Friday, 27 May 2011

Tactics- Position of power

Some attacks succeed while others don't. When two fighters of equal strength and technical prowess face each other the decisive factor in determining whose attack shall be effective, and whose will be a waste of energy, is tactics.

The fighter with the tactical advantage will control the outcome of the confrontation.

Examples of tactical advantageous positions are as follow (to name but a few):

1. Being behind the opponent

2. Having the exit behind you

3. Being "inside" the opponent's defenses

4. Being "outside" the line of attack.

5. Being out of sight.

More advantageous positions can be discovered if one studies the battlefield. Positions of advantage are documented in works like Sun Tzu's Art of War, Musashi's Book of Five Rings and Bruce Lee's Tao of Jeet Kune Do.

That basically concludes my blog. If anybody needs more detail or advice I can be contacted at  

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Tactics- Perceiving the environment

Without observation and awareness of one's surroundings tactics will be of no use. Still- this simple aspect of tactics does not come natural to modern human beings and has to be developed through training. Although one can do many exercises to sharpen any of the five senses the key factor in the success of any of these training methods would be the mind. A pre-occupied mind is not aware.

The mind gets pre-occupied with thought. In a state of security and calm thoughts that arise are often of random issues which do not cause us any distress. In a crisis, however, our fears often take hold of us and affect our capacity to make decisions and act on them.

It's not necessary to tell any martial artist of the importance of sparring, but unfortunately few ever appreciate the value of meditation. Besides cultivating chi, meditation gives us the basic template for a mind capable of solving any problem, of overcoming any adversary and a state of fearlessness and mastery over pain.
With proper training this state of mind (what Bruce Lee referred to as "stillness") can be carried into any crisis we face and enable us to deal with it as effectively as is possible.

Only when one perceives one's surroundings in stillness is he truly perceiving.

The eyes should then be able to see all around without looking, the ears should be able to hear without listening. The nose and skin should be able do perceive the air without searching. Even the tongue will tell you whether food is safe to eat or tampered with.

When our senses are tuned we are able to perceive the problem in our environment and would we be able to rectify them.

During direct confrontations a larger part of the attention is focussed on the opponent. We are aware of the hands, the feet and the face. We take note of the movement of the shoulder and the hip. We can feel the push or pull of the opponent in contact with us.

Instead of dealing with problems the next post shall outline some the ideal situations that place the combatant in the position to seize victory and then deal with ways to get oneself into those situations.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Tactics: Introduction

The meaning of tactics depends on the martial artist. To a soldier it would mean ways to accomplish a mission, to  an assassin it would mean the way to eliminate his target, for me it would mean staying alive. As soon as you have decided on your objective you can consider the ways and means to achieve that objective. It is not a good idea to devise tactics in the middle of a battle. Tactics should already be devised and integrated into the martial artist's mind when the need for them arise.

Awareness is a key element in the implementation of tactics and deciding on changes in adopted strategies. Since the Tao Te Ching says that the greatest journey begins with a single step and the greatest buildings start with a single brick- I'll start at the very beginning of implementation of tactics- perceiving the environment, we'll move on then to ways of avoiding confrontations and lastly on the three ways to forestall the enemy as documented by renowned Samurai, Miyamoto Musashi (if you don't know who he is, don't call yourself a martial artist.)

That's it for now. Next post will deal with perceiving the environment.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Throwing and grappling.

Having studied Japanese Martial Arts and not being a big fan of the Gay Porn that gets shown on television each time an MMA match is on I want to start this chapter by saying that I regard grappling as a means to subdue a relatively harmless opponent. Being mainly a survival- orientated style- Wen Hisu Quan does not allow its exponents to become involved is a lengthy love scene of hugging and holding. If an opponent cannot be subdued by a simple throw or joint lock and he persists in fighting you, you should go to maim and kill!

