Taking the First Step

Today is the first day of 2018.

The first of January is also a Monday, the first day of the week; a most fitting day to start the new year. And to accompany it on this lazy afternoon the song “Monday, Monday” that first hit the airwaves some five decades ago.

The last day of 2017 was a cold, wet night. The cold, gloomy weather continues this afternoon with a dull, overcast sky; an indication of a wet day ahead sometime.

Outside the street is quiet. At home it is a day of solitude; a time to reflect on journeys past and the journeys to be. We can’t change the past nor recover back the hours, days, years lost to inaction, procrastination and dreaming. Only thing we can do is to not waste any more time from today, affirming to move onward with deeds rather than words of action.

There are things we can control and there are things we cannot control. I can control my learning, practice and writing of the combat arts. It is a continuing journey not just in the knowing but in the doing, the mastery of ourselves.

So we can reflect on our martial arts goal for 2018. We can think about what we want to learn, to become better in, to master. More important, what are the steps you will take and will actually carry out to attain your objectives.

We want to learn many things, pick up more skills but more frequently than not what we want to do remains on the wish list because it takes effort, a lot of effort, more effort than we think, more effort than what we are willing to invest in to reach our goals. So our desires remain firmly in the firmament of our dreams.

Whatever you want to do you need to take the first step forward and keep moving ahead. The days will pass us by quickly and before you know it Tuesday, 1 January 2019 will have arrived.

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Boji-Lite Module 11

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In the earlier modules we learned about the use of strikes. However, strikes by themselves are basically useless unless your opponent cooperates by standing still and letting you hit him without resistance.

Otherwise, you can assume that no opponent will allow you to hit him so easily. You can expect the opponent to move, to block and to hit back.

In short, knowing how to strike is only one part of the story. To be able to use the strikes successfully you must be able to not allow yourself to get hit as you are trying to hit.

In order to do so you must pay attention to the following basic factors :-

a) Instinctive guard posture
When you throw a strike the opponent may try to hit back in the same instance. The opponent may also hit after blocking or evading.

To avoid getting hit by the opponent you would need to be either have a defensive shield up at all times or at least be able to marshal a defense into place in a split second.

Below is a picture of a simple guard posture that most people can take too easily without a lot of thinking. This is not the guard we normally use in Pok Khek but nevertheless, it has its usefulness so we shall use it here.

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To form the basic guard posture follow the steps below :-

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You can verify if you set up the basic guard posture properly by checking to see if you can turn your body easily and put body weight behind your strikes.

An example is shown in the video above where the ability to rotate the body to throw two Fong Chui and two Chau Chui is checked. Note – a Fong Chui is basically a Yum Chui but performed with a vertical fist.

b) Distance control
Since Yum Chui, Sao Chui and Chau Chui are long range strikes you must be able to control the range in which they work.

For example, if you move too close to the opponent then your long range strikes will not work. Of course, over the long term you should learn different techniques and tactics for different ranges.

As such, your ability to use the Leung Yi Bo is of paramount importance in that the footwork allows you to control and adjust the distance to allow the strikes to be effective.

In the video I am illustrating the correct range to deliver an abbreviated and shortened Sao Chui by focusing on how to use the proper range through the control of the movement arc. The strike was done at a slower pace as it was for the purpose of teaching.

In the first instance the arc of the Sao Chui was cut short after impact. As such, though the force can allow me to spin the opponent’s head around it did not move him significantly.

In the second example I stood closer but the striking arc is too short hence the force is not strong.

The arc used in the third instance enabled a greater range of movement hence the power issued is greater allowing me to spin the opponent’s head and knocked him back.

c) Position, position, position
This refers to where and how you are standing at any moment in time relative to your opponent.

Why is position important to us. Let’s take a look at the video below :-

In the first scenario after I cleared the way I would launch a Yum Chui. If my opponent were to step straight back then chances are the Yum Chui would land.

However, sometimes my opponent may choose to step to my left side. If he managed to get there I would be exposed to his attacks because at that moment in time my left side is my blind side.

Fortunately, he has to step to position himself at my blind side and I could counter faster by not having to step. So I used a backfist to spoil his game. If I do the backfist properly I might be able to hit the side of his face instead of just blocking his way.

In the second scenario, my opponent managed to get to my blind side since he was able to quickly intercept my left Yum Chui strike. In this scenario he would stand a high chance of winning since he has the position.

