Sunday, February 28, 2021

MMTCA March Newsletter 2021


"Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again."

-Joseph Campbell

March forth! March is upon us and with it, one year since we closed our academy. More about that later. I hope you are all safe and healthy, and keeping your practice fresh and interesting.

I am thinking about outside classes as soon as the weather and temps permit. I am looking for a park with some kind of shelter or overhang so we can train if it rains. If you know of a park that fits that description ,please contact me.

I am planning on offering the same classes as last year, but with these emphasis': I'm going to bring the Medium Form and the Fast Form more together and make them so that the only differences will be tempo, footwork, and a few variations for each.

 I'm going to start partner work again with the three Tai-Chi weapons fencing forms, Tai-Chi Saber Fencing, Tai-Chi Spear Fencing, and Wu-Dang Sword Fencing. The distance with the weapons, and wearing masks should keep us safe. Of course, if for any reason you don't want to participate you have to be your own judge.

I'll be reviewing the Wu Li Sword, Karambit, Tai-Chi Saber, and fit in Tai-Chi Sword practice as well. Man Chiang Hung Sword, Hsing-Yi Spear, and the Hsing-Yi Solo Form, Lightening Hands will be reviewed as well.

I will be going over Pa-Kua Sword again and will teach the names as well. 64 Mother Palms, both straight-line and on the circle will be also taught this year.

A big, huge, thank you to Julie Cisler for putting together our first ZOOM Chinese New Year! Thank you to all those who demonstrated and to our audience. Next year in person, I hope!

Book Suggestion= Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor

Margo Bock has her webpage up and running, selling her Tai-Chi animal inspired cards and artwork. Check it out!

March 17th will be the one year anniversary of closing the academy. It was a painful decision, one made with lots of input, advise, and care from the students. I went in on the 17th to get a few things, and just say a quite goodbye to the place where so many of us relaxed, gained insight, and just loved to be! John Feely called and asked if he could meet me there. I waited for him and he came in and gave me a check, saying he wanted to make sure I got April's tuition! He also said not to worry, we'll be back before we know it! I was grateful for the hope and care then, as I am grateful now. Thank you John. Thank you all.

So many birthdays this month! Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi, Joanne Von Blon, Diane Cannon, and J. Richard Roy to name a few. Happy birthday to these and every other March baby!


Season of the Awakening of Creatures


As a fervent hiker, Henrik Ibsen gave name to a concept already deeply rooted in the Norwegian psyche: friluftsliv (free-loofts-leave). Roughly translated as “life in the free air,” the idea is to immerse yourself in nature, resulting in benefits to mind, body and spirit.

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Monday, February 22, 2021

The Crane and Bear in Tai-Chi Chuan

"Breathing in and out in various manners, spitting out the old and taking in the new, walking like a bear and stretching their neck like a crane to achieve longevity - this is what such practitioners of Dao-yin, cultivators of the body and all those searching for long life like Ancestor Peng, enjoy."

-Chuang-Tzu, Chapter 15

I first heard about Crane and Bear, and sweep and trigger, in Tai-Chi when my teacher, Master T.T. Liang quoted the above quote in class one day. He said all postures can be divided into Crane postures and Bear postures. He said Crane posture were more straight, expanded, tended to rise, push, and emphasized attack. Bear postures were more round, closed, tended to sink, pull, and emphasized defense. He also said Crane postures used more leg, and that Bear postures used more waist.

He said the Yang Style used two kinds of postures, sweep and trigger. He explained that sweep postures were big, long, and tended to keep the energy inside the body. Trigger postures were small, short, and tended to release energy outwards. He gave Single Whip as an example of sweep ,and Lift Hands as an example of trigger. In his method of using counts, he said six count postures were sweep while two count postures were trigger. He also said that four count postures were a mixture of both.

He then put it all together by saying that Crane postures were Trigger and Bear postures were sweep. I had learned from Master Paul Gallagher that his Wu Style teacher, Sophia Delza, taught that there were two kinds of postures: long and short. She explained that long postures taught long breaths and short postures taught short breaths.

To look at the use of Crane and Bear, I find they are yet another example of yin and yang. The Crane is yang by virtue of its rising, expanding, pushing nature, and look. The Bear is yin by nature of its sinking, contracting, turning nature, and look. 

They also carry their opposite as well. For instance the Crane looks big and strong, but they are really light, delicate, and fragile. The Bear looks soft and gentle, but in reality they are strong, fast, and can be ferocious!

