Previous month:
June 2009
Next month:
August 2009

New DVD - Chen 38 Form - Available Now

Chen38-250 I'm very pleased with my newest DVD. I've never seen this much detail on a form -- over 4 hours of instruction on 2 DVDs. You won't confuse my form with Chen Xiaowang's of course, but as usual, my goal is to provide information that you can't find on any other DVD.

The set includes front and back views of the complete form, plus individual instruction on each movement, with an emphasis on body mechanics, PLUS the fighting applications for each movement. Part of the applications section was shot at a workshop that I held with martial artists of all styles. You'll see them being coached through the techniques and the body mechanics they need to perform the self-defense applications with relaxed power.

I don't know of any other DVD with this much detailed instruction on one form.

I began practicing the Chen 38 in 1999, learning it from Jim and Angela Criscimagna (disciples of Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang) when they lived in Rockford, Illinois, and also from Master Ren Guangyi (a senior student of Chen Xiaowang's) in workshops sponsored by Jim and Angela. It's a great form with a great mixture of slow movements and fa-jing that is one of my favorites for practice and for tournament competition.

The 2-DVD set is only $29.99 with free shipping in the U.S. or Canada (add $5.00 for shipping and handling for International orders). As usual, there's a money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied for any reason. Members of the online school get a $10 discount (go to the online school to order the member discount).

To order, go to the page listed under "DVDs and Books" on the right side of the screen.

New Chen Tai Chi Book by a Disciple of Chen Xiaowang

SilberstorffBook I highly recommend this book by Jan Silberstorff. I'm reading it now, and it's great to find a book by a disciple of Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang that goes into detail about the art of Chen Tai Chi. Silberstorff (who uses the title "Master" in his author name in the book) was the first Western indoor student and family disciple of Grandmaster Chen. He is from Germany but now travels and teaches in at least 15 countries. I've heard good things about his workshops.

On the cover is a photo of his teacher. As far as I know, this is the first book by a disciple of Chen Xiaowang. He traces the history of Tai Chi, the evolution of other Tai Chi styles and how they can all be traced back to Chen despite continued stories of the legendary creator Zhang Sanfeng (these are only tall tales and myths).

The book goes into detail on a number of Tai Chi movements. I would guess that it would be beneficial to have trained with someone who knows what they're doing in order to understand these details, otherwise it's easy to misinterpret.

Tai Chi is a martial art with strong benefits for health, spirituality and philosophy. I may not agree with all of Silberstorff's statements about chi (most of them without supporting proof) but in reading the details of how to do the movements, you can be sure that this information is just one step away from Chen Xiaowang himself. 

There are also great translations of articles and other material, including word of Chen Xin (of the 16th generation), ten essential staterments from Chen Changxing (who taught Yang Luchan), and articles by Chen Xiaowang such as "The Five Levels of Evolution (Gongfu) in Taijiquan."

The book is available at and you can buy it by going to this link:

Internal Body Mechanics - Whole-Body Movement in Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Bagua

I met a guy who had been into tai chi -- Yang style -- for 20 years. We compared notes and he showed me some silk-reeling movements. It was obvious that he wasn't connected through the body, and he wasn't using whole-body movement.

I stepped over to him and asked him to step behind me and get up close, as if he was going to knock me over his leg. He put his right leg behind my left leg and his torso against mine.

"Now knock me over," I said. He stood there, uncertain what to do.

"Turn your waist," I said.

He turned his waist but not his arms or upper body. I didn't go anywhere.

"Turn the arms and upper body with the waist," I said. He thought about it for a second, then turned. I almost went down.

"Now, when you turn it all at the same time," I said, "move down and into your right kua as you turn." I pointed to the kua as I said this so he would know where it was.

He turned and I went down hard to the ground. "Ohh," he said, a light bulb coming on as he gained insight.

Lazy6 Now, how can someone practice Tai Chi for so many years but not understand whole-body movement? It happens all the time. I've had this same encounter with many people who have years of internal arts experience (I've never met a Chen Tai Chi person who had this problem, however). I'll bet their teacher has talked about whole-body movement. I'm sure they've been told to move the whole body, but either the teacher didn't know how to teach it or didn't understand it himself.

I saw the same thing when I did my Chen 38 fighting applications workshop a couple of months ago. From beginning students to high-ranking black belts in karate and even a tai chi teacher (Yang again), no one knew Lazy7 how to connect the whole body for self-defense so that they could remain relaxed and yet knock someone down. No one knew where the kua is and very few understood the difference between turning the hips and rotating the dan t'ien or waist.

Whole-body movement is one of the key internal arts body mechanics that you must


develop if you want to do high-quality Tai Chi, Hsing-I or Bagua. It's a physical skill that is developed through hard work and practice. It's one of the skills included in the free 10-part video course on my online internal arts school. You can sign up at the end of this post and receive this free course by email.

