Posts Tagged ‘pushing hands’

The Beginner in the Martial Arts

Written by bryan. Posted in Events, Training Diary

Tai Chi, Split, Tai Chi Kick, TaijiThis week, I’m in the Czech province of Jizerka training on the 24th Shikon Jizerka course hosted by Shikon Czech and it’s Chief Instructor Ondra Musil 7th Dan in Karate and 6th Dan in Aikido who along with Steve Rowe 8th Dan in Karate and Tai Chi Sifu and Martin Gatter 7th Dan Karate and Tai Chi Sifu from Shikon International have been the teachers.

With around 80 participants mainly from the arts of Karate, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Ju Jitsu and Aikido, there has been a range of diverse skills to sample and learn from.

Today is Wednesday and we’re half way through the course. My training plan for the week has been simple:-

7:00 Tai Chi (Chi Gong, Long Form and Long Boxing)

8:00 Breakfast

9:00 – 10:30 Tai Chi (Long Boxing, Fa Jing, Dao Lu)

10:30 – 12:00 Aikido

13:00 Lunch / Enjoying the countryside / Free Practice

15:00 – 16:30 Tai Chi (Long Boxing, Fa Jing, Dao Lu)

16:30 – 18:00 Aikido

19:00 – Dinner / Enjoying the Countryside / talking about all things martial and more free practice

So the training plan itself was easy, right. Okay it was and is tiring I have to admit. When I decided to come to Jizerka earlier in the year, I committed to myself that I would make the most out of the training experience and learn as much as I could. So many good things shown and explained, shown again and clarified, it felt like at times my head was about to explode.

I’ve tried to train as a beginner with no preconceived ideas,  actions or knowledge whilst training. It’s been hard to do and sometimes I haven’t managed to, these times have generally been easy to spot, it’s when I’ve been doing it badly. It’s been oddly satisfying though when I’ve have got it right. Some light bulb moments and several real “oh yeah, I get it now” moments, followed quickly by “Doh, it’s so easy to understand, why did it take me so long.” Simple Young Jedi, it’s all down to the key principles, I was told more than once. Principle #1 – Feet, Principle #2 – Posture, now use them. Steve Rowe is my teacher and his long term students know his style of teaching very well. No false, “that was great” or “You’re awesome” or anything like that. In fact the only time Steve will say something like that is when one has been crapper than usual and he’s taking the mickey out of you. Even he’s excelled himself this week with some of his comments and insightful remarks. Many of us attending are long term Martial Arts coaches and practitioners in our own right. Yet I can’t begin to count how many times, I’ve heard a ‘Steveism’ and some attempted correction at whatever we needed to work on. I snuck off before lunch for a sneaky bit of training with someone on some Springing hands work and Long Boxing, from about 300m away, Steve spotted an error from my training partner and sent someone over to stay “stop sticking your butt out and stand straight.”

Remember those days as a kid and being told to sit still at school, or was that just me? Anyway today Martin led us in some Neigong or standing post work. Simple stuff, again! Or so it seemed at a superficial level. Hold five postures for two minutes each. Oh yes, there are a few things to consider when you do them. Stand tall, spine straight, start spiralling from the feet and carry it on up and around the body, heighten your awareness, map your body, be sensitive and be aware. I managed about three out of the five, but then lost focus. Only one person said that they managed all those things throughout the 10 minutes.

 

I’ve seen some demonstrations of Aikido over the years and I must admit to not been hugely impressed with it as as art. My mistake, big mistake. The Aikido classes I’ve taken part in have all been by Ondrej Musil a 6th dan in Aikido or one of his senior students. The classes were filled with Czech students and one English person, me. Consequently all have been taught in Czech. So listening to instructions was definitely out, but I had to focus very closely to see what was being demonstrated as both Tori and Uke and then work to replicate it with my partners. I was able to cheat a little bit as many of the a few Japanese terms used in Aikido are also used in Karate, such as Maai, Kuzushi and Atemi Waza. It made me realise that although I was learning this way, only learning visually was very difficult for me. But I muddled through and most things I managed by watching and best of all trying the techniques. The moral is, you can learn by talking, you can learn by watching. But the best way is to learn by doing and making mistakes and doing it again and again.

 

It’s been good to see so many students finish the formal practice and then find some space in the great outdoors to continue their practice. My last training session tonight, after dinner, but still in the restaurant, I asked “Wasn’t sure how to do this technique, is this correct?” From the laughter from my colleagues it would appear not, Martin Gatter, didn’t laugh, well not out loud anyway, his brow however does the same as a ‘Steveism.’ 

Key points for me

– When the teacher says do ‘x’ technique, don’t ask how many times, keep going until you’re told to stop.

– It’s reminded me of how much we should listen and watch our teachers and actually try to do what they say.

– Be aware of your body

– You can learn by talking, you can learn by watching. But the best way is to learn by doing and making mistakes and doing it again and again.

Happy training. Time to get ready for dinner before I do some training.

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The influence of different kinds of Soft Martial Arts and what we can learn and apply from them

Written by Wayne. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013, Martial Arts

Tai Chi, Chinese Martial Arts, Soft Martial Arts, Basingstoke, Ba Qua, Hsing, Wayne Roberts

Black Belt Grading Project Briefing

 

The influence of different kinds of Soft Martial Arts and what we can learn and apply from them

 

Research Topic:

 

a)    The influence of different kinds of Soft Martial Arts and what we can learn and apply from them

b)    Identify and demonstrate some different types of Pushing Hands and how we can use them training in a ‘hard style’

c)    Chin Na and its importance and relevance to training

d)    The relevance of pushing hands for self-defence purposes

e)    The holistic nature of Martial Arts, its health benefits and how to undertake training to promote these benefits whilst minimising risk.

 

So I have to admit I was kind of expecting something like this as my black belt project. I had some feedback from my last grading that sometimes I tended to use too much strength or hard karate style and since then it has been something I have been very conscious of….but it can be challenging to do something about. Sometimes it’s very easy to get lost in a sparring duel with a partner and before you know it you are both whacking bits out of each other! I’ve also experienced picking up injuries as a result of the odd close encounter here or there, so another good incentive to listen to what you’re told and try to apply it. I also play the guitar which is sometimes difficult to do without the use of a finger or two…….

 

To be frank, the soft Karate styles we have so far learnt in class have also proved vexing for me to say the least (e.g. forms such as tai-kii, pushing hands etc). Sometimes you feel just when you are starting to make some progress and get the ‘feeling’ of how these techniques should be practiced they can suddenly seem completely out of reach, awkward and as if you are doing everything wrong. It’s almost as if getting this style right is a much a state of mind as anything physical, and can be very frustrating.

 

So lots of questions too……

 

–       Are soft martial arts really of any use in a fighting situation?

–       Is hard or soft style right either way or is it just matter of using each in the right time and place?

–       Is hard style really the path to the dark side? (to almost quote a famous short green Jedi Master)

 

When you try Googling ‘soft’ karate you’ll also end up with a lot of results….. Goju Ryu, Aikido, Wing Chun, Wadu Ryu, Kung Fu and Tai Chi to name but a few. So how do you know what is right to practice? From the sea of information, opinions and styles what is the correct thing to focus on? The answer probably is that there isn’t a ‘right answer’, just a matter of what is good fit for me, my own style, size, strength and personality. So that I think in part is the journey I need to go on for the next 8 months to find out exactly that!

 

For the purposes of this project I plan to investigate the core principles, techniques and forms of a number of ‘soft’ Japanese and Chinese martial arts including but not limited to those listed above. Although this will very clearly result in a lot of information being unearthed, which one could spend a decade analysing in detail, I hope to be able to synthesis this research into 4 or 5 key principles or techniques that are common across some or all disciplines.

 

Specifically this will also cover;

–       Key forms and their applications

–       Pushing hands in both offensive and defensive applications

–       Chin Na (which are techniques used to control/immobilise an opponent with locks)

 

Ultimately I hope to show how these soft karate techniques can help to improve speed, power generation, the ability to overcome opponents and finally the long term mental and physical health benefits vs hard style karate

 

Key for me personally will to be able to learn not just theory from books and people but to be able to demonstrate and importantly teach relevant techniques – I think this will be the best approach in terms of proving some of the theory. As a secondary objective, I’d really like to be able to teach members of the club something new and different that they may not have seen before and so improve everyone else’s understanding and skill in this area.

 

In terms of undertaking the research, demonstrating and proving key conclusions therefore my approach will be as follows;

–       Discussions face to face with senior practitioners from those disciplines identified (where time allows, potentially lessons)

–       On-line and published literature review/reading

–       Practice and proving these techniques through testing and application with fellow members of the club (where there are willing victims!)

 

Over the course of the next 8 months I plan to provide a regular update on my research and conclusions in written/blog form (6 updates between March and November), plus a number short demonstrations during or at end of normal lessons. This will culminate in a 60 minute class which I will run during November/December.

 

The approximate timetable for this project will be as follows;

–       March to June – core principles & techniques review (researching 1-2 martial arts disciplines per month)

–       July to September– consolidate key focus areas based on research, focus on learning & practicing pushing hands & Chin-Na techniques and applications

–       October to December – consolidate learnings, preparation for final write up & class

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