Tai-Chi is not the only style to use these complimentary animals to teach yin and yang in the body and technique. Hsing-Yi uses the Eagle and Bear. Pa-Kua uses the Dragon and Phoenix. Hung Gar uses the Tiger and Crane.

A good exercise is to look at your postures and try to assign an animal, energy, or attribute to each one. Is it Crane or Bear, yin or yang, Sweep or Trigger?

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Happy New Year!!


Gong Hay Fat Choy! Wishing You Great Happiness and Prosperity Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Happy Chinese New Year of the Metal Ox! The Ox year is of hard work and the reward for hard work. Did you do anything last year?? Ha! You survived a pandemic! May you and yours not only survive, but thrive in the upcoming year.

I am so proud of all of you and your dedication to Tai-Chi. Your personal practice and discipline has helped you get through to the Ox year. Daily practice can help in so many ways beyond the stress relief and health giving benefits. Your daily practice will also give you courage and calm,  relaxation and resolve, hope and healing, and insight and inspiration.

Master Liang once told me, "Don't be concerned with being as good as Yang Lu-ch'an, just practice." Whether it's a good practice, or an interrupted practice, or your space is small, don't care, just practice.

I'm burning incense for you all, and putting coins in my bank, for the next three days. I'm wishing you all health, wealth, peace, calm, strength, inspiration, prosperity, hope, happiness, and joy! I hope we can meet in person next year and have a demo, ceremony, and another huge banquet!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Hua Na Da in Tai-Chi Ch'uan

My first exposure to the the techniques of Hua, Na, and Da was learning Tai-Chi San-Shou from Master T.T. Liang. Master Liang called the form the 178 Posture Tai-Chi Two-Person Dance. He explained that the "dance" had five fundamental lessons to teach me. They are:

1. A basic application for each single posture in the long form.

2. Useful footwork for sparring and self-defense.

3. The 5 Elements of Sticking: Adhere, Join, Stick, Follow, No Letting Go/No Resistance.

4. Lines for Attack.

5. Hua Na Da or Neutralize, Seize, Attack.

Master T.T. Liang taught,

"Every posture in the Two-Person Form, called San-Shou, consists of three  movements done in slow motion: 

Hua, which means neutralize or transform, 

Na, which means seize or hold, 

and Da, which means strike or hit. 

So when you do it, you have to know that when someone strikes you, you must first know how to neutralize them, then how to hold them, and then how to strike or counter-attack. When the three parts of a posture are separate, it is a dance. When the three parts are combined into one, it becomes a knockout, or a knock down."

Another time Liang said,

" You must clearly distinguish between Hua, Na, and Da. My Da is your Hua. For practice, it must be broken down to learn the principles and techniques. For practical use, the three movements become one."

Each technique in Tai-Chi has three distinct parts which, at the highest level, are done together in one movement. For learning purposes techniques are mainly done broken down into three separate parts. The first part, Defense, are the many soft and yielding ways to avoid, reduce, or thwart your partner's energy or attack to protect yourself. The second, Control, is to stop any further attack coming from your partner, or setting up your own attack or counter-attack. Attack, the third part, is to issue energy of your own. 

When you understand the three parts of a technique separately, you can begin to combine them together. First, combine your defense and controlling aspects into one movement. You try to defend and off-balance in one motion. Then practice combining the controlling and attacking. Pin, then push,  becomes pin and push, for example. The final stage you defend, control, and attack in one and the same motion. Easy to say but difficult to do without lots of practice!

The famous writer and practitioner, Chen Yen-ling, said,

"To master the principles of Hua,  Na, and Da, you must choose one particular technique and practice it over and over with a partner who can help with the study of these principles."

After I learned the San-Shou form and sequence, Master Liang had me and my classmates take one or two techniques and pull them out of the form. This is what the old Yang family masters called single movement training. This is where I really learned the Hua Na Da.

We find reference to Hua Na Da in the Tai-Chi classics. In The Tai-Chi Ch'uan Treatise by Wang Chung-yueh we find;

"To conquer the unyielding by yielding is termed' to withdraw'; to create a defective position in your opponent and obtain a superior position of your own is called 'to adhere.' "

Yielding is Hua, and withdrawing is a specific way to defend. Creating a defect position is Na, and adhering is a specific way to control.

For me, the most interesting part is Na. All martial arts have defense and offense. There are so many kinds of attacks, blocks, etc. Na is one way to stop the defense/offense pendulum. I like to find the Na, the control. When I was learning, Master Liang would ask  where is the Na in any particular technique. I learned so much from this approach.