The above is also in accordance with Dr Jigoro Kano's principle of "Minimum Effort Maximum Effect" which the Chinese know as "using four tahils against a thousand katis" and which somehow got mistranslated to the Western World as "Screw Technique and Just Do A Lot Of Weight Training To Win With Brute Force". Don't ask me why, but it's just the way it is.

If you are really interested in learning the different kinds of throws and joint locks that exist you can contact me at In this post I'd rather explain the principles which govern all grappling techniques in Wen Hsiu Quan.

These principles are:

1. Make yourself immovable, so that the adversary may be moved

2. Maintain your own balance while unbalancing the opponent

3. Use most of the opponent's movement against him

4. Do not rely entirely on the opponent's movement

1. Make yourself immovable, move the adversary
The sketch at the top of this post shows the movement of a downward slash using the Japanese katana. Just below the man with the katana another man, an exponent of either judo, ju-jitsu, aikido or any similar art (there really are quite a number) employs the same movement to throw his opponent. If stance is important in striking techniques it is absolutely crucial here. This is the ultimate test of how well one can sink his qi and how firm one's rooting is. Good force training for grappling is form practice with weapons like the wooden sword or staff.
As a general guideline- rising movements in these techniques are accompanied by inhaling and raising the qi. Descending movements are accompanied by sharp exhalation, sinking the qi and hardening the muscles of the torso. Regard a throw or a joint lock as you manipulating a weapon. You are the user, the opponent is the weapon. Use your qi to move him. Keep your movements as short as possible. You will not be able to accomplish anything with straight arms.Get in close and bend your arms. The opponent is in a ton of trouble if his arms are straightened!

2. Maintain your own balance and unbalance your opponent:
The requirements of a good stance have already been explained in previous posts and I will point out again that grappling techniques are an excellent test of stance. While your stance is firm and secure you will seek to unbalance your opponent by breaking his perfect posture. This can be done by a sharp elbow to the midriff, a hard stomp on the foot, a sweeping kick to the leg or even a jab which causes your opponent to lean back.

3. Use most of your opponent's movement against him
Kindly note I said "most of". Although I have seen demonstrations during which the attackers just rush in to get sent somersaulting across the floor, your adversary on the street is not going to give you that much to work with and I still say that his jaw should be broken if he is not the type of person that you can subdue with a throw or a joint lock. The two sketches below the katana sketch shows two basic types of throw- the first being a dragging throw and the second being a pushing throw. Generally a dragging throw is used against an opponent who is moving towards you. A pushing throw is used against an opponent moving away from you.

Let's take a closer look at the two thorws:

1. Dragging Throw: The opponent is throwing a jab towards you like shown in the sketch above. Letting the jab slide past you, you enter your opponent's defenses, block and grab the straightened arm. Unbalancing him by shooting your hip into his lower body you twist your body, holding the arm close to you and pulling it over. The opponent's body can only but follow!

2. Pushing Throw: This opponent is pointing a gun at you at close range. You saw the gun being raised in time though and immediately moved yourself past the gun and grabbed the opponent's arm. The opponent realises what is coming (probably an arm bar) and starts bending his arm and moving backwards. Instead of strugling with him to keep his arm straight, you allow him to bend his arm and pushes his arm towards him and past him, twitsing his wrist as you do so and applying pressure on his hand with your palm. Carrying this movement through you unbalance your opponent and he soon finds himself on his back!

The names of these throws do not really refer to any particular throw, but rather to an approach taken in a set situation. For a more detailed discussuin on throwing techniques, send your questions to

That concludes the chapter on Technique! Next up- Tactics!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Technique- Kicking

The legs, usually very strong compared to the arms, make excellent long range weapons. Every martial art recoginses this fact and had developed kicking techniques that we recognise in all of them. Although many kicking techniques- and variations of those kicks exist I have only picked the most basic kicks for this discussion. The kicks seen in the video are also the kicks that each beginner should be practicing without fail. When these kicks are mastered, other kicks will come much easier.

