Monday, August 11, 2014

The most neglected tai chi method - Kuo

The tai-chi eight methods are: Peng (棚),  Luo (捋), Ji (擠), An (按), Cai (採), Lie (挒), Zhou (肘), and Kao (靠).  In tai chi pushing hands drills, usually the first four methods are trained. Kao (literally means leaning on) sometimes has been interpreted in tai chi books at "strike with the shoulder" which confuses rather than elucidates things. In DaLui (大捋) "friendly" pushing hands, where the four other methods are supposed to be taught, the force of Kao ("like" striking with the shoulder) is not actually executed but rather evaded by one's partner.

Question number one: what is Kao? Question number two: How to train kao (for combat purpose)?

Let me tackle the second question first. What I was a kid, I saw isolated people striking their bodies against trees. My father told me "they are training kao". Nowadays I don't see people practicing that way any where in HK. Perhaps some practice it behind closed door, I don't know. In the literature, I see a Wu-style master called Li Liqun 李立群 wrote about it, in details, in one of his many Wu-style tai chi books (Li teaches in USA). In his photos, he demonstrated his ability of bouncing people away using his back, shoulder, body side, all through activating his whole body momentum. Whole body power-externalization or fa jing 发劲. Impressive.

Now the first question: what is Kao? Kao is fundamentally a way of charging your body (shoulder, back, body side, and sometimes forehead too) at your opponent. The objective is either to tackle him down (like BJJ) or to bounce him away (like Sumo), as far as combat is concerned.

Kao is an important combat technique supplementing the seven other techniques of the tai chi eight methods.

Although tai chi is nowadays practiced mostly as a mind-body exercise, an understanding of its martial art origin can make the art more interesting and meaningful for a practitioner. Needless to say, a vigorous training on Kao (like the Li's way of striking one's body against a tree) is not needed (nor recommended) for mind-body exercise.

Kao in Sumo

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