Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Corner stones of a "softer" method


In my upcoming seminar on the half hard, half soft art of Hong Yi Xiang, I will be concentrating on various "internal" or "soft" elements - and marrying these with the more familiar "external" or "hard" elements.  I hope to do this by using form - and extrapolating to function.  This should also give participants a good idea of why the heck one should bother with traditional forms or "kata" in the first place.

So what are some of these "soft" elements?

Well as I've discussed many times before they have precious little to do with qi/chi balls or paranormal powers.  Instead I'm going to cover some of the more subtle, but very useful, skills of grounding, movement/evasion (including footwork) and deflection/interception/entry that are actually quite counter-intuitive at first glance, yet obviously practical and simple at the second: concepts that make sense in a civilian defence environment and even in the cage/ring (as my students have found).


I have previously discussed the battle stance of xingyi - santshi or "zhan bu".  Of course, as you will see from my article, the stance is used extensively in Hong's bridging forms - along with a healthy mix of other stances more familiar to the external artist.

In my article on the subject I talked about grounding and its importance in grounding - the stability of your base.  The stability of your base determines not only whether you will be able to withstand unbalancing (which is catastrophic in terms of defence) but also your ability to generate force (which relies on a solid launching platform).

Keeping you out of the grappling range

A related issue to which I allude in my article on the xingyi stance is the question of civilian defence grappling - or rather non-grappling: the need to stay out of the full grappling range.

The battle stance is ideal for this purpose - and is used appropriately.  In the seminar I will be discussing a number of other, related and complementary strategies the forms employ to keep you moving in a way that avoids the clinch or greater grappling entanglement.

I have used these successfully for decades to deal with shoots and other grappling attempts.  Obviously nothing works every time: no approach has any kind of guarantee. But the methods employed in Hong's forms work well enough for me: they have been my go-to for avoiding being taken down when I don't want to go down - precisely because they keep the requisite "buffer" between you and your opponent at all times, without sacrificing your ability to land blows with force.

Hand and foot timing

So far I've covered defence as a kind of major issue but what most people really want (rightly or wrongly) is force multiplication.  Lucky for them, Hong's forms have lots of tips in that regard, the top one being a fairly cool and unobtrusive way of developing the optimal hand and foot timing - so as to maximise the use of your body momentum behind each punch/kick and accordingly your force.

I have covered the importance of this in previous articles, particularly this one, so I won't go over the same ground.  What I will remind you is that you see it happen all the time in the octagon - so why would you do things any differently in your own stepping/punching?

I will also reiterate one very salient point I made in my previous articles: just how hard it is to learn this kind of stepping.  "It seems so easy" people say.  Until they get video taken of them trying it and see just how far short of the mark they have fallen.

Why do I repeat this warning?  For one very good reason: as I've discovered, Hong's forms make timing your step with your punch an absolute breeze.  Indeed, I can tell how Hong modified standard xingyi techniques so as to make the optimal timing intuitive, rather than counter-intuitive.  In my view Hong's material is worth learning for this reason, if no other.

Simultaneous defence and counter

I've previously gone on at length about the need to understand that no deflection and counter are truly "simultaneous". Regardless, Hong's bridging forms come pretty darn close to the mark.  There is virtually none of the "one, two" or "block and counter" you see in the typical external form: almost every single deflection feeds directly into a counter - or is a counter itself (immediately upon completing its deflection/interception).

Most of the techniques in Hong's forms contain a kind of "block and punch in one movement", but others turn the deflecting arm into an indirect attack at the last second in a very surprising way.

In yet other cases, the techniques use of a kind of "rolling progression" where one defensive technique feeds into another offensive one using a circular momentum.  This is a big part of Hong's forms and not only creates an effective "wheel-like" circle of deflection, it also uses the centrifugal force of that circle as a force multiplier, so that the final counter is delivered with more force that would otherwise be available.

I've taken one such movement straight out of Hong's material and applied it in the drill below, particularly the end when you see the backfist application.

Indirect fist

Last, one of the topics I propose to cover is Hong's "indirect fist" concept: where attacks you've launched along one particular line can be "re-routed" when resistance is encountered.  This can be used in conjunction with defences, as I alluded to above, or it can simply be a means of "worming" your way around obstacles (like your opponent's guard) to deliver a potent counter to your opponent.

Su Dong Chen, one of Hong's most senior students, illustrates the principle below.


Of course, these are just some thoughts off the top of my head.  I tend to teach quite "organically" and I'm sure I will cover a great number of other issues/methods unique to these forms - as they come to mind.

For those in Perth, I hope to see you at the seminar (details are here).  For those who can't make it, I'll be sure to put elements of it up on the net, as is my custom!

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tang Shou Dao seminar in Perth

Further to my recent article about the "bridging forms" of Hong Yi Xiang's Tang Shou Dao, I've decided to hold a seminar in Perth on 4 October 2015 from 10 am to 2.30 pm at the Lake Nenia Retreat in Mundaring (the Honbu dojo of the Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts).

Anyone who is going to be in the Perth region on that day is welcome to attend.

