Tim's Discussion Board: Ba Gua Zhang : Sensitivity
   By Steve James on Saturday, December 22, 2001 - 03:40 pm: Edit Post

Hi Mr. Cartmell,

thanks for a cool site and some great books. I have a rather general question. There's no doubt that "sensitivity" is a large part of tjq skill. It's also true that "sensitivity" is important/critical in shuaijiao. Well, you can see where I'm going in regards to bagua and xingyi. But, my specific question would be, how would you personally describe the differences/similarities of/among the 3 sisters, and after than about the other arts you've studied. I know. It's probably worth an article, and would need one to be complete. I think it would be worthwhile for you to write. In the meantime, it's Christmastime, and I'd appreciate any thoughts or examples you had.

Best wishes for the holidays and always,

   By Joe Bellone on Sunday, December 23, 2001 - 08:08 am: Edit Post

Hi Steve,
Sensitivity is huge in Bagua Zhang and Xing Yi Chuan. In fact, after training with Uncle Tim, I'd have to say that sensitivity is vital to being a good fighter. I did 'iron shirt' training for years (another thread) and without a doubt, sensitivity is the hallmark of an advanced practioner.

Tim, can give you some concrete examples.

But, with that your inquiry dovetails on what Tim did when he developed the Shen Wu curriculum which are a study and practice of effective fighting techniques. The techniques of Shen Wu are based around natural movements and reflexes of the human body. These innate reflexes and physical techniques are easily applied in a relatively short time.

The foundation of Shen Wu grew from generations of classical internal Chinese martial art practice. The fighting systems of the internal arts have been tested and reinforced over hundreds of years of martial study and combat. The initial founders of these systems tested their fighting concepts through the hard labor of physical battle. The fighting principles of these arts were rationalized initially and then tested physically. Unfortunately, core principles of these fighting arts have often been overshadowed through the years by those who have had a need of rational understanding without the aid of physical execution in a stressed environment. This has had a stagnating effect on these classical arts. I believe Tim has reintroduced the physical stressors making the program very efficient.

Shen Wu martial arts takes the initial fighting principles of the internal founders and continues their progression by implementing natural and effective techniques through a systematic gathering of principle analysis. This gives Shen Wu a distinct neo-classical feel and the flexibility for continued growth. For example, groundfighting.

Fundamentally, the underlying core principle in Shen Wu is that the technique must be an innate reflex and must be effective in application. Techniques are always being evaluated in a stressed environment in the Shen Wu curriculum. The techniques must pass the test of effective execution. This is done constantly by the Shen Wu practitioners regardless of the individualís size and strength. The information gleaned from this type of testing coupled with a constant reinforcement of proper fighting principles, gives the fighting art of Shen Wu unlimited physical possibilities because of itís base in the concepts of physics using our own intrinsic strengths.

good training,

   By Steve James on Sunday, December 23, 2001 - 12:53 pm: Edit Post

Hi Joe,

thanks for the insight into Shen Wu. I did n't know exactly where to post the question. As to sensitivity in bagua, xingyi, and other martial arts, I agree with you. My point was on the lines of this: the sensitivity of a judoist's hands is different from the sensitivity of a pianist. As far as the sense of touch is involved, the two are identical: i.e., both use it. Then again, the sensitivity of a jazz pianist may differ from that of a classical pianist, and this is more than a question of touch; imo, it's a question of the "quality" or "skill of listening." So, while I totally agree with what you're saying, I am interested in ways of describing these different qualities. Boxers and wingchun practitioners also use sensitivity. Oh well, maybe it's a useless question. Again, I appreciate the info on Shenwu.


   By Joe Bellone on Sunday, December 23, 2001 - 01:30 pm: Edit Post

Hi Steve,
Your question is a great one. I'll let Tim articulate as to the differences in the 3 internal arts.

I can speak briefly about sensitivity from my experiences in Submission grappling/BJJ and Bagua Zhang throwing. In a non-cooperative situation, it's really hard to "listen" sometimes. In a competitive or non-cooperative situation there are too many factors and variables sometimes, that's why a lot of folks resort to 'brute' strength. I think the training methods of pushhands and Judo Kata help train and develop sensitivity skills. My personal experience (with different stressors effecting my ability to execute) in a non-cooperative environment, I feel the ability to apply principles of non-force on force and the ability to feel and listen become imperative (the general internal fighting principle stuff). The best guys I've competed against and trained with are all good "listeners," even though they never even heard of the term. Those are boxers, Judoka, Karateka and others.

Anyway, sorry about the digression.

Good luck in your training,

   By Tim on Sunday, December 23, 2001 - 08:20 pm: Edit Post

Hello Steve,
You've asked a very interesting question. The techniques of all IMA (and many others as well) are based upon the sensitivity to feel the opponent's balance and force, while simultaneously adjusting your own balance and force accordingly (to obtain or maintain an advantageous position). I would say the 'sensitivity' is the same regardless of the style, it's the interpretation or what the individual martial artist does with the information that is different among 'styles.'
For example, a high level Judoka doing Randori will remain as relaxed and sensitive as a high level Tai Ji Quan practitioner who is pushing hands, only the use of the interpreted information will differ (the Judoka will throw and the push hands player will uproot and push for example). In terms of body use and sensitivity there should be no difference across styles (it's the same human body doing Judo or Tai Ji Quan, you are relaxed and sensitive or you are not), strategically/technically there will be differences. And, of course, there will be differences in proficiency among individual's level of skill.

In general (at least as we practice in my school), the ability to 'stick' and follow is developed with the whole body, not just the hands and arms. The more surface area you have in contact with the opponent, the more 'news' you will receive and the better informed you will be. The goal of sticking/following is control of the opponent's center and domination of his freedom of movement and ability to issue force. This results in me having more and more constructive options while my opponent has less and less. We also teach that the art of sticking and following is primarily directed by the intent. The ability to stick and follow and the technical skills to follow up are the keys which allow smaller and lighter individuals to defend against and defeat larger and stronger individuals.

   By Steve James on Sunday, December 23, 2001 - 08:48 pm: Edit Post

Hi Tim,

thanks for the reply. In some ways, you settled the issue when you specified "sensitivity to feel the opponent's balance and force". I agree, fwiw, totally that the issue is what the individual practitioner does with those feelings --assuming they're well developed. I also agree with the rest of what you said, and especially the idea that sensitivity (and technical skill) allows a smaller individual to defeat a larger one. As you said, though, this is an almost universal idea for most martial arts. I guess what I was thinking about was a comparison of "how much" force a stylist in the various arts might ideally allow the opponent to exert upon him. Some have argued "4 oz" (or "a very small amount";)-- though it's always practitioner's choice. Would you be able to say that, irrespective of what he will do with the force, there is a difference in some degree, as well?


   By Tim on Monday, December 24, 2001 - 02:36 pm: Edit Post

Right, I'd agree that different teachers advocate different ways of using pressure and weight. Some teachers place the emphasis on a light touch.
We use the natural and total weight of the body at all times (or as much as possible). I suppose it also depends on which format you are engaged in, playing push hands as opposed to non-cooperative free sparring for example.

   By Bob #2 on Monday, December 24, 2001 - 04:23 pm: Edit Post

I advocate teaching students to have an utter
lack of sensitivity. Nothing bugs me more than having to take up class time waiting for students to get helped up off the floor, ace-wrapped and sometimes even held while they sob... by those I refer to as 'Chi Huggers'.

If it weren't for all this sensitivity crap we'd
have much more time for sparring. Do you think Sun Lu-Tang had cry babies in his classes? Do you think Yang Ban Ho handed anyone a kleneex and said "there there, let it all out, I'm here for you"?

   By Steve on Tuesday, December 25, 2001 - 11:28 am: Edit Post

Hi Bob #2, thanks for the laugh. Happy Christmas!

Hi Tim,
thanks for the comment. The idea of measuring touch by (one/one/s) bodyweight is kind of familiar, and I think it's a good way of expressing "how much" weight I "put on" (Outgoing sensitivity?): i.e., "one bodyweight" is about the most "force" one can exert without using "force." And, it's something consistent to measure against. Anyway, thanks again. If you think of anything else or know of any writings on this issue, I'd be glad to hear it.

Hope you all are enjoying the holidays,

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