Posts Tagged ‘Soft Martial Arts’

The Eight Principles of Martial Arts

Written by Wayne. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013

 

The Eight Principles of Martial Arts by Wayne Roberts

On the wall of our dojo in Basingstoke is a list of 8 words that face students every day when we train. I have to admit that even though I have previously looked at these words many times, I don’t really think that it is until having worked through much of the research for this project that I now understand these fundamentals more clearly and their applications.

These eight ideas are the underlining principles that need to form the foundation of sound ‘soft’ martial arts. If skill in martial arts can be thought of as a series of layers, then this is the first of these followed by the 13 dynamics (The Eight Gates & Five Steps as covered previously) and then finally different techniques applied on top of these which will be specific to each form of martial art.

The Eight Principles

Feet – are the way in which our bodies connect to the ground, so are key to transmission of energy through the body and to balance. Feet in general should always be pointed in the direction of power and used to press against the floor to generate power – this is the key to good rooting and the ability to generate a spiraling of energy from the feet, up the legs and through the rest of the body. Contact with the floor should be though the pads of the feet, always being mindful of where your center of balance is – toes should just be lightly in contact with the floor.

Posture – in order to really master awareness of where your body is and what is happening in terms of balance and stance it is key to be constantly mindful of this every day, not just in training. Through the pressure generated by the feet, the body naturally brings itself upright. The feeling here should be as if the head is pulled upwards by a string and then allowing the body to soften and relax so the body is effectively not ‘standing on its bones’. Good posture will give you a free passage of energy and also enables you to breath correctly.

Mind – its important to have a high level of awareness or ‘liveliness’ in order to be able to stay highly focused. This is especially important in threatening situations where it is critical to be able to maintain a strong, concentrated and powerful mindset. Discipline and willpower are also key to achieving this. Poor posture or breathing can particularly effect the mindset.

Breath – good breathing is key to increasing the oxygen flow through the body and ensuring the mind stays alert. Breathing action should come from the lower abdomen (the Tan Tien), pushing outwards on breathing in and opening up the back and shoulders.

Internal – in Tai Chi this is also know as ‘energizing the inner orbit’, opening up the energy flow around the body. On breathing in, you channel Chi through the Governing Vessel (running over the skull and along the spine) and breathing out channeling through the Conception Vessel (bisecting the front of the body). The Governing and Conception Vessels are connected by touching the tongue to the top of the mouth. Internal also refers to the ability to channel energy/force from the contact point with an opponent through the body, down the legs and into the feet. Key here is being able to connect the top and the bottom half of the body, so for example force is not just taken into the shoulders or upper body resulting in being thrown off balance.

Power – power can be generated from many parts of the body, but is most effective when used in conjunction with each other e.g. with power being ‘layered’ up through the actions of different joints or muscles. An example would be a punch, which some students may only use the hips to generate power. However, when layered and timed correctly power can be greatly amplified through using first the muscles around the spine, then to bring in the action of the shoulder, arm, waist, hips, legs and finally the feet. The majority of the power in this instance is generated from the spine, which is the core muscle at the centre of the move.

Wedge – the point at which out hands our other part of the body would normally travel to when meeting an attack (the interception point) and combines the first four principles above to be able to first block and then begin to redirect a strike. Key here is the feeling of ‘wedging’ through an attack towards the opponent, and this principle is key to self defence aspects of any martial art, however is offensive rather than defensive. The wedge principle can be applied with many parts of the body including legs, head and shoulders as well as arms and hands.

Spiral – spiraling comes after the wedging action and is a way to turn the an opponents energy or momentum against them, taking force away from the opponent and turning into a lock, strike or throw. A spiraling action is also present in the way force is transmitted through the body and the legs to the feet and again helps to keep the connection in place between the upper and lower halves of the body.
Steve Rowe, Shikon, Gavin King

 

As can be seen, many of the above are closely interlinked and in most cases cannot really practiced without the other, in particular the first four principles feet, posture, mind and breath. In Chinese martial arts these are commonly know as Neigong which emphasises training the coordination of an individuals body with the breath. The last four principles are closely aligned with Qigong, which is the channeling of Chi through the body. Chi can also be used to repel, parry or absorb an attackers energy.

It is also very important to be able to able to recognise the condition of these principles in an opponent. For example by being able to analyse where their balance is e.g. weight might be in their heels; perhaps they are distracted so may not be fully mindful of the situation; an aggressor may also be breathing heavily with a puffed up chest which will also impact their posture and balance. An initial attack can also be targeted at disrupting one of the eight principles which can then be followed up with the primary attack aimed at disabling the opponent.

References:
The Eight Principles are at the heart for the Shikon system put in place by Steve Rowe Shi Kon’s Chief Instructor. More information can be found her

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Baguazhang and Boxing

Written by Katherine. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013

BuaguaREPORT 5 – SOFT AND HARD MARTIAL ARTS

Baguazhang and Boxing

 

And so to the final part of this part of my project – looking at 5 hard and 5 soft Martial Arts.  I deliberately saved boxing until last as it is quite controversial in its inclusion and also Baguazhang as I really struggled to find a fifth soft art to look at.  Many that I initially researched were ultimately labelled “hard/soft” and, to be honest, I think most Martial Arts (dare I venture, all) would come into this category on a sliding scale. I really wanted to do Wing Chun but this definitely sat on the fence and so I landed on Baguazhang. As a report I found this entry (on Baguazhang) the hardest – partly because there are many variations or it practised, some of which don’t fit into my labels as nicely as others and also because I genuinely found the research confusing. It is, therefore, a mere scratch on the surface of what is a very complex and deep Martial Art and if it whets your appetite I would encourage you to study it further yourself – I really cannot do it justice here and am no way proficient enough to begin to fully understand it.

 

SOFT MARTIAL ART 5 – BAGUAZHANG

WHAT IS BAGUAZHANG?

 

Baguazhang is one of the three main Chinese Martial Arts (the other two are Tajiquan and Xingyiquan). Historically it can be traced back to its accepted founder Dong Hainchun, back in the early 19th Century. He trained other students who were already students of other fighting systems and he sought to add to and deepened their existing knowledge with his school of fighting. Hainchun had learned from Taosit and Buddhist teachers and it is here that the roots lie.

