Friday, October 07, 2011

day 321: applications of sparrow

  • spiralling
  • front wheel drive/rear wheel drive
  • void
  • structure
  • hsing-yi
  • kyudo
this last Saturday was a straightforward day, continuing with applications of Shanxi. this past class spent was spent on applications out of Shanxi sparrow.


Shanxi sparrow is one of the forms that is very subtle. from the perspective of a marginally experienced observer, it has an initial appearance of being pretty easy to read and figure out in terms of applications. but this is purely superficial, since actually trying to use the techniques reveals that the movements are a little more subtle than they look.

the opening technique, for example, can be easily misread as an undercut. Sifu, however, said that this is not the only application, and that it's actually a combination of actions, all of which are predicated on each other for effectiveness. Sifu said that the front hand is not stationary, and actually follows a spiraling path, with the fist making a slight corkscrew. the rear hand, for its part, does not operate alone, but actually has to be synchronized with the front hand so that the rear hand acts to provide rear-wheel drive (i.e., while the front hand forms a bridge with the opponent and holds the unified structure, the rear hand acts to drive the power forward). the power in the movements comes from the lower body, but requires that the upper & body maintain a unified structure so that the center moves into the opponent (as opposed to just the hands alone).

Sifu pointed out similar things with the next movements, which externally appear to be borrowed from piqua. Sifu said this is not entirely the application. here, the focus initially is on ting jing, with the rear hand first working to sense out and align with the opponent's attacking vector. from this point, the correct footwork has to be applied so that you step into the opponent with line your hips and shoulders parallel to their attacking vector. the front hand is not actually a punch, but just simply an extension of your structure that projects outward in synch with the rear hand as it goes backward.

Sifu stressed that the rear hand actually has to lead the opponent's attacking vector, so that it points out into a void. he demonstrated it on me. the path of the rear hand as it goes back actually gave me the sensation of my power going out into empty space, with the inertia of my attack leading me into his front hand. Sifu pointed out that the rear hand can do this without having to actually make physical contact with the opponent, and so is simply more about setting you up with the correct spacing and alignment to allow the attacker's inertia to pass you in a direction that coincides with your front fist.

from there, Sifu then also showed us the follow-up, which simply a shot with the rear hand into the opponent's kidney/ribs. but here, too, he pointed out that the application is subtle. in order for it to work, you have to use your leading front fist as a set-up, disrupting the opponent's head to break their vertical alignment. once you've done that, it breaks their structure and makes it easier to then go into them with the kidney/rib strike.

something that i noticed on this series of moves is that structure is crucial. in order for you to maintain your balance and to be able to use the legs as the source of power, you have to have a solid structure. and you have to do so while moving yourself into the correct location. this takes a certain measure of spacing, timing, and confidence--the combination of which is not easy to combine. we spent the class working on these things.


kyudo this evening was a little abbreviated. the Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute was holding a fund-raising bizarre on Sunday, and we had to set the tables for the bizarre up before we left Saturday night. as a result, Sensei had us cut the time short for both formal shooting and open shooting. as a result, i wasn't able to get in the practice that we usually get. and it didn't help that my string partially unraveled and i had to spend a part of class fixing my string. as a result, i felt that i regressed a little bit, and had to work on trying to identify problems in my form (of which, i am sure, there are many).

one thing i'm noticing is that my arrows are not going straight into the hakama. for some reason, they're consistently going into the hakama at an angle up from horizontal, so that the point is at a higher level than the fletchings. i've been trying to work on various things that i thought were the cause of this, but so far i haven't been able to resolve the problem. i think i'm going to have to ask Sensei about this, because it's becoming consistent, and so clearly shows to a problem in my form that i'm repeating on a ongoing basis. hopefully it's a relatively straightforward fix--although, considering how things go, it probably really isn't.

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