Friday, September 17, 2010

day 291: rusty

  • lian huan/linking
  • hsing-yi
  • kyudo
this was the first weekend back since the Las Vegas tournament, and so the first real day back to the regular schedule. as to be expected, there was all kinds of rust, and things didn't go so smoothly. but i wasn't the only one, since a lot of other people seem to have the same issues. this made for a slow day.


we spent the first half of class reviewing the 5 lines, going through the progression of 8 criteria for each line. i found that i'd forgotten some of them, and had to remind myself what they were. i ended up referring to my notes to jog my memory. it was a bit of a struggle, and it looks like a good number of other people also had some problems as well, making for a glacial pace.

the second half of class was spent working on the the linking form (lian huan). Sifu said we'd start it today, and finish it up fairly quickly--apparently, in hsing-yi, the linking form is quite short compared to other styles. having said that, Sifu said that learning the form is fast, but mastering a lot of its points takes a bit longer, and that we'd be spending more time on this. for today, however, Sifu took us through 1/2 the form.


i fully expected kyudo to be excruciating tonight, and it proved to be just that. it wasn't that i'd forgotten anything (i actually managed to remember everything about where i was). it was more about what i hadn't known to begin with--there was a period of time when i could not get the arrow to release from the bow, but then i started to have the opposite problem of the arrow releasing before i can even draw the bow, and i can't figure what happened in either case.

this evening was a trial-and-error of trying to figure out what was happening. thing is, one of the things i do know about kyudo is that any adjustment in 1 part of the form causes a ripple effect in adjustments in other parts of the form, with your body making changes to accomplish the draw, with the changes occurring whether you want them to or not. one of the other things i know about kyudo is that minute changes tend to become magnified, and so little adjustments that propagate through the rest of the body end up producing a cascade in error.

things got bad enough that i went back to basics and started working again with an elastic band, just so i could concentrate on the form and find out what was happening. Sensei has told me what is happening, but the problem for me is that i can't correlate sensory signals to what is wrong or (for that matter) what is right. a lot of it is because this involves alien movements that my body is not familiar with, so there is no reference point for my mind to connect to in terms of recognizing good versus bad, with the result being that my body tends to all sorts of things with negative consequences.

this is going to take a while to figure out.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

day 290: back again and Las Vegas tournament

well, i'm back posting again. i was out of the country for an extended period of time, and so missed a good portion of classes for both kung fu and kyudo. this is the reason why nothing's been posted here for so long.

i came back a little more than a week ago, but just in time to go to the Las Vegas tournament to help referee 2 events. as a result, there was no kung fu class and i missed the kyudo class. as a result, this post only deals with the tournament.

the tournament this year was much smaller than before, i suspect because 1) the economic recession has made it very difficult for people to travel, and 2) it was Labor Day weekend and many people had made holiday plans. but the turnout was still sufficient to maintain activities across 2 days, and sufficient to host additional events. for me, this meant i was a referee for not only jian shu, but a new experimental competition called "extreme push hands".

the jian shu was pretty straightforward, so i don't have much reason to discuss it here. i will say that the quality of competition has gotten much better, and that competitors have gotten to the point that they are getting better at applying jian shu techniques in the context of full-speed full-contact sword fighting--something we didn't see before, and something that Sifu has always said is what we want to see.

i'll devote more of my comments to extreme push hands. i should note that extreme push hands is essentially push hands liberated, with competitors allowed to move their feet and to engage techniques (throws, but no strikes or joint locks). the idea is to return to push hands to its historical position as a stage in the training progression leading towards full-contact fighting. this is largely experimental, since something like this has not been done regularly as a dedicated event in the U.S., and the rules are still being worked out. as a result, things were new and unfamiliar for both the judges and the competitors.

having said this, i still found it fascinating to watch, since it revealed a lot about the concepts within TCMA and just how important they are. i will list my observations about what i saw regarding the concepts as follows:

ting jing

i think all the competitors were trying to apply ting jing. i can see that ting jing as "listening" is analogous to navy submarine sonar--there, they"listen", but they have 2 DIFFERENT ways to listen:

"active" listening (where you send out energy and then listen to thereflection back) and "passive" listening (where you simply take inwhatever information you receive). active listening has benefits in that you can quickly contact the enemy, but the problem is that it instantly reveals your position and intent to the enemy. passive listening has benefits in that you do not reveal your position orintent, but has a problem in that it requires much more skill and training to develop--and it's easy to fool yourself. from what i can tell, it is possible to use active listening as a way of misdirecting or fooling the enemy (e.g., you send a "ping" that reveals a location and intent different from your actual ones).

also, i noticed that when competitors did try to "passive" listen, some took it literally and stopped moving, and promptly got punished. the better competitors still maintained movement, while still listening (i.e., you can passively listen while still moving yourself to avoid the enemy, much as a submarine passively listens while maneuvering around an enemy submarine).

hwa jing/na jing/fa jing

i'll skip the fa jing, since the event was more about the other jings. while all the competitors tried to receive, neutralize, redirect, and control, i think they didn't do so in recognition of the full context of the match. in contrast, the better competitors had a much more instinctive understanding of the jings within the entire frame of 2 competitors trying to find hwa and na. in essence, it is important to understand the relationship of the moving bodies--that is, to sense (ting!) the center(s) (i.e., your center, the opponent's center, the relationship between the 2, and the nature of systemic center). this means hwa jing and na jing are not so much about receiving, neutralizing, redirecting, or controlling the enemy, but about receiving, neutralizing, redirecting, controlling thecenter(s). and once you have the center, everything becomes elementary.

i think this explains why the better competitors expended so little energy--the mind was doing all the work, but the body was simply working with the opponent's energy and letting it go by.


most competitors consistently started off with a bullfight scenario, and only switched when they found themselves about to lose or when tired. the winners, in contrast, were almost never in the bullfight, but instead constantly disengaging and engaging.

what contributed to this was that the other competitors were "active" listening, which tended to draw them into a bull fight scenario (i.e.,they'd reveal their position, instantly find themselves on defense,but unaware of the center, and so automatically respond with a struggle to regain their composure against the only thing they could see--the body in front of them). what also contributed was that i suspect most competitors thought the only way to listen was to be in physical contact and in close contact.

the winners, in contrast, because they were mixing "active" & "passive"listening, were devoting much more time and resources to movement and positioning, thereby avoiding bull fight scenarios. as a result, they constantly mixed up disengage/engage, adding to the misdirection and confusion in the opponents.


it really got me that everyone other than the winners wer expending a lot of energy. i think this happened not because the winners were more physically fit, but because the winners knew what they were doing and everyone else was simply reacting (and constantly being on the reaction side of an encounter is always more draining than being the proactive one). because the winners knew what they were doing, they were much more efficient with movements, and everything they did had a purpose contributing to the goal of winning.

which goes to the point: the mind is doing all the work, and the body is simply using the opponent's energy. the mind does the listening, the mind tracks the center(s), the mind handles hwa jing and na jing. the body was simply staying out of the enemy's way, misdirecting them, and then letting them go by. it also means that you don't have to really have an arsenal of memorized techniques,but instead all you have to do is control the center(s) and direct the opponent past you.

like i said, very interesting stuff. it gave me some things to think about, and to try and incorporate into my own development. i'll have to give it some attention when i practice.