to discuss two kata. Though different, they exist
intimately related. We will think of the first as the
"actual" form, that which others can witness on the
visual plane, as it is executed. The second will be the
"shadow" form, representing what is inside the
performer, not necessarily evident on the visual plane.
"Actual" and "shadow"
represent general tags, categorizing the underlying
form. The "actual" form can be any kata, just as the
"shadow" can be any shadow. For every "actual", there is
a corresponding "shadow." Think of yang vs. yin,
external vs. internal, action vs. spirit, manifestation
vs. void. That's it! Now you're getting it.
consideration, we will designate Hooking Fist as
the "actual" form. Hooking Fist was created by Sifu
Allen Abad for his 5th Degree Kenpo
(Kajukenpo) test (he is now an 8th Dan). It
was actually compiled for his own teacher, Master James
Ibrao. Per Sifu Abad, it is based on the Hung Gar
tradition, and is intentionally simple and easy to
learn, preparing the student for the related Tiger and
Crane forms. Professor Abad shared it at the first
Gathering of the Eagles (February 1999 in Las Vegas),
and encouraged that it be further shared and
incorporated into interested systems. In part, that's
what we're doing here. For our purposes, Hooking Fist
incorporates complex dynamic movement, over a structure
of breathing oriented around the "chi belt", in a
context which works balance, strength, limberness and
dexterity, in a controlled format. All that, and a
typical student can learn it in an hour (That's how long
it took Professor Abad to teach it).
That said, let's have a
look at the form.
Teaching "shadow" form
became necessary when I observed students working on
their "actual" forms, but moving in a fashion that was
completely "external". In a way, it's like taking the
cart to the market and leaving the horse at home. Or you
might think of it as breathing, but breathing at the
chest only, and not involving one point. They were
acting out the form, and doing it quite convincingly,
but their energy, and root could not compare to my own.
If I instructed for them to observe me closely, and
incorporate what I was doing into their own execution,
they would become even more external, simply doing it
harder, amping up their energy investment. Of course
that didn't solve the problem, it left them out of
breath and tired.
The objective was for my
students to feel and move exactly as I did...not as they
"saw" me doing. I realized the only right way to
accomplish this was to create a duality where they could
see both possibilities, and understand the distinction.
That ultimately led to the concept of "shadow" form.
Shadow Form represents the essential nature and
underlying flow of the Actual Form.
If you've read the Tao De
Ching, you'll be acquainted with the concept of void or
formlessness. In Tai Chi Chuan, formlessness actualizes
into movement as Yin & Yang, and from the subsequent
iterations of movement, birth is given to the ten
thousand (all things). The Shadow Form is not the void,
or formlessness. You might think of it as the Tai Chi of
the Actual Kata, the underlying core movement and flow,
and breath of what is being manifest. It emerges from
the void, as a transient form, but it could be what you
will. When I perform the Shadow Form, I prepare by
contemplating Cheng Man Ching's rules for practicing Tai
Chi. More simple and to the point are Koichi Tohei's
guidelines for KI development (Principles for
integrating mind and body):
1. Keep the One Point;
2. Relax Completely;
3. Keep the Weight Underside;
Try it. That's
it...you've got the idea. Remember, accomplishing any of
the four guidelines, means that all are accomplished;
failing any of the four, means that all are failed.
Now, let's take a look
at the Shadow Form.
As you can tell, the
Shadow Form parallels the movement of Hooking Fist from
start to finish. Notice its effortlessness. Still, the
energy is there. Can you see the points of distinction
between the forms? Can you confirm one is contained
within the other? That's a start! Now look even closer,
if your browser allows, run them both concurrently. What
do you see? Where is the real action taking place? Which
one is Yang? Which one is Yin?
Really Grasshopper??? Hop
along now...enough work for one day!