Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
Some of my favorite forms to watch are drunken styles of Martial Arts. They also happen to be one of the hardest to perform properly – mainly because the very premise of the drunken style is to be soft when one is normally hard.
Let me take a step back and first explain the drunken style. The movements of the style are as the name implies, mimicking the movements of someone who is inebriated. They appear to stagger about as if drunk; arms and legs are loose to the point of abandonment. The drunken state keeps the artist in constant motion, thus a more difficult target to pin down. Even when hit, the body is so relaxed that the impact has less effect. While seemingly uncontrolled, the movements all hold a secret deadly force that is ready to spring the moment the Martial Artist needs it.
What makes this style difficult to perform is that most externalist who would perform this form tend to focus their training on the hard side of Martial Arts. Strength is the key to most of what they learn on the floor; how to be strong like iron. Yet, doing drunken style requires fluidity and softness. One must let go of the structured stances in favor of postures which seem to compromise the safety of the artist. Arms are no longer in a guarding position, or if they are, they are loose rather than tight to the body. The artist must remain in constant movement and in no set pattern in order to emulate drunkenness.
To begin training in drunken style, one must find comfort in less rigidity. One of the best ways to do this is actually to softer music and blinded or in a dark room. When someone first starts performing drunken styles, they tend to be subconscious about how they are moving. It's a feeling often equated to being naked and on stage. Relax. Feel the music and start swaying to the rhythm. Imagine being on a ship where there's a lot of turbulence and you're being thrown from side to side with each eight to ten count on the music. Now focus on loosening the rest of your body as well. This includes your back and shoulders while keeping your stance somewhat low to the ground.
With the body relaxed, the next distinct characteristic is the hands. In drunken styles, the hands are in loose, cupped positions as if still holding the wine bottle or glass. For someone who has never done this technique before, the hand position can feel awkward at first and requires some level of endurance to maintain.
From here, the specific techniques and forms are specific to the style of Martial Arts followed. Most are Kung Fu based and thus will have very similar characteristics, with longer stances and shadow techniques. Attacking as a drunken master tends to include may "hidden hands", or strikes that are not linear but rather from below, where the victim will not readily spot it.
Over time and with practice, one can perfect the drunken style – which in the end starts to look like someone who is anything but in perfect shape.