USA Student who has been studying with Rudy Ibarra and Pedro Martinez in NYC for 5 years and now travels yearly for three month sessions to China to also study with Grandmaster Lu Yaoqin.
I was in Guangzhou last week while I recovered from the jet lag. I had my first practice last night, good night too because everyone showed up.
Ray (Australian student), Josh, Zano, (both USA students) Will (Chinese student) and me. Will is much better as you can imagine. He said many nights he had private lessons with Shifu this summer.
The weather is still good, though it rained for the past 3 days so we couldn’t practice. I practiced without a tee shirt last night, not humid.
We did punching, Qian Da – Hou Da , then punching with the front kick while moving forward. Qian Fangshou – Hou Fangshou, Hit the rear sparring, Caitui Jijifa, Babugou and Yingyong Gun. Everyone was very friendly. Ray is living with Zano and his wife, they have an apartment near the river. Josh is much better, he’s been working the staff with Shifu, now it’s good, it was his worse form before. Ray has been back one month but last night was his 2nd practice. Shifu was happy I hadn’t lost much this time. But he did say my staff was worse now. Will does 6am morning practice with Josh on the roof of Josh’s apartment (which is near the Beijing duck restaurant in a huge new fancy shopping plaza which I think they were just starting to build when I was here last year). Everything is sore this morning!
Shifu, Will, Ray and me.
Every muscle is sore!
Punching – don’t drop your hands after the punch.
Then we did stepping with punching. Shifu wants us to keep the shoulders moving and in tun-shen during and while we are stepping between the sets of punches.
Ceti tui with punches, we did at least 10 min straight of lines of these. Pull the knee close to your chest then kick. Tun after the kick.
Qian Fangshou – Hou Fangshou – stationary with a partner. I really suck at this important exercise. He had us do it slow, then with person just doing the block and the other punching, then switching. Shifu wants much more shoulder involved in the punch, bigger motion of the block and bigger forward and back motion. Tun after the block, wind up and then come out with the punch. I don't know why this exercise feels so different from San Huan Quan.
Babu Gou – when you do the Pi movement at the end to block the opponents kick - really wind up with the a BIG Pi, then at the end of your PI strike make sure your are in nei-kou position, protecting the crotch.
Liu He quan – just ran thru it once at the end of the 1 hr and 20 min practice.
Will, Josh, Shifu and me, he brought his wife who did some Tai Ji and mostly watched us.
San Huan Quan – we only did this a short while , Shifu said I hadn’t lost much over the 3 months in the USA and when I heard him use the words “Hen Hao” I shook my head of course.
Qian Fangshou/Hou Fangshou – moving with a partner – first Shifu had me just blocking and Will and Josh doing the punching. Shifu told will and josh to pull their punches a few inches from my face. He told me to act as if I was in a real fight and block the punches accordingly. After a couple of mintues of watching us Shifu made these comments about blocking-when blocking don’t just use your hands, as I was doing. Also bigger movement with the blocking, use your head and shenfa to avoid the punch. He demonstrated the Shenfa body exercize, his whole torso, back, shoulders, arms, head were engaged in the movements. Shifu said there are three things to concentrate when you are blocking – the head movement, the shoulders/shenfa movement and the movement of the arms. Then Shifu had me throw punches and Josh/Will blocked. After this Shifu said nothing and walked away which of course is the worst comment he could have made. Then he asked why I wasn’t coming in at angles and moving while I was punching? He said this is what he’s been teaching for the past 3 months. I wasn’t there for the past 3 months so maybe he meant the last 3 months I was there. Shifu then gave a short lecture about this exercise and Ziranmen – he said you can’t think about offense until you have a good defense. He said the body/head/arms and footwork are what make Ziranmen special. He said you don’t have to block each of your opponent’s punches you can instead use your head and body movement to avoid the punch. Josh added to the conversation and said that having your arms in the correct position feels like a shield in front of you. Josh also mentioned that he and Will were watching some videos on the internet earlier in the day and they saw some sparring from a group who claimed they were practicing Ziranmen but Josh said they were only moving their hands/arms to block and throw punches. Not the whole body movement as we do.
