Tensho kata (internal form?)

Discussion in 'Chinese Internal Arts : Taijiquan (Tai Chi) and Qi' started by _Simon_, Nov 4, 2018.

  1. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Master Black Belt

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    Hey guys, I'll preface this by saying I'm not a Chinese martial arts practitioner, nor do i know much about it, nor Taiji, Qi Gong or any of the more internal arts etc, but thought fitting to post and ask here :).

    I've been working on Tensho kata (a form in karate), and it's said to be more of an internal kata. I've even gone further and slowed the kata right down, working on focusing on deeply rooted stance, awareness on softening the movements, expansion (opening up the body) and compression (rooting down, sinking heaviness in body), grounding, my centre and breathing. And the feeling of being pulled down into the earth if that makes sense.

    I was wondering if you guys who practice Taiji or Qi Gong etc have any advice on how to work more on these aspects, or what to focus on moreso. I realise that may be a big ask, and of course performing this with an instructor is optimal, I was just wondering what perspective you may have on this kata, and also whether it resembles any forms you know?

    "Tensho" is a Goju ryu kata which means "revolving hands", "rotating palms", or "turning palms." There are different versions of it around, some with harder ibuki breathing too. I also learned it with pushing the hand out in front of you after the raising of the wrist part, but have seen versions which lower the hand back down towards the ground which tends to feel better. I've seen a few technical things I need to work on already, but it's usually a pretty advanced form in most karate styles that practice it, so I definitely consider myself an amateur at it.

    I filmed it today in this slower style:



    Very funnily, at the very end of the kata the phone fell off the ledge it was sitting on, perhaps I DID perform it right after all! XD

    Thanks guys, any thoughts would be great :)
     
  2. O'Malley

    O'Malley Green Belt

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    The best person to ask that question to would be a master from your own style.

    You might also want to look at Ushiro Kenji's work, he's a master that does internal karate and is well regarded.

    Otherwise, from my limited experience to internal training and from what you describe in your post you seem to focus on the right aspects. My advice would be to keep it as relaxed as possible.

    It's difficult to see where you're at from the video since I don't know the form and internal training is difficult to evaluate through vision.

    I think that it would be valuable to use push tests in order to test your structure, connection and intent through the form. It is a training method that is used in a lot of internal arts (e.g. aikido is all about constantly managing the forces applied to your body, as uke and as tori). A pretty fun experiment would be to work on that aspect with your teacher and try to devise push tests for this specific form, but unless you know what you're doing be prepared to fail a lot and, should you actually succeed, there's no guarantee you'll understand it without prior hands-on training.

    As food for thought, this guy explains some internal strength concepts, maybe you could try to apply them to your form, just remember to test it:



    I hope it helps ;)
     
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  3. Yokozuna514

    Yokozuna514 Purple Belt

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    Osu Simon, I realize you asked for a Qi Gong perspective on your kata but if you permit me to add a few comments since we do the kata as well in Kyokushin.

    Firstly thank you for sharing your video. I will tell you now we have stylistic differences in the way you and I do this kata so I will try to focus the comments on things that are significant to your question from a functional perspective. Some comments may be questions to understand why you do it that way. There is no judgement call just a desire for info from your perspective.

    Ibuki - when we do Ibuki breathing it is to clear the body of air. So when we do it, the air gets cleared by the diaphragm pushing up which also has the effect of raising your ‘hara’ To the sky locking in the sanchin dachi. We also have an audible finish to the breath at the end that sounds like a second final purge of air. At that point the entire body is tense for a fraction of a second before the next cycle of air.

    Stepping in Sanchin Dachi Backwards - I am curious to know why your feet come together and pause before completing the stance. Is that a trasitional stance and if so do you know the purpose of why you do it that way? We do not pause when we do this step as we do not want to see the weight transferance in the middle of the stance. Maybe you did this because you slowed down the kata but the weight transfer is something I am trying to wrap my mind around. We typically do not want to see this in transitions.

    Bottom hand position - to me the bottom hand position is pointing too much downward. For us the hand is in shotei and we prefer to keep the hand on a more natural angle (hand following arm position with no torsion to get the hand at 6:00). The bunkai we mainly subscribe to is a takedown so this bottom hand is used to destabilize the lower back (upper hand is a shores strike underneath the chin). We have seen it done the way you do this but it is not as ‘natural’ to us from a functional bunkai perspective. Interested to hear your thoughts on this.

    Third hand position - you prefaced your comments by saying you like the hands to go down to the ground instead of out away from your body. I’m going to try it your way because I am curious to see if I can get the same feeling as you.

    I would like to see you do this kata at your regular speed. When we do it there are noticeable changes in speed to assist in the movements we focusing on.

