Nine pearls, three springs, one wave punch, and a lot of chi power, by Gary Kaiser - part 1 of 4
photo left: punching exercises during a self-defense seminar at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver
Starting today enjoy reading a few thoughts by Gary Kaiser. Click here to read bios of the members of our trainer team.
Many older martial art teaching methods talk in a very poetic fashion about skills like 'wave power'. Terminology like the 'nine pearls' or the 'three springs' is used. Often these relatively vague descriptions lead to misinterpretations, and lead to claims of magical powers, energies, and other unverified claims.
But the masters of old were extremely realism orientated. So what does this kind of talk actually mean, if anything??? How can we modern students of Wing Tsun Kung Fu translate this to useful training concepts?
The nine pearls is a metaphor for using the major joints of the body in an efficient method to generate power, bracing, and flow. It refers to the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints of the arm (first spring), the 3 curves or bows of the spine (second spring), and the ankle, knee, and hip joints of the leg (third spring). The waist or belly area usually works in conjunction with the horizontal rotation of the hips.
In explanations of power development within the Wing Tsun Kung Fu system you can also hear the term ‘power of the three joints’. It is used in reference to the shoulder, elbow and wrist connection, or also indicates the hip, knee and ankle chain of power. Furthermore you may have come across the ‘power of the seven joints’, which especially in British Columbia should not be misunderstood. The ‘power of the seven joints’ is a term which can give us a visualization of how muscles, ligaments, tendons throughout the body create a wave-like power flow from ankle, knee, hip, spine, shoulder, elbow and wrist.
What offers me more value, joining group classes or taking private lessons?
photo left: Brian leading a segment of our recent fall seminar
A lot of times I have been asked about what gives a better value, taking group or private classes. Of course one should first evaluate one's motivation, is it a mere hobby, or is the goal the exploration of the art of Wing Tsun Kung Fu? Most people start out with a focus on attaining the ability to defend themselves. Very soon the at times sobering reality sets in, that there is much more to acquiring self-defense skills than a set of techniques or even worse, the notion of “tricks”.
Private classes focus very much on the specific personal situation, the training needs of the student. It's a chance to work on details and get the undivided attention of the instructor. A continuous one-on-one work can lift you up to initially unimaginable levels of skill. It is also very challenging, don’t take this lightly, working on improving yourself session after session is very rewarding but also a tough task.
Yet group classes provide the necessary training time and helpful encounters with different students and their personalities. Here, in a friendly scenario, you might face already the problems of successfully communicating with your training partner. Asking your training partner for moderation, help with the exercise, can prove more challenging that it may seem at first. This topic will be discussed in detail in the upcoming multiple-part series under the title: "When does Self-Defense start? or The very first line of Defense!"
Learning WingTsun Kung Fu is about gaining self-confidence, dealing with unpleasant situations, facing reality. Self-Defense abilities for the real world. That is why a balanced mix of attending group classes as well as taking private lessons is the recommended solution. And let’s not forget about your home training, even if it's just minutes a day!
When does it end? The art of Wing Tsun.
photo left: some members of the trainer team (standing) Gary, Steve, Sifu Ralph, Nilo, Brian, Ciprian; (second row) Philip, Sia, Edmond, Sebastian, Rob, Tony
It has been a great week. It always motivates me as well, to see your dedication, to feel your enthusiasm. Congratulations to all who participated in our fall seminar, but especially to our members, who received their well-deserved promotions: Tim Schofield 1.SG Sarah McGowan 1.SG Felix McGowan 1.SG Jackie Ho 2.SG Sam Ho 2.SG William Chau 3.SG Dave Zraly 3.SG Michael Oleksuik 4.SG Fred Lo 4.SG David Livingstone 4.SG Mansun Lui 7.SG Adrian Law 7.SG Philip Lee 12.SG Tony Leung 12.SG Siavash Panahandeh 12.SG Sebastian Molnar 12.SG Rob Grylls 12.SG
Someone told me last night: “… the fact is sinking in that now I am really at the higher levels and things only get harder. I really got to work harder.”; which reminds me of a little story of my own. At the beginning of the 90’s during my Sifu’s first seminar in East Germany, I received my certificate of the first instructor level. It made me proud; to be the first in the country and while seminar participants were applauding my Sifu was whispering to me: “This is only the beginning. Now you start your Wing Tsun journey.” When is the studying, the interpretation of an art ever done, finished. I most certainly hope not anytime soon. I am learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu now since 1984 and it never get’s dull. So, keep discovering new aspects of your martial ART, keep interpreting the old Kung Fu forms, strategies and tactics, handed down over the centuries. Let it never end. Let’s share our knowledge and skills. All the best to our members of the trainer team, who have reached the 12th Student Grade and begin to pursue their Technician Grade training.
