недеља, 10. јун 2018.

Wooden dummies in Chinese martial arts

Training devices that imitate the height, weight and resistance of an opponent are a logical development for combat training in virtually all cultures. Different types of this kind of training equipment was use all over the world since the ancient times. While many cultures simply lost and forgot their martial arts and training equipment that goes with them with arrival of modern firearms and modern ways of fighting China for the most part preserved many of its old martial styles and exotic training devices. Wooden dummies are especially popular among Southern kung fu styles. Over time a wide variety of wooden dummies were developed to suit the needs of each particular style. This article will be just a presentation of the variety of this training devices without deep explaination of their purpose and use.

                                                     CHOY LEE FUT

Choy Lee Fut is, without any doubt, the kung fu system with the widest range of wooden dummies, both to train empty hand and weapons techniques.  Generally speaking, all these dummies share a number of common objectives to develop the students' skills, such as distance control and impact precision. In addition, each of these dummies helps the students to sharpen the striking pressure areas and they improve different types of skills, from the most basic ones to the more advanced abilities, the internal and external fighting systems and their combination:

CHEUNG BAU JONG “Wall bag” strengthens all parts of the hand you use to hit: fist, palm and fingers. It also teaches how to use the arm that is not hitting to generate and transmit impact strength into the hand or fist which is hitting.
CLF wall bag

CHING JONG “Balanced dummy”. This dummy, apart from strengthening hands and fists, it also strengthens the forearms (Kius) and teaches to intercept or block with the arm and to place it in a suitable position so as to provide a good protection. Sometimes, the arm can hit and block simultaneously. 
CLF ballanced dummy

 SAH BAU JONG “Sand bag dummy”. Unlike the Jongs mentioned above which are fixed dummies, this is movable. This makes the student move according to the movements of the dummy so as to keep the most suitable distance to hit the opponent with the strongest force. There is a difference in hitting something static to hitting something that is constantly moving in different directions and at different paces.

CLF sand bag dummy

 SAM SING SAH BAU JONG “three sand bags dummy”. It shares the same goals and principles as the Sah Bau Jong but adding the difficulty of having three sand bags instead of one. This is like fighting with three opponents at the same time.

  SOI SAU JONG “Breaking hand dummy”. This tool has the same objectives as the previous dummies, as well as the purpose of helping the student to get faster and hitting at the right time.

CLF soi sau jong
MA JONG  Unique to this dummy is the heavy spring-loaded horizontal log shaped in the form of a horse. The log is mounted on wheels and springs in such a way that when pushed back the horse charges forward, forcing the practitioner to defend and control the dummy.
Power and a flexible horse stance are used to avoid and redirect the energy generated by the heavy log. The use of two interlocking spinning arms also requires a quick eye, together with fast and accurate hands to hit the targets between the rotations of the arms. The dummy is designed to train a combination of speed, accuracy and power.                                         
Palm blossom wooden dummy
small palm blossom wooden dummy

RICE BAG wooden dummy , rarely seen training equipment of Choi Lee Fut

Rice Bag dummy

TRI STAR dummy, there are two variants of this training tool , one is used for empty hand techniques while other for knife fighting training 

Knife tri star dummy

Empty hand tri star dummy

SPRING DUMMY is a wooden trunk with a spring that connect the  base of the dummy with the floor. Purpse of this dummy is to provide reacting force to the punches and kicks.
Spring Dummy
Another example of CLF dummy

                                                                        WING CHUN

Wing Chun wooden dummy is probaly the best known variant of these kind of training equipment due to planetary popularity of the style its self. Woooden dummy  has very interesting history in Wing Chun style, interesting in a sense that no one knows who and when introduced this training tool to the style. Common believe is that wooden dummy came from the red boats that they were either mechanical part of the boat or they were training tools form opera students, but some independent historical research about red boats and history of the opera house didn’t mention wooden dummy anywhere, in any context.We don’t know whether or not Leung Jan used wooden dummy and if he did , how did he used it, Was he the one who first used Wooden Dummy in his training ? Or maybe some of his students? Same goes for Chan Wah Shun and later generations . First complete wooden dummy set , in a way we know wooden dummy sets today was created by Yuen Kai San .
First version of wooden dummies were of a type now called Dai Jong ,Ground Dummies, also sometimes referred to as “buried” or “dead” dummies. One third of the dummy would be burried in the ground. 
Dai Jong

 Yip Man , due to the lack of space in Hong Kong invented (or some say stoe the idea from Dai Dak Lan training hall) a wall mounted dummy.