    There are other differences but these are the major points I was curious about in your performance.
     
  4. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Master Black Belt

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    Thank you so much O'Malley, that was very helpful!

    Currently I'm in between styles (left my old style about a year and a half ago), so have no teacher or other person to work with, but it would definitely be helpful to do that test.. Will hopefully at one stage be able to!

    In our old style I don't think there was a deep understanding or teaching of the internal aspects of this kata, and whenever we went through it it was always fairly superficial stuff. When we did Sanchin kata (a dynamic full-body tension kata), we tested that with pushes, resistance against the arms, many hard strikes to the body, but that was very much an external kata with very very high tension levels.

    I've had over-tension issues which is why I'm really working on learning relaxation in movement (and tensing only when needing to). I'll work on keeping it as relaxed as possible.

    I can't believe I've never heard of Ushiro Kenji, thanks for that I'll look into him. I'm also a massive fan of Sensei Rick Hotton who really explores and teaches this stuff too, so a few of good resources. Thanks heaps :)
     
  5. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Master Black Belt

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    G'day! Ah I was actually hoping for your perspective too, glad you chimed in :).

    Yep you're right, I did alter it quite a bit in order to really hone in on and focus on internal components, and that's definitely not the standard way we did it or were taught.

    Ibuki- yep, it's usually done with audible ibuki, I purposefully didn't do it forcefully so as not to overtense. I really worked on gentle natural breath for this version.

    Stepping backwards in sanchin dachi- yeah the stances are usually more flowing, to be honest I'm not too sure why I did that pause! Perhaps it was as I was slowing everything right down that I took a slight pause, but it wasn't planned or anything hehe!

    Bottom hand position- I wasn't sure which part you meant, do you mean the gedan shotei uchi (after the sort of shuto hizo uchi), or the mawashi uke at the end (or both really)? The shotei uchi we've always practiced fingers down, wrist bent back so as to strike/contact with shotei. Am unaware of any other ways.. but I guess depends on the application. I'm unsure if Tensho kata was actually meant to have a practical bunkai or moreso designed to teach fundamental principles (it was a Shodan kata in our Kyokushin, so I never got extensive training in it, only a certain amount of sessions). But mawashi uke I've worked with some awesome applications... parrying and trapping the arm while stepping in and shotei under the jaw and takedown etc.

    Third hand position- yeah we were taught after the rising koken, to roll the wrist over and extend out like shuto sakutsu uchi kekomi, but I've seen the other version done before, and after practicing it I like the rooted feeling it provides. It sort of feels like you're sending energy down through your centre into the ground, but each has its pros!

    Yeah there are definite alterations I've done while trying to still stay true to the kata. I guess it was an attempt at feeling out and connecting more with my centre, breathing and the internal aspect. It's completely and totally an adventurous experiment, and I certainly make no claims to know what I'm doing hehe, but I've been learning alot about grounding and relaxing of late and thought what better a kata to really delve into that with!

    And there were even more things I noticed that I did differently (technically speaking) and I believe I know why:

    -When doing the koken/shotei sequences, my whole arms moved more freely, even though I know we were taught to keep the upper arm relatively still and to the side of your body while the lower arm moves. I exaggerated the arm movements just to get more of the whole body involved in the movements, and to understand feeling of expansion outwards and compressing in and down.

    -Even my Sanchin dachi looked a bit wider than what I'd usually do, I think an attempt to sink my weight deeper to feel more grounded and rooted in my stance.


    I'm more than happy to record the normal way we do it (at proper speed and with ibuki etc), would be cool seeing the comparison actually! I'll even wear my tattered, ripped Kyokushin gi ;)

    Really appreciate that feedback, thanks for posting :)
     
  6. Christopher Adamchek

    Christopher Adamchek Green Belt

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    Hello
    You are right the form does resemble Chinese martial arts, specifically white crane, but was decently altered by Myagi as he "created" it. Here is a good article that discusses the origins of Tensho
    The origins of tensho

    Notes on your form: (besides stylistic things)
    - it looked clean
    - your heavy breathing was good with no glottal sounds
    - i feel like your sanchin is a bit wide but it could be the camera angle
    - you crescent moon step going forward but straight angle step going backwards, did you mean to?
     
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  7. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    What was the bird calling I could hear in the video?
     
  8. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    All those so called "internal" training are body push/pull arms. Since that clip contains freeze the body and only move the arm, it does not meet the "internal" training requirement.

    At 0.52 - 1.00, you are training "internal" if you freeze your shoulder and use your body to pull your arm,

    - Rotate your body to your left, your body pull your arm to your left.
    - Rotate your body to your right, your body pull your arm to your right,
    - Raise your body up, your body pull your arm up.
    - Bend your body forward, your body pull you arm down.

