“Sifu, in my mate’s class they learn to harden and desensitise their arms by bashing them together with the blocking movements, why don’t we do that?” Rod had lots of martial arts ‘mates’ who trained at different clubs and they would get together on a regular basis to ‘share’ their knowledge.
“What purpose do you think our arms, hands and fingers serve Rod, why do you think we have them?” Sifu answered the question with a question in his usual ‘Chan Buddhist’ way…
“To hammer the crap out of our opponents?” Rod was being mischievous, as he knew Sifu was looking for the opposite answer.
“Rod………..” Sifu gave him ‘that’ look….
“Okay… To be able to touch and feel things not directly attached to our body..” Rod conceded..
Sifu continued – “and would it be better to desensitise or increase their sensitivity to improve the skill in their use?”
Rod was still being a bit awkward, “depends on what you’re using them for…”
Sifu patiently allowed the conversation to take its course… “okay, why would you want to desensitise them?”
Rod became more animated given his chance to explain, “surely in combat it must be better to have hard arms that don’t feel pain?”
“Only if you’re unskilled,” replied Sifu, “the more sensitive you are in your arms, hands and fingers the more you will be able to stick, blend, follow and redirect your opponents force.”
“That’s true” replied Rod, but what if the other person hits your arms?”
“Pain is in the mind, not in the arms” said Sifu.
“That’s true….” responded Rod thoughtfully.
Sifu continued, “If you bash your arms together like that you will damage nerves and bones and deep bruising will block and damage the pathways that blood uses to renew itself from the centre of the bones, what you’re describing is the old ‘peasant’ training and not that used by the more intelligent members of society.
We’re looking to improve the capability of our body not reduce it.”
“Increasing sensitivity just seems to be the opposite of what so many people are doing” said Rod.
“And that’s why skill levels in the Martial Arts is being reduced, everyone wants a ‘quick fix’ and the sort of ‘emotional trauma’ training caused by winding themselves up that’s shown in the movies, causes long term damage and can’t be sustained,” replied Sifu.
He continued…..“Our mind needs to be refined; this is a painstaking process achieved through meditation, qigong and form. When we are in harmony with our own mind, breath and body, we learn to ‘listen’ to that of others through touch with push hands drills and pairs work.
Mindful repetition is the cornerstone to success, under pressure we will react in the way we have trained ourselves to, providing we have trained with sufficient mental and physical focus.
Our arms are our ‘tentacles’ and our fingers are our ‘tentacles on tentacles’, because we’ve always had them attached to us we don’t tend to think of them in this way. To get the idea, imagine that you were an alien being that was a nice neat circle shape and you rolled out of your space craft on Earth and met a human…
You’d be shocked by our ‘shaven monkey’ appearance with eyes that swivel in our head and when we smiled and showed our hidden teeth as a sign of friendship, we’d look quite scary!”
“I’d be horrified!” laughed Rod.
“And yet these would be ‘friendly gestures to us” continued Sifu… “and of course when we extended our ‘tentacles and tentacles on tentacles’ in greeting, for the alien it would be like a human meeting the creature from ‘Alien’ for the first time….”
“I’d probably roll back into my spaceship and leave at top speed..” joked Rod.
“My point is that they are our ‘feelers’ and therefore the softer and more sensitive we can make them, the more effectively they work. Utilising the ‘touch reflex’ or ‘listening energy’ we are able to tap into the opponents parasympathetic nervous system and sense their balance, posture and intention, often before they can realise it themselves, but we are only able to do this if we can control our own and be ‘open’ to sensing them, this takes training.”
Rod was now staring at and wriggling his fingers…. “tentacles…… it’s kinda spooky really, we look at animals with tentacles and find them creepy, yet we’re probably the most creepy looking animals on this planet!”
Sifu laughed, “well you certainly are….. but as Martial Artists we have to learn to ‘think out of the box’, to be able to step outside of who and what we are and be able to see things as they really are, this gives us a rare perspective that others don’t have. Our training and meditation should give us this ability and mean that we are not ‘duped’ by the manipulation of thoughts and emotions of others.
Rod was still compulsively wriggling his fingers…. “tentacles…….’
Sifu walked away smiling enigmatically.