Friday, January 28, 2011

day 296: backtrack a little

  • 5 lines
  • hsing-yi
there was no Saturday class because of the San Diego tournament, so this post is actually for Sunday.

we didn't cover anything new Sunday. we decided to spend it going back through the materials that Cheng-Chieh and i had missed. for today, we spent it working through the details of the 5 lines. i've written about the 5 lines and the 5 element theory behind it before, so i won't repeat it here. the main focus for me today was to refine and polish the movements.

i realized that i hadn't made a video of the 5 lines, and so i did make one today. you can see the 5 lines here:

this actually took a fair amount of time, and we ended up going a little long. but it was useful, since it filled in a major gap in material that we'd missed. at least now we're a little closer to getting caught up to where everyone else is, although not quite. but it'll make next Saturday easier to digest.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

day 295: dragon, tiger, & recalibration, oh my!

  • vertical v. horizontal
  • front wheel drive/rear wheel drive
  • yin-yang
  • ting/hwa/na/fa jing
  • recalibration
  • hsing-yi 12 animals
  • kyudo
today was largely straightforward with just a direct progression on the curriculum. one thing to note is that there is a tournament in San Diego on Saturday, January 22, meaning that there will be no class (and so no post). there will, however, be the usual Sunday morning class. i should also probably note that this was technically the first kyudo lesson of the year, since last week was a cleaning day and before that classes had been canceled for ceremonies around the LA area.

hsing-yi 12 animals

since this was just the second Saturday back, we did a repeat of the class format from last Saturday, going through a review of the 5 lines and the lian huan form. things were a little bit smoother today for both, as i started to remember things better. having said that, i think there's still quite a bit of fine-tuning that i need to do for things to look right.

the review took up half the class, and we consumed the remainder with the 12 animals. Sifu held a pop quiz for everyone, asking each of us to do the dragon individually in front of class and then giving us pointers. for me, he noted that i need to focus more on sending pressure downward as i land, since the techniques in dragon involve vertical vectors going into the ground. currently, my movements don't manifest any effort downward. Sifu said that if done right, dragon appears to have an explosive acceleration down into the ground even more than it displays an explosive jump up.

as a pointer, Sifu said that the way to get the downward explosion is to engage the front wheel-rear wheel drive with my hands. in dragon, as you jump up the rear hand comes up and forward and the forward hand comes down and back. Sifu said that the rear hand essentially is the rear-wheel drive and the front is the front-wheel drive, where the switch in hand positions means a redirection of force through the arms, so that the switch of the rear hand to the front also means using it to direct force forward and down. the sending of the force forward and down needs to coincide with the downward portion of the jump.

you can see the video of the dragon here:

after dragon, Sifu taught us tiger. he said that tiger differs from dragon, in that while dragon primarily involves movement in a vertical direction, tiger involves movement in a horizontal direction. the technique in tiger is more of a pushing action, but in a way that is more explosive and has vector components forward and downward.

Sifu noted that for the technique to work, you don't push with open hands for much of the movements. instead, you keep your hands closed, and wait to open the hands until you project force. the technique involves moving forward holding the forearms out with the hands closed and facing palm-up. when the practitioner has reached an appropriate position relative to the opponent and decides to release power, the practitioner then turns the forearms so the closed hands face palms-down. at this point, the practitioner not only finishes by moving the body forward and down, but also extending the forearms and opening the hands. Sifu said that the opening of the hands is the final impetus allowing extension of the arms and body, and adds a last bit of force to the technique.

Sifu stressed that we are not supposed to lock our elbows at any point in tiger, but instead keep them slightly bent and loose. he also cautioned that we have to apply the technique with the entire body as a single structure (i.e., the legs, hips, spine, torso, shoulder, upper arms, elbows, forearms, and hands all holding as a single unit), so that when we move we do so as a single unit. he said this was necessary to allow the reaction force from the ground to transmit efficiently (i.e., without any loss) through the body and into the forearms and hands. without the body in a single unit, energy is lost at the disjuncture points (i.e., energy is lost at flexing joints, poorly aligned structure, tense muscles, etc.).

