Fly on Wall

I wish I was that fly on the wall.

Or maybe there was no fly at all.

A few years back, how long(?), I have forgotten, a student touched hands with a friend and videod it.

Before the event I gave him some advice on what he could try. However, as the video showed he practically couldn’t carry out any of what I suggested.

Cut to 2019. He had another encounter. More time passed since then. Wiser, more prepared to listen to my advice not to over focus on power. And I made him do some simple techniques.

Actually, those weren’t simple techniques. They are part of our 5 Tigers expression of techniques transmitted by Master Leong. I just taught them in a simpler, accessible manner so that they are easier to pick up.

He said, he claimed he had a much easier going this time around. I was tempted to say, yes, but where is the video evidence.

OK, maybe he didn’t made any. It would have been nice to see if he actually did what he said. Not so much as to cast doubt but to see how well he did it, and to spot room for improvement.

No matter. I showed him where he could improve further. The techniques may be external but underneath are the principles culled from what I learned in Dong style Tai Chi and the style of Grandmaster Wei Shuren.

Yeah, he had to bring up the power thing again. My point again – power is useless without the means of delivering it. So the technique matters. Speed matters. Then when all are in place deliver the power.

Power. Forget internal, forget external. Go with what works in that split second that you have to issue it. Don’t do anything fanciful. Quick, just do it.

How? Use simple, proven biomechanics that is backed by principles of our Tai Chi approach. The method looks external but feels internal. Few tweaks here and there to get the power out in a penetrating and strong manner.

When the time comes I will introduce him to a more focused method of training the power. Just appetizer for now, something to get started. Small bites.

Go Slow to Go Fast

Why do we put emphasis on form training?

I can think of two simple reasons :-

a) Form is about the cultivation, maintenance and putting in place appropriate principles at the right time during a sequence of changing movements, which through a period of time naturalizes, automates and allows us to call up at will easily the right principles to apply

b) It provides opportunity to cultivate and maintain key principles in great detail during movement without the distraction of pressure. The logic is that if you can’t perform without pressure, you can certainly not perform under pressure

If you don’t understand this logic you will see form as useless training. Form training is unfortunately not something you can breeze through. It takes time to see beyond the obvious, to tease out those things that you read about in the Tai Chi Classics but do not understand.

You do not understand not because it is complicated but because you have not trained to the point where you can understand what is written. Form training is one of those things where you want to rush through but you just can’t rush through. Try running from Point A to Point B as fast as you can. Now describe what was on your left side as you were running from Point A to Point B.

Did you have any problem describing in detail what was on your left side? How about describing in greater detail? Why do you think you are not able to describe better?

So this is the issue with form training. It takes time. My teacher said that time is the real price we pay for mastery.

I try to teach my student how to do a 4-step neutralize, trap, realign and issue technique. Its a simple, short move, nothing fancy, no leaping in the air and turning 270 degrees. But its not easy to do it quickly, under strong pressure.

Yet, the same movement is readily found in Rollback, in that innocuous little arm movement that most people don’t pay attention to. Yet, if you practice the form long enough to flesh out the details you will eventually reach a point where you will wonder about this movement.

There is a Zen story about the faster you want to learn something, the slower your learning will be. The moral is if you want to learn faster, try learning slower.

The Killing Gung 2

Two weeks later from my last post The Killing Gung I still have my student working on the basics except this time he is down to doing just the 1-2 sequence of Spear-Kill.

Kill –> Spear –> Kill –> Spear

Like a train he chugged up and down linearly along the corridor connecting the two blocks.

I turned a more critical eye to his progress. This week I picked on his grip. A proper grip lends itself to a more solid structure leading to more power.

I had him spear the stack of chairs to understand how to position the pole properly in reference to the position of the body.

We ended with applying the lesson of the pole to the use of emptyhand techniques, particularly the advanced technique that Master Leong taught. This is the “one technique, many changes” movement of our number one fist technique.

Grind on.

POLErobics

POLErobics.

I woke up with this label stuck in my mind. To get this off my mind I wrote something earlier this morning on Facebook but by evening the label is still stuck in my mind. So I shall write a post here to exorcise it from my mind.

Why POLErobics?

Well, if you look at the video below this should be obvious.

By association this is a practice using the pole. If you keep moving and moving, faster and faster, non-stop, over and over, the speed and intensity of the movements will work your lungs and before you know it you will be grasping for breath.

The aerobics part is not obvious in this video because he is only moving at medium speed. Once he is familiar with the sequence he will be able to go faster. At that time the aerobics in this practice will come to the fore, and then we will be able to clearly see how pole + aerobics = POLErobics.

The pole is the first weapon I learned from my first Tai Chi teacher, hence it is my favorite weapon. However, this sequence here is not from him.

Instead, this sequence is from my Ngok Gar Kuen teacher, the late Grandmaster Cheong Fook, whom I consider to be my best teacher on the long pole. GM Cheong said that it is important to drill this sequence daily.

After years of playing with this sequence it is my opinion that the ability to apply the long pole hinges on the mastery of these three techniques that we term Arrow Pole, Killing Pole and Flinging Pole. Of the three movements I feel that Killing Pole is the most important with Flinging Pole coming second and Arrow Pole last.

Grandmaster Cheong Fook teaching the Arrow Pole

I taught my student this sequence to help him develop the skill of using the long pole form from my first Tai Chi teacher. In addition, this sequence can help to master certain key principles from the Tai Chi Classics which in turn can be applied to the practice of push hands.

Lessons of the Pole

Its nearly 3 weeks since my last post. I thought the economy is not doing that well, not that I can tell with all the work activity.

Started a third student on learning the pole that is from my first Tai Chi teacher. Its a basic Sao Lim pole but there are useful lessons to be learned.

Lesson 1 – as with solo form we must develop awareness. The length of the pole helps to expand the awareness space.

Lesson 2 – learn the meaning of the saying when young fear the fist, when old fear the pole.

Lesson 3 – again stop being obsessed with power. In using the pole power is useless if you fail to hit your opponent. Instead, if he hits you, especially with a solid pole, the pain and damage is much worse than getting hit by a fist or palm strike. So pay attention to the movement process to understand how to use the pole properly.

Lesson 4 – though the pole is heavy you must also learn to use it as if it is light. To do this you must learn the trick of manipulating the pole using proper biomechanics.

Lesson 5 – as with pole, so be with the fist. This means that the way you learn to handle the pole can be transferred across to the way you apply empty hand techniques in push hands.

Lesson 6 – don’t be long winded when using the pole. Learn to decisively move, hit and finish the opponent in 1-2 moves. Then apply the same to empty hand techniques.

Lesson 7 – enhance your body movement from learning the pole. Learn to move quickly, precisely and control the striking zone through stepping and body angling.

Lesson 8 – understand how to extend power further. Playing the pole a lot can develop wrist and arm strength. This can boost the striking techniques that is from Master Leong’s PKK arsenal.

Contact Training 6

In this clip after we got into the groove we let our body moved a little more, gyrating and bouncing gently to an inner rhythm, akin to a dance.

But not for long because as soon as my student couldn’t keep up with the rhythm he started opening up his spaces unknowingly to attack.

In the following clip we change focus to small, tight circles before letting it morph into freer circles. This inevitably led back to the pattern of movements in the clips shown in the earlier posts in this series.

Many times how your opponent responds to your movements is how your technique will turn out. You can dictate how the movements can be but it takes less effort if you just enjoy the moment and go with the flow. Then your body will respond automatically with the pattern of movements that you have etched into your body from the form training.

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.