Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wing Chun: Beautiful Spring Time.

     "Wing Chun" means "beautiful spring time."  It was the name of the founder's first student (Yim Wing Chun was instructed by Ng Mui.)  The western equivalent would perhaps be a girl with the name "April."
     Coincidentally, a spring is a popular metaphor for explaining the Wing Chun Style's structural and energetic methods.  A spring stores potential energy as it is compressed and then unleashes this force when released.  Likewise, in Wing Chun we receive our opponent's force, sticking to their weaponry, but explode our attack to their center line the moment an absence of structure of position occurs.
     The first set in Wing Chun trains the loading of this spring -- to link forward intention of energy to proper body structure through the entire potential range of motion.  
     The second set, Chum Kiu, revisits this concept by extending from the bridge position (forearm to forearm distance).  Chum Kiu also uses body shifting and footwork to which ads a spiraling effect to loading this spring.  Now we are pushing the spring down and twisting it!
     The third set, Biu Jee, shows that even when the body is at full extension (full bridging) that the spring exists and is alive and well.  The "one inch punch"is an example of this concept.  
     So remember, when their is an absence spring forward -- it will be beautiful!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Five Animal Kenpo: The Fire of Dragon

Each of the Five Animals are associated with an element. Dragon (Fire), Snake (Earth), Tiger (Metal), Leopard (Water), and Crane (Wood). It would be tempting to think of the Dragon's association with fire as a consequence of its fire breathing personality (distant cousin to Godzilla perhaps?) However, the Five Elements and their creative and controlling cycle are brought to us not from Western Europe but rather Asia where dragons have no fire breathing heritage.

In China, dragons are found exclusively in water and thus are found in the great seas or up in the clouds. So why would the Dragon not be assigned the element of water? Because the Dragon is not created by water, but instead is controlled by it. The Dragon can only exist where water allows it to travel (like a short term visa). If water controls the element of fire; and if water controls the Dragon; then therefore the Dragon must be fire.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fencing: Touché

        Touché!  Simply the french word for "touch", "touché" is the admittance that your opponent evaded your defense and his weapon succeeded in scoring to a legal target.  Thus the conversational use of the word outside of the realm of fencing is a statement that "ah, you got me!" 
      Although modern fencing with its body cords and electric scoring equipment complete with lights, buzzers, and wired weapons certainly make officiating the sport more accurate, their is an elegance and lesson in humility to simply know when you have been stabbed and to acknowledge it to your parter.  
       I am reminded of a scene in the movie "The Seven Samurai" where two samurai are practicing with bamboo sticks as simulated katana swords.  One of the samurai thought it was a tie, the other corrected him and said "No, sorry, but you lost."  They had a second contest with the same results.  The samurai who had insisted he had not lost on both occasions became insulted and insisted on another duel but with live blades.  The results were again verified except now the winner lived, and the loser lay dead.   Arrogance can impede the recognition of when you have been bested.  Touché!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fitness Kickboxing: High low, high low, off to train we go.

     Sometimes in kickboxing we drill an exact combination of strikes on the bag the coach has outlined.  In other cases, we are given free reign to let the combinations flow as we choose.  During the freestyle periods on the bag, it is tempting to turn a groove into a rut as we repeat familiar, similar patterns.   Here is a few tips to force you out of the rut and get your body moving in new and challenging ways.
     One rut is to always hit at a similar height.  If you tend to be a head hunter, explore dropping down to the body.  Also vary the height of particular techniques thrown.  For example, you might love throwing that roundhouse kick to the body but try brining it up to the head height occasionally.  On the other extreme, a few quick roundhouse kick flurries leg height also changes the feel and tempo.  Hook punches are most commonly thrown to the head but play with dropping the stance down and throwing those hooks into the body.
     Other ideas: Change the tempo of your stirkes, the intensity and power of your blows, the proportion of hands to feet of your combos, and the footwork patterns of how you move in, away, and around your target.  Any one of these variants will make your workout more interesting and round out the martial skill benefit of your efforts.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wing Chun: Feeling to fill the void.

     If you have ever dug a hole, there reaches a threshold where it seems for every bit of dirt you shovel out, new dirt slides into the void to take its place.  Wing Chun, like that annoying dirt, will fill that void without hesitation.  If we start thinking "is this a good idea" or "could this be a trick" we lose the initiative and transform what should be a sub-conscience reflex into a much slower cognitive process.  
     Forward intention is only theoretical, however, if you don't feel the void to begin with.  Sometimes our mind becomes preoccupied with what we plan on doing and we lose track of what is actually happening.  Physical tension also diminishes sensitivity which is why so much of our technique involves an open hand because a formed first tightens up the muscles in the forearm and reduces feel.  Even our punch waits till the last moment before the fist full forms and tightens and then immediately relaxes after the hit.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Five Animal Kenpo: Why 5 = 2.