the main pushing action in tiger is through the legs, so as to generate the reaction force from the ground. this is the main source of power in the technique, and is the force that we are trying to direct using our body. any power from the upper body is less than whatever power we generate using our legs to push against the ground. as a result, any pushing motion in the upper body should only come at the end of the technique after the reaction force has already been sent into the opponent (i.e., after the main force vector has already been delivered), which is why the forearms turn and the hands open only at the very end, since this helps you to focus on holding your overall structure to keep your body as a single unit.

done properly, the feeling the opponent receives from tiger should be like a mass entering through the gate (not around or under or over, but through) to destabilize the opponent's structure, and which then drives through the opponent's centerline so that the opponent moves backwards and down. the key is to destabilize the structure, after which point the opponent is unable to use their power to counter your force vector.

the destabilization occurs by using the force vector of tiger so that it acts as a yang element filling in the yin component of the opponent's structure, which requires that you move into a position relative to the opponent so that this can occur. Sifu said this is where we have to remember the ting-hwa-na-fa progression, and that tiger (nor any of the other 12 animals) is not always about fa, but is also about ting, hwa, and na, with the forearms in tiger serving as our sensing elements leading our bodies through the progression of jings.

after showing us tiger and leading us through the movements, Sifu had us work on tiger on our own, telling us to just concentrate on the general feeling of the technique. he said we'd work on polishing tiger in the next class.

you can see the video of tiger here:

we finished with that. i skipped the post-class lunch to run errands.


kyudo went surprisingly well tonight, considering i'd essentially missed almost 6 weeks of classes. admittedly, Sensei made the class a little easier for everyone, since it was the 1st class back from the winter holidays and we also had a fair number of visitors observing. after the 1 round of formal shooting, he let us go into open shooting so he could spend time giving basic lessons and meeting with the visitors.

for me, Sensei said i'd made progress, and that i was now able to release much better than i had last year. now, however, he said i had to work on the last part of zanshin, with a final expansion of the body out before i released the string. currently, i'm at the full range of my shoulders and arms at release, but Sensei says that i can get additional range by having an expansion through the back, spine, and neck, which would allow my shoulders and arms to extend further out.

of course, once i tried to do this, i promptly had a return of struggles releasing the arrow. Sensei said that this is typical--your body gets used to drawing and releasing a certain way, and so any change in one area promptly disturbs everything else in the body. this requires a constant recalibration of all the shooting actions as the practitioner works to improve specific aspects of the form.

with this in mind, i can see that i'm still a work in progress.

Friday, January 14, 2011

day 294: real review

  • 5 elements
  • yin-yang
  • hsing-yi 5 lines
  • hsing-yi lian huan
  • hsing-yi 12 animals
this Sunday class was devoted to review of hsing-yi. since 3 of us (Ching-Chieh, Jo-san, and i) had missed so much of it, we decided to just spend the morning reviewing everything we'd missed.

we worked through the 5 lines, lian huan, and dragon from yesterday. i also took advantage of the time to ask Sifu about the 5-element theory, which had been covered during my absence.

Sifu said that the 5-element theory was meant to be a learning device for students. in the solo form, which follows the destruction cycle, it helps remind the student about the general concepts and requirements in the movements. in the 2-person form, which matches the destruction cycle with the creation cycle, it helps demonstrate to the student how the techniques in each line can be applied.

he stressed this meant can, and not must. too often, he noted, practitioners get caught believing that the each technique must be applied to counter its specific counterpart as specified by the destruction-creation pairing. this is a big mistake, since it restricts the practitioner from understanding the principles involved.

Sifu reiterated the idea of yin-yang balancing that he's presented to us in previous discussions on combat applications. thinking about techniques, in the sense of trying to match a catalog of techniques in response to incoming technique, is a losing proposition in the context of full-speed fighting. it is better to simply react to whatever is given, and that this is facilitated by being able to sense an opponent's yin-yang balance and applying force where necessary (i.e., yang to their yin) and yielding to force where necessary (i.e., yin to their yang). the 5-element 2-person form just served to provide examples of this, and is not meant to act as a recipe requiring a fixed response to a specific attack.

