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Sports & Aquatic Centre, University of Sydney
22nd May 2016 12 noon - 5.30 pm
SHAOLIN SHORT-STICK FIGHTING
includes: hand-prepared*, fire-tempered & oiled Fighting Stick to keep
Spaces are limited
ABOUT THIS WORKSHOP
Our stick fighting workshops rest on forms practiced by all members: beginners and old hands alike. Our forms are ” basic" because they embody the fighting techniques fundamental to all Eurasian short stick and short sword fighting traditions.
This particular workshop focuses on one important aspect of their mode of application (Ch:使用法): timing and distance, dependent on correct weight shifting and stepping. This ensures you strike the opponent while he doesn’t strike you.
Successful timing and distance conforms with the time-space relationship as it applies in real combat and ultimately determines whether you win or lose, live or die.
The workshop is comprehensive. It is designed to be of interest and value to beginner and old hand alike.
Some people labour under the delusion that progress in an art like Shaolin depends on the learning of new forms. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Progress begins when you realise that part of being well grounded in any fighting tradition depends on seeing your “old forms” in a new way.
What appear to be new forms are, more often than not, superfluous elaborations.
Shaolin stick fighting is not meant to be clumsy, ungainly, stiff or ineffective.
In its deadliness it’s beautiful, it’s agile, it’s smooth, it flows and it’s highly effective.
In Shaolin, you don’t have to look or act like an oaf to be effective!
‘Hearing a hundred times is not as good as seeing once’ (百聞不如一見).
This is an acceptable English translation of a Chinese proverb that’s ‘gospel truth’ in the context of learning a new art or skill.
The purpose of attending a stick fighting workshop is to see how it’s done.
When you learn a sophisticated art like Shaolin short stick fighting it’s your job to master the sophistication. In the process of doing so, it’s your job to see beyond the sophistication and discover what’s basically human beneath any apparent sophistication.
If you manage to do so, you won’t injure yourself and your technique will be highly effective.
If you don’t, you’ll become just another flowery juggler or dancer and, in the process are more than likely to injure yourself by straining tendons, muscles and joints.
Every time you attend a Shaolin Short Stick Fighting Workshop it’s not a new form that makes the difference.
If you’re an old-hand and haven’t wasted your time just dreaming since your last workshop; if from time to time you’ve bothered to practice the forms, what you bring to any new workshop is a deeper understanding and greater skill.
As you deepen your understanding of the forms and sharpen your skills by practicing their constituent techniques I can teach you more, at a more intense or intimate level.
If you only “know” and do sweet FA, I can only teach you sweet FA.
To employ a well-loved Chinese metaphor, I can provide you with the finest seed in the world. If you remain a barren unploughed field, we’re both wasting our time.
Apropos of fees, no one in this day and age would suggest my fees are exorbitant!
My workshops are meant to be accessible to anyone who’s sufficiently motivated to spend $180 for 6 hours of solid tuition (oiled, fire-hardened fighting stick included). In this day and age, this sum is hardly likely to break the bank and leave you starving!
But if you’re not prepared to pay attention and put in the necessary effort to benefit from the teaching, if you spend just $1.80 you’re being wasteful and stupidly extravagant.
If you‘re a new-hand, have never attended a Shaolin Short Stick Fighting Workshop and would like to acquaint yourself with Shaolin short stick fighting for the very first time (bear in mind that in learning Shaolin short stick fighting, you’re only a hop, skip and jump from learning Shaolin short sword fighting), you’re welcome to attend.
If you’re not a complete dodo, I can guarantee you’ll gain immense benefits and learn something valuable and new. If you know how to arouse your innate fighting spirit, you’ll learn valuable stick fighting skills that could one day save your life!
If you’re an old hand and want to stop dabbling, turn up and avail yourself of the opportunity to deepen your understanding and your skill. If you’re an old hand and have done at least some work, you’ve got something to build on!
During the ten-minute break at the end of each hour of training, old hands are welcome to approach me with technical or theoretical questions likely to clear misunderstandings and lead to possible improvements in skill.
