Monday, August 24, 2015

Taiji qin na: more about countering kote gaeshi (and related locks)


Five years ago I did a piece on countering kote gaeshi - the wrist out turn.  In the intervening time I've learned a lot more about thwarting or converting this lock, so I thought I'd share this with my readers.  Some of the techniques have already appeared in my recent series on taijiquan qin na, but I thought I'd do a kind of summary of the additional defences against this simple, but potentially devastating, small joint attack - all in the context of my last taiji qin na essay.

The "cloud hands lock"

In my first kote gaeshi article, two of the options involved falling out of the lock.  I don't propose to go over that ground again but I encourage readers to revisit that piece if they are interested.

The third option involved a counter-lock that I have recently identified as an application of the move "cloud hands" in taijiquan.  Back in 2010 I had also identified it as an application from baguazhang.

Essentially you can see it in action in the adjacent gif.  My earlier article on kote gaeshi, my recent piece on "cloud hands vs repulse monkey" and the video below discusses the issue in detail.

The simple "cloud hands escape" #1

The truth of the matter is that you don't need something as elaborate as the above counter to escape kote gaeshi.  Coud hands offers a rather more simple remedy: just twisting out as your opponent starts to apply it.

"But," I hear you ask, "won't that mean a nasty wrench of your joint against the direction of the force being applied?"  Not necessarily - if you follow the cloud hands technique, as the adjacent gif illustrates.

From that gif you'll notice that when the lock is applied, you can use the free arm to push your attacker's twisting arm down and around your body.  This releases the pressure of the lock temporarily and permits you to raise your elbow and twist it around - exactly as you would in the cloud hands maneuver.

Some of you may also recognise the beginning of the "teacup exercise" (where you hold a teacup out on your palm and swivel it around your body without spilling the tea).

I first did this exercise with Bob Davies in 1988 after one of his Taiwan visits, but more recently I remember practising it with Master Chen in 2011 - much to his amusement as my cup went flying and tea spilled everywhere!

Obviously, the escape in this case doesn't bother keeping the hand flat like in the "teacup hold".  But if you try it, you'll see that the same shoulder and elbow action - and the same circular movement - are being employed.

So how effective is this escape from kote gaeshi? I am once again reminded of the words of the late Jan de Jong, master of jujutsu in answering my question: "What would you do if I applied this lock to you?":
"What would you do if I punched you in the face?  Once a technique is properly applied, the time for an "antidote" is over.  You need to intercept it before it is properly applied.  After that it is too late - whether it is a punch or a lock.  Both are attacks.  You have to intercept attacks before they land.  Just because it is a "lock" and not a strike makes not one iota of a difference."
The obvious answer to a kote gaeshi is not to let it get to the point where you have to fall or roll out of it - whether onto the ground or into a counter-lock.  If you can manage to do so, this "slip out" is the simplest (and therefore the best) breakout of the kote gaeshi.

Above all else, you need to catch the lock early - as it is starting to be applied.

In this respect note that both Rob and Armando ensure that, as the lock starts, they:
  1. depress their opponent's twisting hand; and 
  2. twist up their own elbow as soon as possible.  
You can't do (2) so well (if at all) without doing (1) first.  That's the secret of this application of cloud hands.

Once you have understood this concept, you can easily transform the technique into a "rolling partner drill" where you escape from a kote gaeshi and apply one to your partner, who does the same, and so on (see the above gif).

Again, the above video provides further detail if you are interested.

The simple "cloud hands escape" #2

Curiously, cloud hands has another escape, operating with exactly the same movement but using the other arm to lock or depress (as the case requires).

In this respect, cloud hands can be used very effectively to counter the movement known in aikido as "sankyo".

Once again, the video above explains the intricacies of the technique and I won't try to duplicate the discussion here (I'd have to crop far too many stills and write a whole lot of what the troll known as"Ben" recently called "blah, blah").

Instead I'll let you watch the above gif and note how your "rising" cloud hand is disrupting your opponent's "sankyo" lock (applied by the twist in his lower hand) by pushing around and up on his forearm.  Your rising hand then catches his wrist and you apply a sankyo of your own.  And so it goes.  Again, you can set up a "rolling drill".

But all this is too "easy" and "unimpressive".  Can't we get to the "good stuff"?

Okay - here are two "more exciting" defences against the wrist out turn.

And just for fun (and because I said I would) I'll show how these applications come from karate as well as the internal arts.

Slanting flying/Shiscochin vs. kote gaeshi

In my article "Slanting flying vs cloud hands" I said you could avoid the entire "duel" I'd set up and go straight from the opening gambit - the wrist out turn - to slanting flying.

The adjacent gif illustrates how, as the lock is applied, I skip into position, bump Armando's throwing arm and body, then uproot him with a throw.

The key here is using the "slanting flying" movement as the lock is being applied - not after it has reached the critical point.

As I discussed at my most recent class, it is vital to step up with your rear leg right next to your front leg, then propel that front leg behind your opponent's body.

Those who practise xingyi will recognise this identical move in the snake form (at least, in the Chen Pan Ling system they are virtually indistinguishable, particularly in application, showing that the "internal arts" really are "internal" to one particular family - ie. they are related arts in a technical sense).

Okay, but what of the karate version?

Well it just so happens that the week before  my brother was demonstrating the same application - but this time from the goju ryu karate kata Shisochin.

It uses what is essentially the same dynamic: a shuffle up of the rear leg to the front, a projection of the front leg behind the opponent and an arm that swings out to uproot your opponent.

Yes, the kata works in forward stance with a different hand and arm shape - but both are a product of the other: you change one detail (eg. the stance) and you have to change the angle and plane of movement of the arm - and vice versa.

Seiunchin/Pi quan vs. kote gaeshi

The second of the "good ones" is a rather more complex (and painful) option - even if it doesn't look quite as impressive as something that throws you.

I'm going to start with the karate version first for a change.  It's from the goju kata Seiunchin - it's opening move (which involves raising your hands in an inverted way, grabbing, and twisting downwards, followed by a scooping forearm movement and an inverted knife hand thrust.

The way it is applied is to intercept the hand that is twisting yours - and then twist that instead.  Obviously you have to catch it early.  Your other hand can simultaneously twist his other wrist (albeit in a weaker lock).

Your opponent can pull out of these but all this is actually a step up for an elbow smash - which he can evade but is in turn set up for a shoulder lock using an underarm elbow lever.  From there the kata uses a strike to vital regions - perhaps the groin - using an inverted punch or a knife hand thrust or grab to the groin.

The video below makes the detail of both goju locks clearer:

What of the internal arts version?  Well when I was "growing up" my sensei always told me that Seiunchin had movements that might have been descended from xingyi.  I can see he might well have been correct.

Xingyi's "pi quan" (splitting fist) has almost the same application - albeit the movements are shown using fists and single knuckles to strike vital regions (not fingers).

The most interesting feature for me is that the palm depression on the shoulder (applied as part of the movement but not featured in the kata as a separate technique) is very distinct here.  Take a look at the adjacent gif and you'll see what I mean.

The video below discusses both of the internal versions of the "good ones" above, albeit towards the end of the video.  An analysis of both approaches provides, I believe, a greater insight into the applications generally (as does any comparison of different perspectives)!

Well, that concludes my "August qin na series".  I hope it has been useful.  Apologies to Ben for all the "blah blah".  Perhaps I should have put in some Lolkatz pictures and gifs instead.  But then again, I have always subscribed to the philosophy of Ricky Nelson in his song "Garden Party":
"You can't please everyone, but you've got to please yourself."
I've "pleased myself" only in the sense of trying, in limited time, to treat this complex topic as comprehensively as possible (with a bit of a rant thrown in somewhere in the middle) in the hope that it will be useful to someone (other than people like Ben) as a detailed reference and resource.

Clearly there are countless other qin na applications I could have shown.  But my time is limited and I just film what comes to mind during class - if I remember.  Then I write it down when I get home as fast as I can.

So if I didn't get to your favourite move, drop me a line.  There's always next time.

