Staying relaxed when pressed hard...

geezer

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I think that one of the hardest things to do in WT/WC is to stay relaxed and "soft", or more accurately, to be "springy" when confronting a really tough opponent. It's easy to be soft and fluid with students, or someone inferior to you, but I've always had trouble tensing up when I spar or do "free" (sparring) chi-sau with someone who really presses me aggresively, is very fast, or does something unexpected. I've also noticed that even those a good deal better than I have this same problem when they confront their superiors in skill. Only the highest level masters seem immune.

One concern is that if you ever have to use your skills in self defense, you will be confronted with this very problem. An attacker of unknown ability, probably armed, probably using the element of surprise, will come at you with a lot of aggression. And probably in an unfavorable environment for you, the defender. Under such conditions, how can you possible stay relaxed and use your best skills? Or do you have to fall back on your most basic tecniques and just blitz the hell out of your attacker. Personally I suspect that the latter approach is your best bet.

Still, as a person even more interested in pursuing the "art" of WT/WC as in building self-defense skills, I really want to break this "glass-ceiling" imposed by my tendency to stiffen up when pressed hard. Right now, I just want to get a lot mor practice with guys that are bigger, stronger and better than I. I figure that way I'll have to loosen up sooner or later. I'm also going back to working more on my stances and footwork, since that is the foundation of everything ...especilly "dissolving force" without being unbalanced or uprooted.

Any thoughts? How do you guys deal with this?
 

Andrew Green

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Any thoughts? How do you guys deal with this?


Experience, and hopefully part of that includes some good, hard contact sparring.

Your body and your brain just need to realize that they actually can take some pretty hard hits and continue to function. But as long as someone coming at you hard is unfamiliar, it's going to be a hard thing to overcome.
 

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Agreed. This isn't a problem confined to kung fu. The more sparring you do, the more comfortable you will get at it. I cringe when I see some of my early sparring videos and how stiff I am.

Once you learn how to dodge/swift/parry/block punches and hits, it will all start to make sense and all those seperate techniques you spent years learning will flow together. This only comes through sparring and real life practice like Andrew above said.

If someone is attacking you aggressively, cover up or block as you have trained, eventually you will see an opening, or they will get tired and punch themselves out.

Don't be afraid of being hit, it really doesn't hurt as much as you think.

One kung fu philosophy is "respond to violence with more violence" but I prefer to cover up knowing I won't get hurt and wait for an opening.
 
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geezer

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If someone is attacking you aggressively, cover up or block as you have trained, eventually you will see an opening, or they will get tired and punch themselves out. ...One kung fu philosophy is "respond to violence with more violence" but I prefer to cover up knowing I won't get hurt and wait for an opening.

Unfortunately, that's not really an option in WC/WT. We are infighters, we move right into the meat grinder. If you flinch or cover-up, you aren't feeling the other person's flow and moving with his technique, borrowing his force. For it to really work, you have to let your opponent's energy, trigger your response rather than crashing on through with your own technique. When it does work, it's unreal. Sometimes it's like your hands are moving on their own, faster than your brain can keep up. But it's tough to sustain against an equal or better opponent, and impossible if you tense up.
 

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i find you have to use your pivot a heluva lot more when pressed hard .the pivot becomes more forcefull,and to me is one of the corner stones of the art.

also sinking down in to your stance,can and does absorb a tremendous amount of energy.

i remember sparring with this guy he was about the same size as me,and because i was tense,with no stance ie standing to upright,he was bouncing me about the place like pogo stick.my sifu would stop and say sink down into your stance and pivot more....what a difference.

your looking at it the exaclty same way i was.although it was drummed into me time and time again how important sinking into the stance,and using my pivot more was,over time those two most important things were lost,at the expense of my putting to much emphasis on what my hands were doing.

i find im constantly going back to basics,stance,and pivot.also it took me a long time to realise that although at first you are rooted to the spot when learning basics,there is no rule that says you cant move.
 

