Easing Off on Over-Training

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrates Alone Chop the Hua Mountain, a popular pattern in Baguazhang.

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrates Alone Chop the Hua Mountain, a popular pattern in Baguazhang.

Hey there, folks! Been an age since I posted. Just finished my family medicine rotation earlier today. Working hours were far longer than I was expecting these past few weeks. Had some interesting experiences working with a physician who specializes in addiction medicine. Gave me more than a few neat memories, not to mention gave me an impression as to the nature of my perspective on training. It’s always a nice experience to have folks chatting about the current popular topics, like over-training (I wonder what other subjects people feel like keying in on? There don’t seem to be many subjects that capture the forum’s attention with as much fervor); thank you to the folks who responded with their insights on the matter.

I’ve lately been training every other day. As my practice is my main exercise, I have no plans to take a complete break from training. Given my studies and schedule, I’d rather not take up a different exercise program, to be honest. I have, however, been spending some more time on flexibility. In fact, one of my favorite threads on the forum was an excellent thread on flexibility some time back. I decided to take up isometric stretching in a bid to reach certain flexibility milestones that I’ve had in mind for a few years now and it’s greatly benefited not just my martial arts and day to day body mechanics, it’s been an excellent tool for managing stress of all sorts in the clinic and hospital.

I was certainly feeling some stress in my body, even if I may not have been consciously aware of things. I noticed that I was getting very “twitchy,” so to speak, particularly in the past two weeks leading up to the exam that I took today. I noticed I was getting far more suspicious of people’s movements about me and reverting back to my more, shall we say, combative instincts from when I was practice aiki jujutsu.

I can’t say that I’ll be cutting back my training to once a month or along those lines, however. As much as I enjoy the art, once a month is simply far too long a period of time between training for me to build, maintain, and sharpen certain skills at my level of achievement. I will say that I am very happy to have experienced that my internal force doesn’t seem to dissipate from not having practiced some times days at a time (in fact, I’ve actually felt that my Tiger Claw’s ability to penetrate “past” my fingers has spontaneously improved), some of my other skills have to be “built up” first before I can let them “sit” or otherwise grow in the background. That does remind me of a phrase I read in a Baguazhang manual printed some time in the 80’s, though; the notion that ‘a master does not have to practice everyday, for the art is theirs and they live it everyday’ or something to that effect.

My paltry experience with Tiger Claw, though, has convinced me that I don’t have to practice One Finger Shooting Zen everyday, as the responders have mentioned. I guess that means more time for flexibility and application, when I practice, haha. In terms of other experiences that have come to my perception, I’ve noticed too that some times my force can feel rather “oppressive” at times. For example, if I hold my palm over my chest, it feels rather uncomfortable and heavy; if I point my finger at my neck or head, it feels like an uncomfortable, sharp poking some times. I ran across those feelings when I was practicing aspects of physical exam, which was rather surprising. Guess I won’t be pointing at myself too often, haha.

Here’s hoping that I don’t take the idea of an abbreviated training schedule to be so paltry with my future forum posts, though! I’ve heard that my upcoming psychiatry rotation might provide me with some more free time than family medicine…

It’s always a pleasure to see the new things that Sifu posts on the main page, especially the new combat sequence videos for the upcoming UK Summer Camp. While I won’t be attending, I enjoyed watching them, especially the Baguazhang combat sequence. I found it much more approachable and digestible unit to train compared to the original combat sequences in the Swimming Dragon set (with each combat sequence therein having anywhere from four to fourteen exchanges between initiator and responder, haha). While I’ve primarily been spending some time on the basic Shaolin combat sequences, I spent a few days focusing on that sequence. The emphasis on Shaolin on my Baguazhang and vice versa was very discernible; being flowing yet solid compared, which is always a joy to experience compared to my earlier days when I was first learning Baguazhang from another school, where I may have had agility and solidity separately, but not really together at the same time. Another surprising benefit of working on that short and relatively simple combat sequence was the mental clarity that “just so happened” to develop as a side effect; in fact, the mental clarity was on a level that I’ve previously only experienced when practicing One Finger Shooting Zen. How wonderful that “just” practicing some striking, kicking, and so forth can be so meditative, haha.

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrating much better Baguazhang and sense of style than me.

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrating Circle Walking, the signature Baguazhang method of force and agility training. 

The emphasis of footwork in Baguazhang combat sequences led me to go back to something I was experimenting with back in 2013 or so, the concept of angles. After learning Eight Internal Palms from my first Baguazhang sifu back in early 2012, the first “application” he taught me was Beauty Looks at Mirror, applied as a sweeping attack. He explicitly told me “don’t aim, just sweep” so as to cover a particular plane of space instead of aiming particularly for someone’s, say, neck, arm, ribs, or what-have-you. Eventually I began paying more attention to the space covered by a pattern rather than just its end-point (for example, the arms covering a certain line and angle of space) which made my direct counterattacks such as Fierce Dragon Across Stream or Fierce Tiger Descends Mountain far more effective.

I mention this because I finally (the slowness of my own insight when training apart from others) began applying this more to my footwork, especially in the new Baguazhang combat sequence, to ensure my safety when getting to an imaginary opponent’s back. One problem I had when applying this tactic against David when I met him back in December was simple interception; his sensing skills would enable him to detect when I went to step, so he might simply deliver a shoulder or elbow strike while I was on the move. Not exactly a pleasant feeling to receive such a strike from an Iron Wire specialist, believe me. Being mindful of these planes has benefited me greatly; I wonder if other folks have had any experience looking at “space” and “planes” in such a fashion.

At any rate, that’s where things seem to stand for now. I’ll be taking some of your advice and enjoying a relatively easy weekend. Maybe I’ll see Deadpool?


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