Thursday, April 29, 2010

day 276: ba tang quan

  • history
  • ba tang quan
this post relates to Sunday, April 18. the schedule for the day was adjusted relative to other Sundays. Ching-Chieh is learning ba tang quan from Sifu as part of an ongoing project, and so we canceled the spear lesson for the day and truncated chen pao quan to a review of the form we've covered to date.

ba tang quan

ba tang quan is not actually a style. it's more a form composed of a series of lines, with movements drawn from baji. much like chang quan has tantui, with its 10 or 12 lines (depending on the version of chang quan), ba tang quan is comprised of 8 different lines with movements unique to each one. while derived from baji, ba tang quan is much more fundamental and deals with only basic aspects of the principles in baji.

from what i could surmise (i missed the background discussion on this, but it appears the Sifu and Ching-Chieh had talked about this more extensively around their class times at UCLA), ba tang quan was developed for the Taiwanese military by Liu Yun Qiao. it was originally meant to comprise their basic training in hand-to-hand combat, and was taught for a period of around 10 years sometime in the 60s and 70s. it was subsequently phased out and replaced by different martial arts training, and has been largely forgotten since that time.

Sifu showed us his copy of the Wutan journal (Liu Yun Qiao actually attempted to publish a periodical journal for Chinese martial arts, with the goal of being a scholarly source dedicated to preserving TCMA, but unfortunately the journal ceased publication after a few years). the copy is an original, and contains pictures of all the lines of ba tang quan, along with explanatory commentary. Sifu said he was using this to reconstruct ba tang quan, in addition to using his own memory of his experiences learning it when he was in the Taiwanese military.

we've learned the first 2 lines the previous Sunday. today we reviewed the previous 2 lines and then learned the next 2. we also did some tentative work learning the 2-person forms for the lines.

all of this consumed a fair portion of the class. not so much because of the lines themselves, but because we were trying reconstruct them based on the journal and Sifu's memory, and this proved to require a bit of deliberation and thought.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

day 275: sort of an abbreviation

  • loose hands
  • elbows
  • hikiwake
  • daisan
  • kai
  • hanare
  • zanshin
  • kyudo
this post relates to Saturday, April 17 (yes, i know, late...but this spring has been inordinately busy). i actually missed most of kung fu today, since i had a morning doctor's appointment and only made the last few minutes of class. as a result, i'm not going to post any comments regarding kung fu.


i did manage to make kyudo. things were changed up a little this evening, with the beginning meditation preceded by a reading of 2 poems related to kyudo: the raiki-shagi, which deals with the etiquette in kyudo, and the shaho-kun, which deals with the principles of shooting in kyudo. when i first started, the dojo began with the Buddhist heart sutra, but we've been away from that for awhile (i'm assuming to more closely align to normal kyudo dojo practice). i'm guessing this is integrating something from more traditional Japanese kyudo dojo procedure.

this evening was a focus on shooting release--at least, it was for me. Sensei observed that we were struggling with this portion during the formal shoot, and devoted extra time during class to this. this has been a major weakness for me, and while the changes in tenouchi have helped in this regard, i know there are some additional things for me to improve here.

Sensei noted that my hikiwake wasn't high enough, and that my hands in daisan were placed incorrectly. in lifting the bow in hikiwake, i need to lean my body forward with my weight more on the arches of my feet, since this allows the arms to go higher without rolling the shoulders. with daisan, i need to have the draw comes from the elbows, with the hands simply following until my right hand is 1 fist's length from my forehead.

Sensei commented the key is to keep the hands loose, since having the hands tight tends to put your concentration on your hands, thereby disrupting tenouchi and putting the emphasis on the muscles of the back. keeping the hands loose, in contrast, allows you to put the concentration in the elbows, thereby allowing a better sense of the body's structure doing the work of inserting itself into the bow and thereby engaging the draw. this is better, since it involves less muscular effort and allows greater stability (and hence accuracy).

Sensei noted my kai is getting better, but that in addition to imagining my elbows being pulled in opposite directions along the same line i also need to align my spine straight up and down. in addition, i need to keep my neck turned, so that the arrow shaft comes along the corner of my mouth.

during his lesson to the class, Sensei noted that we all needed to work on hanare. he said that we were all trying to do hanare (release) by using our hands (i.e., we were opening and closing our hands to release). he said this was forcing the string to leave our hand, which is wrong, since it's bad for the string (puts excessive pressure on the string), bad for the bow (puts excessive pressure on the bow), and bad for accuracy (injects extraneous forces into the bow, disrupting the line of aim).

it is better that hanare come on its own without any action of the hand. if done right, hanare comes at kai (maximum draw), when the body and bow align in a way that the string leaves the nock in the shooting glove. because the hand doesn't move, it doesn't apply any force onto the bow or string, eliminating vectors that pressure both and disrupt aim.