All participants of Sydney workshops – new hand and old hand alike – are invited to attend 3 subsequent free revision sessions to be held on the three Friday nights (from 8pm to 10pm) after completion of the workshop. Unfortunately this is not practical for attendees of workshops held in other places (i.e. not in Sydney). But you are welcome to join us if ever you are in Sydney.
Those who decide they’d like to master the art of Shaolin short stick fighting are then welcome to join and attend regular Friday night sessions at our usual venue. Our Friday night sessions are devoted to stick fighting.
The quarterly tuition fee of $180 entitles you to also attend Monday and Thursday night training when essentials of Buddhist postural meditation, daoyin (Chinese Buddhist yoga) and Shaolin unarmed combat are taught and practiced.
It’s advisable to book a place. But if you want to try your luck on the day, you’re welcome to attend on the day of the workshop and hope there’ll be room for you.
All the best,
MAIN FOCUS OF THE WORKSHOP
Although the workshop is comprehensive – i.e. all-inclusive – the main focus of this workshop is the rootstock of all Eurasian sword-fighting traditions – i.e.
The 8 major sword cuts.
These 8 major sword cuts are the ancestral forms of the eight major strikes of our stick fighting tradition.
The workshop focuses on three mnemonic forms (形) or paths (路) that between them comprise the basics of stick handling skills and include the major striking and stabbing techniques that underlie the entire system.
It includes a fourth, stick handling form aimed at perfecting dexterity.
These forms are easy to remember.
Being easy to remember, any practitioner wanting to learn the techniques of Shaolin short stick fighting, simply practices the techniques and sequences embodied in the mnemonic forms repeatedly and mindfully.
In so doing, he or she is inadvertently mastering the techniques of short sword fighting.
REPEATEDLY AND MINDFULLY
Our tradition is a Chinese Buddhist tradition of self-culture and self-defense.
The basis of all Buddhist practice is basic awareness also known as mindfulness.
Although ‘mindfulness’ implies ‘remembering to pay attention to one’s original topic of attention’ (as mind wanders to and fro), essentially, all forms of awareness (mindfulness included) are to mind what sight is to the eyes.
Due to the abysmal ignorance resulting from bad karma sustained throughout countless lifetimes, fools imagine one sees better by squinting!
By analogy, they imagine that in order to be aware or mindful one needs to exert effort or concentrate.
In the presence of functioning eyes and light, any effort we make to see clearly only gets in the way and ensures we don’t see as effectively as if we were to simply relax.
In the presence of non-distracted attention, mind (the Buddhist 6th sense) perceives what there is to perceive without undue strain or effort.
To be effective, what we call mind requires simple presence.
Whenever we perform any voluntary activity, mindfulness is present.
We rarely need to increase or enhance it.
In attempting to do so we indulge in the counter-productive activity Chan (Zen) masters describe as, ‘putting another head on top of one’s head’ or; ‘putting legs on a snake’.
Any voluntary activity performed repeatedly (all voluntary activity is karma) produces karma vipaka (the results or effects of karma). This means that if you choose (voluntary activity or karma) to master a skill or technique, you need to keep choosing to repeat the activity over time.
If you do so, given time, you can’t help mastering the skill or technique in question.
If your ‘choice’ is to imagine that our skills or techniques might prove beneficial to you and, instead of repeatedly practicing them, you ‘choose’ to dream empty dreams about training; you may well acquire a certain level of confidence.
From the viewpoint of our tradition, the nominal ‘confidence’ you acquire is unfounded – i.e. when you seek to discover what’s underpinning it, there’s nothing there!
In Shaolin, we see no harm in acquiring confidence.
We simply ensure our confidence is based in fact.
Fact (from Latin: factum) means ‘something done’.
Even imagination or visualization (because it’s ‘something done’ in mind) affects one’s level of skill.
However, the mastery of Shaolin fighting technique requires the particular co-presence know as the three-fold action of body (kaya), speech (vac) and mind (citta).