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Taiji qin na duels 2: slanting flying vs cloud hands


In my previous installment, I described how one taiji technique (cloud hands) could disrupt another (repulse monkey).  But does it end there?  As it happens, absolutely not!  It could go on and on - because every attack creates an opening, and taijiquan has a counter for every opening.

Just to show you what I mean, I'm going to take it one step further: how the move known as "slanting flying" can defeat cloud hands (after it has defeated repulse monkey!).

Slanting flying as a solo technique

Before I get to the application, I'll describe how the "slanting flying" technique is performed in the taijiquan long form (at least, in its Chen Pan Ling variation):

Slanting flying occurs in the second and third sections of the taijiquan form.  I'm going to examine its iteration as it emerges from repulse monkey (because that is the application we've been looking at!).
As you finish repulse monkey, your left (back) leg immediately comes up to your front.  Simultaneously, your left hand lifts, as if clearing an invisible obstacle over your left shoulder.  This has quite an important function, as you'll soon see.
As your back foot comes up to join the front into a "chicken stance" (sort of a cat stance, but very short, with your front foot balancing on the tip of the big toe), your left hand comes from its high position and dives down directly to the inside of your left knee while your right hand guards to the side.
From there, you explode outwards into a 50/50 stance, throwing your left arm up to shoulder height, your left hand tilting upwards at the last second.  Simultaneously, your right arm gets thrown back in line with your back leg.  The wrist tilts in sympathy with your other hand as you complete the move.

Slanting flying as an antidote to the cloud hands lock

Okay, so let's see how slanting flying works against a "cloud hands lock".  In order to do this, we need to start with the "wrist out turn" form "repulse monkey".  Jeff grabs my label...
... and I turn his wrist out...
... and apply the wrist out turn.
Jeff responds by rolling around, using the cloud hands method to seize control of my pressing arm.
Jeff is about to take me into a lock when I step up and ram my left leg behind his right knee, destablising his balance.  At the same time, after an initial raise to create a counter response (the lift over the imaginary obstacle in the solo form) I drive my left hand deep and low to the ground, wedging Jeff's right arm and dislodging his hold.  I aid this process by using my right hand to ward Jeff off at his right shoulder.
Having dislodged his grip and unbalanced him, I use my coiled up energy to spring upwards, using my left (lead) arm to lever under Jeff's arms.  Simultaneously I extend my left leg behind Jeff's legs, my right arm hooks behind Jeff's right knee to provide an anchor point and I throw Jeff up and behind me.

Slanting flying as an antidote to a hip throw

Using the same principle, you will find that slanting flying is very useful against a variety of grappling techniques, particularly ones that rely on close quarter levers.  The hip throw is one such technique.  Using more or less the identical method, slanting flying provides an excellent antidote to the hip throw - provided you engage it early enough.

In this regard I reminded of the late Jan de Jong, master of jujutsu, who once answered my question: "What would you do if I applied this lock to you?"  His answer:
"What would you do if I punched you in the face?  Once a technique is properly applied, the time for an "antidote" is over.  You need to intercept it before it is properly applied.  After that it is too late - whether it is a punch or a lock.  Both are attacks.  You have to intercept attacks before they land.  Just because it is a "lock" and not a strike makes not one iota of a difference."
In this case, you have to execute the slanting flying method just before a technique (usually a throw) is being applied to you - not after.

I go through all the above applications in some detail in the video below:

Slanting flying as an antidote to wrist out turn

On the other hand you could avoid the whole "cloud hands" response to a wrist out turn and go straight to slanting flying!

You can see a fuller exposition of the above technique and others in the video below:

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fajin fantasists

Let me say this upfront:

I have absolutely nothing against people practising any martial art for non-defence/combat reasons.

In fact, my own reasons for practising martial arts have, for a long time now, mostly been of the "non-fighting" variety.  I love the "art" side of it: the physical expression through movement, the perfection of form, the development of skills and coordination.  I love the exercise, the movement that ensures practical flexibility into old age despite the toll of wear and tear from injury, illness... and just life.

If you're looking to martial arts for "effectiveness" in the sense of an activity that will keep you physically and mentally well, I can't recommend martial arts enough - in particular the Chinese martial arts and even more so the Chinese "soft" or "internal" arts.

