06 April 2011

Kung Fu Masters

Reading  Robert Wearing's book The essential woodworker (1988) I thought about the Kung Fu masters. Or was it, seeing another master planing I checked Wearing and thought about the masters?

Why Kung Fu? I checked the internet to verify what an old Chinese said to me long ago about Kung Fu.
Definition 1:  In Chinese, kung fu can also be used ...to any ... skill cultivated through long and hard work.
Definition 2:  Kung Fu – an art, skill, mastery achieved in one’s free time.
Definition 2 is close to what she said,  Kung Fu, being free time, refers to a hobby and not only to Bruce Lee.  The essential woodworker of Robert Wearing is aimed at amateurs and as it is often the case, the master is a professional.  One's profession is another man's kung fu.

I studied Aikido and the masters thought sometimes about Ki and also about stance, tension, balance, hold your sword like a bird,  loose those shoulders, straight upper body, knees and toes in the same line, start moving from the hip, less tension in the arms, keep the arms close, .... , forget the books go practicing.  I also studied fencing and the master said: loose those shoulders, body straight, ...  Went to a Tai Chi lesson and  I heard: loose those shoulders,  body .... .  ...?  Are you saying I have a cramped style?

What does a master say about planing.  "Feel for the catch ... push forward steadily,  ... do not ...swing."  "Strong downward pressure..."  (so much for holding a bird)  When needed he keeps the elbow tucked pushing only with the body trying to avoid arm's length  pushes. (good Aikido).
Seeing his leg position he probably shuffles (right foot first?) along the bench without crossing his legs.  For wider boards the situation is  unclear to me,  does he take short strokes to minimize walking or does he keep his full length strokes? (forget the books, go practicing)

Where pushing is good Aikido,  Japanese planes are mainly pulled,  presenting us with another school.  I think both are applicable, to start pulling in a pushing exercise often gives good Aikido.  For short strokes pulling a plane feels correct, although a hornless wooden plane feels more appropriate than a Stanley. Or maybe not as Frank Klausz moves his wooden horned smoothing plane in all four directions when finishing a drawer.

Other masters display even different styles,  most handtool workers are amateurs and we can keep up the more powerful Kung Fu styles for a few hours.  It may look like a session at the gym where we go for the heavier N°5 1/2 and swing it fast at full arms length.  There is nothing wrong to favor push ups.

I know, I mentioned Aikido.  Come on, that's  showcase fighting. It's like looking at the shavings, not the board.