Connecting: A Crucial Skill in the Internal Martial Arts and in Life

philosophy Feb 18, 2019
I was testing for my black sash in 1997. Part of the test involved sparring with wooden broadswords.
 
I stood a few feet away from the black sash instructor who was testing me, Cornell Garrett. I was in the front on guard stance. The tip of my broadsword was pointing toward his throat. He was standing in the same stance.
 
"Okay," I thought to myself. "Calm down. Center yourself. And connect with him."
 
I felt a sense of calm come over me and it felt like I knew exactly when he was going to move.
 
Suddenly, his sword began moving to attack me.
 
Before it could get halfway to me, the tip of my broadsword was touching his chest at the heart.
 
I had never felt so connected. I had learned a very valuable skill.
 
My first internal arts teacher was Phillip Starr, who was also Cornell's teacher. You can find Pete's books on Amazon. He had not written any books when I was his student beginning in 1987. I earned a black sash but then began studying...
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A Balancing Act -- The Mental and Physical Goal of the Internal Martial Arts

Uncategorized Feb 11, 2019
The goal in training the internal martial arts is to maintain both mental and physical balance.
 
We work on developing physical balance with everything we put our bodies through, from Zhan Zhuang to individual movements that make up forms, to balancing exercises and sparring.
 
As our bodies grow stronger and we learn to balance during difficult movements, and through close-up grappling and push hands that allow us to work freestyle against an opponent who wants to take us down.
 
In a self-defense situation, your opponent has lost his mental balance. He is out of harmony with the Tao. 
 
It is your job to maintain not only your physical balance when you are attacked, but also your mental balance.
 
In a lot of schools, mental balance is mentioned in passing but rarely is it part of the training. In reality, mental and physical balance is as important as any skill you gain through these arts.
 
How to Develop Mental Balance
 
When you do...
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Internal Breathing for Tai Chi, Qigong, Bagua and Xingyi

There are three ways to breathe when doing the internal arts and qigong:
 
  1. Normal breathing -- Expand when you inhale and contract when you exhale.
  2. Reverse breathing -- Abdomen draws inward when you inhale and expands and drops outward when you exhale.
  3. Internal (sometimes called Deep) breathing -- Diaphragm expands downward when you inhale but your chest and abdomen do not outwardly expand very much, and your diaphragm contracts upward when you exhale.
Normal Breathing
 
I have heard Chen Xiaowang being asked how you should breathe when doing a Taiji form.
 
"Natural is best," he always said.
 
But many Taiji masters say that when you reach higher levels, you may use reverse breathing or internal breathing.
 
I have always used reverse breathing when doing Qigong, but recently, I have been using Internal breathing.
 
Reverse Breathing
 
With reverse breathing, when you inhale, your abdomen and Dantien draw inward toward the Ming Men...
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A True Story about the Ultimate Self-Defense Skill

In March, 2013, Chen Xiaoxing came to Chicago to do a workshop on Xinjia Yilu. Nancy and I stayed for the weekend in a hotel downtown.
 
After the first day of the workshop, we took a walk from the hotel onto Michigan Avenue. We wanted to do some shopping along the Magnificent Mile and enjoy dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.
 
March in Chicago can be very cold, but we got lucky. This was the warmest day of the year in Chicago after a cold winter.
 
The photo above shows Nancy as we are beginning our walk. The Magnificent Mile is behind her down the street.
 
As we got into the shopping area, the sidewalks became more crowded. I was enjoying the people but I noticed there were a lot of young people in their teens to around 20, maybe 21 or 22. We kept walking and there were more people. The young people were scattered through the crowd, in groups of two or more.
 
As we got deeper into the area, the crowds got a little heavier. I have been in crowds before....
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Spirit - Where Quality Begins in Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua

general Jan 20, 2019
The photo above is a shot of me in a tournament in Cincinnati in 1983. I was 30 years old, and I was about to win my very first 1st place trophy in sparring competition. I have always been a late bloomer.
 
Do you see the look in my eyes? It's a little dark, but they are focused like a laser. The eye of the tiger. This is four years before I would begin studying the internal arts.
 
