Chen Taiji Spear

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The spear (Qiang) is one of the weapons traditional to Chinese martial arts and it falls into the category of long weapons, along with the staff, halberd, tiger fork and Dadao. The correct length of a spear is equal to the distance between the ground and your finger tips (when you are standing with your feet flat and together and reaching up). For experienced martial artists this will already suggest a lot about the biomechanics of the weapon's use and its potential reach.

The Chinese spear consists of a shaft and a head (usually with some sort of tassel or horsehair attached). A spear without a head is long staff. The addition of the spearhead allows the spear to become a deadly thrusting weapon. A well made head may be able to hold a reasonable edge with some potential for cutting but the thrust is the essential technique with the spear. The fact that Qiang, the Chinese nam e fo r the spear, is also the term the Chinese use for guns says a lot about the character of the spear as a weapon.

The spear is a full military weapon. It is designed for killing and maiming. Historically, it has been one of the most important weapons on battlefields the world over. This is because it is relatively easy to manufacture (as compared to weapons like the sword) and it has a wide range of uses. It can be thrown. It can be used to take riders off horses. Its most common use was in infantry ranks but it can also be held near to the spearhead for close hand to hand combat.

Many elements of the Chen spear form relate to its role as an infantry weapon. The majority of the movements work along one line - front to back. The circling of the spear usually holds tightly to this line rotating in a vertical plane and remaining close to the body. In military formations this would be an essential skill so that the ranks could be kept tight. A soldier who could not hold this most basic of lines would not be much use in a regiment as he would be a liability to those alongside him.

staff. Thus as well as the usual thrust moves you also find large horizontal sweeps and downward blows with the butt end of the spear - designed to disarm an opponent.

In most Chinese spear forms you find a fundamental triad of moves: Lan, La, Jia. These are specialist martial terms that have been used in relation to the spear for over a thousand years but which have no regular usage in everyday Chinese. Lan is a clockwise block. La is a counter-clockwise block and Jia is a thrust. This short combination is the essence of Chinese spear work. Not surprisingly it is in the Chen

Chen Taiji Foot Steps

Chen Taiji spear is especially interesting from a martial standpoint. It combines both spear and staff techniques, which really demonstrates its full versatility as a weapon. The movements originate from two separate forms: jasmine spear and white monkey family spear but has been adapted to the unique spiralling energy of Chen Taiji. When teaching Grandmaster Chen paid particular attention to posture, just as he does when teaching unarmed forms. Correct posture is always important. It is one of the things that distinguishes the soft arts from the hard arts. The posture must be upright and relaxed so that all the Qi can flow and so that you can move smoothly and quickly. It is also necessary so that the Dantian can turn.

One of the characteristic aspects of the Chen spear is the clear and detailed footwork. Almost all of the stepping begins by retracting and then replacing the lead foot. This is an essential defensive move - you are taking your foot out of the way of a strike before moving in. The fact that this is emphasised on nearly every step points to Chen's quality as a battlefield art. The logic is that you cannot 'ride' a weapon's blow, 'no foot: no fight'. The forward steps are often also accompanied by a drawing back of the spear, which gives the deceptive impression of retreat, and may well mislead an opponent into thinking that they are safe at the precise moment cc drawing in the back foot. This kind of stepping also allows many subtle variations and adjustments of range to be made and the manipulation of distance is further reinforced in the way the grip continuously shifts along the shaft of the spear. It is the footwork of the Chen spear form that reveals its true martial nature.

All of this sounds amazingly complex to perform, and in some respects it is until you grasp the overall simplicity of the way the spear follows the body. Everything rotates around the Dantian. A lot of the time the body is positioned

Fajing just suddenly like the cracking of a whip.

sideways on (to the line), which allows the spear to be kept tight to the body and makes for a narrower target. The turning of the Dantian, from side to when they are least safe. The steps themselves, are frequently covered by sweeps of the spear past the ankle making the whole move very tight, defensively.

S i m i l a subtleties are also observable in the movements of the back foot, which is sometimes stepped back a few inches before retreating into it. This kind of small adjustment can often be the difference between being in and out of an opponent's range, or encouraging an opponent to overextend. Again, following yin yang strategy, a retreat is usually followed by an advance. The reach of the strikes is frequently extended by sideways on (to the line), which allows the spear to be kept tight to the body and makes for a narrower target. The turning of the Dantian, from side to side, gives the spear its power and pace while leaving the arms and hands relaxed. Again this simplicity comes from the attention to detail of the posture.

Keeping the arms and hands relaxed is essential to the control of the spear itself. The hands have to be relaxed so that they can shift along the length of the spear, changing the reach and range, sometimes allowing for fluency of movement and sometimes providing the basis for powerful strikes. When combined with the footwork the hand adjustments can provide sudden thrusts at an a wide variety of ranges from little six inch jabs to moves which cover almost twelve feet in one step.

At the end of the four day seminar Sigong Chen gave a demonstration of the full form which revealed the high level of his skill. While learning the form most people had been able to use the spiralling movements to generate the power that Taiji refers to as fajing.

However, Sigong Chen's energy was very different from other people's. With everyone else you could see a physical 'wind up' before the release of power, but with Sigong the fajing just suddenly appeared at the end of the spear, like the cracking of a whip. This is similar to his pushing hands.

