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Some thoughts on “defense”, impact and pain

9 Jun

A brief and simplified outline; First, get used to pain

Second, learn basic methods to defend

Third, get used to impact

Fourth, learn the theory….

Learning how to spar is learning how to fight

26 May

Fighting must be rational.
Do not be reckless, giving no thought to defense.
“Do not be a caveman”

There are many methods or schools of thought on defense. In the kickboxing structure we first introduce a method we call the “six gate defense system”. The name derives from traditional Chinese martial arts theory that divides the body up into six gates. First, the body is divided down the middle by the center line into left and right. There are then three gates corresponding to the area above the shoulders (“heaven gate”), between the shoulders and the hips (“man gate”) and the hips down (“earth gate”). The six gate defense system involves parrying (redirecting an attack) and shielding (covering up using the hardest parts of the body, the elbows, the knees and the shins). We believe this is the easiest method for beginners to learn. In addition, it introduces students to the idea of getting hit.

The basics of sparring

– Keep your hands UP
And by this I mean thumbs at eyebrows or at least top of fists at your cheek bones. This isn’t boxing. We have kicks, later we have elbows.

– Keep your chin down
Put it in your chest, and “peek a boo” through your gloves

– Keep your head up
Hips in, hips/shoulders/head in one line, head up. Put your head down you are going to be kneed in the face! Or snapped down! Or choked out!

– Stay up on your toes, light on your feet and MOVE!

– Don’t like getting punched? (no one does!)
1. Keep your distance and kick them (kick the puncher)
2. Tie them up

– Clinch with a PLAN!
In the clinch it is the person who is first with the most that wins

– Don’t like getting kicked? (no one does?)
1. block the kick
2. destroy the kick
3. punch the kicker
4. ride the kick
5. catch the kick
6. avoid the kick

– Knee when they clinch

– Don’t forget your “dirty boxing”

– Throw when they knee

– It is better to be thrown than controlled

– Learn how to fall, how to shrimp, and how to get up

Free sparring in the school is not a competition and there are no winners. There should be NO EGO in free sparring and every student must understand that they are responsible for the safety of their partners. Make free sparring all about improving skills and having fun.

At higher levels, they’ll begin to understand that a good sparring session involves times when both partners are actually cooperative, giving a student the security and opportunity to develop new moves. Light sparring will allow you to work on techniques you have not yet perfected. Constantly sparring with full force will only result in injuries, stagnation and frustration and is counterproductive.

Make sure your training partner knows the plan and the pace of your
sparring workout.

Introduce free sparring gradually. Beginning students should engage in no more than three rounds of free sparring per class until they learn to address their fears and adrenaline response.

The first few weeks, basic boxing drills like the “four shields” will get a student accustomed to being hit. Follow up with some of the “live training” drills we’ve already discussed here.

Get comfortable with the idea of getting hit and hitting someone. The earlier you integrate this acceptance, the more progress you will make.

Remember that there are many different free sparring formats designed to develop different skills. In our program we actually use six different formats;

1. Kickboxing sparring with gloves and shin guards
2. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu sparring starting from the knees
3. Pummeling for neck control with knees strikes
4. Pummeling for body control with takedowns
5. San Da sparring (kickboxing with the throws but not ground work)
6. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) (standing and ground)

Each format has its own advantages and disadvantages so doing all of them produces very well rounded students. Finally, realistic expectations of your performance are important. You will make mistakes.

A few guidelines for kickboxing sparring
1. Hands up
2. Chin down
3. Up on your toes
4. Do no lunge with your punches
5. After every strike or kick recover your guard
6. “Nothing for free”
7. Do not lean back to avoid strikes and kicks
8. Keep your back off the wall/ropes
9. Attack with combinations
10. Set up your kicks
11. Punch vs. kicks
12. Kick vs. punches
13. Clinch to strike
14. Clinch to throw
15. Knee vs. throws
16. Throws vs. knees

NOW GO TRAIN
NY Best Kickboxing

Late night thoughts on DEFENSE

26 May

We can not escape biology, psychology or physics. We must be constantly aware of them and work not only around them, but with them. The “fight or flight” response may be one of the most foundational; but at times flight is not possible and it can be detrimental to combat.

