Friday, September 25, 2009

day 246: spear and cannon fist

  • kua
  • dantian
  • center
  • balance
  • posture
  • spear (chaang)
  • chen cannon fist (pao quan)
this Sunday was focused primarily on the spear, since it was the first day learning spear. Sifu has talked about this in the past, and he says it's something he wants to promote since it's one of the other weapons competitions (other than jian) that he would like to see spread.

i'd managed to acquire one, but it turned out to not quite match the standard specifications for a spear. Sifu said we wanted the traditional spear, as opposed to wu shu spear. the wu shu spear is shorter (usually less than 7 feet) and has a tassel near the metal point. the traditional spear, or guen, in contrast, is much longer (at least 9 feet, often longer, with lengths going to 15-18 feet) and usually devoid of a tassel. in addition, the traditional spear is made from waxwood, with a diameter than tapers from around 1.5-2 inches at one end to .75-1 inch at the other. the overall spear weighs around 8-10 lbs.

the one i'd gotten was about 9 feet and around 5 lbs. Sifu said this was the right length, but a little too light. only thing is, finding one that matches the desired specifications is difficult in the US. Eric said there was a store in Vancouver, Canada (Kuen Way) that had the right one, but i found out they charged $150 for shipping to Los Angeles, and so i'm a little reluctant to pay that amount (particularly since the spear itself only costs $75). i'm scratching my head over where to find one, but i'll have to make do with what i have for now.

chaang (spear)

we began with the 8 stances--they're the standard ones corresponding to the ones we know: horse, bow-and-arrow, 60-40, 70-30, low, cat, dragon, and rooster. Sifu also showed us how to switch between left and right hands.

from there, we went to some basics related to spear control, with Sifu having us doing drills that involved rotating the kua and dantian to move the spear points in circular patterns, first clockwise and then counter-clockwise. the trick was to hold the hands stationary, and move the spear using only the kua and dantian (essentially using only the pelvis). for this, Sifu noted the following:
  • the rear hand should be locked to the hip
  • the front hand should be held out, but with the grip loose enough so that the spear shaft is free to slide forward and back
  • the spear is displaying chan sieh jin (twisting) energy, with the rear hand twisting the shift as it moves
  • the spear tip traces a circle, but not just on a vertical plane but also on a horizontal one, meaning that the circle follows an angle
  • the kua and dantian form a horizontal ovoid, which also is not just vertical but also horizontal, and hence follows an angle
  • the power comes from the kua and dantian, with the hands just serving as stationary supports
  • spear movements should be tight, and small
i have to say that this was hard. really hard. it involves a level of coordination with my abdomen, hips, and lower back that i am not accustomed to, and definitely gave me a workout with muscles i'm not used to using. and don't even ask about my deltoids and trapezius. and try as i might, i had a really hard time getting the spear to move using my kua and dantian.

on this last issue, Sifu noted that's why the spear is considered as such a good training tool in TCMA--because in order to wield it effectively, you have to learn how to control your kua and dantian, both of which are crucial in providing the stability and power projection necessary for so much of TCMA. he also alluded to the fact that this is why spear is really good for me, since my kua and dantian continue to be issues...although, i have to say, this has been a well-known problem with me, with even my coaches noting that i seem to have coordination issues with my hip/pelvis area, to the point that it's pretty much a standing joke about me (e.g., "a little stiff where it counts, aye liljeblad? ha ha ha yuck yuck yuck").

things were also complicated by the fact that in order to maintain control over spear movements you have to maintain a center and good posture--both things that i am still working on. without either, the spear tends to move all over the place.