 

Baguazhang literally means “eight trigram palm” – referring to the trigrams of the Yijing (I Ching), one of the canons of Taoism, to explain the relationship of all natural phenomena, and Baguazhang seeks to be the physical manifestation of the properties. There are differing layouts of the eight trigrams – older and newer but each shows how the elements are linked and also their representation of yin and yang. This is a topic to be researched all on its own but if you are interested this site explains it more – http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/Chinese_Customs/bagua.htm

 

Nowadays there are many different schools of Baguazhang, as students of Dong Hainchuan took their own practises and formed new schools. The main similarities are their use of the palm techniques and the distinctive circle walking technique. Most styles use strikes with the hand (especially with the palm), fist, elbow etc as well as thrown and locks, but with an emphasis on a flowing style and spiralling practises, and body evasion.  Baguazhang, as a martial art, is based on the theory of continuously changing in response to the situation at hand in order to overcome an opponent with skill rather than brute force.

 

BAGUAZHANG AS A SOFT MARTAL ART

 

Baguazhang is quite a difficult Martial Art to categorise as there are so many variations of it – each with their own styles and focuses. Generally, however, it is considered soft because of its emphasis on circular movements and evasive footwork – the Yijing trigram, as seen above, is from “The Book of Change” and it is this ability to change movement and direction and flow around attackers that defines Baguazhang and adapting the body to use energy most efficiently. As with other “soft” Martial Arts, Baguazhang does have hard elements – especially its palm strikes and its use of weapons from small, concealed knives to the large bagua sword. Different styles may place more or less emphasis on certain techniques – throws, grappling, locks, strikes, kicks etc – but they all have the circling, spiralling and palm techniques in common.

The circle walking avoids direct confrontation with an attacker and draws them off balance and off their centre so that they can be overcome with momentum and flow rather than strength. Baguazhang seeks to use an attacker’s aggression and energy against them and does not encourage power-on-power moves as this will disadvantage a smaller fighter.

UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES

Baguazhang was designed to improve the health of the student – both physically and mentally. Because of its foundations in the Taoist trigram, its aim is to harmonise all the elements – especially yin and yang, and to be able to balance the energy flow within. By being in tune with, and listening to, your internal side, your body will flow perfectly, the blood will circulate smoothly and you will experience heightened senses.

Baguazhang is a very internal practise, seeking to harness “neijin” or inner power (ki, qi chi), as well as promote a supple, flexible, adaptable body. It is concerned with the experience of change – coming from the Yi Jing, or “Book of Changes” – right from the atomic level in the makeup of our bodies to the vast planetary systems.  Changes can be made from the smallest level in one’s life right up to universal level.  Baguazhang is based on the 8 symbols, “gua”, that are the building blocks of the universe – heaven, earth, water, fire, thunder, wind, mountain and lake.

Effective practise of Baguazhang requires understanding of the trigrams and their relationship to each other and then be able to translate this externally to use angles and shapes and intuition to overcome an attacker.

As I am struggling to fully understand and explain Bagua I will add a description from a long time practitioner of Chinese internal Martial Arts, Gwilym Panah Williams:

“Bagua is more than a mere martial art, it is a complete system, a scheme: and as such is a repository for many important disciplines of ancient and authentic Chinese culture: the metaphysics, the traditional medicine, and the philosophy and spirituality. It is more than mere actions and movements: its forms and internal practises seek to infuse the practitioner with celestial energy drawn from the eight primordial energies. Their very qi, or life force, is inside Baguazhang!”

POWER GENERATION AND EFFECTIVE TECHNIQUE

As Baguazhang is by far the most “internal” Martial Art that I have looked at, much of its theories of good technique and power generation are concentrated on harnessing QI from inside. I do not pretend to fully understand this but will attempt to give a basic explanation.

Externally, Baguazhang is characterised by continuous flowing movements, with the body constantly changing direction and twisting and turning – the footwork is highly evasive and the body almost snake-like.

There are 3 physical fundamentals to learn in Baguazhang although there are many, many more techniques than just these – but these are what set it art from most other Martial Arts:

Circle Walking: Although there are many variations in styles of Bagua because Dong Hainchuan adapted each training to the style of his students, each variation includes circle walking. It is what is says – literally walking in a circle while executing the upper body techniques and forms.  This trains the legs to generate power but also to have quick footwork for evasion and the control the body.  The student walks round the edge of a circle in low stances, while periodically changing direction.  It is important to keep the body engaged the whole time so that you can then apply the feeling to the rest of your movement. In circle walking you aim to connect the whole boy from the feet right u to the skull and allow the blood and qi energy to flow round.

The body is kept open and upright, breathing is from the dantian (lower abdominals) and the feet are rooted and the legs engaged. It also helps teach control of the body through twisting motions, which improves flexibility but also uses the torque of the body to add power. The circle itself adds a layer of power through the use of centrifugal (which draws a body away from the centre of rotation) and centripetal forces (which keep the body moving along a circular path, towards the centre of the circle).

Here are 2 different Youtube videos of circle walking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RquLh85KaoI

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BbLWxLwO4g

Circle walking is believed to be a Taoist form of meditation – to focus minds and gather energy from around you to heal and energise.

Stepping:  Obviously a key component part of the circle walk is the step. In Baguazhang there are many different steps to be learned but the fundamental one is known as “The Mud Slide Step”, from which all of the steps are spawned. This step is also the root of shin kicks, ankle stamps and many leg sweeps. The step is important as it is used to train balance and stability but also how to thrust power up through the legs and to engage energy flow from the feet upwards.

The feet are always kept close to the ground, and usually flat and parallel so that in the event of an attack both feet can be quickly put in a string position back on the ground. This method of walking also trains the leg muscles to be fully engaged and powerful as they have to lift the entire leg rather than coming up onto the toes.

The foot can be slid forward over the ground which is useful for those who like sweeps or trips or it can be lifted slightly and hovered over the ground in the forward step.

