volume 6 june 2018
Sanatan Shastar Vidiya: The Timeless Science of Weapons
The 12 Secret Rings of the Yang Family Part 5: Pào Chuí Xiao Jia Canon Fist Small Frame Understanding T’ai Chi Principles
The Torso Method Exercises of Jou Tsung Hwa
Warriors of the Punjab
20 Questions With The Legendary
Ghulam Mohammed Baksh 1878-1960
The Great Editor Nasser Butt
Martial Arts Magazine Of The Year 2018
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The Internal Arts Magazine Volume 6 June 2018
Published by L’orso Solitario Books, Leicester, United Kingdom Lift Hands The Internal Arts Magazine Editor Nasser Butt Copyright © by Nasser Butt, 2018 & Fa-jing Ch’uan Internal Chinese Boxing Schools Nasser Butt asserts the moral right to be identified as the editor & owner of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the editor. Waiver of Liability: The publisher assumes no liability for the use or misuse of information contained within this book. By purchasing or electronically downloading this publication, the reader hereby, waives any and all claims he or she may have now or in the future against Nasser Butt and Fa-Jing Ch’uan Internal Chinese Boxing Schools or its affiliates.
The points of view represented here are solely those of the authors’ concerned. You do not have to subscribe to them if you do not wish. Nor is their inclusion here necessarily an endorsement by Fa-jing Ch’uan Internal Chinese Boxing School or its affiliates. Cover photo (main): Nidar Singh Nihang Cover design © Nasser Butt, 2018 Cover Photography: Courtesy of Nidar Singh Nihang/ShastarVidya .org Back: Shihan Keith Priestley performing Kata Bassai Dai - Kaizen: The Martial Arts Expo 2018. Photography & Design by Nasser Butt
lift hands June 2018
The Great Gama Nasser Butt
The House of Mouse The Art of Amy Faulkner
If Words Are Not Songs Dr. Gregory T. Lawton
The Torso Method Exercises of Jou Tsung Hwa Alan Sims
The 12 Deadly Katas Peter Jones
The 12 Secret Rings of the Yang Family Part Five: Pàochuí Xiǎojiā Nasser Butt
How To Make Your Taiji Wooden Dummy Colin Power
The Power Stance Shifu Kurt Levins
How To Tie Sageo Jamie Seal
Training Methods For Martial Arts: Yòubǔ Shŏu - Trapping Hands Part 2 Peter Jones
20 Questions: Shihan Ken Culshaw
On Reversing Forms Nasser Butt
Hadjios Valley T’ai Chi Ch’uan Weekend Camp 2018 Cyprus Booking Details
Sanatan Shastar Vidya - The Timeless Science of Weapons Nasser Butt
Understanding T’ai Chi Principles Alan R. Ludmer
The Art of Louiseneige Be
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What a fantastic and unbelievable achievement!
April 28, 2018, has already become a historic date in the brief history of Lift Hands Magazine - winning Magazine of the Year 2018 at The British Martial Arts Awards held at the Lilleshall National Sports and Conference Centre, UK. To have achieved this incredible honour while we are still in our infancy has left all of us associated with the magazine stunned. We are far, far from the finished article yet, however, we have set the bar high and this award will go a long way towards confirming that we are on the right track. Sitting at the table in the presence of the great Brian Jacks, alongside the beautiful Sarah Pillage, I could not believe my ears when the announcement was made. I looked in disbelief at Sarah, who laughed and simply said: “The look on your face!” As if that was not enough, when my name was called out for Writer of the Year Runner Up Award - I once again automatically looked towards Sarah… “Yes, they’re calling you out!” she stated with another smile. This was an incredible night of achievement - way beyond anything I had expected or even imagined. However, these awards are not mine or the magazine’s. They belong to all and each and everyone who has helped in their own way - no matter how small or large - including our readership, who have encouraged us to continue producing the work which we are. I particularly want to thank all the writers who have contributed articles to the magazine. I know I can be a pain in the bum continuously harassing you guys but without you I’d have nothing to publish other then my own rants! Our magazine has ‘The Internal Arts Magazine’ in its title but we are far from that. We are having some fantastic input from across the spectrum of the martial arts community and are becoming a people’s magazine. All martial arts are the same… they kick, they punch, they grapple and lock. The politics are simply semantics and we hope to rise above and beyond that by continuing to bring quality articles and information from the most highly respected sources in their respective fields. Our readership base is expanding. We are literally being read across all the Continents and I will continue to ensure that the magazine remains free to read for as long as it is feasible. This month’s issue focuses on the Punjab and its rich history of martial arts. I am hoping that future issues will contain further gems from the Indian subcontinent and its ancient history as well as other lesser well known regions of the world. Once again, a great big thank you from the bottom of my heart. Nasser bows to you all!
The Great Gama Pehalwan Nasser Butt
first heard the name Gama Pehalwan - the great
Catch-As-Catch-Can wrestler - at the tender age of eight, when my father had sent me back to the Punjab - the land of Five Rivers - in Pakistan, along with my siblings in the mid-seventies! My grandparents were still alive at the time, living in the small - but historically significant - town of Wazirabad, located approximately 100 kilometres north of Lahore, along the Grand Trunk Road, on the right bank of the Chenab River and 30 kilometres from the district capital of Gujranwala. The town, according to the Digital South Asia Library (DSAL), was founded by Wazir Khan (hence the name Wazirabad), during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1592 - 1666) and “… is first heard of in the time of Charat Singh, when, together with other towns in the District, it fell into his hands about 1760.”
A poster of Gama credited to Shyam Sunder Lal Agrawal
The town had been occupied in 1809 by no less an authority then Maharaja Ranjit Singh himself, who upon his departure from the town left it under the governance of his Nazim - General Paolo Crescenzo Martino Avitabile (Abu Tabela) (25 October 1791 – 28 March 1850) an Italian soldier, mercenary and adventurer.
Avitabile was a peasant's son born in Agerola, near Amalfi in Italy, he served in the Neapolitan militia during the Napoleonic wars. After the Battle of Waterloo he headed east like many other adventurous soldiers at the time, joining the army of Ranjit Singh in 1827 and being appointed administrator of Wazirabad in 1829. Avitabile turned Wazirabad into his headquarters - “He built an entirely new town, with a straight broad bazar running through it, and side streets at right angles.” According to the Encyclopedia of Sikhism - Punjabi University Patiala - Avitabile appears to have been a successful and able administrator as he held this position for the next seven years during which he governed Wazirabad with a firm and at times cruel hand, bringing discipline and order to the town. As a result, the town grew in prosperity. It was to this town, the place of my birth - the last true native-born Punjabi, albeit of Kashmiri origins, of my family - and from where my father had emigrated to the UK in the 60’s, that I had returned in order to be schooled and learn the history of my culture. My father’s philosophy was simple… he had emigrated to England and made it his home - it was his choice - and he wished his children to have the same choice but, in order to do so, we had to know our roots first! I would spend the next three years of my life routinely walking up and down Avitabile’s Main Bazaar and visiting friends and relatives in its myriad of side-streets!
Growing up in the Wazirabad. It is quite common to see folk gather on the flat roof-tops in the late afternoon and socialize. In the Punjab boys learn to ‘man-up’ quite quickly and it is not uncommon to see such sights. Although I learned to shoot at a very young age, guns were never really my thing - I preferred the far m o re p r i m i t i v e edged weapons.
I grew up and lived near the Northern edge of Wazirabad, not far from the Railway Colony, in Mohallah Miyani, with the Nala Palkhu (a major stream in the Punjab emptying into the Chenab River) forming the Northern boundary of the now city. It was along this Northern boundary where I would see my first akhada (pronounced a-kha-rra, where the ‘rr’ is rolled harshly by the tongue) - the earthen arenas of the pehalwans*, who would train and practice there day and night in preparation for their dangals (challenges, wrestling matches or fights)!
This picture of the Palkhu Bridge was taken by the photographer Zahid Ali in September 2011 and published over Panoramio.
I would often go to the Nala Palkhu with my friends early in the morning before school. We’d leave home around 4.30 am and head towards the stream after morning prayers, crossing to its opposite bank via the old rickety railway bridge, as trains passed by us, where we would play or catch fish on our home-made cane rods, before returning home an hour or so later to get ready for school. It was along this route towards the Palkhu that we would pass by the akhada, streaming with life, as the pehalwans and their shagirds (disciples) would already be well into their morning rituals! Sometimes in the evenings, I would walk the same route with my grandmother whilst visiting friends or family.
Whenever we would pass by the akhada, the pehalwans would always stop their training and raise their hands and shout "Salaam Sister”, to my gran - who would smile and nod in acknowledgement! I would be bemused at the sight of all these men in their loincloths waving at my gran, but it never bothered me to ask her, why? It so happened that one day, whilst playing with my younger brother, I leapt off the bed and in the process landed badly, dislocating my ankle. Whilst I screamed in distress - and as my mother quickly readied herself to take me to the doctor - my gran simply picked me up in her arms and carried me to the akhada. The Ustad came and greeted my gran as she told him what had happened. He scooped me from her arms like a doll and sat me down, shouting orders to the shagirds to prepare and heat the oil - a blend they would make themselves and use to massage, strengthen and fix their own joints and ailments. My gran sat next to me while the Ustad started to pour the warm oil onto my ankle and slowly began to massage. After what felt like an eternity to a child, my ankle grew malleable and soft, as if there was no bone, and suddenly with a quick movement he pushed my ankle back into place. I remember I felt no pain. He then took some warm ashes from the fire and wrapped them in a linen cloth and tied that around my ankle. “There you go sister,” he said to my gran, “bring him back tomorrow and I’ll change his dressing.” My gran thanked him and went to pay him, he refused. “You are our sister and this is our duty," he said with a smile. The following day my gran took me back. The Ustad repeated the procedure on day three I was running again! It was after this event, I asked my gran how she knew the pehalwans? To my surprise, my gran turned out to be the only sister of nine brothers, the majority of whom were themselves pehalwans of the highest calibre and respected throughout the district. It was then that I first heard the name of Gama Pehalwan - the man known as Rustum-e-Zaman or Champion of the World my gran’s brothers were his contemporaries in his later years. The name of Gama Pehalwan is known throughout the Indian sub-continent. No akhada or civilian anywhere in the region is not familiar with his name or his deeds, as are the serious wrestling fraternities across the West - in Europe and the Americas, as well as Australia! Gama was born Ghulam Mohammed Baksh on 22 May 1878, to a Kashmiri Butt family - a fellow clansman - in Amritsar (Punjab, modern India), 114 kilometres from Wazirabad and only 50 kilometers from Lahore in modern Pakistan - the capital of the Punjab and the largest Punjabi City in the world!
Sitting with my gran - Sakina Bibi - with my brother standing alongside her during my final year in Pakistan!
Gama hailed from a prominent family of wrestlers - his father was a famous wrestler who died when he was only 5 years old and his grandfather and uncle took charge of his training.
Gama first came to prominence not as a wrestler but during a national physical exercise competition held by the Rajah of Jodhpur. The competition was entered by hundreds of pehalwans and involved a test of endurance - bethaks or free squats - the fundamental conditioning exercise of the pehalwan fraternity as well a host of other exercises! As the participants began to tire and start to drop out, eventually only a hundred were left standing and finally from the four hundred odd that had started - only 15 remained! It was at this point that the Rajah halted the competition and declared Gama the winner - he was only 10 years old and had yet managed to continue where others of far greater experience and national champions had failed! He was reportedly bed-ridden for a week!
Gama was taken under the patronage of Maharaja Bhawani Singh and according to Graham Noble in his, ‘The Lion of the Punjab’ - Gama in England 1910’: ‘At that time he was routinely doing five hundred bethaks and five hundred dands** (stretching pushups) daily, and working on pit digging – turning over the earth of the wrestling area with a pharsa (hoe). He ate a special diet concentrating on milk, almonds, and fruit: he didn’t begin eating meat until a few years later. Gama would wrestle every day, of course, but he didn’t compete until he was fifteen. "Very quickly, however, he proved to be virtually unbeatable, and formally became a wrestler to the court of Datiya soon thereafter." As he grew older his training routine was intensified and his diet upgraded to include meat, butter, clarified butter, and yakhni, which Alter describes as a "boiled down glutinous extract of bones, joints, and tendons, which is regarded by many Muslim wrestlers as being a source of great strength, and being particularly good for the development of knees, ankles, and other joints." The amounts eaten by the Indian champions were prodigious, and Barkat Ali gives, with what truth I don’t know, the mature Gama’s daily diet as six chickens or an Gama performing dands (stretching push-ups or cat stretches). Bruce Lee would become a great extract of eleven pounds of fan of Gama’s training routine and incorporated it within his own training. mutton mixed with a quarter pound of clarified butter, ten litres of milk, half a litre of clarified butter, a pound and a half of crushed almond paste made into a tonic drink, along with fruit juice and other ingredients to promote good digestion. This expensive high fat, high energy, high everything diet helped to drive Gama’s daily training, which in maturity consisted of grappling with forty of his fellow wrestlers in the court, five thousand bethaks, and three thousand dands.’ Gama wrestling successes began in 1904 when he won a series of impressive victories at a tournament organized by the Maharaja of Rewa. By 1909 he had defeated the champions of many other states and cities which included Govalior, Bhopal, Tikamargh, Datia, Indore, Baroda, Amritsar and Lahore. Sometime in 1909, Gama defeated his rival Gulam Mohiuddin - whom some regarded his equal - to become recognized as the Indian champion - Rustum-e-Hind. It took Gama a mere 8 minutes to defeat him! This was to be a trend. Most of Gama’s matches ended in minutes. The exception to these matches were his meetings with the Indian Champion Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala from Gujranwala. The two met on several occasions prior to Gama’s trip to London, the first of which was when he was 19 years old and took place in Junagarth in Lahore. The reportedly 6 foot 11 inch champion Rahim, weighing between 270-300 pounds, was expected to dispatch the young Gama - who stood at 5 foot 7 inches and weighed 200 pounds - very quickly. However, after sixty minutes it was stopped and declared a draw. Their second meet in 1909 would be declared a draw after two hours off wrestling! So, whilst Gama had blown aside all opposition in India, Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala - his nemesis - remained undefeatable!
In 1910 R. B. Benjamin, an English wrestling promoter, brought Gama, his brother Imam Baksh (Champion of Lahore), Ahmed Baksh (Champion of Amritsar) and Gamu (Champion of Jalandhar) to England. The tour was sponsored by the Bengali millionaire Sharat Kumar Mishra. It would appear that each of the three main protagonists had their own ‘agenda’ for the tour. Whilst for Benjamin this would be more or less a business enterprise, for Gama, this would simply be a chance to test himself against the best Western champions in order to establish himself as the greatest wrestler in the world. For Mishra, however, ‘…it was a way of demonstrating the strength of Indian physical culture right in the heart of the British Empire.’ Joseph S. Alter has written at considerable lengths on the anthropological, political and cultural roles the pehalwans represented in Hindustan’s diverse conscience and none sums it up better then the following passage from his ‘The Body of One Color: Indian Wrestling, the Indian State, and Utopian Somatics’:
Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala from Gujranwala, Punjab
‘Wrestling in India is far more than a competitive sport. It is a complex way of life that defines a person’s identity. To be known as a wrestler,a pahalwan, is to lead a certain type of life and to develop what is called “a body of one color'' - ek rang ka sharir. Although the term rang means color, the whole phrase refers to the texture, essence, energy, strength,and balance of a person who develops his characters through a regimen of mind-body discipline.’ Upon arrival in England, Gama’s physical appearance and his diet and training were certainly looked and commented upon - almost enviously. Graham Noble reports, in his aforementioned, ‘The Lion of the Punjab’ Gama in England 1910’: ‘The English writer on wrestling Percy Longhurst recalled seeing Gama training when he was in England: I shall not readily forget the day when I went over to Gama’s training quarters near Kingston to watch him at a spell of training.
The morning he spent in going through a few hundred repetitions of the ‘dip’; this was followed by several The Punjabis in London - left to right: Gamu Jalandhari, Gama, R. B. Benjamin, Ahmed Baksh & Imam Baksh in traditional bouts (no rests between) with his fellow Indians, Imam Punjabi clothing. Bux and another. A two hours rest and a meal followed. The meal, by the way, was a quart of broth, concocted of a couple of fowls, with spices. The afternoon was given up to deep knee bending. Nude but for a loin cloth, out of doors in the warm September sunshine, Gama began his upand-down motion. Methodically, rhythmically, his open hands on the top of a post standing about 4 foot out of the ground, Gama went on with his knee bending. There was nothing hurried about it; he started as though he meant keeping on forever; and after watching him for a long while, that, so I concluded, was his intention. I timed him by the watch for twenty minutes, and still he continued. The perspiration was streaming down him, but there was never a sign of wavering or slacking off. For how long he actually did continue I do not recall. I was deep in a chat with Mr. Benjamin [Gama’s manager in England], who told me that when Gama did finish he would undergo a vigorous all over rubbing with dry mustard.
To watch him doing the dipping exercise was a revelation. There was power put into every movement, up and down... It was easy to understand, watching the regular rise and fall of the smooth brown body, the bending and straightening of the rounded limbs, to what extent not only the arms and the shoulders, but the muscles of the chest, abdomen, back and loins participated in the vigorous execution. One could understand how Gama had acquired the enormous bulk of solid flesh at the back of his upper arms; whence came the wonderful size of the muscles around the shoulders and the base of the neck. Smooth, solid muscle; muscle in bulk; yet again I must repeat that when Gama ‘set,' for example, his arm, his fist clenched, that acute outlining of the individual muscles on which the enthusiastic physical culturist is wont to pride himself, the ‘steel bands’ and ‘hard knots’ beloved of the lady fiction writer, were conspicuous by their absence. All one saw was a rounded swelling, a smooth prominence here and there. Longhurst went on to say, "The Indian system of training... has results beyond the development of great strength; it creates most remarkable powers of endurance while at the same time increasing agility. Gama, Imam Bux, Ahmed Bux – all when in action, impressed by the cat-like activity of their movements, the feline readiness with which their muscles responded to the demands of the moment, which is one of the attributes that make for the winning of falls.”' Gama and his team wasted no time in England. Eager to meet the local champions, Gama issued a series of challenges in ‘Health and Strength Magazine’: The Sensation of the Wrestling World Exclusive Engagement of India’s Catch-as-catch-can Champions. Genuine Challengers of the Universe. All Comers. Any Nationality. No One Barred. GAMA, Champion undefeated wrestler of India, winner of over 200 legitimate matches. IMAM BUX, Champion of Lahore. AHMUD BUKSH, Champion of Amritsar. GAMU, Champion of Jullundhur. (These wrestlers are all British subjects.) £5 will be presented to any competitor, no matter what nationality, whom any member of the team fails to throw in five minutes. Gama, the Lion of the Punjaub, will attempt to throw any three men, without any restriction as to weight, in 30 minutes, any night during this engagement, and competitors are asked to present themselves, either publicly or through the management. The Indians, according to contract, are compelled to meet all champions on the above terms. Any man proving he has been refused the right to wrestle with the Indians will be presented with Five Sovereigns by the management from the Indians’ salary. NO ONE BARRED!! ALL CHAMPIONS CORDIALLY INVITED!! THE BIGGER THE BETTER!! No one accepted the challenge! Whilst Gama and his fellow wrestlers were keen and eager to fight the local professionals - pro-wrestling in the West had already become a business and music hall entertainment and no one was really interested in a genuine bout!
