Friday, February 18, 2011

days 298 & 299: horse and crocodile

  • explosive power
  • moving with the center
  • expanding from the ground
  • hsing-yi
  • kyudo
i'm going to merge the posts from 2 separate Saturdays into this (actually 1 Sunday and last Saturday, since we skipped 1 Saturday due to the San Diego tournament). for hsing-yi, there's not much to say, other than that we're following the progression through the 12 animals, keeping to 1 new animal each week. i made kyudo classes both weekends, so my comments will apply to the classes as usual.

some announcements to note: Sifu's birthday was February 9th, which we celebrated during class and the post-class lunch, and Art's birthday is February 26th, which we plan to celebrate during dinner since it's a big one (it's his 70th). also, Sifu says we should plan on a potluck/disciple meeting in early March, with details to be finalized soon.


for the past 2 classes, we covered horse and then crocodile. i'll provide the videos of each below so you know what i'm discussing, with commentary for each:


for horse, Sifu noted the following:
  • as much as it may not look it, the movement is a permutation of line 5 in the 5-elements hsing-yi, with the difference being that whereas line 5 involved a turning motion to the side, horse involves a drilling motion straight ahead. there is also a difference in that for horse the power involves movement forward.
  • horse is explosive, with Sifu stressing that the power has to discharge from the body. this means that you don't maintain tension, but have to tense and then release the energy through the body.
  • power comes from the movement forward, but in a way that is not tied to the steps alone but instead from the combination of the steps with the advancement of the center. Sifu said this is important, since it maintains the structure and allows you to use the reaction forces from the ground.
i found this somewhat difficult. for some reason, i'm having trouble coordinating the stepping with my center, and as a result i'm not projecting power as i move forward. i've been practicing this, but i think it's going to take a little work. i think the key idea is to think about moving the center, and that will maintain the structure as i step. i'll have to see.


for crocodile, Sifu noted the following:
  • don't use the arm only. the power in the movement comes from the body, with the turn coming from the spine and the power coming from the ground. the arm is simply an extension of the structure formed by the torso moving about the spine, and the structure has to stay solid.
  • your body turn has to follow your eyes, such that the eyes initiate the movement and lead the body. this helps to maintain structure and ensure that the movement comes from the structure.
  • much like horse, you have to move from the center.
this one seemed a little easier for me, but i suspect because it is similar to movements in bagua, long fist, and tai chi and so i have some muscle memory to work with. it seems to be a permutation of the physics applied in the other styles.


kyudo lately has been getting better, in the sense that i don't seem to be so completely discombobulated with the form and i am able to work on specific things that result in corresponding improvements. having said that, it's still a work in progress, since there are quite a number of things to sort out.

the draw is getting much easier for me, and i am not struggling with the bow as much as i used to. i'm also getting a better sense of the alignment problem in my shoulders, and am having an easier time sensing when they're turning square into the target as opposed to staying perpendicular. i think the key is to turn my head while visualizing that my chin is trying to align with my left shoulder.

Sensei noted that i'm still pulling too much using the upper body, and that this is leading to me falling forward into the bow as i should, resulting in a deviation of the arrow off my sight line which has been a continual issue for me (my arrows always seem to go to the right of the makiwara). he said i need to draw from the ground, so that even as my upper body expands my lower body is expanding into the earth. he believes that this will stabilize my form and allow me to generate more power to draw the bow--both things that will allow me to maintain the form and direct the arrow to my sight line.

but things are getting better. i'm actually enjoying shooting now--as opposed to before, when i was dreading it.

i think the long gaps of time off last autumn actually may have helped me. my suspicion is that over the course of last year i had developed a lot of bad habits, and that they were subconsciously piling up on each other in a compounding cascade of problems impeding my form. i needed to deprogram myself of them, and i think the time off operated as a "reset" or "reboot" switch that let me clear my head of all the bad habits in my subconscious and start over with a clean slate.

it seems to have worked. at least now i feel like i'm making progress.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

day 297: a little harder than it seems

  • dragon
  • tiger
  • monkey
  • hsing-yi
  • kyudo
this post is for last Saturday. things got a little busy again this past week, and so i'm a little slow posting.


we followed the customary agenda for the class with a review of the 5 lines and the 12 animals we've done so far (dragon and tiger). Sifu had another pop quiz, with everyone doing the 12 animals individually in front of the class to check on form and fine-tune movements. this was straightforward, and so i won't go into any more detail here beyond what i've previously posted.

the new animal for today was monkey. Sifu said that this employs the characteristics often associated with the monkey in Chinese culture: an animal that is attentive, inquisitive, active to the point of being hyper, and always engaged in misdirection and unpredictable activity. if there was ever an animal that could be perceived as having ADD, this is it.

in keeping with the Chinese take on monkey, Sifu noted that TCMA uses of the animal refer to the same qualities. he repeated the point he's made in the past that TCMA doesn't mean you actually behave like a monkey (i.e., roll of the floor, make monkey sounds, etc.), but that you employ some of the characteristics relevant for fighting. for TCMA, this means the qualities described above, in particular:
  • the hands and arms do not always engage to project power, but instead act to sense out the opponent or confuse the opponent;
  • you are not actually always using the hands, but instead more the arms;
  • the footwork is light, and always active;
  • the body is supple and loose;
  • you are always changing direction;
  • you are always unpredictable.
the form for this involves actions that are vaguely reminiscent of mantis (tang lang). Sifu reminded us that mantis (tang lang) uses monkey footwork, and so that this should be familiar for those students who studied mantis before.

i should also note that the form for monkey is much more intricate than for dragon or tiger. it involves moving into position facing 6 different directions. Sifu noted that for each direction, you can change the intent in the movements, so that each direction you are emphasizing different techniques.

this was a little harder than it seemed, and i found myself getting lost. this is going to take some work--at least, more than dragon or tiger.

i'll put the video of the form here:


kyudo this evening had a lot of new people. out of the 18 people in attendance, i think 10 were either new or visitors.

things went okay for me this evening. i'm starting to find it easier to draw the bow, and i've been able to feel my way around the form more. Sensei asked me to work on my alignment, since this would help send the arrow out straight.

i've been aware of this problem and have been trying to correct it, but i think tonight i finally started to get a sense as to what's been wrong. viewed from the top, my shoulders are turning to face the target (not square, but are tending that direction). this is a problem, since it prevents full extension of the bow, and it also means that the arrow goes at an angle out of the bow. as i go into zanshin, i need to make sure my shoulders follow a line perpendicular to the plan of the target face.

this, however, once again, is a little harder than it seems, since it requires that i acquire the body sensitivity to know which way my structure is facing while i am moving through the form. this is going to take some work.