Insight 6.6 – The Five Bows

To possess strong, powerful, penetrating force you must seek to develop the attribute of outside flexible, inside inflexible which traditionally is referred to as hard-soft (剛柔).

This is consistent with how a bow stores and releases energy to power the flight of an arrow through the air, yet possessing penetrating power on impact with the target.

As a 21st generation Japanese longbow maker, Kanjuro Shibata, explained in a documentary “Why Japanese Longbows Are So Expensive” on the role of the inner core of the longbow known as nakauchi which is sandwiched between two layers of bamboo and why the nakauchi is harder than the outer bamboo strip :-

If you make a bow out of only flexible materials it bends well when you draw the bow, but force to return to the original position is weak.

Japanese bows are made by combining inflexible and flexible materials and by combining bamboo and wood in this way, we can take advantage of their respective strengths.

In the human body there are 5 bows, namely :-

a) Arm bow X 2
b) Leg bow X 2
c) Spinal bow X 1

In order to train the body to behave like a bow one must understand how to open up the body, stretch it out to make it strong yet inflexible like the nakauchi. Then the arms are trained to be supple so as to be able to go with and bend with the opponent’s force, receiving it into your body’s bow string, load it onto the body bow that is used, and then return the opponent’s strength to send him off, or impart a penetrating force to injure him.

When there is no opportunity to make contact to borrow the opponent’s strength then you load your own striking limb onto the relevant body bow and launch the striking limb like an arrow.

Insight 6.1 – Physics

1. INTRODUCTION

Force generation in Tai Chi is a function of the use of biomechanics consistent with the laws of physics. The core basis for force generation is the conversion of potential to kinetic energy and vice versa.

How to convert potential energy to kinetic energy in a recurring manner, a constant process of store and release is a topic that is studied physically when you practice the 22-form.

2. LEARNING

Various mechanisms strewn throughout the form whether in the form of an actual physical motion or mental imagery is to train the use of intent in tandem with biomechanical actions to generate force.

An example of this would be the palm strike at the end of Brush Knee, Twist Step whereby :-

a) Physical motion – the body moves towards the arm to initiate the potential energy storing motion. Then the hand comes out to strike. This is powered by kinetic energy which has been converted from the stored up potential energy.

b) Mental motion – since we move at a slow pace when practicing Tai Chi this makes it difficult to initiate a sudden shock force through the physical palm strike as this requires the ability to suddenly accelerate the arm and perform the strike like a whip.

Why we avoid doing this is because to do so would be turning this into a fast form practice. We would also be missing out on other ways of training such as the use of imagery to optimize the speed for moving the striking hand from Point A to Point B.

3. ENERGETIC FORCES

In GM Wei’s Yang style Tai Chi we study six fundamental energetic forces (,,,,, ) that is augmented by additional two forces (,) for a total of eight energetic forces. These forces can be represented by mental spherical lines outside the body that tracing the path of the particular force in space between the point of origin of the force and the convergent point that the energetic forces are targeted at. Yes, you read this correctly – forces. Not force. Forces.

We normally read of how Peng Jing is used to fajin. When we do fajin we use not just Peng Jin but An Jin and Ji Jin together; at the same time (we call this Jin grouping as Peng An Ji (掤按擠); the other grouping being Cai Lie Lu (采列捋)). The term for this mixing of energetic forces is Blending Energy Method (混合勁法).

We use a trio of forces instead of a singular force because this makes it more difficult for the opponent to counteract your force when they are coming from three different directions simultaneously. When you add in the augmented forces you can have a total of four or five forces directed at one at the opponent.

Insight 7.1 – Instant Power Primer

1. INTRODUCTION

Some would view the ability to fajin as having the strength to push an opponent off balance, perhaps so hard that he would fall on the ground causing injury when parts of his body hits the ground hard or slamming into a wall.

Fajin could also be referring to the ability to generate a shock force which relies on mass and acceleration to create a sudden surge of power at the moment of impact. This type of force is normally used for striking.

It is fairly normal to hear that the ability to fajin involves a long learning curve. This is correct if you looking into generating force with subtle and minimal outer movement. But if you are looking to be able to push strongly or hit with power then the learning process would only take a few months at most.

In this chapter I will introduce a quick, simple and effective way of acquiring the ability to strike with power by working on the key principles. Since the objective here is to learn fast, fail fast the method will be highly externalized.

Note that if you look through the information out there you will note that this method is considered by many to be an internal method. However, to us this method is considered external at least the way it is presented for the purpose of learning fast.

To make this method more “internal” modification is required to refine the movement of the body and lower limbs. To render this method internal as defined by GM Wei’s style is just a matter of separating clearly the use of intent and the minimizing of unnecessary movements so that the use of force is no longer apparent.

In this way there is no need to learn GM Wei’s Tai Chi as a separate method later. Instead, you can simply use the various imagery models to teach the body to move in an intent directed motion. This takes a lot of practice because you do not become internal overnight. You will still go through a movement learning process similar to the instant method mentioned here, shedding more and more externalized movements until you acquire the skill of moving in accordance to the principles that you learn through the imagery models.

