Saturday, 5 October 2019

Striking Form: Movement No. 6- Hammer Fist and Cannon Punch

Hello, everyone and welcome back! :)

We are finally here...

The last movement in the last form to be discussed on this blog. Well- at least for the time being...

I had lots of fun creating these gifs and will most definitely use them in future posts. Thank you to those who have followed this series, thus far. I know many of you are far away and we may not be able to meet in person. You are, however, welcome to email me or inbox me with any questions or comments that you may have.

Well... on to today's move...

In the book the movement starts with an outward block like this...

From there you can assume that you have a firm hold of the opponent's attacking arm when you move in with the hammer fist.

After striking downwards with the hammer fist the fist shoots diagonally upwards with an uppercut or as we call it here- a cannon punch.

I must admit that I am using more of a downward forearm strike than a hammer fist in the above demonstration. The downward blow to the opponent's extended arm is meant to have a sudden shock that either dislocates one or more of the arm's joints or perhaps even breaks bone. If none of that happens the shock should at least cause the opponent's posture to be broken- if only for a third of a second. That time when the opponent's body is affected by your strike is the time during which you have no threat from the opponent at all. This, however, is when you deliver the finishing blow.

The uppercut here hits the opponent with his own lower teeth.

A good sign is seeing the head rocking backwards when the blow hits. If this movement is sharp enough the opponent can be knocked out. 

From a grappling perspective a blow like this can raise an opponent's energy and disrupt his rooting. This is then an excellent opportunity for a takedown...

In the second application I have intercepted a weapon attack by stepping n with the block. I still hold on to the opponent's attacking arm when I strike his carotid artery or collar bone. A broken collar bone takes one hand out of the fight.

The uppercut here does the same as in the above application. I can punch the stomach or ribs as well.

Both blows connect as you sink your weight into the ground. Do this right and your hammer fist will definitely break your opponent's posture and set him up for that uppercut- regardless of where the hammer fist hits...

-This brings us to the end of this series on forms in Wenhsiuquan.

Right now- I am actually at a loss for what to write about next...

Send me your suggestions on what you wnat to read more about in the comment section of either this post or on its links on Facebook, Twitter or Qzone.

In the meantime I will start a new blog that is not martial arts related at all, but still something I have been wanting to do for a long time now. It is called "Wrongs to Write" and features me and some other characters fixing some of fiction's mistakes.

Until we meet again- stay well and enjoy your training! :)

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Striking Form- Movement No. 5: Downward Pressing Block and Cannon Punch

Hello, everyone.

Today we are at the second last movement in the Striking Form.

The movement is shown like this in the book and I do admit that those are not very good photos to illustrate the movements involved. In the Form this movement takes you back to the place from which you have started. For this reason my back is turned towards you in the photos.

Well... you would still get the movement if you read the text, but we do like pictures better than words, right?

Well... here is a demonstration of what the movement is supposed to represent.

The downward pressing block is not unusual and can be found in a number of Asian martial arts.

I got tired of defending against straight punches in my gifs, so I had my shadow clone try to shove me.

As you can see, I (the one without the shirt) ride the oncoming force as I step diagonally backwards. Had this been Push-Hands practice I would probably just have pushed back, but in this movement we consider a situation out of which you want to get as quickly as possible so-

the opponent is not going to get a push. Instead he is going to get his two rows of teeth banged against each other with disorienting force and maybe, just maybe, he is going to bite off a piece of his tongue in the process.

The Cannon Punch is the most recognisable technique of Xingyiquan for me. Xingyiquan specialises in the development of explosive penetrating force in one's punches and the Cannon Punch is an excellent way for students to practice all the elements of a powerful Xingyi punch.

Unlike Karate punches there is no hip rotation to help with this blow. What we do have, however, are the following:

1. A lowered centre of gravity;

2. A relaxed upper body at the beginning;

3. Gathered energy from the block;

4. A very sharp forward body movement;

5. Harnessing of this momentum and putting it into the punch;

6. An explosive discharge of energy.

Elements 3, 5 and 6 are internal elements and only you would know in most cases whether you have mastered them or not. Until you have mastered these internal elements it is important to note the following mechanical aspects of this blow:

1. The fist shoots diagonally upwards to channel the forward momentum from the body's movement. If you just punch upwards you could do so without bothering to move your body.

