Using Arm Swinging

There is a logic and strategy behind arm swinging as the foundation for learning how to strike.

Swinging the arm is natural for most people. All it takes is a shift in paradigm and anyone can use arm swinging as the foundation for developing circular strikes.

Not Thinking 2

Another interesting info from “The Power of Not Thinking” :-….. imagining an action without executing it activates the same neural pathways.

Simply put, thinking of performing an action shows up in the brain as if the action had actually been performed.

I first read about this in a book, I think it was called Mind Gym. This explains why sometimes a good way to train arts such as Tai Chi is by sitting there and going through the movements mentally.

By constraining your outer physical movements you are forced to feel your inner physical movements. For example, the concept of Jing Yuen (劲源) is not easy to understand mentally but by stilling your body and using your imagination to do the movement process you can easily feel the Jing Yuen move and voila! suddenly a few more insights will come to mind.

I carefully observed Tuhon when I first learned iKali because certain things are different from what I had learned in CMA. I could ask questions but it would be more interesting not to ask and tried to learn by observing.

This book validated this learning approach in the story of how apprentices learn to build a minaret in Yemen without formal instructions or allowed to ask questions freely. One anthropologist called this “stealing knowledge with their eyes”. Tuhon Apolo said something similar about his learning from Grand-Tuhon.

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.

2021 Day 1

Day 1 of 2021 was a quiet day.

Quiet day is good. Best thing to do in the morning is practice Tai Chi.

Just kept going with the form practice until I decided to stop. As my teacher said the objective is to practice.

Once done with the mentally intense practice of Tai Chi I thought of doing something more physical.

I haven’t touched the pole for a few months. So let’s get some practice in if only for short time.

Pole practice especially with the focus on just doing a few simple, repetitive techniques is good for practice speed, power and stamina.

We don’t work on one factor at a time. We work on all of them at the same time. Power is only useful if you are fast enough to use it.

And the ability to use power depends on whether you can get to the position you need to be when you need to be there.

That’s why in SKD we will at a later stage learn the long pole that Master Leong taught. It is a very short sequence but that’s good because we don’t have to burden our mind with trying to remember too many movements.

The Secret 3

The final key is Commitment to Improve.

You must want to improve, to rise about the herd. This is how you become good.

Someone will always be better than you. This does not mean you should not want to rise above it all. Treat it as a personal objective.

Wanting to improve means you will find ways and means to be better. It is said that the key to Tai Chi is to relax, to sung. Everyone has heard of this. But do you really know what this means?

It is easy to take sung for granted. Yeah, sung, I know it too. Can you explain it, put it into words that any listener can understand clearly what it means, instead of it being a vague, ambiguous assertion? Anyone can say sung is sung, very difficult to explain. Correct?

Wrong! Sung can be explained clearly. The method to acquire it can also be explained, laid down, dissected just as clearly. To practice it to fruition is another question.

If you do not know the process of sung then how do you know whether you are improving, to what degree and when you have attained it?

So wanting to sung is also a question of wanting to improve how to sung. This search for better result is what leads us to find the one way that can help us to attain our goal. Others may find their own way.

Don’t let people praise you and let it go to your head. Keep working on improving what you are working on. In the search to achieve sung we must get to realizing the ultimately result of sung. When you know what this is it is easy to check the result of your hard practice when you get there.

We don’t have to be told we are sung only to find out to our dismay that the praise was an empty praise the moment we play hands with our friends who give a bit of resistance.

Don’t be satisfied so easily. Don’t accept too easily what people tell you. Put in the practice. Keep working on the method you have learned, optimize it. Continue to seek to improve. Then you will find success one day.

The Secret 2

The second ingredient to a successful learning journey is Optimized Method.

In the practice of martial arts as in life there is a trade-off in everything that we do. For example, if we want fast result we end up being less efficient and clean in our movements.

However, if you are willing to slow down, to take the time to learn, practice, relearn and refine then your movements will come out cleaner with minimal wastage of energy and motion.

A straight forward optimized method would be how to minimize input to maximize output. Or to put it another way how can I shut you down using the least possible movements and effort.

One way to minimize input is by not using more energy to perform a task than we have to. To optimize this we need to then ask will using less input compromise the effectiveness of our technique or can it still maximize the effectiveness. Every system has their take on this question. Find one that fits you.

In SKD straight forward means to KISS – keep it simple stupid! That’s why we study three major strikes initially. No one having more if we can’t even come to grips with three.

We use one body structure. We use one mother stance. We use one major method of moving the body to get the power out. How much more simpler can this be? If you can’t get this then anything else more complex will be a challenge to master.

We optimize our practice time by learning the bare minimum. We optimize the time we have daily for practice. We optimize our muscle memory development by always working on the key basics.

We go for a natural way of moving so we can pick up the movements much more easily. It does not mean you don’t need to practice, just that you don’t have to spread your time too thinly over too many drills.

Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Work on the essential foundation skills and you can go far.

The Secret

I’ve been reading to understand more about the learning process.

From this I can surmise that the secret to mastering anything is simply Practice + Optimized Method + Commitment to Improve = Skill.

Let’s take the first ingredient – Practice. My Tai Chi teacher said that my daily objective should be just to practice. My Kali teacher said that all students must try to hit the first 10,000 repetitions in order to get the muscle memory.

I am sure most of us know this. But how many of us really put in the practice? Its one thing to know it and another to do it.

And I’m not talking about the occasional practice but the persistent practice, daily if possible. And not for five minutes but for hours. How many are willing to put in the time?

So that’s your first hurdle. I recently asked the SKD class to do a simple one week challenge. The objective is to practice a short 4-movement sequence using the hand. It can be done standing up, sitting down even lying down. To make things simpler we will just practice for an hour for only the weaker hand which for most people would be the left hand.

So how many attempted the practice?

One person.

How many managed to put in one hour practice for seven days?

No one.

What is the conclusion here? This is easy – in not trying out for one week one will never know and ten years will easily pass by. You will one day look back and wonder why you never managed to master it.

All it will take is an investment of time for one week. Seven hours is less than a full work day of eight hours. And for that you will end up wasting ten years of time that once gone will never come back.

If you ever have a new student and you want to test his commitment just teach him a simple exercise, ask him to do it for a week and come back to show you the result of his practice before you are willing to admit him as a student. This is a simple way to filter out those students who say they are serious and those who really are serious.

If you still want to take in those who just claim to be serious at least you know you don’t have to spend too much time trying to correct them. No sense wasting your precious time. Instead, focus on those who really want it.

Like a Snake

When we couple what we learn from arm swinging with the 4-circling wrist exercise we can develop hands that are stick, wrap and coil like a snake.

Last week we had a challenge to develop this flavor but alas only Paul took up the challenge and even then he didn’t follow closely on the requirements laid out.

As a result, he wasted nearly an entire week until he finally decided to follow the requirements. It was at this point that he could see his hand movement making progress at the end of that one day where he decided to follow the requirement.

It is not necessarily the case that the teacher did not teach the secrets but that the student failed to give himself a chance to really learn. Sometimes all it takes is a leap of faith that requires a commitment for a short period of time. If you fail to invest 7 hours then you will lose 10 years in the end.