Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I have felt this several times lately – the forms which seemed so long when starting to learn them, seeming to become shorter as you get to know them better. And then when you get fairly familiar with the form, you look back and wonder how it could have ever seemed so daunting.
The Chen style tai ji jian form seemed endless, like I would never reach the end. Now I can stumble through it and it seems so much shorter. I finish the form fearing that I might have left out a sequence of motions. It couldn’t have been that short! Then I go back, check every motion, and they are all there.
Same with the Sha Style tai ji sword routines – seeming endless at the beginning, then not so terribly long after all. Especially the paired / partner form we have been working on and demonstrating lately.
It is not getting any easier – just the opposite, if anything. The stage of rapid progress is finished and all further progress will come in smaller advances and will require increasing amounts of effort and practice for each gain in understanding.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Sunday, January 9, 2011
In the middle of practice, my teacher asked me how to say 焼き餃子 / yakigyouza (J.) in Chinese. Known as “pot-stickers” or “dumplings” in English, these are the fried kind, as opposed to the boiled kind.
I guessed incorrectly, trying to put the Japanese directly into Chinese. Our resident Chinese language / tong bei quan expert was called over. 锅贴 / guotie, he reminded me, easy as that.
OK, great, how does that connect to the Chen style dao form I was working on? When wrapping around the body in a vertical position, the dao should pass very closely to the back – almost sticking to it, just like pot-stickers stick to the pot.
The dao is a single-edged sword and it is common to reinforce the non-edged side of the blade with the left hand while cutting or slicing. You cannot do this with the jian, because it is double-edged.
Similarly, the user commonly wraps the dao around the body in either direction, and it should be kept extremely close to the back, even scraping along from one side to the other. Obviously, you don’t want to do that very much with a double-bladed weapon.
Anyway it was a great day, over six hours spent on Chen style tai ji dao (with a few other diversions along the way) and jian. The last all-day dao marathon had brought me almost to the end of the form – so close it hurt, in fact.
As of Saturday, that is taken care of – just two more motions and it was finished, and then a lot of re-working the basics. What better way to celebrate afterward than a large pot full of pot-stickers for dinner?
Saturday, January 8, 2011
I frequently hear about tokui waza, or one’s best / special technique to be used when fighting or sparring. I have a couple of those.
I think there should also be a word for the opposite – a technique that you practice but have a very hard time with, just can’t get it right. I have a couple of those as well, more than a couple.
One that stands out recently comes from the sai kata / form. The motion is 左上段返し打ち, or hidari joudan kaeshi-uchi, a strike to the opponent’s head which circles once outside the left arm before striking downward.
In practicing the first sai kata, chikin shita haku no sai (or tsuken shita haku no sai, if not in Okinawan dialect), I have gotten pretty comfortable with this motion on the right side, as it appears in the form several times. It is a great motion, really: after blocking the opponent’s strike (they are using a bo staff), you roll the sai outside the arm – keeping the opponent’s bo away from you – while moving in closer and striking their head with the sai.
It appears only once in the form on the left side, however, and I am right-handed. I try to keep well-balanced in my training with left- and right-side repetitions. I have even been using my chopsticks in my left hand to improve dexterity. But I just can’t seem to nail this motion.
Last week, it re-appeared in another incarnation. I am not officially learning the next sai form yet (chatan yara no sai), but I have had a glimpse of things to come. It is a wonderful kata full of great motions – and another one of these left-handed circling attacks.
So, there is one more item on the homework list – doing more things left-handed. Chopsticks of course. Brushing teeth. Operating iPods and other small gadgets. And, of course, the technique described above.