Sunday, 14 March 2021

Making the Lower Parry work


Hello, everyone.

It seems I had a case of writer's block that has kept me from writing posts lately.

When you practice martial arts every day, however, there are a lot of things about it to write about, but what you don't bother with, because you tend to reckon that it is too mundane or obvious to write about.
Well... maybe for experienced martial artists...

Then- I end up realising again that there is not only an entirely new generation to whom we can pass on much of this seemingly redundant knowledge, but also a record to set straight with a new generation of experts.

This post is about two old enemies. Some say they were never supposed to meet, but meet they did. The one was set on knocking the wind out of you, the other was... well... now its role is disputed, but everyone was sure at the time that it was his job to stop the other from achieving its goal.

These two are of course the Front Kick (Maegeri in Karate) and the Lower Parry (Gedan Barai to Karate people). Gedan Barai was taught as the go-to defense against a kick to the stomach and it worked well with one-step sparring- especially if you have stepped back far enough...

The problem came with free sparring and normal fighting. People who tried using this technique to block a kick got either their arms fractured, where an open-handed version got used fingers got sprained and in many cases the block just did not work...

So... martial arts bloggers set out on campaigns to educate us all by telling us that this block was actually a throw or a strike and that it is just plain silly to block any kick like that. Well... Not this blogger...

You see- long before people started saying online that blocking does not work I have spent most of my teens making my blocks work. The thing about a block is- you should not think about it while doing it. Trying to remember it when the kick is coming just slows it down and makes it useless in the end.

A block is really a reflex action. Now- if your reflex action is going to be bringing your guarding arm down on top of a rising shin you will be in for a lot of pain. A lower parry hits the side of the attacking leg. Not the top. To help you get this right you can learn to bring your elbow in line with the kicking leg. Doing this is a quick way to learn to do the block properly as you teach yourself to see your elbow as the thing to put between your opponent's foot and your stomach and- because your elbow cannot reach the foot in time- your body will do the rest by making sure the arm straightens.

It is notable that you won't find Kung Fu people practicing blocks without a corresponding stance or footwork. The reason is simple: Hand techniques are useless without footwork.

In the case of the lower parry, footwork and body movement can help you defend against a kick either by stopping it, passing it or by sidestepping. Let's look at some examples:

In this scenario I am passing the kick. If I stay where I am and just sweep down with my arm I will still be too far to counterpunch. So- as the kick comes I intercept it by moving past it and blocking with less force than would otherwise have been necessary. I also get to land a punch before my opponent is back on two legs again!

This kind of hip rotation is hard to do at first, but then you must remember- you always blink in time when you see someone's hand coming at your eyes. So- this defensive hip rotation can be developed as a similar reflex response. Kick to the groin? Just twist. Kick to the stomach? Just twist. The blocking arm again does not have to take so much punishment and can easily hit the leg from the side to make sure that it passes safely behind you. This kind of block is then usually followed up with a punch, but I have felt that crossing my legs like this has perfectly set me up for that hooking kick...

Side kicks are tricky... You hit the wrong side of the leg you still have a horizontal foot slipping through to deflate your lungs.
So- a different approach is needed. In the case of a side kick you should not connect your lower parry with the leg, but with the foot. You can also not afford to waste time, because catching the kick towards its end puts your arm in the way of a kick at its most powerful. That is not good news for your arm... Catch the kicking foot just as it is rising, however, immobilises the kick before it can gain power. I was going for a vertical back fist counter, but when I realised that my opponent's head was out of reach I moved in with the uppercut. If your step and stance is powerful enough when you block this way you might even push the opponent off balance. 

It pays to mention that while Karate seems to have developed doubts about the use of the lower parry against midsection kicks Kung Fu continues to teach the low hand sweep and low shield as methods for defending against low and midsection kicks. These techniques are the Chinese versions of the lower parry.

Hopefully this blog post will save a lot of arms and fingers in the years to come...


Saturday, 6 February 2021

2021: Not so much more of the same...

This year started with me in a new situation. 

No longer working for just myself and with less free time than before I have been spending less time on the book and this blog now sees me for the first time as well.

Early morning workouts have become shorter and more hurried.

I am however still taking whatever time I can to learn new things. 

I enjoy Yoga as much as Qigong these days and have made it part of my workouts.

I am glad to say that I am now more than halfway done with the book. I have also received an offer from a friend to help with Youtube videos.

Let's see how this year goes... 


Saturday, 12 December 2020

Goodbye, 2020!

Now... with a lockdown having started in the third month of this year, carefully adapting to each new stage of our protracted state of emergency and having to get used to a new job that just about takes up all of my time these days- we woke up one morning and found that this entire year had passed.

So- what have you done during all this time? Have you put off all commitments and plans for when things start looking better?

If you have I would not judge you or blame you. Hell- I remember seeing on Facebook how quiet the "Law of Attraction" group had become when the shit had really hit the fan. Faith seemed to have been in short supply.

The people that had really kept me going were those who had suddenly begun doing what I had been doing for the last 30-odd years- exercising in their own yards...

Martial arts may contain mostly techniques for fighting opponents in the physical realm, but my biggest hope for any martial arts student is that he or she cultivates an indomitable warrior spirit. This kind of spirit does not only see us through a one-on-one confrontation with a human opponent, but also through family crises, financial stress, stressful home and work environments and all other generally bad times.

It was this spirit that had teachers starting to teach online when classes could no longer be presented at their dojos. It was this spirit that had athletes jogging in their own yards and working out new exercise regimes to adapt to the confines of where they had to stay.