Here's an example, shown in the photos here. In the top photo, Tom Revie is delivering a roundhouse kick. I block Lazy8 and grab the leg and put my hand on his neck in the second photo. In the third photo, I connect from the ground through the hand and turn the waist. The entire body moves -- the arms move with the waist and I move into the right kua. Tom goes to the ground easily. This is from the Tai Chi movement called "Lazy About Tying the Coat."

If you're into the internal arts--or any martial art--I encourage you to take advantage of this free video course in key internal arts body mechanics. You might learn something that can make your own arts more powerful.

Tai Chi and Internal Body Mechanics - Peng Jin, the Most Important "Energy"

Peng250 "Jin" means "energy," although that has been misinterpreted by some literal-minded folks who believe it is an actual scientifically real "energy" in the body. It has also been called "power" by some.

I tend to think of jin as "skill." The term "energy" is an abstract way of describing the skill that you develop with practice. Liu jin, for example, is "roll back" energy. It's a physical skill that combines reflexes and sensitivity when someone pushes or punches or attacks in another way. The skilled fighter who uses liu can deflect the attack, rolling it away and often causing the attacker to go off-balance. Naturally, this takes a lot of practice. It's impossible to develop this skill just by doing a form.

The most important of all the so-called "energies" of tai chi and the internal arts is peng jin. It MUST be present in all of your movements, even when you walk. If it isn't, you're not doing tai chi (or hsing-i or bagua). Peng jin is present in all the other energies of the internal arts -- without it, you couldn't perform roll-back, press, push, split, etc.

Peng jin permeates the entire body. Often, you'll see a beginning student moving one arm with peng, but losing it in the other arm, if they think that the other arm isn't in an "attacking" position. Then again, you can walk up to a lot of tai chi students as they're performing, and push on their arms as they are moving, and their arms will collapse because there is no expansive force of peng behind their movements.

The tai chi folks who call this a "soft art" are often guilty of teaching tai chi so soft and wimpy that their students crumble and collapse under any incoming force.

Now, to set the record straight, peng jin isn't intended to be a resisting force. It's an expansive force, but it doesn't resist. When you press into someone who is using peng, they're often using silk-reeling energy, too (or they should be) and they will roll you off, neutralizing the incoming force. When you apply force into peng, you don't necessarily feel the peng until the hammer comes down.

Some even compare peng jin with the force at the top of a puddle of water. If a leaf falls onto the puddle, it's held at the top by a force. I prefer to think of peng as the same energy you feel when you push a beach ball into the ocean or a swimming pool. But if you punch that beach ball while it's in the water, the ball doesn't resist, it spins, leading your punch into emptiness.

In the internal arts, at least the way I teach them, the first skills you learn are to establish the ground path and to use peng jin along with the ground. The two MUST work together at all times. If your teacher hasn't talked about these concepts, you need to find another teacher. That may sound rude to some, but it's true. Let me repeat -- you are NOT doing internal arts if you aren't putting the ground strength and peng jin into every movement.

I've told this story before, but I studied for a long time before hearing about these concepts. When I began studying with Jim and Angela Criscimagna, I was practicing Laojia Yilu with a group of students in a park. I began the movement "Six Sealings Four Closings" when both hands go out to the right before sweeping down and to the left. From fifty feet away, Jim shouted, "Ken, you just lost it." I asked what he meant. "You just lost your peng." I wondered at the time how he could see that from so far away, but now, as I teach, it's so easy to see when the ground, peng, and the intent are not in a student's movement.

This stuff isn't magic and it isn't mystical. Peng jin has nothing to do with some mysterious energy called "chi." It's a physical skill that requires a lot of practice, study, and work. After all, that's why they call it kung-fu.

In the free 10-part video course that I've put on the online internal arts school, I outline some of the basic skills you need for proper tai chi, hsing-i and bagua. You're invited to sign up here for this free course. You'll receive ten emails with links to videos, each of them up to 8 minutes long. You can also sign up below. It's absolutely free, and I would say that if your teacher isn't teaching you these skills,join the online school to supplement what you're studying or find another teacher.



How to Develop Internal Arts Skill - The Ground Path

I can't tell you how many internal artists I've met during the last decade or so who look at me with blank stares when I ask if they have been taught about the ground path.

I kno w how they feel. I first heard about it around 1997, when I started reading a network listserve, where Mike Sigman and others talked about it. I had studied martial arts for many years at that point, and had practiced the internal arts for a decade, and this concept was new to me.

I began studying Sigman's material and attended a workshop he held in Minneapolis. I began studying Chen tai chi with Jim and Angela Criscimagna, and learned body mechanics that were foreign to me. As I've seen during the past decade, these physical skills are still foreign to a lot of internal artists. Simply put, there is a LOT of bad instruction happening in the internal arts, particularly tai chi.

