/ have taken a lot of exams in my time - but none quite like this!
Many things were the same: waking up and thinking "What's life got in store for me today?", the shock of remembering and diving out of bed in order to get ready, the nervous glances at the clock to see the time ticking past, the recurring thought of "If only I'd done a little bit more work", and the reluctant conclusion: "It's too late to worry about it now!", but still the butterflies twitch and flutter.
In the exam room and again familiar sights: the nervous greetings and limp smiles, the nervous chit-chat, conferring and comparing, and the bad ill timed jokes aimed at diverting the attention to anything but the immediate future.
The examiner enters and a vale of tension and silence blankets the room. He pauses, looks around and then smiles and says "Relax! Take it easy!". His advice is genuine, warm and friendly, but no one seems to be listening.
The exam begins and one by one we are called forward to lake the test. Those left behind smile and sigh to themselves, not seeming to realise that the odds of them being next have just increased.
This exam actually came in three parts. The first part to see if you had picked up what has been taught and the second and third parts to see if you had done your homework. The subject being tested? Hard Qigong! All the tests I have done in the past have been to test my academic abilities, all that is except my driving
Not a punishment but "testing the duntien "!
Withstanding a jump from a table was an optional extra! But proved to be no problem.
test, but to compare a driving test to a Hard Qigong Test would be like comparing an elephant to a mouse (well I suppose they both have four legs.) The first level of the Heavenly River Monastery Hard Qigong was the exact topic of the test. The first level is just to prepare the body for the more intensive later levels, and accordingly the demands of the test reflected this. However all of us had seen the pictures of sledgehammers smashing slabs on heads, or across the stomach whilst lying on a bed of blades, and no one even wanted to think about the rather large looking truck. So understandably everyone was a 'little' nervous.
The first part of the test was a simple performance of the basic eighteen movements. We all expected this and even the third part a simple strength test, to be not loo much of a problem. But it seemed no one knew what (he second part of the test held in store for us. All we had as a clues were the words on (he notice board "Dantien Test".
Everyone got through the first part okay. So then came the second part. Who would be first? Yes you guessed it! Your truly!
"Darryl swallow Qi!" came the order. When you are expecting the worst and someone gives you some good advice, naturally you take it. Needless to say I began to swallow as much Qi as I could. The sound someone makes when they swallow Qi is at the best of limes ralher strange but ihis time I really didn't care what I sounded like. In moments I had run out of time, and before I could gather my thoughts 1 am being thumped in the stomach just below my navel (this is where the Dantien is). At (he (¡me I remember looking around and thinking (his is not so bad. bui then (he blow began getting s(ronger and s(ronger and I had concentrate on keeping a solid stance so as no( to fall over! Then the dull
(huds stopped and I let ou( a sigh of relief. Just as a smile began (o develop...
"Lie down!" I looked around (o see my teacher standing on a chair pointing a finger in front of it at where I should lie. I looked at the others for some moral support. But they looked as if they didn't know whether to laugh or cry. So I just lay down and looked at my feet. They say that when in a life threatening situation your life flashes by in front of your eyes, well mine didn't. With no more time to think two feet landed on my stomach and bounced off. "Is that it I thought?" and luckily it was (for now any way). To be honest it was nothing. Relief washed over my body and I jumped up smiling at the oihers who but a few minutes earlier had offered me no support. I wouldn't say that revenge was mine but I did get to jump on every single one of them! Seriously though having done the training withstanding the jump had been so easy that I didn't give it a second thought.
Putting my best foot forwards I jumped on them one by one. At the end everyone had passed. In the excitement it was suggested that we should try the table next and no one objected, in fact they were all eager to test themselves further! Lying on the ground looking up at someone standing three feet above you who is about to jump on you should provoke some sort of reaction, but everyone seemed to know that this was also no problem, and it wasn't.