Yip Man training on wall mounted dummy

Bamboo dummy is used sporadically in a few Wing Chun styles. It is very different from Wooden Dummy, it has elastic hands and some even call it “chi sao” dummy , also it has several different “hand positions”  which enables training of  variety of situations and techniques . Main purpose of this training device is to develop trapping skills and enhance chi sao reflexes and control of the opponent’s arms 
bamboo dummy

Tripodal dummy or Gerk Jong is a training tool introduced to Wing Chun by Leung Ting. It is unknown where did he get the idea for this training device. Gerk Jong is made of three wooden pillars half burried into the the ground in trianglular shape one meter apart. It is used to training kicks and leg blocks. 

Gerk Jong
Some styles of Wing Chun developed over time their specific  and pretty unique Wooden Dummies 

Vinetnamese Wing Chun dummy

Cho Gar dummy

                                                             WENG CHUN  

WENG CHUN POLE DUMMY. Weng Chun style , which is a mixture of Wing Chun and Hung Kuen share wooden dummy and other equipment with Wing Chun. One unique training device found in Weng Chun is Long Pole dummy used as the name says for practicing Long Pole techniques

Long Pole dummy

                                                       WHITE EYEBROW

Some White Eyebrow school use wooden dummy pretty similar to Wing Chun dummy except it has two legs. CHOW GAR

Bai Mei wooden dummy

                                                                CHOW GAR

Chow Gar or Southern praying mantis style has a wooden dummy developed for the style's specific requirements 

Chow gar wooden dummy.
Another type of chow gar dummy

                                                               GOLDEN DRAGON

R. W. Smith,one of the first westerners who studied various forms of Chinese boxing in Taiwan  in the 1960s, noted the use of dummies in various styles and provided informatios about that in his books.

This is a  photograph is of Tung Chin-tsan  aka, the “Golden Dragon from  Southern Taiwan (Chiayi) in 1961.  Tung  claimed a great martial heritage, having studied at Wudang, the Shaolin Temple in Henan  and the southern Shaolin Temple in Fujian.  Given that scholars are now agreed that this last school never actually existed one must also doubt his other credentials.  What was true that Tung had a number of followers in the Black Dragon organized crime society.  He had also been imprisoned because of his own membership in the group.  


                                        " SHAOLIN" STYLE FROM FUJIAN

In his book "Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods " Robert W.Smith describer an event when he was introduced to  Wu Ku-Ts’ai in Tainan. Wu studied in Yong Chun County.  Smith states that his style was simply “Shaolin.”  

 Wu was a believer in the importance of physical conditioning.  His students who were all family members practiced strikes on the post pictured here.  It does not appear that Wu had a dedicated dummy form, at least not that he shared with Smith. 

                                                              WHITE CRANE

 Vast majority of White Crane styles do not use any kind of wooden dummy. Few styles use exactly the same wooden dummy as in Wing Chun. It remains unclear which art first developed this particular kind of wooden dummy. Some styles use wooden dummy that is basically same shape as wing chun dummy , the only difference is the distance between arms which is a bit larger in White Crane.
White Crane dummy
  Some white crane developed unique wooden dummies according to their fighting principles and training requirements
White Crane dummy

White Crane dummy

                                                              MOK GAR 

Mok Gar is one of the famous 5 family styles from Guangdong. This style uses very simple form of wooden dummy. It is actually a wooden pillar without any attachments. It is used for training kicks and conditioning the arms


                                                              BLACK TIGER 

Shaolin Black Tiger is a rare form of southern Chinese Kung Fu that traces its roots to Southern Shaolin monastery. Style uses an interesting form of wooden dummy which “head” can be adjusted according to the height of the practitioner. This dummy is made of stone and has metal arms and legs

Black Tiger Sifu Wong Cheung was movie advisor for Hong Kong action movies and influenced fight coreographies for many years, he also appeard in one of "Shaw Brothers" classics.

                                                               BA GUA 

Ba Gua is one of the most famous "soft" styles practiced today. In Ba Gua style there are several different dummies. The simplest one is just a wooden pillar half burried i to the ground . Next variation is a simple variant with two hands to practice kicks and punches. There is a variant of the same dummy with four hands and last variant is a four hands dummy that can move arround central axis. 

                                                   CHOI MOK PAI

The five most common styles of southern Shaolin are Hung, Lau, Choi, Lee and Mok, named after the five great masters that taught in the south. Choi Mok Pai, takes its name from two from them, but it has also been influenced and contains elements from all these styles as well as a few others, that the founder of the system had learned.There are two different kinds of wooden dummy in this system, they are just slightly different. First  wooden dummy of this system is pretty much the same shape and size as Wing Chun dummy but has only two upper hands .

Choi Mok Pai Wooden Dummy techniques

Second wooden dummy of the style is almost identical to first version with only one difference , it has three arms, all mounted as close as possible .

Three arms dummy of choy mok pai


                                                          HUNG GAR  

Hung gar is style with probaly the largest numbers od wooden dummies after Choy Lee Fut. Some wooden dummies are adopted from other systems like Choy Lee Fut and Wing Chun while others are originaly built for Hung Gar. Wooden dummies in this system have great variations in size and complexity. Dummies range from simple bamboo pole to elaborate mechnacial contraption with a lot of moving parts.

plum blossom dummy

The “Iron Dummy” is a mechanical training device from Taiwan used in some local Hung Kuen schools. It is an apparatus associated with a system known as Shaolin Eighteen Bronzeman Method.

петак, 01. јун 2018.

Sword as a symbol

Sword is not just a weapon, in almost all cultures it has grown in its stature to represent more than just a weapon. Swords have taken on a variety of characteristics with deep emotional meaning and symbolic significance. Throughout time swords and daggers have been ingrained into the cultures and rituals of many historic traditions. There is no other weapon that influenced people’s life as much as the sword did.

In the everyday life

The Sword is a Symbol of Authority. Sword is used to represent the line of kingly power. Power to rule all the people is bestowed on the bearer of some special sword .
The line of continuation of power, The king was supposed to protect his people as warrior, to guaranty justice as judge, and often to see to the right ordering of worship as a kind of priest. The sword was passed on to the heir as a symbol of the transfer of authority, and the giving of a sword to the new king was (or still is) a widespread feature of coronation ceremonies

An instrument used by a king or queen to confer Knighthood. Knighthood elevates a person to a higher "station" in society by recognizing that persons achievements and qualities as being far above normal and thereby worthy of a higher status.

Rite of passage: The sword is the symbol of Knighthood or of being a 'warrior' in more primitive periods and when ceremonially presented for the first time, the recipient was confirmed to a higher social standing. To qualify for this opportunity, it often required proof of a specific bloodline  and training, but in special situations these formalities were omitted

Symbol of honor and loyalty: Taking an oath of honor upon your sword (pledge, swear). This was done by either gripping the handle of your own sword (remaining in the scabbard), or by kissing the blade of the other persons sword (typically a person of royalty). If such an oath was broken, the individual was to be executed by his own sword.

Surrendering your sword: To yield your weapon to the requestor as part of submitting or being placed under arrest. Victors required the conquered to submit their sword which was then broken in a formal ceremony of degradation. This is especially true for internal military expulsions since a sword was the mark of an officer and a gentleman.

 Blood Oath : Many cultures were known to use blood to confirm solemn oaths. The most common ceremony involved two people in an oath taking their own daggers, slicing open one of their own palms and then clasping the other person's cut palm allowing the blood of both people to mix together. With their blood being united, so were their souls - upon penalty of death (if the oath was broken)

Symbol of prestige and a class symbol. A high-quality sword produced by a well-known smith was then worth its weight in gold

Symbol of justice: Iustitia, the Roman goddess who was the equivalent of the Greek goddess Themis, most commonly portrayed  as a blindfolded woman carrying a sword and a set of scales. Symbolizing the fair and equal administration of the law, without corruption, greed, prejudice, or favor.

Dueling weapon: Before introduction of the fire arms swords were main dueling weapon in Europe and even after pistols took over, swords remained in use. The last known duel was fought by swords in France in 1949.

Duality: The sword is the most obvious symbol of a warrior, but can be taken in two ways: Destructive - for purposes of killing and the like  Positive - Defending justice, destroying injustice and the like This is often why a sword is often symbolically double-edged

In different religions sword has different meaning and significance:

In Buddhism the sword symbolism deals with discrimination of thought. In this light, swords cut away ignorance.

In Christianity the sword symbolism deals with protection, righteousness, and justice. We see archangel Michael depicted in Christian art holding a sword  to reinforce the concept of truth, purity, equanimity, and the justness revealed in the light of Christ. Furthermore, we see the sword blocking the gates of Eden as a sign of protection from sin.

In Islam a sword symbolizes the holy war or quest against the infidels, and it is a symbol for the unending fight against your own wickedness. This kind of symbolism is still very much alive

In Hinduism sword is represented as wisdom cutting through ignorance. Hindu and Buddhist deities are often shown wielding or holding sword in religious art

In Daoism ritual swords are often wielded as symbolic weapons to subdue evil forces.

In different times and different areas swords had different roles:

Ancient Greece Greek swords went through three different ages, these were known as the Archaic age, the Classic age and the Hellenistic age. The Archaic age begins with the Greeks settling in Corinth, Thebes and Athens all around 8th century B.C. In the Archaic age Greek swords where made of copper and bronze, such swords of this time where Aor, Chalos and Phasganon. Aor was the bronze Sword or Apollo and was in use at the time of the Trojan war. Phasganon is a straight two edged sword used by foot soldiers and nobles. In the Classic age Greek swords took a sharp turn. It was during this time that Athens and Sparta allied to fight the Persians in 500 B.C. All citizens of the time were required to be drafted to the army. After one year of service they were presented with a sword and a shield. The Hellenistic age is best known for Alexander the great. There are several mythological swords such as the sword of death owned by Thantos the god of non violent death. It was used to take a cutting of a dying persons hair to send to the underworld. One of the most famous swords of Greek myths was the sword given to Perseus to kill Medusa.
Greek Copis sword

The Roman Sword or Gladius is one of the most widely recognized swords of any culture.
 These swords were in use between 4th century BC and 3rd Century AD. The Romans where highly skilled and disciplined and great weapons such as the sword were a must especially for cavalrymen and infantrymen. The skills of these men and the advances in sword making techniques made this sword a deadly weapon and was one the major factors behind a long and successful military reign. To identify a person’s sword the name was often etched into the blade.

In Japan the sword is a symbol of courage and strength.  Here the sword is created by smiths in religious rituals.  Their swords are highly valued and serve as symbols of the warrior archetype.

In China sword is regarded as the master of cold weapons. Swords have appeared in Chinese various arts, including calligraphy, dance, poems, novels, music, songs, movies, TV programs, and of course, martial arts. Not only a symbol of power sword in China represents knowledge and marks the social status of the individual, only scholars and military officers had a right to carry a sword.

As a Celtic symbol, the sword is connected to gain, wealth, honor, and establishment of hierarchy.  Often swords we be consider markers of familial ties, and indicate victories won for the purpose of insuring the survival of blood lineage.  Interestingly, swords were thought to be given as offerings by releasing them into the depths of the oceans.

Mayans symbolism indicates the sword as the giver of life. The sword serves as a gateway into spiritual life as the physical body passes and the spirit lifts into celestial unfolding.

Slavic people used and respected swords since the beginning of the bronze age. Many Slavic gods were depicted with one or more swords. In old Slavic culture sword was not only a symbol of power and war but also a symbol of peace.

Swords didn’t influence just everyday life in every possible way but they also have great significance in supernatural world

Esoterically, The Sword Symbolizes The Mind. Just as The Sword can cut in both directions, so too can The Mind dissect both sides of an issue until the basic fact  is revealed. We use the term "double-edged sword" as a metaphor when referring to the rewards and risks we must Weigh in our Decision making processes.

As an alchemical symbol the sword is a symbol of purification. Here we experience the metaphorical sword cleanly piercing the spiritual soul of man. This symbolic action sacrifices physical bondage to release a path to ethereal (enlightened) freedom

Sword as a symbol of light: Sword is also closely linked to light. Swords glitter, and the Crusaders used to call them “fragments of the Cross of Light.” The Japanese sword sacred to the Emperor originated in lightning, when the storm-god “Susa no O” kills an eight-headed snake, and pulls from its tail the sword called “Ame no murakomo no tsurugi.” This miraculous sword was given by the sun goddess Amaterasu to her grandson Ninigi when he descended to earth to become ruler of Japan, thus establishing the divine link between the imperial house and the sun. The Vedic sacrificial sword originated by Indra’s thunderbolt. Lightning is associated with water, and hence another link between the fire-swordwater that Wor. Conseil refers to. When God drove Adam and Eve from Paradise, he sends Cherubims carrying flaming swords. These swords threw off lightning bolts (Genesis 3:24)

Sword as symbol of Fire: In Alchemy, the fire in the furnace is called “The Philosopher’s sword.” The Anglo-Saxon word for sword was seax, meaning “the fire of the great fire”, the Italian word is spada, or sepada, meaning “the fire of the shining Father.”

In the symbolic language of the Tarot, swords represent the realm of the mind, specifically the navigation of thought. Just as the sword is wielded by its master, so too may thoughts be directed by conscious training of the mind. An untrained mind (one that is inexperienced in wielding the power of thought) will face many challenges.

Swords also hold great power in the realm of subconscious mind

As dream symbols, the sword is considered to hold meanings of intellect, seeking power, aggression, decision and action.  When we dream of swords our psyche is surfacing a message that it may be time for us to gain clarity about our position in life circumstances, take a stand and take action in a clear, discriminatory fashion. Freud would have us believe the sword in our dreams is a phallic symbol. Visually, philosophically and energetically the sword shares many similarities to the male organ as well as masculinity and all its manifestations.

среда, 02. мај 2018.

