Sunday, May 30, 2010

no yue

Another tournament today, the last of the autumn 2009 –spring 2010 season.

My daughter did pretty well in chang quan or long fist – she was suddenly paired with another girl slightly older / more experienced than her. On the one hand, our teacher scolded her for watching the competition too much while performing. But on the other, I think it was good for her, it lit her fire a little bit. The other girl was right in front of her and an instant quicker on each motion.

I took third in the weapons division, without a weapon. The pudao guy was shithot and took first and deserved it. The double-swords woman was also shithot and took second place and deserved it. Kudos to them both – I don’t think I could have beaten them even with my yue.

The authorities stuck a magnet on my yuan yang yue just before my turn and, well, the magnet stuck. They are indeed made of steel. Hurried consultation, verdict – can’t use the steel weapons, but you can perform the routine empty-handed. Alright, I’ll go.

I really hate aluminum weapons and geranium (?) weapons. They are light and flappy and snappy and meaningless (I’m gonna catch some crap for this post but you can imagine the couple words that spring to mind, the second being “it”).

Japan is a weird country. I can walk around for years with a shinken “live” sword which could actually cut people ridiculously easily. But hey, I am an iaido guy, so it is OK. But steel swords from China are completely banned here (I have had one or three confiscated in the airport and had them unconfiscated later). I have had my outdoor practice interrupted and my (Chinese) sword photographed by the police for no apparent reason. You could cut someone with it but it would take a lot more work effort and skill than cutting someone with a shinken blade.

I would pick a standard kitchen knife (yes, steel) over an unsharpened Chinese swords in many situations. Yuan yang yue are basically unknown to Japanese authorities but the word is out: no steel weapons in tournaments. Why steel weapons have been singled out, I have no idea.

I can’t complain – apparently there are many US states where I can’t use my nunchaku, tekko, or other weapons, the same weapons I train with regularly indoors and out over here. I’ll deal with that problem in the future. I have no plans, by the way, to own a handgun. I'm not sure about kama (sickle) here in Japan - the blades are steel, but they are commonly used in gardening. But I have been more careful about practicing outdoors with kama lately. Then there are the sai.....

Anyway I will search the fine print in tournament applications more carefully in the future.

Photo Explanation - my feeling as someone approached with a magnet....

And third place is not so bad, for doing a form with imaginary weapons against an imaginary opponent.

Monday, May 10, 2010

xing yi quan form of (last) month: horse

My ideal is to know the forms I study well enough to be able to perform any of them if asked, no preparation and no hesitation. Yeah, that and being able to actually use the applications in appropriate circumstances.

I found out how far I was from that goal on Sunday. Very nice practice, four hours of nothing but Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Fist – review of the familiar and a plunge into a new form, shuang feng (双封). Good review, good consolidation.

Then somewhere near the end of the day, someone asked about a motion from the horse form, 马形, from xing yi quan. I started…and stopped, unsure of a couple motions. A bit earlier, I had whipped out the swallow form (燕形) on demand and was glad I had been reviewing that lately. But the horse…the horse…

So I got out my notes on paper, walked through the form once and got it. Satisfying in one sense, that it came back automatically. And very dissatisfying in another sense – it was obviously nowhere near second nature. Working on the new stuff is always fun, but it is time to go back and double-check everything.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

xing yi quan form of the month: swallow (2)

Following up on the previous post (and falling behind on this monthly focus thing). Astute observers will note that while it is, in fact May 1 over here in Japan, it is still April 30 over in my home country, so I can just sneak this one in.

Yan Xing, the swallow. The key point I get is rapid rising and falling combined with opening and closing – spreading the arms and the chest, then bringing them together again. This ties in with the expansion and contraction of the chest which popped up in other classes last week.

Liu Jing Ru Laoshi’s 2009 Tokyo visit brought a few more changes to the form but the core of course remains the same. The opening orientation has changed 90 degrees, now facing the front to begin, followed by a 180 turn, instead of the prior 90 degree turn. Small matters, really.

Each year when he visits Tokyo, Liu Laoshi tells us that the _____ form is his favorite, and it is of course a different one every year. In 2007, the swallow had to share that honor with the snake. I have to be honest – the swallow form didn’t appeal strongly to me when I first started working on it, but it has grown on me. It emphasizes principles of quick and effective motion rather than drilling directly obvious combative techniques.

Last winter I was practicing this form outdoors and the sun’s position (oops, that would be the earth’s position) had shifted enough to display my shadow on the opposite wall. For the first time I could actually “see” the wings opening and closing, the swallow swooping down across the water.

OK, the next time I single-handedly dispatch five ruffians who have surrounded me, I probably won’t be standing on one leg with my arms spread high and low, as in one motion in this form. But the quick upper-lower combination strikes that this form emphasizes might just come in handy.

Anyway, I will be putting some more polish on this one tonight, then start shifting into the next month’s main animal.