But effectiveness for "fighting"... well, that's another story.

To examine that issue, we first need to address what we mean by "fighting"...

I've long maintained that civilian defence needs are subtly but significantly different to MMA-style cage fighting or any other combat sports.  Now this does not mean MMA/sports fighters aren't supremely able to defend themselves in a civilian context - merely that the traditional martial artist's different technical approach should not be completely discounted simply because he or she might fare rather poorly in a cage match against an MMA fighter.

It's horses for courses: you probably won't get the average ma, pa and kids in an MMA gym.  They are more likely to train in a lower-contact, civilian defence oriented traditional art.

Okay, they probably aren't going to be nearly as "tough" or "battle ready" as a pro fighter - or even just the regular MMA gym attendee.

But... with the right emphasis, in training, traditional martial artists can be effective at negotiating the sorts of physical altercations they are likely to encounter.

And they'll be able to do this using the sorts of techniques best suited to this task.

So the question is: are they getting that emphasis?

I'll leave it to blogger "Nysanda" to discuss the state of Chinese martial arts today in terms of their general efficacy - in both combat sports and civilian defence.  I think his essay on this subject is very enlightening.

For my part, I'll try to answer the following question:
Are the Chinese martial arts good for civilian defence?
Technically, I believe they are brilliant, especially in their "unaltered for performance art" incarnations (which often, but by no means always, means earlier versions that survived the Cultural Revolution, whether "underground" on the mainland or offshore in places like Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines).

However I hold it to be fairly evident that, in terms of the vast majority of practitioners today, traditional martial arts are not being practised in a way that is effective for civilian defence.  Remotely.

While this is true of most, if not all, types of traditional martial arts, it's safe to say that it is especially true for the Chinese internal arts.

I say this despite my belief that the latter contain some of the most valuable technical material I've ever come across in terms of effective, pragmatic and efficient civilian defence methodology.  Indeed a large part of my blog and Youtube channel is dedicated to analysing some of this methodology (as I understand it anyway).

My series of "clinics" on taijiquan qin na (joint manipulation) give you my most recent examples.

So in other words, for me the "magic" (such as it is) of the internal arts lies in what I've called the "knowledge of the ancients": a basic but dependable technology that is as pertinent to mankind today as it was in the pre-industrial and even stone age.  As we have moved into a more and more structured regulated world, as our social and political structures have become more and more complex, we have moved further and further away from the days when our lives were "brutish, nasty and short" - when we might well have faced a higher imperative to understand the mechanics of defence using nothing but our bare hands and maybe a blade or just a piece of wood.

Yet for all the changes in our world, we are still the same basic animal, with four limbs that only bend in particular ways, etc. (for more on this issue, I invite you to read my essay on this, totally separate, subject).

I am firmly of the view that in traditional martial arts, this "ancient knowledge" is preserved in forms: sequences of movements that act as a kind of encyclopedia of information, codifying techniques and how they relate in a dynamic world against a resistant, aggressive opponent (or, more probably, more than one opponent).

Pointless hopping anyone?
Which is why the thing that annoys me most of all in my internet dealings is when I get scathing attacks from "infernal internals" (as my friend, white crane specialist Martin Watts, calls them).

These attacks centre almost exclusively on my analysis of the meaning of certain moves in forms.  Which is strange - because they almost never say what it is that is wrong with my approach.  Apparently "it's just wrong."

Either that, or criticisms are leveled in far more vague and jargonistic dismissals, such as my "lack of root/centre/base"1 or that my "jins are all over the place" and are "corrupted by karate" or that I "don't understand the 6 harmonies" etc.

Now it's important to note here that I'm talking about people who, I can tell, haven't got a clue what it means to take hard blows (and keep on fighting); people who haven't felt the crack of their bones fracturing or their joints being torn/dislocated; people who don't know what it means to be knocked or choked out cold; people who mostly don't even raise a sweat in training, never mind incur a bruise or cut - or cause one; basically, people who couldn't punch their way out of a wet paper bag:

Yet almost exclusively it is these very people who tend to sneeringly dismiss my interpretation/analysis of applications as "crap" that "won't work".

