Tackling

Postby Bob3 » Tue Aug 14, 2001 9:50 pm

Hi Steve,
I agree that "retreat" is not correct. I would suggest that a move to the other's weak side to a defensible position makes more sense. I'm not sure there is a word for that.
As for not letting someone lift your leg. If someone attempts this and fails, then in a sense the event has ended when the person gets tired or gives up. This does take some mastery to do this, so I didn't mention this technique at first. When the opponent gives up or fails, then sieze the moment and move as above. If the opponent does something different, then the 'play' is still enjoined, so the practioner can react appropriately. If nothing else, the opponent will be tired to a degree after this encounter, so that can be factored into an appropriate response.
One thing not really brought out earlier, is using the force 'an' to put downward force on the opponent. Depending on the degree of skill of the practioner, this can be significant to a degree that the opponent cannot straightened up. If this force is suddenly removed, the opponents body (if not pushed to the floor) will rise, hopefully breaking the hold to lift the leg, then other techniques can be applied.
I hope I've made myself clear at this point. I tend to be very practical as to what works for that individual, and not what could work if one was sufficiently skilled. Not many people today can practice the amount of time needed to rise to a high level of skill.
One final comment. Our club has brought a grand master of Wudang Tai Chi to the Seattle area and he is giving us some training not previously available outside China. If interested, let me know.
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Postby DavidJ » Wed Aug 15, 2001 7:42 pm

Hi Audi,

Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I've been rather busy.

You asked, "I have occasionally pushed with people who retreat very low and far to the rear and have wondered how they would counter an attempt to seize their lead foot or to lift their knee. Does anyone think that this is just a question of proper sticking/adhering energy?"

There are many different ways of doing this. Would you specify what you have in mind?

I think it depends on how it's done. For example, if you seized my knee where would your face be? Where would your crotch be? How much of a grip do you have on the knee?If I then shifted my weight forward would you be over-balanced?

This is pretty complex, again, I think the response would depend entirely on how you seized/moved/lifted.

If seizing the other's front foot or lifting the other's knee is done by your forward foot, (take a half step forward like "Play the Pipa") then the sticking can be with the foot instead of, or with, the hand(s), and when the other person shifts their weight to the forward foot, or withdraws the foot, you uproot them using your foot. Timing would be everything, so you'd catch them in mid-whatever.

For a response to this, generally, if you are off balance, regain your balance as quickly as possible.

I would think that these could be well within "proper sticking/adhering energy".

Regards,

David J
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Postby tai1chi » Thu Aug 16, 2001 6:08 am

Hi Bob3,

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Bob3:
[B]"I agree that "retreat" is not correct. I would suggest that a move to the other's weak side to a defensible position makes more sense. I'm not sure there is a word for that."

Yeah, there's never really a right word. "Retreat", in tjq, is a form of attack, but it's just an advance. "Withdraw" works, but the sense can be of separation, and imho, that's not theoretically correct. I look on "moving to the side or rear of the opponent" as more of a strategy --a sound one, imo, btw.

[B]"As for not letting someone lift your leg. If someone attempts this and fails, then in a sense the event has ended when the person gets tired or gives up."

My point was that all some modern grapplers want is to gain control of a limb. The Machados became famous for specializing in arm bars. But, in general, the whole object of submission wrestling --as opposed to throwing-- is to gain control of one of the opponent's limbs. Preferably with a combination of one's own limbs. Anyway, as Audi's post suggests, it is always possible that a grappler will get something to grab on. Personally, I woudn't assume that he'll get tired.

[B][snip]"If nothing else, the opponent will be tired to a degree after this encounter, so that can be factored into an appropriate response."

If you were to grab someone's leg, what would work?

[B]"One thing not really brought out earlier, is using the force 'an' to put downward force on the opponent. Depending on the degree of skill of the practioner, this can be significant to a degree that the opponent cannot straightened up. If this force is suddenly removed, the opponents body (if not pushed to the floor) will rise, hopefully breaking the hold to lift the leg, then other techniques can be applied."

I totally agree that some use of "an" would be useful. But, let's not assume that the opponent wants to straighten up. Fwiw, "Repulse Monkey" has often been suggested to me as one intended response to an opponent seeking a leg (up or down). It might be also be considered a transformation of lu into cai with a step back. Alas, I'm not so good at descriptions.

[B]"I hope I've made myself clear at this point. I tend to be very practical as to what works for that individual, and not what could work if one was sufficiently skilled. Not many people today can practice the amount of time needed to rise to a high level of skill."

