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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Qi Gong / Chi Kung books and starting out

I have started out in Zhan Zhuang and Qi Gong (Chi Kung).

Actually I started the former - standing like a tree - in November, around 7th November to be exact.

I recall the Channel 4 program 'Stand Still Be Fit', which introduced this idea in 1994/5. I even had a go for a little while and then ditched it then, after a few days. Probably as the stance hurt. I knew nothing then.

Now with a bit of practice in stances due to forms and jurus and an interest in Chi Kung, I had re-watched the video again, from YouTube. I saw the positive comments which repeatedly said it had helped people and saw the same on Amazon reviews. So I also bought the associated book.
(One of the American reviews had said to also get Dr Yang Jwing Ming's book too, as that explains the other exercises - the 8 pieces of brocade - with more theory and details).

I have been standing 'like a tree' every day, without fail since. There are 2 poses they want you to learn properly before you 'branch out' (ahahah) into the other stances of the 'tree'. The author wants you to be able to hold the second pose for 20 minutes before you do these 'new' moves. I am trying to adhere to this exactly. In the book he advises you hold the second stance for 5 minutes for 3 weeks and the next three weeks 10 minutes etc.  He said do not be in a rush to race ahead. I was a bit naughty and moved to 15 minutes, and later my knees later felt it. So I moved back to 10 minutes and modified my stance.

Now I see why he advises the 'slow road to Rome' approach. The longer you take over this the more self-knowledge you get in holding the pose, and monitoring all minor aspects of your body in the stance. While there is not much to the stance - it has no movement remember - each aspect of the post and the muscles in that need attendance to. You have to make sure your muscles are relaxed all the time and do not come unnecessarily  into action vs your skeleton. You need to stop arms moving down and in. You need to monitor breathing, as abdominal breathing is preferred, if you can do that, (but not at the expense of provoking muscle tension the author notes).

It seems like ages I have been doing this, I thought I started at the beginning of November. I play meditative music too, and when you are holding out in the second stance it feels like a marathon and you start clock-watching. You have to use your mind and the beach ball metaphor to help you endure, in that your held up by the ball.

Once you can reach 20 minutes in stance two, the book says to aid you deal with the new open channels of chi coursing in your body the form of the 8 pieces of brocade will help manage this new power. That is why I also have been studying the second book. In the 'Stand Still Be Fit' video, they give the 8 pieces on the 4 day, or something and each new move throughout the 10 days. In the associated book they are far more frugal in introducing new moves.

Dr Jwing-Ming's book is very good in spelling out the ideas behind how the exercises work and what thoughts your mind needs to be focusing on for chi to be directed. NO ONE ELSE really does this explicitly, really. YouTube videos do not really focus on this and hence now I see why that US reviewer said get this book, too. < He is right. The mind needs to know what it has to do, too. I am toying with the idea of learning the 8 pieces anyway, on their own, vs waiting until being able to hold stance 2 for 20 mins, (which will be around March, late February at this rate).

[Is it any good?]
I know you have to wait for the effects to mature but I can relate to the feelings that the video and book says will occur: Tingling in fingers. This is spreading up my hands how, Started with little finger of the left hand ... then on right ... and now up the fingers yesterday. This is not my imagination.
Also from the first stance - Wu Chi - I am able to get a melting brain effect, as you switch off your mind from 'everyday' mode, to 'get ready for this exercise now' mode. My brain feels like melting butter. I later re-watched the video and the Chinese professor who they visit said that the first stage feeling is 'rain on the brain, 'brain in a shower' type feeling. < I was really glad to see this confirmed as it validated my experience and I did not imagine this. He said the next later stage of feeling is 'silent laughter'. Wow, apparently practitioners get the sensation of laughing in the body but quietly. I am no where near this, but I believe him.

I had wanted to hold off from writing about this topic until next November, when I review this and give an reasoned analysis based on experience but I could not hold off. I had a great session yesterday night when I was not clock-watching at all in the second pose but getting a great anesthetic effect. I also had tweaked my stance to avoid knees hurting and this had not affected the tingly fingers either, so I knew things were not adversely affected. < I really hope this is a pattern now for all the exercise.

One thing I can say despite the earlier aches of holding the position and monitoring yourself in a static pose etc. I have always been looking forward to do this exercise everyday. It is not like a chore as with the exercise bike I had divorced or separated from. The only thing I have to watch is my knees. Despite not going beyond toes, there is scope for lateral play in the knees despite a narrow-ish stance. (Hence my re-calibration mentioned above and the need to take this stuff slowly. I bet you can weld-in a future injury if you race ahead with poor posture / or even a posture your body shape has not modified for you enough).

On the research side of things just reading about all this, and the proposed benefits and seeking out videos, documentaries, books and articles on the web is an energy-learning-rush in itself. This goes with the territory of learning new things as an adult. I do not draw a distinction in any adult learning experience from academic study, health / martial art, chess etc. It is all the same to me: theory driven activity which has much scope for self-expression and interpretation too, which you monitor again and again.

