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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Single Whip Learning

Learning Tai Chi is fun. As for practice…….. yeah, it can be a bitch.

Here’s CG trying to implement what he learned about the 5 bows in Single Whip. He is working on one of the bows.

Looks kinda difficult to learn, right?

Difficult to learn, yes, but not impossible to master. Just gotta work on them details.

Below is my demo :-

Once you understand the 5 bows you can use the bows more flexibly. Below are some example :-

This example uses the bow of the striking hand to generate. Since the technique here is Push which uses two arms, we can then apply the lesson learned from the hook hand as well.

The video below shows the learning of the striking arm bow :-

When learning fajing do not overlook other important points because ultimately opponent is not going to stand there and take it. He will fight back. He will try to hit you.

So you better learn the technique side of Single Whip as well and not just become fixated with the fajing.

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Minimizing Training Problems

I wrote this post after reading a posting from SKD learning group member, AY, today.

Apparently, he is hurting his thumb and feeling uncomfortable from rebound shock when striking a pad (thanks to Sir Isaac Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion).

As usual, the same problem he faces applies to my Tai Chi students also.

The root cause of most training problems can be attributed to :-

a) Weak foundation in basics

b) Overdoing a movement to compensate for a weakness

c) Misunderstanding the principles

What the above means :-

a) Each style is configured to work a certain way in line with the way the style is designed.

If your basics is not performed properly then you would not be able to work and apply the techniques in the way it is intended to.

In SKD the way we hold the thumb minimizes injury when striking not just the pad but when playing with a live opponent. I’ve had my share of painful reminders why the traditional way of placing the thumb does not work.

For example, when we train moving at a faster pace such as shown in the video below we can end up bumping our thumb accidentally against the training partner’s arm especially when we strike and he blocks. When this happens the impact will jar our thumb from its holding position and this hurts.

b) When you are not ready to do something and you try to do it and you can’t get the result you may try to force your way through. You might then get the result but there will be a cost.

As an example, if you hit a pad you should be using whole body, relaxed movement. However, you may find that it is difficult to punch harder yet be relaxed at the same time. Yet, you desperately want to punch harder even though you are not ready.

But what the hell, you go ahead and do it anyway, thinking you know better. Your enthusiasm and eagerness is re-paid with rebound shocks that can give you headaches cause not correct is not correct no matter how you cut it. More so if you are punching a pad that is tied in front of a solid, unyielding post.

c) Paying close attention to basics, principles and core requirements can reap positive dividends. If you rush through the learning you can end up misunderstanding vital information.

For example, in SKD we say that the basic linear strike is like releasing an arrow? Why do we say this? When you examine all the information out there you will start to understand why the analogy of an arrow in flight is appropriate.

 

Summary – when your basics are in place some of the things that look inaccessible when you first started will become doable.

For example, some will claim that it takes a decade of study to be able to do Tai Chi fajing. I don’t think this is true. If it is true it is due to a number of factors, some of which is due to the student and some due to the teacher.

However, if both parties are willing to work towards it then there is no reason why the ability to fajing cannot be achieved earlier. In the video below the student has only learned for 3 years and he is attaining slowly but surely the ability to fajing.

Even then this is not as impressive. Some other students can do it after a few months of learning. They might not be as impressive but they can do it.

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Fajing Glimpse

Here’s a clip from a training session on 17 Sep 2018.

The question here is what do you do when your opponent relaxes his arms so that you cannot use his resistance against him.

You will find that its not easy to use the common method of fajing such an opponent unless you can get close enough to push his body instead of his arms.

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Begin to Learn Push Hands 3

This is the third video :-

Some explanation on how to use the horizontal circle for application of techniques using Grasp Sparrow’s Tail as example.

In our push hands the understanding of change is important because we never know how the opponent will react. So it is important to us to really understand the various positions we find ourselves in when playing push hands.

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