Friday, October 14, 2011

day 323: snake applications, breathing, and quadrant balancing

  • breathing: ratio, capacity, calm, sound
  • snap
  • quadrant balancing
  • qi-gong
  • hsing-yi
  • kyudo
i completely forgot to include a section on breathing from the last post. Sifu spent some time at the beginning of that Saturday teaching us breathing from qi-gong. i'm going to add it here, although it actually belongs with last week's post.


Sifu was apparently teaching some qi-gong breathing to some of the newer students in the morning, and decided he'd teach it to the class, since by everyone had shown up. he had us gather as a group and go through some basic breathing exercises.

he started with some theory, saying that breathing is a crucial component in traditional Chinese medicine, and hence a fundamental aspect of TCMA. he noted that it tends to get overlooked, but it deserves more attention than people typically give to it. training in breathing is important, since for the following reasons
  • capacity--it builds lung capacity, which is necessary for physical performance in terms of both endurance and power generation
  • calm--it helps maintain a sense of calm, thereby enabling better concentration
  • sound--the sounds used in breath training are done for different purposes. first, it can act to provide a form of internal massage of the organs. second, it can help assist in increasing power. third, it can speed up recovery (i.e., for situations when you are out of breath, it can help you catch your breath)
Sifu told us that breathing involves several different levels of our torso: top (chest), middle (diaphragm), and bottom (abdomen). done properly, the breathing comes from the abdomen, so that the action of the abdomen drives the diaphragm which in turn drives the chest.

Sifu had us follow him through several breathing exercises. he instructed us to follow a 1:4:2 ratio, where we inhaled for 1 part, held our breath for 4 parts, and exhaled for 2 parts (i.e., the exhale was 2x longer than the inhale). he also had us try 2 different sounds: hun and ha. to finish, he showed us some qi-gong movements, where we breathed while performing upper-body movements intended to help us expand our chest (top), diaphragm (middle), and abdomen (bottom).

Eric mentioned that some of the movements looked eerily similar to the qi-gong Sifu had learned from Liu Yun Qiao. he'd taught this to us several years ago. Eric's comment reminded me of that, and i have to admit, it was very similar--although, i suspect that they're probably related in terms of both coming from traditional Chinese medicine.


hsing-yi today was spent on applications from the Shanxi snake. Sifu showed us some techniques that can come out of it, and said that the principles in it, while similar, are slightly different from Hebei snake.  Hebei snake involves projection from the fingertips in a piqua-like fashion, but Shanxi snake utilizes the power in a snapping of a fist. Sifu showed us how this can work in different directions, and varies depending on our spacing and position relative to an opponent. he demonstrated that the snapping power works in terms of punching, but also works in terms of other applications like throws.

we spent the class working in pairs, practicing the applications Sifu had shown us. i got stuck on some of the applications, particularly the throws, since it seemed like the techniques needed a proper set-up in order for them to work. Thornton and i spent some time trying to work this out, but i wasn't able to get a better sense until Sifu returned and went through some of the set-up methods with us.

with respect to the throws, Sifu pointed out that the tendency for a lot of people is to try and grab the opponent with both hands. Sifu said that this can be problematic in that it tends to lead you into a brute-force scenario where you are trying to overpower someone using your arms (i.e., yang energy). this either results in a battle of strength going to whoever is stronger (which is not always you) or allows the other opponent to read you very easily (because you're communicating your intent directly through your arms to them).  Sifu noted that snake involves a release, and so that in terms of wrestling reminds you to work through grabbing with 1 or 2 hands, where instead of applying yang you act to give the opponent signals that mix yang & yin.  this makes it easier to misdirect and deceive the opponent with respect to their gates, making it easier for you to set up the throw.  Sifu reminded us that the throw is secondary, and the setup is much more important.


kyudo this evening was a bit of an adventure. i came to class with an agenda centered on trying to figure out why my arrows were going into the makiwara at an upward angle. i've been working on this, but have not been able to resolve this with any consistency, meaning that whatever i was tinkering with was not the source of the problem.

Sensei observed that my expansion was wrong in several different ways:
  • my release had regressed a little bit, with my draw becoming more dependent on my right hand, as opposed to being balanced between both my left and right upper quadrants
  • my legs seem to have become unbalanced as well, with my weight going to my left leg and my stance being off-angle with respect to the makiwara
  • in the draw, i seem to be pulling as opposed to just expanding
i managed to get these variables sorted out in terms of getting my quadrants (upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right) balanced, and that finally got my arrow back to going straight into the makiwara. having said that, however, it readjusted everything else in my form, so that the string was now hitting my forearm and cheek.

i spent the remainder of class trying to recalibrate everything to get my shooting form right, but i struggled with consistency. i managed to get things on a positive track towards the end of class, but by that time i could sense that i my technique was starting to erode from fatigue and that my concentration was starting to suffer as a result. i stopped after what i considered to be a positive shot (key word: positive. not perfect. but at least something positive) and decided to end the day with some sense of optimism.

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