True, but not many tjq practitioners practice against grapplers (especially submission matwork). It's probably not necessary if one has a plan, and can do the usual (but difficult) tjq skills of listening and sticking, etc. We really have talked about grappling in general. For example, not even the Gracie's simply go for a leg. Usually, there's a set up. Watch any UFC tape. In many, they wait for someone to kick, then they grab a leg. Or, they feign a kick or punch to force a response and then they go for a takedown. The people who have been successful against them have been cross-trainers (generallly) who don't mind going to the mat with pure grapplers, but who have an advantage when it comes to standup. Anyway, usually grabbing is preceded by hitting or feignting.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby Bob3 » Thu Aug 16, 2001 11:56 pm

Hi Steve,

Just one further thought brought to the surface based on this discussion. Usually, in push hands practice with another person, one or two hands/arms are used to interact with the force. Also useful are the sticky hands type skill. I suspect that a similar type of exercise could be performed with one leg/foot also. In my experience, most people don't have the loose hip joints to engage in such a practice, but this might serve to raise a skill level to another part of the body.
I have heard that some people practice moving a foot around the Yin Yang circle in a couple of planes, to develop control. This practice could be extended to doing a push foot practice? Such practice would serve to build confidence and skill so that one of the defensive moves like Golden Rooster or Retreat like Monkey could be more practical. The risk of performing both of these techniques is that the opponent could gain control of a leg and thus control of the practioner's center.

Have fun playing on the Way,
Bob
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Postby Audi » Wed Aug 22, 2001 5:35 am

Hi All,

Thank you for your comments and suggestions on my tackling question and on the proper interpretation of the meaning of “jin.” I apologize to those who feel this was an inappropriate post under Pushing Hands, but I could think of no other place that was more appropriate.

My somewhat meager experience of free pushing hands has usually been with partners with whom I have not agreed beforehand on specific rules. I therefore take it somewhat for granted that my partner may step when I do not expect it, may attempt a gentle joint lock, or even throw a controlled strike or kick.

My understanding of pushing hands is that it does not differ in principle from sparring, and so I have assumed that any push hands movements that make me vulnerable to strikes, kicks, joint locks, or takedowns are incorrect. From the opposite perspective, I have assumed that push hands “techniques” that have little use against strikes, kicks, joint locks, or takedowns are also incorrect.

With respect to what I meant about "retreating" low and to the rear, I was referring to standard fixed step pushing where the opponent decides to sink vertically downward so that the thighs approach parallel to the ground. When I have had opponents do this to me in response to pushing pressure and shift their weight backward in the standard yielding response, it always seemed to me that they brought their knees or heels into play for my hands. Because of the lowness of the postures, it did not seem to me that my head or face was any more vulnerable than usual, since I was low enough to reach the opponent's knee without really having to bend over.

When I have seen similar positions in videos of master practioners going through extremes of range of motion, it has always seemed that they maintained a great deal of mutual peng energy that may have made disconnecting for a grab difficult. I do not think, however, I have ever encountered that quality in anyone I have pushed with in a friendly, but competitive way. However, some of the people I have engaged with in drills have given me the feeling that it was difficult or "dangerous" to disconnect.

More than just a single leg tackle, my question was also directed at a tackle where the opponent is driving with both legs. The origin of my question was watching a video of Matt Thornton, who I understand to be a devotee of Jeet Kune Do and Bruce Lee, but who otherwise seems to take a very dim view of current asian martial arts.

Thornton appears to focus his self-defense system on three distinct areas: the long range fighting of Western boxing, the clinching of Western wrestling, and the grappling of Brazilian jiu jitsu. On his video, I was quite surprised to see him advocate a wrestling sprawl as the appropriate response to an attempted double leg tackle, since I had never thought of a tackle as a street tactic or Western wrestling as really a self-defense art. However, seeing this demonstrated on the video in the context of "no holds barred" fighting, I am convinced that both this form of attack and defense are serious, and not easily countered.

I find much of Thornton's approach distasteful, even if somewhat credible, and so have wondered what a proper T'ai Chi response would be in the same situations. The wrestling training of my youth has taught me that maintaining a vertical posture in the face of an attempted tackle is a bad idea, but then I have remembered the story about Chen Fa Ka and the Chinese wrestler and wondered again. If I were "jumped" on the street and someone tried to tackle me, what should I do?

Because of the comments on this thread and because of some recent pushing hands experiences, I think I have an idea of how one might move in such a way that an aggressor would feel that attempting a tackle would be unsuccessful or even risky. One of the elements of such movement seems to be not relying on “sensitivity” alone, but to be able to transfer enough waist and leg power into the arms to counter the aggressor’s attempt to use his or her body weight as a weapon.

If the opponent attacks before contact, with arms wide, one can step backwards while applying waist energy through a straight arm to the opponent’s chest, a little off center, in a way that will throw him or her off balance and incapable of “lunging.”

