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An Amazing Weapons Form - the Chen Taiji Straight Sword on DVD


I held a workshop in April to guide a variety of martial artists through the Chen Tai Chi Straight Sword form step-by-step, with an emphasis on body mechanics.

The individual movements were broken down and I have assembled it all on my newest DVD - The Chen Taiji Straight Sword Form.

There is just under two hours of training information on one DVD, including multiple views of each movement, complete demonstrations of the form slowly and at medium speed by front and rear views. 

The best part of the DVD is that you get to be part of the workshop and learn along with the other martial artists. Some fighting applications are demonstrated along the way to add to the understanding of a movement's intent, but most fighting applications will be shown in the sequel later this year.

The DVD is available on my membership website, also my DVD website, through this blog, and on

The Chen Straight Sword Form is amazing -- great fighting techniques requiring all the internal body mechanics that you need in the empty-hand forms. The footwork is lively and there is a wonderful blend of relaxed internal strength and explosive fajing -- the hallmark of a good Chen form.

As with all my videos, I try to go deeper than what you usually find on other DVDs. Instead of just repeated movements, we drill into the mechanics of the movement. Check out the video clip below and make this DVD part of your collection. The cost is only $22.50 and that includes free shipping and a money-back guarantee, no questions asked, if you are dissatisfied for any reason. 

A Life Lesson in Death: The Passing of Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang

FengI am always broken-hearted to hear of the death of any kung-fu master, so I was very sorry to hear that Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang passed away a few weeks ago. My condolences go out to his students and his family.

When great masters die, I check to see how long they have lived. Usually, it isn't a lot longer than the general population.

Grandmaster Feng was 83 or 84 - he was born in 1928.

And now comes the part of the post that some may find controversial but it is intended to carry the utmost respect for Grandmaster Feng.

He was a disciple of Hu Yaozhen, a Taoist qigong master. Grandmaster Feng studied with him and also with the great Taiji master Chen Fake. Feng eventually developed his own style of Chen Taiji that included qigong, silk-reeling exercises, etc.

I receive messages and scoldings occasionally from people who claim that qigong, and Taoist qigong, if done properly, will mean you will evade illness and disease, and will result in a very long life. I received some of these messages after I developed atrial fibrillation, and a surgical procedure resulted in the closing of my pulmonary veins. Basically, I lost the function of my left lung three years ago.

A few well-intentioned but moronic messages were sent to me advising me -- in all seriousness -- that this wouldn't have happened if I had been doing qigong properly.

So here is the main point of my post:

My wife's mother lived to age 96. She never did a minute of qigong in her life. My step-mom is 84 and never did a moment of qigong in her life -- and rarely even exercised. My father-in-law lived to be 94 and I never heard that he exercised for a moment in his life -- and would have thought qigong was ridiculous.

Feng Zhiqiang lived to 84 and practiced Taoist qigong. As it turns out, his master, Hu Yaozhen -- the Taoist qigong master -- passed away at age 76. Chen Fake died at age 70.

There is nothing magical or mystical about qigong -- even Taoist qigong. It will not make you live longer than the general population. It might help the quality of life while you are here -- it might help you calm yourself, find your center and maintain it in moments of crisis. For that, it's very helpful.

But make no mistake -- qigong and Tai Chi will not help you achieve immortality, and it will not prevent you from developing cancer, heart disease, or a host of other illnesses. Please stop pretending -- or spreading false information -- that Tai Chi and qigong somehow make you live longer than other people. There is absolutely no medical or legitimate scientific research that shows that this is true.

Death finds us all. And from what I've seen, it takes Tai Chi masters and qigong masters along with the rest of us, with no discrimination. 

Let's stop the fantasy -- and call people out who encourage that fantasy.

Bruce Lee Was My Hero -- But He Was Wrong About One Thing

Bruce LeeBruce Lee was the final spark that I needed in 1973. At age 20, I saw "The Chinese Connection" and then "Enter the Dragon" and decided that I had to begin studying kung-fu. I had been a fan of the Kung-Fu TV show, but it was Bruce Lee -- the beauty of his movement and the power of his techniques -- that made me enroll in a class.

