Physics comes up a lot when we’re training White Crane Kung Fu and Tai Chi. Balance, power delivery and body movement within martial arts are all subject to the laws of physics. Quite often we consider the properties of devices such as springs, cables, rods and other mechanical devices in order to understand how the body can deliver power through each martial art.During this seminar we focused on power delivery and especially how power is delivered when we employ the ‘springier’ devices of the body, such as tendons.

During the day we practiced the delivery of ‘jin’ or ‘soft-hard’ power which is a type of power synonymous with White Crane Kung Fu. This type of power differs from the ‘hard’ or ‘li’ power used when striking with muscle power. With ‘li’ power delivery the energy is driven through by muscle power, like a battering ram. In contrast, with ‘jin’ power delivery the energy is delivered in a wave that results from a ‘bounce’ or a ‘spring’, more like a jack-hammer breaking a pavement with a shock wave. As with all the martial art techniques we practice we take great care with these. Despite the movement being barely perceptible, the impact on an opponent is significant and can cause a lot of pain as it delivers a powerful vibration.

We began the camp with a soft-style warm-up to get ourselves moving. This is the warm-up that we practice in every Tai Chi class. We took this into a variation on our pushing-hands exercise by pushing knees. A circular motion of the knees that we use in our warm-up is an effective means of destabilising an opponent and the same exercise is also an effective defence to that destabilisation. As is often the case there’s both a yang and yin aspect to the movement, an attacking force and an acceptance or deflection of that force. When we added our usual pushing-hands movement to the exercise there was a lot to think about, but too much thinking doesn’t work!

Following the pushing hands (and knees!) we worked through our Bagua and Suang Yang Tai Chi patterns with a twist. Keeping with the ‘springy power’ theme we used resistance bands to add a bit of, em, resistance. This slowed down the movement, and in strange way the resistance made the movements feel smoother.

The next stage took the ‘springy’ resistance into the Kung Fu patterns. Delivering power out to spear hands while working against a resistance band was difficult. However, working through the same technique afterwards, without the bands, felt much lighter and more relaxed. With the more relaxed spear-hands was a sensation of more martial power being delivered out to the hands. The ‘springy’ movements also made their way into punching and back-hammer fist exercises. They make for incredibly quick strikes, however, it takes a bit of getting used to to get it right. We also practiced with our wooden kung fu staffs to feel the sensation of delivering a wave of power into the staff and the resultant vibrations. We then made exactly the same movements without the staff, which made for a weird sensation, but it worked!

The resistance bands came in handy throughout the day. They were used to make everything a bit more difficult – from press-ups to walking forward and backwards, but I’m not bitter! The move to real coffee during the coffee breaks made up for it all! The usual wonderful feed of Chinese in our favourite spot, without a resistance band in sight, rounded off a great day!

Saturday 18 Oct 2014 – Ranelagh Multi-Denominational School All-day Seminar.

Damien Conroy