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.

Shock Pulse Power

Concentration of power. That’s what Tuhon Apolo calls what we would term as fajing in Chinese martial arts.

There are different ways to generate power to suit the delivery method. In Kali if you practice basic strikes daily with the sticks you will acquire power in your empty hand strikes. You don’t really need to understand why though its not hard to do so. You just need to do it.

In fact, you can establish a baseline by checking how strong you can deliver say a palm strike. Then do another check once you have practice striking with a stick for 1000 times a day for 7 days. If you have an old tire you can strike that would be better.

Concentration of power is what we term as Chap Jung Lik in Cantonese. For example, one of my Wing Chun teachers said that hitting with the tip of a long pole is devastating because it is like hitting with a harden phoenix eye fist. A phoenix eye fist is powerful because the power is concentrated onto a striking tip.

In Tai Chi we think of power generation as a shock force impulse. If we use a long duration impulse then the shock would be greatly diminished. Such an impulse is good for demo where you want to send your partner flying over a distance.

In Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Tai Chi prolonged training in the form teaches us to use a short pulse as well. However, this short pulse is unlike a sudden, whipping external movement that we would normally associate with the term “short pulse”. Below is an example of what a short pulse power generation would look like :-

Some might look at this and think the strike is not powerful. If I add in another trigger mechanism into the fajing process the result will look better :-

Even then this demo is toned down. A properly delivered short pulse power will not send the person flying back. Instead, he would just kneel on the spot in pain. I did this once to show a skeptical person. After that I understood why GM Wei stopped such demo ever since he nearly injured someone fatally with it.

In Tai Chi we don’t just concentrate the power. We also focus the mind in that we have a specific mental target, a mental process, stuff we do but after years of training the many steps have basically become just one step. At this stage the fajing becomes easy. That’s why we don’t need elaborate steps to do it; no getting into a lower stance, no chambering, no asking the partner to stand still.

I’ve been thinking over the question of how does one teach this type of shock pulse fajing in a shorter duration. Would it be possible to break it down into a number of easier to learn steps? One main issue with learning it currently is that if the student is not good at visualizing and feeling in his body what his mind is visualizing then learning will be a struggle.

Will keep this in view for now.

What Is & Is Not

What is Tai Chi?

Different people define it differently just as different people will use it differently. There’s no single consensus as to what Tai Chi is.

Sometimes you get a vague definition of what Tai Chi. Or sometimes an incomplete idea is used to define Tai Chi like saying that a car is a wheel but then bicycles and skateboards also have wheels.

The more I research, the more I learn, the more I read, the more confusing the picture becomes. It might seem to become clearer but when you really practice it and especially try to use it then the reality does not do justice to the ideal of what Tai Chi is supposed to be.

The Tai Chi Classics provide the framework of what Tai Chi is, that is, if you believe that they are true. Some believe in parts of it, some deny it and some like me just wonder if we are missing something here. My teacher said that the Tai Chi Classics is a record of the experiences of those who have gone before.

Good except what is written still does not seem to make a lot of sense. Well, maybe some parts do but many parts don’t. Some sound nonsensical, some I can’t wrap my head around. You would think that since I am learning Tai Chi I should be able to understand what the various writers mean but I don’t, not for a long time anyway.

Below is one of those demos I do during lesson to explain and show what our approach to Tai Chi is :-

After many years of hunting for the elusive it that is the Tai Chi written about in the Tai Chi Classics I believe that the Yang style Tai Chi of Grandmaster Wei Shuren comes closest to it. I can actually make sense of what the Tai Chi Classics mean after practicing the style!

If some of the things in the Tai Chi Classics don’t make sense to you it can be because :-

a) Their model is different from your model

b) What they wrote can only be understood once you reach advanced level

Based on what I have observed I would say that if you can’t understand the Tai Chi Classics it is very likely that your model is not the same, maybe some parts are the same, but in some critical parts not the same. So the parts that is not the same is like a path that takes you in a different direction hence you won’t see the sight you should see if you take the path that is written about.

So if you want to understand the Tai Chi Classics find the path that leads you to understand it. A question is why should you want to understand it?

