THE MARVELOUS LEVELS OF SIFU'S TEACHING
Review of Essence of Shaolin by Sifu Chris Didyk
Sifu Chris Didyk
Shaolin Wahnam United States
9th January 2018
Nice kicks guys! I'm particularly impressed with Wuji's ability to do the spinning kicks forwards and backwards!
(Editorial Note: Please see Flying Kicks, Round-House Kicks and High Kicks.)
The Essence of Shaolin - Session 2
(Editorial Note: The course on the Essence of Shaolin was divided into two sessions. Participants needed to take on any one session. Session 2 was from 14th to 20th December 2017.)
As this has become the de facto course experience thread for Essence of Shaolin, I'll share my thoughts on the second session here (note to moderators: should it be split off or linked to from the Discussions of Shaolin Wahnam Courses category? I suspect that is where most future people searching for it would expect to find it.)
The Essence of Shaolin course was everything I expected and more. It validated my pre-course belief that it is the pinnacle of Shaolin combat application the way that Dragon Strength is the pinnacle of Shaolin force-training. We had 17 attendees in the second session with experience levels ranging from 1 to 15+ years of practicing Shaolin Kung Fu. It was great training and spending time with new friends and old from all over the world. Every course reminds me how special our Shaolin Wahnam family is.
To the relative beginners who attended, I applaud you for taking advantage of this golden opportunity. It's not easy to take a course aimed above your current level, but it will noticeably speed up your progress and give you a glimpse of what is waiting for you just a little ways up the road if you practice well. Every one of you made a lot of progress during the course and I enjoyed training with you. I look forward to seeing how you've progressed when we meet at future courses!
Sifu's teaching was more gently powerful and cost-effective than I have ever experienced. We spent less time training and took several breaks, but when it was time to do something, Sifu explained/demonstrated it, we did it, and then we just had the skill. For example, when we did Double Dragons Emerge From Sea, Sifu demonstrated how to do it as force training using the flow method then the force/consolidation method.
It took about 5 minutes. We did just one round of each, taking maybe a minute or two, and I felt more internal force than when I previously did force-training for 15 minutes or more! Everything we did was that cost-effective. We went through the zhan zhuang cycle in about 20 minutes, the set in about an hour. Somehow, the pace always felt relaxed even though it was fast, and the breaks helped us absorb a lot of material without getting too brain-fried.
The course format was quite simple: review stances, review the set and its modifications, spend time coming up with and demonstrating our own applications of the patterns from the set, learn the 108 sequences of marvelous applications of each pattern of the set. We covered everything up to the 108 sequences on the first day and spent the other 4 days on the sequences. Occasionally, we each picked a sequence and practiced trying to apply them on each other, but the bulk of the time was spent learning the sequences.
To teach us a sequence, Sifu would bring a pair of students on stage and teach them the sequence step-by-step while explaining the fine points. They would do the full sequence a couple of times under Sifu's watchful eye, and then we'd get in our sparring lines and spend a few minutes practicing the sequence with a partner before moving on to the next one.
I know being up on stage can be daunting, but I'm always really excited to be up there. It's a rare opportunity to work directly with Sifu and get his corrections. Plus, so many times, I gain a deeper understanding of an application or a skill from feeling Sifu apply it on me.
The sequences themselves are amazing. They are short and clear, doing the minimum necessary to set up, apply, and counter the marvelous applications. In many cases, a sequence has you doing marvelous applications from both sides, often training you how to apply slight variations.
Many of the applications can seemingly be grouped into related themes (for instance, the sequences for Show Dragon Hide Tiger, Golden Dragon Plays with Water, and Hundred Steps Through Willows), and my feeling during the course was that we were being taught how to improve several important skills from a few different angles each. 108 is still a lot of sequences, but I love that in some cases, getting good at one of them might unlock a few others.
The videos of the sequences (which can be assessed here and here) are treasures. Sifu's spacing, timing, and movement are so relaxed with no waste. And his hands always go immediately to the right position. It's true that the sequences show us marvelous applications of the best patterns from all of Shaolin, but another layer of The Marvelous that Sifu taught us were all these little details with the basic patterns we used to set up the marvelous applications. I learned new things about patterns that I have been practicing regularly for over a decade!
As far as The Marvelous goes, there is no marvelous without solid fundamentals. Several times, I saw the sequences fall apart due to some fundamental skill being neglected. Once corrected, the sequences often became effortless. It's amazing how much easier it is when you do it right!
I had an interesting experience injuring my back on Day 4, but I'll save that for another post.
As always, thank you to Sifu, the past masters, Wei Foong, and our dear Shaolin Wahnam family for another wonderful course!
The above discussion is reproduced from Post 77 of the thread Essence of Shaolin in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.
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