When most people use power you can feel it coming as they set themselves up, you might not always be able to do something about it but you can feel it coming. However, with Sigong Chen the power is effortless and instant, there is no warning. The first thing you know about it is when you are flying through the air. The softness of the spear really showed this high level skill. Sigong Chen transmitted energy from his body to the point of the spear in sharp explosive concussions like firing of a gun. It was an awesome display of skill by Glenn Gossling. [email protected],qimagazine. com

Many people are attracted to the world of martial arts by the spectacular high kicking in the movies and on TV. However reality is not about how it looks rather it is about whether it works and if you can use it.

Bruce Lee once gave an interview on Hong Kong TV In the interview he talked about his fighting skill and his movies. When the interviewer asked him about his spectacular high kicking Bruce said that was only for his movies and that in reality he would never kick higher than his waist as it was too dangerous and left you vulnerable to losing your balance. This is something he learnt from his teacher, Grandmaster Ip Man and is one of the primary principles of Wing Chun.

Wing Chun is famous for its hand techniques, but it is also very well known for its kicking techniques. All of the Wing Chun kicking techniques apart from one can be found in the Wing Chun Wooden Dummy form. This is where the kicks are trained in real earnest. Whilst kicks appear in the second form Tsum Kiu, it is not until the dummy form that any real power can be trained. The dummy is the only partner you can kick as hard as you like, however, you should be aware, although the dummy cannot move, it can "kick you back". If you kick the dummy incorrectly, not only will you bounce off it and fall, but you can hurt your foot as well.

All Wing Chun kicks use the heel of the foot. The techniques do not require any big swinging of the limbs, in fact they are rather like the hand strikes in nature, travelling directly to their target, remaining relaxed until the last moment. Then all the body's energy is channelled to the kick, which is supported by correct posture and strong balance.

The kicks target the joint in order to be more effective. However, in practice, it does not matter how well you can perform the techniques if you never have the opportunity to use them. Kicking low, as well as kicking high, leaves you prone to losing your balance, but when kicking low, the time in which you are vulnerable is m uc h shor te r. The most important thing is choosing the right time to kick. The best time to kick is when you are in range and completely safe, so that your opponent cannot attack you back. This time is often when you already have him under your control. So Wing Chun kicks are best used as finishing techniques. Ideally you should only ever have to kick your opponent once. Thus once you have kicked him he should be defeated.

To be able to do this requires good hand skills to get your opponent into this position, good balance, timing and power. This is where training with the Wooden Dummy becomes invaluable.

The wooden dummy form will teach you the correct positioning and distance to kick and to also co-ordinate this i

Wing Chun

Power Kicking with your hand techniques and other footwork. However, you should not become fixed by the form, i.e. only be able to use the techniques in sequence. You need to develop flexibility in their use and application. All the techniques you use need to be natural and second nature. As Grandmaster Ip Man said, "Do not let the skill control you, you must control the skill".

One way to train, which you might find useful, is to use the dummy, but not to practise the form. To begin with take the arms and legs out of the dummy so you are only left with the body. Beginning slowly, start to move around the dummy in a random way (you can even turn your back to it). Then at certain moment see if you can kick the dummy. If you

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can, kick immediately. If you are out of range move your self so you are in range and take notice of how you got there. Move back into your original position and then practise quickly moving into range and kicking. As you become more familiar with the range of your kicks you should be able to move into range and kick more quickly. Eventually you should be able to do it without thinking and instinctively know when you are in range and when you are not.

When you can do this smoothly, put the arms and leg back into the dummy and try again. It will feel quite different with these obstacles in your way and you will have to get used to it all over again. Howeverwith practice it will become smooth and natural. Don't forget that you can also kick the leg.

This exercise will get you used to kicking from any position and also the distances required. There are in fact three ways to train with the Wooden Dummy. The form is only the very basic way and is called "Playing with the Dummy". The other two methods are less well known; they are called "Polishing the Dummy" and "Hitting the Dummy". This training exercise is closer to the last method "Hitting the Dummy".

Another exercise to help develop your power can again be done on the Wooden Dummy and does not require you to have studied the whole form. Stand in front of the dummy

and place your heel on it as if you had just kicked it. Keep your leg relaxed. Suddenly jerk your leg pressing your heel into the dummy and then relax as quickly as you can and hold your foot just off the dummy's surface. Make sure you keep your balance. Keep repeating this as long as you can. When you are tired change to the other leg and repeat. This is a very demanding exercise. Very quickly you will find yourself getting tired and it becomes increasingly difficult to keep your balance. However with more practice you will find that you will be able to release more power into the dummy and you will also feel how it relates to your standing leg.

Then you can combine the two exercises together. Begin by doing the first exercise and when you find yourself at an unusual position where you do not feel your kick is strong, stay there and begin to press the dummy (as in the second exercise) until you are accustomed to it. Then try stepping in and out of that position and kick. You should find that you are better balanced and more powerful.

Wing Chun is a very clever system. Although Grandmaster Ip Man cut it down to its bare essentials, the essence of all the skill is there to see. All you need to do is examine it and work at it and with help from a good teacher, piece it together^

by Darryl Moy il r;i some point everyone suffers with phlegm. May be you have a cold which "gets on your chest" and then gives you a bad cough. However, you get it, it is very irritating. So how does TCM treat it?


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