Body Mechanics

‘It is often easier to describe good mechanics if we look at what is bad. When fighting, your body needs to be mechanically stable, able to support itself without effort and move easily.

Everything is loose (what the Chinese call “Song”) and nothing forced. If at any time bones, muscles or joints are locked, or moved against their natural movement, then mechanics are bad. Part of training in standing postures is to enable you to instantly feel when your mechanics are wrong, thereby enabling you to adjust automatically. This is important in a fight, remember it only lasts a few seconds!!

Look at the body’s skeletal structure more and “fight with your bones.” You should concentrate on keeping your back straight when doing forms or practicing application. You will see the benefit of not leaning through an opponent (or using them to hold you up!). Move through your target with a straight back – there is more power, less effort and more stability. To do this you must be close. Get in – intent! You must strike through the target, and not stretch or lean in order to just hit the target at optimum range. (There is more chance at you being hit then also!!) Fighting this way is “hard”. The muscles have a huge tendancy to pull the skeletal structure out of shape, locking your own joints and “willowing” the spine.

Constantly check posture while training. Any joint that feels slightly forced or under pressure is mechanically wrong. Any knee, for example, that twists or rotates so far as to raise a flat foot is wrong. A straight leg means you should have already stepped, or as a consequence you have leaned to kick, etc. In all instances, the waist/Dan Tien no longer faces or lines up through the target.

Look at the first 3 of the Six Harmonies, read the formula for Attack – keep your back straight, feet flat and knee’s bent. Do not just look at your enemy, face him.’

The stages of Kung Fu

‘A previous article was written on anticipation and perception. It was mentioned that perception was the third stage in achieving or learning Kung Fu. It must be stated that this is a simplification. There are of course many stages which the individual will experience change of both mind and body. Indeed these changes never stop, as long as you live there will be development, change, improvement, etc (such continual change is primarily of mind and spirit).
Back to the simplification. There are basically 4 stages. What follows is another extract from the book “The Secrets of Kung Fu”.

The Four Stages
1.Catch up

1. Catch up
We must look at “catch up” as a primarily defensive attitude. Catch up basically refers to the individual who waits to see what will happen. This could be a beginner or just as easily a 15-20 year “experienced” practitioner who has simply missed the point!
There are many practitioners and indeed teachers who will always be stuck here. Bogged down in analysing set techniques for set situations, always waiting for adversaries to move first, or looking to see what they can work from after being attacked.
There is no intent here. No real spirit for the kill. A lack of willingness for the fight, encouraging the sparring attitude, which on the street does not exist.
Basic external levels (don’t miss the point here, I will always emphasise the importance of basic foundations, External or Internal!) such as reflex, speed (if he has it!), hand-to-eye coordination are the primary concerns.
Using “catch up” can lead you into the trap of anticipation. Anticipating something which does not happen can be fatal. Fighters who are good at tricks and feints (e.g. Boxers) will beat you easily.

2. Synchronisation
This is really an improved form of Catch up. The individual may seem to move quicker. Almost as if moving “with” an opponent.
At this stage the individual is more aware of weight disposition in their adversary, not just relying on the movements of limbs or extremities to initiate a reaction. Especially in one who is not relaxed, preliminary movement or “wind up” prior to striking is common.
There can be a lot to see here. Shoulders dipping or rising, eyes widening, an arm being pulled back before it strikes, body weight shifting to one side before a kick is delivered, etc, etc.
As with catch up this is all still primarily external. The attitude is defensive. Again, no real intent. You are still in danger of anticipating.

3. Perception
(As stated earlier, there has already been a useful article about perception and anticipation.)
At this stage the individual has begun to learn that the most important thing is intent. In order to achieve good perception and make it work for you, you must “get in”. The last two stages then are about aggression, attack, fighting spirit and intent.
Perception owes itself to touch as well as vision. You have to be close in to make this work. You feel and sense as much as you see. This makes it easier to perceive when there is a “gap”, either physical, mental or both, and to exploit and finish the fight, although the individual is not necessarily conscious of any thought process.
There cannot be any question of “chasing hands” here. Any strikes are often neutralised with natural use of the forearms and elbows, etc. Some argue there is more danger of being hit closer in – not so. There is more danger in staying away and not closing in. Of course you may be hit – it is a fight! But a glancing blow from an enemy as you smother him is a good exchange of energy!

4. Pre-emptiveness
Fighting/Kung fu – the very nature of the thing is violent and aggressive. The quicker this violence is carried out the better for all concerned. The less chance of injury to yourself and the less chance of any pondering minds who might think about joining in, when they have plucked up the nerve!
An old saying goes, “You can retreat into your castle and pull up the drawbridge. You might not lose, but you cannot win.”
If you know conflict cannot be avoided, but you forego the opportunity to strike first, it could result in retreating into your castle. You lose the initiative. The chance to get that step in front might not come again, if you consider how quickly the thing is over.
It can be very dangerous to let an adversary you do not know strike first. Depending on your capabilities, they could be faster, stronger, fitter, etc. You have to attack in order to win anyway, so you might as well do it first. This could also give you the element of surprise. Your enemy may be expecting an exchange of words and gesturing before physical violence. If you are going to fight then fight, do not talk.
Pre-emptiveness requires a heightened state of awareness and control of the emotional mind. It requires the individual not to give away intent physically/externally. The intent is pure relaxation. Hence the purest intent is “no intent” at all.
Note:- It is not the intention to mislead or have the above text misconstrued. It may not always be possible to strike first, especially when attacked for no apparent reason, or from a flank. Knocking down anyone who gives a sly look is not a good idea either!
There are normally preliminaries to a fight – staring, abuse, etc. Your state of awareness should have meant you avoided this in the first place! This comes with training, experience and age!
Remember, the one underlying reason he wishes to fight you is that he thinks he can win. You simply have to change his mind as quickly as possible.’

Anticipation and Perception

‘When we talk of fighting/kung fu, anticipation can be fatal. Anticipation is much to do with guesswork. You may presume or guess what an opponent will do. You may get it right and a pre-planned attack could work accordingly, but you’ll just as easily get it wrong! Anticipation then is not mindset. It is not about what is happening “here and now.”

Perception is not just about visual assessment and guesswork. With Perception we feel as well as see; we are in contact with our opponent, so correct perception requires intent. It is our perception that allows us to do as little as possible or cut out unnecessary movement. If our perception is good, it’s always right. Perception is seeing, feeling, here and now.

Perception is the “third stage” in learning Kung Fu.’

What is missing in most martial systems today?

‘… Jin is useless without spirit. You could argue that standing has a definite spiritual development aspect, but one of the ways this book is different from many others is to illustrate some exercises that play a definite role in developing fighting spirit.

The Three Treasures of life – Jing (life essence), Chi (energy) and Shen (Spirit) – are the basic components which make us “what we are”. Although we cannot have an elevated strong spirit without sufficient Jing and Chi, Spirit is the most important component.

It would seem most methods of teaching are about 10-15 years training the body, and in some cases the energy or chi also. After which time spirit is hopefully “there” as a matter of course, either through a gradual enlightenment of the soul or the taking part in competition. Along with the gathering of technical knowledge this gives the individual heightened awareness, confidence and self-belief.

The Three Treasures are the necessary components for life. Kung Fu is a way of life. It is also about fighting. Real fighting has nothing to do with competition and pretty forms, etc. Real fighting must be understood as “to the end”. It is vicious, merciless and usually over very quickly. Never believe you have true fighting spirit through years of cultivating the body and energy, or even mind and body. Yes, you must train mind, body, energy etc., but it is not enough. You cannot beat real experience of violence. You may have “Jin” whilst in a training environment or even in a contest. But, if you are not trained with real methods, to include real intimidation, unrehearsed vicious attack with intent to put you down, then you will never train the spirit of intent required for what could be a life threatening situation.