The video starts off with three basic front foot kicks. I regard these as the jabs of kicking although, being kicks, correct technique will make them much more dangerous. The following should be noted in the execution of these techniques:

1. Stance, Stance, Stance:  The very same stances (in this case horse and crane stance) apply throughout the execution of the technique, with the heels of the feet are firmly on the ground and tension is maintained in the legs, knees pushing away from each other. When the kicking leg is raised it is light and charged with energy. It is relatively relaxed. The supporting leg is held firm, although slightly bent to maintain balance. The upper body does not move. The shoulders remain relaxed and the eyes keep facing the opponent throughout the kick. The stillness of the upper body is important while most of the work is done by the lower body.

2.  Use of the hips:  Now I'll get to the reason for posting the photos of Japanese girls showing their groins to their adoring fans. The girl in the top photo is an excellent example. With reverse roundhouse and roundhouse kicks, aiming at the target is not done with the knee of the kicking leg. It is done with the hip. The girl's hip is tilted enough for her to execute a high roundhouse if she wanted to. Being no trained martial artist, however, she has to hold on to the post for support because her supporting leg's knee is locked and her upper body leaning to far back. If she had bent the supporting leg more, kept her kicking leg in position with her side abdominal muscles, which would also prevent her upper body from falling backwards, we would see her being able to keep her hip tilted like that and her leg in the air without the need for support by a wall or a post!

The side kick relies on the hips to generate the sharp thrusting power. An excellent example is foung in Bruce Lee's Way of the Dragon. In one of the scenes Lee canonates a person across the floor using a side kick. When practicing any straight kick follow this rule: foot directly below knee, knee behind hip, hip behind leg, leg behind heel. The reason for the knee being directly above the foot is that being too far forward will cause the body to topple forward into the kick, sending you off balance into- possibly- counterattack. The knee being too far back means the kicking the opponent will not send him flying, but will rather send you flying back!

The next three kicks shown are the rear foot kicks, known to be more powerful. Exponents of Taekwondo argue that these kicks are too slow to use in a fight. I say it will be too slow if you do not correctly execute the technique. The requirements to the stance and to the use of the hips also apply to these kicks. I'll just elaborate more on the basic principles that apply to the performance of these kicks:

The Front Kick. The version of this kick I prefer strikes the target with the heel, although the toes are not pulled back hard. The reason for this is that tension in the foot before the kick slows it down and robs it of expolsive power. Performed by shooting the heel into the target a lot of force gets transferred through a hard area of the foot into the target. With the legs maintaining the same tension and using the bow stance (which requires tension in the buttocks) the kicking foot wastes no time shooting out of its resting place into its target. Here the hips push and the front abdominal muscles pull the kicking leg forward.

Roundhouse Kick. The front foot version raises the leg (using the hip) to hit a high target and as soon as the knee is pointed at the target the foot snaps out like a whip, striking with the instep. The rear foot version is more powerfull. The kicking foot, pulled forward by the abdominal muscles and swung forward by the hips, gets flung at the target. Force gets transferred from the supporting foot into the hips, causing the rotation. From the hips the force travels through the kicking leg as it snaps into the target with all that momentum. Do this right against an opponent's leg (just not the kneecap) and he will be knocked off balance! The leg kick uses the shin, by the way.

Back Kick. First and foremost and before I begin explaining this technique let me say this clearly: I don't give a f*ck how the kicking foot is rotated and there is no such f*cking thing as a spinning side kick. If you heard that from your Sensei I assure you he himself does not even know where it comes from. In Taekwondo the kicking foot is allowed to turn horizontal and I still do not want to receive a kick like that. Now- on to the technique: The feet turn the legs. The legs turn the hips and the hips turn the upper body and -voila!-Your back is turned to your opponent. Now the kicking foot shoots from its resting place and driven on by the hips ( actually a lot easier than driving the foot to the front- just don't overdo it.) the lower back's muscles pull the kicking foot to the rear and the heel is shot into the target. All this in one fluid movement creates the most destructive of these six kicks.
Further the rule that applies to all straight kicks also applies here.

