Odd Strikes

What is odd to one is normal to another.

I have learned different styles and also examined many more styles. Among those styles I have learned I have picked up different ways of skinning the same cat. By spending years to practice the same form I have also discovered a lot more details such as non-obvious techniques and hidden techniques  than is apparent at first glance. And if you happen to have a good teacher you will also learn a lot of stuff you will never discover on your own.

Over the years as these movements become natural to me they start to manifest themselves in how I use techniques. In this way what is not normal becomes natural to me. However, to my student who has never learned broadly or taught to look beyond the obvious what I do seems odd to him.

If I apply the art shallowly without referencing the full range of techniques that is found in forms then it is easy for my student to catch up to my skill. With a huge repertoire it is more difficult for him to catch up, which is why I kept reminding them to practice forms.

For example, in the straight sword form we have a movement called Wind Sweeping the Lotus Leaves (風捲荷葉). Though it is a weapon technique it can be readily used for emptyhand striking in line with the principle of hand is the sword, sword is the hand. So when I use this in push hands my student is suddenly confronted with a technique he has not seen before. But if he had been diligently training the straight sword he might have made the mental connection right away when he saw the waving, side-to-side movements.

This is why when we study any art we should first study it in depth. After we reach a certain level of competence we can begin working on acquiring breath of knowledge. In this way a simple technique can conceal a certain level of sophistication that allows you to keep using it despite your training partner’s efforts to resist it.

When he finally manages to overcome it he will find that this simple technique can become something else and continue to go through his defense. This is one of the key teachings I picked up from Master Leong and a reason why I finally used his Pok Khek techniques even though I didn’t really like it in the beginning.

In this sense, Pok Khek seemed odd to me at first but given enough time it has become natural and it is actually quite practical and handy.



Ngok Gar Kuen Technique Practice 3

Here’s another confounding technique from Ngok Gar Kuen “-

It took me a long time before I can use it comfortably. Once I got it I understand why this is a trademark technique of the style.

My teachers in Ngok Gar Kuen (yes, I have three) likened this movement to driving a car and I am sure you can see why.

Again, without context it goes not look practical. Once I had a first hand feel of how it is applied I knew I had to master its use by hook or by crook.


Ngok Gar Kuen Technique Practice 2

Here’s another technique from Ngok Gar Kuen.

I still remember seeing this technique the first time and I went What??? Here’s what I probably looked like when I first learned to do it.

Looks odd, right? Doesn’t look practical; at least not when I first saw it. One thing I learned from learning movements like this is to never judge a book by its cover. Just because something does not fit our idea of what practical is does not mean its not practical.

Here’s how I do it nowadays :-

This rendition is focused more on working the snappy power which is a by-product of practicing the Series 1 static postures. The movements are clearer but unless you learn traditional Chinese martial arts I doubt you can make much sense of how it is used.

I know that as a learner of Wing Chun I didn’t know what to make of it until I was shown and then I saw the light!

Anyway, enjoy this little detour into a little seen art.






That’s how I imagined it must have sounded when my student said there was a noise in his head right after I flicked the back of my palm against the side of his head. The weird part was I had tapped the right side of his head but the noise was heard in his left ear!

I didn’t know what to make of it except to assume in hindsight that the tap must have rung his head like a bell and projected the sound to the other side. To me the more interesting reaction was how the tap caused him to stop immediately. Though, I did not intend to actually made contact, that it did inadvertently yielded this observation.

So if you ever wonder if a flick of the wrist is effective this anecdote suggests that it is. Of course, the other question would be how would it be if the target struck had been the face head-on. Silly question. A tap to the face can stun and with a bit more force can break the nose.

Fun fact to know. Just be careful when practicing this way.



Fifth Lesson – Games of Strategies

In the book on the 22-form there is a chapter entitled 拆架拆手 (Dismantle Frame, Dismantle Hand). This chapter offers examples on how to apply the strokes (招中术) and force methods of the 22-form.

