Patterns and Drills Evolve into Freedom in Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua

Uncategorized Jan 07, 2020

We worked on tea-serving exercises at practice last night and how the spiraling and the movement translates into fighting applications. The tea-serving exercises show up in the forms and in self-defense.

The ultimate goal is to develop the ability to use the spiraling concept and movement to flow with an opponent depending on what he does.

A lot of people misunderstand push hands and other practice drills like this. You put something up and they dismiss it as "won't work in a fight." Usually, they have no experience in the art, but they also can't see far enough down the road to understand that a training tool in the internal arts has one goal -- to evolve into a creative ability to flow with your opponent and not be trapped into the mindset of "I will do this technique" or "if he does this I will do that."

When you do push hands, or tea-serving, or silk-reeling exercises, you need a road map that shows you where you eventually want to be. The drill is not the thing.

Push hands, for...

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Don't Rise to the Occasion -- Sink to the Occasion

I have been thinking about something all wrong.
 
When I prepare for something special, like a demonstration or especially a workshop like I attended a few weeks ago with Chen Huixian, I have approached it with the wrong mental attitude.
 
I often think that I need to prepare myself, get my body stronger and be able to "rise to the occasion."
 
But what I need to do is "sink to the occasion."
 
Let me explain.
 
I practiced Laojia Yilu two nights ago. Actually, I practiced three movements from Laojia Yilu. And then I isolated my practice to just one move.
 
I spent a lot of time on Hidden Hand Punch, and the sinking and spiraling -- not in the punch itself, but in the movements leading up to the punch, when your hands sweep low and outward, then spiral inwards as you close into the right kua, one hand flat and one in a fist.
 
Practicing the internal arts is like practicing the piano, or any musical instrument. My body is my instrument, and...
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Watch the Show in Front of You -- A Martial Arts Lesson from a Sports Psychologist

When I first began competing in tournament sparring, I was emotionally involved in every point. I would get upset if a judge missed a call. Not outwardly upset, other than a cocking of my head as if asking, "What?"

Mainly, I was inwardly upset. I wanted to win.

My opponents were often emotionally involved, too. Sometimes, I would stand across from a guy who was angry. And if I scored a point, he was angrier.

I kept careful track of the score. Am I winning? By how much? If I'm behind, how many points do I need? 

And then one day, sometime in my forties, I got my ego and emotion out of the game. And I started winning more.

When I faced off against another black belt, I relaxed. When a point was scored, I didn't keep track. I stopped, let the judges call it, and then got back to the contest.

I stopped keeping track of who was winning.

If my opponent scored a point on me, I would congratulate him. "Good shot," I would say. Sometimes, I joked around, wobbling a bit on my rubbery...

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Training the Chen Taiji Straight Sword Form with Master Chen Huixian

I spent the weekend studying with Master Chen Huixian in Madison, Wisconsin. We worked through the entire Chen Straight Sword form in six hours of training on Saturday and six hours on Sunday. The workshop was sponsored by her student, Patrick Rogne, the owner and instructor at Ancient Root Taijiquan in Madison.

I have been practicing this form for 13 years, and I originally learned a different version, but except for a couple of major differences in the opening movements, most of the movements follow the same order. There are different angles and different flourishes and transitions, but essentially it is the same form.

Chen Huixian's form is similar to the form of her uncle and primary teacher, Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei. She is an "in-chamber" disciple.

Over two days, she demonstrated each movement a few times, then led the students through the movement, carefully explaining which leg is solid, where the weight is shifting, when you should sink, how to hold the sword,...

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If You Want to Make Progress in Martial Arts You Must Set Goals

Uncategorized Oct 31, 2019

I'm training this weekend with Chen Huixian in Madison, Wisconsin. I'm looking forward to seeing how she teaches and performs the Chen straight sword form. That is the primary focus of the workshop, especially on Saturday and then Sunday morning.

Sunday afternoon she will review and make corrections on Laojia Erlu, which she taught a year ago at her Madison workshop. 

Preparing for workshops like this has reminded me how important it is to set goals. I have pushed myself a little harder as the workshop has drawn closer. These workshops are NOT easy. They are physically demanding, and at age 66, trying to cope with one lung and a heart issue, actually going through a 15-hour workshop in a weekend pushes me to the very limit of my capacity.

I usually come home and have to take a couple of days to recover.

Because I don't want to look weak in front of a workshop group, I push myself in the weeks leading up to the workshop to do a little more and try to strengthen my body a bit more....

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17 Days in Beijing - An Interview with the Author/Translator of "Chen Style Taijiquan Collected Masterworks" - Mark Chen

The 45th edition of the Internal Fighting Arts podcast features an interview with Mark Chen about his new book, "Chen Style Taijiquan Collected Masterworks: The History of a Martial Art."