Gama had arrived in England sometime in April 1910, by the July of the same year still no one had stepped forward to accept his challenges! This lead to ‘The Sporting Life’ publishing an article entitled: "Gama’s Hopeless Quest [to find a genuine opponent]." Health and Strength weighed in with the "apathy, cowardice, call it what you will” of the current professionals and intimated ‘that Gama had, in fact, had many offers of "lucrative employment" if only he would be willing to "go down" – that is, take part in arranged matches. But then, the article went on, "He simply doesn’t understand what that means.”' Gama, in order to find any opponent, issued a further set of challenges to the leading professionals not just in England but also in the world:
GAMA TO ZBYSCO Gama is prepared to meet Zbysco in London and throw him three times in one hour for £100 or £200 a side. GAMA TO GOTCH Match £250 a side. Match to take place in London. GAMA TO THE WORLD Gama will wrestle any man in the world from £100 to £500 a side. Match to take place in England. A SENSATIONAL CHALLENGE: INDIA V. JAPAN Gama is prepared to throw every one of the thirty Japanese wrestlers now showing at the Exhibition in one hour – actual wrestling time. Gama will guarantee to carry out the contract, the only stipulation being that the men stand five yards apart, and as soon as the signal is given to start they approach one another and begin wrestling. Ten minutes rest to be allowed after Gama throws the first fifteen. £100 a side. Gama is also prepared to throw the champion of the Japanese ten times in thirty minutes for £100 a side. Finally, the first person to step up to the challenge was the well known American professional Benjamin’Doc’ Roller. Roller was, both, much taller and almost three stones heavier than the Punjabi when they met at the packed Alhambra Theatre in August 1910. The match as organized by John Bull Magazine - the prize £200 a side, the best of three falls. Strangleholds and the full-nelson were not permitted. It took Gama only 1 minute and 40 seconds to gain the first fall!
The second fall took 9 minutes and 10 seconds. The American had failed to make any impression on Gama! In preparation for the Roller match, watching Gama train, a correspondent for The Sporting Life had written: 'To watch Gama at work is to realise that one is looking at a master of his craft. That is, provided one has not a prejudiced conception of what is his craft. He is there on the mat to get his man down on his shoulders, and it is obvious that the paramount thought in the Indian’s mind is that the quicker his opponent is defeated the greater is the credit due to himself. Gama versus Benjamin ‘Doc’ Roller, August 9, 1910 He is not wrestling with one eye on his adversary and one on the spectators. He is not speculating on the effect his wrestling may have on future engagements. At the moment there is only one thing to be done: to put his man down as soon as may be.
There is no wasting of time playing for head holds or holds of any other kind. He doesn’t play for holds at all, he goes in and takes them, and should it happen that his opponent is clever enough to avoid the first attack he also has to be ready to meet the next, which comes upon him with lightning rapidity. Quickness is perhaps the Indian champion’s quality which most impresses the onlooker. The latter is apt to overlook the tremendous force which is concentrated in the Indian’s rapid movements… But the strength is in Gama also. One can see it in the fine proportions of his figure, the enormously deep chest, the strong loins, the huge thighs, and the powerful rounded arms... ‘The strength of an ox and the quickness of a cat’ were the words in which one spectator summed up Gama. He is a worker and he sees to it that his opponent needs to be a worker too unless he is to go down on his shoulders within the first five-seconds. There is no letting up, no breathing time, no holding off to gather wind and strength when Gama is wrestling. Move follows move with such tremendous rapidity that it is not entirely easy to distinguish the particular chip which brings about a fall. From grip to grip he changes with the quickness of lightning, arms and legs both at work, the one ready at an instant’s notice to supplement the movement of the other. …There is no violent striving for halfnelsons; there are no deliberate movements by which an opponent may be held so that a particular hold may be obtained. An uninitiated person might almost consider that he was witnessing merely a rough-and-tumble, get-holdanywhere encounter, but it is not so. There is a purpose behind every movement. Both offensively and defensively he knows the value of leg work and in addition he knows a good deal about leg work which the smartest catch-as-catch-can wrestler in this country has never thought of. The Punjabis in London - bare-chested in Western attire with R. B. Benjamin.
And all the while his wrestling is clean. There is no violent exercise of his strength when having forced an adversary into a particular decision which suggests that if the victim does not move something will be broken. There are no strangles, no foot twists, no bridging or head spinning, the latter for the very simple reason that the Indian wrestler has no use at all for ground wrestling. His wrestling is done on his feet. If forced to the ground, or to ease himself he goes down, his object is not to sit there and seek defence, but to get up as quickly as he can and resume the struggle afoot, and the opponent who does try ground wrestling against Gama will very quickly find that he has made an unlucky choice. It is no part of his game to overturn a man who lies on the floor, but he can do it if necessity arise.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; [Every time I read this description of Gama wrestling upright, it sends shivers down my spine. This is how the age old grapplers wrestled upright on their feet - they'd throw their opponents to the ground and not roll around with them! This is exactly how we are taught to 'grapple' in Taijiquan - we strike, we throw and we stamp on the first body part which touches the ground!] On the following day Gama took on and beat 10 British wrestlers one after the other in a matter of minutes.
The John Bull Champions Belt
Stanislaus [Stanley] Zbyszko, the Polish world champion could no longer ignore Gama. The match was arranged on September 12, 1910, for the two men to finally meet at Shepherds Bush Stadium. The prize money was set at ÂŁ250 and The John Bull Belt for the victor. From the onset, the match with Zbyszko turned into a bizarre spectacle. Zbyszko, who was 55 pounds heavier than Gama, was easily thrown to the ground in under a minute and for the next 2 hours 35 minutes stayed there, clinging to the mat and only briefly attempting to rise on a few occasions before rapidly grounding himself again.
Stanislaus [Stanley] Zbyszko, the Polish world champion shakes hands with Gama & referee Jack Smith in 1910.
The match was stopped with Zbyszko defensively on all fours with Gama on top trying to get a hold.
The editor of Health and Strength magazine called Zbyszko "a figure of ponderous, gawky, clumsy cowardice." As per the agreed terms of the match there had to be a result and an announcement was made that the two would meet again the following Saturday, September 17.
Zbyszko never showed. He had already left the country! Gama arrived at the due time and after a period of waiting was duly declared the winner by default presented with The John Bull Belt by the owner of the magazine and the prize of £250. Struggling to get further matches the Punjabi pehalwans returned victoriously back to India, where Gama was greeted as a national hero and recruited by the Maharaja of Patiala as the courts preeminent wrestler. Upon his return to India, Gama fought several more bouts. However, the most spectacular was when he once again faced his old nemesis Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala in Allahabad. The Indian champion, a Musalmaan - like Gama - had for some bizarre reason covered himself in kumkum (the ceremonial red ochre-turmeric powder used in Hindu prayer) - it was rumored that he had performed the Kali Puja in honour of the goddess of death and violence - Kali! As the battle commenced, we are told by Muzumdar in his Strong Men Over The Years:
Gama with his brother Imam Baksh
‘Without being announced, without the usual preliminaries the two giants closed in right away. Raheem’s red paint set off Gama’s handsome fairness; in his scarlet trunk-slip Gama looked a veritable Apollo. The very first moment revealed how Raheem respected his opponent, he was on his defence and Gama was at once on the aggressive with his characteristic relentlessness. But times without number the older man escaped his rival’s holds upon him. Apparently deadly holds were broken as soon as they were applied, they were fighting as if to demonstrate text book holds and counters. Raheem fled from the arena twice when Gama forced the pace upon him.
When after the second break-away Raheem returned Gama was determined to make an end of him. If the spectators held their breath in suspense and in unconscious rhyme with the breathless pace of the battle, Raheem did not. He was more and more on the defensive, but coolness and cunning did not leave him. I still remember vividly a particular juncture in this epic fight. Raheem had survived Gama’s repeated onslaughts, but when the latter held him from behind by the trunk-slip the vast appreciating crowd around the arena stood up as one man to witness the grim tragedy of the end of a popular hero. Gama tugged ferociously to bear down his opponent but Raheem stood his ground. At last Gama lifted him bodily up and Raheem hung head downwards in a precarious position. For a moment it seemed that Gama was holding his gigantic rival at arm’s length quite clear of the floor. But Raheem was not rendered helpless; suddenly his legs moved like scissors and with a powerful, incisive movement he struck against Gama’s might arm. The next moment Raheem was standing before Gama in complete defiance. I have taken more time to describe the momentous event than it actually took to happen, for it happened in the twinkling of an eye. Perhaps Gama was exasperated, he rushed at Raheem and clinched, but the latter broke away and wriggled out of the ropes followed by Gama who was now mad with the thrill of the chase. Raheem did not return to complete the fight, he was hurt in the ribs and all the honour of the battle went to Gama, who finally proved the other man’s master.’ Many years later when Gama was asked who was the strongest opponent he had ever faced, he answered without any hesitation - Rahim Sultaniwala! As time progressed, there were less and less contenders for Gama to face. He had by this time defeated virtually all the wrestlers of India and by 1916 only one remained - Pandit Biddo. The two main faced off in Gujranwala - the “Abode of the Gujjars," named in reference to the Gujjar tribes of nomads and grazers that live in the Northern Punjab. Gujranwala was a production line for pehalwans. It seemed to produce them at will. It was from this very city that my Gran’s family had hailed before moving to Wazirabad.
Her brothers - Bubba, Anayat-Ullah, Shafi and Islam - Kashmiri clansmen of Gamma - moved to Wazirabad and trained in the akhadas there, yet they would compete in the familiar circuits of Gujranwala, Lahore and Sialkot. Biddo - the top Hindu wrestler at the time - at 17 stones could not hold back Gama’s ferocious onslaught. He was thrown within 5 minutes! Gama was once more the master of Hindustan and reigned supreme. In 1918 during a major tournament in Kolhapur, he passed his title of Rustum-e-Hind to his brother Imam Bux - who had not only impressed the wrestling fraternity in England in his own right - but had defeated Rahim Sultaniwala in a mere 20 minutes!
Gama, seated with his brother Imam Baksh. The Urdu inscription in the background reads: ‘Rustum-e-Zaman, Fakhar-e-Hindustan (Champion of the World, Pride of Hindustan) Gamma & Imam Baksh Pehalwan’
Gama had further honours bestowed upon him when in 1922 The Prince of Wales and the future Edward the VII, whilst visiting India presented him with a silver mace. An onlooker commented upon seeing Gama with the mace in his hand: “…it would appear that the epic hero Bhim had been reincarnated.” Gama fought no further bouts between 1916-1928. He had no challengers left. In 1928 however, the Maharaja of Patiala - in whose effective employment Gama had been in since his return from England - organized a trade fair to show off the industry of the region. The highlight of the occasion though would be a much talked about rematch between Zbyszko and Gama in a specially built stadium to accommodate 40,000 spectators! Many dignitaries from across Hindustan attended the match, including the Maharaja of Bhopal, the Maharaja of Kapurthalai, Sir Leslie Scott and Sir Harcourt Butler - the former governor of Burma. The match took place on January 29, 1928, at 4.15pm. As the two old adversaries faced it each other on the earthen pit - Gama was 50 years old and Zbyszko 49.
Gama and Zbyszko in their rematch in Patiala, 1928
The match began. The two briefly came to grips before Gama grabbed Zbyszko’s ankle and swept his standing leg. As Zbyszko fell to the ground, Gama followed and pinned him. It had taken a mere 42 seconds! The stadium erupted as the Maharaja of Bhopal presented Gama with a silver mace. Zbyszko, although dejected, left the arena having declared Gama “… a tiger and a sportsman.” Gama would fight once more in 1929 against Jesse Petersen - a leading Greco-Roman wrestler from the early 1900s. Petersen lasted a mere minute and a half! The Tribune of Lahore bemoaned: ‘The reaction of the crowd, however, was not good. The match was a disappointment; Petersen was a disappointment. "People had expected some skill in Petersen," … The public were fully justified in their complaint that they had been defrauded of their money. I do not think that if another match between an Indian and a European wrestler is arranged, there will be any spectators present. One is justified in asking the promoters of the match as to why they arranged this match. It was a sheer waste of money. If that is all the skill the European wrestlers can show, no more matches should be arranged with them.’ Gama simply stopped wrestling competitively without officially retiring, although he did finally relinquish his tile sometime in the 1940s - he was never beaten for it. In the background to Gama's story we witness the movement of Indian Nationalism. Gama, himself, is oft projected as the ideal Hindustani - the man who had beaten the firangis (European/British Invaders) both at home and on their own turf - proving the Hindustani mind and body were worthy on the world stage in their own right! By the end of 1929, in Lahore, the Indian Purna Swaraj - the declaration for complete self-rule had already been served by the Indian National Congress and at midnight on New Years’s Eve Jawaharlal Nehru had raised the tricolor flag of India on the banks of the River Ravi. Ironically, Lahore would also be the site where the ‘Pakistan
Resolution’ would be declared in 1940 and the largest Punjabi City, the capital of the Punjab would become a part of Pakistan in 1947! Gama moved to Lahore at some point during 1947 prior to the declarations of independence on 14 and 15 August by the newly formed states of Pakistan and India respectively - and not after as it is oft reported. Much has been made of this, that the move had been motivated by the political climate in Hindustan. To be fair we will never know. Lahore was familiar to Gama. He had visited it often and it was the sister city to Amritsar which was only 50 kilometres away. Both cities were predominately Muslim and he would have felt home in either. The move, most likely, would have been motivated for professional and personal reasons Not only that, Gama, as a pehalwan rooted in the ideals of the arts would have been beyond the petty divides of religion, caste or creed. He reportedly settled in Mohni Road in Lahore - a Hindu colony! Were his move motivated by religion, one has to wonder why he would have chosen to live in a predominantly Hindu community! Furthermore, it is reported that when the deadly riots broke out upon partition in Lahore (Gujranwala would see some of the worst of the violence) Gama, along with his students protected the Hindus of his colony literally fighting the mobs. However, when it became apparent that with the sheer weight of numbers the attackers would eventually succeed, he personally escorted those Hindus who wished to depart for India to the border and even gave them provisions and money for the journey. In post independent Pakistan, Gama began training his nephews - Bholu, Azam, Aslam, Akram and Goga - the sons of his brother Imam Baksh. Sadly, Gama’s own male children had died young and only two daughters survived. The Bholu Brothers, as they came to be known, became a formidable force on the subcontinent. Bholu acquired the title of Rustum-e-Pakistan in 1949. His younger brother Aslam (aka Acha) became the Rustum-e-Punjab in 1951. 1953 saw Azam become the Rustum-e-Hind, whilst his brother Akram (aka Iki) gained fame for his victories in East Africa, and Goga became known as the resident champ! After a battle with heart problems, a mere shell of the man in his prime The Lion of the Punjab, Gama, whose career spanned over 5 decades in which he remained undefeated in thousands of bouts finally succumbed to the great equalizer Gama died on 22 May, 1960 at the age of 82. Gama’s influence, over a hundred years Darun Mister © Street Fighter Ex later, still http://streetfighter.wikia.com/wiki reverberates throughout the subcontinent and beyond. Bruce Lee, himself, was an avid fan of his workouts and in 1996 Gama was immortalized in the legendary game Street Fighter Ex as Darun Mister, the powerful Indaut wrestler whose signature move included the Brahama Bomb. His family line still exists in the cities of Gujranwala, Lahore and Karachi. Darun Mister © Street Fighter Ex http://streetfighter.wikia.com/wiki
So, what did I learn in those 3 years which I had spent living in the Punjab in Pakistan? I learned much! I learned of my family history. How we Kashmiris came to be in the Punjab and had made it our home. I learned how to speak a beautiful language, I learned to read and write. I learned how to make my own ink, stylus and clay tablet upon which to write. I learned about the poets, the Sufis. I heard the Heer being sung. I almost drowned in the Palkhu after being dragged into it by an eel at the end of my home-made rod! I learned about the history of the land. Its brave sons - warriors of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh descent - who tilled the land in time of peace and fought in the time of war and celebrated Eid, Vaisakhi and Diwali together. I saw the splendor of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at the Lahore Fort and Panja Saab. I walked and stayed in the cities of Gujranwala and Lahore - I had family in both. I saw the akhadas and became familiar with the name Gama Pehalwan. When I returned to England in 1978 as an 11 year old, I felt confused and disorientated. As if I had been separated from my lifeline, my umbilical cord, through some violent action of another! I remember for a very long time yearning to return - back to the Palkhu where I could hang out with my friends and we could be carefree. I remember as a 13 year old sitting in my dad’s bar in Leicester and speaking to a friend of his - I used to call him Baba Sohan Singh. The Punjab was still raw inside me and I spoke as a native. I remember Baba Sohan saying to me one day: ‘Nasser puttar, [Punjabi for son and sometimes used colloquially to mean child]. Once someone says that they are Punjabi, nothing exists after that sentence. No Musalmaan, Sikh, Hindu or Esai (Christian)! Punjab is our mind, it is our blood, it is our soul and as such we are all one!’ ‘Wrestling in India is far more than a competitive sport. It is a complex way of life that defines a person’s identity. To be known as a wrestler,a pahalwan, is to lead a certain type of life and to develop what is called “a body of one color'' - ek rang ka sharir. Although the term rang means color, the whole phrase refers to the texture, essence, energy, strength,and balance of a person who develops his characters through a regimen of mind-body discipline.’ I look at the words of Joseph S. Alter and interpret them differently now! The ‘body of one colour’ now has a deep scar running down its centre - a partition! Its texture broken, its essence, strength and energy disrupted! I apportion no singular blame! I remember the words of Baba Sohan and think that at least some of us, in our new home in England, found a way to heal the scar and live together once again. Yes, I am a Kashmiri Punjabi by roots, but England is my home. Some of my closest and dearest friends whom I regard as family are Sikhs and Hindus and they shall remain as such till my dying days. People argue still to this day over Gama - that he was an Indian or a Pakistani! Gama was neither as neither countries existed independently at the time. He was born in British India and whilst he most certainly died in Pakistan a mere 13 years after its creation - the pehalwans who had visited England were certainly seen as British subjects: “Born under the British Flag.”
If Gama ever saw himself as anything then I have no doubt that he would have seen himself as â&#x20AC;&#x153;ek rang ka sharirâ&#x20AC;? - a simple Hindustani man from the land of the Indus civilization, who would have considered either side of the border as home! _______________________ Notes * Pehalwan - The term Pehalwan usually translates into â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;wrestlerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; or â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;strongmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. However, the original Persian term literally means â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Parthianâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; or anything â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;related to Parthiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. Parthia (Old Persian: đ?&#x17D;ąđ?&#x17D;źđ?&#x17D;°đ?&#x17D;ş ParÎ¸ava; Parthian: !đ?&#x201C;đ?? ParÎ¸aw; Middle Persian: đ?Ľ"đ?Ľđ?Žđ?Ťđ?Ż Pahlaw). Parthians were great warriors and the memory of their deeds remained strong in the region. The Northeast region of modern Iran was referred to as Parthia or Pahlaw in Middle Persian. They were an Iranian people. The Arsacid Dynasty were originally from this region and in the Shahlnama of Ferdowsi - "The Book of Kingsâ&#x20AC;? - the epic poem - he uses â&#x20AC;&#x153;Pahlawimâ&#x20AC;? [pl.] to mean â&#x20AC;&#x153;Warriorsâ&#x20AC;?!
