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New Book on Chen Tai Chi - The Essence of Taijiquan

EssenceTaijiDavid Gaffney and Davidine Siaw-Voon Sim are two Chen Tai Chi (also spelled Taiji) students and teachers who are producing excellent books on this amazing art. They are the founders of Chenjiagou Taijiquan GB (Great Britain).

The newest book is called The Essence of Taijiquan. It has been endorsed by Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang. David is a disciple. Follow this link to buy it.


Here's a description of the book from the website: 

"This book explains the turbulent recent history of Chenjiagou, birthplace of Taijiquan, and how this has shaped the art we practise today. It presents a comprehensive introduction to the overlapping steps that make up the traditional Chen Taijiquan syllabus. Topics include: Understanding Qi in a practical way; Taijiquan as a combat system; Deciphering the boxing canon of Chen Wangting, the creator of Taijiquan; The correct attitude required for successful practice etc.. Throughout the book lies an underlying theme of demystifying the art and appreciating it within the cultural framework of generations of Chenjiagou practitioners. In a range of articles, the final chapter sees some of today’s leading practitioners give their insights into the multifaceted art of Chen Taijiquan."


Their first book, Chen Style Taijiquan: The Source of Taiji Boxing was an outstanding debut, and one that I recommend.

I ordered the book today. It's important to support efforts like these because they help all of us develop deeper insights into the art of Tai Chi.

The Number One Skill You Need for Success in Martial Arts (and in Life)

Ken Prepares 2-25-06 Web22 years ago I stood in Sifu Phillip Starr's kung-fu school in Omaha as a black sash student (black belt) -- Bob -- was asked what a particular movement meant for self-defense. I was not a black sash at the time. Bob was a friendly person and was very helpful to lower-ranking students. When asked what a movement meant, he would demonstrate three or four powerful techniques that were hidden in the movement -- it wasn't just a block, for example, it was also an arm lock and a takedown.

I was amazed at the depth of his knowledge. How did he become so good that he could see so deeply into these flowery kung-fu movements?

The years passed and I continued to study. Sometimes, I would begin learning a long series of movements known as a "form" (often called "kata"). These forms could include up to 100 movements and take 12 or 13 minutes to perform. Each time I would begin on the first movement, it seemed that I would never get to the end.

But one step at a time -- one movement at a time -- suddenly the end of the form arrived and I had learned a new one.

A couple of years ago, I released a series of DVDs on tai chi fighting applications, looking deeper than any videos have ever gone into the self-defense techniques hidden in a tai chi form.

Now, students were wondering how I learned all that; how I got to the point that I could see so deeply into the art.

The answer is simple -- persistence.

Woody Allen once said that 90% of success is just showing up. It might be a little more complicated than that, but he was on target. The most important skill you can have is the ability to persist until you meet your goals.

Set a goal and don't let anything stop you from getting there. Just take it one step at a time. Work at it and don't quit. Before you know it, you will have achieved something great.

Look at any Olympic athlete -- someone like Lindsey Vonn. Consider the hard work it took her to become a gold medalist. Consider the injuries she overcame, the crashes, and even the week that she won the gold she was enduring an intensely painful shin bruise.

She could have given up but she persisted all along the way and she achieved her dreams.

When I was growing up, my favorite baseball player was Pete Rose. I watched him play many times in Cincinnati, and I was there the night he broke Ty Cobb's record for hits. Pete was not the most gifted athlete. He wasn't the biggest, the fastest, or the strongest. But he was determined to be the best. He practiced hitting after others had gone home. He got to the ballpark early to practice. When he was walked, he ran to first base. They called him "Charlie Hustle." He didn't just slide into a base, either. Pete Rose slid head-first with his arms outstretched like Superman.

Pete Rose is the embodiment of persistence. He didn't need the most talent. He showed up, had a goal, and gave it everything he had.

In the dozen or so years since I began teaching kung-fu, many students have joined my classes. Only one has made it to black sash and one more will make it during the coming year. Most students see that it's a difficult road and they drop out. Others really love it but let other things in life get in the way. Only a very few have the persistence to make it to black sash. And then they learn that they've only just begun. The real learning comes after they reach black sash.

Even in the Chen Village, the birthplace of Tai Chi, Master Chen Bing says that among the Chinese students who study the art, only one in 100 persist long enough to achieve real skill.

Remember the old joke -- how do you eat an elephant? The answer -- one bite at a time. It may be a joke, but the message is clear. Persistence is the most important skill for success in life or in the martial arts.

In April, 2008, I was told I had a heart problem. Too many rogue electrical pathways were causing my heart to beat like a drummer playing "Wipeout." A week later, I lost my job. Budget cuts, they said. I went home and told my wonderful wife, Nancy, that I was tired of working for people I couldn't trust. I wanted to launch an online kung-fu school.

"Go for it," she said.

I started with nothing -- reserved the domain name, planned what I would want if I were studying online, and I began videotaping lessons. People raised their eyebrows when I told them what I was doing. "How can that work?" they often asked. I didn't let that stop me. Most teachers have a school or rent a space. I had a school a few years ago and wasn't real happy with the experience. This time, I had a vision -- I had been asked a few times over the years how someone could study if there were no teachers around. My idea -- I would offer what I know to people around the world who need it, and help them study in their own homes.

Three months later, the online school was launched. That was almost two years ago. I now have nearly 400 video lessons on the site, plus e-books and other material, and I have members around the world who pay a monthly fee to study online. I'm not even close to being finished. There may be over 1,000 video lessons before the site is where I want it to be. But every morning when I wake up, someone around the world has sent me money for their membership or to purchase a DVD -- from the U.S. to Japan, from England to Slovenia. I've never felt so good about any job I've ever had.