Using the palms: Baguazhang places a great emphasis on the use of the open palm as a weapon rather than a closed fist. There are 8 fundamental positions – each based on one of the signs from the trigram, and each 8 positions can be practised in 8 different easy (based on different animals e.g. the bear or the snake) which leads to a huge variation of applications. The palm has more options than a fist – from sharp fingers of a spear hand to the wide surface of the palm, as well as the sharp blade edge of the palm. Defensively the palm can scoop, lift and grab while the hand is open and relaxed and this relaxation helps speed and momentum rather than a tight closed fist which is more likely to tense up the shoulders. The palm movements and shapes are practised in a form known as “Eight Mother Palms” – but it is done whilst circle walking to engage the legs and feet while using the hands.

The eight animal models – (I won’t list them as they vary in different styles of Bagua) each focus on a  different aspect – for example the lion is Yang – hard, powerful, fierce and derives power from the waist whilst the snake is more coiling and develops the back and arms and is especially suited to using knives.

Internally Bagua, and most other Chinese Martial Arts, include:

Qigong: – this is breath control and visualisation which helps to increase circulation and awareness. It seeks to control breath and movement together to develop qi. It is typically practised with rhythmic breathing and fluid movements while visualising the qi flowing through the body.

Neigong: this is also breathing and meditation with deliberate movement, designed to relax but also to learn to have awareness and control over every aspect of your body, even parts which are usually unconscious. Practitioners believe it will lead to health benefits such as faster healing as well as more flow and flexibility.

Waigong: the external element – balance, agility, strength, posture all come under this heading.

All these elements need to be combined and an appreciation of one will lead to insights in the other areas as all are connected. The aim is to develop QI – which is a combination of mind, breath and body – all need to work in harmony and co-ordination to maximise the power from one’s own life energy.

So – I have not really dwelt on the actual fighting techniques of Baguazhang and in fact, hardly any of the information I researched was about specific techniques but overwhelmingly the importance was placed on the foundations – the circle walking, the palms and the use and harnessing of QI.

http://youtu.be/cSg6fUhXNig – Training and moving

http://youtu.be/E6FyX0ICcxo   – This one demonstrates applications

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6FyX0ICcxo&feature=youtu.be

 

 

BoxingHARD MARTIAL ART 5 – BOXING

WHAT IS BOXING?

 

I decided on boxing as one of my hard martial arts almost straight away but when I researched it on the web there seemed to be a lot of dispute as to whether it counted as a Martial Art at all. In the NO camp is the idea that boxing is merely a sport – you train to fight in competitions where there is a clear winner and loser and the objective is to only win the fight or “beat someone up.” Martial arts practitioners also look at the philosophy behind the art and learn to use their skills for self defence and have to weigh up when and if to use their skills in earnest, and would think about the consequences and any alternative strategies.  Without this element to training it is seen as just a fighting sport.

 

However, the YES camp would classify it as a martial art as it is a recognised fighting system, albeit less ritualized than many Oriental styles. It still follows a specific system and can be very effective in teaching self defence.  Historically, particularly in Western countries, boxing and wrestling were taught as self defence methods. Also, they would argue that boxing is not merely “slugging” that there is a mental skill involved which takes it beyond a purely physical pastime.

 

So – I am choosing to look at boxing as a form of Martial Art, albeit not one that possibly fits the category so obviously.

 

Boxing has been around for thousands of years – originally in African and Egypt before spreading to Europe where the Greeks, notably, picked it up and included it in their Olympic Games in 688 BC. It started as bare knuckle fighting – often a fight to the death – and it was not until the 18th Century that it began to be controlled by rules. It was starting to be the boxing we know today – a stand up fight, with the two participants wearing padded gloves fighting in a ring seeking to punch their opponents’ head and torso only.  Today there are amateur competitions where the emphasis is on points scoring and professional bouts where they are more keen to seek a knockout.

 

BOXING AS A HARD MARTIAL ART

 

The aim of boxing, and the underlying goal, is to punch your opponent into submission or unconsciousness. In amateur matches where points are scored – these go to the most aggressive fighter and the one who can land the most clean techniques. In my mind, this has to be classified as one of the “hardest” Martial Arts as it is uncompromisingly direct and, apart from when in defense, the intention is to hurt and debilitate your opponent.

 

“Boxing is the art of hitting an opponent from the furthest distance away, exposing the least amount of your body while getting into position to punch with maximum leverage and not getting hit.”
Kenny Weldon

UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES

Probably because of the reasons why there is dispute as to whether boxing is a Martial Art, I found it difficult to find a true underlying principle or philosophy. Unlike many of the Oriental – Japanese and Chinese arts – which have roots in religions such as Buddhism or Zen, boxing has not grown out of such foundations. However, this does not mean that boxing students do not try and apply their commitment and dedication to other aspects of their lives.  There has to be commitment to training and improvement, there has to be self discipline in training and also outside in terms of keeping healthy and fit and one is always seeking to move up to the next level of fighting – self improvement.

Two quotes I found try and explain this:

Joyce Carol Oates in her book “On Boxing” – Boxers are there to establish an absolute experience, a public accounting of the outermost limits of their beings; they will know, as few of us can know of ourselves, what physical and psychic power they possess – of how much, or how little, they are capable.

Gordon Mariano, a boxing trainer and Professor of Philosophy – While Aristotle is able to define courage; the study and practice of boxing can enable us to not only comprehend courage, but ‘to have and use’ it. By getting into the ring with our fears, we will be less likely to succumb to trepidation when doing the right thing demands taking a hit. To be sure, there is an important difference between physical and moral courage. After all, the world has seen many a brave monster. The willingness to endure physical risks is not enough to guarantee uprightness; nevertheless, it can contribute in powerful ways, to the development of moral virtue.

POWER GENERATION AND EFFECTIVE TECHNIQUE

In my opinion boxing is “simpler” than many of the other martial arts I have looked at, in that it has a much smaller bank of techniques that are called on.  The boxer’s main arsenal consists of four punches – the jab, the cross, the hook and the uppercut (ring any bells, Kickboxing form fans?).  There are, of course, variations of these (such as the bolo punch or check hook) and also infinite combinations, but the basic toolkit is as outlined above.  Defensively there are more options – slipping the body, ducking, bobbing, parrying and blocking, covering up or clinching, although this is only a shortlived defense and can be penalised in matches.

However – as with other Martial Arts, good technique and power begins at the feet – with the stance. A good stance will give you:

  • Power & Defense
  • Range & Balance
  • Flexibility & Security
  • Stability & Mobility

A Good Basic Stance

It needs to be a compromise of stability for power but also lightness for mobility and should enable you to land a variety of punches from different distances. Basically, feet should be should be width apart with the toe of the front foot roughly in line with the rear heel – this turns your body providing a smaller target ad also allowing you to pivot.

