Some readers might notice a tab with the name Tong Lian Bookshop. This is a page that is dedicated to what I would regard as a long time icon on the Singapore martial arts scene.
The rise of the internet and a decline in readers has impacted the business of Tong Lian and I fear that it may one day become but a memory.
I am not trying to write a history on Tong Lian and its founder Mr Loh. However, if I can gather enough information I will add on to the page.
I don’t know about others but I personally owe the late Mr Loh a debt of gratitude because he was the one who introduced me to learn Dong style Taijiquan. Even though he was a capable and recognized Dong style teacher he recommended me to learn from the disciple of Tung Hulin instead and for giving me that start I am forever in his debt.
So if any readers have any information, anecdote, story or a photo to share of Tong Lian please email me.
Going to have a break from middle till end of the week re-calibrating my taste buds in Ipoh.
There’s not much info on the episodes of Artisans Reboot except here. But if its anything like the previous series Kung Fu Kitchen there would be things that we can learn from.
My student asked me about Pok Khek Kuen this week. He thought that a training sequence I taught him previously was PKK. I said I created this sequence so that students can have a reference to learn about striking. If I were to teach PKK the learning may not be as straightforward.
PKK is very easy to learn in that I can teach all the techniques in one hour. However, to gain basic competency at least to the level where one can enter a tournament would require 6-12 months of daily training.
But if one wants to use PKK in the manner that my teacher showed me then one can expect to put in a few years training. This sounds like an exaggeration so I showed my student the first basic moving stance that we learned. I said that my teacher had to spend 3 months to practice it before being allowed to learn how to punch.
The stance didn’t look like much. It can be easily imitated.
But trying moving in a simple, efficient and precise manner whilst being able to move through the array of techniques with speed and power and it would be obvious why this stance is easy to learn but not as easy to master.
To learn traditional martial arts properly one must adopt an artisan mindset. What does this mean? The film Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a good illustration of what being an artisan means.
Artisans Reboot is a good series to reminds us of the meaning of kung fu especially in today’s world where everyone wants instant satisfaction and fulfillment. If you want to learn Taiji properly you can’t rush the learning. Every step has its place. Even in a style as simple as PKK it is only after more than a decade that I start to understand and appreciate better how the different parts of the art come together.
Noodles braided. Check.
Next up – putting the noodles out to sun.
One pole holding the braided noodles is stuck into the sunning stand. The pole is held in both hands and the apprentice had to then stretch and elongate the noodles to make them thin. This process requires the apprentice to hold the pole horizontally in front of her body and do a waving motion a few times until the noodles are stretched to the required thickness.
The waving motion is in some ways reminiscent of the to / fro stance movement from 0:30-0:40 in this clip.
Again as with peeling the dough, one cannot use too much strength in the waving motion because this would cause the noodles to break and be messy in the way they are stretched out. This was obvious when the master asked the apprentice to look at how her work turned out when compared to his.
The waving motion seems to me to be a blend of hard and soft in that strength is required to stretch the noodles but subtle strength is required in order not to break the strands of noodles.
That was the word the master used when trying to explain how to braid the noodles properly.
After forming the noodles into strands into a pot the next process was to prepare the noodles for the drying process by wrapping them around two short sticks.
This sounds simple but to braid the strands one has to first wrap them closely and secondly knead the strand between the palms as the strand is being braided. When the apprentice did it the master said that she was too slow. The master demonstrated how to do it quickly and said that one has to dance (I forgot the exact way he said it).
When the master did the “dance” his hands moved really quickly and in a tight manner as if doing a few martial arts hand techniques fast and continuously. What was more interesting was how his body would move along. I won’t try to describe it. Its one of those things better seen than described.
If you were to do a southern white crane form in a fast and continuous manner it would be very similar to this braiding noodle “dance”. It kind of reminds me of the movement at 0:31 with the shoulders turning in this clip.
After the dough is kneaded it has to be flattened by hand, cut into strips and the strips kneaded into rounded strands. These strands are then placed into a pot in a circular manner.
The master said that the strands had to be stacked tightly so that it would not collapsed on top of each other. The master demonstrated how they would do it fast and continuously as if their hands were a machine.
The apprentice tried it and the stacked strands collapsed.
The master said that it is important that there be no space between the strands.
This reminded me of how in some parts of our Taiji practice we would come real close and eat up our partner’s space so that he cannot move into our space but instead is forced to move around us, slowing him down and exposing himself as a target in the process.
The second thing this reminded me of is that if you have too much space in your posture during push hands your partner could jam himself into your empty space and cause your posture to weaken and collapse, in the process also causing you to lose your balance.
After kneading the apprentice had to peel the dough off the pot. She tried and nearly broke off a piece of the dough instead of peeling the dough off as a unit.
The master demonstrated the right way to do it. The dough nearly peeled off as an entire piece and the master’s hands seemed to be able to handle the dough in a firm yet soft manner.
It looks as if the trick is to grasp the dough firmly without excessive finger strength, feel it and then decisively peel it. It is probably easier said than done but this was how it looked like to me because it reminded me of what we do in our Taiji to demonstrate the uprooting skill part of Play Pipa.
In Play Pipa if you just try to use strength to pull your partner off balance you will have a hard time doing so. Even if you use speed to try to stay one step ahead of your partner’s response it may not always work as he could still react fast enough to resist and thwart your plan.
The trick to overcoming your partner’s resistance is to use your body as a unified whole then use it to lever your partner’s root off the ground. In this way his entire body will be peeled off the ground, just like the way the mee sua master peeled the dough off.