Nabil Ranne is a disciple of the great Taijiquan master Chen Yu of Beijing. Nabil teaches from his home base in Berlin. He is the co-founder of the Chen Style Taijiquan Network Germany (Chen Style Taijiquan Network Deutschland). His website is www.ctnd.de.
In this edition of the Internal Fighting Arts podcast, Nabil talks about how he began studying Taiji, what it was like to study with Chen Yu, and we talk about the differences between Chen Yu's version of Chen style, which Nabil studies and teaches, and the style taught by the Chen family in the Chen Village, which I study and teach.
Nabil is a good man and he has some great insights into the art. You can listen online or download the file to listen anytime. Also, on the buttons below you can subscribe to the podcast feed, embed the podcast into a website or share with your friends (and I hope you will).
When I was around 14 years old, in 1967, the PE coach at our school set up a high jump in the gymnasium one day during Physical Education class.
Most of us had never seen a high jump before. You run up to a horizontal bar and jump over it, if you can, landing on foam padding on the other side.
He showed us how to jump over the bar using the "Western Roll" technique. You run up to the bar, jump off your left leg, put your right leg over the bar and then kick your left leg -- while you are in the air -- for added momentum.
It did not look easy.
One by one, the coach had us boys stand back 20 feet or so, take a running start, and see if we could clear the bar that was set at 4-feet 6-inches high.
One by one, each boy knocked the aluminum bar off the holders. It clattered to the gymnasium floor each time.
Then it was my turn. At 14, I was geeky and slender. I would rather read the Avengers comic books or James Bond books, or write my next little home movie, than do the high jump,...
You have heard people say that being "double-weighted" is bad in Taijiquan.
But if you ask 10 different Taiji folks what that means, you will get 10 different answers.
Some say it is when your weight is distributed 50-50 between the legs.
Some say it's a mental thing. Others say something completely different.
This video shows what I learned about double-weighting from training with Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing and their students and disciples.
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...
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...
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,...
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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