Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Art of Popping

I know... I know.... It's all about extension and popping. I've been training for over a year now and I heard those words for about 5 billion times. But I don't even know if I'm doing it the right way.

I've been told to imagine string pulling from my head to my tailbone. I've been told to open up my shoulder blades. Ummm.... it's a little difficult when my one of my legs is in the air. But I'm trying.

A few months ago I learned that I totally popped the wrong way.
Jeremiah aka Neo saw me do the extension while drinking shots at a bar. And the conversation went like this:

J: That's not how you're supposed to pop.
Me: What did I do?
J: You looked up and thrusted your boobies out.
Me: I popped.
J: You're supposed to pop your hip.
Me: That's impossible.
J: You are crazy.
Me: You are a nerd...

And then I tried it. For me, it's especially true with front kicks - Caijiao, Lihetui, Zhengtitui. When I was told to extend, I would pop my head up to the ceiling. And that's not right. It hurt not only my neck but also my back. O.K. I have to pop from the hip. I tried it. And it's more fun. :) And my back doesn't hurt as much anymore (still hurts though) and my neck stopped hurting completely!


  1. i have to agree that it is confusing when we are told to pop without being shown how OR being shown incorrectly. it is all in the hips. when sara taught last saturday she made sure to tell us to let the leg come up naturally or stress free (caijiao, lihetui, zhengtitui, cetitui)then snap it & pop your hips on the way down! i get a neckache just watching some folks sometimes whip their heads around. chad

  2. Hi there. This is something I feel very interested in debating about. And please let me know what your opinion is about it.

    To be honest I don't really know where this popping technique comes from. I have seen countless shaolin and wushu videos with caijiao, zhengtitui, etc but none of the people pop after kicking. I have seen an extending of the chest after kicking, as if a string was connected at your chest and was pulled upwards. But the last time I was in class, I've seen people extend so much that their head whips back until they can see the ceiling or even the person behind them. To me this seems just incredibly impractical especially when you fight. If I am going to kick someone, I am not going to extend my head back and lose sight of my enemy. When I asked a higher level student about this, he said that you just want to make sure you hit the guy on the first try and then it doesn't matter if you see the guy or not after you kick. That just seems very impractical.

    When I first started at the Temple maybe like 5 years ago Sifu Yan Ming didn't even talk about popping. He talked about extension but he never emphasized having your head go back like that. I dunno where he even got this from.

    Anybody have any clues to this?

  3. I have this understanding that the point of popping i.e. extending is to make the move more powerful and to balance myself and get ready for the next move. Going so far as to be able to see people behind me is probably too much anyway.

    (Imaginary reenactment)
    J: What are you doing?
    Me: I popped.
    J: Doesn't your neck hurt?
    Me: Yeah
    J: You're crazy.
    Me: You are a nerd.

  4. I'm not sure how I found this blog. The internet is a crazy thing. I've studied various martial arts for most of my life, ranging from wushu to karate.

    It seems to be the popping as has been described is not only impractical as mentioned but also bad for you lower back. This seems to me it would add needless srain and lead to injury. One of my coaches told me once the reason we extend upwards is to keep our bodies in line and reduce the stress and tension during the movement.

    I'm just curious to know if any of you have had any pains or frequent soreness in certain regions? ie. lower back, knees, hips or neck

    While soreness can be a sign of a good workout it can also be a sign of improper technique and injury. Take care not to hurt yourselves.

  5. Hi. I have nothing wrong with popping, but generating power should come more from the kick upwards since you will be kicking the person as your leg goes up and not as your leg goes down. Unless its sort of like an axe kick where the force comes from the downward motion. In any point popping your hip out after you've already kick is pretty pointless since you've already kicked the dude on the way up. This holds true for zhengzitui and caijiao.

    Sorry for the whole debate. I just was thinking about it this way. But of course if your Sifu tells you to do it that way, I can't really argue against him. I just started to question why it happened. Maybe this can be brought up to one of the advanced students. I myself would like to know.

    Definitely don't hurt yourself. One time this guy popped so hard, he slipped and fell backwards. I've had a lot of serious knee pain from trying to pop because I would hyper-extend my knee which would put ALOT stress on it.

  6. For some, learning the practical application for a move might be useful -- i.e., how to inflict maximum damage while kicking or whatnot. Personally, I am not learning kung fu for self-defense or combat; I see it as an art form, an expression of self, a means by which I gain strength, flexibility and speed, so I recognize the popping as part of the technique.

    As my dad the skeptic has asked, "What's the point of learning all of this? In the real world, someone can take a gun and shoot you."

    I might not be able to smash bricks on my head yet, but I feel damn good for training.

  7. Well said! Wise words from a wise woman... hahahaha....

    Well if I can say anything about it to not hurt yourself too much from doing it, is to just relax through the movements and feel the power coming from your entire body and not just from one tensed muscle in your leg or hip.

    Once you understand how the body can work with motion, momentum and timing, you'll feel the power just come right through the movements.

    Amitoufo dudes!

  8. Shifu (and whoever is teaching) does remind us to relax our bodies. That is key to doing extension properly. I know I'm guilty of hunching my shoulders at times. And that all goes along with keeping our heads up, rather than bending our necks and looking at the ground. Remember, me, you -- we are all so good looking. So handsome. So shine through!

    This was a good thread. I like the thoughtful discussion. Thanks random commenters!

  9. Just remember it only takes one serious injury to set you out for months or the rest of your life in a worst case senario. I've seen over zealous athletes work under the all to famous "no pain no gain" motto, only to rip a muscle, tear a ligament, injure a joint and be unable to train period for up to a year.

    Think of all the olympic level gymnasts that have ended their careers because of one injury.

  10. Random comments:
    Ciajiao is not meant for kicking people. Frankly, about 0 of the level 1 line drills are combat-appropriate.

    Heng Neo (not me) asked us a question while we were doing the axe kick the other day: "Why does your head go back?" Answer: "Can't help it!" If that's not a succinct explanation of popping, I don't know what is. Also, wisdom from triteness. Awesome.

    The hip extension provides power to a great number of techniques (most?). Straight punche uppercut, side kick, roundhouse, front push kick. Again, level 1 techniques are not fighting techniques, they're body mechanics techniques.

    Lots of people don't understand. I know how sifu feels about this, cause he tells us. "You don't understand? Fine, no problem." I am somewhat more conflicted.

    Sifu could definitely do a much better job of teaching proper technique, but it's not clear to me that doing so would be better. There are much better places to learn competition wushu, there are much better places to learn to fight. I have not seen a better place helping you to challenge yourself. Ever.