In the context of training, this doesn’t mean you have to talk yourself through the learning of a particular technique.
It means you’ve learned how to harness the energy that underlies speech – what the ancient Greeks called pneuma, the ancient Indians called pana/prana, and the ancient Chinese called ch’i (qi)– i.e. the energy of air or breath.
YOUR FIGHTING STICK
At the beginning of the workshop, you’re invited to select a hardwood, oiled, fire-tempered fighting stick from a pile placed before you. You get to pick the one that feels best for you.
At the end of the workshop, this remains your personal property and you use it in your personal practice at home.
After the workshop, you’re invited to attend three free lessons, preferably on consecutive Friday evenings.
These three, free sessions ensure that if you’re interested you can revise theoretical or practical aspects of the workshop you’re likely to have forgotten, overlooked or misunderstood.
After attending these free sessions, you may opt to join our training group and pursue stick training on a regular basis each Friday evening.
Our Friday evening training sessions are devoted to Shaolin short stick fighting.
Surrounded by multiple attackers, a skilled practitioner in Shaolin short stick fighting can use our circular fighting techniques to successfully defend him/herself.
This is despite the conventional or common sense view, that he or she appears to be badly outnumbered.
Many people mistakenly assume that a fighting stick can’t possibly be effective against multiple attacks. They don’t realize that in the hands of an experienced stick fighter, a short length of ordinary broom handle can break bones and render several would-be assailants quick candidates for microsurgery.
Because the techniques of Shaolin short stick fighting are derived from the techniques of short sword fighting, the dynamics that underlie both are virtually identical.
For that matter, the dynamics that underlie all Shaolin training – with or without weapons – are virtually identical.
Despite the fact that the dynamics of unarmed combat and the dynamics of combat with weapons are virtually identical, for most participants, the difficulty lies in seeing that this is the case.
When they do notice similarities, participants still fail to discern how such dynamics must be modified or adapted when expressed in the context of unarmed combat or combat with weapons.
In the workshop, I point out such similarities and demonstrate how specific short stick fighting techniques are directly related to specific unarmed combat techniques.
One of my training swords will be fully re-conditioned by the time of the next stick-fighting workshop is held. With it, I can readily demonstrate some of the subtleties that underlie our stick fighting techniques. These subtleties only become obvious when a sword technique and its corresponding stick technique are demonstrated side-by-side.
THE SWORD OF KING GOUJIAN
One of the most famous ancient Chinese short swords is the sword of Goujian of Yue (reigned 496–465 BC). Its owner, King Goujian is a fascinating character in his own right.
During one of the ongoing wars between the state of Yue and the neighbouring state of Wu, the forces of King Fuchai of Wu captured King Goujian. To ensure that the state of Yue be allowed to retain its independence, Goujian chose to become a servant of the Wu King. Together with his wife and a faithful retainer, Goujian was forced to live in a rude hut, devoid of the creature comforts befitting a noble ruler. During this period of servitude, Goujian was continually humiliated. But his refusal to complain and his meticulous servitude impressed the Wu King and eventually, Goujian was released and allowed to return to Yue and resume his Kingly role.
Historical drawing of King Goujian of Yue Goujian temple in Shaoxing
On his return to Yue, Goujian appointed skilled politicians as advisors to help build up the kingdom. He followed an abstemious lifestyle, foregoing ostentation and self-indulgence, preferring to eat the simple food suited for peasants. He made a daily ritual of swallowing bile to remind himself of the humiliations he was forced to endure while serving under the State of Wu.
Ten years of political and economic reforms reinforced by Goujian’s personal example in abstemious behaviour ensured that Yue grew powerful, and when its armies met with those of Wu in battle, they prevailed.