Sifu said that you want enough control that you can maintain consistency with precise movements--as much as possible. he related the story that Li Shu Wen had enough control that he could strike a fly with his spear. he noted that Liu Yun Qiao was able to follow the circumference of a hand ring suspended from the ceiling using his spear point. he and Josan (who's learned this before) demonstrated just how small the circles can get, to the point that the movements of the kua, dantian, and hands become almost imperceptible, and the spearholder looks like they're statues holding to a stable center with fixed posture and the spear is moving on its own.

more than this, you have to somehow maintain your balance while holding a long object that extends beyond your physical body. it's only 8-10 lbs, but it's situated on a long beam, creating from a physics perspective a moment arm with torque about the fulcrum point of your body aimed towards the ground. overcoming this in a controlled fashion requires total integration of kua, dantian, center, posture, and limbs.

this is all quite a challenge.

i can tell this is going to take a lot of work.

chen cannon fist

we spent the last part of class working on the chen cannon fist. we didn't go that much further into the form, but instead largely refined what we've done to date. since Ching Chieh missed most of pao quan, we also went back and reviewed some of the applications, with Sifu taking the opportunity to correct some details we were missing in regards to some of the movements.

we finished with that, quite a bit more sore than when we started.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

day 245: corrections of misperceptions

  • close-distance entries
  • rolling
  • wife and husband
  • looseness and tightness
  • bagua elbow form
  • kyudo
we were a little short-handed today, with a number of people (including Phunsak) out. it made for a slightly more intimate setting, with more time spent practicing the form and applications.

bagua elbow form

we worked on the elbow form, with Sifu asking each of us to do the form to date individually and then providing us with feedback to polish what we were doing. he then demonstrated the applications in the form, pointing out to us the corrections that we needed to make to get the applications to work. he made a number of comments on this subject:

  • close-distance entries--Sifu noted that not all the elbow movements needed to serve as strikes or controlling actions. he reminded us that the sequence of jing involves ting, hwa, na, and fa, meaning that the elbows could also serve as sensing (ting) and redirecting (hwa) actions, so that the elbows could actually function as gate-control tools to generate entries. in fact, the elbows are ideal for this in close distance combat, since they can be much more immediate and require less effort at close range.
  • rolling--he went on to note that in the form there are a lot of rolling elbows, and that this serves as a reminder that with the elbows it helps to maintain constant rolling motion to counter and respond to an opponent's actions. he demonstrated how you can adjust the direction, orientation, and scale of rotation depending on what the opponent is doing.
  • wife and husband hand--Sifu reminded as that another adjustment we can make in response to an opponent's action is to change the wife and husband hands. he showed that even if an opponent has a counter to a desire outcome from an application, you can change the roles of wife and husband to produce a different outcome (i.e., change yi, or intent) so that the same application is still effective.
  • looseness and tightness--Sifu continued on the concept of adapting to the opponent by noting that the yi, and the outcome of the application, can change depending on the looseness and tightness of the application, and that this can vary even during the execution of the application. i think this was an extension of yin-yang principles, since it seems consistent with the idea of identifying yin aspects of the opponent and exerting yang, and similarly identifying yang aspects and exerting yin, so as to complete the circle (or loop) of the systemic force vectors in the system of 2 fighting bodies.
Sifu demonstrated a number of variations of the form we'd just learned. which was just as well, since it appears that we'd been operating completely wrong interpretations of the movements. we laughed over this--we'd taken the movements to be elbow strikes, and had tried to judge the yi and striking surfaces accordingly, but Sifu said that they were actually controlling actions leading to throws, and so involved different yi and no striking surfaces at all.

we spent the remainder of the time polishing the form and practicing the applications, as well as correcting the misperceptions we had.


i made it to kyudo tonight. things are different now that we have 5 makiwara, since with even 12 people it now makes for a continuous round-robin shooting. this is good, in the sense that it allows much more practice, but also means that it means there is no rest.

this evening yielded some corrections to misperceptions as well. i thought i'd been holding the bow with a loose grip, but apparently not loose enough. during one round of shooting, the bow actually inverted, even thought the string stayed attached. this is not good for the bow, since it's very stressful, and is actually dangerous, since it can snap.

Jean pointed out to me that this happens because 1) the string is mounted off-center on the bow, 2) the string is too loose, and/or 3) the grip on the bow is too tight. she helped me unstring the bow and diagnosed it as being all of the above. we made some quick adjustments, and i was able to stay in the shooting line. during the next round of shooting, it suddenly dawned on me that i really was holding the bow too tightly, since i could feel it being slow to rotate seamlessly after the release of the arrow (it's supposed to rotate freely in the hand) and hand to consciously think about loosening my grip.

i think i'm becoming more comfortable with the form, since i'm able to think about it without as much conscious effort. this is good, since i'm now able to work on improving my form, by focusing on individual aspects of my technique and polishing them so that things are smoother. the big issue now is consistency.

Jean said that she was going to bring a video camera to the next session, so that she could record me shooting and i could thereby see what i was doing wrong and right. Leslie said she was going to bring a camera and take pictures of everyone in the dojo as well. this would be good, since i think it would really help me figure out what areas i need to work on.

Friday, September 18, 2009

day 244: playing with concepts

  • entries
  • jing (ting, hwa, na, fa)
  • yin-yang and yang-yin
  • closing circles
  • structure
  • holes
  • centers
  • dantian
  • orbits
  • bagua elbow form
this past Saturday started a little slow. i got caught with morning errands and arrived to class a little late, but found that everyone else was running on the same time. i ended up catching up on news and events with Siwanndi and Art, who had made it to the park before me. there was also a new student, who had come to learn baji--i didn't get his name, although i figure i will eventually.

the lessons today were related to the applications in the elbow form, but actually delved much deeper to hit a more general level related to martial arts as a whole. as a result, while we did get to the form itself, most of the morning was spent discussing concepts and trying to learn techniques that demonstrated the concepts.

we started on a tangent, with Sifu announcing that he was teaching 2 seminars at the january kung fu tournament in San Diego, and that he wanted our feedback on what topics to cover--particularly those that could be covered within the space of 2 hours. he'd decided one would be devoted to chin na, but the other was open for discussion. after some conversation, we settled on something involving applications of jing (ting, hwa, na, fa).

Sifu mentioned that he'd been thinking about this, since he believes that jing principles exist across all martial arts, not just the internal styles, and that you can see this in every martial arts application. as a way of demonstrating this, Sifu showed a shuai jiao application broken down into ting, hwa, na, and fa jing, and pointed out how the principles can actually show you how to improve the application.

he'd apparently thought about this while showing them to Tommy Friday night, since he'd been teaching Tommy some shuai jiao principles. he said he'd been a little disturbed that Tommy had adopted the current trend in shuai jiao of using a 2-handed engagement to begin rounds. Sifu noted that this has become almost universal in shuai jiao, and observed that he believes this is indicative of the prevailing transformation of shuai jiao into a sport along the lines of Olympic judo and Olympic greco-roman wrestling, which have the same starting posture.

Sifu argued that originally shuai jiao--at least in its incarnation as a combat art--discouraged 2-handed entries. in a combat setting, 2-handed entries are dangerous because they commit you to engagement and reduce the options for movement, and tend to lead fighters to 1) direct force-on-force encounters, and 2) expend focus and energy on yang actions. for self-defense situations, Sifu said that the training had traditionally been on 1-handed entries. unfortunately, these are being taught less and less as shuai jiao has evolved into a sport.

at this point i asked Sifu if the 1-handed entries for shuai jiao could be borrowed from other martial arts. i noticed that in bagua all (or almost all) the entries are 1-handed.

Sifu laughed and he told us a story that when he was young Chang Dong Sheng had taught 1-handed entries in his shuai jiao techniques, and that people had categorized them as "secret technique" taught only to special students. but after learning bagua, Sifu realized that the "secret techniques" were actually all bagua entries, and that Chang Dong Sheng had really just used his bagua training (he knew bagua) and adopted bagua entries for his shuai jiao. Sifu argued that the mixing of the two arts had been seamless, largely because they'd been tied using jing principles, with Chang Dong Sheng apparently seeing the consistency of the principles between what most people consider to be widely divergent styles.

at this point, we started on a more in-depth discussion of the jing principles used in these kinds of entries, and then went to talk about how they could be seen as continuous movements with no distinction between entry and application of technique. in action, everything becomes a smooth progression from one stage to another, both in terms of jing and in terms of entry to application.

