Mind Trains Body

Visualize a point in space. Fix it in your mind. Now point your left index finger at it.

Next, move your left index finger towards it. As you move let your left index finger pull your left arm and your left leg towards the target.

Keep moving your left index finger towards the point in space even as your left foot lands on the ground and you shift your weight from your right leg to your left leg.

At the end of the movement check if your left index finger is still pointing at the point or is it pointing somewhere else.

If you didn’t get it the first time try again and again until you get it. It is not a difficult thing to do correct or is it? How many tries did you go through before you got it. Did you get it within an hour or take a few days to get it?

If you did not get it what was the reason why you couldn’t get it?

Most of the time you would think you got it. So it is good to use a video or get a spotter to help you check if indeed you are doing what you think you are doing.

You may find it easier to actually hang an object for you to point towards. Try it if this is what works for you. Once you can do it with an object try going back to doing it without an actual physical object.

Most people who do this think they are able to point to the point in space when they fail to do so. It is easy to deceive ourselves to think we are doing what we are not.

To be able to do this simple thing you need to be able to keep your mind on your left index finger all the time first and foremost.
When you can do this then you need to assign some of this attention to the other parts of the body that is involved in the movement chain. All this while you must keep your mind still trained on your left index finger so that the entire body coordination is still whole.

You keep practicing until the entire movement chain is smooth outwardly yet on the inside you can feel how each part of the chain is moving in its turn in terms of changes in velocity, getting the relevant mass lined up behind each other in preparation to be able to trigger the mass to move sinuously like the rising and falling of a wave.

The better your body control the less outer movement you need to use, to the point where a slight downward movement will be like an ocean floor suddenly caving down to displace a body of water to create a tsunami, in this case an energetic wave consistent with rising (Peng) and falling (An) characteristic of an actual wave.

The movement in this experiment is the second movement after Beginning Posture that leads up to Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. Though this movement can be used to learn how to generate power, we must never divorce it from the application. If you do not keep the application in mind then what happens is that you will end up exaggerating the wave motion in an attempt to generate more power.

There is a trade-off between power and speed. In application we need to be timely when the need is there. If you are too slow to get into position then you will not be able to get into place to generate power. And when you get into position you have a split second to issue power before the opponent fights back.

So between speed and power you should go for speed because speed is basically a matter of change in velocity. The change in velocity is termed acceleration which is found in the formula for Force = Mass X Acceleration.

The form trains us to move in the manner of an imperceptible wave, controlling the rate of velocity and amount of mass that should be used in various techniques. Sometimes you need a hammer to do the job but sometimes you need to use a thumb.

Training the form is not about training fajing only. Training the form is training the use of techniques and understanding how various force models can be used with their attendant timing, angles, position, etc.

Training the form is the beginning of the study of the means to an end. Push hands is another piece of the study puzzle. When you have learned how to move like the wind, execute techniques like the falling of incessant autumn rain, pound with the force of a wave, and flow like a river then you can learn to apply the techniques more freely.

Lesson Number Three

Added two movements on the third lesson – Separate and Push.

But before that did a review. The fidgeting is still there, not as bad, so I left it at that.

Grasp Sparrow’s Tail – added one detail – after pluck to get the body weight behind the grabbing hand. Emphasized not to lose this control when moving the left hand and shifting weight from right to left. Reason – do not lose control once you have grabbed the opponent’s hand otherwise he can exploit it against you.

Oh, a problem with navigation when moving the left hand and left leg out. The movement is to be linearly to the side. However, at the last minute the linear motion became a curve.

It is a slight deviation in the movement path, however, that is enough to leave room for opponent to grab your left hand when your arm enters his space, enabling him to throw you instead of you throw him. Root cause – awareness not 100% throughout, inattention to the entire process; mind not kept on the lead hand causing the off course steering at the last moment.

Step forward into Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. And the stance is too narrow. This is an issue with traceability.

Went back to basics as defined in Beginning Posture. How is a stance formed. How do we actually shift weight. How to keep the stance strong and primed to fajing.

From lower body to upper body. Need to keep the left hand guarding properly. How can the left hand be used?

Two possibilities in how to use left hand in push hands to guard and open up opponent’s door for you to enter with your own attack.

How to dissipate opponent’s strength when he intercepts your right arm. Option of not changing to another Ward-off by using neutralizing energy or by changing to Ward-off.

