Thursday, March 19, 2009

Be Like A Marrionette

Tuesdays are one of my favorite days of the week because of Tai Chi class. I have missed a few classes lately due to scheduling conflicts. Tuesday was my first night back in three weeks.

The instructor does a great job describing movement using imagery. This week his focus was to get the class to go inside the body and "Be Like A Marionette". He demonstrated how the arms and legs should move independently. If the "string" on the elbow is pulled then only the elbow should move. The image is helpful but it is very hard to put in practice. My Tai Chi instructor discussed the differences when the body feels stiff, dead and alive.

Some of his other images:

Think of the body between the shoulders and hips as a can. The can needs to move as a unit and rotates at the hip.

Don't grip the floor...sink. He told us to imagine the body being a container filled with water. As the body moves...the water moves. The weight of the body is in the container but on top of the floor.

The arms and legs are like strings extended from the body.

When walking....think about your legs being like two glasses of water. As you step, the weight is transferred from one leg to another. This is like pouring the water from one glass to another.

Think of yourself being in a pool of water. The water feels heavy as you raise your arms up. Imagine the water flowing around your arms. As you bring your hands down feel the resistance of the water.

The imagery my instructor uses to teach Tai Chi helps me learn and remember. So...what about Okinawa Kenpo? When teaching punches, blocks and kicks, I talk about body alignment, hand positions and angles. Take for example the basic instructions on how to punch.

The striking surface of the punch is the front two knuckles.
The first two knuckles align with the bones in the wrist.
The target of the punch is the solar plexus (in drills).
Keep the elbow close to the body and do not raise the shoulder.
A punch comes off the hip starting with the palm up.
The hand rotates vertical when the elbow passes the body.
During the last six inches of a punch, the hand rotates palm down.
Elbow is slightly bent.
The front two knuckles make contact with the target.

There is no mention in the above example as to how a punch feels. What has been your experience using imagery to learn martial arts? How would you describe what a punch feels like?


Perpetual Beginner said...

Thinking about it, the only imagery I know I use regularly when teaching punching is actually for teaching opposite side retraction. I'll tell students to envision that a bungee cord runs from their punching hand around their back to the other hand, and that as the first hand punches out, the second hand is pulled back to chamber.

As a random note, I think I'd have a difficult time using the rotated punch you describe. Isshinryu uses a vertical punch, and it's so ingrained by now it'd be very hard to change.

Sue C said...

I love the use of imagery in teaching, I think it is a very powerful tool. We haven't used any imagery in the way you describe it in your Tai Chi class, which sounds really interesting. The only imagery I have been taught in relation to punches is to imagine punching through your opponent rather than aiming for skin level - just to make the punch extra hard, but I'm sure you know this.

Hack Shaft said...

My school's core method revolves around power coming from the hip.

Rather than throwing your fist at a target, the energy comes from a full hip rotation.

In practice, the result is much more power and perhaps 6-12" more reach when full hip rotation is incorporated.

So how does it feel? Like the energy comes from the hips, pushing through your torso, arm, and fist, and through the target.

Rick Matz said...

For a lot of reasons, but among them to learn the form properly, in the Wu style of taijiquan, we practice the so called "square form."

Here, you can get a sense of Eddie Wu, the gatekeeper of the Wu style performing the square form:

Here is Stephen Hwa, another senior master whose form is even more articulated:

Dan Prager said...

I find Tim Cartmell's suggestion of imagining that you are standing under a powerful waterfall a useful aid to vertical alignment.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I love these! Especially the water being poured from glass to glass when walking.


Michele said...

PB: Good suggestion about the bungee cord. I would feel the same way about a vertical punch. At a training camp, I went to a session taught by an Isshinryu instructor. I had a hard time with the vertical punch in open hand and with the tunfa.

SueC: Good point. In order to get students to drive through the opponent, we tell them to "think spine".

Hack Shaft: Great description! Our power is generated from the connection to the floor, through the hip and out the arm. We punch with our whole body...not just an arm.

Rick: Thanks for posting the video links. I watched Master Hwa's square form a few times. I never heard of or saw the square form before. Very interesting and informative.

Dan: Nice imagery! I can see how that would assist with vertical alignment.

BBBlues: I like the use of imagery in the Tai Chi class. I am trying to use imagery when I teach Okinawa Kenpo. It definitely benefits the learning process.