Yoshiyahu

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Well I often have this problem of tensing up when I practice heavy conditioning. One Week I increase my strength and power building routine. When I did Chi Sau with my Sifu he said I was using too much strength. So I stop I doing Strength training for like month and He said I was more relaxed and soft. Its wierd. He compared my strength to guy who was really hard that practice alot of Iron Palm techniques. Which was kinda like of compliment. But this same guy can not beat him in sparring so its kinda of an insult. So I spent my time working less on strength and power and more time working on root and steps. Recently when I played chi sau with a friend of mines I have been training my Sifu notice my Root was alot lower. Now my friend I have been training for more than six months. So by now he is pretty good. But my Sifu saw me dissipating his force with my root by pivoting and side stepping out of his range of force.


But you are right sometimes when I spar with my Sihing or Sifu I tense up to an get really hard to control their arms to stop them from striking. An even though I can delay getting hit I am still loosing because I am not learning how to flow against a more skilled opponent. So what I usually do is soon as I make contact I strike the heck out my sihing to put him on offensive an then he attacks relentlessly. An then I take some hits an others I deflect or turn off. I have to constantly flow with him an feel his intentions.


My Sifu on other hand. I can only hit him when he allows me. Some days I can get one or two hits off others I get none. So basically I spend my time analyzing how I get hit in the hundred spot and what I could of done to advoid it. Also for some strange reason my Sifu is really good at concealing his energy. So you don't feel the hit until he is already inside you gates and have no where to move. Mostly with him he likes to do stationary chi sau. He is shorter than I but my Sifu arms seem to be longer when we do Chi Sau. Its like his arms are already touching my body and I am simply stuck there trying to figure out why I am getting hit...its kinda of weird.
 
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geezer

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Well I often have this problem of tensing up when I practice heavy conditioning. One Week I increase my strength and power building routine. When I did Chi Sau with my Sifu he said I was using too much strength. So I stop I doing Strength training for like month and He said I was more relaxed and soft.

Yep. Weight training and hard-core strength conditioning can be a negative factor. I've noticed it too, but I like lifting a bit to keep strong and fit. My instructors are against it, but not as vehemently so as Leung Ting was way back when I trained with him. I've known some very strong guys who did weight training and still have soft, fast and fluid Chi-sau. So, I'm inclined to think that the greater part of the problem is a combination of quality of technique, muscle-memory and mindset. You have to really practice your stuff (muscle-memory) and have to be mentally confident and relaxed (mindset) to let your arms do their thing.
 

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Definitely....trusting.....that you can stay relaxed.Sifu Emin exhibited total relaxation...which totally blew me away.Giving way and relying on the turnstile effect or where your arms sense your opponents position/pressure is difficult but not impossible,I tend to think of it as swimming....as against the current...yield,link,re-direct,borrow,push forward.Scary when your opponent is much larger and the sheer physics behind the system works for you,I trusted..it worked more than once.Yeah, definitely a mental thing.Two cents......
 
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Yoshiyahu

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Yea My chi sau will be fluid against most...just not with my Sifu.


Yep. Weight training and hard-core strength conditioning can be a negative factor. I've noticed it too, but I like lifting a bit to keep strong and fit. My instructors are against it, but not as vehemently so as Leung Ting was way back when I trained with him. I've known some very strong guys who did weight training and still have soft, fast and fluid Chi-sau. So, I'm inclined to think that the greater part of the problem is a combination of quality of technique, muscle-memory and mindset. You have to really practice your stuff (muscle-memory) and have to be mentally confident and relaxed (mindset) to let your arms do their thing.
 

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Like you said you got to find some big fast guys to train with , I am a small dude and training with big guys will definitely improve your techniques .

Early on in my training I used to avoid the big guy in the class because I was frightened of them , I used to see other people avoid them as well . But after awhile I thought , face facts man you are a small dude and most people that are going to attack you on the street are probably going to be a helluva lot bigger than you are.

So I made a promise to myself to face the fear and always seek out the big guy in the group to train with , there is no kidding yourself with a big bloke . If you don't do the technique correct you find out pretty damn quick , where as with some one your own size you can sort of half **** it and it will still work .

One thing I found is that when you spend a lot of time training with big huge guys , especially in chi-sau sparring is that you tend to stay sunk down in your stance and try to be more correct in your movements because you know if you don't you will get thrown around .

Another thing that happens is that when you go back to training with people your own size or even a bit bigger , you tend to be able to throw them around like ragdolls with out really trying , you just seem to be able to go through them like a hot knife through butter.
 

