Subtleties and Insight of Basics
Sifu Zhang Wuji - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Singapore
16th October 2009
Subtleties and Insight of Basics
OK, I took 10 minutes off my lunch hour, so here is 20 minutes worth
During our stance training (we are still talking about the morning session), Sifu reminded us why our Bow Arrow stance is in a straight line. Sifu had explained this a number of times in his webpages so this is really an open secret. Yet, it is one thing to know the secret by reading about it and quite another thing to experience it, or in our case, re-confirm the veracity after having experienced it.
The secret is simply this: While the Bow Arrow may be physically less stable than one in which the feet are further apart in width, qi flow (whether in rooting downwards or used for moving) is optimised in the Shaolin Wahnam stance (which is also the same stance used by past masters and practitioners). Sifu also described the spiral movement rooting one to the ground when moving into the stance and how the dan tian is in the most ideal position when maintaining this form.
For the benefit of all those who may have wondered about the direction of waist rotation in a Fierce Tiger Through Valley punch, Sifu showed us the two different ways of turning the waist — the Precious Duck way, and the simultaneous bi-directional way (I call this the “convergence” way). Actually, I recall Sifu showing me at a Special course another way, similar to how one might do a backfist, except with a twist of the wrist at the point of impact. In fact, as I am writing this, I thought of a couple more ways to execute the punch. If nothing else, this course reinforced the immutable principle that kungfu is alive.
As this was a course for instructors, Sifu also shared with us how we can best help our students. It is a popular, if mistaken, belief among many beginner students that the master likes to hide secrets from them. It may surprise some to know that the converse is true instead. In Shaolin Wahnam, instructors often wish they can teach more to their students faster. But this is not good for the students. I have often had to slow down my teaching to make sure that my students progress at the right pace for them. Teach too much too soon, and their foundation will not be firm, or they may cause harm to themselves. I was happy to find this philosophy vindicated and confirmed by Sifu.
In Shaolin Wahnam, the phrase “systematic progression” is often heard, but it took me those years of going through the process to truly appreciate what it means. Students should practice one skill thoroughly before moving on. Any kungfu school can overwhelm a new student with techniques after techniques, but without even one basic skill to perform them, these techniques become liabilities in combat. Something like moving fluidly in stances gives the best example. If you have not spent time practising footwork, your punch will never reach the opponent and you would have set yourself up to be hit multiple times.
As I was discussing with Joshua at the hotel lobby, regular classes are in the students’ best interests. The way many instructors when Sifu first offered intensive courses was to take in a vast amount of material in a few days and spread out the training over months and years. The basic material covered in any one day of an intensive kungfu course, for example, actually takes 2 years to cover in a regular class.
For those attending a regular class, there is time to slowly adjust to the increasing demands on your skill and ability and for concepts and principles to be assimilated. There are also ample opportunities for an instructor to spot mistakes very early so that the mistakes are not perpetuated and programmed into muscle and mind memory. But those who attend an intensive course had to exercise great self-discipline, first to practice at all, and next, to properly pace the training.
OK, after that digression, back to the material in this course. We reviewed the first 4 Shaolin combat sequences. Sifu emphasised the importance of fully completing each movement, such as shifting the stances between Bow Arrow and False Leg, and not cheat on them. Sifu also corrected some seemingly minor details but which would make a great difference in combat, such as the correct point to strike when executing the various counters, and how to regulate the timing (not to rush to counter-attack) or how to flow with the momentum of the attach before countering. As Joshua put it, things that we thought we already knew, we did not know as well as we should (or at least I did not).
And this takes us to the end of the morning session (though with the caveat that I do not remember exactly the sequence of events).__________________
Persevere in correct practice
Qigong and Shaolinquan classes in Singapore
The above discussion is reproduced from the thread “ 2009 Advanced-Combined Shaolin-Taijiquan Course ” started in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum on 6th October 2009.