Shielding is probably the most instinctive response in defense. This is not surprising; gross motor skills are always easier acquired than fine motor skills. But shielding must be learned intelligently and correctly. There are correct ways to shield.

Shielding quickly allows the student to also become accustomed to contact. Becoming accustomed to pain and contact is essential to learning defense. Again there are correct ways to learn this.

Against linear / direct attacks, the parry is probably the highest percentage defense. That is, it is probably the easiest defense against linear / direct attacks for most people to learn.

Other methods of defense require awareness of angles of attack, and comfort with moving forward in the face of those attacks. That is what makes them more advanced methods.

HOW to train (if you want to have fighting skills)

17 May

Fighting must be rational.
Do not be reckless, giving no thought to defense.
“Do not be a caveman”

There are many methods or schools of thought on defense. In the kickboxing structure we first introduce a method we call the “six gate defense system”. The name derives from traditional Chinese martial arts theory that divides the body up into six gates. First, the body is divided down the middle by the center line into left and right. There are then three gates corresponding to the area above the shoulders (“heaven gate”), between the shoulders and the hips (“man gate”) and the hips down (“earth gate”). The six gate defense system involves parrying (redirecting an attack) and shielding (covering up using the hardest parts of the body, the elbows, the knees and the shins). We believe this is the easiest method for beginners to learn. In addition, it introduces students to the idea of getting hit.

The basics of sparring

– Keep your hands UP
And by this I mean thumbs at eyebrows or at least top of fists at your cheek bones. This isn’t boxing. We have kicks, later we have elbows.

– Keep your chin down
Put it in your chest, and “peek a boo” through your gloves

– Keep your head up
Hips in, hips/shoulders/head in one line, head up. Put your head down you are going to be kneed in the face! Or snapped down! Or choked out!

– Stay up on your toes, light on your feet and MOVE!

– Don’t like getting punched? (no one does!)
1. Keep your distance and kick them (kick the puncher)
2. Tie them up

– Clinch with a PLAN!
In the clinch it is the person who is first with the most that wins

– Don’t like getting kicked? (no one does?)
1. block the kick
2. destroy the kick
3. punch the kicker
4. ride the kick
5. catch the kick
6. avoid the kick

– Knee when they clinch

– Don’t forget your “dirty boxing”

– Throw when they knee

– It is better to be thrown than controlled

– Learn how to fall, how to shrimp, and how to get up

Free sparring in the school is not a competition and there are no winners. There should be NO EGO in free sparring and every student must understand that they are responsible for the safety of their partners. Make free sparring all about improving skills and having fun.

At higher levels, they’ll begin to understand that a good sparring session involves times when both partners are actually cooperative, giving a student the security and opportunity to develop new moves. Light sparring will allow you to work on techniques you have not yet perfected. Constantly sparring with full force will only result in injuries, stagnation and frustration and is counterproductive.

Make sure your training partner knows the plan and the pace of your
sparring workout.

Introduce free sparring gradually. Beginning students should engage in no more than three rounds of free sparring per class until they learn to address their fears and adrenaline response.

The first few weeks, basic boxing drills like the “four shields” will get a student accustomed to being hit. Follow up with some of the “live training” drills we’ve already discussed here.

Get comfortable with the idea of getting hit and hitting someone. The earlier you integrate this acceptance, the more progress you will make.

Remember that there are many different free sparring formats designed to develop different skills. In our program we actually use six different formats;

1. Kickboxing sparring with gloves and shin guards
2. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu sparring starting from the knees
3. Pummeling for neck control with knees strikes
4. Pummeling for body control with takedowns
5. San Da sparring (kickboxing with the throws but not ground work)
6. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) (standing and ground)

Each format has its own advantages and disadvantages so doing all of them produces very well rounded students. Finally, realistic expectations of your performance are important. You will make mistakes.

A few guidelines for kickboxing sparring
1. Hands up
2. Chin down
3. Up on your toes
4. Do no lunge with your punches
5. After every strike or kick recover your guard
6. “Nothing for free”
7. Do not lean back to avoid strikes and kicks
8. Keep your back off the wall/ropes
9. Attack with combinations
10. Set up your kicks
11. Punch vs. kicks
12. Kick vs. punches
13. Clinch to strike
14. Clinch to throw
15. Knee vs. throws
16. Throws vs. knees

NOW GO TRAIN
NY San Da
NY Best Kickboxing

The Truth of fighting….