How to use position of posture to neutralize, intercept, open door and enter. Softer response to neutralize first then attack vs faster, more aggressive counter to continuously attack like wave pounding.

Addressed the question of the opponent’s left hand response. How to preempt a counter-attack by delivering a stinging strike. Example of how a light strike can work instead of relying on heavy, fajingy pushing.

Had to explain how to do basic push hands by just doing horizontal circling. How to use the movements of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail for meaningful learning instead of meaningless pushing. Going back to the use of just Grasp Sparrow’s Tail, Ward-off and Rollback for a simple game of push hands to learn strategy and change.

The Attached Mind

I just glance at the topic of a Youtube video “Israeli Study of Natural Immunity vs Vaccine” and my immediate thought was natural immunity earns big Pharma nothing but vaccine brings billions and opportunities to earn more in other ways.

This also reminds me of those Tai Chi masters who would sell you that secret Qigong packaged training, that secret meditation practice, the secret small frame fajing form, that secret this, that secret that.

Why can’t they sell you one form that teaches you how to use the techniques, how to push hands, how to fajing, how to meditate and so on?

Cause you earn more by breaking the knowledge up and selling them. That’s why.

Its more exciting for the consumer, I mean student, to know that there is a secret spinal whip, chakra fire or is it water qigong (or maybe call it tummo to sound more exotic, nah that’s Tibetan), tree hugging, tree rooting, bricks hanging from the balls methods that they can salivate after. The more money they pay the more they buy into the secret and defend it even they found out that they have been conned. That’s the psychology of the victim.

Telling a student that he’s got it is a downer. Whatdaya mean I got it? Already? Where? Like a horse he needs a carrot dangled in front of him to chase after cause the fun is in the chase rather than the getting there.

That’s why in big classes they need a common identify, to reinforce the brainwashing cause you know cultish behaviour leads to loyalty even if contrary hard evidence is presented. This is a kind of attachment, a reason why Tai Chi is difficult to learn. You have to let go of your attachment to resistance if you want to be able to flow like water. To be attached means the opponent’s pressure will cause your mind to be stuck and your body to freeze.

That’s why Tai Chi is easy to learn, difficult to master as you have to deprogram your habitual, instinctive reaction to mental and physical stimuli.

Embedding the Skill

Learning any combative art is about practicing until you get it, know it and can sleep walk it.

Someone recently told me that doing CMA should be as easy as walking. He is not talking about the practice being easy. Instead, he is saying that one should practice the chosen skills until it is as natural and as easy as walking.

More than two decades ago my Wing Chun senior was talking about being formless. But what does it really mean, to be formless?

If you look to the art world particularly to the modern masters you may note that even abstract art masters have to study classical painting before they evolve into abstract art. In the context of CMA this means that to be formless you first have to master form.

In Tai Chi we normally just work on one form for years before learning another. This is not saying that you can’t learn another form after you finish learning the first form. You can.

However, you end up with cursory understanding of the form. You need to move your practice from surface scraping understanding to beneath the skin understanding, before you ultimately reach bone level understanding. So the more forms you have to practice the less time you have to focus, to specialize.

Of course, you can also learn many forms but just work on less rather than more. The more you understand the one form the more you know its nooks and corners, not just remembering the sequence but how different parts of the form can be used to form new sequences.

In the end, your form may have say 10 sequences but by understanding how it works you can easily form another 20 sequences by combining different techniques. Normally, an easy way to help understand this learning process is by doing push hands because when you learn to apply the techniques you are forced to confront what you don’t know.

Its not just in CMA that we learn to be formless. In Kali what is termed free flow is similar to what we call formlessness. Basically, free flow is the ability to take your basics and move through them freely to make whatever meaningful combinations you want to in response to an imaginary attack.

The study of free flow in Kali begins with the study of drills, of sequences of techniques. First you embed the habit through 10,000 repetitions. Then when you thought you got the habit down you are taught to break out of the habit with ironically more drills.

From Kali we can see that more forms (not kata but predetermined sequences made up of different techniques, example an Angle 1 fluid strike + Umbrella + ……….) are necessary to break up earlier learned forms of movements. Conceptually, the learning is not difficult to understand. But when you try it it feels awkward, just like when you first learn to cycle. You get on the bicycle, you wobble a bit, then you start to move, slowly then you try going faster.

The more you cycle the more familiar you are with the act of cycling. In the interim, its not unusual to lose your balance and fall. The first time I took one hand off the handlebar I fell into a drain. Another time I took a corner really fast and ended up sliding on the road which left a scar on my knee. But its these learning pains that eventually allowed me to master the act of cycling till I could take both hands off the handle as I cycled.

