Saturday, May 31, 2008

days 145 & 146: finishing spring quarter of tai chi

  • lightness
  • listening
  • yang long form
this week was mostly a winding down for the quarter. Sifu scheduled final exams for this past Thursday, since he was leaving for Hawaii next week. as a result, we focused more on review and less on learning anything new.

day 145

this was Tuesday, and we spent the 1st half of class doing repetitions of the yang long form, to help everyone prepare for the final exam. for the exam, Sifu announced he was going to give everyone the option of doing either the 1st half of the form or the 2nd half, and that he would record the exam and then give each student the digital video files of their midterm and final exam performances to keep as personal record of their progression in class.

the 2nd half of class was spent practicing the push hands exercises from last week, with Sifu reminding everyone to focus on maintaining light contact and listening to the other person. we did the single-arm push hands, and then progressed to basic 2-hand push hands, and tried a few variations. Sifu said we could practice this in class next week--even though he won't be here, he says that Art, Doria, and i can help everyone experiment with some of the basic 2-hand push hands variations.

day 146

this Thursday was devoted entirely to final exams. the format was identical to the midterms, with each student doing their performance of either the 1st or 2nd half of the long form solo in front of the class. i recorded videos. everyone did pretty well, although Sifu withheld final grades until he could get time to assembled the digital video files.

Friday, May 30, 2008

day 144: jian and chen (now and zen)

  • names
  • rules
  • chen long form
  • kuen wu jian
this Sunday was a continuation of last Sunday, with Sifu telling Alex to continue working out the jian shu tournament rules so that they could be finalized and sent out during the week. the issue was that we had so few people we couldn't stage a simulation jian shu fight. luckily, Jonathan Shen showed up in time and that brought in enough people to hold some mock rounds.

Sifu began by making a number of announcements regarding the tournament:
  • he wants to rent a bus, to not only take all the people who will be competing, but also all equipment and merchandise (the DVDs, uniforms, sparring equipment, and weapons--for jian shu tournament, in particular) that we want to sell. this will help people rest, as well as help transport all the equipment.
  • the sparring rules have changed, to the open-handed gloves that allow grasping. no one knows which specific type, so Sifu said to wait on buying them.
  • the sparring rules won't be kick-boxing rules, but we don't know what rules they will be yet
chen long form

we began with the chen long form, going through several iterations. Sifu apparently used this as an opportunity to test Joe and Ching-Chieh on their memory of the chinese terms for each posture in the form (he also hinted he was going to eventually expect the same from all of us). this took a number of minutes, giving enough time to warm up.

kuen wu jian

once we got through the chen long form as a group, Sifu broke us up into several groups, with him taking time to review Jonathan's mantis form (it seems he's been learning praying mantis separately from Sifu) as well as work with Joe, Ching-Chieh, and Viet on the chen long form.

for the rest of us, we followed the same pattern as last week, staging mock jian shu tournament rounds to test out different rules and think out various scenarios. we also took some to discuss just how we want to format the tournament; Alex is favoring a single-elimination tournament, with paired seedings, much like the NCAA basketball tournament or any tennis tournament. the issues are 1) we don't know how many competitors there will be--we just know there will be many, 2) we don't know how much time each fight will take, 3) there is only so much time that Tony Yang will allot to the jian shu tournament, and 4) there is only 1 ring for the jian shu tournament. in addition, there's a question of who will be serving as referee and judges.

these are questions that Alex decided to hold off on until he knows more, presumably closer to the tournament. for now, however, he asked me and Kieun to help out as judges, and possibly as referees.

this took the remainder of the day, and lasted until noon, when we finished and went to lunch to continue discussing the jian shu tournament setup.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

day 143: 2-person forms, and nothing but

  • changing
  • 64 palms, 2-person forms
we had a very light turnout today, for both bagua and baji students. but it was Memorial Day weekend, so i suspect this played a good deal in the attendance. this ended up making for a light day, with the focus on continuing further in the 2-person forms.

64 palms, 2-person

we'd started review of the 2-person form for palm 6 last Saturday, and we picked up with this today. we began with a review of the 2-person forms 1-5, and then spent the remainder of class on 6.

this particular 2-person form, while not as long as palm 5, still offers some challenges in that there are so many variations. Phunsak says it's the one that's had the most number of changes, with Sifu making alterations with each pass through the curriculum to emphasize different aspects of bagua. the form also is tricky, in that the initial movements are almost identical to the initial movements to palm 3 side B, but then diverge dramatically. it can easily mislead you if you're not paying attention.

Ching-Chieh and Phunsak ended up spending a greater portion of time going through all 2-person forms from 1-6, in an effort to prepare for the tournament. Laura, who is preparing for solo forms, took time to work on 64 palms side A. Sifu ended up reviewing everyone to check on their status.

Phunsak said that for the tournament it was important to be able to do the 64 palms 2-person form out of order, and so that they needed to be able to change the sequence at will. Sifu has mentioned this before, since sometimes it's possible to forget a palm change or to lose track of where you are. dealing with this involves having 1 partner who can decide on changing to another palm, with the other following. Ching-Chieh says this is pretty much the same thing that happens in dance. she decided that it'd be better if Phunsak made the decisions, since he knows them better than her and can therefore more easily adjust if there's a problem during the form. Phunsak replied that this issue can be better avoided by memorizing the palms.

i'm finding that John Eagles prescribed the best method for memorizing all 64 palms (sides A & B). he does palms 1-8 sequentially for side A continuously, and then for side B continuously. he also will do them in combination in sequence, starting with palm 1 sides A & B and continuing through to palm 8 sides A & B. i've used this to help remember all the palms. i've also played games with this method, choosing a random palm and side, and then continuing by choosing another random palm and side. it seems to work--although, the trick is to actually remember each palm the way we've learned it, and to double-check against the videos to make sure there's nothing being misplaced or forgotten.

this actually ended up being a slightly longer day, with the progression through the 6 2-person forms to date consuming all the time. we ended class around 1:30, when hunger finally got the better of us.

Monday, May 26, 2008

days 141 & 142: videos & push hands

  • touch
  • sensitivity
  • listening
  • random circles
  • arms, wrists, hands, fingertips
  • yang long form
this week was a dichotomy in content, with the focus of Tuesday and Thursday being entirely different.

day 141

Tuesday was taken to help everyone review their own performance from the midterm using videos. Sifu intended this as an aid, so people could see what he meant in his comments in terms of their own respective movements, and thus get a better sense of what they needed to correct individually.

we gathered as a group to watch videos of each student, and then provided comments so that the person receiving the feedback could relate the comments to what they saw themselves doing. this took the entire class, since everyone needed a chance to review their own performance.

day 142

Thursday was divided evenly between the long form and push hands. we spent the 1st half of class doing several repetitions of the entire long form (i.e., with both the section from winter quarter and the section from this quarter together), so that everyone could familiarize themselves doing the entire form all the way through.

the second half was devoted to push hands. Sifu began with the basics from last week, but then began showing some additional variations. last week we had done simple push hands with stationary feet, and single-arms moving in vertical circles. today we progressed to 2 arms in vertical circles, and then horizontal circles. Sifu also had us experiment with doing these drills using shifting (albeit not stepping) feet.