Some people believe that when you do Taiji, Bagua or Xingyi, you are supposed to detach your mind. They think you are supposed to become One with the Universe and eliminate any desire or any thought of winning.
 
Even when they do the forms, some people get a dull look in their eyes, void of emotion. They think they are supposed to be meditating.
 
Part of that thinking is dead wrong, and part of it is incomplete.
 
The Eyes Reflect Your "Spirit"
 
The concept of "spirit" does not mean the same in gongfu as it means at the Christian church I attended as a child in Kentucky....
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Living in a Bubble -- A Quick Concept in Baguazhang Self-Defense

baguazhang Jan 10, 2019
 

We have been shooting self-defense applications for the Bagua 8 Basic Palms form for the website. This is the first form that my Bagua students learn. It helps train circle-walking and the energies of the eight palms.

This is a quick video clip that was done while we were walking through the applications for "Embrace the Moon to the Chest," the fifth section of the form.

I drove home a quick point about peng jin and the "bubble of protection" that we try to establish. It is a zone around me -- a circle -- that means trouble for the attacker if they enter it.

Bagua is a lot like a spinning wire ball. If you punch into it, you get caught up and spun out in random directions, leaving you on the ground and broken.

There are a few quick applications at the end from "Embrace the Moon to the Chest," "White Ape Offers Fruit," and "Lion Opens its Mouth."

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Seattle Taiji Instructor Derryl Willis - the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview

Uncategorized Jan 02, 2019

Derryl Willis, instructor at the Seattle School of Chen Style Taijiquan and a disciple of Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang is the guest on the 41st edition of the Internal Fighting Arts podcast.

Derryl has traveled many times to study in the Chen Village during the past 20 years. He discusses his experiences training with the Chen family, his thoughts on the meaning of being a disciple, and the importance of practicing the basics.

I was happy to talk with Derryl. He is a friendly man who is truly dedicated to Taiji.

Play the podcast below or click the download button to save the mp3 file to your computer.

 
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Ken Gullette Interviewed by David Roth-Lindberg for Thoughts on Tai Chi Blog

David Roth-Lindberg interviewed me for his blog, "Thoughts on Tai Chi." 

The Q&A was published today. Here is a link.

https://taichithoughts.wordpress.com/2018/12/21/qa-with-ken-gullette/

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Testing Your Martial Art Under Pressure

bagua general Dec 17, 2018
 

Would your Bagua applications work against an opponent who was 35 years younger, stronger and 120 pounds heavier?

If he decided to shoot in and grab your legs, how would you deal with it?

We had a great practice yesterday, recording self-defense applications using some of the principles and energies from the Bagua 8 Basic Palms form.

The last time I recorded applications for this form was in 2008, with Sean Ledig, who is a member of the website. I didn't go into a lot of depth in the video, so after 10 years, I am shooting it again and adding more information and applications.

Downward energy is an important internal concept, and the first section of the form, "Fierce Tiger Emerges from Mountain," depends on downward energy.

Theoretically, it should work on a shooter, so we put it into action. Two of my students, Justin Snow and Chris Andrews, are big, strong guys who outweigh me by 120 pounds each. They put the pressure on me.

All martial arts require practice. Even boxers will...

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How to Impress -- or Disappoint -- Your Martial Arts Teacher

motivational Dec 14, 2018

Who knew that being a good martial arts student is a lot like being a good college student?

I taught a journalism course at a local university in 2016, both the spring and fall semesters. It was my first experience teaching. I do not have a Masters, but I had enough experience in journalism (I won a few Associated Press awards during 22 years in news) that the department chair thought I would do a good job.

The students filed in on the first day of my first class. I spent a LOT of time working on an entertaining and informative PowerPoint and lecture.

A couple of students looked at me, smiled and said hello as they found a seat. Most of them walked in without acknowledging me, found a seat, and began staring at the computer screen that they each had on their desk. There was no attempt to engage by most of the students.

I have always enjoyed kids, and young people, and have always found ways of making them laugh and have fun.

But a college setting was different.

It was fascinating,...

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