Friday, November 9, 2012

Day by Day

(This was an answer I gave to Micheal, who was wondering how to keep training forms with out growing stale. Thanks Micheal. All of your questions make my blog better.)

Well much like the bicep curl, even though you do the same movement, the result is different. Repetition is like continually filling a large vase with a drop or two of water a day. Doing the same forms may not exhaust your body, but it will most certainly exhaust your brain...followed by your spirit.
So what I do is think of the movements of a form like parts of a car. Sometimes it's best to isolate a single movement from the form and then place on the workbench so that it can be examined. Examining each movement under the lens of purpose. When you understand the purpose of the movement you can begin field testing it in other scenarios.
For example take a single strike that you need to practice from the form. Then surround yourself with targets i.e. swinging heavy backs, fruit, falling leaves, shooting tennis balls, bubbles etc.
Using the same single technique to attack multiple possibilities is not only good for repetition, it is also pretty fun. You won't even remember how tedious the move is when you are defending your life from angry bees. (I do not support attacking bees....but sometimes sh#@ happens)
No matter what the technique is, it must be adjustable for varying surfaces, heights, environments as well as angles of trajectory. What if you have to do the movement against someone taller, shorter, in a phone booth, under a table, on loose gravel, or wet grass? Testing each possibility of movement gives you a better understanding of the energy and also more advantages against your attackers. Practicing on ice for only a winter will give you a significant advantage against someone whose never had to fight on ice before. Then you are able to lure people into your areas of specialization and batman. 
This is the most obvious form of isolating a movement. But it can also be done in other ways. When you isolate a movement and place it on the work bench, you are examining the energy of the move. When using "peng" or the extorting palm, we can see that the purpose of this movement is to first deflect, and then invite in order to off balance my target. So the signature of the move is Deflect and Invite in order to off balance my opponent.
By taking the roots of this energy you can use this attack while you are having a conversation with your boss. Of course in the internal arts the more subtle the more powerful. So when he asks you to do something you don't want to do, deflect it...but just barely. Then invite it in from another angle that favors you, but still appears to be favoring him. You will find yourself in a better position when you use the right technique at the right time. Though it seems like a different function, it is the exact same technique. By using the technique in more forms than just physical, you will add almost a magic enhancement to the attack. This is because every physical movement must first be processed through the mind. So the more ways the mind has seen it, the better it is at performing it physically. 
Take a move and isolate it on the workbench and you can do anything. Practicing the forms again and again is like trying to hack the energy signatures into your brain. Tons of code that has to be deciphered and eventually organized and then reorganized. Putting it on the workbench is where we can really find our specializations. I told you an example of how to use Peng in a conversation, but you could also use the same energy signature of deflecting and inviting for painting a picture, feeding a child, walking the dog, writing a poem or finding a job. Let your mind fantasize deeply into the technique because it is what will bind you to your purpose. 
Also you can take the technique and map out alternative pathways both before and after the movement. What happens if you use a low kick before the peng stirke? Or an overhand elbow afterwards? You can use the technique as the period at the end of the sentence, firing multiple attacks and ending it with the technique. You could also use the technique as an feint or opener it a variation of different combinations. If "A" is the technique we wish to practice, then we can use "A-C-C-T" or "T-C-C-A. Arrange the attacks or defenses in as many ways as possible, but just don't take the "A" out. This is probably one of the most and important but overlooked pieces of combat preparation. It is also repetition that doesn't feel like repetition. We may be very efficient at a technique, but are unable to find a launching point for it. Using varying possibilities before and after the attack, create a series of smooth paved roads for the most unpredictable situation. 
Of course every technique can also be used with a weapon so when you are practicing technique "A" see what happens when you grab a pipe, sword, rope, or jacket to use it as a weapon or a shield. Then begin asking yourself questions: Can I do this technique on the run? Can I get up from the ground and use this technique? Can I use this technique on the ground? What is the most lethal way to use this technique? What is the most non lethal way? Is this technique good against 5 opponents?
You can isolate several movements from the form and reorganize them for the day, week or month. We should feel that we own the form and that the form doesn't own us. It is our blueprint to do what we wish and desire. 
There is nothing more important than repetition. But repetition that doesn't change is unnatural because everything in our universe is changing. So it is up to our minds, to teach our bodies, how to change our practice without changing the signature of the movement.
Learning to do the same form again and again is much like learning to love someone day to day. It is easy to find something or something new, but easy in terms of love and kung fu is never powerful. We must learn to see the one's we love through refreshed and renewed eyes, so that we never take for granted how much they mean to us. Love is a gift, just like your forms. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All crews keep training

Every major transition in my life is naturally accompanied with a major transition or understanding of myself through my art. My training has acted as a compass that helps me find my next spot on the map of my kung fu quest. My goal ultimately is to use bagua as a medicine, tool or weapon to help those in need defeat their personal enemy. Any master can only plant the seed and it us up to the student to continue watering the movements through practice, meditation and research. I hope to use modern technology to my advantage in order to spread Bagua to as many people as possible through the course of my lifetime. This means that I don't know how long I will be able to linger in any one place at any given time. But every place I do touch, I will teach to whoever wants to learn. In the end of course there will be a school for the Tianwudao, or all martial artist that wish to unite for the purposes of learning, training and developing.

