POLErobics 2

Here’s a nice photo of this week’s practice.

This week’s focus is on Arrow Pole and Killing Pole as shown below :-

The basic practice focused on doing the 2 movements while stepping forward. Its a boring practice no doubt but the reward in acquired skills especially power generation more than makes up for the drudgery.

First we did the drill. Up, down. Up, down.

Then on to the fun part. The connection between emptyhand techniques and weapon practice. How does pole practice assist in acquiring the ability to generate power? Its not how most videos that I have seen on Youtube puts it.

No, no. Our secret sauce is much simpler. Its basically what you see is what you get. Its finding the fine line between the practice video you see above and below.

In this video I am doing a 4-movement sequence as opposed to the 2-movement sequence practiced by my student. I am doing it more fluidly to bring out the core principles of dot and circle.

In between the not defined properly and blurred definition of the two videos is the sweet spot. When you hit this spot in your practice you will find you can do strong, sudden fajing. Its not even difficult, just a matter of nailing a few small details.

We do the pole, we do the emptyhand technique to help us see the connection. Then we try out in push hands to see what it feels like.

Before you know it, you’ve gotten it; that seemingly elusive goal of being able to fajing, said by many to be difficult but it is really very simple. Just nail the key requirements and its your skill, forever.


The Fist & The Blade

So my student got a straight sword. Looked good until I held it and swung it a bit.

The tip side was too light and the handle side a bit off-balance. It probably wouldn’t make much difference to a beginner. But as he goes on he will feel these two problem areas more.

So the blade is the fist and vice versa. To help develop this are some simple staple drills that we should constantly work on.

These basic drills will help develop what we do in the form. Again as in emptyhand form we need to understand how we can use the techniques to understand the transition movements.

As my student found out, some responses that work for emptyhand techniques will get him cut when applied to straight sword techniques. However, emptyhand techniques can be enhanced by straight sword movements.

Thus, every movement must be learned properly, at the very least the basic way of doing so, before attempting to express variations of the same movement. In tandem with this he should try to incorporate straight sword principles and concepts into push hands to widen his repertoire and deepen his intrinsic expression of intent and power.


For The Knives Are The Hands

Here’s a video from 2012 of me playing hands with a student who learned Wing Chun from me in the past.

In 2012 this student has not learned from me for a few years. In between he had learned from masters in China and Hong Kong. Since I was in China for a meeting we met and played hands.

I am using the concept of knives as hands in the above video. However, this may make no sense.

However, now I have a video of my playing the knives ad-hoc so this should make clear the idea.

Observe, how the knives are played with stepping and angling to evade a weapon like the long pole, so that I can close in, take away the advantage of the pole’s reach, then I can crowd in and apply the knives techniques.

Transpose this idea to the hands and watch how I used the same steps to evade, close in and apply the emptyhand techniques.

In this sense, the knives are the hands and vice versa.



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.



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.


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.


Rice Please?

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


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.