Submitted by Ashe Higgs on Sat, 08/06/2011 - 14:16
The real trick of pursuing a martial art like I Liq Chuan over the long term is recognizing the end of the duality of "on the mat" and "off the mat", so that one is always training. The I Liq Chuan system guide opens with the following;
When gaining the upper hand position, getting to the horizontal usually works to your advantage. Dropping your opponents into the horizontal plane in effect closes them in the up-down dimension. This makes it much more difficult for them to project force against you and is getting the upper hand into position to attack. From the lower hand horizontal position, it is tougher to achieve the spacing necessary to strike in. To strike from the lower hand position, the elbow extends and the shoulder flexes to straighten the arm. If this starts from the horizontal, the point of contact quickly rolls to the outside the sphere of defense of the upper hand defender. In effect, it's not possible to just slip through when the upper hand has established horizontal control.
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:
I recently read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and found the book to be quite enjoyable. The premise of how the mind can perceive things in an instant has parallels to the mental aspects of I-Liq Chuan training. We train the mind to remain attentive to the moment such that we can truly perceive and flow with the present conditions. One section of the book I found particularly interesting was the description of professional tasters. Developing a highly refined sense of taste has mental training aspects of which I was unaware. I had an interesting insight after reading Gladwell's description of how professional tasters develop their skill.
After the center of the feet, usually the first "easy" idea I teach to new students is paying attention to the body line. When the hand (or more precisely, the point of contact) is inside the body line, it is easier to absorb. Conversely, when the hand crosses outside of the body line, it is easier to project force. The body line is an important transition point which needs to be recognized to maintain unification with an opponent's force.
Practice makes perfect, or so the saying goes. But what are you actually accomplishing from repetitive practice? Hours of drills are necessary to achieve mastery of any skill, yet the hours of practice do not necessarily lead to proficiency.
According to Malcolm Gladwell, most masters of their craft have put in roughly 10000 hours of practice prior to mastery. However, those 10000 hours can't be mindless, rote repetition. What separates the amateur from the expert is the thousands of hours of mindful training--it's 10000 hours of focused attention to perfect practice that develops highly refined skill.
A few months ago, I did a post on questionable body conditioning practices. So, for your entertainment, here's a followup post about questionable martial skills. Some of them are impressive, but none of them really pass my personal test for general sanity.
Finger strikes through coconuts. Sure, I'd never want to get in a fight with him as he might put a hole in my skull with his conditioned fingers. But take a look at those gnarly fingers. I think I'd prefer full function and fine motor control of my digits instead of the ability to pierce a coconut.
In a previous post, I discussed the point of contact in terms of vector components. When you penetrate your opponent’s sphere, you pass the diameter line of the virtual sphere at the point of contact and have technically passed your opponent’s defense. However, just getting past the diameter line is necessary but not sufficient.
One mistake that I frequently made (and probably still frequently make) is to roll and pivot past the diameter line and attack straight away. That tends to only work if you partner or opponent is not attentive to your actions. The problem arises from the fact the force interactions are multidimensional. The point of contact is not a static sphere; rather, it is a dynamic point that changes curvature and moves in space.
I sometimes get asked whether training with beginners is boring or pointless. When you advance to a certain level of skill, it can be frustrating to have to train “below your skill level.” However, I choose not to view it that way. After spending a significant amount of time (years actually) as the only I-Liq Chuan guy around and having to build a group from beginners, I’ve come to appreciate the opportunity presented by training with a beginner.
One of the topics that has come up in the past workshops is the idea of vector forces in the spheres of offense and defense. To maintain your defense or invade your opponent's defense at the point of contact, the understanding of these spheres is essential. The concept of the spheres can at first seem esoteric, but the forces involved can be understood with some elementary geometry and physics (warning, math to be discussed ahead).