Sifu pointed out that this is the same with other principles. staying with the bagua/shuai jiao movements we were using, he explained that you can also see the interplay of yin and yang, with the progression of jing being expressed through yin and yang actions within the techniques.

he emphasized that yin-yang meant not only that a particular application not only had a yin component and a yang component, but that these characteristics could change, with the yin component becoming yang and the yang becoming yin. this depends on what the opponent is doing and on the intent of the practitioner. he demonstrated this with one application, and showed that depending on what the opponent did, the distribution and direction of forces in the application will adjust so that it still works.

Sifu went on to note that in deciding the distribution and direction of yin and yang components, it is useful to think about circles that incorporate the force vectors of you and your opponent. by recognizing the yin-and-yang movements of your opponent, you are able to identify the distribution and direction of your yin and yang forces. the idea is to apply yang to the opponent's yin and yin to the opponent's yang. in essence, it can be seen as closing the circle.

from a physics perspective, you can visualize you and your opponent as a closed system. if you attempt to neutralize force with force, you are in a situation where you must add energy to the system--something which is problematic if you have less energy or less power than your opponent, because in that brute-force scenario you will lose. if, however, you deal with the opponent's force with yin-yang principles, you are able to neutralize the opponent's actions without having to add energy to the system, meaning that you are able to use the opponent's energy against the opponent, saving your effort and making up for any deficiencies in energy or power by using skill. thus, if the opponent's force vectors are tracing a path, you are using yin-yang principles to direct the path in a circle back to the opponent--hence, you are closing the circle.

incidentally, in relation to jing, this means that you are blending your jing with the opponent, in a way that takes maximizes depletion of the opponent and minimizes yours. the ideal state is for you to close the circle so that you don't expend any jing at all, but use the opponent's for everything in your actions, whether they were for ting, hwa, na, or fa.

Sifu went on to have us practice the application he'd shown us, using jing and yin-yang principles in response to changes in what our partner was doing. he showed us that the end goal was to destabilize the opponent, so that we were using their effort to break down their own structure.

in the process of practice, i suddenly realized that it was magically easier to see holes and centers. by visualizing the force vectors for both practitioner and opponent, and then seeing the encounter between the two as an effort to direct the opponent's forces to close the circle, i noticed that you can place the centers for both people and the closed system encompassing them--the centers of the circles (the circle of the opponent's force attacking vectors, the circle of the practitioner's redirecting force vectors, and the circle that results as the 2 people work against each other) are the centers of struggle in the battle, because invariably they tie to the centers of the bodies at play.

i suspect this why Sifu said that the dantians and the centers of gravity are not the same thing (even though they should be). as long as a fighter is structurally sound, the dantian and the center of gravity are together. the fighter, however, becomes structurally unsound the moment the dantian and the center of gravity separate. it is at this point that the holes form, and the more the structure destabilizes, the bigger the distance grows between dantian and center of gravity, and the bigger the holes become.

i also suspect that this is what closing the circle is trying to do: as the circle is closed in a system of 2 bodies in struggle, the body with the center closer to the system center will maintain the unity of dantian and center of gravity, while the body with the center farther from the system center will disconnect its dantian and center of gravity. i think this is consistent with physics, in that the bodies in closer orbit to a central mass will maintain more stable orbital paths, while bodies in farther orbit will be much more susceptible to disruption from their orbital paths.

bagua elbow form

we practiced the ideas that Sifu had discussed with us, and then finished class by going a little further into the elbow form. Phunsak said we were almost done, and that it would probably take 1 more class to finish the form.

we made a video of where we were to date, since it was starting to become hard to remember, and then left for lunch.

