Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More Bagua With Kent Howard

I just love this guys stuff. This video with Kent Howard is strictly Bagua applications, in others he talks about the techniques and methods. Kent is a great example of a teacher that really teaches. I know of some internal art Masters that say "just do it for 30 years, and you'll get it". That might have been the way in China 100 years ago, but not today. I know Tai Chi Chuan students, for example that have never pushed hands or learned a single applicaton.
What I am really beginning to understand is that the Chinese Internal Arts work by developing "Shapes". These shapes are postures that show how to express power and stability in it's given form. Rather than being techniques themselves, the "Shapes" are archtypes or blueprints for techniques. This video of Kent demonstrating the "Whirlwind Palm" from the Wang Shujin Bagua system is a great example of translating "Shapes" into techniques, and watching him move helps me really understand my Bagua forms.


JoseFreitas said...

Hi DR,

It's interesting to see your realization of the "techniqueless" method of the internal arts, or "formlessness". It's frequent in practitioners that come from arts that are heavy on the technical aspects, such as Kenpo or some styles of Karate or Jiu Jitsu. But it's something that has been touched on here previously. Recall Scott's discussion with you where he said that "the techniques exist, you just have to cultivate the power to make them work". Bagua - and many other Chinese systems - relies on this cultivation of some power expressions, certain spatial relationships with the opponent and some ways of flowing with the movement, and do not put too much emphasis on technique.

My teacher used to put this with the following expression: Technique is what happens "in the moment", technique is what you are able to seize, what your opponent gives you to work with. But it's not really what we train for, we train for motion, power, moving with the opponent and sensitivity. This is why free style exercises, which sometimes do not bear a lot of resemblance to fighting are so important.

There's a continuum, from No-Form (just training for movement, structure, flow, power, correct motion) to Technique. Willem de Thouars gave a great explanation about his art: the most technical he gets is on the "entries". If you have to work with "techniques", then work only with the initial "entry". If you move correctly, have sensitivity and have trained your body to move with power, then the initial entry will give you everything you need to "seize" something: thechniques will arise naturally. You see this a lot in the good Systema trainers too.

But I would add that Scott's statement is also important: in the internal arts, tha ability to express power from within is very important. Many other arts train you to be able to seize "power from without": that is, power that arises from what you do, such as things like if you hit someone who is unbalanced it feels more powerful (ie. mastery of angles and body balance) or when you get the trick of accelerating your opponent towards you (through a slap block or something), making him feel your strike a lot more forcefully, etc.... This is "relative power", it exists because of "relative" differences in power between you and your opponent. For instance, if he can only use half his strength and you can use all your strength, even if you're only half as strong as him, it will feel that your relative power is similar to his. This is what good jiujitsu and many other arts is predicated on. But in Chinese internal arts there is cultivating power inside you, through standing meditation, jibengong methods, nei gong and so on. Don't get me wrong, all the other tricks exist and are used. It's a continuum, not an absolute. But a lot of practitioners don't get this aspect, partly because it's hard to cultivate.

Dojo Rat said...

As always, your insight is spot on and very appreciated.
It would be really fun to train with you sometime!

JoseFreitas said...

You do realize you're out there in the proverbial boondocks, right? :-)

We have an expression in Portuguese: Para trás do Sol posto, lá onde mora o Diabo mais velho. Way beyond the setting Sun, out where the oldest Devil lives. That is to say, REALLY, REALLY far away!

It would be fun, though! Do you ever go to other places in the USA (California, NY?)?

Dojo Rat said...

I don't think I could handle NY Or LA.
Not much of a city guy, I can barely stand going to Seattle!