Tuesday, October 28, 2008

day 184: a somber time

  • softness
  • forest palm
  • kyudo
this post will stay on the trends of the previous 2 posts in terms of brevity. i'm starting to feel better in terms of my recovery from the food poisoning last week, but not so much that i'm up to devoting as much time writing as i ordinarily do. also, i had to cancel the chang quan lesson last Friday, since i was still feeling weak at the time, and so will omit that portion of this post.

at this point, i should note that this week things were pretty somber. Sifu started class with the announcement that had already been posted via email and the Yahoo! group--one of Sifu's students from his time in Boston, Jim Lavoie, had passed away earlier in the week after a long battle with cancer, leaving behind a wife and 2 young children. Art had brought a condolence card for the group to sign, and Sifu said we were also taking donations for the family. Art was quite affected by things, as were a number of other people, and altogether it made for a pretty subdued day.

forest palms

Sifu advanced us further into forest palms, teaching 2 additional segments of the form, with the 1st following announcements and the 2nd near the end of class after we'd had a chance to practice the 1st. in addition, he also gave us some time to help some people who'd missed the previous class to catch up. that, and it also let me work at a slower pace and rest up--i wasn't at full speed, and just wasn't ready for any strenuous activity today, with me having to stop at numerous points to catch my breath and restore blood flow to my head.

after watching me for awhile, Sifu noted that 1 good thing about my sickness was that it had finally made me soft...a little too soft. he said that i was doing things better, except that now i was allowing my wrists and hands to become soft, and devoting much of my focus on them. he said that i should instead put my attention on the elbows and arms, and to do so in relation to the rest of my body. he reminded me to think about my body as a single unit--a unit that is not hard, nor rigid, but instead flexible and elastic, that can turn, twist, bend, flex, and compress in a way that stores and releases energy (kind of the way a spring compresses and releases, or jello compresses and then bounces).

we finished class with a somber collection of donations and final messages for the condolence card, and then went to a typical post-class lunch that was a little more sober than usual.


i went to kyudo class, although my energy levels were running a bit low. i decided i'd stay until the end of the formal class, which is usually around 8:30, and then go home to rest. i arrived early enough to help clean and set up the dojo, which i see is the usual custom for students in a formal martial arts school. i'm starting to become better with names, since i now know more of the regular students in the class--Jackie, Gene, Trini, and Star, who all appear to be the junior students, and Leslie, Matt, Aaron, Marcus, and Doc, who appear to be the more senior students.

this class, Sensei suggested that i start incorporating myself into the formal practice of the dojo, and to work my way into things. he said he'd help me out with the practices, as would other students. this is just as well, since i'm still largely clueless about a good number of things, and still trying to figure things out--at this point, my attention is consumed less by the spirit of the art and more by the learning of the formalities of practice. there's quite a bit, and i can see why it takes awhile.

things were a little rough today. not only was i following the pre-shooting meditation and walk-through, but Sensei also had me do a passive run-through of actual shooting (i.e., join a group of archers, and go through the act of shooting, but without holding a bow or an arrow). there was a bit of information overload, and it probably didn't help that i wasn't at 100%. hopefully i'll do a little better next time...although, i suppose, every beginner is a little rough at the start, and so i should expect this. but at the very least, i hope to be operating at a healthier level next week.

just as i figured, my energy levels pretty much started dipping after 8pm, and i asked Sensei to excuse me from the remainder of the session. i felt a little guilty, since ordinarily i would stay to help clean things and disassemble the dojo equipment, but Sensei recognized that i was not doing so well and let me go.

Friday, October 24, 2008

day 183: more push hands

  • hwa
  • na
  • chen push hands
  • kuen wu erlu
again, i'm still feeling sick, so this post is going to be short.

chen push hands

we spent this Sunday continuing chen push hands. this time, however, Sifu had us progress to the next stage in push hands, with the switch being an emphasis on hwa and na jing. in push hands, this means using the exercise to try and position yourself to launch an attack against the opponent. this requires that you not only sense the other person's actions (ting jing), but also redirect their action (hwa jing) and then control them in a way that you are positioned to attack (na jing). this involves a transition between states of no force and force.