Let's learn with each other
photo left: some of Monday night's seminar particpants
A word about testing for eligible members: The following are just some of the factors in regard to who qualifies for testing, the promotion to the next student level: - attendance of group classes, private lessons & previous seminars - performance during the last months and weeks - date and performance of last test - understanding of the programs, which is often more important than the current performance of a particular technique - feedback and/or questions I receive, which also tells me, if one is understanding the program
As I have said very often, it is for me (and for your progress) far more important how someone trains, if someone shows the effort, as opposed to possibly missing or forgetting a technique/drill/exercise here or there. A promotion is often the best motivation to step up to the next level of commitment, to take one's hobby more serious than before, to work harder for more satisfying benefits.
Often does the advancing into the next program produce a better inside view, lets us "suddenly" better understand previous programs, which in the end jumpstart's our progress, yields positive results, as opposed to remaining in the "old" program.
The programs are guidelines, not cast in stone, they are all pieces of a big puzzle, that will one day fit together and have produced a skill and knowledge of the complexity of self-defense, an understanding of the Wing Tsun system, the satisfaction of a successful hobby, a greater awareness of your body, your surroundings, improved health.
Concentration, Focus and Respect!
It was a pleasure to greet about 30 members of our school, the first Canadian Wing Tsun branch, for the opening evening of the fall seminar.
Beginning with selected segments of the Siu-Nim-Tau and Cham-Kiu form, chain punching in intervals, the focus of the evening was set on improving striking power. The aggressive use of punching techniques characterizes this specific system of Chinese boxing.
The partner exercises, which dominated the evening, put the spotlight on important elements of balance, distance, and timing as well as the imperative coordination of hand and foot work. The repeated execution of the ‘falling step’ helped to visualize the necessity of exploding punches in the Wing Tsun system’s favourite distance, the close range.
As supportive tools rubber knifes and yawaras were used, to implement details of different striking techniques. Everybody was fully concentrated, the windows and mirrors started to fog up early on.
Every seminar features a unique set of special exercises to greatly improve your skills and knowledge of the Wing Tsun system. For returning members the seminar is a great time to take charge and let the event be a point in time to redefine motivation and training goals for months to come!
For members who have just joined our classes, it’s a fabulous opportunity to get a condensed inside view in what to expect from this unique self-defense system.
Some of you take usually only private lessons, others can make it to group classes only once in a while. The special topic seminar is a chance to learn new workout routines, discover possible problem situations while working with different partners.
At this point I would like to express a big Thank You! to all of you, who go to great lengths to arrange your work and family schedule, to make it to the seminars. I know it is sometimes not easy and appreciate it even more, since it shows your dedication to your hobby, your respect for your fellow class mates, your willingness to learn.
See you Wednesday night for the main event! Good luck to all members to have signed up for their respective grading tests.
Lance Armstrong: " Pain is temporary, quitting is forever."
Dharm Makwana of 24Hours News (vancouver.24hrs.ca) wrote today about the infamous famous Grouse Grind: "Only in Vancouver would a 2.9-km sprint up a mountain be considered a rite of passage. It's hard, but I keep on thinking of the quote from Lance Armstrong, 'Pain is temporary, quitting is forever,' ... then the finish line can't be that far away," he said."
Does this remind you of the at times exhausting form training in our classes at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver? In our classes I often talk about the fact, that a Wing Tsun Kung Fu practitioner should not just be able to inflict pain (if absolutely necessary), but also know how to avoid and prevent pain. Many of you have already made the experience, how many details one is discovering while practicing the Siu-Nim-Tau form over and over again. Sometimes wrongly interpreted as a beginners-only form, is the Little-Idea-Form in our Wing Tsun Kung Fu system also seen as a form of the master.
There are more than 430 muscles in the human body, which allow an enormous potential in the range of motion, and even more importantly the development of power. There is no part in our body without function. But it is a sad fact, that many people nowadays perform only a fraction of the movements our body is able to do, which leads eventually to a decrease in functionality and usability.
You have often heard about the benefits of the first form of the Wing Tsun Kung Fu system: - from short term muscle stretching to long term lengthening, - increased mobility of muscles, ligaments and tendons - all basic hand techniques of our Kung Fu system - breathing methods - upright, yet deeply rooted powerful and flexible stance - enormous punching power - meditation, etc.
