Forms are considered as ‘problem sets’ that you have to apply in order to understand the Principles that underlie our System. In our System additional forms, such as the animal forms in Hsing I, simply give you an additional, more difficult set of questions to answer, therefore if you actually understand the principles and their application, the doing of these additional forms becomes less relevant. The linking form within our School not only comprises linking the Wu Hsing together but also has a form comprised of some of the animal sequences. The animal sequence linking form is there to give you a foundation for the animal forms, in a similar manner to Pi Chuan in the Wu Hsing, but is also carried out in a number of specific ways, emphasising not only the releasing strength aspect of Hsing I but also it’s sinuous nature. Practice, therefore, becomes less about learning the forms but more about how you do them. Again, consistent practice with insight and more practice is the true secret of the Art. Forms are taught, within the School, by non-referral to external phenomena; fingers are not lined up with the nose for example in Pi Chuan. The form is learnt by reference to practical applications of the Principles i.e. Tools.
More examples from our Hsing I basics manual.
Two important elements in actual fighting are often ignored but stressed in Hsing I: tempo and grounding.
What's most surprising in a real fight is the rapidity that you tire. This is because the tempo or rhythm of this activity is broken as soon as you begin fighting. Shadow boxing, bag work and sparring can all help sharpen your skills but ultimately, in a class environment, it is incumbent on the teacher to provide a broken tempo. Practicing to music is the last thing you want to do as you’ll end up being predicable as you punch to 4:4 time.
The world is not composed of flat canvas rings nor polished, sprung wooded floors. If force is mainly derived from the ground then you’d better have a good root. Hsing I therefore stresses pushing both feet into the ground and gripping the toes. Footwork is therefore just an umbrella term for the ability to move and to simultaneously deliver force.
In Nei Jia we been explore how to access our own intrinsic movement. We examine, by doing and hence feeling, the concepts of pre-movement and micro-movement. Humans are like sharks – we die if we don’t move – but Nei Jia is unique in that it uses the framework of a proximal-distal expansion/contraction movement cycle. This is not movement for movement’s sake just to access ‘the flow’. There are foundational elements that repeat again and again no matter which aspect of Nei Jia you’re practicing: dynamic joint mobility and decompression, use of the core musculature to provide a counter oppositional force to lateral movement, full body movement by engaging the body’s core vibrational pilot wave, the use of a form framework to investigate the body’s structural alignment. And the list goes on…These foundation elements can be summarised succinctly: Li-Chi-I.
Spirals... the basic Ba Gua walk in our System is toe heel rather than heel toe. If one is toe heel and the other heel toe you can't be prescriptive about how to walk - they're both 'correct'. We do heel toe in tai chi and toe heel in Ba Gua so what's going on? Ba Gua walk forces you to place the lateral part of the foot down first. You’d do this naturally doing heel toe walk but there are so many personal variations that if you did this whilst walking heel toe you’d probably miss what's going on. The bones of the foot are designed that the spiral diagonal movement to the big toe i.e. to the medial part of the foot occurs. The foot in fact is shaped like a massive propeller. But the talus is mediating and allowing this spiral movement such that it’s transmitted to and through the rest of the body. So we're surfing on our talus...
So this is why you have to learn the whole 3 Nei Jia arts as one system: they complement each other. People that teach Tai Chi and other such systems and who also come from a misguided concept of 'soft' increase their proponents/students own confidence in their martial ability - detrimentally. I'm saying that doing that type of practice gives false confidence. Hsing i for example has more connections to bare knuckle boxing than nearly all those woo 'masters' on YouTube realise.
At the School there are no uniforms, no gradings and no coloured belts. This might seem strange as most people like the getting ready part, putting on their gi or training uniform, etc. as it helps to focus the mind and make the distinction between the outside world and the dojo (to use a Japanese term for training hall). So why not at the School?
There are 3 characteristics and 5 principles to the System. One of the 5 principles is the void and reality are one. On a superficial level this means that there is no difference between the outside world and the dojo. If you are walking along in the street and someone tries to attack you, do you say to them "Hold on a moment, I just need to run home and get my gi so that I can respond to your attack with the correct mindset". In external martial arts students are driven to exhaustion so that only at the end of the class do they begin to understand and experience lack of ego. In Nei Jia we begin from the position that we must attain this mind set right from the very start. Is a person defined by the uniform s/he wears or the colour of the belt around their waist? The colour of their skin? No. Our system is Northern Chinese i.e. hard line Confucian - you do not rely on external supports/crutches like a favourite tee shirt or a school uniform and the such. If it is easy, then make it hard, if it is hard then make it harder. You are defined as a human being (to yourself) by this struggle (i.e. kung fu). No uniforms, no visible grading system (every class is a grading), no short cuts, no easy way. This attitude means that you are always actively searching, always seeking the Principle behind the Art and attempting to return to the Source, to the very essence of the Art. A beginners mind. This means that you will always be learning; that the Art is alive, not dead or static and you continue to walk the Path for the totality of your life. The verbal word is therefore more important than the written word. Underpinning this is a monistic and unitary view of the world that gives the characteristic 'taste' of the System and everything we do within it, in that the natural and manifest universe is the real universe. The log-line for the System could thus be "Listen up, you who define yourselves by your struggle, the thing that you call the Tao or God (or whatever), is Nature, and this thing is one".
You know the old story. A feeble looking old duffer touches a young, fit, agile, mobile and hostile looking thug and the thug drops like a flying grand piano. Is this magic? Is there any truth in this apocryphal story? What's going on here?
Death touch is real but not what most people think it is. To hit in this way you have to get a whole list of techniques correct. Each bullet point on the list does not add but rather multiplies the force generated. For example, one thing on the list is the correct use of body mass to strike. Another thing on the list is use of the smallest contact area to hit (for example the point of your finger). Doing both of these two things together multiplies the force generated i.e. the result is much, much greater than the sum of the parts. When you can put together all the things on the long list, you're doing death touch. You can utilise Chinese medicine theory to analyse what you're doing and how to put combinations of strikes together to again, have multiplied effects. This is fun and insightful but not really necessary as your body and the forms you use naturally do this for you. In any event you usually don't have time to do this ("Hang on while I figure out a counter as I've got to check on the time to sort out which meridian point to hit and, by the way, I also have to compensate for Eastern Standard Time"). So, the old man is actually doing a raft of things that outside observers are just not picking up. The movement he's using is optimised so that his motion is complex but minimal (very, very small spirals!).
Weapon systems form the advanced programme of study within the Rose Li School. The principle weapon used is the Jian, or Chinese double-edged straight sword, however the sword utilised within the School is very different to most of the flexible Tai Chi or Wu Shu swords seen today, being much longer, heavier and more rigid. This ‘long sword’ is approximately waist high from the ground and can be easily gripped with one hand or two. The lead hand is held with the index finger diagonally wrapped flush across the guard. This allows a grip similar to that used with Western medieval ring-hilted swords. The sword handle and scabbard are covered in ray skin to provide extra traction and protection from the elements.
The second hand, if used, grips the pommel of the sword or may be partially held to aid in thrusting (‘pommeling’). The handle of the sword is waisted to allow greater control no matter how the sword is held. This type of Jian attempts to provide a well rounded weapon capable of both thrusting and generating superb cutting power. Use of this type of sword is again very different to that of the Tai Chi sword often seen today. Emphasis is on cutting and thrusting rather than parrying. Parrying, if made, is extremely rare within our system as the parry must always be conducted as part of a evasive counter-cutting movement; the clashing of blades must be avoided as this is indicative of non-spiral motion.