Friday, September 11, 2009

day 243: mixing matching principles in chen pao quan

  • energy
  • chen tai chi pao quan
this Sunday featured just me and Phunsak with Sifu. most of the usual Sunday group is on vacation, with both Jo-San and Martin on extended breaks, and Janette still away. as a result, things were less formal in terms of class agenda, and we ended up having a more free-flowing discussion on general principles we've touched on from the last few weeks. Alex was apparently in the park with his wife and child for a private lesson with Sifu, but they all left without saying hello or goodbye. Phunsak and i were miffed.

chen tai chi pao quan

i should note that we actually didn't spend that much time on the form itself, but instead just discussing and experimenting with the principles regarding energy, particularly in terms of manipulating and working with an opponent's energy in a range of contexts with a range of types of techniques. Sifu pointed out that we've dealt with various perspectives on this in learning the jings (ting, hwa, na, fa) in relation to differing ranges (close, medium, distant) and gates (dragon, tiger, snake). today, however, he said that one of the things he's been pointing out over the past few weeks is that all of this is the same idea: manipulating energy.

Sifu went on to add that while a lot of martial arts can be described in terms of Western concepts on physics, this notion of manipulating energy is something not easily explained via Western methods. he was alluding to efforts by some of us (including me), to analyze things in terms of physics. his assertion is that while this can work, it becomes somewhat difficult in terms of illustrating certain techniques which don't require physical contact. he demonstrated his point using a number of applications, and pointed out that on basic levels they work based on physical contact, but that at higher levels of skill they still work even without physical contact--this, he observed, is something that is not readily explained by physics.

Sifu said that the more apt approach to understanding this is by thinking of things in terms of the opponent's energy. it's not so much energy in the Western physics sense (e.g., calories, watts, etc.), but energy as in the overall state of a person, including their bodily movement, physical position, location of center, center of gravity, mental intent, disposition of mind, sensory perceptions, bio-electrical field, etc. Sifu said that these things can be disrupted without physical contact in ways that still produce a physical result. he noted that this doesn't mean that you can act like the Jedi and project a force at a distance, but it does mean that you can mess with their being (physical, mental, etc.) that can break down their physical structure. he added that by extension, this also means that at higher levels, you can break down more than just their physical components.

we worked through a variety of scenarios, using punches, joint locks, and takedowns, with Sifu stressing the idea of manipulating the opponent's energy, and showing the differences in effectiveness with manipulation and without, as well as with physical contact and without. Phunsak then went through some techniques he'd learned in his aiki-jitsu and systema classes that used the same principles, but with different movements. i tried some of these, but couldn't get all of them work--i found that there's a certain intuitive sense you have to possess in terms of recognizing a person's center of gravity and dantian, since this plays a major role in being able to exploit weaknesses in their structure, and i don't have that intuition yet.

Sifu noted that the distinction is subtle, and that most people are not aware that the dantian is not the same thing as the center of gravity. he said that it is supposed to be, but that most people don't understand that it isn't always so, and in fact for people who are structurally unsound the dantian is separate from the center of gravity. as a result, the assumption that the 2 are the same is fundamentally wrong, and can only be held when dealing with skilled individuals who have trained to have the 2 be together. Sifu noted that in terms of fighting, even a slight difference between the dantian and center of gravity can be catastrophic, since it provides a structural weakness that an opponent can exploit--if they can find it...but a skilled martial artist can always find it.

we finished the class going a little bit further into the form, and then ended around 12:30.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

day 242: elbow to elbow

  • disruption
  • misdirection
  • bagua elbow form
  • kyudo
i managed to make both kung fu and kyudo this week. oddly enough, both classes this Saturday were on the theme of elbows.

bagua elbow form

we warmed up with the elbow basics, this time with stationary drills. Sifu had us devote some time to this, and then had us go through them again to see the applications.

today, he showed us some nuances in the applications, tying in the principles from last Saturday regarding the use of disruption and misdirection by demonstrating how the elbow basics integrate these ideas. Sifu noted that in the basics, we need to observe the role of the husband hand and wife hand, with the wife hand being crucial to controlling the actions of the opponent. in effect, the wife hand operates to set up the husband hand, and does so by breaking the opponent's jing (energy) so that it makes it easier for the husband hand to project power.

