TCMA: Patty Cake Drills
I recently had to relocate my martial arts class. Our quick motions with our feet were too hard on the floor. I have worked out on laminate before, but this time the floor was truly only chosen for its ability to withstand yoga and nothing more. I called another place in town and was taken in with open arms - I try to have good relationships with everyone I meet for exactly these cases. I also like to leave on good terms and I will still run my community qigong and acupuncture sessions out of the yoga studio.
The owner of the new space asked me what I would be teaching. "Kung-Fu," I replied. She burst out laughing, quite loudly I might add, on the phone. "Come watch a class," I challenged her. "Oh, I will definitely check out your class," she trailed off. I can't blame her. When I think of Kung-Fu, I picture flying monks, flowery poses and solo air drills. Heck, I learned a lot of solo air drills and gentle patty-cake-style partner drills in my years of study.
When I had been practicing Chinese Kung-Fu for over 10 years, I began Chinese medicine college. In my second year of school I met a couple of fellow acupuncture students who had been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. One of these guys had his blue belt, which is considered only his first belt in a series up to black. They had asked me to spar and invited me over to their place where the basement was filled with Hatashita mats.
Quickly I was dismantled, hit and submitted. Quickly, I threw my solo air and patty-cake drills to the side and began asking the hard question, "If I am going to continue in Kung-Fu, how am I going to make it work in a sparring situation?" My teacher at the time couldn't help me. His advice was that a closed-minded person. "Wing Chun doesn't spar. It's for self-defence," he would say.
Fast-forward many years later. I've had some experience getting choked and getting punched in the face - and I'm still doing Kung-Fu. In fact, as I enter my 24th year in Chinese martial arts I have gone back to those solo air and patty-cake drills. I can now see their worth - in training specific attributes, in pointing a finger towards a path, in making solo training valuable.
Kung-Fu is Kung-Fu because it isn't all about punching and kicking. It is about perfecting oneself through an endeavour. It is about achieving a skill only through hard work over a long period of time (life lesson). It is about morality, camaraderie and Wu Wei.
The people who have been in martial arts for a long time all say the same thing, 'Sparring is important. You need to do it. But get out early enough before you do too much damage to yourself.' Solo, patty-cake, and Chi Sau drills are made for a longevity lifestyle. Their value may perhaps only be seen after the dust has settled from sparring, or through a practitioner who has been there...at least this is my goal when I share what I know.