2. When the punch shoots into its target the body simultaneously drops its weight onto the lead foot while the trailing foot is light and free. The lead foot is flat on the ground at this point while the trailing foot maintains contact with the ground through its ball.

3. The fist clenches and the arm stiffens upon impact. At this point you should actually be able to feel the force shooting through the arm and out the fist in a sudden jolt, but give it time. You will feel it when you do.


That is it for this post.

Next week's post features the last movement in this form. 

See you then. :)

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Striking Form: Movement No. 4- Reverse Punch and Vertical Back Fist

Hello and welcome back, everyone.

Today we look at this movement in our Striking Form.

Shaolin students would probably call it "Black Tiger and Stopping Fist". Karate students may say I stole this from Heian / Pinan Nidan (although I have recently learnt that some styles actually call it Pinan Shodan...). 

A demonstration of the move is here below:

When we attack first it is better to attack a target that is opening up than one that is closing. We know that by now, right?

We are all familiar with opening up the body with a jab to the face. As the opponent's guard raises his ribs open up and we can take the shot.

Well- now we have a way to open up the face...

Unless the opponent sidesteps one of two things will happen. Either he will get hit or he will block the punch to his midsection. If he retreats in a straight line he will get hit anyway...

Now... if the punch does connect the opponent is likely to drop his arms in response to the pain. That opens up his nose to get broken with the vertical backfist.

If the opponent blocks the punch his hands will be lowered and the way for the back fist to the opponent's face will be cleared.

Attacks that draw an opponent's defense from one direction to the exact opposite are very effective.

This is why I recommend that we pay attention to what our opponent does when we attack instead of just blindly flying in with a flurry of punches.  The trick is to get the opponent to move and to use that movement against him. This is much better than just swinging and hoping for the best, isn't it?

What kind of combinations do you like to use to set an opponent up for your strike and then to take it?

I 'll look for your answers in this blog's comment section and on my Facebook page.

Until next week- Stay well and train hard! :)

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Striking Form: Movement No. 3- Defensive Side Kick

Hello, everyone!

Today's move is not fancy at all. The side kick is a common move to many styles of martial art that use striking.

The side kick can be used to attack or to defend. If it is used for attack it would employ a half step to get into range and perhaps to build some momentum. It would then look something like this...

I know that some styles discern between a side snap and a side thrust kick. That discernment has not done much to help me, so- if I talk about a side kick, I mean a straight side kick that shoots into the target. Kicks that snap upwards or just knock against the target may have some use, but I really don't see any use for my side kick to do that.

Now... Using this kick in a defensive manner will have it look something like this...

This move is actually very instinctive and incorporates two of the most common responses we have to someone who is moving in to hit us i.e. shifting weight backwards and turning away from the opponent.

True- when you learn to fight at a dojo your instructor would prefer that you do not turn away from your opponent and retreating should also be kept to a bare minimum. Well... that is the best way to teach beginners, because you want them to overcome that urge to turn away and curl up into a ball or to run away.

When you are finally able to calmly face your opponent, however, you realise that the following reflex actions are actually useful:

1. Turning from a forward facing to a sideways facing position;

2. Shifting weight onto the back leg.

1. Turning to face sideways: Turning sideways does take the solar plexus and liver out of the line of a straight attack, which usually does more damage than attacks that move in an arc towards their target.
The side that faces the opponent is then mostly behind an arm. From this position the side of the hip should be aligned with the target and pointed right at it.

2. Shifting weight onto the back leg. If I shift weight onto my back leg it is not to get away from my opponent. It is to get me into position to kick the wind out of him. This kick is not much use at close range. You need distance for it to build up speed and to hit with explosive force. This is why I do not care much for a side kick that sends a heavy bag swinging. I work on a side kick that either puts a dent into a loose handing bag or one that bends it.

A side kick does not need to be high to be useful for self defense. It is in fact really effective if you can direct that explosive force into a thigh bone, knee joint or hip. I know that Wing Chun uses a gentle side kick that connects with the opponent's shin- usually to stop his kick, but I am not talking about that here. The kick that I discuss here, and which is used in the Form, is one that stops a charging opponent dead in his tracks.

Being able to correctly execute this kick is a strong deterrent for opponents who would otherwise try to bulldoze you off the floor.

It is really worth learning.

That is it for this week's post. 

See you again soon! :)

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Striking Form: Movement No. 2: Back Fist, Knife Hand and Palm Thrust

Hello, everyone!

Welcome back to this week's post.

If you have read the book you would have come across this sequence of movements in the Form. 

I have practiced these movements enough times by now to know what they are and what they do. If you have read the words that go with the pictures you would also know.

But still- photos of a movement don't really tell show us what we need to see, right?

Well... you know by now that I have something to help with that...

If only the animation moved a bit slower... right? :D

What is actually happening in the gif is this:

1. I lead with a horizontal back fist strike to the side of the opponent's head.

He blocks that.

2. In response to the block I take my striking hand around to the other side of the head while covering or trapping the opponent's blocking hand with my non-striking hand. From here I hit the opponent's neck artery or jawbone with an inward knife hand strike.

3. Sweeping with my striking hand in a downwards arc I clear all hands and arms out of the way and shoot an explosive palm thrust to the opponent's chest.

A similar sequence is found elsewhere in the book. It looks like this:

In this sequence with my friend Shairley I was made to block a back fist strike so that my other side could open up for her knife hand strike. Only difference here was the knife hand then held on to my head for a roundhouse elbow to smash into it. The striking arm then straightened to set me up for that knee strike.

During the early years of my researching martial arts techniques on my own I have found that martial arts like Karate and Kung Fu that have been modified for sparring competitions looked a lot different in street fights before the modifications for sports purposes had come in. I was really curious to find out what it would feel like to fight without being limited to only competition techniques.

The first technique that had come to my mind was the knife hand strike.

If you are used to throwing straight punches most of the time this particular strike feels very awkward and impractical. For one- it takes a longer road to its target and for another- you need to get in closer than what you are used to doing with straight punches.

The back fist was the best way for me to engage the opponent's guard so that I can get past it. So- this ended up being a combination that I have practiced a lot. The palm thrust and elbow-knee follow ups just came naturally after that.

In a fight, you only manage to hit a person who is either unaware of your blow or already preoccupied with something else. If the opponent started attacking first you might find him both preoccupied and unaware so that your strike hits with no resistance.

An opponent like the one in the gif who is not attacking first will not give you that chance. In fact- we find a lot of fighters who would rather wait for you to attack than attack first. 

Well... if circumstances dictate for you to overcome this opponent or to score a point (depending on whether you are fighting in a competition or whether you are fighting for your life or that of someone else) you cannot afford to wait. Opponents who like to play the waiting game are very unlikely to give up the position from which they are comfortable.

So- the solution lies in getting them to move.

In the PS2 game Red Ninja- End of Honour (really awesome game) you easily snuck past guards by using the patterns in their patrol movements to move while staying out of their line of sight.

You also had guards that just stood still in one place, though.

There was no way for you to avoid their line of sight, so-

you ended up having to do this...   


The back fist at the beginning of the combination does something similar. If the opponent keeps standing still the blow will hit him, so he blocks.

The knife hand strike comes while the opponent is still blocking, so hand speed is very important. That, however, is why we train in the first place, right?

The knife hand strike normally stuns or disorients an opponent. This is what clears the way for follow-up attacks.

Breaking through an opponent's defense often takes a combination of attacks. If the attacks all move in the same direction and come from the same direction you will have a hard time landing a hit, though.

The trick lies in attacking a spot while the opponent's defense is committed elsewhere or- like Bruce Lee used to say- It is better to attack in a line that is opening up than one that is closing. This translates to:
"Hitting an opponent who is ready will get you blocked. Hitting the opening that presents itself as your opponent blocks is much better."

