Essay 5 on IMA: Conflict
In previous essays I have discussed the differences between IMA and the ‘external arts‘, the training, how Chigong fits into the picture and training to acquire a ‘martial body’. The following is the final stage, training to fight. The heart of this is how the five element concept becomes integrated with all your actions, stepping, controlling and striking. Also discussed are the nature of conflict and the escalation of force in confrontation. Weapons are discussed briefly, they constitute a whole study on their own, so for the moment we are limiting ourselves to hand to hand combat.
To learn to fight correctly a system is required. You don’t just put people in a ring and let them beat on each other. In Western boxing for examples once you have done the body conditioning you will go through drills, shadow box, learn to step, evade punches, counterattack etc. In Shaolin Kung Fu, Alan Lee set up a progressive system as follows. After learning basic punching, kicking, blocking and stepping we continued with ‘fighting dancing’ going through the motions firstly on your own, then with a partner without touching, and finally with light contact leading to full contact.
As was suggested in previous essays a practitioner should have undergone several years of ‘external’ training including full contact before embarking on the IMA route. The traditional full contact external fighting cannot be used to train the internal art. Each internal system has its own training method, following is one that I put together over the years, the systemology is similar to that which I learnt in Shaolin but it starts with the bridge.
In IMA it always starts with the bridge. Of course there are specific methods of entering while retaining structure and position but without bridging there is no control. Once the bridge is made the ability to sense and react to force vectors is paramount, to facilitate this various types of push hands should be practiced. It is assumed that before practicing this level the ribs and hips have become flexible enough to move in circles in eight directions. From Hsing Yi practice one hand push hands wrist to wrist, using five elements [up/down, expand/contract, open/close, drilling and spiraling. Another form, silk winding, where you attempt to circle your opponent’s arm. These are performed both relaxed [soft] and contracted [hard]. In the latter case the ribs and/or hips move to absorb and redirect force vectors. The push hands are then expanded to use two hands. Other forms of push hands can be of use to expand your options. From Bagua practice redirecting force vectors by stepping. From Wing Chun using Chisau push hands practice one hand covering two, opening and closing with two hands and misdirection. From Tai Chi Chuan dissolving power and refinement of the two hand drills.
Through practicing forms, push hands and set piece self defense drills you should have accumulated a ‘toolbox’ of techniques and an ability to respond to incoming force vectors. Next, working with a partner you go through simulated combat as follows. Your partner will perform a simple technique, say a punch to the face in slow motion. You will analyze the move and various responses which create a bridge, choosing the most efficient one which both protect you and allow a counterattack, still in slow motion. Initially use only hands, then add stepping and leg jamming and striking. This phase may appear tedious and time consuming but is necessary so that you start reacting automatically to a variety of attacks in an efficient manner. It also shows you where moves not thought out can leave you open to counterattack.
When you feel confident that the techniques are thoroughly assimilated continue in slow motion but with continuous flow with stepping and leg techniques. Again, when this becomes natural and the sensing and reaction is automatic move up to medium speed. Note that at this level a high degree of control must be maintained with strikes ending at body surface. The final stage is moving at medium speed and allowing light force on body contact. Much, much later the exercise can be repeated at high speed but great care must be taken not to allow full strikes on vulnerable areas. It is suggested that you have ‘friendly practices’ with a variety of martial artists to hone your skills.
Confrontation and Conflict
Confrontation and physical violence is something you will inevitably experience at some time in your life. As a young man you often want to get out there and show off your skills. As you mature you realise that avoiding conflict is a greater skill.
It does not mean that you are cowardly, merely that you are more aware of your surroundings, the possible legal consequences of your actions and the level of response required. The response to a situation could range from simply restraining to extreme lethal action. This applies particularly in a hostile environment, in a ‘bad’ part of town or a foreign country where laws are different to those at home and witness’s perceptions could be biased. Being ‘in the right’ is important but does not guarantee your safety. You should also become aware of your surroundings and the social interactions around you, this is particularly important if you have other people to take care of, children and older people for example. There are many other factors that may affect a confrontation, these include the disposition of the attacker: are they drunk, on drugs, are they armed, have other people with them. The terrain is also important, is it on the street, in a bar, on the beach, daytime, night time [where lighting is important], is clothing light as in a warm climate or dense as in a cold climate, are you carrying a bag or backpack that could be used in protection. These considerations multiply when facing an edged weapon, is it for thrust or slash or both, are there any items, chairs, or heavy objects you can use for protection. Another aspect is than violence can occur quickly, out of nowhere so fast reactions are required. If you intend to train for this you should find a seasoned teacher who has had considerable experience in this area. Training should involve practicing drills tens of thousands of times, a weekend seminar is not going to be sufficient and frankly most of the methods taught will get you killed.
