Sunday, June 7, 2009

Don't Leave Empty Handed

This is an article written by my master which had three different sections. The first section focuses more on the technical movements of the way of the hands. Snatching hand, capturing had, dropping hand etc. Though there are many methods to getting to the point
that we can grab our opponent, more is needed before we can control him. This is the section I decided to translate which is part two: Strengthening your grip.

Written by Wu Guo Zheng

Translated by Warren Fox

Grabbing, strictly speaking is the meaning behind not leaving empty handed. It doesn't matter if you use the leading palm, inside lead, dropping palm, taking palm, snatching palm, capturing palm etc. All of these hand techniques are related to grabbing. Simply put, after grabbing your opponent the power is placed at his hands. You can take him left to right, up to down or front to back. This is the standard method of grabbing. So all of the techniques mentioned above capturing palm, dropping palm, taking palm all come down to the grab and then we can follow up. Grabbing the opponent and moving force from left to right is the leading palm. A single handed grab which moves the power backwards is the capturing palm. A two handed grab which forces them back is the taking palm. A two handed grab that the power drops their weight is the dropping palm. So grabbing is the meaning of not leaving empty handed, which means if don't get a grab on them we leave with nothing. This excludes movements such as the wrapping palm, dragging palm where we use a staining or sticking method.

In the realm of Bagua the grab is extremely important. So when we practice our post heaven movements, we must practice the gripping motion very clearly. That's how we practice our precision. First off the power relies in the fingers. So without finger strength we can not capture anything. In the application methods of Bagua, finger strength is crucial. For this reason it is important that we go through many different types of finger strengthening training methods. The following is practice methods for finger power.

Generally speaking there are a lot of different types of practice methods. But now I will introduce our systems most commonly used concepts. Training grabbing involves two types of power: pointing power and holding power. Even though the types of power are different they are also related and cannot be separated. Pointing power is purely the power of the fingers while holding power is the power of the palm. When the powers come together it is grabbing power.

This systems most commonly practiced finger strengthening technique is called the Iron Ox Plows Earth. The method of practicing must be slowly progressed. You can't immediately practice this on the floor. First it must be practiced while standing. Face the wall with your hands about a foot away then your hands push against the wall much like a push up. But this type of push up is very different than normal. Normally for push ups your elbows are pointed outward, but for this your arms absolutely must be squeezed inward. Use your finger tips to support your weight, keep your shoulders forced downward and your finger tip position must be in front of your chest cavity. This is the form you must use when pushing away from the wall. When you first start don't do too many, 20 to 25 is about enough. After practicing with the fingers you can also practice with your fist and palms and do another 15 to 20. Remember that your arms have to be squeezed inward otherwise you will be strengthening your muscles and not the internal power.

Again I emphasize that this must be slowly increased in difficulty before you can do a standard Iron Ox Plows Earth technique. For the reason that your tendons in the beginning are not strong enough and you will certainly injure yourself. So it is better to begin slowly. With this type of iron body training we are focusing on the finger power as well as the triceps. We know that when we are doing a pulling technique the power comes from the triceps. Make sure you drop your shoulders and squeeze your elbows in and then do a pulling technique to feel your power is coming from the right area. When doing a taking palm, capturing palm or dropping palm you should feel the triceps tighten. When practicing the Iron Ox Plows Earth technique using the wall is not enough to develop power but it is the first level of training. How do we know when we have finished the first level of training? Simply put do it consistently for a month to the point where you can do 30 to 50 in a row. Remember to keep your arms close to your body and don't let your butt stick out. Otherwise all of your practice will be in vain.

After finishing the first level of training we can move to the next part. This time we will train a motionless push up. In short we use the same method that we practiced on the wall on the floor. On the floor we use our fingers to support our weight, keep your legs together and the more level your body is with the floor the better. But don't let your body touch the floor. Again are arms must be tight to the body and make sure the back of your arms are level with the floor. Don't rely on the floor, slant, lean or stick your butt up. Keep your body completely still for at least a minute. Repeat this five times. This is the second level of the Iron Ox. The most important point is that your arms are level with the floor or this exercise loses all meaning.