In the third scenario my opponent reacted a bit too fast and I quickly changed my Yum Chui to a backfist to jam his intercepting arm. If he attempts to push my left arm away I can grab and pull it to my left side.

My pulling response caused my opponent to lose his balance and exposed his entire left side. Because I am holding his left arm he is unable to use it to block and when he is pulled off balance he ended up blocking his right arm with his body.

By studying different scenarios we learn about the importance of position in attack and defense.

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Boji-Lite Module 7

Click on the page for BojiLite for background information.

Now that you have learned about Yum Chui, Sao Chui and Chau Chui you can enhance your skills by using hand pad and other training aids.

a) Use of hand pad to refine biomechanics in-situ
You can get a training partner to hold a hand pad for you to work your strikes against while standing in the same spot.

Pay attention to good form and balance. Articulate the body mechanics correctly each time.handpad

Begin slowly before increasing the speed of your strikes. Watch out for bad habits such as excessive learning and turning the body too much.

Your training partner can also help to spot your mistakes and provide feedback.

b) Use of hand pad to train accuracy whilst stepping
This is similar to (a) except your training partner will need to move as you are stepping.

c) Use of other training aids to enhance solo training
You can also use other training equipment when you do not have a training partner as shown below :-

i) Punch ball
I actually like the punch ball because you can use it to practice Yum Chui, Sao Chui and Chau Chui.

I have not come across one that is made for adults. The one I saw at Decathlon (shown below) is for children which means that its short and too light for a Sao Chui strike.

Bag-6

I actually tried a Sao Chui on it to test its suitability. One strike and the entire punch bag moved.

But if you are a short person and prefer to train light strikes, focusing on linking the strikes in a continuous manner then the punch ball is a good choice.

ii) Free standing punching bag
The free standing bag would allow you room to move around it while practicing your strikes.

Bag-1

If you were to practice the more advanced skills like delivering Sao Chui continously while moving in a circle this would be perfect.

iii) Punching bag on stand
The stand allows you to hit the punching bag hard without fear of it moving or falling over. A great tool if your focus is on delivering hard strikes one after another.

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Boji-Lite Module 6

Click on the page for BojiLite for background information.

a) Introduction to Chau Chui
Chau Chui which is a type of hooking punch. The Chau Chui can be used at a longer or shorter range depending on application.

b) Power in Chau Chui
The power in Chau Chui comes from torquing of the hips combined with a forceful upwards digging in motion of the fist on impact. The video below shows how to move the body and arm to generate a penetrating force :-

Points to note :-

i) Find the functional distance
ii) Test your striking arm’s range
iii) Define the arm’s movement arc
iv) Check body turning
v) Place your intent behind the opponent’s body

c) Chau Chui in-situ
Below is a video showing how Chau Chui is performed :-

i) Stand in Leung Yi Ma
ii) The striking arm is held behind your body while the leading arm is held in a backfist posture
iii) As you turn your body perform Chau Chui by moving your striking arm in an upward moving arc

d) Chau Chui with stepping
To perform Chau Chui with Leung Yi Bo simply execute the strike as you step out along the diagonal line.


e) Basic partner practice
A simple partner practice calls for the partner to act as a dummy by offering his arm for you to drill against.

i) To begin the practice use a backfist against the live dummy’s right arm. The purpose of this movement is to clear the way

ii) Follow up with a Chau Chui to the opponent’s ribs once the way is cleared

iii) To end the technique use your left hand to detain the opponent’s arm whilst delivering a Sao Chui to the opponent’s head

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Boji-Lite Module 5

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In Module 5 we  take an extended look at the topic of Sao Chui. This study is divided into three parts.

a) Sao Chui with stepping
After understanding how to perform Sao Chui in the same place we next examine the practice of stepping whilst delivering Sao Chui. The video below shows the basic way of doing so :-

i) Begin by standing with your right arm forward (other variations can be used, if desired)

ii) Begin the technique by using the right hand to describe an anti-clockwise circle in the air. This is a method of opening up the opponent’s guard. At the same time turn your body slightly to the left to simulate an evasive movement whilst prepping the left arm to deliver the Sao Chui

iii) Step diagonally to the right and deliver a left Sao Chui. In this instance we use our right palm as a target for the Sao Chui instead of moving it to the left side of our head

b) Sao Chui basic partner practice
To do the practice of Sao Chui with a partner we do a different way of stepping. The difference betwen this and that explained above is the addition of a twisting step before we do a diagonal step as shown below :-

i) First we step off the line by twisting the leading foot (example right foot). This is the same twisting step found in Tai Chi’s Brush Knee, Twist Step movement.