If you are a karate practitioner, I hope it provides an added angle to how you see your karate as it has for me.  The "bridging form" component of the Tang Shou Dao system is one of the few Chinese arts that crosses over very well into the Ryukyuan arts (and to my eye seems to be heavily influenced by it).

If you are an external gong fu practitioner, this should be right up your alley.

If you are an internal arts practitioner looking for something that gives you ideas of practical applications to your art, then I believe this will also be of interest.

If you are a more modern combat sports or reality-based practitioner, you'll be surprised by the sophisticated science that underlies this traditional art.

Cost and registration details can be found on the electronic flyer (click on the picture).

You can register on Facebook here.

I am practitioner of Okinawan karate (since 1981) who has also been training in the Chinese internal and external (southern and northern) arts (since 1990).

For more detail on the material I'll be covering in my course, go here.

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Essential Jo - free download promotion

As some of you will recall, the Kindle edition of my textbook "Essential Jo" has been revised to a "print replica", which means readers can experience the Kindle version in the same form as it is in print.

The older version has been taken offline.

I had been informed that those who had purchased the old version would be able to "update" theirs without cost.  However having bought my own book previously, I note that this is not the case.

Accordingly I have arranged with Kindle to offer a free download promotion.  Kindle only allows this for 5 days at a time, so I've chosen from 18 - 22 September 2015.

Apologies to all.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

It started as an ordinary Facebook post - but you won't believe what followed...

This morning we filmed an application of the last two movements in taijiquan, "apparent closure" and "cross hands".  As a joke, my students filmed one application with some "hopping" - à la the "fajin fantasists".

I belong to various Facebook martial interest groups.  One in particular is a skeptical internal arts group called The Fajin Project. After uploading the video to my YouTube channel, I posted a link to the group.  The conversation that followed has to be read to be believed!

The internet is indeed a strange and wonderful place.

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Monday, September 7, 2015

Taijiquan application focus: brush knee

Brush knee is one of those central techniques you find in taijiquan - one of its "defining movements", if you will.  Chances are that if you stumble across a picture of someone doing taijiquan, it's either single whip or - or it's brush knee.

So I thought it might be useful to run through the ubiquitous brush knee and show some of the varied applications - running from those that people most often use to those that might be more obtuse and even seem "inventive" (but which, I'm sure you'll agree, actually follow the literal form of the technique).

If you want to run through my video at the end of the article, you can.  It goes on a bit.  Or you can just take a look at my brief analysis that accompanies each of the gifs below:

The first, and I think most common, interpretation of brush knee is a deflection against a front kick.

It certainly does work for that.  In so doing, it uses taiji's "continuing momentum" of which I've previously written.  Notice how I draw my own weight back to "absorb" Jeff's force into a near "vacuum" where I can easily deflect the last contact, then use my coiled momentum to spring back.
Of course, most folks "in the street" don't really do or know front kick.  If they kick, they tend to kick with a low roundhouse.

Unless you're a sports fighter, the attack you're likely to face in a civilian context will be in the melee range.  In that range a shin kick to your thigh is easily jammed with brush knee by pressing and redirecting your attacker's thigh.
Again, there's the same deal with the "coiled energy" counter.
Then there's the more inventive uses of brush knee - in this case, against a higher roundhouse (or other kick) that you manage to catch.  Note that my hands in this case actually follow the literal form of the "brush knee" sequence.

Importantly, I don't let Rob turn around and slip out; I use the "block" (together with a side evasion) to stop any "rollover", then bring him down with the "push" part of the sequence.  Note my use of the forearm rather than the palm!
On the other hand, nothing stops me from using the palm as a face strike too - especially when the kick is higher.

As I explain in the video, there are probably a dozen things I'd rather do than block a high roundhouse kick this way, but hey, it can happen: I might have to do it.

In that case, why not shove your free palm straight into your attacker's face?
But here's where I think the brush knee really shines.  And quite frankly, I suspect it is the very last thing on people's minds when it comes to applications of this move.  Taijiquan is for me an "anti-grappling" art.  You don't want to be caught up in a clinch.  Note how my literal form collapses Rob's grip with my arm, draws back to centre line and under his leg (with my elbow dropping onto the top of his thigh as he kicks) and allows me to break his structure when I "uncoil" the momentum, using that palm to drive forwards.
But then there's always the "non-kick" and "non-grappling" applications.  Nothing wrong there.  For whatever reason, Jeff and I swapped legs here, but you get the idea.  The video shows the effectiveness of this technique against a more determined, penetrating thrust/push/punch.

Essentially you can set this up as a "rolling push hands" drill.
And last, but not least, there is no good reason not to think of the "downward block" as quite a useful deflection even for a chest/head height attack!  Crazy, I know - but the video explains it.  If your arms are up already, then a high level punch can be stifled from above quite effectively.

I have my good friend Colin Wee to thank for this particular realisation.

Of course there are many other applications - I have yet to do a qin-na demonstration (although the clinch comes into that).  Consider my knife defence article featuring brush knee as just one other example!

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic