Saturday, June 18, 2011

Talking With a Hakko-Ryu Sensei

I had an opportunity to speak with a teacher of Hakko-ryu ju-jutsu (八光流柔術). One thing that he said that I thought I would like to share.

He mentioned that most martial arts spend a lot of time training in things other than sparring. Even a boxer does not spar everyday, but instead steps up on sparring practice only before matches. Most of the time, the training is focused on other things. This made me recall what my teacher said about pushing hands practice before I came over to Japan. He told me not to worry about not being able to practise pushing hands. Instead, he told me to focus on my normal taiji practices.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

High Stance

One thing I realised from practising with a high stance during pushing hands. In the past, I practised with a lower stance, it allowed me to move out of danger even though there are parts of my body that is still not relaxed. In a way, I could use distance to neutralise my opponent's force.

But with a high stance, I no longer have the luxury of distance. My body really must be relaxed, else I cannot neutralise my opponent's force. And because of this, it helped me realise the faults with my stance. My chest is still not round enough... I still have a slight force that pushes my chest outwards. My kua still has a tendency to stick out towards my opponent. My elbow still have a tendency to point outwards rather than downwards. Most important of all, I am still not relaxed enough in total... the kua may be able to turn, but that is at the expense of the rest of the body, which is wrong. I was so focused on making the kua relaxed and able to turn that I overlook the real meaning of relax, which is the whole body. When the whole body (from head to toe) is relaxed, the kua will naturally be relaxed as well and able to turn.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

A (Slightly) Different Style

In my search for a place to practise pushing hands, I have found a group that practises Wu (吴) style pushing hands. It is very similar to what I have been practising in Singapore, so I decided to stick with it for the time being.

However, there are differences.

- The stance is a lot higher than what I used to practise. My teacher (Mr Kwek) advocates a low stance when practising pushing hands, but this group advocates a high stance (almost like standing). And because of that, the knees are only really really slightly bent.
- I was told not to turn my kua too much, instead to just move my kua in the direction that I want to push, and then only slightly. This is in relation to when I am being pushed. Complete context is: When pushed in one direction, sink down, then move kua slightly in the direct opposite direction. The key is to be very very relaxed at the point of contact. I would say even limp.
- When pushed, my opponents jump around a lot in what seems like an attempt to dissipate the force. I was told that the key to being able to do this is to "withstand the incoming force with my feet" but somehow, I still don't see how that links to jumping around... this is probably going to get some time to figure out.

That's all for now, I guess it will take some time to get used to a different style, but I think there are things to be learnt from this as well. I would say I have a clear idea of how I want to better myself, and this is a good chance to learn something different, to see things from a different angle.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Being Stable

I was observing a taiji class the other day, and the instructor was talking about the importance of being stable. An important thing in taiji is not to overdo something. You should not stretch yourself beyond your ability. You do not move your centre of gravity beyond what is needed to achieve a movement. And therefore you remain stable. While broad, elaborate movements may look nice, stable movements are what taiji is about.

The key:
- Move as a whole. If your kua has stopped moving, your upper body should stop too. A common mistake I make is to do the small little silk-reeling movements of Chen-style taiji with my hands, without linking it to my kua movement. While it may look nice, it is not taiji.
- Shift your weight to the supporting leg before taking a step. When taking a step, the leg that moves should touch down like a feather. Only when the foot is properly on the ground, then should you start placing weight on it. Else you will suddenly shift your centre of gravity, which can be exploited during pushing hands.