Taiji leg skills and technique (in general)

Discussion in 'Tai chi' started by cloudz, Mar 14, 2016.

  1. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    Hi there, let's do this shall we.

    By luck I have uploaded on you-tube a little clip that was asked for on a thread on another forum. The requirement was simply a clip of a taiji posture/movement being used in a contact/sparring/ scenario.
    this clip was sliced out of the first Kung Fu MAP sparring meet up from years ago..

    I'll post this clip first, and then I will find a picture of the posture. Then I will talk about the technique I am doing, what variations I could do. I'll talk about where and what the leg skill is. I'll then start to compare with other styles and systems and the kind of things they do with it. How it can be changed for forms and technique.

    We'll talk about some of the ways and techniques that leg skill is in tai chi systems of different kinds. Then hopefully we can see what is really missing. then what is really left out - ask why is it left out, or should be left out. That kind of thing.

    Hopefully some people here who practice a family system like Yang, Wu or Chen can give their experience of how and what they are taught as examples to compare and contrast.

    So I'll start with the clip, then continue later as I must get on with some work first..

    This is specifically Repulse Monkey done with Twist step. This is found in the second round of Wu style taiji, it is often found done this way in older Yang styles and Chen styles. Some styles have both rounds with regular step.

    The difference in regular step and twist step is basically that in twist step the opposite side arm and leg are forward, in normal step the same side arm and leg interact on the same side.

    So to be basic. In one version (regular step) one leg steps back and out, whilst the same side arm pulls back. the other side the leg becomes the forward leg as that same side arm strike/pushes forwards.

    In the twist step version my right leg steps back as my right arm moves forward. So now my left leg is the forward leg and the opposite arm is pushing/striking forwards.

    Anyway, here is one application used in you could say a san shou/ sanda type format. The first big thing to notice id that we have a "reap" type of sweep in the step back. the catch and pull is a function of the other side arm to the reap. My right arm/ hand which you can't see is pushing forward against his torso and combines with the reap to send him down. In sparring I have used this with the variation of landing a strike/punch to the head - same result, only more painful I imagine.. So there is the leg skill in the posture movement/ stepping pattern. There is another technique in how the front leg draws back to the other leg before it steps back and out. If you know the correct stepping pattern which is diagonal - diagonal in and diagonal out then you have two kinds of trips and sweeps. As may see they work and materialise from leg placement in the form and fixed technique practice. So tai chi often begins with the leg position already established. That is the idea of integration, that can bring efficiency. There are more of these ways of systemising. When I understand the tai chi way of doing things and what's in there (the forms, push hands, techniques, principles, body skills/ methods). I don't need to sit down and right lists of all the possibilities (fixed techniques), the systemisation helps me make it a more efficient and convenient and I can start to know to put together techniques from the idea that there is no fixed technique.

    [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffBxWyJXMBI"]repulse monkey vs. kick - YouTube[/ame]

    So does tai chi have fist formations?
    yes it does.
    can I swap a fist for a palm anytime I want?
    Yes you can.

    So from that, I have a valid tai chi technique applied to sanda. I have every right to call it 'taiji sanda', it's as authentic as it possibly could be.

    Take away the gloves and I could still use a tai chi fist formation if I wanted. I could change the attack to a downward elbow. That is how it is done in one of Yang Jian Hou's forms - the middle frame.

    So tai chi has 'elbow' as a body method/skill and set of techniques that come from that. Si I can change the attacking arm component of repulse monkey for an elbow if need be in my technique training. Do I have to change my form. Only if I want to. As long as I understand that I can do this and repulse monkey is still repulse monkey, that it is all still authentic taiji. then it doesn't matter how I organize or train form.

    Form is not fixed either. Form actually only gets fixed when you teach it. And then only stays so, if you don't teach the key to changing it.

    So why is there so many forms called taiji that look different - because by and large they were done by people who had the right keys to understand the ways it's done, the different ways form is trained..
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2016
  2. Tom bayley

    Tom bayley Valued Member

    Do you have another clip showing the technique. to be honest given the angle and the speed of the clip I cant see whats going on.
  3. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Looked like a single leg takedown with an inside leg reap.

    Looked nothing like this anyway:

    [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfuQXqCzTNA"]Tai Chi Combat - Repulse the Monkey - YouTube[/ame]
  4. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    most variations of the same move in between schools will look extremely different though. the crux of the matter IMO is the difference between looking at the positions the body is in and gross changes in that position, and not at what the body is actually doing, and what the person is actually doing or intends to do with that motion, particularly as in many basic movements in many TMA what many identify as being the technique is actually just the follow-through; the actual motion of the parts of the body wouldn't occur exactly like that because there'd be a body in the way, and since in basics there's no body in the way to specifically act on, the movement becomes standardized and abstract (then it gets mutated, taken out of context and over time telephone-gamed until it's unrecognizable and no one knows what's going on and only the people who still actually hit stuff have any clue what most of bit is all about, and then they get criticized because it doesn't look "real" :p)
  5. embra

    embra Valued Member

    Do not look to Jake Mace for real-deal TaiJiQuan.

    Unfortunately the general quality of TaiJiaQuan available on youtube is shockingly bad, and just enhances the popular perception of TJQ as hippie-fu for old fartz.
  6. Botta Dritta

    Botta Dritta Valued Member

    In chen 19 form i think its called 'step back with whirling arms'. I checked my scribbled notes. The two variant applications i was shown was the wrist grab escape + palm strike, but also a strike deflection/pull opponent off balance and strike to exposed neck. But there again like with other taijiquan the motor skills are the focus and the applications are variable. One thing I did scribble down was the necessity at stepping back at a 45 degree angle. i also noticed that it bore some similarity to a boxing lesson I had where you stepped back at an angle switching your guard to entice opponent to overcommit and using a long guard to hand wave along the centre line before deliveriing a cross. ( not that i e ever managed this in sparring ...)
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2016
  7. Tom bayley

    Tom bayley Valued Member

    Or hung gar, or staff techniques. Not saying he can't do it. Just saying that he doesn't show that he can do it in the videos.
  8. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    Hi Tom,

    I'll talk through the technique in the clip I posted. You're right the angle is the most unhelpful it could probably be to be fair.

    So we're sparring and the guy throws a leg kick at me (his right leg). I use my left arm to scoop/ catch the kick and I pull it towards me a little as I step into it a little with my left leg closing the distance. The seize/ pull with the arm is a category of "cai" (pull) one of the "ba-men" or 8 major body skills/methods of tai chi.

    My right hand strikes/pushes. In this case we are wearing gloves, but I effect the takedown with what amounts to pushing the guy down. This is facilitated by my right leg reaping/stepping backwards against his left/standing leg.

    Hope that is clearer.

    But the main point I wanted to make with it, is that the leg skill of "reap" or that particular kind of sweep is in the stepping method. That doesn't mean I can't use repulse monkey for different applications that don't involve the leg that way. This also hopefully shows how we/tai chi chuan has a flexible approach to technique rather than fixed technique for each posture/ movement in the form.

    So if you see for example someone do a roll back technique without any leg skills, that is not evidence that TCC or even that performer doesn't have leg skill at their disposal. As a clip just like that was recently used that way in another thread here..
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2016
  9. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    So here I have uploaded a couple other common postures. Both showing some leg skills. One of the legs can be a 'big' front sweep of the forwards leg; as you can see his arms have gone the other direction as the leg 'kicking' out to the other side. Combine these two and you have a takedown technique. The follow on technique in the form from here is then a crescent kick from out to in. Even this crescent shaped kick, I've used to take someone down in Sanda when combined with the upper body. You can aim that kick high, but if you aim it low the kick can be for all intents and purposes sweep the opponent off their feet in combination with what the upper body does.

    The other posture (left photo) shows the leg 'scooping up'; This is used as an outer hook like technique, but one that scoops upwards at the same time. he brings the leg up pretty high there.

    Now on one side I can understand that the Wu Chien Chuan photo is not a posture that's in all of the Yang styles. Yang can be tricky to understand, mainly due to the popularity of Cheng Fu's large frame standardized form. He did modify out certain techniques/ postures. But on the other hand he did pass on other form and taught helped his disciples how to develop their own fast forms. Dong made his own fast form, the Yang family lineage in the UK practice a "long boxing" form that came through his son. So it's not entirely fair to judge the entirety of his Yang system based on his Public/ standardized form. And besides their is his brothers, fathers and his uncles systems/forms to compare and contrast. As we can see from that tutorial I posted in the other thread, which was only the 8th part of 8 that is reinforces what I was taught and what others verify - a lot of it is integrated into the stepping - as is the kicking. he took some of the kicking out. But in some postures I was taught that when the empty leg/foot lands on the heel that signifies a heel kick, when it lands on the toes it signifies a toe kick. every step in the form can be a kick if you want it to be, every step can be a leg attack if low enough, that are effectively sweeps. If I draw the (right)foot back towards me in a curve for instance, what's the outcome if your left leg is in the way? It's an outer hook.

