2021 Day 1

Day 1 of 2021 was a quiet day.

Quiet day is good. Best thing to do in the morning is practice Tai Chi.

Just kept going with the form practice until I decided to stop. As my teacher said the objective is to practice.

Once done with the mentally intense practice of Tai Chi I thought of doing something more physical.

I haven’t touched the pole for a few months. So let’s get some practice in if only for short time.

Pole practice especially with the focus on just doing a few simple, repetitive techniques is good for practice speed, power and stamina.

We don’t work on one factor at a time. We work on all of them at the same time. Power is only useful if you are fast enough to use it.

And the ability to use power depends on whether you can get to the position you need to be when you need to be there.

That’s why in SKD we will at a later stage learn the long pole that Master Leong taught. It is a very short sequence but that’s good because we don’t have to burden our mind with trying to remember too many movements.

The Secret 3

The final key is Commitment to Improve.

You must want to improve, to rise about the herd. This is how you become good.

Someone will always be better than you. This does not mean you should not want to rise above it all. Treat it as a personal objective.

Wanting to improve means you will find ways and means to be better. It is said that the key to Tai Chi is to relax, to sung. Everyone has heard of this. But do you really know what this means?

It is easy to take sung for granted. Yeah, sung, I know it too. Can you explain it, put it into words that any listener can understand clearly what it means, instead of it being a vague, ambiguous assertion? Anyone can say sung is sung, very difficult to explain. Correct?

Wrong! Sung can be explained clearly. The method to acquire it can also be explained, laid down, dissected just as clearly. To practice it to fruition is another question.

If you do not know the process of sung then how do you know whether you are improving, to what degree and when you have attained it?

So wanting to sung is also a question of wanting to improve how to sung. This search for better result is what leads us to find the one way that can help us to attain our goal. Others may find their own way.

Don’t let people praise you and let it go to your head. Keep working on improving what you are working on. In the search to achieve sung we must get to realizing the ultimately result of sung. When you know what this is it is easy to check the result of your hard practice when you get there.

We don’t have to be told we are sung only to find out to our dismay that the praise was an empty praise the moment we play hands with our friends who give a bit of resistance.

Don’t be satisfied so easily. Don’t accept too easily what people tell you. Put in the practice. Keep working on the method you have learned, optimize it. Continue to seek to improve. Then you will find success one day.

The Secret 2

The second ingredient to a successful learning journey is Optimized Method.

In the practice of martial arts as in life there is a trade-off in everything that we do. For example, if we want fast result we end up being less efficient and clean in our movements.

However, if you are willing to slow down, to take the time to learn, practice, relearn and refine then your movements will come out cleaner with minimal wastage of energy and motion.

A straight forward optimized method would be how to minimize input to maximize output. Or to put it another way how can I shut you down using the least possible movements and effort.

One way to minimize input is by not using more energy to perform a task than we have to. To optimize this we need to then ask will using less input compromise the effectiveness of our technique or can it still maximize the effectiveness. Every system has their take on this question. Find one that fits you.

In SKD straight forward means to KISS – keep it simple stupid! That’s why we study three major strikes initially. No one having more if we can’t even come to grips with three.

We use one body structure. We use one mother stance. We use one major method of moving the body to get the power out. How much more simpler can this be? If you can’t get this then anything else more complex will be a challenge to master.

We optimize our practice time by learning the bare minimum. We optimize the time we have daily for practice. We optimize our muscle memory development by always working on the key basics.

We go for a natural way of moving so we can pick up the movements much more easily. It does not mean you don’t need to practice, just that you don’t have to spread your time too thinly over too many drills.

Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Work on the essential foundation skills and you can go far.

The Secret

I’ve been reading to understand more about the learning process.

From this I can surmise that the secret to mastering anything is simply Practice + Optimized Method + Commitment to Improve = Skill.

Let’s take the first ingredient – Practice. My Tai Chi teacher said that my daily objective should be just to practice. My Kali teacher said that all students must try to hit the first 10,000 repetitions in order to get the muscle memory.

I am sure most of us know this. But how many of us really put in the practice? Its one thing to know it and another to do it.

