On Saturday 9th August we had our first outdoor camp and the day kicked off in glorious sunshine. We warmed up with some Tai Chi exercises and then performed the very apt “Salute to the Sun” exercise, which stretches pretty much every muscle in the body, in a nice way.
Warmed up by sun and exercise we began practicing our Bagua Tai Chi pattern which was interesting to do on grass, where the feet have to work a little bit harder to maintain stability and a firm foundation. The importance of a firm foundation from the feet up, and how power delivery depends on it, were themes that we returned to throughout the day. Some pushing exercises provided a practical example of how important the foundation is, and how effortlessly effective the soft style Tai Chi is when stability is maintained.
We also learned some practical applications of moves from the Suang Yang Tai Chi pattern, where stability makes it possible to use leg power through the arms. The ease with which this technique can break a grip and displace an opponent brings a smile to everybody’s face, because it works in such a smooth relaxed way without any brute force.
After a tea break we took the stability theme a little further and practiced the spear hands exercise from our Kung Fu patterns while concentrating on the stability of our feet. It might seem obvious, but without feet firmly planted there is not much point in trying to deliver power from anywhere. Think space walk. Trying to deliver power while floating in zero gravity just won’t work.
From the feet up we continued to practice spear hands with the focus moving up the body through knees and hips, keeping the head upright and properly aligned at all times. This introduced another key theme, the physics of how the body moves. It all looks very obvious in the diagrams but putting it into practice takes just that, lots of practice. What feels right might need a little re-learning with correction.
The weather took a turn for the worse while we scoffed our lunch indoors and then dried up nicely in time for us to continue training.
Keeping the body’s centre of gravity under control we practiced side-stepping and jumping, moving the body with purpose and accuracy rather than hap-hazard momentum. We took this focus on the centre of gravity into an exercise where we walked forwards and backwards with complete control while being pushed by an opponent. Then we practiced the pushing exercise that always gets a few laughs. With the power properly re-routed the pushing attacker, using all the strength they can muster, has an impossible task and the victim stands there laughing (nobody can keep a straight face for this exercise) before walking the attacker backwards. It works brilliantly.
At the end of the day we took our principles of stability, firm foundation and power delivery into our patterns and practiced those with a new focus.
Then came the barbecue to top off an excellent day!
Damien Conroy, White Crane Kung Fu Student.