Spear Tutorial #4: The Big Ghost


 Resources:
Yang Tai Chi Spear  (VCD)
Xing Yi Spear from Sun Lu Tang (DVD)
Wu Tai Chi Spear and Staff (VCD)
Bagua Double-Headed Spear (DVD)
Shaolin 13 Movement Spear (DVD)
Xin Yi  Liu He Spear (DVD)

Transcript:

OK, I am going to start building on something you should already know. But don’t worry, we’ll review first. If you saw the first lesson on the spear I introduced a three-part movement called Ghost Shakes Body. It consisted of a lean back with a low block, a fighting horse with an upward circle and a thrust while shifting into a bow and arrow stance. As I said, or think I said, this was one of the best basics exercises you can do with the spear. You might want to go to that lesson a check it out but like I said we’ll repeat it here.

This is a variation of the same exercise which I call BIG GHOST to differentiate from the classic name Ghost Shapes Body. Basically you are doing the same things but scaling up a bit. In this version you lift the right hand almost to the upward block position up by the right eyebrow instead of near the right ear. Then you close down to the fighting stance, right hand cocked at hip. The final sper thrust is pretty much the same as it was with the standard Ghost. The big opening move is obviously different than bringing your hand to your ear. And because of it, the closing is also a little more exaggerated. In this video I got a little carried away and brought the spear tip down almost to parallel which is a no-no, in the guard stance it should be kept in line with the height of your nose. But you get the idea.

Large Opening, big closing then thrust: that’s the sequence. This is also the first time I introduce the proper breathing for the spear training. As you lift—inhale. In this example imagine the right side of your torso opening, right lung more than the left. As you close the torso, your intent is to try and pack the breath in the body. When you thrust the spear ALLOW the breath come out in an exhalation. Don’t force the breath to exit. You are looking for the compression of the body to perfectly time with the breathing.  Imagine some machine outside you controlling your torso enough to make breathing passive. Take it slow and do a few thousand of these actions. The sequence doubles up on as a Nei Gong make so make sure you repeat on both sides.

Now that you have two versions of the Ghost Shakes Body move.  We can use these to learn to travel with the spear. I’m going to give you two ways to do this, one for each variation of Ghost. The first one is with a REAR crossover and the second with a FRONT crossover. All you will have to do is cross behind or in front and then step out. You just add the Ghost arm moves as you go. The rear crossover uses the BIG Ghost. We’ll start with that. So, from your left lead guard stance, cross behind with your right foot. As you do that fully open to the upward lift position.

Next step out into a fighting stance with the left foot forward like it was when you started. Bring the spear down to the cocked position. As you add the arm motions you can of course incorporate the breathing exercise but I would wait until you have made sure you have a grasp of the traveling footwork.

The third move is to thrust the spear that is pretty much the same as all the other thrusts. Reset yourself into the guard position and immediately repeat the walking exercise. If you look closely you are going to see that there is a very definite difference in the first move compared to the stationery version. When you roll up the spear you should actually reach over and behind your head, especially if you are assuming this is a blocking action. Bring the spear over to the edge of the left side of your skull about where your left ear is. This is a fairly weird and difficult way to guard the so-called “little door” which is to say the left side of the body leading to the back. Admittedly there isn’t much structure or power in this block. What you ARE doing is defining your perimeter, the essence of defensive action. Since it is such an unusual angle, make sure you avoid neck strain by reducing the power

Next. The standard—I can’t say “normal” about a ghost—Ghost Shakes Body uses the FRONT CROSSOVER. So this time cross in FRONT with the right leg while rotating the spear butt toward the right ear. You will definitely feel some torque here. Step with the left foot toward the front as you close to the guard position. Then Thrust as you would with any of the Ghost exercises. You will probably find this version of the walk much easier, especially if you practiced the stationery version introduced earlier. I think I’m dropping the tip too much and, as I said before, you don’t want the shaft of the spear parallel to the floor in a defensive posture. But it might be the camera angle, too. Keep the front crossover with the standard Ghost separated in your mind from the REAR crossover with the BIG one because each stepping pattern compliments each arm sequence. You can mix the arms and legs but it is not comfortable at first and there is even some contradictory movement.

Breathe in, hold and thrust. Walking this way is meant to minimize you as a target. As you improve you can practice variations such as alternating the front and rear crossover patterns: a  sort of grapevine footwork. When you practice  with the spear, remember to take everything slow enough that you are sure whatever action you are practicing has made its way all through the body to the end of the spear. Keep your eye on the tassel to at least confirm that the energy is reaching the tip. The spear is SIMILAR to the staff and in some ways they can be interchanged but  it is also NOT like the staff in many ways. The torso workings are different The Big Ghost uses large torso movements, for the spear, but practicing it will make the smaller moves that come later even more profound.

 

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