(…continued) Common mistakes when practising the first and second forms? – Harry Leong

In Siu Nim Tau, you are facing the opponent front-on, and all of your movements target that same direction. It is easy to understand. In most of the Chum Kiu moves, the position of the opponent remains the same, yet your body is no more completely front-on towards him; rather, it is oblique, only leaving the head and the hand forms still “front-on” targeting the opponent, at the same position as in SNT. For example, you are doing the second part of Chum Kiu moving towards your right side. Let’s designate the front-on direction as 0 degree (0d) and the rightward direction as 90 degrees (90d). Your body, namely the shoulders, hips, knees and feet, doesn’t aim at 0 degree, but at some angle between 0 to 90 degrees. In reality, it won’t be on the side of 90d but probably closer to 0d, maybe within, say, 10 to 40 degrees. And for the convenience of discussion, let’s label this range as 20 degrees (20d). Please note that no definite numbers are intended as the golden rule; they just reflect ranges of flexibility and variety. And such a “quantification” is mainly for training. Once acquired,  you don’t need to bother at all.

By positioning your body oblique at 20d, it is poised to effect its momentum onto the area spanning from 0d to 90d by the same axis-on-left-leg! This is realised in the fact that you still tackle your opponent at 0d (the axis, along with your head and hand forms targeting him) while you step towards the right at 90d (initiated by the same axis). There are two common misfits: 1) You adopt the SNT facing intent and thus posit your body always front-on at 0d (especially the hip/pelvis). In such case the rightward stepping is basically a sideways walk which is deemed to be weak along 90d. 2) The body is posited at 20d, but the head and hand forms go with the body towards the 20d, making it effectively a front-on facing at 20d. The effective coverage of your body momentum would then be similar to that in SNT, maybe a bit wider but confined to the relatively narrow strip in the front. While it is still powerful, the scope is greatly limited.

In the second part of Chum Kiu, I argue, you train to expand the effect range of your body momentum from the SNT’s front-on narrow strip to 90d. Training in the way of misfit 2, while can of course increase power, will miss the chance to acquire such capability in wider range. (On the other hand, misfit 1 is not encouraged.)

When stepping rightward, don’t use the front (right) leg to drag-move the body. Always use the axis-on-left-leg (in this example) to move. Imagine: the axis-on-left-leg doesn’t break but move altogether by detaching the left foot from the floor and shifting it a certain distance rightward; nothing to do with the right leg, which is just resting on the floor without pressing, so unrelated that it’s always ready to raise up for a kick. Thus the stepping by the left leg is momentary. How about that by the right leg? It remains secondary to the axis-on-left-leg which always dominates and doesn’t break – the resting right foot moves a distance rightward to rest on a new position, and never step solid onto the floor in the course. You can describe it as the axis-on-left-leg sends the right leg to rest on a new position.

As such, a wide stepping is not necessary. You might be inclined to move a distance farther rightward as if it exhibits growing momentum, thus growing power. While stepping distance is not a parameter, you should keep it within comfortable range, i.e. not forcing yourself to drag-move or break the axis-on-one-leg.

Now you proceed rightward step by step. But no bumping – don’t lift up and then drop down your body on the way. Bumping makes your horizontal momentum fluctuate, i.e. destabilised, exposing many moments of weakness. Feel your body moving steadily on the horizontal, only allowing natural ups and downs mainly due to flexibility in joints and changes in shape, like during the front leg stepping when the hip position inevitably but naturally lowers.

In every Chum Kiu move, nearly all limbs and the body are involved. They move in different directions, in different shapes and travel different distances, but at the same pace. Small and big mixed altogether, start and stop at the same time. Even a movement (e.g. the body trunk rotating) looks like already stopped in appearance, it is still rotating in very small magnitude (at least in the mind) until the other movements (e.g. hand cutting to the centreline) stop all at the same time.

Back in my own training days, I might have had a good start as synchronising different movements in one move did happen quite naturally. My first focus was on insisting on maintaining the coherence of the axis-on-one-leg during stepping. It just took a reasonable while to feel it, and there was a “trick” of mine, though – when stepping to the right (take the example above again), I placed my right foot palm on the floor in parallel to the left foot palm, both of which then pointing to the 20d oblique facing. Otherwise, allowing the right foot palm to intending the 90d (advancing) direction will encourage drag-move by the right leg as well as weaken the oblique facing at 20d. I noticed that most others are not doing this. So just treat it as my personal trick.


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