Feel, Connect, Expand

A teaching emphasis this week is the use of the movement of turn body, left heel kick to learn about slow compression, sudden expansion to utilize fajing in the heel kick.

We start off by turning the body 180 degrees nice and gentle. Left arm closes in, right arm follows with the same.

Feel the movement, feel the timing, feel the body closing.

Now open up by expanding the body, feel the unity, the connection. Nice and easy. Do it slowly first to feel.

After a few tries its time to do it the way we usually do it. Turn body, close arms……………… now suddenly expand body, arms and away the left kick goes.

Is it correct?

Let’s do a test.

Both arms closing in. Slowing down. Partner puts each hand on each of trainee’s upper arm. Apply some pressure, hold the pressure constant.

On completion of arms closing, the trainee suddenly opens up both arms and kicks. If the arms opening are correct the power will be strong and send the partner off balance. If not, nothing much will happen. The trainee will struggle to knock the partner off.

Huajing & Fajing

Our Yang form trains subtle ways of huajing and fajing. You need to be able to control your movements to access them.

Huajing requires you to hold back, to control your movement. If you lack the control you end up resisting and you waste your strength. Worse still the opponent’s position is still intact and he can carry on attacking you.

A good huajing causes your oppponent’s strength to roll off smoothly with minimal, optimized movement. At the moment his strength is neutralized then your chance to attack is there.

When the opening is available then you must fajing quickly. If you take too long to set up your fajing then the opponent will have time to fight back. You need to practice doing fajing naturally so that you can eliminate movements you do not really need. Once you have deleted the excess movements you should be able to fajing quickly in the blink of an eye.

When you fajing you must take care not to push hard but to strike hard. A hard push is not necessarily a strong fajing. A hard, forceful strike is the result of a strong force impulse resulted in the focusing of concentrated power at the point of impact. Such a force is injurious even when it does not look powerful. This is what old timers call an internal strike.

So pay attention to your practice and the skills mentioned in the Tai Chi Classics will come alive in your hands.

Move Less to Move More

Learning how to use the intent to control the movement of the body takes a lot of effort. The question is how to have economy of motion while being able to generate a functional force.

To solve this problem requires an examination of key issues such as :-

a) Difference between pushing and rotating

b) Addressing the key components of structural alignment and connection

c) How to rapidly and efficiently deploy the power

This video shows the learning of the above and the effort required to do a lot internally while moving very little outwardly. This is how we define our “internal” approach to Tai Chi.

Dim View of Dim Mak

Is Dim Mak for real?

None of my Tai Chi teachers ever talked of dim mak. Does this mean its not real?

I once got the opportunity to meet George Dillman, that Karate chap who was at the forefront of the movement to popularize dim mak, but he didn’t turn up. As it turned out he was not even registered for stay at the hotel where we were supposed to meet.

Years later I found out that before our meeting Dillman had demonstrated to the Shaolin guys and they showed him up. Bummer.

The next time I saw dim mak for real was when Master Cheong Fook taught me the dim mak forms. He explained that it was more of a delayed death touch in that you strike at a certain point, cause a blood clot and tomorrow the opponent dies.

Except there is a little bit of a logic issue here. In the meantime, if the opponent is still moving does it not mean that he still has the opportunity to continue hitting you?

So unless you can hit the person so hard or in such a manner that you can KO him on the spot then dim mak wouldn’t be of much use. But then if you want to KO a person wouldn’t the time spent learning dim mak be better spent on perfecting say Mike Tyson’s devastating hook punch?

I mean there are a lot of videos of Iron Mike knocking his opponents out so there are tons of proof that it works. But I have not seen any master actually do it against someone who was actively fighting back. And best of all, you don’t have to remember what the points are, their names, points to hit in sequence, and time to hit what points.

Master Cheong was famous for his fighting ability. However, it wasn’t for his ability to use dim mak even though he was giving me a demonstration of how it would work. No, he didn’t knocked me out. He just showed that there is an actual logic to it by demonstrating that if a certain point was touched it would affect another part of the body, kinda like if you depress a water hose on one end the flow on the other end would be slower.

If dim mak is that effective why have we not seen masters of dim mak get into a ring to show that it can work on a resisting opponent? Or maybe its a case of it would only work on a believing, complying dummy.

Master Lo Man Kam, the nephew of Ip Man, once explained why dim mak would not work. He said that its one thing to hit a particular spot on a non moving arm and another to hit it on a moving arm.

In the meantime, I would give a benefit of a doubt, a wee bit to those who say it can work, but I am not holding my breath waiting for a convincing demo against a resisting opponent.

P.S. – I wrote this after reading the account of someone who recently attended a dim mak seminar by a famous master. The cronies tried to work the dim mak magic on the attendee but it didn’t affect him. Maybe they need to brainwash him first………

The Killing Gung

I think my student has not expected the recent hard training.

Up, down, up down he wielded the mighty pole trying to nail the basics. One, two, one, two. Spear, slam, spear, slam.

Training to acquire power through pole training is basically persistence and prolonged training in mastering the basics. Whether we do a 1-2 or 1-2-3 sequence does not matter. Just keep on working at it.

Get the sequence down, familiarize with it, when the basics look set, refine it, repeat basics + corrections, nail them, refine again. Again and again.

Its still not bad yet as he is still using a light white wax pole. Using a wooden pole will be more tiring. Still its nothing as compared to using a 9-foot pole much later.

Basic familiarity. Basic process. Basic biomechanics. Add the small details. Find the spiral motions. Find the right timing for triggering sudden acceleration and sudden braking to create shock on impact.

As with the weapon, so it is with the body. The pole biomechanics transfer across to use of empty hand techniques. Basic techniques like straight punch is transformed with the body integration and gearing coordination of the entire body movement. Shoulder stroke becomes so much more forceful.



I woke up with this label stuck in my mind. To get this off my mind I wrote something earlier this morning on Facebook but by evening the label is still stuck in my mind. So I shall write a post here to exorcise it from my mind.

Why POLErobics?

Well, if you look at the video below this should be obvious.

By association this is a practice using the pole. If you keep moving and moving, faster and faster, non-stop, over and over, the speed and intensity of the movements will work your lungs and before you know it you will be grasping for breath.

The aerobics part is not obvious in this video because he is only moving at medium speed. Once he is familiar with the sequence he will be able to go faster. At that time the aerobics in this practice will come to the fore, and then we will be able to clearly see how pole + aerobics = POLErobics.

The pole is the first weapon I learned from my first Tai Chi teacher, hence it is my favorite weapon. However, this sequence here is not from him.

Instead, this sequence is from my Ngok Gar Kuen teacher, the late Grandmaster Cheong Fook, whom I consider to be my best teacher on the long pole. GM Cheong said that it is important to drill this sequence daily.

After years of playing with this sequence it is my opinion that the ability to apply the long pole hinges on the mastery of these three techniques that we term Arrow Pole, Killing Pole and Flinging Pole. Of the three movements I feel that Killing Pole is the most important with Flinging Pole coming second and Arrow Pole last.

Grandmaster Cheong Fook teaching the Arrow Pole

I taught my student this sequence to help him develop the skill of using the long pole form from my first Tai Chi teacher. In addition, this sequence can help to master certain key principles from the Tai Chi Classics which in turn can be applied to the practice of push hands.