16 Jun

If I had $1 for every time someone told me that getting on a mat, in a ring or a cage is “just sport fighting” (or my other favorite term “prize fighting”) I would be a very rich man. Of course, one of my classic responses is to note that if I put you on a mat / in a ring / in a cage, point out the guy who is going to try to punch you in the face, and tell you WHEN (in like 3 minutes) AND you still can not stop him from punching you in your face, how “real” is your fighting ability?

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These people want to talk about “dirty fighting”; stuff like eye gouging and biting, etc. Of course, I wonder, how often do you really practice that sort of stuff? Do you walk up and down the floor opening and closing your mouth to practice your biting skill? Perhaps you are the Asian equivalent of “Fonzie”, constantly extending your thumb to perfect your eye gouge? But in all seriousness, to “fight dirty” you must be IN CONTROL. Control comes from perfecting your basic fighting skills; watch some of the private challenge fights Renzo Gracie released and watch the man on top, in control (Renzo’s brother Ryan Gracie) stop a man from trying to gouge his eyes and then retaliate by biting his opponent’s ear off. You want to talk about fighting “for real”, you don’t get any more real than that.

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The year is 2016 but you’d hardly know it talking to some of these people. If Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has taught us anything, it is that if you do not practice clinching, wrestling, fighting on the ground, learning to get out from the bottom and learning to stand back up then all the “striking” in the world may be meaningless.

"Master" of striking is helpless once taken down and controlled

“Master” of striking is helpless once taken down and controlled

Those who argue that a “sport” is more limited than a life-or-death conflict on the street are missing the point. It is IMPOSSIBLE to recreate those life-or-death situations, so how can we best prepare our students for a situation they have never faced before? Consider what you would need to survive a life-or-death conflict? First, you need the tools, offensive and defensive, to get the job done.

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Second, you must be proficient enough in the techniques to use them upon an opponent who is knowledgeable, resisting them and also attempting to launch their own attack.

sparring1

Finally, do you have both the physical and mental condition to engage in a struggle such as this? Will you fall apart under the stress and adrenaline rush, freeze and forget everything you have learned? It has certainly happened in the past to many practitioners. This is a reality very few students studying Traditional Martial Arts (TMA) are forced to deal with in current programs.

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TO BE CONTINUED

Why can’t Johnny fight? PART TWO

14 Jun

In my last blog, I touched upon several trends within Chinese martial arts that have contributed to the decline of its reputation as a fighting art. For far too many, forms practice is a “holy cow” that can not be questioned, even when many do not really understand its actual application and have unrealistic expectations. I have experienced far too many people who think a fight should look like a Shaw brothers kung fu movie. I prefer to refer to Ming dynasty general Qi Jiquang;

殺人的勾當,豈是好看的?” “除此複有所謂單舞者,皆是花法,不可學也””凡比較武藝,務要俱照示學習實敵本事,直可對搏打者,不許仍學習花槍等法,徒支虛架,以圖人前美觀”
“practical is not pretty, pretty is not practical”

The second trend I touched upon, which I will discuss in more detail here, is a frequent reaction Chinese martial artists have when confronted with failure in fighting. There are always exceptions to the rule, and I have been fortunate to have met and trained with many of these exceptions, but in broad terms history has taught us that those in the Chinese martial arts tend to first blame external factors for their failure and then subsequently attempt to isolate themselves from outside influence.

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For as long as I have practiced Chinese martial arts, and for even longer as confirmed by many colleagues, Muay Thai has had a presence in the mind of those who do Chinese martial arts. We worked to condition our legs, we worked leg kicking, we worked defenses against people grabbing our neck to knee, etc. This really should not surprise people, there is a long history of interaction between Chinese martial arts and Muay Thai.

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Accounts of one of the first matches between Chinese martial artists and Muay Thai fighters (Nak Muay) relate that the Chinese fighters entered the ring to demonstrate hard Qi-Gong; they broke bricks with their open hands and had students kick and punch them to show “iron body”. Unfortunately, of the five matches, the Chinese lost all five by KO in the first round.