Sifu also commented that in order for us to get the full benefit of this exercise, we needed to utilize our entire bodies--not just arms and hands, but also start trying to engage our bodies and legs in contact with the opponent. in addition, he also said we needed to start varying the range and scale of our movements, so that it was not just circles of a fixed radius, but varying paths of varying shapes of varying sizes in varying directions.

this added several layers of complexity, and was quite a challenge to adjust to. i wasn't quite comfortable with this, and i think it's going to take some time to get used to this.

kuen wu erlu

we finished the day by starting the kuen wu erlu form. this is essentially the 2nd level of kuen wu jian, and differs from the 1st level in that it incorporates power. Sifu reviewed some of the basic history, noting that while the form originally came from elsewhere, the 2nd level incorporated some of the power issuing concepts taught by Li Shu Wen in his baji/piqua and spear training, and was meant to make kuen wu jian more effective for fighting. we went a few moves into the form, and practiced these a few times.

day 182: many many things

  • directions
  • formality
  • pao quan applications
  • bagua forest palm
  • kyudo
i've been quite sick this week, either because of food poisoning (some bad fish) or because of a virus that's been having its way on campus. either way, the symptoms have been digestive issues, intense nausea, diarrhea, high fever, and severe weakness. as a result, i haven't been inclined to take time to do much of a write-up regarding last weekend, and this post and the next are going to be pretty short.

pao quan applications

my pao quan lesson this past Friday was a continued refinement of the form, but with a fair amount of time devoted to reviewing applications. there were a number of applications that i realized we hadn't covered, and Sifu said we might as well make sure to go through everything. in addition, he also showed me alternative applications for some of the techniques.

he observed that a lot of them were obvious to him, to an extent that he often doesn't think it's necessary to show them, but that he forgets that for people without a background in martial arts it all is largely obscure. he also noted that because there were different applications possible in the various techniques, that there were several different acceptable variations in the movements associated with them in the form--but that the variations were okay only so long as it was apparent that the person doing the form understands the applications in the variations.

bagua forest palm

this Saturday we continued forest palm. we began with a review of what we'd learned to date, both of the form and the applications in it. we then went about another 8 moves further into the form, and spent the class refining our movement.

Sifu observed that one of the major ways forest palm differs from xiao kai men and 64 palms is that it utilizes different directions. xia kai men and 64 palms work either in line or on a circle. in contrast, forest palm breaks away from both and involves constant change in direction, with movements moving continuously in directions that match neither a line or a circle. Sifu commented this is a reflection of the form's emphasis on teaching you how to use bagua in any direction at any time, and is part of why it is useful in learning how to apply techniques against multiple opponents, who invariably attack from multiple directions at once.


the kyudo lesson today featured 2 other beginners besides myself. as a result, Sensei Beal took us as a group and introduced us to the basic 8 steps in the kyudo form, emphasizing breathing and timing in relation each of the 8 steps. following this, he had one of the senior students (an older Japanese-American man everyone calls "Doc") teach us the basics of kyudo stepping (which looks and feels suspiciously like bagua stepping) and rising in and out of a sitting posture.

today was a bit of a lead-in to the very basic elements of kyudo and showed me just how formal an art it is, with clearly defined requirements for each component in the art extending from sitting and meditating to walking and posture, never mind shooting and setting up the bow. it's very different from the kung fu, which is much more performance and applications-driven, but i suspect this is why kyudo has the suffix "do" (which is the Japanese word for "way"), since it is a refined art form dedicated to making an elevated aesthetic and spiritual experience of what traditionally was very much a performance-driven martial art.

