Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Ah, form review;
My training partners and I live in a isolated rural community. We draw on decades of shared martial arts experience and all have pretty solid backgrounds.
But when we seek new information it requires traveling to other instructors and seminars, often for days at a time.
You gotta' understand; I usually drive my pick-up about ten minutes through farm and forest to various job sites. I never get above third gear.
So Monday when I headed for the mean streets of Seattle to meet with my Xingyi instructor Jake Burroughs, I had to navigate a crowded highway on the rainiest day of the year. At one point I had semi-trucks on each side pressure-washing my truck to the point where I couldn't even see the road in front at 65 mph. I don't know how you fuckers that live in the city deal with that shit every day. It was probably the single-most dangerous thing I have experienced since I almost pulled the Maple tree over onto me with my tractor a month ago.
Forms are a big part of my current fitness program, and I am addicted to the Xingyi forms I am learning right now. But I have noticed how they tend to morph into slightly different versions than they start out at. There's a couple of reasons for this. The first is that because we live in the country and only see our instructors occasionally, we develop bad habits or tend to import other similar techniques into the existing form. Sometimes we find things that actually improve the form, but that also changes it.
Other times the instructor changes an element of the form to something he finds better. This has happened repeatedly with the long 2-person fighting form our Tai Chi Chuan instructor has trained us in, and it's usually for the better.
So on Monday, I had quite a few corrections to my form as Jake patiently watched my movement and asked what the hell I was doing. I had realized that something I had learned in one of the animal forms was carried over into one of my basic 5-Element forms, and it wasn't quite right.
Now, to a beginning student this would probably be frustrating, but I completely realized what was going on.
Xingyi is at first glance a somewhat mundane style that does not get flashy until you learn some of the animal forms. The 5-Elements train vectors - vertical, horizontal, crossing, etc.
When I started learning Xingyi to complete the trinity with Tai Chi Chuan and Bagua, Jake said Xingyi was the easiest Chinese Internal art to learn, but possibly the hardest to master.
Xingyi, like the other arts mentioned requires perfect body structure to bring out the magic of the art. The seemingly simple postures exhibit frighteningly powerful whole-body movement. This requires building a foundation that is much more powerful than what is found in hard-style arts like Karate. It also requires seeking very tight, well targeted angles to disrupt the motion of the opponent. In this respect, it is similar to the vectors and energies in Tai Chi push hands. Very subtle yet effective infighting techniques are employed.
I just love when you think you know something and it is re-introduced to you in a fresh new way, only to get better.
We finished my lesson by starting on a short two-person Xingyi form called "Wu Hua Pao" or "Five Flower Cannon". It's a simple form, yet considering the subtleties described above it's going to take some time to get it right.
So for all you old Dojo Rats out there, don't get stuck in a "one art" rut. If you are an instructor, find some fresh meat to chew on. Pick a companion art, round out your striking and grappling game. Look at your art differently in the light of learning something new and see how your overall program improves. kind of like a "martial makeover", or falling in love all over again.