Almost every ChiKung class focuses on a different aspect of the form. The ChiKung Siu-Nim-Tau (SNT) form is probably the most valuable form of the Wing Tsun Kung Fu system. Beginning to understand the SNT form means: - learning about the healing effects of the movements - target the relief of stress - conscious relaxation of the whole body - awareness of the use (or previous misuse) of muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints - special muscle extension and strengthening exercises - a physiological well functioning muscle structure, muscular balance - pain relief
These are just a few points about the value, meaning and contents of this extraordinary form. There is a old Chinese saying in Wing Tsun: "Siu-Nim-Tau bad = Kung Fu bad"; which sometimes takes years to understand. Why? You know best. ;-) How often you train the form?! How intense and focused do you train?!
How much training is too much? - example of home training schedule
Here is a recent e-mail:
Regarding training, I do have a question which came to mind today. You have constantly encouraged us to train harder and harder. It is understandable, since you are trying to push us to achievement as our Sifu. However, is there also a limit when the amount of training becomes counterproductive (for example, overtraining)?
For the last 2 weeks, I added more to my daily training. My current schedule looks like this (not including class time and training with others): Sunday: Form training, chain punching, heavy bag training, strength training, stretching = 2.5 hours Monday: Form training, chain punching, strength training, stretching = 2 hours Tuesday: Form training, chain punching, running, heavy bag training, strength training, stretching = 3 hours Wednesday: Form training, chain punching, strength training, stretching = 2 hours Thursday: Form training, chain punching = 1 hour Friday: Form training, chain punching, running, heavy bag training, strength training, stretching = 3 hours Saturday: Form training, chain punching = 1 hour
Total hours per week = 14.5 hours per week
Form training = Siu Nim Tau (20-30 min) and Chum Kiu (15-20 min), with focus on muscle and joint motion
Chain punching = 300 chain punches as fast as possible. 100 with stepping to the left, 100 stepping to the right, and 100 in place but on different heights (10-15 min)
Running = 3.5 km run as fast as possible (13-15 min)
Heavy Bag training = 30 min punching on the bag with focus on power and natural movement. Also, using body to absorb impact from swinging bag to train stance and balance.
Strength training = max 10 palm push-ups, max 10 fist push-ups, max 10 back of palm push-ups, max 10 fingertip push-ups, max 10 front crunches, max 10 left-side crunches, max 10 right-side crunches. about 30-40 min, but still working towards max on push-ups.
Stretching = 30 min stretching arms and legs to maintain flexibility from strength training.
At first, the schedule seems fine and I noticed gains in fitness. However, now I am feeling more physically drained and tired throughout the day. This was noticeable after adding the strength training into the training schedule.
I see how Wing Tsun relies on natural attributes, skill, and intent (survival instinct, determination, etc.) to work. In training, we try to boost all of these to the best level as possible. However, with a full-time job and other commitments, it is hard to fit in a serious training schedule. The current training schedule I follow don't leave much time to rest, and I'm kind of suspecting this is an issue. Time is limited for anyone, and that means we have to train smarter and not just harder.
Thanks for your e-mail. Of course there can be such a thing like too much training, overtraining. It also very much depends on the person. Some people work enormous amounts of hours and don't get anywhere. Not the number of years, not even the number of hours, it's the intensity we put into each workout, which will make a noticeable difference. Sometimes it's also good to take a break. Don't do anything for a week or so. Become aware of your motivation. What was your original motivation to start with? Have your goals changed? Why do you do certain workouts? Are they still effective?
As we need to analyze our training, also do check your motivation and goals.
At times we need to change the routine, switch to different or different types of exercises.
If you feel tired and drained, note that there might also be a period of adjustment when we change our workout routine. Think about nutrition, a diet you may need, to go along with an increasing load of workouts, more sleep, or little power naps, vitamins, drinking enough water, etc. There are many factors that can lead to you being physically drained.
If it remains the same, shake up your routine, change for a week to something completely different, go swimming, bicycling, etc. Just read for a couple of evenings, go out with friends who have nothing to do with Kung Fu. :-)
Go out for a walk, have a nice dinner with someone. Don't neglect other parts of your life. Have a social life. Don't just think about training. Wing Tsun is an amazing art of self-defense, can lead to life-long commitment and improvement, but there is also more to life than just Kung Fu!
That's why it's good at times to slim the Kung Fu schedule, or the workout schedule at home and concentrate for a while on other hobbies and activities. After a couple of weeks, get refreshed back into a workout routine that challenges you once again.
Train smarter, not always harder. Time is an extremely valuable commodity!