in essence, from what i can see, kyudo isn't about being practical, and isn't meant to be such, whereas the kung fu i've been learning is, and you can see the difference in what is taught--and neither is better or worse than the other, but they are nonetheless very much different in this way. of course, this should not be taken to say that one is "prettier" or more spiritual than the other, since i see these aspects in both, but it is to say that one makes it a point of emphasis more so than the other in terms of the focus of teaching...at least, for this stage in my training.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

day 181: chang quan, forest palm, & kyudo

  • smooth
  • extension
  • connections
  • power, without fa
  • zen
  • pao quan
  • forest palm
  • kyudo
i'm changing the organization of these blog posts slightly. typically, the headings always listed "concepts" and "forms," with the "forms" giving the list of section headings and sections in the blog post. this week, however, i began taking kyudo lessons, which is the japanese art of archery, and so something that is not really a form that can be readily listed with the others being taught. as a result, i'm stepping one layer back upwards in the taxonomy, and using that as the new organizational device for blog sections, so that the new section headings will be "lessons," which i see as providing more flexibility in organization that can fit the differing styles and forms and subjects that i'm learning.

i see this as being the direction for the foreseeable future.

pao quan

the pao quan lesson today worked on refining the form, and also finishing off the final moves. i still have a number of lingering issues, but i think the situation is manageable in that the process of refinement is ultimately about addressing 1 issue at a time.

beyond this, however, i also had an extended discussion with Sifu regarding some of the concepts that he thought i needed--not just in terms of chang quan, but in terms of my martial arts in general. he noted the following:
  • smooth: Sifu said that at this stage of my development i should focus on doing the form smooth. similar to the acronym SLED he gave to the tai chi class (slow, long, even, deep), he said i should do the same thing, but with the "s" being smooth. currently, he said i tended to have a lot of stop-and-go movements, with the rhythm of the form being broken. this is an issue, in that it throttles the power generation in the techniques, since it stops momentum and suppresses range of motion, both things which are necessary for the techniques to work.
  • extension: i'm working on being consistent in the extension of my movements, but it's still inconsistent. thsi is an issue, since a lot of the techniques in pao quan require a certain amount of follow-through to be effective, and the follow-through is only possible by extending fully into the techniques. Sifu said that focusing on smoothness in my movements would go a long way towards alleviating this problem.
  • hwa, na, not fa: Sifu commented that i was focusing too much on injecting fa jing (explosive energy) into the movements. but in doing so, i was skipping over the other aspects of jing, particularly hwa (receiving and redirecting) and na (positioning and control). similar to tai chi, chang quan requires the sequence of ting, hwa, na, and then fa jing--i should note this makes sense, seeing that tai chi originated from chang quan.
  • connections: Sifu also warned me to not ignore the connections between the techniques. if anything, the connections are even more important than the techniques themselves. the connections serve as transitions enabling the practitioner to carry over energy--and hence power--into new directions. they also serve to integrate ting, hwa, and na jing into movements, setting the practitioner into positions to generate fa jing. as a result, they are necessary precursors to produce effective results.
i should observe that at this point we ended up going into a much more general conversation about the nature of power generation in martial arts--at least, TCMA. it began when Sifu noted that power generation in kung fu does not require fa jing, or explosive energy. in fact, kung fu can actually be effective without it altogether. we touched on a number of points:
  • his perspective is that power exerted by the body is really an application of physics. in which case, there is more than just simply explosive action. instead, proper positioning and direction of force along certain paths of motion (i.e., ting, hwa, na) can serve to disrupt and breakdown an opponent.
  • this is why he says that movements in techniques should not be directed at the opponent, but should actually be directed through the opponent--because it means that your movements are acting to disrupt and breakdown the opponent's structure. in essence, this means that you have to follow-through, which is why extension is important, since you have to train the body to fully extend through a range of motion to ingrain the follow-through into your body's memory.
  • because power can be generated through a variety of ways, fa jing is really just an option. it's not necessary. if anything, it's just a bonus.
  • power generation, in a martial arts context, has to be constantly available. in other words, the movements need to have set you up to exert power at any moment. this is necessary, since in a combat situation you have to be able to react to anything your opponent(s) may do. this is why it's important to focus on smooth and continuous movements, with connections that flow seamlessly from one to the other, since this means you are maximizing your ability to apply force in any direction in any time based on whatever you think is necessary to address an opponent's choice of action.
i asked Sifu if these apply to other styles--i could see that they are consistent with chang quan, tai chi, and bagua, but was curious about other styles like baji, which is renowned for its fa jing. he responded that you can visualize the power generation in baji as being like a firecracker, with the fa jing being the explosion. in contrast, he noted that power generation in bagua is like a smooth running engine--it doesn't appear spectacular or impressive, but you still risk serious injury if you allow yourself to be put into contact with its moving parts.

