Attack Like A Tiger

In seeing a real tiger attack I am reminded why creators of CMA systems like to take their inspiration from the tiger in naming forms and techniques.

For example, in Pok Khek Kuen we have a sequence called Five Tigers Descending Mountain. You can imagine that if one tiger attack is fierce then five tigers are much more ferocious.

Thus, when we practice the last two sequences in the SKD routine in which the techniques from the Five Tigers Descending Mountain are embedded we have to perform the techniques fast and furious in the spirit of an attacking tiger, very much like what is shown in this footage.

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.

Stance Work 5

To make the spiral motion effective we must move our body. When we move our body this way we are effectively swalling the opponent’s attack into empty space before we suddenly spiral back the other direction to release power.

If we apply this idea to the technique of Tan Da in Ip Man Wing Chun’s wooden dummy form from the 1st section we can neutralize more effectively.

Normally, this type of body movement is learnt using the Bart Jam Dao in Wing Chun. However, as many are unaware of this part of the butterfly knives training it is not unusual to rarely see this any more in today’s Wing Chun.

Stance Work 4

An extension of our study of the stance and use of dantian is how to use the spiral to neutralize and issue power.

The use of footwork will move us out of the line of attack. At the same time we can use an arm spiral motion to knock the opponent’s arm off the line of attack, if desired.

If not, we can just use the spiral to wind the power before unwinding quickly to generate power.

Stance Work 3

This training sequence is from our first training routine. The initial objective is to teach us how to train the arms to be whip-like.

But what’s a whip without power. So a secondary objective is to learn how to coordinate the dantian with the whipping of the arms.

The third objective is to train a basic attack-defend sequence which is to be used as part of our repertoire of techniques.

Stance Work 2

Related to this topic is the opening and closing of the body to generate power. This can be easily studied through the Lit Chui which is similar to Tai Chi’s Part the Wild Horse Mane technique.

When you first learn the technique use big, expansive movements as this allows you to feel your body better. This involves using the upper body as well to open and close.

But once you get the hang of it reduce the movements to as compact as you can without losing the speed and power. Eventually you will feel as if you are using the dantian to whip the power out.

If you use this power in the first movement of Ip Man’s Wing Chun Siu Nim Tao third section it will add to your power without slowing you down. All it takes is understanding what you are doing and practice the hell out of it.

Stance Work

In SKD we keep emphasizing the learning and training of the basic stance. The logic is simple – you need a stable base before you can move your body and arms like whips to generate power fast and hard without losing your balance.

Below is an example of what I mean :-

I am doing these three techniques without stepping. In our partner practice we have to do these type of techniques fast while stepping and hitting continuously against a partner who is feeding us a barrage of punches.

The video below is a short explanation of what is involved in our stance training :-

When we can move our body and whirl our arms freely then we understand what is meant by fists moving like whirlwind.

A Healthy Brain

Interesting talk from Wendy Suzuki, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the New York University Center for Neural Science!

I used to learn long Tai Chi forms which indirectly trained my mind to observe and remember. Then I learned Wing Chun.

When I went back to Tai Chi I had a problem learning long sequences and complicated movements again cause Wing Chun movements are so simple they basically made my mind lazy.

So one way out is by writing down, recording audio or video. This sounded like a good idea except it is but another exercise for the mind to be lazy.

One year my Tai Chi teacher said its time to stop writing notes and do recording. Instead, I should just rely on observing and remembering what I saw there and then, imprinting the lesson into my mind.

It was tough in the beginning but after a while it became easier. And you know what, learning this way is better than trying to remember everything. When you have notes you then to copy what you see, you become lazy to think.

As a result, you just become another monkey seeing, copying and doing. You shouldn’t do that. You are an intelligent person, you should exercise your brain, your creativity and grow from there. Think of it as exercise for the mind.

Sometimes we exercise the body and forget the mind, and sometimes we remember the mind but forget the body.

The remedy that Dr Suzuki mentioned at 10:05 could very well fit the one thing I am working on this week for my test. Let’s see something to do 3-4 times a week, 30 minutes per session, get the heart rate up – that’s basically what I did. One round of the sequence to be tested took about 11-15 minutes. So do it 3 times and it will fulfil the criterias mentioned.

And yes, you have to train yourself to remember the sequence to be tested. You have to understand how the transitions go, the why, examine them to make sure they flow smooth.

You also have to be mindful of what you are doing even as you step on the accelerator, cause sometimes when my mind wanders the stick may come too close to me and graze me. This is more so when going fast like the speed below :-

In this sequence we have to do the entire sequence under 60 seconds. With some training it is highly possible but the first time I did it I took more than 60 seconds.

With practice I got the time down to 53 seconds and this week I did it faster at 49 seconds. But guess what, I am still slower than one of our instructors, a lady, who did it at 37 seconds.

One round of this at a fast and furious speed would get the heart pumping, not to mention the sweat literally pouring out of every pore.

The older I get the more I should exercise. The objective to be healthy till the day I lie down, sleep and never wake up.

Complementing SKD with Kali

The body movement learned in iKali’s jab / cross combination is a good complement to SKD training.

If you have a problem getting the body to move when doing Sao Chui try working on the iKali jab / cross and see if it helps you to improve your Sao Chui.

The video below explains how we can just use the same body movement with either iKali or SKD techniques :-

This body movement is versatile. Put a blade in the hand and it works just as well.

Nice, huh?

Seeing Things Internal

Maybe its just me who is seeing it.

Maybe its my background.

But after practicing stick drills and how to throw a jab / cross the Kali way I feel that they offer a good alternative method to train the body mechanics we typically use in the internal Chinese arts.

When I first learned Kali I tried to bring my background into it. Its not a good idea as it prevents me from seeing things clearly. So I tried to train Kali as taught by Tuhon.

After learning and training for some time I am starting to feel that a rose by any other name is indeed a rose. So yes, I have not heard Tuhon use the term internal in Kali. I guess its a good thing cause everyone who does Tai Chi seems to go crazy when they hear the term and this prevents people from seeing things clearly.

In Kali body mechanics are used too; in fact just like any other good arts regardless of culture. Its inevitable when you see more similarities than differences at a certain stage.

In doing jab / cross we don’t just parry the opponent’s punch, we also have to move out of the way. Moving out of the way requires me to move side to side.

Coupled this with learning how to put the body behind the stick when we execute a slashing movement and we end up with body mechanics that are really reminiscent of what is practiced in the Chinese internal arts.

So when I put two and two together I get this internal-ish flavor. The clip aboves below is me seeing things that maybe are there, or maybe not.

When I do the parry followed by a jab or a cross sometimes I feel like a monkey waving its arms. See for yourself. Is it any wonder Kali kinda feels internal too. This doesn’t mean its the same for everyone else, just me.

In the end I think its not important whether its internal or not. The real question is whether it works for you or not.