Traditional Xingyiquan - the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Jon Nicklin

Jon Nicklin is a disciple of Dai Xueqi, the leading teacher of Song style Xingyiquan in Shanghai, China. Jon found him after moving to Shanghai from London for work.

Jon is the latest guest on my Internal Fighting Arts podcast. He talks about the culture shock of moving to Shanghai, even though he is part Chinese, and he talks about the commercial schools and traditional teachers in China.

I love talking with and learning from dedicated martial artists, people who go to great lengths to study these arts. Jon Nicklin is one of those people.

You can find edition #44 of the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audello and other podcast services. Here is a link to the podcast on Stitcher. You can listen online or download the file. Please share this with anyone you think might be interested.

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No Partner? No Problem! The Benefits of Mental Martial Arts Practice

Uncategorized Jul 29, 2019
In the summer of 1997, I found myself suddenly unemployed. I had some time on my hands as I sent out resumes and waited for interviews.
I was one test away from earning my black sash in Yi Li Chuan kung-fu. Since reaching that point, I had moved and my teacher, Phillip Starr, had sold his school to a student and went into seclusion.
I called the student who was now teaching at the school and asked if he would test me for black sash. He agreed.
So I had about a month to brush off all the material up to black sash. But there was one big problem. 
I didn't have a training partner for the one-steps, the joint locks, the countless self-defense techniques that I needed to demonstrate. 
Sure, I had practiced them hundreds of times before with fellow students, but this was for black sash!
To prepare for the test, I trained for a month in my condo with an "imaginary partner."
I did not need an imaginary partner to work on forms,...
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Finding Your Root is Important but Can You Carry It With You?

Uncategorized Jul 15, 2019
When you train with an "old school" traditional teacher, you learn to "eat bitter."
In China, stories are told about teachers who had prospective students spend a year sweeping and cleaning before learning any of his art.
Xingyi masters were said to have new students stand in San Ti for the first year or more of practices.
Even today, when you train with a member of the Chen family, it is common to collapse from leg fatigue more than once, even during a 12-hour weekend workshop. You will hold stances until your legs burn and shake like you're twerking. And trust me, you don't want to see a 66-year old man twerking.
Good teachers spend a lot of time correcting basics - structure and body mechanics.
Working on the basics of body mechanics and structure give you a solid "root."
Much of your "root" depends on the ground path and peng jin. You must sink your energy and apply the correct mechanics.
Where Good Structure Fails
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Translations of Ancient Tai Chi Classics Can Point You the Wrong Way

body mechanics tai chi May 15, 2019
I was reading a book by well-known martial artist and teacher, and he wrote something that could send people down the wrong path.

I like Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming. He has done some good things for the arts. He has tried to save some of the older texts and Chinese "songs" and "poems" related to martial arts.
He is a dedicated martial artist and scholar, and apparently a very nice guy. This is not about his skill.
But in his book, "Advanced Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan," he should have gone one step further when he translated and interpreted some old Tai Chi classics.

The first of the classics he presents in the book is supposed to be by Chang San Feng (also spelled Zhang San Feng), but we all know that there is absolutely no evidence that Chang San Feng was a real person. He is a "legend," which means he probably didn't exist. A lot of people who refuse to say the Chen family created the art insist that Chang created it centuries earlier.

Dr. Yang should have mentioned this in the...
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Why You Need to Study Self-Defense Aspects of Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua Even if You Do The Arts for Health

Uncategorized May 08, 2019

I asked a question of my website members two nights ago on our private discussion page for members only. There was a great response.

I asked if they joined to learn the arts (and Qigong) for health, fitness and meditation, or did they join for the self-defense instruction?

The answers were a mixture. Some do it primarily for health and fitness, especially if they are older.

Some people say they do not have training partners, so they are hampered in learning self-defense.

But some members are already studying in other schools with other teachers and are looking for more authentic internal principles, or their instructors do not teach self-defense at all.

I believe if you are studying with a teacher who does not teach fighting applications of every movement, you should run away and look for a new teacher.  But if you are in that situation, you can learn the information you need on my site and you will probably then be able to teach your instructor. He or she should be paying YOU....

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6 Internal Strength Skills You Need To Learn FIRST in Tai Chi, Xingyiquan or Baguazhang

Uncategorized Apr 29, 2019

Do you know all six of the key skills you need to know for quality internal martial arts?

