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March 2008
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Explosive Performance by Chen Xiaowang

I was in the Washington D.C. area in 2003, attending a workshop by Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang. The highlight of the workshop, which focused on Laojia Yilu, was when we all got personal attention from Grandmaster Chen on fajing. I stood in front of him to do the hidden hand punch and when I sunk into my right kua before the punch, he said, "Too much." So I tried it again and he said, "Too much." I lightened up a little on the sinking and he smiled and said, "Ahh, okay." 

Then he took both my arms in his hands, had me relax my body, and he jerked one hand forward and pushed the other in the opposite direction. He did that two or three times as if I was a puppet. The little lightbulb above my head went on. He backed away and told me to repeat it, in front of the entire workshop. I did, relaxing and letting the fajing fly. He smiled and said, "Okay."

In the same facility where we were training, a big kung fu tournament was being held the same weekend. On Saturday night, a masters demonstration was held. Here's the video of Chen Xiaowang's demonstration that night. This clip starts out slowly but then....WHAM!

More Tai Chi Fighting Applications

Tc_apps_2 My training partner Tom is coming over today to continue shooting the DVD series on Tai Chi fighting applications. I spent a lot of the weekend studying and practicing, diving deep into each movement and making final notes for the video shoot.

Can you come up with 12 applications for Push with Both Hands?  This DVD will begin where the first one ends and will explore the next 12 or 13 movements in Laojia Yilu with more than 100 more fighting applications from the movements.

I've seen a few applications over the years, even from masters who have put videos together, but most of the videos only show one application for a movement, and frankly, some of the applications are very radical interpretations of the movement's energy. I like to keep my applications as close to the movement as possible, and look at the many ways of applying the movements to strikes, kicks, knee strokes, joint locks, sweeps and other takedowns. And for an application to work for me, it has to be realistic and something I could see using in an actual fighting situation.

Chen Tai Chi is a close-up fighting art. You want to get up close and personal and break the opponent quickly. I'm having a lot of fun putting this DVD series together, and my plan is to put together a master e-book and sell it with the series by the time it's all done.

9 Tai Chi Movements - More than 100 Fighting Applications

Tcappscover250 My new DVD is the first of what will be a series of DVDs exploring every movement in the Chen Tai Chi "Laojia Yilu" form. The DVD is called "Tai Chi Fighting Applications Vol. 1."

In this DVD, I dive into the first 9 movements of the form and uncover more than 100 fighting applications. I also discuss the body mechanics that make Tai Chi so powerful as a fighting art.

I'm very excited about this DVD. It represents years of study and training, and thousands of dollars in class and workshop fees. I think a lot of people who study Tai Chi around the world will be amazed at the depth of this art and the fact that there are so many practical self-defense techniques in these forms. By the time I complete this series, it will be an exhaustive and valuable course in the martial aspects of Tai Chi. It can be helpful to any style of Tai Chi, since you'll find similar movements in all styles. Even if your teacher tells you that Tai Chi is intended for health and meditation, you can astound him (or her) when you show what a movement is really designed to do -- break an attacker quickly and end the fight. I guarantee you that thousands (maybe more) of Tai Chi "teachers" around the world don't know this stuff. I've been lucky to study with some who do.

Here's a clip from the DVD showing just part of "Walking Obliquely." The DVD is available for purchase on the website.

-Forbidden Kingdom - Jacky Chan and Jet Li

Okay, this film looks very cool. Jacky Chan and Jet Li together at last in The Forbidden Kingdom. Some of the reviews say it's a fantasy aimed at a teenage audience, but the film clips on are pretty impressive. I think this one is a "must see" for this coming weekend.

I always thought either of these guys had the potential to make movies that had nearly as much impact as Bruce Lee. Jacky Chan, though, is a comedian, and that has worked very well for him. I'm glad that Jet Li didn't follow through on his vow to stop making kung fu movies. Like Bruce Lee, he is absolute perfection on screen. It's always great to see a new high-budget kung fu movie hit the screens.

Slow Tai Chi Helps People with Type 2 Diabetes -- Study

According to a recent research project, Tai Chi appears to help reduce the blood sugar levels and boost the immune system of people with Type 2 Diabetes. That's good news, and may be another shot in the arm for the "health"-related Tai Chi classes around the country.

Here's an article about the study on the Science Daily website.

As usual, though, a lot of "alternative medicine" types will take a tremendous leap of faith and logic and project this study to mean that all their claims about chi and ancient healing methods are true.