The reason is because if you understand the Tai Chi Classics it is a means to confirm that you have attained mastery of the principles that exist in those days. Remember that being traditional is not simply about your master learning from master Z who learned from Master Y……. all the way back to Master A, the founder. Being traditional means have the same understanding and mastery of what Tai Chi is from as far back as we can trace it. The writings serve to give an informal confirmation of this.

Why I put this video as an example is because if you examine it closely you would notice the lack of attempting to root or spiral or breath in-out. Yet, there is a tangible force that can be felt and issued to affect the person receiving it. So how can this be performed?

Some might feel that this is nothing but a trick that is not practical. I treat it as a means to illustrate the workings of the intent. When the intent is used with normal movement the intent can amplify the physical movement. An example is shown below of the use of Push Energy with a strike that can fit easily into a normal application that calls for a punch :-

The above should give an idea of what is not the Tai Chi that is written about in the Tai Chi Classics.

What is the Tai Chi that approximates the Tai Chi described in the Tai Chi Classics is harder to pinpoint, not without a lot of effort in sleuthing to find this elusive animal. Or sometimes luck just dump it in our lap.

What is missing in the Tai Chi Classics is the how to do it method. Perhaps this is deliberate because the objective of many martial arts text is to serve as a reminder rather than a how to practice text. There many subtleties and nuances in actual practice that is difficult to describe. This could be the reason why few Tai Chi texts go into any meaningful depth. Those that do, such as GM Wei’s books, tend to fly over the head of most readers. Despite practicing his style it still took me many more years to make sense of what he wrote about.

When the many that purports to be the mainstream fail to explain, then the obscure no matter how little known it is could well be a path that leads us to the destination we want to go. So sometimes we need to empty and scrub our mind of preconceived notions of what is and is not Tai Chi to allow ourselves to see when we finally glimpse it.

The Kua & Winding 3

The Sau Chui is like a tight diagonal whipping strike.

This is necessary to minimize our exposure as we are striking with the Sau Chui.

If the angle of the Sau Chui is too near to horizontal it is easier for the opponent to block.

The diagonal, near vertical movement also allows for easier connection to the kua.

The Kua & Winding

The kua has an important role in Sau Chui.

Aside from being part of the power generation process, the kua enables us to swing the Sau Chui quickly and stopping it at the end of the movement without causing us to lose our balance.

In order to do this properly we must learn not to do unnecessary movements like swaying at the end of the Sau Chui.

The Kua & The Power

This is a basic sequence we use in SKD to train the kua.

The kua is worked through the stance and controls the movement of the arms to convert kinetic to potential to kinetic energy.

This is a fundamental movement in the generation of power using a combination of compress, release, swing, whip, float, sink motions.

Cracking the Whip

In Tai Chi we stress control of the vertical axis because it is one of the more important keys in allowing us to rotate and move about quickly without losing our balance.

In this video from this week’s SKD Zoom class I explain this principle :-

When we use the vertical axis in conjunction with other principles we can turn quickly to get our circular strikes out like cracking a whip. This video illustrates this point :-

Axe Chopping Principle

In this week’s SKD I delved into the principle of axe chopping to deliver a strike.

Interestingly, in a non-mainstream Wing Chun that I learned we have a punch called Tup Chui which is literally Hammering Punch in which the punch is not straight out but delivered in a downward curving manner. My final Wing Chun teacher also punched in this manner and he is able to punch really fast and powerfully using this process.

I had also encountered this way of punching in the Biu Jee form of the Ip Man style when my senior taught me this version from one of Ip Man’s lesser known disciple. This punch is performed at the end of every section.

The video below is an introduction :-

Here is where I mentioned the axe chopping in relation to Xingyi’s Pi Quan :-

In SKD this is how we use arm swinging to develop the chopping power :-

To be able to apply the chopping strike we use Tai Chi principles to learn how to relax and control our arm and body acting in concert to deliver the strike.

The arm-whole body movement is my adaptation of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Step Back Repulse Monkey from his 22-form. The arm rolling into backfist movement is the final movement in Repulse Monkey.