The back heel should be slightly lifted off the floor to maximize mobility and even on the front foot which is more planted the weight should be towards the ball. The knees remain bent to spring for power but also to absorb punches and aid balance. Weight is generally distributed 50/50 to keep an even spread. If the feet are too wide it will mean you have to take larger steps to move and are more likely to be caught out in the middle of a step, when you are weakest.

Moving up the body, it is important to keep the shoulders and arms relaxed with the elbows tucked in and the hands up to provide body cover.

Power in a punch starts from the feet up, and depends on leverage and body rotation, using the twist/torque of the body from the hips especially on cross and hook punches. The body rotation and transfer of power from the rear to the front foot adds impact.

There is also a Physics equation I have found that can help to explain how to maximize power:

Power = speed/velocity x mass – so heavier fighters can still have power even with slower punches, and counter to this, a lighter fighter can increase power by their use of speed.

Having said this, some very successful boxers haven’t been the most powerful. Precision and exact placement of a punch can have devastating effects and secure a knockout, even if not at full power – punches to the chin, temple or liver can be as useful as pure power punches.

There are some building blocks in getting the most power in your punch – the most important of which is good technique.  This means that your punches actually land and cause damage – they are not able to be defended because telegraphing is minimised. Good technique also puts the whole body behind the punch to maximise mass – exploding up from the balls of the feet.

Control behind technique is also essential – that you keep your balance if a hit misses, or if it connects that you have the stability to follow up with another powerful punch. Once control is established, speed can be layered in – which increases power and also reduces the chances of it being blocked or evaded.

 

Once speed and mass have been exploited, what else is there that can add power? The answer is timing, strength and flexibility. Timing can be used to use an opponent’s mass against them – as they move forward as you land your punch then their mass can be added to the equation.  This is a harder trick to master as actual contests tend to be quick and dynamic, rather than drill training, so reading the opponent is essential.

 

Strength, rather than huge muscle mass, is sought by boxers, as they prefer to have a better power to weight ratio and huge muscles counter this. Strength is especially focussed in the calves, quads, abdomen, shoulders, chest, lats, triceps and forearms – delivering a pathway for power to travel through.

 

Flexibility allows a greater range of movement, can maximise leverage and will also contribute to an increase in speed.

 

Finally, breathing on the punch will give that final element of power – holding your breath will slow your body and tire you out, whereas exhaling on the effort will concentrate the move.

 

Defensively it is important to have good technique too – as the aim in boxing is to hit without being hit – the best delivered punch is no use if the other guy gets you first! Footwork and the ability to correctly move the head (with the rest of the body following) are the main skills in avoiding an attack and need to be as honed as delivering a killer blow.

 

Footwork: going away – easiest way of evasion, can tire an opponent by making them chase but can tire you also and puts you out of range to counter

Footwork: going around – more akin to tai sabaki, using angles and pivoting which keeps you in attacking range rather than a step backwards but leaves you vulnerable on the move and uses more energy.

Footwork: going forward – smothering punches with your body or “clinching” by trapping their arms with yours, and is good against taller opponents but is only a temporary strategy.

Blocking/Covering Up – keeps you in range but using your gloves/arms to cover your head and body and you can add to this by using your hips to turn and roll the attack away.  This is effective, particularly against jabs, but does leave you slower to counter and also might result in you being pushed back or even broken through by stringer opponents.

Parrying – deflecting a punch rather than receiving it straight into a block. This is useful against larger attackers and can render them off balance using their own weight and momentum against them. It works best against straight punches and against opponents who throw themselves into a punch.

Rolling – A step up from parrying, this is using the body to deflect attacks. Rolling the shoulders deflects a punch but leaves your hands free to counter

Slipping/Swaying/Fading – This also rotates the body but so that a punch is evaded by turning the head or body to the side.

Ducking/Bobbing/Weaving – other body evasion moves – ducking under a punch, bobbing the head sideways and under a punch then weaving back upright using the legs to lower and raise the body.

Surely the quote that sums up these two, contrary sides of boxing is Muhammed Ali’s famous, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.”

A successful boxer must have powerful, accurate punches but also be nimble and light enough on their feet to avoid injury. A perfect combination of power and grace.

 

http://youtu.be/qMWs6rYMvwM   – Knockouts, good examples of the “hard” nature of boxing

 

http://youtu.be/woTLysKIQVM   – Mike Tyson using different evasion techniques

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SOFT AND HARD MARTIAL ARTS – Judo and Taekwondo

Written by Katherine. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013

REPORT 2 – SOFT AND HARD MARTIAL ARTS

Judo and Taekwondo

 

Basingstoke Judo, Basingstoke Taekwondo, Martial ArtsThis is part 2 of my 2nd dan research project – comparing and contrasting 5 hard and 5 soft Martial Arts. This report contains research on judo and taekwondo – hopefully there should be some familiar ground when read with Report 1, and some new elements.   Unlike the two Martial Arts that I chose for Part 1, these two are ones I am        more familiar with. I am learning judo myself and know friends that do Taekwondo – and obviously have seen both on TV during the Olympics.

 

SOFT MARTIAL ART 2 – JUDO

WHAT IS JUDO?

 

Judo is a Japanese Martial Art, founded by Jigoro Kano in 1882.  It grew out of the Jujutsu (jujitsu) movement, which used throws, punches, kicks, chokes, throws etc in its attacks. Judo can be translated as JU – “gentleness, or giving way” and DO – “principle or way”, and put together it is “the way of gentleness”.  Judo is primarily known for its throwing techniques – “nage-waza”, and holds – “katame-waza” (including locks and strangles) but also has a bank of striking techniques – “atemi-waza” which are only to be used in self defence, as a last resort when someone is in extreme danger.

 

JUDO AS A SOFT MARTAL ART

 

Judo is classified as “soft” because it does not seek to work by pushing back against an attacker – the man who is stronger will win, but rather it advocates turning the body and keeping balance so that the attacker will lose his. He is then weakened and the judoka can use this advantage to overcome the attacker. By giving way you conserve energy while your attacker uses all theirs.