beyond this, however, he asserted that there are serious misconceptions held by many people about martial arts, at least in regards in TCMA, and specifically for northern TCMA. he reiterated his belief that one of the defining characteristics for northern TCMA is the consistent use of all jings: ting, hwa, na, and fa. even with baji, he said it is a misnomer held by many that baji quan is exclusively about fa jing. he demonstrated a few baji moves for me, and pointed out that in each one there is a sequence of ting, hwa, and na that precedes the fa jing. going further, he showed how the baji moves could still be effective without the fa jing.

he extended the demonstration by showing a few bagua movements for comparison, and then pointed out that while bagua may appear to be a converse of baji, in that bagua emphasizes ting, hwa, and na jing, it still allows fa jing to be exerted anywhere in its movements. he pointed out that the more advanced stages of bagua actually incorporate fa jing into bagua movements, particularly the fist and arm forms. an intelligent practitioner, he argued, could actually learn 64 palms, xiao kai men, or even mother palm, and see how fa jing could be utilized within them.

i asked him if this is why so many people find power generation in bagua so difficult, because they can't understand and utilize the idea of using appropriate movements (i.e., specific force in specific directions following specific paths) to apply the energy (i.e., angular & linear momentum) and the physics (i.e., kinetic & potential energy, center of mass, etc.) of action. he affirmed this, and said this is in part because it's very difficult to see, and so hard to grasp. but he noted that it was the same thing with baji, since it is so subtle and occurs so fast that people frequently never recognize that it is there.

this means that all styles--at least, with northern TCMA--express both hard and soft elements in their advanced stages. their curriculum may follow different sequences in terms of which elements are taught first, but in the end they all incorporate all aspects of hard and soft, and integrate all forms of jing.

Sifu then returned to the notions of smoothness and connections. he said that in his opinion the earlier stages of any curriculum of any style, at least in northern TCMA, should focus on developing smoothness and connections in movements. this serves to set the stage, or base, that allows a practitioner to exert fa jing at will--and the key words are at will. in essence, you don't have to exert fa jing the same way or the same time as anyone else does or anyone else shows...in fact you don't want to do this at all, since your decisions to generate power, via fa jing or any other method, should really be a function of what is going on in combat, and what you choose to do in relation to your opponent. in essence, it all depends on what your opponent is doing.

Sifu finished by then discussing the historical order of the various martial arts he knows, so as to provide some context as to the development of thinking regarding the concepts we'd covered. bagua is the most recent, and reflects a fairly sophisticated level if thinking that exploits the insight that power generation can be done through the physics of movement, rather than explosion. tai chi is older, and shows an earlier expression of the principles that were expanded in bagua, and you can see that tai chi really was the product of martial arts practitioners who took long fist and modified it to focus more on concepts of ting, hwa, and na jing--even though they would then keep the option (just like bagua or any other northern TCMA) of using fa jing within it if a situation called for it.

baji/piqua are slightly older, and came from a different source than the others, but you can still see that the people who developed it were following a line of reasoning that still worked with the same concepts used by the other styles.

chang quan is the oldest, and expresses all the concepts at the most fundamental level. having said this, Sifu noted that it is still just as difficult to grasp, since so many of the movements don't clearly demonstrate ting, hwa, na, and fa jing, or the nature of the techniques and the transitions connecting them. there are many nuances, and unfortunately many people have either never learned them, or they gloss over them without realizing their importance. Sifu observed that it's unfortunate that so much of modern wushu works with chang quan, since it has served to distort chang quan and given a very skewed image of it to the public.

of course, the oldest by far is shuai jiao, since it traces back before the start of the Christian calendar. and in many ways, it's also the most basic, working with the most elementary concepts of the human body. but it precedes the development in understanding and reasoning that began with chang quan and which was picked up by the later styles.

