Chin Na in Tai Chi Chuan

I’m pleased to be asked to contribute to this excellent blog created by Karateka and Tai Chi Chuan practitioner Charlie Wildish, aimed at bringing different styles of martial arts, and martial artists, together under the banner of “bunkai”, the Japanese term meaning “applications”. So much in the oriental martial arts seems vague, hidden or obscured (quite often at the behest of cultural or political reasons inappropriately transplanted from another time and place), so it’s particularly refreshing to discover a group of traditional martial artists dedicated to unearthing the treasures hidden in the arts they practice, rather than simply going through the moves by rote, in blind obedience to tradition. I think this progressive attitude is something positive that Western culture can bring to these ancient arts from the East.

While forms, salutes, uniforms, attitude, places of practice and class structures may vary wildly between “traditional” martial styles, it’s in the applications that the arts are at their closest. While the stylistic manner of execution, “body mechanics” or the strategy may differ greatly between arts, a wrist lock performed by twisting the radius and ulna bones of the forearm until they lock in Tai Chi Chuan is the same wrist lock performed by twisting the radius and ulna bones of the forearm until they lock in Karate or Wing Chun or Ju Jitsu. By looking at the applications we can start to see the similarities between styles and gain new insights into the arts we practice.

In the following clip I am performing an exercise known in Tai Chi Chuan as Tui Shou or “Pushing hands”. Practitioners of other martial styles will no doubt recognise many of the locking and takedown techniques from their own styles. Observers of Push Hands competitions would be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that Push Hands is about pushing the opponent away, hopefully in a convincing enough manner to score a point. As such it becomes a wrestling match where you’re not allowed to grab with the hands, and while not without merit, such competitions seem (to me) to have strayed from the original martial intent of the art. To gain the most benefit from Push Hands I believe the Tai Chi Chuan community needs to reclaim a lot of the elements that have been taken out under competition rules. One such element is the traditional art of Chin Na (translations vary: “Catching and locking”, “Catch-Arrest”, “Seize and Immobilise”, etc…). To perform Chin Na following the principles of Tai Chi Chuan it is important that you don’t force the situation. Instead, you adapt as it changes, without opposing it. Done correctly the technique happens of itself. The constant flowing pattern of push hands encourages this spontaneity of technique.

As it says in verse 2 of Lao Tzu’s classic of Taoism.

“Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing, teaching no-talking.The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease,Creating, yet not.Working, yet not taking credit.Work is done, then forgotten.Therefore it lasts forever.”

In future posts I hope to offer more technique-specific insights into both Tai Chi Chuan and Choy Lee Fut.

By Graham Barlow of Bath-Tai Chi and Choy Lee Fut (www.bath-taichi.co.uk)

Soto Uke (Outside Block) & Related Kung Fu Techniques

I have written in a previous posting about how I believe that Karate’s Soto Uke was probably based on an instinctive human reaction and developed by the masters of old.  In the following video sequence we demonstrate some applications for Soto Uke, whilst also looking at Chinese Kung Fu movements that are almost the same.

Note:  The block called Soto Uke in some styles is called Uchi Uke (inside block) in other styles.

Bearing in mind that much of Karate’s original bunkai has been lost, and that Karate is largely based on Kung Fu, it is good to look at similar Kung Fu movements and how Kung Fu practitioners apply them.  By looking into our roots we can learn more about our own style and read across from what the Okinawan masters probably learnt from the Chinese masters.  The Okinawan masters would have adapted the movements to suit their own physiques and needs, which is fine as the Chinese masters did exactly the same.  That is why there is such a vast array of Kung Fu styles.

When a beginner looks at different styles of Kung Fu, Karate, TKD etc., they see lots of differences.  However, the experienced practitioner sees many similarities.  This why we are able to learn from each other, to increase our knowledge and understanding of our own style, without necessarily having to study other styles in depth.

We hope you enjoy our video:

Bunkai: Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan (Won Hyo, Chum Kiu)

In the clip below, we look at some applications from the opening sequence of Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan/Won Hyo.  We don’t say that this is necessarily the best or only interpretations for these moves, it just our take on it.  Although Heian Nidan and Pinan Shodan are in effect the same kata (just named differently in different styles) and Tae Kwon Do’s Won Hyo pattern is closely based on it; Chum Kiu is essentially quite different.  It is the second form from the Wing Chun Kung Fu system.

However, some of the moves in Chum Kiu quite closely resemble the opening sequence of Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan, although is performed quite a  bit more tightly.

Is this surprising to find such similarities?

Not at all.  Tae Kwon Do is largely based on Karate and Karate is largely based on Kung Fu.  The nearest part of China to Okinawa (where Karate developed) is Fukien Provence and it is known that White Crane Kung Fu was particularly popular in that area.  Wing Chun Kung Fu is based mainly on the Snake and the Crane, so there is a common lineage.

