If you tremble with indignation at every incarnation,
then you are a comrade of mine.
- Tabby Cat (with apologies to El Che)
Here's another good example, also from the life of Musashi, that shows precisely how a kuzushi meetup should be conducted. The story also illustrates the usual ignorant reaction of onlookers of such a session. This was a match conducted towards the end of Musashi's "meetup" period - a long series of duels, where initially he'd always killed his opponent, but by the age of thirty he'd evolved to the point that he didn't care to finish them off with a stroke as he'd done in his earlier years.
In 1628, the same year that Takuan was punished in the Purple Robe Affiar, Musashi was at Nagoya Castle in the province of Owari at the request of Tokugawa Yoshinao, Ieyasu's seventh son and the daimyo of that fief. Asked to give a demonstration of his sword style, Musashi had a match with a skilled martial artist of what was now called the Owari clan. Musashi used two wooden swords and, scissoring the sword of his opponent, kept him from performing any meaninfgul action at all. Without harming the man he led him in a circle around the dojo and commented, "This is how a match should be conducted," demonstrating that with his style there was no need for injury. Yoshinao had been looking for something a bit more dramatic from the man who had defeated the Demon of the Western Provinces however, and showed no further interest in Musashi's style.
Next month I'll be working with my publisher in Japan on a Tai Chi DVD. Tai Chi is actually very big in Japan, there are said to be 1 million pratitioners. My two books over there have done well. Now it's time for a DVD that shows some of the Zheng poses (from my Peng book) but I'll be covering our unique approach to push hands also.
When it comes to push hands, most schools of Tai Chi are interested in any of the following: patterns, choeography, demonstration moves against passive students, moving step ballroom dance, use of strength, use of combative or wrestling technique, or other such excellent points of emphasis. While all that is really good and I don't mean to disparage it, I think there is room for one small corner of the universe where we work on training the free response attribute of our energy.
And even though Miyamoto Musashi was famous for killing his opponents in his early duels, in later duels he merely allowed them to wear themselves out, playing with them as the ferocisouly attemted to break his defense. He toyed with them without hurting them. So of course in push hands we never want to hurt anybody (or get hurt!)
Here's an example of how in his later matches, Musashi merely toyed with his opponents, simply neutralizing them continuously, hoping they'd get the message. (But of course nowadays when you do like this with certain people, they interpret it as weakness and jump on the net and start bleating that you suck and how they could have ripped your throat out at any moment AHAHAHA)
From 'The Life of Miyamoto Musashi' by William Scott Wilson
The two faced off at a distance of about seven feet. Finally, Musashi slowly backed up to the corner at the doorway. Gunbei also graudally backed up and took a stance at the sliding paper door to the veranda. Suddenly Musashi combined his swords into a gassho position and advanced toward Gunbei. Gunbei raised his sword over his head in the jodan position, advanced and struck straight downward. Musashi separated his two swords and evaded Gunbei's blow. Combining his swords again and restraining Gunbei's attack, Musashi took a step backward. Gunbei swung his sword free from this restraint, and with a sort of leap, struck agian. Musashi repeated his own maneuver, once again restraining Gunbei's sword and backing away. This action was reepated a number of times until Musashi had his back to the wall and appeared to be stuck. This time Gunbei pointed his sword direclty at Musashi in the chudan position and, sure of his victory, stabbed forward with both hands on the hilt. Musashi yelled, "Watch yourself?", parried Gunbei with the short tachi he held in his left hand, and lightly slashed the man's cheek with the tachi he held in his right hand. Gunbei fell on the spot and his shcoked companions ran up to him. Musashi calmly brought in some medicine and a strip of cotton cloth, and applied them to Gunbei's wound. Later, Gunbei blowed to Musashi as a teacher, and held him in deep respect.
But I still think there is something to be learned for Tai Chi from some of Musashi's teaching about freedom and the approach to conflict. It's not a direct correlation, please don't go all batshit on me about how this sword killing stuff has nothing to do with Tai Chi blab blab blab. Of course that's true but gimmie a fucking break, this is just free association.
If you've read my other stuff about push hands you'll kind of see how this dovetails with that attribute-over-technique emphasis.
Just enjoy these quotations I've culled from the somewhat arcane Book of Five Rings for what they are, martial arts entertainment that suggests some ideas about freedom and mentality that may or may not drift through your mind the next time you train push hands. I'll be using some of these original texts to cite in my Japanese DVD, to connect with that audience. For the DVD citations obviously I won't need the translations given here. I just cobbled translation together from a bunch of sources and some are my own too.
Enjoy or move on, it won't matter either way.
We take water as our model. Water naturally fits any vessel. It can be a droplet or an ocean.
Having attained the principles, you leave them. For in the way of the martial arts there is a natural freedom; you naturally gain an extraordinary strength, you know the rhythm of the moment, you strike naturally, and you hit naturally.
This is the principle in which there is, and is not, a stance. At its heart, this is thirst taking up the sword and then cutting down your opponent, no matter what id done or how it happens. Whether you parry, slap, strike, hold back, or touch your opponents' cutting sword, you must understand that all of these are opportunities to cut him down. To think, "I'll parry" or "I'll slap" or "I'll hit, hold or touch" will be insufficient for cutting him down. It is essential to think that anything at all is an opportunity to cut him down.
Generally speaking, stiffness is to be avoided, in both sword and hands. Stiffness leads to death. A living hand is flexible.
When you opponent is going to use some technique on you, it is important that you let him do it if it's a useless one. But, if his action is functional, suppress it and keep him from completing it.
Suppress what your opponent might think of doing even before the first letter of the word could be pronounced.
In all things, when your opponent sets up a tactic, respond to it immediately according t is own principles and stepping on his actions, defeat him.
It does not mean attacking at the same time as your opponent. Stepping on the sword is taking your action immediately upon your opponent's action.
In this method, when the enemy attacks and you also decide to attack, your body and mind turn into a single striking movement and your hands strike out of the Void naturally, swiftly and strongly. This is the "No Design, No Conception" cut. This is the most important method of hitting. It is often used. You must train hard to understand it.
The Chinese Monkey's Body [short-armed monkey] is the spirit of not stretching out your arms. The spirit is to get in quickly, without in the least extending your arms, before the enemy cuts. If you are intent upon not stretching out your arms you are effectively far away, the spirit is to go in with your whole body. When you come to within arm's reach it becomes easy to move your body in. You must research this well.
[Scott Note: This Chinese Monkey body (above) is what I'm trying to show in my demo video's where I have my hands tied to my sides with the Karate belt.]
When the enemy attacks and you also attack with the long sword, you should go in with a sticky feeling and fix your long sword against the enemy's as you receive his cut. The spirit of stickiness is not hitting very strongly, but hitting so that the long swords do not separate easily. It is best to approach as calmly as possible when hitting the enemy's long sword with stickiness. The difference between "Stickiness" and "Entanglement" is that stickiness is firm and entanglement is weak.
When you have come to grips and are striving together with the enemy, and you realize that you cannot advance, you "soak in" and become one with the enemy. You can win by applying a suitable technique while you are mutually entangled.
When you have mastered the Way of strategy, you can suddenly make your body like a rock, and ten thousand things cannot touch you. This is the body of a rock [Iwao no Mi]. You will not be moved.
If you rely on strength, when you hit the enemy's sword you will inevitably hit too hard. If you do this, your own sword will be carried along as a result. Thus the saying, "The strongest hand wins", has no meaning.
Speed is not part of the true Way of strategy. Speed implies that things seem fast or slow, according to whether or not they are in rhythm. Whatever the Way, the master of strategy does not appear fast.
WOW people are really starting to get it, from the email feedback I'm receiving.
But ya know... I'm making this too easy. All my stuff is too simple. I should be larding it up with midnight pancreatic retroangulation meditations or something. I'm just laying all this out in my cheapo cheesy books, or mainly for free actually. I'm stupid.
Cause a year or so from now everybody's gonna be like:
ZAP? SURGE? STREAM? STATE? fuck yeah, that's mere kindergarten stuff, I get all that just from snapping my fingers.
And then the full weight of Arthur Schopenhauer's famous line is gonna hit me like a ton of bricks:
All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
Once you have some experience with, and harvest from, the sword protocol (video), you can have a lot of fun taking the Surge/Stream-from-Feet thing into your Tai Chi. There must be a hundred tricks I could show you for that (next book?? ARRRGH@@!)
But just as one small example, you can use Single Whip, one of the fundamental 7 poses illustrated in Tai Chi Peng Root Power Rising. Do it relaxed (not collapsed, not tense) blah blah blab just everythintg say in the books, basically do it like the girl here.
Let's consider your right hand. The little crane beak shape requires that you are softly touching all the fingerpads together. Don't cheat and leave some out of the circle! That gives us our workspace.
Now you bring the Surge/Stream up from the feet, and at the last minute as it flows out to your hands, you apply the idea of the Da Dao protocol from Xingyi: that is, you very slightly squeeze your fingertips together (without changing hand shape). It really isn't a physical squeeze at all. I shouldn't even use that word because everybody will get even more physically tense now than they already are. It's issuing the neural command to squeeze, maybe with just a 1% increase in the skin on skin contact plane.
You can time it with the full body upsurge/upstream thing, or even if you don't have the linkage from your feet, just take a correct Single Whip, relax into the pose for a minute, then just try neurally pressing your fingertips, alternating with backoff, just as in the DD protocol, without even worrying about any full body thing. (You'll also feel the surge in your other hand, even as you work the crane/right hand).
I warn you if you haven't done the DD protocol and you haven't had the experience from that, this work will mean nothing. So you might want to save this post for another day. In any case, try this with or without the full micro-reactivation thing (feel free to work this with just the basic simple static zhan zhuang standing version of Single Whip). You'll eventually feel the most incredible pulse of soft wave energy through that crane beak arm, forearm, wrist - straight into the fingers.
All this training is merely to teach you to keep totally full hands, forearms, and arms, through all movements, all speeds, and all shapes. That's the long term martial-artsy attribute goal of all this.
1. I know what some casual viewers are thinking after that: I know how to hold a sword already (from my previous [FILL IN THE BLANK]... I know cutting practice... nothing to see here. AHAHA! Your loss. This looks simple and it's subtle at first (like a California Sequoia seedling) but the effect is really cosmic if you get it. Anyway as I've said it isn't really a sword practice anyway, it has nothing to do with swordsmanship, it's a pure energy protocol. But hey - move right along, you aren't needed here.
2. The closest stand in for the yang implement of this practice, if you don't have or can't get an actual Chinese style da dao as depicted, is just hop online with search term suburito and just order one of those, that'll be the closest thing. For the yin implement just use a half length bokken.
3. I couldn't get into too much depth in the (semi) short vid, but I want to make sure the double meaning (appropriate) of the term liang yi (two powers) in the name is crystal clear. The meaning is also double, referring to the two special features of this training. First is the alternating left/right gripping sequence, before appplying the unified focus. That's an extremely important feature of this protocol. So left and right are two powers. Then the second meaning is, the use of the two implements, one heavy and one light. The integration of those two kinds of alternation (along with the other features typical of all the sensitivity work in this system) are what will blow you into the 10th dimension if you work this with any reasonable diligence, as specified in the video.
4. Once you have seriously tried this, as specified (don't mess around with your own versions until you've really understood it as given then of course, as ever: be free, be water) you can return to Santishi and then you'll begin to understand why I never boost up Santishi as a beginner practice as much as many other Xingyi instructors do. Santishi in my mind is an advanced practice, much better suited to more mature stage when you've truly begun to understand the Surge and Stream effects for yourself, not cause somebody told you what it is. Once you've gotten a good taste of those internal powers (and whatever taste you've had so far, there's an infinitely greater mass of that power out there waiting) then you can return to Santishi for a hugely augmented experience and eyes-wide-open understanding. Here's exactly how you'd do it. Take a decent relaxed but focused Santshi stance as presented in the Xing Yi Quan DVD. Then, use exactly the protocol given for the sword gripping in the above video, except in this case it is simply a very slight feeling of forward push of the palm(s) and fingers (instead of the grip thing). Just as with the sword protocol, it's little more than nerve activation. FRONT 'strong', BACK 'strong', BOTH 'strong', BACKOFF, finally BOTH 'strong' and then - WHAMMO feel the Surge and the Stream. Then you'll understand why Santishi is made into such a big deal by the old time guys .... (I bet you've been secretly wondering for years, but were too intimidated to ask any real teacher of Xingyi... it's ok though, now you've got the answer from an indie source - me :) But this is why Santishi is actually an advanced practice. Because you can stand for hours every day for years and get very little harvest. But if you've understood (through actually a fairly shorr period with the other features of this Xingyi and now the sword protocol) how to generate the Surge and Stream into your hands at will, then you do it in Santishi and it's going to be like HOLY FUCK. You'll find it interesting. But I hope you begin to see why I seem to downplay the normal role of Santishi as a beginner thing - it really isn't.
5. Then go back some time, when you've really experienced the effects of this sword protocol, and work the 7 micro-expansion (zhang zhuang) poses in the Peng book. You'll be flabergasted. The current readers of the Peng book aren't truly in a position yet to appreciate the full power of that method (sorry! But if you aren't into this Xingyi stuff, don't worry - it'll work fine stand alone eventually.)
I saw the Goddess in human form, live tonight in Seattle. Deva Premal sang this HARI OM TAT SAT
Why should I stay in this dirty world when Her voice promises something so beautiful beyond it?
The highlights of the evening were
(1) Deva singing the HARI OM TAT SAT (partial audio of studio version in clip below), then later (2) she did a Sufi chant that was totally beyond space and time!! Oh my god(DESS)! Then at the end (3) Manose did a blowout Hindu chant MOKSHA! (LIBERATION!)
Do you people know 3D graphical modeling? If so, I can make an analogy.
In this latter day age, people have just been copying gestures, moves, and outer or physicalized structures of nei jia quan. That's like importing a rigged 3D model into your graphics package, but bringing it in as an exchange format such as .obj or .3ds, which are unable to carry over any animation or rigging information! You'll get the appearance, but as 2D flat image. That's what has happened to most of the internal arts. The internal rigging had got lost in the translation!
So that's what I modestly feel is the contribution of Juice, Peng, and RXE: export of models that were inherently/originally properly rigged via a full exchange format (such as FBX) that carries over the rigging info, for proper functioning.
(Just having fun here people)
The above is not a perfect analogy, because after all, the actual use and intent of rigging a model is to allow for PHYSICAL modeling, to achieve a correct APPEARANCE. That's why it's an analogy, not an identity. But it works in the sense that one format preserves only surface info, while the other format carries over deeper stuff.
I presented the first two stages of training BQ on my DVD (Xing Yi Quan) and in the accompanying book RXE. Those are as follows:
1. As you complete the step, the straight, flat forward punch finishes, using the top two knuckles of the standing fist. Feel the simulateous sharp energy zap.
2. Just immediately upon completion of the step and the punch as above, just for a fraction of second, upturn the fist to coordinate the follow-on energy surge from the power foot to the fist. Then continue right along with next rep. This is the shen jing mnode for BQ.
So those are described and shown in the DVD and book. To get anything out of modes 1 and 2 above, of course you need to fully embody the pre-requisistes of empty shoulders, soft but shaped fist and all that which I spent whole chapters on in RXE and won't repeat here.
It takes time to drop the habitual tension that BQ seems to bring out in people (possibly because it involves a fist and a stomp or other unconscious triggers of agression). Anyway you have to work modes 1 and 2 extensively to get even the remotest glean of what I'm talking about. Otherwise you'll just dismiss the teaching as This asshole doesn't even know how to throw a fucking straight punch. It isn't that I don't know how to throw a fucking straight punch, rather it's that I'm trying to convey something radically different here.
Now, suppose you did get some understanding of modes 1 and 2 up there, you do have some bare inkling of what I'm saying. Then at some point, you can transiton to mode 3 below. I'm writing this up for my new forthcoming book Animal Strike Power and Advanced Xingyi Energetics. I'll test drive the explanation here first.
3. This is identical to mode 2 above in every way except a very slight shift in timing. The idea here is extremely simple: You simply do that final upturn with the finish of the strike. So that everything ends all together, all at once, with no follow-on, no post-stomp movement. Just one thing BANG and on to the next rep.
Begin with the idea of that you'll strike with the top standing knuckles as in mode 1, but at the last minute, so to speak, scoop up slightly so that you'd actually hit with the mode 2 upturn thing.
Thus, timing wise, it will be the same as mode 1. The difference is that in just the final 5% of the trajectory, the last few centimeters of the punch, you do that slight knuckle upturn as in mode 2. Basically combining the two modes.
In this mode 3, you're just doing that upturn with the final few milliseconds of the punch instead of as an after-burn thing as it was in mode 2. That's the only outward difference. So on every strike, you finish all at once, with no follow-on, in roughly the same slightly 'scooped' gesture depicted in the famous internet BQ shot at the top of this post. Don't over do it! It's just a scoop of the fist, don't turn the punch into an uppercut or shovel hook. It's exactly the same gesture as in mode 2 - only that it's shifted forward slightly in time. And just because the timeline is a little compressed, do not re-introduce all the upper body tension we worked so hard to drop while focusing on modes 1 and 2. It's really exactly the same thing as those modes. The only reason I call it advanced is that if you begin this way, without ever having worked modes 1 and 2, you will get absolutely nothing from it whatsoever, and you'll just end up dumping on my stuff like all the other mouth-breathing morons out there. We wouldn't want that would we.
But if you can grasp what I'm saying here, this mode will finally slam you like a ton of bricks: Oh THAT'S why these guys keep saying beng quan is the acme of the thing.
Even with my long-winded thing yesterday about the types of waves, even with all that blabitty blah blah still of course there are some nuances that didn't quite fit in that analysis but are also part of the gamespace.
One thing that doesn't totally fit in the hard vs. soft wave dichotomy are the ideas of stream and state. Fortunately the main metaphor for all this stuff, which is water, stretches to accomodate everything.
Water, as I've said umpteen million times in all my books, has a variety of conditions. Static like a lake, waves (breaking or swell) like an ocean, streaming in a current like a river, even ice and vapor - all these water modes have analogues in the internal power training.
The idea of 'state' forms the bookends at both ends of the Wave phenomena, STATE 1 to STATE 2, with SURGE 1 and SURGE 2 sandwiched in between. STATE 1 is basically what I called the fully activated body in Juice. It's barely beyond the BRUTE Qi thing, but it is a coherence of your full body energy aura. Subtle but definite. That's the precursor to beginning to feel the hard wave for the first time. Then the cool thing is that, as you go through experiencing the Hard Waves and Soft Waves, they are experiences in themselves, but also - here's the key point - every time those waves go through you, it strengthens your overall energy body aura (or whatever the right word might be).
So in other words, by training the waves, you are not only learning to strengthen and control the wave energies as such, but you're also building up a kind of persistent full-body or full-aura energy charge that becomes your daily state, outside of training and experiencing the waves.
I think of it as analogous to pulse electroplating. That's where you run a current through a material component to bind chemical elements into or onto it, for greater strength, brighter shine, or other desirable properties.
It's defined as follows:
A simple modification in the electroplating process is pulse electroplating. This process involves the swift alternating of the potential or current between two different values resulting in a series of pulses of equal amplitude, duration and polarity, separated by zero current. By changing the pulse amplitude and width, it is possible to change the deposited film's composition and thickness.
So in other words, this wave training stuff is not only something in and of itself, it also has the long-term effect of electroplating your aura, so that your persistent daily state changes over time.
Now, in addition, please remember this: whenever you read me talking about 'waves', I am never talking about the usual common physical interpretation of that, which you see all over the place these days. With chan si gong and so-called ballistic striking and many other variants of the idea, people have (as expected) dumbed down the wave concept to refer to basic sequential joint mobility and kinetic propagation.
Yes, that could be something in athlethics, maybe tennis or whatever. Fine. I don't care. The point is, that's not what I am talking about! If you haven't felt the energy, you'll easily persuade yourself into thinking that all this discussion of waves is little more than the usual joint rotation warmup sequences that everybody pushes these days. Nothing wrong with those things, but what I'm talking about has absolutely no connection to any of that,
I keep saying it, over and over, but I realize that the confusion and ignorance are absolutely impossible to overcome. Because people just LOOOOOOVE the physical body and are absolutely entranced and enraptured by it, mentally stuck to it like bugs on fly paper.
I realize I still haven't said much about the STREAM mode (as opposed to SURGE and STATE), though I touched on that in Juice. I'll cover it in yet another of this mini-series, sometime. Later.