2. LEARNING PROGRESS

There are many ways to learn how to generate power. The method outlined here is one which can be learned easily as it is not exactly rocket science. You just need to be open-minded enough to try it, work on it for a few minutes daily while monitoring what you are feeling.

Thereafter, you just need to continue putting in the work, drilling the basic exercises daily until you get it. The more familiar you are with what you are doing the easier it is to identify areas of improvements. With each improvement you will be a step closer to getting it.

3. PRINCIPLES

To learn how to generate power you need to understand the formula F = ma on a functional level whereby :-

a) F = Force
b) m = Mass
c) a = Acceleration

Therefore, your ability to generate force depends on how much mass you can put in motion and how fast you can move the striking limb from a starting speed.

4. METHODOLOGY

There is an exact definition for mass in physics but for the layman we can think of it as throwing our weight around. We can begin our learning by asking the question of what do we mean exactly by throwing our weight around.

When we learn something we can learn at the micro level and at the macro level. Micro level learning is isolating and zooming into a particular aspect of the learning. Macro level learning is to consider all the relevant aspects of a technique as a whole.

I) Micro Learning

When doing fajin we use the whole body but since this is an instant primer (which means you will get it fairly quickly) we will focus first on the micro aspect. The arm (upper arm and forearm) is a macro unit that can be divided into three micro units namely the wrist, elbow and shoulder. We begin by studying how the wrist, elbow and shoulder respectively works in the force generation process.

a) Wrist – isolated flexing / extending

You can do this study sitting down because we want to prevent ourselves from using the body unconsciously. So sit comfortably and rest your right wrist and elbow on the table.

Next raise your wrist 6 inches off the table (I actually used a tape measure to check). Keep your elbow on the table and do not raise it. Now hold a small rubber ball (or a crumpled piece of paper, anything with some weight to it) in your right hand.

Place your left hand on the back of your right wrist (you want to be able to allow your right hand to flex up and down). The purpose of the left hand is to inform you when your right wrist has moved up and down in tandem with the right hand.

Flex your right hand up and toss the ball onto the table by flexing it down. You will find that your throw is the strongest when your flex your hand all the way back (extension is the term used in biomechanics) to chamber it and on tossing flex it all the way down (flexion is the proper term for this action).

Beyond this you would need to extend and flex your arm at the elbow joint to have a stronger throw. You should also discover that you can lob the ball harder if you relax your wrist.

b) Elbow – isolated flexing / extending

Next we go on to examine the movement of the elbow. Place the tip of the elbow on the table and do not allow it to come off the table. Straighten your hand to line it up to the forearm and do not allow the wrist to flex or extend.

Keeping the wrist straight (yes, this is known as Convex Wrist in GM Wei’s Tai Chi) use the fingers to pick up the ball, lift it by flexing it. Next toss the ball by extending the elbow (remember to keep the wrist straight). This is a straightforward exercise.

c) Shoulder – isolated flexing / extending

Finally, we come to the shoulder. To examine the movement of the shoulder in flexing and extending keep your wrist straight and keep a bent elbow (with angle unchanging).

Now sit back away from the table with elbow off the table. Experiment with moving the fixed bent arm by flexing and extending at the shoulder. Once you are familiar with this try picking up the ball and tossing it by using the movement of the shoulder only.

II) Macro Learning

Once you have tried the Micro Learning you can put together what you have learned about the respective movement of the wrist, elbow and shoulder in moving to pick up and toss a ball down.

a) Whipping Using Arm

Now do the same exercise of tossing a ball except this time you can flex and extend the wrist, elbow and shoulder at the same time. Relax your arm, pick up the ball and raise it up to the height at which you will begin the toss.

Instead of tossing the ball, hold on to it and lower your arm as if tossing it. Just as you reach the lower end, raise the ball again and lower your arm again as if to toss the ball. Repeat a few times.

What did you observe of the movement of your arm if raising and lowering? If you raise and lower your arm while keeping it relax you would observe the tip of your fingers tracing a sinuous curve.

What did you feel? You should feel that you can lower your arm faster than when you raised it. This means that when your arm is doing the toss the downward movement is assisted by gravity which also makes it easier to accelerate the movement of your arm.

The above two observances relates to moving the entire arm like a whip. Instead of tossing a ball you could put a small firm pillow (if you do not have a striking bag) on the table and experiment striking it. Feel the difference when you move your arm like a whip a few times before striking the bag. Do the same by accelerating the movement of the arm when moving downwards to do the strike.

b) Whipping Using Arm + Body

After you have practiced the striking for a few more times you will become familiar with the movement of the arm. Try a few more times after this and you will be able to feel your body wanting to get involved to assist in the striking. Do not over think it, just move your body to add to the movement of your arm striking downwards.

c) Whipping Using Arm, Body + Legs

Finally, you can also use your legs to add more power to your movement. You can do this by stamping your foot or stand on your toes first then drop to your heels; use this to initiate the strike.