** Dand "For adopting position 1, keep both arms parallel to each other, as shown in Fig. 1. Push your body back as far as possible by pressing your palms on the ground, and raise your head as high as possible; donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t look downwards, but straight up. After adopting this position push your body (Fig. 2) gently forward and bring your chest The dand. "For adopting position 1, keep both arms parallel to each other, as shown in Fig. 1. Push your body back as far as possible by pressing your palms on the ground, and raise your head as high as possible; donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t look downwards, but straight up. After adopting this position push your body (Fig. 2) gently forward and bring your chest between your hands as near to the ground as possible, keeping your legs quite straight. Never let your chest or knees touch the floor. After performing this operation again, push your body forward as far as possible... Now gradually rise higher and higher, so much so that you adopt [the position in Fig. 3], i.e., head quite up, chest coming out, arms quite straight, and a curve in the back. From this position you must quickly take yourself back to position 1, and repeat the operation again and again. Keep your mouth shut when performing the exercise, always breathing through your nose... The best method for a beginner is to start with five dunds the first day and go up to ten at the end of the first week... You will be quite surprised to hear that when last year I went to see Gama performing this exercise I began to count, and saw that he went on doing over 2,000 dunds within three hours time." From "What Makes the Oriental Strong? â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The Indian Dunds,â&#x20AC;&#x2122;" by TM Alexander, Health & Strength, July 8, 1911.
References My primary references for this article have been: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The Lion of the Punjabâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; - Gama in England, 1910 by Graham Noble Indian Nationalism And The World wrestling Championships of 1910 And 1928 by Joseph Alter Indian Clubs and Colonialism: Hindu Masculinity and Muscular Christianity by Joseph S. Alter The Body of One Color: Indian Wrestling, the Indian State, and Utopian Somatics by Joseph S. Alter Subaltern Bodies and Nationalist Physiques: Gama the Great and the Heroics of Indian Wrestling by J. S. Alter Bruce Lee - The Art Of Expressing The Human Body; Compiled and edited by John Little mukaalma.com bodahub.com pahelwani.com
I have relied heavily on the work of Graham Noble and used quotes from various publications which are referenced within his works. Whilst every effort has been made to locate the original sources for the photographs, however, very little information has been found regarding copyright. The same images repeatedly appear on a variety of sites and online publications! I will be happy to amend or add any copyright if I have erred in any way. Please use the editor contact details to forward all relevant information or corrections.
‘Regard the image of the old man…’ 28
If Words Are Not Songs Dr Gregory T. Lawton
I see that all things have words, but speak in different languages. I heard the soft voice of the folds of silk rippling in the wind. The voice spoke to my soul saying, “If words are not songs they are not worth speaking.”
Kindly reprinted with permission from: Translated From A Foreign Tongue, Copyright 2013, Revised 2017 Dr. Gregory T. Lawton 6757 Cascade Road, SE Suite 172 Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546 616-464-0892
About the authorDr. Gregory T. Lawton began his martial art training as a child. He has trained in western boxing, wrestling, and Asian martial arts such as Aikido, Jujitsu, Kenpo, and Tai Chi Chuan. He is an 8th degree black belt in Kosho Ryu Kenpo Jujitsu and holds the title of Yudansha Taigu. Dr. Lawton’s main and most noted Tai Chi Chuan instructor was Professor Chi-Kwang Huo. Professor Huo, the renowned Chinese scholar, artist and calligrapher who served as Taiwan's ambassador to France and who was a personal friend of Pablo Picasso, was a master martial artist and was a student of Yang Shao Hou of the Yang Family. Dr. Lawton is a health science writer and the author of over two hundred books, manuals and educational products ranging from massage therapy and martial arts, to health promotion, and from alternative medicine to conventional medicine. He is a Vietnam era veteran and was honorably discharged from the US Army with the rank of Sergeant E-5.
The Torso Method Exercises Of Jou Tsung Hwa Alan Sims
ou Tsung Hwa felt that Taijiquan as described in the Taiji classics was becoming a lost art. With the main
culprit being the uninhibited and blatant display of independent movement of the limbs (extensions of the body) being unconnected with the body itself. As a remedy, a series of exercises based on Taiji principles were created by him as a guide to automatically translate all movements of Taiji forms into pure Taijiquan. The Torso Method Exercises or Chan Si Jing as they were sometimes called, vary quite a bit, with different aims. The movements are performed from a relatively fixed position, but every part of the body is simultaneously moving. Dancers, skaters, gymnasts, and martial artists, can benefit from the practice of these movements. The development of one's root, coordination of the relaxing, contracting, and expanding of the abdomen with the rotation of the body and limbs, and the serious training of one's balance with superb posture are the main goals. Not to be forgotten is the development of internal energy. I learned one of these exercises as I was trying to leave the Taiji Farm unnoticed, and other exercises later from Bob Arietta, Mike Goldstein, and one from Loretta Wollering after the passing of Mr. Jou. I initially felt that these practices were for beginners, and I therefore resisted them. As far as I can tell these practices had no particular titles or sections such as those found in Taiji forms or routines. Even the name of these movements as a whole (and the title of this article), is my input.
Master Jou always emphasized the "torso method" when identifying what he felt Taiji was as opposed to the "hand method" which he felt it wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. Most of the methods that I learned were not for the development of this or that power or ability, but a guide for the total movement of the body, or just total movement period. Once when Master Jou and I were standing alone at the Taiji Farm, he began talking to me about old people and their physical lack of root or stability. He proceeded to demonstrate a practice in which he stretched out his hands to the sides palms down and feet flat. He pulled in his abdomen, turned his palms upwards, and pulled in his toes gripping the ground and then reversed the entire procedure. After that he began to jump up and down like a 6 year old kid all the while saying, "I'm not old, I'm not old". He then walked away.
The following exercise is a variation (Jou Tsung Hwa's) of the exercise that he showed to me that day at the farm. 1. The hands are placed towards the rear of the body with the palms facing left and right respectively. The feet are flat and The toes are spread out while the abdomen is also relaxed. The body faces forward throughout the exercise, and the feet remain in place (Figure 1). 2. The abdomen slightly contracts as the palms of both hands turn towards the rear and the toes also contract slightly gripping the surface. The palms and the arms move as one (Figure 2). 3. The abdomen continues to contract as both palms continue to rotate facing each other, as the toes continue to contract as well, further gripping the surface (Figure 3). 4. The abdomen is further contracted as the palms face forward, with the toes continuing to contract further gripping the surface (Figure 4). 5. The palms are now rotated fully( thumbs facing the rear) and facing outwards as the abdomen is now fully contracted, as the toes complete their movement becoming fully contracted. The process is then reversed ending with the toes extended, both palms facing outward (left and right in the original position), and the abdomen is fully expanded and then relaxed.
Mr. Jou originally pushed reversed breathing or pre-natal breathing, where the inhalation and exhalation matched the movement of the abdomen. But he ultimately felt that inhaling through the nose was not what we should be aiming for, but breathing with the use of the abdomen alone. He wrote a Taiji Farm Newsletter on this subject, and even included it in his book (The Dao Of Taijiquan). He basically said that you could breathe as you want through the nostrils, but what was really important was to breathe with the abdomen. About the author: Alan Sims began studying Goju Karate under James Eaton Jr in the early 70's, later he studied Ving Tsun Kung Fu under Lee Moy Shan, and finally learned Taijiquan under Larry Banks who was an original student of Jou Tsung Hwa. He also studied under Mr. Jou in Piscataway and at The Taiji Farm. Alan has had many articles published beginning with Tai Chi magazine, founded and published by the late Marvin Smalheiser. Alan can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The 12 Deadly Katas A Brief Introduction Peter Jones
e are going to continue with the katas number seven Willow Hands and number eight Hammer Hands.
If you are going to attempt doing these katas PLEASE be careful as they can be dangerous! I am showing these katas, here, for informational purposes only, so they can help with your understanding in this art. I have already stressed previouslyâ&#x20AC;Ś please seek a competent instructor who is qualified to teach you these in person.
Willow Hands Kata 7 This is called Willow Hands because of the way your palms move like the branches on a willow tree in a wind, back and forth. This qigong allows for the swapping of the different energies in the body. It causes you to be able to change rapidly. The time of day for this kata is between the hours of 11pm and 1am. It's an important kata as it works upon the gall bladder and controls the muscles and sinews. Gb 34 is one of the main points that has a great effect on the muscles and sinews, and is located just below your knee, on the out side of the leg. Chinese element is wood. The points you are striking in this kata are: Colon 10 (Co 10) Colon 12 (Co 12) Conceptor Vessel 22 (Cv 22) Governor Vessel 26 (Gv 26) The Martial: Your partner throws a right fist towards your face, You take a step left to avoid his punch, then you attack using your right back fist to his forearm at Co 10 (Photo 1). Your right hand grabs his wrist as you strike with your left palm to Co 12 on the same arm just above his elbow - thus breaking the arm. Then with your right palm you strike him across his neck at the point called Conceptor Vessel 22 (Photo 3).
Now put your right palm behind your partners neck and pull him towards your left palm again striking across Cv 22 (Photo 4). Finally, with your left palm, you'll slam down on the top of your partners right shoulder, and then you strike up under your partners nose at Governor Vessel 26 with your right palm (Photo 5). The kata is then repeated on the reverse side.
Hammer Hands Kata 8 The qigong in this kata works on the liver and central nervous system and has great calming effect. It, also, helps controlling anger. Its Chinese element is wood and the time of day is between 1am and 3am. This kata work upon Triple Warmer meridian, basically it works on the whole body. We have three heating spaces in our body, the lower heater, the middle heater and upper heater. The lower heater deals with elimination, the middle heater deals with digestion, the upper heater deals with the brain. The points you are striking in this kata is: Photo 9
Liver 13 (Liv 13). The Martial: Your partner throws a low right punch to your lower rib area, You then slam down using your right palm into the inside of your partners right elbow (Photo 6). Your partner now throws a left punch towards your head (Photo 7). You attack his arm with your right and strike to his eyes with your left fingers (Photo 7). Then snake your right palm over your partners left arm, as you step in to close the gap thus locking his arm and shoulder (Photos 8 & 9). You then take his right wrist at the same time twisting it upwards, with your right palm you do a hammer fist to Liver 13 (Photo 10).
The kata is repeated on the opposite side.
“The sparring in Taiji Boxing is completely different from other styles of martial arts. – Stick, adhere, connect, and follow. – Let go of your plans and respond to the opponent. – Neutralize and issue with internal power [rather than external strength]. – Move continuously without interruption. They are to happen naturally, always directed from your hips, and without stiffness creating exerted action in the movements. Taiji sparring is divided into two types: solo practice and paired practice. In the solo practice, the methods are very numerous, using palm, fist, wrist, elbow, shoulder, waist, hip, knee, or foot (all nine of these sections being able to strike the opponent one after another). Generally within the boxing sets, any of the techniques can be practiced solo, but the postures, applications, internal power, movement of energy, and so on, should be imparted from a qualified teacher. Paired practice is related to each of the entire series of thirteen dynamics [i.e. the eight techniques of wardoff, rollback, press, push, pluck, rend, elbow, and bump, plus the five directions of footwork – forward, back, left, right, and center] within the solo set. One by one they are plugged in, according to appropriateness of response, and linked together with each other to compose the two-person sparring set. The way it has been put together can be described as seamless, constantly transforming, endlessly subtle, and is truly the masterpiece within the system.” Chen Yanlin, 1943
he Ninth Ring of Yang - Canon Fist Small Frame (Pàochuí Xiǎojiā - 炮 捶 ⼩家) and Sàn Shǒu (散⼿)
- should require no introduction. The name Pàochuí breaks down into two components: 1. 2.
Pào - 炮 = large gun, cannon; artillery Chuí - 捶 = to beat with the fist / to hammer / to cudgel
Thus, giving the term ‘Canon Fist/Hammer’ - referring to the foundational Solo Form! This was the one of the two last basic tenets of Taijiquan, the other being the Sǎn shǒu (an abbreviated version of Tàijí Sàn Shǒu Duìdǎ - 太極散⼿對打), Taiji Dispersing Hand Sparring, more commonly called Taiji Two-Person Set. The name Sàn Shǒu breaks down into: 1. 2. 3.
Sàn - 散 = to scatter / to break up / to disperse / to disseminate / to dispel Shǒu - ⼿ = hand Duìdǎ - 對打 = to spar / to fight / to duke it out
Thus, giving the term ‘Dispersing or Scattering Hand’! The two names, Pàochuí and Sàn Shǒu were only used to denote the basic and advanced practice. These did not refer to the House - which were instead called: Pàochuí Xiǎojiā and Tàijí Sàn Shǒu Xiǎojiā Duìdǎ, where: 1. 2.
Xiǎo - ⼩ = small, tiny Jiā - 家 = house, home, family
Thereby, giving the terms: Canon Fist Small House (Frame) and Taiji Dispersing Hand Small House (Frame) Sparring! According to the highly respected Wang Xiangzhai - the founder of ‘Dachengquan’ (Yiquan) and a friend of both Yang Shou-hou and Yang Cheng-fu - the Five Elements did not represent specific techniques but simply five forces of nature: ‘I remember well the words of my late teacher about the five elements: Metal means the strength contained in the bones and the muscles, the mind being firm like iron or stone, being able to cut gold and steel. Wood has the meaning of the bending but rooted posture of a tree. Water means force like the waves of the vast sea, lively like a dragon or a snake, when used, it is able to pervade everything. Fire means strength being like gunpowder, fists being like bullets shot out, having the strength to burn the opponent’s body by the first touch. Earth means exerting strength heavy, deep, solid, and perfectly round, the qi being strong, having the force of oneness with heaven and earth. This is the syncretism of the five elements. It has nothing to do with one technique overcoming another technique as the modern people claim. If one first sees with the eyes, then thinks of it again in the mind, and then launches the counter-attack towards the enemy, it is very seldom that one will not get beaten up.’ Dachengquan - Wang Xuanjie. Hai Feng Publishing Company , 1988
The Five Elements were also the simple things which were a part of the peasants’s everyday life. These were representations of their work and livelihoods. Earth to grow and till food. Tools made from wood and metal. Wood also represented growth. Water to irrigate the fields. The need to transport water from rivers via irrigation canals snaking through the fields. Fire with which to scorch the earth and prepare it for planting. So, these elements would naturally have formed a part of their martial thought: Being grounded and having the flexibility of wood and the strength of metal, with the fluidity and permeation of water, and the fierceness and abruptness of fire! It is no wonder that they named their art after the canon... a weapon which had not only revolutionized warfare but, in its design and function, also emulated the Five Elements and their theory of boxing! It is not my intention here to give an in depth explanation of the form and function of the Pàochuí and Sàn Shǒu that would take volumes and would be impractical for learning a ‘physical’ art - however, I do hope to clarify some of the critical information and misinformation being taught regarding these two training methods. I began this House with a quote from Chen Yanlin - a Yang family student and one of the first to place certain Yang family information and documents into the public domain.
Chen Yanlin* makes an unequivocal statement. The information in it is not ambiguous, it is straightforward. In fact, it can be said that within this relatively short statement we have been given the entire blueprint to the culmination of our foundational training and how to approach it and what to learn from it. I will now proceed with some quotes from my teacher, Erle: 'Pauchui and San-Sau are the last basic techniques that one is taught in the training of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. This is where we really know if we have learnt all of the foundation forms well. The tai chi training culminates in the fast form of pauchui and in the two-person set of san-sau. The pauchui is a fast form, which has two parts. These parts can be used as a two person set form which uses all of the T’ai chi techniques. The Pauchui is then called san-sau. We learn different things in the solo set to the two-person set. In the solo we learn how to use the waist and how to punch. The waist is the ruler. The most important thing is how to use the waist… you cannot go into the ‘reptilian brain’ until you know how to physically move your body correctly to get most power over the shortest distance. There are actually three reasons that we must practice Large San-sau: The first reason is the obvious one of purely physical contact and learning about how to use the postures from the Tai Chi form. It is said that during San-sau, we practice every known kind of attack and defence, even those ones that aren't actually physically included in the sets. By this I mean that we learn sub-consciously to move the body in such a manner as to teach it to react automatically to any kind of attack, not only those that we are performing. We learn to 'see without seeing' in that our sub-conscious brain will learn how to read an attacker's movement and body shape, how his is placed for power and whether it is even worth reacting to. In the beginning, students will always 'look' at their partner/opponent, not wishing to miss an attack, etc. However, as one progresses, we learn that we actually see more without seeing! Our sub-conscious brain picks up on movement that our eyes do not focus upon and then our body reacts instantly to that unseen movement. In the two-person Sàn Shǒu we learn continuous attack and fa-jing taught in modules, with linking moves. It teaches us to move when our opponents moves! In order for this to work with a partner you must move as your partner begins to move. It teaches us at a reflex level to see what kind of a strike your opponents going to make without looking at him using deep peripheral vision! It teaches our sub-conscious mind to understand body language and attack type… as well as Yin/Yang; and it is this Yin and Yang that gives us the balance internally which in turn imparts great power with very little energy used. The speed of the san-sau is determined by the other person in keeping with the T’ai chi principle of ‘stick to and not letting go’. This principle will manifest itself during the practice. ' I will leave Erle’s quote at this point and will come back to the remaining reasons for doing the Sàn Shǒu. For now, it’s suffice to say that both Chen and Erle are in total agreement - albeit using different words - to state the same thing.
With Erle in the summer of 2010 during camp in Leicester, where I received my Fifth Degree from him. The theme was ‘Xiǎojiā’ - Small Frame.
*Note: The version of Chen Yanlin’s Pàochuí has a slight variation due to the fact that it comes from Yang Cheng-fu’s line as opposed to Yang Shou-hou’s line which is far more explosive in nature. However, we are not talking here about any variations in form. The theory for both remains the same!
Over the many years in which I trained under Erle’s direct guidance, I had a great privilege - as someone whom he considered a personal student and friend - to be able to ask him questions. No subject was off the table! All great teachers, teach according to the ability, understanding and experience of their students. This should not come as a surprise - it is the best way to teach! Yang Shou-hou was no different, we have historical evidence that he, along with all the other great Yangs, taught in exactly the same way. The Pàochuí and Sàn Shǒu were subjects we spoke about often. The fact that it was a House/Ring - something which Erle had already confirmed to me during one of our training sessions - made my questioning even more pertinent. I had read everything that Erle had written on the subject and would often ask him to elaborate on something specific, either after one of our training sessions or after making a ‘discovery’ within my own training to ensure that I was on the right track - that my understanding was correct. Erle would always oblige and then some. As I stated earlier, it is not my intention here to go into the nitty gritty of the Pàochuí and Sàn Shǒu - I am not going to regurgitate what Erle has already stated so proficiently - however, there are some specific things which need to be clarified. We have already established that the Pàochuí and Sàn Shǒu are two different training methods to teach the student different skill sets based upon the entire ‘Foundational Principles of Taijiquan’ and to test their understanding of the foundations. The principles being referred to, of course, are The Thirteen Dynamics and the Classic - Great Pole Boxing: The Theory. All our basic training from the Taiji Form, to Da Shou and Da Lu MUST conform to these - no exceptions! Erle would always, whenever he was teaching a major subject, emphasize the time frames that one should do this training over. The longer the time frame, the more depth the subject matter had regardless of the length of the form or training method in question. This is what he wrote and stated on the Pàochuí in his ‘Power Taiji Book Three’: ‘Only after all of the T’ai chi basics have been learnt and understood should the student then go on to the advanced pauchui form. This makes sure that there will be no tension while practicing the fast. Only after at least four years should the san-sau be taught. Until then no sparring should be taught or practiced.’ This is a critical statement, one on which I questioned him in detail. Note what he is saying, it is vital that we understand this: 1. You must have “learnt and understood” ALL of the “T’ai chi basics” - this includes the very basic version of the Pàochuí, NOT the Sàn Shǒu! 2.Only after this was accomplished was the student to move onto the “advanced” Pàochuí. 3.“Only after at least four years should the san-sau be taught. Until then no sparring should be taught or practiced.” By “advanced” Pàochuí, Erle told me he was referring to the “Modular” Pàochuí form and it was this which was to be studied for “…at least four years,” before the Sàn Shǒu was taught or learned! Note that the "four years" is a minimum! So, why four years? That was my question to Erle. Now before I proceed with the answer he gave, I need to clarify something important as I have no doubt that there'll be those who’ll be dismissing the above quote as invalid, since it comes from a book written in 1982 and
published in 1984! This is a standard form of argument being presented by those currently in the process of bastardizing Erle’s work by claiming that Erle had ‘changed’ things himself or had asked things to be changed! I shall return to this ‘change’ later but, for now, I will highlight a couple of simple, logical and irrefutable points: Erle wrote Power Taiji Book Three in 1982 and published the original hand typed manuscript in 1984. In October 2000, Erle republished an electronic version of the book with the following additional Author’s Note: ‘The following text and photos are from the originally published book, “Power T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Book 3,” first published back in 1984 and written in 1982. I have not changed any of the original text, nor have I added to it other than to correct any typing errors in the original text as I originally typeset the whole book using a simply typewriter! I had to use a ruler to measure each line and count the amount of characters in order to get justified columns! Anyone who has an original copy of this book (also available form the WTBA) will know that the text has not been changed. I mention this as I have included many dim-mak points in this book, long before I formally introduced DimMak to the world in my later works such as the Encyclopedia of Dim-Mak. And although it is by no means a comprehensive covering of Dim-Mak, it certainly shows that I was talking about it even back then, long before most of the so-called Modern Masters of Dim-mak had even heard of it or who were still only children! I only began teaching this part of Taijiquan when others began to teach point striking as some kind of ‘game’! Saying that it was not dangerous!’ When the author of a book republishes his work and makes no revisions or updates then that simply means that the information contained within is still valid! You would have to be an utter imbecile to come to any other conclusion! Although I questioned Erle incessantly throughout my time with him, the bulk of my questions regarding the Pàochuí and Sàn Shǒu occurred between 2008 until his passing at the beginning of 2011. During this time, Erle visited Leicester on several occasions (not always accompanied) and between 2008-09, I specifically asked him to teach the Old Yang Form, The Thirteen Dynamics, Da Shou and the Pàochuí at their foundational level. I have hours of film and hundreds of photographs of these sessions and Erle never deviated from the information that he put forth in the book or his videos despite the fact that in his Instructor’s sessions in Wales, he was teaching the higher progressions!