Without spirit there is no Jin, all training is useless, the Ten Foundations (See Book 1) quickly disappear. Some say training the mind is training the spirit. It is not. It can help, but testing fighting spirit can only be done for real.

How will the individual react when hit? And hit hard? Also, being struck with intent, rather than as an accident of distance or timing can make all the difference. How quickly will they regain Center? Maybe they thought being “trained” they wouldn’t get hit? Ha ha! Or, will the mind stay clear and the body re-adjust instantly and continue with the job until it is finished? This takes spirit. You must train to fight to the end. Let us look at a simple analogy.

Most systems/styles do not train like the “arrow”. When the archer shoots an arrow in practice, it flies straight and true into the Boss (straw target). In reality, the arrow knows no difference when striking a man and piercing his heart.

It is not easy to train like the arrow. Some people cannot cope with intimidation, vicious and quick attacks from all angles, designed to knock them out and not just to score points. But if they cannot cope with it in training there is no hope on the street.

It is no use when teachers give students a false sense of ability by giving out grades or belts, just because they have worked hard, trained a long time, or form/kata is good. A good teacher will know who has developed the spirit to make what they have learned work.

The Daoist principle of “Realizing one’s own spirit” is still there. The teacher is still just a guide showing methods. This is true of Chi Kung or Kung Fu. The individual still has to “want” it, has to put in the time and effort. It simply must be said that accepted training methods are too far removed from the real thing, as far as pugilism is concerned.

There are some who are extremely timid and will never have the “fight” spirit. There are those who are quiet, but will fight ferociously when provoked. There are those who are naturally aggressive and enjoy the fight, but sometimes do not make the best fighters!

The problem is that most “styles” or “systems” train to the self-defense philosophy. The average student of martialism is none of the character stereotypes listed above. They are generally talkative, confident individuals with a good social outlook. These people have great potential for building fighting spirit. Instead, they are taught to defend themselves. The thought of something such as a pre-emptive attack just does not exist! This philosophy is nice, “politically/socially correct”. It makes learning aesthetically pleasing for those who know in themselves they have no stomach for the real thing. Those who like the “idea” of being a martialist, but are just dressing up in an oriental looking suit and “playing” at it. The teacher (please observe note at end of the page) will play along with this. It is not good business to tell someone they will not get there or have not got it. Besides, if the teacher has not “got it” anyway, then they will not get anywhere.

You must train to fight someone who wishes to kill you. If you just train to defend yourself, against an individual who wishes to severly injure you, with intent to knock you down and render you unconscious, you will lose. Their spirit is at a much more elevated level than yours. They have the intent, the “spirit of the thing”, which physical violence and fighting are about.

An Army trained solely for aggression and war can make the transition to policing as a Peace-Keeping Force relatively easily. But ask an Army who’s only role has been shepherding civilians and kissing babies to suddenly go to war and it will fail miserably.

One point being made here is the importance of training in excess or ‘over the top’ for that which will require success.

We fall short in many things we hope to achieve in life. You could take a very fundamental example. Let us say a list of things to do over a weekend. Your intentions are good, to complete all tasks, but if the list is long, or certain jobs rely on others peoples cooperation, the chances of completing all jobs are slim. We tend to settle for half, or are satisfied if the most urgent are completed. To repeat, we fall short.

You will not totally destroy your enemy in the average fight. But you must wish and train to do so in order to simply succeed. Otherwise he may not hesitate to do the same to you. Your lack of spirit or intent for the fight is merely seen as a ‘gap’ to be taken advantage of. We fall short of totally destroying our enemies, but we must have the intent.’

Reference note: It is not my intention to offend anyone. I am sure there are many teachers who are good at what they do. Anyone offended can only be the ones to whom what is said is true.