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It is important to keep in mind that this was not a “format issue”. In much more recent times we have discussions (arguments) about the proper format and rules; scoring in the ring in Thailand is based upon a very definite set of criteria, NOT necessary who is the “best fighter”. Muay Thai in the ring in Thailand makes many throwing and grappling techniques, things that ARE integral to Chinese martial arts, illegal. But in this first case, none of this mattered since all five Chinese fighters were knocked out in the first round.

Chinese fighters are allowed to fight without gloves, with no difference in outcome

Chinese fighters are allowed to fight without gloves, with no difference in outcome

The immediate Chinese response was to claim that Chinese martial arts are not designed to be executed in gloves (does this argument sound familiar? It should! It is alive and well today!). The Thais were unaffected by this argument, Muay Thai had evolved from bare knuckle fighting and they well understood what was really going on. Matches in which the Chinese were allowed to fight without gloves were arranged. There was no difference in the outcome; all the Chinese were defeated by knockout.

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As a coach who has trained fighters for more than twenty years, I tell you that fighting without analysis is pointless. And that analysis must be logical and follow a certain hierarchy; were the opponents simply more experienced? were the opponents simply better? did my fighter not train hard enough (many in the martial arts never seem to understand how important conditioning is to the outcome of a fight, “real” or in the ring)? Or, was it the techniques and training methods that were, simply put, wrong?

Tan Guancheng "The Warrior Sage of Penang"

Tan Guancheng
“The Warrior Sage of Penang”

People always get angry at me when I post things like this article, but I am NOT saying Chinese martial arts do not work! Quite the opposite! But if we do not apply logic (and science) to our training) and do not train correctly, we will not be able to effectively use our skills. Above is Tan Guancheng, “The Warrior Sage of Penang”, who was one of the first Chinese martial artists to defeat a Muay Thai fighter. Here, we see several issues we must ALWAYS keep in mind; Tan was very tough, Tan was familiar with Thai boxing methods, the format allowed Tan to use throws and he had obviously trained throwing in a very practical manner because he was able to use them consistently to his advantage.

Chen vs Montong

The point I am beginning to make now, as Chinese martial artists train correctly, then increasingly the “format” DOES matter. But all too easily this concept is twisted! I do NOT believe you create a format that excludes those techniques which are “not ours”, or the techniques of the “outsider”. Personally, when I train fighters, I want to prove my fighters and methods are the best, the best PERIOD. An old saying goes “it has to rain on both sides of the football”; do not exclude the tactics I use and which are important to me, and if you do not I will be able to beat you even if you use your best techniques!

richard=thai

If you lose a fight, do not cry. Do not get angry. Ask yourself WHY you lost? And be honest, which means that 99% of the time it is YOU. This approach breeds real fighters. The other approach, just crying breeds babies….

Why can’t Johnny fight? (or, how Chinese martial arts went astray)

13 Jun

This morning, two things appeared on my FACEBOOK news feed. The first was a truly awful event that had been billed as “True 2 form” which attempted to make people “fight” as if they were in some sort of bad Shaw brothers kung fu movie. We should NOT be too hard on the students here, the real blame lies with the instructors and the organizers of this farce.

The second was a posting of proposed rules for yet another “single style only” so called fighting event. The very idea of it, that you only invite people who all do the same style and insist that they fight “in style”, makes me cringe. What happened to the days of the Lei Tai challenge, when a man issued an open challenge with almost no rules to prove he was best?

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These proposed rules included gems such as “No Non-(style name) techniques (such as) high whip leg/ turning kick is allowed…elbows to the head and body and also knees to the body are permitted, however knees to the head and legs will not be scored”. As someone who has not only trained and coached fighters, but also worked as a promoter, matchmaker and adviser to athletic commissions, I cringe at the idea of letting amateurs, particularly in an event that might attract the “hobbyist”, elbow the head.

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Of course, you can question the logic of so many of these rules. So what if the technique is somehow “not part of the style”? In the old days, when fighting was a serious business, the man who found a new technique so he could beat all the others was a martila arts genius, not the guy who got disqualified for not using his “style”. Are you concerned about protecting your fighters, who are all in your “style”, from outsiders? This reminds me of a meeting of the AAU Chinese martial arts division I attended when they first started. They wanted all sorts of rules to keep out Karate people, kickboxers and boxers. So, being who I am, I asked them “Aren’t Chinese martial arts more advanced and better than those methods?”. Everyone immediately agreed! So then I asked, “So then why are you worried? If you are really better, just beat them and prove it”. Everyone was silent then. I should add, this was going to be just “point fighting” with almost no contact. They claimed that AAU would not let them do “full contact”. This confused me as I had done AAU full contact Taekwondo, but no one seemed to be able to answer me.