Yoshiyahu

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That is so true...i totally agree.


Like you said you got to find some big fast guys to train with , I am a small dude and training with big guys will definitely improve your techniques .

Early on in my training I used to avoid the big guy in the class because I was frightened of them , I used to see other people avoid them as well . But after awhile I thought , face facts man you are a small dude and most people that are going to attack you on the street are probably going to be a helluva lot bigger than you are.

So I made a promise to myself to face the fear and always seek out the big guy in the group to train with , there is no kidding yourself with a big bloke . If you don't do the technique correct you find out pretty damn quick , where as with some one your own size you can sort of half **** it and it will still work .

One thing I found is that when you spend a lot of time training with big huge guys , especially in chi-sau sparring is that you tend to stay sunk down in your stance and try to be more correct in your movements because you know if you don't you will get thrown around .

Another thing that happens is that when you go back to training with people your own size or even a bit bigger , you tend to be able to throw them around like ragdolls with out really trying , you just seem to be able to go through them like a hot knife through butter.
 

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Everyone, I assume, has learned how to drive a car, or some vehicle, at some point in their life. Remember the first time behind the wheel, that feeling of the unknown, someone next to you saying, just relax. So many things to think about, it blows your mind. First its up and down the driveway, which leads into a parking lot somewhere. Then on to side streets, and before you know it, its highway driving. With time and experience your tooling down the road passing, parking, weaving in and out of traffic, like a pro. This all took time, from that vice grip you first had on the steering wheel, to the relaxed grip, while tuning in the radio. All this time thinking about the possibility of getting hit an accident or getting yourself killed, by another driver. By now you have gotten the point, it all goes back to the first time you sat behind the wheel with someone next to you saying just relax. It meant nothing to you then, but now with the experience you have acquired from driving, the first thing you will tell someone, if given the chance, is..
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i agree with the idea of asking someone to relax,i do it myself,but i always found that when someone told me to try and relax,what happened? i would go tense straight away.

i learned to realise that saying try and relax was a contradiction,as the word try means you are striving,and end up doing completly the opposite to what was intended.

knowing this everytime i chisau with someone new i remember not to say it,although i have to mentaly kick myself,when i do.
 

Yoshiyahu

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That is so true. I think as a beginner it is harder to relaxed when doing something new.

My Sifu doesn't say try to relax....he just says "relax" in calm soothing voice. Then he goes on to say relax the spine, relax the shoulders,relax the tailbone,relax the thighs,relax the ball of the foot,relax the neck,relax the arms and sometimes he says relax the body. He also says to breath naturally. An for me hearing and hearing over again I can now do it. Before I couldn't. Its like my first day of trying to hold one leg up in the air for five minutes. It was torture.




Everyone, I assume, has learned how to drive a car, or some vehicle, at some point in their life. Remember the first time behind the wheel, that feeling of the unknown, someone next to you saying, just relax. So many things to think about, it blows your mind. First its up and down the driveway, which leads into a parking lot somewhere. Then on to side streets, and before you know it, its highway driving. With time and experience your tooling down the road passing, parking, weaving in and out of traffic, like a pro. This all took time, from that vice grip you first had on the steering wheel, to the relaxed grip, while tuning in the radio. All this time thinking about the possibility of getting hit an accident or getting yourself killed, by another driver. By now you have gotten the point, it all goes back to the first time you sat behind the wheel with someone next to you saying just relax. It meant nothing to you then, but now with the experience you have acquired from driving, the first thing you will tell someone, if given the chance, is..
icon7.gif
 

seasoned

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Everyone, I assume, has learned how to drive a car, or some vehicle, at some point in their life. Remember the first time behind the wheel, that feeling of the unknown, someone next to you saying, just relax. So many things to think about, it blows your mind. First its up and down the driveway, which leads into a parking lot somewhere. Then on to side streets, and before you know it, its highway driving. With time and experience your tooling down the road passing, parking, weaving in and out of traffic, like a pro. This all took time, from that vice grip you first had on the steering wheel, to the relaxed grip, while tuning in the radio. All this time thinking about the possibility of getting hit an accident or getting yourself killed, by another driver. By now you have gotten the point, it all goes back to the first time you sat behind the wheel with someone next to you saying just relax. It meant nothing to you then, but now with the experience you have acquired from driving, the first thing you will tell someone, if given the chance, is..
icon7.gif
As an add on to my post. There are two mental states that will cause someone to be tense or tight when facing an opponent, and they are fear or anger. These are the two emotions that can be very detrimental to our success in the DoJo setting, or to our survival in a street confrontation. How we control and handle these emotions are more important then the techniques themselves.
 

