Thursday, January 31, 2013

How do I use feeling images for Grappling?

Bob Daufenbach
Pittsburgh, PA

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.
Bob Daufenbach

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,

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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,

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.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dealing with Round House Attacks

Tom Aaron
Brownsville, TX
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.

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.

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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"!)

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.

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