SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
FEBRUARY 2016 PART 2
"The big irony is that many martial artists are unhealthy and are unable to defend themselves despite spending many years training a martial art! Not only they injure themselves in free sparring and their injuries are routinely left unattended to, the way they train is usually detrimental to both their physical, emotional and spiritual health. Many people may be surprised at my statements that many martial artists today cannot defend themselves. If they can, they won't accept being hit and kicked for granted as part of their training." -- Quoted from Grandmaster Wong's answer.
May I ask, sifu, should one avoid being hit altogether? How? What about in the sense of blocking? I suppose it is better to avoid contact than to have to block? When I practice blocks with my friend my arms are often sore/ bruised but we figured this would toughen us. I am grateful for your instruction Sifu,
— Lee, USA
Of course one should avoid being hit altogether. That is the main purpose of practicing an art of self-defence. That is also the main reason why I said people who freely exchanged blows in free sparring were not learning a martial art though they thought they did.
How does one avoid being hit? That is what he leans in a martial art, any martial art. Thee are two categories to accomplish this.
One category is to ward off the attack. There are many ways of warding off. Blocking an attack as described by you where your arm become sore or bruised is third-class. In first-class warding off you use minimum force to overcome maximum strength.
The second category of avoiding hit is to dodge the attack. There are also many ways of dodging.
You will learn these first-class responses to avoid being hit in the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course or the Intensive Taijiquan Course.
Having your arms sored or bruised from blocking is a poor way to toughen your arms. It is more likely to weaken your arms than to toughen them. A sore or bruised arm is painful and injured. Pain and injry weaken a person, not just his arms.
There are many excellent methods in our school for strengthening arms. Some examples are One-Finger Shooting Zen, Golden Bridge, Separating Water, and even Grasping Sparrow's Tail. The uninitiated may wonder how these exercises, especially Grasping Sparrow's Tail, can strengthen arms. Not only they do, they are excellent -- if practiced correctly.
Please take note that toughening, in the sense of conditioning, may not necessary be strengthening. If you punch your fist onto a wall, for example, you may toughen or condition your knuckles, but may not necessary add power to your punch. Hence, when we practice Thirty Punches, which is an exercise to increase power of the punch, we punch into empty space, and not onto a sandbag.
I would like to continue to strengthen my stances. I can see the difference between someone who knows many forms but wobbles on their legs and someone who has powerful stances but few forms.
What would be the you-wei and the wu-wei of horse stance? Right now I try to imagine myself relaxing and letting my chi sink to my feet. I can tell when I get tense that it rises up to my torso and chest but if I relax I can sink it down and hold the floor with my toes better.
Stances are very important in kungfu, and their benefits are transferred to daily life. Stances develop internal force and mental clarity.
The "you-wei" part of stance training consists of two steps. The first step is to get the poise correct. In the Horse-Riding Stance, for example, ensure that you are upright. The second step is to relax, relax and relax.
The "wu-wei" part is to be spontaneous. Don't think of anything, including not imagining yourself relaxing and letting your chi sink to your feet. Just spontaneously remain upright and relaxed in your stance.
My wonderful girlfriend told me that she wanted to fast during Ramadan this year. She told me it was all about discipline and being spiritual. My initial thought and feeling was concern when I heard this. Personally I know little about Ramadan but I don't see the spiritual side to forcing oneself to stay off food. Of course I could be wrong. Should I be concerned here? I always want to support her in whatever she wishes to do but I also want her to be safe as this is my natural instinct to protect her.
— Sifu Mark Hartnett, Ireland
Rituals of any religion help practitioners to practice their faith and thus purify their spirit. If a practitioner has strong spiritual roots, like a Zen monk, he may not need rituals yet attain high spiritual levels.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan also purifies the body, which contributes to purification of the spirit. If your girlfriend understands these deeper meaning, fasting during Ramadan is good for her. On the other hand, there are religious fanatics who follow religious rituals but act in a way God or whatever term the Supreme Reality is addressed asks his followers not to do.
If your girlfriend wishes to fast, ask her to prepare herself if it is the first time she attempts it. Her body needs time to adjust to fasting.
Fasting demands discipline, and is spiritual as it purifies both the body and the spirit. It is natural that you are concerned for her. A good approach is to tell her the significance of fasting and let her make her choice. As she is not a Muslim, she needs not fast the whole month of Ramadan, or during part of it. She can fasts for any day or two to make some adjustment and preparation.