Kung fu - obsession with blocking

One of the defining characteristic of Chinese martial arts is an accent on blocking in training. No matter whether the style has just a few or great number of forms the majority of techniques from which the forms are composed are blocking techniques. Same thing we can find in other Asian martial arts that are under influence or have their roots in Chinese Kung Fu. Besides forms there are a number of drills, sensitivity exercises and training tools to help developing blocking abilities.
On the other hand, from experience (for martial arts practitioners) or by simple observation it is easy to notice that blocking isn’t the best solution for first fighting. A number of arts like western boxing, different kind of kick boxing and several styles from Thailand and Burma have completely different approach in training. First they do not put much accent on forms, if any, and they notoriously do not use or practice blocking . Instead of blocking they are using covering, footwork, body conditioning to withstand the punch. These styles today rule the full contact competitions on all levels and successful competitors with Kung Fu background are rare.
So, where such a difference is coming from? To understand this problem we have to understand the history and development of martial arts. The most important thing we have to have in mind that technical content of the style is direct consequence of the purpose and the selected distance.
Boxing, Kick Boxing and Thai boxing are arts purely made for bare hands fighting. Training system was developed in that particular direction. The goal of training in these particular arts is to prepare the practitioner for empty hand fighting.  Body is conditioned to withstand the force of punches and kicks. Hand techniques are rather simple and direct. There are a bit more varieties in kicking techniques but not much. Footwork is adjusted to hand to hand fighting and there is almost no blocking. Punches and kicks are stopped by legs and especially arms which cover the space between fighters and taking all the energy of the blows. It is not uncommon for a fighter to “open” a body part like stomach or chest to lure the opponent and get hit on purpose so he can lend knocking down punch on opponent’s head. While fighters put great effort to protect the head, they do not bother much to protect the body and they take a lot of hits. Blocking in hand to hand fighting is definitely not the best solution because distance between fighters is short and while one punch is blocked the next is already on the way. Blocking more than few punches in succession is almost impossible, every block leaves the fighter “open” and eventually the fighter who attacks will find a way to land punches. Direct counterattacks, footwork, guarding position give much better results in defense.   
On the other hand Chinese martial arts seems to completely disregard the fact that blocking is not the best solution for hand to hand combat and put seemingly too much emphasis on blocking. While Chinese Kung Fu styles have extremely developed and in theory extremely efficient and effective fighting tactics and principles in reality that is not the case. Also, Chinese Kung Fu has a variety of very unusual hand techniques which are neither blocks or punches or they are both or something in between. There are many blocks that take a long time to come to blocking position and variety of punches under such an angle that breaks basic principles of punching efficiency and these punches are not very powerful. So why these things, obviously non-efficient and often without logical, clear or any explanation are still practiced? Why is Kung Fu based  in these kind of movements?
For its several thousand years history Kung Fu in China was used and developed as a Military art. As well as today, in ancient times military training was concentrated on weapons training and trope deployment and maneuvering on the battlefield. Hand to Hand combat was non existent or in rare cases only used as an entry level for real combat training. Over the centuries as technology advanced , weapons became stronger and military tactics changed but basic infantry training stayed pretty much the same. Although weapons and armor changed depending of the given situation and tactics of the enemy at particular time. Every new weapon brought a new ways of using it and of course a new way of defense against it.  On the battlefield of the past regardless of the time the most important skill was not attacking but avoiding injury at all cost. Being struck with a spear, arrow, sword or any other weapon meant almost certain death. Even minor injuries led to infections more than often and infections in those times were lethal. Even superficial injuries that could be treated today successfully in old times usually would left an injured soldier with permanent disability. These reasons led to development of so many elaborate defensive systems which put accent on blocking.
Blocking is the best way to stop the incoming weapon, the safest way. Having a long weapon gives enough distance and distance gives time to a practitioner to prepare the best possible defense. There is no other way to stop weapon , fighter can dodge it a few times but even that is questionable. A train fighter with a spear or a sword will simply cut down anyone with short weapon or no weapon in a second. That is why so much emphasis is put in Kung Fu training.
Although Chinese army used fire arms since 11 century A.D. when Manchus conquered China army technological development was pretty much non existent. Modern weapons started to arrive in China after Taiping revolution and majority of tropes were still armed with cold weapons, old fashioned body armor and small number of tropes had matchlock rifles several hundred years old. Ancient way of training was preserved in China till the last decades of 19th century.
Two things happen in last decades of 19th century, military finally started to modernize and there was no more need for weapons obsolete in a modern warfare and Kung Fu became popular among upper social class and put accent on empty hand fighting. Professional Kung Fu fighters were no longer needed as military instructors or mercenaries, new technologies dictated new way of warfare and new set of skills were required. These people, now in need of new source of income started to teach what they knew, Kung Fu. Since they had a lot of experience and spent most of their lives doing their arts they simply translated weapon fighting techniques to empty hand fighting. Of course, in their minds blocking was very important because one struck of the blade usually means death and definitely means the end of the fight, so they taught it that way. At the beginning of the 20th century China became a republic and kung fu became one of the significant marks of national identity. Government supported kung fu teachers who tried to keep “tradition” and did little to adjust the styles for empty hand fighting, and that is a process still active today, for most of the practitioners tradition and heritage is more important than actual use in fight.