Eating humble pie

Lord make my words as sweet as honey for tomorrow I may have to eat them.”– Unknown.

It’s been pointed out by a kind reader that I didn’t explain myself very well in the last post, and that I was putting “weight” onto the front leg despite saying that I wasn’t. After a long chat with the reader – (thanks Igor) – and some reflection, I think he’s right. So, thanks to Igor for pointing this out. I’ll have another go at explaining what I meant here:

What I was trying to explain was that in a general Xing Yi step I’m not going from a back stance to a front stance. Like this:

Back stance (weighted back leg):

Front stance (weighted front leg):

I desribed not doing this in my last post as “not putting my weight on the front leg“. However, I now realise that this is misleading because at the point in the video where I’m hitting the tennis ball my mass is landing on the front leg. Here’s the moment:

You can hear it as well, if you have the sound on. The rear leg then follow steps and catches up and “catches” under my body.

So, while my stance is not changing from a back stance to a front stance, my mass does go into the front leg, and the ground.

One of the reasons I write this blog is to write out my thoughts, because then I can be really clear with what I mean, and correct them if necessary. So, I think I just got a little bit clearer, thanks to one of my readers. The point of this blog is never blind adherence to a particular viewpoint, but to research and challenge what I’m doing, and keep an open mind.

The other point that I think is worth making is that the ‘mass going into the ground’ is only happening because I’m not hitting something of substantial mass. You can hear the sound of my foot hitting the ground as I hit the tennis ball. If I was hitting something heavy, like a person, I think that’s what should be making the sound. That’s the real “Thunder sound” of Xing Yi – the sound of your first hitting the person. Chinese martial art is done so much against the air that I think people have become too obsessed with putting power into the ground. It’s what happens with generations of people punching air. It seems clear to me that the power should be going into the opponent. When we have no opponent, or one of little mass (like a tennis ball) then the power ends up going down into the ground.

Here’s the video again, if you want to see what it does in motion:

11 thoughts on “Eating humble pie

  1. What ban Mike Sigman? Mike Sigman banned me from his 6H group for having my own opinions and not mindlessly following his party line, I took it like a man and left – he doesn’t want me around, that’s fine -, so I’m not about to become just like him and ban him from my blog for having his own opinions. Then I’d be just like him. I just don’t know why he can’t let me go. He keeps coming back and posting over here.

  2. Those kinds of comments and critical thinking, in my book, are the marks of someone who really cares about learning [as opposed to just repeating what they’ve been told or shown over-and-over]. I don’t have the right to comment on the technical details in your xingyi as I never had enough personal instruction in that discipline or been certified as an instructor though I have practised the Five Elements aspect in both empty-hand and basic weapons since 1990 and, until last year, almost always had at least one partner to train with whom to train. [Blast you, Covid-19!]

    In trying to explain the weighting issues to my partners; I used to say that the front foot pulls the back foot forward and the initial impact seems forward-weighted but is really already shifting back to the rear leg so that the second part of the impact drives the target backwards so that each advance has both a striking and a pushing quality [particularly in the hand on the side of the back leg]. Of course, you also have to segue each punch one into the other when doing repetitive punching which is not easy even by yourself when you have only the air to strike That’s why I always let people learning with me wear boxing gloves and do the drill actually hitting my torso as I moved backwards in time with their forward movement.

    The other real problem, as you mentioned, is that the necessary footwork — though that varies with the xingyi style — often turns into hopping or gliding forward, especially at faster speeds.

    Again, as an experienced amateur NOT an expert, I offer this as more food for thought or at the very least the satisfaction of your being able to mutter “Jeez, he’s full of horse apples, ain’t he!”.

  3. The essential theory of hitting using down-power and jin is known pretty commonly throughout the CMA’s. That video of Chen Xiang’s punch being analyzed (incorrectly) at Stanford University is a good way to dissect what is going on and why down-power in the front foot is important.

  4. I’m not sure why you’re talking about timing the strike with the rear foot – that’s not what I’m talkign about or doing in the video. On the point of striking when the front foot enters, I’d agree. That’s what I’m doing. Most ‘Tai Chi for health’ teachers really don’t think about the practical considerations of punching somebody using the Xing Yi punch, but view it as some kind of abstract theory.

  5. I’m not sure what this has to do with “Yi Quan people”, so I’ll avoid that again. Wang Xiang Zhai was initially a Xingyi practitioner (even though his biography and who he studied with are in question), so there should be no real difference between a good Xingyi punch and a Yiquan punch.

    A punch is mainly powered from the ground (in most cases, although there is always an element of “down” in any punch, due to Closing), so the main line of force is from the grounded foot to the fist. The harder you push down on the grounded foot, the more powerful your punch is. It’s that simple. The Chinese have a number of punches in all of their arts that rely on the strength of the supporting foot hitting the ground in order to increase the power at the fist. Most westerners don’t understand that, so it’s easy to spot where they’ve left money on the table by not using developed down-power to increase their hits. Heck, the stories of doing standing postures to the point that someone can’t lift the practitioner’s arm or leg are dead giveaways about how important down-power is.

    Years ago (back in the 1990’s) I was at a workshop with one of my teachers (whose Xingyi teacher was a student of Sun Lutang) and he was teaching P’i Chuan to the class, showing how the punch coincided with the down-weighting of the front foot. A Chinese guy who had studied with an American student of Hong Yixiang was muttering that the true secret of P’i Chuan was in the heavy stomp of the back foot coming in. My teacher was astounded to hear someone say this. He said something like: “Your front foot has already entered so you should have already hit. Why do you wait for the back foot to come in?”.

  6. Pingback: Yi Quan people (usually) don’t understand Xing Yi | The Tai Chi Notebook

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