First Day Blues

11 Apr 2019 was Day 1 of the SKD Challenge No. 2 which will run for three months.

The objective this time is to learn how to move between 6 blocks in a soft and flowing manner. Six movements do not sound like a lot but if you are not familiar with it then its a case of first day blues such as experienced by SKD member, M.

As with the Challenge No. 1 we will track members’ progress to see how they are getting on. M has performed admirably in Challenge No. 1 on the Yum Chui and even managed to make another breakthrough on Day 100. Kudos. M is made for SKD.

So the standard that I would like all SKD members to reach is as shown below :-

The end objective is to use the sequence to learn how to use the six blocks freely while defending and attacking whether with contact or without. Below is an example of how Yum Chui and other strikes can be integrated into the flow of the 6-blocks :-

Join the SKD Slack training group here.

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Learning a Musical Instrument, Not

Play Pipa is a technique that appears twice in the Yang style 108 form. Below is an extract from a longer video of Grandmaster Dong Huling showing its application in push hands.

The pipa is a Chinese musical instrument, somewhat like a guitar, but with 4 strings and a pear shaped body. Below is a picture showing how the pipa is typically held when played. Does it not resemble the way GM Dong applied the technique?

GM Dong’s video shows the way the Play Pipa technique is normally executed on the opponent’s outside position. For beginners this is a safer position to apply the technique without having to worry about the possibility of the opponent trying to punch you with the other hand.

However, our point is that a technique should as far as possible be able to be applied even when we are standing in the front gate of the opponent’s position. To safely use Play Pipa and not be punched we need to address the elephant in the room by examining the use of strategy. In this case the strategy is to distract the opponent before we apply Play Pipa and for this purpose we are borrowing a move from the Fast Form as shown below :-

The video below gives a more detailed explanation of how the use of a strike to distract can also help you to land the position :-

And it goes without saying that once you get the arm locked you should use proper leverage to jack the opponent up and away.

For the purpose of learning we did not include those parts of Play Pipa that can cause injury.

Reference – The leverage principle is explained on page 68 of TaijiKinesis Vol 2 : Learning the Taijiquan Form. The part of the application that can cause injury can be seen on page 336.

Implicit Learning

Today I found out a theory that can explain why we need to keep up the practice of forms.

In the past I have read that form practice is like swimming on dry land. However, I think the reason why those who say so is because they have not broken through to understand how form training really works.

Fortunately, studies into intuition have offered us a good explanation on this. Can you guess what this is?

For the moment I will leave this question here as I continue to read why implicit learning can explain the importance of form training.

Don’t Put Hand in Rotating Shaft

In factories a guard is typically placed over an exposed rotating shaft. This is because if you accidentally let your hand or worse, your long hair to get caught when a shaft is spinning at say 10,000 rpm your will scalped before you can even blink.

Understanding about the danger of getting your hand caught in a spinning shaft has given me an insight into how we can apply locks in push hands. In essence, we as the spinning sphere allow the opponent to put his hand into our turning body in order to get it entangled inside.

Below is a simple example of how to use a scoop and rotate action to capture the opponent’s arm :-

When trying to put a lock on a person you can expect resistance. After all, who in their right mind would allow you to lock their arm. This is where a feigned strike helps you to overcome resistance.

This looks similar to the first video above but the difference is that you capture the opponent’s arm deeper into your space. In this way he will have a harder time to get away.

Many times a common reaction to getting locked is to pull the arm away or twist the hand the other way. When you encounter this you should go with the flow and morph into another lock.

To learn how to change from one lock to another you can practice looking for or creating opportunities to lock even as you are moving from one position to the next.

Opportunities to lock can suddenly appear. So knowing the principles of locking can help you to recognize an opportunity when you see it. A cross lock is not something I was looking to use but it just came up and we ended up working on it too.

You can watch the longer clips of my student learning to do locks in my Youtube channel here.

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Shape & Intent

In our method of Yang style Tai Chi we use forms to utilize the intent to train how the body moves to apply techniques and generate power.