If the opponent attempts to guard his or her body with an arm, that arm can be used as the focal point for a press down (an), roll back (lü), or pluck (cai) to do the same thing. If the opponent attacks one’s legs after contact, I have recently found that maintaining root in both feet and general ward off energy (i.e., expanding like a balloon) into the opponent’s torso and onto his or her arms makes gaining leverage against you difficult, even if the opponent has achieved a lower center of gravity. Even though the resulting position seems stymied, I would not feel comfortable doing this if my physical well being were at stake.

I discount reliance on sensitivity alone because I believe such a strategy feeds into a dynamic where speed and reaction time are paramount and integration of body movement is secondary. Although this can make martial sense, it does not seem in my opinion to have the flavor of the principles practiced in the Yang family form. Furthermore, the danger of a tackle in a self-defense situation is not just that it is often surprising, but that it is backed by much more power than most other moves. Hence, I think a strategy that relies on early detection, but neglects the need to generate a great deal of power/energy/strength (jin) is risky if one is using traditional T’ai Chi principles as a basis.

I appreciate suggestions made by some about using movements like Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg. These are interesting ideas; however, my understanding of Golden Rooster is that it is preceded by contact with the opponent that encourages him or her to retreat, rather than to advance. I had thought that the loss of stability caused by rising onto only one leg was justified only because of the opponent’s attempt to retreat up and to his or her rear. Would not using Golden Rooster against a tackle be a case of using force against force, potentially a good martial technique, but one counter to T’ai Chi principles? Do I have an incorrect view of Golden Rooster?

Also, if one does not knock out an opponent with the knee or elbow attack of Golden Rooster, will it not still be necessary to deal with the follow through of his or her body weight while in a vulnerable position standing on only one leg? It would also seem that if the knee strike is blocked, one will be in a relatively helpless position with weakened root.

Thanks again for the responses.

Happy practicing,
Audi
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Postby DavidJ » Wed Jan 09, 2002 9:38 pm

Hi Audi, Gene,

I found this and thought of your discussion.

http://www.guychase.com/p5.html

Toward the bottom of the page there are photos of take down techniques including a counter for someone diving at anothers legs.

Regards,

David J
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Postby Audi » Sat Jan 12, 2002 9:40 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for the reference.

For what it's worth, I have evolved my thinking slightly on this issue and on push hands in general. I do not have particular techniques to mention, but I now would emphasize an approach to such a situation that would involve flowing into an opponent's structural weaknesses. The result could be to wrong foot the opponent, to cramp his or her posture so that he or she could not effectively use leg leverage, or to extend a lunge so that the opponent would have to use energy for balance rather than the tackle.

By the way, the first picture reminds me of how much wrestling is based on discreet techniques, how much stop and go there is, and how leverage is applied differently than in T'ai Chi. I recall this move as being a variation of something called a "wizard."

Thanks again.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Erik » Sat Jun 01, 2002 1:13 pm

Double Leg Take-down - The opponent will try to hold behind the knees, step between your legs beyond your base-line and leverage you down either by pulling the knees up, pushing you back with his shoulder or both.

Solution - If he has you behind the knees, snap one leg back (similar to a bow stance) to break his hold of at least one leg. Then try to control his center by either grabbing his head in a guillatine choke and stand up straight with your center under his head. Or, push down on the back of the neck with both hands (sprawl concept only using the hands instead of the chest).

Theory - Either turn his double-leg take-down into a single-leg and treat it as such or use the idea of sprawling (basically controlling the opponent's center via the head). You'd better be pretty damn good though because this and the single-leg takedown done by someone who knows how to do it are pretty damned effective.

Single Leg Take-down - The idea here is to apply a forward/downward leverage on the inside of the lead leg near the knee while holding the lower leg (foot, ankle) stationary. Extremely effective. I use a version of it in push-hands called the 7-inch elbow (I like to use my elbow). Where I disconnect with my lead hand and simultaneously step in between my opponent's legs beyond his base-line near his lead front foot. I grab that foot with my rear hand and elbow the inside of his front thigh near the knee forward and down (as he falls it looks like you're doing a very low roll-back).

Solution - Keep your lead toes pointed directly at the center of his mass to keep him from getting an angle on you and this will also help root you. Hit him hard where-ever you can(yes, there are strikes in Yang Taijiquan) or grapple with him (Taiji is also a standing grappling art - is it not). See Yang Banhou's writings referring to choking the opponent.

Theory - Don't let him get an angle on you for the single and don't let him get ahold of both of your legs for the double.