Sifu stressed that we focus on light touch between partners, and try to rely less on visual observation and more on sensitivity in our arms and hands. he said the goal was to try and listen to our partner's movements using only the sensitivity of the arms and hands. essentially, we're supposed to be gaining signals as to the other person's intent and actions from our limbs.

Sifu pointed out that push hands could be done with not only the arms, but also the wrists, hands, and fingertips. he had everyone do the push hands drills shifting between each of these.

everything seemed to go fine, up to the point he asked us to try integrating random circles. from what i can tell, this is basically calling upon the movements from cloud hands, and were the basis of the bulk of his random circles DVD. this seemed to give everyone problems, and so Sifu stopped class here to help everyone practice random circles individually, so that they could visualize the patterns that were supposed to be used in the 2-person push hands form.

class ended with this, for the week. Sifu announced that we'd be finishing the quarter next week, before final exams, and so ordered everyone to prepare for the class' final exams, which he wants to hold next Thursday.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

day 140: rules of the jian!

  • jian shu tournament rules
  • basics
  • jian wu, jian jing, jian tsao
  • kuen wu jian
today was even hotter than yesterday, making for a brutal Sunday. the only saving grace was the fact that the clean-up crew and had gone in and cleaned up (somewhat, at least) the remains of the school carnival Saturday, and while our typical spot was still a mess, it was passably clean enough that we felt comfortable (or desperate enough) to return to the shelter of the building shade. everyone ended up huddling in the shade.

Sifu announced today that he was going to start holding Sunday class every weekend from here on out through to the tournament in Las Vegas. the only exceptions are the 3 weeks he will be gone back home to Hawaii (from June 2 to June 20). there is a possibility he may return earlier, but it depends on what happens with the summer UCLA class (he's hoping to Ching-Chieh run things for the 1st week) and with his government contract (which may require an extended trip). outside of this time, he says we need to have every Sunday during the summer to help prepare for the tournament, since he plans to use them for sparring and jian shu training.

for this Sunday, Sifu decided we needed to change things from the usual lesson plan. he thought it crucial for the jian shu tournament rules to be finalized (apparently, they are not), since this is making for some complications with other kung fu schools preparing for the jian shu tournament. he singled out Alex as being responsible for resolving this situation (since Alex is the primary force behind the creation of the jian shu tournment), and said we needed to take care of this ASAP. as a result, he said he was going to work with Ching-Chieh and Jo, to get them up to speed on the Chen tai chi long form, and asked the rest of us (today, it was Alex, Phunsak, Richard, John Eagles, and me) to focus exclusively on addressing the issues with the jian shu tournament rules.

kuen wu jian

Alex and Phunsak took the lead on dealing with the jian shu rules. apparently, they've been discussing it for quite a while (it appears before Alex ever started manufacturing the polycarbonate jian swords, which i'm guessing was more than 2 years ago).

this is really Alex's baby. from what i can tell, and from what others have told me, there is no actual competitive jian shu as a sport comparable to fencing. there is forms competition, but the issue here, according to Alex, is that forms competition is somewhat limited in preserving a martial art, and forms competition for jian shu really on fulfills the same role forms competition does for hand-to-hand styles, which all too often is unable to teach practitioners how to use their martial art in a realistic, full-speed setting. for this, hand-to-hand practitioners often turn to full-contact sparring, either in practice or in a tournament. Alex says that his goal was to try and create a similar situation for jian practitioners, where they could turn to full-contact fighting to help learn how to apply their martial arts in a realistic, full-speed setting.

Alex, however, is stressing that the best he can do is to create a tournament. and a jian shu tournament is just like a hand-to-hand tournament, with rules and restrictions on what is allowed, and hence only serves to approximate--but never seriously duplicate--a realistic 1-on-1 combat situation. Alex says that's why he's making it clear that he's creating a jian shu sport, and readily concedes that it can't be seen as a truly realistic representation of jian shu in combat. for all this, he argues that it's still better than nothing, and goes farther to approximating reality than just simply solo forms.

in essence, my sense is that Alex is hoping to create a sport which is to traditional jian shu what fencing is to traditional European swordsmanship...not the same, but about as close as you can safely get, and still valuable as a training tool, challenging as a competition, and entertaining as a sport for everyone involved.

of course, the issue is trying to get these rules finalized...and this is what was the focus today.

Alex and Phunsak have already created a draft of tournament rules, and they've already been issued to teams (yes, the tournament will have teams) coming to Las Vegas. there are a number of unresolved issues, however, and it was these that Alex and Phunsak wanted to try and sort out today.

their idea was to hold a series of mock tournament fights, in full pads and going full contact, with Alex acting as referee and other students as judges. Alex would test out different rules, and try to see what seemed to work best in terms of improving game-play and entertainment value. Alex also wanted to see if there were any unforeseen problems that might arise which needed addressing. Alex said his main goal was to try and create a sport that gave competitors and spectators a sense of excitement and fun, and which could demonstrate the practical application of jian shu techniques. he hoped to create fights that were smooth, fluid, and constantly varying--akin to the pace of basketball or soccer games--since this is what he thought historical jian shu fights were probably like. having said this, he also said he hoped the jian shu sport could also provide a forum for alternative sword styles (such as fencing) to participate and thereby demonstrate how competing styles of swordsmanship might face off against each other.

since i'm not going to the jian shu tournament, and i don't feel sufficiently far enough along in understanding jian shu, i bowed out of fighting. but i did serve as a judge. Phunsak, John, and Richard took turns playing the role of competitors and judges.

i won't go into detail about what we discussed, tested, experimented with, discovered, and figured out...that's for Alex to present. i'll be brief and just say that we went through 6 tournament-situation matches, following formal rules, and did our best to hash things out. Alex seemed content, although he felt there were some lingering issues he wanted to try to resolve.

by this time, Sifu had returned, and took some time to talk things over with us. he eventually said we should take another weekend to work on the rules, but then Alex needed to issue final rules. Sifu said that at this point it was more important for everyone to familiarize themselves with the rules, since they at least needed to have something in common to work with and prepare in time for Las Vegas. he also said that we could also issue a public statement that this jian shu tournament was only the 1st, and so really a beta, and that competitors should just see it as a test. Sifu suggested that this would also allow us to be more inclusive of all the participants, in that we could ask them for feedback and comments, and thereby help them feel more involved in jian shu as a sport.