Having passed the test. I prepare myself for the wonders of the next level and tried to imagine what the next test has in store. Needless to say most of my thoughts revolved around the events of the day and I just had to tell someone. So I picked up the phone and called my big brother "I bet I've had a more interesting day than you" I said m
Northern Leg, Southern Fist: Is Wing Chun just a short distance fighting art?
Many people, especially in the martial arts press, like to categorise different skills into those that are suitable for short range fighting, and those that are suitable for long range fighting. They consider long range fighting to consist af big hand movements and jumping kicks, and short range fighting to ;onsist of short strikes, locks and Dossibly throws.
Wing Chun, with its direct hand •novements. short kicks and use of the :lbow. is considered by many to be i style suitable for short range Ighting. However. Wing Chun ilso contains a kick with a fully :xtended leg and finger strikes with a fully extended arm. Assuming you remain upright without leaning about, these techniques are the longest you could physically achieve with your body.
The analysis of styles into different distances I think is misleading. I don't doubt that techniques have a distance that is most appropriate for their application: naturally, your legs are longer than your arms, and your fingers hive a longer reach than you elbow. I don't think this is wrong, I just think it misses the point.
Much of Wing Chun training consists of sticking hands practice. Sticking hands deals with a lot of different things. According to my teacher's teacher. Yip Chun, sticking hands develops positioning, energy, sensitivity and hand technique. Although sticking hands does not focus on kicking, punching, locking or throwing, in different degrees these activities form part of actual sticking hands practice.
Unlike a lot of people think, sticking hands is not a form of kung-fu wrestling, although sometimes sticking hands can degrade into wrestling. Nor is sticking hands a form of sparing where you are trying to beat your opponent down, although if you get carried away you may lose some control and strike your opponent a little too hard. Sticking hands deals with what happens immediately before your opponent tries to punch you. kick you. lock you down or throw you.
Through sticking hands you leam how your position and your opponent's position affect one another. You also leam how to use your energy internally. From your position and the energy you become aware of what techniques are open to you and what techniques are available to your opponent.
The more you practice, the less your opponents should surprise you with what they do. You should be able to understand and anticipate how the situation changes. Because of the emphasis on understanding change, sticking hands concentrates on the area that lies between 'long range lighting' and 'short range fighting'.
What is the most interesting part of a light: is it the long range or the short range? I would say that the long range is not very interesting, since me and my opponent(s) are too far away to hit each other. Conversely, when I am very close to my opponent, things happen very quickly and if I am in a poor position already then it is often too late to change it. Therefore I would also say that the short range is not very interesting either.
When two people fight, the tight is often over very quickly. If we assume that you are closing in on me from a slight distance, then what I would consider to be important is the time during which we come logether. when one of us intends to perform some technique, when long range changes to short range.
When you grab me with the intention of locking my arm. when you pull my wrist with the intention of drawing me onto a strike, when you step forward with the intention of punching me. when you reach out with the intention of strangling me. when you push me to make me lose my balance so that you can follow up with a throw, this is the time when the energy changes the most, and when the outcome of the fight is detemiined. This is the time covered by sticking hands.
Wing Chun philosophy says that you should look for the centre. Most people interpret this in terms of the 'centre line theory'. Of course centre line theory is very important, but it only addresses one aspect of fighting. Every thing has a centre. In terms of distancing and range, the centre is the critical point at which you and your opponent become a threat to one another. Where this centre is and how you should catch it can be learned through sticking hands.
Since sticking hands is so important, you should try to get the most out of it as possible. There are many ways of playing sticking hands. When you watch people practising sticking hands, sometimes they will be standing far apart with their hands stretched out. just meeting. Other times they will be very close to each other and almost seem to be wrestling. However, most of the time they will have both hands engaged and be standing slightly apart.
When both hands are touching, your and your opponent are at a distance that is neither completely safe nor completely dangerous. It is at this distance that you have the widest scope to play and leam the most. Although this is how sticking hands is most often played, the other ways are also useful, and should be played as well in order to develop different skill —
(continued next issue)
Barehand and Weapons:
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