The above may strike those not accustomed to the darker aspects of life as being paranoid but the intent is to train you to be more aware of your surroundings in case a bad situation arises
Below are copies of previous essays for your information.
Essay 1 on IMA: External and Internal Martial Arts
by KEND on Mon May 09, 2016 5:48 am
AN ESSAY ON EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL MARTIAL ARTS
There has always been controversy over what constitutes an Internal or an External martial art. My early encounters with Tai Chi , Hsing Yi  and Bagua  which were deemed to be ‘Internal’ martial arts involved recognizing a new type of power which was then explained in terms of what I call the ‘Chi paradigm. This posited a mysterious force which permeates the natural world and which could be called on to perform supernatural feats. My research into this phenomenon was more science based and introduced concepts such a force vectors and energy exchange. This led to an article in Inside Kung Fu magazine  and a book [2002 and 2012-2nd ed.]
I found that there are distinctive properties that distinguish Internal and External styles with a ‘grey area’ in between. Taking for example the range in which combat takes place. The range for External MA in general can be from over two arm’s lengths to one arm’s length [striking art, not grappling]. in Internal MA from 90% of an arm’s length to body contact. Strikes in Internal MA are based on shock waves rather than ‘wind up’. Additional principles such as ‘bridging’ and ‘centerline’ are also significant. There are other factors; posture, alignment, balance & etc but these apply to both internal and external styles. The main factor however distinguishing the arts is how power is produced.
Starting with ‘External’. Here the source of power is obvious; flexing of arm muscle to project fist, swinging arm to produce a centrifugal force, using shoulder muscles and waist movement to amplify the kinetic energy.
‘Grey area’; I put ‘whipping power’ into this category. A small movement of the body [large mass] creates kinetic energy that is transferred to a fist [small mass]. Since the kinetic energy is proportional to the mass and velocity squared the fist speed is increased considerably, as is the energy and damage to the target. This can be used with a large body movement [external] or a small, barely visible movement [internal]
Internal; Internal, as its name implies, produces power by the use of smaller muscle groups [intercostals for example] inside the body. These work synchronously to produce a shock wave [short power or fajing] or, by prolonging the duration of the wave, an uprooting push [long power].
The method of producing internal power varies, examples of this are as follows:
Hsing Yi: Five elements, by manipulation of the ribs and abdomen to produce five distinct vectors, up/down, open/close, expand/contract, rotating [drilling] and spiraling [crossing].
Bagua: Spiraling body using internal muscles and fascia, manipulation of spine [dragon body].
Tai Chi: Rotation and abrupt halting of abdomen, rotation of abdomen, use of reflected power using legs as ‘bows’, rapid expansion of abdomen etc.
Liu He Ba Fa: Sudden dropping of hips with abdomen expansion [reflected ].
Hsin I: [Dai family] Rotating and expanding abdomen.
I Chuan; Similar to Tai Chi, using reflected power.
Systema: This falls into ‘grey area’, using focused ‘whipping power.
Wing Chun: Manipulation of the clavicle, expansion of the upper body.
This list is far from complete and only includes systems that I am familiar with.
The above often involve the use of as many as a dozen muscles in a complex fashion and should be learned from someone thoroughly familiar with the process, internal muscles can take a long time to heal if overstressed.
I have found that many ‘external’ styles have traces of the above methods, where, after practicing for many years the body finds a more efficient method of producing power automatically using internal muscles.
Essay 2 on IMA: The training
by KEND on Tue May 24, 2016 4:48 am
Since discovering Hsing Yi in 1974 and my initial training with Wang Jien Yen I have studied with several teachers, including Kenny Gong and Ken Fish who probably gave me the most insight into the art. Along the way Robert Smith’s book provided historical background and stimulus but very little in the way of methods of training. I read all the available ‘works of the masters’ and again they fleshed out the subject but provided little in the way of ‘why’ it worked. As an engineer and scientist I decided to focus on providing scientific explanations rather than the ones I had encountered up until then which I labelled ‘the chi paradigm. This was not a vendetta against ‘the old ways’, indeed they had preserved an art which might have been lost. One might say the masters books I studied were those of Newton, Gauss, Maxwell and Gray.
Having hopefully established what constitutes an IMA, we move on to the next phase, which is training. I will be discussing the Basic level and Middle level training with theories as to why and how they work.