Well now we have dealt with strikes, grabs, punches and kicks. What next? Throws. I'll tell you more about that in our next post.  

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Technique- Attacks using the hands

Most of our intent is channelled into the material world via our hands. Practicioners of any method of massaging or Qigong will also tell you that energy, positive or negative, are easiest detected with and channeled through the hands.

It is therefore no surprise that humans, when they wish to attack each other, would inevitably use their hands to do so.

It is unfortunate that with the development and modernising of martial arts a lot of emphasis has been placed on the fist. One of the reasons for this is that most martial artist deem the fist the safest weapon to use in a contest. The result of this view is that a wide array of striking, thrusting and grabbing techniques get lost.

Personally I do not think it's any use if you practice a martial art only to find out that you are not equipped to dispose of adversaries above your weight class, or adversaries that are stronger than you. A simple punch may cause a lot of harm to an opponent of the same build as you, but will it work on a person with a more muscular build? The one knuckle fist and half fist (shown in the video) concentrate a lot of force into a small area and are ideal for attacking fleshy areas and the ribs. The one knuckle punch (known in kung fu as the "Phoenix Eye Fist") can damage an opponent's eye, overload a pressure point or paralyse muscle. The half fist (known in kung fu as the "Leopard Fist") can be used to traumatise ribs or crush a larynx. It can also be used to apply pressure to the philtrum (under the nose) to push an opponent's head away.

This note on using the one knuckle fist, half fist or finger tips: Do not thrust these weapons into a target with your body behind them! They were not meant to take the same strain as a clenched fist.
Rather keep the hands relaxed before attacking, then shooting the weapon towards its target with the quick snap of someone knocking on a door or tapping on a table top. Upon impact,send your energy into the blow as you harden the weapon. Do this right and you will give a powerful sting to the strongest of adversaries!

Karate and Kung Fu stress the importance of stance. Once again I will refer you to the discussion on the horse stance in the chapter on Force Training. A more detailed discussion on stance will follow in a separate post on footwork. Suffice it to say for now that the stance used should maintain tension in the legs, making them ready to spring towards the target. The upper body, arms and hands are relaxed, with some tension in the abdomen. At the end of the strike the whole body hardens as destructive energy passes through the weapon into the target. Both feet are rooted firmly to the ground and with sharp exhalation while performing the strike, qi is sunk, making the body heavy and hard.

Multiple strikes rely on a muscle's ability to twitch or contract and relax multiple times with rapid intervals. Qigong training is very helpful with this.

Grabbing techniques (known in Chinese as "Qin Na") serve as an attack in itself or as a pre-emptive attack to joint locks and throws. The squeezing motion should be sharp and sudden to cause the most damage. Joint locks rely on firm rooting and short movements. A sharp twist of the wrist is also necessary to make most joint locks effective.

Have fun practicing! Next post will deal with kicks!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Technique- Blocking and parrying

Generally blocking and parrying techiniques are used to prevent the opponent's attack from striking you. These techiques rely usuall rely on the hand's outer edge, the palm, the forearm, the shin or the foot. Regardless of the type of block or parry used the following guidelines apply to all blocking techniques.

1.     The stance has to be rooted firmly.
         If you want to remain on the balls of your feet for quick retreats and sidesteps, then face it- 
         you don't really need to block then. It's no use tapping your opponent's forearm after he had
         missed. Practicioners of Taijiquan and tradional Karate will tell you that a rooted stance can
         even cause your block to knock an opponent off balance. The blocks using the foot and shin
         demonstrated in the video draw on the balance and rooting developed through regular Crane
         Stance training. I've dealt with the crane stance in the post on Force Training Exercises (check
          the archive of this blog.) In Wen Hsiu Chuan being rooted means that the feet are placed flat
         on the ground, chi is sunk to the abdomen, legs are bent, body is upright and the hips are not
         pushed forward or backward, but rather kept in place with the sacrum pointing downwards.

