Foundation is the Key

When you learn a martial art you must always pay heed to the foundation. Which begs the question – what is the foundation?

Let’s take a simple example – BojiLite – my compact online learning for three basic strikes from the style of Pok Khek Kuen. In BojiLite we have three simple foundation which underlie the three strikes. They are :-

1) Basic posture (Siu Sei Ping Ma)

2) In-situ body turning (Leung Yi Ma)

3) Zigzag stepping (Leung Yi Bo)

The learning of the first strike, Yum Chui, involves all three of the above. We would begin with the simple basic posture to develop a static foundation.

This foundation is then rotated and shifted for the purpose of mobilizing the Yum Chui strike and generating the power required.

This learning is extended by studying how to strike as we step in a zigzag pattern.

When we study the second strike, Chau Chui, we use back the same basics which greatly simplifies the learning. The only difference now is how do we do the Chau Chui strike.

Now, the Yum Chui is a straight forward linear strike with a horizontal fist. It seems like a normal straight punch. However, we do have some differences, some might call these details the trade secrets of the style, yeah why not, in how we throw the fist out, small details to help us shoot the punch out real quick and powerful to boot using certain tricks of the mind and body. Without knowing the details you will end up doing Yum Chui like a normal punch sans the tricks that make it what it is.

Chau Chui is a different animal. It is not a longer range strike like Yum Chui. However, we can apply Chau Chui at a longer range, just not necessarily as long a range as Yum Chui. The second strike is better served as a medium to short range strike as shown below :-

Based on the principle a common foundation for all three strikes it should be straightforward to perform Chau Chui once you have studied Yum Chui for a while. What you need to pay heed to is how to hit the intended target precisely with power.

I know, I know, a circular movement is not easy to handle. If you are hitting a strike pad with Chau Chui its not too bad. Its when you are hitting air that you encounter the problem of how to stop the punch and quickly switch to strike with the other arm.

The difficulty with stopping the Chau Chui is due to the path the arm takes. Typically, we tend to view Chau Chui as an upward movement. So when you want to stop it you have to brake hard on your arm movement before you can switch to the other arm to strike. Now an arm moving with momentum is not easy to stop.

If you have driven a motorcycle fast and tried stopping within a shorter distance you would have to pump the brakes, let go and pump again a few more times before you can stop. If you depress the brakes really hard you would end up skidding. So trying to stop a power-laden and speeding Chau Chui is something similar to this.

So how do we solve this problem?

By thinking outside the box! Of course! Well, actually we don’t really have to do so. But when you can’t see the issue clearly then why not?

The word “Chau” is referring to an action that is akin to snatching an object and tossing it forcefully. Well, lucky for us there is a sport that comes with a movement that is similar to “Chau”. This would the sport of cornhole tossing. Take a look for yourself below :-

So there you have it. A solution to how to switch between the arms to strike hard and continuously. Hope you can see the key in the video on cornhole tossing.

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Sample BojiLite Corrective Video 1

I have uploaded a few videos to the BojiLite Learning Group on Facebook.

These videos are mainly aimed at correcting common problems which I have observed in members’ practice. I have uploaded three of these videos to share to this blog.

The first video in on how to perform the first punch, Yum Chui, properly.

A very common problem is to punch in an unbalanced manner, resulting in lopsided energy, loopy, even flaccid-like flicking punches. A good Bojiquan punch should not be like this.

Instead, the Yum Chui should fly like an arrow released from a high strung bow. The power should be mighty and penetrating. This video highlights a key factor which is lacking in member’s Yum Chui.

NCF7

 

Wrong Question, Wrong Answer

Here is a post I wrote today on the BojiLite Learning Group. It may be about Pok Khek Kuen but the general thrust of the message can be applied to the learning of Tai Chi. I have modified it slightly to conceal the member’s identity.

Post of 12 May 2018 (BojiLite Learning Group)

Ask wrong question, get wrong answer.

Ask right question, may still get wrong answer but at least the investigation is on the right track.

Vague ideas like too tight or too loose only work if you have hands on guidance. Also, its not easy to teach vague concepts. Instead, a more logically approach works better.

However, outlining everything clearly promotes laziness in thinking for oneself so I prefer to outline the issues and let each one think through the issues, analyze it and learn from the exercise in thinking.

What’s X’s problems? Anyway, not important because anyone else could end up with the same problems as follows :-

1) Unable to punch fast with optimal coordination

2) Unable to punch at a fast speed without instability

 

There are different ways to punch. Every teacher will give you a reason why they follow a particular method. It is up to you to decide if it is a method you want to go with after you practice and apply it.