Left: Erle teaching the Pàochuí at its foundational level in Leicester over a period of 2 years!
He would always tell my students: “It is Nasser’s job to teach you the foundations and mine to reinforce that information as well as show you guys something more, so that if you continue your training for several years then it’ll advance and you’ll know what to look for!”
So, back to the question, why four years? Erle’s reply was straightforward: “Whilst practicing the Pàochuí we learn about the waist - that it is the ruler and about continuous fa-jing. However, even at this pace ALL the principles of the Classics must be adhered to. The structure must not change nor be altered. We must be able to brace and root in all directions [The Five Elements] and be able to hold a state of ‘Song’. This is not easy and requires much time and practice. It is difficult enough to hold Song in the slow form and at this level it becomes even more difficult!” And this is what he added in addition, a critical piece of information he had left out in the book: “We must know how to physically move our body correctly to get most power over the shortest distance, without knowing how to move our body correctly we can never understand power or the role of the reptilian brain! When students move to the Sàn Shǒu too soon, as is often the case after just a few months solo practice, they actually hinder the development of power over the entire range of motion!” Can you expand on that? I asked. “Yeah, during the Sàn Shǒu we, amongst many other things, learn to move as our opponent moves. We never let them complete their movement [he referred me to his article he had written in 2005 - ‘The Importance and Hidden Meaning of Large San-Sau in Taijiquan’ - which I already read]. We attack and cut their power at the very root - at the beginning and do not allow them to finish their movement - adhering to the Classic, “He attacks me, but I hit him first!” This means that those who go onto the Sàn Shǒu too soon never learn to develop power over the entire range of their movements. Their muscles and sinews, etc., do not develop their maximum potential - meaning that when they come into the close proximity at which the Sàn Shǒu is actually performed - they will struggle, especially against someone who has done the correct training! Their movements are rigid, awkward and clumsy lacking true power and timing - it looks like they’re dancing or having a fit [seizure]. This requires many years of practice. Hence why the Pàochuí at its modular advanced level must be practiced for several years before moving onto the two-person Sàn Shǒu.” I had had a taste of that full-power when I had done the Pàochuí with Erle. He put me on my arse at the opening movement - I was A, and he was B - I felt like I had run into a brick wall! I have already stated one of the three major reasons which Erle gave for learning the Sàn Shǒu - something which he taught in his Instructor’s classes and elsewhere and wrote about in the aforementioned article above - I will now quote the second reason: “The second important reason is that we learn how to transmit Qi either for the self defence art or the healing art. All great internal systems have this aspect somewhere in their sets. If we do not release the stored Qi, no more can be gained and we will sort of explode like a pressure cooker! We must release the built up Qi to stop stagnant Qi building up in our body thus causing disease. We gather the Qi using the Qigong and the Tai Chi form, then we store it using the fast movement and release it using the fa-jing movements of the Pauchui/Large San-Sau forms and two person sets. This is why we must learn to perform the San-Sau at a very explosive pace never allowing any blow to make contact with us, we have it covered the instant that it is released upon us. Many make the big mistake in the beginning of waiting for each attack to be made before reacting to it! In a realistic situation, the attack would never come too close as you would have it covered and would have instantly reacted with a re-attack. Many find that the movements are too close and awkward, however, this in only because they aren't reacting soon enough and allowing the attacker's attacks to get to you before sing attacking/defensive movements yourself. So the whole thing will become very fast and furious and this is when the whole two person set becomes a joy to perform and only then do we begin to get the real benefits of the next section. When two partners have been practicing the large San-Sau for some time, become as one unit, the whole Qi systems of each player unites as one flowing river and this practice actually becomes a little addictive, leaving each player on a high for hours after their practice. You should never however, only practice once! You should always practice three times or more with both players practicing on the both sides more than 3 times. So that amounts to 6 times at least each day. It only takes a few minutes going at a cracking pace though."
This should require no further explanation! The third reason Erle gives forms a part of the basis of the ‘small frame,’ along with the Sleep/Awake State and ‘Feather Hands’: “This brings me to the last section and really is the most important and hidden or secret meaning of Large SanSau. When I was with Chang, I would always ask him the meaning of things which would often annoy him I am sure as he would only hit me to demonstrate. On one such occasion, I asked him about the true meaning of Large San-Sau to which he answered with a whack on my arm leaving a huge bruise! However, his attack was not that hard and I wondered what the meaning of all this was. I thought in the beginning that he was trying to tell me that the real meaning was to build up resistance to hard attacks and that my arms would become impervious to attacks in the future with practice. However, as my own training advanced and he did more and more of this, I realised that he was not trying to tell me this at all but rather that when we did the san-sau, it was the banging of the arms and feet that was the most important aspect! This kicking of the important dim-mak points leads to a series of points being activated that would eventually allow one to build up great powerful attacks without using much energy. And I have always noticed that after such practice, I am able to beat the crap out of any kick bag or punching mitt without seeming to use much energy at all in just the same way that Chang would bang onto my arms and leave bruising without seeming to use much force at all himself. In the very first movement of Large San-Sau for instance, we activate Triple heater 8 and CO 10 points which in tandem, will activate the whole power system of the body. And with each movement when we make contact, other such series of points are also activated to enhance this effect. So that when we finish, the reason that we seem to be on a high, is because we have gained so much Qi and power that the excess is used by the body to heal itself! So the activation of the points using large San-Sau is a tremendous healing tool as well. Not only that, when one places hands on someone who is perhaps ill, they immediately feel a healing energy as that excess energy gained by the form is then grounded through that person's body thus searching and destroying illness!” Again, it is not my intention here to go into an in-depth discussion. When Erle was writing about the small frame, his original intention was to “…simply put nothing onto the page. Because that's what real small frame or the most advanced method of Tai Chi is.” However, I will briefly state a few more things from my notes** with Erle [** My notes are primarily in ‘bullet' form]. The Sàn Shǒu, both large and small, should be, looked upon as a component of training taught alongside the traditional forms thus, giving them meaning. Person A has odd number movements and Person B has even numbered movements. It can be split into four distinct categories: Upper Body Strikes - consisting of fists, palms, elbows, forearms, fingers, shoulders, head, etc. Lower Body Strikes - consisting of kicks, stomps, knees, etc. Throws - consisting of take-downs and sweeps, etc. Seizing - consisting of locking the joints, breaking, choking, strangulation and submission holds. “Throws and submission holds - we are talking about grappling aren’t we?” Erle, laughed… “I’ve never said that we don’t have grappling in the art! What I’ve said is that we don’t take the fight to the ground and we never grapple a grappler, nor do we box against a boxer! All systems have grappling and throwing as a part of their arsenal - Taiji is no different - we, however, grapple upright as was the old way. But, you must strike a blow before you throw and then stomp on the first body part to touch the ground!” “This then would be Taiji’s Shuāijiāo - 摔跤 - right? And, am I correct in assuming that the stomping is a form of the so-called ‘Chicken Stepping’?” “Yes, that’s good mate, but don’t forget the Monkey as well!” Erle then went on to demonstrate ‘Advance Step and Blocking Punch’ - a variant of ‘Step Forward Parry and Punch’ - from the Pàochuí (see image on next page). “Remember, we learn in abstract - programming the sub-conscious and learning about true Yin/Yang. What you see is not what you’re necessarily learning. This movement is a part of our striking and throwing. We do not use it
as it is set out in the form, however, we must learn it like this to develop the necessary power and body mechanics!” The above conversation took place in spring 2008 in Leicester. I’m going to go back now and present Erle’s public statements on the subject from the beginning of 2008, 1996 and earlier: “When we practice the Pauchui/Large San-Sau form with or without a partner, this is where our sub-conscious learns about yin and yang; and it is this yin and yang that gives us the balance internally which in turn imparts great power with very little energy used. We must use 'soft' AND 'explosive' movements in these advanced forms as well as in the Old Yang Style Tai Chi. The same is pertinent for Baguazhang. It is the 'empty' moves that are most important and this is why we must learn to practice the more advanced forms in a Qigong/Explosive manner. So the movements when for instance we are moving onto the next attacking move should be extremely 'Sung', like the body doesn't exist, you can't even feel yourself moving at this time; your arms are like branches of a tree just swaying in the breeze. But then along comes a huge gust of wind to cause those limps to explode from the base of that 'softness' and from the base of the trunk, NOT from the arm itself. This only happens for a moment in time and then all is back to swaying in the breeze again until the next huge gust. This is the true meaning of 'soft'. The limbs at the 'soft' times gently re-direct on-coming power in an attack for instance, it causes us to use the BODY rather than then limbs to move around the on-coming power rather than to meet it head on when the attacker might be larger and stronger than us. Then, when we are in an advantageous position from the subconscious body movement, we attack with great force for a moment only, directing pure physical force and energy into the attacker's softer parts and points. This way gives us the true meaning of Erle posing for me Yin and Yang which is also a section that the old demonstrating tai chi masters spent much time on trying to ‘Advance Step and teach.” “What it [Sàn Shǒu] teaches us has nothing to do with the real movements… it’s teaching at a hidden sub-conscious level - how to fight illogically! [We] Must do Pàochuí/Sàn Shǒu as it’s taught and don’t complain that this movement is awkward, I wouldn’t do that… of course you wouldn’t because Pàochuí is teaching you something totally different, but if you get it right you are learning something totally different! Do the Pàochuí as it is taught… So you don’t change anything in the Pàochuí because you could be changing something at a sub-conscious level and you’ll never learn the upper echelons of the Pàochuí!”
Blocking Punch’ and explaining its real purpose and why we must learn it as it is taught during a break in Leicester in 2008!
In 2010, during what turned out to be his last summer camp (in Leicester), whilst teaching the small frame he practically regurgitated the above. Now, this is important. It shows that Erle was consistent and he never deviated from this across the decades, even when he was showing or teaching the advance progressions! However, it’s the last two paragraphs of his words that I want to draw your attention to: “[We] Must do Pàochuí/Sàn Shǒu as it’s taught and don’t complain that this movement is awkward, I wouldn’t do that… of course you wouldn’t because Pàochuí is teaching you something totally different, but if you get it right you are learning something totally different! Do the Pàochuí as it is taught… So you don’t change anything in the Pàochuí because you could be changing something at a sub-conscious level and you’ll never learn the upper echelons of the Pàochuí!” Erle NEVER authorized anyone to make any changes, whatsoever, to the Pàochuí and Sàn Shǒu - there was nothing to change! I spoke to Erle about this and he was categorical on the subject - no changes! When I asked him about the two changes he had made during the kicking segment, his reply to me was very clear: “People say that I am changing things, I haven’t changed anything! In the Old Yang, I made corrections after my visit to China… we used to do ‘Needle Sea Bottom’ and ‘Punch to Groin’ with a bent back - this was against the Classics - I simply corrected my back according to the Classics! The two corrections in the Pàochuí fall into the same category… they are not changes they are corrections and these are the only ones!” Today, we are being told that the current changes made to the Pàochuí/Sàn Shǒu were something that Erle requested or had failed to observe! This is simply not true and is a preposterous suggestion. At best it is the workings of a narcissistic mind and at worst a lie. I believe it is a combination of the two! Erle’s words are very clear! As someone who was one of Erle’s highest graded instructors in the world and someone whose skill and knowledge he himself had attested to - I can categorically state that these claims are not true! I was not only considered Erle’s personal student, I was also his friend and confidante… had Erle wanted to or had
Erle testing my fa-jing during an Instructors session starting with our hands on the mitt. We were all given 4 shots, if memory serves me well, and Erle would give an average score from 1-10. I scored a consistent 7 which was the highest score amongst those present! Circa 2008
he considered any changes, then I would have known. This is not a boast. This is simply a statement of fact and a reflection of how close we were and my position in his organization! Right up until a few days before his passing we were discussing and planning things. Not only that, but I have consulted Peter Jones on the subject matter. Peter Jones was not only a personal student of Erle’s, he was also one of his oldest and closet friends as well as being his official Chief of Training Basics UK and his highest ranking student in the UK - Erle never mentioned any changes to him either and Peter Jones was someone whom Erle consulted regularly. You’d think, that if any changes were on his mind he’d have let at least one of us know! Erle has laid the path to the Pàochuí and Sàn Shǒu. All you have to do is follow his path - right up to the ‘House’. It is incredible today that those who do not even possess one-tenth of his knowledge, skill and experience are claiming otherwise! In 2010, just a short while before his passing, Erle and I had a long chat. He was very emotional - in fact we both were - perhaps it was a foreboding. It is not appropriate for me to share what was a private and confidential talk between two friends, who were also teacher and student. He would later write to me. I will not disclose what he wrote, however, I will state a quote which he placed in the public domain after our conversation: “…All I can do is to show by physical or non physical movement and hope that as they progress, (if they do given the type of Tai Chi they are doing) they too will come across what I have come across. Not many do though. Which is why I have been almost maniacal in making videos in order to help those who have the potential to "get it". Most will never understand even given the nature of what I put onto those videos and sadly a lot of the time it is pearls before swine so to speak, but occasionally one or two students*** will get it and that makes it all worthwhile. “
How prophetic have his words turned out to be! *** There are many folk today claiming to be Erle’s disciples or his close friends or personal students, when in reality they barely knew the man or simply attended a workshop or two and are today walking around like peacocks with lofty titles. I will set the record straight at some time in the future in order to preserve Erle’s legacy!
Inside The Next Issue
How To M a k e Your Taiji Wooden Dummy H
e Ain't Pretty, He's My Brother”
The mission if you choose to accept it is to build yourself a Taiji Wooden Dummy as outlined previously in the magazine. Yes, Taiji has its own wooden dummy and as I have found out it is cracking good fun to play with once you have gone to the effort of building it. The more I play with it the more uses I find for it in my training and teaching. Now don’t over think this small handyman or woman project…it’s a pole with one or two holes through it and a piece of wood sticking out of it. You can make it as simple or as fancy as you like. There is only one thing for you to remember and that is you are using this training tool to map out your own body. The Taiji Wooden Dummy is in Essence, You. My theory goes like this…I am in an eternal struggle with myself and the height and dimensions of the wooden dummy will be determined by my height and the areas of my body that will most likely be under attack. Near enough will have to be good enough when you are working out the height of the arms as they will be straight pieces of wood rather than the slightly bent arm of the attacker. So work out approximately the height the attackers arm would be if the target was your head and your ribs. I am 185cm(6’2”) tall and I had someone simulate a punch to my face and stop short then measured from the ground up to work out the height of my top arm and then repeated the process to the ribs for the lower arm. In the historical image of the Taiji Wooden Dummy there was only one arm but you know us Aussies we are born to be renegades and I have added a second hole for a lower arm.
Dimensions Of My Taiji Wooden Dummy:
1900mm height (a little taller than me to be on the safe side) 150mm diameter treated pine pole 1460mm from ground to centre of upper hole 1180mm from ground to centre of lower hole Base : 3 x pine sleeper (plank) 600x200x50mm Arm : 900mm small eye pick handle with dowel for a stop 100mm long timber screws (Batten screws) 10mm EVA foam for strike pads (firm foam used in zigzag floor mats found at camping or hardware store)
Total Cost: $60.00 Aussie Dollars for the Timber and arm. The rest I had laying around like all handymen do. The attached photos will give you a good idea of how simple it is to construct. The tools I used include: Saw, drill with driver attachment and a hammer and wood chisel.
Tips and Tricks: The treated pine poles come in various diameters and lengths so more than likely you will have to do some cutting. I had the gentleman at the timber (lumber) yard cut mine to size at no extra cost. The pole was 2400x150mm and was cut down to the 1900mm and I ended up adding the off-cut to the base for extra weight and for low kicks after I played around with this guy. The base of the pole was recessed to 50mm to accept one leg of the base. For the holes I measured the wooden arm dimension at the point I wanted the arm to project from the post and added some wiggle room. The arm is meant to be mobile and easy to pull or thrust back in the pole of the dummy. I also wanted the arm to extend out the back of the dummy so I could use it as a modified Bagua wooden dummy if I wanted some cross training. To make the holes you can get away with only a wooden chisel or as I did a suitable sized drill for guide holes then chisel out the rest. The base was from a 2400x200x50mm pine sleeper cut down to 600mm for me also. I decided on a three legged design that I rebated by 100mm to accept the cross members and the interlocking leg was also rebated by 100mm so that it ended up flush and added strength. These were all batten screwed together using a power drill with driver attachment. Pine is easy to work with however if you wish to have more weight for the base then a heavy hardwood of equivalent dimensions may be a better choice. Padding was applied using contact adhesive and is designed to be used and abused. I have no problems using my fists or a stick on it (not like my punching bag) because as soon as it gets a little shabby I will rip it off and replace it.
Pro’s and Con’s: The historic version was a pole sunk into the ground which would make it more solid and possibly less useful. My guy, well he moves with the times and can go side to side and even tends to walk up the hall with me. I can use him as a training aide for the Small San Sau form and I can use him for live knife training drills by replacing his arm with a disposable pine arm. He’s my guy and I haven’t even scratched the surface with what he can do. Don’t complicate things, a pole with a hole and an arm sticking out. Yes, come up with your own variations but remember the “Why”. You are here to train as a warrior not as a carpenter.
he first time I was exposed to the ‘power
stance’ I must admit I was a bit skeptical. Nasser explained the power stance to me. Of course, I accepted Nasser’s teachings* but with a little healthy questioning. The largest question was that if this stance was so important, where was the posture that contained it? I went through the form in my head. I researched other forms. I do not know how many videos I watch at home and on the internet. No where was I seeing this posture. I literally spent six months on this search. Then one day, I was doing a form and executing a move and I realized that in the transitory move my feet moved through the power position. They did not sit there in a posture but move through it while getting into a posture. In fact it happens several times but the first is moving from Grasp the sparrow’s tail to Single Whip.
Dazi Alex Levins demonstrates a neutral horse stance
I have been lucky to have shared in several conversations with both Erle and Nasser over many topics. The hidden nature of the power stance fits in perfectly with many things Erle taught. The Chen family kept all aspects of the art secret for many years if not centuries. It was only around the time of Chen Qing Peng and Li-Yi-Yu when they brought in Yang Lu Chan, was any part of it given to an outsider. Remember this was a time of real mortal combat, when a secret technique could mean the difference between life and death, this practice was truly a life saver. The Chen family followed this to the max.
Alex demonstrates a standard on Guard Position
Like Nasser, I am myself discovering ‘new’ meanings to the form and also their practical implications. Never doubt the Daoist origins of Taijiquan. This ‘discovery’ of ‘new’ things reflects the 64th Chapter from the Dao De Ching “From the one came two from the two came three and form the three came the myriad…” [Solala Towler, Practicing the Tao Te Ching,(Sounds True, 2016), 153]. This is no doubt a lesson towards Taijiquan and also in many other aspects of life. Now this is a lesson that only took me about thirty years of constant practice, meditation and academic study. So consider that a gift from me. Back to the actual power stance, look at it, it’s a pigeon stance how can it work? The Chen family being Chinese would not have cared why it worked just that it worked. Now some simple exercise I have devised to demonstrate these ideas. First get a fairly large stick. Stand in a normal bow stance(70-30). Lay the stick against your body at the hips. Now rotate to the left and then to the right.
Alex demonstrates an on guard position using the “Power Position”
Pay particular attention to total range of motion - how far could you rotate? Now, go into the power stance and do the same exercise. Rotate left and right. Check the ROM (Range of Motion). It has been my experience that the range of motion is greatly improved. This improved ROM greatly improves your push hands and allows you to release great fa jing energy and coiled energy. In fact, be careful when first using this with a partner, so as to avoid injury! By using the stick, you movement will be exaggerated and it will be easier for you to see the difference.
Alex demonstrates his increased flexibility to the left using a stick and the power stance.
Now as far as practicality is concerned, if you have never used this stance, I do not think I would try this in an actual fight. But once you have practiced this and become proficient youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll feel uncomfortable without it. This is a personal opinion your proficiency, should be reflected by what I have long called â&#x20AC;&#x153;the taiji mirror.â&#x20AC;? This is not a mirror on the wall. It is inside you subconscious. Practice the form without a mirror, feel each and every move, now know the form, know the exercises. If you need feedback get it from an instructor or an elder fellow student. Do not rely on a mirror for it may lead you to ingrain a wrong movement.
Practice your power stance in the one man push hands practice but concentrate, concentrate. TT Liang stated that Chen Man Ching always said that in all training one must picture an opponent in from of you. Pretty good advise, especially since Musashi Miyamoto said the same thing in the Book of the Five Rings several years before. But do put emotion and spirit into you practice, you will see a great improvement.
Dazi Alex and Master Kurt Levins (yes, they are father and son) and Sarge Levines our 115 pound German Shepherd who stands guard over our cookies when cousin Woz Levins visits! Yes, he is a genuine cousin and we love having him as family.
Authors write up: Kurt Levins has studied martial arts for over 40 years, 25 of which in T’ai Chi Ch’uan. He received his Master ranking from Master Kein Chen Ching from the Temple of the Original Tao, Taiwan. Additionally, he studied with Dr. Martin Eisen for 10 years, Chun Lian, Al Huang, and several others. He considers the greatest honor when Erle reviewed all of his training and persuaded him to go public with his ranking. This was after Erle met him in Newark, NJ and reviewed his form and other work and told him he was worthy of his ranking. Master Levins also holds a Professional Rating with the National Qi Gong Association which is their highest rating. Dazi Alex Levins’ ranking is from his father for his work as an apprentice Daoist Priest. He has also studied Traditional Wing Chun under Master Keith Mazza for 6 years. Alex is currently preparing for his testing for passing into adult training. *Editor’s Note: The term ‘Power Stance’ is a misnomer - no such name exists in the Taiji lexicon! In fact, the only clear description we have of this is by Dong Huling, the son of Dong Yingjie, (Methods of Applying Taiji Boxing, 1956) - in which he states: “Wrap your crotch and cover your genitals as you step with the five elements.” “To 'wrap your crotch’ means the toes of your front foot are slightly turned inward. Your knees have an intention of slightly joining together, thereby “covering” your genitals. The “five elements” means the five kinds of steps: advancing, retreating, stepping to the left, stepping to the right, and staying in the center. These are the fundamental stepping methods in the Taiji boxing art. In the center you are stable. Your left foot and right foot can alternate steps. Advance and retreat smoothly.” The correct term to be used should be Reverse Gōng Bù Stance (Reverse Bow Stance) due to its structure and it appears as an interim or transitional ‘posture’ when we are holding the centre, and learning the skill of ‘Reducing Measurements’ during the Long Boxing Form. According to Yang Cheng-Fu: “Work first at training gross movements, then finer details. When the gross movements are obtained, then the finer movements can be talked of. When the finer movements are obtained, then measures of a foot and below can be talked of. When your skill has progressed to the level of a foot, then you can progress to the level of an inch, then to a tenth of an inch, then to the width of a hair. This is what is meant by the principle of reducing measurements. A foot has ten “inches”. An inch has ten-tenths. A tenth has ten hairs. These are the measurements. It was long ago said, “Fighting is a matter of measuring.” Understanding the measurements, you can achieve the reducing of measurements. But if you want to understand measuring, it must be meticulously taught, and then you will be able to measure down to a tenth and down to a hair. Herein lies the skill of attacking acupoints.” I have written extensively on the subject in Lift Hands Volume 3, September 2017 - The Third Ring (House) of Yang and refer the readers to that article. However, I must clarify the origins of the term ‘Power Stance’. Erle would often tell his students in class that: “All indigenous people around the world have a stance(s) or way of gaining power from the ground, this is Taiji’s way of gaining and developing power…” He would then go on and demonstrate a Reverse Gōng Bù Stance and folk, including Erle himself, started to refer to it as a ‘Power Stance’. The term simply stuck from an explanation given in class!
question I commonly get asked in the dojo is what is a
Sageo for and how do you tie one? This is usually after a student has bought their first Iaito and undone the Sageo not realising that they have no idea how to put it back into it original position. In this post Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m going to break it down into an easy guide so that it is never an issue for anyone again. The first thing you need to do is understand what youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re working with, the diagram below will outline all of the parts of the Katana and the relevant Japanese terms:
In this post we are going to mainly be concerned with the Kurigata 栗形, Hito Dome 鵐⽬ and Sageo but it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with all the sword terms. Firstly, establish what type of Sageo you have. Certain types of Sageo such as the Shigeuchi Sageo have a loose weave so you don’t want to pull them through Hito Dome as it will ruin the Sageo completely.
enough movement to keep the Saya attached to the Obi but not locked in a position where it restricts body movement when he needs to draw the sword. It also serves the practical purpose of stopping your Saya from moving freely around the waist and getting in the way of your movement or leaving it on the ground behind you when you move at any speed. You should tie the Sageo on the Obi with enough length to extend the left arm out while holding the Saya so that the Kojiri of the Saya is in the Obi, This is especially important for Taihenjutsu should you need to roll or leap out of the way as you need to be able to reposition the Saya so that you are not rolling over it or landing directly on it. The lower back needs to be completely clear of the Saya. Its important to mention that you should not be able to bring the Saya behind the back, the Sageo should start to pull on the Obi once it starts to reach the flat of the lower back on the left-hand side, if not the Sageo needs tightening up.
The Sageo pictured above is a Shigeuchi Sageo but it has been passed through wider than usual Hito Dome 鵐⽬.
The traditional way of tying the Sageo to the Obi is using a single or double loop with the Sageo passed
Care should be taken with your Sageo if you are unsure what type yours is, most are a slightly thicker weave cotton Sageo similar to Tsuka Ito (Handle Cord) called Kakucho Sageo like the one pictured below.
The more expensive traditional Sageo are weaved out of expensive silks and cost £60+ per Sageo so you certainly would not want to damage them during fitting. You can get cheaper satin equivalents that look similar to the more expensive silk variants but much of its personal preference. If you want to know what your Sageo is made out of you can perform a burn test, the colour of the flame will tell you what it is composed of but we will go into that in more detail in a later post. So what exactly is a Sageo used for? A Sageo is a cord that is used to keep your Saya (Sheath) attached to your Obi (Belt), This provides the swordsman with
through to secure the loop in place on the Obi like so: Find both ends of the Sageo and hold the ends together, you should have the Kurigata of the Saya positioned right in the middle of the Sageo so that it is equal in length. Take about 6-8 inches of Sageo and fold over the finger and pass the loop under your Obi on the right hand side of your hip. So that a loop is exposed from the top of the Obi like this:
If you imagine my forefinger is the Obi the loop should be exposed from the top, then take the two ends of the Sageo and pass them through the loop like so:
To form a knot, this helps to keep the Sageo together and stop the Kurigata and Hito Dome from sliding about when youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re using the Katana. This loop can then be repeated again and the end of the Sageo tucked into the Obi, It shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be tied in a fixed knot in case you need to release it quickly.
Thats how the Sageo should be tied to the Obi but how about when you are not training and its on the Kake? This is a topic of dispute to some extent as the best way you can tie your Sageo without damaging it is not to really tie it at all, The complex looping and knotting of the Sageo tends to stretch and damage the Sageo so the way you see most Sageo tied when you buy them is actually considered detrimental to the Sageo, Tied in the manner shown below:
Although it may not seem that important to tie this knot it is essential for safety, if the Sageo snags whilst you are drawing the Katana all sorts of accidents can happen and you could even end up stabbing yourself with the Kissaki of your Katana. When you are finished training with you sword you should wrap the Sageo in a simple flat manner, I have provided two examples below.
This is the easiest way to tie the Sageo by simply wrapping it under the Kurigata.
When you use your Katana your first step should be untying the Sageo and tying a simple loop knot close to the Kurigata, like this:
This is a more traditional way of wrapping the Saya whilst it is stored on a Kake (Stand). The Sageo is run along the length of the Saya and wrapped approximately three quarters of the way down the Saya by the Kojiri.
Pass the end of the Sageo through the front of the Hito Dome.
I would personally advise tying your Sageo using a method that wont damage your Sageo but I do understand that the simple manners of tying it just don’t have the same aesthetic appeal as the more complex styles. Which leads me on to the final section of this post, How to tie the Sageo in the usual way for display. I’m going to start right from the beginning to avoid any confusion so i have removed everything from the Kurigata of my Saya.
Pass the Sageo through the Kurigata with the back of the Hito Dome facing the Kurigata. The first thing to do before you even start thinking about tying the Sageo is to get a sheet of A4 paper, some scissors and a pencil. Take the A4 paper and cut a 4cm square, then take the paper and tightly fold it around one end of the Sageo, keep in mind the inner width of the Hito Dome when you’re wrapping the Sageo as you are going to pass the folded paper through it, this stops the strands at the end of the Sageo from snagging. Paper wrapped around one end of the Sageo.
Pass the Sageo though the Kurigata until you find the middle ensuring that the Sageo does not snag on the inside of the Kurigata.
Once you have found the middle of the Sageo lay the left-hand side over the right to form a cross.
Take the paper wrapped end of the Sageo and pass it through the Hito Dome the other way this time, so from the back of the Hito Dome to the front. Be sure to check that you are placing the Hito Dome on the right way up on the Sageo and that the Sageo is not twisted otherwise you will have to remove it and start again.
Take the right hand side of the Sageo and place under the Saya.
Once both Hito Dome are on the Sageo in the correct position then remove the paper tip itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no longer needed. Fold the right hand side of the Sageo and place under the first loop formed by the Kurigata.
Find the middle of the Sageo again this time being careful not to snag the Sageo on any sharp edges that may be present on the inside of the Hito Dome. Carefully work it through feeling for any snags that may pull threads on the Sageo.
Repeat the same steps on the left-side of the Kurigata.
So that you have two loops either side as demonstrated in the picture above.
Now take the Sageo on the right hand side of the Kurigata and fold it to go back under the Saya to form another loop. Ensure there are no twists in the Sageo on the Ura side of the Saya.
Then bring the Sageo back over the top of the Saya to form another loop in the same way as the first loop.
Repeat this process of folding, drawing the Sageo under the Saya and then looping over until you have six loops, three either side of the Kurigata.
Place the pencil through the six loops and level out.
Start tightening the Sageo from the Kurigata outwards, I started from the Kurigata tightening the right side first. The pencil stops you pulling the Sageo through the loops whilst tightening.
Follow the path of the Sageo whilst tightening but leave enough space to pass the ends of the Sageo through the loops.
Once you have tightened the right side and left enough space to pass the Sageo through the loops then tighten the left side in the same way.
Remove the pencil.
One the Sageo has been tightened enough, fold the length of Sageo on the right and pass through the loops.
Fold the length of Sageo on the left and pass through the loops.
Use the pencil to carefully push the folded Sageo through the loops. Make sure the Sageo is not twisted and is sitting flat inside the loops. Use the pencil to assist in passing the folded Sageo through the loops.
There is a huge variety of ways to tie the Sageo on your Katana but this probably the most common form that people ask about, some other examples are:
Remove the pencil.
Start tightening from the Kurigata outwards again. We hope that you find this article helpful and have gained a better understanding of how to use and tie the Sageo.
Once again I tightened the Sageo on the right side of the Kurigata and then the left side.
Level out either side of the Sageo and flatten down and your finished.
òubǔ Shŏu - 誘捕⼿ - or Trapping Hands, is a
most excellent training method for students to help develop timing, balance, co-ordination, reflexive violence and, of course, how to avoid being hit! Here we will be continuing with Method Number Two in the series. We begin in exactly the same way as the first training method, the only difference this time is that you will be using your elbow when your partner throws a punch to your nose and keep the move going, and strike to your partners nose using your back fist. 1.You and your partner should be standing about an arms length away from each other, (it’s like you making a fist and it’s just touching his nose, (Photo 1). 2. Your Partner throws a punch towards your nose with his right hand, with your left hand you divert his punch to the left, (Photo 2). 3. Your right hand will take over and bring it across to the right (Photo 3), your left palm takes down his fist to meet your right elbow (Photo 4), followed by a back-fist to your partners nose with the same hand (Photo 5). 4. Now it's your turn to punch. 5. Your partner is going to P'eng outwards with his left hand (Photo 6), and with that we keep the move going. What you and your partner are going to do is to keep taking turns, but keep in mind you are aiming for the nose each time you and your partner are throwing the punch. You practice this on both sides and now you can combine the first and second moves of the training methods of trapping hands.
These are training methods and in time will help in attack and defence, remember "what we see isn't always what we get at the end”. In the beginning we are putting the information into our minds, and as we practice our understanding gets better in time.
There are three main training method that Erle was teaching in trapping hands, and these are what I'm showing in this magazine. There is one more method left - Method Three - which will appear in the next issue of Lift Hands Magazine. Also, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Lift Hands Magazine for its success at the British Martial Arts Awards 2018, winning Magazine of the Year 2018 and long may it continue into the future.
tâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not often that you get to stand or
teach alongside an 8th Dan Ju-Jitsu & Kobudo legend, and master craftsmanâ&#x20AC;Ś with Shihan Ken Culshaw, I have had the honour to do both. Shihan Ken simply oozes knowledge and skill - standing next to him you know you are in the presence of someone who embodies the spirit and essence of the budo code - humble, respectful, a man of honour and martial pedigree. In December of 2017, I was privileged to have participated in a charity event organized by Shihan Keith Priestly alongside Shihan Ken Culshaw, The General - Tony Bailey, the gorgeous Mick Tully, and Mike Knight. Watching Shihan Ken ply his trade on the mats was nothing short of inspirational. Quietly spoken, he gave precise and clear instructions as he demonstrated and moved with an agility which would put men half his age to shame. Shihan Ken is a classicist. In an era where MMA rules the roost, Shihan Ken shows us why traditional martial arts are not only still relevant for selfdefence but, also, a key component to longevity! However, there is an important caveat - they must be taught correctly! I recently caught up with Shihan Ken Culshaw in April at The British Martial Arts Awards 2018, where he received a Life Time Achievement Award alongside another legend of British martial arts - Brian Jacks. We chatted and what becomes immediately apparent is that this is not a man who is at the end of his game there is still a hunger and fire present in his belly and heart, along with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes - and he still has much more to offer to the martial arts community and the next generation of practitioners. All images appear courtesy of Ken Culshaw unless stated otherwise.
Lift Hands proudly presents Shihan Ken Culshaw.
hihan Ken Culshaw, Thank you for giving us your
time sir. Before we begin our questions, please tell our readers a bit about yourself: KC: I was born in Liverpool on 27 December 1951. I left school at the age of 15 and worked at a printers till I was tall enough to join the merchant navy at 16 measuring 5ft 2inch! I started my training at Stanley House, in Toxteth, Liverpool under Sensei John Blundell, brother to Soke James Blundell. The first lesson was interesting, it was held in a cellar with two training rooms - one with tatami and one without!
Nasser Butt with Shihan Ken Culshaw at The British Martial Arts Awards 2018
Being a beginner, I went onto the tatami only to be told that I had not earned the right to train on tatami, and that I would not be carrying a mat around with me in a street fight! Therefore, I would train on the concrete for a few months and gain good solid grounding.
Throughout my training John was my most influential instructor. He taught me to understand people and respect one another exactly how you would want to be respected, yourself. Martial arts is not all about fighting and money! My loyalty was always to John and his teachings. Today, after more than 50 years of training, I still follow his teachings and pass this on to my students in his memory. I have also trained with Sokes James Blundell, Richard Morris, Jimmy Yamoue and Prof. R. Clark. LH: If you could have personally witnessed anything, what would you want to have seen? KC: The opening of Tutankhamunâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tomb by Howard Carterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s team in 1922. LH: If you had to leave earth on a spaceship and take 4 people with you, who would they be? KC: My wife, daughter, my instructor John and Ray my fighting partner! LH: In what ways are you the same as your childhood self? KC: Full of mischief and always smiling!
With Sensei Yamanguch & Sensei Sato 1985 Stoke Newington
Stanley House in Liverpool 1976 - Scoop Throw
Soke Leonue (WJJF Tour) with my students 1984
LH: What animal best represents you and why? KC: Dragon - Fiery and strong of nature! LH: What is your greatest strength or weakness? KC: My greatest strengths are endurance and a strong pain threshold. LH: Do you trust anyone with your life? KC: Yes - my family! LH: How do you want to be remembered? KC: Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d like to be remembered as someone who was friendly, humble and giving! LH: What have you always wanted and did you ever get it? KC: Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve always wanted my own dojo and no, not yet! LH: Do you know your heritage? KC: Yes! LH: Are you still learning who you are? KC: Yes, throughout life we are all seeking and continuing to learn who we are. LH: What, if anything, are you afraid of and why? KC: Water snakes - the way they move! LH: What is the most memorable class you have ever taken? KC: I was one of the first instructors to visit Romania after revolution in 1989. It was a very humbling experience.
