Self-Help

Self-help is better than waiting for help.

This is a recent hate crime, a horrific attack in USA, that happened out of the blue to an elderly Asian lady :-

Because the attack was sudden there was no opportunity to call the police. Even if somehow the police was called they will take time to come.

And bystanders who can help just stand and watch, and take video. This is the sad reality today.

Don’t rely on other people to protect you. Learning to protect yourself is better like these folks are doing :-

Oh, while you are at it try to get together to practice regularly because the ability to use techniques properly do not come naturally. It has to be learned, to be practiced until it becomes natural. Then when you need it the response will come naturally.

And try to increase the resistance as you go along because getting a fellow elderly person to grab you is not the same as when a determined attacker grabs you.

Self-defence is your own responsibility. When you are attacked which of the F3 (freeze, flight or fight) response you go with depends partly on your training and confidence. Avoid always, run if you can but if you have no choice, fight.

Be constantly aware of your surroundings, eyes don’t be glued to the phone. As you can see an attacker won’t just hit once and wait for you to get up. This is not a movie, there is no fair fight.

Start training early because self-defence skills is not like switching on the light. You can’t just flick on a switch and magically have the capability. You need time to train. Ultimately, whether you become a victim is the choice you make today.

Shock Pulse Power

Concentration of power. That’s what Tuhon Apolo calls what we would term as fajing in Chinese martial arts.

There are different ways to generate power to suit the delivery method. In Kali if you practice basic strikes daily with the sticks you will acquire power in your empty hand strikes. You don’t really need to understand why though its not hard to do so. You just need to do it.

In fact, you can establish a baseline by checking how strong you can deliver say a palm strike. Then do another check once you have practice striking with a stick for 1000 times a day for 7 days. If you have an old tire you can strike that would be better.

Concentration of power is what we term as Chap Jung Lik in Cantonese. For example, one of my Wing Chun teachers said that hitting with the tip of a long pole is devastating because it is like hitting with a harden phoenix eye fist. A phoenix eye fist is powerful because the power is concentrated onto a striking tip.

In Tai Chi we think of power generation as a shock force impulse. If we use a long duration impulse then the shock would be greatly diminished. Such an impulse is good for demo where you want to send your partner flying over a distance.

In Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Tai Chi prolonged training in the form teaches us to use a short pulse as well. However, this short pulse is unlike a sudden, whipping external movement that we would normally associate with the term “short pulse”. Below is an example of what a short pulse power generation would look like :-

Some might look at this and think the strike is not powerful. If I add in another trigger mechanism into the fajing process the result will look better :-

Even then this demo is toned down. A properly delivered short pulse power will not send the person flying back. Instead, he would just kneel on the spot in pain. I did this once to show a skeptical person. After that I understood why GM Wei stopped such demo ever since he nearly injured someone fatally with it.

In Tai Chi we don’t just concentrate the power. We also focus the mind in that we have a specific mental target, a mental process, stuff we do but after years of training the many steps have basically become just one step. At this stage the fajing becomes easy. That’s why we don’t need elaborate steps to do it; no getting into a lower stance, no chambering, no asking the partner to stand still.

I’ve been thinking over the question of how does one teach this type of shock pulse fajing in a shorter duration. Would it be possible to break it down into a number of easier to learn steps? One main issue with learning it currently is that if the student is not good at visualizing and feeling in his body what his mind is visualizing then learning will be a struggle.

Will keep this in view for now.

Learning Kali

Would you buy life insurance that only takes effect 5 years from the date you signed up?

No, right?

If anything, you would expect the life insurance coverage to take effect once it has been accepted by the insurance company and you have paid the first premium.

Similarly, would you learn a combative art that takes a few years to get you to a decent level?

You would probably say no. However, the reality is that most learners would quietly accept this outlook.

In learning a combative art we don’t just want to know the lineage, the tradition, the techniques, the forms, the application, the color of the belt we can wrap around our waist.

I know, I know, they can be good to know, fun to learn. But face it, the end objective of being able to be combative requires the sharpening and elevation of our physical movements from the ordinary to that of a human weapon. Don’t you think so?

I don’t know about you but to me, being able to defend myself is a life skill. Sure, you might be rich, have the money to employ bodyguards. But what if you can’t employ a bodyguard or if your bodyguard is not with you when you need him? What do you do then?

I view the capability to defend myself my responsibility. I can call the police. That’s what most people would tell you. But try telling that attacker whose fists is seconds away from your face. Hold on, dude, I just called the po, they gonna come and take you away, yo. No? Bang, bang, bang, down you go.

It happened to someone I know. Six uninterupted punches that caused his cheekbone to drop down and had to be pulled up by wire and fixed back into place. He went on to buy a gun and learned to shoot as soon as he healed.

I know its best to avoid first, run second, call the cops third. But if these three options are not available then the stark reality is that you are still on your own.

In today’s crazy world you get people being attacked for no reason other than the color of their skin. And many of these attackers are targeting the elderly, people the least likely to fight back. Except when they do they put the attacker in a hospital instead.

