Monday, July 16, 2007

Spin Cycle

On Sunday, Heng Xu taught our small class of 21. The line for basics was quickly whittled down due to the large number of newer folks, including this family who started a few weeks ago -- a dad, and his daughter and son. I spoke to the daughter, Alyssa (sp?), briefly in the changing room. She's 15 and her brother is 13, and they're from Staten Island. Her dad works across the street and saw our Temple and thought it would be a good idea for all three of them to try it out. Awesome!

So last Thursday, I decided to try doing the sweep kick on my own without instruction. My historically bad right knee has been a little tight since then, almost like a bunch of rubber bands were wrapped around it, so during a few of the basics, I had to lay off some of the jumps. And I avoided zuopan as well. During forms practice, I continued to skip zuopan when in chujiquantao so as not to aggravate the tightness. When it came time to do erluquan, I debated with myself -- do I practice my improvised version of the sweep kick thus potentially annoying my knee more, or avoid it as well?

I decided to go for it. I reasoned that some of the discomfort I was experiencing was due to building new muscles, and that based on most people's experience, I am bound to feel funny at first anyway. And how else am I gonna do it if I don't try? So I groaned my way a few times through what I've learned of erluquan, and was encouraged by others cheering me on. And being at the same spot in erluquan as my fellow dork, Hannah, was helpful, for the synchronized chi can bolster one's spirit.

Perhaps the best thing about stumbling and wobbling our way through the sweep? It caught the eye of Xu, who gave Hannah and me a mini-sweep clinic in the last 5 minutes before we did pushups. Seeing her sweep is amazing, as she demonstrated her agility by showing that you don't even have to plant your hand(s) down if you throw your hip hard enough. And apparently, I've been incorrectly sticking my butt out.

While my legs were too spent to really give her tips a go at that point, I am eager to try them next time, when my legs are hopefully fresh.


  1. Yeah I keep watching people with good sweeps and trying to discover their secret, even though I know it is really just going to be about me getting stronger legs/his/everything. We were down to seven in that line weren't we? Wow. No wonder I was doubly tired....

  2. that's so great that xu acted on what she saw. like i told some of you, i asked to be taught thursday, apparently a USAST no-no but ah well, i did learn more!

  3. What's wrong with asking to be taught something?

    Do you guys do sweeps with your sweeping foot touching the floor throughout the kick or is it suppose to hover above the floor? It's something I always wondered there at the school. But no one really clarified what the correct way of doing it there was.

  4. I think you guys worry and talk about sweeps waaaaay too much. You know its not a very difficult move. In fact it is very basic. I am well aware of the sweep you are doing and there are even more advanced versions of it that can be done.

    These can include sweeping into various stances or sweeping while holding a weapon. One of my favorites is this old school wushu version a guy at my school does. Back sweep followed by quick stance change and 540 front sweep. While this in itself can be considered a more advanced movement, the back sweep itself is very very basic.

    I believe this move can be taught and learned in just a week. The motions are simple and not too complicated. All you need is clear and concise instruction from someone that can already perform the movement. then simply go through the motions gradually picking up speed.

    There is a new girl at my school that had never studied wushu before. So, she was brand spaking new to the entire martial arts scene. She started maybe 2 months ago and already she can throw back and front sweeps... Granted she is not tearing up the carpets with 720's at lightning speed or anything but the movements are really good.. I am rather impressed myself. The point is it only took her a few weeks to be taught the movements and to perform them correctly...

    I think if you just slow down and think about the movements without hating on yourself for not being able to do it you will progress faster. Also, don't try to figure everything out on your own that just leads to bad habits that can be near impossible to break. Ask people questions and you will learn faster. How well do you do in school if you don't ask questions??

    Peace all

  5. I think the rule about asking to be taught by/teaching other studentsis just to prevent accidentally getting taught something incorrectly. (Par example, when Sifu calls an advanced student over to help teach, he makes them do the move for him first to make sure they are doing it correctly.)

    For the sweep, I'm still dragging my foot so much on the floor I can't get all the way around. So that's probably too much... Zhou told me to practice with a plastic bag on my foot, the pivot foot, which helps at least give me an idea what it feels like to get all the way around :)....

  6. In some of the level 2 moves, it involves the sweep. So, plenty of practicing the sweep there!!

  7. Everyone has varying levels of picking things up. Some pick it up pretty quickly and some it might take some time. Learning anything... we need some pointers as well as practice! So, who knows how long the new girl at your school has taken martial arts before?