Well... that brings us to the end of today's post.

See you next week! :) 

Train well and have a good week!  



Saturday, 31 August 2019

Striking Form: Movement 1: Reverse Punch and Roundhouse Kick

Hi, everyone! :)

It is said that a picture is better than a thousand words.

I think that one thing which is better than a picture is a moving picture.

Like I have said earlier- the striking form is pretty much straightforward where its applications are concerned. That is the thing about striking moves in forms- you can easily see what they are meant to represent. The openings for interpretation usually lie with blocks, parries and grappling moves.

Oh! And then you do get that bunkai researcher/ analyst that will give you some non-striking applications for apparent striking moves...  
Well- none of that stuff is going to happen over here. This the creator of this kata speaking and he knows very well what he had intended when he put these movements together.

First thing that I want to say about this form before I get on to discuss today's movement is:

The first 3 knife hand blocks in the form were only meant to place you in a kamae or ready position from which the combinations could be launched. In the discussions on the applications of this movement and the next you will not even see any mention of the block.

So- even though the form shows the movement like this, featuring the knife hand block in cat stance, you get a discussion on what is shown in the gif above.

 This particular combination is not strange to Karate students. In both styles that I used to study this particular combination was part of the kihon that we practiced in class on a regular basis. Well- more in Shukokai than in Shotokan...

I think the first thing this combination ought to teach you is that retreating in a straight line is a bad idea. A lot of Karate people can execute this combination without thinking and it is not uncommon to retreat in a panic with your eyes fixated on the pair of hands in front of you when you suddenly feel a sharp pain in the side of your head.

Ironically- retreating a lot seems to be more a thing with points fighting styles than it is with full contact or knockdown styles of martial arts sports.

I have trained in both and for a long time I was used to fighting people that did not run away. When I started taking part in points competitions, though, I realised that I was not good at chasing people. 

This particular combination is designed to help with that. You lunge in with your reverse punch. The moment you feel empty air instead of chest when the punch has reached its furthest point the foot shoots past your body to give the retreating opponent a slap against the head.

This combination will be a lot slower if your punch is executed with the upper body leaning into the punch as we often found with boxers or fighters that incorporate boxing into their fighting style. As is the norm with traditional Karate- the punch is driven by the hips. This hip rotation and push with the hips already put the body in position to execute the kick in the smoothest, most effortless way possible. In some Muay Thai fights you can see the fighter throwing the punch as a boxer would, leaning into the punch and then readjusting the body to get the hips to push ahead. With training you can develop the ability to do all that really fast, but you will exert a lot more effort that way.

In another scenario the punch itself is not committed, but rather a feint, which can also be slow and obvious. By the time the opponent's brain has registered that there is a punch heading towards his chest or face he should be getting a hard blow to the side of his head.

And... that is about as much as I have to say about this movement...

I have already taken the videos for next week's gif. Hope you will enjoy it! :)

Until next week- train well! 

Friday, 23 August 2019

The Striking Form

Hello again, everyone!

This video shows the form that I had created for my book on striking.

It is actually very straightforward and basic, so I did not really see the need to explain its applications at first. 

Later on I decided to break this form down in later posts anyway because:

1. Along with the movements in any form comes the principles on which those moves are based- and knowing those principles are actually more important than knowing the moves themselves;

2. I have so much fun making those shadow-clone gifs anyway.

Where the previous form was made to give you the feel of different ways of defending against attacks, this form is meant to give you an idea of the different ways in which you can attack with strikes, punches and kicks.

In the application of these movements it is not necessary for the opponent to be attacking at all. From a moral point of view we can assume that the opponent has threatened to attack or is about to attack.

The timing for most of these attacks would be Ken No Sen- seizing the initiative. At a time like that you would know you are in a fight, but you would take control of it to finish it as quickly and as painlessly for yourself as possible.

Apart from teaching moves and principles, forms do a great job of telling us how a specific style's techniques work.

The three forms that I have shown you thus far are not the only ones in Wenhsiuquan, but they should give you an idea of the basic principles behind its techniques.

Hope you enjoy the posts to come.

See you next week! :)