As with the other
animals, understanding cobra requires serious
exploration into new arenas of conceptual motion, then
incorporating understandings gained into one’s own
http://www.ironcrane.com/html/animf.htm) , we summarized the profile
characteristics of the cobra. In the extract below, we
provide a synopsis of what can be found elsewhere on the
Ever hear the expression
"snake charmer?" Can you recall having seen cartoons
where the semi-naked man with the turban is blowing his
flute in front of a cobra, becharming it into passivity?
If a would be predator
stumbles across a cobra in the wild, roles might well be
reversed. The cobra reaches out to the mind of the
intruder, numbs its attention, and holds it motionless
and unresponsive while cobra prepares its attack.
Complimenting its innate
ability to captivate, cobra possesses lightning
reflexes, and characteristically, can strike out at any
target, at any time.
Early in our martial
studies, the most admired full contact fighter was Bill
"Superfoot" Wallace. Reportedly, Wallace had injured his
right leg earlier in his career, and to compensate, had
spent years perfecting the body mechanics of his left
leg. Consequently, when squaring off against opponents,
everyone knew when he kicked the attack would almost
certainly come from the left leg. So, picture the
opponent standing across from Wallace in the ring,
knowing Wallace is a kicker, knowing he has to kick with
the left leg, and knowing as Wallace begins to close the
gap, he is setting up the kick. Knowing everything there
is to know, how is it still possible for Wallace to pick
up his foot, and drive a side kick into the opponent's
The answer to that
question lies in the mind of the cobra!
The cobra also signifies
"reckless abandon." As the cobra rises in front of an
opponent, it is disadvantaged in size and
maneuverability. Its attitude is stillness. If it fails,
its soft body is easily broken by even the slightest
adversary. Hence, "reckless abandon." The cobra attacks
with certainty. There is no margin for error.
Now we’re going to take a
closer look at the physical side of cobra, exploring how
its coiling and winding motions can be learned, and
showing how they inspire a family of techniques which
belong in every martial artist’s tool chest.
In Taiji Chuan, the term
Pan(2) Xi(1) refers to coil-suction, a way of sticking
and adhering to part of an opponent’s body. To that we
might add, negating or dissolving an opponent’s strength
by evaporating it through an array of spirals, curves,
and off angle movements.
Basic Drills to Develop Familiarity
s focus briefly on developing the requisite movements in
our upper extremities.
Fundamentally, the power
in cobra lies in several geometric shapes:
The circle can be
horizontal or vertical in its orientation, or anywhere
in between, it can envelop your entire body, or it can
spin at the end of a fingertip.
The Figure "8" can
likewise move in virtually all planes, be they large or
small, obvious or concealed. Once mastered, the Figure
"8" is the Howitzer Cannon of soft styles. With skill, a
cobra stylist using figure eights can leave Paul Bunyan
types spinning helplessly in circles, completely unable
to get grounded and take advantage of their power.
Finally, when the trigger is pulled, all of the power
(plus some) is returned to the attacker, only now
accelerated through the slingshot dynamic inherent in
the figure "8."
The Curly Q and circle
are fallback positions. When a Figure "8" can’t be fully
actualized, the internal strategist will fall back to a
Curly Q, and then to a circle.
The Spiral is for all
practical purposes a Figure "8", or a Curly Q, or a
circle, applied into a three dimensional configuration.
For those of you who wish to explore further, there are
many internal energy texts which outline the flow of Chi
in the body, and show through graphical models how it
moves about in spiral like patterns up and down our body
trunk and extremities. This energy is not your typical
bio-mechanical, muscle/and speed driven power. According
to sources, the Qi is moved by your conscious intent,
and manifests explosively as Jin, emerging from
stillness. Masters have demonstrated this energy,
sending attackers flying away, barely moving as they do
so. Numerous videos can be found on YouTube which will
show this better than my words. Again, for purposes of
your own research, spiral movement, once you have become
sensitized to its delicate nuances, can literally be
felt to flow about on the exterior of the body, and at
more advanced stages, coalesces into what has been
referred to as Iron Shirt .
Cutting to the quick. You
can take this path as far into complexity and research
as you wish.
But for right now,
here’s the basic drill, demonstrated by myself:
Inside Fanning Technique
This is the inside
fanning move, shown in its long, medium and short forms,
and demonstrated using varying flows. Start with the
long move, using your whole body, and a broad movement
with your upper extremities, first your right arm, then
your left. Note how your body, on its own, supports and
reinforces the geometric pattern of your moving arm.
Remember, we said above
that a skilled artist could execute a Circle, Curly Q or
Figure "8" in any plane, making it large enough to
envelop the body, or small enough to spin on a
fingertip. That should be part of your thinking and
practice from the very earliest stages.
Once you have a degree
of comfort with the above motion, try reducing its scope
a bit, and have a go at the mid range and short moves.
Outside Fanning Technique
Now, view the outside
fanning moves. Approach them the same as the inside
moves, start with the long, then work (over time) to the
mid range and short. Then, try to vary the flow, and
when you become even more confident, combine inside and
outside flows and work them over multiple levels
Until your arms and
ligaments have learned to relaxed, the mid range and
short moves will prove to be much more challenging than
the long. Realistically, you ll need to work these
concepts 6-12 months before they become completely
Once you ve done your
homework, you’ll be ready for some experimentation with
In the following video,
I’ve compiled eight examples showing how cobra movement
can bring new life and energy to your self defense
lexicon, in this case, demonstrating 8 Essential Disarms
against incoming stick attacks.
Applied to Stick Fighting
Like everything else,
these concepts will take time and practice before they
become part of your personal repertoire. Once mastered,
they will show up everywhere, and add tremendous scope
to your fundamental movement and flow.
Be sure to tell them who