Archive for Sifu Sam Chin

Exercise For Projecting Force | Kuo

Posted in I-Liq Chuan, Internal Arts, Training, Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2012 by mindbodykungfu

One of the things that I find painful to observe when I go to the gym is watching people do squats.  It’s a basic movement that gets butchered since our sedentary lifestyles have made us forget how to move from the hips.  Instead, what happens when people squat is mostly poorly coordinated movements starting from the knees.  Rather than try to explain this in text, I find that Kelly Starrett’s video post about squatting is easier to visualize:

So, what does this have to do with projecting force?

Well, joint sequencing in a squat movement has direct carryover to projecting force.  One thing I often notice with people first learning absorb-project is that the hip-knee coordination is off.  The knees drift forward first, followed by the hips drifting forward, and ultimately resulting in a forward lean with the weight on the toes.  Starting the movement from the knees moves the knee into a suboptimal angle for bearing force, which in turn puts unnecessary shear stress on the knee and shifts most of the movement load to the quadriceps.  There is also a tendency to lose suction on the kua when initiating from the knees.  This manifests as the front of the body opening up and the mingmen closing; consequently, the shoulders move backwards as the body is moving forward, which is an inefficient movement pattern for projecting force forward.  Projecting by initiating with forward knee movement results in movement that is off-balance, not harmonized, skewed towards a yang-only energy, and stresses the knees more than necessary.

 If we stick to I-Liq Chuan principles

…and project and expand from the mingmen to initiate the movement, we get joint sequencing more like a proper squat.  The mingmen and hips move back first, which keeps the knee in a better position. The aligned knee position allows axial force transfer through the joint, which minimize shear stress.  With the force moving more through the center of the knee joint instead of shearing out, the quads don’t have to work so hard counteracting knee flexion (bending) and can thus be more relaxed.  Moving from the hips first also distributes force to the strong posterior chain muscles (i.e. hamstrings and glutes) in addition to engaging the quads, so we get  harmonization of the yin and yang muscles.

Johnny Kuo

[Originally posted 3/13/12, MindBodyKungfu.Com]

Blink and The Power of Words

Posted in I-Liq Chuan, Products, Training with tags , , , , , , on January 29, 2012 by mindbodykungfu

I recently read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and found the book to be quite enjoyable. The premise of how the mind can perceive things in an instant has parallels to the mental aspects of I-Liq Chuan training. We train the mind to remain attentive to the moment such that we can truly perceive and flow with the present conditions.  One section of the book I found particularly interesting was the description of professional tasters.  Developing a highly refined sense of taste has mental training aspects of which I was unaware.  I had an interesting insight after reading Gladwell’s description of how professional tasters develop their skill.

You’d think that professional tasters are gifted with super sensitive taste buds, and to a degree that may be true. However, the extent to which a professional taster’s tongue differs from everyone else’s is probably not that big. The average person can generally tell whether they like something or not, and tell whether they think one thing tastes better than another. In this respect, the professional taster’s tongue is no different than your average Joe or Jane. However, if you put a twist on the taste test, the pros quickly separate themselves from the field of amateurs. Ask the average person why they like one thing better than another, and their answers will be all over the map and inconsistent with their actual taste preferences. The pro tasters on the other hand can tell you in excruciating detail exactly why they liked one taste more than another. In another example, if you gave the average person two of the same item and one different item and wanted the items ranked, he would have trouble differentianting which product was which. A professional taster could easily distinguish each product.

What gives the pro the advantage? First, it would be the extensive taste training (education and practice).  However, it’s not just the training that sets them apart.  We all eat and drink everyday and thus receive a fair amount of daily experience tasting things.  The other important factor would be that professional tasters learn specific vocabulary to categorize and grade different tastes. I found this fact to be utterly fascinating. By learning taste jargon, the professional tasters have a conceptual framework on which to develop their skill.  Just learning to describe tastes gives you a system for understanding flavors and really developing your attention to your tongue.

Sifu made it a point to us to pay attention to the words he used to describe the I-Liq Chuan system. Absorb-project, open-close, condense-expand, etc. all have specific meanings. Substitutions of terms are discouraged. This is a mild annoyance at first if you are used to using other terms, but there are compelling reasons to being so exact with terminology. The first I understood was that everyone learns the same terms so that discussion between practitioners is meaningful and has minimal confusion. If everyone uses a standard jargon, it is much easier for everyone to converse and improve each other’s understanding.

The other important reason didn’t dawn on me until reading Blink. Language affects your conceptualization of ideas. The vocabulary defines a conceptual framework for the system. Sifu spent a lot of time being specific with his choice of terms; that makes a lot of sense since language both defines the conceptual framework for learning the system and provides a vehicle for information exchange. The system starts you with specific vocabulary to lay the conceptual foundation for honing your skill in the art.

Johnny Kuo

[Originally Posted at MindBodyKungfu 2/11/11]


I-Liq Chuan Reflections

Posted in I-Liq Chuan, Internal Arts, Martial Arts, Styles with tags , , , , , , , on January 10, 2011 by mindbodykungfu

What originally got me interested in I-Liq Chuan (literally translated mental-physical fist) was an interaction I had with Sifu Sam F.S. Chin. When I was still in North Carolina, we invited Sifu to give a workshop introducing his family art. I touched hands with Sifu during the seminar and experienced something quite unexpected. Sifu’s touch had me jammed up. My structure was locked up, and I could not lift my feet from the ground without Sifu controlling my balance. At the same time I had this sinking feeling that releasing his touch from my arms was not a safe method of escape. It was disconcerting to be completely dominated on touch.

The skill level demonstrated got my attention, but what hooked me was the teaching approach. The first thing taught was not techniques, drills, or forms. The first thing Sifu discussed was mindfulness. The emphasis from the beginning was that martial skill was based on the mind being free to perceive what our senses are telling us. At the time, the philosophical discussion left my head throbbing and wondering how it was relevant to training a martial art. Yet, it is this very grounding in Zen thought that has been the most important lesson imparted from the training. Training one’s mental attentions develops the mind-body connection and unification of the self; it also enhances perception of the conditions of the moment, which is essential for harmonizing with an opponent.

Sifu Sam Chin*

What committed me to I-Liq Chuan was seeing skill being transmitted to the students. It is one thing to have the master who can demonstrate the skills; it’s more impressive to see students also manifesting the same skills. Sifu Chin spent a long time contemplating the best methods for teaching the art. The result of that effort is a well-defined curriculum which first lays out the philosophy, principles and concepts, and then outlines progressions of solo and partner training. By starting with the conceptual framework, the ILC system establishes a philosophical foundation to guide the training. This top-down approach (i.e. concepts before specific training) emphasizes active attention to the core principles. In this manner, the training is guided by purpose and a clear path of progression.

Though I initially started training for martial purposes, fighting ability has not been the most valued skill I’ve learned from training ILC. Rather, I value more that ILC has equipped me to develop on my own. I haven’t always had consistent access to ILC training partners. A lot of my training has involved cross-training with practitioners of other arts. Despite this, having an understanding of key principles has allowed me to continue advancing my skill in ILC. Instead of distracting me from my core art, the cross-training has served as a test of my understanding and training of principles across different contexts. ILC has provided me with a conceptual framework and mental tools to take charge of my own progress. The ability to self-reflect and self-guide my training has given me the most valuable skill: self-improvement.

Johnny Kuo

Combative Corner Profile



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* Sifu Sam Chin is the founder of I-Liq Chuan.  For more info on him and this family system, visit his page [here]

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