     The five animals exist in a controlling cycle (like rock/scissors/paper) that is based upon the Chinese Philosophy of the "Five Elements."  The "Five Elements" are actually a detailed break down of the cycle of creation and destruction that results in the flow and balance between yin and yang. How is it that five fighting methods are really reduced down into two (yin and yang)? 
      A Tiger (committed, aligned power) attacks.  The response to neutralize this force should be the Dragon.  If used, the fight is over (Tiger attacked, Dragon won...) and thus just two animals settled it.  If however, the Tiger adjusts his tactics and creates into the Leopard, then he can now defeat the Dragon.  If this happens, now the Leopard wins and the Dragon loses -- which is still now just two animals.  So at any given point, it is one tactic matched against another.  Either one adapts or loses, and if adaptation takes place than we are at a "two animal" contest.  The yin/yang transition between what you are and what you might become in essence battles the yin/yang transition of your opponent but at any given moment only two animals are in the arena.

Warrior Fit: Suspended Strength

      At Dojo Chattanooga, we have several stations where we work strength training from a suspended state.  Our method simply attaches handles to two long industrial chains mounted into a rafter.  It is simple, strong, industrial, and cheap.  If you want to do the same thing and make it prettier, the TRX system can be purchased using an adjustable strap system but a trip to ACE Hardware and $25 in supplies and you can save a bundle.
     The pushup is a great example of the benefits of suspension training.  The additional stabilization require to do pushups when you have both your grip points wanting so sway forward, backward, inward, or outward requires greater engagement of core as well all of the muscle group to in your arms to stabilize the lateral component that normally would not exist.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wing Chun: Four Gate Drills on Focusmaster

Cool equipment will not improve your skill -- visiting the Dojo and USING cool equipment will improve your skill.  The "Focusmaster" in the corner of the Dojo has been configured specifically for Wing Chun drills with four reference arms and punching and kicking targets all along the centerline.  This set up is idea for the "four gates" drill where you block the upper zones with tan sau and lower zones with gan sau while simultaneously delivering centerline punches.

Five Animal Kenpo: Hit the bags!

Each self-defense technique you learn contains a variety of excellent striking tools.  Practice these strikes on our hanging bags and focusmaster targets to fully develop the power and effectiveness of these blows.

Fencing: Nice Recovery.

Perhaps the only skill more important in fencing than the lunge is the recovery from the lunge.  The lunge closes the distance for attack but it is our recovery that takes us back out of range of our opponent.  A good recovery begins with proper lunge technique -- if you lurch forward and plop your lead foot down then your recovery is already doomed.  Drive off your back heel and then roll into your lunge -- and then push off front foot and roll back for recovery.

Fitness Kickboxing: Keep Moving

"Keep moving and keep your guard up" is timeless advice in any combative sport.  Why do fighters need to be reminded?  Because when you are tired the hands drop and feet stay planted.  So if you want to increase your workout load keep the feet moving (a little forward, then a little back; or circle slightly to the left and then return to the right.)  Keeping that guard up raises your heart rate and requires strength in the shoulders and biceps.

Fencing: Get a grip!

The classic french grip of a sword encourages point control and is ideal when your fencing style involves rapid disengages, subtle use of pressure, and releases from pressure against your blade using the cut over (coupé.)  The pistol grip allows for greater power when beating a blade or applying force for taking or enveloping your opponent's blade. Ideally, the fencer should train with both grips and adjust their blade handling to best take advantage of the grip they are using.

Warrior Fit: Squeeze for Power

Squeeze. Squeeze the grip of the kettlebell.  Squeeze the glutes.  Squeeze the mats with your toes that are grabbing the earth for dear life.  Squeeze those abs so your core is locked in.  Want more power? Squeeze it out!

Fitness Kickboxing: Kicking Speed

Vary the speed of your kicks.  A kick thrown a little faster than usual will put new demands on your body.  Kicking slower, especially much slower, will also challenge the strength and muscle control of the action.Another trick is to vary the returning recoil of your kick.  Sometimes kick slow but recoil quickly.  Other times kick quickly and recoil slowly.

Five Animal Kenpo: Stance weight distribution.

Stance is the foundation of every block and strike in Kenpo.  One factor of correct stance is weight distribution.  The following is a quick summary of the percent of weight on your back foot compared to your front foot:  Neutral Bow (50/50), Forward Bow (40/60), Reverse Bow (60/40), Close Kneel (50/50), Cat Stance (90/10), One Legged (100/0).

Wing Chun: The Center Line Punch

The center line punch is the primary attack of Wing Chun.  It originates, travels, and impacts from your center to your opponent's center.  Hit through the target and then allow hand to relax and fall in a natural arc (along center) as it regenerates to strike again.  The punch should not hammer down but should drive through the target with a piston type action as if you are being pushed from the back side of your elbow. Practice this punch in the air, on light targets (as pictured), on the wall bag, and on heavy bags.  The wooden dummy is also useful to encourage your elbow to stay in tight (the arms of the dummy create a "V" to guide you to the center) but watch that you do not strike the dummy with too much force or you will break your hand.