“In combat, you don’t rise to the challenge, you fall to your training.”
– Yellow Green Beret by Chester Wong
I never perform my best at competitions. I go into a zone and don’t even remember how most of it went until I watch a replay. If I’m lucky, I get through the sequence without major mistakes, but I always seem to hold back on power and my form is sloppy.
Initially, I didn’t want to compete at ICMAC Houston (held on January 25th, 2014) because I didn’t have enough time to prepare. Yes, I train more than the average person, but we spent most of the 1st semester on body conditioning and Lian Bu Quan (連步拳, beginner Long Fist barehand sequence). Of course they helped build my foundation, but I have ways to go before it’s solid. My competition material was more advanced than Lian Bu Quan.
There’s a different kind of pressure when you compete as a Retreat Center student. I don’t expect perfection, but I want to be at a certain level if I’m performing in public. We don’t compete to win awards. We compete to demonstrate how we think traditional martial arts training should look at various stages. A lot of competitors and judges don’t stress having good root, power generation throughout the body, sense of enemy, and spirit. We just want to show people what we value and hopefully raise the bar each time.
I wasn’t ready, but I went for it anyway, for the challenge, fun times, and also for the chance to meet Dr. Yang’s Long Fist classmates at the reunion.
Xiao Hu Yan (嘯虎燕)/Beng Bu (蹦步) combo
(intermediate Long Fist barehand sequences)
I added parts of Beng Bu to Xiao Hu Yan so it would meet the 45 second minimum time limit. It ended up being 60 seconds and I haven’t developed the strength and stamina to have low stances and good power throughout. In fact, I feel worse about the two sequences compared to a few months ago. I’m lacking the feeling (and therefore spirit) and I don’t know if I’m physically worse or just starting to see more of what’s needed to make these sequences good. I move a little bit better than I used to, but I need to build a stronger foundation in basics, particularly in connecting the lower three sections (ankles, knees, hips).
One of my problems is that I have a hard time training with low stances because my legs are always sore and I’m afraid of injuring myself. The Tun Bu (吞步, Swallow Stance) kills me. Getting low is tough due to my inflexible ankles, and getting back up isn’t easy either. However, if I don’t train low stances, they won’t magically appear during a competition. My plan is to build leg strength by running the mountain once in a while and getting into low stances no matter how slow I have to go.
If you watch the video, just remember to not use it as a reference because there are numerous problems with my form:
- Not enough connection between lower and upper body, which limits the amount of power I can manifest
- Body structure and coordination are not quite right in generating power from the waist, to the chest, and out the arms
- Stances are too high and therefore I sometimes lean forward
- Form corrections
- Not enough stamina
- Power disperses instead of penetrates
- Spirit and sense of enemy are inconsistent throughout the form
- Anything else you can spot?
I sometimes had power, spirit, and sense of enemy and I think that’s why I placed 1st out of 3 in Advanced Women Northern Long Fist. But my form was ugly, so Jon compared me to a former student, which made me feel both honored and amused. I wasn’t happy with my performance, but it tells me what stage I’m at and where I need to go. Now that the competition is over, I’ll go back to focusing on lower level sequences and continue to work on my foundation.
White Crane Double Short Rods (雙鐧)
(way beyond my current level)
I really enjoy our White Crane training, but you have to start at a young age to have enough time for body conditioning. Dr. Yang used to teach White Crane earlier in the curriculum while living in Houston, but about 80% of the students developed injuries. You really need to take your time to properly condition your body. Technically, you shouldn’t start weapons until you have a good barehand background, but I started learning Short Rods while I was still in the YMAA ranking system. It’s something I want to be good at.
I didn’t really get corrections until a week before the competition. My chances of performing this sequence well was a long shot anyway, so I wasn’t too worried and took this experience as a stepping stone. I was pretty happy with my progress in that one week. The techniques are repetitive so I was able to break them down and understand them better. I’m beginning to understand how to manifest jing (勁, martial power). While I don’t have full jing, I sometimes have what I call “baby” jing.
Well, in the competition, I barely had any baby jing. But when I practiced during our rehearsal, it was the best I had ever done. Again, don’t use this video as a reference. There’s one technique I used to do incorrectly and I go back to my old habit when I’m nervous. Also, my stances are way too high.
I placed last of 3 in the Advanced Women Open Weapon category and I’m neutral about it. My only regret is not being able to perform my best, but I guess it just takes more practice.
Another more important thing I need to change is my mindset. I kept thinking I wasn’t ready and I would be nervous as usual, and I was. A visitor who competes at an elite level for a living told me that I should go in with the mindset that I will do my best. Sound advice.
The rest of the trip was good. We got to meet some of Dr. Yang’s old classmates and students and it was a huge honor. Consequently, we watched a lot of performances of the same Long Fist sequences in our curriculum and it was interesting to see the differences.
More photos to come!