And I’m not talking about the occasional practice but the persistent practice, daily if possible. And not for five minutes but for hours. How many are willing to put in the time?

So that’s your first hurdle. I recently asked the SKD class to do a simple one week challenge. The objective is to practice a short 4-movement sequence using the hand. It can be done standing up, sitting down even lying down. To make things simpler we will just practice for an hour for only the weaker hand which for most people would be the left hand.

So how many attempted the practice?

One person.

How many managed to put in one hour practice for seven days?

No one.

What is the conclusion here? This is easy – in not trying out for one week one will never know and ten years will easily pass by. You will one day look back and wonder why you never managed to master it.

All it will take is an investment of time for one week. Seven hours is less than a full work day of eight hours. And for that you will end up wasting ten years of time that once gone will never come back.

If you ever have a new student and you want to test his commitment just teach him a simple exercise, ask him to do it for a week and come back to show you the result of his practice before you are willing to admit him as a student. This is a simple way to filter out those students who say they are serious and those who really are serious.

If you still want to take in those who just claim to be serious at least you know you don’t have to spend too much time trying to correct them. No sense wasting your precious time. Instead, focus on those who really want it.

Like a Snake

When we couple what we learn from arm swinging with the 4-circling wrist exercise we can develop hands that are stick, wrap and coil like a snake.

Last week we had a challenge to develop this flavor but alas only Paul took up the challenge and even then he didn’t follow closely on the requirements laid out.

As a result, he wasted nearly an entire week until he finally decided to follow the requirements. It was at this point that he could see his hand movement making progress at the end of that one day where he decided to follow the requirement.

It is not necessarily the case that the teacher did not teach the secrets but that the student failed to give himself a chance to really learn. Sometimes all it takes is a leap of faith that requires a commitment for a short period of time. If you fail to invest 7 hours then you will lose 10 years in the end.

Biu Jee?

Our arm swinging can be used flexibly. For example, when we tightened the motion of the arm and use the strikes consecutively it becomes a thrusting finger attack or Biu Jee as it is known in Wing Chun.

Master Leong called this White Snake Spits Poison. We normally pair this with footwork while attacking in an elusive manner. Since we are doing a sitting down lesson obviously stepping is out of the question.

My non-Ip Man Wing Chun teacher said that Biu Jee is a form that teaches a certain principle of attack. This video gives a cursory example of what an attack using this principle can be like.

Application of Arm Swinging

The application of our 2nd arm swinging exercise is not always obvious.

However, it fits into our model of using long bridge. Below is an example of how this works :-

If we want to make the strike more powerful we can always add in the biomechanics of swallow, spit, float, sink.

When we train sitting down we are isolating certain key components to study. The sum of each key component can help to amplify our power.

Chair Training

Before the SKD Zoom class started today one student said that he was sick. However, he would attend but not participate fully.

Instead of doing our normal standup practice I had them do the entire class sitting in a chair. In this way the sick student can participate fully.

In this regards there are some things that can be learned easier when sitting down rather than standing up.

What would be a limitation on the ability to move becomes an advantage to learning how to economize movement in the light of the constraint imposed by the chair frame.

I focused on teaching the things that can be practiced while sitting down. To start off while I showed how one of the basic arm swinging exercise can be practiced not as a regular arm loosening and power development exercise but as a means to train the application of a technique.

We examine how this one swinging arm exercise can be trained a few ways. Then we added in other components to deepen the skill.

Basically, everything that is taught today is the foundation for how to make our Charp Chui come alive.

This is achieved by using the exercises to develop our ability to flow like water, darting in quickly like a snake’s tongue and changing swiftly like the wind.

Baseball Whip

In SKD we use a series of arm swinging exercises to learn how to use the body to move to execute techniques and issue power.

By learning to relax the arms to connect them properly to the back and the lower body our arms can deliver power in the manner of a baseball ball tied to the end of a whip.

SKD Single Whip

The genius of Grandmaster Nip Chee Fei is in identifying the essential elements of what works and using it for his own secret art of Pok Khek Kuen on which SKD is built.

An example of this is how GM Nip integrated the hook hand movement from the Single Whip technique into the Sao Chui strike to make it more effective.