Book Review: Wandering Along the Way of Okinawan Karate: Thinking About Goju-Ryu by Giles Hopkins

WanderingI don't often read karate books. One of the first martial arts books I ever bought, in 1974, was a karate book, but it has mainly collected dust on the bookshelf for decades now. 

I have not found karate books very helpful for me, since I study and teach the internal Chinese martial arts. Most of them have been about technique, with dry information about stances, punches, blocks, and sequences of kata movements.

My opinion changed when I read a new book by Giles Hopkins that is a great addition to my martial arts library: "Wandering Along the Way of Okinawan Karate: Thinking About Goju-Ryu," published by Blue Snake Books.

Hopkins is a dedicated martial artist and an outdoors enthusiast. He approaches nature and his martial art with a philosophical attitude that immediately appealed to me. He sees the connection between the art he practices and the natural wonders he encounters while hiking along a trail or walking in the woods. His intellectual approach to the movements of kata goes "under the hood" in a way that is more meaningful than simply describing technique.

Why do we notice the leaves mainly when they burst into different colors shortly before they die? It is an observation Hopkins makes that easily translates into our approach to martial arts and to the people in our lives. We take many aspects of the arts for granted -- the rituals surrounding our practice; some of the movements that we have performed thousands of times.

As I read this book, preparing to turn 68 years old in a couple of months, and having endured physical hardships the past decade, this passage also hit home with me as I thought about how we take our own youth, strength and health for granted, and the glorious ability to perform at our peak. When we get to the point where we understand that we can't practice these arts forever, or when our physical abilities begin to slip away, it is ironic that this stage of life causes us to understand the real beauty of the arts we have been practicing for so long, and the reasons they are so important to us, like a loved one who suddenly has a terminal illness and you become all too aware of the relentless ticking of the clock.

When we are young, many of us take up martial arts so we can learn to fight better; to defend ourselves. As we get older, those of us who remain in the arts look deeper, and some of us carry the arts into our daily life in ways that make life and the arts more fulfilling.

Like me, Hopkins is no spring chicken. One of his chapters is titled, "Ah, He's Just Old, What Does He Know Anyway?"

Perhaps you need to have some years under your black belt before you can write a book like this. 

He begins most chapters with something he has observed during one of his walks in nature, and he connects it with his karate. The book is divided into sections corresponding to the seasons. As he discusses something from nature, the transitions into karate are sometimes a bit clunky and repetitive. I grew a bit tired of passages that I slightly exaggerate when I describe this way: "I saw this rock along the trail and it reminded me of (insert name of kata or movement here)." There are more subtle ways of blending these concepts and messages, but if that is the worst criticism I have about the book, it is a very minor one. The only reason I mentioned this is because I was a journalist who hired and trained reporters and coached their writing. This is more a coaching comment than a criticism. It is an excellent book.

Hopkins sees deeply into the movements of kata, uncovering fighting applications, or "bunkai," that can turn on some lightbulbs for any martial artist of any style. One of the applications he discusses made me realize that a certain movement in a Tai Chi form that I have practiced thousands of times can not only be used as a joint lock against an elbow, as I always thought of it, but it can also be used to break an opponent's neck by twisting the head.

Hopkins explores interesting topics along with his photos and descriptions of movement, technique and kata. He wonders how these arts can be useful in an era when most of us do not have to worry about fighting. He thinks about the usefulness of pushing the creative boundaries when looking for the fighting applications inside kata movements, and he is honest enough to suggest better ways of teaching than to hold your students to silence with counterproductive responses to a question such as, "If you have to ask, you are not ready to learn."

The very first class I taught when I earned my black sash and recruited my own students included young guys who wanted to see just how good I really was, so they asked questions that made me realize I needed to raise my game. I had to study harder, practice harder, and be as good as my sash indicated. When you have a black belt, you are considered an expert. I think some teachers discourage questions because the wrong one can expose the true lack of depth in the teacher's knowledge. 

A lot has been lost in the modern practice of martial arts. It is certainly true in much of the practice of Tai Chi, which has been watered down from a brutal martial art to an exercise for older people or "moving meditation" practiced by millions around the world. And when my granddaughter earned a black belt at a local taekwondo school and did not know how to throw a good punch, and I watched obese black belts strutting around her school who couldn't throw a good kick, I assumed that modern karate had gone the same way -- tense, muscular and simple.

It is wonderful to read a book on karate that is intellectually stimulating and offers insights about Hopkins' art, Goju-Ryu, that also informs my own practice. You don't have to study karate to appreciate it.

I highly recommend "Wandering Along the Way of Okinawan Karate." It is the first book by Giles Hopkins that I have read, but it will not be the last. I am ordering his earlier book today, and will keep an eye out for future books.

It is obvious to me that Hopkins is an outstanding teacher and the type of martial artist I would enjoy talking with and comparing notes. May he enjoy many more hikes in the woods, many more books on the market and many more seasons of training.

--by Ken Gullette


Chen Style Taijiquan Collected Masterworks - The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Mark Chen

Chen Style TaijiquanThe newest edition of the Internal Fighting Arts podcast features an interview with Mark Chen about his new book, "Chen Style Taijiquan Collected Masterworks: The History of a Martial Art."

In this valuable book, Mark, who was a formal rumen disciple of the late Grandmaster Chen Qingzhou, translates key sections of Chen Zhaopi's book, published in 1935.

