Showing posts from January, 2010

Push hands or "listening hands" - what it's all about

Very recently I have been doing a lot of "push hands". What is "push hands"? Well to start with, I prefer Chen Yun-Ching Shifu's term for it - "listening hands". Other terms used include "sticky hands". This is a form of 2 person training (a form of limited sparring, if you will) that is found in almost every traditional Chinese and Okinawan system of martial arts. A "listening hands" drill taught by Chen Yun-Ching Basically it involves setting up a rhythmical, cyclic sequence of movements with a partner. This cycle can then be interrupted at certain unpredictable moments with a technique - be it a push, a strike or a joint lock (qin-na). Accordingly it serves as a platform for applying techniques in a semi-free scenario; one where this a dynamic context (ie. one that occurs in the context of continuous movement) but not one that is totally unpredictable and chaotic. There is, instead, only one moment of "chaos" -

The importance of flow

Lessons from China After my recent intensive training with Master Chen, a fellow karateka asked me the following: ”I hope this isn’t a stupid question, but did you learn anything of relevance to karate?” My answer was, “yes”. There were many applications of forms and other techniques which I couldn’t help notice existed in precisely the same form in Okinawan karate. But more relevantly, this trip has reaffirmed one of my core beliefs about the relationship between karate and Chinese martial arts – in particular the internal or “soft” arts: they are really part of the same continuum. What differentiates them on a surface level evaporates once one starts to use biomechanically sound and efficient principles of movement (see my article “ Goju as an internal art ”). One of the most important of these principles is the need for “flow” or connectivity between techniques. Many Chinese martial artists lament that karate seems to have lost any semblance of "flow". While

Chen Yun-Ching's workshop at Wu-Lin

I've just come back from 4 days of intensive training with my teacher, Chen Yun-Ching, at the Wu-Lin Retreat in Victoria. The official course was held from 7 to 10 January 2010. I flew out on the midnight flight of the 6th and managed to grab 3 hours sleep on the 3 1/2 hour flight (I told them not to serve me dinner and breakfast!). My flight landed at just after 6 am and just over an hour later we pulled into the driveway at the Wu-Lin Retreat. No sooner had I put my bags down than I saw Master Chen, who beckoned me onto the floor for Chung Yang Sword practice (James and Master Chen's niece, Xiao Yi, were practising a tiger hook sword form). A couple of hours (and some considerable sweat soaked into my long trousers and shirt) later, I thought I'd have a shower and lie down. Master Chen was going into town and would be away for most of the afternoon. However as luck would have it, my good friend Bill Mioch turned up and asked if I wanted to revise the xingyi kun (the s