Sunday, November 24, 2013

Trying to find Effortless Power, How do I do it?

Cheng Hsin



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Stewart Breslin
Pacifica, CA
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Peter,
I was working with one of those punching bags with the water in the base trying to find the proper alignments for compression using the resistance of the bag to push against in various shapes. Testing myself by feeling my triceps while pushing, I noticed that no matter how relaxed I started out, at some point my triceps would tense up. If I go on the assumption that there should be no tension in the arms at all at any point then I must be mobilizing that muscle group to push the bag away at that point. I even setup my push so that I was bracing my elbow against my hip so that the upper arm was not required at all and I still tightened up my triceps. I also tried working the alignments with a feeling of receptivity of the bag and also with placing all of my attention in my foot. Both of these approaches yielded better results but I still couldn't keep from tensing up. Is this a sign that I am holding the bag out or pushing it away subtly rather that allowing the weight of the bag to compress down to my feet or is a very small amount of tension in the triceps necessary or inevitable? If I should continue to try and eliminate all tension from my arms, do you have any suggestions for ways I can train to eliminate the tension?
Stewart

Stewart,
Bags aren't the best training devices for pushes. But to answer your question: fail. Instead of moving the bag and trying to relax the triceps, relax the triceps and try to move the bag. The operative words here are "do" (relax) and "try" (to move). This means that the most likely result will be failure to move, but success at relaxing. Once you've found action in which your muscles are relaxed, then keep that and search for ways to move the bag with relaxed muscles, not with something else. You may not get it in a week or year.
Good luck,
Peter

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Intrinsic Strength in Boxing

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Jamie Schardt
Chicago, IL
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Peter,
For power delivery, western boxing can produce more raw power, but compared with intrinsic strength it is inefficient. For balancing power delivery and mobility, again intrinsic strength goes a lot further. Because there isn't a great deal of muscle contraction, movements can be redirected, changed, corrected. It doesn't unbalance the "giver" because there is no force until compression by the "receiver," and it is harder to become unbalanced by the opponent moving the attacking limb because it isn't rigidly connected to the torso. So, am I understanding this correctly so far?
Jamie


Jamie,
Boxing doesn't necessarily have more power, it simply takes more effort to achieve it. The rest of the
statement seems fine.
Peter

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Distorting the Body for Training?

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Rene Hunt
BC, Canada
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Hello Peter,
I am a practitioner of Shotokan karate. It has been brought to my attention that a high ranking master in our style has a posture of moving with leading hips or tilted hips while walking and probably at all times. Do you know what the benefit of this would be? Does it have to do with lowering the attention to the center? or movement?
Thank you for any input.
Rene Hunt


Rene,
Perhaps. When we engage some body practice our attention does go there, and our movement is affected, but there are many ways to produce those effects without contorting the body. Tilted hips sounds bad. Distorting the body is rarely good. There are many martial and other arts that tend to disfigure the body for some purpose. A ballerina for example will have stubby and crushed toes and feet, and a tendency to walk like a duck. These side-effects may be necessary to the practice of her art, but it is a disfigurement of the body. We should question the necessity of any distortion. Perhaps some reshaping of the body is required to practice our brand of martial pursuit, but be wary of obsolete or irrelevant methods of body conditioning.

Leading with the hip may just be another way of coordinating body movement, perhaps to unify top and bottom in motion. If movement is initiated from the hips or center then the hip will move first, but if the body is to be unified the rest should move at the same time. Such movement may appear as different than what one is used to seeing since usually people aren't unified and don't move from the center. Hope this helps.
Good luck.
Peter Ralston
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Friday, July 26, 2013

How do I fight with Internal Arts? / How do I know myself and be calm?

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Renaud Vanderlinden
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
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Dear Mr. Ralston.
My name is Renaud (pronounced "Reno") Vanderlinden. I've been doing T'ai Chi Ch'uan for about 10 years now. I'm currently living in Port Elizabeth, South Africa although my family and I are originally from Belgium. When I started here in Port Elizabeth I found the teachers to be rather dull and non-helpful in their approach to the art. I've since been teaching myself and I am currently starting to teach others. My Mom bought your book on "The Principles of Effortless Power -- the teaching of "Cheng Hsin." I knew immediately that this was what I was lacking in my training. I consider myself very good at T'ai Chi and I can grasp concepts very quickly.
There are, however, two things that I feel I seem to be stuck on and I was wondering if perhaps you could give me some guidance. After reading your book I feel that if there's anyone who can help me it's you. The first is that I lack a lot of sparring to put into practice what I am learning, although this should hopefully change when I start teaching others as I can spar with them. I would like to know if there's any exercises I can do which will help my confidence and my sparring while I don't have anyone to spar with?
The second and bigger problem is as follows. I started reading your book and followed your words with great enthusiasm. All your teachings of centering, balance, relaxing, grounding, sinking, etc., helped me a great deal. It was without a doubt the greatest eye opener I've ever experienced. I also do QiKung as a form of muscle stretching and breathing exercise. I feel, however, that I'm blocked or stuck at the moment. Although I understand everything mentally I can't seem to extend it to my physical actions. Is there a meditation or some form of exercise I can do in order to release me, to calm myself and focus? To be completely at one and at peace? I find myself when I spar to be attacking, even in my training. Maybe I'm too aggressive or I'm not understanding your teachings well enough?
My Mom ("Michele Mistler") and I have been avid followers of your teaching and her T'ai Chi master in Belgium (I don't have his name) just spent three weeks with you recently. I feel that you can definitely help me if you so choose.
Thanking you,
Renaud Vanderlinden

Renaud,
One thing to watch out for in working out the "functional" aspects to the art (via sparring or whatever games you may invent or play) is not to turn it into just another kung fu type "application." Many t'ai chi teachers do this since they don't know how to participate in real internal martial interaction. Make sure to relax, don't block or resist, but find other ways to handle another's force (yielding is the main one); work on using intrinsic strength, keeping calm, listening and joining these are things that set such an art apart from the "external" arts. Grasping these things mentally is a start, but all this must be trained "into" the body.