The third level uses all the basic principles of the second except for now we move from high to low while moving forwards to backwards. Now the but raises up as we move backwards and then levels out while going forwards. The more the body can extend forward the better. This really puts all the support on to the finger tips but we can still practice on the palms and fists. After practicing this well we can also raise our legs onto a step while keeping our hands on the floor. Then we can add weights while using the same method. Finally we can practice this method one handed. But this cannot be done in a short period of time. Absolutely do not rush this training. It is very easy to hurt yourself. Later all of these exercises can be done using only three fingers. But first make sure that your five finger power as been achieved.

The Iron Ox technique must be slowly developed level by level. Just the same as kung fu, this way it becomes harder to injure your fingers.
Another training method for finger strength is handstands against the wall. Of course in addition from the fingers we can practice on our fist and palms. Just the same as the other methods we can begin to perform the handstand push ups and switch from five fingers to three fingers. But remember to first complete the Iron Ox training before starting this technique.

Another practice method we use for this system is holding jars. Naturally the weight of the jars must be slowly increased. Always remember with Iron Body training to not start of too heavy. We usually practice this while walking the circle or practicing Tan Yi Bu (Preheaven). Now go through the movements with the Jars in your hands. I usually use a thick bamboo Jar and fill the inside with coins. I practice sometimes grabbing atop the jar and others around the sides. The effect is excellent. Bamboo is better than clay jars because clay jars tend to stick out on the sides making it easier to hold on to. But bamboo is slippery from top to bottom so I have to use more focus in order to hold onto the bamboo. Its a great training tool.

Aside from this there is another training method. That is to practice with rice bags or sand bags. The goal is something from 100 to 200 hundred pounds. Practicing holding the bag can develop a great deal of strength. Grabbing it our carrying it on your shoulder makes you use all of the muscles in the body. Especially if your grab it with only your two hands. It makes all ten fingers strengthen quickly. So grabbing a bag is a great training method. My two kung fu brothers Hwang Ji Yu and Deng Wen Tang their family opened a rice store. So from very young they practiced carrying bags of rice on there shoulder. Because of that they have always had more power than most people. I believe there power is definitely related to them carrying rice all day. Just like the Judo master Hwang Li Shi Zhang. Because he always practiced bag training when he grabbed someone it was impossible to escape. Also he could do the Iron Ox technique twenty times the first time he tried. When I was young I used to see him painstakingly carrying rice back and forth. I would ask him how long he could hold it for. This was over a 200 hundred pound rice bag. Most people who try to pick up a big that heavy can't move with it at all. He answered me unenthusiastically, "Probably for thirty minutes isn't a problem." So I thought at this time no way he could hold a bag that long. We made a bet and had a contest in the rice warehouse next to his shop. My little brother was there with me. Without saying the answer can you guess who won? I can tell you at that time I was the loser. He held the bag and only after five minutes he was covered in sweat. After ten minutes he was already exhausted but his endurance was adamant. Still he held the bag high with two hands with no intention of quitting. Me and my brother we cheering him on and helping him wipe the sweat away. Minute by minute the time passed as he was closer to reaching thirty minutes. But maybe we were cheering too loud and were disturbing Deng Mu (his mother). She came over and saw here baby covered in sweat holding a big rice bag and ordered us to stop the game. Everyone has to listen to a distressed mother, so he put the bag down. But when he put the bag down it was 27 minutes and 50 seconds. Even though he didn't get to 30 minutes I know if his mother didn't stop him he would have succeeded. So as for the bet in the rice warehouse, I was the loser. I don't remember how much money I lost. I don't know if he remembers either.

Just an example of the many different types of training methods there are. Not everyone has a rice store in there back yard and not everyone is willing to go through this much strain. But if you do have the chance go ahead and try it. See how long you can hold a two hundred pound bag of rice over your head.

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