Sunday, March 29, 2009
The Continuing Education Of The Dojo Rats
San Ti Posture
As if we didn't have enough on our plate...
Sometimes you say "oooh, that looks good. I'll have five scoops"!
In reality, you could only handle three scoops.
Across the board, the guys in our little Dojo have been past hard Karate stylists. Backgrounds include Tae Kwon Do, Kenpo, Kajukenbo, Jujitsu, Goju-Shorei and a little Boxing, Judo and Aikido thrown in.
About 1996 or so, some of us started practicing Tai Chi Chuan with one of our instructors, closely followed with an intro to Bagua. As time marched on, several of us sought out further instruction in those "internal" arts, resulting in our long-time friendship with Tai Chi Chuan instructor Michael Gilman, and our new friendship with instructors Jake Burroughs, Mike Martello and Tim Cartmell.
Something was lacking in our old hard-style arts: perhaps it was the health aspects and the Mystique of Chi Gong and Acupressure meridian theory. Or possibly the meditative side of the internal arts, or the use of "whole body power". Internal arts hooked us, and I haven't seen anybody practice a hard-style form for years.
Which brings us to the five big scoops I tried to put on our plate.
I have felt for a while that if I was going to have a more complete understanding of the Chinese Internal arts, I needed to explore Xingyi. I had one Xingyi linking form that had been taught to me by a Karate instructor. That form, "Walk the Tiger", came from a Wado-Ryu teacher in Taiwan named Watanabe. It's lineage is of unknown origin, and the guy who taught me years ago could not provide much information about it.
"The thing I need to do", think'eth The Rat, "is learn the basic Five-Element forms", which are the basis for nearly every Xingyi system. So I grabbed Zac, our youngest Black Belt and we cruised down to Seattle to visit Jake Burroughs for what became a four-hour class. Now, while these forms are very linear in appearance and are straight-foward and direct, I was decieved by their inherent complexity (Que Jake Burroughs Cheshire Cat smile). Five Elements, Five scoops on the plate. No problem. Whoah... I think I'm getting kinda full here.
Jake patiently walked us through the first three forms: Pi Chuan (splitting fist, metal), Beng Chuan (crushing fist, wood) and Zhuan Chuan (Drilling fist, water). Normally, you could spend weeks just training in one of those forms, with the subtleties and wide range of applications. At three forms, we were pretty much maxed out, and we still will need much correction and application instruction. But, the exploration of these forms does indeed help me to view the complexity of internal arts, even those with outwardly simple postures - and that's exactly what I was looking for.
It's going to take repeated visits to train with Jake to gain deeper understanding of Xingyi, an art that looks simple but is so, so much more. If we can get a handle on this art, we will have the linear, whole-body striking of Xingyi, the spiral movement and grappling of Bagua, and the softness of Tai Chi Chuan which incorporates all these qualities.
So for now, I'm going to have to put those other two scoops, the "pounding fist" and the "crossing fist" back on Jake Burroughs' generous serving plate. They'll be there when we're ready, after we work on the first three.
If you would like to see information on Xingyi and the other martial arts Jake Burroughs teaches, take a look here at the website for "Three Harmonies Martial Arts Center".