from there, we went to the elbow form, and revisited some of the applications from last week, with Sifu pointing out the husband and wife hands. in addition, he pointed out that the role of husband and wife changes in the applications, and that this is something we can freely do so as to adjust to the actions of the opponent. the idea, from what i can tell, is to not get married (sorry, pardon the pun, it was just too easy) to any 1 hand having any 1 role, but to let things vary to accomplish the principles of disruption and misdirection.

Sifu compared this to the magic shows you see in places like Las Vegas. he said that they're doing the same things, using hand tricks that attract and divert the audience's focus away from the actual trick. Sifu noted that essentially the magician is acting to let the audience believe what they want to believe, and that this is really what we're trying to do: using sleight-of-hand concepts to induce the opponent to believe something that really isn't there.

we finished class working on some of the new elements of the form, but we focused most of the attention on the applications.


kyudo went well tonight. apparently, during the month of August the dojo acquired new makiwaras (the straw bundles used for indoor short-range practice), with the total now numbering 5. with 11 people shooting and 3 observing, this meant that we were going in an almost continuous shooting cycle (normally, there's a certain period of wait time as people have to cycle through the shooting range). this allowed me more practice, and helped me work out some issues.

Sensei also held a group lesson following the tea break regarding our form, focusing on daisan (which is the point before the final expansion into the moment of release). he pointed out that we needed to match our breathing better with the act of raising and lowering the bow, and allowing our posture to follow the arrow. he said that following the arrow will allow a much more natural feel to the setting of our alignment, and one that is more stable.

Sensei also devoted some time to the hand grip, saying that we needed to allow the grip to be more in line with the bow, and that this helps us raise and lower the bow in ways that support the necessary posture (i.e., alignment) for shooting.

something that caught my attention this evening was that Sensei stressed that the drawing of the bow shouldn't be seen as an act focused on the hands or arms, but instead through the elbows. he noted that the idea of drawing the bow is really about expanding into the bow (something he's stressed regularly), and that it helps to realize this by putting our intent into the expansion of the elbows (something that was new for tonight). this is a principle of the bagua elbow form, and caught me off-guard. i almost fell over when he said it.

i had to leave following the tea break, since i had to set things up for the next morning. as a result, i missed some additional practice time. but i did get enough that i look forward to next time.

Friday, September 04, 2009

day 241: elbowed by disruption

  • bu ji
  • slowing things down
  • jing (ting, hwa, na, fa)
  • bi chi
  • bagua elbow form
it was brutally hot this weekend, with air quality made worse by the forest fire in La Canada-Pasadena-Altadena. temperatures were over 100 degrees F, and the smell of smoke and ash was everywhere. as a result, it made for a slightly toned-down class.

we warmed up with the basics, working our way through the moving drills. we also took some time to organize things, with Ching-Chieh insisting we come up with English names for each drill to make them easier to remember. going through this process, we figured out that there were a total of 20 drills, with 8 pairs of single and double moving drills. at some point Ching-Chieh is going to type all this up, so i figure we'll get a finalized list then--although my suspicion is that there are already pre-existing names for each drill in Mandarin, but it's just that nobody knows them.

bagua elbow form

the majority of class time today was actually spent working on principles which, while within some of the techniques of the elbow form, are actually applicable across TCMA--or even martial arts in general. we went a little bit further into the elbow form itself, but Sifu stopped and showed us 3 major principles: jao ji jo ji bu ji (sp?), slowing things down, and bi chi.

regarding jao ji jo ji bu ji...this is actually a phrase, and i think i have an error in the English transliteration of the Mandarin. but the figurative translation is to avoid using force and to use light touch. Sifu said this is a common phrase in martial arts, but one that can be expressed physically in various ways. one is the perspective often related to the idea associated with tai chi (i.e., redirecting an incoming force vector using only enough of your own force to do so).

today, however, Sifu said he wanted us to see a different perspective, and demonstrated by engaging me in a mock sparring, but instead of attacking aggressively with force so that each movement was an attempted strike, he mixed up the attack with a series of light moves and hard moves, where it was not clear if any of the movements were attempted strikes.

