Monday, August 10, 2009

Forms of Training

In all traditional martial arts there is the idea of pre-choreographed movements that often symbolise a struggle in emptiness or boxing with his shadow. Apart from the style of sword and a few more rare styles, forms are a solo practice which aim to refine his technique and to better understand the movements that characterise his art.

The forms are done with bare hands or with a weapon and are supposed to help master his technique, his movement, breathing and changing his way of moving. The concept is very interesting; to practice exactly the movement that we will use in life can be very useful to enhance the neuromuscular patterns. But in fact the forms are of little value. They are important for competition and for demonstrations, not for combat or for energy work.

I will not dwell on the details of the competition or demonstrations because this is not what interests us here. Also as the work requires a high concentration of energy, it is recommended to use simpler movements than those that can be found in the forms. From the standpoint of the struggle, the idea of working combinations of strikes is interesting to loosen joints and muscles to work. However, it is a harmful practice where we seek to apply the same combinations in real fighting.

The idea of combat is close to the idea of chaos, nothing is planned and nothing is determined.

If one undertakes predefined movements quickly versus his instincts, the value remains certain in combat. There are several obvious ways to practice daily. First, it is important to relax using complex forms that will also coordinate the work of the body.

Repeating a form regularly helps to better position your body in space. Then, if the forms are long and dynamic it enables practitioners to develop a better physical condition. But we find the interests that I just listed in gymnastics. If this gives us the same opportunities that the arts of fighting, why we bother to practice the arts of combat?

You should know that 95% of forms that we know of date back 200 years or so, which corresponds to a time when martial arts are coming out of being secret to becoming a business. There are ways that show the essence of an art form, but adapted for demonstration. Moreover they represent a way to fight and combat concepts that are hopelessly out of date.

To mention just three: some jump kicks that were used against cavalry with complex movements to strip the neck of an opponent wearing armour or techniques of disarmament against a warrior equipped with a lance.

The forms that have a profound interest are forms with very simple movements and that are repetitive. Why not do a form not directly repeating these movements you say? Looking at the progress made by the athletes (to take this example) leading the 100 m race, the top Olympic athlete of the century and an athlete from last year did not have at all the same performance. The reason is that we have a much better understanding of physical training and methods than before. The best way to train the body to be in any order is to train the way we start with the body, we try to coordinate breathing with movement, it is only then that we will use meditative techniques that are intended to calm the emotions and multiply the intention. Therein lies the beginning of energy work.

See already how to train the body.

The latter consists of several segments and the logic dictates that you train each segment separately from the others and then unifies the entire body in each movement. To follow the logic of the Taoist arts but also to avoid turning her gymnastic into a practice of memory, the physical movements used in both meditation, chi kung, and the arts of combat.

To begin we take the muscles attached to the more static and more tense joints in the body (those seem to be the shoulders and hips). We will review each and every muscle group to achieve articulation on finer parts such as fingers or toes. Each series of exercises will be repeated each day over a period of two to three months (but could extend this period in case of underperformance).

These will be followed by other exercises tailored to the most important segments remaining in a specified time. The practice will be enriched by performing various exercises aided by objects, rubber bands or weights. Emphasis is on quality of training rather than quantity. For this, the exercises should be performed slowly to be felt fully and analyzed.

Limbs must seek to be in torsion / rotation to achieve the "sponge". They must be checked at every moment that the neuromuscular patterns are precisely in the sensory memory of the body and of course, to acquire, the exercises should be repeated every day for a given period. The slow exercises that are found in all Chinese internal arts and some yoga are a utility to bring the practitioner to a total control of the movement. Perform the exercises too quickly and we can not reveal the imperfections that we would if we do the gesture slowly.

We just look for movements that are perfectly aligned with the joints and respect the lines of force of the body. It is only when this movement will be fully integrated into the slow then with speed, then we can have gesture which is more aware than a conscious concentration. At this stage we can consider moving on to more important things like moving the energy, regulate breathing, or work on the emotions. Moreover, in the difficult conditions of a physical confrontation (I speak here of the arts of combat) or a period of serious illness (which joins the chi kung), the mind is disturbed.

When the mind can not focus perfectly, without interference, it must be able to rely on the body that can not be disturbed. This is the principle of habit: it takes months to successfully make a trip or something without thinking. However, it is very difficult to vary this movement or change its trajectory once the habit is ingrained in the body. It is the difference between an intellectual or mental repetition and habit infused into the cells of the body.

Torsion / rotation of muscle is found in all yoga exercises and stretching: the idea is to drain blood from an area by precise muscular movements "wringing" and torsion (the principle of a sponge that is emptied of its water), then let the blood fill the muscle again when you release the pressure. The repetition of these movements will increase the vascularisation of the target area. In traditional Chinese texts say that where there is blood there is energy and where there is energy there is the blood. Thus increasing blood flow means increased circulation of energy.

In contrast to the forms we have spoken above, we can already see that this is not gymnastics, but it is good chi Kung. The combination of all these sensations, these breaths, the movement of energy and the regulation of emotions can have a style of chi kung in all respects similar (externally) to the movement of the arts of combat. These are simple and precise movements that seek little memory as each movement of the body and all gestures of training are fluid and logical. It is clear that the movement for fighting will be anchored in the body as will the movements of chi kung.

Thus a movement of very advanced chi kung may resemble a simple external one, and a small martial movement will develop a high power at impact. The more we advance in the Taoist arts and more we realize that all external movements take the same directions in three dimensions.

Each gesture is moving in space in one of six directions.

Whether "separate the tail of the bird" or "white crane spreads its wings" in tai chi, "the shape of the horse" in hsing yi, "the sixth change of palm" pa kua, this remains in any case an uppercut at 45 degrees and nothing more. If instead of wasting his time to carrying out all these forms without really knowing why, we worked directly with the direction that we want (diagonal up) we would move more easily to the point. If we developed training methods for this movement in these dimensions is more precise and involves the whole body, we gain time.

This time saved could then be used for things more important than the physical movements. It could be used for working mental, and emotional energy. This would reduce the number of movements performed by increasing the quality and understanding of them. With the habit of working on the concepts, the three dimensions and six directions, there will be no limit to the number of techniques that can explain or use without losing time to practice forms without interest that are not applied in the arts of combat or in the arts of health.

This training can work the whole body and each part of the progress is using the same gestures with inner work. Each body part will be stronger and all of it will be in better health. Each motion will be an effective technique for the arts of combat and arts for health. Never will we ask: "If I made the white crane that eats the leaves, then I do the driving tamarind or should I opt for the deadly turnstile ".