ii) As we twist the right step, we clear the way with a right backfist (OK, I know I didn’t cover the backfist in the 12 modules, just trying to keep things simple). The backfist can also be used to attack – remember the video of Master Wong which I posted in Module 4?

iii) The right backfist is followed by a left Fei Sao which is another clearing movement. The Fei Sao can also be used as a counter to opponent’s attempt to strike you.

iv) Once the way is cleared step into the space with left leg and unleash the right Sao Chui.

I know doing Sao Chui with a twist step is not easy or simple another more. Below is a video in which I do the Sao Chui at a faster pace and followed by example of usage.

 

c) Setting up to deliver Sao Chui (variation 1 & 2)
Below is a video showing how you can practice Sao Chui by asking your training partner to act as a static dummy for you to practice against.

Variation 1 (from 0:00 to 0:12) – in the first instance we use the Fei Sao to jam the opponent’s bridge.

Variation 2 (from 0:10 to 0:12) – in the second example the Fei Sao is used to open up the opponent’s leading arm.

The variation to be used during application depends on how the opponent reacts. As you can see in the Master Wong video in Module 4 if the backfist is used to attack instead of clearing the way. The opponent’s reaction to the backfist in that instance allowed the Sao Chui to be implemented right away.

Another example of using the backfist in this manner is when it is followed up with a Yum Chui. As soon as the opponent’s arm is cleared out of the way quickly deliver a Yum Chui as can be seen at the end of the video.

Master Leong taught a few ways to use Sao Chui. My preference is to use the variations that allowed me to use Sao Chui against taller people hence I am less inclined to use the backfist to attack right off. However, we do have a partner practice that works on the use of Sao Chui in this ferocious manner.

First time I did the partner practice with Master Leong I was surprised that he could easily reach me with his backfist and Sao Chui even though I was trying to hit him with straight punches. It was one of those milestones that marked the beginning of my journey outside of Wing Chun.

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Boji-Lite Module 4

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In Module 4 we will go into the topic of Sao Chui. We begin our study of Sao Chui with the study of four topics.

a) 3-star forearm conditioning
This is a basic arm conditioning exercise. You can practice it solo by hitting your arm against a tree that can flex or a padded post.

I did not make any video on forearm conditioning but I found two videos that show exactly what I have in mind. The first video is a monk performing the conditioning as a solo exercise.

 

The second video shows the same exercise but practiced with a partner. When you do it with a partner take it nice and easy with lighter taps until your arm has been conditioned. After this you can try going faster and harder.

Some masters actually like to test a visitor’s skill by inviting them to knock arms. The first time I met one of my Wing Chun masters, a old man in his late 80s, he invited him to do this conditioning drill with him. That was his way of seeing if I have some basics such as power in the arms as well as a conditioned arm.

If you want to use Sao Chui the 3-star forearm conditioning is a drill that you must practice. Otherwise, if your Sao Chui is blocked hard you may not be able to take the pain.

Also, a well conditioned Sao Chui will allow you to deliver your strike more confidently, knowing that it will hurt your opponent’s arm if he tries to block it. I remember an ex-Pok Khek practitioner telling me about his full-contact tournament experience.

In this tournament he went against another Pok Khek player. When the whistle sounded to fight his opponent rushed up to him and delivered a chopping forearm strike. So this person quickly raised his arm to block the chopping forearm strike.

After making contact with his block he jumped back. Then he signaled to the referee that he was throwing in the towel. Apparently, the impact of the chopping forearm strike was so powerful that it caused his arm to turn blue black and became swollen.

b) Introduction to Sao Chui
Sao Chui is Pok Khek’s favorite KO strike because of the power it can deliver. The Sao Chui can be delivered using the fist or forearm. My preference is to use the forearm; in this instance the radius bone.

Our Sao Chui comes from Buk Sing Choy Li Fut, a renowned Southern style of Chinese martial arts that our founder, Grandmaster Nip Chee Fei, was a master of. A friend sent me the link to the clip below after reading my initial post about BajiLite.