Sifu said we should focus on the solo 5-element application. here, the 5-element theory is meant to help the practitioner understand the nature of the physics in each of the lines, and what part of the body serves (if only for purposes of mental visualization) as the origin point of the movement. from what i can construct, this is the correlation of elements to moves:
  • pi (axe) : metal : lung--this reminds the practitioner that the physics of the movement is akin to swinging an axe down, with the contraction coming through the region of the body containing the lungs
  • zhwan (drill): water : kidney--this reminds the practitioner that the movement originates for the region of the body around the kidneys (i.e., the fist starts from around the kidneys and the moves out)
  • beng (arrow): wood : liver--this reminds the practitioner that the technique starts from the region of the body around the liver
  • pao (explosion) : fire : heart--this reminds the practitioner that the movement should be visualized as coming from the heart and expanding outwards
  • heng (horizontal) : earth : spleen--this reminds the practitioner extends out horizontally from the spleen
we spent the remainder of time reviewing the 5 lines and lian huan, and ended around 12:30.

day 293: getting organized again

  • lian huan
  • 12 animals
  • hsing-yi
oh okay. it's been about 2 months since my last post. that's because i missed 2 months of class, courtesy of a tsunami of work that took me out of commission altogether in terms of extra-curricular activities. i did manage to make 1 class, but i had to spend so much time catching up with everyone that i figured it was pointless to even discuss it.

things seem to have quieted down for now, and i have a little bit more time--at least, enough to resume activities again. but i have to point out that given how far behind i am i'm probably not going to have anything substantive to talk about for awhile.

to a degree, it's just as well that i'm returning now. some other students have returned after extended absences (Ching-chieh and Art), and so we're essentially working together to learn the same material. there's also some review for everyone as a whole, given the holiday break. hopefully this will be enough to get on track.

before class, Sifu made some administrative comments. the San Diego Tournament is the weekend of January 21-22, and so we're planning to drive down for that. seeing that it's so close, we'll just make it a 1-day trip with no hotel stay. it means that we'll have no class that weekend. there's also another disciple meeting planned for sometime in February (the date TBD), which we have to keep in the calendar.

there was no formal kyudo class this evening. today was the annual clean-up of the dojo, where the everyone spends an entire class session cleaning the dojo and shares a post-cleaning dinner. this was pretty non-descript, other than that everyone had a good time and lessons will resume next Saturday.

hsing-yi (xing-yi)

since this Saturday was the first day back from the winter break, we ended up taking things a little easy to help everyone refresh their memories. we made it an informal review day, with Sifu taking only the end part of class to begin with the hsing-yi 12 animals. this was perfectly fine with me, since it let me fill in some of the things that i had missed.

we began with a review of the 5 lines. this was straightforward, and involved just doing each line once going through the 8-step checklist for hsing-yi structure and then doing each line dynamically. the hard part, however, was tying in the 5-element theory for each one. i'm still scratching my head over this (i missed all the classes covering this part of hsing-yi), and so decided to go through it again on Sunday.

following this we continued the review by doing the lian huan form. this was good for me. i hadn't really gotten it the first time, and had missed out on the refinements from last semester. the form itself is not that long, but it can be deceptively tricky in terms of transitioning from one posture to another and following the proper sequence of footwork. i recorded the video and you can see it here:

once we'd finished with lian huan, Sifu came back and began teaching the 12 animals. he reminded us that the 12 animals is associated with the Hebei and Shanxi styles of hsing-yi, and that the Henan style uses 10 animals. the 12 animals are:
  • dragon
  • tiger
  • horse
  • monkey
  • crocodile
  • ostrich
  • swallow
  • snake
  • eagle
  • bear
  • rooster
  • hawk
i should note that different lineages have different sets of 12 animals. i don't know which lineage has the above set. each of the animals has an associated movement with some specific expression of principles. similar to the 5 lines, each movement has different applications depending on the physics applied. the physics is a function of the intent (yi).

Sifu noted that the 12 animals are also exercises, in that they provide a training purpose in terms of conditioning (muscular and cardiovascular) for the practitioner, and so represent an additional layer of development beyond the 5 lines or lian huan. he also noted that the way the 12 animals are applied in fighting are not the same as how they are practiced in terms of conditioning, since the purposes are different (although related).

for today, since we were near the end of class, he only showed us the dragon. rather than explain it, i'll post the video of it here:

Sifu made the following points:
  • look down at the front hand when in dragon stance
  • look up vertically when jumping into the air
  • lift the hands to forehead level when jumping
  • it's not just a conditioning challenge, but also a coordination one
that was it for the day. we made a few attempts at dragon, and then went to lunch.