Apr. 23rd, 2013

morsla: (mantis04)
One thing that we discussed in last night's workshop was the underlying philosophy of each martial tradition taught in the school. Each Chinese martial art begins with a central principle that defines it and shapes how each technique is developed for, or incorporated into it. It also provides a statement that is essentially a victory condition: we will win by achieving X.

For Wing Chun, that principle is controlling the centreline. Vulnerable points (throat, solar plexus, groin) fall along that line, so you want to protect them and also attack along it. The footwork helps you manoeuvre so you can strike directly towards the target, while the opponent must turn to attack you. Straight lines are fast and efficient.

Lung Ying and Choy Lay Fut, though vastly different in their application, both seek to take the upper position. If your opponent's hands are trapped below yours, you have the fastest route to strike at their head.

For Tai Chi, the principle is destabilising the opponent's stance. Absorb and redirect strength, letting your opponent overextend while pushing you into a stronger stance. The core and legs are strong but flexible and relaxed, minimising unnecessary force: don't resist opposing force directly; let it guide you in which direction you should be pushing in.

Liu He Ba Fa seeks to control the inside position. It looks superficially similar to Tai Chi, but those soft and relaxed arm techniques are there to help you get inside the opponent's guard. Once there, you can strike unimpeded. It has far more subtle variations than the other styles, and the choice of technique (even more than usual!) is determined by what you can feel your opponent doing. Wing Chun and Lung Ying can both take more simplistic approaches if needed: strong and fast practitioners can bulldoze the centreline or lunge forwards with the powerful Dragon Shape punches and palm strikes. Liu He Ba Fa helps to provide answers when those approaches fail: when locked up or out-manoeuvred in very close quarters fighting.

It's an extremely technical style, and one that I think Anne has been steadily unpacking and analysing over the years. The 2013 workshops are quite different to those from the camp in 2001: not necessarily slower (I remember two hours spent gradually lowering into stance, and then gradually standing back up again), but more meticulous in their detail. Last night I found two groups of core muscles that I hadn't known how to articulate before, and I can see where an additional range of movement should be in my shoulders. Poor posture and days in front of a computer have reduced movement in there, but I have some exercises to help fix that.

I'm fascinated by the ways the different styles combine together: each new development feels like it's shedding a bit more light on a much larger and more complex martial art than I realised, as a great deal of thought has gone into selecting the elements that make up the whole.

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