Cai tui – when retreating don’t slide your front foot back, pick it up and put it down next to the back foot. Cai tui blocking – the blocking hand sweeps down in an arc to the inside of the front knee. Stay small.
Broadsword form – details: opening mvmt, in the left hand hold the Dao with the heel of your palm resting against the hilt and run your index finger down handle. Don’t grasp the hilt between the 2nd and 3rd fingers as I had been doing. X-legged stance - keep hips facing forward, feet in a straight line.
Empty hand/sword form – Shifu demonstrated the empty hand section of this form. Unbelievable the way he moves. So coordinated.
Zano (American student), Will, me and Shifu.
Shenfa body exercise.
Ceti Tui stepping with punches.
Qian Fangshou – Hou Fangshou
we worked on this for a long time, more body movement with the blocks. I'm still trying to block every punch and Shifu imitated my blocks demonstrating my quick little hand movements, he doesn't want that. He wants the shoulders, head, body, blocking arms and Lanbu (wave) stepping to be natural and smooth. Then what a treat! I got to to do Qian Fangshou – Hou Fangshou with Shifu! I was just blocking, he was throwing punches. then every now and again he would throw one with the distance that would have hit me, if I didn't move his punch out of the way with my hands/arms he'd pull it of course. He told me to use more force when blocking his punches, really push his arms away. Later when Zano and me were doing Qian Fangshou – Hou Fangshou he wanted us be more aggressive with the punching and blocking. He said even though he wants us to pull our punches a few inches from the face feel like you are in a fight. I don't do this well at all yet. He says I need to just practice more of the shenfa body movement with the blocks and stepping until it becomes more natural. Will's punches are excellent now, good shoulder movement, very fast and connected.
Broadsword form - more details.
Empty hand - sword form: still learning the movements of this form. It's a short form but you can put a lot of shenfa in it. Shifu demonstrated some of the stepping and jumps in the empty hand form. Amazing! Where is the video camera.
BTW- Shifu is going to Macau on 10-19 for a few days to visit his daughter.
Zano (came later), Ray, Will, me and Shifu
less than 1 hour practice tonight.
San huan quan - the same comments, more shoulder, etc.
San huan quan while stepping - while you are stepping make sure to tun and move torso, then the two punches (Ray does this nice)
Ceti tui with punches - bring leg back after you kick (Will's comment), make yourself small (I remember from last spring), faster punches (Will's comment)
Hou Fangshou - Qian Fangshou
Shifu gave critism/details on footwork and your attitude when defending. regarding: footwork - he imitated my wobbly stepping. Said not to cross my legs during stepping. He demonstrated correct footwork to the sides, backward and forward. regarding: blocking - after having me block Will and Ray he said your attitude during blocking should still be aggressive, i.e., you should be looking for openings while you are blocking and not always retreating with your stepping.
Broadsword form - Shifu gave some details, e.g., when high stirke with sword in gong bu twist your torso and hips more so sword has more extension and position the sword directly in front of you.
Empty hand/sword form - more details/practice. When emtpy hand blocking use your whole body to initiate and do the block. Shifu demonstrated the emtpy hand side of the form beautifully. Amazing coordination, speed and agility from this short thin man! e.g., the very end of the empty hand portion of the form, after you do the ankle grab you retreat, spin, kick and low pubu left punch, his spins are so agressive there is a real meaning to his spinning when he demonstrates this! It's to evade the opponent and immediately get into position for a strike or defense.
Ray, Josh, Will, me and Shifu.
We did Yingyong Gun (Staff) the whole night, nothing else.
He demonstrated key movements and lectured on the whole body movement in the form.
The first movement Pi, he said it was like you’re are throwing someone over your shoulder/back.