When Sigman began telling tai chi teachers and students about the ground path, he was flamed by many of them because they had developed a false image of their own skill and didn't want to hear any information that conflicted with their self-delusion. It's just like politics -- we've trained ourselves to reject any information that doesn't support the opinions we've developed.

Fortunately, I don't have that trait. I look for new information and, if it helps me improve, I embrace it, even if it means I have to tell myself I've been traveling down the wrong path and need to discard much of what I've invested time, money, and emotion in.

On my online school, I'm offering a free 10-part course in some basic internal arts skills, and how they are used in tai chi, hsing-i and bagua. You can also sign up for it here on this post (scroll down). In the first video lesson, I show two or three basic exercises to help you begin to develop ground strength. There are many more in the online school and on the Internal Strength DVD. 

Ground1 Using the strength of the ground requires the correct body structure. In doing so, you connect this strength throughout the body, and when you combine this strength with other internal body mechanics, you're able to transmit incredible power in a relaxed way. When someone pushes on you, it's as if they feel an iron bar running to the ground. You've probably seen video of tai chi people putting out their arm and letting a line of people push on it, but they can't knock him down? It's simply a matter of using ground strength.

In the photo at left, I'm pushing on Tom Revie's left shoulder. He's standing with his feet about shoulder-width apart and he's feeling the push going into the ground through his right foot. This is the first exercise in learning to establish the ground path. One common mistake would take place if Tom pushed back at me. His job is to relax, take the push, and connect it with the ground.

It's difficult -- if not impossible -- to learn these skills by reading about them. As they say, "It Has To Be Shown."

The ground path works in conjunction with peng jin. As Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang says, "Peng jin is like a car engine. You can lift the car off the ground and race the engine as hard as you want but the car won't go anywhere. When you set the car down and race the engine, the ground strength allows the car to move."

Ground2 If you aren't using these two skills together in every movement, you aren't doing tai chi, or hsing-i, or bagua. You're just pretending. And if you haven't been taught these skills, your teacher has let you down. Sad but true, but at this point, it really can't be denied. Ten or twenty years ago, Americans didn't know this information. Now we do. Every "energy" in the internal arts (roll-back. press, push, split, etc.) depends upon the ground and peng.

In the second photo, I'm using the ground from my right leg, connected to my right hand, to break Tom's elbow (well, okay, I didn't really break it).

The free video course demonstrates the ground path, peng jin, whole-body movement, silk-reeling energy, dan t'ien rotation, using the kua, and how all of these skills are combined in the practice of the internal arts.




Happy Anniversary - Celebrating the Online School's First Year!

GroundPath250 Today -- July 4th, 2009 -- is the first anniversary of the launch of my online internal arts school. I opened the virtual doors a year ago today and it has been a great year.

I'm celebrating with a new 10-part free course in some of the key skills you need for quality Tai Chi, Hsing-I, or Bagua. The photo at left is from the video lesson on the first key skill -- establishing and maintaining the ground path.

Over the years, I received several emails from people around the world, asking where they could study these arts if there were no teachers in their area. This online school is the answer.

In one year, I've put up more than 300 video lessons, downloadable e-books, audios, and other material on the site. I'm not even halfway finished. This week, Nancy and I have been vacationing in Ft. Myers, Florida. During our vacation, we taped the 8 Pieces of Brocade, and the Yi Jing Ching -- 36 chi kung exercises that date back many hundreds of years. They will be put on the site in the next few days. Nancy and I also celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary yesterday on the 3rd. I couldn't do this school without her. 

One new member posted a message on our private discussion board, saying that the instruction he has received so far in the online school is the best he's had other than when he's able to go to  China. That's just about the best thing anyone can say about American instruction in the internal arts. Another member a few months ago told me he trained in Hsing-I under a master in Taiwan, and the Hsing-I instruction on the site was helping him keep up to speed, and it was just like what he learned in Taiwan.

Another reason I started the site is because I met a lot of internal artists around the country who simply haven't been taught properly. They haven't been taught the body mechanics that are required by these arts. Some of them have even been teaching for decades. I've been lucky to have teachers who taught me these skills (Jim and Angela Criscimagna chief among them) and who introduced me to members of the Chen family, giving me the opportunity to learn from them, too. I also have to tip my hat to Mike Sigman for what he has taught me about internal strength that has helped me understand internal arts instruction even better.

So I launched the online school and put lessons on that cut through the garbage -- teaching what people need to know and holding nothing back.

If you'd like to receive a free 10-part video course in key internal arts skills, just put your first name and email address in the boxes below. It's part of my celebration of this great online adventure.