The 21 examples can be considered as step-by-step studies on the use of intention force against an opponent who provides resisting pressure but not necessarily actively resisting.

The 21 studies of the strokes of the techniques are useful to spark off your journey to learn the use of intent in your push hands. As you make progress you will need to practice against opponents who resist more actively, who will vary the amount of resisting pressure and who will try to counter your fajing attempts with their techniques.

In other words, not a dummy partner who will allow you to get away with anything. You certainly do not need to have a compliant training partner who at your slightest touch (or perhaps a non-contact dismissive wave of your hand) jump like a grasshopper.

Your progress is only as good as the way you train. When you have more realistic resistance from your training partner you will understand why the use of techniques and power go hand-in-hand. This information is captured in the way a good form is organized.

Sometimes the information is obvious but many times it is not. We can only speculate why this should be so. If you ask me it is to prevent someone, perhaps an interloper who is peeking through a hole in the wall, who managed to see the form being played from figuring out how to use the techniques easily. In other words, you can steal the movements but you cannot steal the applications.

The movements of the form are not cast in stone. They have obvious, hidden, derived and situational applications. Many times a demonstration of fajing can be good but totally suck at being a proper combat application. When you play push hands against a less cooperative training partner, someone who will push you back or strike you, then you will understand this point better.

Though the form does not always tell you the strategy being employed explicitly it does not mean it is not present. As long as your opponent is not a dummy he will not allow your attacks to go through so easily. You will have to intelligently use your wits, techniques and power to make your technique work.

In the beginning you will find that even though you can visualize the workings of the force models in the various strokes, however, you are unable to use them freely. In fact, most of the time during push hands the timing to apply a technique is very short making it next to impossible to get your strokes together.

Until and unless you can do the various requirements in a split second you will never be able to use the force models. This is why you need to internalize the requirements by constantly working on your 22-form. There is no shortcut to mastery here.

Keep to your daily practice. The goal of using the force models within the strokes of the form is not impossible. It just takes persistence and intelligence to master them.

So what are the games of strategies you can learn from the 22-form? Let us take a brief look at one example. You might have seen this drawing at the beginning of this site :-


This fajing model is the last model presented in the chapter 内功勁法 (Internal Power Strength Method). The full name of this model is 大氣球澎脹法 (Big Chi Sphere Inflated Method). I like the use of this model because it is simple yet comprehensive. Since the topic here is about strategy rather than force models I won’t discuss how it works in the context of power. Instead, I will just write about its use as a strategy in a broad context.

I have heard Tai Chi practitioners describe how their body needs to be rounded so that they can be like a fully inflated ball that can rebound an opponent. This is a nice analogy though it is rare to see a practitioner or master actually use it. Master Cheng Man Ching’s Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on Tai Chi Chuan has a chapter entitled Strength and Physics that discusses how a sphere can be used for attack and defense.

I have read it a long time ago and always wondered how to actually apply the information. I tried out ways to make the sphere work for me but I could never truly make it work in a manner that is consistent to what is written in the Tai Chi Classics, at least not until I have learned and practiced the method of 大氣球澎脹法 (Big Chi Sphere Inflated Method) for some years.

I won’t describe in detail how to cultivate the 大氣球澎脹法 (Big Chi Sphere Inflated Method) as it is outside the scope of topic here. What I would like to say is that you need to use the fundamentals to build the necessary intent to bring forth the Big Sphere until it is for all intent and purpose, feels real to your opponent.

When you arrive at this stage your can use the Big Sphere to carry out the ways of neutralizing and attack that Cheng Man Ching describe in his book. However, this is still only the basic stage of usage. From my experience there are at least two more stages that you can go through, that can expand and refine your ability to use the Big Sphere.

To put it in a nutshell, the 大氣球澎脹法 (Big Chi Sphere Inflated Method) allows us to use the following games of strategies in a game of push hands :-

a) Go with the flow, harmony and outflank

b) Rotate and rechannel

c) Load and release like shooting an arrow