Monday, May 19, 2014

Classical Tai Chi and the reality of its application

Video Link to dialogue

In  "Pivot", (Qi Journal,  Autumn 2002) Y.L. Yip and Leroy Clark stated that Wu's Tai Chi was called "The Solar Plexus School" .  "Pivot" was a lengthy article in Qi Journal about the 1950's fight between Wu Kung-i and Ch'en K'e-fu.  In "Uncovering the Treasure", Stephen Hwa quotes Jou, Tsung Hwa.  From: "The Tao of  Tai Chi Chuan, The Second Stage".  "The hallmark of the second stage is the use of the torso method.  Torso method is characterized by use of the body, specifically the waist and spine, to initiate and empower the movements of the arms and legs...Only those who reach this stage can truly be said to be practicing Tai Chi, yet these are few indeed."

See the video link above:

Dialogue and notes from video

Master Hwa: Yesterday we talked about how to get out of the "grabbing". Now in that case you do talk about moves.  This is so important because people will grab you. There are quite a number of moves in the form where one can learn to get out of the grabbing. For example, this one where you punch, people grab you, you turn the arm to release the grab. The other hand slides up the arm like this to get their hand off you. Even this move right before diagonal brush knee, where you rotate the arm to get out of a grab could be useful.  

When you turn the arm in this manner as people grab you, you are turning on this axis.  Turning on that axis, you have an advantage in leverage.  This is because you are turning on this very short axis. So, even against a more powerful hand you can still turn. Then you get to the point where it opens and you can get out of the grab. Then you remember I talked about the rotation of the arm in other moves and you can get out of a grab there as well, this is so important. 
You know, you will encounter grabbing, and you need to counter it and you need to do it fast. You need to do it fast but properly before someone gets a solid grip on you. In order to get out of it you want to do something immediately.

Student:  "I thought I saw you press a point on his hand on your DVD"

Master Hwa:  Right, right, but that is kind of like this which comes from the move in the form when he grabs you. I press a little bit and then I am turning my arm to release it. Well, we practiced that with Pete who is a wrestler and he has a very strong grip. That is how we develop and put it to good use.  I find this with my nephew who is 22 years old, 6'4", a wrestler and very strong.  So he wants to get hold of my hand so he can get me on the ground.  So practicing with him, he just cannot get hold of my hand. So you know lots of people in martial arts also come from the weight lifting room.  They are very strong and they want to grab you. Actually, he is my grand-nephew.

Student:  "How does Tai Chi do against Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?"

Master Hwa: You know...this is all individual. It is individual because when we practice the form we can reach a certain stage where this is called "mastery". In other words, with such "mastery", you can do the form, where every move is internal.  You can do the movements and you don't have to think. So, at that stage, you have "mastery" of the form. 

But with martial arts applications there really is no such "mastery".  I mean to say that it is endless. Martial art applications are endless. So it is hard to compare when it is so together.
Except at a time when the first Tai Chi master went to Beijing. He went to Beijing and he liked to challenge people. It is said that he beat up everybody. He even makes insistence that other masters fight with him so he can prove it.  He just wanted to try it out on other martial arts. So in that sense, and at that time, he did win.

The other thing to consider at that time is that people did not know about Tai Chi. You see that is another thing, people may not have developed a way to counteract the Tai Chi.

Now if you know Tai Chi like in the fight between Wu Gong Yee and the other guy (White Crane's Chan Hak Fu).  Now, both sides know each other's art very well. So, I'm sure they developed  a strategy to counteract the opponent's strength. Now the other guy, if you watch the video, and you Jim, you watch it many times. 

Student: "Yes, that is right".

So the guy changed the way of his external martial art. He did not use momentum, he did not use body momentum at all. He knew if he used body momentum, the Tai Chi was very good at counteracting  body momentum. So you see when you watch the video, he is just chopping with his arms, there is no body momentum, isn't that right?

Student:  "Yes, that is right".

So there is just flurry of arms without any body momentm, keeping the body momentum to a minimum or none at all. Certainly in that way he cannot develop all the power and so forth. So at least he tried to avoid being put on the ground by Wu Gong Yee. 

So you hear many people nowdays they don't think Wu is using Tai Chi or that the fight was bad, or they don't know what they are doing. So you cannot blame him, for in that case, he cannot be using Tai Chi.  Once again you see the guy is not using body momentum so how should Wu use Tai Chi, OK? 

 People watch that tape, and they say, how come, and Wu should have used Tai Chi.
So there is no momentum on the part of the guy, just flurry of arms and so with every chop Wu has to block. So also notice Wu is using the edge of his hand to block.  He is hitting the guy on his inside forearms and after awhile the guys arms  get tired...his arms are being hit on inside forearm muscle right there. 

Note: Little known details after the fight as revealed in the "Pivot" article show some interesting things.  Chan Hak Fu had actual arm injury which he showed the artist Lo Pak.  He had multiple bruises.  Chan told him:  "Don't think that I can not beat an old man but this Mr. Wu is a different matter and not such a simple matter". "His light chops like a "baby's fist" caused all these bruises".

Wu Gong Yee on the other hand was to show his disciples his dentures and say: "I wore these dentures into the ring, had I been hit, the dentures would have fallen out".  Wu was asked what he used and he said "ban lan chui" (deflect, parry and punch) which has many variations, but everything depends on how the opponent is moving in determining how you should move".

It has been explained in "pivot" that in later interview Chan Hak Fu stated the newspapers of the time wrote such controversy that stirred the fires for the fight in the first place. 

As Master Hwa states and shows, the fight probably looks very dry to the lay person.  We are raised on a diet of the spectacular in movies and TV so that fight looked "unappetizing". As Master Hwa shows with his own chops, the two palms of Wu would go from out to in, from low to upward to intercept Chan Hak Fu's fists.

It is also interesting that people find the fight boring in light of today's movies and TV.  Students of the time reported being terrified at the sounds of the fight.  One could hear the cracking sound of the hits.  People passed out in the audience, blood was flowing so much from Chan Hak Fu's nose that it could not be stopped.  For those that doubt the efficacy of Tai Chi or the "boring" fight, it would seem that it still and perhaps even moreso bears out the adage "there are no winning moves, there are only winning executions of those moves".