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February 2010
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Congratulations to Kim Kruse for Tournament Win

Ken-Kim-Trophies-3-10-Web One of my students, Kim Kruse, won first place at a big karate tournament in Dubuque a couple of weeks ago. She was competing in the brown belt division with the Chen 38 form (she's not yet a brown sash, either).

We enjoy performing Chen tai chi among martial artists of different styles, to drive home the fact that tai chi is a powerful martial art.

The beauty of the 38 is that it combines fluid, spiraling movements with fa-jing, and for a tournament like this, we put fa-jing throughout the form to emphasis the martial aspects.

Everyone else was busy that weekend, so Kim was our lone representative. She took third in sparring in her division.

Congratulations, Kim!

New Hsing-I DVD - The Ba Shih (8 Methods) Form

Hsing-I-BaShih-DVD-250 I've completed my 17th instructional DVD -- devoted to the intermediate Hsing-I Chuan form called "Ba Shih" (8 Methods).

It's recommended that you have reached a little skill with the Five Fist Postures and the Linking Form ("Lien Huan Wu Hsing") before tackling Ba Shih.

This DVD is more than just repeated movements. There is detailed instruction of each movement in the form, plus a section on fighting applications that teaches body mechanics in detail -- mechanics that will help you do the form even better.

The DVD includes:

** A full speed and slow motion view of the complete form.

** A rear view of the complete form.

** A detailed instruction section that breaks down each movement.

** A fighting applications section with an emphasis on internal body mechanics.

** BONUS SECTION -- How to Do Fa-Jing (Issuing Energy) -- Concepts and exercises to develop this widely misunderstood skill.

If you're interested, click here. As usual, there's a money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied for any reason.

Borrowing Energy in Push Hands and Grappling

Borrowing-Big-1 Jieh Jing is translated from Chinese as "borrowing energy." It's one of the many concepts that are abstractly described as "energies" in the internal arts.

As with each of these "energies," borrowing energy doesn't mean you're sucking the energy out of your opponent literally -- it isn't mystical, it's physical just like all the other skills of Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Bagua.

These three photos show an exercise you can do to practice and demonstrate borrowing energy.

Borrowing-Big-2 In photo 1, my partner is rushing at me to push me off my ground. He will push hard into my folded arms, using his momentum and weight. I'm establishing the ground path, maintaining peng, and setting up the body structure that I need for good internal mechanics.

In photo 2, he makes contact with his force, or energy. I ground it and give it no place to go but back at him. It actually feels as if it bounces back at him.

In photo 3, you can see him bouncing back slightly. All of the internal mechanics are coming into play here -- ground path, peng jin, dan t'ien rotation, whole-body connection -- do these and it is very difficult for someone Borrowing-Big-3 to drive you off your ground. Instead, they feel the shock of their force hitting "a brick wall." It can surprise an opponent and give you a window of opportunity to follow up with counters of your own.

Last night I held a free teleconference for members of the online school and a great question was asked -- "If in Tai Chi you're supposed to use an opponent's energy against them, how does borrowing energy fit into that?"

The answer is: you are using the opponent's energy against them, but rather than lead it away or perform roll back, you're bouncing it back.

I'd also like to add a cautionary tale -- beware of any tai chi teacher who demonstrates this and has a student place a finger on him, then causes the student to jump back when the teacher barely moves. More than likely, that is a fraud. Without force coming in, you can't exactly have it bouncing back. And don't expect superhuman feats, such as sending someone flying 20 feet through the air. That only happens when the student really plays along. That said, it's possible when using this in push hands or fighting applications to combine borrowing energy with fa-jing and hit them with enough force to send them back and injure them. I'd hate to be on the receiving end when Chen Xiaowang, Chen Bing or one of those guys used it on me to inflict injury. The above demonstration is a more gentle approach to train this concept with a partner and a way for both people to develop this skill.

A Key Goal of Baguazhang - Use the Body to Uproot the Opponent

BaguaBody1-aBig Besides capturing and controlling your opponent's center, one of the key goals of Baguazhang is to get close to the opponent and use your body to uproot them -- unbalance them -- and put them down.

As in each of the internal arts (and kung-fu in general), there are many ways of doing this that are hidden inside techniques.

The circular and flowing forms that you see provide you with a way of practicing the body mechanics you need to practice these techniques with a partner and later, use them in a self-defense situation.

BaguaBody1 Photo 1 shows the end of the opening movement to the Cheng-style "Eight Main Palms" form. It's similar in energy to the opening of a Tai Chi or Hsing-I form -- downward energy. One obvious application is a downward block/deflection of an incoming punch.

Photo 2 shows the next move, a step-out with the left foot as both hands shoot out along the centerline with palms up. Some people may see this as simply a way to begin walking the circle in the dragon posture, but there are also fighting applications here. For one thing, after you've blocked an incoming punch, you attack the throat with spearhands.

BaguaBody2 But that's too easy, isn't it? I like to dig deeper to see how the concept of uprooting the opponent can be realized. In Photo 3, after blocking an incoming punch, I'm stepping out and sealing the opponent's right leg with my left. I press into him with my arms and move into the left kua.

In Photo 4, he has nowhere to go but down.

Tai Chi and Bagua are close-up fighting arts. A good fighter using these arts wants to get close to the BaguaBody3  opponent, break them quickly and leave them on the ground. This particular technique doesn't break the opponent, but the fall itself can do damage or at least take a little bit of the fight out of someone without doing a lot of damage. From a psychological standpoint, taking someone's ground and doing a takedown is pretty damaging. From a philosophical standpoint, I would rather knock someone down without breaking them if that will end a fight without injury. But sometimes an opponent will only get angrier, and that's why you learn other techniques.

As you practice the internal arts, look beneath the surface of movements to see how they can be used to get close and uproot someone with your body. 

All of my DVDs and many of the video lessons on the online school delve into the body mechanics and fighting applications of movements. My thanks to Colin Frye, who is the student in the photos.