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Showing posts from April, 2011

A new look!

I thought that it was time for a new look for this blog - one for the 2010s. I hope you like it!

"Boards don't hit back": Part 2

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Continued from Part 1.

So, in order to learn to strike a "live" opponent the way we would strike a "dead" target, we need more than bags and shields. We need to learn timing skills - skills that comprise appropriate, if not optimal, reactions.

Sparring is going to test these skills, but won't necessarily teach them. What will teach these skills are drills: drills comprising elements of techniques isolated for practise. But as we've seen, such drills will probably not teach literal fighting techniques (ie. "when he does this, you do that").

Principles vs. techniques

So if martial arts drills don't teach literal fighting techniques, what do they teach? As one of my colleagues at the Traditional Fighting Arts Forums is fond of saying, martial arts drills teach principles - not techniques.

When you are taught a martial arts drill you learn a general principle of movement; an appropriate reaction using the correct biomechanics, optimal positionin…

“Boards don’t hit back”: Part 1

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The missing link between practice and application

Introduction

There is a famous scene in Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon” where the character O’Hara (played by Bob Wall) holds up a board in front of Lee’s face and breaks it with a punch. Lee stares back unblinkingly and says, slowly and emphatically:“Boards… don’t hit back”That line is a fairly typical example of Bruce Lee’s philosophy. Nowadays people would say that it was trite. However in its day the statement was quite novel, at least in the wider public’s eye. You have to remember that up until the end of the ’70s traditional Asian martial arts were regarded by many in the West as exotic and mysterious - if not supernatural. People were deeply impressed by traditional demonstrations. And board-breaking was common in these, especially in the case of karate which was “king” of the martial arts until Bruce Lee started everyone “kung fu fighting”.

Of course, even back in the early ’70s experienced fighters knew what most people kno…

Body movement in kata - what does it mean?

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Embusen: a kata's movement "floorplan"

“Embusen” is a Japanese term that literally means “demonstration line(s)”. It is commonly used to describe the pattern of lines along which a kata is performed.

So, for example, the kata pinan nidan / heian shodan has a sideways “H” embusen (meaning that when performed, the kata will, broadly speaking, trace an “H” - or if you prefer, a capital I with serifs - on the ground).

The kata shisochin has both an “x” and a “+” embusen (ie. it moves in 4 directions from the centre - which fits well with its name, meaning “4 direction battle”).

The variations on embusen are almost endless - particularly when one looks at other arts.

The “embusen” of the internal art of xingyiquan is essentially a straight line forward and a straight line back. Baguazhang’s “embusen” comprises endless circles, like eddies in a pond or stream. I even know of one bak mei (white eyebrow) form where the “embusen” traces the Chinese character that is the name of…