Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Gao Bagua Files: Water Section

As we move into the next section of movements, it's crucial to remember that the techniques themselves are only patterns of energy designed to illustrate how to disrupt the human body and psyche. They are keys that open possibilities, but they can not be forcefully or unnaturally applied. Think about it like downloading information into your body. When the program is ready, it will happen automatically. If you try to use it mid download, you are going to get server errors. Or you will get served because of your errors.

Just as in grappling, you can't do an arm bar anytime you feel like it, but must be skilled enough to place yourself into a position that the possibility more easily arises. After doing a technique 10,000 times, it becomes much easier to use it at the right time, but never underestimate the determination of the human spirit. These are not only the notes of my own personal research that I have gathered through sparring (heavy and light), security and even real combat, but also the notes of other masters and warriors that I have had the honor of working with, especially credited to my master Wu Guo Zheng. Still you don't need to get good at everything. Find your bread and butter and camouflage it with other techniques, set ups and footwork, footwork, footwork.


64 Palms ---- Water Section (9-16)



The Water Section is also called "The Way of the Hands" because it emphasizes various hand techniques used to deflect, absorb, intercept and manipulate oncoming attacks. The Water Section controls the space between the practitioner and the opponent as a rushing tide, overwhelming when it needs to be, or subtle if it's more suitable for the situation. It also uses splashing damage, which entails yanking the opponent into a strike to double the power. Because of the circular parries and light footwork in this section, it is ideal for both knife defense and knife fighting. As with all the sections, It's crucial to keep the shoulders pressed down, the elbows locked in behind the heart and the kua opened in order to effectively generate the needed effect of the Water Section.



Jie - Jie is the Intercepting Palm and the 9th of the 64 Palms. Utilizing the force of a step (forward, backward or stationary), a circular energy is transferred from the hips (dantian) into the fist in front of the body. By whipping the lead hand into a quick vortex motion that quickly straightens itself, the deflection invites the opponent even closer after his attack has been misdirected. The deflection is similar to the manner wheels of a speeding car can deflect rocks or even a bullet.  Once the opponent's guard has been opened, you can grab either the striking hand or the passive hand to yank him toward your next attack. By extending the weight forward, force is snapped into the opponents ribs with either a fist, shoulder or elbow attack. After the opponent stumbles from the impact, quickly capture the other hand while stepping forward to release a finishing blow.




               a. The Intercepting Palm is not only the counter to the Opening Palm, but the two movements can be used in sequence. Use kai and jie together to parry a combination fighter, allowing the back hand to counter effectively.

               b. Jie is great for creating a lock, but even better for snapping a quick attack with very little effort. You can even allow yourself to take a blow to better capture the attack and then snap the elbow with the forearm as the attack extends. The other hand acts as a lever while capturing the blow and you can hyperextend the elbow even accidentally. Cautious practicing.

               c. Jie works well while yielding weapons and is also one of the most effective methods to opening up a shoulder attack. If you are using a longer weapon and the opponent cuts off your space, use Jie to open his guard, then plant the shoulder on his center of gravity to create space. This places you in perfect range to finish him with the weapon.


Cang- Cang is the Hidden Palm and the 10th of the 64 palms. As the attack approaches, the lead hand grabs the attack using a circular motion, parrying with the back of the forearm and latching onto the back of the elbow. This assures that the opponent is unable to draw his hand back after its extension. Because the hand is outstretched in front of the opponent, the rear hand can follow the blindspot back to the opponent's ribs, hence the name "Hidden Palm." With a quick half-step, the palm can be launched into the blind spot under the opponents arm and as he stumbles, quickly use the striking hand to grab his limb from underneath and yank him into another attack with the lead hand.





             a. Cang's circular motion can deflect a straight attack from either side. If you grab the outside hand, your hidden palm can easily strike the heart, If you grab the inside hand, you can crush the ribs along side of the body.

              b. The yanking of this motion is just as important as the striking. The point is to hide the palm so that even a by stander couldn't identify what happened. Done correctly, this movement can calm an assailant amidst a crowd, without anyone being aware there was a fray. Because you are still holding on to his arm, you can yank him close after striking, and walk away with his arm around your shoulder as if he had a few too many beers.

             c. As with all locks that are done on the arm, they actually represent the head and neck. In extreme circumstances, research how each hand motion can be used as a neck snap or choke.


Kan- Kan is the Chopping Palm and the 11th of the 64 palms. Either to block a low attack or release a hand grab, Kan first sinks the weight (usually a cross step) to shove the elbow toward the weak part of the hold or atop the incoming attack. Once the hand has been deflected, the rear hand simultaneously grabs the attack before the opponent can escape, pulling his weight off balance towards the front. Because the legs are crossed, by uncrossing them(stepping forward), you step to the opponent's rear with enough force to close line him with either a back fist, elbow or shoulder attack, depending on range.



               a. The true secret of this movement lies on the "hand trade", meaning if someone grabs you, you've actually grabbed them. By learning to drop the weight quickly, shoving the elbow towards the weak part of the grasp, you place the opponent's hand into your grip in one fluid motion. This motion also cocks the body like a gun and allows an immediately release into the opponent's unprotected side.

               b. Kan is also very effective against a good side kick. As you sink, circle the elbow atop the incoming attack and as you unwind, your force will shove him off balance before his foot can reach the ground.

              c. As with all movements, this movement can be done both forwards, backwards and to every angle. Be sure to utilize this crossing step in all directions to fully understand the versatility of Kan in combat.


Xiao- Xiao is the Peeling Palm and the 12th of the 64 palms. It extends a spearhand while creating a wheel like motion in the legs, which allows the spearhand to be followed with a chopping motion of the rear hand. The spearhand first misdirects the oncoming attack, either upward or backward, allowing the following hand to smash the guard out of the way toward the ground. Once the opponent's force has been directed downward, the legs push forward as a sprinter and blasts him back with a single palm toward his centerline while the elbow acts as a shield for any surprises.



              a. Xiao is great for deflecting the guard, but if the opponent is too close, the rear hand is excellent as a strike to the face. Be sure to get comfortable using all the ranges to effectively utilize this tool. Also try practice converting the strikes into elbows for extra close encounters.

              b. Xiao also works as a great take down, by closing the gap with the spearhand and allowing the following hand to capture the head and yank him over the lead leg.

               c. Xiao is a safe move to use because it is very easily followed with an upward motion to either the groin or mid section. Sometimes you can miss deliberately to bait the opponent into charging into a finishing movement.


