Sunday, April 8, 2007

South Bronx Bagua

Here's another video from the brothers over at "Black Taoist" and their student Lance "Hispanic Palm" from an apartment deep in the South Bronx.
While these guys may at times lack polished perfection, they more than make up for it in street practicality. The internal arts are often esoteric, with instructors coaxing students into "feeling the attacker's energy" and such. What it often boils down to is, in western terms, "muscle memory".
As I've suggested before, I am dissapointed with students (and their instructors) that are competent at doing their forms but have no clue how to apply those skills demonstrated in the forms. One high level Tai Chi instructor I know has told myself and other students that; (A)"just do it for many years and you will understand it, and (B) you have to be Chinese to understand it". Another told me "There is no application, it's all circles".
Screw that. I realize that the western mind has an overuse of mechanistic analysis, but that's how we "Get'er done". When a student sees application for an obscure technique in a form it re-wires that same technique through the brain in a seperate path to the same end goal. When the end goal is viewed in different ways we all have a deeper understanding of what we are trying to accomplish.
With that in mind, aside from my regular Monday-Wednesday workouts with the Dojo Rats, I've been teaching a beginning Yang-style Tai Chi Chuan class on Thursday nights for over a year now. Several of the students (of which there are usually six to eight) have had previous but limited Tai Chi practice. The rest are middle aged adults with no training. The group is diverse and new people drop in all the time, so I have to balence the training so nobody feels left behind. Most of the group has a good handle on the long form now, and as things have progressed I have brought the partner training up to 50% of class time now. For instance, I've been starting each class with the long form, for the calming meditative qualities. Then we go into form correction and problems people are having. The last half of class is push hands. Now they are familiar with the basic rooting and yielding drills and have moved on to the Yang-style push hands pattern. Like a lightbulb going off in their heads, they now see how ward-off,push, press, rollback, rooting and yielding from the form really work.
Last class I took it further and demonstrated some joint-locking techniques that can be integrated with push hands training, but they're not quite ready for it yet.
The point is, they now have a much better understanding of their form since they have viewed applications, which gives them incentive to go further.
That's why I love the guys at Black Taoist; they try to get down to what will work on the street...


Hand2Hand said...

Hallelujah! Testify Brother!

The internal arts are fighting arts. Until and unless teachers include the martial aspects, there is no way the students can be sure they are getting the full benefits of their art.

Dojo Rat said...

Thanks man,
I can't tell you how much it bugs me when people can't explain their art or get too "new age" with it.
--Dojo Rat

Patrick Parker said...

Amen, guys. One pet peeve of mine lately is how the hippies have given aikido such a bad name with the rest of the martial arts world. You have to have some objective something to tie you to reality.

And I can tell that both the Dojorat guys and the Black Taoist guys have that obhjective something - no hippie martial arts here!

Dojo Rat said...

Hey Patrick, thanks for the support.

But we love hippies!

Just not people with mis-concieved ideas about internal arts.

Your friend and fellow part-time hippie,
Dojo Rat

Hand2Hand said...

I have to second your statement on hippies, Dojo Rat. My Yang sifu is the stereotype of a hippie still stuck in the 60's.

But, like Cheng Man-Ching, trying to hit him was like "boxing with a ghost."

My biggest frustration was that most of my classmates were so hung up on learning the form that they wouldn't even care about other aspects of the art, including push hands, fencing, chin na or boxing. He had so much knowledge of the art, but I hardly got to learn more than just the form unless I bothered him at home during my day off from work.

I think all the martial arts, but especially the internal Chinese arts as well as Silat and Aikido are infested with wanna-be mystics with a very tenuous grip on reality.

Dojo Rat said...

Point well taken.

But there's nothing cuter than a barefoot hippie chick in a nice summer dress!

Patrick Parker said...

Hey, Guys, good point. ;-) Thanks for reminding me what I should already know. I don't have anything in particular against hippies (especially not cute hippie chicks) but "hippie aikido."

I guess I oughtn't have said 'hippies' when what I was talking about was the 'wanna-be mystics with a very tenuous grip on reality.'

speaking of such, have y'all seen the "Dog Brothers" website. One of their mottoes is "higher consciousness through harder contact." I got a kick out of that.

Patrick Parker said...

hmmmm, considering that I seem to be having a bad communication week, maybe I could have said that better too...

I wasnt implying that Dog Brothers were "mystic-wannabe" or "hippie" martial arts - just the opposite.

I think I'll crawl off to my own blog and see what I can screw up there for a while...


Dojo Rat said...

Love yer stuff, dont retreat, you are among friends. Keep checking in!