Aussie Sea Power

Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
Trip End Aug 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Kunyu Shan Shaolin Academy

Flag of China  , Shandong,
Friday, July 30, 2010

I sometimes find it's sometimes illuminating to view hand to hand fighting through the prism of war.  Roughly speaking, punches are analogous to an army while kicks are like an air force or navy.  If you dominate the latter, you have a form of attack at your disposal that is both powerful and difficult to defend against.

Still, a landlocked army can win a war, whereas any military power requires at least some minimum ground force to occupy territory, just as a fighter needs to throw in the occasional punch to keep an opponent from encroaching at bay or to close out a guy who's on the ropes.

Of course, minimal is relative term.  The British Empire during the 19th century illustrated just how few ground troops a sufficiently robust navy can get away with.

Back in my heyday, I had some damn good kicks, but my fighting skills were pretty crap -- I was always more of a forms person.  The person who had the whole package was a young black belt called Mr. Platis, who was already one of the lead instructors when I started training with Master Nagayama.  His movements were fast, fluid, and flexible, his combinations original and unpredictable.  

Sparring with Mr. Platis was always an exercise in productive masochism: while I never succeeded in wiping the smile off his face, my skills kept improving for trying.

I knew my kicking skills had reached a milestone when Mr. Platis started throwing more punches at me, but that exposed a glaring deficiency in my overall repertoire: awful punching skills.  My guard was down so chronically that he'd pull aside everyone who sparred me and encourage them to pop me in the nose so I'd keep my hands up.

Graham is a sailor from Australia who's been on the academy a few months.

Let's pause and consider how many things in that sentence suggest that this guy might be as tough as nails.  Evidence in support of that speculation.

Well, there's the fact that the previous sparring session, he knocked out Canadian Jason in about a minute.  In fairness, this was Jason's first sparring match ever - he's a 30 year old lawyer with no previous martial arts training - so perhaps his partnering was not optimally chosen.  In any case, Jason was a terrific sport about the whole thing, replaying us the video in slow motion complete with commentary ("wham!  wobble ... thud!") at his going away drinks.

Oh, and Graham wears dentures, which he takes out before sparring.  I was afraid to ask before our match whether he'd lost his teeth fighting, lest the answer sap my nerve.

Fortunately, he's a very cool guy.  We hung out a lot together in afternoon Baji class, and he's a lot more mature than a lot of the people who view sparring as a chance to posture to one another how tough they are.  Overall we were pretty well matched, both in terms of fighting ability but also in terms of our temperament.

With my back still wrenched, 5 out of 8 of my kicks were basically out of commission.  For you history geeks out there (I'm looking at you, James) that's like Britain discovering in 1901 that 9/4 of its fleet doesn't work, and then going to war anyway.  It didn't come as a surprise that Graham took the match; I was just glad that in the end, he didn't own me.

And at least the experience forced me to start working on my punching skills (and even then, I couldn't raise my left arm due to a pulled muscle in my shoulder).

See Mr. Platis?  It only took 25 years and a debilitating back injury to start fixing my bad habits...

posted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 from Etour Mingtown Youth Hostel, Shanghai

Sparring match vs. Graham
0:10 - when good takedowns go bad.  Owwwww...
0:28 - avoiding jab.  I must have used that move like 50 times in that match.
0:36 - I'm not used to being allowed to catch kicks, need to learn how to defend against that.
1:29 - there's that shoulder - it's a bad sign for your sparring prospects when it hurts to do Tai Chi
1:38 - dunno who says "nice" there, but thanks for rubbing salt in my wounded pride
1:47 - pow!  Qu sifu checking up on my was embarrassing.  A good reminder why the avoiding jab is such a great move.
1:57 - that front kick cut Graham's lip a bit.  I felt kinda bad about it, but at the time I gotta admit I was sorta grateful for the breather.
2:30 - can you tell from that landing that I'm a bit tired?  This was our second 3 min round, btw
2:47 - this was the Nth time Graham used his right-knee-into-jab combo...
2:50 - there it is again.  I'm sorta getting into the rhythm of avoiding it with a jab...
2:52 - and then wham, his foot's on my chest.  Teach me to fall complacent.

Considering I arrived at Kunyu Shan on June 15 and started cranking away pretty much nonstop at the backlog that had accrued since arriving in Korea April 26, it's no surprise that July had the most blog hits ever:
Aug:         500 hits
Sept:        900 hits
Oct:         1,000 hits
Nov:         600 hits
Dec:         877 hits
Jan:          776 hits
Feb:         659 hits
Mar:         702 hits
Apr+May: 1,326 hits
June:        786 hits
July:         1,017 hits
total:        9,143 hits
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