He had me feel how it would be to lift Josh. Noting that you can’t lift him with just your arms - you have to stick your butt out, use the back and shoulders and this is the movement he wants to Pi with the staff during the first move. He said that I am not familiar enough with the form yet, not meaning that I don't know the form but that I haven't discovered the secrets of putting shenfa into the movements making them stronger and more agile (i.e., paraphrasing Josh's translation). Ray is having the same problem of when he strikes, his staff ends up pointing down, Josh's staff is good. I showed Will the first few movements and told him he should get a staff. But he said he didn't like the staff and wants to get a broadsword. I told him Shifu has good reasons for us to learn the staff first but he then asked Ray which weapon he learned first and Ray said broadsword, so I said get both, who knows.
Zano, Ray, Josh, Will, Me and Shifu.
We practiced Yingyong Gun the whole practice again. Shifu was pleased with the progress we were making. Will translated and said Shifu said he would be teaching us Jiu Zhou Gun (Nine Province Staff) soon (maybe next week!). Shifu also said he has delayed his plans to visit his daughter until Nov. 21.
Shifu demonstrated various details in Yingyong Gun e.g., when you peak over your shoulder then strong Pi movement. He doesn't want a little peak over the shoulder, he wants a strong block, the same crouched tun position as I was doing, but a real block. He also demonstrated the Swai's - the power coming from the whole body movement.
Shifu also worked with Josh regarding: his Siliu Bu (40/60 stance). He said the "Josh foot" wasn't that bad if Josh paid attention to the back knee, he said, in fact the back knee being in nei kou position was of first importance. Will bought a staff and Ray picked it up for him today. Shifu was showing Will details of Yingyong Quan in the secondary practice area. Will said he noticed that if he practiced something hard over and over, Shifu would notice this and come and make corrections like he did today. Shifu told Will over the summer that he didn't need to pay anything for class. Shifu brings his wife to class most nights.
Just me, Zano and Shifu, Light rain so practice area was wet.
Before Zano showed up Shifu had me do some San Huan Quan while moving.
Shifu didn't like my footwork and showed me (again!) never to cross the feet and instead showed correct stepping so you will always be in position with your center facing the opponent. He kept his back knee always pointed in toward the other knee in a protected nei kou position. Zano showed up and then for the rest of the session Shifu had Zano and me doing Qian Fangshou – Hou Fangshou while moving. I need to cover up and tun-shen more.
I asked Shifu why he wants me to have a bigger blocking motion if Zano's blocking and covering up movements are so small just covering his head - Shifu said this was interesting because Zano' s blocks appear small to me because I am only looking at his hands, while in reality, his movements are big - Zano's blocks with his hands are originating from the movement of his back, shoulders, arms and also the tun/tu of his chest!
Zano, Josh, Will, me and Shifu
(Zano brought a girl who wants to learn Tai Ji, Josh will go to Hong Kong tomorrow and come back the following day because he needs to get his visa renewed)
San Huan Quan - my stance is too high, Shifu wants me lower and to sometimes to block by crouching down to my knees while covering my head, but in doing this movement not to stop the shenfa and while still moving come up and be in position to continue the blocking/punching.
Shifu wants us in a lower position because he says besides reducing the area for your opponent to hit, the shenfa is much easier to come out in this position.
Ceti tui with stepping and punching.
Caitui two man exercise - lower, my position is too high. I remembered to not slide the front foot back to meet the back foot but instead pick the front foot up and put it down next to the back foot.
Qian Fangshou – Hou Fangshou two man exercise with free movement - I need to cover my whole head more and Shifu lectured - stay lower, chen (sink, root) and in tun, this way you will be ready to move and keep the shenfa moving - it doesn't matter what the opponent throws - you can block it or the block can become a strike.
I asked Shifu why my punches feel more comfortable in doing the San Huan Quan exercise but not in the two man Qian Fangshou – Hou Fangshou exercise where the two partners are throwing punches and you are close to each other. He said, and demonstrated, it's actually easier and quicker when you have to throw the short punch. It all comes from the shoulder roll and that is what I still have to get.
Yingyong Gun - Shifu had us do the form as a group and then one-by-one. He made no corrections and wanted to see where our level was in this form. We must have passed his minimum requirements because he then announced we will now learn Jiu Zhou Gun – Nine Province Staff. Shifu then demonstrated the first two moves of that form. He showed us the opening movement and the next movement a number of times and said that is all of the form we will learn tonight. Josh got into a discussion with Shifu about Shenfa, about how he had discovered rolling of the back/shoulders this past summer. Shifu said this was something that I haven't found yet and that this movement is very important. Once we put this Shenfa into the forms your level will make a great leap and EVERYTHING will be better - punches, forms, fighting.
Ray, Zano, Will, me and Shifu.
San Huan quan - 3 punches, Shifu said I haven't caught the point yet if my 3 punches are so different from my 2 punches.
Stepping forward exercise with 4 strikes - 1) front hand (fingers) strike, 2) ceti tui, 3+4) two punches.
Qian Fangshou – Hou Fangshou.
Jiu Zhou Gun- Shifu showed us the next two moves.
Ray, Will, me and Shifu.
San Huan quan - 4 punches more shoulder, connect shoulder movement.
Qian Fangshou – Hou Fangshou - me just blocking, Will throwing punches
hit the pigu with ray - not too many comments by Shifu, he said I'm getting a little better coordinating the hands and footwork.
Broadsword form - empty hand details on the jumping/spinning movement that prepares for the block of the sword. Shifu is so light on his feet!
Bare hand verses Broadsword -
Jiu Zhou Gun - Shifu went over the same first 4 moves as last night, more details on the 3 and 4th move. More shenfa when winding up for Pi strike.
Josh, Will, me and Shifu
. I’m trying to record some of Shifu’s lectures on my little digital recorder. The recorder works pretty good even when in my pocket, I talked about it with Josh and we will ask Shifu about getting his permission to use the recorder. Josh agreed that Shifu probably won’t have a problem with it, Angelo has some recordings of Shifu which he said he would send to Josh but hasn’t so far.
San Huan Quan – 3 punches. More linking of the three punches and faster. Punch has to come from the shoulder first. Shifu demonstrated his punching beautifully. He has such a nice recoil with so much shenfa, which sets him up for the next (opposite) punch.
Practiced Front jab to the opponent’s eyes with front step, Ceti tui, then two punches. Did many of these. Shifu said the hand strike could be fake or real, if it’s fake it will distract the opponent when the kick comes, if the jab works, ok, if not, you have the next strike ready, then the two punches to follow up.
Ceti Tui block. The one where one partner kicks and the other is stationary and blocks the kick to the side and then up. Shifu wants us to move in when you go to block so you get more advantage on your opponent. This is very difficult. I’m still learning the first step, to block correctly. Shifu want me to have a bigger motion when blocking – the blocking elbow is up and your forearm and hand sweep down (pointing to the ground) . Your forearm is perpendicular to the upper arm (which is pretty much parallel to the ground).
Yingyong Gun – Shifu has us run through this form a couple times a day while we learn Jiu Zhou Gun. He said if we don’t do Yingyong Gun correctly then we won’t be able to do the Nine Province Staff correctly.
Jiu Zhou Gun – Shifu showed us the next two moves. In all the movements he wants much more shenfa. Also the position of the hands on staff have to move, e.g., when you strike sometimes you have to bring more staff to the front and some of the power of the strike comes from that. We know 5 movements in the form. But the last two movements can be broken down into 2 and 3 movement themselves.
Zano, me and Shifu.
San Huan Quan
Qian Fangshou – Hou Fangshou.
Lynn (Chinese student), Will, Josh, Zano, me and Shifu.
San Huan quan.
Kong Shou Duo Dao.
Jiu Zhou Gun - two new movements.
Sunday, rain. Zano, Will, me and Shifu – short class.
San Huan quan.
Qian Fangshou – Hou Fangshou.
Ceti tui - Gou Fangshou – catch leg.
Kong Shou Duo Dao (once).
Yingyong Gun (once).
Jiu Zhou Gun - two new movements.
Ray, Josh, Will, me and Shifu.
San Huan quan.
Hou shou - Fang shou,
one person blocking the other throwing punches.
He wants real intention from both people.
He wants you to target your punches and really go in like you are in a real fight. The defender is just blocking so you can get an opportunity to punch.
He wants the footwork and the hands to be coordinated.
He wants the attacker (punching) to sometimes move in and throw a flurry of punches so all the defender see is punches coming at him.
Shifu held one hand up and had each of us to punch at it while he moved so you would have to move (move correctly) and target your punches.
Ceti tui blocks - one person steps and kicks to the opponents chest and the other person does a BIG block (forearm perpendicular to the ground) while also using the body method to move the block, push out the opponents kick and get under it. Remember to move forward a little when you actually touch the opponents kicking leg. The defender should NEVER move back or to the side.
Yingyong Gun - twice, more body in the high and low sweeps with the staff. note: you must move your weight from leg to leg when doing this sweeping strikes with the staff.
Nine Province Staff - went over newest movements.
After class Hau Pin (older Chinese kungfu brother) asked me and Ray to show him our Nei Quan Shou (internal exercise). He said both of us had our feet stepping a little too early.
He also said you have to do Nei Quan Shou with intention, we didn’t seem to have the concentration and our eyes weren’t focused on anything while we were doing the exercise. Then Hau Pin said the same intention, opening of the eyes and coordination has to be present in our fighting as well.
Josh, Zano, me and Shifu. Liang Quan – Liang Fangshou. Caitui Jijifa. Qian Fangshou – Hou Fangshou, Zano defended, Josh and I alternated punching at each other and at Zano. Shifu says that we should be able to block the opponents both punches with just the back hand.
He demonstrated how he makes himself a small target and covers his whole face with that back hand. Josh kept getting hit on the top of his head and he asked Shifu about this. Shifu demonstrated the subtle raising movement of the back hand which allows you to cover the whole head. Josh and me asked Shifu how you can see if the back hand is so high as to block the top of your head. Shifu said you can look a little through the fingers but also the head is moving.
I asked Shifu about Pedro's punching power which he has trained for years, one punch, that will go through an opponents block. It doesn't matter how they block according to Pedro. Shifu says this is not a problem becuase he is not going to stand there and take a full blow, he will both block and evade this punch.
I asked Shifu when we do our moving qian fangshou - hou fangshou why don't we stay in the Yudi chelun fa position - your hands in a line you are low and nei kou, etc. - Shifu said you are in Yudi chelun fa when you are atacking, in the defense position he said it's a little different. When doing the blocking in Qian fangshou/Hou fangshou exersize your blocking movement is bigger than you would do in Yudi chelun fa. In a real fight you may do this bigger blocking (defensive) movement, for example, when you'd like to study the opponent movements and not throwing punches, in this situation you'd want to be in this defensive position.
I also asked Shifu his opinion on something from "The Making of a Butterfly" book. The author's teacher recommends mediating every day to train to empty the mind because he says when you are in a fight you need your mind empty so you don't need to think and just react to the situation. He recommends meditating everyday to achive this training. Shifu disagrees. Shifu says meditation is a different frame of mind, where the body is static - you achieve stillness through stillness. We in Ziranmen instead practice Nei Quan Shou (Inner Circling Hand), in which you are also practicing a Qi Gong but you are moving while very importantly also practicing intention! The eyes are open and focused. You achieve stillness through movement. Ying Yong Gun - did it a couple of times. Jiu Zhou Gun - Shifu showed us the next few moves.
Just me and Shifu (2 hours!)
Punching - step and jab , then two punches
open elbows, use shoulder
stay in tun shen, twist more and sink when in Yudi chelun fa. He was really emphasizing the correct fighting position, sink chin a little, back shoulder down,
ceti tui with punches
high knee first before kick, he wants the kick and punches faster and to move forward more, Shifu demonstrated his ceti tui - a thing of beauty- the movement is so natural and fast. looks like a punch!
lower, more stable in low positions
roll more should on rooster leg movement
Liu He Quan
last movements when you are stepping back - step back bigger and go in to Gong bu
Jiu Zhou Gun - details on last nights movements
nunchuck form. bigger movements and cover more ground when doing the big strike