Oh yes ... expect the problems of postures not being alike between practitioners and schools. < Always a source of worry and frustration.
 Once you know the ideas behind what the moves mean and aim to do that is enough. The diversity in the 8 pieces of brocade for instance are many but it does not matter. Even the wu chi stance 1 differs between Lam Kam Chuen's own book (two stances are offered in the book, and the video only shows one type).
I am adding in the 8 pieces of brocade now, as I cannot see why that should be held back, as it is a standalone activity anyway.  It will take a few weeks to remember the combination autmaticall what moves go in what order, plus the associated aims, plus thought intents.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Wing Chun - health Massage of Hands by Steve Sinclair

These two videos from Steve Sinclair on hand massage in martial arts. He applies dit da jow after punching. I have his VHS somewhere, on introducing Wing Chun, which I watched 10 years ago. What impressed me was that he was the *only* person in his instructional videos to tackle the issue of caring for yourself.

I cannot find his original video, but the way he insists on taking care of your hands how punching a wall bag is a "serious abuse of your joints" really stuck in my mind. It is true. It is self-harm, in a way isn't it.

I bought some dit da jow and apply it to bruises and knuckles in the vigorous way he mentions. He rotates in a small circle and takes off the top layer of skin. The rubbing gets the blood to the damaged area and aids repair. I see here in this video he argues a partner can be more effective, but you can imagine what a solo style of massage looks like.

You can find 'how to' videos on making your own dit da jow and when I researched it, it can get very technical, with many dos / don'ts and very fine attention to detail about herbs etc. I bought mine off a Karate teacher and it seems ok. Smells like Chinese herbs in alcohol :>

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Learning to make progress

This next BBC link is very useful as it shows how progress is product of 'eeeking' ... gradual trial and error to achieve the next level of excellence.

"Dyson worked his way through 5,126 failed prototypes before coming up with a design that ultimately transformed household cleaning", (BBC Viewpoint 2015). < This quote sums up a lot really and gives us a realistic view of what progress is about.

The sudden insight of genius idea does not help us, I think.

Full link here

This can be applied to any adult learning scenario and I wont try and 'adapt' this to the theme of my blog, as it should talk for itself. Just do not be afraid to make mistakes and await that perfect solution to come and hit us on the head, like Newton's apple .. it comes with thousands of reps. See the 10,000 hours ideas too below.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Passion - it is a real concept in sports psychology

Coming back from class, in a conversation about learning, my friend David used the word 'passion'. This was ironic, as the day before I had read about this in my textbook on sports psychology and was surprised to see this was a 'real' concept of study, not just an everyday language term.

One definition was "passions are defined as high-priority goals with emotionally important outcomes" (Frijda et al. 1991 cited in Jowett and Lavelle 2007,p.250).
Passion is not the same as commitment or motivation per se. They can overlap but the difference is the issue of internalisation.

The issue of internalisation means the activity defines us and is part of our identity (i.e. who am I and how I see myself). The activity is integrated into ourselves. You may be committed to learning piano or violin or bringing up someone else's step-child and be motivated to do this for the benefits of just doing that ... but it is not a problem if you stop in terms of emotional costs, as these are not self-defining activities. (You get the idea .. make up your own example here).

There are two types of Passion: Obsessive Passion vs Harmonious Passion.
The former has an aspect of compulsion to engage with the activity, as if the participant is controlled by the activity and there is emotional dependency. (I think the book was making a distinction between this and addiction, however).

The latter - harmonious passion, has an aspect of choice in it and the activity fits in with other commitments and does not disrupt them dysfunctionally.

 As with many concepts in psychology, there is a scale to measure this ...'The Passion Scale' (Vallerand et al 2003, cited in ibid,p.254).

The Passion Scale
Harmonious Passion

1, My activity allows me to live a variety of experiences
2. The new things that I discover within the confines of my activity allow me to appreciate it even more
3. My activity activity reflects the qualities I like about myself
4. My activity is in harmony with other actives in my life
5. My activity is a passion that I am still manage to control
6, My activity allows me to live memorable experiences
7. I am completely taken with my activity

Obsessive Passion

8. I cannot live without my activity
9. The urge is so strong. I cannot help myself doing the activity
10, I have difficulty imagining my life without my activity
11. I am emotionally dependent on my activity
12 I have a tough time controlling my need to do my activity
13 I have an almost obsessive feeling to my activity
14 My mood depends on me being able to do my activity

Where are you on this scale?
Is this scale of use deciding who is worth spending energy on if you had to choose between prospective students, or prospective activities?
Is this scale useful in moderating commitments and preserving a participants life-cycle in the activity?
Is the scale valid? Can you measure 'passion' like it was temperature? Does it really exist as a 'thing' in reality?

(I have yet to study the whole chapter .. I may type up some more later). This should make us think however...


Thursday, June 25, 2015

10,000 hours ?

This post below is to a BBC article about a novice being given special lessons to test the idea that with enough 'deliberate practice' (i.e. quality coached hours), very high skill increments are possible.

