Flow & Change

Work sucks because it takes away my fun time. While I have a short break from work now let’s have some fun.

Unless you are doing a cooperative drill your partner / opponent will never give you a free pass. You want to apply a technique on him you gotta make him give it to you or force it on him.

When we apply Play Pipa while standing in the center of our opponent’s gate we have to capture his arm before we can apply the lock. The first thing to do is to capture his extended arm’s wrist rather than elbow so that your right arm can still do its job to protect you from his left fist.

As you flow into the position to catch his right wrist you need to carefully control the position and capturing motion. If your position is off he can run away and hit you. This is when your position must allow you to recover if you make a mistake. If you encounter resistance that stops you from capturing his wrist then you would go on to Plan B, perhaps a change of position and technique.

But if you die, die must play the pipa then you can change and flow until you get back to the position where you can grasp the pipa (opponent’s arm).

However, there are times you just cannot get back into the position you want because the opponent has put up a strong guard. In these type of instances you should just go with the flow, take what is given and just use it. An example of this is shown below :-

Sometimes when we train we will use a bit more resistance than normal just to see where it takes us.

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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.

Kicks Galore

Its kicks galore last week and this week as I taught my kicking method to a student. My kicking method is divided into two phases :-

a) External phase – this is described in the eBook “2-Dots : Six Learning Steps for Mastering Wing Chun’s Kicking Model ” and the verbal teaching of Master Leong Lin Heng

b) Internal phase – this is the method of using intent that is transmitted through the lineage of Grandmaster Wei Shuren

I started off my teaching with Kick No. 4 of the 4 kicks taught by Master Leong Lin Heng. I like this kick because it is so unexpected, so sudden and so weird that its difficult to guard against it even when it is executed at a slower pace. It is a good illustration of the usefulness of using kicks.

The next step is of course the principles of kicking. A good place to start reading about it is in the eBook 2-Dots mentioned above. But for my student it is not necessary to read as I have told him what he needed to know and trained him in it.

Our emphasis is to use it within push hands, not as a fixed, dead drill but as a live response when the appropriate situation arises whether when given or created. Now he has an extra area to focus on in push hands.

Some videos that are extracted from the lesson this week :-

Neurons & Intent

A common obstacle facing Tai Chi students is differentiating intent from body movement.

When most students perform the form their intent is not clearly delineated from their physical action. This leads to the inability to use intent over reliance on strength alone.

Why is it difficult to separate intent from movement?

Reading The Body Builders : Inside the Science of the Engineered Human has given me the answer. When you think of doing something the neurons in the processing areas of the motor cortex fires and triggers the desired movement.

However, these neurons fire so fast that for most of us it is difficult to detect that length of time between the neurons firing and the corresponding limb moving. The time between neurons firing and movement beginning is but milliseconds so you can imagine how short a time this is.

Given this is the case how then can Tai Chi players train intent?

This is where the specialized intent training of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Yang style Tai Chi comes in. The conceptual models for training intent allows us to experience a time lag, at least long enough to feel when intent begins and when movement triggered by intent comes in.

In this way we can truly separate mind and body. Incidentally, this fulfils the principle of using intent rather than strength and explains clearly why Tai Chi is boxing of the mind.

It would be interesting to one day use science to study this neglected aspect of Tai Chi. Who knows what we may discover that can not only improve our Tai Chi skills but be applicable to other fields such as medicine.

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.

Power Generation

On rumsoakedfist there is a link to “Essence of Combat Science” by Wang Xiangzhai as translated from Chinese by Andrzej Kalisz. Click here to go to the file.

Wang Xiangzhai wrote :-

In shi li there shouldn’t be partial, superficial force, especially there shouldn’t be unbalanced one directional force. You should observe if the whole body force is round, full or not, if it is possible issuing force at any moment, if there is feeling of mutual reaction between body and surrounding air. Intention shouldn’t be broken, spirit shouldn’t be dispersed. Light and heavy are ready to be used. If one moves, whole body follows it. Force should be unified, swift and solid at the same time, round and full. There shouldn’t be anything forgotten or lost on any side.

The above is good advice to keep in mind when practicing how to issue power.

In our Tai Chi tradition we have additional requirements such as :-

a) Have defined intent to control body movements

b) Align and tune the body internally to allow power to flow like a spring gushing out of the ground

c) Prime the 5 bows strongly to enable quick conversion of energy from potential to kinetic

An example of using these three requirements is shown below :-