    So we start with where the leg is (placement), then we integrate all stepping with kicks, trips and sweeps.

    When you think of the technique training the placement of the legs is very close to each-other. It's leg to leg/ foot to foot. You build an appreciation for the tripping and sweeping training the grappling (china/shuai) techniques from practicing them off of push hands patterns. This is touching distance. The furthest you will be apart is toe to toe. You can have heel to toe (our feet occupy the same space. Or heel to heel - I have stepped past your foot and mine is just behind yours. These would be 3 basic relational positions from where you can start to see how the stepping patterns can translate to trips and or sweeps.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 14, 2016
  10. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    Parting the Wild horse's mane would be one example where the leg placement is integral to making the technique work. A key element is how you step behind your opponent's leg and use your leg position as you move your upper body to take them down. The leverage is key and it doesn't work without the leg placement. I know this because I used to have a tendency to not step behind enough- and it just doesn't work well.

    I will post a couple of youtube I just dug up. Not endorsing the overall skill (or not endorsing) but they show the basic idea - even if they do some other aspects of the move in a way I am not familiar with. Key point is- the leg skill is key in this movement. This move does not work without the leg. And as one does the move, your leg- which is behind the opponent pushes forward into the opponent as part of what takes their ability to remain upright away from them.

    [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXrGO9DrBEw"]Parting the wild horse's mane application from grappling distance - YouTube[/ame]

    [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IljrT9ug7jk"]Taijiquan applications - part wild horse's mane: Part 2 - YouTube[/ame]
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2016
  11. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    So let me get this straight, Taiji leg skill includes how much of the following in regular training?

    1) Technique + Form (knowledge, mechanics, structure)

    2) Practice (solo and partner)

    3) Testing (live training, sparring, pressure, resistance)

    4) Adaption (cross-training, variations)

    5) Refinement (perfection and practical application)

    When leg skill is existing in a system from 1-3 above, that is okay, but it certainly doesn't mean everyone in the system is going to get really good at it. In fact, some going 1-3 in the system might have to go out of the system for 4 and 5. This has the danger that the core principles from the system are missing in 4 and 5.

    So how much of the system takes students from 1 to 5 all within the core principles of the system?
  12. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    First, we have to agree with the definition of "leg skill". IMO, a "leg skill" will require:

    1. You generate leg power to attack opponent's leg.
    2. Most of the time, your attacking leg will be off the ground and end with single leg balance (the shin bite, leg scoop are exceptions).

    By using this definition, this is a leg skill "切(Qie) - Front cut,". It meets both requirements.


    This is not a leg skill. It does not meet either requirement (he did not generate any power from his leg, and both of his feet are on the ground all the time).

    [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXrGO9DrBEw"]Parting the wild horse's mane application from grappling distance - YouTube[/ame]
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2016
  13. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    ykw - I would not assume everyone agrees with your definition of leg skill. I am willing to bet that even getting to a definition most agree with will take some doing.

    To start off with - I don't. I would define leg skill as using your legs in a way that takes some skill to achieve a move or series of moves. I would say the legs have to be an integral part of the move.

    (But if everyone else agrees with your definition, just ignore my previous post in this thread.:))
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2016
  14. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    In the following clip, by using your definition, all 3 "waist chop" are qualified to be called as "leg skill". By using my definition, only the 3rd waist chop can be qualified.

    There are some trade off here.

    when you apply

    - 1 and 2 (both are trip), you have both feet on the ground so you will have better balance (PRO). It's easier for your opponent to escape out of your leg control (CON).
    - 3 (foot sweep), you have only one leg on the ground and you have weak balance (CON). It's much harder for your opponent to escape out of your leg attack (PRO).

    Last edited: Mar 15, 2016
  15. ned

    ned Valued Member

    Chen tends to kick whilst sticking , e.g at opening of nearly all forms you ward off, grasp sparrows tail then kick low at the knee whilst holding(and pulling) the arm.

