Exploring Cobra


As with the other animals, understanding cobra requires serious exploration into new arenas of conceptual motion, then incorporating understandings gained into one’s own physical movement.

Previously ( http://www.ironcrane.com/html/animf.htm) , we summarized the profile characteristics of the cobra. In the extract below, we provide a synopsis of what can be found elsewhere on the site.

The Cobra 


Ever hear the expression "snake charmer?" Can you recall having seen cartoons where the semi-naked man with the turban is blowing his flute in front of a cobra, becharming it into passivity?


If a would be predator stumbles across a cobra in the wild, roles might well be reversed. The cobra reaches out to the  mind of the intruder, numbs its attention, and holds it motionless and unresponsive while cobra prepares its attack.


Complimenting its innate ability to captivate, cobra possesses lightning reflexes, and characteristically, can strike out at any target, at any time.


Early in our martial studies, the most admired full contact fighter was Bill "Superfoot" Wallace. Reportedly, Wallace had injured his right leg earlier in his career, and to compensate, had spent years perfecting the body mechanics of his left leg. Consequently, when squaring off against opponents, everyone knew when he kicked the attack would almost certainly come from the left leg. So, picture the opponent standing across from Wallace in the ring, knowing Wallace is a kicker, knowing he has to kick with the left leg, and knowing as Wallace begins to close the gap, he is setting up the kick. Knowing everything there is to know, how is it still possible for Wallace to pick up his foot, and drive a side kick into the opponent's mid section?


The answer to that question lies in the mind of the cobra!


The cobra also signifies "reckless abandon." As the cobra rises in front of an opponent, it is disadvantaged in size and maneuverability. Its attitude is stillness. If it fails, its soft body is easily broken by even the slightest adversary. Hence, "reckless abandon." The cobra attacks with certainty. There is no margin for error.

Now we’re going to take a closer look at the physical side of cobra, exploring how its coiling and winding motions can be learned, and showing how they inspire a family of techniques which belong in every martial artist’s tool chest.

In Taiji Chuan, the term Pan(2) Xi(1) refers to coil-suction, a way of sticking and adhering to part of an opponent’s body. To that we might add, negating or dissolving an opponent’s strength by evaporating it through an array of spirals, curves, and off angle movements.

Some Basic Drills to Develop Familiarity

First, let s focus briefly on developing the requisite movements in our upper extremities.

Fundamentally, the power in cobra lies in several geometric shapes:

    1. The Circle

    2. The Curly Q (Visualize that as a figure "8" with either the top or bottom removed from the eight. Strictly our definition.)

    3. The Figure "8"; and

    4. The Spiral

The circle can be horizontal or vertical in its orientation, or anywhere in between, it can envelop your entire body, or it can spin at the end of a fingertip.

The Figure "8" can likewise move in virtually all planes, be they large or small, obvious or concealed. Once mastered, the Figure "8" is the Howitzer Cannon of soft styles. With skill, a cobra stylist using figure eights can leave Paul Bunyan types spinning helplessly in circles, completely unable to get grounded and take advantage of their power. Finally, when the trigger is pulled, all of the power (plus some) is returned to the attacker, only now accelerated through the slingshot dynamic inherent in the figure "8."

The Curly Q and circle are fallback positions. When a Figure "8" can’t be fully actualized, the internal strategist will fall back to a Curly Q, and then to a circle.

The Spiral is for all practical purposes a Figure "8", or a Curly Q, or a circle, applied into a three dimensional configuration. For those of you who wish to explore further, there are many internal energy texts which outline the flow of Chi in the body, and show through graphical models how it moves about in spiral like patterns up and down our body trunk and extremities. This energy is not your typical bio-mechanical, muscle/and speed driven power. According to sources, the Qi is moved by your conscious intent, and manifests explosively as Jin, emerging from stillness. Masters have demonstrated this energy, sending attackers flying away, barely moving as they do so. Numerous videos can be found on YouTube which will show this better than my words. Again, for purposes of your own research, spiral movement, once you have become sensitized to its delicate nuances, can literally be felt to flow about on the exterior of the body, and at more advanced stages, coalesces into what has been referred to as Iron Shirt .

Cutting to the quick. You can take this path as far into complexity and research as you wish.

But for right now, here’s the basic drill, demonstrated by myself:

Cobra Inside Fanning Technique


This is the inside fanning move, shown in its long, medium and short forms, and demonstrated using varying flows. Start with the long move, using your whole body, and a broad movement with your upper extremities, first your right arm, then your left. Note how your body, on its own, supports and reinforces the geometric pattern of your moving arm.

Remember, we said above that a skilled artist could execute a Circle, Curly Q or Figure "8" in any plane, making it large enough to envelop the body, or small enough to spin on a fingertip. That should be part of your thinking and practice from the very earliest stages.

Once you have a degree of comfort with the above motion, try reducing its scope a bit, and have a go at the mid range and short moves.

Cobra Outside Fanning Technique


Now, view the outside fanning moves. Approach them the same as the inside moves, start with the long, then work (over time) to the mid range and short. Then, try to vary the flow, and when you become even more confident, combine inside and outside flows and work them over multiple levels spontaneously.

Until your arms and ligaments have learned to relaxed, the mid range and short moves will prove to be much more challenging than the long. Realistically, you ll need to work these concepts 6-12 months before they become completely comfortable.



Once you ve done your homework, you’ll be ready for some experimentation with actual applications.

In the following video, I’ve compiled eight examples showing how cobra movement can bring new life and energy to your self defense lexicon, in this case, demonstrating 8 Essential Disarms against incoming stick attacks.

Cobra Applied to Stick Fighting


Like everything else, these concepts will take time and practice before they become part of your personal repertoire. Once mastered, they will show up everywhere, and add tremendous scope to your fundamental movement and flow.

Be sure to tell them who learned ya!

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