An Approach to Training the Form

by Dean Cudmore

Corresponding to the emphasis within the respective relaxing exercises the same points are focussed on in the Form practise.


Form Practise
During year one external accuracies sufficient to provide a smooth flow of weight transfer and a good sense of upright alignment are paramount. 


Year two, with confidence in the sequence and alignment  requiring less attention, sinking can be incorporated (albeit more easily in movements with static foot positions such as the form opening and grasp the sparrows tail; ward-off, roll-back, press and push). 


Year three we begin directing the sinking into substantial foot with and without the weight transferring, thereby cross-aligning to the associated arm or hand, minimising the external bouncing of body height (a slightly lower and flatter form now that the hips permit).


Come the fourth year the previous almost total emphasis on the base needs to be combined with the simultaneous changes that need to take place in the upper body. Particularly the upper circle "opening" and "closing" (most simply evident as the space between the torso and arms). Until then it is common to just have been lifting and holding the arms. 


At this stage there is another layer considered from the lessons of the number 2 exercise. Opening and closing can each be produced during both the compressing and rebounding of the base. Beforehand we usually have just co-ordinated the closing with the releasing and the opening with the expansion from the base. Grandmaster Huang's system requires that we are not so restricted and therefore also develop the ability to open while releasing and close while rebounding (particularly important when issuing). This is also the role of the overlapping of the cycles in the number 5 exercise. Incorporating the vertical circles into every movement in the form also starts around year 5. 


Teaching Rate
The rate that we first introduce the Form is approximately one section every twelve weeks which represents a fee term. Each class includes going through the Form as far as learnt then revising the previous classes posture with more of a focus on the  details of the upper body positions. Next we introduce the following movement detailing the stepping, turning and orientation but only outlining the arms and hands. 


Essentially this means that every movement and posture is taught twice and therefore it is possible for a student to miss one week and still maintain continuity. To round off the briefer sections to twelve weeks, we have revision nights going over areas that are obviously sketchy, and responding to requests from the students. 


All of this is just a guide as to what we do. None of it as fixed and shouldn't be. How the approach gets applied, is entirely up to the teacher.


NOTE: Avoid Lifting
"Lifting" means to be hoisted from above such as an elevator or crane, whereas "raising" is the extension or growth from below, as in bread. Grandmaster Huang specifically criticized shoulder lifting (which is produced by the concentric contraction of the trapezius muscles, such as in a shrug), because of it being an independent movement rather than a connected one. Whereas the arms should be raised as a consequence of opening from the centre (a process best illustrated by the analogy of opening an umbrella with the stem relating to our central axis).