Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gather Step/Ci Attack and Walking the Circle

We tried three new techniques in jian practice today that begin to open up our footwork and give us movement during the fight.

First, we practiced adding footwork by using the gather-step/Ci technique. When standing at the ready, roll your weight forward onto your front foot, bring your rear foot up to where your front foot is, then place your rear foot down and step forward into a lunge with your front foot while executing the double-handed Ci strike. This is basically the inverse-advance-lunge from fencing but with a more powerful thrust.

To counter this, we tried two techniques from the Yang form.

The first counter is to shuffle sideways and then execute the Little Dipper. When the opponent lunges at you as in the move above, going deeply enough so that a simple yield will not suffice, shuffle step left by steping first with your rear leg and then by bringing your right leg in to step down next to your left. While doing this, gather your sword arm to you by using Dai. When the opponent's attack has missed wide, step forward onto your right foot then your left while sweeping the blade back, down then up to cut into the opponent's extended arm, 45 degrees to his line of attack. This is equivalent to move six of the Yang form: Little Dipper.

The second counter starts the same way as the previous one with a quick shuffle to the left with a gathering of the stance and sword. Beginning with the right foot, walk a circle clockwise around your opponent while thrusting into your opponent's body with your blade, palm up, blade flat, and tip turned slightly to the right to dig into your opponent's body as you circle. This move is similar to walking the circle in Bagua, and is much like move 11 of the Yang Form: Wasp Enters the Hive.

When you've practiced, you can step left and instead of bringing your right foot to your left and stopping there, just swing the right foot in a crescent, in toward your left but then immediately forward to conduct either of the two counters listed here in one flowing movement.

Personal Note: I got to spar Stephen using his home-made basket hilt longswords(?). He fought using one handed German techniques while I tried to stay within my Jian techniques. I found the use of distance and height sensibilities quite workable in the duel, and discovered the circle walking to be extremely effective. There were a number of times I traded hits, where I scored a body hit while blocking a cut with my left arm. Without a shield device in a real match, I may have lost my hand, but if I had a battle scabbard... maybe not!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

State of the Art: October 2007

My! It's been a long time since I've posted. Well, the summer has been good to us, and while there was a lot of disruptions due to vacations and such, we have formed a nucleus of fighting skills around the Gim. Using the Pi and Dian strikes, footwork, stance work, and the Ge, Dai, and Jiao counters, we've created a compelling fighting framework.

We can now engage in a complete sword match with minimal to no contact between the blades. Attacks are answered by yielding and striking directly to the opponent, allowing their extension to expose them to your counter attack.

Here is the warmup:

- Forward and back drill: take turns thrusting or cutting to your partner's head. Move your weight to the front leg when you attack. When being attacked, roll your weight onto your back leg to yield from the attack, but do not lift your feet if possible.

- High-Low: begin same as forward back, but add cuts to the knees. When you sense a cut coming to your leg, lift into a hanging stance; bring your knee to waist level and tuck your foot back by touching the ball of your raised foot to the thigh or knee of your standing leg.

- Practice these drills while keeping your blade in front of you. Allow your blade to float above or below theirs in the opposite direction of their attack so you can avoid binding against their blade while maintaining your opportunity to attack.

- Practice these drills with Jiao counters to the opponent's wrist.

- Add in Pi strikes toward the hands. When a Pi strike comes toward your hand, instead of yielding the body, use Dai to roll the hand away from attack, keeping your point toward your partner.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Obstruct and Sweep

I'm going to add this to our basic training as the Tai Chi equivalents of parry 4 and parry 5 in western sabre (high inside and outside). What's nice about this motion is the automatic step and riposte.

The question that is buggis me is if you block left and then step and cut right, you're leaving the opponent's blade behind, right? Why the when you block right and step and cut left is there a high block with the guard hand?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Added links to Tai Chi videos

I didn't know TT Liang had such excellent English!

I was surfing through YouTube and found some decent videos of old Chinese masters doing Tai Chi or Tai Chi sword. They're historically interesting even if there turns out to not be much we can learn from their sword clippings. Check out the right-hand margin for the links.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Training Drills

Here is a summary of what we trained last weekend and what we hope to use as the foundation of core drills going forward. The names of the drills are not canonical, they're just my descriptions.
  1. Exchanges (fixed step) - each person takes turns attacking the opponent's head or shoulders. Avoid getting hit by rocking backwards on your stance. Do not step or touch swords. After avoiding an attack, riposte at your opponent's head or shoulders. Keep your balance. Do not lean or duck.
  2. Exchanges - with lifting
  3. Exchanges (following step)
  4. Big Dipper/Swallow Skims the Water drill
  5. Sword catching (four corners) - trade attacks to each ear and each hip/knee. When an attack comes, catch in the cavity of the forte and guard, then riposte with a cut or a thrust.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Yield and Attack

--> In Swallow Skims the Water, what if what you're doing is ducking away from an attack and then swooping in behind their passing hand and pushing it back while striking? That seems like a more "tai chi" way to react to an attack than coiling and pouncing with high block and cut to the ribs.

Open vs. Closed

One of the differences I notice between the boxing and kung fu I practice is the difference between open vs. closed. A right-handed boxer will stand with their left shoulder opposite his opponent's right shoulder or maybe opposite their opponent's head. If both boxers were to fire the same punch at the same time at eachother's faces, both would get hit in the face. If a kung fu fighter is standing left-hand lead, they would stand with their left shoulder opposite the left shoulder of their opponent. If the two fighters launch attacks at each-other's faces, their arms would clash in the space between the two fighters and both attacks would be deflected.

In modern foil fencing, the same is true as for western boxing: the fencer stands squared off with their opponent, inviting an attack to their heart.

What is the natural stance for Gim? Passing blades (open) as in boxing, or crossed blades (closed) as in kung fu? I'm beginning to believe it's a crossed blade system based on asymmetries in the tai chi and wudan sword forms I've been seeing.