Grasping Sparrow's Tail

Jeffrey performing “Grasping Sparrow's Tail” which can be used to develop various skills for different purposes

"High level Kungfu, Sifu explains, enables you to use just one technique, and sometimes any technique, to develop a variety of skills for many different purposes."

-- Jeffrey Segal

The following discussion by Jeffrey Segal is reproduced from the thread Breathing Methods and Control in Taijiquan in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum on 24th December 2004.

It's me again!

Now I'd like to return to the post that was the impetus for this thread in the hope of shedding some more light on Wahnam Taijiquan.

Originally posted by Sifu Sier:
"However, it is my expert opinion that the practice of repeated, individual Form Postures for the training, development, and maintenance of specific skills necessitates a mentally directed and regulated practice of the individual Forms used for these purposes. A common example would include the training of internal power issuing techniques for fighting applications, since the “intention” to project or issue the chi in a strike or kick and the proper regulation of the breath in doing so is imperative to the use of such skills. Another common example would be the practice of an individual Form Posture known to enhance the volume of chi in a specific energy meridian vessel for the purpose of eliminating a diagnosed blockage of the vessel, and to supplement the flow of chi to a weakened internal organ specifically supplied with energy by that associated meridian vessel."

After reading this paragraph several times, my conclusion is that it tells us that a special technique is required to develop a special skill for a special purpose. In the initial stages of learning Wahnam Taijiquan this is most certainly true. For example, to teach our students how to differentiate yin-yang (a skill), we teach them how to move their legs into the Goat-Stance correctly (a technique). In this way we promote agility and good balance (a purpose). At this stage, we do not worry about breathing or even about our arms. Students are instructed to just let their arms dangle effortlessly.

At more advanced levels, this viewpoint undergoes a transformation and the advice that a special technique is required to develop a special skill for a special purpose is no longer applicable.

To this effect, Sifu often jokingly says to advanced students that requiring a particular technique to develop a particular skill for only one particular purpose is an indication of low-level Kungfu. Please understand that this is stated firmly from our perspective and anyone who disagrees is of course entitled to their opinion. Indeed many people refer to our arts as crazy Kungfu. I use the word Kungfu here in its broader sense which includes Taijiquan, Shaolinquan and Qigong. (Please excuse my mix of romanisations, “Gongfu” may be unfamiliar to some readers)

High level Kungfu, Sifu explains, enables you to use just one technique, and sometimes any technique, to develop a variety of skills for many different purposes. In keeping with one of our tenets which says that training (including Kungfu philosophy) should also be fun, Sifu uses the term platinum card Kungfu. Many Wahnam Taijiquan practitioners find this to be one of the dimensions of our art that makes training Taijiquan fun. Let's take “Grasping Sparrow's Tail” for example. Shaolin Wahnam students can use this technique

Can this possibly be true? My own experience and that of many of my Sihings and Sidais assure me that it is.

Here is another example from my own training. In 2000 Sifu taught me Abdominal Breathing. This was before he started teaching Dantian Breathing in public. Imagine my joyful surprise when after some months of diligent practice, I found that my Small Universe was starting to open up. Without teaching me Small Universe Breathing in a formal way, Sifu was able to help me attain the Small Universe.

Would anyone care to share any other examples where we are able to use one technique for a wide variety of purposes (other than Lifting the Sky )?

Enjoy your training!

Taijiquan Combat Applicationl

The Taijiquan pattern “Green Dragon Shoots Pearl” is used to close an opponent before striking him. This same pattern can be used for many other combat situations, like countering a kick, neutralizing a throw and releasing a grip. It can also be use for other purposes, like practicing agile footwork, generating energy flow and entering Tao. Using the same one technique for many different purposes is a hallmark of platinum card kungfu.

Comments from Anthony

Don't get me started on Lifting the Sky or Pushing Mountains.

I use the Taijiquan pattern “Swinging Fist” (or “Reverse Hanging of Golden Lotus” in Shaolinquan) for many things. If I don't have much time to practice forms in a session, then I will often do this one pattern over and over many times.

I do this for many different reasons:

The problem I find in practicing one pattern deeply is that, the deeper you go, the more you find! Think of all those patterns, and all the practice time necessary to go deeply into them all.

And yet, that's not necessary. I think that if you go deeply into a few patterns (Like Yang Lu Chan with “Grasping Sparrow's Tail”), then the benefits can be transferred to other patterns. I've found this to be true. I think that's how I can so easily transfer some of my Shaolinquan skills to Taijiquan.

Breathing Methods and Control in Taijiquan

  1. Entering the Tao
  2. Platinum Card Kungfu
  3. Breathing Structures
  4. How Not to be Out of Breath after Hours of Sparring
  5. Breath Control During Combat
  6. Combat Sequences and Breathing Structures - Hypothetical Scenarios or Direct Experience?
  7. Personal Experiences of Breathing Methods
  8. From You Wei to Wu Wei - From Control to Spontaneity


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