Axe Chopping Principle

In this week’s SKD I delved into the principle of axe chopping to deliver a strike.

Interestingly, in a non-mainstream Wing Chun that I learned we have a punch called Tup Chui which is literally Hammering Punch in which the punch is not straight out but delivered in a downward curving manner. My final Wing Chun teacher also punched in this manner and he is able to punch really fast and powerfully using this process.

I had also encountered this way of punching in the Biu Jee form of the Ip Man style when my senior taught me this version from one of Ip Man’s lesser known disciple. This punch is performed at the end of every section.

The video below is an introduction :-

Here is where I mentioned the axe chopping in relation to Xingyi’s Pi Quan :-

In SKD this is how we use arm swinging to develop the chopping power :-

To be able to apply the chopping strike we use Tai Chi principles to learn how to relax and control our arm and body acting in concert to deliver the strike.

The arm-whole body movement is my adaptation of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Step Back Repulse Monkey from his 22-form. The arm rolling into backfist movement is the final movement in Repulse Monkey.

Intent is the Driver

In the practice of Tai Chi we say that the mind comes first.

In this context the mind refers to the use of intent. Intent is our desire to do something, in this context, the wish to move in compliance with the principles of Tai Chi.

In Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Yang style Tai Chi we use the intent to practice the process that he wrote about in his book on the 22 form.

The demo above is a segment from the 22-form showing Cloud Hands, Single Whip, Separate Hands to Kick and Strike Ears with Both Fists.

Grandmaster Wei Shuren is demonstrating this segment from 8:16 to 9:59 in the video below :-

The form does not look impressive nor powerful. However, if you try to do it yourself by copying the movements you will realize that it is a lot more difficult than it seems to constantly issue power in a concealed manner while moving calmly as if pulling silk continuously in a movement efficient way.

For example, in the movement of Single Whip the whip hand itself is issuing power 4 ways before moving into the left palm strike to complete the movement. In practicing the form we define the four movements clearly but we can also perform the movements with barely perceptible outward movements once we have grasped the essence of the movement.

At this stage you would need to be in command of your ability to use intent otherwise you will not be able to reduce the outer movements to the bare minimum required.

2021 Day 2

It started to rain last night.

It kept on raining throughout the day. I woke up to a dark, cold and gloomy day.

Practicing Tai Chi is a good day to get the blood circulating. Some say to circulate the Chi.

Playing the Tai Chi form is a good way to train your ability to concentrate, develop awareness of how your body is moving in response to your mind.

When you can quiet down your mind you can focus so much better. In this way you can reduce the outer movements, concealing the movements that are happening inside your body. This is what we mean by being internal.

Good control of the body allows you to tread like a cat. At the same time your body is moving like a series of gears to rotate and spiral to connect to the ground to generate power.

While it does not seem like it but within the slow, seemingly gentle movements we are working the power generation process.

Update 30 May 2020

Today is the last day of the month. Next week the lockdown will be over and its back to work, kind of anyway.

I’ve spent the last 12 days working on the Sam Kuen Do (SKD) manual and updating the learning syllabus. Right now we are at version 2.0. By next week we will move on to version 3.0. The challenge is how to learn more without having to have to learn too many things (expansive yet compact).

SKD version 3.0 brings some new learning areas such as :-

a) 3 different methods for generating power using the lower body

b) How to use (a) while stepping using Leung Yi Bo

c) Improved ways to learn the three basic force models

d) Incorporating (c) into the corresponding three strikes

e) Revamped 6-blocks and variations (7-blocks, 8-blocks, 9-blocks)

f) New strikes – linking three floating palms and linking two chopping strikes

Working on SKD has helped me to reorganize the teaching of the 8-step Health Form. I have not posted any videos to learn it step-by-step because when I tried making videos then I found out that what I took for granted, how I learned it, is not that easy to put across in self-learning videos. In fact, it could be confusing.

One example is from the topic of the 2 4 points. In Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s original pictures from his book on the 22-form the points are not even labelled – see below :-

In my post here (pictures also reproduced below) I labelled where the 2-point and 4-point is for ease of reference. But as you can see below the 2-point is the same whether the leading leg is the right leg or left leg and this can be confusing.

