Continuing the Basics

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrating One Finger Shooting Zen, a "ta chong" (force training on stance) exercise. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrating One Finger Shooting Zen, a force training exercise from Shaolin Kung Fu. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

Had a fun training session (aren’t they all?) split across 2015 January 2. My first session emphasized One Finger Shooting Zen. I may have mentioned to a few folks that my previous sessions of tachong (force training exercises performed while “sitting” in a stance, such as One Finger Shooting Zen from Shaolin Kung Fu or Lifting Water from Taijiquan), when going through the whole form-flow-force method (for example, doing five rounds each of One Finger Shooting Zen emphasizing form, then flow, focusing force, and closing would take upwards of a half hour. A fair amount of time for force training, especially for a busy student like me! I experimented with having less rounds at form and flow and more rounds with focusing/consolidating and was quite happy with the result; again, more force and mental clarity developed in a shorter period of time.

David and I sparring in late 2015, with my attempting to strike at David's ribs with a palm strike. Notice how I used my right hand to "close" David's arms before going in for my palm strike. What happens next? Watch here and find out! https://vimeo.com/150502715

David and I sparring in late 2015, with my attempting to strike at David’s ribs with a palm strike. Notice how I used my right hand to “close” David’s arms before going in for my palm strike. How does David defend himself? Watch here and find out!

Afterwards came practicing Dark Dragon Draws Water, that is, a reverse palm strike performed at the Bow Arrow stance. While I actually prefer Fierce Dragon Across Stream (a longer palm strike from the Bow Arrow stance, especially given its usage in the second set of Shaolin combat sequences and in Baguazhang), I found the pattern and body mechanics very useful and reflexive in sparring, plus it pays to shore up things that are uncomfortable. I noticed that here and there I wound wind up “floating” for whatever reason, so I had to spend a fair amount of time aware of my dan tian and balance.

There was also leg stretching to be had. For whatever reason, I’ve noticed that Dragonfly Plays With Water (seated forward bend with widespread legs) has been getting easier and that my legs are gradually opening up in that exercise. Some tightness still in the lower back, but at least the hips themselves are opening up more, for which I’m glad. Finally noticing some improvements after a few years worth of plateauing there, heh.

My second session began with Thirty Punches with an emphasis on breath control. I’ve found this exercise to be particularly neat for building up confidence in using one breath to handle many patterns, as there isn’t so much moving around like there is with using a set such as Lohan Asks the Way to train breath control. It was quite fun letting one breath cover ten, then twenty, and finally all thirty punches. Just like Sifu mentioned in The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu, even without trying, the speed of punches got faster. The gentle thought of my punch being forceful enough to batter down a wall seemed to further enhance force getting past my wrist and all the way into my fist. I have to admit, it feels wonderful to feel that forceful. Haven’t tried punching any walls down yet, though!

David uses White Horse Presents Hoof (a particular type of thrust kick) while I move off to the side and counterattack with Single Whip Saves Emperor (a backfist to the kicking ankle or knee), illustrating the principle of "direct counterattack." Taken from our video here. https://vimeo.com/150502715

David uses White Horse Presents Hoof (a particular type of thrust kick) while I move off to the side and counterattack with Single Whip Saves Emperor (a backfist to the kicking ankle or knee), illustrating the principle of “direct counterattack.” I’ll admit that I was in transition and not appropriately in a full stance before sending out my backfist there. Taken from our video here.

Sequence practice consisted, again, of White Horse Presents Hoof, with ten rounds of getting into form-force-flow and ten rounds each dealing with an imaginary opponent “breaking” the sequence at each point with a straight strike, side kick, gripping my punching arm, or attempting to fell me over their leg. I had the same “wall breaking” thought every now and then through the sequence practice and noticed that some times it spontaneously mutated into a thought of “through the heart punch” or “through the heart kick.” In kungn fu parlance, a “through the heart” strike refers to having so much force that your power penetrates through an opponent’s internal organs, dealing a severe injury or killing them outright. Not something in the domain of a mere student for the most part! I’m not at that ridiculous level of force, my punches and kicks certainly felt very forceful compared to just a few weeks ago.

Every so often I switch around between simply rolling into an opponent versus arrow stepping or flying into the opponent’s space, but I’ll be making a dedicated study of footwork methods like that in the future. For the moment, I’m content with what Baguazhang practice has given me regarding footwork methods, though I’ll admit that stories about Dong Hai Chuan’s student, “Flying Legs” Song Changrong, are a definite inspiration for me. Furthermore with Baguazhang, I’ve noticed that my Unicorn Stepping, especially when dealing with my imaginary opponent attempting to use Fell Tree With Roots or otherwise on me, is certainly influenced by Baguazhang stepping; I’m always attempting to get to the side or back rather than spar face to face.

I also noticed that the double Tiger Claw from the second section of One Finger Shooting Zen often occurs spontaneously just before doing the thrust kick in the sequence. A few times, the pulling of the double Tiger Claws was quite forceful in going back and down, with my hands sometimes winding up down and behind me at the level of the mid-thigh. It made me wonder afterwards if pulling an opponent down quite forcefully onto a kick with their double hook hands and crab claws is what Northern Shaolin practitioners are doing in some of their sets.

Anyhow, those were the broad strokes of today’s training. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

As a note, the main things I’m training are:

  • One Finger Shooting Zen with occasional forays into Golden Bridge
  • Art of Flexible Legs and, less often, Art of One Hundred Kicks
  • Thirty Punches
  • Dark Dragon Draws Water technique practice
  • White Horse Presents Hoof combat sequence
  • Occasionally a full combat application set from the Basic Shaolin syllabus
  • And, of course, “enjoying the flow of life.”
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