After learning Basic level and developing a theory based on scientific observation the next project was to see if it worked. I went to many practitioners I knew back in the day when we would work out together and tried it out. Among these were Karate, Aikido, Shaolin, Hung Gar, Northern and Southern Mantis, Thai and Western boxing etc. I found in general it worked well against the striking arts and in fact complemented their style [ several practitioners trained with me]. Less so with the grappling arts and arts that included training in ‘listening energy’. The close range requires a faster response time which is acquired through Middle level training.
First Basic level. I will pass over the basic structure, stance, sensing and connection training, these are a prerequisite for any IMA, and go on to the power production. As was discussed in a previous post the use of smaller internal muscles associated with respiration, rib and hip movement are utilized to produce a shock wave at the limb extremity. The ribs can be made very flexible, the thoracic hinges at sternum and spine must be loosened to achieve this. A large number of muscles are involved. The ribs on each side of the sternum are manipulated individually and together, in three dimensions, in a linear and circular fashion. It takes a lot of time to do this and care must be taken not to overextend the muscles. Similar exercises can e applied to the hips. Eventually when hips, waist and ribs can operate independently the trunk takes on a 'snakey' feeling [dragon body] This can be used to nullify attacks, stick and counterattack.
Next the Middle level. This is where the ‘Mind Intent Fist’ comes into its own. The mind in the Basic level concentrates on muscle groups in the body, eventually the different groups associated with a particular ‘element’ flow into each other and become continuous, responding to external forces while maintaining a bridge. Once this is established in the neuromuscular system we establish a ‘mind intent’ outside the body. For example: initially using the eyes, when using the ‘down’ move in Pichuan look down. Similar eye movements apply to Pao chuan and Beng Chuan. Tsuan and Heng are a little more complicated they come in at the next stage which is replacing ‘looking’ with ‘intent’, putting the ‘mind’ out there. This stage requires work on developing the center meridian [one method is the practice of ‘microcosmic orbit’]. This gets a little esoteric but it appears we tap into the parasympathetic nervous system in the spine overriding it [ much of the biofeedback work in the 60’s capitalized on this, raising local temperature, slowing heart etc]. If you put your hands on your chest and belly you will find that the internal muscles you trained at the Basic level will imperceptibly move with the ‘intent’. The final stage is putting your intent in specific locations in space.
I have not put the time periods to learn these levels, it varies considerably from student to student. I found it difficult to teach beginners so I required a minimum requirement 5 years in a full contact fighting art.
I discovered while talking to Ken Fish the other day that he is teaching a course on the fundamentals of Hsing Yi, I would strongly recommend that any committed IMA practitioner contact him and spend some time training with him,
Essay 3 on IMA: Chigong
by KEND on Tue May 31, 2016 3:48 am
An essay on IMA, part 3: Chigong
As an introduction a brief discourse on Chigong.
The cultivation of energy goes back to the beginning of human history,
the early sun worshippers and pantheists were well aware of the invisible energies around them. Later shamans used a range of energy techniques including visualization, energy projection and altered states of consciousness for healing both physically and psychologically, for divination and maintaining a world view that contained earth spirits and other entities.
Chigong , broadly defined in Chinese as ‘Energy work’ originated as shamanic or folk healing techniques, Taoist techniques such as the Five Animal Play date back to the Han Dynasty [206 BCE to 220 CE]. Chigong in China was generally classified as Medical, Martial or Spiritual. Medical and Martial parallel each other, similar techniques being used for healing and martial purposes. Spiritual Chigong added Buddhist and Taoist meditation and ritual, the purpose being to achieve enlightenment through connecting with the universal energy field, these practices are often indistinguishable from religious ones.
In the following the term ‘Energy Work’ will be used in lieu of Chigong. The Body Energy Field, sometimes called the biofield, is largely composed of very low level electromagnetic fields, together with other emissions such as infra red, ultra violet & etc. The magnetic field is primarily result of blood flow, where small amounts of paramagnetic materials in the blood are circulated around the body. The electric field is created by the interplay of fluids in the cellular structure of the cells. The body fields interact with external magnetic and electric fields such as artificial fields from electric equipment, the earth’s magnetic field and electrically charged particles from space. In classical Energy Work the body is considered to have three approximately spherical energy fields [Tan Tiens], located in the abdominal, chest and skull cavities, contained within the respective membranes. The lower energy field is mostly concerned with converting and distributing energy from nutrition, the middle energy field with intake and distribution of oxygen for body processes through blood circulation, while the upper energy field interacts with the nervous system to control the above processes and others such as the immune system.
