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Miyamoto Musashi was one of the most inspiring martial arts legends. The man was a total genius and his Book of Five Rings has influenced our syllabus to a serious extent.
It contains countless practical hints and pointers concerning martial application. His suggestions are relentless; the sheer volume of material is bewildering.
Any serious martial artist should be well-versed in his teachings.
In the early-1990's Sifu Waller started figuring out how to create a scenario of violent chaos for combat practice. If the situation was too contrived, it would not be viable and would lose its purpose.
He sought a framework in which multiple attackers could target one person relentlessly, not stopping until they were all defeated.
Sifu Waller began to develop melee. He invited students and martial arts associates from taijiquan, wing chun, karate, ju jitsu and judo to his house for the purpose of group attack work.
The initial experiments were too violent. Eventually, Sifu Waller realised that realistic impact was a secondary concern. An aside.
The focus needed to be upon the movement itself, and that our responses should be focussed upon a continuation of the incoming movement. He broke the exercise down into a whole series of scenarios.
inwardly calm in the midst of violent chaos.
When somebody attacks, they attack you with movement. Without movement, there can be no attack. It is the movement they use to strike you and it is the movement that you must respond to.
This led to the exercise we call 'yielding'. Yielding is all about incoming force. The line of force.
Yielding represents the foundation exercise for melee. It applies to punches, kicks and grapples. Once you can sense and continue the line of force, your scope for response is increased.
As you proceed through the syllabus, yielding is attached to other drills in order to extend their scope.
When somebody successfully holds you, movement has ceased. You must re-start the movement by applying balance. Sun Tzu's dying ground indicates extreme focus at moments like these.
Every option hinges upon your ability to use gravity successfully; you must sink and root or your escape movements will only serve to uproot you. If you step too much, you will uproot yourself.
How much stepping do you require? The question answers itself. Only step as you need to. Step too much and you will tire. Similarly, do not become an immovable block.
You may be capable of standing quite still and resisting force, but you are not made of wood or stone. If you are struck, it will hurt you.
Limitation training ensures that you hone specific fighting skills. You learn to counter certain types of attack and employ particular responses.
This is necessary if you want a varied response. Otherwise you will just do the same thing repeatedly.
If the defender is learning to counter grapples, do not kick them or punch. Just grapple. Ignoring the limitations just makes you look the fool.
Keep to the exercise and help your classmates develop their skills. 'Anything goes' comes later...
An important point that Musashi repeatedly comes back to is composure.
Modern martial arts do not really consider this concern; they typically embrace aggression and allow students to become inwardly angry.
Emotional instability reduces your ability to function smoothly and easily. If you are not inwardly calm, then you are caught up in the melee. This is the wrong approach. You must be the eye of the storm.
Your yielding skills must be taken into other areas of your practice, particularly escaping from holds and countering strikes.
Until you learn to move in response to movement, you will be thought-oriented. You must go beyond mind.
The yielding exercises advocate softness, smoothness and sensitivity. You patiently and slowly respond to external stimulus without becoming anxious or greedy. Body-feel is everything.
Sticky, wardoff & yielding
In order to make space you need to yield. Stickiness and wardoff give you the ability to continue yielding without losing contact with the assailant. Train them without being greedy.
Holding, grabbing, clutching and banging bone against bone are all manifestations of tension.
Anything that goes against the flow of the incoming force is not taijiquan - because you are blocking the natural flow of the movement. Move past clumsiness. Practice yielding.
sticky body means getting inside and sticking fast to an opponent.
Sticking to an opponent means that you stick so close
that there is no gap between your bodies.
Melee will continue to develop as you progress through the syllabus. We start off with yielding melee and end with weaponry. If you have been taught a skill - use it.
If you are tired and struggle to focus, you are either unfit or using strength. Or both. Using strength will drain you quite rapidly. You give out and nothing comes back. Stay calm and use the taijiquan.
There is a small risk of injury in melee. Every participant must be careful to only use soft contact. Otherwise, it is very easy to break something. Our aim must be exuberant play.
The disorientation of repeated ceaseless attack is necessary. You stop conceptualising and just respond.
But be careful. Without control, you are an amateur. The greater your skill, the softer and more flowing you will be.
If you cannot gauge how much power to use, you are a liability to your practice partners and need to slow down until your sensitivity develops.
The use of muscular strength is the main sign of incompetence. Tensing your arms, and shoulders means that you are struggling with the attacker, and this is not the Way.
Only by letting-go can you hope to make progress. Tensing blocks movement - both your own and the attackers.
What is the benefit of this? What is the point of this? You must be fluid and flowing like water, not stiff and unyielding like a robot.
of mind should remain the same as normal...
let there be no change at all - with the mind open and direct,
neither tense nor relax,
centering the mind so that there is no imbalance,
calmly relax your mind,
and savour this moment of ease thoroughly,
so that the relaxation does not stop its relaxation for even an instant.
18 April 1995
Last updated 19 November 2018