The problems of combat are simple :-

a) How do you not get hit?

b) How do you hit back?

c) How fast can you hit back?

d) How powerful can you hit back?

e) How can you hit back and not get hit?

 

In Pok Khek we have our methods to address these questions. The practice of combat can be divided into :-

a) Solo – get things right on your own, first in form, then when hitting a static target

b) Partner – practice against a partner to check and verify your ability to implement the method

 

In Pok Khek the solo training is meant to learn and solve the following problems :-

a) What is a good structure that allows you to be rooted whether momentarily in-place or when moving?

b) How do you generate power?

c) How do you deliver power?

d) How do you bring the power to hit the target quickly in an optimal manner?

e) How do you avoid the opponent’s techniques?

 

To this end, we study the following :-

a) Basic posture to understand what a good structure is

b) In-situ body turning to generate power

c) The arm pulley model to deliver power

d) The Yum Chui to hit the target

e) The body turning and parries to avoid the opponent’s techniques

 

A good technique, in this case Yum Chui, must enable you to strike quickly, with penetrating power while allowing you to avoid getting hit.

X’s problem areas :-

a) Punching arm movement – unnecessary pulsation movement; mind you its not totally wrong because you see Chen style Tai Chi doing it, but its not the Pok Khek way because we want to hit the target quickly

b) Body turning – inherent instability during turning that affects ability to deliver chain strikes

c) Extraneous movements that can potentially affect stability during execution of Yum Chui

 

Now that we have a list of problem areas how do we solve them. Let’s just focus on the first two items :-

a) Study carefully how we move the arms when doing Yum Chui. There is a scientific concept here which I have mentioned before – the pulley. This is just the base concept but its good enough for now.

Investigate how to do the arm movements without body turning. Just stand in basic posture. No doubt your body will turn a bit, let it be.

As you become more familiar go read my post of 2 May again (this is referring to a post in the BojiLite Learning Group). This time a certain passage may stand out and should a light bulb go off in your head then you will be like Mahākāśyapa when Buddha held up the lotus flower to test his understanding……

b) The problem of instability is the same as when driving and cornering. How do you prevent the car from turning too fast, resulting in loss of control and flipping over. By using the brakes, of course.

But what if you don’t want to use the brakes? What do you do then? Solve this analogy and you have solved the problem in instability during in-situ body turning……..

And when all else fails, eat more fish cause as mothers would say its good for your brain…..

 

NCF7

Inaugural BojiLite Training Challenge

Next week, 30 Mar, is Good Friday. I am taking this opportunity to challenge the members of the Facebook BojiLite study group to a 7 days training challenge called BojiLite Good!!! Friday.

The objective of this challenge is to get members to put themselves through some consistent, serious training for 7 days and hopefully, transform their understanding and skills.

I know members typically put in very little practice so this challenge is an initiative to move things along, especially for those who are serious about mastery. Seven consecutive days is very little time investment to gain some skills in return.

This challenge will also separate those who are really serious from those who want to play, play and pray, pray they gain some skills. This is a chance to feel first hand what serious training is like.

At the end of 7 days the member who goes all the way to do each training sequence would have achieved the following statistics :-

a) In-situ body turning 110 turns each side / day X 7 days = 770 turns

b) Side Parry (20 parries each hand / day X 7 days = 140 parries per hand)

c) Upward Parry (20 parries each hand / day X 7 days = 140 parries per hand)

d) Yum Chui (40 Yum Chui each hand / day X 7 days = 280 punches per hand)

e) Forearm conditioning (5 rolls per arm X 9 breaks / day X 7 days = 315 rolls per arm)

The participating member should be able to move up the skill level after this challenge. If he can keep up with this level of training mastery will be within his grasp.

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The Future

I designed the BojiLite training such that it can not only be learned online but actually yield good results.

So far the results are promising. However, this week the most surprising result comes from a member, S, who tried teaching it to his daughter.

S posted a picture of his daughter in the Leung Yi Ma posture. The picture is reproduced below. I have blurred her face and the background to protect her privacy.

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When I saw the picture I couldn’t believe it. The daughter’s posture is correct. By comparison the last video posted by S 10 days ago showed that his posture needed work as it was off.

So how is it that S’s posture is off but the daughter’s is spot on?

I could only make a guess and say that S’s background in other arts has an impact on his learning of the Leung Yi Ma posture. By comparison, the daughter has not learned long enough of any art to be influenced by any particular body posture and hence can pick it up easier, more so when the Leung Yi Ma is a posture that is natural.

How good is her posture? I have drawn in a line to show that her body-hip-rear leg alignment is spot-on. I have also put my picture by the side for comparison.

Kids really are the future. Now I really feel old.

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Slow & Steady

It is not my intent to write this post. Instead, I wanted to reorganize my blog by removing the folders eBook and MyWingChun and creating a TaiChiLite folder.

Then I saw Paul’s comment to my comment to his latest BojiLite training video practicing the Yum Chui. I advised him to go slow in his practice. Interestingly, I also advised another student learning Tai Chi this morning to go slow also. So what the heck, let’s make a post about it.

Slow – when learning anything go slow. The priority is to get the steps correct instead of rushing to complete it.

When you go slow you have more time to see and feel what you are doing. If you go too fast you miss out on a lot of things, more so if the art is filled with fine details that cannot be readily sussed out, at least not with a lot of practice, research and investigation.

Steady – you should move at a steady rather than erratic pace. A steady pace enables your body to coordinate better in the early stages of learning, particularly during changes that involve turning and twisting.

As Lao Tzu wrote :-

To know harmony is called constancy
To know constancy is called clarity

Chapter 55 : Purity of the New-Born
Tao Teh Ching

Mastery will come when your hands are enlightened with the clarify of a mirror that only reflects what is before it in the present. So go slow and steady in your learning.

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Paul’s Journey

 

The year 2014 was the first time I actually met Paul in the flesh after knowing him for 8 years. I tried to teach him a bit of Tai Chi but the results weren’t good. Too little time and an art too complex.

The next we met was 2017. Unfortunately, nothing much has changed and Paul was still the Paul of 2014 in the Tai Chi department. Despite having some practice Paul’s hands and posture were still large uneducated. Watching back the clips taken of our meeting such as the one below confirmed this :-

This state of affair clearly could not go on. If Tai Chi is the wrong fit for Paul then its time to find an art that Paul can learn in a hurry. No more long years of practicing an abstract form that has a low percentage of mastery.

Thus, was born the BojiLite Learning Program to see if I could help Paul to make some headway by hook or by crook. The objective is simple – learn, practice and master some functional basics of Chinese martial arts. For this purpose I decided to go with Pok Khek Kuen which was taught by one of my Tai Chi teachers, Master Leong, within the art of Tai Chi Chuan that he had learned from Grandmaster Nip Chee Fei.

Pok Khek Kuen’s training is as simple as it can get. If any art can be taught easily enough it will be this art. After all, if practitioners back in Master Leong’s day could train for a few months and then go on to fight, and even win full contact tournaments, then I guess this would be a good choice. To increase the probability of mastery, I decided to teach only a small part of the art to test it out. No point to jump in with a full fledged system only to fail. Better a small success which can be built on.

In Pok Khek Kuen training we normally start with simple basics like how to turn and how to step. And we would work with only one stance until we get somewhere before we try to do any punching. In this way we give ourselves a chance to ingrain the proper biomechanics into our movements.

I wrote up the necessary information in the BojiLite folder on this website and set up the Facebook BojiLite Learning Group to disseminate the information and allow members to post videos of their training. They can view their own progress and work on any corrections that is necessary. From the start we would make this an active group. This means no lurkers and no trolls. Everyone participates or they would leave the group.

I made Paul the first member and got him started on his training. The first thing to learn is simply how to train in the same place and turn the body as shown below :-

So how did Paul do? His first video on 21 Feb 2018 :-

It was far from what we wanted but better small baby steps than none. Paul took the corrections and on 8 Mar 2018 posted a second video :-

What a big difference between the first and second video. This shows that what the heart desires and the body is willing to train then the results will come.

The second thing after learning how to turn the body is how to step. This is how we do our stepping :-

Paul initially posted a video of his stepping on 17 Feb 2018 :-

The method was completely off. It was suggested that he focused on the body turning first before doing the stepping. Paul came back and posted a video on 21 Feb 2018 :-

The second stepping video was much better but still could be improved. So back to the drawing board for Paul.

The next time Paul posted the third stepping video was also the second time he posted the body turning video seen above. This time the improvement is so much better :-

The next thing for Paul to learn is how to do the first punch, Yum Chui, using the body turning as shown below :-

Paul did a first attempt on the 4 Mar 2018 but it was way off :-

But now that Paul got his body turning correct his second attempt at Yum Chui should show some progress. I shall wait and see.

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