Finding Counters

Discussion in 'Tai chi' started by pesilat, Mar 29, 2008.

  1. pesilat

    pesilat Active Member

    I recently had the immense pleasure of attending a seminar with Master Jeff Bolt. Master Bolt is a student under Dr. Jwing-Ming Yang. At the seminar, Camp Lansdale in Nacogdoches, Texas, Master Bolt focused on Tai Chi Push Hands and Chin Na. He taught some really good drills and gave some enlightening explanations of various facets of the drills and techniques he showed.

    One of the things he spent some time on was the principle of countering techniques. While the concepts he discussed were familiar to me, his presentation and breakdown of them spawned an epiphany in my understanding of the subject. In the following paragraphs, I'll attempt to share some of my thoughts on this. Basically, this is my interpretation of the material presented by Master Bolt.

    A man goes to the doctor and says, "Doc, it hurts when I lift my arm."
    The doctor replies, "Don't lift your arm."

    This same principle can be applied to finding counters. Take any technique and break it down into component parts from first contact through the "set up" motion, to the technique itself. At any point during that time, ask yourself, "How do I prevent him from going further? What's in danger and how do I get out of danger?"

    No matter how quickly the technique happens, there is still a lot of gap that can be broken down. Of course, at speed, the breakdown is in milliseconds. But, at each of these breakdowns, a counter is possible. Master Bolt called it filling in the gaps.
    Take a standard wrist lock, for instance. It can be perceived as a 1 - 2 beat. They get your hand; they lock it. When you break it down, though, there is a gap between beat 1 and beat 2. Depending on your timing and your ability to flow (your speed plays a role in it, but it's not the key ... timing and flow are the keys), there are a lot of potentials for counter within that gap.

    Here are a few basic counters:

    First, at the point of the wrist lock itself. At this point, you're nearly at the point of no return. Your wrist is about to damaged and/or you're about to hit the floor. It's time for drastic measures. Your palm is facing you (we'll say it's your right hand being locked) as he's about to slam the lock completely home. Take your left hand and slap your right palm toward your fingers (really more of a spear hand through your own palm). This bends your fingers back and causes his grip to loosen. Your left hand can continue its motion into a strike while your right hand takes advantage of the loosened grip and gets free (or, better yet, gets hold of one of his hands to apply a lock of your own).
    Then, to quote Master Bolt, "Go back in time ... fill in the gaps."
    As he's bringing your hand up to the locking position, extend/arch your fingers back toward him while extending your arm. This will often be enough to break his grip and allow you to catch your own lock or, at least, start striking.
    "Go back in time ... fill in the gaps."
    As he's bringing your hand up to the locking position, use your left hand to slap the thumb side of his right hand. The slap should take his hand away from yours and allow you to slide free of his left hand. Then bring your right hand over and apply a wrist lock on his right hand.
    "Go back in time ... fill in the gaps."
    As he starts to bring your hand up, roll your right elbow over his left forearm and lever out while striking as you see fit with your left hand.
    "Go back in time ... fill in the gaps."
    As he touches your hand, pull your hand away while striking with your left hand.

    These are just a few of the possible gaps that can be filled in this technique. This principle can be used to find counters in any technique. As Master Bolt phrased it, "Just tell him, 'No! You can't have that.'" Just remember, when looking for counters, to break the technique down into the smallest timing intervals you can perceive. Then determine, at each interval, what can be done to prevent the technique from proceeding past that interval. Determine what makes the technique effective and it will be easier to understand how to counter the technique at any of these gaps.

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