with this done, and having finished helping Ching-Chieh and Jo with the Chen long form, Sifu instructed us to finish the day with some jian shu basics.

this was a bit of a blessing for me, since i've never had them. everyone else has. for today, Phunsak led us through the 8 jian shu stances (strangely similar to the usual slate of kung fu stances, but just with a sharp object that is switched alternatively between left and right hands), and then led us through 5 basic jian drills:
  • pi (left & right hand) : this is a slashing movement vertically downwards going slightly from right to left, or left to right
  • kan (left & right hand) : this is a slashing movement diagonally downwards from right to left, left to right (more horizontal than pi, such that you visualize crossing diagonally from corner of a box to another)
  • moi (left & right hand) : this is a slashing movement horizontally from right to left, or left to right
  • hwe (left & right hand) : this is kan, but slashing diagonally upwards
  • liu (left & right hand) : this is pi, but slashing vertically upwards
the key thing here is the orientation of the hand, which has to be done specifically in relation to where the sword arm is in the movement. the orientation of the hand affects 1) the ability to take the shock of impact, 2) the direction of the force vector, and 3) the movement itself.

Sifu noted that we were not following the traditional Wutan curriculum for jian shu. the jian shu curriculum has 3 components:
  • jian wu (or basic form) -- with little emphasis on combat relevance, making it more a dance
  • jian jing (or advanced form) -- with emphasis on combat applications, and hence incorporating power projection
  • jian tsao (or basics) -- with focus on combat applications, addressing the fundamental techniques of using a jian in combat
in the Wutan system, Sifu said that traditionally students began with jian wu, then progressed jian jing, and finished with jian tsao. this meant that students could learn a form, like the kuen wu jian form, but not actually be skilled enough to considered combat-ready swordsmen.

Sifu commented his personal preference is to begin with jian tsao, then go to jian wu, and finish with jian jing. he said this was because learning the basics made it easier for students to pick up the forms. in addition, it was also more consistent with the curriculum for hand-to-hand fighting.

we took some further time doing the drills, and then eventually called class to a close.

Monday, May 19, 2008

day 139: 2-person forms refined (at least to palm 6)

  • variations, changes, modifications
  • bagua leg form
  • 2-person forms, palm changes 1-6
today was hot. brutally hot (close to, if not exactly, 100 degrees). and we were ejected from our typical meeting place in the shade by a street sweeper cleaning up the elementary school grounds from the prior day, when they'd had a carnival (in the middle of 100-degree heat, of course). meaning we were left huddling under the trees the entire day...not that it made much difference, other than enable us to avoid the glare of the sun; we still got to bake quite nicely, like cookies in the oven.

bagua leg form

i will include the private consultation i had Friday here. while it was outside the normal class schedule, it did finish off the bagua leg form, and so filled in a missing element of the bagua curriculum as it is structured within the Wutan system. as a result, i figure i should include it here.

the private session included me, Jay, and John. John had the leg form previously, but he seems to think he's forgotten a good portion of it, and so joined us as a refresher. for me and Jay this has been the first time. i've had prior sessions to go through this before (reference: day 84, day 85, day 102, & day 115), and this Friday was meant to finish off the last 1/4 of the form.

you can see Youtube video of the leg form:

i haven't gotten as clean as this video, but i've been practicing it, and hope to make things better with time.

finishing the form went quickly, with the bulk of the private session spent on applications. i notice that even though it's called the "leg form," it's not really about kicks, and actually has a substantial portion devoted to applications that are not kicks. Sifu noted this, repeating his points from when we started the form that it was actually meant to not just only train kicks, but was actually meant for several purposes--all of which still involve the legs (and hence, justify the title "leg form"):
  • kicks--in bagua, just like tai chi, most of the kicks are low, and largely never go above the waist
  • power--in bagua (actually, in all TCMA, and martial arts in general), power (fa) in all movements begins from the legs
  • manipulation--this is the hwa and na jing leading to fa jing, both of which require the legs to aid in controlling and positioning
  • footwork--this is crucial to all jings (ting, hwa, na, fa)
  • balance--this is important to holding structure while engaging the opponent's structure
the session lasted about a total of 2 hours, with Sifu leaving for other commitments and Jay and John staying late to practice the form. i left to get in an afternoon workout, since i'd skipped my usual on-campus training session due to the undergraduate commencement (which turns the campus into a mad-house, and something i do everything i can to avoid).

2-person forms, palm changes 1-6

this Saturday was a bit fragmented, with the heat causing people to break off into groups that could fit under the shade of the trees. as a result, different pairs worked on different things, with the only central agenda being Sifu's instruction to do a review of palms 1-6, sides A & B, and then concentrate on the 2-person forms for palms 4 & 5, with a little work on 6 for anyone feeling adventurous.

i ended up working with Phunsak, Laura, and Ching-Chieh, as well as Art, who showed up later. Phunsak led us through all the palms, from 1-8, for both sides. this turned out to be good, since it turned out that i'd forgotten some of the moves for the endings of palm 6, side B, and palm 7, side B. Art commented that this wasn't a major problem, since Sifu has changed the palms with each iteration of the curriculum, but i still consider it important to at least have a clear memory of what i've learned, so that i can identify when something is changed (as opposed to forgotten).

following this, since Ching-Chieh and Laura had never finished learning the palms for side B, or the 2-person forms that require them, Phunsak began taking us through the 2-person forms for palms 4, 5, & 6.

i stayed with this for a little while, but then bowed out to see what the other bagua students were doing--i'd noticed that Jay and John were doing something different for the 2-person form for palm 6. turns out that Sifu had shown them a different variation, making now 4 variations that i've seen between what we've learned in class, what Phunsak showed me from the 1st time he learned it, what Art demonstrated from the previous times he's learned it, and what Jay and John were working on.

we worked on doing repetitions for the remainder of class, with Phunsak and Ching-Chieh devoting the most effort. Sifu also took some time to review their forms, since they are going to compete in the 2-person forms competition at the tournament. he made modifications as they went, changing movements to make the forms more aesthetically appealing and observationally obvious for tournament judges who may not know bagua or the meanings in its movements. he also took extra time to review Laura's solo form, since she is also doing the solo forms competition at the tournament.

we ultimately called class to a close, not just because it was 1pm (the customary end time), but also because the heat was starting to become intense and people were becoming eager to find some air conditioning. we almost bolted to lunch.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

days 137 & (not) 138): starting push hands

  • relaxation
  • slow
  • circles
  • yang long form
  • push hands
this week was my graduation, and i had to miss Thursday class to attend the PhD hooding ceremony. so this is not really a post for both Tuesday and Thursday, but for the sake of consistency i'm keeping both in the discussion--i'll just omit day 138.