At 0:33 to 0:37 there is an excellent example of what we call a Gwa Chui followed by the Sao Chui. You can see what a fierce and powerful technique Sao Chui is as demonstrated by Master Wong Kwai Cheung who is a high level master of Buk Sing Choy Li Fut.

When we first learn the Sao Chui we can use the Leung Yi Bo. This is because there are some useful lessons we can learn here particularly how to deliver a powerful strike.

At a later stage we would use the circle stepping to apply the Sao Chui instead. This particular method of using the Sao Chui is my favorite because it can allow for swift entry to strike the opponent – an example is shown below :-

I pulled the strike and shortened my arm so that my student would not move back, allowing me to use him as a standing post to demonstrate the circle stepping. Just before the clip is cut off you can see how I have walked behind him. This is a favorite method of Master Leong for getting behind you before you even have the chance to react.

c) Power in Sao Chui
To generate power in Sao Chui follow the procedures below :-

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Step (1) – preparatory posture; the body is closed up and winded like a spring

Step (2) – initiate the Sao Chui by changing the right fist to open palm, bring it up in preparation to sweep out. At the same time, begin to lower your left hand to the side of your body

Step (3) – right hand continues to sweep towards your right side. The left arm is nearly straightened and by the side of the body. Open up the body at the same time

Step (4) – lower your right hand as if sweeping aside an obstacle. Begin to shift your weight to the right leg. Raise up your left arm whilst opening up the body a bit more

Step (5) – as the body weight is transferring to the right leg begin to bring the right hand back to the side of your face. The left arm is now raise above your head in preparation to strike down forcefully

Step (6) – plant your right foot strongly on the ground and torque your waist, turning it to the right to close your body and bring the left arm downward diagonally in an accelerated sweep. The right hand comes up to protect the face. Repeat exercise for the other side

d) Sao Chui in-situ
The video below shows how Sao Chui can be practiced as a solo exercise. Both left and right Sao Chui are shown.

When practicing Sao Chui once you are familiar with how to swing the striking arm you should pay attention to the other secondary arm. This is because the secondary arm has the important role of clearing and opening up the opponent’s space for you to deliver your Sao Chui.

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Boji-Lite Module 3

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In Module 3 we explore the following training topics :-

a) Yum Chui with stepping
You should be familiar with the basics of performing Yum Chui as outlined in Module 2 before doing the training in this section.

In Pok Khek Kuen beginners learn to step using the Leung Yi Ma by moving along a zigzag pattern. Refer to Module 1 under IV) Basic stepping pattern for more information.

To perform the training here you perform the Yum Chui as you step along the zigzag pattern as shown below :-

As usual, take your time to familiarize with the basic motions. Once you are used to it then you can try going faster.

Thereafter, you slow back the pace but this time work on the power mechanics. Articulate the key motions properly. Once you are more familiar you can try going for speed without making sloppy movements.

b) Yum Chui basic partner practice

You will need a partner to practice the basic Yum Chui partner practice. The partner’s role is to offer you a target to aim at. The basic Yum Chui partner practice is shown below :-

A key objective for the basic Yum Chui partner practice is to train your ability to keep your eye on the target as you are delivering your punches while moving forward.

Go for a slower pace in the beginning. You can work up to a faster pace when you are more familiar.

c) Yum Chui attack and defense partner practice

The next Yum Chui partner practice will require you to learn two roles. The first role is to be the attacker delivering Yum Chui strikes and the second role is to be the defender against Yum Chui. The video below shows how the attacker role transitions into the defender role :-

 

Once you are familiar with moving forward to attack with Yum Chui and stepping back to defend against Yum Chui you can begin to work on the Yum Chui attack and defend partner practice as shown below.

 

When you go through the Yum Chui attack and defend partner practice go at a leisurely pace so that you can pay attention to the following factors :-

a) Distance – make sure your stepping brings you into the correct range. If you are too close then you will not be able to extend your arm properly. If you are too far your strikes will fall short

b) Accuracy – keep your eye on the target to ensure that your Yum Chui is landing on the target that you are supposed to be hitting

c) Control – keep your eyes on your training partner at all times. If you are the attacker you want to keep your effective striking range and if you are the defender you would want to turn your body at the right time and turn enough to neutralize the punch

The video below is an example of what can happen if your training partner is not able to handle a faster pace. At the end of the video you can see how my student lost control of his striking in the first part and his defence crumbled in the second part as I increased the speed of striking. I was not even hitting hard.

Have fun with the second part of Yum Chui training.

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