Bruce Lee changed my life.

Bruce Lee said that forms are dead and classical styles are useless.

Bruce Lee was dead wrong.

He died at the age of 32. That's pretty young. When I was 32, I didn't like forms. I didn't want to practice them and focused on sparring and fighting techniques. As a result, I did very well in sparring but just couldn't see the point of forms. In fact, I went to several tournaments before the age of 32 and never competed in forms.

Ken Gullette at age 30, sparring in a 1983 tournament in Cincinnati. He won first place.

So I can understand where Bruce was coming from. He was a young, opinionated guy -- extremely talented and a trailblazer -- but still a young man. Now that I'm almost 60, and will celebrate my 40th year in martial arts next year, I understand that if he had been given more time, Bruce Lee would have been able to see a little deeper into what he called "the classical mess."


Bruce was trained in Wing Chun, and when he was challenged in Oakland, he fought a representative from traditional Chinese schools who were angered that he taught non-Asians. Bruce defeated his opponent, but it took longer than he expected. At that point, he turned away from Wing Chun and created Jeet Kune Do.

So as a young man, he felt his "style" let him down. I believe this triggered an overreaction -- typical in young people -- that caused him to reject all styles. It's one thing to consider that perhaps you have been training in an ineffective style, and another thing to consider that perhaps there is another "style" that would be more suited to you and more suited to real fighting.

I have gotten deeper into classical styles, particularly Chen Taijiquan, Hsing-I and Bagua, I see arts that work -- but arts that are misrepresented.

For one thing, a lot of the demonstration videos are bogus. A "master" is attacked by a student who is playing along, so the "master" is able to do several techniques while the student doesn't put up much of a fight. I've seen a lot of Bagua videos that would never work in the street. You study with one of those teachers and then get into a self-defense situation, you are going to have a rude awakening, or a rude unconsciousness.

How many demo videos of Aikido have you seen where the instructor causes a grown man to flip in the air using two fingers? Sorry, folks. It can't happen.

And then, in Tai Chi, you have millions of instructors around the world saying that your main purpose is "chi cultivation." They make a very slight move and their student goes jumping and falling away as if hit with a two-by-four. 

Well, of course their students won't be able to fight. Are these dead styles? They might be good arts, but in the hands of a wrong-headed instructor, they aren't fighting arts, and at their heart, all styles of martial arts should be effective fighting arts.

If you have a good instructor and will put the time and hard work into learning an art like Chen Tai Chi, you will achieve your goals in self-defense. Inside of classical styles are effective fighting systems that -- at least in the case of the internal arts -- require years of study and hard training under a good instructor. At age 32, I'm not sure I had the patience to do what it takes. By age 37 that changed.

I also began to appreciate forms by the time I was 37. By age 59, I understand how forms prepare you for fighting. They require discipline, and they reinforce the muscle memory for good body mechanics. In the internal arts, the people without good instructors, teaching good body mechanics, won't be able to use the arts effectively in a self-defense situation. And those who rely on fantasy and insane concepts such as "chi projection" are destined to fail in a fight.

I've practiced the forms that I know (at least 30) for years, and I feel like I'm just beginning to understand them. But the more I practice, the more value I find inside the movements, and the better my body mechanics become. I don't think Bruce had time to discover this.

Forms practice is just one part of training. You then take the body mechanics you've learned and apply them against a partner. You learn how to adapt, how to react, how to neutralize and counter. Sometimes, you need a partner who will allow you to work your techniques. Eventually, you need a partner who won't play along. At that point, you find out what works and what doesn't.

In recent weeks, I've been drilling hard in Bagua concepts and techniques. These are simple techniques that sometimes flow from one to the other depending on the situation. Some techniques can be used to break a joint very quickly. Others can be used for a takedown. Others are for striking, again depending on the situation. Putting your opponent off-balance, off-center, and then controlling his center are great concepts that also require a lot of practice and study. I've been putting together a DVD on these concepts and techniques and it will be finished soon.