day 137

we began push hands today. we started off with a review of the yang long form, but beginning from the very start the that we learned during the winter quarter. i've been doing this on my own, since i find that it helps preserve the memory, so it wasn't that big a deal. i did, however, note a few areas where i didn't quite have things remembered, but for the most part i was able to not worry about the sequence of actions and just focus on proper movement.

from there, Sifu introduced everyone to random circles, which apparently is a fundamental component in beginning push hands training. this involves moving the hands and arms in circular patterns in front of the body, commencing with drills roughly similar to cloud hands, with the hands rotating as the arms rotate. further drills involve coordinating these actions with lower body and core body movements.

after a little time on this, Sifu said we could try basic push hands. he emphasized several things:

he began by stating that push hands was an inappropriate term, since it tends to make people think the exercise is about pushing, or yang action. in reality, he said it's about sensing the opponent, and so requires yin action--and if anything, more yin than yang. as a result, the more accurate term is "listening hands," which better reflects ting jing.

in addition, push hands is done differently--and according to him, incorrectly, in the U.S. in the U.S. the practice is to maintain feet stationary. but this is actually only meant for the elementary stage of push hands, and more advanced levels integrates movement of the feet so that the drill becomes a dynamic interaction involving the entire bodies of both partners.

finally, he said that push hands is not the end of tai chi; mastering push hands does not mean mastering combat application of tai chi. push hands is just an exercise to help improve certain skills, and is just one exercise of many exercises that help the practitioner progress towards learning tai chi. as a result, we shouldn't satisfy ourselves with just push hands for training, but need to recognize it as one training tool of many others, and one training tool with very specific purposes, and hence one that needs to be utilized as part of a much greater process involving other training tools helping us really master the use of tai chi as a martial art

he had us break off into pairs, with each pair exercising basic random circles, using their forearms as the contact point between each partner. Sifu said we needed to maintain a relaxed state, and to not push, but instead to allow ourselves to sense the movement of our opponent. to help develop this sensitivity, he asked us to do things slowly, and just practice the basic circles.

this occupied the remainder of class. i worked with Linus. i should note that this was Linus' last day in the U.S.--he graduated from the business school a quarter ago, and has just been taking the class this quarter even though he's not registered (he was coming to class for culture). he showed up today to say goodbye, since his flight back to Singapore was this night. i took a picture of us doing push hands (that's us in the photo at the top of this post) as a memento.

see ya Linus! if i'm ever in Singapore i'll be sure to look you up! and if you ever visit the U.S., i expect you to do the same!

Friday, May 16, 2008

day 136: getting a handle on some pesky concepts & that pesky kuen wu jian

  • slow, long, even, deep
  • breathing
  • useful references in tai chi (Wang Zhong Yue)
  • long v. short
  • coming to the gate
  • whirlpools, tangents, vectors, curves
  • jing (ting, hwa, na, fa)
  • physics
  • fa (yen, so, sheng, bu)
  • 6 harmonies
  • yin & yang (wife & husband, guiding)
  • wu ji & tai ji
  • somatic v. autonomic
  • chen long form
  • kuen wu jian
today began as a lazy Sunday, with people arriving late, but ended up turning into a long day. we began with Sifu discussing the plans for Sunday classes, now that we've finished the chen long form and kuen wu jian yilu. he said that he was open to discussing what we wanted to cover next, but his own thoughts on the matter were that it would be most logical to continue with both chen tai chi and kuen wu, which would mean going on to chen pao quan and kuen wu erlu. both of these integrate force into the movements, and are much more combat-relevant forms than what we've learned so far.

however, Sifu noted that in order to continue onto to these levels, he wanted us to 1) start work on tai chi push hands, and 2) refine our movements or both chen tai chi and kuen wu jian. he also said we would need to start devoting more time to preparing for the Las Vegas tournament, so we needed to do much more work with combat applications we've learned to date--and even if we weren't going to Las Vegas, we still needed to understand the applications of what we were doing in order to progress any farther.

i've had conversations with Phunsak about what we wanted to cover for Sundays in the recent months. for his sake, i know he wanted to go through hsing-yi and possibly shuai jiao. he's already had chen pao quan and kuen wu erlu, but he said today that he's willing to go along with whatever the rest of class is doing, since he can get what he wants on an individual consulting basis with Sifu. me personally, i'm interested in the same things as Phunsak, but with the exception that 1) i'm more curious about hsing-yi liu he (mostly because Sifu has expressed some respect for it, and because it originates from the muslim regions of China and so follows some logical consistency with the islamic long fist we've been learning), 2) if i learn shuai jiao, i'd prefer to do it at the same time as baji quan (because they're both old, and i really am going to see the threads of history, i want to be able to compare them to each other), and 3) it's just not time yet (what can i say? i appreciate zen...and a sentiment in zen is that there is a time for everything, and you cannot force the time, but you have to allow it come on its own, and when it's time, you will know it's time).

with those announcements, and more students having arrived, Sifu formally began class.

chen long form

we started with a few repetitions of the chen long form. Sifu told us we needed to focus on polishing our movements, and repeated the same things he said from the UCLA tai chi class, saying that to polish our performance we needed to try to do the following:
  • do the movements slow
  • do the movements low and long (i.e., low center of gravity, with extended bodies)
  • do the movements even (i.e., keep a steady pace--even the explosive movements need to fit within the pace of the form)
  • do the movements deep (i.e., follow-through)
this is basically the concepts he had given to the UCLA tai chi class in the acronym SLED (slow, long, even, deep). he also added a concept from the UCLA class by stressing breathing, telling us to integrate a 2-count breathing pattern into the movements (with 1 being a breath in, and 2 being a breath out), so that the 1st count would be for any contraction movement and the 2nd count would be for any expansion or explosive movement.

following this, we took a little time to review some applications, with Sifu taking a question-and-answer session to discuss the various permutations possible from certain movements. it was because of this that i think he saw an opportunity to have a more extended conversation about some concepts we've had in the past, and decided to take the time to go into a more in-depth presentation of some ideas he has on combat applications in relation to principles of northern Chinese TCMA.

