Seishan - Part 1
By Master David Allerton (5th Dan)
“Never neglect any of the Sip Sam Seh ; the source
of the will is in the waist ; pay attention to the slightest change
from full to empty ; let energy flow through the whole body ; stillness
embodies motion, motion stillness ; Seek stillness in motion”.
This month I would like to introduce a series of technical/historical articles on Seishan. Why choose this form ? Well it is one of the oldest in existence today and to me there is something special about this hyung quite apart from it’s significance in Chinese numerology. It is practical in the extreme from a Personal Protection point of view but also teaches many lessons (13 no less) on how to generate power utilising the waist. I have seen many different versions though all carry the unmistakeable Seishan signature moves.
In a series of 3 articles I shall explore the historical perspective as well as demonstrate my own interpretation of Ho Sin Sul guided by the Sip Sam Seh. You may ask why is an external form subjected to Tai Chi principles ? Well it is believed that Seishan was first and foremost based on internal influences, however, it has been changed over the centuries to bring it into line with the faster, external movement seen in other forms but there still remain clues as to the original meaning. It would appear that the cultivation of relaxed internal energy gave way to dynamic tension as a form of body conditioning combining movement with strong muscular contraction and dan jun breathing. However, Moo Pal Dan Khum (8 brocade energy exercises) effectively bridges the gap between these two energies. Concentration is centered , the mind focused but clear, breathing calm and controlled - all essential requirements for practising “stillness in motion”.
Whatever the original intent the defensive qualities of Seishan are there for all to see. The unusual crescent shaped stepping motion protects the groin and inner thigh while increasing core strength allowing you to simultaneously step and pull the opponent with good stability and a strong grounded energy. The leg can also be raised as in a stamping motion or used to compromise the opponents balance. The stance is peculiar to Seishan and represents a half way house between Naihanchi horse stance and front stance. It has two derivatives for horizontal and forward energy. Older versions have the toes of the rear foot in line with the heel of the front foot when in horizontal Seishan stance. The muscle tone created through dynamic tension is fine but is still quite a leap from the distinctly relaxed body movement and pliable application normally associated with an internal form. So what other evidence is there ? The name Seishan translates to the number 13. In Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk) Vol 2 Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee tells us from his research that the form contains all thirteen influences based on the principles of Tae Geuk Kwon. In the 2nd part of this series I shall explore the forms origins for further clues.
Now before we begin to look at the Ho Sin Sul we should first have a quick recap of the 8 energies which are contained within the Sip Sam Seh (the cornerstone of the internal arts) : 1>To ward off ; 2>Rollback ; 3>To seize or press ; 4>Push or strike ; 5> Pull or take down ; 6> Splitting as in pull/strike or press/sweep ; 7> use of elbow or knee to strike or unbalance ; 8> use of hip or shoulder to throw or unbalance. In addition the 5 elements are split into internal and external which I shall illustrate with the help of a Ho Sin Sul example.
My interpretation of Sequence One begins with a punch aimed at the head which is parried by a small circular crossing hand motion as the legs are drawn together for protection. A crescent shaped step connects with the opponents lead leg to unbalance at the same time as a hooking motion pulls the arm forward and down. Metaphorically, we have opened the gate and must strike immediately before it is closed. Note the energies being employed – yielding, redirecting, pulling/pushing and pliability in the face of a stronger force. Finally, countering only when the opponent is in a weakened position.
The second sequence involves a drawing back action with a lowering of internal energy followed by an immediate forward thrust with single knuckles. The application shown is from a lapel grab but be aware that the sharp dropping action onto the forearms throws the head back exposing the target areas. If the Kup So points either side of the neck were used then the consequences could be serious indeed. Remember to use only as much force as is necessary in the circumstances. The index single knuckle is used for forward energy to knock the attacker to the ground (as opposed to middle knuckle generally used for an upward strike ). We are also able to utilise the eccentric phase of the dropping motion to gather energy. This requires diligent practise as the forward energy travels in the shape of an arc from the feet to the point of the single knuckle using the waist to produce simultaneous downward (Rooting) and forward (Striking) force.
An important consideration is whether this energy can be replicated if grappling from the ground ? I would say that power can be generated to any part of the body, even from a restricted position, provided energy is channelled from your centre and by using ground reaction force. In this scenario consider the open hand weapons provided by Seishan – grabbing/pulling; straight fingers; knifehand; ridgehand; thumb gouge; plier hand; pressing; double palm wrist lock/arm bar and neck crank. The object is to get to your feet as swiftly as possible and make your escape !
In many ways the real value of Seishan is not so much in the techniques themselves but the principles it teaches. It is apt to use the “finger pointing” analogy because if you concentrate on just the external appearance you miss all the important internal strategies the form has to offer. I hope you find some of these pointers helpful in your training. If you want to share some of your own ideas please email your comments. As ever practise makes perfect so be sure to give this form the time and effort it deserves. You will be amply rewarded.
Yours in Tang Soo !