It's very clear that the simplest techniques work best for self-defense. And depending on what happens after the first technique, other techniques happen. You practice and work and use realistic situations (padded up with partners who aren't playing along) and you internalize the techniques, body mechanics, and flow until YOU don't hit, IT hits by itself. That's one of Bruce Lee's main messages and it's a good one.

Where people get the wrong idea of what it takes to successfully defend yourself is in a school where impractical and ineffective techniques and one-steps are practiced so much that a false sense of security develops. But not all schools and not all classical styles are that way.

Don't take this blog post the wrong way. Bruce had what it takes to work hard and he developed -- for himself -- a great fighting philosophy. He was brilliant, amazing and he freed our minds to look at martial arts a different way. He also led the way to the development of mixed martial arts. That's okay, but it would have been interesting to see how his art and his opinions developed as he grew older.

Four Years Later -- The Online School for Tai Chi - Hsing-I - Bagua

IFALogo4Today is my Fourth Anniversary.

Four years ago today, I launched my membership site to teach Taiji, Xingyi and Bagua. For years, I had received emails from people asking how they could learn when there were no teachers in the area. 

On July 4, 2008, after working furiously for two months, I launched this site to help those people.

At first, I thought people could earn certification through the site by studying the video lessons and then get feedback via video, and then take their test via video.

But after a few people tried, it became obvious that these arts are simply too difficult, and require more detailed body mechanics than a person can learn just through video. It's the same as any sport or activity that requires specific skills. I compare it to playing basketball. When we play, in our minds we look like Michael Jordan. To an observer or a coach, we look more like Charlie Chaplin.

So I decided to de-emphasize the certification aspect of the site. When people email me now and ask if they can be certified through the site, I tell them it's very difficult and probably isn't the best way to use it. All I can do is be honest.

Some members study and then, when they are near the Quad Cities, they stop in for a lesson. All members are free to drop in on any of our practices at no charge.

Rather than call it an "online school" I refer to it more often now as an online "resource." Some of the members are teachers, and many of them are studying with teachers and use the website to supplement what they are already learning. Or not learning, as is frequently the case. Often, their teachers are not teaching them the skills they find on the site. Their tai chi is empty, and they suspect this, but they aren't sure why until they join the site.

There are now more than 560 video lessons on the site covering Tai Chi, Xingyi, Bagua, Qigong, and more. I started with basic instruction and have covered more advanced material over time. Eventually, there will be at least 1,000 videos, e-books, audios, and other material.

It's a website where -- 24 hours a day 7 days a week -- you can get input, information, and instruction on these arts. Some of the ways it can help:

  • If you are working on a particular art, the website contains video and written instruction that will give you the proper basics, including the ground path, peng jin, whole body movement, silk-reeling, using the kua and Dan T'ien rotation.
  • If you're working on a particular form, each movement is broken down into detailed instruction with an emphasis on body mechanics.
  • Even if you're studying a different style than I teach -- if you're studying Yang Tai Chi or different styles of Hsing-I and Bagua (I teach Shanxi and Cheng), you will still find instruction on movement and body mechanics that your teacher isn't teaching -- in fact, if you study Yang style, most of this information has not been given to you.
  • These are self-defense arts -- fighting arts. The fighting applications of each movement is shown clearly. Sometimes, there are fighting applications even for exercises, such as Bagua tea-serving exercises. For Laojia Yilu, more than 400 self-defense applications are shown for that one form.
  • If you're teaching one of these arts, you'll learn new techniques, body mechanics or other exercises for yourself and to teach your classes.
  • If you are a student, you will find information that your teacher might not even know, giving you an edge over other students in class.
  • Our private Discussion Board gives members a place to ask questions and receive helpful, instructive, non-judgmental replies. It's a different experience than most online Discussion Boards, that can be full of insults, ignorant flaming and profanity.

If any of these sound interesting or helpful, you should try two weeks free on the website. Compared to what you pay for in-person classes, it's an amazing bargain for just $19.99 per month.

I'm very proud of this site. I have enjoyed the messages from members over the years, the friendships I've developed and the things I've learned. Some members have been with it from the beginning, and some come for a few months and then leave.

New video lessons are being added regularly. I plan to continue growing the site for many years. It's a labor of love -- the love of the internal arts.