Friday, February 25, 2011

essential training equipment (7)

Oh yes, the chopstick swords.

These can be found after many kendo practices have dissolved into drink and further into drunk. Great secrets of swordsmanship derived from centuries of practice and actual combat, amazing pearls of wisdom, bestowed upon young neophytes....and too often forgotten the next day.

Once in a while the chopstick swords come out at gatherings of Chinese martial artists as well.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

after a tough demo....

Yes, after a tough day at the gongfu demo / exhibition, what better way to relax than reading Japanese manga!

November and December passed in a blur of demos, then a couple in January....February has been quiet, time to focus on regular practice. one more demo coming in March....

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

worst technique (3)

Continuing the series…here is another motion that I just can’t seem to nail.

It should be simple, really. This is a chest-level block, swinging into the center line from the outside. The forearm is kept vertical and the block is against an opponent’s weapon – probably a bo staff – thrusting in at your own body.

I do it well in solo forms. But in the sai vs. bo set, where some amount of real pressure comes on, I get hurried and the metal of the sai separates from my arm, a definite no-no. The problem is even worse when blocking from the centerline outward…

Sunday, February 20, 2011

the fruits of practice

My daughter's school had open school for a few days. I was lucky enough to be able to go and observe for a short period each day. Mostly I was interested in how she interacted with other kids, whether or not she would raise her hand and volunteer answers, and so on.

Then I noticed something that made me very happy. Not only was she raising her hand on occasion (she used to be too shy); but the shape of her raised hand was just right.

All the other kids were raising their hands with the fingers slightly spread. Her four fingers were together and the thumb was bent in slightly -- if the thumb were bent in a bit more, it would be a perfect open hand from chang quan or long fist. We have recently been running through a section or two of one of her chang quan forms every morning before school - a very short amount of time, but the daily rhythm is now established.

And the results are not just showing in the practice hall!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

grasp the sparrow's tail

Here is a motion who is an old friend: grasp the sparrow's tail, or 揽雀尾, lan que wei. But it can also be four component motions: our old friends peng - lu - ji - an.

I was going through the tai ji quan 24 motion form. My instructor's comment was that I was doing the motion in the style of Yang tai ji (from which 24 is largely derived, though there are differences). In particular, the precursor to the ji motion was much too small for the 24 form; the hand which will be reinforcing should be drawn much further back to the rear on the side before folding in to make contact with the other hand and pushing forward.

It was quite unconscious on my part - it has been years since I had contact with any "pure" Yang style forms, and even that was tai ji dao or broadsword. So where could this interference have come from ? Probably not cross-over or interference in this case, just getting loose, forgetting details.

Or discovering details for the first time. I asked him about the 42 form - the motion appears twice in the form and should be smaller (like Yang) the first time and larger (like 24) the second. Still later, I thought about the 48 form. In my books it looks large (like 24), but my homework list continues to lengthen.

Over 20 years with some of these forms and still not doing everything with full consciousness....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

ping pong goes xing yi quan

Everyone in Japan loves Ai-Chan, or Fukuhara Ai. Groomed to be a world ping pong champion since childhood, everyone was moved by TV footage of the hard-driving ping-pong practices that drove a 6-year-old girl to tears....and how she kept swinging that paddle, never giving up, shining example of Japanese perseverance.

Not much of a ping-pong fan myself, I know her better for her part in an NHK Chinese language learning program. Many Chinese say she has the dreaded northeastern accent to her Chinese (she was living and training pingpong there), but I love her voice.

In this poster, we see that she has apparently taken up a new discipline. What a fine example of zuan quan, the drilling fist rising up the center line, about to come out in front of the chin or mouth. Yes, it seems she is now practicing xing yi quan.

(no relation, of course, to the anti-drug stance being promoted on the poster)

Monday, February 14, 2011

essential training equipment (6)

Yes, the mandatory healthy sports drink and nutritious dietary supplement to nourish and repair the body after a hard workout.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chen style tai ji jian notes

Here is a well-used page from my future text in the making: notes on the Chen style tai ji jian form, with extra notes and illustrations from my daughter.

I am feeling much more comfortable with the form these days, but I also find it daunting how much work lies ahead – I can stumble through the motions of the form, yes, but there is neither beauty nor power yet.

Friday, February 11, 2011

worst technique (2)

Yes, the sai again. A little strange, since I am usually at my best with pairs of short / small weapons (sai, yuan yang yue, nito ryu in kendo)…My chosen bed-side (futon-side, actually) weapon is a pair of short sticks.

I am working on the bo vs. sai set lately, 10 simple and elegant techniques which will feature in my upcoming testing. Two of these ten techniques have a technique which I have had much trouble with – the opponent swings the bo staff across at my left side.

I rotate my body to the right and block with the sai in the left hand (hand down, tip up). The key is to keep the left arm braced against the body (against the rear in one technique, against the left hip in the other) and the sai in contact with the forearm, not letting the tip flare out.

Failure to do this technique properly results in pain. I don’t seem to be learning from pain as quickly as I used to.