Sifu noted the idea with this approach is that you are trying to disrupt the opponent--disrupt their focus, their comfort level and rhythm, their center, their placement of force and mass, and their chi. he said that if you tried to make each movement a strike, it makes every action obvious, making it easy for the opponent to match. if you instead mix things up, you will disrupt them enough that they become confused, and lose track of what you are doing, and so become vulnerable to manipulation that opens their gates and frustrates their abilities to respond when you do decide to attack.

this brings up the concept of slowing things down. Sifu observed this does not mean literally (i.e., it doesn't mean that you slow down). Sifu said this means that you slow the other opponent down. typically, the assumption is made that in a fight you have to try to be faster than the other opponent. Sifu argued that this is a mistake, because it leads you into the eternal struggle to be more (i.e., faster, stronger, etc.) than your opponent, which is not what martial arts is about. if anything, martial arts is about knowing how to defeat an opponent who is more than you (i.e., faster, stronger, etc.).

Sifu explained that you don't need to be faster than the opponent. instead, you can make the opponent be slower than you. there are a number of ways to do this--and one of them is by disrupting the opponent. by disrupting them, you induce hesitation into their actions, causing enough delay in reactions that you can launch attacks.

as a reminder, Sifu said that this goes back to the ideas of jing (ting jing, hwa jing, na jing, fa jing). here, the idea of disrupting the opponent plays into ting jing. Sifu argued that this is one of the reasons why ting jing is the most prevalent form of jing, because without it you can't proceed to the other jings--at least, you can't proceed with any assurance of success. ting jing is crucial to setting up the opponent, and hence to enabling the ease via which you proceed to hwa, na, or fa jing.

the last principle we touched on today was bi chi (sp?). again, i think have an error in spelling. Sifu demonstrated this using one technique in the elbow form which looks suspiciously like "pull-down" in tai chi. Sifu showed that the technique fails against an opponent who is ready for it and recognizes what you are trying to do. however, by initiating the technique with an initial movement that attacks another part of the opponent (today, Sifu preceded the pull-down w a simulated knee to the groin), the technique becomes dramatically effective (even against someone who is expecting it).

Sifu explained this is an example of bi chi. that you attack--or at least lead the opponent to believe that you are attacking--another part of their body, so that it distracts them and forces them to change their focus away from your actual intended target. Sifu noted that the initial diversion has to be convincing, and that to be so you actually have to have the intent in your mind to be attacking the diversionary target (i.e., in order for the opponent to believe you are attacking their groin, you have to believe that you are attacking their groin, even though you know that this is a diversion from your plan to pull down).

this is, in essence, another way of disrupting the opponent, which i guess was the theme for class today. Sifu and Phunsak then had a discussion of other ways of disrupting the opponent, with techniques that involved little effort--one was most impressive: simply placing your hand on top of a person's skull, and somehow causing them to collapse downward. this can be done with little pressure, but to work requires that you place the hand in a motion that serves to disrupt the opponent's stability and center, meaning that it works not because it exerts force that overpowers the opponent, but because it uses little force that structurally destabilizes the opponent.

we spent the rest of class time trying to learn how to apply these principles. it's not easy. there's a certain feel to using them, and just what is required to disrupt an opponent varies according to the opponent--not all people are the same, and some people are less susceptible to certain forms of disruption than others. Sifu noted that this is why fighting is a challenge, especially against skilled fighters, because people can train themselves to be resistant to disruption, and so disruption is an art form requiring an understanding of how to manipulate the human body.

we got some of the principles to work some of the time on some of the people. which is a start, but also shows that we have a long way to go.

we finished on that note and went to lunch to contemplate.