You can also do a short jump off the ground and use the falling motion of your body to add power to the downward strike (gravity!). If you like, you can also add a forceful exhale / grunt / kiai to further enhance the power.

Related study for wrist, elbow and shoulder to develop strength using a stick – refer to Estocadas : Abesedario; topic Pagsolondan, sub-topic Panguyat.

SUMMARY

This is what I would call external striking. For learning Tai Chi it is important that you know what external striking is. This will enable you to be able to tell the difference between external striking and internal striking.

Once you know what external striking is then you can learn to refine your movements. By paying attention to specific principles you can make your striking more in line with what internal striking is.

To spice up your movements with internal principles you would be working with stuff like the six harmonies, using the kua to move, body alignment, etc.

After this stage you can move on to what we consider to be internal striking. In this stage you work with imagery using intent to guide your movements. Attention is paid here to the process of visualization and qualia, specifically how it transform the way force is applied.

For more details refer to :-

i) TaijiKinesis Vol 1 : Navigating the Taijiquan Maze; reference Appendix B Principles Redefined 5.1 to 5.4 (page 100)

ii) TaijiKinesis Vol 2 : Learning the Taijiquan Form; reference 5.9 The 3-Count & The 5-Count (page 58), 5.9.1 Illustration of the 3-Count (page 59) and 5.10.3 Single Whip (page 63)

THE TAI CHI JOURNEY

Featured

1. INTRODUCTION

A journey begins with the first step; a practice with the first repetition.

More than four decades after the first foray into the study of Tai Chi it seems that the more I know, the more I do not know.

2. IMPORTANCE OF INSIGHTS

The beauty of the internet is the wealth of knowledge that is available. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing for too much knowledge can confuse even as it enlightens.

Yangstyleintention

In the old days my teachers did not look at my progress by the color of my belt for I had none save a leather belt to hold up my pants. Instead, they were interested in the insights that I had gained from the practice of what they had taught.

3. SOURCE OF INSIGHTS

Insights can come from practice.

Insights can also come from unexpected sources be it during the course of a conversation, of reading a book, of watching a video, of pondering a problem, and so on.

4. USING INSIGHTS

Insights can modify our practice and give rise to a new practice. An insight can be valid until it is not.

Insights are a means to an end. Do not get too hung up on them. Know them, use them and move on.

5. THE JOURNEY SO FAR

Last week I unpublished the 980 odd posts that has been posted on this blog since 2015. This is something I do regularly when I have a change in direction, interest, idea, and so on.

To move forward one must let go of the past. I work for a boss who would freely share knowledge. Customers may be appreciative of this but their appreciation does not result in more business. But then the business is run more on the lines of an interest than on a business.

I once asked the boss why she would do this. Her reply was there is plenty more knowledge where it came from and if one does not let go of existing knowledge then new knowledge cannot come in.

So I have decided to unpublish the old posts, throw open the window and let fresh posts come in. I have also closed some of the other channels of information so if you find that you can no longer access an app you now know why.

6. NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE

Most knowledge are organized. The depth of a subject matter can be such that the more well known, popularly presented knowledge is not doing it full justice. There may be other hidden aspects that we do not know of.

We can simplify knowledge. We can present complex knowledge. It depends on who we are catering to. It also depends on how much we want to inform the reader.

Some knowledge are intuitive, others counter-intuitive. Most of us will only ever scrape the surface of a topic. If we are lucky we might stumble onto a more in-depth version of the topic along the way.

Knowledge is not by nature linear. Knowledge though organized can be chaotic. Knowledge can be obviously linked or indirectly linked.

7. THE REVAMP

Over the years I have written the following eBooks for the general public :-

i) TaijiKinesis Vol 1 : Navigating the Taijiquan Maze
ii) TaijiKinesis Vol 2 : Learning the Taijiquan Form
iii) TaijiKinesis Official Handbook Volume 2 – Background
iv) TaijiKinesis Official Handbook Volume 4 – Learning Pole
v) The Ip Man Questions : Kicks, power & strategies in the martial art of Wing Chun
vi) 2-Dots : Six Learning Steps for Mastering Wing Chun’s Kicking Model

At one point I wanted to write down as much as I could of what I know but it has not gone beyond the planning stage as writing can take up a lot of time.

I am now trying to do this by using this blog to do so. I will not write in a linear fashion, in the order in which I want the information to be presented. Instead of writing an unlimited number of posts I will write a number of major posts with each post supported by minor posts that delve deeper into the main topics.

All the topics will be organized via an Index folder which you will see as a separate tab on this blog.

Some of these posts can be expected to be revised or even re-written over time until I consider it final in which case you will see a FINAL word after the topic name, for example, Insight 123 – Hitch Hikin’ (FINAL).

The only thing I cannot control nor anticipate is the life span of a blog in particular the hosting company, WordPress. If WordPress were to ever close then I will save all the information. Until then I want to keep it as a live book, one that keeps changing with the coming and going of knowledge.

8. SUMMARY

Insights.

Generate your own to move along the progress curve in your learning journey.