I have been very lucky to spend time with a Hoong Ka master, and he emphasizes a lot of Asking Bridge to develop sensing skills for sparring. Whenever I spar with him and some of his senior students, their sensing skills are such that he is often able to simply "slip" out of my attempts to tame or close his hands unless I have superior force and chin-na.
— Frederick, USA
The Hoong Ka master defeated you because of skills and not because of techniques. Even if you use other techniques, he will still be able to defeat you.
This does not mean that techniques are not important. When he slips away, you can strike his retreating arm, or kick his leg.
You can also improve your skills of "bridging gap" and "follow-through". When he tries to escape from your taming or closing hand, you "follow-through" with your taming or closing hand, and bridge the gap of his retreat. You should spend some time practicing on your own before applying the skills on your opponents.
You can also increase your internal force and learn some sophisticated chin-na techniques. You can find a lot of chin-na techniques at http://www.shaolin.org/video-clips-3/chin-na/sequences/overview.html. As you did not attend the Special Chin-Na Course in Sabah, you should attempt only one or two of the simpler techniques.
My attempts to simply close someone with a taming or pressing palm are generally defeated by my sparring partner simply turning their body into the Unicorn Stance or retreating if they have superior footwork to me. Is there an aspect of taming/closing an opponent that I miss, or should all attempts to tame or close an opponent use chin-na to "confirm" the taming/closing?
No, you have not missed the basic techniques of taming and closing, though you may not have learned sophisticated techniques of following through, like using chin-na to subdue your opponents.
But you attended the Baguazhang course at the UK Summer Camp. There are a lot of techniques and tactics you can use from the Baguazhang course to defeat your opponent when he turns aside into a Unicorn Step or when he retreats.
When he turns aside into a Unicron Step, for example, you can employ your Baguazhang footwork to follow his turning and strike him, or you can go to the other side and fell him from behind. When he retreats, you can rush forward, but taking care of your own safety, and push him off the arena, or you can jump forward with "Wild Crane Kicks Leg".
It is not necessary to use chin-na to confirm taming or closing, but for one trained in chin-na, it is an excellent way to subdue opponents. When a chin-na master wishes to apply a chin-na grip on his opponent, it is unlikely the opponent could escape.
How would you recommend approaching sparring with someone who has superior sensitivity skills? I have had some success with using the "disappearing" that I discussed with you last year in sparring, which sometimes gives me opportunities, but I know that there are certain people I have met who can always notice me, so I do not want to rely too much on such an ability; I would personally rather have more solid fundamentals than rely on such a "trick."
There are two main approaches. One is to avoid his sensing skills. Using kicks, for example, is a good tactic. Instead of having arm contact, you can kick at him.
The other approach indicates the hallmark of a master. Change his sensing skills, which are his strong points, to his weakness. Chin-na and dim mak are excellent in this respect.
Another situation that I run across in sparring is sparring partners who have a lot of muscular strength. My usual tactic is to "borrow" my sparring partner's force and use soft counters to conserve my energy and to guide their force away into emptiness so that I can set up a decisive strike, mainly using Baguazhang strategies and movements from the Swimming Dragon set and adding a Baguazhang "flavor" to the Hoong Ka I am learning here.
Dim mark is excellent for overcoming opponents with a lot of muscular strength, but you need to learn dim mak at a course from a master willing to teach you.
Many kungfu styles are well-known for the smaller-sized to defeat the bigger and stronger, and Baguazahgn is one of them. You can use Baguazhang techniques and tactics to get to an opponent's side or back to strike him.
Sometimes, however, my sparring partners will "lock up" with a lot of tension and will not "give" me any force to work with, and I find that very difficult to handle. I can handle the situation usually with a combination of superior agility (getting to their sides or back, or simply feinting and striking a different body part) and stamina (simply outlasting their muscular tension), but I do not know if there is a better way to approach this sort of situation.
Don't use force against force if your opponent is physically stronger.
All the methods you mentioned are excellent.
You can get to your opponent's back to fell him. Don't fell him with brutal strength. Off-balance him, and he falls easily.
You can also strike his vital spots, like his eyes, throat and sexual organ. But of course you stop an inch from target.
If you have any questions, please e-mail them to Grandmaster Wong via his Secretary at stating your name, country and e-mail address.
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