Don't fall for it because that type of claim is extremely bogus.

This study involved people who practiced slow tai chi movements for about 90 minutes at a time, three times per week. They were also encouraged to practice on their own. You can take anything and slow it down enough -- a karate form for example -- or any series of random movements that might involve some stretching and leg muscle involvement -- slow it down and if people did those movements, they would see similar benefits.

At the heart of this study is a simple logic -- exercise helps improve your health. Studies suggest that strenuous exercise does NOT help people with Type 2 Diabetes, but moderate or mild exercise does. It's not surprising at all that slow-moving Tai Chi might help. And keep in mind that many of these people probably didn't exercise very often before this study (like most people). Any type of mild exercise is going to help them.

It's common sense, not magic. 

So Many Tai Chi Fighting Applications, So Little Time

My training partner Tom is coming over this morning to continue taping the first DVD in what will be a series exploring as many fighting applications as possible in the Chen tai chi Laojia Yilu form.

There are over 600 fighting applications in that form. Master it, and you have a complete fighting art. I started editing what we've already shot, and the applications for the 1st and 2nd moves -- Commencing the Form and Buddha's Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar -- lasts almost half an hour. That's how many fighting applications there are. Of course, I'm also going through the body mechanics for some of the movements, too, but the amount of information hidden in these forms is amazing. Hand strikes, kicks, takedowns, elbow and shoulder strikes, knee strikes, chin-na -- it's all there.

I'm hoping to have the first one done within a couple of weeks (give or take a week).

Comment About New Hsing-I DVD and a Good Point about Self-Defense

My good friend and loyal visitor Evan wrote this in an email:

I'm thoroughly enjoying your latest DVD release.  I'm halfway through the Beng Chuan section.  The applications you've presented are straightforward and applicable to real life situations and some tournament sparring as well.  I suppose the magic of Hsing-I is that the base moves are simple (relatively speaking, of course), but are remarkably versatile.  John Painter, in his book on Combat Baguazhang, says that in a true fighting situation the complex moves rarely work... when the adrenaline is pumping, tunnel vision is occuring, and tactile sensitivity is going to hell, it's the simple moves that have been drilled that rely on larger muscle groups that take over.  I think Hsing-I fits that bill.

I agree with Painter -- in a real-life self-defense situation, you won't have time for a lot of the complex movements. I've thrown out some chin-na movements because they were so impractical in a fighting situation that it was silly to practice them.

Let's face it -- if someone is coming at you on the street, the best thing you can do is drive through them and take their head off. If someone is swinging, you might have time to grab a wrist and break an elbow. I've told the story many times of a 15-year old student who used a "lapel drop" to shatter the elbow of a drunk adult who grabbed him and tried to punch him. Not the simplest technique but it can be done quickly if you have good presence of mind.

I believe Bruce Lee became frustrated with classical martial arts because of the disconnect between what's practiced in the class versus what he encountered in his many street fights. I also believe that many complex techniques and chin-na moves are important to practice for the concepts behind them, even if you wouldn't necessarily use them. After all, that's another reason they call these martial "arts." The art is in the beauty of the movement and the concepts behind them. Evan and Dr. Painter are correct, though, and I made this point with a visual example on the sparring DVD -- sometimes the most effective techniques are the simple ones.

An Invitation to Friends, Students, and DVD Customers

I'm teaching in a different way these days--through the web and through DVDs. Almost every day, someone from somewhere in the world buys a DVD, and it's gratifying when they come back to buy other DVDs.

One repeat customer from Japan recently emailed me and said, "These are the best internal arts and Hsing-I videos I've ever seen." Now that was really appreciated.

Right now, I'm editing the first in a series of Tai Chi Fighting Applications DVDs. It's an exciting project because unlike most DVDs on the market, I'm exploring each movement, as many fighting applications for each one as possible, and the body mechanics that make it powerful. My training partner Tom, a 23-year old TKD black belt, comes over to the house and we work it out while Nancy runs the video camera.

I'd like to invite any of my students or people who have bought DVDs to submit questions or requests for information or explanations that I can post here on the blog. I like for this blog to be a teaching tool, and that's why even when I post a video clip (an excuse to plug a new DVD) I make sure the clip teaches something. I want people to walk away from everything I do with a nugget of information they either didn't have before or needed to be reminded.

So, if you have questions or information you'd like to share, feel free to comment and I'll get them. If it's something that can help our community of visitors, I'll use it and embellish on it with my response.