Interactive work can't really be done without a partner. We play a game called "Pressure -- No-pressure" which is very simple and easy to do but teaches so much, and can be played with anyone regardless oftheir chosen art or skill level. It is simply two people playing, touching for the most part, but not allowing any more pressure to come to the body than would crush a mosquito, while at the same time trying to apply pressure to the other person. That is the game. It is open and you can do anything you can think to do, but one thing I tell people is that they can't use pressure to get out of pressure being applied to them (basically: don't block -- don't push on someone's arm to prevent them from pushing on your torso, forexample, instead, yield to the pressure, and independently apply pressure anywhere on their body). This basic description and some others are in the back of the book "Cheng Hsin T'ui Shou: The Art of Effortless Power" if you have it. If not, you might want to get one, as well as the video "An Introduction to the Arts of Cheng Hsin" if you don't have one. Also, I do a two week camp in Holland the end of June. If you can get up that way, come join us.
Regarding your last question: to address this domain I think the work that we do in ontology and contemplation is appropriate. You can begin to contemplate for yourself, and I recommend attending the ontology workshop here in the spring if you can. The books I have out that relate to this domain of work are "Reflections of Being" (a series of essays written a long time ago and never meant to be anexplanation or complete information in any way, but may give you some direction); and "Ancient Wisdom, New Spirit" -- transcriptions from actual workshops and groups doing this work, but once again it isn't instruction, nor complete. I am currently working on a book that will be complete in this way. Other than that, try questioning yourself and contemplating on what is true within your experience. There may also besome direction available through reading through the old IDA (original newsletter) available in Archives on the website. www.chenghsin.com
Good luck and hope I've been of assistance. Maybe I will meet you one day.
Peter Ralsto

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ueshiba's influence on Peter Ralston and Cheng Hsin

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Maurice Gillis
Iwama, Japan
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Dear Peter
I would like to thank you for not only allowing me to take the degree one test this past summer, but encouraging me and giving the necessary guidance. I had a great time, as usual, and taking the test
added a whole new dimension to the Cheng Hsin challenge. I believe taking the test forced me to learn a lot more than if I hadn't. Lastly, I was wondering if you could elaborate on something for me. You have spoken well of Ueshiba in the past. I see a resemblance between some of your techniques and those of Ueshiba. What if any influence has Ueshiba had on you?
I want to thank you again for sharing what it is you have worked so hard to find, and I anxiously await your next seminar.
Sincerely,
Maurice Gillis


Maurice,
Of course Ueshiba has influenced me as have many others. I studied Aikido with Robert Nadeau, who studied with Ueshiba (so you've heard many "insider" stories). And I think Aikido done right is very beautiful to watch. Some Cheng Hsin techniques may look like Aikido techniques but when you work with them you will find they in fact are not, they just have a familiar look (Aikidoists have as hard a time learning them as anyone else).
I've studied many martial arts, and when I learned something valuable (i.e. if it had some effective functional purpose for being) I tended to keep it, and what was not valuable, I tossed. But don't misunderstand, I don't believe in jumping too quickly into revision or eclecticism. My philosophy has always been to master what is taught, before I would even think about changing it. This may have slowed me down in some cases, since I was hesitant to change what was asserted, even though I may have failed to find genuine value in it. But it also forced me to discover things I never would have if I had rushed to modify something due to a lack of immediate understanding. Eventually, however, I did begin to toss what proved to be remnants of techniques lost, or that were poor inventions in the first place, and to keep only what showed itself as a useful contribution. Of course by that I don't mean I kept the techniques as I found them, I just kept the direction or sometimes the look, and changed them or redesigned them to be consistent with Cheng Hsin principles. Since, as you know, my commitment is to the principles and not to
any form or specific art.
I never really wanted to create a new martial art by creating all new techniques. That pursuit seemed rather useless and I felt no need to do it. (I have known several people who tried that, and I thought their efforts turned out to be bogus and superficial.) But I did want to communicate the incredibly valuable principles of Cheng Hsin and so this is why Cheng Hsin T'ui Shou, Cheng Hsin Boxing, Cheng Hsin Body-Being, etc., where created.
Of course, standing on the basic design of techniques from other arts has sometimes proven to be a mistake. In trying to "reinvent" a technique to be Cheng Hsin consistent, I have discovered that a distortion of both the technique and the principles was often the result. In such a case, I found it was better to throw it out and start from scratch. But then again sometimes I was forced to learn (invent) a particularly difficult form of using intrinsic strength in order to accommodate the basic design of a technique that I never would have discovered without going down that road. So it seems to have evened out.
Not to understate his many genuine technical and systems contributions, the greatest influence Ueshiba had on me was inspirational. By the time I saw him, I had already gotten to the point of feeling like the world of martial arts didn't hold much more for me. And I was still a young man. But everyone I saw seemed worse than I, or doing systems that lacked what I already experienced as possible. Then I saw Ueshiba and conceded there was more to be done. I admired his attempts to go deeper even at an old age. I loved the beauty of his art. I enjoyed his ideas and intelligence. So it re-inspired me to study more. To look even deeper and push on. This was his main contribution to me personally.
Peter

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

How can the Cheng Hsin principles be applied to kicking?

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Jan Bloem
Holland
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Peter,
How can "The Cheng Hsin Principles" be applied to kicking?
Jan


Jan,
The same way they are applied to anything else. Move the leg from the center of the body, stay relaxed throughout and move the whole body into the kick. The last point is unusual in most kicking arts since usually people counter leg movements with their upper body and arms to balance the motion of the lower. I suggest not doing this, but instead move upper and lower body in the same direction. This will take some getting used to and you'll have to find a new way to stay balanced, but it isn't too difficult once you work it out. When the foot comes to the target, continue the motion into it and allow the body to be compressed into the foot you're standing on. One piece of advice I give people in kicking is not to try to "kick" but simply place or put their foot somewhere. Stay relaxed and let it drop as soon as it's free. One thing people seem to overlook is that when kicking you are on one foot (at most) at a time. This reduces mobility and the ability to make subtle and quick changes, so timing and awareness of the relationship is
crucial.
Peter

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Principles can take alternative forms

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Joel Glover
Englewood, CO
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Peter,
I wanted to express my gratitude for your willingness to make yourself available for these types ofworkshops. My schedule and commitments tend not to permit much time for these, but when I get to them I am so grateful for the outcome. I left the seminar with two strong impressions that have already helped me.
One has to do with lineage. I have studied a Chen Pan Ling tai chi chuan style for just under 10 years, butI don't really have a consistent instructor or class anymore and I have no clue on my lineage and can point to no "secret transmission." I feel like I am getting the "secrets" from you, like avoiding is better than blocking. In addition, I began to recognize that honoring lineage could serve to hinder or restrict learning what truly works and could force one to learn and even teach aspects that don't work. So, I feel better (less insecure) about being something of a mutt in the tai chi world. I especially appreciate the chance to get to "play" with other practitioners and to recognize that they are not superior because of their "lineage."
The other has to do with usefulness. I am involved in various levels of combat almost daily and I continue to try to use the basic Cheng Hsin principles. However, my combat is either in court, or negotiations, or on paper. In some ways it could be perceived as more abstract but for me it is more concrete. I don't need to imagine being in fights. I am in them. I was in them last week and will be in them this week. I continue to try to implement a system to apply the Cheng Hsin principles in the conflict resolution work that I do in the commercial world. They tend to work very well. The workshop helped reinforce for me those principles and to see their application in the combat that I do on a regular basis. For example, perception - seeing through your opponent's eyes; experiencing and knowing losing to know winning; timing; letting your opponent continue their attack so you can lead them instead of having them do something else; accepting and immersing in the loathsomeness of the combat; presenting; yielding; not committing to a particular outcome; recognizing anger in your opponent; doing everything right and still getting your ass kicked; and many others -- all had direct, concrete applications for my work. They may not always improve the results, but they help me enjoy the work that I do much better.
So, thanks for the help. I recognize that I may not fit the mold of your typical students but what you do really helps me on a daily basis and I look forward to continuing to work with you at other
workshops.
Joel


Joel,
Not to worry about lineage, it means nothing. If you study t'ai chi, then your lineage goes all the way back to the founder of t'ai chi. Where else could it go? The secret is not in lineage, but in finding real teachers who know what they are talking about. And then of course you have to practice what you learn.
Remember when applying the Cheng Hsin material to your work, the principles for combat will work just fine, but the form and method of applying them may have to be different. Consider, for example, what is it we are accomplishing through yielding, why do we do it, what does it provide, and what is the principle?
Then you can know better how this may apply to your work. It may take forms that don't look like yielding, or like yielding looks in the martial sense.
Good luck and thanks for your letter.
Peter

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Intrinsic Strength vs. Chi Power

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Marc Doust
Jacksonville, Florida
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Dear Peter
I just received the intro video tape, thank you. You seem very good at explaining things, which is important in this kind of discipline. I'm still confused about something. You mentioned that the intrinsic strength you use comes from compression with the ground. But other internal teachers talk about internal power coming from accumulating chi in the body and then projecting it into your opponent. So is it the same thing or is it something completely different? Is chi an energy that can be accumulated or is it just an expression of a trained and focused mind projecting intent or will?
If internal martial arts are so effective as so many people claim it is, why don't these people actually enter real no-hold-barred competition, just like you did in 1978? Most of them will say that their arts are too dangerous!!! But I think that if you can't perform in competition how can you expect to be able to fight in life threatening situation!
I wonder what are your thoughts on this.
Thank you,
Marc Doust


Marc,
Intrinsic strength is something you really need to study for awhile before it becomes clear. It is not the same thing as using chi. Most of what people call chi is just fantasy. There is something valuable to do in that area, but it isn't entertaining fanciful ideas, it's a lot of hard work. Certainly the vast majority of internal martial artists wouldn't enter real competition, because they don't know how to fight effectively. This is true of most martial artists. Unfortunately there is a tendency to lie to others and oneself about that. The thing is, fighting skills aren't for everyone. Few people actually want to use that path. It isn't necessary. Just don't lie about it or pretend.
Peter

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What is "Holding" a Question? (Gaining Enlightenment)

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Nick Favicchio
Plattsburg, New York
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Peter,
I was wondering about what you refer to as "holding a question." In a sense, I've worked with the questions of "who am I?" and "what am I?" and come to logical and rational conclusions not unlike your own. However, a direct experience of the answers to these questions has, as far as I can tell, not yet been forth coming. I was wondering how exactly you "hold a question" like you speak of in your writing. I guess my question is what exactly you mean by "holding a question"? I am hoping to get at an experience and understanding akin to what you describe getting from the contemplative seminars. Are there any other contemplative exercises I should consider? Any pitfalls or things I should be worried about?
Thanks in advance.
Nick Favicchio


Nick,
Holding a question is simply contemplating. But contemplation, as I'm speaking about it now, isn't sitting and thinking about or trying to answer the question. It is setting out to experience the answer, so to speak. And yet it isn't an "experience" we are looking for either, it is the direct consciousness of the thing we are wondering about.

We say "hold" the question because it is like remaining steadfast in this one question for a long time. Without necessarily thinking things or searching around for something to occupy your attention, you hold on to this question, which is really mostly having the intent to deeply and directly grasp what something is.

A first question of this sort is often: "Who am I?" In this you would hold the question by dwelling on your self with the intent to directly experience yourself. The question "who am I?" helps drive your attention toward that end. Within this question, you can ask: Who is seeing? Who is thinking? Who is walking? Who wants to know? Who is laughing, scratching, eating, listening, or anything else that might be happening. This helps drive you back into the question of who you are no matter what is going on. If you do this steadfastly and without break, it is called holding the question. You can set up a period of time in which to do this, an hour, a day, several days, 15 minutes, or whatever, and then commit to doing nothing but hold a chosen question for the entire time.

For more work in this I'd recommend attending an appropriate workshop or intensive here, like Experiencing the Nature of Being, or the Empowering Consciousness Workshop.
Good luck,
Peter

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Martial Arts Vs. Enlightenment/ How do I develop energy?

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Marc Daoust
Jacksonville, Florida
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Dear Mr. Ralston,
I just recently read your book (Principles of Effortless Power) and it is the best martial art book I have ever read! And I read a lot!!! I just want to tell you how much I admire your work and dedication to
your art, and how you made it so much more than fighting, but also a doorway into being. I'm sure you get a lot of mail from all kinds of people asking all sorts of questions. This one is no different, but I am sincerely asking for some guidance and advice. Just so you know a little about me (my
ego), this is my background. I started as a kid (9 years old) to learn karate, then I got into a phase of search for a complete and effective system. I learned some judo, kickboxing, wrestling, Brazilian jujitsu and muay thai. I learn fast and I have a lot of natural ability. I fought a few times in cage fighting and did well. (I'll stop bragging and get to the point, before you fall asleep!) Recently I realized that only so much power can be generated by the body alone (160lbs) but also that this power will decrease with age. And more importantly this ego-driven way of training did nothing to get me closer to being and enlightenment.
So I gave up all hard styles and a promising career to look for a better way. I started reading books about internal martial arts. It is quite hard to find a good and complete work on that subject. Then your book found me -- it was misplaced in the wrong section. As I read your book it just brought everything together, what would have taken me years to discover was written right in front of me!
Now I practice standing chi kung (with much more attention on gravity and grounding) also I do ba gua circle walking, chi kung (focusing also on grounding and waist movement), I take a t'ai chi class.
But I'm still confused. Am I doing the right kind of things? My t'ai chi teacher showed us this energy circulation into the arms, but you teach to drain down into the ground when the hands move. I really like your way, it's so much easier to focus downward constantly than moving it all around. So what should I do? What's the best way to develop the energy? How should I train? Forms? Push-hand drills? Or should I train with people from hard styles and try to apply effortless power sparring?
If you can help me find the right path, I will be forever thankful!
Thank you for your time, I hope to hear from you soon.
Marc Daoust


Marc,
Your background is very useful to give you a sense of the scope and reality of what people do, and how they interact; you will also have some experience of what the mind goes through in such competitions. This is valuable experience, don't turn your back on it. Essentially none of the internal martial artists you will encounter will have any of this experience and so what they offer should be balanced with this lack. In other words, they may not know what they are talking about as a reality but rather just as a belief. Sometimes what some teacher believes happens to match reality enough to be useful. But it's best to have them show you how things work rather than merely asking you to believe what they say.
 Martial work, or any other work for that matter, will not bring you to enlightenment. That is a different study. The martial work helps in many ways with discipline, reality checks, feedback about your own limitations, habits, assumptions, reactions and so forth. But the goal is different. You can pursue enlightenment, or simply increasing consciousness in any way, within a martial pursuit. But you have to do it, it isn't inherent in the pursuit at all.
You may get caught up for a while in a fascination with the various ideas, routines, and promises of the internal martial field. This is fine, but keep an open mind and press yourself and your teachers for real understanding about why the body should function this way or that, or why it is important to practice this way and not that way, and so on. There are many good ideas and clever methods that exist in the internal martial arts; and some of it is even powerful and effective. But there is also a great deal of superficial thought and hollow routines that people adhere to simply because they were taught it and believe it. Try to separate the wheat from the chaff.
No one item will make the big difference. For me to tell you do this thing instead of what they suggest is minor. Understanding the principles and why you should do either or neither is more important. I highly recommend coming to the Cheng Hsin month-long Retreat. Your desire for investigating the truth of being would be empowered a great deal by attending the ENB (Experiencing the Nature of Being) which is the Ontological workshop in the first 7 days of the Retreat. Some simple hands-on play and learning in the Cheng Hsin martial arts can point you in the right direction in a big way that just reading about it rarely does. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but real study is worth so much more. Your relationship to your other arts will doubtlessly change. Some you might give up, but others you may be able to find much more value from, since you won't be as stuck on merely believing what you are told, but will havesome way in which to discern the truth and investigate the matter for yourself.
This working things out for yourself is best done in concert with someone who understands the need for personal responsibility in this search, and so a good teacher is invaluable. Unfortunately there aren't that many very good teachers. This is one reason I advise so strongly that you study with me for at least a while. Regardless of what you think about my personality or teaching methods when you do, you will be exposed to real learning by a teacher who understands what he is talking about in a deep way. This will provide for you an experience of that honest direction, and you can use that experience in your relationship with other teachers -- passing by some, and demanding honesty from the others, until you find a teacher worth studying with.

As one of my past teachers once said: "Study with the best. It may cost you more in the short run, but will save you so much time in the long run." This is a true statement. Studying with lesser teachers seems to allow us to hide and avoid any real confrontation with ourselves, or avoid committing ourselves to a real study, and sometimes may even seem to save some money or just be convenient, but the unseen cost is much larger than anything we may avoid. Certainly sometimes people just want to dabble a bit in someart, to learn about it in a safe way as a hobby, and there is nothing wrong with that. But this is not your case. And so you should consider what I'm saying, and why I'm saying it.
Good luck and hope to meet you soon.
Peter Ralston

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

What Defines a Master?

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Nick Feenberg
La Jolla, California
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Peter,
How does one determine or define "mastery?" I've studied three martial arts -- Tai Chi, Hsing-I, and now Aikido. T'ai chi is not generally taught as a martial art and seems more to be a health exercise. You definitely create a great deal of clarity about your personal life in that arena. When I took Hsing-I it seemed to be that if the other person was lying on the ground that you were on the right path. Spiritually, if you follow the traditions of the masters you will achieve success. Aikido is a little different depending on the teacher. You can see enormous results in the field of self-development and personal growth and if you choose to pursue its martial aspects, a great deal of power and ability.
Success in Aikido is defined as defeating the self not the opponent. All three seem to have different ideas of what constitutes a "master." That word is thrown around so freely that it seems anyone can use it.
In my own studies it seems like I am taking baby steps towards mastering my own event. I have much more ability, power and freedom than ever before, but it always seems that there is more to "do," a task that seemingly will take as long as I'm around. You won a world championship, a tangible result around which to measure your level. What about the rest of us, when do we get there?
Nick Feenberg


Nick,
Mastery is related to whatever you are trying to master. The three arts you mentioned have many differing goals and ideas about what the art is even within the same art. In these the goal seems to represent the desires of the participants. Therefore, mastery is determined by the purpose for studying an art. If you realize this purpose, if you attain the level of skill or transformation that is sought, then perhaps we can say this is mastery.

There is always a subjective component to the assessment of mastery, yet the title is used in different ways for different endeavors. One can be a master bricklayer and this would suggest a certain level of skill. Or mastery can pretty much be just a title. For example, one can be the "maestro" of an orchestra and, although this is "master," it doesn't suggest a particular level of skill as compared to other maestros, just the attainment of that job or role. On the other hand, if one is a master painter or dancer we expect a level of skill that surpasses most painters and dancers. Here it becomes hard to define when that person achieves mastery, but some consensus is reached that they have created something that not only shows a deeper level of understanding in their art than most, but some ingredient not commonly found even in those who are technically proficient in the art.

One thing we should consider is that mastery does not mean "perfect," nor does it mean that the person is master of everything. It must mean that there is a level of understanding and skill that is uncommon and greater than what is easily attainable, otherwise the word doesn't mean anything. But this shouldn't be confused with the person being perfect at everything, and sometimes people fall into this trap, imagining that a "master" is a perfect person.

Whatever it is that you are trying to master, I think we can confidently say that as a student of some art in the process of investigating what the art is and what mastering it would be, that you are not a master. Such questions need to be resolved, and in such a way that they aren't intellectual conclusions but demonstrable experience.


There is no set answer to the question of mastery. It is whatever you create for yourself. Make it powerful and real and you can attain something powerful and real. And make sure that you have fun on the way!
Good luck,
Peter

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Monday, March 25, 2013

How to have Fighting Skill

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Klaus Heinrich Peters
Hamburg, Germany
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Dear Peter,
I'm struggling with matters around the basic question "What is a principle." To be more specific, let's start with leading. Isn't leading inherent in any interaction anyway? Every kind of communication involves offering and leading, since I am presenting myself and do something with my offer in some way-- though usually not consciously. So leading seems to be a distinction which can be made in every interaction whatsoever. I cannot not lead, so to speak. Is this one of the aspects of leading being a principle? At least this distinguishes leading from being a trick, which can be done or not. The same seems to be true for following. I always follow something, maybe not appropriately, but it's always there,
as long as there is some kind of interaction. And the same again with the Body-Being. I am aligned with gravity and centered and grounded anyway, there is no way to avoid it as long as gravity works. What I can do about it is only do it better, more effective and consciously. On the other hand, it doesn't seem to be true for yielding. Yielding is something which can be simply absent.
So the question is: Has this "being there somehow anyway" something to do with being a principle or not? Is this a good direction to look or a completely wrong track?
Thanks,
Klaus

Klaus,
We need to make a distinction between offering and leading. Offering is simply what you present, it doesn't suggest anything else is done. Leading includes offering and making available, but it also demands action, you need to move in relation to your partner so as to influence their actions. In both cases, you need to be conscious of doing these things otherwise they are not occurring. Without this consciousness they are not occurring! It is a particular kind of relationship which only occurs through conscious interaction. As I said with leading, you must influence their actions, it doesn't matter whether this happens anyway, if you aren't doing it consciously for the purpose of leading you are not leading. It really isn't occurring. You may look back and say such and such happened and it looks like leading, but this you are doing consciously after the fact; at the time no leading took place. If that relationship isn't actively created by you it isn't there, there is no operating principle "just because." Your actions need to be directed by this principle of relationship otherwise it isn't active.
Don't confuse "conscious" with having to "think" about things. You can do things consciously without much thought at all. But that's another story.
Leading is not an objective principle, or a principle of "being," it is a principle of interaction, an operational principle. The same it true of following. But with Body-Being it is not an interactive principle between people, but between you and the environment, or the "objective" principles. You will be in relation with these objective or existing principles no matter what you do, but your Cheng Hsin Body-Being only occurs when you align to certain principles, otherwise there is no CHBB, just what you get by default. Yielding is also an operational principle, in other words, it is determined by how you interact with another.
So, that should answer your question. A principle is what it is. There are different domains and kinds of principles. Hope this helps.
Peter

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

How do I Become REALLY Good?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chris Higgins
London, England
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Peter,
I have a question. How do I become very good? What is the process that you followed? Because it seems to me that there is a difference between the process you followed and the process we may
follow. And because of that, sometimes only the form and not the essence gets transferred. People don't always get the same insight. I guess it is related to confusing personal belief with insight/experience. You have said that a lot, but maybe it needs to be so much more emphasized, because most people do not take it seriously and just believe what you say. Which is OK, as long as we do not then somehow forget that it is just belief.
Take care,
Chris

Chris,
We shouldn't confuse any process that I followed with what you need to do. We are very different people and our goals are different, so your process will be different from mine. That said, however, I think if one wants to become very good he needs to become obsessed, at least for 10 years or so. The reason I say this is because without being obsessed the only thing you have is discipline, and that takes a lot of . . . well, discipline. What I mean by obsessed is being swept away by really wanting to learn, to really want to know and be able to do it, making this the primary goal of life for now, so that it occupies most of your thoughts and actions. You immerse yourself in the study and practice. In this way, you will be naturally disciplined since every chance you get you will be studying, not just in the many hours a day you will put into your practice and contemplation, but also every time you are standing around or walking down the street you will practice some body-being material, or any time you see an opportunity to work on your skills no matter what the forum, you'll use it. When you are just sitting around, say waiting to see the dentists, you will be thinking about how something works, or training a movement in your mind, or contemplating some question. These things will naturally occur. Why? Because you are "obsessed" you really WANT to know, and you are committed to getting it. You need to "use" me a lot, but you can't stop there, it needs to become yours and in your life. I'm just here to help.
Peter

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Fighting and Relational Skill

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chris Hein
Long Beach, CA
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Hello Mr. Ralston,
My name is Chris Hein, I have been a long time admirer of your writing, and think that your approach to the martial arts is in a fresh and more complete manner. I have many friends who have
studied with you and all have many comments about your ability.
My question is about relationship. Can someone's relationship skills in general get so good that they are better than someone else's specific relationship skills? For example: Guy "A" is a magnificent boxer, has good techniques and good relationship skills in the art of boxing. Guy "B" is a great ground grappler with significant ability on the ground. If guy A (the boxer) has made greater leaps in his understanding of relationship as a whole, will he be more than a match for the ground grappler, or will this lack of understanding on ground fighting outweigh his superior relationship ability? This is a strange question I know, but I am really curious as to the limits of superior relationship ability.
Thanks for your time.
Chris Hein


Chris,
In general someone with greater relational skill will win regardless of the art he does. This has all sorts of qualifications to it, however. Being skillful in a certain kind of relationship doesn't always mean the person can transfer his understanding to other relationships. If he is grounded in more "universal" distinctions then he will be able to relate more effectively to unknown methods. If his skill is based on very specific techniques, rules, and methods, however, he will not. For example in the arena of fighting, if he is skilled in such things as force, distance, perception, use of power, percieving the opponent's mind activity, and such, these things will apply regardless of method. This doesn't mean he won't have challenges, but that he should be able to meet them. Having greater relational skill than an opponent often translates to an advantage regardless of inexperience in the opponent's method.

 Shissai quote: When one has mastered a weapon, even a cudgel becomes a sword in his hands.

Roughly, fighting is fighting, the more skilled fighter usually wins. But I make a distinction between fighting and martial arts. Most martial artists aren't very skilled in fighting, primarily because they don't train it. Instead they play games and do exercises related to fighting arts, but frequently they don't learn the relational skills necessary for actual fighting. Boxers, Judoka, Muay Thai, fencers--these people do  fighting arts; but Karate, Aikido, T'ai Chi, various Kung Fus, etc. generally don't practice any real fighting.
In a match, the fighter will always beat the non-fighter. You can't learn fighting without doing it. But don't  get me wrong, I'm not saying one needs to be in street brawls to learn to fight. They simply must enter an art that has real fighting activities taking place. Most Karateka and Kung Fu practictioners would think they have this, but kumite and its Kung Fu equivalents are games of sparring, not matches in fighting. A judoka may be restricted to throws and pins and such, but in a match he really throws (against his partner's will) or pins, he doesn't fake it or pretend he could as in Karate kumite. When a boxer hits or a Muay Thai kicks, they really hit and kick, and so when they dodge they really dodge. Learning relationship in this domain is different than in the "pretend" domain. It is true that in T'ai Chi push hands, for example, one really pushes, and this does develop certain skills, but the arena is so restricted that it can't properly be called fighting. There are too many unnecessary rules and limitations, therefore it should be called a game or exercise.

Someone playing a race car video game will learn to make many visual distinctions regarding racing, and he'll be able to move his virtual car around the track quite effectively, but he will not learn many of the distinctions necessary for being effective in a real race. For instance, he'll be unprepared for the forces that will act upon his body and his car when hitting a turn at great speed. Obviously someone with experience driving an actual race car would beat him hands down.

Certainly many skills are learned in arts that don't work on real fighting (and by real I don't mean one has to be knocked out or some such, but that the play or match is relating to the skill of fighting, not the idea of fighting). Aikidoists do learn to throw, they simply don't learn to fight. Obviously this is a long story-perhaps we could go into it more thoroughly in a workshop. From what I've already said, I think many misunderstandings can occur. So I say again, in general the more truly skillful fighter will win regardless of art or methods employed.
Peter

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Training the Effortless Push by falling into the hands and into the feet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Rob van Ham
Nijmegen, Holland
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Peter,
The directions you gave at the last Holland Camp on "letting go and relaxing the whole body using only the feeling-impulse for movement" are very helpful and helps me improve my moving,
relaxation, balance and whole body feeling. But I am not getting what you mean with "falling into the hands and falling into the feet at the same time." When falling into my feet during a push I try not to move into my hands with a horizontal impulse. While falling into my feet and shifting I try to keep a relaxedalignment from hands to feet. It even feels as if my whole body is falling away (down) from the hands but at the same time keeping a feeling connection and alignment between hands and feet. How does this relate to what you mean with "falling into the hands"?
Rob

Rob,
Sounds like you are doing fine. What you described above seems consistent with the work we did on
"hand up you down" and draining from hands to feet as you do the push. For now, don't try to do "falling into hands" at the same time you work on "falling into feet." These are good practices that teach you something about relaxing and alignment. So if you do them independently, you should learn from each. Then use this information, or the feeling-sense you develop from each, combined and connected in your techniques, and see what happens. I'm sure I can make this even more clear to you at the next Holland Camp.
Peter

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How do I sense what my oppponent is going to do?/ What do I get from Yielding?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Stefan von Leesen,
Hamburg, Germany
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Hello Peter!
Another few question are arising out of some training sessions:
1. If we are in a fighting context we seem to be always too late when we only deal with the
movement of our partner, ergo we have to deal with something else. Obviously there are a lot of things happening inside of our partner before he moves -- things like having the intention to move, changes of energy, etc. but the problem seems how to be in contact with these things. Is it a good start to first get more and more in contact with what happens when I move (energy changes, intention, etc.) and after this gets clearer to me, go over trying to detect such things in a partner? Are there more exercises that might help me to get more in contact with these things? Am I overlooking something obvious?
2. In your workshops we spent a lot of time concentrating on yielding practices. Games like
mosquito yielding, pressure-no pressure, etc.. What comes out of this -- seems to be obvious -- we might get better in yielding. If I am in a fighting context one point seems to be able to yield to the pressure of a force. The other possibility is that I bring the pressure directly into my foot and from there compress. Do you think that this happens automatically when I'm yielding? I was wondering because my impression is that these are two different matters. If this is true, why do I have to spent so much time with the yielding games - still not being able to bring the pressure into my foot and compress?
I hope that my English is good enough to explain what I mean. Looking forward to your answer.
Thanks in advance
Stefan von Leesen

Stefan,
About your first question: there are different ways to approach it. Sensing what the other is going to do could start with noticing what subtle adjustments have to happen in his body before his gross movement can occur. As you suggested, become very sensitive to what happens for you before you can do something. Try not moving anything at all, be very still, and then try to do a punch or whatever. Just at the moment when you have to do anything -- shift your weight slightly, have a feeling of intent, tense a muscle, take a step, move your eyes -- STOP. This should begin to show that you always do something subtle before you do something gross. In order not to "telegraph" so much yourself, try reducing those processes (relaxing helps, as does a clear and calm mind, so does shifting your thinking from trying to be "fast" to simply being "immediate"). This should also help you become sensitive to what processes others are going through before they can do their gross movements.
There are other considerations such as potential, intent and whatnot, but I think you have enough to work with already. One more thing, though. You will need to pick up changes of intent throughout the motion, not just before. An example of such sensitivity can be seen in the video when I pull the chair from under Epi as he sits.

The motion to move down is not the intention to sit down. Even though he is looking between his legs and expecting the chair to go, when his brain makes that shift to sit, he will fall if no chair is there. How do we pick up such a subtle shift and in such a small fraction of second? I dont really know, just do (for me it comes as a very subtle feeling of a change in the other person's body-mind).
About your second question: No, yielding and compression aren't the same thing. Yielding is found
inherent in many things, like following, leading, compression, absorbing, joining, sticking, and more. But being compressed by a force into your feet requires a certain alignment so that that happens. Yielding requires no such alignment, just getting out the way. If you are receiving a force, and use intrinsic strength to neutralize the force by having it compress you into your feet, this is called absorption. But I recommendlots more yielding work before worrying about this. Otherwise, you are likely to just tense up.
Good luck,
Peter

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Monday, February 11, 2013

How do I train an effortless punch?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Pieter Vaartjes
Groningen, Holland
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Respected Peter Ralston,
By coincidence I have visited some years ago one of your boxing intensives in the Netherlands. I was amazed and impressed by your performance. I have a ju jitsu background and I have always known that if there is a secret in the (eastern) martial arts it is to be found in relaxation. So for about four years Itry to visit one of your workshops in the Netherlands each year. From the start of this year 2002 I practice every day your push with what you told and what you have written about in your books. And sometimes I get the feeling that I start to learn it a little. Often I hardly feel what I do or it feels awkward and strange. But comparing with my jujitsu history I see that as a sign that I am actually beginning to learn the push (a little). What I really would like to know is how you deliver your punch(es)? How do they work physically? And what kind of exercises do you recommend to me?
Pieter Vaartjes

Pieter,
Simply: stay relaxed, use your whole body and use your whole arm back into the shoulder and chest and spine. Train to move your arms with your hips, don't use the arm muscles themselves. Press down on one foot, usually the front foot, to get your grounding to move your center and hips. Allow the back heel to come off the ground and rotate with the punch, at the very end of the punch let the back foot slide forward a bit.
Mostly, stay relaxed. When you finish training your punching, you should be more relaxed than when you started. And train to use your whole body as one unit. This should give you something to work on.
See you in Holland next year.
Peter Ralston

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Does changing perspective make a difference in fighting?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Stefan von Leesen
Hamburg, Germany
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Peter,
In the Retreat when we were doing the work on Principles of Effective Interaction there was one
section where we worked with changing the perspectives. Like in a fight looking from above, three-
dimensional, out of the eyes of another, from the ground etc.. Working in this specific domain, is it just to become better in changing perspectives? Shall it bring us into a state where we always know which perspective is appropriate in a specific circumstance? Shall it just show us that the perspective that we usually take for granted (ours) is only one part of the whole thing? Shall we come to a state where we able to be connected the whole time in a fighting context to all the perspectives that are possible at once?
Thanks in advance,
Stefan von Leesen

Stefan,
Yes.
Peter

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

How do I use feeling images for Grappling?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Bob Daufenbach
Pittsburgh, PA
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Peter,
Many of the images used in Cheng Hsin truly help to facilitate a "feeling-attention" and "body awareness" of the principles and improve function. Ball and chain, hand up you down, water drop, and standing on pilings seem to be adapted for "stand up fighting". My inquiry is about how these can be adapted to grappling or ground techniques. Have you developed others for that type of encounter?
The first 70 pages of "The Art of Effortless Power" continue to be both a challenge and a source
of inspiration. Thank you for sharing your work.
Sincerely,
Bob Daufenbach

Bob,
It is true that mat work or grappling on the ground present a different set of challenges. Yes, most of the images have standing in mind, but the principles involved can be done on the ground as well. I haven't invented images to serve that adjustment, but you are welcome to. Sometimes just changing the name or how you view it can be useful. I remember being told of someone who, having discovered a new image of "infinite space" beneath the ground thought they had evolved beyond me because I was stuck on waterdrop. Silly notion, isn't it? We are talking of images here, ways of developing. They are all only exercises, inventions to move people in a direction. They are not and will never be the principle itself.
Once these images are mastered at some point one can simply powerfully engage the principle without image. But I don't recommend that course until you've spent years making the images real and useful, for they offer a more concrete avenue through which to progress. But you can use whatever image serves, as long as you can make it real for yourself it will work.
Good hunting,
Peter

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2 Qestions: Judo & Jiu Jitsu vs. T'ai Chi; How do I rank up in Cheng Hsin?

Cheng Hsin
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Christian Campfield
New York, NY
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Hello Peter,
Question for you: I've been playing push hands with someone who is very good at it. From time to time I'll pose a judo/jiu-jitsu situation to him. He is able to deal with it from a push hands perspective quite effectively. In trying to understand how this is possible, I'm starting to think that the presupposition in judo is that the opponent is not skilled in rooting. A strong root seems to make every judo throw I know irrelevant. Can you comment on this?
Secondly, I've been studying t'ai chi for over 1 and 1/2 years and jiu-jitsu for about 10 years. It
seems to me that all the jiu-jitsu I ever did was preparation for the complexity of tai-chi. So far I can do the yang form (short) and am learning the Chen form. Of course I'm not at all good at the form, but I can do it. I also am continuing to develop mechanically correct striking and boxing skills. Given all that, what do I have to do to begin to get degrees from you. (I've been to one 3-day seminar in NY and would like to go again this October.)
Best wishes,
Christian

Christian,
It really depends on the players. Once, a long time ago, someone took a championship collegiate wrestling team and entered them in a Judo tournament to see who would win. All well and good, but they entered them to compete with white belts! Reasonable, since they had no judo rank, but totally bogus as a means for testing or comparing the arts. The wrestlers won every match. But in order to be a good test, they would have to have fought with competition-winning black belts -- not just any black belts since in many Judo schools the achievement of rank is determined by accumulation of techniques and this says little about a persons ability to interact competitively. With such a match up the outcome would probably have been quite different.
When I was a young black belt in Judo, I had an opportunity to challenge the current championship collegiate wrestling team (who happened to be sharing our space at the college due to a mix-up in scheduling). We agreed they would do their thing and I would do mine, no restrictive rules favoring one or the other. We did newaza (on the mat). I fought five of them. I won every one. Different result.
There are too many unseen factors regarding your Judo work with the t'ui shou person for me to comment with any accuracy. It could very easily go the other way. A good competitive Judoka could easily beat most t'ui shou practitioners, probably even competitively competent t'ui shou players. It really depends on the skill of the players and just what they are doing, what they are restricted to or not. For example, do the players stay rather fixed and facing each other? Do they have to or can they grab clothing? What is the psychology for the match, does one "method" or "level" of interaction dominate the play? Etc.
Competitive Judoka frequently have a very strong root. One thing people in the martial world overlook too much is the degree of actual functional experience a person has, which is primarily seen in his skill in freestyle competition. Even here we need to consider further, is his skill related solely to his own art and the games of that art, and can they (the games of the art), or the player apply such ability widely? In otherwords, skill is developed by being skillful in freeplay or competitive games and interactions, and these are learned through studying and doing such activity. It is not developed by just learning things intellectually or mastering techniques, although such things can be very useful. So, there's a comment.
Regarding degrees: If you need information regarding the Cheng Hsin degree system go here. Degree Info.
If you're serious about getting your degree, talk to me in NY about doing one of the camps in Texas or Holland. The more complete and detailed studies of the camps are where students can really leap ahead.
Good luck,
Peter Ralston

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Effortless Power: Punching and Grappling


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Christian Campfield
New York, New York
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Master Ralston,
I would like to ask some questions:
1. It seems to me that lifting weights in order to develop muscular strength in no way helps the development of effortless power and in a way, may hinder it. Agree or disagree?

PR: Agree. In theory there may be nothing wrong with weight training as long as sufficient time is also applied to fully stretching and relaxing the muscles trained. However, training to tighten muscles and increase strength usually means increased tension and a commitment to the use of strength rather than effortless power.


2. I have been trying to find an effortless-power way to throw a jab. Honestly, this is VERY difficult. Recently I started hitting the heavy bay with 100 jabs in a row. All the while I'm zero-in on what muscle activity is superfluous to the bare act of the jab. Throwing so many punches in a row brings to the surface the problems because muscle fatigue hurts. Where does it hurt? How can I modify the action(s) as to avoid that fatigue? ... Those are the questions I'm trying to focus on in streamlining the action. What to do you think of this? ... Do you have any further suggestions regarding punching with effortless power?



PR: When you finish a session you should be more relaxed than when you started. Look at it as a relaxing exercise. It shouldn't hurt. When you feel pain, pinpoint the strained area and you will likely find that it occurs where the whole body's integrity or unity is broken. Align the body and movement so that this break disappears. Be careful not to use strength to "patch" it up. The pressure must reach all the way to the bottom of the foot. I have a 5 step method to achieve this; next time you are in a workshop where such a lesson is appropriate, ask about it. (We covered it at the camp for example. See Mike Cottrell-Tribes' comments above regarding punching -- this is the method he learned at the camp.)

3. On to the mat: In a grappling situation you made the suggestion to "relax on the bottom and let him carry you on top." This was very good advice. But somehow I still have seen myself struggling, pushing, forcing, etc. It feels like I'm missing some secret. It is as if there is a mental/physical block. There has been great difficulty in anticipating my opponents movements. All this in spite of the fact that in the school where I train, out of fifty, there are only (maybe) two people that can beat me. My regular skill does not interest me. I'm only interested in expanding those brief moments when the movements just happen by themselves. Can you make any more suggestions?

PR: Find ways to use their efforts against them, let their action get them into trouble or lead you into the next thing which puts you into an advantageous position. In grappling sometimes this needs to be doneby allowing them to work a little. Let them feel as though they could have success at some technique andthen turn the tables as they attempt it. On the other hand, besides "leading" them into things, you can "cut" or reduce their potential or advantageous position as a constant, thus avoiding the "big problems" altogether. Using leading, cutting, and other Cheng Hsin dynamics may also help you find ways to use
less strength.
Peter

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dealing with Round House Attacks


~~~~~~~~~~~~
Tom Aaron
Brownsville, TX
~~~~~~~~~~~~
Peter,
I would like to see how you deal with roundhouse attacks. Particularly a roundhouse punch to the head, (other than ducking), and a roundhouse kick to the solar-plexus, (other than backing away). I have a hard time blending with these attacks and would like to see it done by a pro! It is easy enough to  BLOCK these attacks, but to skillfully blend with them in a soft manner is eluding me.
Tom


Tom,
Evasion such as ducking is usually the best course, at least it should be a basic one. With something like a roundhouse kick, the motion of the foot describes a limited arc, kind of like the crust on a slice of pie.
Think of the opponent's center as the point of the slice and remember that, for the most part, his power and movement are restricted to the crust area. Moving your body in towards him will deplete the power of the kick and give an opportunity for you to rotate and join the movement in some way, or unbalance the opponent. If you continue that movement past the "pie slice" area of motion to the side of the opponent, he can't touch you at all, but you may be able to join him. Joining is basically finding a way to attach yourself to another's movement while they are doing it, moving with them at first and then taking over. With a move coming at you like that, it is possible to allow them to compress you into the ground and use this compression to disrupt their attack.
Just some ideas to play with.
Peter

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Re: Attention, Power, Visualizations and Reality

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Minh Nguyen Van,
Paris, France
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(Once again, a series of questions, I'll answer each one at a time.)
Master Ralston,
1. From "The Principles of Effortless Power": on p. 11: "Performing any functional activity while
concentrating on [the center region] automatically increases the power, skill, and effectiveness of that
activity." On p. 13: "We must concentrate on our feet and the feeling in the feet...".
Question: How to do both at the same time? (it's even worse on p. 23: "One's attention must lie in
the center, the foot, and the earth"!)
Minh

PR: Minh,
There are many things we need to bring into our practice and development. In this case, the earth, feet,
and center are all related. Often we need to concentrate on becoming more aware of one area for a while in order to develop it, but this will always need to be connected with the other areas to which it is related. The center directs the whole body's movement but the ground is the source of the power to move the center, and this is accessed through the feet. Even if we concentrate for a time on one specific area or another, they are interconnected and so we need to understand not only one part but the whole. Beyond this, from time to time concentration on one thing or another can be more or less appropriate depending on what's needed or true.


 2. Are the 2 visualizations, "ball and chain" and "water drop," to be chosen according to our feeling preference or are they to be both used?

PR: The purpose of such training is to become grounded, or to create an experience that can give us a sense of being grounded. Either visualization can be used, they each provide slightly different qualities. The goal is to feel these qualities as if they are real and present and so find a clear sense of ground. Once strong grounding is mastered, visualizations are not necessary, but for years they are very useful and should not be bypassed.


3. So, you said there is a minimum muscular strength used. I intended to ask you this question:
"How to get rid of the unconscious habit of using strength since we constantly use it in daily life?"

PR: Practice. Habits are built up over time, so getting rid of them usually follows the same procedure. Try not using so much strength in daily life. Find every opportunity to train relaxation and intrinsic strength in the most common activities (opening a door or lifting a coffee cup) and your development will be more certain and deeper.


 4. Your visualizations make me ask questions. I've learned visualizations before but considered
them as a method of training, of helping to create new brain "cabling" or "auto-conditioning". But if you use them also, I wonder if this fact means:
a. you also use them as a method of training, of "auto-conditioning"; or
b. they are a way to make us conscious of a kind of reality we usually don't perceive, this reality being pre-existent; or
c. they create a new reality that did not exist before.
Which hypothesis is right? I tend to believe in the 2nd one because you said "things were there."
So it seems that you want us to be conscious of other realities and then live with them...

PR: One thing to watch out for is drawing a few conclusions and then assuming the answer lies within them. While it might be true that such visualizations draw our attention to some aspect of reality that we otherwise might miss, it is also true that we make up the visualizations and so they are not in themselves something "there." In answer to your question though, I might say all three are correct. We use some feeling-visual composed of familiar qualities placed in a new setting so as to train our feeling-attention to develop in a way it would not otherwise develop.
Peter

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