Sunday, March 28, 2010

Utilisation of the Back Power

For an internal martial art practitioner, power is acquired through awakening the sleeping parts of the body, so that he can utilise coherent bodily force.

In Taiji, this is called the "Know your own self" stage . After you have revived your body and mind coordination, you can then enter the "Know others" stage to learn the application techniques. It is an incorrect approach to learn the application skills (know others) before your body has been revived back to the original conditions (know your own self), as your body and mind coordination is not yet fit enough to manage the application techniques.

An important part of our body which needs to be awakened, for the purpose of regaining coherent bodily force, is the muscles on our back plus the related power transmission channels. Whilst we do use our back muscles in our daily activities, many of us could not utilise these muscles to their full potential. The inborn ability to use the back power gradually disappeared as we started to learn to use our muscles separately and independently. Without going through proper training, we will not be able to regain this ability and we have little control over our back muscles. It is normal that a person does not feel the existence of his back muscles unless they are being touched by external objects. If one cannot coordinate the waist, the back and the shoulders to work together simultaneously, there is serious dissapation of power in between these parts.

One of the methods to call up the back muscles and the related power channel, and to enhance the coordination of different parts of the human body, is to practise standing exercises. Some standing forms, like the "Santi Forms" are specially designed for this. They are effective tools which help activate the back muscles and open the related power transmission channels. Appearing to be relaxed outside, a practitioner feels great tension from within while doing these trainings. Through these trainings, an internal martial artist re-acquires the ability of utilising his back power. It is not an exercise on the back muscles alone (otherwise the practitioner should go to the gym and consult a coach on this rather than doing internal martial art) but an exercise to facilitate the coordination of the mind and the body as a whole. The involvement of will power (for opening up the power transmission channels and control of the back) is more important than simply strengthening the muscles.

An indicator of success is a control of the back muscles at will and utilisation of the back power in combat. The practitioner should feel that he is now more powerful. He can "hit" with the back (a very important and decisive achievement) and can "float" up an opponent by making use of the movements of the back.

He should then be able to use the technique of "sticking" at the later training stage and should be in a position to really appreciating what it is meant by "Chi at the back" as referred to in the Taiji Classics.

[last adjustments: 12.06.2011

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Footwork- Entering the Taiji Ring Circle

"A teacher only teaches hand techniques to his student; the footwork is kept to himself. If not, the student can defeat the teacher."

" Retreating from the Ring Circle is Easy; Entering the Ring Circle is difficult,"

Footwork is not really that secret but it is true that the same is often taught in the advanced level in most martial art systems. In the preliminary stage, a junior student learns how to coordinate his mind and body in a static position. There is no point to teach the juniors any footwork as their body condition is not fit enough to master the skill. The demand for coordination is much greater if one moves forward or backward. Yet, footwork is not limited to coordinating the body and mind whilst moving forward and backward.

Footwork provides a martial artist an additional momentum in action.

The old saying "if your feet do not follow the hands, you are not able to hit your opponent; if your feet come together with your hands, hitting your opponent is as easy as picking up a grass from the ground", refers to the effectiveness of this additional momentum.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, it enables a martial artist to take a good offending / defending position by moving around his opponent - an effective way to avoid locking horn with the opponent. Some footwork are designed to get oneself to an advantageous position in split seconds without alerting his opponent - I see you, but you don't see me; I was in front of you a moment ago, but I am now at your back..

In the taiji martial art system, footwork is not explicit in the taijiquan form. Other than some turn arounds, it seems that you move forward in a straight line in the form training. If you move in a straight line, how can you execute centripetal force or centrifugal force effectively in action? The best you can do is to "roll" vertically or horizontally or in whatever angle a static ball can do.

The taijiquan form is not an all inclusive system. Whilst it may be arguably correct to say that the form has footwork embedded in it (e.g. before stepping forward, the front leg should make a slight outward turn), you need a teacher to decipher it for you - just like you need a teacher to decipher the application techniques embedded in the form. In any event, you have to train on the footwork as deciphered separately and intensively, as the movements in the form training are far from sufficient to enable a practitioner to be fit enough to apply the technique. You are then in fact practising a different set of skill. That is not to say practising the form is useless - it is an essential element in fine tuning the body / mind control (if you know how to do it) - but a practitioner should know its limitation.

The circular footwork are taught at the advanced stage. The disclosed form (i.e. what you can see from the published material) includes the "Da Lei" push hand form, which include a variety of circular footwork. The weapons forms also include a number of advanced footwork. Don't think that the footwork in the weapon forms is limited to weapon applications.

Footwork in Taiji enables movement of the body like a spinning top. You move from the outer ring into the centre; your opponent is driven from the centre to the outer ring.