 

A lot of the moves use the idea of turning your opponent, applying the idea of leverage to throw them – around the hip, with a foot placed on the attacker’s Achilles, or pulling their outstretched arm for example.

UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES

Kano studied jujutsu under many different teachers but was dissatisfied with the lack of underlying principles and also the differences in teaching – how was he to know which way was correct? Kano sought out his own principle which applied when you were hitting or throwing an opponent: to make the most efficient use of mental and physical energy – and he then rejected all techniques that didn’t fit this idea.

As mentioned before, the name Judo translates as “the Way of gentleness” and Kano saw “the Way” as being the concept of life itself.   Judo is not merely for self defence, it is a way of life. He sought to apply the idea of maximum efficiency to all areas of life – physically, in terms of being healthy and strong but also mentally and morally disciplined too. Sport or exercise should be useful and carried out with interest and intent in order to be useful.

Judo uses kata (pre-arranged movements) and randori (free practise) to train the body and mind. Randori, especially, teaches the judoka to seek out the opponent’s weaknesses, make quick decisions and act decisively.  It is important to choose the most efficient technique to overcome the opponent, and not to use too much force and cause injury.

Controlling anger and emotions, such as worry, was also a goal of Kano’s – he wanted Judo to help people choose a path to success and make positive choices.

Kano believed that the principles of Judo also applied to life outside the dojo – and can be summed up:

1. Carefully observe oneself and one’s situation, carefully observe others, and carefully observe one’s environment
2. Seize the initiative in whatever you undertake
3. Consider fully, act decisively
4. Know when to stop
5. Keep to a single path, don’t become either cocky with victory or downhearted by defeat

If the principle of maximum efficiency is applied to life then there will be harmony and peace, mutual welfare, high achievement as well as wholesome bodies and a good method of self defence.

POWER GENERATION AND EFFECTIVE TECHNIQUE

Footwork is essential in mastering correct technique in judo – to keep balanced but also to be able to turn into a position (tai sabaki) where you can turn overthrow your opponent.  Breaking the opponent’s balance is also crucial and this is achieved by altering their centre of gravity from the middle, and this is known as “kuzushi”.  It is important to counter your opponent’s attempts to break your own balance – give way to them then apply your own kuzushi.  To then throw you need to move into a good position – this is called “tsukuri”.

Training in these techniques often involves a process called “uchikomi” – repeated practise of the movements needed for a throw, but stopping before the actual throw – this can train the footwork and body position necessary but does not actually complete the process so is a limited tool.  Randori (free practise) is now accepted to be the major building block of judo skills – it teaches you to read your opponent and also practise on the move. Moving beyond the static is more realistic as you cannot guarantee what position or balance your your opponent will be in when you come to throw so you need to learn to read the situation and position yourself accordingly – there are no prescribed patterns in randori, so correct technique becomes essential.

The final piece in generating power in judo is adding the hips in.  The process begins, as we have seen, with kuzushi which is achieved by using the arms to break the opponent’s balance. This can be done by gripping the jacket which can then be pushed and pulled to manoeuvre the opponent into a position where they are weaker and their grounding is broken. All throws have to begin with this balance breaking – it is almost impossible to throw without this, especially if the opponent is larger than you. Other methods of initially breaking this balance are using a strike or feint to make them respond and move or, if they have moved into throw you, by effecting a counter attack.  The second phase is the tsukuri – stepping into the correct position whilst still maintaining the pressure and pulling with the arms, before finally moving on to executing the throw.

Using your hips at this final stage is crucial in power generation in judo – rather than just using the arms to pull or push an opponent, although these are useful in starting the process of kuzushi.  Judo requires you to not just use your upper body strength but this is not always a natural thing to do.  To teach this, it can be useful to start off with larger movements, a “wind up” – swinging your leg into position, or twitching your hip and then refine and lessen these signs as you improve.

Lower body strength is essential in being able to move power upwards and forwards and then transfer this power to the upper body via the hips.  This theory is known as “koshi” which is the Japanese word for the area between your belly button and hips, but is used to refer to generating power with the hips. The hips connect the upper and lower body and co-ordinate the movements of both halves of the body together and add the power of your legs to your smaller arms.

Hip Twisting causes the upper body to follow the hips while still remaining relaxed which adds speed, and brings the whole weight of the body into a technique – for power.

Hip Thrusting uses both hips together rather than twisting which focuses more on pushing one hip forward.  Both hips move in the same direction whilst contracting the abdominal and gluteal muscles.

In addition, hips provide the rotation needed to execute good throws and also the power to turn out of hold downs.

A You Tube clip of uchikomi – repeated practise of a throw: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zbs_aGNZVnI

And a bit of Olympic judo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsGD9fStPJQ

(Reference – “Kodokan Judo” by Jigoro Kano)

 

HARD MARTIAL ART 2 – TAEKWONDO

WHAT IS TAEKWONDO?

 

Taekwondo (also written as Taekwon-Do, Tae Kwon Do or TKD) is a Korean Martial Art which focuses on fighting and self defence and, nowadays, is a very popular sport Martial Art, and also an Olympic event. Its name translates from the Korean as: TAE – “to strike or break with the foot”, KWON – “to strike or break with the fist” and DO – “the way or path” – or put together – the way of the foot and the hand.  There are 2 main strands of the style: ITF TKD which is also known as “traditional” taekwondo and more “sport” taekwondo which has a more competition focus and is WTF TKD.

Historically, the style developed from three schools of unarmed combat, dating back hundreds of years, and they also focussed of Confucian and Buddhist ethics and philosophies.  It was particularly warriors who trained in these ways. Over time, Korean Martial Arts declined and were just used by the military. Japanese occupation of Korea reignited an interest in Martial Arts and eventually the schools unified under the title of taekwondo, which is still studied today.

 

TAEKWONDO AS A HARD MARTAL ART

 

TKD is classed as a “hard” martial art as it concentrates a lot on the use of kicking techniques, working on the principle that the leg is the longest and strongest limb and can mount attacks with the least chance of a successful counter.  Direct blocks, kicks, punches and strikes are included although some schools also include throws, locks and pressure points.

Unlike many other Martial Arts which concentrate on unarmed combat or the use of weapons, TKD also places a lot of emphasis on board or tile breaking.

UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES

Taekwondo, philosophically, has 5 principles or tenets:

Courtesy (YeUi) – having respect for and consideration of self and others; being polite; humility

Integrity (Yom Chi) – sticking to what you know is right; having a moral and ethical code; honesty

Perseverance (In Nae) – sticking with it, even when it seems impossible, or unattainable; dedication

Self control (Guk Gi) – being able to exert your will over impulses and emotions and desires of the body; learning to use the powerful techniques safely and wisely; patience, discipline

Indomitable sprit  (Baekjul Boolgool)– pushing yourself mentally and physically to be the best you can, overcoming failures and getting back up; maintaining inner strength; bravery; courage

All these principles apply to TKD training in the dojang (dojo) and also to life outside at work, with family or doing everyday routines.

POWER GENERATION AND EFFECTIVE TECHNIQUE

(With thanks to Senior Master Raymond O’Neill VIII Dan for help)

TaeKwonDo has a “Theory of Power” which can be remembered with the acronym: CREMBS. All elements need to be considered and used together to deliver the most powerful and effective techniques.

1)      CONCENTRATION – (Yip Joong)

Concentration is broken down into TWO main elements:

The first is concentrating all your energy into the smallest output point. When punching you want the whole force of your body and punch directed into the smallest area ie the first 2 knuckles. This is akin to being trodden on either by the entire sole of a shoe or by a stiletto heel – same body weight, very different pain levels!  The effectiveness is increased even more if vital points on the opponent are attacked.

 

The second form of concentration is what we know as “kime” where all the muscles are tensed at the moment of impact. This has the effect of using the power of the larger muscles, especially around the hp to add impetus to the smaller ones and increase their intensity.

 

2)      REACTION FORCE – (Bang Dong Ryok)

Again there are 2 types of reaction:

The first is your own reaction; using the physics theory that every action has an equal and opposite reaction so pulling back one hand aids the forward movement of the other and increases the power output.

 

The second is your opponent’s reaction – using their own large mass against them as they move onto your smaller, concentrated point of attack.  This will allow a smaller strike to have a devastating effect when added to the speed and mass of the attacker, effectively using their own energy against themselves.

 

3)      EQUILIBRIUM – (Kyung Hyung)

Another word for this is balance, and this – again – has 2 strands:

a)      Static – This is the ability to maintain balance when still by keeping the centre of gravity controlled through the correct use of stances and weight distribution.

b)      Dynamic – this applies when moving – to be able to perform moving techniques especially kicks while keeping well balanced.  It is important to control hand movements and not lean back too far, for example, to keep the centre of gravity central to the body.

 

4)      MASS – (Zilyang)

Mass is our size, it cannot be altered or changed, but it can be manipulated to enhance the production of power. Gravity works on mass to increase weight – think of pushing a car uphill – hard work but the same car will roll downwards with ease – but it has a constant mass.

To increase power and force you can apply the following techniques to your mass:

a)      Hip Twist – Using the large muscles in your hip and abdomen will increase the weight and speed of your punch or block and thus, increase the power produced.

b)      Knee Spring – This allows you to bring gravity into play and increase the weight of your technique. Bending the knee downwards slightly while performing a move will add gravity to your mass (like the car rolling down the hill) and again increase the power.

c)      Sine Wave – This is the practise of using circular movements, like a steam train wheel where the off centre arm travels backwards, upwards, forwards and downwards in its travel. In TKD this is used when punching, say, and the arm is moving in a downward and forward movement on point if impact – maximising the weight increase.

Using all three weight increase techniques together will deliver the most additional power possible.

 

5)      BREATH CONTROL – (Hohup Joojool)

Exhaling fast is critical when fighting – both when delivering an attack but also when receiving one. In doing so, the abdominal muscles will tense and tighten allowing you to absorb an attack more effectively and if done on point of impact will increase power to the attack but also ready you for any counter-attack.

 

6)      SPEED – (Sokdo)

Like with reaction, Speed also conforms to the laws of physics – in layman’s terms: power = speed x mass. Basically, the more you accelerate, the more power is produced.  A ball gently thrown at a window will bounce off, yet the same ball thrown at speed will break it.  Similarly, a hand or foot on its own will cause no damage but when speed is applied they can deliver devastating blows.

 

Combining these 6 elements will ensure every technique is executed to its maximum potential.

 

Clips:

The first 2 are a selection of TKD kicks – the kicks are great, the editing less so: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H48XGX0L5DI and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQV_OvD7bhM

 

And a bit of board breaking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN7YVOLRtmQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SOFT AND HARD MARTIAL ARTS – Hapkido and Bajiquan

Written by Katherine. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013

Martial Arts, Wrestling, Basingstoke, Karate, Self Defence, Protection, CombatREPORT 1 – SOFT AND HARD MARTIAL ARTS by Katherine White

Hapkido and Bajiquan

 

WHAT IS A MARTIAL ART?

Before any Martial Art, hard or soft, can be looked at, it needs to be understood what is meant by these terms.

There is no one, definite, definition of what is a “Martial Art”, and some people will have quite rigorous boundaries as to what styles come under the umbrella. A quick hop around the web comes up with a variety of answers – ranging from:

Martial Art n ( Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged)

Any of various philosophies of self-defence and techniques of single combat, such as judo or karate, originating in the Far East.

 

Martial Art noun (Concise Encyclopedia)

Any of several Arts of combat and self-defense that are widely practiced as sport. There are armed and unarmed varieties, most based on traditional fighting methods used in East Asia.

But from Martial Arts-based sites the definition goes back to the Latin and means “Arts of Mars,” where Mars is the Roman god of war.  Martial Arts is another way saying the “Art of combat” or “Art of waging of war.” Martial Arts can be a set of movements used for offensive or defensive purposes.  This does not depend on the country or religion of origin but uses the term to encompass all fighting skills. Indeed, in 1639, the term was used in reference to English Fencing. It also means that more modern systems can be included as the term does not refer solely to old Oriental styles. It is this idea that I am using, not the narrow one that the dictionaries above define.

 

HARD OR SOFT?

Unfortunately for you ladies out there, hard or soft does not refer to the consistency of a chocolate’s centre but rather the principle of use of force that applies to a certain Martial Art. The two terms are simply meant to describe the intent and mentality of the practitioner.

