Golden Bridge and Thirty Punches

All kung fu styles have characteristic stances used to develop force. Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrates Golden Bridge, the most characteristic stance chosen for force training in Southern Shaolin kung fu. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrates Golden Bridge, one of the major stances in Shaolin kung fu to develop solid stances and strong arms. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

My family medicine rotation started today and I have a rather uncertain schedule, so I’m not sure if I’ll be posting daily, but I do plan to keep posting at least weekly, heh.

Practice was split up into several smaller sessions today again. My early morning session involved Lifting Sun & Moon, Art of Thirty Punches, and Old Monk Removes Shoes. Lifting Sun & Moon seems to have long since replaced Lifting the Sky as my favorite “just qigong” pattern. About two years ago, one of my questions to Sifu concerned opening patterns and some particulars can be read here; some interesting reasons behind why various styles employ different opening patterns can be read there. Regardless, I particularly like the movement of Lifting Sun & Moon because it’s presently helping to open up my hunched shoulders. As I write this, I realize I should also be performing General Surveys Field throughout the day; in fact, back in 2012, Sifu taught me that pattern as everyone was about to go home after a regional seminar and I was waiting for a taxi; “Your posture is hunched over and no good! Stand like this!” he said, and just like that, Sifu “gave” me one of the Eighteen Jewels of Shaolin Wahnam qigong. Neat, huh?

Art of Thirty Punches, after Lifting Sun & Moon, provided a wonderful “wake up call” early in the morning (well, some folks wake up before 5:30, and I was waking up at 3:30 am during my surgery rotation, but nowadays, 5:30 am is early enough for me, haha). I noticed that when I didn’t have any particular thoughts during the exercise, force tended to spread from my shoulders to my fists, compared to focusing more intensely at the fist when using the gentle thoughts mentioned in my last post. Just an observation.

Old Mo

“Old Monk Removes Shoe,” a flexibility exercise very popular in Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. Image taken from shaolin.org 

Old Monk Removes Shoes has always been my favorite flexibility exercise, and I tend to practice it in the fashion usually performed from the Eighteen Lohan Art, that is, with the heel on the ground and the toes pointed upwards. I noticed that in some past videos and photographs of me, the knee of my straightened leg was slightly bent, rather than being appropriately extended, so that will be something to work on. I have to admit, I wouldn’t mind attaining the famous “chin to toe” level of flexibility demonstrated by some Northern Shaolin practitioners.

In the evening, while I had some vegetables heating up in the pot, I practiced the rest of the Art of Flexible Legs, doing ten repetitions of each exercise except for a few extra repetitions of Dragonfly Plays With Water. David recommended to me during his visit that after every five or so repetitions, I could slightly (and safely, of course) increase the angle of my legs just a little bit more. That, combined with some appropriate body mechanics that I had long since forgotten from my old ballet days certainly helped with both flexibility and relaxing into the pattern. I particularly wanted to emphasize the Art of Flexible Legs patterns tonight because after training One Finger Shooting Zen last night, I felt very noticeable cleansing out through my knees for a short time thereafter.

My main force training this evening was Golden Bridge. While I regret being unable to attend the Selection of the 72 Arts of Shaolin course, there’s no reason why I should neglect my practice of Golden Bridge. The increased attention paid to flexibility lately has been paying off in a more relaxed and deeper Horse Riding Stance, though I’ve noticed that my knees will extend forward past my toes when I relax into my deepest stance. Consequently, I “reset” my height and raise my stance to get my knees back to be level with my toes, as I’ve often heard (and experienced) that having the knees past the toes can lead to blockage and knee injury. I have seen my seniors in deep and “correct” knee-to-toe alignment stances (and they all demonstrate excellent all around hip flexibility), which I intend to attain, especially through patterns such as Dragonfly Plays With Water.

Pattern and sequence practice was again Dark Dragon Draws Water and White Horse Presents Hoof. I’m feeling more force not just at my palm when I practice Dark Draws Water, but at my dan tian as well. Didn’t have problems with “floating” tonight, which was nice. I do kind of wish I had a mirrored wall to more clearly see and gauge the distance of my stepping back and shifting in my stance; for now, I occasionally glance at my shadow against the wall.

White Horse Presents Hoof was slightly different tonight compared to yesterday. Like I mentioned from the morning session when I practiced Art of Thirty Punches, my force wasn’t localized to the fist so much as it was spread along the entire length of the arm. Not “evenly,” like a wooden pole, but more like a straight rod with a weight at the end; some times it felt a little difficult to bend my arm, haha. I continued with my usual protocol of dealing with sequence breaking techniques, though I spontaneously inserted a few defenses against other hand strikes such as a side strike or high strike instead of just straight middle level strikes. I also experimented with other kicks such as whirlwind kicks and intercepting them with Bar the Big Boss. I find that I like the natural transition from Bar the Big Boss to Precious Duck Swims Through Lotus. Throughout the sequence practice, I primarily employed the Force Method of training; I want to ensure that each of my individual techniques is powerful, agile, and correctly aimed in order to decrease the windows of opportunity inherent in the techniques themselves and my skill at performing them that exist for sequence breaking. After a fair amount of time spent emphasizing the Flow Method with my Baguazhang practice, I have to say that I very much also enjoy the Force Method; there’s a certain “decisiveness” that is far more intense and palpable that I wasn’t feeling with the Flow Method. Granted, it also helps that I recently had hands-on sparring practice with David, which certainly recalibrated my senses.

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