Shuai Jiao is one of the major disciplines of our school’s curriculum. Simply put, Shuai Jiao is the Mandarin Chinese term for wrestling. It is one of the oldest recorded martial arts in the world with legends of formal military practice going back to 2697 BC. It’s underlying purpose was to throw the opponent to the ground in such a way to kill or otherwise incapacitate the opponent. For hundreds of years, shuai jiao became one of the foundations of most of the major Chinese martial styles, although in more recent times it has become a popular sport within Northern China. It is also likely that shuai jiao was the parent of or influencer of other asian arts that focus on grappling and wrestling techniques, such as jiu-jitsu, judo, and aikido.
“It is because a mirror has no commitment to any image that it can clearly and accurately reflect any image before it. The mind of a warrior is like a mirror in that it has no commitment to any outcome and is free to let form and purpose result on the spot, according to the situation.”
Yagyu Munenori (1571-1646) founder of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu style of swordsmanship. The Way of the Living Sword. Trans. D.E Tarver
If you have a nagging question about how a technique is applied or if you are doing a part of a form correctly, ask the high rank. Traditionally, before or after class you should find the highest rank available and ask your question. If the highest rank is busy talking with someone else or training, then find the second highest rank to ask your question to. It goes down the line to the third highest rank and so on. No matter how trivial or insignificant you feel the question might be – the high rank have been around for awhile and it’s their responsibility to pass on what they know to the lower rank.
One basic martial principle is to never fully extend your arm. It follows that you never let an opponent straighten your arm. An incredibly strong arm – once straightened – becomes as weak as a twig to someone who knows how to break or lock it in such a way that you become helpless. In class, be sure to always keep a bend in the elbow when punching… punch with power, but only extend around 90% of the way.
One very important concept in kung fu, particularly chin na is something called, “sticky hands”. The idea is that as soon as someone makes the mistake of grabbing onto you, they’re stuck to you like a fly on a spiderweb typically by your hand(s) pressing their hand to your body. Even if they try to escape – it will be too late. Applying a chin na technique quickly follows “sticky hands” and your aggressor at this point is probably wishing he could get away. By the time the chin na movement is completed he is wincing in pain and likely begging you to let go.
The key to “sticky hands” is to smoothly press your opponent’s hand onto your body (wherever you’re being grabbed) and continue to “smoothly” execute your chin na technique. Successfully applying a chin na technique requires a good deal of time and practice to learn the technique and master the joint locking, footwork, power, weight, etc. that goes along with it. However, chin na is a very practical aspect of your martial art and the first step to making it work is understanding the concept of “sticky hands”.
There are many reasons to train, but for most, the ability to defend oneself with a high degree of skill is the most compelling. Our school teaches fighting arts that were created by martial geniuses hundreds of years ago – before the advent of firearms. Back then, being able to defend oneself with your bare hands or weapons could mean the difference between life or death. Martial fluency can only be attained through a serious attitude and consistent, hard work and proper instruction. Coincidentally, the original meaning of “kung fu” actually refers to any skill achieved through hard work and practice – not necessarily martial arts.
Learning to play a musical instrument is quite similar to learning our school’s kung fu. In the beginning, you will likely feel awkward with the instrument and there will be growing pains as you take direction from your teacher. You may even have second thoughts as to continuing. You familiarize yourself with the basic notes and a few simple chords and begin learning to read music. This is painstaking and can take weeks and month of daily practice. As you progress, basic songs and musical pieces are learned and practiced and more advanced chords are learned. Years go by, you continue to practice the basics and your instructor continues to push your abilities by teaching new techniques and musical pieces. You begin to feel pretty confident about your playing and happily perform the songs you know for friends and family. Many more years of diligent practice pass and you feel quite comfortable with your instrument and enjoy playing and practice more than ever. It truly gives you joy. You advance with even more difficult and challenging music, can play with your eyes closed, and can even replay music simply from hearing it. You have become better than you ever thought you would and feel as fluent playing music as you do talking. That is musical “kung fu” and an incredibly similar path is followed at our school to attaining martial fluency. With no question, both musical and fighting ability become more fun – more addictive – the better you get.
Both musical and martial fluency are available to those willing to dedicate themselves consistently for years – there are no short cuts. The only difference is that martial kung fu requires more sweat!
It will be heard many times in class, “Breath through your nose!” There is good reason for this – both from a western and an eastern standpoint.
Western medicine offers a number of scientific reasons why breathing through the nose is superior to breathing through the mouth. Nasal breathing provides better air filtration than oral breathing due to its cleansing passage through the nostrils and sinuses. Additionally, the nasal passage warms the air as well as lubricates it so as to lessen further damage to the throat. You will notice a big, big difference between breathing through your nose or your mouth when training in the cold or when you have a sore throat or laryngitis.
Eastern medicine and most Chinese martial arts suggest breathing through the nose exclusively – although there are some styles that exhale through the mouth. There are a number of reasons for breathing through the nose. It is thought that the regulation of your internal energy (chi) can only be accomplished when your breath has been regulated properly via nasal breathing. Controlling your breath thru the nose when overly exhausted (such as holding stances for a very long time or doing a thousand kicks) or when excited is necessary to control your energy and avoid stomach cramps that often come from breathing through your mouth. This is particularly important in sparring or in an actual fight as nasal breathing assists in withstanding attacks to the abdomen. Should you get kicked in the stomach while breathing through your mouth, you are in for trouble. Whereas, breathing through your nose (with proper training) provides more protection.
You should still train with a congested nose due to sickness or allergies. Although it will be difficult, try your best to breath through your nose anyway. It may require focus and effort, but it is often the case that the congestion is gone by the end of class if you get lost in your training. If the congestion is too great, bow out of class to blow your nose and hurry back. Then, try again to focus on breathing through your nose.