Take-down Asprin - On a shoot style takedown quite often the shooter will lean forward and down. 1. Hook your lead hand under his lead arm with your hand somewhere on his upper back (his arm resting in the crook of your elbow) and with your rear hand... 2. Press down on the back of his head while all at the same time you... 3. Do a back swing step - swing your rear leg away from the opponent pivoting on the front foot. He will mostly spin right over onto his back or at the very least lose his center and structure. The beauty of it is - you don't.

What I'd like to know is how did this thread, starting with a specific question on a counter to a specific technique turn into a semantics debate?

2 doors. One has a sign over it "Taijiquan Training" the other "Taijiquan Lecture". The training one is empty and the lecture one is standing room only. My advice to you is to have a friend do single and double leg take-downs on you cooperatively...then less cooperatively...then non-cooperatively until he's bored to tears and you play with a number of different techniques until you find what you can do while not compromising your body mechanics or center of gravity.

Good training - Erik
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Postby Erik » Sun Jun 02, 2002 5:03 am

Sorry guys,

In the "asprin technique" I mentioned above I was not very clear on the footwork.

If you begin in a closed stance (each of your centers is closed by the opponent; ie. your right foot forward and his right foot forward) you will need to take an initial step back with your lead (right) foot taking the target away from the opponent. This now makes your left hand the lead hand I mentioned. The opponent's lead is still his right.

If you begin in an open stance (each of your centers being open; ie. your left foot forward and his right forward) you will still need to swing that back leg back around a bit more once you get the back of his head in the palm of your hand.

Good training - Erik
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Postby Audi » Sat Jun 08, 2002 5:13 am

Hi Erik,

Thanks for your response and the well-thought out post. I especially like your description of the 7-inch elbow.

I apologize for any lecturing you may have perceived from my posts, but I cannot help launching somewhat of a defense, or at least a clarification.

I wrestled competitively in high school, both under American-style and Olympic-style rules. Double-leg takedowns were actually a favorite of mine, and I cannot recall anyone contacting me or holding me in a way that would make me feel incapable of launching one for more than instant, as opposed to what was described in the Taiji story in my first post.

I was trying not to solicit defense techniques that overlapped with those that would be familiar to a wrestler. Specifically, I was interested in what would make a wrestler feel unable or unwilling to launch a takedown, rather than what one could do to counter one once it was in progress. As I recall the Chen Fake story, he was able to “stop” or intimidate the “wrestler” with one touch. I was a far better wrestler than I am a practitioner of Taijiquan and so wanted to keep the two systems separate. If wrestling contained my answers, there would be no need for me to explore any Taijiquan.

Keeping the techniques of wrestling and Taijiquan is important to me for several reasons. I know that "wrestling" is practically a curse word in Taijiquan, since it connotes use of pure muscle and little subtlety. My experience of wrestling, however, was not like that. In fact, I have received most encouragement for "softness," "sensitivity," and "elusiveness" in push hands when I most use wrestling instincts and techniques and abandon such "cumbersome" Taiji principles as using integrated whole-body power and controlling my hands with the waist.

It is partially because of this experience that I react strongly to descriptions of Taiji as having qualities of "softness," "sensitivity," or "elusiveness" as essential core principles. I was far better at these things in my misspent youth, before I ever heard of Taijiquan, than I am now after practicing Taijiquan for several years and having become older, fatter, and lazier.

Since I posted my questions, I have had two brief experiences with Taiji masters that rightly or wrongly make me feel somewhat justified in my position. Both were showing push hands applications in a class on people around me and on me personally.

While both teachers termed what they were showing as "applications," both were more or less unwilling to correct specifics of speed, timing, body position, or limb alignment. They both described the success of their techniques as depending upon "understanding" the energy of the moment and not in perfecting sequences of movements. They implied that focusing on a particular timing or placement was counterproductive if pursued independently of the energy principles involved.

What I perceived when they demonstrated on me was that at a key moment, they placed their hands lightly on my body in some place that felt absolutely necessary for my next intended movement. It was as if they placed their hands on my fulcrum of the moment and were occupying space that I could not get at, but absolutely needed to use.

In both cases, it felt that I was still free to use speed and power to attempt to escape; however, it felt as if the teacher had not really used any speed or power as yet and so would not need to put forth half the effort I would need to use in order to thwart my escape attempt. What was worse was that it felt that they would be in a perfect position to borrow my speed and power and just make my undoing even more dramatic.

As has been said elsewhere, it was as if I had willingly, but unknowingly walked into a funnel with an "enemy" at my back. The only prudent course of action seemed to be complete inaction and passivity so that the minimum of energy would be used against me or so that the teacher might be forced to give me some energy that I could work with. This is what I think was described in the Chen Fake story, and for me it embodies what is meant by "following" and "launch later, but get their first."

