Previous month:
October 2008
Next month:
December 2008

New DVD - Hsing-I Staff Form plus Staff Fighting Techniques

HsingiStaff250 My newest DVD is hot off the presses -- the Hsing-I Staff Form. It's 90 minutes of classroom instruction on this strong Hsing-I staff form that captures the essence of the five fist postures: splitting, drilling, crushing, pounding, and crossing.

The form is appropriate for students who have already studied the fist postures. It's a good form just for Hsing-I practice, but it's also strong enough to win in tournament competition.

This DVD includes demonstrations of the form, from a front and rear view and in slow motion.

Following the demonstrations, I lead a class through the form step-by-step, with an emphasis on the internal body mechanics that make this such a powerful form.

Next, there's a section in which each movement is broken down into its fighting application. You'll watch--or practice along--as students are shown the fighting application and practice for each movement.

My weapons philosophy is clear -- if you're going to learn a weapons form, you must learn how to fight with that weapon. So the last half-hour of the DVD shows the class practicing staff stances, grips, blocking and striking techniques, and one-steps with a partner.

All the video in this DVD is already on the online school in the form of video lessons, and members of the school can buy the DVD at a big discount on the school's website.

Here is a clip from the applications section of the DVD:


The cost of the DVD is $25.00 and it includes free shipping. If you're interested in this DVD, click the "Buy it Now" button below. You can pay through your PayPal account or with a credit card. There's a money back guarantee if you don't like the DVD.



Hsing-I Staff as a Pole Exercise

HsingiStaffInstruct2 Big I'm editing the hsing-i staff video that we shot on Saturday and breaking it down into video lessons for the online internal arts school.

One of the points I drove home during the teaching of the Hsing-I Staff form was the use of internal body mechanics. If you use the staff properly, with the right body mechanics, the form is very similar to the internal pole exercises that are included as a bonus on the silk-reeling DVD and in other video lessons on the website.

In the pole exercises (discussed in other posts on this blog) you take the arm and shoulder muscles out of the strike and use spiraling, ground path, whole-body movement and strong closing into the kua. When you do it right, the end of the pole shakes and whips with the energy that travels out through the staff.

Using a lighter staff--in the video I use a rattan staff--can give you a good idea if your body mechanics are correct.  

Practicing the Hsing-I Staff

HsingiStaffInstruct1 Big A group of students and I got together yesterday to work on the Hsing-I staff form. It's a form that is part of our Hsing-I curriculum.

I like the explosive nature of Hsing-I Chuan (also spelled xingyiquan) and this form embodies the qualities of the five fist postures--powerful techniques that drive through an opponent.

We worked on the movements of the form, including the body mechanics and dan t'ien rotation that is a vital part of any internal form. The dan t'ien moves with the staff just as it moves in an empty-hand form. The staff is an extension of your limbs. One of the challenges of Hsing-I students is to achieve relaxation in the movements, along with the explosive power during striking techniques.

After working on the form, we broke down each of the form's movements and practiced the fighting applications--blocks, deflecting techniques, sticking techniques, and strikes. I've known many martial artists who do brilliant staff forms but don't have experience with the fighting applications. I've always believed that if you're going to learn a weapons form, you should be able to actually fight with that weapon. And you should know what every movement means in a fighting situation. Otherwise, what's the point? This is a belief that was reinforced by one of my best teachers, Yiliquan Master Phillip Starr (I achieved a black sash in his system). He held weapons classes once or twice a week at his school in Omaha when I was a student back in the 1980s and early 90s, and I enjoyed working applications and sparring with the staff, sword, broadsword and spear.

It was a fun two hours yesterday, focusing on this one form and its applications. We videotaped the entire session for the online school and I began putting the instruction segments on yesterday afternoon.

The Tao of Presidential Politics

Politics and martial arts don't mix. I usually try not to bring it up. But there are philosophical lessons in the presidential campaign of 2008 that I'd like to explore.

I have been studying political races since 1968, when I was 15 and would make sure I was in front of the TV each night to watch Walter Cronkite. I wanted to see what Bobby Kennedy, George Wallace, Richard Nixon, and other candidates were doing. Two months before he died, I received a letter from Bobby Kennedy with his signature on it. I had written to him as part of a civics class. I remember telling him not to be so mean to President Johnson. I was a huge Kennedy fan, and was devastated when he was assassinated.

I began studying Taoism a few years later.

The campaign that just ended was a clear example of the more "centered" candidate winning the presidency, defeating a team of candidates that saw themselves as separate from any American who would disagree with them.

I was a Republican for decades. I voted for Nixon, Ford, Reagan (twice) and the first Bush once. Then the party became something that didn't match my philosophy or my values. When someone disagrees with me, that doesn't make them anti-America. I don't consider myself a "real American" because of my beliefs. If they disagree with me, it doesn't make them terrorists or Muslims (not that there's anything wrong with being a Muslim), and it doesn't make them socialists, athiests or communists (I mean really, are we still lowering ourselves to the level in this country when we have to accuse people of being communists? Isn't Joseph McCarthy dead?). I never thought I would see a Christian being accused by other Christians of being Muslim.

