Friday, October 07, 2011

day 322: miao dao power generation

  • structure
  • kua
  • dantian
  • sword surface
  • diffuse/central focus
  • decreasing radius
  • ting, hwa, na, fa jing
  • dragon, tiger, snake gates
  • far, middle, near gates
  • miao dao
we had a Sunday class last weekend. there are more people coming to the Sunday sessions, although most of them are beginners learning baji (i'm guessing they can't make the Saturday sessions).

for the first part of class, i worked on reviewing the 4 lines of the miao dao form with Stephen and Phunsak. Phunsak took time to refine our movements, particularly lines 3 & 4. i haven't really learned lines 3 & 4 that well, since they're the most recent and i missed those classes over the summer. as a result, this was actually a chance for me to really get some instruction with them.

the second part of class was spent on miao dao basics. Sifu looked at us doing lines 1-4, and said that our power generation was lacking. while part of this was from not doing the correct techniques, he also said that a lot of this was from poor body mechanics. the solution for this is to work on the basics and build our foundation. he has us work on just doing the initial basics that related to line 1 (e.g., cut down, cut at an angle, cut horizontal).  he made a number of points:
  • power with the miao dao comes from the overall body structure, particularly in terms of aligning the head, neck, and spine. Sifu stressed the importance of making sure that the crown of the head was aligned vertically with the neck and spine. to do this, it helps to slightly lift the head and subtly tuck the chin in.
  • as much as you need to have structure with the head, neck, & spine, you also need to have structure with the kua. the bending of the kua has to be done in a way that allows power to come from the legs through the torso, so that the arms and shoulders are not doing the work but instead are more structural guides directing the power of the sword stroke.
  • the dantian has to stay stable. this means it has to stay level (i.e., not go up or down) as you move through the techniques. in addition, the power of a cut has to go from the dantian (during the initiation of the cutting motion) and come back again (during the final phase of the cutting motion). essentially this means that a cut involves a loop in power starting and originating in the dantian.
  • for power generation, Sifu said it also helps to go from diffuse to point focus in a cut. this means that when you start a cut you start with your eyes and attention in diffuse focus, and then at the moment you make contact with the opponent and perform the cut you switch your eyes and attention to point focus on the point of the cut. this helps to bring everything into the dantian, concentrating the power of the sword into the point of contact.
  • for one of the cuts (the horizontal cut in line 4), Sifu said we were missing the subtlety in the movement. originally, we'd learned as a horizontal slash similar to a baseball bat swing. Sifu said this is a mistake, and that the movement is a horizontal slash that follows a path with a decreasing radius of the arc. Sifu said this helps to improve the cutting. he said that this was true of all the cutting applications, even for those (like in line 1) where it was not apparent. he noted that this makes it easier to cut since it relies less on power and more on slashing.
  • Sifu also discussed the sword surface, noting that we have to apply the techniques with the proper surface of the sword facing the proper direction. sometimes this means that the blade faces the opponent's sword, other times that the flat or back of the blade faces the opponent's sword. this is because there are times when we're want to receive and deflect the opponent's strike and other times when we want to attack. regardless, we have to be mindful of the application and adjust our blade to match it.
at this point, i asked Sifu about the connection between the miao dao and the concepts we've learned before in ting (sensing), hwa (deflecting), na (control), and fa (projection) jing.  Sifu said that just like we exercise ting, hwa, na, and fa jing with empty hand combat, we do the same thing with weapons. he noted that in some situations, depending on the technique and the spacing and timing relative to the opponent, we actually combine some of the steps. but the idea is the same: you want to first sense out the opponent, then receive and if necessary deflect their attack, position yourself and the sword so that you control the opponent and constrain their movement, and then project your own attack into them. Sifu pointed out that for purposes of ting, hwa, na, and fa jing the sword--and any weapon--can be seen as extension of your body.

we went on to talk about gates. Sifu said that this is the same as empty hand combat, in that the sword (and any weapon) is constantly working through the jings to try and find or entice openings in the opponent's gate, and then attacking when we are able to do so. Sifu reminded us, however, that this doesn't just mean in terms of dragon (opponent's back), tiger (opponent's front), or snake gate (side of opponent facing you), but also means in terms of distance: far (out of range from the opponent), middle (within in the far edge of contact range with the opponent), near gate (within close torso/torso range of the opponent). Sifu said it's possible to go through ting jing and hwa jing without actually making contact with the opponent or the opponent's weapon, in that we're working their far gates. however, he said that for control (i.e., na jing)and power projection (i.e., fa jing), we have to be in physical contact, and so have to be in striking range (meaning either middle or near gate). this is why so much of fighting is actually spent sensing the opponent out or trying to mislead them, because you want to minimize risk by avoiding striking range until you are confident of being able to enter the opponent's gate and successfully attacking them.

we practiced the basics for the remainder of class, and then left around 1:30 pm.

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