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Here is a thought; if you have “outsiders” come to your event and those inside your style do not do well, or even get beat very badly, you have to consider WHY? In the short term, maybe your people did not train hard enough, maybe they did not train correctly, maybe the outsiders had more experience. But if in the long run it happens over and over again, you have to face the other considerations.

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Chinese martial arts are supposed to be superior to primitive Karate that is intended just for children (yes, that is sarcasm). Chinese martial arts isn’t supposed to be “just kickboxing” (whatever that means). We are even supposed to have “internal kung fu” which is even more powerful than just external. So, clearly, we should always be winning. Why are so few Chinese martial arts stylists even fighting? And why do people keep trying to make venues that isolate Chinese martial arts fighters from other fighting arts?

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Perhaps, and give me a little moment here, but perhaps if others consistently use techniques OTHER than those you use in your “style” and are victorious with them, there is a reason? If your techniques are better, more effective, then why aren’t those outsiders using them? Maybe they are just ignorant barbarians who can’t master or even understand those advanced techniques? But then, shouldn’t you be beating those ignorant barbarians with them?

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Just something to ponder….

Once the basic defense are learned

14 Mar

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Once the basic defenses are learned, it’s an instructor’s responsibility to constantly break down and rearrange the techniques into different combinations. At New York San Da, we usually arrange our drills into either “boxing” drills or “kickboxing” drills. Typical combinations we teach include;

Boxing drills
(a) “four shields” drill (learning to get hit)
(b) parry vs. jab
(c) slip vs. jab
(d) parry vs. jab, parry vs. cross
(e) parry vs. jab, slip vs. cross
(f) parry vs. jab, shield vs. hook (double left)
(g) parry vs. jab, parry vs. cross, shield vs. hook
(h) parry vs. jab, shield vs. hook, parry vs. cross
(i) parry vs. jab, parry vs. cross, duck vs. hook
(j) parry vs. jab, parry vs. cross, shield vs. body hook
(k) parry vs. jab, shield vs. left hook, shield body shot x2

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Kickboxing
(a) parry vs. jab, leg block vs. right low kick
(b) parry vs. cross, knee block vs. left low kick
(c) parry vs. jab, shield vs. right body kick (single or double elbow)
(d) parry vs. cross, shield vs. left body kick (single or double elbow)
(e) “hard style” cross block vs. round kick (body)
(f) “soft style” cross block vs. round kick (kick catch)
(g) low parry vs. foot jab/thrust kick/side kick
(h) uppercut catch vs. foot jab

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Parrying, shielding, slipping and ducking will progressively lead to clinching and/or “shooting” (takedowns involving seizing the legs). In particular, the shielding drills lead well into both neck and body clinching and these methods are extremely functional methods of defending against a better striker.

However, I believe equally in the importance of footwork as a form of defense. Be careful not to stress clinching to the exclusion of evasive footwork. Evasive footwork is also an excellent defense against those trying to clinch.

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* ESSENTIAL RULES FOR DEFENSIVE FOOTWORK
– Never move backward in a straight line, use lateral movement
– Do not “run away”, stay in range to counter
– Move to your right against an orthodox fighter
– Move to your left against a “south paw”

my parry

Let’s examine the most basic boxing drill; parry vs. jab.

First, make sure the structure is correct. Both students have to be in the correct stance, the correct execution of the jab, the correct execution of the block, etc.

Second, the drill must be done with movement; you don’t fight standing still so don’t drill that way.

Third, even though this is a partner drill there is impact; the punch is thrown to actually connect and is actually blocked.

Fourth, all the basic drills will eventually be practiced with appropriate counters so that the students are used to the resistance (counter attack) of a real opponent.

Fifth, introduce every drill within context. Explain both why the technique is used and when it is used.

