Dance the Night Away

At the end of a night in 2012, at the end of a sweaty training session, at the end of our strength’s use, we practiced free dance.

We started slowly before moving faster, changing tempo now and then, but always turning round and round like a top in spin.

What style be it is the question – some see baguazhang, some see Aikido, some see Vietnamese Wing Chun, some see Tai Chi’s 9-palace stepping, others see what they want to see.

Whatever it may be it is at the end of the day the principles of turning and translation at work to teach us how to use turning and stepping to absorb, neutralize and position.

P.S. – in Tai Chi the principles of this type of free stepping and turning is taught within our straight sword form. How to turn, how to step, how to free your body up to turn quickly and effortlessly whilst defending and attacking is taught within the applications of the straight sword.

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Improvisation

It was there, leaning against the wall for a few weeks. I took note of it because previously it was not there. I didn’t know who put it there but in a lesson this week it became handy.

Emptyhand forms are emptyhand forms and weapon forms are weapon forms. Some movements will overlap but when playing weapons we should take advantage that the design of a weapon affords us.

Study the advantages, expand your understanding, and apply it to improving and refining your emptyhand techniques for your hand is the weapon and the weapon your hand. The practice of each can be mutually beneficial.

As with emptyhand forms we should play the form in a meaningful manner. For example, don’t play the straightsword like swishing a toothpick in space. Instead, take heed of how it can be used to stab, cut and slice. Observe, the similarities and dissimilarities to emptyhand movements, and the strengths and weaknesses of its design when pitted against other weapons.

Until this lesson my explanations of the use of the straightsword had been largely in the context of straightsword versus straightsword. But this lesson I wanted to highlight the issue of reinforcing the movement of the straightsword. This would be relevant when you need extra power to pierce your target or to control a potential loss of balance when missing a target.

For defending you will need to get more mass behind the straightsword to absorb the impact on the weapon and body if ever you have to block the strike from a more powerful weapon such as the long pole.

But alas, I didn’t bring a long pole along. So it looked like I could not illustrate what I wanted to talk about.

However, it was no problem after all. Just a matter of improvising. After all, we are learning live principles which if it to be useful to our everyday lives, must enable us to change and adapt to different circumstances. I was hesitant but learning took precedence.

Adjust and adapt, use what is at hand, and make it work. Yes, it worked well. Only thing I didn’t do was to make contact, something I would do if I had a long pole but it was understandable.

Still, it was useful and I was able to illustrate many points – why move this way, why hold the straightsword in this manner, how to control our space, how to step and cut, and so on. The red plastic twigs moved through the air – poking, swiping, turning – like the tail of a faux dragon jousting with the straightsword.

At the end of the lesson, against the wall it leaned in silent zhanzhuang until brought to life once more to fulfill its traditional function. A tool so ordinary, yet could a weapon be when used right.

An illuminating experience indeed from the ordinary broom.

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Two Amigos 4

A more advanced topic in this clip – how to apply the principles of the pole to emptyhand techniques.

The pole movement mentioned in the clip is on page 37 to 38, TaijiKinesis Official Handbook Vol 4 – Learning Pole.

The pole is a useful tool for training to generate power through an extended arm. When using the principle this way you have to imagine that your extended arm is the pole.

In this way you can expand the ability of your arm to carry on striking, giving your opponent lesser time to react and counter.

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Rice Please?

I shared this picture of Master Cheong Fook on my Facebook timeline.

beggar

This posture is known as Beggar Asking for Rice from the advanced level pole form of Ngok Gar Kuen.

The posture is one of those seemingly useless posture which has implications for the use of strategy in the application of emptyhand and weapons techniques if you take the time to study it.

Pole eBook Question 3

Question – Using the movements in page 23 as one set, my shoulders start to ache at 20 sets. Going beyond 25 sets feel more like weight lifting than training power.

The movements on page 23 are basically two major movements :-

1) Cut and thrust

2) Circling

Since the second movement only involves minimal movement of the shoulders the root cause for the aching shoulders would probably be from the first movement.

The first movement is made up of two sub-movements – a cut and a thrust.

