Discovering The Importance of The Set Up

by John Upshaw on 2018/12/02


I was having a discussion with my disciple brother Brennan Toh about what I have been working on with my long term students Gerry and Emily, with specific attention to Lie , one of the 8 techniques of Taiji.  At the North American Practical Method Training Camp last year Brennan was taking me down with this same technique, except his upper/lower body separation was crazily effective….he took out significant space from below without his top moving (his top continued to match my upper body).  This lead to him suggesting the following drill:

“One of the better drills John Dahms and I did was alternating 2 min one person only attack, the other only defend. Really good because it gives the attacker safety to try new things without fear of getting taken down.”

During our weekend class I followed up on Brennan’s suggestion on the drill.  When defending, I had them focus on adhering, listening and adjusting.  While on the offensive I said “work on the Ji and Lie drills we have been focused on…take risks”.  I noticed a pattern in Emily, when she was being defensive, she actually put herself in better position than when she was being offensive.  I instructed her to be defensive with me while doing the drill and I would be offensive, and when I said to freeze, to stop and switch to being offensive.   We did this and when she was in an advantageous position I said freeze, she switched and was able to execute a move on me with ease, whereas before she couldn’t “catch me”.  I emphasized a statement Master Chen said during the last North American Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method Training Camp, everything in the beginning is about the set up, getting into position before executing your move.  This is not verbatim, however, the principle is there.  We did this several more times. I saw both Emily and Gerry improve in their ability to get into a better position by adhering, listening and adjusting….then when opportunity presented itself, they would take the opponent’s space and/or executed  move.

Through this drill we discovered the importance in the set up.  The role between offensive and defensive is like being “not on and not off”.  This is definitely a drill we are going to continue as we worked on getting
into an optimal position….now we can take that next step in taking greater offensive risks.

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