From your other postings, I presume that all I have said above is old hat to you. You certainly have had more practical experience with Taijiquan than I have had. I would maintain, however, that the subtleties of language make many descriptions of applications ambiguous. Before I studied Taijiquan or Karate, I would have thought I understood your descriptions completely and could even better them. I now am very wary of taking applications out of context, or without some understanding of the underlying principles assumed.

You suggested that I get with a friend and simply work out answers to my question. I agree with what I perceive of your sentiment, since I do not feel comfortable with approaches to Taijiquan that divorce it from its martial roots and do not treat it as a living art meant to be used and experienced.

I have two problems with taking your advice, however. First, like many Taijiquan friends I have met, I do not have a regular workout partner with the interest, accessibility, and requisite ability to be helpful. Second, I find that practice, without proper guidance, simply reinforces preconceived notions without teaching anything new. In this case, I would get better and better at wrestling, and worse and worse at Taijiquan. My main recourse is to be very careful about how I focus my mental energy and to make the occasional application instruction I get here and there count for as much as possible.

As for “semantic debate,” I agree that the best course of action is to receive good instruction, to practice, and to explore. I would be very unhappy if anyone took any of my words to mean that one should “think” or “debate” one’s way to skill in Taijiquan; however, I take seriously the many references in the literature to practitioners sighing in frustration after years of practice because they are unable to obtain the any of the “secrets” of Taijiquan. Despite the frequent references, I have met few people willing to admit to such frustration. To me, the problem is often not because of lack of practice, but rather practice of the wrong things.

Thanks again for your response and other interesting posts.

Happy practice,
Audi
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Postby Erik » Thu Jun 13, 2002 4:09 am

Hi Audi,

Great reply. Sounds like you've really thought about this. I mis-understood and thought you were looking for counters for the single & double leg take-down.

When you hear stories like the one you mentioned keep in mind that Chen's opponent was experiencing that old feeling of being outclassed. In order to get to that level of skill you're going to need a good deal of defensive techniques, technical skill and non-cooperative training. There's really no other way.

By maintaining your intent, body-mechanics and readiness you should be able to thwart most BIG initial attacks such as a double-leg. It's usually something in the mess that works as a good technique during a fight and NOT the initial attack. Would you try to shoot in on someone who looks completely prepared for it - as if they were just waiting for you to try? I wouldn't. That may be what you're getting at.

Nobody will ever convince me that a 185lb Giant-Killer, like Joyce Gracie who regularly defeats professional no-holds-barred fighters twice his size while having never sustained an injury worse than a black eye and usually defeats his opponents without causing the slightest injury, is not an internal fighter.

Grappling IS internal. If you've ever gone to an open mat night at a Brazilian Jujitsu gym you will feel very much like your doing push hands on the ground only with your whole body. Certainly a good grappler trains body mechanics, non force on force, alignment with gravity, attack angles, sensitivity and abilities to adjust and change, etc. Skill and sensitivity is just that no matter what art you get it from. Most Taiji stylists believe that the sensitivity, body-mechanics and skill they derive from Taiji training are easily transferred to other physical disciplines. Why would this not be the case for your wrestling?

Here's where I stir up a hornet's nest when I say that a good high-school or collegiate free-style AAU/Greco-Roman wrestler could take-down and pin most modern day Taiji "masters" in no time.

To me Taiji is no different from good grappling in theory - it's just a different range. The second generation Taiji and Bagua practitioners in Beijing incorporated a LOT of Baoding Kuaijiao but we all forget that. Chinese internal martial artists don't have a monopoly on body mechanics, generation of whole-body power or excellent fight strategy. I see Taiji as a mid - short range standing grappling style that also includes striking, locking, throws and projections. Once the fight goes to the ground (...and it WILL) that's where grappling or, at the very least, ground finishes come in. The skill gained from fighting styles of both ranges compliment each other very well. As for keeping the training seperate - I certainly understand what you're saying. The techniques I wrote about were completely Taiji techniques.

You mentioned a push-hands instructor not explaining the dynamics of the body-mechanics and fighting principles as he pushed with you. In my opinion any good teacher should be able to explain every detail as if he were talking to a 4 year old (very clearly). Chances are you could have taken them with your double-leg. Sounds like they don't train in free-sparring much. I would have went for it.

I agree whole-heartedly that you need a good teacher to learn the applications. It certainly makes the learning curve faster, doesn't it? If you can't find one you at least need good reference materials just as if you were studying any other serious subject. Get as many videos of respected push-hands teachers as you can get your hands on and suss out as much as you can from them in addition to training with a teacher. If you cannot find a good training partner for applications training, try finding a friend who does not train in anything and see if they will "dummy" for you while you work on techniques. Keep the training very cooperative having him be an honest weight - not giving it to you but not resisting either. Chances are he will become very interested in what your doing and you might inspire someone else to take up the study of Taiji with you. Then you WOULD have a good training partner and the two of you would have a leg up on the rest of the class.

Now I'm rambling on, sorry.

Good training Audi and keep those grappling skills!

[This message has been edited by Erik (edited 06-12-2002).]
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Postby Audi » Sat Jun 22, 2002 9:27 pm

Hi Erik,

Thanks for your reply. I certainly agree with much of what you say and much of what you imply.

I personally do not believe that there is an absolute dividing line between Taijiquan, other so-called internal martial arts, and the so-called external martial arts. I also believe that Taijiquan really needs hands-on experimentation and training. On the other hand, I believe that the principles inherent in Taijiquan can have a pedagogical use beyond being merely descriptive.

You stated:

“Would you try to shoot in on someone who looks completely prepared for it - as if they were just waiting for you to try? I wouldn't. That may be what you're getting at.”

This is of course a good principle, but is not really what I meant. Many wrestlers do in fact launch moves even when the opponent appears to be preparing for them, because wrestling has no problem relying on power and speed. During my wrestling days, whenever I judged my power and speed to be sufficient, I launched my technique regardless of the opponent’s intention or state of preparedness. My attitude in Karate was similar. This is one of the reasons why I cannot approach Yang Style Taijiquan in the same way. I understand the traditional Yang system to built around a fighting strategy that tries to give the opponent little or nothing to work with and tries to hide all its initiatives within transformations (hua) of the opponent’s energy. I am not stating this as necessarily a superior strategy, simply one that is different.

When you talk about Chen’s opponent feeling outclassed, I think you have your finger on it. What about Chen’s touch or body disposition could make someone know that they were outclassed and that to attempt to move in would be too risky? I never had perceived such a sensation while wrestling or doing Karate sparring, but at least twice now I have had a momentary taste of it while doing push hands. By the way, I am not talking about relative skill, which is something different. One can easily be outclassed without being able to sense it.

You also stated:

“Grappling IS internal…Certainly a good grappler trains body mechanics, non force on force, alignment with gravity, attack angles, sensitivity and abilities to adjust and change, etc. Skill and sensitivity is just that no matter what art you get it from. Most Taiji stylists believe that the sensitivity, body-mechanics and skill they derive from Taiji training are easily transferred to other physical disciplines. Why would this not be the case for your wrestling?”

You touch here on the crux of why I try to distinguish Taijiquan from such things as Karate and wrestling. I agree wholeheartedly that the skills and sensitivity you mention are important to Karate and wrestling and that these arts/sports have internal aspects. It is largely because of this that I want to make sure that I do not use Push Hands or other Taiji partner exercises in such a way that they advance my abilities in those arts/sports, but overwhelm subtle principles I am trying to develop in my Taijiquan. There is overlap of course, but for me that does not mean that I can willy-nilly mix the three things. Nor is that fact that a given technique is “effective” a sufficient guide.

Also, although no one active on this board appears to share my view, I believe very strongly that “internal” skills or principles are not the same in all martial arts. I do not view Taijiquan as simply a distillation of universal principles of movement and combat efficiency, but rather one compromise among many in martial arts. Because a particular technique may work in isolation or in one particular setting does not mean it is appropriate or will work in others. Taking half a sonnet and half a haiku and squishing them together to make a poem would rarely result in more sublime or more expressive poetry. If I take one of the Karate punches I learned and “relax my fist,” I will not have a more effective punch.

I can think of few postures in the form that do not violate the Karate principles I was taught. I also can think of few form applications I would be tempted to use in a wrestling match, since Taiji ideas of root and balance would be too confining. Where the mind is focused, which muscles are tensed or relaxed and at what times, what strategy and tactics I am focusing on—all are different.

Where I think I disagree with your view of Taijiquan is that I do not define it much in terms of “body mechanics, non force on force, alignment with gravity, attack angles, sensitivity and abilities to adjust and change, etc.” In many ways, I felt more skilled in such things as a 16-year old wrestler than I do now. My focus is much more on the why than on the what.

If I look at such principles as the Ten Essentials and Sticking (nian), Adhering (zhan), Connecting (lian), and Following (sui), I find concepts and techniques that I did not use in wrestling or Karate. In fact, I would say using many of them would have meant doing bad wrestling or Karate. Any wrestler maintaining a posture with a vertical spine (xu ling ding jin) is courting disaster. Any Karateka “following” his or her opponent’s technique or energy would be misapplying the vast majority of Karate blocks, which are intended to shock and attack limbs, not to uproot the opponent, “control the center,” or “Seize/Hold” his or her energy. Using the waist to the degree I try to do in Taijiquan would simply slow down my hand and arm speed in wrestling or Karate. Although I may unknowingly have used some Peng energy in my wrestling, I know I did not in my Karate. I find locally generated power and integrated power to be largely in conflict strategically and tactically. I cannot simply heighten the power of wrestling or Karate techniques by “adding” integrated “jin” (power), since this would put constraints on my locally generated power.

You also stated:

“Here's where I stir up a hornet's nest when I say that a good high-school or collegiate free-style AAU/Greco-Roman wrestler could take-down and pin most modern day Taiji "masters" in no time.”

I think I agree with your sentiment, although underlying my agreement is my opinion that wrestling does not command sufficient respect within its field of application rather than a belief that the Taiji “masters” are necessarily unskilled within their field of application. To turn the statement around, I would also think that most modern day Taiji masters could knock out or otherwise disable most wrestlers before they would be pinned.

You also stated:

“You mentioned a push-hands instructor not explaining the dynamics of the body-mechanics and fighting principles as he pushed with you. In my opinion any good teacher should be able to explain every detail as if he were talking to a 4 year old (very clearly). Chances are you could have taken them with your double-leg. Sounds like they don't train in free-sparring much. I would have went for it.”

I was not complaining that the instructors did not explain the body mechanics or fighting principles. I was trying to say that they deliberately were not focusing on these in physical terms. They were talking in terms of “energy” and principle, not body mechanics. Their whole point was that learning the body mechanics of a particular application was not the purpose of the exercise, but rather to learn and develop how to “dong jin” (understand energy). Once one can “understand energy,” the mechanics of an application flow from this.

It is the difference between memorizing a chess opening and understanding positional theory. While memorizing openings is certainly part of chess, it certainly is not the main road to chess mastery. One can argue that mere experience with “non-cooperative” partners is enough to gain the necessary knowledge. Some of this is merely a matter of learning style, but I would argue that some endeavors are so fraught with pitfalls or so subtle that such a strategy is problematic for many. There is more than one way to "skin a cat" and you may be more interested in exploring one way than another because of how it fits in with your overall goals.

The aspects of Taijiquan that excite me do not concern movement mechanics per se. What I understood from the two instructors I mentioned was that they were assuming a basic understanding and control of movement mechanics and were trying to take the students to the next step, i.e., how and when to apply those mechanics and even how to make them up on the spot. Focusing on the body mechanics needed to make a technique successful at any particular moment would have been a red herring. In fact, my understanding is that solo form practice is basically to learn one’s own body mechanics, but that Push Hands is for learning about the implications of the opponent’s body mechanics, i.e., about “jin” (energy).

By the way, my approach to Taijiquan is firmly rooted in principles Isaac Newton would have accepted; therefore, I am not talking about any type of paranormal or New Age energy. I find this very difficult to express without appearing to be arguing semantics; nevertheless, I am talking about something that is quite practical and physical, even if rooted in the mind. Can someone reproduce any of Tiger Woods’ shots by simply observing his movements? Surely, what can be observed of his “body mechanics” holds little mystery. I am more interested in how his mind is interacting with his body. This is what I seek to practice and apply.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Erik » Sun Jun 23, 2002 2:32 pm

Hi Audi,

I think we agree more than it sounds in either of our posts.

I used to fight pro-am (I made money if I won) and even fought professionally in the ring in Thailand where I now live. I moved back to the States for a few years and continued training under Tim Cartmell. He is the ONLY person I've ever crossed hands with where I felt, instantly, that I had no chance at all. It wasn't anything he did physically per se. I'd felt other fighters that were perfectly relaxed and composed when they fought. It was something about his intent. It's as if he's always 3 steps ahead and his intent is boring a hole right through you. It gets even worse when his game goes to the ground. So I completely understand what you are talking about. I have an English student who is a professional Muay Thai Boxer living and fighting here. He trains with me to increase his sensitivity and says similar things about me when we train. He's a really powerful fighter with almost NO sensitivity, more of a striker really, so I can throw him around pretty easily.

I think you hit on the difference between Taiji and other disciplines in your reply. The main difference I see with Taiji and other styles is the ability to stick and follow and understand balance/root/stability. It is the hallmark of Taijiquan, Bagua and Xingyi and a few other styles.

Internal principles are the same no matter what art you practice. Using the body in the most efficient manner possible. It's just that internal arts start with looking at your own body rather than how to punch or kick with force. What makes it stable, how to remain stable while in motion and how to generate power. Once you are thoroughly familiar with your own body it's easy to see what will make your opponent unstable and how to set up or create instability in the opponent's. To top it off we even have drills specifically designed to help us sense (in)stability and (good/bad) postion in relation to our opponent.

