Bridging with the inclusion of positioning, shifting and aligning the attacking lines.
Why do we learn to bridge using contact? We need to use our eyes when there is no contact but when we come close the sense of contact would work better. More so, if we are older and our eyes can’t see as well or as fast.
Our sense of touch can be educated and refined over time. The older you get the better your sense of touch. Using touch does not mean we have to play a passive game. The use of touching can elevate our active game. This is why you find that when you play hands with masters they seem to be able to react before you have even finished your movement. A master would always seem to be a few steps ahead of you. Someone like Grandmaster Cheong of Ngok Gar Kuen fame can deliver 6-7 movements before I finished processing how to deal with his first movement.
For the learning of Tai Chi you can think of playing hands as the living lab for learning how to use the forms that you learn. You can try out, analyze, test out, repeat many times, increase the speed and pressure, to find what works best for you, and even iron out your weak points.
Blast from the past on how to play the bridging game.
Why do we learn how to play hands instead of charging in to push, pummel and throw?
Playing hands is like playing chess. It gives you a chance to get to know the other person and work on your reflexes. It also protects you from getting punched in the face if you just charge right in, especially against people you touch hands with for the first time and they are from styles that like to aim at the head.
When playing hands though you can flow and flow you have to constantly remind yourself that each time you get a position that position is like a hub that allows for different options such as striking, locking, throwing or even grappling. The possibilities are up to you to decide.
My SKD student is going to be playing push hands with some Tai Chi folks.
However, this group does not allow him to do any striking, locking or throwing. So I am guessing they are going to play pushing instead aka Sumo wrestling.
Given the restrictions how can my student then benefit from playing Sumo wrestling, I mean pushing each other around?
At first glance what we do in SKD does not seem to have any correlation to what this group is doing. But that is if we take a myopic view of things.
In the practice of push hands there are many areas we can work on. Pushing aka Sumo wrestling is just one part of it.
Just because we do a lot of striking in SKD does not mean we don’t examine the question of what can we do if someone can bypass our striking and end up right in front of us, pushing and pulling hard to throw us down.
We can actually use this type of restriction to learn. I had a student who does this type of rush right in and push hard type of training. When he rushed in I let him do so but I also reminded him that if his goal is to ultimately be able to apply what he learned in push hands to combat then rushing in this way can be detrimental to him because I could easily tag him before he even gets near enough to grab or push me.
So we can break down the practice – before the opponent is close enough and when the opponent is close enough – to see what we can practice.
If I can keep the opponent at bay then his excellent pushing skill and pushing strength would be useless. Maybe that’s why Xu Xiaodong can KO a lot of these Tai Chi masters so easily. They just can’t get close enough to apply their fajing push before they got tagged. See the latest video on this :-
So we can play the first game of how to keep the opponent from coming in. The focus here can be to use the opportunity to train our footwork and long range blocking skills.
The second game would be to let the opponent pass our first gate and engage him between the first and second gate. This is our chance to practice the 6-Blocks.
The third game is to work our skill in the space between the second and third gate. This is where you can work your blocks for this range and also the 24-blocks to get him back to the second gate.
If the opponent can get pass your third gate then you can practice your BJJ, Wrestling or Shuai Jiao on him. Ooops, I forgot no throwing but they didn’t mention no ground fighting so maybe you can get away with it.
All this while you can test your striking by either pushing or just gently touching the opponent’s body. Example, you can pull him in and push him back using your forearm to simulate the Sau Chui. Unless the rule says you can only push with the palm then why not push with the elbow, the forearem, the shoulder, etc?
This is how we can benefit from restrictive training by re-looking and re-framing the rules.
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.
Last week I got my student to do a new pole solo drill. Here he is starting off :-
With some practice he at least nailed some semblance of what the movement should be like.
Why I got him to work on this new exercise? Its because its a great training method to develop quick wrist turning that is vital to generating power in a short burst. When you do it quickly this is what it would look like :-
The movements can be applied in push hands and last night I provided examples of how to use small circles and spirals in quick counters and attacks.
When done fast the techniques should be like a swift torrent of movements overwhelming the visual and tactile senses, confusing the opponent’s reaction, slowing him down, making it easier for you to apply your techniques. I didn’t film any of this as its one of those 1-to-1 transmissions thingy.
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.
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.