Sifu commented that it is somewhat useful to travel to China to visit with people who have preserved these styles, since you can clearly see the progression in thinking in the original versions. this is why he said so many people recognize the martial arts practiced in the Muslim regions of China, because the Muslim Chinese tended to preserve their martial arts very well, and so allow you to see the thinking of the styles as when they were originally conceived. he cautioned, however, that the number of practitioners who preserve the older traditional styles is decreasing, since so many of them are old and hence in the process of dying off. this makes it harder to see the original TCMA. it doesn't help that the newer generation of practitioners has been influenced by modern wushu, which has done little to preserve the traditional versions of TCMA. Sifu said this is why it's important that any TCMA practitioner visiting China schedule time during their tours to meet with the old masters and see their martial arts, because chances are they won't be around for long.

this was the end of the session, and Sifu said that the next time we'd work on refining my movements, and then also work on alternative techniques in the form.

forest palm

Sifu scheduled this saturday as the start of forest palms. he had us practice 64 palms side B for awhile, and then led us through the initial movements of forest palm.

by way of introduction Sifu noted the following:
  • forest palm assumes that the practitioner is already well-versed with a large number of concepts and movements, and so is reserved for more advanced students who have a firm grounding in the earlier stages of the bagua curriculum
  • forest palm develops the components of bagua that apply to confronting multiple opponents at once--2, 3, or more. to do this, practitioners utilize dummies consisting of wooden poles, sometimes as many as 8, and do the form weaving in and out and among the wooden poles to mimic the actions undertaken against the corresponding number of opponents.
  • the techniques in forest palm feature further variations in applications compared to xiao kai men or 64 palms, even though they may appear similar, and so can serve to demonstrate a larger array of interpretations
we went about 8 moves into forest palm, and spent the bulk of time working on the form and learning their applications. we finished with this, and went to lunch.


Saturday evening marked my 1st kyudo class. i seriously considered skipping this today, since i was feeling a little tired. but i figured i had committed to this, and that it would be good for me to follow through.

the kyudo dojo is held at the Japanese Cultural Institute in Pasadena, and is run by Sensei Rick Beal, who it turns out is also a zen monk. from what i can tell, based on initial impressions, things are somewhat informal but also very formal--there is no set curriculum following a specific timetable that people follow, either in terms of each class or their long-term development; there is, however, clearly defined rituals and steps in terms of sutras, the kyudo forms, dojo practices, and opening and closing activities.

originally, i had meant to attend last weak, but Sensei had informed me that last week they held no class, and has asked i wait until this week. for today, as a make-up, it turned out they had an extended session starting from 3pm and going until their usual finishing time around 10pm (note: the usual class time is about 5:30-10pm).

for today, i spent the class observing, and having conversations with some of the other students as well as with Sensei. we ended up talking quite a bit about zen, and spirituality, as well as the nature of breathing, the nuances of the japanese kyudo bow, and the coordination of body movements (particularly the spine and dantian) to facilitate the actions involved in movement (including, but not limited to, using a bow).

i have to say i enjoyed this. it's definitely a change of pace, and in many ways a much more reflective endeavor. it's a good way to end the day. i'm glad i went, and i can see this becoming a regular part of my schedule...i just have to keep doing it. but i think this is something i can manage.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

quarterly summary - Q3, 2008

this quarterly summary is WAY late. no excuse. i've just been so busy that i completely forgot about it. this one is going to be short, because things are still pretty hectic. as always, this follows the previous quarterly summary (reference: quarterly summary - Q2, 2008).

original goals

as given in the last quarterly summary, the objectives for this quarter were:

  • continue attending class
  • continue practicing during the week outside of class
  • continue learning applications
  • work on qi-gong
  • refine pao quan, and maybe (if time permits) start learning applications for chang quan
  • refine the bagua leg form
  • refine yang & chen tai chi long forms
  • continue learning push hands
  • refine kuen wu jian yilu, and start learning erlu and the jian shu basics
  • keep learning the nuances of theory to better understand its applications
  • prepare for full-speed full-contact fighting at the Las Vegas tournament
summary of events

with respect to the curriculum, this is what has been covered this past quarter:
  • refinement & applications, 64 palms: palm changes 1-8, A & B
  • continued jian shu basics
other things this quarter that were not in the curriculum:
  • prepped for the Las Vegas tournament

i'm somewhat satisfied with the progress on the goals for this quarter. i started my search for a tenure-track job (yes, i am a professor), and also had to start work as an adjunct professor. which made for a very big increase in my workload. this reduced the amount of available time i had, and so resulted in the following situation:
  • continue attending class: things were a little so-so. i made all the weekend classes, but dropped the week classes at UCLA (personal reasons...you'd know if you knew me)
  • continue practicing during the week outside of class: this was a little spotty as well, as there were a few weeks i had some injury issues and had to rest
  • continue learning applications: this is a given
  • work on qi-gong: spotty. definitely spotty. didn't have as much time with this as i would have liked. but hopefully i'll be able to devote more time to it over the winter.
  • refine pao quan, and maybe (if time permits) start learning applications for chang quan: this is something i spoke with Sifu about, and we decided to put this off until after the Las Vegas tournament
  • refine the bagua leg form: bleah. did not do this at all. i know the form, but i've only managed to put in a couple of practice sessions on it.
  • refine yang & chen tai chi long forms: ditto.
  • continue learning push hands: we did a little of this, but the bulk of time was spent prepping for the Las Vegas tournament
  • refine kuen wu jian yilu, and start learning erlu and the jian shu basics: ditto
  • keep learning the nuances of theory to better understand its applications: ditto
  • prepare for full-speed full-contact fighting at the Las Vegas tournament: this was the bulk of time

my comments can be summarized as follows:
  • tournament: there ended up being a conflict between the beginner sparring and the jian shu. Sifu had told me the jian shu was the higher priority in his opinion, since it was the first time it was being held as a formal component in the tournament, and so i decided to withdraw from beginner sparring and help out Alex as a judge. this turned out to be a good move, since we ended up actually being short-handed on jian shu judges, and found ourselves with absolutely no time other than just running the tournament.
  • the future: well, now that i have a gig as an adjunct professor, i'm actually overflowing with work, and am very busy. but i'm lucky, seeing that the economy has seriously hurt a lot of people. and being an adjunct buys me time while i look for a tenure-track job. so i get to keep up my studies in the martial arts.
objectives for the future

somewhat the same themes, but just some changes:
  • continue attending class
  • continue practicing during the week outside of class
  • continue learning applications
  • work on qi-gong
  • refine pao quan, and maybe start learning applications for chang quan
  • continue learning bagua
  • continue learning tai chi
  • continue learning push hands
  • refine kuen wu jian yilu, and start learning erlu and the jian shu basics
  • keep learning the nuances of theory to better understand its applications
i should also note i'm thinking of taking a kyudo class. it's japanese archery, and not entirely related to anything i'm learning now. but i've always had a curiosity about japanese archery, more as a spiritual exercise, and it turns out there is a place in Pasadena that teaches it. so i'd like to give it a try, hopefully starting with the fall classes at UCLA and USC.

rock and roll.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

day 180: a different push hands

  • push hands, tai chi
this is a super short post.

we focused on push hands today, but a different variation. Master Chow was visiting from Hong Kong, and had decided to pay a visit to the class. Sifu decided that since we were working on the Chen-style push hands that in the lineage of Du Yu-ze, it would be useful to compare with the push hands used in Master Chow's Yang tai chi. this was meant to provide a comparative analysis, and thereby provide some perspective as to the nature of push hands and how it is used by differing schools of tai chi.

we spent this Sunday working with Master Chow. after warming up with several repeitions of the Chen long form, Sifu had Master Chow show us the very basic 2-person push hands he teaches in his school.

i have to say it is dramatically different from the push hands Sifu teaches (either the Chen or Yang), even though the purpose is the same: teaching ting jing. Master Chow's version remains largely in a horizontal plane, and has both partners remain stationary, with the only movements coming from changes in stances, turning of the waist and hips, and the adjustments of the upper body. having said that, i should note that some of the applications involved in his push hands are still the same, and so still consistent with what we're learning.

we consumed the class with this, and then joined Master Chow and his family for lunch.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

day 179: ongoing refinement, and further into pao quan

  • forward
  • 64 palms, side B
  • pao quan
this post is going to be a little short, since i'm a little bogged down with work. but this past Saturday was largely a continuation of what we've been doing before, so there isn't too much to add other than just note some ongoing instructions.

