Another Pole Exercise 2

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.

Another Pole Exercise

This week my student began another solo drill to develop an essential attack and defense technique.

This is basically a covering and uncovering motion. The drill is also good for developing whole body power to generate power through a sudden, small movement.

Below are some key pointers when doing the drill :-

Dim View of Dim Mak

Is Dim Mak for real?

None of my Tai Chi teachers ever talked of dim mak. Does this mean its not real?

I once got the opportunity to meet George Dillman, that Karate chap who was at the forefront of the movement to popularize dim mak, but he didn’t turn up. As it turned out he was not even registered for stay at the hotel where we were supposed to meet.

Years later I found out that before our meeting Dillman had demonstrated to the Shaolin guys and they showed him up. Bummer.

The next time I saw dim mak for real was when Master Cheong Fook taught me the dim mak forms. He explained that it was more of a delayed death touch in that you strike at a certain point, cause a blood clot and tomorrow the opponent dies.

Except there is a little bit of a logic issue here. In the meantime, if the opponent is still moving does it not mean that he still has the opportunity to continue hitting you?

So unless you can hit the person so hard or in such a manner that you can KO him on the spot then dim mak wouldn’t be of much use. But then if you want to KO a person wouldn’t the time spent learning dim mak be better spent on perfecting say Mike Tyson’s devastating hook punch?

I mean there are a lot of videos of Iron Mike knocking his opponents out so there are tons of proof that it works. But I have not seen any master actually do it against someone who was actively fighting back. And best of all, you don’t have to remember what the points are, their names, points to hit in sequence, and time to hit what points.

Master Cheong was famous for his fighting ability. However, it wasn’t for his ability to use dim mak even though he was giving me a demonstration of how it would work. No, he didn’t knocked me out. He just showed that there is an actual logic to it by demonstrating that if a certain point was touched it would affect another part of the body, kinda like if you depress a water hose on one end the flow on the other end would be slower.

If dim mak is that effective why have we not seen masters of dim mak get into a ring to show that it can work on a resisting opponent? Or maybe its a case of it would only work on a believing, complying dummy.

Master Lo Man Kam, the nephew of Ip Man, once explained why dim mak would not work. He said that its one thing to hit a particular spot on a non moving arm and another to hit it on a moving arm.

In the meantime, I would give a benefit of a doubt, a wee bit to those who say it can work, but I am not holding my breath waiting for a convincing demo against a resisting opponent.

P.S. – I wrote this after reading the account of someone who recently attended a dim mak seminar by a famous master. The cronies tried to work the dim mak magic on the attendee but it didn’t affect him. Maybe they need to brainwash him first………

Go Slow to Go Fast

Why do we put emphasis on form training?

I can think of two simple reasons :-

a) Form is about the cultivation, maintenance and putting in place appropriate principles at the right time during a sequence of changing movements, which through a period of time naturalizes, automates and allows us to call up at will easily the right principles to apply

b) It provides opportunity to cultivate and maintain key principles in great detail during movement without the distraction of pressure. The logic is that if you can’t perform without pressure, you can certainly not perform under pressure

If you don’t understand this logic you will see form as useless training. Form training is unfortunately not something you can breeze through. It takes time to see beyond the obvious, to tease out those things that you read about in the Tai Chi Classics but do not understand.

You do not understand not because it is complicated but because you have not trained to the point where you can understand what is written. Form training is one of those things where you want to rush through but you just can’t rush through. Try running from Point A to Point B as fast as you can. Now describe what was on your left side as you were running from Point A to Point B.

Did you have any problem describing in detail what was on your left side? How about describing in greater detail? Why do you think you are not able to describe better?

So this is the issue with form training. It takes time. My teacher said that time is the real price we pay for mastery.

I try to teach my student how to do a 4-step neutralize, trap, realign and issue technique. Its a simple, short move, nothing fancy, no leaping in the air and turning 270 degrees. But its not easy to do it quickly, under strong pressure.

Yet, the same movement is readily found in Rollback, in that innocuous little arm movement that most people don’t pay attention to. Yet, if you practice the form long enough to flesh out the details you will eventually reach a point where you will wonder about this movement.

There is a Zen story about the faster you want to learn something, the slower your learning will be. The moral is if you want to learn faster, try learning slower.

Working on Disadvantages

Being small and light is a disadvantage when facing a bigger opponent. Knowing this is important because you then know that you must work doubly hard to maximize those things that give you an advantage while minimizing the impact of the factors that work against you.

When you are small you would want to wage guerilla combat. Be mobile, get in, get out. And what if you can’t do that? What if your opponent is as fast, as mobile? This is when you turn to the study of strategy, the examination of refined biomechanics – the so-called internal approach.

For most students they can get away with not paying too much attention in the early days of their training to stance work as long as they have some strength to resist. However, the smaller student can’t. The smaller student will be at a disadvantage as long as he or she does not learn to be unified, to be rooted.

Stance work is a killer, takes a lot of patience, be able to endure muscle ache while working out the details of how to get things right. There’s rooting and there’s sinking to work on. Sinking is the easy part, sit lower and that’s all you have to do. But to root without apparent sitting lower is much harder.

Rooting is a process, at least that’s how I have evolved and simplified the learning. I think its important to learn as fast as possible, kinda like insurance. I mean you don’t buy an accident insurance that takes effect only 5 years down the road. What’s the point?

Easiest way to learn something is to first know the why. Well, that’s easy. You must root otherwise you go flying when you come into contact with someone stronger, heavier, more solid. Then to return the favor you need to sink. For this you have apparent outward sinking and you have mental internal sinking. Beginners do outward sinking cause its easy to pick up. Do the stance drill for a few months to make it a habit and process mastered. Piece of cake.

But outward rooting as a process is still not an easy practice. Its easy to learn though. Follow the step-by-step instruction. Understand the role of the arch. Know the importance of the kua to keep things together. Throw in a dash of the waist twist and voila! you have power and stability. Simple?

It would be simple down the road. For the moment its always get some things right, then something goes out of whack. Fix it, hold it, then move, then out again. And repeat the correction. This is the real challenge, to have the persistence to keep at it until everything falls into place naturally and effortlessly.

Along the way when the outer process becomes more refined is when one transitions to the internal. Not to forget adding in tons of mental and physical relaxation in accordance to the 4 keywords listed by Grandmaster Wei Shuren which leads to the achievement of the bell body.

The Killing Gung 2

Two weeks later from my last post The Killing Gung I still have my student working on the basics except this time he is down to doing just the 1-2 sequence of Spear-Kill.

Kill –> Spear –> Kill –> Spear

Like a train he chugged up and down linearly along the corridor connecting the two blocks.

I turned a more critical eye to his progress. This week I picked on his grip. A proper grip lends itself to a more solid structure leading to more power.

I had him spear the stack of chairs to understand how to position the pole properly in reference to the position of the body.

We ended with applying the lesson of the pole to the use of emptyhand techniques, particularly the advanced technique that Master Leong taught. This is the “one technique, many changes” movement of our number one fist technique.

Grind on.