This Sunday, I had the opportunity to invite a good friend of our club in for a special class. Sifu Mike Grigsby of the OSU Shuai Chiao club once again volunteered his time to work with us on a foundational kung fu set: 12 Road Tan Tui (Dham Toi Sip E Ro.) Of the 12, we worked on 1-5, having covered 1-3 in a previous session. As a fan of Tan Tui, I was very pleased to see my students smile as they so openly attempted movements that were at once similar and different from their normal routine. It was also fun to watch people scratch their head at Road 4.
Tan Tui, a set of 12 basic movements, is a cornerstone of many northern Chinese styles, and has deep roots within the Hui people and Islamic martial arts. Techniques such as Hwakuk Jang Kap Kwon Kyong Kyuk (yoke fist) are signature movements of these ancient arts. However, the basic purpose of Tan Tui is to build a strong foundation with leg strength and hip rotation. Its large frame movements also lend themselves well to creating relaxed, whipping movements for practicing fluidity.
Tan Tui, which roughly translates to "Springing Legs" is beneficial as a leg workout. Multiple stances are tested, and the ability to transition smoothly from one to another is the true test of skill.
When you practice these movements properly, you begin to get a feel for how the theory behind the techniques greatly affected Doju Nim Hwang Kee's interpretation of Karate. Taking the static pictures from books and working with other martial artists, he synthesized the hyung in ways that were quite unique from how they had evolved in Okinawa and Japan. It also makes you wonder what his first foray into martial arts, "hwa soo do", was like.
I also appreciate Tan Tui for its differences. To see a technique performed differently that what you are usually exposed to, it gives you a unique opportunity to consider what it is you do and why you do it in that manner.
Finally, I enjoyed having someone else teaching class for the benefit of showing my students that there are other instructors out there who share my standards and ideas. Maybe it makes me feel a little less crazy, and a touch vindicated as well. For my students, they get to hear the same lesson from a different angle, and perhaps a few will now more easily absorb the lesson.
Many instructors would cringe at the thought of allowing someone from another style, with more experience, to teach their class for a day. In the end, I like to think that my students recognize that I'm extremely selective about who I allow to influence their training and that appreciate my selective judgment.
Author's Note (6/26/08): Judging by my statistics, this article generates a great deal of traffic to my blog. I'm curious as to what people are looking for, and if I've helped them at all. Please leave a comment if you feel so inclined. Thanks!