These people, who would advance themselves as "authorities" on the applications of forms, either:
  • rarely, if ever, practise any applications (they practise the forms and that's it); or, 
  • practise applications with an utterly compliant "zombie" partner.
"Fajin"?  Seriously?
Their only other practise is some pushing exercises (nothing wrong with that - but it's hardly fighting, especially when it is only ever done "softly").

They post ludicrous videos of "pushing" partners - compliant partners who start hopping around for no good reason - as if subject to some sort of paranormal force.

How anyone can believe this nonsense is a mystery to me.  Call it a very bad case of wishful thinking meets cognitive dissonance with a healthy dose of mentalism from a martial cult personality.

Sometimes they post videos of themselves practising their "fajin" against some sort of bag, measuring their efficacy by how far they can push the bag (somehow they always seem to come back to pushing and  inert objects) - forgetting that however much they impress themselves, a garden variety boxer would punch the same bag and push it 4 times the distance - as well as bend the damn thing in half!

If these jokers ever "spar" (in some manner other than a gentle "pushing contest"), they default to "faux boxing" - using movement that has no connection with the forms they practise but which constitutes a rather poor "Bruce Lee meets Muhammad Ali" impersonation.

They don some headgear and gloves and spend 90% of the "sparring match" dancing around each other.  When they do throw some insipid, out of range attacks, they use "techniques" that look nothing like the art they purport to practise; techniques that would cause them to be taken out in seconds by a sports fighter - be it a boxer, grappler or even your average suburban competition karateka.

When they accidentally fall into the melee range all hell breaks loose as they duck, weave, bob and flail about in a frenzied panic.

Whatever they are, they are not "authorities".  And whatever their "experience", it doesn't mean they know anything about "fighting" (which is a term they use a lot).

But let's be frank: when it comes to the internal arts, even these people are a small minority.  Most folks practising the internal arts just practise forms - as an exercise.
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!
Because the vast majority of these folks don't then go on to talk with "authority" about what "works" and "doesn't work" in a "real fight".  They just engage in the activity because they love it and it's good for their health.  And I say good for them!

[As an aside, I would say that not wanting to learn the applications limits your ability to learn the correct movement for health; I think you have to be able to visualise what it is you're doing to get the angle, plane and "texture" of movement correct - but that's another story for another time.]

I have all the time in the world for people who enjoy taijiquan or other internal arts for "non-combat" reasons.  Heck, I credit the health aspect of the internal arts as part of what has helped keep me active despite the often debilitating autoimmune disease I've battled for the last 15 years or so.  

I obviously also have time for people (like myself) who have, for a variety of reasons, passed the point of training with "hard knocks" - or maybe who have never been interested in it - but still enjoy dissecting techniques and understanding the underlying science of martial application.

In my case, even if I can no longer go at it hard and fast, I can pass on what I've learned and watch my students applying this knowledge in a resistant environment.  In other words, I can analyse and I can coach.

A particularly impressive backwards jump
However I most definitely don't have time for "infernal internals" - people I call "fajin fantasists".

Typically they believe that "fajin" (what they imagine is a kind of mystical "force") can be generated via nothing more than small shrugs - shrugs which cause people to jack-knife backwards violently (curiously, in exactly the same way someone who is jumping backwards - fancy that!).

I've already covered this topic in another article (see my article "The woo way of taijiquan"), but if you want to see an example of someone who seems to believe in this sort of thing sincerely, take a look at this article I recently came across titled "The Fajin Controversy".  Take particular notice of  the video embedded in it.

Schools like this are dime a dozen.  I can't believe anyone can be taken in by such wishful thinking, but the class sizes in the videos say it all.  People want something for nothing - even though common sense should tell them that this is not possible.

Typically it is these types of people who take grave exception to my analysis of honest, mechanical applications of taijiquan and the other internal arts.  "Where's the fajin?" they ask.  "Why is all this 'technical stuff' necessary when one can summon up this mystical power via the bones and ligaments and release it as a powerful energy?"