Sensei also observed that if hanare is done right, you will naturally find yourself in zanshin without any effort, since the hanare leads naturally from kai to zanshin.

i put in some practice on this without shooting, working on form with the bow while facing a mirror. i tried shooting towards the end of class after i'd gotten some comfort level, and things seemed to be a little better. Sensei commented that my issue right now is consistency--sometimes i seem to be getting things right, but then suddenly everything just goes wrong...seems to be where i am right now. what can i say? it's going to take practice.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

day 274: words

  • kami-no-michi
  • shyugo
  • renshu
  • keiko
  • shizen
  • ten-o-uchi
  • bagua leg form
  • kyudo
this post relates to this past Saturday, April 10, and finishes off the series of posts (3 total) to catch up to the present. again, i'll have to keep this really short.

bagua leg form

we continued on with the leg form. today was more applications, with us exploring variations in the leg form. this proved somewhat frustrating, as there were some applications that were relatively straightforward but then some that just didn't seem to work. Phunsak noted that i was working with Martin again, and that i needed to modify things for Martin's size. Phunsak also commented that some applications work well with one kind of body but that others don't, with the difference really becoming evident when the other person's body is different in proportion and mass than yours. as a result, it's important to learn when some applications are available and others aren't.


the theme for kyudo this evening was words. Sensei had us devote some time to discussion of tenouchi (the hand grip on the bow), and in the process delved into the various meanings of japanese words. here's the list i have--i don't have the Japanese characters, or if i even have the English translations right, but if anyone has either let me know and i'll put them up:
  • kami-no-michi: people who've come before
  • shyugo: training/practicing, but in the sense of learning
  • renshu: training/practicing, but in the sense of polishing or refining
  • keiko: training/practicing, but in the sense of just doing an action over and over again
  • shizen: nature, or natural self
  • ten-o-uchi: the inside (hollow of the palm) area of the hand
Sensei had us practice the proper tenouchi on our bows, and then had us try to shoot w it. i noticed an immediate difference in my form. this in and of itself was not a surprise, since i expected to see some difference resulting from a change in the hand holding the bow. what was a surprise, however, was that the change in the hand resulted in a change in body mechanics, and this resulted in a change in the effort level to follow proper form in drawing the bow--it made it significantly easier. Sensei noticed this, and said this was good and that it was producing the desired effect.

we ran out of time in shooting, so i think next class i'm going to really devote some effort into practicing this. i think i'm getting better, and it's coming from a better sense of the requisite body mechanics involved, but i need to put in more time to get a more intuitive sense of what's right.

day 273: things on a Sunday

  • moving footwork
  • up-and-under
  • spear
  • chen pao quan
this follows from the previous post, and this will also be short. this refers to Sunday, April 4.


spear work consisted of review of the moving spear basics. this time, however, Sifu added in combination patterns, with us mixing footwork as we moved with the spear.

chen pao quan

we went further into the chen pao quan form. we kept the additional material short, since we're still trying to get a handle on everything we've learned. this time, Sifu showed us a portion of the form that involved what i call an "up-and-under" action with the arms.

day 272: legging it

  • centers
  • bagua leg form
  • kyudo
once again, i am very delinquent in posting. my apologies. this spring has been inordinately busy, and i am constantly struggling to stay up to speed. as a result, this post will be short. this post relates to Saturday, April 3.

bagua leg form

this was a continuation of the leg form. however, i also took some time to experiment with some things Sifu had talked about before regarding the center, particularly finding and taking the center of the system created by the bodies of you and your opponent. as a test, i partnered with Martin, who is significantly larger than i am (about 2x as heavy) and hence skews the center of mass towards him. this proved a major challenge, as my sense of distance and spacing was thrown off and i found myself having to feel out the center again--something which i can't do with any level of instinct at this point in time. it's going to take some practice.


part of kyudo tonight was spent working on the nocking area of the string on my bow (the arrow shaft has a nock where the string fits, and the place on the string where the arrow fits is in a very specific section by the bow handle). this took a little time, as this involves gluing and wrapping string thread around the nocking area on the string, and then adjusting it so that it fits the arrow nock. this involves a little work, since the nocking area is deemed to fit the arrow when you can nock the arrow, hold the string horizontal, and still have the arrow remain on the string.

i'd done this the prior week, but had found that i'd applied too little glue and thread. tonight was an effort to refine the previous week and apply the requisite glue and thread so that it fit the arrow.

i did manage to get in a few rounds of shooting. Sensei asked me to focus on expanding into the bow--he later observed that things are getting better, but that i'm still not reaching full expansion. it's something i know i need to work on, and will be something i'm going to have to consciously focus on for the next classes.