I am putting together my 8th Kindle ebook this week on the Cheng style Bagua 8 Main Palms Form. In working with more than 300 photos for the ebook, a couple of effective techniques have become very obvious for giving myself feedback on my own movement and posture.
Videotaping yourself is one of the best ways of seeing yourself as you are actually performing the movements. We all think we look like Chen Xiaowang or Jet Li when we are doing our forms and techniques. More often than not, we more closely resemble Jim Carrey.
I recommend shooting video as you are performing a form at fast speed, then perform it at a slower pace. Both times, be as specific as you can on precision, power, and body mechanics. Then watch the video. Run it normally and then in slo-mo if you can. Ask yourself if your structure is sound, if your stances and stepping is right, if the timing of your hand movements is right -- there are a dozen things you could look for. Are you looking in the right place? Are you maintaining peng or does your structure look empty? Does your power and timing look the same when doing the movements at fast and slow speeds?
In the first photo above of "Push the Mountain," I want to see that my arm is extended out with good peng jin but the arm should not be "locked." And the hand extending downward should have good peng. Both arms should have intent. I should be in the right kua and hips should be level. My upper body should be relaxed but straight, not bent over or leaning. The hips should be tucked underneath, not jutting out.
The second valuable technique, as demonstrated here, is to freeze-frame photos of each movement. In doing my e-books, I like to go into extreme depth on frame-by-frame instruction. You know how some martial arts instructional books go from one movement to the next without showing the "transitions" clearly? I like to show a stop-action series of photos that would serve as a movie if you can flip through them fast enough.
In fact, I do that with my Kindle ebooks when I have written one. I forward quickly from page to page and see if the photos flow like a video or movie.
In the photo at left with the kick, I look to see if the line of the leg is right and if the arms are extending the hands in line with the leg.
I learn a lot about what I have to improve by watching my own videos, but I learn even more by freeze-framing the photos.
In freeze-framing your form, you can look very clearly at posture, structure, timing, stances, and more. Depending on your art, there may be different things to critique.
You should not rely on your teacher to make corrections. You should do your own corrections. But there is one more thing you need -- the ability to be honest with yourself, set your ego aside and look with critical eyes. If you can't see when you are doing a movement wrong, there is little hope of developing as well as you can. So get out those camcorders or fire up your smartphone and have someone shoot the video while you perform, then look for things you can do better.
The next step is to practice those weak spots.
In doing this ebook, which should be in the Kindle Store on Amazon.com by Tuesday, January 7, 2014, I have spotted a couple of things in my own Bagua that I need to improve. That's right. We all have things to work on.