The problem with other arts is that they don't take this approach to teaching/learning. You're absolutely right in saying that body mechanics and sensitivity are two different things. Sure push-hands takes you to the next step but you have to know the principles of body mechanics in order to be able to "sense" a mistake in your opponents use of them. Energy/Jin/Whole-body-power/wave of force, etc. are simply a result of proper body mechanics. Energy comes from this and no-where else. When you're talking about Listening and Understanding energy it's really sensitivity to micro-mistakes that the opponent is making.

You simply cant connect/stick/adhere/follow if you are stiff or tense (even for a split second) mentally or physically. You can't possibly relax if your structure (body mechanics) is wrong, ie. shoulders up, torso leaning, hip and shoulders out of alignment, etc. And generating whole-body power is out of the question without exemplary body mechanics.

My first Taiji teacher dazzled me in my first class. She invited me to push her and in a second I was on my butt. It amazed me back then and felt like incredible power. Now I realize she just redirected my push so smoothly that I over-extended and got all twisted up. A six year old could have pushed me over at that point. Her sensitivity was incredible but she used it to completely destroy my structural alignment. Her following technique was flawless. It was "Return to Mountain". I thought it was magic at the time.

For me "energy" is generating whole-body (as opposed to sectional, ie. boxing, karate) power as a result of following Internal principles of body mechanics that are outlined so well in Chinese Internal Martial Arts. (forms training, testing the postures and standing holding postures)

Listening and Interpreting Energy for me describes the sensitivity to the opponent's structural state, direction,speed & intensity of force and techniqe. Understanding (the opp's) Energy comes from "feeling" his body mechanics. I often use my eyes to sense the mistakes my opp. makes in push hands. (sensitivity drills, push-hands, 2-man form)

This approach to understanding and developing "energy" is unique to Chinese Internal Martial Arts. But it has to be said that I've seen practioners of Taiji practice without a clear understanding of what makes an "internal" or "ralaxed" style Internal. I've also seen practioners of other arts which are in no way related to Chinese Internal Martial Arts approach their art in a completely Internal way. I see it as an approach rather than a style. It's just that Taiji has had it all sorted out since the beginning.

Regarding knocking out a good grappler - still have to disagree Audi. I would put my money on Yang Luchan, Dong Haichuan, Wang Xiangzhai, Sun Lutang, Zheng Manqing and a few others who actually accepted challenges, fought and proved their skill publicly time and time again any day. These guys were truly gentlemen "badasses" and there never was a question of their skill or teaching ability. But it's a different world nowdays and most modern Taiji practitioners think competitive martial arts is undignified not to mention accepting a genuine challenge. Taiji seems to be too good for that now. I secretly cherish the hope that a great modern day "gentleman Taijiquan fighter" will enter one of the mixed martial art/no holds barred competitions and show what Taiji really should be. I'm too lazy and out of shape to give it a shot. The fact is grapplers have won almost ALL of these competitions to such a degree that most good fighters are now incorporating at least the basics in their training.

On a reality check - I would never want to roll around on the ground in a real fight. A sure way to get kicked in the head by someone.

One question Audi. Do you have a copy of "Effortless Combat Throws" by Tim Cartmell? The techniques are OK but the sections on Principles are absolutely amazing. Completely Isaac Newton-esque.

Good Training - Erik
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Postby Erik » Sun Jun 23, 2002 2:52 pm

Hey Guys,

Here's some really cool video footage of push-hands and an interesting article.

http://homepage.mac.com/mancheta/imovie.html

http://www.shenwu.com/TS_Article.htm

Hope you like it - Erik

[This message has been edited by Erik (edited 06-23-2002).]
Erik
 
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Joined: Sat Jun 01, 2002 6:01 am
Location: Koh Tao, Thailand

Postby Audi » Mon Jun 24, 2002 12:17 am

Hi Erik,

Thanks for the further reply, the suggestion about Tim Cartmell's book, and the links.

From your further words and your selection of links, I think we do agree more than would seem from our posts. One think that again strikes me is that words like "whole body," "relaxed," and "energy" are all quite ambiguous, and it takes a lot of digging to have even a moderate sense of what someone is talking when they are used.

I have wondered about Tim Cartmell's book and whether it would be worth a read. Thanks for the recommendation.

The links were also well worth exploring. As I watch the sparring, I am again struck by the difficulty of truly evaluating what one is seeing without some idea of how the person is attempting to move his body. I especially like the Slant Flying and the first sparring clip.

By the way, with your fighting background, what was it that drew you to Yang Style Taijiquan.

Take care,
Audi
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