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Connecting with Your Opponent's Center in Taiji, Bagua and Xingyi - Building Internal Self Defense Skills

Ken-Gullette-Jerit-Gendreau-1When you and a partner are doing push hands, or if you find yourself in a situation that calls for self-defense, one of your primary goals is to "remain centered."

Remaining centered requires you to maintain your mental balance and physical balance. If you lose your balance -- mentally or physically -- you are vulnerable. The same is true for your opponent.

This means that one of your goals when facing an opponent is to find his center, connect with it and control it.

On my website there are videos related to this topic. You can meld with your opponent's center as it is turning, helping it continue in the direction it is traveling. That's my favorite way to control an opponent's center, but there is another way.

Ken-Gullette-Jerit-Gendreau-2When you practice push hands with a partner, you try to remain sensitive, and you do not want to give him an opening. You hide your internal strength from him. You are relaxed but aware, connected through the body, but you are flexible, moving, and able to respond and spiral when he exerts force.

When you cannot move -- when you are put into a position from which you can't defend yourself -- you are "double weighted." That is actually what double-weighted means in Taijiquan. It does NOT mean having your weight distributed equally on both feet.

In the photos here, Jerit Gendreau and I are pushing hands. I am remaining flexible and connected. Then I find where he is weak, and as I press inward, I connect his arm and torso to his center. He is in a position from which he cannot defend. So I push him off-balance, and from there, in a self-defense situation, there is a window in which I can counter and finish him.

There are many ways of connecting part of your opponent's body to his center. I recommend practicing with a partner and working to help each other understand this concept. When you connect with your partner, you feel a stiffness between the part of the body you are contacting and their Dan T'ien area. At that point, they are ready to be defeated.

For more understanding, try two weeks free on my website. You really can't lose on the deal. I won't let you lose. You get two free weeks of complete access to more than 600 video lessons, plus pdf downloads and a private discussion board. It's a step-by-step learning situation for Taiji, Xingyi and Bagua -- but you get access to all material all at once. 

When your opponent attacks you, he has lost his center -- his connection with you. By considering himself separate from you, he has stepped out of harmony with nature. By connecting with him, you can bring him back into harmony, and this is a good way to practice as you begin learning internal self-defense.

The Value of Silk-Reeling Energy Exercises in the Practice of Internal Arts

SRE-9-10-cuLast night, my practice consisted of a few Silk-Reeling exercises. I selected four or five that I don't practice as often as I should (including shoulder reeling, ankle and leg reeling and a couple more) and I worked them over and over, trying to feel the connection from the ground through the body. Relax, sink, feel it from the ground, spiraling through, connected and strong.

If you get one Silk-Reeling exercise right, you are doing good Taiji, and good Bagua. The exercises I do were made popular by Chen Xiaowang during the past 20 years or so. The exercises are among the first lessons that my students practice, SRE-9-11-culaying the foundation for all of the body mechanics that are crucial for the internal arts -- Taiji, Bagua, and Xingyi.

Silk-Reeling "Energy" is not really a real type of "energy" in our body. The word "Energy" is often misinterpreted when translated from kung-fu texts. It should be thought of as a "method," a way of moving the body as you deal with an opponent's force.

Silk-Reeling Exercises help you work the spiraling movement through the body that enables you to transmit relaxed power, which travels from the ground through the legs, directed by the Dan SRE-9-12-cuT'ien (which also rotates), helped along by opening and closing the Kua, whole-body movement, maintaining peng jin and the ground path as you spiral through the body.

Silk-Reeling Energy is a physical skill, not mystical or metaphysical. You use intent, you use your mind, but you do that in every physical endeavor as you practice to do something by instinct. Even in baseball, you must take batting practice many thousands of times before you can hit a fastball without thinking about it. The same is true for any skill in the internal arts.

In the end, every movement in Taiji, Xingyi and Bagua is a silk-reeling exercise. But if you don't have a lot of room to practice, or just want to put some solid basic exercises into your internal arts workout, I highly recommend just working on the Silk-Reeling Exercises. 

They all have self-defense applications, too. And it's a great leg workout. The photos on this post are from my Kindle ebook, showing the small circle reeling exercise.

If Silk-Reeling Exercises are not part of your internal practice, I would urge you to check out my instructional DVD and Kindle ebook to learn the movements and how the body mechanics apply to them. From there, you take that knowledge to your internal forms and self-defense applications, and I guarantee you will see a difference. And you have something challenging to practice when you find a situation where you do not have a lot of room.

Launching A New and Improved Website to Learn Chen Taiji, Xingyi and Bagua -

Today is the first full day of spring, and the first day of my newly renovated website -- This online internal arts resource launched in 2008, but it was in need of a makeover. The new site is better organized and a much smoother user experience. It is a membership site, but the first two weeks are free, so people can join, decide if it works for them, and if it doesn't, they can cancel within two weeks and owe nothing. 