64 palms, side B

we continued with our refinement of side B, following the same pattern as last week of Sifu reviewing our forms after some practice. Phunsak had apparently suffered an injury in judo, and so wasn't available to lead us. John Eagles took that duty, and we worked on palms 4-6, and then went on to review palms 7-8.

Sifu asked to see our side B, palms 1-4. with my rendition, he noted that i was doing the 2nd half of palm 2 the same way i was doing the 2nd half of palm 6, which is actually wrong. he said the techniques are different, with the 2nd half of palm 2 involving smaller circles in a slightly more vertical plane, while the 2nd half of palm 6 is much larger in motion and more on a horizontal plane.

pao quan

the pao quan lesson from Friday carried me about 80% of the way through the form. things went a little bit faster, since i was getting a better feel for the general nature of chang quan and could extend its flavor further. Sifu ended up spending more time going through the applications, explaining what each move was.

as an experiment, Sifu went into a pattern were he quizzed me on what i thought a particular technique's application was before he'd actually shown me. turns out i was wrong most of the time. Sifu noted that he could see the applications when first learned it, but that this was because he had come from a martial arts background and already had an understanding of what techniques, targets, and options were possible for certain kinds of movements. this gave him an intuitive sense to understand a martial arts style.

for someone like me without such a background, it's much harder to see the applications in the movements. it doesn't help that chang quan is a lot like bagua in that a lot of the techniques are hidden, and not meant to be easily determined just from viewing.

we could have finished the form Friday, but i think it was better to hold off on the remainder until next week.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

day 178: refinement side B cont'd

  • dynamic bow-and-arrow
  • memory
  • 64 palms side B
  • pao quan
we had a surprise visitor, with Andre making a return. he apparently wanted some help reviewing the miao dao, so had shown up with his weapons. we ended up having a conversation regarding miao dao purchases, particularly after he saw the one i bought in Las Vegas, and especially after talking with Phunsak about a potential order.

64 palms side B

Phunsak ended up working with Andre on the miao dao, so we had John Eagles take over leading the group through 64 palms side B. we repeated the practice pattern from last week, reviewing each palm change in a line. during a few breaks, i also took the opportunity to review side A, since it suddenly occurred to me that i was starting to mix a few of the palm changes from both sides with each other (something not desirable, and definitely an issue)...it's quite funny how memory works--if you don't keep testing it, it can fade and deteriorate with surprising alacrity.

as a surprise, Art also arrived, bringing with him Phunsak's bagua dao. it is a monstrous sword, shaped like a 2-handed sabre, but extending a full 5 feet. it's quite heavy, and not something you're going to use with the dexterity of a smaller weapon like a jian, but very much a lethal weapon in that it could easily cleave through a large animal (like a horse or a cow). i was shocked to see it.

Art's arrival with the bagua dao essentially provided an excuse to end the class, since by this time we were nearing noon. we took a few extra minutes when Andre asked to review the kuen wu jian form, and i joined him and Phunsak to do a few iterations of the form. after this, the entire group went to lunch.

pao quan

regarding chang quan, i had my second private session with Sifu on pao quan yesterday. we went back through the section that i had learned the 1st day, and then went further to about the halfway point of the form. the focus was on refining the movements and understanding the physics of each technique.

i was a little perplexed by the initial walking section, which involves a duck-like walk with the hands upraised (similar to the arm position in bagua's big bird). apparently, the walk is supposed to be a progression of bow-and-arrow stances forward, with no up-or-down movement and the forward momentum generated from the extended rear leg pushing off the ground. this seemed to pose all sorts of vexing coordination issues for me, and i ended up having to take some time to really focus on this.

this lasted about 2 hours, at which point my mind was hitting the saturation phase, and i was relieved to end things for the lesson.