In using body energy and possibly energy ‘borrowed’ from our surrounding fields and focusing our intention it appears that we can create a projected electromagnetic field which can modify another body field. A tentative theory, suggests that various layers of fascia, muscle and membrane each create separate fields which are shaped and amplified by contracting and releasing the layers, the wave being modulated by lower frequencies, conveyed through the bones and projected to the outside. The frequency of physical vibration can be varied using the nervous system to ‘tune’ into the frequency. With regard to the recipient of the travelling wave there is a body of research that suggests that the organs and bones resonate at specific frequencies and illness is created by imbalances in energy and frequency. This idea has been used to accelerate healing by attaching electrodes to various parts of the body and injecting low intensity current at a predetermined frequency into the body. Note that these are hypotheses based very often on subjective experience and more research would have to be done to confirm them. The energy in the projected wave is very small and as such is associated with healing rather than martial use.
The martial aspect comes from creating a shock wave by synchronized movement of groups of internal muscles. This wave is conveyed to the hand through muscles, isometrically contracted to provide a clear path to the extremity. The hand or fist shape and the shape of the receiving surface will determine the shape of the entering wave, the ‘intent’ will determine where the wave is focused, and the internal muscles will determine the direction of the wave. As was outlined in previous essays the cultivation of the ‘microcosmic orbit’ can lead to an overriding of the parasympathetic nervous system creating a ‘mind intent’ focus for the wave.
Essay 4 on IMA:The Martial Body
by KEND on Fri Sep 16, 2016 3:55 am
An Essay on External and Internal Martial Arts, Part 4: The Martial Body
This essay complements previous essays: Part 1; External and Internal Martial Arts. Part 2; IMA The training. Part 3: Chigong.
Over the years I studied with more than a dozen instructors, for periods ranging from eight years to a few months. The methods here are those I learnt from my principal instructors: Alan Lee [Shaolin], Henry Leung [Buddha Hand Wing Chun] and Kenny Gong [ Hsing Yi]. In each case I was taught ‘old style’. This means that at a certain level you were given something to work on and you would have to figure it out on your own. When you felt you understood it and could derive other methods or techniques from it you would return explain your findings and questions on details would be answered. This was frustrating at the beginning but later, when I was teaching, it made sense. You are developing students who are think for themselves, not automatons.
The development of a ‘martial’ body is an intrinsic part of martial training. It goes beyond developing an athletic body and more resembles the specialized training of a gymnast or a ballet dancer.
Starting with the ‘external’ arts, basic body conditioning includes weight training, aerobics, running, stance training, these being few of the methods used to ensure the body is capable of sustained physical effort. In addition, there are more specialized techniques which come under the heading of ‘discipline techniques’. I studied some of these under the tuition of Alan Lee at the Kung Fu Wu Su Association in New York, including Iron Body [desensitizing and strengthening the fascia, muscle control], Nail Bed [ breath and muscle control], Iron Bridge [body as one piece], Hand conditioning using a variety of striking surfaces and specific medicines [Dit da Jiao]. I specialized in breaking techniques [cinder slabs, bricks etc]. Many of these are now classified as ‘hard qigong’ but had their genesis in the martial arts. For those who are interested and wish to see a demonstration check out the KFWS Temple in New York.
My next experience of this was with Henry Leung, whose system included strengthening bones [ medicine with snake venom], more hand strengthening with the accent on finger strikes.
Finally, the Internal Arts. Here I will be discussing the ‘Dragon Body’. I learnt this within a Hsing Yi system but it seems there is considerable Bagua influence in its practice. Before starting this the basics; alignments, a one piece body and stability developed through extensive stance work, should be in place. The objective is to create a body which is flexible and ‘dragon’ or ‘snake’ like. To do this we work on two specific concepts. Firstly working from the outside create independent, controllable layers of Fascia and Muscle. Secondly we divide the body vertically into three zones; Ribs, Waist and Hips, each of which can be independently moved controlled. In this essay I will only deal with latter, starting with the ribs. It is necessary to loosen the thoracic hinges at the sternum and spine to ensure free movement of the ribs. To do this we separate into left and right ribs, moving each independently and in unison. In three dimensions there are fourteen different directions, there are two modes, linear and circular giving a total of 3 x 14 x 2=84 separate movements. In addition, there are exercises to control the internal and external intercostal muscles. Thus if a bridge is established the incoming force vector can be neutralized by ‘hanging a circle on it’ or shifting your centerline using the ribs alone. The waist is somewhat limited having only two modes of movement, clockwise and counterclockwise in the horizontal plane. The hips, using a combination of muscles controlling hip joints and diaphragm can produce external movements similar to that of the ribs. As will be discussed in a future article, in a fighting mode the opponent will feel as if a full body power is behind every counter or block.