Thursday, February 23, 2012
FOCUS: HOW CONTACT FLOW FEELS DIFFERENT FROM PUSH HANDS
A big disadvantage for distance learners is that it can be very difficult to develop the correct "feel" of GC Contact Flow. NY students have the benefit of access to upper belts and masters (not to mention GM Perkins himself) but even here sometimes the ultimate goal of what high-level GC "feels" like can be elusive.
Many have assumed (mostly incorrectly) that Contact Flow "looks" or feels like tai chi push hands and/or wing chun chi sao. You might expect this from those who have never felt it but this error in interpretation crops up even in those who have felt GC. If you have an external MA background (shotokan, etc.), the differences between push hands and Contact Flow may be indistinguishable but in order to really get it and progress to an upper belt, you need to see that the differences are in, in practice, immense.
Now granted, the internal principles as applied by any given individual can vary greatly but in my (and other GC masters') experience, some general patterns have become evident (so if this personally doesn't apply to your application, more power to you, but all we can go by is what we've actually felt).
By and large, every wing chun instructor I've flowed with has felt far more yang than those in GC. There is more over-commitment, more pushing and pulling within a constant hi-level of pressure. Again, this may not be the rule but this is what I have experienced--with people who were no slouches.
I've also done contact flow with many tai chi instructors, including one who was a national push hands champion. Despite being very sensitive and sticky (meaning they maintained contact well) they all had a heavy, gluey feel and a firm root. The push hands champion, in particular, felt like a sumo wrestler or NFL lineman. The only tai chi practitioner I've worked with who felt almost invisible while still able to maintain contact was a senior student of Master Wayson Liao's, but he was the exception.
I have also felt in people who have changed over to GC from tai chi, a feeling sort of like a progressive shock absorber, where they were light within the first 3 inches of absorbtion and then progressively more squishy until at close range they felt like you were moving them through rapidly drying chewing gum.
So--is this the way you want to feel in Guided Chaos? Absolutely not. I assume that you have followed your interest in GC this far because you thought something was different about it. There is.
I will descibe to you what doing Contact Flow with Lt Col Al, Grandmaster Carron and Grandmaster Perkins feels like to me. That "feel" is what I aspire to at all times and if it's something that perhaps you cannot feel yet, at least the analogies may be helpful in guiding your development.
All 3 of the above masters feel different, yet they are all more alike to each other than any of them are to any other internal stylists I've ever worked with, especially tai chi-ists.
Imagine being thrown into a pin ball machine where all the bumpers are made of hammers and knives instead of rubber...or a high speed washing machine filled with rocks and razor blades. You can't get out of the pinball machine or washer even though to you it feels like you're not being constantly pressed, like you might in a trash compactor. The key point here is that even though they feel nightmarishly loose, they never, ever lose contact with you. In fact, their contact is often invisible (hence, the old GC name "Ghostfist").
To me, they are all increasing degrees of the same scary formidability: Al is light as a butterfly and hits like a jack hammer...with a few whips thrown in for good measure. Tim feels like you're being torn limb from limb yet you cannot locate the source of the abuse even though he never breaks contact--even for a microsecond. And John...well...John feels like you're in a haunted house being pounded by angry ghosts. He is invisible yet all over you.
Read these descriptions over and over and try to understand the principles they embody: they do not absorb your energy; they reflect it instantaneously. There is no suppression, pushing, or drag on your own movement. Do you feel a beam of light as it reflects instantly off the mirrors in a funhouse? Are they slowed at all? Despite never losing contact with your partner, you never want your Contact Flow feeling like you're moving in a vat of molasses. As we describe in Attack Proof, your body should move like a well-oiled mannequin, with all joints free of restriction. An energy input here means an instant blow to the face there. Your careless push is instantly translated into your arm being pulled out of its socket. Your naive pull is instantly translated into a punch to the liver.
In tai chi, the principle is more passive, one of receiving and countering. GC is more about "block me or I'll take your head off". And if you do block me, I'll ricochet, skim, slide, fold, turn or tool replace into another strike with your reflected energy amplified.
The other main difference in feel I've experienced between tai chi practitioners and John or Al is the sense of their root. A high level tai chi man will have a root like a tree that cannot be easily moved. This takes many years of skill development. But understand this well: when you work with John, it feels like he has no root. This does not mean that he doesn't have one--it just means that you can't find it. This is because he changes his root in a microsecond in response to whatever energy he senses from you--and realigns himself to reflect your power back at you from a superior angle. This may manifest in anything from a minor pressure change in his feet, to a one inch readjustment, to a box step that has him suddenly behind you pulling your throat out with one hand and punching your liver in with the other. Note: all of this is covered in detail in the 6 hour Eye of the Storm DVD.
Hope this helps.