Soft does not in any way mean “weedy”, non-combative or light but, rather, is the principle of controlling your attacker and turning their force and momentum against them. This can be achieved by leading and moving the attacker into a position where they are more off balance and at a disadvantage by the use of tai sabaki (body evasion) and circular blocks and movements.  Often this is then countered by a throw or lock – using minimal direct force, but punches and kicks can be incorporated, particularly with a view to distracting the opponent to allow you to set up a throw or use a lock or hold. Soft Martial Arts rely on redirection of energy rather than strength on strength but they are no less painful than hard styles.

Similarly, a hard technique or style does not mean painful, or difficult but is more defined as “force meets force” – where the defender meets the attacker more head on. The idea is to block the attacker’s strike in order to hurt them, and thus discourage further attacks or disable the attacker from striking again.  In hard styles it can be useful to learn specific points to attack to achieve the maximum incapacitation. Typically this will involve direct punches or kicks.

There is no “right or wrong” style, just different and I believe that the most effective Martial Arts will combine elements of both styles. Most branches of fighting will not exclusively exhibit only hard or soft traits, but for the sake of labelling I will look at their predominant aim.  The definition can be looked at in terms of “opposing and yielding” – and most styles incorporate both and each hard or soft style uses timing and body position.  At first glance, the results in hard Martial Arts can be more immediate and obvious whereas the softer Arts can take longer to learn as the subtleties can be less apparent but ultimately can allow someone to defend against much larger attackers rather than trying to meet strength with strength which will not always be favourable for smaller people.

In the East Asian Martial Arts, the corresponding hard technique and soft technique terms are “pinyin yìng”, (Japanese ) and “pinyin róu”, (Japanese ), hence Jujitsu -“Art of softness”, “way of yielding” and Judo -“gentle way”. (Wikipedia)

SOFT MARTIAL ART 1 – HAPKIDO

 

I chose Hapkido as one of my soft martial arts because I had not heard about it until I started this research.  It is turning into an interesting (and time consuming journey) finding out about different branches of martial arts as there is so much information out there!

 

WHAT IS HAPKIDO?

 

Hapkido is a Korean martial Art, by origin, and is primarily taught as a method of self defence rather than as a primary attack. Its repertoire includes joint locks, pressure points, throws, kicks and strikes.  Traditionally, the weapons associated with Hapkido are the sword, rope, short stick, cane and staff.

 

The discipline was created by Choi Yong-Sul, a Korean, who spent 30 years in Japan, returning to Korea after WWII. He had knowledge of jujitsu and eventually this changed into his own style, known as Hapkido.  It was designed to work against other martial arts, and specific attacks used by other styles and over the years it has adapted to new techniques used by other Martial Arts. Initially many of Hapkido’s moves were as a defence against judo attacks – hence the use of grabs and throws, but over time responses to sword attacks from Kendo and knife defences were added when Koreans banned guns so knife attacks increased. The kicks from TaeKwonDo were a reason for Hapkido to add defences against kicks.  Because of this application against other combat techniques, Hapkido is often used by the military and police for close range combat.

 

HAPKIDO AS A SOFT MARTAL ART

 

Hapkido is classified as a sort martial art although has elements of hard styles within it, and on a scale would be more towards the “hard-soft” end rather than out and out soft.  Fundamentally it is a circular style of martial art seeking to redirect and off-balance attackers rather than meeting them head on with force against force.  Non-resisting, circular movements and control of the opponent are stressed. It uses the principle of using minimal force, not strength and, indeed, a larger opponent can present a greater energy mass to be redirected resulting in more effective techniques for the Hapkido student.  As mentioned before, it is taught as a self defence programme, only to be used in the case of an attack.  Even when using “harder” techniques such as kicks and strikes, Hapkido prefers circular rather than linear movements.

 

UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES

As with most Martial Arts, Hapkido has spread and different schools will focus on and teach different techniques, but underpinning all the teaching are 3 main principles:

1)      HWA – which relates to non-resistance or harmony

2)      WON – the circle principle

3)      YU – the water principle, or flow and flexibility.

1)      HWA

This is simply the act of remaining relaxed and not directly opposing an opponent’s strength. For example, if an opponent were to push against a Hapkido student’s chest, rather than resist and push back, the Hapkido student would avoid a direct confrontation by moving in the same direction as the push and utilizing the opponent’s forward momentum to throw him.  It is the fundamental idea of softness – meeting forces with minimum force to deflect and not clash with the opponent’s power.

Physical and mental harmony linked to techniques and environment are crucial. If a skill is only learned in your mind but not carried out effectively by your body then that skill is useless. Hapkido emphasises repetition in training so that mind and body work as one effective unit, and so will respond to a challenge more effectively.

Harmony and unity with the attacker is also vital in order to control and manipulate their energy and motion in order to turn the attack against you into a defence.  The attack has to be first intercepted and “blended with” or “harmonised with” in order to use a circular movement to redirect the energy.

2)      WON

A circle is a perfect shape, and can be seem to be always flowing and difficult to take hold of. There is also the idea of a circular “personal space” around everyone, which is the area we are trying to protect from invasion.

Won is the circular principle, used to carry out the techniques in a natural and free-flowing way. It is effectively used against linear attacks such as a punch or knife strike and teaches the Hapkido student to redirect the force away in a circular motion, so adding the attacker’s power and strength to the counter movement, and also destroying the balance and body position of the attacker.  Once the advantage has been gained, Hapkido offers many different options to overcome the attacker and gain the upper hand. An attacker is seen as an Energy entity rather than a physical entity. The bigger the person is, the more energy a person has, and the better it is for the Hapkido student.

 

Another benefit of using circular movements is that the risk of injury to the defender is less – in two ways: firstly, they are less likely to be caught by the initial attack and secondly, as the attack is not met head-on there is less chance for strength on strength clashes. How many of us have ended up with bruised arm and legs when performing a straight-on block?

With practise, the Hapkido student can use circles to apply locks and holds and also can learn how to lead the attacker into performing moves that will get them in a perfect place for circular counter attack.

3)      YU

Water demonstrates many traits and behaviours that are sought by the Hapkido student: water is soft, adaptable, free-flowing, patient and can be destructive if concentrated and directed well.