And yet look at the campaign run by the losing team. It was hateful and divisive. In the end, they lost to a man who preached inclusion and who said "there is not a blue America or a red America but there is only the United States of America."

From a Taoist philosophy perspective, that's the only message that makes sense.

I'm old enough that I remember "colored only" drinking fountains. I remember when black kids had to sit in the balcony at the movie theater. They weren't allowed to sit on the main floor with us white kids. At the time, our parents saw themselves as separate and better than them. It rubbed off on some of us. For a while. We were not in harmony with nature. And my parents certainly didn't follow their own "Christian" values.

Last night's vote was historic and I watched Obama's victory speech with tears in my eyes. One commentator said that many people who don't personally know people who are different tend to have negative views of those people. But he said  now that the nation is soon going to see a black family living in the White House, those images will perhaps cause more Americans to understand better, feel more empathy, and lose the sense of separation. We may move a step closer to becoming one.

I've been in many tournament matches when my opponent has become angry. When someone scores on me, I usually tell them "nice shot" immediately, or "good kick." I don't see them as someone I need to hate or feel anger towards. I simply want to score more points and if I don't, I try to figure out what I can do better.

Will the Republicans do the same? The politics of hate and division have to end. Karl Rove, Rick Davis, and Sarah Palin need to be told to go home until they can heal their own minds and realize that we are, as Obama says, one people. I might vote for a Republican one of these days, but not until the people at the top of the party and the ones who guide the campaigns decide that it isn't enough to claim to be Christians. I've always said that it's much easier to claim to be a Christian than to act like one. They need to walk the walk, and if they don't, I hope the American people continue to make clear statements as they did last night. 

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Karate Tournament

Back in the late Nineties and the first couple of years of this century, I competed in several Gen-Ki tournaments in Chicago. They were big affairs, with hundreds of competitors. It was fun to go up against mainly karate people and win first place. My students and I brought home quite a few 6-foot trophies. At that time, there were several really great tournaments in Chicago. One was a huge open tournament with internal arts divisions that attracted Hsing-I, Tai Chi, and Bagua competitors. Gen-Ki was mostly devoted to karate but at the time, I was building a winning track record was felt that I needed to compete and win. One of the great things about Chicago tournaments is the contact that is required in sparring. In brown and black belt competition, you can't score a point unless you hit or kick your opponent. It isn't a game of "tag," like critics call tournament sparring. It gets rough and it's fun.

For the second time this year, I had a completely different reaction when I went to the Gen-Ki tournament again this year. Nancy and I spent Saturday night at her brother's house and had a fun visit playing with our 1-year old niece. We got up Sunday morning and went to the tournament.

We sat there waiting for competition to begin, and as I looked around me, I realized I was the only kung-fu black belt there. I saw one guy walking around from a karate team who I had competed against 7 years ago--8 years ago--and beat him in both forms and sparring. 

I found myself completely unenthusiastic about competing. It was a real "been here done this" moment.

Earlier this year, when we lived in Tampa, Nancy and I drove over to Clearwater for an allegedly "open" tournament. It was full of karate folks, many of them practicing "extreme" karate. I looked around, felt like a fish out of water, and realized I didn't really need to prove myself against these guys, competing with internal arts against karate guys with karate judges. So we left.

Sitting there on Sunday, Nancy must have felt what I was thinking. She turned to me and said, "You know, you have absolutely nothing to prove with these people."

It was a beautiful day (there aren't many left in the Midwest this time of year) so we got up, I grabbed my elk horn knives and we drove back home and enjoyed the day. Even took a bike ride.

I'm very interested in doing demos and even competing in internal arts divisions, but I've lost my interest in being the only kung-fu guy in a karate tournament. I enjoy my friend John Morrow's tournaments and there's a great one each year in Dubuque that attracts more of a variety of competitors. I'll keep going to those, but I'm more interested in internal events these days.

When you're starting out, it's important to establish a track record and build a reputation. The last Gen-Ki tournament I attended 4 years ago, I won the "masters" form division and I won the 50-and-over sparring. I was asked to spar for Grand Champion and beat the 35-40-year old winner. Then I was outpointed and won runner-up Grand Champion among all black belts. It was a great day, and I shocked everyone by doing so well at age 51.

This past Sunday, three of my students arrived at the tournament after we left. Kim Miller won 1st place in women's brown belt forms with the Chen 38. Kim Schaber won 1st place in lower belt weapons. Each of them, and Chris Miller, also won 2nd and 3rd place trophies. They were in the hunt against karate competitors and that's cool. They need to do this to build experience and a winning track record, especially if their intention is to teach in the future.

As for me, I've been there, done that. Time to turn the page and move to the next chapter.