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Agile & responsive

Have you ever watched how a cat responds to perceived danger? The entire body moves as one, drawing away from the threat, coiling and expanding.
This is akin to the amoeba-like movement students acquire from reeling silk exercises if they take their training far enough. The cat evades and counters without hesitation or doubt. It moves.


A cat can go from complete passivity to combat readiness instantaneously. It does not tense muscles and prepare. It just moves.
The cat does not psyche itself up, rock, dither or demonstrate any of the characteristics you often see demonstrated by human fighters.
Only a skilled student tends to move smoothly and calmly in response to threat. Beginners are jerky and tense.

People who are compulsively active are unstable,
while those who are addicted to quietude are indifferent.
One should have a lively spirit while in the midst of tranquillity:
this is the mentality of the enlightened.

(Huanchu Daoren)


No matter what occurs, it is advisable to evade the attacker. If your opponent cannot make contact, they cannot inflict injury upon you. Agility is essential.

Standing still

Standing in one place advertises your position. You are literally a 'sitting duck'. You need to move spontaneously and freely, without any preparation or preamble.
This requires presence, awareness, composure and physical relaxation.

Walk like a cat

Cat-stepping is vital. You must be capable moving rapidly in any direction and executing a kick without advertising its presence beforehand. This form of moving teaches you how to be sensitive and soft.


Vibration and sound give away your movements. Be silent when you step. If your feet are heavy, you are not agile. This is not an invitation to walk on tiptoes. You still need to be rooted, sunk and mobile.

Ghost walking?

In Asia, ghosts are depicted as having no feet. They float. A student cannot literally float but their sense of being 'suspended from above' should feel as if they do.
Asian ghosts don't have heavy footfalls. In fact they make no sound on the ground at all.
Many people have very loud steps. Concussive. Vibrational. Loud. This indicates weak, collapsed muscles. They have succumbed to the pull of gravity...
Instead, we must lengthen upwards and be light and silent. Like the old Kung Fu TV show where Kwai Chang Caine must walk on rice paper without tearing it?

Circles and spirals

Avoid linear movements. Make everything circular. Follow the path of force. Lead the attacker out of their root. Turn them off at strange angles by skilfully employing curves.


You cannot afford to get caught-up in things. If the Way comes to an end, then change.  Adapt, change and improvise. Move and flow like water.
No matter what the attacker does, do not become entangled. Struggling will cost you energy and time. It will also leave you vulnerable to other attackers.


The use of tension and force is a sign of incompetence. As you progress through the syllabus you will aim to provoke these very qualities in the attacker. Tension locks up the body and impedes movement.
If you can stay soft and flexible whilst your attacker is locked-solid, then you have a significant opportunity. Forcing indicates failure. Feel the flow and move with it.

Fighting method

You need to be more cat-like: silent, stealthy, calm and alert. Only by moving in a free, spontaneous, comfortable, composed manner can you use your body intelligently.
It is easy to be clumsy and brutal. It is far more skilful to be graceful, sophisticated and decisive.

When standing we should have a sensation of being more in our heels than the front of the foot. However, there should be no tendency to tighten the toes or lift them off the floor. Let the toes lie freely and allow the whole foot to 'soften'. Let the weight go down 'into' the floor so your feel grounded. This gives a firm base from which to think of lengthening upwards. Free your ankles so there is a little sway available to help discover upright balance. In order to enjoy standing without strain we should never get fixed in position.

(Noel Kingsley)

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Page created 31 July 1994
Last updated 04 May 2023