Sifu began by referring to Wang Zhong Yue's Treatise on Tai Chi Quan (i actually got the name this time...), citing it as probably one of only a handful of useful tai chi texts, since it 1) was written by an experienced martial arts practitioner, and so 2) provides relevant martial arts usage. he pointed out, however, that Wang's text, while comprehensive, is also short, and written in a highly complex, multi-layered, subtle style, and as a result has been subject to extensive misinterpretation or misunderstanding. Wang himself even warns against this in the treatise, admonishing readers that if they have a bad teacher teaching from the text that they will never understand what the treatise is saying.

this last warning was emphasized by Sifu. he said this is why it is important to utilize critical thinking skills in learning, and to maintain a healthy skepticism in learning any martial art--not just tai chi. he said we needed to try to realistically apply lessons and concepts to test their worth, and to understand 1) if they are useful, 2) when they are useful, 3) how they are useful, and 4) why they are useful. it's only this way that we can become skilled martial artists, and only this way that we can get an appreciation for the true lessons in texts like Wang's treatise.

with that note, Sifu then went through some concepts he's tested through personal experience. Sifu has dealt with a lot of combat concepts in the past, and so for the sake of brevity i won't repeat all the material that i've written about before, even though we reviewed it briefly today to produce context for the additional comments we covered this class. focusing on just the new stuff, Sifu mentioned the following:
  • long v. short--yesterday (reference: day 135) we talked about why short distance was better than long distance. Sifu added more today, commenting that "long" and "short" didn't just exclusively refer to the physical distance between you and the opponent, but also refers to the physical extension of your body. fully extended limbs and body at the apex of your reach is "long" and non-extended limbs and body that are coiled to release energy is "short." of course, being fully extended often occurs when the opponent is farthest away from, and being coiled (or retracted) allows you to get closer to the opponent. with TCMA (particularly the northern Chinese martial arts), Sifu noted, the philosophy is to close in with the opponent to get into "short" range, such that the potential energy of your recoiled or retracted limbs can then be released as kinetic energy as you extend or expand outward. Sifu said this is also an element in fa jing, since the act of extension or expansion generates power, particularly if you are able to follow-through in a way that your strikes are moving through or past the opponent (as opposed to going at them...which tends to lead you to aim at them from a distance, or "long", and thereby robbing you of the additional power from your potential energy). Sifu pointed out that most fighters (martial artists and non-martial artists) are instinctively long range, and that few people are short range.
  • coming to the gate--getting into "short" range requires seeing and getting into the opponent's gate. in past conversations, we've talked about using jing (ting, hwa, na) to manipulate the opponent in a way that allows you to locate, or generate, and then enter the opponent's gate. this time, however, Sifu pointed out that with some martial arts (particularly bagua) this is refined, so that the philosophy is not about you using your jing to get into the opponent's gate, but instead exploiting the opponent's jing. this means that rather than working to get into their gate, you simply to let the opponent come to your gate, so that they come into your range, at which point you can then manipulate them. Sifu had mentioned this during dinner with Neal following last weekend's seminar. he noted that this is more efficient in terms of energy, in that you save energy and allow the opponent to expend their energy.
  • whirlpools, tangents, vectors, curves--in dealing with short ranges, Sifu reminded us to try and visualize whirlpools, tangents, vectors, and curves. he said this makes it dramatically easier to understand in what direction and with how much force we need to move. today, he added that we also need to understand that we have to adjust the direction and magnitude of these to fit our desired actions, and that such quantities will vary depending on what the opponent is doing. none of these things are static...nor should they ever be.
  • jing (ting, hwa, na, fa)--repeating his point from yesterday, Sifu said that combat is actually less about fa jing, and mostly about ting, hwa, and na jing. according to him, the common misperception is that combat is about power projection. in reality, power can be completely ineffective if it is not applied properly to maximize damage to the opponent. but in order for this to occur, you have to be positioned correctly (na jing), but this in turn requires that you have controlled or manipulated the opponent in a desired way (hwa jing), and this in turn requires that you have correctly sensed the opponent's actions, intent, and strategy (ting jing). Sifu said this is the jing cycle, and that it always begins with ting, and ends with fa. the key thing to remember is that it is an iterative loop: if at any point one step in the sequence fails, you have to go back to the beginning and start with ting jing again. Sifu said this means that in a fight, the most common factor is ting jing, and the next stages in the jing cycle are progressively less common, with fa jing being the least prevalent in the cycle.
  • fa (yen, so, sheng, bu)--Sifu said that all jings, to be done correctly, require coordination of the 4 fas (again, not to be confused with the fa in fa jing). this requires yen fa (eyes), so fa (hands), sheng fa (torso), and bu fa (feet) all act in unison. this is necessary to enable your body to become a conduit of the principles you are trying to apply, which Sifu explained are really just physics.
  • physics--all martial arts are about physics, and applications of physics. Sifu said he can break down techniques using Newton's 3 laws of physics and basic thermodynamics. there is nothing mysterious about martial arts, only the challenge of moving your body and visualizing in your mind in ways that enable the execution of physics for combat purposes.
  • 6 harmonies--i asked about the connection between yen, so, sen, and bu fa and 6 harmonies (i.e., hands coordinated with feet, elbows coordinated with knees, and shoulders with hips). Sifu said that the connection between the 2 concepts exists, in that 6 harmonies is a way of visualizing and applying the 4 fas.
  • yin & yang (wife & husband, guiding)--Sifu demonstrated again the notion of wife & husband yin & yang, and explained that this was really just an example of the 4 fas, with the wife action coordinating with the husband action to better apply physics for maximum damage to the enemy. he noted, however, that this can further be seen as an example of how we can guide yin & yang. in the past, we've talked about breaking the opponent's structure by applying yang to their yin, or yin to their yang. Sifu commented that this doesn't mean we have to be purely passive or reactionary to the opponents yin or yang states. it is actually possible to guide the opponent into whatever state, or set of states, that we prefer. for example, if an opponent's structure is set with a yang projection towards you and a yin side away, and you prefer to change this so that you can face a yin projection, you can manipulate them into moving so that their structure changes into your desired preference. this means you can entice the opponent to move from yang to yin, so that you can apply yang, or vice versa. this can also apply to individual limbs, and not just the opponent's entire body.
  • wu ji & tai ji--Sifu pointed out that in tai chi quan, there's the concepts of wu ji and tai ji. Sifu said that one interpretation of these terms is that wu ji is energy, and tai ji is matter. but even in Western physics, the 2 are really related to each other, with Einstein's famous equation showing that they are really interchangeable forms of one another. in tai chi, and even in TCMA in general, this is entirely compatible, since the philosophy is that the practitioner be able to move from one state to another: from static to dynamic, from stillness to motion, emptiness to substance, from soft to hard. the point is that you can never be stagnant. Sifu observed that neither wu ji or tai ji means "nothing," but instead mean "something," with "something" always changing.
  • somatic v. autonomic--somatic deals with "fight or flight" responses, autonomic with baser, more subconscious ones. according to Sifu, somatic responses are yang, and autonomic responses are yin. in TCMA, particularly the internal styles, the philosophy is to play with the opponent's autonomic system to induce changes that dissipate their yang into yin. this is how we manipulate the opponent's yang and yin states.
once we finished the above, we did a couple of more iterations of the chen long form, and then took a break before moving onto the kuen wu jian. by this time, Lance and Andre had shown up, complete with their arsenal of weapons (i should note they are more senior students of Sifu's, even more senior than Phunsak, and have recently begun showing up for class again, but primarily just to review their weapons skills, which i'm guessing is their main interest for now).

