Last weekend, I made my regularly planned trip down to NC to train with Sifu at the NC ILC workshop. As always, I left with a lot of stuff to work on. I find going to workshops to be highly informative. This is not just because of the knowledge that gets presented, but also because I get feedback from touching hands with more and different people than I normally would. Interacting with different people gives me access to people with different feels, which is invaluable for learning to put principles into action.
This workshop focused a bit more on spinning hands and the five elements. I have to go back and review my video footage to fully summarize what was taught, but here are some of the things that I personally got out of the workshop:
- The "spinning force of coordination": while it seems a bit oddly phrased, I can't think of a suitable alternative. Spiral force or silk-reeling energy sound better, but they still don't capture the full essence of the concept. You have to coordinate your joint movements to generate the spiral wrapping from the feet through the legs to rotate the spine on axis. If you do it properly, the spinniing force will protect your balance over the center of the feet. The reverse is also true; if you understand aligning the center of the joints over the feet, it will be far easier to manifest the spinning force.
- There are several things can go out of alignment when trying to manifest the spinning force of coordination. The connection across the upper back linking the shoulder blades needs to be maintained to continue the spinning force all the way to the hands. The connection between the legs through the hips also needs to be maintained. The hips is usually where I lose it. I don't pay enough attention, and my hips tilt. I then lose the center of the hips, which breaks the spiralling at the hips and tilts the spine.
- Spinning force generates unified force to pull or push (alternatively to absorb or project). The most common mistake of pulling and pushing from a front stance is that many people just shift their weight rather than feeling everything connect up from the their feet. I admit, I was a little gratified to see Sifu emphasizing this point since I've been trying to hammer this point home with my own students (validation that I'm doing at least one thing right!). When just weight shifting is used, the hips sit back as you lean your bodyweight to pull; when pushing with just a weight shift, the front knee drives forward, the push tends to be dominated by the back leg, and the force tends to be too yang (too quad driven). If the body is unified to use yin-yang harmony, the body will actually come forward slightly to pull. This re-aligns the hips to pull, and utilizes the yin draw of the posterior leg muscles in addition to the yang pushback of the anterior thigh muscles. Maintaining the yin-yang balance to push, brings the hips back and draws the front knee back instead of driving it forward. You end up getting a "C" shaped motion from the feet such that the pull back of the front leg (yin draw, which I feel as activation of the glutes and hamstrings) helps in driving force off both legs.
- The body must be unified to back up force applied to the point of contact. This is why the training generally starts with unification of the self (solo training) before unifying with a partner/opponent. Theoretically, the unification of the body should carry over to partner training. Of course, in real life theory doesn't always match practice. I noticed this in myself. I've been paying too much attention latey to changes at the point of contact and have gotten a little sloppy about maintaining my own unification. My 13 points and 5 qualities are a little off, especially when my partner's forces ramps up. It was a little discouraging to realize that, but that's what feedback is for. Now I just have to return to more focused solo training and tell my training partners to ramp up a little and keep me honest.