If they happen to know some applications, they are utterly puzzled that what I show looks nothing like "their" applications of the same movements (as if there was ever just one interpretation of a taijiquan sequence).

Consider this group:

I've had no contact with these particular people and I'm not suggesting that criticism has somehow emanated from them.  But, for want of a better example, it's their sort of application that is often thrust at me as "the real McCoy" (as opposed to my "flawed" interpretation of the internal arts).

But here's the problem.  Watch the video and you'll notice the following:
  1. The attacks are always launched from a standing start using a single technique.
  2. The attacks are all out of range: they cannot land. (I know some people will say the defender moves out of the way, but that movement is approximately the same as the attacker's. They start and finish out of range, as you can tell with the fully extended wrist (as opposed to forearm) "block", which would be completely unnecessary if you'd evaded by this margin.)2
  3. The attacks are also exclusively step-through lunge punches (an inherently unlikely attack).
  4. The defences often rely on catching the wrist as the punch is "in flight" towards you.
  5. The attackers stand and wait for a counter as if they were zombies.
I don't want to be too hard on this video: as series of "one step" exercises, it's not too bad. I still have time for this sort of training, although I think factoring in realistic attacks at a correct distance and follow up techniques would make it much better.

Note: attacker out of range and defender grabbing wrist in flight
However there is one important thing you should note: point No. 4 is utterly irredeemable: it is totally unrealistic and cannot work.  No one can "catch punches out of the air" like this - not on the outward journey anyway - and any application that relies on the on this as a tactic is completely misconceived, necessitating a return to the drawing board.

The rest of the features of the one step training can be fixed/rescued - at least to some degree - but not the hand catching thing.

Overall, if this is the "be-all and end all" of this school's application interpretation and practice, it's not really very good - is it?

And lest I sound too scathing, this is where karate was even in the 80s. Except that karate has at least always done hard sparring. Yes, there was a disconnect between the free sparring and the kata applications (in the "old days" bunkai - applications - were always practised against just one lunge punch, which was generally out of range!). But they (the karateka) nevertheless made the "whole deal" work - after a fashion.  As one of my seniors likes to say: "They knew how to fight."

Say what you like - these old karateka knew how to fight

It seems to me that many mainland Chinese schools of gong fu (unlike offshore fighting stables such as Hong Yi Xiang's "Tang Shou Dao" in Taiwan, etc.) did not follow suit in this regard. Indeed, that is why I gravitated from pure karate towards Hong's method back in the 80s: it was actually applying form as realistic function in a way that karate, at that point, was not.

Now it seems that at least the top end of karate has evolved: its techniques (which are really quite similar to the internal arts in most respects - they are both civilian defence arts, not sports) can and are being used in MMA etc.  In civilian defence, top coaches and teachers like Masaji Taira, Patrick McCarthy and Iain Abernethy have built a huge international following based on drills and applications that rely on more realistic paradigms of both attack and defence.

While the same is true for some schools of Chinese arts (eg. the schools of Luo De Xiu, Su Dong Chen and Tim Cartmell) it seems to me that the overwhelming majority of internal arts schools cling to a methodology that is proudly based upon the wishful thinking of some kind of "force from nothing", (occasionally supplemented by the "one step sparring" of yesteryear or some even less realistic "zombie" defence drills).

Many proudly speak of their "no sparring" policy - justifying it with a delusional view that their techniques are "too lethal for sparring".

It's no small wonder then that, fajin fantasists from such schools evince a stubborn refusal to consider applications involving such obvious factors as consecutive/multiple attacks, and some element of resistance (ie. the likely responses) to your counters.

Yet, when I look at the internal arts forms, I see this as one of their major advantages: the applications are often brilliantly simple, yet account for (by negating or predicting) likely responses.

In this regard I think they comprise a fluid, and advanced system of traditional defence - an extension/cousin of what many karateka are already demonstrating (very effectively) in resistant environments (including MMA).

In my next article I intend to discuss some parallels between karate and the internal arts to illustrate this very point.

But the fajin fantasists won't be happy to hear me say that.  To them, karate (more than any other "external" art) is a dirty word.  Because their mysterious "fajin" and "qi power" makes them infinitely superior (via the use the bone and ligament, not the muscle).