Presentation to my Sensei and friend John Blundell on his first visit to my club in Hertfordshire 1981
LH: What book has influenced you the most? KC: Ju jitsu by S. K. Uyenishi. LH: What ridiculous thing has someone tricked you into doing or believing? KC: Soke Yamoue tricked me into keeping hold of my escrima stick and took me to floor when I could have let go! LH: Who or what has been the greatest influence in your life? KC: My wife Chris - she has kept me going! LH: Mountains or seaâ&#x20AC;Ś which would you choose to be closer to? KC: Mountains! LH: What was the worst thing you did as a child? KC: I got a fire-guard stuck in my eye! LH: If You had to choose to live without one of your five senses, which one would you give up and why? KC: Smell - then I wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to smell all the perfumes! LH: If you could select one person from history and ask them one question - who would you select and what would the question be? KC: Gandhi, what gave him the strength to drive him on?
LH: How would you describe your art in ten words or less? KC: Old, very practical and still relevant today when taught properly! LH: Thank you so much for sharing your valuable time with us Shihan Ken Culshaw. It has been an honour to have spent time with you and I really do hope that our readers will see more of you in our future issues.
ON GNISREVER FORMS “Taijiquan is balance itself. Think of the whole form as balance.” Erle Montaigue
he question of whether the Old Yang Taiji form should be practiced on the reverse side (mirror image) has
been asked of me quite often lately. It has been a recurring theme for the past few months. Whilst originally, I had simply replied with a “No!”, upon further enquiry - my curiosity aroused, I realised that a more detailed explanation was needed in light of discovering why the question was being asked of me? I shall begin with a set of simple statements: Erle Montaigue NEVER stated or taught that, ‘…any form or drill that is "not" physically balanced should be done [on] both sides.’! This is simply not true! Nor did he EVER say that, ‘the YLC form "can" be done on both sides if you wish.’ - Of course, it can if you “wish”, anything can, but that does not mean that it has to or needs to be done! And finally, he NEVER stated that the ‘only reason… why you do not "have" to do it on both sides, is that the form "is" physically balanced,’ - alone! I shall expand and give my reasons for the above statements in due course. Let’s start with why we are being told that the YLC form is to be reversed or mirrored: “… the form is in fact not physically balanced.” Taiji is an art based on innateness, i.e., our inborn, intuitive, natural unlearned abilities. We are told this in no uncertain terms by the only other man to be given the title “Invincible” after Yang Lu-Ch’an - his son, Yang Banhou - in Explaining Taiji Principles [Taiji Fa Shou, circa 1875]: “From birth, our eyes can see, ears can hear, nose can smell, mouth can taste. Sights and sounds, smells and tastes – all innate senses. Dance of hands, prance of feet – the abilities of our limbs are all innate forms of movement. Pondering upon this, we find it is our random experience – “Our natures make us the same, but our experiences make us unique.” [Lun Yu, 17.2] – that makes us lose touch with what is innate. If we want to return to our innate qualities, there will be no martial aspect unless we seek the source of movement, and there will be no civil aspect unless we grasp the basis of awareness. With these things, then there will be moving with awareness. If there is activation and perception, there will be action and realization. If there is no activation or perception, there will be no action or realization. When activation is at its height, action is initiated. When perception is fully lucid, there is realization. Action and realization are the easy part. Activation and perception are tricky.” In his book ‘Internal Gung Fu Volume One: Qi’, Erle Montaigue states: “The slow moving form from Taijiquan gives us the three main prerequisites essential for any fighting art. Perfect balance, co-ordination and above all, timing. Once one has gained these prerequisites, one is able to go on to the more advanced techniques of pauchui form (cannon fist) push hands, da-lu, san-sau and dragon prawn boxing. We learn forms in order to give up all forms when we gain an understanding of the martial arts. In other words, we use the forms to get back to the natural instinct of the child. Only then will we be able to react instinctively instead of unnaturally, but it takes much work to arrive at this level.” We can clearly see from the statements above that both Erle and Yang Ban-hou are talking about exactly the same thing… innateness and its source! The Thirteen Dynamics are the foundation or the ‘alphabet’ of Taijiquan, consisting of the Eight Gates (Energies) and the Five Steps (Elements/Directions), without which the language of Taijiquan cannot be understood or read!
The positions of the Eight Gates (Four Cardinal Points and Four Corners) are based upon the principle of the active and passive aspects inverting one another, cycling round and round, endlessly following each other in their process. The body, itself, makes its steps according to the Five Elements - bracing in all directions. Chen Yanlin in his Taiji Compiled [circa 1943] clearly tells us: “The Thirteen Dynamics are sometimes thought to mean thirteen postures, which is actually false. The thirteen dynamics are the eight techniques plus the five steps.” According to Huang Wenshu in The Skills And Essentials of Yang Style Taiji Boxing and Martial Arts Discussions [circa 1936]: ‘Stepping is the easiest part of the training for practitioners to overlook, yet it is the most important of all, for your stance is your foundation. Your speed lies with your step, and so does your stability. Your technique lies with your step, and so does its ingenuity. An expert has said: “If your feet are not arriving when your hands are arriving, you will find you have much to worry about. If you are drooping your head and stooping at the waist, what you have been taught is surely not of a very high level.”’ Erle, himself, states in the aforementioned Internal Gung Fu Volume One: Qi, that: “It is not the posture that is important but rather the way, in which we step and use the hands that is.” Further, Erle states in his writings on the Thirteen Postures: “The thirteen postures were the original postures of the first attempts to put together a single set in H'ao Ch'uan which later became known as Taijiquan. Those thirteen postures remain today…” Although Erle uses the term ‘posture’ from the context of his writing and from the explanations he would give to his classes, he is clearly referring to dynamics not physical postures and is in total agreement with Chen Huang! And finally, Chu Minyi in his Taiji Boxing Photographed [circa 1929] states that: “Taiji Boxing’s postures are very numerous…, but they always conform to the five elements and eight trigrams, which form the thirteen dynamics.” (see below)
Above (Left to Right): Classic Lu (Roll Back) and its dynamic variants in the ‘posture’ of Advance, Parry, Grasp, Hammer as seen during the first third of Old Yang Form. The dynamics of the ‘postures’ are blatantly obvious.
Xu Yusheng, writing in 1921, in Taiji Boxing Postures Explained informs the reader that: “Taiji Boxing is a study in abstractions. Modeled upon the principles within the Book of Changes of passive and active, movement and stillness, its movements and postures are simple and natural, with something being generated from nothing, in other words: Wuji [“no pivot”], then Taiji [“grand pivot”]… Within each posture and technique, there is a round shape, therefore explaining the borrowing of the use of the taiji principle [i.e. the yinyang symbol], serving to supply the analogies of passive/active, movement/stillness, hard/soft, advance/ retreat, and so on, and is not the same as the common shamanic superstition that made use of the term “Taiji”. Nowadays science is flourishing and the next generation of students will be able to use geometry and other studies to explain its principles rather than divining from the Book of Changes, so I heartily hope.” Of course, what Xu is referencing above is simply the opening lines of the Taiji Classic by Wang Zongyue Great Pole Boxing: The Theory, with commentary from Chen Weiming below: “Taiji is born of wuji, and is the mother of yin and yang. Yin and yang [the passive and active aspects] are generated from taiji [the grand polarity], which comes from wuji [no polarity]. In Taiji Boxing, every part of your body divides into either empty or full, i.e. passive or active. That is why this boxing art is called Taiji. When there is movement, the passive and active aspects become distinct from each other. When there is stillness, they return to being indistinguishable. When my body does not move, it is a taiji all over. Once it moves even a little bit, then passive and active become distinguishable.” Yang Ban-hou informs us that: “There are at all times in the body seventy-two channels for passive energy [as well as seventy-two channels for active energy]. When the active aspect is balanced by the passive, water and fire are in a state of mutual benefit, skyness and groundness are at peace with each other, and the genuineness of one’s life essence is preserved."
Erle tells us: “In order for the Qi to go from tantien to anywhere, it must flow or be activated along a sort of electrical conductor. This happens in just the same way that a current will flow over a given path in for instance, your electrical lighting in your house. We do not of course have electrical wires running all over the place in our body, but we do have conductors of a liquid type, not unlike the cells of a battery.“ So, how does a simple cell work? Without delving into an in-depth study of electronics and physics lets simply look at how a simple cell is constructed and its base elements outlined below from http://www.dummies.com: Each battery has a cell that contains three components: two electrodes and an electrolyte between them. The electrolyte is a potassium hydroxide solution in water. The electrolyte is the medium for the movement of ions within the cell and carries the iconic current inside the battery. The positive and negative terminals of a battery are connected to two different types of metal plates, known as electrodes, which are immersed in chemicals inside the battery. The chemicals react with the metals, causing excess electrons to build up on the negative electrode (the metal plate connected to the negative battery terminal) and producing a shortage of electrons on the positive electrode (the metal plate connected to the positive battery terminal). The difference in the number of electrons between the positive and negative terminals creates the force known as voltage. This force wants to even out the teams, so to speak, by pushing the excess electrons from the negative electrode to the positive electrode. But the chemicals inside the battery act like a roadblock and prevent the electrons from traveling between the electrodes. If there’s an alternate path that allows the electrons to travel freely from the negative electrode to the positive electrode, the force (voltage) will succeed in pushing
the electrons along that path.
When you connect a battery to a circuit, you provide that alternate path for the electrons to follow. So the excess electrons flow out of the battery via the negative terminal, through the circuit, and back into the battery via the positive terminal. That flow of electrons is the electric current that delivers energy to your circuit. This is essentially how the Taiji Form works! A differential must be created for things to happen. This is shown time and time again throughout the Taiji syllabus. Yin/Yang must be separated! Each dynamic in Taiji is rendered as Yin or Yang, active or passive, for the example, the Four Primary Gates (Energies) of P’eng, Lu, Ji and Arn are designated as follows as per my notes and conversations with Erle and his and other published works: P’eng (Ward-off)
Lu (Roll Back)
Arn ( Press)
As a general rule, P'eng jing is the major jing used in all of the others. P'eng is moving Qi while Lu is 'collecting Qi', Ji/Chee is receiving Qi whilst Arn is striking Qi. Note the immediate ‘discrepancy’ in the chart - whilst we have four (even Primary Gates) which split or divide into two Yin and two Yang components - they are further split into Three Attacks (two Yang, one Yin) and One Defence (Yin), a 3:1 ratio! However, the one Yin Defence is the prevalent jing used in all of the others and that is why we are told by the masters of old that if you learn only one jing in Taiji then it should be P’eng jing - so despite the apparent ‘discrepancy’ we have complete balance!
I will further illustrate this ‘discrepancy' with one more very simple example:
Fig.1 - Three Circles Qigong Upper Posture
Fig.2 - Three Circles Qigong Lower Posture
During the very important Three Circles Qigong (see Figs 1 & 2 above, given to ALL beginners of Taiji at the very start of their practice - regardless of whether they are training as martial artists or for health purposes (which I will expand upon further below) - we are told to hold the Upper Posture (Yang) for two-thirds and the Lower Posture (Yin) for only one-third of the total time. Surely, if we were talking here of physical or external balance then we have immediately started the student incorrectly down the wrong path and they should be holding the two postures for an equal amount of time? No! That is because the posture is split into Yin/Yang. The lower Yin posture, in this case, is the more powerful (or potent) than the upper Yang and we need to hold it for a lesser time to balance the system! This true of the Form itself. The Old Yang is taught in three-thirds. Now anyone who has ever practiced the Form or seen it being done will note immediately that the three-thirds are not ‘physically’ equal! The second third is approximately twice as long as the first third and the final third is approximately the same the length as the first two-thirds put together! Yet, we refer to them as three equal thirds - work it out, it’s not rocket science! We have already spoke of the Thirteen Dynamics, I have written about them in more detail in previous issues and refer the reader to them. Whilst the Taiji Form over the years has had 37 Postures as its base, the Yang Family has had a variety of Forms consisting of varying number of postures. Please note, we are talking here of definitive external postures - not connecting movements or dynamics, which are far more! Again, according to Xu Yusheng, as mentioned by Bradford Tyrey in his Translator's Preface to Taijiquan Shi: 'Yang also taught an 85-posture form that Xu said was the second oldest form taught in class. It was that form that elders of the Yang family created for practice in their own clan. However, the oldest form taught in their Peiping class was the 73-posture form that, according to Xu, Yang Jian-Hou had been teaching. In one of Xu’s other books that he authored Xu mentions that Yang Cheng-Fu also learned the 73-posture form from his father, Yang Jian-Hou, who learned its secrets from his father, Yang Lu-Chan. They regarded this particular form as a true representation of boxing methods contained in the Yang clan…’
Again, I draw the readers attention to the oddity of numbers. We have to wait until Yang Cheng-fu’s changes to arrive at an even-numbered Form - the 108 (auspicious number) which emerged from a Form of 115 Postures! So, we can clearly establish that the Taiji Form is about the Thirteen Dynamics and how we transit from one to the next and not about the physical final postures themselves or their evenness in number! ALL the postures conform to the rules of the Thirteen Dynamics with no exceptions based upon innateness! The Form is balanced via the passive and active aspects of the Thirteen Dynamics - both physically and internally (energetically) - which appear throughout the form in various guises and combinations. These Dynamics, themselves, produce the polarities necessary to move Qi around the body not much unlike a modern battery and in doing so result in some 'postures' being repeated more on the right side then on the left based upon whether they are
Above (Left to Right): Classic Lift Hands and a few of its variants as they appear in the Old Yang.
Yin or Yang, but balance still being achieved. By counting the number of postures in a physically external manner and arguing that they need to be repeated in their mirror image is a folly, as I have already shown above - this is not the nature of the design - and also shows a lack of understanding of innate internal function! Generally speaking, science tells us that approximately ninety per cent of the world is right handed, the remaining ten per cent are left-handed with some ambidexterity, though true ambidexterity is only found in one per cent of the population. So, we are innately right dominant, which means that we primarily use the left-side of our brain! Simply repeating the Form physically on the left side equal to the right side is not going to equalize the body and nor is it suddenly going to make your left-hand strike equal to your right hand, as it has been suggested! That is just a foolish notion. In fact, in terms of brain function, by using both sides of the brain to do the same function you are making it inefficient! By using one hemisphere to do a job perfectly well on its own, you are now freeing up the other hemisphere to do something different. This is exactly the genius of the Taiji Form in design and function - it frees up the two hemispheres to do different things at the same time. Take a boxer for example, in Western boxing there are only four techniques - jab, cross, uppercut and hook. That's it! Everything else is about variation and skill. A boxer fighting in a natural stance doesn’t waste time developing equal power in both hands as that would take far too much time and at a cost to the power of his natural hand! Obviously, opponents can attack with either their left or right leg forward (standard or “southpaw”), but that doesn't mean you need to change sides to deal with the situation.
It has been argued that the mirror Form is especially important for those who only practice Taiji for health, as they do not have the other martial drills to help them physically balance out. Again, this is an absolute false notion! Chen Yanlin states: “…if you are seeking a way to cultivating health, practicing the traditional Taiji boxing art is the most reliable and effective means of doing so.” Erle Montaigue, in his book The Old Yang Style, states: “The Chinese doctors of old told us that most disease states are caused by an imbalance of the amount of yin and yang energy in the body, hence Taijiquan’s great self healing properties. But only if it is done exactly as it was originally taught with no deviations!
Above (Left to Right): Classic 'Crane Spreads Its Wings' and a few of its variants as they appear in the Old Yang.
The beauty of Taijiquan, especially the Yang form is that it was very carefully thought out by its founder. He saw a need for a martial system that not only contained the most deadly self-defense applications but also self-defense against disease and depletion of Qi and a Qi system that was out of balance. So he built into the whole form a way of manipulating each acupuncture meridian in turn, the way that it is ‘activated’ throughout a 24 hour period. In this way every organ in the body is bathed in life-giving Qi with this manipulation emulating the exact activation periods of the meridians during each day. This is how Taijiquan works in the self-healing area as a preventative as well as a healing application for many disease states.” Further, during our ‘Master Taiji Classes,’ Erle continued: “Many students tell me that they do not need to learn how to move in this manner as they only wish to teach it for health, etc. How wrong they are as you cannot even begin to teach Taijiquan until you have learnt the martial side of it as both are inextricably linked to form a well balanced set of movements which when combined are excellent for health. Even if one only ever wishes to teach a lunch time class for the local CWA where the average might be 60 and blue rinses abound, it is important to be able to show them the martial applications.” In other words, you cannot have the health without the martial! Even, those who are merely practicing for health purposes will require learning some of the fundamental martial training methods. I have been teaching for Age UK for a decade, and some of the best results that I have achieved, especially for those with balance problems and fall injuries have been through martial exercises like ‘Stepping Over The Gate’ and the Wudang Stepping Methods. I could go on and provide further examples of why it is unnecessary to perform the Form in mirror or reverse but, I believe, there is ample evidence here for the educated and those with common sense. The idea is to keep the explanations simple and avoid using overtly technical terms or descriptions which have crept into the lexicon of Taijiquan over the years!
We seem to forget that the art was forged and developed primarily by peasants, who looked to their surroundings and their innate abilities as opposed to the latter practitioners, who began to intellectualize the art! I began this article with a set of statements and I shall now answer them below. Erle Montaigue NEVER stated or taught that, ‘…any form or drill that is "not" physically balanced should be done [on] both sides.’! What he actually stated, in both his 1999/2000 visits to the UK, and subsequent classes very clearly - and I have this written in my Training Notebook - ad verbatim - which I have kept meticulously since I began training with Erle himself - as follows: “ Any Form which finishes facing the opposite direction to where you began must be reversed from that position, so we end up facing back where we started - In other words, if you began the Form facing the North and finished facing the South, then you must mirror the form to return back to the North! These Forms are not balanced…” Regarding training methods/drills he simply stated: “All training methods must be practiced on both sides as a natural stance (same hand, same foot forward) and in a crossed-stance (opposite hand to foot). This will give us four ways to practice… however, you MUST learn the drill/method correctly on your natural side first before attempting it in reverse! The exception to these rules are those training methods or qigongs which begin in the crossed-stance - these are only performed left or right.” I have confirmed these statements with those of Erle’s senior instructors/students who were present and training then and elsewhere later. He never deviated from this position! Nor did he EVER say that, ‘the YLC form "can" be done on both sides if you wish.’
My cherished notes from my training with Erle from 1999 until his passing in January 2011.
This was only stated about the Yang Cheng-fu Form not the Old Yang! Again, I have this in my notes and from my many other questions to Erle. This, again, has been verified by Erle’s senior students, including Peter Jones - Erle’s most senior student and Chief of Training Basics in the UK.
Erle was questioned several times as to why the Yang Cheng-fu version of the Form needed to be mirrored as opposed to the Old Yang when both started and finished facing the same way? Erle’s answer was clear: “Yang Cheng-fu’s Form can/must be reversed because it is not balanced due to postures having been removed and the pace of the Form having been changed!” He would further elaborate (taken from my notes during the Instructors Sessions and Leicester Workshops): “The Original Yang family form contained slow movements for gathering Qi, fast movements for balancing Qi and explosive (Fa-jing) movements to disperse the Yang Qi, built up during practice, as opposed to the slow only style of modern forms, thereby, making it a completely balanced system. This is critical, as the slow movements of these modified forms, lead to an excessive build up of Yang Qi, which then turns to its opposite Yin State thus, causing harmful “Yin Dullness” within the body.”