This is an important book for anyone who collects books on Taiji, particularly Chen style.

In this valuable book, Mark, who was a formal rumen disciple of the late Grandmaster Chen Qingzhou, translates key sections of Chen Zhaopi's book, published in 1935.

We talk about many issues during an hour and 37 minutes, including the challenges of translating Chinese to English, the origin of Taijiquan, the life of Chen Zhaopi, and how he helped boost the reputation of Chen Taiji during 17 days in Beijing, when he stood on a platform and took on all challengers.

That would be a great kung-fu film -- "17 Days in Beijing" -- the story of the rise of Chen Taijiquan, based on Chen Zhaopi on the platform.

Zhaopi was born three years before my own grandfather, and in China, Taiji fighters like Zhaopi were still...

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Join Me in Madison This Weekend to Study Taijiquan with Chen Huixian Nov 1-3

 

I will be in Madison, Wisconsin starting this Friday, Nov. 1 through Sunday, Nov. 3 to study with Chen Huixian. If you live within driving distance, I hope you'll join me and train with one of the best.

Chen Huixian is an in-door disciple of her uncle, Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei. Other uncles include Chen Xiaowang and Chen Xiaoxing.

She grew up in the Chen Village and is highly skilled. Each time I train with her, I come away with deeper insights because of the personal corrections and coaching that she gives me.

She is teaching a workshop that will include the following:

Friday Night 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

** Zhan Zhuang (Standing Stake)

** Silk-Reeling

Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (with a 2-hour lunch break)

** Chen Straight Sword Form (1st half)

Sunday 9:00 a.m. to Noon

** Chen Straight Sword Form (1st half)

Sunday 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Laojia Erlu ("Cannon Fist") Review and Corrections

Chen Huixian's workshops are punctuated with laughter. It is very refreshing to have an...

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If You Want To Learn the Internal Martial Arts Here it Is Come and Get It

Uncategorized Oct 03, 2019
Do you remember the old song by Badfinger called "Come and Get It?" The lyrics went: "If you want it, here it is, come and get it. But you better hurry, cause it's going fast."
 
The body mechanics and principles that I teach through my membership website and my instructional DVDs will serve you well regardless of your style of Xingyi, Taiji or Bagua.
 
There are stylistic differences from teacher to teacher, from art to art and from style to style within an art. But if you have the right body mechanics, any differences in style are just a matter of adjusting to a teacher's particular way.
 
In a recent podcast interview that I did with Jon Nicklin, he describes how a lot of "traditional" teachers in China work.
 
His teacher, Dai Xueqi is a business owner, so on Saturday and Sunday mornings, those who want to learn show up at Dai's home arrive and begin practicing.
 
At a practice, the students might stand in San Ti, then practice Pi Chuan or another fist...
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The Tai Chi Skill of "Dang" -- a Rounded Crotch

There are a lot of things to think about when you do internal movement.
 
One of my teachers said that when you are first learning, you can be paralyzed by well over a dozen principles of structure and movement that you are trying to achieve in each movement.
 
Chen Xiaowang says, "If Taiji were easy, everyone be master."
 
It is NOT easy, which is why, after a lot of hard work, it is satisfying when you enter a room full of Taiji people and you realize that you understand internal movement at a different level.
 
The other night, a student looked at me funny when I said, "I want to talk about your Dang."
 
It's pronounced "Dahng."
 
Yes, we both laughed.
 
So I clarified.
 
"I want to talk about your groin."
 
That did not help the situation, but you probably know by now that laughter is an important part of my practices.
 
So I explained.
 
The term "Dang" is the shape of the legs when you are in a stance. When you look at the...
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Learn the Chen Taiji Straight Sword with Chen Huixian in Madison Nov 1-3

Chen Huixian will teach the Chen Taiji Straight Sword form at a workshop in Madison, Wisconsin on November 1-3, 2019. She will also review and do corrections for Zhan Zhuang, Silk-Reeling, and Laojia Erlu (Cannon Fist).

I will be there and I hope you'll join me to learn from a highly-skilled member of the Chen family.

Chen Huixian is a great teacher, an "in chamber" disciple of her uncle, Chen Zhenglei. Her other uncles include Chen Xiaowang and Chen Xiaoxing.

Her workshops are an outstanding experience. She gives a lot of personal attention to students, is actually interested in the people who attend, she answers questions, and she offers corrections and coaching that will move your skills forward. She speaks English, which means there is no need for an interpreter between what she says and what you hear. 

Her workshops are traditional and serious. You will eat bitter. But she has a sense of humor that adds an element of fun that is lacking in some workshops. Laughter is not...

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