2.     Arms and shoulders are relaxed.
        We NEVER hunch our shoulders- not even when blocking overhead blows. With the muscles
        and arms relaxed, swift reflex action is possible. You will find that your arms and hands can
        actually block by themselves if they are held in position, but relaxed.

3.     Twisting the forearm and the elbow
        A good image to bear in mind is that of a nuncahku. Your upper arm would be the stick of the
        nunchaku being held in the hand. Your forearm would be the chain and your hand would be the
        stick being swung at the target. This is important as the forearm is not really used to deflect any
        blows and I really do not advise anyone to make a habit of putting your forearm between a blow
        and yourself. Impact on the forearm should really be limited to the very minimum as the force
       from a blow should rather be directed away from you than being absorbed. Check the recommen-
       ded blocks for downward strikes for an example of that principle. Twisting the forearm as the
       arm's muscles are clenched at the end of the technique assists in knocking the attacking limb back
       as you channel force through your hand or forearm into the attacking limb. It is even possible to
       fracture an opponent's arm with such a block. With the elbows being kept relatively still and
       using them as a fulcrum from which the forearms swing the block or parry is performed in the
      most economical fashion. The opponent's blow is usually taking the most direct route to its
       target. This principle ensures the most direct route to intercepting it.   

4.   Using the "Twitch".
      I have already said that a blocking technique starts out with the arms relaxed. The sudden reflex
      contraction of muscles that is employed during a blocking technique can lend devastating power
      to the block as it strikes its target. You may want to clench your fist when stiffening the
      muscles. Wen Hsiu Quan however prefers blocking with an open hand as an open hand can
      most easily be transformed into a grab, hook, striking palm or fist.

5.   The purpose of a block is not to prevent you from getting hit.
      Do not regard blocking or parrying as your master plan to prevent being injured. The only
      prevention for injury is common sense. When you find yourself in the situation in which you
      have no choice but to fight it is too late to concern yourself with ways to prevent injury.
      It is foolish to even attempt it in a fight. Blocking and parrying serve as ways to set an opponent
      up for a counterattack, to immobilise him by grabbing techniques or to knock him off balance or
      to damage bone or muscle to allow you to escape. Simultaneous blocking and counterattacking
      and "entering" past an opponent's defense shall be dealt with in the chapter on tactics. For now
      you can consider the hip twist and leg block in the video.

As a last thought I want to mention that Wen Hsiu Quan, in the tradition of most Chinese martial arts, stresses avoidance of violence. When forced to fight, however, the mind of the Wen Hsiu Quan exponent is not focussed onself preservation, but at least on incapacitating the adversary. Therefore fighting should only be resorted to when escaping and avoidance are not available options. Blocking, as part of combat, has to be considered in this perspective. It is not a means for a fearful combatant to avoid injury, but rather a devious tool to  render the opponent helpless in order for him/her to be put out of action!

Keep well and feel free to e-mail me at with any questions. Next post will deal with attacks using the hands, elbows, forearms and shoulder.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Force Training- Demonstrations of Force

Now let's assume that you have been practicing Kung Fu for a couple of years. How would one know? Amongst the signs of a trained martial artist are the keen reflexes and agility- and also the physical strength. There are actually more subtle signs as well. I'll give four of my favorite demonstrations:

1.  Breaking Techniques: Who doesn't love breaking boards, coconuts, roof tiles, floor tiles and bricks? If strong attacking force has been developed breaking objects should be easy and should be done with very little pain- if any. If it hurts- or if the object doesn't break- go back and practice more. Be patient.

2.  The immovable stance:  A master does not get pulled or pushed, but he can throw his opponents around like rag dolls.

3.  One Inch Punch:  Still one of my favourite demonstrations. A martial artist with a strong enough "snap" in his punch does not need a lot of space to punch.

4.  Wind Strike: Usually a palm strike or punch is used. If executed correctly a gust of wind is created. It would be powerful enough to extuinguish a candle. If you can do more- like knock a distant opponent off his feet- let me know!

This concludes the chapter on Force. Next post will start with Technique.- Lots of pictures and videos!