Er- Er is the Double Palm and the 13th of the 64 palms. The spearhand first misdirects the oncoming attack to the side, and while stepping a horizontal fist can be slammed into the opening under the arm at the kidney area. Once the opponent has been stunned from this shot, the hips rotate into another step, sending a twin hammer fist into the heart from the opposite direction. Done quickly this attack strikes the front and back sensitive targets almost simultaneously, diverting all attention away from the striking limb, which is either opened or snapped with a circling motion. By using a thrusting step the opponent is shoved in either the ribs or the temple to finish.



             a. The Double Palm is generated with a figure 8 motion that swirls from one hip to the other in rapid motion. However, this figure 8 motion is an infinite energy source and can be used to do a triple attack or even more. Of course successive striking is a flaw in any style without sufficient planning and timing. Still, if the opportunity is presented, quickly hammer fist from the front, to the back and to the front again (always targeting pressure points and knock out points), until the opponent loses consciousness, much like a boxer finishing off a dazed fighter.

             b. The Double Palm lends itself to paired weapons quite effectively because of the nature of its two-handed successive attack. Anything from double sticks, daggers to nunchucks can be used to intensify damage with this whipping energy.

             c. Though the transference of energy is generally emphasized from the waist into the hands, the energy can also be transferred into the legs, allowing for two successive sweeping attacks, attacking first the lead and then rear leg as it's lifted.

Hu- Hu is the Tiger Palm and the 14th of the 64 palms. First step to the side using a T-step motion while gathering the force into both hands, lifting the fists in front of the face while twisting upward to parry the oncoming attack. After the movement has either been parried or dodged, drop your weight, palms facing outward using a clawing motion toward the side of the face of the opponent. Use a small half step to gather enough force for a second clawing strike that will finish off the opponent.



                a. Although this movement traditionally is a clawing attack, it works just as effective, if not more effective as a downward strike with the palms or elbows. Because the weight first lifts the opponent up with the block before dropping, his body is already falling, making a clawing attack to the face possibly a bit difficult to get off. Also clawing is gross. Who wants DNA stuck behind the fingernails?

                b. Because of the great force this movement develops, it's excellent to disarm a pole weapon. It can also be used as an attack with a staff weapon or anything held between two hands.

                c. As the hands rise up they twist and when they come down they twist into the claw attack. This twisting movement, in addition to bursting footwork is excellent for escaping various grabs on the wrist and upper body.


Duo- Duo is the Contending Palm and the 15th of the 64 palms. This movement is lead with a running spearhand that throws the opponent behind the practitioner in three short explosive steps. As the final step of the sprint is reached, the opponent is thrown behind, while the practitioner turns around in the opposite direction, using centripetal force to strike the lower spine with dual palms.



                   a. The hardest part of this movement is the footwork. Taking three steps while the opponent delivers a single strike is challenging, but even if you miss the grab, offensively you are placed in a better position for another attack. Also if the opponent throws a committed strike, you can throw him behind using only a single step.

                    b. If you master the three step burst, you don't need a spearhand or any movement to make contact. You can simple make him miss and be behind you if you utilize this step while he is in mid combination. When you reach his back, an attack to the spine is not the only option. Kick out the leg from the back of the knee or strike to the back of the neck. Be sure to stay close enough to the opponent that you can feel where he's going. Wherever he decides to move, move swiftly to his blind side and deliver a finishing blow.

                    c. Using a single step, this movement works beautifully against a one-two counter. Get adjusted as you parry the jab and step passed the second incoming punch. You will land in perfect position for a back elbow to the areas of preference.


Huan- Huan is the Enclosing Palm and the 16th of the 64 palms. The spearhand deflects the movement upward briefly as the following hand drops down in a circular motion with the elbow, trapping the arm in an arm bar. After snapping the arm, step forward and launch an attack to the exposed ribs. Then, yank the opponent toward you to drop him with an overtop elbow to the throat (Covering Palm) If he's still standing, follow up with the sweep on the leg, while throwing his corpse in the opposite direction.





                    a. This movement is actually a combination of 5 movements and any one of the movements is enough to end the fray. Use what is needed for the appropriate moment and let the nature of the battle lead you to what should happen next. Every movement is just a key for an opening and once you are in, the house is yours. That being said, the finishing sweep movement, is great for when people rush in at you.

                     b. The beginning arm bar/break, can be followed with any number of holds, strikes or escort movements. For complete control, following the arm bar, step forward and wrap the lead hand around the opponent's neck. This will place you in a great position to use the target as a human shield so you can perceive the environment or avoid extra aggressors.

                      c. All of the movements within Huan are generally seen as grabs and holds, but every movement can become anything. By converting the movements into strikes, you will find these circular techniques are great as a striking combination to get into a closer range while parrying multiple dangers.



             

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Gao Bagua Files: Heaven Section

Sorry it's been a while since I've touched up on my blog, but different seasons come with different tasks and adaptation is necessary to keep any form of momentum. We must maintain every talent within us for the betterment of the world, yet it's foolishness to forcefully use a tool that we may favor over the tool that is needed.

Entering the middle of my new training, I see that many of my students, kung fu brothers and supporters  all over the world are in need of a map of the techniques. With over 2000 movements to instruct and illustrate, I will try to be concise, yet detailed while providing a few pointers on dealing with fighters of other styles as a guideline. Of course the effectiveness of every art is more related to the individual than the mechanics, but the right individual with skilled mechanics, can be a dominating force.


64 Palms --- Heaven Section (1-8)

The Heaven Section is also called the "Way of Striking" because it emphasizes hitting and not being hit from all 8 possible trajectories. Any style can hit, but in Bagua every hit is a step. These basic motions teach the connection between foot, waist and hand that allow you to impact your opponent with the force of the ground. Just as a sprinter gains all of their force from the ground before launching into a sprint, the Heaven Section gives structured basics to allow you to put the power of your sprint into the form of a palm, fist, elbow, shoulder, knee, foot or head strike. Through timing and footwork practice, continual strikes can be done easily to overwhelm your opponent or fend of multiple attackers.