In the San-Shou there are many places where there is the same attack, say a push, chop, or punch, but the defense, control, and counter are different. This gives us many ideas and options. It's the ever-present Na that prevents most kicks in San-Shou, which is why we see so few.

Of course there are many more attacks in martial arts than are found in the "dance." Basically they fall into four categories, Kicking, striking, throwing, and locking. These are easy to remember because in Chinese they rhyme, tuei, da, shuei, na.

Tuei is kicking, it's "Tae" in Korean. Hitting with any part of the leg like the toe, heel, instep, ball, shin, or knee.

Da is strike. Hitting with any part of the upper body and torso. Fist, palm, fingers, wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, back, and even the head are used to strike.

Shuei is throw or throwing. The idea is to take the top of the body off of the bottom of the body. A shoulder throw is one example. Sweeping is a different type of take-down. When you sweep, or trip, you take the bottom of the body out from under the top. For Tai-Chi, Push falls in to the category of shuei because we affect the top of the body with a push. We make the person fall by pushing the top off of the bottom.

Here is another example, someone sitting on a stool or chair. If I push them off the chair, it's shuei. If I pull the stool out from underneath them, it's sweep.

Na is locking or seizing. Any kind of joint-lock or hold is Na. Chin-Na implies the act of seizing and holding by manipulating a joint.

A fascinating part of the San-Shou is that it teaches many ideas for the Na for each of the four kinds of attacks. Here are a few examples:

The basic Na for both kicking and striking is to have a clear opening. Pinning, trapping, set-ups, false strikes, all make openings for a clear shot.

The Na for throwing is to have the opponent off balance. Master Liang calls this a "defect position." When you are off balance, you can't react. Your instinct is to right your balance. In Judo it's called Kazushi, which means to destroy or demolish balance.

The Na for locking is to either straighten out the joint to its fullest , or to take out the slack. When the joint is straight, or out of slack, you apply pressure and the energy goes all towards injuring the joint, not in the set up.

When I teach the pushing-hands drill, Withdraw and Push, which is like the posture "Apparent Closure," I use Hua, Na, and Da to get the message across that there are three parts, not two, to this technique. When I'm pushed, I withdraw and turn, this is my defense of their push. I then wipe their hands off and put mine on their wrist and elbow, and pin  or off-balance. That is my control. I then shift forward, pushing my rear leg into the ground and extending my torso and arms towards my partner using long power or Fa-Ching. That is my offense. 

Many people try to use the wipe to defend, which is force against force. They also just push after they defend, which is what Master Liang called "Blind Man's Buff." You attack without knowing anything about your partner's body, position, balance, etc. a blind attack.

We can look at the yin-yang symbol for more ideas about Hua, Na, and Da. The Tai-Chi Tu has a black fish-shape, a white fish-shape, and two black dots. Here is my breakdown;

The black fish is Hua, all the various kinds of defense.

The white fish is Da or, tuei, da, shuei, na.

The black dot is defensive control. How to prevent a second attack, or combination attack. Stop the opponents follow up techniques and momentum.

The white dot is offensive control. Taking out insurance to make sure your attack has a higher chance of being successful.

There are other ideas I have learned from Hua, Na Da. I use it for sizing up practice partners. I can make the most of my training with anyone regardless of their experience or skill level. If my partner is more advanced and sensitive than I am, or stronger, I work on my defense, Hua. If my partner is less skilled or sensitive than I am, or weaker, I work on attack, Da. If I am evenly matched with my partner, I work on trying to control them and keep them off balance,Na.

I also use the three weapons to train my Hua, Na, and Da. 

The sword needs good defense and evasive skills to be effective. If you block directly with the razor sharp edge too many time, it will become dull. So the sword works my Hua. 

The saber utilizes seizing to be effective. An old training phrase states "If your opponent uses a single saber, be careful of their free hand." The lunging, drag-steps, and empty hand help me train my Na.

The long spear, with its follow steps and stabbing and thrusting, help me work my Da. The jabs help me with short power or Da-Ching, and the full thrusts help me work on long power, or Fa-Ching.

I also use Hua, Na, and Da to understand other styles and techniques. I look at Hsing-Yi as mainly using Da. Having a good offense for a defense gives insight into Hsing-Yi. Pa-Kua is mainly using Hua. Circular, evasive footwork, together with changing palms and positions, are a great defense. And Tai-Chi as mainly using Na. Softness, yielding, and sensitivity are skills for controlling an opponent. Even though the three main internal styles all use Hua, Na, and Da, they each can emphasize one or more of them to be effective.

I hope this gives you food for thought and research. If you have any questions, please send me a message.