I am sure all of us want to be left alone to live a peaceful life the rest of our life. Its when we can’t, when we have to then we better be ready.

In Chinese martial arts we say that we fear the fists of the young and the pole of the old. When you are old your reflexes are slow and your bone not as hard, nor your blows as heavy. Except when you have a weapon in hand. It can be a pole, a stick, a sword, a knife, or whatever is your choice of poison. You can probably take a few hits by a fist. But a hit from a stick or a pole or any weapon is a different matter.

This is why at the age when most people morph into silver haired, bearded masters sprouting Eastern sayings of wisdom I take up Kali instead. I can handle a long pole, straight sword, broadsword and butterfly knives. But I want to know how to use a knife, not just the kitchen variety which I learned how to use when I worked in a kitchen for a few years, but combat knives.

Since the Filipino Martial Arts is famous for the use of combat knives that’s how I came to take up Kali, in particular the iKali branch (headed by Tuhon Apolo Ladra) of Pekiti-Tirsia System of Kali of Grand-Tuhon Leo T. Gaje.

Below is a clip of Tuhon Apolo Ladra explaining a basic movement from our Double Sticks technique :-

The “i” iKali does not stand for internet, individual, instruct, inform, or inspire. Instead the “i” stands for indigenous. So iKali is short for Indigenous Kali and this name was chosen by Tuhon Apolo as he wants to bring back the old ways of using the blade, body mechanics and all.

The principles and concepts of iKali are taught through the double sticks, single stick, blade and empty hand. They are taught in a systematic manner that allows a learner to pick up the skills in a reasonable amount of time (weeks, months instead of many long years) with consistent and constant practice of the drills, solo or with a partner.

I’d say that iKali techniques are simplexity. They look simple, they are simple to do, yet they are not that simple beneath the simplicity. There’s a layer of complexity that you will discover as you keep on learning and practicing. There’s no mystery to it, just tons of practice to get the skill.

I come from the Tai Chi world where people are nuts about fajing this, fajing that. When I tell potential students not to be hung up about fajing they don’t believe me. They rather stare at the finger than at the moon. They fail to understand that if staring at the finger will get them the magical fajing skill they would have gotten it a long time ago. They fail to understand the irony of their stubborn viewpoint in hindering their search for the elusive fajing treasure. I’ve been there, done that so I have an idea of what fajing is about.

The skills of iKali is waiting for anyone willing to practice. No magical breathing skills required, no standing still for hours, no meditation needed. You just need to stand there and rep it out is what Tuhon Apolo would say.

I hate to do repetition drills. I prefer to learn forms cause that’s what I am used to. However, I did a 10,000 repetition challenge once just to see what its like. I did 10,000 reps each for left side and right side. There is positive outcome to doing it. I embedded the most basic blade flow into my movement. Months later I can do it better and faster – take a look :-

I wanted to master Kali. I am not young. I don’t have the luxury of taking my time. I practiced as much as I can, as often as I can. I followed the learning plan. From not knowing how to flow with the stick I found myself being able to do a decent flow one fine day. I just felt it, I wanted to try it and here’s what it looked like, this flow that is made up of the various drills I learned in iKali :-

Yeah, if an old dog like me can pick up new tricks anyone else can do it too. Tuhon Apolo said that we should learn to teach and teach to learn.

So if you have the interest to pick up Kali drop me a line here. iKali is especially suitable for ladies. Here’s Guro Katie, one of the deadly ladies of iKali :-

What you see in this video are the basics. Yes, the basics, not some esoteric technique you need to prove your worthiness or need to climb the ranks before you can learn them.

OK, this is turning out to be a long post. I better stop here. Time to go practice iKali.

Learning Sinawali

Paul’s first time learning Sinawali yesterday. Working on learning the basic steps.

Teach to Learn is one of the benefits of learning and teaching iKali. As I was teaching Paul I took the opportunity to learn by varying how I performed Sinawali.

Now its Paul’s turn to learn as part of Learn to Teach. He did the leading and I the following. Instead of doing Sinawali with the normal grip I opted to do it with reverse grip instead.

Once the basic movement is grasped I took the opportunity to extend the learning by going into the next part of our Sinawali sequence.

Instead, of learning the whole sequence I just introduced one additional movement and turned it into a cyclical drill.

I then introduced Paul to a learning objective – what it looks like to perform the sequence fast. The purpose of an objective is to present learning challenges to improve his performance, speed and power as he progresses.

The second drill we worked on was Sagang Labo. This is a well known drill in FMA though some FMA styles might call it by another name.

As I practiced Sagang Labo some of the things that Tuhon Apolo said came to mind. One of them is the ability to move about. I took this opportunity to showcase this point to Paul.

One of the limitations of online learning is the absence of feel. Having a partner in front makes for the best learning.

However, when we can’t have a partner we use a combination of words to describe what is happening, imagining and transposing the feel of the movement acting on us, and role playing it out.

Today I thought I would try to make the feeling more real by moving near to the camera to give the feeling of closing in to attack.

If you live in Singapore and interested to learn the iKali branch of Pekiti-Tirsia System of Kali let me know. We focus on working the basics of double sticks, single stick, blade and empty hand.

What Is & Is Not

What is Tai Chi?

Different people define it differently just as different people will use it differently. There’s no single consensus as to what Tai Chi is.

Sometimes you get a vague definition of what Tai Chi. Or sometimes an incomplete idea is used to define Tai Chi like saying that a car is a wheel but then bicycles and skateboards also have wheels.

The more I research, the more I learn, the more I read, the more confusing the picture becomes. It might seem to become clearer but when you really practice it and especially try to use it then the reality does not do justice to the ideal of what Tai Chi is supposed to be.

The Tai Chi Classics provide the framework of what Tai Chi is, that is, if you believe that they are true. Some believe in parts of it, some deny it and some like me just wonder if we are missing something here. My teacher said that the Tai Chi Classics is a record of the experiences of those who have gone before.

Good except what is written still does not seem to make a lot of sense. Well, maybe some parts do but many parts don’t. Some sound nonsensical, some I can’t wrap my head around. You would think that since I am learning Tai Chi I should be able to understand what the various writers mean but I don’t, not for a long time anyway.

Below is one of those demos I do during lesson to explain and show what our approach to Tai Chi is :-

After many years of hunting for the elusive it that is the Tai Chi written about in the Tai Chi Classics I believe that the Yang style Tai Chi of Grandmaster Wei Shuren comes closest to it. I can actually make sense of what the Tai Chi Classics mean after practicing the style!

If some of the things in the Tai Chi Classics don’t make sense to you it can be because :-

a) Their model is different from your model

b) What they wrote can only be understood once you reach advanced level

Based on what I have observed I would say that if you can’t understand the Tai Chi Classics it is very likely that your model is not the same, maybe some parts are the same, but in some critical parts not the same. So the parts that is not the same is like a path that takes you in a different direction hence you won’t see the sight you should see if you take the path that is written about.

So if you want to understand the Tai Chi Classics find the path that leads you to understand it. A question is why should you want to understand it?

The reason is because if you understand the Tai Chi Classics it is a means to confirm that you have attained mastery of the principles that exist in those days. Remember that being traditional is not simply about your master learning from master Z who learned from Master Y……. all the way back to Master A, the founder. Being traditional means have the same understanding and mastery of what Tai Chi is from as far back as we can trace it. The writings serve to give an informal confirmation of this.

Why I put this video as an example is because if you examine it closely you would notice the lack of attempting to root or spiral or breath in-out. Yet, there is a tangible force that can be felt and issued to affect the person receiving it. So how can this be performed?

Some might feel that this is nothing but a trick that is not practical. I treat it as a means to illustrate the workings of the intent. When the intent is used with normal movement the intent can amplify the physical movement. An example is shown below of the use of Push Energy with a strike that can fit easily into a normal application that calls for a punch :-

The above should give an idea of what is not the Tai Chi that is written about in the Tai Chi Classics.

What is the Tai Chi that approximates the Tai Chi described in the Tai Chi Classics is harder to pinpoint, not without a lot of effort in sleuthing to find this elusive animal. Or sometimes luck just dump it in our lap.

What is missing in the Tai Chi Classics is the how to do it method. Perhaps this is deliberate because the objective of many martial arts text is to serve as a reminder rather than a how to practice text. There many subtleties and nuances in actual practice that is difficult to describe. This could be the reason why few Tai Chi texts go into any meaningful depth. Those that do, such as GM Wei’s books, tend to fly over the head of most readers. Despite practicing his style it still took me many more years to make sense of what he wrote about.

When the many that purports to be the mainstream fail to explain, then the obscure no matter how little known it is could well be a path that leads us to the destination we want to go. So sometimes we need to empty and scrub our mind of preconceived notions of what is and is not Tai Chi to allow ourselves to see when we finally glimpse it.

The Kua & Winding 3

The Sau Chui is like a tight diagonal whipping strike.

This is necessary to minimize our exposure as we are striking with the Sau Chui.

If the angle of the Sau Chui is too near to horizontal it is easier for the opponent to block.

The diagonal, near vertical movement also allows for easier connection to the kua.

The Kua & Winding

The kua has an important role in Sau Chui.

Aside from being part of the power generation process, the kua enables us to swing the Sau Chui quickly and stopping it at the end of the movement without causing us to lose our balance.

In order to do this properly we must learn not to do unnecessary movements like swaying at the end of the Sau Chui.

The Kua & The Power

This is a basic sequence we use in SKD to train the kua.

The kua is worked through the stance and controls the movement of the arms to convert kinetic to potential to kinetic energy.

This is a fundamental movement in the generation of power using a combination of compress, release, swing, whip, float, sink motions.

The Kua & The Spear

We can also understand the use of the kua by using a spear.

When we don’t have an actual spear we can use a mental spear.

In Grandmaster Wei’s Tai Chi the movement of Fair Lady Works at Shuttles is embedded with the movements of the long spear.

In this video I demonstrate what the actual spear movements look like with a short pole since I don’t have room to move a long spear.

Then I show the same movements using Fair Lady Works at Shuttles from which the spear movements are taken from.