Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Now's the Perfect Time
Today as I feel the brisk wind occasionally accompany the once searing heat of the summer days, I realize summer is approaching an end. I've decided to slow my training routine to match the rhythm of the winter season. The season adds color to every technique we practice while the theme is established by strengthening of our deepest weakness. Tragically most of us over look the blessings of our self inflicted pain and are distracted by goals that are admirable but meaningless.
A goal to become better, be a master, obtain a new weapon or even learn a new technique will only pull your mind to a place that you do not yet exist. Forcing you to guess and ponder on the possibility of a fictional you. The only you that is real is the one who is reading these words at this moment. The "present you" holds all the keys to being joyful in this minute, hour and year. The key is to view things in a larger reality than yourself and know that this moment fits perfectly together to a master piece of a plan. All you have to do is take a breath from time to time and focus on the beauty of the moment.
Bagua is a mathematical equation for both power and growth. The eight sides, angles and trajectories combined with the power of variating circles releases energy that spirals through out the universe. At first it changes the way you move, later it changes the way you see.
Looking at other combat styles it is much easier to see progress. When training boxing it is immediate that we see the results. Only a few basic offensive and defensive techniques that can be trained and understood immediately. Taekwondo may take longer to grab a hold of, needing both flexibility and balance, more body management is necessary to fight effectively. Jujitsu having the largest advantage over the two because the number one requirement is to be on the ground, making the style it is fighting against useless in its territory and a need for balance unnecessary.
Of course Jujitsu is easiest to learn for a sport but also the easiest to foil in a real fight. A sharp object, rough terrain (such as pavement or gravel), biting or busting an ear drum are all techniques that don't even need to be trained to deal with a grappler effectively. Yet these tools will serve no great advantage against a boxer or Taekwondo practitioner. Taekwondo is best for fighting against more than one opponent yet it offers the most vulnerability on the ground. In these styles we see a paper rock scissors scenario that shows us a balance. So how do Bagua and other internal arts relate to these external styles?
If the first three styles are shelters, we can compare them to huts of various materials. Quick and effective to keep you away from danger but vulnerable to a serious storm. As time passes this shelter is heavily weathered and unfit for living. This is especially true for those who continually use fighting competitions to show their art. It is the same as taking a beautiful car and smashing it every couple of months. Of course you can fix it but the continual smashing of anything will eventually lead to it's demise. It's not a matter of if, it's just a mathematical equation of when.
Bagua in the early years serves very little benefit for fighting. All of the basics that are designed to give you strength take years to grasp a hold of. Power is continually but slowly being gained in both defense and health. Still everything has to be carefully attended to and researched before reaching it's true potential years and years into your training.
Why does it take so long to learn Bagua? Bagua when compared to the smaller shelters is like that of a complex building or skyscraper. All of the blueprints must be laid out according to plan in order to stand it up properly. Pipes, wiring, ventilation, foundation, windows, stairways and more must be established before the building is even usable. The advantage is once this building is up, you have it for the rest of your life. Weathering against any storm easily and comfortably.
So when laying out the blueprints of your training, you must pay great attention to the details of your overall plan.
Here is a rough outline of some of my notes from planning:
Basic training- The first learning season is about setting a solid foundation. Practice all of the movements you learn thousands of times which teaches the nature of the art.
Reaction- Taking every routine through reaction training is essential for every movement. Start slow and steady with a partner then escalate adding speed, weapons and eventually put it against other styles to get comfortable.
Footwork- Footwork teaches us to move from A to B smoothly and easily. Practice so that you don't even need hands to defend yourself mastering controlling the space between you and your opponent. In addition to practicing this on many different surfaces it is most important to practice against low kicks and grapplers. If you can get out of the way without your hands, it makes it easy when you can finally use your hands.
Flow- This is the practice of movement to movement having no stopping or starting point. Every attack smoothly leads into another attack making combination speed and power primary.
Movement Change- A combination of flow and reaction training teaching you to move from offense to defense at any given time.
Trapping- Trapping practice involves baiting your opponent from any position into a desired "trap" or attack that can not be countered.
Slow motion- Slow motion training teaches more body power and balance. The more complicated the motion the slower it must be done to learn the nature of it's power for 100 percent of the movement.
Nine Palaces- Zig zagging through the footwork of the nine palaces teaches us the nature of gaining the advantage against multiple opponents. Almost like building up an electrical current as you shock enemy after enemy.
Weaponry- Of course all of the weapons will need a season of their own. It's best to choose a weapon to master first instead of trying to master them all at once. After unlocking the secrets of one weapon it makes it easier to understand the nature of others.
Projectile- This is projecting energy from the coiling power and combining it with a step which lets you extend your energy out of your hand. When done properly even a hat can cause serious damage.(That's why I love hats.)
Kicking- To be effective with kicking in Bagua you really have to take the time to hash out an understanding of the footwork and kicking so you don't get tripped up. It's almost like a tornado effect.
Finger Strengthening- Fingertip exercise which gives us both grip and piercing power.
Chores- Doing sweeping, dishes or mowing the lawn allow for us to do many different posture techniques. Dishes give us hand dexterity and accuracy if we put them away quickly and carefully. Sweeping is an excellent chance for wrist to hip control, meaning that the wrist only moves because of movement in the hips. The wrist then guides the broom into the desired direction. The lawn can be done using a simple "mud step", all weight in the back and hands in a structured position. (Yes chores taking longer, but you kill two birds with one stone.)
Shake down- This is a coiling exercise designed to reflect the opponent from close quarters. Allow him to try to grab you and use structure to project him in different directions. This takes great understanding of footwork and fajin.
I think this is enough to show you different ways to aim your training. This here includes about a fourth of the things I have been training for the last 10 years. I like to think of it as making yourself into a work of art, like pottery.
The basics cut of the biggest pieces of clay and smooth out the first details of your shape, reaction training puts you into the fire hardening you. Later footwork solidifies your movement and framing while the training that follows adds the paints and colors of your own choice. Slow motion takes us through yet another intensive heating which polishes us off. This accompanied with different weather conditions adds a different tint to our artwork. Finger strengthening in the winter on pavement is much different than in the woods in Spring.
The more we look into the different things that can be trained the more we see an endless amount of possibilities and variables. Meaning that everyday and every minute our training is only limited to our imagination. So instead of thinking about all of the wonderful stuff your going to do in the future, why don't you start enjoying the possibilities of what you can do right now.