And pigs will fly.

Look: train for fighting or don't train for fighting. Dabble a bit or a lot. There's no shame in any approach - they are all good. Just stop imagining your internal art gives you super powers just because you "feel" things in your studio with your master (whom you worship).

If you come across an application different to your interpretation, see if it offers you fresh insight.  If it doesn't, move on. Or, if you feel you absolutely must, offer a reasoned and cogent explanation for why you disagree with the approach.

In my experience, those who snort contemptuously and leave short, arrogant dismissals are fantasists.  I have yet to encounter a single real fighter who acts like this.  Fantasists have nothing to offer except their money to the nearest snake oil salesman. Don’t be that person. We already have enough of them in the internal arts.

Is there such a thing as "fajin"?  I believe so.  It's another name for what is called "kime" in karate: the focused use of force.  It's what differentiates a civilian defence punch from a sports punch.  It is powerful - for a conservative punch that operates mainly as a thrust (to reduce openings), but not nearly as powerful as a combat sports punch overall.  It does however maximise your force in "short" (relative to a boxer's cross), relaxed/loose movement that terminates suddenly at a predetermined point.  This is vital to civilian defence applications.  And it can be pretty amazing to see in action, as it produces some effective (sometimes counter-intuitive) results.

Whichever way it goes, fajin/kime remains a skill to be acquired with great effort (ie. "gong fu").  It's not magic.  It's not even particularly "internal" (ie. belonging to the family of Chinese internal arts of taiji, bagua and xingyi).  It's part of traditional civilian defence: the knowledge of the ancients.

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic


1.  It seems odd to me that fantasists will complain about my "lack of root" when this is something I've spent decades developing - and demonstrating in partially (and, at least a couple of times, fully!) resistant environments.

When I show them the video below they scoff even louder.  "Ha ha.  That's so lame.  You should see my master by comparison!"  Well I've seen your master and sorry - his videos feature totally co-operative, gullible or complicit students doing crazy things under the influence of mentalism.  Don't insult my students who are skeptical thinking people using reasonable resistance in an honest environment.

Or I get told: "Oh that's just a trick."  No.  It's not a "trick".  It's not meant to be "magic" or some sort of "super power" or some kind of "fighting method".  It's an isolated demonstration of stability in stances - a test of "rooting" or "grounding".  It's not as easy as it looks.  It's a skill I've been trying to perfect for 35 years.

And yes, it's honest.  Not like the chi/ki tests or "fajin demonstrations" of the fantasists.

2.  Huw Evans put me to proof on the issue of range.  Okay here it is.

Given the generally accepted fact that in order to generate enough deformative damage, your punch really needs to penetrate to a depth of about one fist at full extension, the image below shows just how far out of range these guys really were.  You can tell by the tree behind what movement there has been.

The punch wouldn't just have not landed with insufficient depth; it would have missed the target entirely.

If the defender stood absolutely still and didn't flinch a muscle, the attacker might have scratched the hair on the defender's chin.  But I really doubt it.

This is not a realistic punch.

Huw - for the effort mate, you owe me a beer!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Taiji qin na duels 1: cloud hands vs repulse monkey


Following on from my recent series of taiji qin na "clinics" I'd like to delve into another area - namely the fascinating way in which taijiquan techniques are geared towards countering each other, should the need arise.

In the internal arts, this is of course not unique to the art of taijiquan: you would already be familiar with my analysis of how, say, xingyiquan's 5 elements interact, each destroying the other in a giant game of "rock, paper, scissors".

Indeed, it makes sense for a sophisticated art to offer counters to its own techniques.
So let's have a look at how two of these interact.  I'm going to take one aspect of "repulse monkey" and show how "cloud hands" deals with the issue.

Repulse monkey as a "wrist out turn"

First, let's look at one application of "repulse monkey": as a "wrist out turn" (what the Japanese call "kote gaeshi").  This is by no means the main or even a major application of this movement in my book - but I still think it is one of the valid applications.