In the 24th year of his reign (473 BC) Goujian led an expedition that lay siege to the capital of Wu. The siege lasted for three years. In 482 BC, While the King of Wu was away at a conference of rulers to discuss control of the central China plain, Yue launched a surprise attack on Wu, inflicting heavy casualties. Nine years later (491 BC) Yue once more fought Wu and won decisively. King Goujian decreed that King Fu Chai of Wu be sent on lifelong exile to an island in the sea. To avoid such humiliation, King Fu Chai committed suicide by cutting his own throat. (http://www.shme.com/culture/legend/yue.htm)
In December 1965, approximately 7 km from the ruins of Jinan (濟南), the ancient capital of the Chu State (circa 1030–223 BC), a casket was discovered at an archaeological site known as Wangshan site .
The casket contained an ornate bronze sword and a human skeleton. Originally sheathed in an almost airtight, black lacquered wooden scabbard, the sword’s blade was untarnished despite the fact that the tomb had been soaking in underground water for over 2,000 years.
a) Downward Cut (shomen uchi corresponds to Italy’s fendente)
b) Upward Cut (kiri age corresponds to Italy’s montante – the perfectly vertical cut - with blade facing up - is only taught in some Japanese schools!)
c) Right Diagonal Forehand (migi kesa giri corresponds to Italy’s squalembratto mandritto)
d) Left Diagonal Backhand (hidari kesa migi corresponds to Italy’s squalembratto roverso)
e) Horizontal Right to Left (migi ichimonji giri corresponds to Italy’s tondo mandritto)
f) Horizontal Left to Right (hidari ichimonji giri corresponds to Italy’s tondo roverso)
g) Right Diagonal Rising (migi joho giri corresponds to Italy’s ridoppio mandritto)
h) Left Diagonal Rising (hidari joho giri corresponds to Italy’s ridoppio roverso).
COMPARISONS OF THE MAJOR CUTS
The following section is an illustrated comparison of the major cuts of three Eurasian sword-fighting traditions: the Chinese, Italian and Japanese. It provides ample proof that the basic sword cuts are common throughout Eurasia.
Although not illustrated here, a similar commonality holds for the basic thrusting or stabbing techniques found in all Eurasian sword fighting traditions.
Styles may (and do) vary.
Basics are basic because they remain the same!
1) CHINESE The line drawings reproduced here represent the derivative short stick fighting techniques based on the short sword techniques common throughout the Chinese Cultural Region from the 6th century BC to the beginnings of the modern era. The Shaolin short stick fighting ‘cuts’ depicted here correspond to the eight (8) basic cuts represented by the Italian Segno diagram.
2) ITALIAN (The Segno diagram showing the 8 basic cuts). The cuts are named in terms of function and direction of travel:
Fendente – From above straight down (from Latin: fendere ‘to split apart, lengthwise’)
Montante – From below straight up (literally: ‘mounting, climbing, rising’)
Tondo – Horizontal cuts (diminutive of rotondo, ritondo: ‘circular, spherical; sphere, globe, circle’)
Squalembratto – Diagonal cuts from above (Of Germanic origin, the word means ‘crooked, twisted, askew’. It indicates ‘a dress or robe that hangs to one side. Serendipitously, the Japanese kesa literally ‘a monks prayer robe’ [that hangs to one side] is used to describe the same diagonal cuts)
Ridoppio – Diagonal cut from below (literally: ‘redouble, double back’).
Fiore dei Liberi’s Pisani Dossi manuscript only depicts seven (7) cuts! It omits the fendente. This doesn’t indicate the technique wasn’t used in his day. It was one of the major (if not the first) cuts of medieval Italian sword fighting. Why the Pisani Dossi ms. omits it is anyone’s guess!
Left hander’s “practice mirror”.
Enlarge to full screen (right-click on image)
Play through 17 positions @ 1.5 secs each,
or progress manually at your own speed by
- using Space Bar to pause & restart
- dragging timeline at your own speed
- scroll wheel control on some systems (mouse on image)
Use these animations to help you get the correct line and angles for optimal efficiency.
Pay attention to adjusting finger grip and line of wrist & arm for each position.
Right hander’s “practice mirror”.
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