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January 2008
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March 2008

The Art of War and the Tao Te Ching

I'm always looking for ways to add value to the things I do. I can't help it. I like to give people free stuff.

Starting today, anyone who purchases one of my DVDs through the blog or the website will receive the audiobook of their choice--either The Art of War or the Tao Te Ching.

Whichever they choose, the audiobooks are in mp3 format and will be sent in emails. They can be played from your computer or imported and played from your iPod or mp3 player.

Both of these books are among the most influential books in history, and might make your commute or a long drive more interesting.

These audiobooks will be in addition to any ebooks already given free (with the Internal Strength and Five Fist Postures DVDs).

Visitors from the East - Tai Chi Tours of U.S.

The word on the street is that Chen Yu, son of Chen Zhaokui and grandson of Chen Fake, may come to the U.S. and conduct workshops this year if everything goes well with the visa.

Here's a short but very historic YouTube clip of Chen Yu's father.

Here's a great YouTube clip of Chen Yu performing Xinjia Erlu. This is cool.

Another great young Chen family member, Chen Ziqiang (son of Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing) may be coming to the U.S. in the summer. This video shows him (in the light colored sweatshirt) practicing with another young man in the Chen village.

I hope to help promote any appearances so that their visits can be successful. It's incredible to have access to members of the Chen family.

New E-Book for Internal Strength DVD

Internal_exercise_3 I've finally completed the e-book that I'm giving away free to anyone who buys the Internal Strength DVD. The e-book is a great companion reference--you can print it out and use it to practice the 25 exercises on the DVD.

The e-book has more than 50 photos. It's in pdf format. It's around 34 pages long.

The DVD has really surprised me since I finished it around the first of the year. It's by far my best-seller. Buyers around the world email me and tell me how much it's helping them. It's very gratifying.

The internal arts path is a long and difficult one. I spent years and thousands of dollars learning the things that I put on this DVD. I'm spending more time learning more advanced skills, and everything new that I learn opens up a new window into the real depth of Hsing-I, Tai Chi, and Bagua. It's always a humbling experience when you get a glimpse of the next level, and it can be frustrating when you realize just how much more there is to learn, and how much time it will take to develop the skill. But it's a good feeling at the same time.

As Chen Xiaowang says, "If it was easy, everyone would be Master."  :)

I've started editing the next DVD -- Fighting Applications of Hsing-I's Five Fist Postures." I originally wanted to finish it by the end of February, but it will likely be sometime in March when it's done.

Saturday Tai Chi in the Park

I met a new friend a few weeks ago who found the website or blog on the Internet and contacted me. Douglas has many years of quality training under some fine teachers, and he has spent a lot of time contemplating and refining internal principles.

We've met a few times now on Saturdays in a park in Tampa halfway between his home and mine. It's a nice little park with a pond and a fountain. Usually we're the only people there.

I look forward to our workouts very much. Douglas has an outstanding grasp of internal body mechanics and we practice mostly push hands because partner workouts are hard to come by. Our sessions are allowing me to move forward again in my knowledge, and hopefully with some hard work, I'll continue moving forward in skill.

It's exciting to find someone who is a nice person and also a few steps ahead on the internal arts path. It's exciting to see internal body mechanics from someone else's perspective, because he has learned from instructors that I haven't met (and at least one that I've learned from, too).

Most exciting of all is to see another glimpse of the depth of the internal arts. There is still so much to learn--it's both a humbling experience but also gives me a lot to look forward to.

The Tao of Relationships

Kennancy07 This photo of me and Nancy isn't taken at the best angle. We're both having bad hair days. I was playing around with a camera and suddenly held it in front of us and snapped the picture. Although it isn't the most flattering shot, I love this picture because it captures an essence that is at the heart of our marriage.

After 4 1/2 years of marriage, we can't wait to see each other at the end of the day. We can't wait for the weekend so we can hang out. We laugh our heads off every day. We're both able to be ourselves. I can be silly and so can she. And both of us know for certain that I've got her back and she's got mine.

This is my third marriage. It took me nearly 50 years to find Nancy. I treat her the same way I've treated every woman I've every known (we don't really change our personalities, you know). The difference is that she's the first woman in my entire life that I've been able to depend on. And a year ago she turned to me and said, "There's one word that comes to my mind to describe you. Integrity."

It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said, and it meant even more because it came from someone who has lived with me for so long.

What does this have to do with martial arts? Everything. One of the reasons we get into the arts is for self mastery. One of the reasons I began studying was the philosophy. When I began truly practicing the "centering" aspects of the arts, I discovered principles that can help any relationship, whether at home, at work, in families--any relationship.

Nancy finds it remarkable that in all this time, she's never seen me angry. We've had disagreements, but I tend to center myself and we talk it through. There's very little place in my life for anger and very few things that are important enough to make me angry. If I get angry it tends to be aimed at people who behave in an angry way. I've also used anger once or twice intentionally, to get a point across to people who needed to see it.

A successful marriage requires something else. It requires two committed people. I've learned that the hard way. I've been married more than once not necessarily because of mistakes other people made, but because of the wrong decisions that I made in selecting people who didn't view relationships the same way I do.

All marriages require work and focus. Marriages require mutual respect, mutual desire, and mutual support. When you love someone, your philosophy should guide you to treat them in the way that you would want to be treated--with compassion, humor, understanding, interest, support, and passion. 