Anyway, we hope you enjoy our short video:

Kevin O’ Hagan: Combat Jutsu & Manstoppers Course

I have recently had the pleasure of seeing Kevin O’Hagin and his two sons, Jake and Tom, performing a demonstration at the Rotary Martial Arts Festival in Bath.  It was fast moving, dynamic and one of the highlights of the Festival.  Kevin’s style of Combat Justu, based on his many years studying various froms of Ju Jutsu, and other related arts, is a no-nonsense brutal system for defeating an opponent quickly and efficiently.  The people that Kevin has trained with is extensive and reads like a who’s who of reality martial arts.

Kevin is a former professional cage fighter as well as successful author – brawn and brain 🙂    However, he separates his teaching between the sporting MMA side and his Combat Jutsu street defence style.

He has recently been awarded his 7th Dan in Combat Jutsu and is a 6th Dan Senior Instructor in self protection with the British Combat Association, the most respected reality based self protection organisation in the UK.  In short, Kevin knows his stuff.

I have inserted a few Youtube clips of Kevin teaching, so that you can see for yourself the type of training he gives.  Furthermore, Kevin is running a course soon in Bristol (UK).  I have inserted a copy of his promotional poster below.  I would say to anybody from the Karate, TKD world etc., who may not think that this is anything to do with your style; think again.  Many applications from our Kata’s/patterns/forms, are very similar (sometimes identical) to Ju Jutsu, so I’m sure that if you look carefully, you will find Kevin doing moves that you have seen before, but never thought of applying them in that manner.

(Note:  This third video looks quite close to Kung Fu Tiger style with the raking fingers)

To find out more about Kevin O’Hagan, go to his website: www.KevinOHagan.com

 

 

Soto Uke (Outside Block)

Firstly, lets define which block we are talking about.  What Shotokan Karate (my style) calls Soto Uke (Outside Block, because it comes from the outside), some other styles call Uchi Uke (Inside Block, because it travels to the inside).  I am talking about the block that starts from just by the ear and travels inward across the body (same direction as the hip rotation), stopping roughly in line with the opposite shoulder.

Although in many Japanese and Korean martial arts we were originally taught that Soto Uke is for blocking a straight punch aimed at our body, it has become more and more obvious that is an unlikely.

Firstly, most people outside of the dojo/dojang, do not usually attack with straight punches, it is usually haymakers.  As we are more likely to be attacked by a thug then another martial artist, why do we train so much for an attack that we are not likely to be attacked by?

Secondly, even if we were attacked by another martial artist, how often do use a Soto Uke in sparing.  We virtually never use is because it is too slow to be used as a block.  It is fine in a pre-arranged sparing routine, but is extremely difficult to make it work when the attacks come at random.

Conclusion: it is quite useless as a block when used in the traditional manner.

Anybody who has been interested in alternative bunkai for any time, will probably have seen the humble Soto Uke use for other purposes, such as arm-locks or close in striking etc.  This will be covered later in subsequent postings.

However, for anybody who still thinks that the primary function of a Soto Uke is to block a straight punch to the torso, should have a look at the video below.

But first some explanation!

The video is taken from a F.A.S.T. Defence course.  F.A.S.T. stands for Fear, Adrenalin, Stress Training.  Many people when under the stress of a real life confronation, freeze.  This even happens to high grade martial artists.  F.A.S.T Defence (amongst other things) trains people by taking then into this adrenalised state, then making them respond to overcome the “freeze” reflex that many of us have.    The idea is to provoke the student into an adrenalised state.  They get to respond full power against a “Bulletman”.  That is a man in  padded suit with a bullet shaped helmet, so that he can take blows and kicks full power.  The student does not have to worry about control in their adrenalised state.  There is more to it than just that, and the training is appropriate for both trained martial artists or for people who have never done a days training in their life.  Having done one of their courses myself, I would highly recommend them.

So why is that relevant to us and our Soto Uke?

When people are under that kind of pressure, they often extend one hand forward to restrain their attacker, whilst bringing their other hand back behind their ear, before swinging it round and striking hammer-fist to their attackers head.  This intuitive method, used by untrained people is very close to our Soto Uke (and the Wing Chun whipping punch)!

Could it be that the masters of the past took what is an instinctive human reaction and developed it?  Take a natural reaction and enhance it?  We often hear that modern systems like Krav Maga build on instinctive human reactions and when Krav Maga is adopted by law enforcement agencies around the world (including the FBI and the US Secret Service), then they must be doing something right.

So is it possible that our past masters did exactly the same thing, by building on instinctive reflexes?

We will never know for sure, but I think it is highly likely.  The video below comes from a F.A.S.T. Defence training session, where you will see the student reacting in way described above.  Have a look and decide for yourself if this instinctive reaction could be the route of the Soto Uke.

Warning:  It contains foul language, so check who is around you first: