slack group. The only information not covered is how to use the weapon in the seventh part.

Decoding SKD Training Sequence No. 1 – Part 6

The topic of how to use the 5 Tigers Descending Mountain is continued in the sixth part of the Training Sequence.

The use of the mid range 6-blocks is introduced here. You should practice the mid range 6-blocks separately to automate the movement of the hands in moving and changing smoothly between any of the six movements.

You should also extend the practice of the 6-blocks by studying how you can move between the long, mid, close range 6-blocks.

In this section we learn how to move from long to short range as we are using the Charp Chui. A second method to recover our position in the event our Charp Chui is intercepted is shown here. Practice this with caution with a partner as it may cause injury if you are not careful.

The series of three rapid strikes at the beginning of the section serves as an introduction to delivering rapid, continuous strikes. As extension of study learn the Training Sequence No. 2 which teaches how to strike continously from different angles and levels.

Decoding SKD Training Sequence No. 1 – Part 4

The fifth part of the Training Sequence examines the application of 5 Tigers Descending Mountain, a series of techniques built around the Charp Chui.

We also learn about the use of the long range 6-blocks. This is a series of quick movements of the hand to control and open up the training partner’s gate to a strike.

The long range and short range version of 6-blocks should be practiced alongside the fifth part.

The use of 5 Tigers Descending Mountain is predominantly at the long range here with the introduction of one technique to recover our range in the event the training partner is able to move in close. This is also the reason why we need to study the close range 6-blocks.

Decoding SKD Training Sequence No. 1 – Part 3

Moving along we arrive at the fourth part. The first technque covered is the Yum Chui which is practiced with lateral step.

The first level of skill in Yum Chui is the use of parry and punch with Yum Chui. This also trains how to line up the target, the biomechanics of generating power, how to punch like shooting an arrow.

A later level to focus on is how to step and strike as a response instead of having to parry, step and strike.

The second punch to be trained is the Chao Chui. This sequence is made up of two punches – Gwa Chui and Chao Chui. For the learning of basic mechanics of moving both punches are practiced as power strikes.

The next part of training is to use the Gwa Chui not just as a punch but as a clearing movement. For this purpose we can do the clearance forcefully or as a contact-pull-clear technique.

The third strike is the Sao Chui. The Sao Chui trains the body 6-harmonies in executing a power strike.

In Sao Chui we learn the importance of setting up before we try to strike. This is because a big circular strike takes a longer time to execute as compared to a linear strike.

To minimize exposure as we throw the Sao Chui we would set up the proper conditions first so that the training partner has a much smaller chance to hit us as we are moving in to do a Sao Chui.

Sao Chui is also an excellent vehicle to learn how to angle the body properly as we perform all the motions of this strike.

Chao Chui and Sao Chui are also practiced with a lateral step. Once we are familiar with them we will then add on diagonal stepping to the three strikes. We can then learn how to defend, avoid getting hit and then follow up by moving in to deliver our response.

Before we move on to sections four to six, we should learn how to use Yum Chui, Chao Chui and Sao Chui with the techniques in the sections that came before. In this way, even though we have less techniques, however, their combinations will expand our repertoire of techniques, basically being able to do more with less.

Decoding SKD Training Sequence No. 1 – Part 2

The next section, the third part, teaches how to lower your level by dropping down quickly by either opening up your stance and lowering yourself or just squat down.

As we do this we perform a parry with each hand. What is not obvious is that this is also a training on how to use the lowering of the body to generate a strong slap with the palm.

The movements then continue to what appears to be opening up the arms. This is training a low level back hand strike. When used as a technique we can also apply the back hand strike to the middle and high level. Performed continuously the parry and back hand strike is a one linked sequence technique. This section trains three levels of attack. The back hand can be substituted with a back fist in application.

The last part in the third section trains a movement that probes, control and open up the training partner’s guard. The first movement is a probe which also functions as an attack. If there is no guard then attack. If there is a guard then probe to find or elicit an opening. When an opening is found control it so that you can enter. The movement here also trains the opening sequence of a hidden stepping pattern.

Decoding SKD Training Sequence No. 1 – Part 1

In SKD we mostly use simple drills to develop speed, strength, body movement and body intelligence. However, for learning how to change we use short sequences.

When we string together some of these drills and training sequences we have our Training Sequence No. 1. Our training sequence is not a locked down, not allowed to change, type of form.

Instead, we use the training sequence to begin our learning journey. The movements inside can be changed, modified, subtract or added to as our understanding and mastery changes. In this way we don’t have to keep learning more forms to learn new stuff.

The first part of Training Sequence No. 1 teaches basic strategy and change within the movements of the salutation. So when learning the salutation we can consider the usage of the 4 key movements from the aspect of long, mid and close range from striking to control via locking and throwing. We have also designed the movement to be iKali ready in that the techniques of iKali can be plugged into SKD movements easily with little or no need for modification.

The second part of the Training Sequence starts with the learning of how to stand and use the stance to generate power. The power generated is transmitted out through the arms by the use of natural swinging motion. For this learning we have three double arms swinging drills.

We could use just one arm swinging drill but we have three. The reason is because the arm swinging drills also teach basic attacking techniques and how to change between the three swinging strikes. Just before we begin the three swinging drills after the salutation we have a 6-movement sequence that teaches the workings of the 6 harmonies in governing direction when used in striking. This 6-movement sequence is meant to be used together with the three arm swinging movements.

The attributes that we want to develop with the 6-movement sequence and three arm swinging drills is fast, non-stop, circular striking using whipping power generated from the use of hip, waist, leg connection. The arms must be relaxed yet heavy like a whip, moving non-stop like water overcoming an obstacle.

To extend your understanding learn to use these techniques with the movements in the salutation. The salutation sequence has two obvious stepping movement and a hidden stepping. Breakdown the 6-movement sequence and three arm swinging drills into digestible movements and pair them individually or in combination with different parts of the salutation sequence. Drill the breakdowns until you can easily change between them, giving rise to spontaneous sequences that arise from the input you are getting from your training partner.