After deliberation I have come up with a simpler way to do this. For the purpose of learning the 8-step Health Form and for the teaching of how to step in SKD (yes, I am going to use this teaching tool in SKD also) we will just follow a straight forward, clear cut convention as shown below :-

So that’s the update. Now back to work on the SKD manual.

Song of Chaos

PART 1

What I like about Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Yang style is its clearcut learning map. In some Yang styles they seem to have too many types of jing or unclear if not confusing learning roadmaps.

For example, I saw a very nice graphic recently outlining the different types of power. The author divided the types of power into :-

a) Structural Power (internal strength)

b) Elastic Power (elastic store and release)

c) Peng Power (internal pressure)

d) Ground Power (ground reaction force)

However, I am a bit confused here because aren’t the 4 powers basically parts of the same type of power?

This is the logic of my analysis :-

i) You first have a body structure. In our Tai Chi we use the Bell Body structure.

ii) When you stand upright your Bell Body structure is connected to the ground.

Note – A characteristic of the Bell Body is inflation of the body like an elastic ball; what we call Peng Zhang (膨胀) as opposed to Peng Jing (弸勁). It is my opinion that Peng Zhang is frequently confused for Peng Jing. Peng Zhang is a quality whereas Peng Jing is a force vector as shown below :-

iii) Your body structure pressing against the ground with the help of gravity leads to ground reaction force as per Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

iv) That your body is opened up means that the body’s 5 bows can be accessed. This allows you to borrow, store and release the opponent’s strength like releasing an arrow. The process here is just converting potential energy to kinetic energy, basically a type of elastic power.

v) Lastly, the characteristic of Peng Zhang (膨胀) means that the body is rounded. If so, then we can access Peng Jing (弸勁) which is a type of circular force vector.

In conclusion, by using one body structure, Bell Body, we have the 4 types of power mentioned by the author!

PART 2

In Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Tai Chi we approach the topic of force differently.

There are many ways to apply force in our Tai Chi. GM Wei’s book on the 22-form has many models of how to apply force. Sometimes I think far too many.

Sure, it makes for fun learning. Tickles the grey cells even. However, for application I feel that you only need something more straightforward, something you can use easily without having to think very hard, something you can pull off even as the opponent is trying to hit you back.

Fortunately, in Grandmaster Wang Yongquan’s book there is a Song of Chaos which he penned based on his practice insights. Note – the book was actually written by Grandmaster Wei but published under GM Wang’s name with his approval. The Song of Chaos is as follows :-

双环一套十字生,

十字四端皆弧形

惟有当中是实点,

还要围绕环边行

十字交点一错位,

四两千厅亦可乘

掌中乱环横坚找,

乱环法术在于通

I once asked my teacher to explain the above to me. The moment I heard his explanation I realized how important it is to thoroughly master all the requirements of the 22-form.

This is because the 22-form (or for that matter the 37-form, the 108-form and the 8-step Health Form) is configured to provide the necessary practice for acquiring the physical understanding to actualize the skills outlined in the Song of Chaos.

PART 3

Explanation of the Song of Chaos here

Why Emptiness

In today’s post I touched a bit on the training of emptiness.

The training of emptiness is actually simple and straightforward. But it can be maddeningly difficult to catch like trying to grasp water.

I guess this is where the fun of learning is. And when you get there it can be incredibly satisfying because you have something that most Tai Chi practitioners will never understand much less be able to acquire.

You will be able to have a glimmer of understanding why the first two generations of Yang family, Yang Luchan and Yang Chienhou, were said to have high level skill.

Clarity

This CB lockdown has one good thing going for me – time to practice in the morning before I start work at home.

For some reason, I think it is the way I have to focus on the tons of fine details that is embedded in the Tai Chi form as I move through it, that clears up the mind and help to perceive things more clearly.

Sometimes too clear a thinking is bad, cause I end up writing a post like “WTF” here.

Split Mountain Intent

In this new post here I give an example of the use of intent in Yang style Tai Chi training.

I also use a video of Grandmaster Wei Shuren demonstrating the power that can be cultivated from a sub-movement of the technique of Fair Lady Works Shuttles.

Hand Shapes Training

One topic that is not addressed enough in Tai Chi training is the use of hand shapes.

This topic is part and parcel of our training of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Tai Chi.

In the training of 8-step Health Form I am addressing this topic here by explaining how to train the hand shape to issue power.

The video below is a demonstration of the use of the palm hand shape :-