In addition I'd like to make some comments to some students that I haven't seen in a while.

Within our period of training I was able to give you a complete system mechanics whether it was weapon specialization, combat, energy training, military tactics, aerobic, self-defense or whatever. You know who you are. What you already have is enough information that you will be able to grow into a master of your own through time. Of course this raises the ultimate kung fu question, "How do I stay motivated for the next 50 years?"

I'm so glad you asked.

Do you think that I wake up excited about training the same movements everyday? When the rain is heavy and the air is freezing, it is so much easier to stay in the cozy womb of blankets. Winter is upon us and it becomes easier and easier to put off workouts and shorten practice time. For the sake of the super hero inside of you, don't give in.

The problem of motivation isn't related to the weather at all. It also isn't related to your age, mood, situation, finance or any of the things that it seems to be. For example if it's freezing outside, would that stop you from seeing the new big film you've been waiting for? If you just broke up with your girl friend would you stop paying your bills? Even when we have no time at all, we still waste so much of it thinking about how much time we don't have. Self-motivation is not at all related to your situation, it is related to your thinking which ultimately affects your willpower.

Why is it that you can go to a job you hate for 9 hours and can't make yourself do something beneficial for your actual being? It's because you have crippled yourself with the idea of having a choice. If you don't go to work, you get fired. If you don't can train later. This may seem to be an innocent thought but it is a poison that will in time erode your dream entirely.

Ok that's the first half of the problem. I know some of you seeing this may already start feeling guilty about some of the training that you have been putting off. DON"T! Guilt is directly related to sin. If you feel bad about something, you are definitely going to it again. You could say guilt is the Yin and sin is the Yang. You are never going to get motivated by being hard on yourself. (At least not for very long) Motivation derived from guilt is only going to make you go out and train real hard for a period....then your done. It's like those diets that don't work because no one can stick to them.

The true solution lies in taking away the choice. Just the same way that today you need to eat food. It doesn't matter how busy you get, you have to eat something. Would you like to eat the same cornflakes of every meal of every day? Of course not, so you have to continually and completely change the flavor of your training. If you practice the same move in a thousand different places, it will have a thousand different seasonings. But more importantly you have to stop separating your training from your interest because your interest are who you really are. Here are some ideas that might help you see my point

-Use kung fu posture to do your chores.
-Use a horse stance from time to time if you have a desk job (no one ever notices you aren't sitting)
-Reward your self for 5 straight days in a row.
-Train in places that you already love to see.
-Try out some of the crazy ideas that you think are only for books and movies. Nothings impossible.
-Create an obstacle course. ( I love cutting through melons while running with sharp objects)
-Buy a new article of clothing when you master a new movement.
-Give your weapons names and birthdays and take them out to celebrate.
-Teach a stranger one move.
-Write a martial arts article about something you wish to know about.
-Cut falling leaves and snowflakes
-When ever you get a spontaneous idea, go with it!
-Take a road trip and practice at every scenery that intrigues you.
-Figure out the best way to create or purchase weapons.
-Give your self an impossible challenge every month...and beat it.
-Train on ice, loose gravel or high corn fields.
-Climb a mountain and then train on the tip.
-Take a camping trip with only your sword and throwing knives for food.

If you are always seeing your training as cornflakes, then you are gonna get sick of it real quick. Just think of all the different ways that you can cook a chicken. You training is only limited to your imagination. In music there is only eight notes, but how many different styles of music and songs are there? You don't need anymore movements, you just need more ways to explore them. I can teach you martial arts, but I can't teach you to enjoy your life. Martial arts is a part of your life and your joy comes from appreciating every gift that God has given you.

For those of you who are still waiting for DVD's. Fear not. The time is upon us. I am finally adjusted and living in China. Yes, I am super busy, but nothing comes before passing on Bagua baby.

Right now I have begun teaching the crew in Beijing. It will probably be a few months and then I will swing back around to where you are. But when I do come back I'm bringing a lot of new stuff that can only be done if you have been working on the old stuff. So all crews in all areas need to keep training. Not just for me and you, but the sake of the future of kung fu is in your hands.

And if you don't practice, you're fired.