kuen wu jian

we did a few repetitions of the kuen wu jian form, and then on John and my request, we spent some time focusing exclusively on the end of the form. this has been a decidedly frustrating part of the form for me, and i was happy to see us working methodically through this. while it may have been review for the more senior students, it certainly was a help to me.

eventually, Sifu began showing us applications for the last sequence of movements, at which point he began breaking it down into more fundamental constituent components, connecting it to jian shu basics.

personally, i've never had the basics, since i never took any of Sifu's jian shu lessons. as a result, this was all new to me. i ended up asking John to guide me through the basic techniques, with Phunsak taking over when John got tired. there's a fair amount of material in terms of the basics, and i don't really remember all of them. Phunsak said there were 15 fundamental techniques covering both defense and offense. of course, even though John and Phunsak showed them to me, i honestly can't remember more than a handful--and all on defense.

i figure i'll learn this as i go. since i don't plan on participating in the jian shu competition at the Las Vegas tournament, i don't consider myself under pressure to push the pace to pick up jian shu. i'd rather go at a speed that lets me keep things organized and allows me to get a good grasp of them, as opposed to being rushed and haphazard.

by this time, class was winding down and we realized it was already 1:30. we all called it a day and slowly left.

Monday, May 12, 2008

day 135: refinement, 2-person forms

  • husband & wife (yang & yin)
  • fa (yen, so, sheng, bu)
  • spacing (long and short)
  • jing (ting, hwa, na, fa)
  • 2-person, bagua 64 palms (palm change 5)
today started off slow for a Saturday...cold and cloudy (too bad it won't stay that way...), and just perfect for a hot cup of coffee before class.

i arrived super early today, to work through some trickier aspects of the bagua leg form, as well as to review the yang tai chi and chen tai chi long forms. these went a little quicker than i thought, and i had enough time to try and work on the kuen wu jian form--although the key word is "try," since i'm still finding the substance of this form rather elusive. i know this is something i'm going to have to work on, since it continues to be bit of a head-scratcher.

class began with Sifu asking for a final confirmation of people going to the Las Vegas tournament. from what i could tell, there appear to be about 6 people going, although this number is uncertain seeing that a number of baji students had not arrived when we took the tally. despite this, Sifu took his estimate and instructed the bagua students to continue working on the 2-person form for palm change 5.

2-person, bagua 64 palms (palm change 5)

Phunsak paired off with Ching-Chieh, so they could work on their 2-person form for the tournament. however, i noted that about half the bagua students present hadn't learned the current 2-person form for palm change 5 either (Laura, Art, Feng), and told Phunsak we needed to start from the beginning of the form, meaning that it shouldn't be a review but actually a beginning lesson.

with that said, we took the rest of class to work on this. we began with a brief run-through of palm change 5, with side A individually and then side B individually. from there, we continued with the customary integration of both sides using partners to form the 2-person combination.

palm change 5 is the longest of the 8 palm changes, meaning that both side A and side B involve a greater number of movements relative to the other palm changes. part of this is that palm 5 involves 2 spins, calling upon both partners to cover a lot of ground and deal with changes in orientation, which can be disruptive to the sense of direction. it also means that there is a lot of attention that needs to be paid to location to maintain spacing. it takes a lot of practice--continuous time (believe me, i remember the hours spent on this last fall). as a result, it poses a challenge to anyone learning it for the 1st time.

Sifu observed us for a little time, and then interrupted to make some corrections:
  • the opening movement for side A (from lion opens its mouth to move the mountain and reverse the sea) is a small movement, with the off-hand serving to aid the forward hand redirect an opponent's reach.
  • for each of the 2 spins in side B, which involve black bear turns its body, you need 1) the hands to go over the head to protect it, and then are supposed to brush off the shoulders, and 2) to end out of the spins in a rooster stance.
  • for side A, the finishing movement of hide summer flowers beneath the leaves, is supposed to be going into the opponent with the upper hand distracting the opponent's face and the shoulder of the lower hand leading the body into the opponent's torso (unlike other applications of the technique, which involve the technique going the other direction to form an arm or joint lock)
after watching us make corrections, Sifu then stopped us to discuss some relevant concepts related to them:
  • husband & wife (yang & yin)--Sifu had alluded to this before, using the same terms last week. basically, it's just an alternative way to talk about yang & yin, but as a mnemonic device to assist insight and memory regarding proper form, by using an analogy that highlights the idea that frequently the yin action is more important than the yang action in making a particular technique effective. essentially, the visual imagery that's employed is to consider than frequently the perception about a married couple is that the husband is the "acting" party (i.e., the more visibly active component) and the wife the lower profile party, but that the reality is that the wife really "controls" the couple and the husband simply the facilitator (i.e. the "agent" for the wife's decisions). taking this as an analogy, this means that in a single technique, the yang actions (taken as the male, or "husband") may appear to be the crucial element, but the reality is that it's just assisting the yin actions (taken as the female, or "wife"). Sifu said the off-hand action in the opening movement for side A, as well as the finishing movement for side A, are examples where the yin action is crucial for the technique to work.
  • fa (yen, so, sheng, bu)--this is not the same fa as in fa jing. but the character that relates to coordination. Sifu noted that in order to truly express the physics required to make the techniques in bagua work, you have to exercise the correct form, and this in turn means you have to exercise the requisite level of coordination to move your body to follow the correct form. in kung fu and TCM, Sifu said this is referred to as the 4 coordinating elements of yen fa (eyes), so fa (hands), sheng fa (torso), and bu fa (feet). these 4 have to be synchronized together to align the direction, location, timing, and force to properly deploy the physics necessary to make bagua techniques work.
  • spacing--spacing is crucial. Sifu said that in TCMA, there's the idea of "long" reach or "long" distance, referring to the idea that you are allowing too much spacing between yourself and the opponent, with "too much" being anything that requires you to fully extend to make physical contact. this is problematic, since it means you've 1) lost all potential energy you may have had by contracting your muscles, and 2) lost all kinetic energy. this is why it's better to be "short", in terms of being close to the opponent, since you 1) have potential energy that can 2) be released as kinetic energy, such that the apex of kinetic energy occurs at the moment you make physical contact with the opponent.
  • jing (ting, hwa, na, fa)--following his comments on spacing, Sifu returned to the ideas of ting jing (sensing), hwa jing (controlling), na jing (positioning), and fa jing (projection). he said we need to focus less on fa jing, since fa jing is impossible unless you have been successful in following the sequence of ting jing, hwa jing, and na jing. but ting, hwa, and na all involve observing spacing, and adjusting your spacing from long to short distance, until you get to the appropriate short distance to employ a desired fa jing.
Sifu finished by noting that these ideas are not unique to bagua, and for illustration highlighted their expression in tai chi, choosing ward off, parting wild horse's mane, and slanted flying as demonstration.