Awkwardness gives way to familiarity the more you practice. When we mention the word practice we think of the act of doing. However, practice can also be in the form of thinking about how to do it. This is the mental part of practice. Its a way to embed the process into your mind. Another way is to call out what you are doing. Anything that works for you is fine.

The more I practice the Tai Chi form the more I start to see the component movements clearly. At a certain stage you can easily change the sequences around, rearrange them even as you practice. Just last week someone came to see me about learning Tai Chi and said he didn’t have the room to practice. I stood between a wall and two bicycles and showed him I could practice a long sequence within that square area. I didn’t change the hand movements, just changed the stepping to adapt to the small area.

If you keep on practicing at a certain stage you can practice the form without even practicing the form any more. You can take one technique and work it in different ways. You can string two techniques as well and do the same. This is when you can say that the skill of moving has been embedded in you, when you move “it” moves you, thus fulfilling the principle of first in the mind, later in the body, enabling you to move as easily as walking.

This is one part of the learning. The second part is to work with a partner to help you learn how to apply what you know. True flow is when you can keep moving even as your training partner tries to stop your flow by putting up resistance and fighting back. This is when you discover something interesting about attachment and detachment of the mind and body in being able to flow.

Interested to learn Kali in person for free? The iKali branch of Pekiti-Tirsia System of Kali has an excellent training method for teaching the basics that eventually allows you to free flow. The best part is that it does not take years to learn. Contact me here.


I can remember when I first started learning iKali I could not make sense of the flow.

Whenever I see our instructors or Tuhon demonstrate stick flow or blade flow my mind would go blank.

However, by following Tuhon’s excellent teaching program I find that I could begin to flow after the first two modules.

By the third module I actually did something I didn’t expect I could do which is to kneel while doing free flow. I had learned how to do the kneeling in the first module but that was by following a movement script.

In our progress assessment which was held after midnight (its actually early afternoon then in USA) I found myself doing the kneeling not once but twice. Normally I won’t do something I had never tried before and doing it in the midst of a free flow is risky in that it could interrupt my flow.

Here’s the first time I did it using double sticks :-

And here’s the second time using single blade :-

An excellent teacher inspires and Tuhon Apolo’s teaching definitely triggered something in me to be able to go beyond what I would normally do.

Kua Mechanics 2

Kua mechanics is also found in a Wing Chun style of an older tradition that I learned.

If you do not know what you are looking at you might not catch it. This is an example of the kua mechanics at play.

By using the kua and hip you can move quickly while unifying the body, keeping soft and being able to generate power when you want to.

SKD Learning Routine

We don’t have forms in SKD. We have drills.

Our drills can be organized into a sequence for daily training to ensure that we do not miss out on working on an essential drill.

This is an example of a single handed drill :-

This part illustrates what our learning routine looks like :-

This comes from the last part of the learning routine. The expecation is that the learner will be able to move like fast flowing water while attacking powerfully like a tiger.

Tai Chi Form Applications

In this video I am explaining where some of our SKD applications come from :-

Our Yang style Tai Chi form can look simple and non-aggressive.

However, a lot of applications are concealed within the unassuming movements.

In this video I point out how the movement of Single Whip and Cloud Hands are applied.

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.

Not Thinking 2

Another interesting info from “The Power of Not Thinking” :-….. imagining an action without executing it activates the same neural pathways.

Simply put, thinking of performing an action shows up in the brain as if the action had actually been performed.

I first read about this in a book, I think it was called Mind Gym. This explains why sometimes a good way to train arts such as Tai Chi is by sitting there and going through the movements mentally.

By constraining your outer physical movements you are forced to feel your inner physical movements. For example, the concept of Jing Yuen (劲源) is not easy to understand mentally but by stilling your body and using your imagination to do the movement process you can easily feel the Jing Yuen move and voila! suddenly a few more insights will come to mind.

I carefully observed Tuhon when I first learned iKali because certain things are different from what I had learned in CMA. I could ask questions but it would be more interesting not to ask and tried to learn by observing.

This book validated this learning approach in the story of how apprentices learn to build a minaret in Yemen without formal instructions or allowed to ask questions freely. One anthropologist called this “stealing knowledge with their eyes”. Tuhon Apolo said something similar about his learning from Grand-Tuhon.