Wednesday, January 27, 2010

day 262: more elbow and San Diego tournament

  • direction
  • release
  • light contact
  • hanari
  • bagua arm form
  • kyudo
i'm a little late posting this. this covers the Saturday before last--January 16--and not this past weekend. this past weekend we went to the San Diego tournament, and so skipped the usual Saturday session.

bagua arm form

the lesson was largely straightforward, with the time spent going further into the form. we did, however, spend a fair amount of class going through applications, either reviewing some applications from before or trying to understand some of the new ones. there continue to be nuances that are elusive, and while the techniques can work without them, the techniques definitely are a whole lot easier with them.

some general points from this Saturday:
  • direction--the direction of the techniques is crucial. by direction, i'm referring to the force vectors where they are aimed. a subtle shift can make a major difference in terms of the result. i think this is because the force vectors have to be applied properly, with "proper" being anything that counters and utilizes the opponent's actions with minimal struggle by you. as a result, you have to understand the opponent well enough to know what they are doing and what they intend, and then respond with the appropriately placed force vectors.
  • release--Sifu stressed this on a number of techniques. he said you can't continue to follow an entry with a continuous progression in power. this makes it too easy for the opponent to recognize your plans and respond with an effective counter-measure. he asserted that instead you have to sometimes employ a slight release sufficient to disrupt your force vector, but that does so without disrupting your power generation or opening avenues that leave you vulnerable. the release serves to break the opponent's tracking of your movements, and hence makes it harder for them to know what you are doing.
  • light contact--Sifu added that we can't go in hard all the time. instead, it's sometimes important to go in soft, with a light touch in the entry, so that it helps disguise our intent and actions. he cautioned that what we do (hard or soft) depends on what the opponent is doing.
the latter part of class was devoted to reviewing the arm form, with everyone doing several iterations to help us remember the form.


kyudo was a bit of an event this evening: i shot using my own dojo arrows. hooray! it felt a little different shooting without the dojo arrows. it sounds strange, but it lifted my spirits.

i am still learning the proper technique to shooting. today, Sensei told me to focus on hanari, which is the slight extension cross the chest/upper back that occurs when you reach out laterally. the effect is that it extends the shoulder and shoulder blade put, putting the body structure inside the bow--which is what you're supposed to do. i tried my best to work on this, but it's somewhat of a challenge given the context of drawing the bow.

Sensei told me it's not as complex as i'm making it out to be, and i should relax more. i figure this is something i'm just going to have to resolve through practice.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

day 261: coming back to spear and pao quan

  • drills
  • 3-d
  • spear and pao quan
i almost missed class this Sunday because 1) i overslept (jet lag is always worse going east than west), and 2) my car battery went out and i had to make an emergency stop at Pep Boys to replace the battery (easy enough to do yourself, but it still takes time). but i made it in time to join everyone else for spear and pao quan. similar to yesterday, we ended up having to backtrack a bit, since most everyone had missed a significant amount of time.


we took time to review the drills we've done to date (moving the spear so that the tip traces paths in crescents that respectively face with the open portion left, right, up, and down), and to do them both solo and in pairs. we then spent time working on a new drill that had the spear tips following long paths that resembled a "J" (uppercase) facing left or right.

Sifu reminded us that we can't have the spear tip follow these patterns on a 2-dimensional vertical plane. he noted that this has become a common mistake, with modern textbooks on spear showing this. he argued (and he referred back to past discussions we've had where he had shown us the modern and original textbooks) that the older textbooks clearly showed that the patterns are supposed to follow a 3-dimensional path, so that the spear tip traces the drill patterns, but also moves forward or backward (i.e., towards or away from the opponent).

this proved to be an added level of difficulty to the other drills. this is because what we did today required an extra level of control--something that's hard when you're already finding it a challenge to move a long wooden pole 2x your own height (and the funny thing is, in ancient China, the actual military spears were much longer than that...which makes we wonder just how much time the ancient soldiers had to spend training to master this weapon).

pao quan

we dedicated the 2nd half of class to pao quan. it's been awhile since we've worked on this (including vacation time, i count 4 weeks for me, possibly longer for some other people). i had to go through the part of the form we've covered several times just to get my bearings back. this ended up consuming the bulk of the time. we managed to get a little bit farther, but i think that for today it was enough of a challenge to our memory to just solidify what we have. hopefully we can get back to the swing of things the next Sunday class.

Monday, January 11, 2010

day 260: back from a vacation

  • rust
  • timing
  • bagua inso
  • kyudo
i've been on vacation for a little while, which is why the blog posts have been absent. i took a family trip doing little other than hiking, sightseeing, and eating, and just came back this past weekend. in terms of kung fu, this means that i'm suddenly a little rusty, as i've forgotten some of the things we've been covering recently.

i should also note that i was in error. this year, there was no holiday break, and we continued to have classes over Christmas and New Year's while i was gone. my understanding was that a number of other students were also out, and so only a handful people stayed for the holidays. this was a bit of a shame, since it also happened that Master Su Yuchang, a disciple of Liu Yun Qiao and also instructor to my teacher, has been visiting in recent weeks and stopped by to contribute to class. given his experience and depth of knowledge (which is vast), i think anyone who was present received a special treat.

bagua inso

i was not the only one who missed a good chunk of time, and so this Saturday ended up being largely focused on reviewing the arm form we've done to date. we went beyond the point where'd i'd left, but didn't go any farther than the point covered by people who were here over the break. Sifu also went through and showed us some of the applications, which i suspect was also probably a review of what everyone had covered.

having said that, it was still a bit concentrated, with all the material of about 2-3 weeks (depending on when people had gone on vacation) being compressed into 1 class. there's going to be a little bit of adjustment getting back into the groove of things, and i think there's going to be some extra time necessary to get back to a comfort level with the movements.


the situation was largely the same with kyudo. the weeks off had made me a little rusty--not so much in terms of remembering what to do, but rather when. my timing was off at various points, and there was a lack of comfort with the movements that came from inactivity. i think here as well there'll need to be some time to get back to the swing of things.

i should note that my dojo arrows arrived today. quite sexy. i actually tried them this evening for the first time. it's strange, but it actually made me feel better to be using arrows that i could call mine. i think part of it was that i was able to specify what i wanted in the arrows, and hence participated in their design. another part of it was that i felt i was using something that i could call my own. none of this, of course, makes any difference in terms of shooting, but it's a good morale boost. can't wait until next time!