Let's look at the technique below:

Starting in the previous move (the technique is repeated 3 times), you adopt a 50/50 evenly weighted stance.  This is the start as well as the finishing as well as the launching point: you want to be well-balanced as you receive an attack and also well-balanced when you execute an attack, parti
In this case I have my left hand out in front, so it will inscribe a counter-clockwise circle.  My right hand will fall behind and do the same.
As I step back, I'll push out with my right hand while my left hand pulls back.

It is important to note that the "pullback" here is simply indicative of your support arm can be used in any number of ways - including as a loaded follow-up for the next attack.

How would this be applied?  Imagine your opponent has grabbed you with his left hand by the lapel with the aim of, say, punching you with his right.

The circular action of the form simulates the "twist" of the wrist away from your lapel.
As soon as you twist your opponent's wrist, you should step back.  This not only moves you away from your opponent's punch, but it also keeps your twisting hand close to you while extending your attacker's hand.  Simultaneously, it brings your reverse hand up to "equal billing" as your legs pass each other.  The twist no only snaps the wrist, it also disrupts the "supply line" through the shoulders to any punch coming from the right arm.
As you complete the step, use the "repulse" pushing motion to aid the twist of your opponent's wrist.

(Note, in this series of images, I actually have my legs reverse to how I should have them in the form - but it works both ways!).

Cloud hands as a repulse monkey "antidote"

As a technique, the "wrist out turn" seems pretty unbeatable, particularly once it has passed the "point of no return".  It's not so much a "throw" as people think from aikido, but rather a wrist break: it twists the wrist at an angle that the joint cannot tolerate (hence the warning pain - ditto with the xiao chan).

Thankfully there is an answer to this attack and it is found in the taiji form - within the movement known as "cloud hands".

Before I explain how this is possible, let me start by describing the cloud hands technique.

 Cloud hands is found within every major school of taijiquan (at least to my knowledge).

Essentially it provides an encyclopedic reference to "expansion" (where movements like "brush knee" are focused on contraction).  The arms go through every possible angle for optimal use in an expansive context.
The movement is "side to side", rotating the arms which pass through the essential angles and planes, never staying static, but rather "rolling" like clouds.
In other words, while these pictures appear to capture certain "postures", the movements shift so constantly that at any point the hand positions shift and change shape like formless clouds.

Since the "rolling" element is one of the principal features of cloud hands, it is no surprise that this can be used to "roll" out of a nasty predicament.
The sequence is repeated 3 times, then terminates with a "dragon body" movement - where your arms and body "flutter" like a flag (more on the application for this in a moment).
 You can see that this action is rather "whip-like", moving your arms and hips in a staggered way briefly in one direction...
 ... and then in another...
... finishing with the sequence known as "single whip" (the fact that it's called single "whip" should give you a clue as to the dynamic of the body).
Let's go through the application:

Andrew goes to apply a wrist out turn to my right hand.  I might be able to resist and lift my elbow up towards the ceiling in a counter-clockwise arc.  And that's a good way of getting out of it (the old "teacup" routine, for those who know the ancient Chinese exercise).
But here's the problem: often enough the wrist lock is applied far too quickly. By the time I react, I'm at the point of no return: where I simply can't must the strength to oppose the leverage which increases exponentially for every centimetre I'm pushed downwards.
Now what arts like aikido teach you is to dive over the lock and roll out of it.  And that's certainly an option (albeit a rather grandiose and athletic one).

Cloud hands proposes a slightly easier solution.  You don't roll out of it on the ground - but rather on your opponent's back.
As I do so here, I manage to capture Andrew's right (augmenting) arm as I roll over.
From here it's just a matter of leaning back and applying what is known as "wakki gatame" in judo/jujutsu.  I can lean back and simply drop him to the floor where I can hold him.
Alternatively I can do that little "dragon body" movement and snap his shoulder completely using a sudden, ballistic motion.
Of course, Andrew will be fighting this the whole way.  If I fail to hold him - or if I simply want a change of scenery - I can let him go, and then take him in the direction of his escape, using the rest of "single whip".
Using this method I can not only throw him, but I can hyper-extend his elbow at the same time.

The video below illustrates the application of this technique.

Next: How to beat "cloud hands"!

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic