The influence of Shaolin martial arts can be seen through its many different styles. Its training and techniques constitute a base from which the practitioner can explore other techniques.
At the Ottawa Chinese Martial Association, training unfolds in a systematic manner.
From your state of mind to how you breathe, from how you stand to how you move, a substantial investment of sweat and no small amount of thinking are required to raise your level of practice. But even before getting there, it is essential to consider just what it is we are training.
Traditional Chinese Martial Arts (TCMA), despite a curtain of mysticism, in fact offer a very common sense approach to developing your mind, body, and fighting ability. Although the various traditions of TCMA may vary to some extent in their training methodologies, the careful observer will note a great deal of commonalities between both the essential foundations of the training and the end results.
One obvious goal of training is the development of martial ability. A deconstruction of what is involved provides some interesting insights.
While it is true there are many equally valid approaches to this goal, TCMA adheres to a body of thinking which, to anyone knowledgeable in the fields of engineering or biomechanics, is recognizable as stemming from the principles that govern our natural range of motion, conservation of energy, and energy transference. Engineering-minded people, in particular, will note the heavy reliance on the proper structural integrity of the body to affect the desired result.
The reason for stretching is that it increases the range of body movements. It is very important that there be enough time available to warm up and warm down the muscle and ligaments before any extensive physical activities take place.
Basic stretching includes:
- Rolling the joints from the head down
- Turn the head from side to side, up and down
- Roll the shoulders to the front and back
- Roll the elbows then the wrists
- Flex the wrists
- Rotate the hips in a large, loose circle
- Twist to the side with one outstretched arm
- Roll the knees
- Roll the hips and the ankles together
- Stretching the legs
Dynamic tension, or isometric exercises, consists of movements executed against imaginary resistance, and integrated to controlled breathing techniques. The idea of isometric training is to train the muscles using static contraction, i.e., to cause the muscle to produce a force without moving. The two primary methods of achieving this are to push against an immovable object (like a wall) or to use muscles against each other so that they flex without bending any joints. The premise is that muscles can actually exert their maximum forces when they are not moving. The advantages of isometric training are that it requires no special equipment and can be done virtually anywhere, at any time. In practice, however, Western science has found that isometric training is not the most effective method for strength training and, as a consequence, serious athletes do not practice it much any more. However, dynamic tension exercises still play an important role in the curriculum of Martial Art practice. Typical examples of dynamic tension exercises can be found in the Tenchi Kata in Okinawan Karate-do Gojyu-ryu, "Dynamic-Tension Course", by Charles Atlas, in the 1950's, and in the exercises promoted by the late Bruce Lee.
In Shaolin Kung Fu, there are many sets of exercises that use the concepts of dynamic tension. Hung Gar, a Southern Shaolin style, is also noted for its isometric exercises.
Dynamic stretching involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both. Dynamic stretching is not ballistic stretching. Dynamic stretching involves controlled leg and arm swings that take you to the limits of your range of motion. In comparison, ballistic stretches require the practitioner to force a part of the body beyond its range of motion. In dynamic stretching, there is no bouncing, no "jerky" movement. An example of dynamic stretching would be slow, controlled leg swings, arm swings, or torso twists. Students should take care in performing those exercises and make sure that the body is warmed up.
Stance training is perhaps the most fundamental type of training for almost all forms of martial arts. Our training also places a great deal of emphasis on acquiring the appropriate feeling of balance and stability.
The stances are
- Horse, half horse, twisted Horse
- Bow and arrow
- Seven Star
- Three Pillar
Stepping trains movement. There are set series of moving exercises that develop body coordination, leg strength and reaction. Some examples of the basic training positions include:
Horse stance to Horse Stance
- Swinging horse (pivot on ball and swing into opposite facing horse stance)
- Swinging horse variation (shovel step then pivot)
- Advancing horse (kick up with heel, spring off back leg and kick down to horse). Note:
- do NOT raise in height as you kick up and as you move
- do NOT move your body to your support leg as you kick up with heel
- advance forward with each horse
Horse stance to Bow and Arrow Stance
- Side to side. Note:
- Sink, pivot on ball of right foot (or left)
- Drive off ball, do not raise heel, turning to left (or right)
- Front foot does NOT move
- Rear foot points 45 degrees to front and back leg is straight
- Triangle Stepping. Note:
- Start in horse, turn to bow
- Step up with rear leg, then out 45 degrees to horse
- Stay low as you move
- Turn to bow stance (front leg is leg you just moved)
- Four corner Stepping
- One leg remains planted (some pivoting on ball of foot of course)
- Start in horse
- Side to side (facing one corner of the "Square")
- Step up rear leg and step out to next corner in horse stance
- Side to side
- Step up rear leg
Simple combination of two or more techniques train the student to think in terms of a series of techniques. Kung fu techniques should flow in a continuous manner, and this type of practice allows the student to learn in several, easy-to-remember sets of exercises.
Most students in the Martial Arts study and know the importance of forms. The diversity and variety of available techniques available are truly endless. Each teacher and each school adds their own flavor and interpretation to their teachings and practice.
Our school does not practice any of recognize standard Shaolin forms because our experience is not in that area. We still practice of the basics of Shaolin, but our interests are elsewhere.
"There are no secrets. Only Hard Work."
"No basics, no nothing."