In this respect, we don’t go for showy movements, big movements, sudden jerking movements and so on. For us the objective is to fulfil the requirements of the Tai Chi Classics in form play, power generation, push hands and combat application. Then only we can say we are doing Tai Chi. Anything else is but self deception.

I did this short demo to show how we use certain procedures to get the intention to train a host of essential elements that is listed in the Tai Chi Classics to render the art what it is as defined in the old writings.

As an example, when we play form we must demonstrate :-

Step like a cat,
Move like a mountain;

One part moves, every part moves;
One part stops, every part stops;

Intent and body must be distinguished,
Yet move as one with clear separation

Of substantial and insubstantial
Yin within yang, yang within yin;

Concealing the power within
Like a ceaseless pounding wave

When we can truly express the principles then we can demonstrate how the intent is a critical element in the generation of power in Yang style.


In the clip above I can explaining how to do the Peng Jing of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Tai Chi method. The full clip can be viewed at my Facebook page “Learn Tai Chi in Singapore”.

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My Watermelon or Your Watermelon

We use push hands as a platform for training control. For this purpose we learn how to flow and use it to control our position.

In this respect, we can think of it as a game of your watermelon or mine where your opponent tries to take away your watermelon but you do not allow him to do so. You accomplish this by learning how to prevent your opponent from controlling your front gate by circling and flowing as per example shown below :-

Once you have the basic hang of it you can try implementing a principle made famous in Judo namely pull when pushed, push when pulled. Below is an example of how you can do it :-

Further along you can also test your ability to fajing quickly without going through elaborate set up and breathing patterns typically exemplified in fajing demos.

Our logic is simple – your opponent will not stand there and accept being fajing. He will fight back, he will turn, shift, resist and you have but a split second to fajing. Thus, you have to learn to do it on the fly or your fajing is not practical.

You should also test your defences by not fighting back but just holding your control. In the example below I allowed my student to see if he can get through. He tried to do so by moving faster but I adhered and rode along with his movement and was able to stop him from breaking through to grab my watermelon.

Another test we can do is to check the resiliency of our body structure. In the video below my student tried to move forward but was repelled.

There are a few reasons why this happened :-

a) His moving mass was not properly integrated

b) I have a structure that is resilient enough to absorb and bounce him without having to do anything other than to let him apply power and push himself off

c) He did not apply the principles of entering hence he ran into my defence

Finally, we should always keep in mind that how we move, where we put our limbs can be exploited by an astute opponent.

In the example above my student tried to enter but did not pay careful attention to where he placed his hand.

As a result, he got his hand caught in my arm and ended up locking himself. This is why keeping vigilance and awareness is important when doing push hands.

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Locks Training

When we do push hands training we do not just shove each other around. Instead, we strive for a semblance of techniques which can range from strikes to locks.

Below is an example of how we can apply a lock in push hands :-

We try not to learn too many locks at the same time. The preference is on working with one lock and examining its various facets. For example, in the clip below we flow into the lock under study after failing to apply an elbow lock :-

Another part involves studying how to overcome the opponent’s resistance through the use of breathing method. I normally do not have to use breathing method but it can be useful under some circumstances so why not?

The study of locks can help you to understand how to ramp up your power by relaxing. Sometimes you find that you are unable to exert power and you try to move more to get power, except you can’t move much without losing control of your opponent. So what do you do?

The video below shows you how you can increase power by letting go of your own muscular resistance :-

Other ways of getting power includes using a rotary motion similar to turning a wheel as shown below :-

It goes without saying that this rotary motion will only work if you apply the principles of leverage properly. This means you have to fix the fulcrum which in this case if your left hand and use the right arm to apply the lever.

Finally, an essential key to being able to apply a lock is familiarity with grabbing as shown below :-

How to grab can be a study by itself. You can focus on the following areas :-

a) How to place your hand in the position to get a firm grip

b) Where to position the fingers

c) How to bend and twist the hand into a locked position

d) Where to position the captured hand

e) How to apply pain and amplify it

There are a few other things you can focus on but the above are the areas we normally examine.

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