  8. sorry, joe, i guess i'm not as talented as you or the girl at your new school. i *just* started the sweep, so that's what i'm thinking about now.

    too bad you're not at temple anymore to teach me how to do the sweep. :P

  9. We are a little sweep obsessed around here, but that's because we only started doing it this week and we get pretty excited whenever we start something new. Kudos to whomver you know who learned it in a week. That's hot. I am not so swift, but I certainly don't hate myself for it. Hate myself a little for landing on my thumb :)Trouble with the sweep is, it's harder to practice inconspicuously at work as opposed to other moves.... We need a bigger elevator here....

  10. This is the difference between the Shaolin Temple and a lot of other martial art schools. The emphasis is not on learning moves or accomplishing great feats of butt kicking martial arts. It is about understanding yourself better and not judging anyone. If you judge others, you only judge yourself that much more. It doesn't matter if someone can learn a move in a day, week, or month. We are not training at the temple to learn how to actually use the sweep for combat tomorrow. We train at the temple to learn how to be completely be in the moment. To hear the silence of no-mind through action meditation.

    I think it is wonderful that there is such a supportive group of people at the Temple. It's one of the reasons why I love training there. It is a group of like-minded individuals honing our hearts and souls. Maybe that is some of the reasons why others have left. They wanted to learn how to fight others instead of discovering their true being.

    "Knowing others is intelligence,
    Knowing yourself is true wisdom.
    Mastering others is strength,
    Mastering yourself is true power."

  11. Training means different things to everyone, which is why it's awesome. The meditative quality of training is very much why I keep going, but while I don't feel a need for sparring and so forth, I admit a sometimes over-anxious desire to learn things quickly. :) That's just the perfectionist in me. But then, that's another part of myself I get to learn about and understand. It's only one way to train, and if people want to learn fighting techniques that doesn't necessarily mean they are looking to start fights; they want to learn something/some way different. That's cool.

  12. Sweeps are fun. I think Joe brings up a good point about slowing down and analyzing the movements. I'm still working on the sweep and when I do one I know exactly what I did wrong once the sweep is done.

  13. You know I wasn't saying anything about fighting people or what not. I've never been in a fight in my life. I'd be happy if that record continued.

    The point is the martial arts world is so deep with knowledge I want to learn and experience as much of it as possible.

    How can you fully understand your own capabilities unless you push yourself to learn as much and as fast as possible, so you can truly see what are the absolute limits??? The sad fact is we are not going to be around forever. More so the time we have to practice our art is more limited. Your capacity to even trian martial arts will lessen as the years go on. I say take advantage of our youth.

    Though if we were truly all immortal it wouldnt matter how fast we learned because at some point we would all know the same. The reality of it is very different.

    Don't get so stuck on the idea of "knowing yourself" or "understanding yourself" that you forget to actually go out and try to do both. When I was training at USAST i saw this far too often. People would jsut talk about understanding and training but did neither.

    So, when you say train martial arts that doesnt jsut mean do the movement. It means perform the movement with an understanding of what your doing. I think we can all agree on this.

    The thing is if you do this you WILL understand the technique and become good at it. at this point you will learn and try new and ahrder techniques. Thus expanding your knowledge and physical limitations.

    For example: A friend of mine used to trian at shaolin too. When we were there he always said the same things we all did. It didnt matter how fast we improved training was training and so forth. He no longer trains there and has since done other things. In his time away he found his view point changed dramatically. It DID make a huge difference in how he trained and how quickly he learned, he had found. Training was no longer the simple act of training for meditative purposes or whatever. It became a science. In this mind set he probably doubled his abilities in a few weeks. I was rather impressed myself. The thing was he views on the martial arts or life in general hadnt changed. In fact the were stronger now than ever before. His new abilities gave him new insight on his art and life in general. Things that he was blind to before. I remember him saying he had wished he had done this sooner because of how much farther he would be today.

    So, I would say there are entire aspects of the art that you are all missing at the moment because you are were you are in training. Now, there is nothing wrong with that in truth we are all in a similar situation. I myself know there are new levels to attain in my own training. Sure now I can throw aerial twisting cartwheels. But how bout double twists or with a weapon. Its constantly evolving. Once I reach this point the process with start anew.

    The point is you can play this game over and over until you die really. The point is how far do you want to get in this life before its over?

  14. your reality, or your version of truth, or your version of training, is what you make of it. it is yours. how you choose to engage in training, in life, is a personal journey, and it means different things to different people.

    amazing how this all came about from a simple post about sweeping.

    goes to show that training is more than just a physical activity...well, at least it is for ME!

    JUST DO IT!!!!