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It is important to understand that all drills have “two sides”. Doing parry vs. jab isn’t just about defense. Every jab needs to be thrown correctly, i.e. you are practicing your jab as well. Of course, drills are not sparring and there is NO EGO. Never injure your partner doing drills.

NOW GO TRAIN!
SIFU
www.NYBestKickboxing.com

Six Gate defense and how to train it

8 Jan

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Fighting must be rational.
Do not be reckless, giving no thought to defense.
“Do not be a caveman”

There are many methods or schools of thought on defense. In the kickboxing structure we first introduce a method we call the “six gate defense system”. The name derives from traditional Chinese martial arts theory that divides the body up into six gates.

First, the body is divided down the middle by the center line into left and right. There are then three gates corresponding to the area above the shoulders (“heaven gate”), between the shoulders and the hips (“man gate”) and the hips down (“earth gate”). The six gate defense system involves parrying (redirecting an attack) and shielding (covering up using the hardest parts of the body, the elbows, the knees and the shins). We believe this is the easiest method for beginners to learn. In addition, it introduces students to the idea of getting hit.

* ESSENTIAL RULES OF DEFENSE
– Keep your hands up, your chin down and your body erect
– In 6 GATE METHOD, stand your ground, don’t back up
– Small movement produces greater result (don’t overextend)
– Movement is continuous (don’t hide in your arms)
– Block actively, not passively

Teaching the 6 Gate Defense System with the basic strikes and kicks
In the beginning, the easiest ways to teach defense is to teach the basic striking and kicking techniques with their corresponding defenses. They can be introduced progressively, each round adding another attack which also introduces basic combinations. In each round, the student both attacks and defends. Normally we use three minute rounds with a one minute rest.

Lion’s Roar Martial Arts: The Master Text (click here)

A theory for counter attacks

26 Aug

The “five elements” (五行) is essentially a universal concept within Chinese martial arts. Its cycles of “creation” and “destruction” are often explained as methods of technique linkage or as methods of counter attack. Students are often told that one technique is followed by another. Or, they are given formulas of counter attack; a “metal” technique overcomes or destroys a “wood” technique, just as an ax cuts down a tree.

Constructive

Upon closer examination, systems like Hung Ga have five element techniques, but they do not follow the order of either the creation or destruction cycles? In fighting, believing the answer to an attack is as simplistic as a universal counter measure is both illogical and dangerous. Thus, if the entire scheme appears questionable to you, I agree fully. In fact, I have found others, notable Chinese boxers who also shared this view.

“One should know that the original ‘Xingyi’ …. It did not have the theory of the mutual promotion and restraint of the five elements, there were just the five elements representing five kinds of forces… This is the syncretism of the five elements. It has nothing to do with one technique overcoming another technique as the modern people claim”.

alternate jit application

The above quote is Wang Xiangzhai, Xingyi teacher, noted fighter and founder of Yi Quan. Sifu Wang further noted;

I remember well the words of my late teacher about the five elements: Metal means the strength contained in the bones and the muscles, the mind being firm like iron or stone, being able to cut gold and steel. Wood has the meaning of the bending but rooted posture of a tree. Water means force like the waves of the vast sea, lively like a dragon or a snake, when used, it is able to pervade everything. Fire means strength being like gunpowder, fists being like bullets shot out, having the strength to burn the opponent’s body by the first touch. Earth means exerting strength heavy, deep, solid, and perfectly round, the qi being strong, having the force of oneness with heaven and earth.

It is somewhat extraordinary, and somewhat disconcerting, to know that for generations most students have been given false interpretations of such a fundamental theory! In my own tradition, I was rather lucky to have never believed that combat was a simple as “A beat B, B beat C, and C beats A”. I always saw the five elements as a metaphor for possibilities; creation cycles showing how one type of technique can set up another, destruction cycles as potential counters.

jaat teui with arm pull

As I have often stated, looking through different lineages and traditions can provide us with valuable insights. We can see how the SAME techniques can counter each other; a kick counters another kick.

cut kick low

In reality, our methods are often contradictory. We punch against a kick…. then we kick against a punch….

kick vs punch

We use knee strikes against throws, but we also use throws against knees.

kick blocking

The cycles of “creation” and “destruction,” can suggest metaphorically how techniques create opportunities or can be used to counter, but we cannot take it literally.

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