Taijiboxing is a progressive martial art and a comprehensive exercise discipline it combines principles fro both eastern and western approaches to health and vitality.
Recently I went on a visit to Toronto to celebrate my half a century birthday, with some friends and visit with my old sifu Master Ho Lo Lam. It was nice to visit the city see the hustle and bustle hear are the different languages and be expose to a wide variety of authentic ethnic culinary and cultural delights. I first visited my good friend by Instructor Ian Zachemski Gibbs a classical yet eclectic Hapkido Instructor, we shared some stories caught up with each others life’s and then decided to do some training. This was great fun, as we get to compare similarities between combat theories, applications, and executions. I was able to absorb some principles and learn a new kick called a “Wheel Kick”. I was also able to Introduce to them the concept of “Ghost Stepping” This is a principle absorbs from the Taijjutsi discipline, and the Japanese system of “Tai Subaki”. Tai Sabaki is related to Ashi Sabaki or (Footwork) and Te Sabaki or (handwork).
The technique of Sabaki is a unique method of meeting an attack by combining defense and offense into one motion. This implies the use of harmony rather than pure physical strength or speed. The students in the class really enjoyed working with this new concept, and were happy to integrate this idea into their own bag of tricks.
My next stop was to visit with my Sifu and mentor Taiji instructor Master Ho Lo Lam. I had heard that he had recently recovered from back surgery and was well enough to star teaching TaijiQuan again. Although he was forbidden by his wife to participate in any push hand instruction, and he was to be very careful when demonstrating applications for us. I was very happy and pleased to see him again ,and he was happy to see me. The whole class welcomed me back as if I was a long lost cousin, to me this is a sign of a true martial arts practice . We all accept each other as if we are all part of one big extended family regardless of our differences..
Class began with our usual warm up and coordination exercises , and then Master Ho Lo began to demonstrated some correction to the form, and what the proper breathing rate and rhythm, should be, and the correct body alignment . He also demonstrated various interpretation for self deference applications as he always does.
Master Ho Lo focused on the application for ” Single Whip” and “Seven Star Stance” showing numerous variations for application. It was great to see sifu still enthusiastic about the Art of Taijiquan and like always he mentioned the holistic benefits for each posture.,and the practical use for self defense. We then continued to practice the Yang traditional form, and did some push hands. Some students broke off to practice the difficult Chen style” Cannon Fist” some people drank tea and conversed, and then others practiced the “Yang style Taiji Fan form”. I was practicing push hands as I rarely have a opportunity to have anyone to practice with.
As is our tradition after class we usually go out for brunch. So off we went up to Markham China town , and went to our favorite restaurant and had a 8 beautiful course brunch. We all talked about life politics and the weather,and shared stories and then wished each other well, and of course a parting belated“Kung Hao Fat Choy!”(for the Year of the Dragon) and went our separate and merry ways.
My next stop was to meet up with my good friend Tim, one of the guys from the Taiji class Kohee, decided he would like to come along for the day. So we all jump in my car and decided it would be fun to check out this new to us martial art called” Capoeira” a Brazilian Angolan based martial art.
Here is a brief description with some background information on this interesting martial art. Capoeira is a fast and versatile martial art which is historically focused on fighting strategies when faced by outnumbered opponents, and or situation where you may be in situational disadvantage out maned out weapon ed.
A Capoeira movement (A Fechado)
The Ginga (literally: rocking back and forth; to swing) is the fundamental movement in Capoeira, important both for attack and defense purposes. It has two main objectives. One is to keep the Capoeirista in a state of constant motion, preventing her or him from being a still and easy target. The other, using also fakes and feints, is to mislead, fool, trick the opponent, leaving them open for an attack or a counter-attack.
The Attacks in the Capoeira should be done when opportunity arises and must be decisive, like a direct kick in the face or a vital body part, or a strong take-down. Most Capoeira attacks are made with the legs, like direct or swirling kicks, Rasteiras (leg sweeps), Tesouras or (knee strikes). The head strike is a very important counter-attack move. Elbow strikes, punches and other forms of take-downs complete the main list.
The defense is based on the principle of non-resistance, meaning avoid an attack using evasive moves instead of blocking it. “This idea is also fundamental to Taijiboxing“ Avoids are called Esquivas, which depend on the direction of the attack and intention of the defender, and can be done standing or with a hand leaning on the floor. A block should only be made when the Esquiva is not possible. This fighting strategy allows quick and unpredictable counter attacks, the ability to focus on more than one adversary and to face empty-handed an armed adversary.
A series of rolls and acrobatics (like the Cartwheels called Au’) allows the Capoeirista to quickly overcome a take-down or a loss of balance, and to position themselves around the aggressor in order to lay up for an attack. It is this combination of attacks and defense which gives Capoeira its perceived ‘fluidity’ and choreography-like style.
Playing Capoeira is both a game and a method of practicing the application of Capoeira movements in dangerous situations. It can be played anywhere, but it’s usually done in a Roda. During the game most Capoeira moves are used, but Capoeiristas usually avoid using punches or elbow strikes. The game usually does not focus on knocking down or destroying the opponent, rather it emphasizes skill. Capoeiristas often prefer to rely on a take down like a Rasteira, then allowing the opponent to recover and get back into the game. It is also very common to slow down a kick inches before hitting the target, so a Capoeirista can enforce superiority without the need of injuring the opponent. If an opponent clearly cannot dodge an attack, there is no reason to complete the attack. This is martial art of skill and technique not relying on speed and power.
Much like many other martial arts, Capoeirrist, use patience skill and practice to refine their disciplined art, and much like Taijiboxing the skill is developed over time and is one of trail and error. It does not have the focus of other goal orientated discipline .But has the casual idea of a “Game,Roda” are as we say “play at Taiji Quan”. We say to invest in loss, “to learn as you go is to grow as you learn”. For this reason many of the concepts of evasion, attack while defending, mobility and fluid adaptability can be found in both discipline of Taijiboxing and Capoeira.
The Roda (pronounced HOH-dah) is a circle formed by Capoeiristas and Capoeira musical instruments, where every participant sings the typical songs and claps their hands following the music. Two Capoeiristas enter the Roda and play the game according to the style required by the musical instruments rhythm. The game finishes when one of the musicians holding a “Berimbau” determine it, when one of the Capoeiristas decide to leave or call the end of the game or when another Capoeirista interrupts the game to start playing, either with one of the current players or with another Capoeirista.
In a Roda every cultural aspect of Capoeira is present, not only the martial side. Aerial acrobatics are common in a presentation Roda, while not seen as often in a more serious one (information taken from Wikipedia).
In Capoeira , music sets the rhythm, the style of play, and the energy of a game, this makes the Roda a very dynamic and intuitive approach to training. This means every Game or Roda is spontaneous, and dynamic making it a much more natural and fluid approach to practicing martial arts. The beauty of this method is that each player progresses independently of his fellow player, making each game a opportunity for discovery and innovation.
This experience with this new martial art allowed me to look much deeper into the essence of Taijiboxing, and I discovered that some of the basic premises on which Taijiboxing was founded is also inherent in Capeorio stylist. The application of techniques is inherit in a formless form. The Ginga, and Roda allow each player to spontaneously discover a natural inherent rhythm and a unique “Adaptive Response Flow Technique” for self defense.
Each player develops at their own rate , and use the concept of motion to perceive stillness to find opportunities for attack and defense all disguise in a non limiting free flowing approach to martial arts as both a discipline in the training ,and a art form in the game (Roda) Taijiboxing adopts a concept of “Adaptive response flow Techniques” sometimes referred to as “Silk reeling”. One opportunity provides another solution in the conversation of conflict!!
This means that in a state of crisis one technique should flow seamlessly without hesitation,or interruption like a silken thread.
Here you see a perfect example , he attacks high I evade low no wasted energy!
Elusive manoeuvrings called a escape, against a high kick from the ground by applying the stillness and motion to your form and spontaneous interpretation of it’s combat principles makes for a well rounded and dynamic form of exercise for the mind, body and the spirit. The ability to use feints, body shifting, uprooting and Fa hing allow you to be unpredictable and elusive without relying on shear speed and power.
Using softness and tailback,(evasive footwork) and free flowing ability to adapt to a ever changing environment.. These principles are hidden in the Game (Roda) and Ginga, the evasive footwork, and the variety of attacks, feints , strikes and take-down apparent in both system of taijiboxing and Capeiora as true Authentic martial arts. Both have “Art Forms”, The individual freedom of expressing the Martial art techniques . Yet both display “The Art of Fighting without Fighting”
This to me is what makes the practice of a traditional martial art a life long experience, and a gift to each person who takes the time to discover this. I hope you enjoyed this article and have a great day, and remember life is a sport play it well.