he noted that all 3 of these involve a forward high yang hand and a rear lower yin hand--according to him, this is a clear demonstration of the "wife" (yin) hand being crucial to the technique, since all 3 techniques are much more powerful if the yi (intent) is placed on actions of the "wife" hand. in terms of physics, Sifu noted that this can be seen as the yang hand really doing nothing more than establishing a control point in the form of a fulcrum, and the yin hand then acting as the levering agent rotating the opponent about the fulcrum.

to do this properly, however, requires proper physical coordination so as to get into a position to actually express these physics...and this in turn requires proper spacing, which in turn requires proper execution of ting jing, hwa jing, and na jing, such that the fa jing just simply becomes the concluding afterthought of your yi into the wife hand.

Sifu finished the day with that, and we wrapped class up to go to our customary post-class lunch.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

days 133 & 134: midterms & demo

  • yang long form
  • bagua 64 palms
this week was midterms week, and so there wasn't much done in the way of additional instruction, with the focus being exams. there was, however, a kung fu demonstration that some of us did for the Anderson Business School.

day 133

this Tuesday was dedicated to helping everyone fine-tune their renditions of the yang long form. the midterm only covered the 2nd half, so students were only expected to demonstrate their abilities with respect to this part. Sifu had each person attempt to do this solo in front of class, so as to help simulate exam conditions, and to provide some opportunity for custom instruction and feedback.

day 134

this was midterm day. each student did the 2nd half of the yang long form solo in front of class.

the latter part of Thursday was the demo at the Anderson Business School. apparently, they have weekly Thursday social hours (read: happy hour), but this week was meant to celebrate Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which is May). for the occasion, they organized demonstrations by various Asian Pacific Islander student groups, and Linus (one of our students who is graduating from the Anderson Business School with his MBA) was invited to have his kung fu connections appear for demonstration--meaning us.

it ended up being Sifu, Art, Jeong, Linus, and me doing the demonstration. Shuwen, who is also in the business school and also in the UCLA tai chi class, provided commentary. it turned out that this was Linus's going-away farewell, and his final send-off before his business school friends, since he's scheduled to fly back to Singapore forever this coming Tuesday. as a result, Linus was quite popular. Jeong and Linus did a version of the Yang long form (i say version, because Linus admitted he didn't know all the form, and had to struggle as best he could for the presentation). Art did xiao kai men. Sifu demonstrated both the chen tai chi short form and the kuen wu jian. i ended up doing bagua 64 palms.

i have to say this demonstration, while somewhat informal, was a learning experience. it was educational in the sense that it introduced me to the experience of doing a martial arts demonstration in front of an attentive audience (which can be distracting, especially if people are talking, yelling, drinking, etc.). in addition, to honor past masters of kung fu, i did the demo in a 3-piece suit and formal shoes, and got to find out first-hand just how much harder it can be to move in this type of attire. it's definitely a challenge, and a slight increase in difficulty level.

it was also useful in that someone recorded a video of me, and i got to see the difference between what i thought (or felt) i was doing versus what i actually looked like--this may not seem like a big deal, but it is well-recognized in sports circles as absolutely crucial in establishing the mind-body connection, since it essentially creates a reference point (read: it is equivalent of zeroing a scale) to better judge if you are exercising proper technique (read: form) or not. reviewing the video, i spoke with Sifu on the issues i needed to work on, and we noted the areas for me to observe: 1) getting lower in the stances (particularly sinking into the kua), 2) keeping my spine vertical (and by extension, not slouching), 3) keeping more level (Sifu says i have a habit of up-and-down movement), and 4) slowing down in training to better institute the more minute techniques into my movements. add to this that there were several areas in the form that i glossed over during my performance (which, upon reflection, i have to say i was greatly embarrassed by and very much frustrated to realize), and which i absolutely need to do a better job of demonstrating for public audiences.

keeping this in mind, i have a better sense of what i need to do--and more importantly, how to do it. of course, now i just actually need to execute.

Monday, May 05, 2008

day 132: drilling the 2-person form & tui na seminar

  • distance
  • hands
  • 2-person 64 palms, palms 1-4
this Saturday was abbreviated, since this weekend was scheduled for the tui na seminar, which was scheduled to run from 1-5pm on saturday and 9am-5pm on Sunday. in addition, we also had a slightly lower than normal turnout, since Kieun was absent with his parents visiting and Phunsak had to skip the morning to deal with some job issues.

Sifu reminded us about the schedule for the weekend, and also noted that we would have back-to-back Saturday & Sunday classes for the next 2 weekends. he also announced that he'd decided to withdraw from the Baltimore tournament, since there just wasn't time to prepare (it's in July, and Sifu is going to be gone for 3 weeks in June), and that we were going to devote the summer to preparing for the Las Vegas tournament (it's at the end of August).

with the announcements taken care of, Sifu instructed the bagua students to work on reviewing the 2-person forms, particularly with palm change 4. he pointed out that this was necessary for Ching-Chieh, who's still scheduled to compete in the 2-person forms competition with Phunsak, but is still learning the forms (i should note she was absent for the last 6 months of last year, which was pretty much the time period we learned all of 64 palms side B and all the 2-person forms).

we went through the 2-person forms for palms 1-3, with iterations of each palm and each side individually, and then iterations of the 2 sides combined for each palm. we then proceeded onto palm change 4.

to her credit, Ching-Chieh is picking things up quickly. but it probably doesn't help that we've learned different variations of each 2-person form, with the variations dependent on what techniques we are trying to demonstrate. while it's not a big deal for 2 partners who know the alternative variations, since they can always agree as to which permutation to perform, it is a big deal for anyone trying to learn them for the 1st time, since it's then difficult to understand what is the "right" action or "wrong" action, or which action is even connected with which particular version...particularly if you keep having to change partners to learn from and practice with.