You can master the martial arts and show tremendous respect for your teachers or students, but if you fail to show that respect to the people you love, you haven't truly learned. If your study of martial arts doesn't help you improve all aspects of your life, you are following the wrong path. Self mastery involves a lot more than self-defense skills.

Fun with Tai Chi Fighting Applications

If you're going to use Tai Chi as it was intended -- as a fighting art -- you need to internalize the movements and how they are applied in self defense situations.

This video shows how to begin doing this -- slowly with a partner throwing punches and kicks. Look for ways to gain entry and get close to your opponent. Here are a few techniques performed in a practice session. I recommend doing this on a regular basis.

Self Defense Techniques - Video on Web

Twohandpushweb There's new video on the Free Lessons part of the website showing self-defense against two attacks -- the 2-handed push and the strangle from the front.

Tom and I shot several techniques against different attacks last week, and I'll be editing more and putting them on the site.

Self-defense techniques against specific attacks should be practiced over and over until the response is instantaneous. But be careful when practicing with a partner. I know for a fact, because my students have used these techniques successfully in real life, that you don't have to hurt your partner to gain skill. Joint locks are especially painful, and too much force can cause your partner to have to sit out for a few weeks and heal.

All martial arts systems have their own techniques, and most of them are useful in self-defense situations. These are a couple of my favorites against these two particular attacks.

Day Two of Davenport Workshop

Richchris2web On  Sunday, Feb. 3, we trained for over 6 hours and it felt good. Students said they weren't quite as tired at the end of the day as they were after the Chen Xiaoxing weekend, so I'll have to push them a little harder next time. :)

We started with a couple of Tai Chi movements and silk-reeling, driving home again some of the body mechanics needed for performing the internal arts properly. Throughout the weekend, I showed how the same mechanics are used in Hsing-I (we didn't devote any time to bagua). The photo at left shows Rich Coulter (left) and Chris Miller working a chin-na application from "Lazy About Tying the Coat."

One of the biggest habits to overcome when training in these arts is the habit of striking by using arm and shoulder muscle rather than transmitting power through the body. The arm and shoulder muscles do very little of the work. And this was one of my goals for the weekend--drilling on whole-body movement and silk-reeling, where the power begins with the ground and flows, spiraling through the leg, directed by the dan tien and manifest in the hands (or whatever part of the body is striking).Staff_techniques3web

We did some push hands, focusing on spiraling and slowing it down to feel the body mechanics.

I opened it up for requests, and by popular demand we worked on staff fighting techniques and then sparred with staffs. My philosophy has always been that if you work on a form, whether empty-hand or weapons, you should be able to use it in a self-defense situation. So I teach fighting techniques for each weapon we practice. It was fun to practice some of the blocks and strikes and then put them into practice by sparring.

I watched the students doing different forms and then offered a critique, pointing out things to improve on. One of the tendencies is to rush some movements, particularly in Tai Chi. It takes so much patience to slow it down and really get satisfaction from doing a movement well. Too often bad habits develop and you don't realize that you're rushing a movement, cutting part of it off, and not realizing all the body mechanics involved.

We called it quits at around 4:30. The time went by too fast this weekend. It was wonderful seeing everyone and very generous of Kim Schaber to donate her facility for training. So if you're in the Quad Cities and need a place to keep your dog when you're out of town, call K-9 Child, at 3030 Hickory Grove Rd. in Davenport.

I think everyone has plenty to work on until I return, and in the meantime we'll exchange video clips privately on YouTube.

Day One Training in Davenport

Qcseminargroupweb We had a great turnout of around 14 people at our two-day training workshop in Davenport, Iowa yesterday. It was great to see everyone and we spent about 5 hours training. We worked body mechanics, Hsing-I fist postures, a couple of Chen tai chi movements with a focus on body mechanics, and we finished shooting the next DVD on the fighting applications of the Five Fist Postures. Not pictured here is Chad Steinke.

The workshop started with standing and corrections on posture. We then took Buddha's Warrior and each person demonstrated it in front of the group and received feedback. Everyone seemed to learn by seeing other people move and seeing the corrections they received. We also worked Single Whip, focusing on whole-body movement and silk-reeling.Kengroupweb1

This workshop was intended to focus on fundamentals because when you learn the principles and you can apply them to one movement, you can then apply them to all movements. Often, we try to learn a lot of forms before we're able to move properly. The challenge in being Americans (and teaching Americans) is to get ourselves to slow down and be patient, working one form, one movement, a thousand times and trying to get the movement right. It takes so much time to develop these skills, that few of us have the patience to work hard enough in the tedious task of developing the skill. Learning the choreography is easy, but we often get deluded into thinking that just because we know a form, we're doing Tai Chi (or Hsing-I or Bagua). Without the internal body mechanics that come from years of practice, however, we're just dancing around.Kengroupweb2

One of the important basic skills you can achieve is to keep your internal strength from "breaking" as you move. Some people pick up bad habits over time. They go way too fast. Everyone needs to slow down. Also, you can tend to exaggerate movements, lift shoulders, insert little jerks and wiggles into movements that break the "chi flow", use shoulder and arm muscle and that sort of thing rather than letting the power come from the ground, through the body, using spiralling, without letting it break. This is one of the skills we worked the most in Day One of the workshop. It's one of the skills we go over in the Internal Strength DVD.

Day One focused a lot on the principles of movement. I could see improvement by the end of the day. Day Two will have a little more action. More about that in the next post.