Yesterday, I received an email from a student of a well-known tai chi book author. This student told me that he had purchased some of my DVDs and I had "filled in a lot of gaps" and had given him "a lot to practice." I wanted to frame the email. From the videotaping to the editing, to DVD production, marketing, putting together ads and writing blogs and articles, this is a one-man production (with occasional videography from Nancy and my local students). It's a totally creative experience and it enables me to use every skill I developed in radio and TV news and PR/media relations.

I have a dream -- a goal -- and I am persisting one lesson at a time. I'm also studying and learning new material to advance my skills so that I can pass it along to my students. All this has been accomplished despite setbacks that would have sidelined a lot of people -- three heart procedures and the loss of the function of my left lung all within the last 18 months, and a couple of near-death experiences in the hospital less than 4 months ago.

Despite this, I'm practicing with students again and have hit a very productive sweet spot. I'm about to finish my newest DVD -- an instructional DVD focusing on the intermediate Hsing-I form "Ba Shih." All the video for the DVD is already on the website in bite-sized chunks.

Woody Allen was right. I show up every day and work on my goal. Just like learning a long kung-fu form or eating an elephant, I knock out one lesson at a time. It grows and grows. 

It doesn't matter if your goal is work-related, family-related, financial or success-related. Set the goal, map out the actions it will take to get there, and persist. Don't let anyone or anything tell you that you can't do it. Don't let anything stop you from taking one step at a time.

If you do this, you can achieve anything -- even a gold medal, a black sash, or Ty Cobb's record for all-time hits.

Free 10-Part Video Course for Anyone Involved in Tai Chi, Hsing-I or Bagua

On my online school, visitors can sign up for a free 10-part video course that offers great tips that will improve your training, and also a sample of the type of instruction you'll get on the website.

Yes, Send Me the FREE 10-Part Course in Key Internal Arts Skills! 
If you're not using the skills demonstrated in this 10-part free course, you are NOT doing Tai Chi, Hsing-I, or Bagua. Are you learning the real internal arts? You'll soon find out by signing up for this free course. 

Prince Charles Can't Find His Chi with Both Hands

CharlesQigong  I like Prince Charles. He is a Monty Python fan and has a great sense of humor and that makes him okay in my book. I don't think a lot of the world has seen that side of him, but I saw part of a funny short film that he did when he was a young man that showed a real Pythonesque sense of comedy. Here is a story with some funny pictures of Charles doing chi kung. 

The Controversy of Falun Gong and its Repression in China

In recent years, it is said that the Chinese government represses members of the Falun Gong cult

Some people like to claim that the Falun Gong has something to do with tai chi.

Sima Nan is an investigator who tried for years to find a real chi master in China. As an investigative reporter, he was beaten severely by the followers of some masters who turned out to be frauds. In fact, Sima Nan (who is Chinese) never found a real chi master.

Hmmmm, so what does that tell you? 

When I first heard about how horribly the Chinese government was treating the Falun Gong followers, I did some research. The Falun Gong believe there is an eye in the sky and if you meditate long enough, you can see anything that happens around the world.

Okee dokee, then. As Woody Allen said, "Excuse me, but I'm needed back on the planet Earth."

Here is an interview with Sima Nan about the Falun Gong. It sheds a little light about the founder. There are reports that hundreds of Falun Gong believers have died as a result of government action. That, of course, would be very unfortunate. But our own government was investigating the Jim Jones cult when that tragedy happened, and a congressman was shot to death at Jonestown when the mass suicide happened. Should the "spiritual" beliefs of people be subject to investigation, or should they be left alone to be taken advantage of by folks like Jim Jones and the founder of the Falun Gong? 

It's an interesting controversy, but it has nothing to do with tai chi or chi kung. The Falun Gong is a cult. 

The Power of Closing in Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Bagua

Closing1 The body mechanics of the internal arts -- tai chi, hsing-i and bagua -- involve opening and closing in all movements. This week, as I work with students on fighting applications from the Hsing-I intermediate form Ba Shih, we're working on body mechanics that apply across all three arts. One of the movements incorporates a powerful closing action, and it shows how devastating this can be in a self-defense situation.

In tai chi, this movement is done in the commencement when you lower your hands. The application isn't always apparent to the naked eye. In the Hsing-I form, internal strength flows up from the ground through the body as you roll the hands forward (Top Photo).

Closing2 The second photo shows the closing. You close the body as you pull the hands down to dan t'ien level. This is done very powerfully but without a lot of muscular tightness -- with relaxed strength and speed. Notice I'm not bending over when I pull down -- that's a mistake a lot of beginners make. Keep the hips underneath you and not sticking out when you close,.

Remember the equation for fa-jing in the internal arts: proper body mechanics + good posture + speed = fa-jing. In closing, you simply use proper body mechanics to close and put on the speed.

In the third photo, one of the applications of this movement Closing3 begins. My opponent comes in with a push or a grab with both hands. I deflect the push by raising the hands up and forward. I grab his forearms.

In the last photo, the closing happens and pulls the opponent down. You can easily snap your opponent's neck back and cause whiplash so be careful when practicing. James, my partner in the photo, is a U.S. Marine recruiter and much bigger and stronger than I, but I was able to surprise him with a pulldown here.

There are so many movements that incorporate "down" energy and fa-jing, pulling and closing. Think of the hands sweeping downward at the beginning of Six Sealings, Four Closing4 Closings in Chen Tai Chi. Think of this type of closing when running through movements in all three of the internal arts.

In the bottom photo, other movements are implied. For example, you could drive a knee up into your opponent's face. You could also follow up with an elbow strike to the side of the head or a downward elbow to the spine. The counters are only limited to your imagination.

The videos for these practice sessions are on the online school for members now, and eventually will be on my next Hsing-I DVD.