It was also this spirit that had businesses come up with new products and services that could be offered when the lockdown prevented them from doing business as usual.

As I sit here typing this blog, I am still thinking of the work that lies ahead for me at the office as this December there will not be any closing two weeks before Christmas. We have, after all, been away from work for 3 months...
My dearest Xiaowei works in the beauty industry, an industry that was barred from operating for four months. What I am really grateful for was that the restrictions on travel within our province got lifted a bit before she had to return to work. 

Even though we will both be working throughout this month we have the memory of trips that we had taken together to some of the most beautiful parts of our region. We also had more quality time together than we are likely to ever have again...

The thing is- if you fight with the aim to avoid getting hit you are not going to win.

Fights are won by taking every opportunity to strike that presents itself.

Sure- this year had a lot of what we will not ever want. Still- our focus should be on creating the life that we want for ourselves.

I wish everyone of you who reads this a blessed Christmas and a far better year ahead than the one that we are leaving behind.




Saturday, 31 October 2020

It has been a while...

Hello, everyone! 

I know it has been a long time since I have written anything. I have started at a new job that has me a lot busier than I have expected myself to be and I had to work on a couple of Saturdays. Saturdays are of course the days on which I attend to my blogs.

It felt good to have today free to attend to my book as well. It is still a work in progress and I will let you know on Facebook, Twitter and Patreon when it is out.

All in all- I still train. Even though I now have to wake up earlier in the mornings to train I still take the time to train. That will never stop for as long as my body remains able to move.

The chapter at which I am now is an analysis of the Five Animal Combined Set of Shaolin Kung Fu. This set is somewhat different from the taolu that we see in Wushu competitions nowadays. I feel it is a good idea to look at the forms that were designed for training rather than performance purposes.

Many of you already know that I regularly practice my Karate kata and the Kung Fu forms that I know in the morning. 

If you practice Karate or Kung Fu I recommend you do the same. Training is really not just for the dojo.


Saturday, 19 September 2020

What if Sensei Iain got a look at Kung Fu?

If you have not yet seen Sensei Iain Abernethy's videos then now would be a good time to start.

The video below would not mean as much to you if you have not been studying Karate for at least 3 years. In some styles it may take even longer to see the katas that he discusses. 

What many of us experience when practicing kata is that the movements do not make any sense. Here in Bassai Dai for instance we have two blocks that are not followed by any kind of visible attack. So- what are we to believe? That the opponent will just walk away if he sees that you have blocked the only two punches that he was willing to give to this fight?

That is where Sensei Iain helps a lot. After watching the first of his videos I have made a point on finding out what he has to say about the obscure movements of every new kata that I have learnt.

Sensei Iain does not do Kung Fu, though.

I have thought that I have Kung Fu pretty much figured out. On Kung Fu pages and in Kung Fu groups online you may get elitists querying each other about their lineage, but strangely enough- nobody seems to give a damn about the applications of the movements in their forms (or "sets" as they like to call their katas).

Well... I was fairly at peace until I came across this sequence in the 5 Animal Set of Shaolin Kung Fu.

Now... that low block, which may remind some Shotokan students of that low block at the start of Enpi is called "Tiger Crouching on Ground" and that double punch is called "Twin Dragons Shooting Pearl".

What do you think would be Sensei Iain's application for this sequence?

If you want to see mine you can follow my Patreon page and see my application in this post.

I think I have just given Kung Fu the Sensei Iain Treatment. :)

Saturday, 5 September 2020

The Mi Lu Kata- Learnt from a book

I admit that Ninjutsu fascinates the hell out of me.

Thanks to Stephen Hayes and Ashida Kim I have been able to learn sword techniques, shuriken throwing and of course- some interesting unarmed fighting techniques. 

The Mi Lu Kata- or Lost Track teaches techniques that rely on misdirection to get past an opponent's defense in a fight.

I am not certain whether this kata has any ties with the Mizongyi (Lost Track) Boxing that is attributed to the legendary Huo Yunjia. I am not even certain whether this kata exists outside of Kim's school on Ninjutsu. I have however, had a lot of fun learning it and have started practicing it again.

With the details about Ninjutsu having become even more uncertain in this day and age than how they were 40 years ago I doubt that anyone is able to say for certain exactly how Ninjas used to fight in the 17th Century. What I am certain of, however, is that these techniques do not seem like fighting techniques used by Japanese warriors at the time.

I can imagine how fighting an opponent like this would add to the mystery in which Ninjutsu is already shrouded if you were a Samurai that encountered a Ninja.

Well... talking and speculating is fun, but training is what does the most good in the end. 

So- whatever you do, train well and have fun!


Saturday, 29 August 2020

Tongbeiquan: Damn this one is hard!

Learning this form was not much fun as the first video that I have watched on this featured a woman doing the form at top speed.

I have already accepted that the way your form looks depends partly on who you learn it from.

Not much further away on the internet, I have found this variation:

Nonetheless- I enjoy having this form in my program. I have always wanted a kata that features a hurricane kick. :)

The number of katas I know now stands at 27. I have also created 8 forms of which I plan to keep 4. 3 of them got discussed in earlier blog posts.

Even though I have gone and learnt this many katas I think that regularly practicing the katas that you know is more important than learning new ones. Sure- every once in a while you would pick up a new technique from a kata that you have not yet practiced. Still- it will only become of any use if you have practiced it enough.

Well... there is only one more form that I would like to show you, but that will have to wait for next week.

Now I have to get back to writing that book...