These skills are taught in the Internal Strength section on my website, and I always urge new members to begin in that section.

Beginning your own study can be overwhelming. Where do you begin?

This post is an attempt to answer that question.

Step One -- The Ground Path

You will read this quote from many masters: "All strength begins with the ground." The ground path gives your movements a foundation of strength. 

To use the ground, you need to set up your body structure so there is a "path" from the ground to the part of the body that is most active in attack or defense at that moment.

Step Two -- Peng Jin

The ground path and peng jin work together. Good internal movement requires both.

Peng jin can be described as an expansive force or feeling through your movement, like a beach ball filled with air. You can press on a beach ball and it will give a bit, but not much, and the...

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Studying with the Yang Family -- the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Holly Sweeney-Hillman

podcast tai chi Apr 10, 2019

I have been doing this podcast for a few years now, but I have never talked with someone who has studied tai chi directly from the Yang family.

Until now.

Holly Sweeney-Hillman teaches in the Bedminster area of New Jersey. She is a student of Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun. Holly is the Center Director for Bedminster/Montclair Yang Family Tai Chi Center and Senior level instructor of Traditional Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan, has been teaching movement arts for 25 years and is an Adjunct Professor of Tai Chi Chuan at Kean University, Union, New Jersey.

We had a very enjoyable discussion. It is always fun for me to realize how much we can have in common with people who love the internal arts, or any martial art, even when we come from different "styles."

I hope you enjoy this program. You can listen to it here or download it (see the little download button on the right side of the controls). If you like it, please spread it to your friends in the arts.

The podcast is also available from...

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Fighting in the Boy's Room -- Avoiding the Opponent's Strength

Uncategorized Mar 26, 2019
Charley was a jerk. I hate to be judgmental, but he was a jerk. And one day, during my senior year of high school, he started hitting me on the back of the head in our history class.
I was sitting in front of him, and he kept smacking me on the back of the head.
Usually, I would welcome ANYTHING that distracted me from history class, but this was irritating.
I told him to cut it out, but he kept smacking me. Finally, in anger and frustration I said, "Let's go down the hall to the restroom."
We went down the hall and into the boy's restroom. Nobody was there, but one of Charley's friends came with us.
Charley and I squared off. He got into a boxer's stance.
Before I knew what was happening, he punched me right in the jaw. An explosion of pain tore through my head.
Holy cow! I thought my jaw had been dislocated.
I had never been beaten up before, but it was instantly clear that he had boxing skills. This was in 1971,...
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Turn the Waist More Than the Hips in Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua Movement

In the first internal martial arts school I enrolled in, the Dantien was talked about a lot. It was often referred to as the "One-Point." In our movements, if we were throwing a punch or kick, the teacher would sometimes shout, "Snap your One-Point!!"
What he meant was, snap the hips; turn the hips sharply and fast so your Dantien snaps with it.
It was later, when I trained with members of the Chen family and their students, that I learned why it is wrong to turn the hips so much.
For one thing, it kinks up your structure and moves you out of a centered stance.
If you look at a new student, it doesn't matter what martial art they have studied -- karate, TKD, wrestling, tai chi -- if I ask them to turn their waist, they always turn the hips. They will do it every time.
The waist is NOT the hips.
Here is a little test you can do with nobody watching.
Keep your hips in place -- facing forward -- and without moving the hips, turn to reach...
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The Sudden Death of a Martial Artist and the Cold Slap of Reality

Life is fragile. We live day-to-day and take a lot of things for granted -- our health, our futures, and the people in our lives.

Sometimes, we are slapped with the cold hand of reality.

One of my website members, Michael Todd, passed away last night in Port Richey, Florida.

Michael was about 50 years old, with a loud voice. He has been a member of my website for almost two years and began calling on the phone almost immediately.

"I'm working on the Xingyi, Mr. Ken," he would say. 

"You don't have to call me Mister," I said during the first call.

"Oh, that's just the way I talk," he said. "I love you, brother."

Now, it's unusual for a guy you don't know to tell you he loves you right off the bat, so I was a bit leery of him at first. I just wasn't sure. But he kept calling every week, letting me know how he was progressing, and finally, we set up a live one-on-one coaching session via Skype.

When we did the live session, I was surprised at how well he had learned the Xingyi...

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