1. Kai- Kai is the Opening Palm and the very 1st technique of the 64 palms. In its most basic form it opens the attack with the forearm - connected to the waist - in a circular motion, exposing the ribs, chin or throat of the opponent. Using short bursting power, the attacker can be disabled or off balanced in order to land a more effective follow up attack.


              a. Kai is excellent for escorting or wrist, elbow, shoulder locks and breaks. By adjusting the size of the circling motion, damage can be aimed to the desired weak point.

              b. Kai is effective at dealing with any form of attack with well timed footwork. Be sure to utilize combinations after parries to ensure reaction fluency and adjust for positions on the inside and outside of the opponent, long short range, etc.

              c. Kai is the first of the 64 palms and often seen as the most crucial palm because all the palms grow from within it.



2. Peng- Peng is the Extorting Palm and the 2nd of the 64 palms. This movement uses angular stepping to put force against an opponent from the side. By using a T-step, you are assured to be a step ahead as the opponent attempts to adjust to the awkward angle. As you step to the side, a spearhand is thrust toward the opponent's eyes to hide your footwork. When he flinches or covers his eyes, it's easier to take a fluid step to behind him by turning the waist and pulling on the back of his elbow for an attack.


                a. Peng is a great counter to change positions with your opponent, but it works best against the attacker's second or third strike in succession. It can be done against a jab, yet the timing is so precise that it's hard to classify as the best movement against a quick strike. This is best for committed techniques.

                b. Peng is excellent for knife and sword fighting. By placing any sharp or pole weapon in your hand, it becomes obvious how the subtle footwork allows you to make effective slices and stabs while staying out of the way of danger.

                c. Peng is traditionally defensive, but even better as an offensive attack. Initiate a strike while stepping in an evasive angle and it will put you in a better position for a follow up.



3. Dun - Dun is the Dropping Palm and the 3rd technique of the 64 palms. This movement also uses evasive stepping (angular or T-stepping), but pulls the weight of the opponent through the ground. Use a T-step to the side, while doing an upward spearhand. The upward force will put the opponent slightly on his toes. Then, yank down, keeping the elbows close together while pulling on the back of the elbow joint. As he kneels, shove his center line that would be positioned at the temple, neck or side of the body.

             
 a. Dun is an excellent defense to teach to women to prevent purse snatches. By dropping their weight, a would-be-thief, can  be knocked down by the surprise of the force alone.

                b. Dun is also an excellent hammer fist if the opponent is too quick to grab. Strike down on the pressure points of the forearm and elbow or slam down on the side of the neck.

                c. Substitute the vertical spearhand for a vertical elbow to parry the attack from underneath or crash into the chin with an undercutting elbow.Then follow up with a downward elbow of the opposing hand, to create jarring throughout the equilibrium.



4 Tan- Tan is the Searching Palm and the 4th technique of the 64 palms. This movement forces the opponent to defend by asserting a spearhand toward the nose, throat or eyes. As the guard is raised, yank the opponent toward you while simultaneously striking the face with the other hand to off-set the neck. As the opponent is disoriented, use a forward step while sinking the weight in the back to strike the heart.
               
                 a. Tan is one of the fastest attacks of the 64 palms and is extremely effective at disabling speedy opponents.

                 b. The leg switch is tricky at first, but crucial at creating space to release more power. It's much like winding up a pitch without the need of additional space.

                 c. Tan can be repeated and is great for tangling and trapping chain punchers.



5. Li- Li is the Twisting Palm and the 5th of the 64 palms. This attack steps (T-step) against and toward an outward strike, meeting it with great force, but twisting the attack at the joint instead of deflecting it. Once the force has been stopped, the following hand circles around to snap the joint and then shove the opponent out of position.


                   a. This movement is excellent to defend against any side attack with a weapon by stepping in toward the source of the attack, to cut of the power at the root.

                   b. It's unrealistic to use this against a boxing attack with an extended arm because of the shortness of the boxer's hook. Utilizing  the same motions, the elbow can be used to deflect instead and then use the following elbow in circular motion to snap the arm out of joint. It takes more skill, but using the elbow for locks while connecting to the waist, is far more realistic and effective in a close quarter's clinch.

                   c. Li is a great counter, but even better on offense done with an outside knife hand, hammer fist combination, or elbow combination. Learn all the ranges to understand the nature of the attack.



6. Tiao- Tiao is the Picking Palm and the 6th of the 64 palms. This movement extends a spearhand that rolls under the opponent's force with a step, raising under the armpit and placing him on his toes. Once the arm has been raised, the constitution of the ribs has lessened and they can be easily broken with a stepping palm strike. After striking the ribs, grab the loose hand and yank the opponent toward you to deliver another strike to the already shattered ribs.


                     a. The most crucial part of the picking palm is raising the opponent up onto his toes. This is done by raising the hips and shoving the opponent of his center of gravity upward, using his armpit as leverage. If the opponent is too much taller than you, you will not be able to knock him off balance upward, so more forward motion is necessary, which may cause differentiation in the following finish.

                     b. The grab, strike, grab, strike pattern is a glimpse into the Water Section (9-16). Fluency of being able to roll an attack into a grab will be greatly rewarded as you can even prevent your opponent from falling to the ground before you are done with him.

                     c. The Picking Palm can be performed more subtly, just raising your opponent's aim high enough to make him feel like he barely missed. By glancing off your forearm, a small pocket leading to the ribs can be made and the momentum of the opponent will give you twice the force in your attack. It's best to meet that amount of force with either the elbow or shoulder.


7. Gai- Gai is the Covering Palm and the 7th of the 64 palms. The hands make a frontward whirling motion while stepping forward, placing any attack into the vortex of energy that leads to a grab. Once the attack has been captured, use the hips and legs to yank the opponent toward you while running through him from over head with the elbow landing on the throat.


                      a. Gai appears as a palm attack, but the elbow is the emphasis unless the opponent is much larger than you or is slightly out of range.

                      b. Gai can also be a hold when the elbow is trapped against the throat. By bending him over the knee with the elbow on the throat while holding a low stance he will be pinched in an off-balance position while gasping for air. This may prove effective for interrogation, but isn't effective for escorting as the opponent's only next step is to the floor.

                      c. The initial yanking of the first motion is more than enough to send an opponent flying into a nearby object. Position yourself properly for a good yank and you can skip the second movement altogether.

8. Chan- Chan is the Wrapping Palm and the 8th of the 64 palms. The weight sinks down as a knife-hand blocking downward on an incoming low attack. Once grazing against the attack, circle the hand from out to in with the palm facing outward. By clenching tightly and keeping the posture low, the opponent's hand will be trapped by your body weight allowing for an unblockable counter. Step through with a full step for a knock out strike with the fist, elbow or shoulder or a neck snap depending on the angle of the off-balanced opponent.



                         a. Practicing fluency of Chan is necessary before it can be effective in any terms. Yet once it's been mastered, it's excellent for disarms and controlling an attack with a knife.

                         b. This movement works almost automatically with mid and low kicks once the footwork and sinking have become second nature.

                         c. By yielding a small knife while doing this motion, you ensure a clean cut or stab against your opponent with minimal chance of counter.







Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Season of Difficulty



As I watch my sons grow and develop, naturally my martial arts enters into a new season of understanding. It's become quite obvious that both marriage and raising children offer unique challenges that bring forth a form of maturity that cannot be gained from anywhere else. Every trial we overcome in both our art or our lifestyle will lead to a new depth of growth that brings us one step closer to who we desire to be. Unfortunately, it's easiest to attempt to neglect the message within each trial, convincing ourselves that the discomfort is not what we desire and we end up closing a door that will in turn delay needed development.

Whether our development offers itself in the form of marriage, martial arts, career or even prison, the underlying message will never change. In fact, as a child you will be dealing with the same issues that you will be dealing with as an adult; a repeating test that is attempting to mold the careful listener. Our society as a whole continues to promote comfort as an objective or lifestyle, which is indirectly related to the decay of the concept of responsibility.

During my work day, I generally have to translate 3-4 newspaper articles from Chinese to English, taking a tax on my mental dexterity. Still, I manage to organize my martial arts training program to ensure that both I and my students are continually making gains that will bring Bagua to life. Much like a scientist, I spend vasts amounts of time researching, testing and retesting ideas to make the most complex of ideas simple for the new learner. In order to promote this project, a new form of education has been revealed to me that will consist of my every skill from writing, music, film, dance etc. Any realistic person would say that the task is impossible, but I have never had much in common with people who refer to themselves as "realistic."

When I get home, my children greet me at the door and it's time to play, teach and train them for the next 4 hours or so. Then like any family, I put the kids to bed and we go over how much money we need and don't have, attempting to not let worry and doubt steal the joy from my precious 2 hours of alone time with the wife. I go to sleep, wake up and repeat; praying for the strength not to grumble or complain about the job that seems to be a divider between myself and my dream.

When I was single, working at a distasteful job was always a much shorter season. It was easy to pick up the needed skills and then use them to find something more suitable or at least related to my passions. Just as in the past, I was able to train the techniques that were more related to the way I wanted to fight, move and develop. Yet, about 5 years ago my master Wu Guo Zheng gave me a surplus of information in the form of a completely new system: Xing Yi. Now my favorite training regime has been completely interrupted with this new responsibility.

Of course I could choose to minimize my training time in Xing Yi, just the same way I could minimize my time with my family in order to focus on my desired development. But as a father, husband and successor, I have responsibilities that far out way my feelings for the current situation. I've always trusted the path God has placed before me, even and especially when it feels like it's moving in the opposite direction.

Even though I trained Xing Yi everyday of the first year, it felt completely unnatural. The positions made me feel awkward, unstable and clumsy. It was as if every single thing about it pointed to my weaknesses. Around the same time, I was beginning my translation job that was also quite challenging. Not only did I find it difficult to translate the terms of Chinese into English, but the isolation of being locked up in a tiny office was completely contradictory to the previous Warfox lifestyle.

Every so often I would ask God, "How did I go from the stage in front of thousands of fans to this little bitty office?" And predictably God responded by piling more and more translations onto my desk. My boss even began dumping law papers onto my desk, which was like a nightmare inside of a nightmare. Then after working for hours on end to give them the best quality of translation, my boss would respond, "This is terrible, do it again."

"Wow." I would say to myself right before hitting the roof of the building for a Xing Yi workout. It's ok when someone tells me I'm doing a bad job when I'm not really using any effort. Yet, when you are doing your best and someone tells you it's not even satisfactory, it can put you in tears...as it did a few times. After having a hard day, a nice workout on the roof was generally more than enough to raise my spirits, but guess what? My Xing Yi was terrible too. Not only were my workouts not helping me relax, they were now adding to my frustration and feeling of helplessness.

The following year of my job, it wasn't getting any easier. I had searched online everywhere for another job, but there was nothing available (which was the first time ever in Taiwan). I couldn't leave because I knew that there were three lives literally depending on me. Every action I took, would have a dramatic effect on others. The pressure of the job, plus the fact that my son was now entering into the "terrible twos," was tearing away at any chance of rest and peace.

At the same time, I was watching the world fall apart as strange happenings began to occur all over the planet. New terrorist groups, missing planes, be-headings and on and on. Being a martial artist, I was able to see a pattern in the dangers and I attempted to give a warning to my friends about what was the events were leading to. The end result was I lost all of my friends.

Completely isolated not only physically, but spiritually, my mind couldn't rest and I had no where to go. I asked God, "What am I supposed to do?" The next day I had the strangest sensation come over me. There was a story I could see in my head that was eight books long. I could see every detail in my mind, but was intimidated to try to write it. It was something I had never really considered: a fictional story. After a week, the story began to expand so much in my mind that it could no longer be contained. It exploded into my finger tips on the key board as I attempted to keep up with the images projecting in my brain.

Of course I could only write in between the translations on my desk, which means that I had to begin translating even faster. Miraculously, I managed to finish all the translations in the morning so that I would have the whole afternoon to work on my novel. Even though my boss still slightly grumbled at my work, I wasn't bothered by it as much. I realized that it was all a part of my training. I was supposed to be unappreciated in this season of my life. I was supposed to be abandoned. I was supposed to be frustrated with my training.

Actually, my third year of Xing Yi started feeling different. There were new sensations now in the places of my original discomfort. It felt..almost...good. Not only that, my Bagua had been enhanced dramatically. I could see that everything was leading some where, but of course, my Xing Yi still sucked. It just sucked a bit less.

In addition, doing the translations plus writing and editing of my novel made me twice as tired when I got home. Yet, playing with the kids and spending time with the family became the only fun I had in the day. Watching cartoons as my son asked me questions about Batman or Bruce Lee, let me feel like a child again. I also came to realize that the entire point of being a father is to sacrifice everything for your family. I'm no longer me, I'm them. I'm everything they need for whatever occasion and what I want comes last.

At first it sounds kind of negative, just like the positions in Xing Yi are awkward or painful at first. But by being a father and a husband, I lose myself to become something better than myself. I unify with God as a source of life. When my wife is upset and angry about something, it's not my job to give her a reasonable solution (as men often try to do). It's my job to overwhelm her frustration with assured and encouraging love. Every natural response to defend myself is incorrect. It's not about being right anymore. It's about being love.

This epiphany changed everything. Two years later, Xing Yi became my new best friend. I still have a long way to go, but I'm really happy about where it's going. My book is already published (Master Trey's Flawless Outlaws), I'm working on the screen play and sequels and my boss loves me. In addition, translation has opened all of these new doors that I never had access to before. It even helped me to translate all of the movements within our lineage, which I thought would be a life long project.

I'm about to enter into a new season. I can feel it in the air; a harvest for many years of planted seeds. The last few years have been a truly difficult season, but all seasons must come to an end. I'm glad it's over and I know that there are new challenges within the new season, but I wouldn't have gained so much strength without the benefit of this crucial trial. Jesus knows what we need even though we don't. That's why He's God and I'm just me. But I'm definitely a much better me now.

P.S. My Xing Yi doesn't suck anymore LOL.  

Monday, May 2, 2016

My New Martial Arts Fiction Series



Firstly, let me apologize because it's been a long time since I've been able to leave some training tid-bits, advice or inspiration in here, but there are seasons for all times and currently I'm involved in my new series

Master Trey's Flawless Outlaws


This is a first book of eight that is directly based on the arts that my master Wu Guo Zheng (吳國正) and the Xin Zhu Jin Yuan Bagua Association (新竹錦園八卦掌協會)  have passed on to me.

 Each character in the story is fiction, but roughly based on the martial arts style they represent (and a few of my dope friends and students), making a fun-filled adventure as they enter deep into a mysterious underground world packed with dangerous foes.

This is just the beginning of the creation of a new martial universe that has been in the works for quite sometime. I can't give it away, but there is a lot more involved than just the novels. Yet, by picking up every piece of the Warfox puzzle, you will be able to see a much more fantastic picture of Bagua as well as your own training. At heart I'm just an educator, but why shouldn't it be entertaining?

Anyway, after I handle a few more projects in the next few weeks, I will get back to trying to write blogs more regularly.

As the world grows darker, our light shines brightest so jump in to what God has for you with both feet and start shining. Love you guys, stay tuned.....oh yeah and get the book on amazon. You'll love it.


Friday, October 30, 2015

The Language of Pain


Every martial artist, regardless of style, has to form a very close and personal relationship with pain. Pain is often times viewed as a barrier that needs to be surpassed in order to raise the level of our technique. In many respects pain is a teacher, helping us identify the different problems within our art. Bruises left behind after sparring can be viewed as a map that outlines the weaknesses in our defense, dull pains can tell us when something isn't aligned, sharp pains can warn us to slow down our training. After training long enough, we begin to understand that each type of pain is as a letter of the alphabet, spelling out our journey of training.

As a martial artist, pain is a crucial language because it's the method the body uses to help us prevent injury. At times injury can also be a strict instructor, and at other times it can be a thief, attempting to disqualify us from the battle that matters most. Many young warriors are seduced into danger by their own ego and attempt to ignore pain, later finding themselves retired early for not heeding to the whispering warnings of the body. A true martial artist is first and foremost a survivalist who understands the language of pain, yet navigates carefully the valley of damage.

Generally as an internal artist, pain - aside from sore muscles - is more related to something that is not properly aligned in the structure. An ache in the knee means your weight is not in the right place. A kink in the thumb is an indication of a poorly executed palm technique. All of our martial arts teachers will do their best to warn us of such hazards, but experience is the only real way to know how something is supposed to feel...or not feel.

We live in a society that almost completely contradicts the lifestyle of a martial artist, seeking to make everything more comfortable and convenient. This only nullifies our senses because inconvenience is just another form of pain or discomfort that can help us map out our situation. The media pushes concepts of faster computers, easy access entertainment and softer beds. But if martial arts is truly the mirror of reality, then, the softer our lifestyles become, the harder our life will be.

A man who is forced to walk to work will have to adapt many new habits to meet with the problem. He will have to wake up early, exercise more and make better use of his time. So his car problem in many ways will turn out to be a health solution. Each discomfort or inconvenience we are faced with is just another opportunity to improve the quality of our life through strengthening of the spirit. True happiness is not intuitive and the route is often the opposite direction of our mood. By giving into our mood, we lose control of our development and feed our spirit laziness.

This is the reason I've always felt strongly that everyone should partake in martial arts at least long enough to understand the meaning of progress. All forms of progress are preceded with pain or discomfort of some sort. When we avoid those difficulties, we all together avoid progress. As for the martial artist, it is important to steer clear of things that may damage us, but there is little to no advantage in avoiding challenges.

People often describe this concept by coining the phrase, "No pain, no gain." But unfortunately many of us can and are experiencing pain without making any gains at all. In fact we find ourselves faced with all kinds of pains from frustration, strife, disappointment, hopelessness, anger and misunderstanding. Some people live their lives in a loop, doomed to repeat the same conversations and debates with different people for the rest of their lives. Pain can only teach us if we are listening and willing to learn from it. Otherwise it becomes a wound that will not heal, leading to a place of permanent damage.

Identifying pain is not as easy as one may believe. Many times when we have a pain in our leg or neck, the root of the problem is in the back or the hips. You may continue to try to rub ointment on the sore areas and never understand where the soreness stems from. You may be trying to deal with your bad temper, but it continues to reemerge in different areas of your life. It's because the root of the problem is not your temper and your temper is merely a side effect from improper alignment elsewhere.

In the bible the Israelites roamed around the desert for 40 years, but the trip was only supposed to be 11 days. Their unwillingness to submit and understand caused them to loop through the same pains again and again. Whether it's in terms of your training, career or relationships, God is speaking to you through both blessings and discomfort. If you are willing to heed to those warnings and follow directions, you will find that all of your misfortunes are just a journey to wisdom, joy and ultimately power. If you ignore the warnings, you will continue to experience the same frustrations in different forms for as long as you choose.

I'm assuming many of us are pretty good at listening to the pains of the body by now, but how skilled are we at identifying the pains of the spirit? Are there obstacles that continue to manifest in different forms in your life? Or have you convinced yourself that you have bad luck and can never catch a break? Those who have an ear, let them hear.   


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Freedom of Restriction


Self reflection is not only important in terms of making progress in your training, it's also beneficial to help you gauge direction by separating your own needs from the "needs" force fed to you by society. Bruce Lee often mentioned that we must use our art to honestly express ourselves, but most people have such a diluted understanding of self that this concept is drowned in many forms of false identity. 

How do you determine the bad habits in your fighting style from your own personal concepts of combat? Should you accept yourself even though you are overweight? Or should you become the more physical fit version of your self to be true? As early as birth, you are trained to understand a self that may or may not be you. Are you an American? Then you must speak a certain language, be opposed to certain ideas and be supportive of your countries cause. If there is a plane crash somewhere in the world, it doesn't concern you so much because it's not related to the "self" that you have been assigned.

You could philosophize for a lifetime on who you really are and never reach a concrete answer, just the same way a martial artist could train for decades without making any progress. In terms of both kung fu and life, determination alone is not enough to find direction. No matter how determined a pilot is, he must follow a specific flight path to reach his destination as is the same for life. But the vast majority of us are easily lost in both our lives or in our training because of our misunderstanding of self. I've found that sometimes by analyzing a single movement, I can find direction in my system. Just as analyzing a word, can help find direction in life.

After I had spent about five years training basic punching, kicking and grappling, I became obsessed with the concept of free movement. Being able to hit, without thinking and spontaneously react to any attack has always been the best way to subdue an opponent. At the time I felt practicing a movement just as it is in a form is exactly how to get beat up. I learned to use footwork effectively to free up my attacks and control the range of the altercation. I even continually practiced fighting against multiple opponents and people with weapons to assure my ability to use my art. After another five years, I knew that I was very effective, but I also knew that I had reached a plateau.

There is one truth that no martial artist, will ever be able to escape: defeating an opponent is far easier than defeating yourself. In fact winning matches can be a way of losing focus of yourself and your art altogether. Through research and self reflection, I found that there was far more to combat than just punches and kicks. When discovered Bagua, I was in awe to learn there was power that could be utilized that most people will never be able to comprehend. In order to wield this power, I had to discard my initial understanding of combat and submit to something that was more than self. In short, I had to surrender my freedom of movement.

Now that I have been training for 32 years, it appears that I am moving freely when I trade hands with other martial artists. When an attack is launched in my direction, I can move and react much faster than before. However now when I move, it isn't a single punch or kick that I attack with, it is the system of Bagua itself. By surrendering my ego and personal ideas to a system, I have enhanced the way I fight and think. I'm no longer a bunch of random martial art techniques, but an outline of well knitted and coordinated physics. As with many crafts, martial arts is just a tool or mirror that teaches how to separate your true self, from the identity that's been assigned to you. 

I always tell my students that it's ok to mix your combat art after you've practiced one style for ten years. Just as Bruce Lee had invested in Wing Chun for quite some time before learning how to move freely. Even Ronda Rousey practiced Judo for 15 years, which is why she stands alone in the UFC. All of her opponents are equipped with many different techniques, but no person is able to defeat a system of physics.  It's the same as using your personal opinion to have a debate with science itself. Both Ronda and Bruce had a specific root before adding other movements. This is not mixing, but the completion of an art.

In many ways, much of our confusion stems from the term "freedom." In both martial arts and life, we use the word freedom to loosely. In reality no one is actually free. What would happened to you if you stopped making money? What if you decided to stop eating? Yes you are free to be a bum and free to kill someone and go to jail, but the more you act on those irrational impulses, the less freedom you will have as a result. We are all slaves to many things, yet we continue to use the word freedom to describe our country and objectives. In truth real power doesn't come from freedom, but restriction.

If you want to have a nice body, you must limit what you eat. If you want to be good at martial arts, you have to restrict your time and train every day. If you want to marry someone, you can no longer see other people. As a father, I must make many restrictions on my time in order to see the proper development of my children. If you love anyone or anything then there is a cost and a responsibility that comes with it that will certainly limit your freedom, but whenever you sacrifice something in love, you actually become free. Just as surrendering yourself to a single style of fighting will show you a more efficient form of free movement.

Now when I move with Bagua movements, I don't feel restricted at all. Just as the love of my wife empowers me, so does the system of combat I use. Submission to the correct guidelines may not feel like freedom at first, but through time and growth you will find a better definition of power. If our planet rotated freely and wasn't on a fixed axis then nothing in this world exist. If you have a pen and paper you are free to mark it however you like, but if you wish to create something, you will have to learn proper shapes and proportions. Most of us are confused because we believe we want freedom when we actually want purpose. Purpose by definition is the sacrifice of many freedoms. 

Even though I understand free movement within my system, I must continue to tune and tighten my techniques throughout the course of my life. Every day I train, the system of physics merges with myself more completely. When I hit or even get hit, it's very clear that I am Bagua. In my life I continue to learn how to follow Christ. Even though I make many mistakes, it's still easy enough to see that I'm a Christian. Conversely, the world will continue to proudly chase freedom, adopting a form of decorated chaos.

We are continually encouraged to be greedy, wasteful and over-saturated with entertainment. We are free to sleep with as many people as we want or buy many things that we don't need. Whether through alcohol, pride or ignorance, there is no limit on how much we are able to destroy ourselves. We must always protect our freedom of speech, but it's often used to justify saying hurtful things. The reality is that the world is completely lost and it's not finding itself anytime soon. If you follow the projected self that has been given to you, you will eventually begin defending issues that are harmful for yourself and encouraging ideas that you actually hate. Like many others, you will be in a sea of depression because all of those "freedoms" will cost you everything.

In contrast to what the world is doing, learn to limit yourself to things that will be a blessing for others. Just as your movements can be improved through sparring, helping others is a great way to find yourself.  Don't let all of your time be consumed by random thoughts and fears of the internet and media. These are dark clouds that seem harmless, but will eventually poison your thoughts, teaching you how to think and eventually giving you an identity. You will become unreasonable if you continue to watch unreasonable things. Through refining your skills and helping others you will find a light amongst the confusion. You will become a leader in a time that people don't even know they need to be led. Clear your mind with positive development at least long enough to find your purpose. Because without purpose, you will never be free.     

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Warfox Bagua Treatise

Here is a article I wrote for Temple Underground about Bagua. If you haven't subscribed to their site yet, please do.

http://www.templeundergroundmagazinetum.com/#!peer-review/cfvg

A Treatise on Bagua























In the beginning there was Wuji or the void: nothingness. The Wuji led to the Liang Yi, which is also known as the Two Concepts or energies of yin and yang (negative and positive forces). Liang Yi led to the San Cai or the Three Principles: Heaven, Earth and Man. The Three Principles led to the Si Xiang or the Four Directions: North, South, East and West. The Four Directions led to the Wu Xing or the Five Elements: Metal, Earth, Wood, Fire and Water. The Five Elements led to the Liu He or the Six Harmonies which are the three internal energies and the three external energies. The Six Harmonies led to the Seven Stars: Alpha, Merak, Phecda, Megrez, Alioth, Mizar and Alkaid. The Seven Stars led to the Bagua or Eight Trigrams representing the eight elemental energies of Heaven, Water, Mountain, Thunder, Wind, Fire, Earth and Lake. (Wu 1979)

Baguazhang utilizes the eight different elemental energies as a means for both strengthening the body and combat. The main strengthening method, often referred to as Pre-heaven Training, is done through practicing Zhuang Zhang (circle walking). Combat training is commonly referred to as Post-heaven Training and utilizes sixty four different palm techniques. Each also consists of eight different palm attacks. Without training the structure of the Pre-heaven, the attacks and defenses of Baguazhang are empty and powerless. Without training the Post-heaven, the power of Baguazhang can’t be wielded effectively. Both of these forms of training are separate, while remaining dependent on each other.  This resembles the relationship of yin and yang.

The importance of practicing walking the circle (Zhuang Zhang) can never be overstated. With every movement of Baguazhang, the hand follows the body, and the body follows the legs. Every technique is first guided by a step, which is the emphasis of circle walking. All of the sixty four palms have at least six different variations that become infinite when utilizing the different geometric patterns that Baguazhang footwork provides. Even though there are thousands of different techniques within the system of Baguazhang, they are all just variations of a single movement: Zhuang Zhang. (G. Z. Wu 2000)  

There are dozens of different techniques that can be practiced during circle walking including the Single Changing Palm, the Double Changing Palm and so on. However, all of the movements teach the practitioner to find stillness within movement and movement within stillness. By learning to twist within our structure, we are able to release the power of centripetal force from the ground and through the core of our body into our opponent. Every linear attack has the power of a spiral behind it, and every spiral movement flows in a straight trajectory. Through tightening and releasing, contracting and expanding, sinking and rising, opening and closing, Baguazhang can create a great force through realizing energy like a bow and arrow, or perpetually attack its opponent like an automatic crossbow.

In order to walk the circle, we must first understand the key points of the Baguazhang stance. These are the instructions of posture written by Wu Guo Zheng:  

“Lower the weight and gather energy into the Dan Tian (energy center), tuck in the buttocks to close the anus, extend the inside leg forward, push hip flexors forward and sink your weight on them to keep pressure off the knees, squeeze the legs together, breath from the zhong jiao (middle energizer), let your breath govern physical movements, slightly lower the chin to keep the head and neck erect, curl the tongue to touch the roof of the mouth, twist from the waist extending both hands to the side of the extended foot, press down on the shoulders and hollow out the chest to round the back, keep elbows centered, wrists are erected upward, the elbow of the outside hand is aligned with the center of the chest cavity, the middle finger of the outside hand points to the inside elbow, the first finger of the inside hand points upward, the middle finger of the inside hand is slightly curved, all intent is focused on the opponent opposite of the inside hand. Train to let the body relax in this posture in order to shape the structure of power into one connected movement.” (G. Z. Wu 2000) .

When this posture has been learned, we can begin walking Tang Ni Bu (mud step) to build power within the legs. Tang Ni Bu can be done in a straight line, at first, to gain control, and later it can be practiced in the circle with the aforementioned posture. When walking the circle, the inside foot moves straight forward while keeping the energy in the legs tight together. The outside foot then moves forward with a slight kou bu (inside hooking step) at a forty five degree angle. It is crucial to always keep the weight in the back to avoid putting pressure on the knees. Just as if we were walking on mud and are uncertain the depth, the foot slides carefully forward before placing the weight firmly on the ground. Once the weight has been placed, we use the toes to grab the ground for stability while alternating weight to the other foot. The waist must remain twisted as our focus stays on the inside hand.

Just like eating, this Pre-heaven practice must be done daily. Unlike other internal styles, Bagua learns to gather its energy from continual movement instead of stillness. Every movement is controlled by breath. Inhale with one part of the technique and exhale with the other. Through relaxing, we learn the secrets of coiling and whipping power throughout the limbs. This practice must be done for twenty minutes to an hour a day in order to establish the necessary power and connectivity for the Post-heaven movements.