Softness equates to the much seen idea here that Hapkido does not rely on physical strength alone.  Water does not “fight” with anything in its path – it merely flows around it, adapting its path only to rejoin on the other side and completely surround the obstacle. This is the idea behind deflecting an opponent’s strike.  Water will blend in with whatever it meets, it changes shape to whatever it is contained within, rather than seeking to stand out and remain immovable.

So, water will adapt and change course when meeting an obstacle, rather than clashing. Water will collect until there is enough to go around or over larger rocks or even engulf it and water is not stiff or unbending and has the reliance to be flexible whatever may come its way.

Having said this, water can be a powerful force when concentrated as seen in a waterfall or a fireman’s hose, but behind this power are the same soft, gentle drops that make up a stream.

A Hapkido practitioner will seek to copy these principles – adapting to an attacker, pulling and pushing rather than working with head-on resistance, but being able to direct all their energy in one direction to achieve maximum results.

POWER GENERATION AND EFFECTIVE TECHNIQUE

Power generation in Hapkido comes from the ground up and from utilising the whole body in a technique, not just from the arm. Footwork and body position are essential in assisting the circular movements that are fundamental to the style – they will get you into the correct position to use leverage rather than strength.  Controlling the balance of the attacker is also key so Hapkido students are taught to use especially the head and neck to gain maximum leverage.

A key to the belief of effective technique in Hapkido can be found in the translation of the name itself. HAP = harmony, flowing motion; KI = body and mind co-ordination and DO = the way to bring on power so, put together, this can be read as “The way to harmony through body and mind co-ordination.” Breathing is important to this – and it is known as DANJEON or abdominal breathing and can also be called DANTIAN which means “energy centre” or “sea of KI”. A lot of time and importance is placed on this breathing to effectively control your body and the energy within.

The awareness of KI – life energy – is also important and correct breathing is used to promote fluid motion, help balance and channel KI. Unlike some Martial Arts, Hapkido does not have forms or kata but rather focuses on meaningful basic techniques designed for real life situations allowing the student to have a balanced mind and well honed response so they can make natural and appropriate responses to any attack.

http://youtu.be/NrWCYk6_4cg

 

These above information includes links to 2 Youtube videos of Hapkido in action!  They are both “demonstration” videos rather than out and out fighting but it gives you a chance to see the techniques in action.

 

 

 

HARD  MARTIAL ART 1 – BAJIQUAN

 

For very similar reason to Hapkido, I chose to investigate Bajiquan as I only heard about it during my research on Hard and Soft Martial Arts for this project.

WHAT IS BAJIQUAN?

 

Bajiquan is a Chinese Martial Art that originates in the north of the country, which focuses on fast, short range explosive power movements and is especially noted for its elbow strikes.

In full, its name is kai men baji quan which translates as “open gate with extremities fist”, and this can give a hint at the principles of the style. Another name was bazi quan which means “rake fist” to describe how the hands are held in loose fists and used to strike downwards in a raking motion.

Another translation of its name is “Eight Extremes” and refers to the usage of power that is administered through eight major body parts: the head, the shoulders, the elbows, the hands, the buttocks, the waist, the knees and the feet. It is also known as the “Bodyguard Style,” since many of its followers served to protect the Chinese Emperors and other members of the Imperial Family.

 

BAJIQUAN AS A HARD MARTIAL ART

 

As with most styles, Bajiquan is not exclusively “hard” but it is classed as such because its principle movements and techniques are.  It is mostly a powerful style, relying on sudden use of explosive force, known as “fa jin”, to break through the opponent’s attack, destroy his body position and attain a quick and final victory.

 

UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES

 

It was harder to find an out and out Manifesto of Baji’s underlying principles. It seems that one of its early founders was Wu Zhueng (also recorded as Wu Zhong) who integrated other Chinese Martial Arts he had been taught. He developed a style that had roots in Taoist chi gung and also in hard and fast military fighting. The traditions and roots were handed down orally so much has been lost  – there are stories of Wu Zhueng being taught Bajiquan by wandering monks, or alternatively that it has roots in remote Shaolin temples.

The objective of Bajiquan is to get close to the opponent and strike, and defensively to use small, close movements to protect the central body. A simple principle is then followed: “The hands protect the head, the elbows protect the body, the knees protect the crotch, the feet protect the legs”.

 

GENERATNG POWER AND EFFECTIVE TECHNIQUE

 

The most distinctive feature of Bajiquan is its short power techniques – elbow strikes, hip checks, shoulder strikes etc , all executed  with violent, fast movements. There are six different methods of issuing power, known as “jin” – and especially fa jin – the explosive power.  There is no swinging to generate power – Bajiquan uses a one-hit push-strike from close range. Acceleration of the movement is what gives it the power, and this is created from the waist and then travels to the limb. Further power is added by using a stomping/charging step known as “zhen jiao.”  This “jin” is developed through extensive lower body training, with a special emphasis on horse stance, as well as controlled breathing. Baji’s power relies on using the waist, hip and step to deliver full body weight into a small area.

 

The use of Chi or Ki is also studied, and breathing is used to help the release of energy. Abdominal breathing is important but also an explosive technique of circulating Ki, called “Xing Qi” which uses the HENG and HA sounds to aid power release.

 

There are 6 “big openings”, or basic forces, which are (in a nutshell): Thrusting (pushing the elbow or fist forward and up), Gathering (a hugging action), Raising (the knee or foot to thigh level), Whipping (using a single motion), Hip Rotation and Twining (entanglement with rotation around the wrist, elbow or shoulder).

It is only when these openings, footwork and breathing are combined in the shortest time scale that an effective Baji strike can be achieved.

As it is an explosive style, most attacks look to cause the most instant damage – hence the focus on striking an opponent’s most vulnerable areas – the chest, legs and neck.

 

I shall finish with a great anecdote about one of the early practitioners of Bajiquan:

“In his old age, LiShuWen always confided in grandmaster Liu that he doesn’t know what the power of his second punch is like, because he had always managed to kill his opponents with only one punch, and never had the chance to use a second one. From this we can see the emphasis of faJing in BaJiQuan.”

 

There are two Links to YouTube clips: The first is a solo demonstration of some moves, interspersed with him using then against n opponent. The second is more of a training style clip.

 

 

 

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