    Since you are freezing your body and only move your arm, you are not training "internal". You can only see the body movement and you don't see the arm movement is very important in "internal" training. You train your body and not just train your arms.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2018
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  9. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    when i think of Tensho from the Goju perspective... i have to share this:

     
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  10. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I was trying to get a pretty lady’s attention. Didn’t work, as usual.
     
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  11. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Master Black Belt

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    Ah thanks heaps for that!

    Yeah my sanchin dachi I don't think is usually that wide, but I think my focus on grounding and a deeply rooted stance did that unconsciously hehe.

    As for the stepping no that wasn't planned. and I'm not sure why that happened, apart from maybe that I was trying to slow it all down even more, and my footwork changed. But what a strange thing to come about mid-kata hey!
     
  12. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Master Black Belt

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    Hahaha ;)
    I think mostly pigeons! We have a few around. They love our backyard! The other birds that made slight appearances not too sure.

    And that loud buzzing that came in was probably Wile E. Coyote with one of his ACME contraptions...
     
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  13. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Master Black Belt

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    Thanks KFW, I didn't realise that! I tried to get some movement in, slightly dipping in the knees at times, to get the whole body involved a little bit more and to get the 'sense' of sinking/grounding. But yeah I guess the style of kata that it is it is fairly static in that way.

    Although I did think that internal energy can 'move' despite the body not necessarily moving? Just a thought, but perhaps that's more advanced... Thanks for that I wasn't aware, I'll play around with that :).
     
  14. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Master Black Belt

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    That was SO darn cool to see... thanks for posting! I could see there was even a bit more body movement from him... that's really interesting!!!
     
  15. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Thanks.

    And to input on your initial questions, I will say that I studied taiji with only moderate seriousness, but for a decade or so. I finally dropped it from my practice because I came to realize I just don’t understand it. I will say though, that my perception of internal, such as it exists, centers around efficient full-body connection which dramatically reduces the need to rely on brute force/strength.

    It is my belief that it is probably not possible to reverse-engineer an understanding of internal martial arts on a significant level, or on a level comparable to a serious student of the Chinese internal methods, by studying a non-internal art and using that as a vehicle, without significant instruction by a knowledgeable instructor in the internal methods.

    In short: best to find a good taiji instructor. Eventually, what you learn from him will likely influence your karate. But you first need some quality instruction and training.
     
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  16. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    The way that I understand Taiji may be different from others.

    In Taiji, you try to develop:

    1. Body push/pull limbs - MT roundhouse kick can be a good example..
    2. 6 harmony body coordination - hand coordinate with foot, elbow coordinate with knee, shoulder coordinate with hip.
    3. All body parts move at the same time and stop at the same time.

    When you move in fast speed, you may not pay enough attention on those small detail. But you will when you move slow.

    This short clip shows body push/pull arms.

     
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  17. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Master Black Belt

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    Appreciate that, yep very well said, totally agree. Like I said it was purely an experiment and interest, and I don't expect to become proficient in it or gain a deep understanding without guidance. But any tips I can implement and learn along the way I feel I could work on incorporating. Even though it is quite limited ay.

    I like your view/description on internal methods too :). I feel like there may be more to it, but I like that as a big element of it which I'd love to work on.
     
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  18. DaveB

    DaveB Master Black Belt

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    Hi Simon,

    I've trained a bit in one of the sub-styles of White Crane from whence this and Sanchin seem to have come.

    The main thing that those crane and related southern kungfu styles do that is "internal" is Iron Body training and that is the main point of sanchin and what has morphed into ibuki breathing in Japanese arts.

    White Crane and it's derivatives are not internal martial arts, the stance doesnt support IMA concepts, niether do the movements or strategy.

    However the idea of cultivating and channelling chi is ubiquitous in Chinese ma. It's even present in Shotokan and you don't get more external than Shotokan.

    If cultivation of chi is your interest then I'd find chi gong instructions and apply it to Tensho.

    If it's Iron Body then you need to find an instructor to change your breathing and teach you the other exercises involved.
     
  19. Finlay

    Finlay Green Belt

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    This is my understanding as well. My teacher used to say that even if one finger moves then your whole body moves.

    In the nei gong style I have done it is either your whole body is involved in the movement or your whole body is static as in standing post.
     
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  20. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    There may be more to it.

    I’ve had people describe their qi “sloshing around” inside their body, feeling as if they are taking a shower on the inside. I’ve never felt anything even remotely like that, and I don’t know that i buy the notion of qi as something distinct like that, that can be specifically felt and directed and controlled. And yet I’ve seen these people do some eye-opening things in terms of generating power and stability with seemingly no effort.

    So, what do I know? Not much, perhaps.
     

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