    Couple of other examples ;
    Outer crescent kick( to slap palms in form) which functions in a similar way to the first posture posted by cloudz.
    Here Chen Xiaowang describes it as 'foot swinging' - you can sweep as you kick or on the way back (if they avoid the first by lifting). He then shows a nice counter to the same technique. Starts around 4.28

    [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Holnh-VEysA"]Chen Xiaowang Applications DVD excerpt, Laojia/19ct w/ fajin - YouTube[/ame]

    Whirlwind kick - can attack low ( the front leg ) or high ( head ) . He also
    shows another recurrent Chen technique at 1.13 where he kicks/sweeps the front leg one way whilst pushing with the arms the other , similar to the counter in the first clip

    [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCdISgbMnak"]Tai Chi Chen Taiji Application - Whirlwind Kick - YouTube[/ame]

    heel kick - again a low explosive kick whilst holding , having blocked/stuck to an attack.(This is preceded by a turning sweep/lifting hook kick in pau chui)
    [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PefklUE3Nw8"]Master Wang Hai Jun - Chen Style Tai Chi - Heel Kick - YouTube[/ame]
  16. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    The thing I like about this is that in my previous post I talked about basically how good at "leg skills" do students get. I gave a scale or progression for measuring. What I like is that you can get good at something but through cross-training (other core principles) and/or through the core principles in the system.

    In the Chen video I can see the core principles from Tai Chi in coordination with the use of leg skills. I'm mainly looking at the movement of the waist FYI.
  17. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    Ha, good work, that's nicely laid out. I think in any good system, you do all of that. But unfortunately finding a TCC system/teacher on its own that takes you through all of that these days is not an easy task.

    You're right, you have to be careful with 4. I would hope you always get 5, but it is dependant.

    Here's the way I see it. In the end, to me TCC has become a matter of applying 'body forces' at the point(s) of contact. To understand that approach and bring it together you do really have to explore the wider world of technique and start to get why the style sometimes sacrifices some aspects of technique in favour of what are better described as 'body methods'. This is why you have at the heart of TCC the idea of the '13 postures', the 8 ba-men being at the heart of things. When you can explore these to the kind of depth they are understood in some systems and then you start to combine them with all the posture and transition techniques, the striking, the chin-na, stepping, trips, sweeps, shaui, kicking you have a pretty cool little system.

    Some systems, also have another 8 categories for the foot/leg applications that work directly against the opponents foot and leg. Again these are combined with the torso methods in a non fixed technique way. Some transcend upper and lower distinctions like Kao for example. in some system it's only presented as shoulder techniques, but in others kao is a particular type of action that can be applied with any part of the body. So when you understand that "energy", or 'action' you unlock a whole bunch of techniques. 3 sides of the shoulder, the hip, the knee/thigh. And because I am mean, I include the head.:evil:

    You have the very similar ideas with the leg skills in my opinion. I mentioned practical method, a branch of Chen. I don't really understand it fully enough myself, but they talk about applying force from different parts of the foot - for example.

    It doesn't really need the kitchen sink thrown at it as such from other styles/ systems in my opinion, otherwise you lose some of it's identity. Good/complete TCC systems already have a lot of material to get stuck into. But there's also the idea of being flexible. There are some things I would always train regardless, but there's obvious things I would never try to palm off as TCC or CMA. A perfect example is sprawling.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2016
  18. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    I don't know John, I don't think there is any need to get too semantic. we could look at them both as leg techniques and skills. there are elements of both, but I think the second, the placement is more leg skill than technique - the way I understand things.. It is still a skill to place the leg correctly. The force application from contact can't be seen, but that does not mean it is not there. In fact I would argue that in the end that's what tai chi does best or trains to do (in terms of applying techniques..) - apply forces at the contact point with less need for motion in space/ momentum. You legs are not just there to be in the way, there is an intent there and the expression of force at the point of contact.

    Without getting into the whole 'internal power' debate. Think of it like isometric strength if it helps.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2016
  19. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    that definition is probably too strict John. If anything single leg balance is something you find all over tai chi forms.

    Any application in real time will have you stepping and moving around to a certain degree. You can't move or adjust anywhere without some kind of step involved.

    We're going from the obvious and large to the small and subtle, this isn't just about skill per se. but it's also practical and efficient in terms of the distances involved in CQC. Thinking in terms of the hand, elbow and shoulder distances gives you an idea of the frames (size).
  20. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    For "trip - put leg behind opponent's leg and push him", you can put a rock or a tree trunk there to perform the same function and there won't be any difference. You can stick your arm out and let your opponent to run into your punch. Since your are not generate any punching power, IMO, it's not a valid "arm skill".

    Even if we may remove "off the ground and end with single leg balance" from the "leg skill" definition, we should still keep "generate leg power to attack your opponent's leg".

    In the following clip, his attacking leg is on the ground. But it's clear to see that his leg power is generated from the "bending" posture to "straight" posture and from "foot flat" to "heel up".


    In the following clip, his attacking leg is also on the ground. But it's clear to see that his leg power is generated from "bending knee" and "raise heel up".

    Last edited: Mar 15, 2016

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