In fact, Erle alludes to the above a bit more cryptically, referencing the Taiji Classic, in his book - The Old Yang Style: “Be as still as a mountain, move like a great river.” “…whoever learns this form or even sees it performed looks on in awe at such a beautifully powerful and ‘still’ set of movements, rolling by in complete harmony with nature and the internal flow of Qi (energy), with the occasional explosive energy, (fa-jing) movement representing the “Great River” and its mostly flowing softly but often violent actions. This form of Taijiquan is why we have the lofty name of “Supreme Ultimate Boxing” (Taijiquan), because it was and is the highest form of Taijiquan, the very pinnacle of the Internal Martial/Healing Arts.” It was to redress this all slow even pace that Yang Shou-chung ‘invented’ the Small San-sau for his students to practice, in order to return the Yang component to their training! Dong Yingjie achieved the same through his Fast Form. And finally, he NEVER stated that the ‘only reason… why you do not "have" to do it on both sides, is that the form "is" physically balanced.’! This is Erle’s exact quote on the subject, which sits in the public domain, when he was asked if it was ok to reverse the Old Yang: ‘Yang Lu-ch'an's form was never done on the other side as it is totally balanced physically and internally Qi wise. However, it is up to you as to whether or not you do it on the other side, I have only performed it once or twice and did not like it. However, I always perform Cheng-fu's form on both sides as it is not balanced physically.’ This quote, has to be seen and understood in line with Erle’s other quotes which I have provided above! This quote appeared as late as 2008, confirming what he had been teaching throughout his lifetime about the Old Yang… he never deviated from it once! The problem we have here is that folk who weren’t even training properly at the time or were simply not present during the sessions when Erle made this absolutely clear, are now selectively quoting Erle without context - on matters they do not understand due to their own shortcomings, yet, they have the audacity to say that Erle was ‘wrong’ on the matter! Anyone who has practiced or seen the Old Yang Form can see that some ‘postures' are repeated more on one side then the other. This is not of any noteworthiness it is obvious! However, less obvious are the fact that the Thirteen Dynamics themselves are present in all directions and that the ‘postures' are dynamically repeated in reverse (see images on previous pages). As I have already pointed out above, the reason for the apparent ‘discrepancy' from right to left is there by design - Yang energy moves from the right-side of the body to the left not that dissimilar to the electrons in the cell above [Of course, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner can go into this in far more deeper, but we are trying to keep things simple and not get too involved in the complexities of Chinese medicine - after all we are discussing the machinations of a martial art]!
Above: Erle demonstrating and explaining the advanced dynamics of 'Advance, Parry, Grasp Hammer’ - a variant of Yin attack Lu - in Leicester in 2008.
In 2008, Erle visited Leicester twice during which he delivered two master sessions over four days on the Thirteen Dynamics and the Old Yang Form, as well as the Pauchui or Canon Fist Form, at my behest. These were some of the most illuminating sessions on the foundations of Taijiquan and I have almost 10 hours of film from them.
Erle spoke about balance at length and how that equated to the Form itself and the internal arts in general. Balance here is not meant by physical balance alone - it is more importantly about internal balance. The Thirteen Dynamics ensure that we are dynamically balanced and braced in all directions during the Form (Joining Hands is the testing ground for this) and that our six main body parts are aligned in harmony (see Lift Hands Volume 2, February 2017). During these sessions Erle also pointed how it was natural that all of us, when we stand around subconsciously, stand with more weight on one leg then the other. How standing with our weight equally distributed on both feet actually makes as vulnerable in that we can be pushed over easily! He related to Great Pole Boxing: The Theory and his commentary on double-weightedness… I quote: “He talks about double weighted movements. But not only does he mean that we should not stand with the weight placed evenly upon both feet, but also that we should not have equal Qi in the hands, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees. This can be taken even further to each of the six organ pairs where we should also not have double weightedness. It goes even deeper into that the sub-conscious and the conscious should also not be double weighted!” Note, as I’ve already mentioned above, that as we begin the Taiji Form we are in Wuji - we are double weighted and nothing is happening - all sides are equal. It is only when we begin to move that Taiji is born as the passive and active separate and once they stop, we return to Wuji, back to the original state! Hopefully, the readers can now see and work out for themselves the reason as to why the Old Yang is considered balanced both internally and physically (dynamically) as opposed to externally balanced, which is what is really being proposed here and goes against the very essence of innateness! It is preposterous to suggest that Erle hadn’t physically investigated the Form and had simply accepted his teacher Chang’s word for it - his quote above clearly proves otherwise [Not only had he investigated it physically, he had also investigated it historically!] Or, that Chang and the Yang giants - Lu-ch’an - the founder of the Form - along with his sons Jian-hou, Ban-hou and Shou-hou and Cheng-fu had all failed to notice that the Form was predominantly ‘right-sided’ to the uninitiated eye and here we are being told about this almost 300 years later by someone whose own training hasn’t even scratched the surface of Taiji! Erle had traversed the globe investigating and researching Taijiquan with some of the legends of Taiji which included Fu Zhongwen and Yang Shou-cheung. It is an insult to his memory to state that he had essentially got it wrong by those who were not even born when he was training, learning, and teaching the arts back to the Chinese in Hong Kong and elsewhere! There are no records of the Yangs, themselves, mentioning reversal of the Form, even when they were teaching it for health benefits. This phenomena only rises post Yang Cheng-fu’s modifications and subsequent further changes by modern practitioners! Majority of the martial arts Forms or Katas from both the internal and external styles tend to appear to be ‘one-side dominant’ as is practically almost the whole of the human race - but they are dynamically balanced! In conclusion, the only thing that has been proven is NOT that the Old Yang is “not physically balanced,” but rather that those who are proposing such ideas are clueless to the design, workings and the theories of the internal arts themselves!
HADJIOS VALLEY RESORT T’AI CHI CH’UAN WEEKEND MAZOTOS, CYPRUS November 8/13, 2018 - Camp Details
Fa-jing Ch'uan Internal Chinese Boxing Schools are pleased to announce our third annual T'ai Chi Ch'uan Camp on the sun-drenched island of Cyprus in November 2018. Based at the scenic Hadjios Valley Resort in Mazotos - a couple of kilometres from the pristine beaches off the Mediterranean coastline this will be a great opportunity to learn one of the most ancient Chinese martial arts, renowned for its health properties, on the island of Aphrodite over 5 days. The camp will include: Qigong Old Yang Style T'ai Chi Practical Training Methods For Health/ Martial Arts Self-Defence Plus One Day for Exploring the Island Whether you are a novice or already have some experience and would simply like to brush up on the foundations, or have ever
wondered how the art is used as a system of selfdefence - then this will be the perfect way to get a great insight into T'ai chi Ch’uan (Taijiquan). You will receive a minimum of 5 hours of training under instruction over 4 days.
and can sleep up to 4 people sharing.
Date: Thursday-Tuesday 8/13 November 2018
Meals: This year, after careful deliberation, we have decided to offer a self-catering service allowing guests the freedom to choose what they eat as they please.
Cost of training: 225 Euros for those registering by Monday 31 August 2018. (The cost will rise to 250 Euros for those registering after this date.) Cost of Accommodation: 250 Euros/Villa based upon a minimum of 5 nights at Apollo Villas. (Each additional night is 40 Euros for those wishing to extend their stay.) We have negotiated an exclusive special rate with Apollo Villas, allowing you to spend five days in luxury at an incredibly low price!
All villas are fully furnished, including a functional kitchen as well as a washing machine and fridge. Full Wi-Fi is available throughout the resort at no extra cost.
All guests will find a basic ‘Welcome Pack’ upon arrival at their villa for making their own breakfast , etc. For lunch and supper we have negotiated a special rate at the local Mazotos Tavern - based in the centre of the village, where Bambos and his family serve up the most delicious traditional meals with a wonderful friendly service!
Please note, although partners and family are welcome, accommodation will be prioritized for those training!
Alternatively, folk are free to make their own arrangements or even cook in the villa, buying produce from the local high street, if they so wish.
Each villa is selfcontained and has two bedrooms (see below)
Participants will be expected to arrive on site by Thursday evening
8 November 2018 and depart Tuesday 13 November after the final training session, unless they have extended their stay in advance. All accommodation costs must be paid in full at the time of registration. (PLEASE NOTE THESE ARE NONREFUNDABLE.) Nearest Airport: Larnaca (15 km from resort). Information for local carhire services is available upon request. Please contact Nasser Butt for further information and registration: Tel: +44(0)7792242150 Email: email@example.com Visit our website for further information on what we teach: www.fajing-chuan.co.uk Website for Hadjios Valley: www.apollovillas.com/ hadjios-valley/ 1 Hadjios Valley Griva Digeni 44, Mazotos, Larnaca 7577 CYPRUS
Picture appears courtesy of Nidar Singh Nihang.
n February, I was kindly invited to the
Naamdahri Gurdwara in Birmingham to see Gurudev Nidar Singh Nihang deliver a session on Loh Mushti or Iron Fist Fighting. Nidar Singh, born and raised in the UK, is considered the last ‘sole-surviving master and ninth teacher (gurdev) of a classical school of learning established in 1661, called the Baba Darbara Singh Shastar Vidya Akhara, which is the last remnant of this ancient tradition.’ Upon entering the training hall in the Gurdwara all eyes suddenly towards myself and the small group of students who had accompanied me for the trip. The figure of Nidar Singh, standing amongst his students, is unmistakable. At over 6 feet tall, dressed in his traditional dark blue attire, he steps forwards and greets us one by one. There are no airs or graces about this man. He immediately sets you at ease and you already know that you are standing in the presence of someone who not only lives and breathes his art but, also, is a man of great knowledge.
Nasser Butt with Nidar Singh Nihang - Ninth teacher (gurdev) of the Baba Darbara Singh Shastar Vidya Akhara, established in 1661.
After the preliminary introductions are over, Nidar Singh turns back to his students and gets them working on their next drill. As I look around the hall, I see a raised platform upon which laid out in rows are a range of weapons, some instantly recognizable - swords, daggers, talwars - and others so obscure that you cannot begin to fathom there names but, you know are instruments of pain and death! Shastar Vidya transliterates as ‘Science of Weapons’ - specifically edged weapons - and is also known as ‘Sanatan Shastar Vidya,’ where the tern ‘Sanatan’ means ‘timeless’ therefore, giving us the ‘Timeless Science of Weapons’. According to Nidar Singh: ‘Shastar Vidiya is a complete traditional Indian battlefield system from the Punjab, land of the five rivers, in the North-west of India. It is a highly evolved and deeply conceptual art as it incorporates sophisticated unarmed techniques with a variety of unique Indian weapons such as, swords, spears, daggers, clubs, sticks, chain and ball, 'chakars' (quoits), 'bagh nakha' (leopard claw), etc., as well as tactics and stratagems. Given that, 'Sanatan' (timeless/most ancient) Dharma is the traditional designation of Hinduism, and in the past Hindus practiced this art, the art is also known as 'Sanatan Hindu Shastar Vidiya'. In the 15th century the Sikhs, being of Hindu descent themselves, adopted the art. The tenth Sikh Guru traces back his own ancestry to the great 'Surya Bansi' (belonging to the Sun Dynasty) Hindu warrior, Lord Raam (see Bachitter Natak, Dasam Guru Granth Sahib). As such, it is also known as 'Sanatan Hindu Sikh Shastar Vidiya’.'
Picture appears courtesy of Nidar Singh Nihang.
Watching Nidar Singh at work, I immediately feel as if I am watch an old school Taijiquan practitioner at work! The similarities are far too great to be ignored. Yes, there are differences, yet the concepts of fluid movement and utilizing body mechanics to produce explosive attacks both, above and below are explicitly present. It’s not long before Nidar Singh confirms this himself, stating that: ‘Many prominent masters of various martial arts have, in relation to their own practices, described Shastar Vidiya as being 'a long lost relative'. This echoes the teachings of many martial arts of Far Eastern origin, which in one form or another, trace their origins to ancient India.’ As Nidar Singh further explains the principles behind Sanatan Shastar Vidya, I am left in no doubt that the art is akin to what we today call the Neijia or Internal Arts in China: ‘There are three key principles which combine in Sanatan Shastar Vidiya to make it function correctly. These three principles lie at the very heart of Shastar Vidiya and distinguish it as a uniquely Indian martial art from the other great combat martial arts in the world. 1. Locomotion: Locomotion in Shastar Vidiya is achieved by maintaining one's body mass over one's own centre of gravity. Then, by 'Dolana' (spilling) one's centre of gravity in the desired direction, one attains motion as the feet follow in a measured step. In order to alter direction, one of the limbs, the head or any other part, is subtly jolted out and employed as a counter balance in mid movement. This extremely subtle spilling skill allows for far greater smoothness, agility and swiftness of movement; is difficult to articulate without demonstration. Moreover, even during filming one cannot capture its many nuances and effectiveness. 2. Angling: Instead of angling at forty-five degrees (as many martial arts do), Shastar Vidiya's narrow foot base, enables a much sharper cutting of angles. The footwork too possesses a feature whereby one foot is off the ground during the spilling motions. In combination, this results in constant misalignments and superior tactical positions - the hallmark of Shastar Vidiya. 3. Generating power: Rather than employing muscular power, solid structures, or firm grounding to generate power, it is actually generated through movement. Shastar Vidiya's power generation is achieved by an ever-flowing fluid manner by sinking one's body mass through every grab, hold, strike and cut whilst driving through with the body's kinetic energy.
Nidar Singh explaining the subtleties of generating non-muscular power to my student Paramtap Mewada.
The subtle integration of these three principles of locomotion, angling and generating power in Sanatan Shastar Vidiya is known as 'Shiv Shakti' (Shiva's power). Hence, at a more esoteric level, the lovers of Shastar Vidiya know their art as the love play between Shiva, and his consort Shakti. This martial principle of Shiv Shakti is also simply known as 'Parjog' (application). It is these elements of 'parjog' that underlie Sanatan Shastar Vidiya and make it work; in its purest form, they provide Shastar Vidiya with its unique dance-like characteristic when fully expressing its cultural origins. The more one advances in the art, the more sophisticated and subtle the grades of 'parjog' become; they have no finite limit.’ As he explains, Nidar Singh demonstrates each principle using his own students and mine. Every minute detail and subtlety is explained. This is a master craftsman at work. Whether it is with empty hands or with a weapon, the underlying principles remain the same - it is the body, rooted, yet moving fluidly through a variety of subtle angle changes that suddenly looms large upon the opponent attacking ceaselessly until he is vanquished! The three principles of locomotion, angling and generating power are all present in the Taiji of old. The concepts of rooting, sinking and the ‘centre moving the peripherals,’ all correspond to these. Likewise, although the basic Taiji practitioner begins in a large ‘bow stance’ this over time becomes a much smaller natural or 'no stance’ commonly called the ‘River’ stance, based upon the Chinese characters for the word ‘river’! Not only that, Taiji in footwork establishes a range of angles from forty-five degrees to twentytwo and a half degrees and even less. Finally, Taiji teaches us that combat occurs on one foot and to never be ‘doubleweighted - we become a post and are able to move and change angles very rapidly if required. The similarities with Shastar Vidya are uncanny indeed!
Nidar Singh explaining the subtleties of angling to Paramtap!
‘There are ten classical fighting forms in Sanatan Shastar Vidiya termed 'Yudhan' (combat forms) or 'Pentra' (tactical deployments). The first six Yudhan are known as 'Khat Ang' (six limbs). These six Yudhan are based upon characters from Indian mythology that possess animal forms. When integrated, they form the seventh limb - the leopard 'parjog' (application). Beyond these are three more advanced forms referred to as 'Dev Ang' (limbs of the gods), which are based upon Shiva and his consort, the Devi (also known as 'Shakti,' 'Durga,' 'Chandi,' , etc.).
The ten collective forms in themselves are not considered as the fighting art of Shastar Vidiya; they are repositories of ancient tactics and techniques required for particular situations and environments. Each form is a continuum from the previous, building upon the skills and attributes of its predecessor. The ten collective forms in themselves are not considered as the fighting art of Shastar Vidiya; they are repositories of ancient tactics and techniques required for particular situations and environments. Each form is a continuum from the previous, building upon the skills and attributes of its predecessor.
All Shastar Vidiya fighting forms have both unarmed and armed applications; they can be done individually, in pairs, groups or armies. A unique characteristic that distinguishes Shastar Vidiya from other more familiar fighting forms of Eastern martial arts is that there are no sequential movements; rather they are governed by very precise principles.’ Again, the philosophy of Shastar Vidya and Taijiquan is very similar. Although Taiji has a ‘sequential form’, it is however based upon the principles of The Thirteen Dynamics - consisting of eight energies and five directions - the sequence is only there for the beginner, ultimately there is no sequence and just like Shastar Vidya, the forms are not considered the fighting art - they contain the principles and theories of natural movement, both armed and unarmed! The 10 Forms of Shastar Vidya are: Viraha Yudhan (Wild Boar Style) - The earliest of all the Yudhan, it can be traced back in mythology to the wild boar incarnation of Vishnu who rescued the Vedas from the demon Hiranyaksha. Weapons synonymous with Viraha Yudhan are heavy clubs and daggers; it also forms the basis of the battle formations. In its unarmed form, it is a close-quarter, compact yet explosive combat style. Through application, the style employs misalignments and establishing a superior tactical position. In doing so, it unleashes lethal strikes to vital points utilising a wide variety of hand, foot, elbow, knee strikes which reign down on the opponent simultaneously from top to bottom. Sheshnaga Yudhan (Snake Style) - This battle form arises from the thousand-headed snake of Vishnu, Sheshnaga; his most ardent devotee who with his numerous mouths, forever repeats his ineffable name. The style itself is based upon the legendary Indian 'khrapa' (cobra) and 'ajgah' (python); its preferred weapons include axes, spears, knives and scarves. It is a companion to Viraha Yudhan in the battle formations, but also a counter and is characteristically a subtle and distinctively smooth style of combat. In its unarmed form it parries incoming blows and slips past to target 'marma' (vital points) with heavy looping blows. Drawing upon inspiration from snakes, it aims to entangle incoming limbs, whilst employing locks, snapping joints, and concluding by necks breaks or chokes. Garuda Yudhan (Bird Style) - This style is attributed to the mythological mount of Vishnu; it is based upon four birds, namely the peacock, eagle, cockerel, and gander. As with the previous 2 styles, it too has armed applications such as combinations of a small axe and shield, two small axes, sword, sword and spear, sword and small axe, sword and dagger, sword and small shield, sword with a small shield and dagger, sword and small shield accompanied by a spear, etc. It is seen as a light skirmishing style; a master of hit and run tactics; hence can be employed on foot, or horseback. In its unarmed incarnation, it seeks to overwhelm opponents by constantly angling off from left to right in order to find the correct trajectory for strikes. The strikes themselves are delivered in multiple ways employing the hands and feet, sweeps, stomping, leading to complete limb destruction underfoot. Nandi Yudhan (Bull Style) - The white hump-backed bull of Lord Shiva serves as inspiration for this style. Weapons of choice include deeply curved swords and daggers as it prefers to engage at very close quarter. Nandi style is both a complement and counter to Garuda Yudhan. Seen as the heavier variant of the skirmishing style, it is employed by warriors who are on foot, or horseback; they are the first in Shastar Vidiya who utilise heavy upper body armour. As with Garuda, the style allows for angling off from right to left whilst in the engagement range, however, where it varies with Garuda is that it lands heavy, deeply penetrating blows. It aims to destroy the opponent's body structure through application of upper body spinal twists and lower quarter knee strikes. Combined with levers, it seeks to grapple with the opponent in order to damage the limbs and back. The final stages include crushing and compressing the opponent from top-down, and once on the ground, heavy stomps, powerful knee drops and shattering fist blows are favoured. Narsingha Yudhan (Tiger Style) - The inspiration behind this style is the part-human, part-tiger (in some parts of India, a lion, or leopard is also accepted) and part-divine incarnation of Vishnu.
Nidar Singh Nihang demonstrating footwork and misdirection with weapons!