Sifu eventually returned to watch us do the 2-person form for palm change 4. he noted that we were not quite on target with respect to the distance between partners for the 4th palm change, and pointed out that even though there are kicks involved in the palm change, we still need to stay close to each other.

he then asked to see our 2-person form for palm change 3. he pointed out that we were all consistently missing one key hand strike in the middle, where side A is engaging hawk pierces through the sky and side B is engaging white snake coils in its den. at this point, both partners have a lower hand driving into each other's side, either at the hip or the kidney. in the 2-person form, Sifu said the partners should have their hands actually meet, and serve as a repulsing mechanism allowing both to then spin into big serpent coils its body.

by the time we'd worked on correcting the 2-person forms for palm changes 3 & 4, it was approaching noon. in order to have time for a quick lunch and make it in time to set up for the seminar, Sifu called class to a close and instructed anyone who was going where to meet.

i should note that similar to the last seminar weekend, i am not writing a separate post for this weekend's tui na seminar (because, again, there has to be an incentive to go, shouldn't there?). in addition, while i did make some videos, i won't be posting them on Youtube (not because i'm being obnoxious, but because the file sizes are too large for the Youtube limits--boooooooooooo Youtube!!!). however, Art told me that there will be a manual with DVDs being made, similar to the ones made for the chin na seminar, and that they will be available within a few weeks once the videos are edited and published to DVD.

days 130 & 131: polishing the long form

  • 2-count
  • 4-count
  • ball & bowl
  • yang long form
this week was primarily centered on polishing the long form, and practicing in preparation of the midterm exam. apparently, there is also a Asia-themed culture event at the Anderson School which we've been invited to make a demonstration at. although, i am not certain as to what the details are.

day 130

tuesday began with administrative details. Sifu said it was midterm time, and asked everyone when they would prefer to have the exam, this Thursday, or next Tuesday or Thursday. predictably, everybody promptly voted for next Thursday, presumably to maximize their practice time (or, i really believe, to maximize their procrastination). Sifu announced that the midterm would be the same as last quarters, with each person doing an individual performance of the 2nd half of the long form, except that this time we may be recording video for future reference.

as an additional administrative detail, we also talked about the Anderson School culture show. Linus, one of the students, is in the business school, and i guess one of the organizers of the show. from what i could gather, he is hoping for a kung fu demonstration, and Sifu has agreed to oblige. although, the question is what we're going to demonstrate and who is going to do it. it appears that at the least we're going to do a tai chi demonstration (probably yang, using whoever in class can make it), and also a bagua demonstration (if no one else can make it, i'm assuming this means me doing it solo). whatever happens, the show is next Thursday evening at the business school at 5:30pm.

we spent the remainder of class doing the 2nd half of the long form, but with Sifu having us do 2 different variations: 1st with the 2-count method we've learned the previous quarters (i.e., 1 is breathe-in, 2 is breathe-out), and 2nd with the 4 count method we've used this quarter (i.e., with the 4 jings, where 1 is ting, 2 is hwa, 3 is na, 4 fa).

day 131

Sifu began this thursday with stance work, leading everyone through the 8 tai chi stances for review.

once we finished this, he announced he wanted the rest of class to be dedicated to reviewing the 2nd half of the long form to help everyone memorize and polish the sequence of postures. this was largely methodical, with us progressing through several iterations each of the 2-count method, 4-count method, and then--returning to concepts of the fall quarter--the ball and bowl method.

we finished with a reminder about the exam and business school culture show.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

day 129: world tai chi & qi-gong day

  • yang long form
  • chen long form
well, i'm back on-line. i had to buy a new computer and new software, and i'm looking into retrieving the data off the hard drive on my old computer. all of which, of course, costs $$$. so if anybody knows of any short-term part-time jobs, i'm certainly open to listening. i'm cheap.

this Saturday was World Tai Chi & Qi-Gong Day. unlike last year, which was held at the Rose Bowl, this year was in Bronson Park in Hollywood. in addition, this time it was held in 2 locations--Bronson Park was one and Malibu was the other.

Sifu had announced that he was simply going to move the usual Saturday morning class to Bronson Park, since the event was scheduled to run from 9-12 in the morning. it turned out a few people did not get the announcement, since they apparently had not joined the Wutang Yahoo! group. for those of you who have yet to join, please do so--go to Wu_Tang_Martial_Arts group in Yahoo! groups ( and send a request to join. all announcements are posted there.

World Tai Chi & Qi-Gong Day itself was a bit smaller this year, but i suspect this was because it was divided into 2 locations. this probably also explained why there were fewer presentations this time. which was just as well, since the temperatures rose in the high 90s and i think people started to fade pretty quickly in the heat.

Sifu is pretty popular at this event. he has a lot of friends in the Los Angeles tai chi community, and i think a good many of them use this celebration as a way to meet and catch-up on news and stories about each others' lives. as a result, it's not so much about presentations or demonstrations, or i suspect even education, but really more about reconnecting with long-lost acquaintances and sharing a spirit of fellowship.

as a class, we ended up having 2 major tasks today: 1) the yang long form, and 2) the chen long form. the 1st was expected, and pretty much a given since it is the standard form known by most tai chi practitioners. everyone did this as a group--and i mean everyone as in the entire audience present, not just those of us in Sifu's class.

the 2nd task, however, was a bit of a surprise. i had predicted to Phunsak some time ago that Sifu was going to ask us to perform the chen long form at World Tai Chi & Qi-Gong Day. Phunsak had voiced his skepticism about my abilities at prophecy. i had doubted it last week when i had asked Sifu about any possible demonstrations, and he'd responded with an emphatic "no."

well, guess what? in the middle of our reverie at World Tai Chi & Qi-Gong Day, the announcer, Doria, said that our class was going to perform the chen long form as a "special treat." Sifu looked at us and said he wasn't going to do the demonstration, since he was expected to describe it as we did it. at this moment, John Eagles suddenly decided to retrieve something from my car (i had driven everyone) and disappeared (inexplicably, for the exact time required to do the form). this left Phunsak, Kieun, and me, with Kieun expressing some concerns about not being able to remember the entire form and Phunsak asking why both of us were looking at him. i told him that he should lead, and Kieun and i would follow, so that way if someone made a mistake we would at least follow 1 person and make the same mistake together (this, incidentally, is a common rule in performance arts--if anyone makes a mistake, for heavens' sake, everyone needs to make the same mistake, so that it at least looks to the audience like it was intended that way).

the 3 of us made it through the form, with Sifu giving commentary. i have to say that it was not clean, and there is a lot of room for improvement. Richard, who excused himself from the performance, took video using my camera...but god help anybody ever seeing it, because upon review, i don't think it should ever be allowed to see the light of day (let alone appear on Youtube). let's just say we need to get better.

after awhile, everything began to wind down and the event was wrapped up around 12 noon. since Jonathan Shen was being eaten alive by bugs, we made a quick exit and made our pre-planned trip for lunch in Thai Town. Sifu reminded us that next weekend was the Tui Na Seminar, and that it would follow the same schedule as the Chin Na Seminar, with saturday class ending at 12 noon and the seminar continuing to 5pm and sunday going from 9am to 5pm. the Tui Na Seminar will be in the same location as before, at Cal State LA.