With nearly 700 video lessons covering internal body mechanics, principles, concepts, forms, weapons, and fighting applications -- the site takes you from basic to advanced skills in Chen Taiji, Xingyi, or Bagua. There are also lessons in Qigong, fighting strategies, tournament sparring, basic kung-fu skills, and more.

Besides the video lessons, there are also free pdf downloads, including some ebooks, and a private discussion forum. Members receive discounts on all my DVDs, and links to Kindle ebooks on Amazon.

Some members join because there are no teachers where they live. Others have teachers but use my information to "fill in the gaps." Some members have been taught "empty" internal arts, and suspect there is something missing. They find it on my site. I originally launched the site for people who live in areas where there are no teachers, but found that a lot of others had good reason to become members.

Here is a video that explains the site and shows brief clips from some of the video lessons. If you are interested in trying two weeks free, follow this link.

A Lesson in Etiquette for the Straight Sword (Jian) in Kung-Fu

Ken-Yin-Yang-swordSome people think it's useless to train in martial arts weapons such as the straight sword because we no longer have swordfights on the street.

I believe training with weapons is important to train body mechanics, coordination, and the ability to transmit internal power through the weapon. The same techniques that make a straight sword useful can also be used if you are attacked and can pick up a stick.

And, of course, weapons are cool, and isn't that one of the reasons we began studying in the first place? One of the coolest parts of Enter the Dragon was when Bruce Lee whipped out different weapons. His nunchaku action was a crowd favorite. I saw that movie in 1973 and spent a lot of time practicing nunchaku moves.

I still train weapons including the single and double sticks, staff, straight sword, broadsword, spear, and elk horn knives.

The straight sword, known in Chinese arts as the "Jian," is considered the "master's" weapon because of the skill it requires. In traditional Asian arts, the straight sword was considered a sacred object, possessing its own spirit, and treated with the highest respect. It was often placed on a shrine in the home. 

Even today, sword etiquette should be observed at all times by serious students.

Straight Sword Parts

The parts of the sword include: the pommel, the grip, the blade guard, the round blade (the dullest part of the sword that is closest to the blade guard), the middle blade (a little sharper than the round blade), the flying blade (the section of the sword closest to the tip) which is extremely sharp, and the tip at the end of the blade.

Sword Etiquette 1
When sitting in a hostile environment, sword is on the left with pommel forward.
In a hostile environment, the sword is placed to your left.

Here are a few etiquette tips that Amy Vanderbilt never mentioned.

When sitting in a hostile environment, it is best to keep your sword at your left side with the pommel facing toward the front. This gives you the chance to draw the sword with your right hand if the situation deteriorates.

If you are in a friendly environment, place the sword on the right hip or on the floor next to where you are kneeling. In this position, you are not able to draw as quickly. It is a signal that you consider yourself among friends.

When presenting the sword, if for some reason you do not trust the person you and presenting it to, keep the grip on the right side, giving you the chance to draw the sword if needed.

Sword Etiquette 3
A sword on the left side is easier to draw.
With the sword at your left side and pommel facing front, it is easier to draw.

When you are presenting the sword to someone you trust, hand it to them with the grip on your left side. This shows respect, and in theory gives the person receiving the sword the ability to draw it with their right hand.

I have to admit that my students and I have had some fun with this over the years. In tournament competitions, when I am using the straight sword, judges have a tendency to ask for the weapon to examine it before you do your form. I am always interested in how they present it back to me.

Usually, nobody has a clue about sword etiquette.

Sword Etiquette 5
Presenting a sword to someone you trust - pommel is on your left.
Present the sword to someone you trust with the pommel to your left.

There are also times - as I am waiting to compete - I will kneel with my sword at my left side with the pommel facing forward, indicating I am in a hostile environment. Only my students and I know this, and we have had a few chuckles over the years.

I believe that you should learn to fight with a weapon if you are going to learn a weapons form. That's why my website has fighting applications for all the weapons I teach, and why I include fighting actions for movements in each form I put on DVD, including the Hsing-I Straight Sword Form, the Hsing-I Staff Form, the Chen Taiji Straight Sword Form, the Chen Broadsword Form, and the Bagua Elk Horn Knives. I haven't yet videotaped Chen Spear fighting

Sword Etiquette 7
When the pommel is on your right side in this situation, it is easier to draw.
Presenting your sword with pommel on your right side makes it easier for you to draw.

applications but that is coming soon.

Weapons are important, both as part of the internal arts' rich history, and as part of your personal development as a martial artist. And you never know when the parries and deflections, strikes, and other techniques will be useful in self-defense with a stick, broom handle, or similar object.

Thanks to my friend Sean Ledig, who appeared in these photos back in 2008.