This is a fascinating question. Can 'anyone' become skilled? Or do you need to be 'special' in the first place. My take is .... to stay at elite level ..... if you have skilled people in the first place, then what differentiates these people are their commitment to hone these skills, and polish them too, with mental skills as well.

This 10,000 hours idea came from Chase and Simon's (1973) work on chess grandmasters, who were said to study for about 10,000 hours to achieve elite status and aqure a library of 'chunks' that they can use to read a board effectively to aid decision-making. Subsequent study by others, such as Ericcson (1993) saw 10,000 of deliberate practice being a common theme to the pathway of excellence in any domain - music, sports etc. This idea motivates this article in the link, above,  except there are short-cuts being made as 10,000 is quite a few years even if you train everyday.

I think you can take any raw material and coach someone to a solid excellent standard. To achieve elite standard and maintain that may need something else ... but what? Desire: temperament, continued commitment to excellence, genetic programming, perpetual funding, good support network of peers and coaches  ?

This is the YouTube video from that BBC article. They posted monthly progress videos.

This is the associated web page of the project. Can't wait to see the book. This whole question has implications for all learning, I feel. I think the top 250 goal was ambitious but agree with the BBC web page that table tennis is the wrong sport to choose, rather than the whole project being flawed.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Once Upon a Time In a High School (The Spirit Of Jeet Kune Do) Anti-Bull...

My favourite Korean Film. (It is the only Korean film I have seen!).
The film is not all action as suggested here and is well worth seeking out to watch.

Friday, March 27, 2015


This video is good as it shows a novel way to train with a stick. I would never have thought of this. Look at how the stick is made to rotate on 2 x axis.

Note too the use of the tape to aid targeting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tai Chi Form: 4 - Single Whip

What strikes me with this video is the style of commentary. 
This level of detail and style reminds me of a very 'British-style' Oxford-Cambridge boat race!
This is very interesting and I would love to see some of the instructionals and books I have been exposed to over the year try this style. It is so detail rich. For Tai Chi this is a god-send, I suspect as the movement is so intricate each detail counts to some amount, I think, (I do not do Tai Chi but this is my instinct).
The heel-toe shape is something I have been told about and it makes me empathise with this video.
I like the camera angle, too. It captures the posture and the lighting is very good. I would like to see stripes on the sides of the track suit bottoms / shirt to show skeletal alinement more maybe ?!

Multiple Levels of Meaning for Marial Arts

This video hits a nerve on multiple levels: [1] your teacher is not your Father. This is a link I am certain I sense is possible for some students when they relate to their teacher.

The scenario is .. some imaginary figure - larger than life who sorts out your problems for you and leads you to a path of Enlightenment - is the same person who teaches you.

 Don't go there. You will be deluded if not exploited and end up jumping in the lake if told to do so. Your teacher shows you moves and ideas and concepts. That is it. They like seeing your improvement as it gives them reward and satisfaction and you validate their teaching methods. You learn from them and jump through syllabus hoops that they show you. They do not fight your imaginary fights for you. They do not have perfect information on all moves future and past. There will be gaps in their knowledge no matter what system or lineage etc.

[2] Don't be forced into joining someone else's system and unifying without deep thought. See what Luke did here. He got space between him and Darth Vader in light of his new insights to have a deep think. Darth is very persuasive and has magic powers. Anyone could be seduced by the Dark Side. Martial arts leaders have magic powers it looks like when they project their force on new angles and show new secret things that the 'Force' has.

Belief systems take route in social networks. If you stay in close proximity to others all those moves that person does specifically / the bespoke drills they do to show off those specific forces  / the ideas and language that supports these ideas become true as they are practiced in rituals at the club.

Get space to get perspective and a fresh set of eyes from wise others you trust too, for a second opinion if you have doubts about a system / leader / school.

Luke had a network including Obi One in this respect. Obi was an adviser not Luke's leader.

Friday, January 09, 2015

An array of dummy designs.

Look at these designs for dummies. Towards the end you see 3 x dummies integrated by a cart wheel. That is really slick design. Some of the dummies are interactive on a push pull basis. Interesting.

Given this is from a German source, I wonder of their clock-design heritage has been used for some of these dummies ?!

Friday, January 02, 2015

Make the Low Cost but Effective Wooden Dummy Arms - Khai Tuong Nguyen

This video really shows some good craft skills and thinking about how to match the curve of the arm to match a human arm. I predict a bright future for this person - and can see a bright present time, too!

New Years resolution ideas if you are stuck

Ask Tolstoy if you are stuck for some new ideas to 'do' for 2015.

This is a good article as it shows him pushing himself into unfamiliar territory to 'grow'.

Become a craftsman is interesting. I bet that is because it puts you in the zone, too, as well as unitng body and mind. I think being skilled at exercise and sport types would be compatible with this perhaps? Or is that totally different? If you were a tennis player or javelin thrower you need to master tools etc.