5 Best Martial Arts Moves for Simple Solo Practice
1. Teacups - Spiral Movement / Line marries Circle = Spiral
2. Comtech Djuru Basics / Rolling and Walking
3. Cranes Beak & Tigers Claw Breathing / Duality
4. Grand Terminus Standing Pole (Tai Chi)
5. Tai Chi Walking / Moving Meditation
The Mission: In this installment we will be looking at five easy-to-do martial arts methods to discover a sense of flow, well being and balance. You can do all five or you can simply do one. The choice is always yours. No doubt one or two will appeal more to you than the others. If so, do those and leave the others alone. This too is a type of flow, it is flow in choosing well for what suits you. It is flow in knowing your own mind and purposes. A "self-sensei" logic plan. I will attempt to provide a link to each exercise to help fill in the gaps this article may contain. But you are the ultimate seeker of the path you desire. So your own research is vital in the acquisition of these simple but magnificent drills. All of these methods can be done solo. And as in many martial arts methods there are also versions of these same drills that are done with a partner. Once you get the basics behind these forms the road widens out and you can advance with confidence to your next goal(s) all the better for the time you spent on these. OK, let's get to the first one on our list known as "Teacup" exercise. This is one that every martial artist should know and know well!
1. TEACUPS: When the line meets the circle they make a spiral
The teacup exercises are a grouping of spiralling actions that are done forward and backwards with the upper body. The exercises can be done stationary or as a movement set. When doing Teacups incorporate your body (trunk) into the actions. Lean forwards and lean slightly backwards as you gently roll through these moves. The so-called "moves" are the spirals. If you actually use a dixie cup about half full of water you'll get the idea of why the Teacup drills are so challenging. Not only are they useful in grasping combative secrets they contain, but more so as a healthy means of gentle exercise that has a myriad of positive effects. There is a saying that goes like this: "Everything is contained within the teacup exercise". Yes, that is a big statement, some may argue that this could not be. But over the years of training I too have come to understand that this saying does indeed bear a kernel of truth within it. To those people who practice the eight Comtech Djuru sets I always recommend that they learn the teacup methods as a dynamic coefficient to the Djurus.
2. Comtech Djuru Basics: Circular, graceful arcs of control
The Comtech Juru's are simple in scope yet they carry a sophisticated payload once grasped or realized. As with teacups the Djuru's are based upon the spiral. The actions of spirals and circles tend to disolve the adversary's energy as they attack. For health purposes the gentle circling motions that the Djuru's teach us is a soothing dance of simple, yet profound consequence. As a solo means of practice they can be done anywhere. The articulations of the hands, arms and body is unique and beautiful. Being graceful is part of a fighters art too. An awkward fighter is usually not a very good fighter. The Comtech Djuru are an ideal match for the upcoming #5 exercise of Tai Chi walking. Combine the upper body actions of the Djuru sets with the Tai Chi method of walking and you have a grand example of modern hybrid martial arts at it's best!
3. Cranes Beak and Tigers Claw Breathing: Yin and yang hand exchanges
The two motions that this exercise employs are done on both the vertical and horizontal planes. The actions strengthen the forearms and core. The wrist joints are also exercised and developed. The chest cavity is expanded and rib cage is brought back into proper position. Tiger-Crane methods are well documented. Both internal styles and external styles of martial arts employ this exercise. Some are quite complicated and intricate in nature. Others such as this one I share with you are relativly simple and provide sound benefits for the few hours spent doing them. This particular one is also said to help the production of chi and bring that chi to the limbs and upper body. You may do this slow and easy with little or no strain. Or conversely you can do these movements with tension and strength. I recommend the slow version at least to start out with.
The curved wrist position of the "birds head" or crane beak is done as your hands rise. The tigers claws or open palm position is done as your hands descend. In the rising element do allow the hands to go above the eyebrows. In the lowering element do not lower the palms below the beltline (waist). The elbows will maintain a slight curvature (bowed) as you make these, the arm is never fully straightened.
4. Grand Terminus Standing Like a Post: The root - the earth - the energy
In the art of Tai Chi Chuan there are many exercises to learn. Nothing good ever comes too easy, in Tai Chi Chuan the time spent in training is vast. Such long term training is necessary if you are to find the magic that lies within the center of this art. Since many of us are time constrained we cannot devote excessive time to the pusuit of our martial arts goals. That is why simple methods like these I am sharing with you helps us to maintain our interest and foundations of skill. This exercise is about as physically simple as it gets. You simple stand upright, arms bowed, head top floating and feet rooting. Visualization of the flow of energy that you are attempting to conduct through your body is a vital aspect in making this exercise pay off in relaxed, focused intent. Standing meditation sometimes takes some time to get used to. Nervous, bored or angry people will not see the value of this wu-wei kind of method to accomplishing things. In today's world so much comes from the aspect of "activity" and this of course runs counter to that as you do little else other than stand still. The real action is going on inside via breathing and visualization. The saying of: "Do not mistake activity for accomplishment" is true in this case. While we seemingly do little without physical motions galore, we are actually doing a lot through our stillness and the power of silence. Give it time, give yourself time and keep learning about this because one day you will value it for what it does beyond the physical
5. Tai Chi Walking / Toe out w/ Gentle Grace
Tai Chi Chuan again is our reference and entry portal to "Tai Chi Walking". So easy and fun to do that this one may well become a favorite of yours. I personally enjoy this one and work on it quite often in the course of a normal day. Normally such a gait is done slowly and that is how you should begin working on it. But as time passes you can then speed things up some to the level you wish. This means of walking can be done in a slight rocking manner if you so desire. It adds a timing element that helps slow things down to where you can really see and feel the effects you seek. Start on even ground, as you become better at the Tai Chi walk move on the rougher terrain. Keep your posture adjusted, head upright and gaze forward in the peripheal way (the thousand yard stare). Initially just let your arms do what is natural. At some point you may add some hand or arm articulations. As I listed above you may want to add the Djuru's or teacups and blend them in with Tai Chi walking. Rememebr make it all happen together as a unit, this is not just walking, a leg thing. It is in fact a total body-mind thing. Breathe slowly and keep your body light, allow your spirit to guide you to this chi-kung like lightness of being. Tai Chi walking is a refreshing means to turn a bad day into a good one. It only takes a mere five to ten minutes of tai chi walking with intention to feel the positive effects this method brings to you. Done in the city it is good, done out in nature (park, camping) is even better!
Conclusion: Well my friend's there ya have it. I have tried to keep it as simple as I could. I am hoping this was enough to stimulate you into further study of these exercises. Many people say they have no one to train with. And sadly enough it is more than likely a true statement. That is why I spent the time composing this. To assist those people who are going solo, training stag and learning at home. Each of these five methods can offer you some truly valuable and unique insights into the fighting arts and wellness arts that we enjoy so much. I appreciate you reading my scribblings. I hope they somehow help, motivate or educate you in the good way. Ultimately you are the Captain of your ship and master of your fate, so it is for us all. Good training, good things and happiness to each and every one of you!
James A. Keating, Late August 2015