Yoshiyahu

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So what do you do control and handle these emotions?



As an add on to my post. There are two mental states that will cause someone to be tense or tight when facing an opponent, and they are fear or anger. These are the two emotions that can be very detrimental to our success in the DoJo setting, or to our survival in a street confrontation. How we control and handle these emotions are more important then the techniques themselves.
 

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Trust that relaxed works....it does not mean floppy or weak,your training is supposed to take care of that,hence the relaxed drills and the hundreds or thousands of chain punches.......result;think of a springy loaded coil along with a driving wedge that is capable of yielding and feeding back what is being loaded onto it,two and sometimes three limbs coming into play....blah blah blah........and further more..bl...
 
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seasoned

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So what do you do control and handle these emotions?


Fear, panic, anger all elicit tension in our body. It starts in our mind with some form of threat. This threat can be real or perceived. Once we lose control of our thought process, and one of the three above begins to accrue, it will send signals to our body. Once the brain has sent a message of arousal to the nervous system, adrenaline, cortical, and other hormones pour into the bloodstream. The heart and lungs work harder. Blood pressure and heart rate increase. Fine and complex motor skills eventually deteriorate. This is an automatic response. The lungs work harder, meaning we loose control of our breath, our heart rate goes up because of a lack of oxygen in our body. Once our heart rate pulse exceeds 145 beats per minute, tunnel vision accrues. At this point in time all of our training has gone down the tubes. What to do? Every MA teaches the controlling of our thoughts, and deep breathing. We need to practice this along with our techniques and be aware of it during our training. In my system it is called, meditation. :asian:
 
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geezer

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Fear, panic, anger all elicit tension in our body...

... At this point in time all of our training has gone down the tubes. What to do? Every MA teaches the controlling of our thoughts, and deep breathing. We need to practice this along with our techniques and be aware of it during our training. In my system it is called, meditation. :asian:

What I'm hearing from "Seasoned": First best option: control your fear response through breathing, meditation, whatever, so you you can respond to the threat most effectively, maintaining full use of the martial skills you've trained to defend yourself.

Heard from others: Second, maybe unavoidable option: When you lose control, learn to channel the intensity that your adrenal rush gives you. You'll have an elevated heart rate, a loss of fine motor skills, tunnel vision, and so forth. For a short period, you will also be very strong and very focused on survival. So direct all that anger and aggression at your adversary. Forget all the flowing and sensitivity stuff. Fall back on the simple, aggressive movements that might save your backside. Blast right through him with a blitz of chain punches, elbows. knees, headbutts, whatever. Give 'em everything you've got, and don't stop till you're free and clear... and 100 yards away.

Oh, and then there's option three. Accidentally run over your foe in your hummer.
 

Yoshiyahu

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Do you practice this meditation while

Peforming the forms
Doing Drills
Chi Sau
Sparring
etc.


Fear, panic, anger all elicit tension in our body. It starts in our mind with some form of threat. This threat can be real or perceived. Once we lose control of our thought process, and one of the three above begins to accrue, it will send signals to our body. Once the brain has sent a message of arousal to the nervous system, adrenaline, cortical, and other hormones pour into the bloodstream. The heart and lungs work harder. Blood pressure and heart rate increase. Fine and complex motor skills eventually deteriorate. This is an automatic response. The lungs work harder, meaning we loose control of our breath, our heart rate goes up because of a lack of oxygen in our body. Once our heart rate pulse exceeds 145 beats per minute, tunnel vision accrues. At this point in time all of our training has gone down the tubes. What to do? Every MA teaches the controlling of our thoughts, and deep breathing. We need to practice this along with our techniques and be aware of it during our training. In my system it is called, meditation. :asian:
 

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