The Combat system of Bagua is based on the strategies of each section (gua): Heaven, Water, Mountain, Thunder, Wind, Fire, Earth and Lake. The sixty four palms also have sixty four counters with variations to deal with striking, kicking, grappling and weapon defense.  Each palm attack can be modified into a fist strike, elbow strike, shoulder strike, back strike, head butt, kick, trip, arm/leg bar or takedown. (G. Z. Wu, Soft Body Flowing Baguazhang 1985) Mathematically, the movements within the system of Baguazhang are endless because it is the art of change and unpredictability. The movements themselves are only blueprints to instruct the body to use a powerful structure while evading, controlling or dominating opposing energy.

Heaven (Qian) represents purity, straightforwardness and simplicity. It is the way of striking and not being struck. Each hand attack must contain the energy of the entire body. As you breathe, your arms are inflated with energy that strikes through the target. Smother the opponent with powerful striking combinations using every part of the body, from every trajectory. Each movement is a counter attack that is preceded with a block, but every block is also an attack and preemptive striking is often a solid defense.  

Water (Kan) represents flow and splashing energy. It is the way of using and controlling the hands. First, grab the opponent’s arm and move the limb to do more damage in the structure of the body. By raising, lowering, or stretching the opponent’s arm, the rib cage opens and can be easily fractured when struck. Dislocating and holding the limb while it is broken allows for continuous attacking by yanking the opponent into the strike. Alternate from grabbing and striking to grabbing again, hitting vital parts until your opponent collapses. Crash into your opponent’s soft spots using a waving motion like the tide.  

Mountain (Gen) represents impregnability and silence. It is the way of counter attacking and not being countered. Through careful stepping, you can trap your opponent’s arms together, guaranteeing their inability to block your strike. Distant water can’t put out a nearby fire. Use rolling energy within your core to evade while appearing to have not moved. The more your opponent attacks, the more he becomes entangled by his own limbs. When striking, always expect to be countered to take advantage of his advantage. By stopping suddenly, we are off balance and uproot our opponent.  

Thunder (Zhen) represents invisible power. It is the way of the body. The entire body is an arsenal searching for the correct opportunity. Aim with your intent and release the power of the entire frame into your enemy. Crash into your opponent or slam them to the ground suddenly when their mind is in between movements. Move in one direction while attacking or grabbing in the other. Be as fast and unpredictable as lighting. Use explosive attacks into the soft targets of your opponent.

Wind (Xun) represents sharp, cutting force. It is the way of striking with the elbow and breaking the elbow at the joint. Use the elbow rapidly from all eight angles while aiming for the soft targets of the body. The elbow is also a shield that can be used to repel any attack while simultaneously returning damage in a wheel-like motion. Use the elbow in annular movements to roll off attacks and advance on the target. Break the opponent’s arm by catching it between your elbow and body at the precise moment of his attack. Use the elbow in combination with the shoulder or palm for bursting combination speed and effective countering opportunities.  

Fire (Li) represents heat and pressure. It is the way of kicking and stopping kicks. Utilize the Baguazhang angular footwork to kick your opponent from the least expected angle. Every step is a kick, and every kick is a step. Hide your intent within the footwork and strike suddenly at the throat, nose, armpit, groin and thigh. All of the kicks are also trips and sweeps that can be combined together like a fire in a dry field. Use stopping kicks to stop your opponent’s legs from leaving the ground. Hook the legs while striking with the hands, and strike with the hands to hook the legs. Fire consumes wherever it touches.

Earth (Kun) represents deception and craftiness. It is the way of entry. Peel, dismantle, and open your opponent’s defenses. Force him to block so that you can surprise him with a hidden attack. Bait him to attack, and force him to retreat so that he will fall victim to your setup. Attack from one direction, and, immediately the next, just so you can hit him in the center. Secretly find the weak point in the defense then dissolve and disable it in order to unleash a finishing blow.

Lake (Dui) represents stationary depth. It is the way of footwork. By using tight, circular steps you are able to travel very far within the same place. Your opponent will not be able to grasp you, but you can easily grab him. When he attacks, he becomes clumsy in the depth of your evasiveness. Sink and raise your weight to expose your opponent’s vulnerabilities. Use footwork to control all ranges and you control the outcome of the fight.

The true power behind Bagua comes, not only from the footwork of Pre-heaven or the techniques of the Post-heaven, but from the understanding of opposing forces. The entire system is learning how to twist opposing energies together: Heaven vs. Earth, Fire vs. Water, Wind vs. Lake, and Mountain vs. Thunder. The wind is the opposite of the lake because it can’t be contained, whereas the lake can’t move around freely. The mountain is the opposite of thunder because it is massive and silent, yet thunder is loud and invisible. Baguazhang is the art of change, and through combining opposing forces we find the freedom of unpredictability. (J. Y. Wu 1979)

When we combine opposing forces together, we find a power within the resistance much like magnets of opposite polarities. These opposing forces not only exist between the Pre-heaven and Post-heaven Training, but also between the individual and Baguazhang itself. Baguazhang is a system of geometric patterns and concepts that utilize physics that can be challenging for the mind and body to comprehend. The individual must practice thousands of techniques ten thousand times.  He does this not to make the technique more effective, but to be molded into a living technique. Baguazhang itself is empty without the diligence of the practitioner. As it gives power to the practitioner over time then the individual also gives life to Baguazhang.

Baguazhang is the art of adaptation which comes through researching against various environments, opponents and situations. A chameleon can only adapt to what it encounters. Every theory must be tested, tried, and re-tested to ensure that the technique is of sufficient skill against any attack. Any Baguazhang technique can be used against any attack if the practitioner has trained it into completion. The movements must be blended with the nature of the man until each technique is a natural reaction.    

References: 

Wu-yuan Jin, Baguazhang, (Xinzhu, Taiwan, 1979) 
 
Guo-zheng Wu, How to Practice Bagua Well, 2000 ( http://eaglewu7.myweb.hinet.net/new_page_64.htm)

Guo-zheng Wu, Soft Body Flowing Hands Bagua, (Xinzhu Baguazhang Association, 1985)

Jin-yuan Wu, Baguazhang Training Principles, (Xinzhu Baguazhang Association, 1979)