It is said that Narsingha Avatar rescued the child devotee of Vishnu, named Prahlad, from his own evil demon father Harnakasha. The weapons of choice include very heavy metal shields and axes with long shafts which are designed to tear down shield walls. The warriors employing this style are adorned in a greater deal of body armour including chainmail; far more than Nandi. This is due to their role in providing support for the vanguard of the battle formation. This Yudhan is also characteristically utilised when holding breeches and in fighting duels. In its unarmed form, it is characterised by a wide two-step gait stance which allows for an entrenched position. Yet, paradoxically, it possesses great evasive abilities; it seeks to envelope opponents and get to the head and neck as quickly and directly as possible. The style often finishes, with opponent's neck being torn off. Hanuman Yudhan (Monkey Style) - This style takes its inspiration from the famed monkey deity Hanuman, the greatest disciple of Lord Raam - the Avatar of Vishnu. The style itself is a compliment and counter to Narsingha Yudhan. It prefers weapons as that of Narsingha, but in addition, heavy maces and sickle-shaped daggers are favoured. In a more traditional setting, it provided, as did Narsingha, support to the vanguard. As with Narsingha Yudhan, this style was also employed when holding breeches and fighting duels. The unarmed form is similar to Narsingha Yudhan - a wide two-step gait stance. However, unlike Narsingha, it sinks its hip lower which allows it to fight in an entrenched position from a much lower position. Prime targets include the lower body, legs and groin. Use of grappling and counter levers, it not only negates the power of opponents, but directs their energy against them. In application, it advances upon the opponent, slipping past oncoming attacks, and targets the groin region. Sophisticated structure-breaks take place, finally resulting in the opponent being taken to the ground and trampled underfoot. Bagh Yudhan (Leopard Style) - Taking inspiration from the mount of the Hindu goddess of war, Devi (also known as Chandi, Durga, Kalika, etc.), the leopard; spoken of as a Yudhan, it is more correctly a higher level of 'parjog' - a higher and more efficient mode of application. It exits at two distinct levels, namely 'shota' (immature) and 'vada' (mature); the mature being more efficient. Bagh Yudhan is extremely agile and is the catalyst which collates all the Khat Ang Yudhan together in a holistic form; each with their varied techniques and tactics combined as one seamless flow. Bagh is best most recognisable - with a particular style of Shastar Vidiya pugilism, employed traditionally in 'hadh torh' (bone-breaking) challenges designed to settle disputes or challenges to the Akhara Gurdev. As such, it is also known as 'loh mushti' (iron-fist boxing). Ashtbuja Deva Yudhan (Styles of the Goddess) - Four Sub-Sets: Chandi Yudhan - Just as the Chandi incarnation of 'Ashtbhuja Deva' is young and beautiful this style too embodies grace and elegance. It can be employed both unarmed and armed. At this level of combat only the most well-balanced and finest of swords, spears and bows are utilised. Lower grades of weapons are seen as acceptable for the lesser Yudhan - but not Chandi. Like a beautiful woman seeking to beguile her opponent, she takes control of the kinetic energy of the opponent, and directs it back against him destroying him. Chandi is perfect for engaging multiple opponents. Kalika Yudhan - This form is the contracted version of Chandi; far sharper, and quicker in achieving the kill. Kalika's demeanour is far more vicious than elegant Chandi; if Chandi is a happy mother, Kalika is the furious mother. Jagdambeh Yudhan - 'Jagdambeh' translates as the 'mother of the world,' and employs quick-footed circular movements around opponent. With ever-changing directions of attack, she angles off and gathers up an opponent's kinetic energy only to whiplash it back at the target. Kalika Vambrolah Yudhan - Literally translates to as 'the whirlwind'; this is a more compact and aggressive form of Jagdambeh Yudhan. The 'Bhujangi Singhs' (who were considered the elite) utilised Ashtbhuja Deva Yudhan to penetrate and smash through enemy battle formations. Together with the application of tactics and strategy, they were able to venture deep behind enemy lines in order to disrupt enemy supply lines, or destroy key targets, or for pure reconnaissance.
Adi Deva Yudhan (Styles of Shiva) - Adi Deva in essence represents 'akarshan shakti' - the power of attraction, compression and mass/gravity. As with other forms, Adi Deva Yudhan has unarmed and armed applications; employing a large variety of weapons. Designed to smash through formations, or rout armies, it has a variety of uses. At this level, the Yudhan and 'parjog' become one. It favours the 'Khanda' (double-edged sword), of which many forms exist. A particular favourite is the 'Kharag Khanda' - the unique weapon of Adi Deva Shiva himself. The Adi Deva Yudhan can be divided into six sub-styles. Below is a brief description of four forms; Shiva Yudhan - A master of understanding body structure, it is able to destroy it in an instant. Characteristically, it utilises a wide, open stance with the pelvis whilst sinking at the hips. As Shiva lays its hands upon an opponent, he employs structural breaks with the slightest of touches and manipulating the opponent's centre of gravity. Through subtle unbalancing movements the opponent is taken to the ground as if by magic, allowing for a quick dispatch. Even highly experienced martial artists have been left perplexed by the touch of this Yudhan - unable to fathom and perceive its energy. Ganpat Yudhan - The son of Shiva and Devi Parbati's is the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha. Also known as 'Ganpat' - the master of the 'gans', the ghoulish soldiers of Shiva. Ganesha is traditionally considered to 'Biganharn' (the remover or obstacles), and 'Ekh Dant' (one-tusked). He is the most popular and revered deity in India, and most easily recognised the world over. His characteristic style of combat draws upon the qualities of his father Shiva, but with added capabilities around grappling â&#x20AC;&#x201C; ideal when facing larger well-armed foes. Jaganathan Shiva Yudhan - This aspect of Adi Dev Yudhan is inspired by Shiva riding upon the unstoppable chariot of Krishna - the famed 'Jaganath' from which is derived the term 'juggernaut'. More than a Yudhan, this is actually an advanced version of 'parjog'. Its unique form involves advancing upon an opponent with speed whilst misaligning oncoming strikes. Upon taking a superior tactical position, it unleashes a barrage of blows focused on 'marma' (vital points). Mahakal Yudhan - his particularly vicious form of Adi Dev Yudhan is inspired by the great death 'Mahakal,' an incarnation of Shiva that devours all in his path. At an individual level, it is the most highly evolved and efficient of all Yudhan; at this level 'parjog' and Yudhan are seen as one. The favoured style of the vanguard of armies, its purpose is to advance and chew through battle formations laying a path of pure destruction. In its unarmed form, Mahakal advances upon opponent employing constant misalignments to all incoming attacks. As such, it slips past strikes, subtly sinking body mass and directing it into the opponent's body structure with slightest of touches. As the opponent crumbles, it focuses on the neck - a quick end ensues.
The use of the Sikh Kara (Metal bangle) in combat.
Ardhanarishvara Yudhan (Styles of Shiva/Chandi) - he final style of Sanatan Shastar Vidiya, this is the form of androgynous Shiva. It represents the complete harmony of the universal female energy and male energy personified by Shiva and his consort the Devi. Here, the scientific principles of kinetic energy and the attracting, compressive/gravitational energy combine, both supplementing and complementing each other. In effect, all the Yudhan accumulate to become one syncretised whole. Having mastered all the distinctive timings of each Yudhan, it is also known as 'Sarbkal' (all time) Yudhan. When achieving mastery of this Yudhan, one is said to have ascended the sacred mountain of Shiva known as Kailash. Once here, one can see all perspectives, from all sides, be they martial or otherwise; it makes for a truly open-minded and enlightened individual. It is said, that here one attains onto Shiva; the Yudhan have reached their 'dhanatmak avastha' (positive stage), i.e., their peak expressive height. The next logical step from this point is to descend the mountain on the opposite side. This is known as 'renatmak avastha' (negative state), i.e., deconstruction of the Yudhan and removal of all outward form. Metaphorically, and also from a philosophical perspective, this stage is considered as venturing beyond 'sarguna' (imminent) Shiva to the eternal 'nirguna' Shiva 'Sadha Shiva'; in essence, infinite Brahm/Vaehguru (the all-pervasive supreme being). Further to this are eleven stages of deconstruction of within the Shastar Vidiya Yudhan and in this way the art truly becomes natural spontaneous, versatile and formless. As these teachings of Sanatan Shastar Vidiya are said to be infinite, one is always considered a 'shagird' (student) and never really a master of it. The title 'Gurdev' is there as from; a merely mundane functional perspective it is required. From a greater perspective there are no Gurdev; all are essentially eternal students.
Whilst Shastar Vidya is quintessentially Indian in origin and no doubt rooted in antiquity and the ancient mythology of India, one cannot help but notice the many similarities between the 10 forms and the arts of China and no doubt elsewhere as already mentioned above! The animal styles of Shastar Vidya, or their equivalent, can be found in both the Shaolin influenced arts as well as those influenced by the Wudang region. The monkey, tiger, snake and bird all have their direct counterparts in the Chinese arts as do the heavyweights of the boar, bull and elephant. The concepts are not that dissimilar since they are based upon movements of animals and nature.
The Jagdambeh Yudhan is essentially Shastar Vidya’s equivalent of Baguazhang - based upon the circle and the eight palm changes - whilst, Kalika Vambrolah Yudhan is ‘Small Frame’ Baguazhang! The Ardhanarishvara Yudhan (Styles of Shiva/Chandi) - the ‘androgynous Shiva’ - is all but Taiji in name! The combination of the male/female energy (Yin/Yang) based upon the active and passive principles of the universe, deploying straight lines and circles innately is considered the ‘Supreme Ultimate’ ! It is, also, for this very reason that Taiji is considered the ‘mother’ of the internal arts!
Nidar Singh explaining the ‘sticky hands’ of Shastar Vidya to Nasser Butt.
Shastar Vidya is no doubt a complete art, drenched in philosophies and principles from the dawn of time - from the moment the first men fought. Its array of weaponry and their deployment both overtly and covertly is second to none - of this there is no doubt! Having said that, Sanatan Shastar Vidya, just like other martial arts, is not without its controversies or misunderstandings. However, I have decided not to focus upon these as they are debates within Sikhism, its history and origins - and that is for my Sikh brothers to discuss! Despite the controversies, one thing is for certain Nidar Singh is an encyclopedia of knowledge on the fighting arts of the Indian subcontinent. His knowledge demands respect and his skill demands no less! Whilst others have argued about the usage of the term Guru or Gurudev - one has to be aware of the scared use of this term in Sikhism - however, one cannot deny the title, as Nidar Singh states, in its ‘mundane functional’ role to the man. He is certainly deserving of that. As the evening drew to a close, we thanked Gurudev Nidar Singh Nihang for his time and the knowledge that he had shared with us so freely, and his students - a kaleidoscope of ethnicities - who had made us feel so welcome! Sanatan Shastar Vidya is a gem from the Punjab and without doubt a crown jewel of the fighting arts of the Indian subcontinent. It is well worth exploring. References: All descriptive references for the Forms were reproduced from shastarvidya.org with the kind permission of Gurudev Nidar Singh Nihang.
ai Chi Ch’uan (Taijiquan) instructors are
responsible for helping students gain understanding and insight into T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Good teachers strive to convey more than just a presentation of form movement. They seek to convey an understanding of how to make the form movements valid in both health and martial applications. Responsible teachers know that understanding begins with the realization that the principles are the key to understanding T’ai Chi. Understanding T’ai Chi principles is analogous to understanding musical principles. When one understands the musical principles of form, melody, composition etc., one can begin to make one’s own music. Once an individual understands T’ai Chi principles and their application to form movement, then that person can use the art to achieve personal goals. This article seeks to present several insights and perspectives regarding the understanding and teaching of T’ai Chi principles and concepts. The intent is to provide some thought and perspectives on the overall concept of understanding movement, application, and principles. Follow Your Body Structure A very useful overall concept in helping to develop effective T’ai Chi moves is that power and balance are based upon movement following one’s body structure. T’ai Chi moves are designed essentially as non-stop circles which outline and define body structure. This means that moves should circle in the direction of the body’s weighted side and not extend beyond the body’s shape. For example, if the weight is on the left foot, then movement should circle towards the left foot. If movement goes in directions other than the weighted leg, then the move tends to be weak and unbalanced. It makes transitions to subsequent moves awkward and difficult. Try to see all moments as circles. In a left brush knee move (right hand up, left leg forward), the right hand should circle towards the left leg, not straight ahead. Think of moving right and left as opposed to front and back. Don’t extend the arms and legs beyond the body’s structure, i.e. beyond the front toes. This tends to unbalance the bodying makes the movement linear and external. Movements are circular, not direct extensions. They should compliment (move with) the opponent’s moves. They shouldn’t ever oppose or run into the opponent’s technique. Internal balance comes when movement is connected, circular, and performed within the body’s physical parameters. The T’ai Chi Classics teach that moves are single-weighted. This means that the body’s weight is primarily over one leg. Moves are always directed to the weighted (weight-bearing) leg. For example, the left palm hand in single whip is not sent straight forward, but circles towards the left foot (the weight-bearing leg). A helpful visualization is that of throwing the opponent over the left leg. Conceptualizing the shift to the weight-bearing leg helps to ensure that the moves are circular, non-oppositional, and powerful. This type of movement will tend to spin opponents off their roots. Spinning an opponent off his root renders him incapable of an effective counter-attack. Directing The Move Understanding in what direction to focus the move is one key to help ensure successful movement. Movement is not executed in a vacuum, nor launched randomly into space. T’ai Chi form is an intricately plotted series of movements designed as attacks and counter-movements.
Movements are not done randomly into space or some esoteric form land. They must be crisp, alive, and reality orientated. Internal movement is not intended to crush an opponent, but to engulf him in a move. To do this successfully, one needs to understand how to utilize the space around the opponent. This helps to avoid running into your opponent’s technique and creating opposition. Understanding directions begins with aligning your navel with your opponent’s centre. Incoming attacks should be diverted (initially) at right (90 degree) angles to the attack. Eventually, turns can be up to 180 degrees. These directions allow one to attack balance and negate counter moves, and eventually spin an attacker on both horizontal and vertical planes. The navel should remain directly pointed (at first) at the opponent’s centre. The waist turn’s right or left, but the navel stays straight. This helps to ensure initial exposure to powerful, centered moves. In time, the navel can be pointed in other directions, such as a 45 or 90 degree angle to the opponent. Be careful to not overturn the waist. Proper navel alignment is especially helpful in teaching new students to stay centered and not to turn off their roots. Thoughts On Stepping
Tuey Staples, right, uses shoulder stroke to demonstrate a penetrating step on Alan Ludmer.
Learning to step correctly is essential for addressing martial situations and mastering moving push hands. T’ai Chi forms were designed to resolve numerous martial situations. This includes attacks and defences at varying distances. Often one will step to close with an opponent, other times to avoid an attack. Steps are always placed down empty, then weight is transferred to the foot. Don’t transfer the weight too quickly to the front foot. A too quick transfer can mean that your body weight is not effectively behind the move. All T’ai Chi moves should have the body weight behind the move. In addition, transferring the weight too quickly makes the stance vulnerable to sweeps, and makes rapid transitions to other moves difficult. Generally speaking, T’ai Chi steps are either encompassing or penetrating. Encompassing steps go around an opponent’s stance. They seek to step behind the opponent’s feet. Moves such as diagonal flying and single whip use encompassing steps. Opponents are thrown over the front leg. Penetrating steps are directed between the opponent’s stance (between his legs), generally right on the point of weight distribution. The intent is to move an opponent off his root. Movements such as elbow stroke and shoulder stroke uses penetrating steps. All T’ai Chi moves are composed of continuous total body movement. The body always moves as a unit. There are no arm or leg moves. There are only total body moves.
Staples and Ludmer show how movement to the weighted leg will tend to spin an opponent off his root.
Visualize a wave. Within every movement, there is a counter (balancing) movement. Like a wave, the moves swing from one leg to another. Moves are not linear but circular in direction. Movement Timing In martial situations, timing is critical. This means that all T’ai Chi movement must be continuous and flowing. There isn’t time to do a one-beat, two-beat move in a martial situation. Health applications are the same. Stopping breaks the qi (ch’i) flow. Students must learn to execute all movement on a one-count. It doesn’t have to be fast, however, everything must move together. For example, in brush knee one hand does not sweep down and the other goes up. Hands move simultaneously in a push-pull combination. This push-pull combination balances the move and helps create proper timing. Stopping is an anathema to T’ai Chi movement. It breaks the movement continuity and ch’i flow. Movement can be either fast or slow but it doesn’t stop. Power emanates from proper technique; power does not make proper technique. Proper technique always has the weight behind the move.
Irene Wellington, left, and Art Scholbe, right, demonstrate the centre line concept in push hands by not crossing their centre lines.
Boxers are traditionally taught that there are only two types of techniques; those that have your weight behind them and those that don’t. It is often useful to have students slowly test their moves against opposition to verify that they have their weight behind their moves.
Students learn that in martial situations, actual moves rarely look like form moves. They must be modified to fit changing situation, while retaining their fidelity to T’ai Chi principles. As all situations are different, applications are never the same. The move must fit the situation, not the converse. Allow the opponent’s moves to dictate your response. Don’t force moves on your opponent. Conclusion Good teachers are responsible for challenging their students; to motivate them to travel as far as their ability and commitment will take them. A primary vehicle for helping students grow is providing them with perspectives and insight into the application of T’ai Chi principles and movement. There are many paths and approaches to help individuals gain insight and understanding. The T’ai Chi masters say that principles are simple, but understanding them isn’t. There is no magic to the internal arts, there is only the understanding and application of principles. When students master principles, they master T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in T’ai Chi Magazine, Vol. 22, No. 4, August 1998. It was kindly sent to me by Alan Ludmer for reprinting in Lift Hands. Sadly, the original photographs accompanying the article no longer exist, so we had to make do with photocopies of the images as they appeared in T’ai Chi Magazine. Although the images are not of the highest quality, they are still discernible and get their point across along with the text.
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摟膝拗步 Lōu Xī Niù-Ao Bù
Brush Knee Obstinate-Twist Step Lōu (Brush) Xī (Knee) refers to the hand brushing towards the knee. The trajectory of the hand is intercepted by the knee, i.e., the hand doesn’t seek the knee but, rather, the knee seeks the hand. The entire palm must brush the knee and just pass it. The action of the palm - Brush - is as if one is ‘gathering’ or ‘raking’ something together. Niù Bù means ‘obstinate step’ referring to when the opposite hand is outstretched in a forward position to the foot and the foot holds its ground whilst twisting - Ao - in a specialized twistinggrinding manner - commonly referred to as a ‘weighted turn,’ - this allows the body to twist with a unified force, otherwise known as connectivity. Weighted turns in Taiji develop martial power in the leg and is how the form was performed before the modern ‘rocking back’ and then rolling the foot out before shifting the weight back forward! 110
Thus, the old name for this ‘dynamic’ was ‘Brush Knee Obstinate-Twist Step,’ which in the modern era of teaching simply became ‘Brush Knee Twist Step.’ The elliptical actions of the hands and the steps represent a river, which is also synonymous with a snake - seeking the weakness in the opponent’s defences and looking to seep in to the crevices or holes! The concepts and ideas behind ‘Brush Knee Obstinate-Twist Step,’ are multi-faceted allowing us to generate power from very short distances, whilst negating incoming forces as we continue to move forward ceaselessly like a river. The walking ‘dynamic’ develops tremendous timing and coordination, teaching the hands and feet to work in harmony, yet independently. This singular posture, alone, or combined with other dynamics, gives rise to a plethora of ‘techniques’ from throws, locks, kicks and strikes to grappling!
Elliot Morris and Dev Teeluck demonstrate an application from Brush Knee Obstinate-Twist Step (left). Main picture: The weighted â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;obstinate-twistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; step.
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