The thrust should not cause the shoulders to ache. But if it does it would be because the thrusting motion is performed with too much arm movement especially when extending; a common occurrence when trying to thrust harder.

This pretty much leaves the cut as the culprit. If indeed the cut is the root cause then the reason why this occurs is because the shoulders are overly used in the downward motion particularly when stopping the pole at the end of the downward descent.

A possible remedy is to examine each sub-movement carefully to identify the actual root cause of the ache. Do the movements slowly as this makes it easier to examine what is going on.

In general, a good movement is one which follows good biomechanical principles. So if you are doing self-correction this is what to look out for. Otherwise, get someone who knows the weapon well to do the checking and correction.

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Pole eBook Question 2

The second question is whether there is a difference between using rattan, hardwood or even white wax.

From my own experience :-

a) Hardwood is the best for practicing southern style Chinese martial arts. Lovely heft, great for absorbing vibration when struck, good control. But they are heavy and not as easy to control especially if the pole you are using is too heavy for you

b) Rattan – good pole to start off with; easier to control but prone to being wobbly especially when doing the Cut movement. When struck it can vibrate a lot more, causing you to possibly lose your hold on the pole and dropping it

c) White Wax – easier to manipulate but prone to being infested. If too thin you can break it with a strong Cut movement. However, if you love to shake a pole then white wax would be suitable

d) Hard plastic – I see some poles made of this material today. How good is it I have no idea but I do have a hard plastic broadsword which handles OK

Where to buy poles in Singapore? Except for the rattan pole I have which was made by a furniture shop in Singapore all my wooden poles are from Malaysia. I used to have an 8-foot pole from Hong Kong but I left it at someone’s place and have not taken it back. You can always try asking the usual suspects like Ting Fong, Liang Seng and Yi Fong.

I have seen some nice poles at this website in Hong Kong :-

http://www.kafok.com/index_product_view.php?did=52342&didpath=/30927/52342&page=1&imgid=919557

You can try asking them if they export to Singapore. Check with a local freight forwarder if they can help to clear customs. The last thing you need is for the pole to arrive and find that you cannot bring it in or you need to have it check for infestation.

If you have friends in Malaysia who practice martial arts you can try asking them for help. In my hometown there was a shop that sells wooden stuff, amongst them poles for industrial use. Poles for industrial use can be pretty solid.

If you are game try buying wood and making your own or ask a carpenter to make for you. He will ask you for specifications. Maybe you can use the info from kafok.com.

http://www.woodandwood.com.sg/sawn-timber-logs.html

http://www.sinjoolee.com.sg/

http://suarwood.sg/

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Pole eBook Question 1

Received some questions on the pole eBook. Since they are good questions I will write a reply here instead.

The first question is how to choose the weight of a pole?

There’s no exact science here. I wish there was for example if you are X height, Y weight then you buy a pole in the A-B kg, C-D length range.

Generally we choose a pole by feel. For example, if I go to a shop and I see a pole I am interested to buy I would play with it for a while to feel its balance.

You wouldn’t want to buy a pole that you cannot control without a lot of effort. This is because if your body is not up to handling a heavy pole you run the risk of injuring yourself as you strain your muscles and body to control the pole.

However, a pole that is too light would be OK if you just want to practice the movements. For power training a too light pole would not be useful.

You would want to pick a pole that has good balance and heavy enough to challenge you to use the correct biomechanics to manipulate. This is one reason why I would teach a weapon only after the student has learned emptyhand movements because by then he would have a better understand of what biomechanics are from studying movements such as Play Pipa which can translate across to using the pole.

But seriously I never really picked my poles. Some of my poles come as they are. Yet, for some I just bought them and used a wood planer like the one in the video below to trim off the excess wood.

The rattan poles that I have came from a local furniture shop. I just told them to make me a 6 foot pole. For the diameter I used my hand to show them the diameter required – they made an estimate based on what they saw.

I know, its awfully un-scientific and inexact. Well, if ever I figure out how to select a pole exactly you will be the first to read it here.

In the meantime, there are some videos on the internet on choosing a pole – in this case a Bo that is used in Japanese martial arts practice :-

If you are game enough to make your own poles try watching the videos below :-

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