Monthly Archives: July 2011

Shaking power


Wow, this is great:

Time has been too short in the last few days to do any work with the spear; even if I’d had time, it’s been raining too much (heh, so I’m wimpy – but even if I’d felt like practising in the rain, the ground is so wet that I would have trashed the lawn, so I needn’t feel bad about not going out!)

However… I’ve been getting a heck of a lot out of what I’ve been doing with the spear so far. As I mentioned in my last post, for someone without a training partner, spear-work really is a good test of whether or not the technique is generating power or not. In that video above, the key moment for me is at about 15 seconds in, when the performer starts full-body shaking, transmitting the power down the spear. Damn, I can’t do that! It really reminds me of a part of the longxing bagua form that Master Zhou Yue Wen taught, which also had a shaking move, very similar to what’s happening in the clip.

Looking at that, I think it seems to encapsulate the key element of what I’m striving to achieve; master that kind of full-body shaking power, and it can be applied in taijiquan, xingyiquan, or baguazhang… No problem. Again, and this is a purely personal observation, I have to say that the only path I’ve encountered that would lead me towards this is yiquan as taught by Master Yao Chengrong…

The virtues of a long memory


Well, things have been a bit intense lately; lots happening at work. We’ve also had a month of absolutely horrible weather, with unseasonable cold, strong winds that have seen off a lot of my recently-planted veg and flowers. Combine the two, and I’ve been very slack in my practice again. Thankfully, we’ve got some sunny weather again, and my spirits are rising: time to get out there and at it, there’s no time to waste now.

I should say something about what’s been going on in various spheres….

  • Taiji and bagua with Eli Montaigue: I put this temporarily on hold as I moved home, and ‘temporarily’ stretched to the point where the group would be so far ahead of me on the form that it wouldn’t be worth re-joining the class at this point. He does Thursday-night ‘application’ classes’ and that might be worth thinking about, but July is going to be frantic, so I’ll leave any decisions until August.
  • Systema: I was really enjoying the classes but, now that
    I’ve moved, they are too far away. The founder of the Celtic Systema school, Mark Winkler, is still in Canada, where he’s training for six months with Vladimir Vasiliev. He’ll be back at the end of August, and will be starting a new group in Swansea, where I work. I’ll leave the systema on hold until then.
  • Capoeira: Some of you will have seen on Twitter and
    Facebook that I’ve been attending capoeira classes. I’d realized that due to stress etc I’ve put on a lot of weight again; plus, for all the virtues of my hometown, it can be difficult to develop a busy social life. So, I thought I’d give capoeira a try again: very aerobic, plus lots of interesting people. It turned out to be true in both fields 😀 However.. I ran into the same things that caused me problems when I tried capoeira before: the principles of capoeira are competely alien to the principles of neijia, for one. That, I could probably adapt to; the other problem is that capoeira isn’t just a dance/martial art, it’s a lifestyle; the hard core expect you to get really into the music, the songs, the culture… and tend to get a bit pissy if you’re not as into all that as they are… In any case, as I say, July is going to be crazy busy, so I’ll defer any decision there, but I suspect capoeira is a non-starter. Pity, because there are some really nice people in that group.

Instead, it’s back to neijia… I’ve bought a wushu spear from Amazon, and have been moving from developing power with the zhan zhuang to testing it out with a xingyi spear form. This has been interesting; I can get the spear to bend more often than not; when I first bought a spear in Singapore, I certainly couldn’t, so there’s definitely been an improvement. I’m enjoying this, as with the spear the application of power is visible, so I know for sure whether or not it’s working.

In Jess O’Brian’s excellent book, Nei Jia Quan, there’s an interview with Tim Cartmell; he argues that there’s no difference between the three styles of taiji, xingyi, and bagua – they are just different ways of expressing the same principles. I’m going to go with that – I know for sure that in Beijing, my taiji improved dramatically after yiquan classes. So, I’m still focussing principally on yiquan, but I’ll be testing out the principles with the other three as well. Who knows, once I’m happy with my xingyi spear form, perhaps I’ll have a go at Sun Zhijun’s bagua spear form that Kim reminded me of recently 🙂

In other areas,I’m getting a real sense of urgency now. Globally, events seem to be accelerating towards a crisis. Greece and the Eurozone are staggering onwards, but the crisis is only temporarily contained. In the US, there’s bickering and posturing while the debt ceiling remains unresolved, natural disasters pile one upon the other, and state governments grind to a halt as their money runs out…

Here in the UK, there are also storm clouds building up. The government’s austerity program is just starting to be felt, and there are the first strikes and protests in response. There are also reports that crimes against property are rising again. The university sector, where I work, is heading for a pummeling as well, and there are rumours of redundancies coming…

So, dunno; I just get the feeling that bad times are going to hit soon; not this year, maybe next, or the one after that…

An anecdote: perhaps ten years ago, my parents and I were walking back home through a patch of parkland that lay between our house and the town centre. It’s unlit; not a problem for us, as we are so familiar with the path we don’t need to see our way. On the way, we met a rather jumpy policeman. Once he’d established that we were respectable citizens, we had a chat. He’d recently been transferred from a nearby large town. He was amazed; he’d been in our town for over a week, and nobody had tried to stab him… There are a lot of pretty deprived communities nearby, and nothing much has changed since then.

I also remember that in the last severe recession there were a lot of burglaries in our street. We didn’t get broken into – largely, I suspect, because we had a dog. I’m going to think a lot about defensive gardening now (don’t laugh!). Mmmm… time to plant sichuan peppers and roses… Spiky but useful…

Anyway, that’s why I refer to memory in the title for this post. I look at my students, and they’ve only ever known economic boom times; this downturn could be very hard on their age group. At least I have some memory of bad times to draw on…

Starting Monday, I’ll be working on qualifying to teach English as a foreign language. It’s a four-week course; very intensive, so expect radio silence here. It’s necessary for my job, but it’s also going to be really useful if things go pear-shaped at the university…