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.

Kua Mechanics 2

Kua mechanics is also found in a Wing Chun style of an older tradition that I learned.

If you do not know what you are looking at you might not catch it. This is an example of the kua mechanics at play.

By using the kua and hip you can move quickly while unifying the body, keeping soft and being able to generate power when you want to.

Questions & Improvement

Did you know that a fast way to make improvement in your own learning of Tai Chi or any other arts is by asking the right question at the right time.

It is my experience that students do not take the opportunity to ask questions or have many questions. In the old days it is difficult to ask a teacher a question because some teachers are not approachable and some will give you painful physical answers.

Today such teachers are rare. So if you don’t ask questions then you are basically telling the teacher that :-

a) You didn’t really practice so you have no questions

b) You did practice but you are the type of “monkey see, monkey do” learner so if the teacher does not tell you then you will not ask

c) You don’t need to ask because you already got it

Below is a clip of Jordan Rudess, the keyboardist in Dream Theater. I listen to DT but never really appreciate Rudess until I watched this clip. What struck me is Rudess’ enquiring mind.

In fact, in asking questions whether of his teachers or of himself he has discovered and learned new skills. Just by watching this clip I learned something that I could teach my SKD students.

I had previously mentioned one way to do the 6-Blocks but not seeing anyone demonstrate the flavor that comes from understanding this tells me that either they did not practice or they did but can’t get it and did not pursue it. Plus if no one asked this could also mean that they are not interested to improve their 6-Blocks.

So on top of the way I had brought up in one lesson what Rudess talked about from 4:04 – 5:00 can be used to improve our arm movement. In fact, if I add in one more teaching from an old Wing Chun style then any student who really practice the 6-Blocks will be able to develop soft, willow-like flavor in the way they move their arm.

Not asking questions for starters is a great learning tragedy. I used to have a list of questions for my Tai Chi teacher. He expected me to ask questions. He would teach and then ask if I have questions. But it was not just questions about what he just taught. He was also interested to know if I have questions from my practice of what he taught previously.

This was an indicator of whether I had practiced, thus demonstrating that I was a serious learner and worthy to be taught more. In case you are thinking of just asking questions for the sake of showing that you have practiced, don’t do it. A teacher can tell from your questions whether you are just putting on a show or got the questions from your own practice. Practice sincerely and ask the questions that come from it is the way you should do it.

Certain things in Tai Chi can only be taught to you if you are ready to receive it. Otherwise, you will find yourself in over your head. In SKD I arranged the training sequence such that the most important fundamentals come first. So if you didn’t practice you will not be able to understand even the most basic of CMA principles especially those from the internal arts.

I can explain until my mouth is dry but it wouldn’t make a difference to the person hearining it. Its just a lot of words, a lot of noise. To those who practice a single word or line of explanation can be like a drop of water to the thirsty person in the desert.

For example, I see clips that my fellow students in Kali put up for feedback. Asking for comments indicates that they don’t have any idea of where their own problem area might be. So while they do get feedback which hopefully can lead to improvement, in general I don’t see as much improvement as I know they potentially could make.

If I have any advice to give them it would be to not ask for general advice but just pick two areas that they think they have a problem with and ask how to fix what they think is the problem. Then evaluate all the comments, try them out and come back to show that they have tried. If there are improvements then good and they are on the way to better skill. If not, then ask why for help.

Many times the learning road map is very clear but not knowing how to read the map or understanding what the map is telling them is the obstacle. I know that sometimes too many details can be a problem to a person starting out. So no more than three suggestions should be the norm.

If let’s say a student has a problem executing Entry 4 with power a suggestion for improvement would be for each practice session to :-

a) Practice Broken Strike in stationary position for at least 50 times

b) Next practice Fluid-Reverse for 50 reps

c) Put the above two together and practice Broken-Fluid-Reverse for 50 reps

d) Now try Entry 4; you should see and feel a visible improvement

I had a look at the clips of five students before I wrote this. I could post my comments there but they may not necessarily believe what I say so I decided to write here for a wider audience. I gave my friend Paul the same advice and this is his performance of Broken-Fluid-Reverse on our 14th Zoom lesson :-

Before that this is Paul doing Entry 4 on the 6th lesson :-

By the 11th lesson Paul has improved so that his strike at least looks like it could hit with some force :-

In summary, to progress in your training remember to practice a lot and ask the questions.

Body Control

A video from today’s SKD Zoom lesson :-

The key topic we worked on today is the body mechanics in 6-Blocks.

An outcome of learning the body mechanics in 6-Blocks is that you are able to move your body using smaller movements. This is particularly useful if for example you are learning how to do Wing Chun Biu Jee or Tai Chi Fast Form.

Doing It Naturally 5

Then we come to the last part of the form. Here we have two sequences that are derived from a very important part of Master Leung’s PKK.

The first sequence is an introduction to the key concept of how to use the techniques.

Whether our technique works or not depends on our ability to move quickly in response to the opponent’s reaction.

This is why we must learn to move just right to meet the requirements of our defined principles and concept of motion.

Every technique is powered by a set of principles. What is right for one may not be right for another. This is why we see different ways of doing a technique. No one is wrong and everyone is correct. The intended application justifies the principles.

For example, I am explaining here why I think Chen style Tai Chi uses silk reeling instead of open-close that we use in Yang and Wu / Hao style.

In this last video I am explaining how what we do in SKD can be used back in Yang style Tai Chi.

This is a very simplified way of looking at it. The way I would apply the Yang style of GM Wei Shuren would be different.

The difference is not important. What is important that any student who learns SKD should be able to walk away with something otherwise they have wasted their time.

Doing It Naturally 4

Further along the form teaches how to move when using a lower stance. This also works the leg muscles for those who love a good workout.

But we don’t just use a lower stance for fitness only. A lower stance and the ability to change between a higher to a lower stance and back is part of the learning of how to carry out three levels of attack.

After this we move to the three core strikes that a beginner should know. Well, actually there is a 4th strike within the movements of Strike No. 2 and No. 3.

For now we just learn how to do the three strikes while moving laterally. Once familiarity and a degree of mastery kicks in we will move on to moving forward and backward while performing the three strikes.

And at a later stage we learn how to combine the three of them and apply in line with the strategy we are executing.

Doing It Naturally 3

Enter the SKD basic learning sequence.

Maybe I should call it a form but its not really a form. Its more like a series of learning sentences. These series of sentences is for the purpose of learning something. We can add or subtract from the sentences. We can also expand the sentences or shuffle the words around.

Following the spirit of the original PKK learning SKD has no forms. We learn the basics through drills. This gave rise to a problem – students end up doing some drills and ignoring the rest. They shouldn’t because every drill has a purpose and if they leave one out they will miss out on a key component.

The solution is to string the drills together so that they have to practice the more important drills, or better yet, all of them. This may give rise to a long cumbersome form so I left some drills out for the first iteration. The plan is to take out some of the basic drills and substitute them with the more complex drills once students have learned the lesson they are supposed to learn. In this way we only need one form for this purpose.

The first part of the form is to teach a basic idea – how to stand and stand in such a way that the upper part of the body can unify with the lower part.

Then using the lower part students learn how to move the upper part in tandem with what the lower part is doing. The video below is an example of how to use the lower body to move the upper body to move the arms.

I am using the sticks here to stand in for the arms so that it can be clearly seen how the body should move. I also exaggerated the movement of the body.

When the lower body can control the movement of the arms then you would fulfil the requirement of connecting to the ground to generate power.

The next step is the learning of the three double arm swings. Each of the arm swings is a standalone technique. The transition between each arm swing teaches how to change when using the arm swings as a strike and the opponent blocks your strike.