We talk about many issues during an hour and 37 minutes, including the challenges of translating Chinese to English, the origin of Taijiquan, the life of Chen Zhaopi, and how he helped boost the reputation of Chen Taiji during 17 days in Beijing, when he stood on a platform and took on all challengers.

That would be a great kung-fu film -- "17 Days in Beijing" -- the story of the rise of Chen Taijiquan, based on Chen Zhaopi on the platform.

Zhaopi was born three years before my own grandfather, and in China, Taiji fighters like Zhaopi were still battling revolutionaries with swords. That is part of my interview with Mark.

We also explore the idea that in an age when we no longer fight revolutionaries with swords, martial arts take on a more academic, theoretical nature.

This is the 45th edition of my podcast. You can listen online or download the file through this link. It will also be available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Podbean and anywhere you find podcasts.

The book is available on Amazon. Here is a link to the U.S. page for the book.

 


Bruce Lee, MMA and Shaolin Monks -- the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Matthew Polly

Bruce Lee bookMatthew Polly and I have a lot in common.

Bruce Lee inspired us when we were young and sparked our interest in studying martial arts.

We have remained Bruce Lee fanboys even as we have grown up.

We both went into journalism.

I discovered Matthew's work when I bought "American Shaolin" a few years ago, a book he wrote after spending two years living, training and performing with Shaolin monks in China. It was a real-world look inside this mysterious world, and I loved it.

A couple of months ago, I was in Barnes & Noble and decided to look at the martial arts section. Once upon a time, it took an entire bookcase to hold the martial arts books. Now, the books about traditional arts don't even stretch across one shelf. It's depressing.

But I saw a new, big biography of Bruce Lee on the shelf, titled "Bruce Lee: A Life."

When I saw Matthew Polly had written it, I bought it. 

It is such an exhaustively researched, wonderfully written book that I had to ask him to be on the podcast. I was very happy that he agreed.

At the same time, I saw that he had spent two years training in the MMA and wrote a book called "Tapped Out." I ordered the book and began reading.

I couldn't put it down.

Another thing we have in common is that neither of us take ourselves too seriously. The books he wrote about his experiences are full of self-deprecating humor. He's a funny guy.

In this interview, we talk about "Bruce Lee: A Life," his experience in the MMA, his experience with the Shaolin monks, and the lessons we can learn from each of these fascinating subjects.

Every martial artist should read Matthew Polly's books. Here is a link to the podcast. It is also available on iTunes, Spotify and other podcast distributors.

http://internalfightingarts.audello.com/internal-fighting-arts-40-matthew-polly/

-- by Ken Gullette

 


Review of My Book "Internal Body Mechanics" by Graham Barlow, Tai Chi and BJJ Practitioner

Book CoverGraham Barlow practices Yang Tai Chi and BJJ. He also  practices Xingyi and Choy Lee Fut.

Graham has written a review of my new paperback book, "Internal Body Mechanics for Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi." The review is on his blog, the Tai Chi Notebook.

I invite you to read it. Here is a link to the review:

https://taichinotebook.wordpress.com/2018/08/20/book-review-internal-body-mechanics-for-tai-chi-bagua-and-xingyi-by-ken-gullette/

The book is available on Amazon in the U.S., the UK and Europe. You can also order it through bookstores. One of my website members living in Shanghai ordered it through Barnes & Noble.

Find the links on ordering it in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Europe, and Australia by going to this page on my website.

 


New Book by Ken Gullette - Internal Body Mechanics for Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi

Book CoverI believe this is the first time that someone has tried to organize and teach, step-by-step, the fundamental body mechanics that are required for high-quality Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi. I have seen at least one book titled "Body Mechanics," but it did not discuss body mechanics. After 31 years of studying these arts and 21 years of teaching them, I decided to write a book that is clear on this topic.

Body mechanics for Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi are much more than simple directions such as "turn your foot out 45 degrees and relax."

I have included 250 photos and clear, straightforward descriptions in this book. I am confident you will have several "Aha!" moments about internal body mechanics when you read it. If it does NOT teach you anything important, or give you insights that help you in your internal arts journey, send the book back to me and I will refund your money.

Basically, I wanted to write the book that I wish I had when I began studying the internal arts back in 1987. If I was able to read it back then, it would have saved me many years and thousands of dollars in class fees. Based on some of the martial artists I have met during the past 20-something years, I know there are millions of internal arts students who are not learning these skills.

The six fundamental body mechanics for internal power include:

** Establishing and maintaining the ground path at all times.

** Using peng jin at all times along with the ground path.

** Using whole-body movement -- when one parts move, all parts move.

** Silk-Reeling "Energy" -- the spiraling movement that adds power to techniques.

** Dan T'ien rotation -- guiding the internal strength and power as the body moves.

** Using the kua properly -- opening and closing the kua, like a buoy in the ocean, helping the body stay balanced as incoming force changes.

Each of these body mechanics represents a physical skill -- NOT metaphysical. You can "imagine chi" for the rest of your life and still not be able to develop real power in your Tai Chi, Bagua or Xingyi. It takes hard work and practice -- real study -- to move with internal power in these arts. When a teacher does not know the body mechanics, it is much easier to make students think that "cultivating chi" is the goal. It is not the goal. 

The intent of Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi is self-defense. You can practice for health and meditation if you want, but unless you understand the body mechanics and the way the movements are used to defend yourself with relaxed power, you are not studying the complete art.

The book does not attempt to explain the history of the internal arts, much of which is lost in the mists of time and usually results in political squabbles among different factions within the arts, much like different denominations or sects will argue over religion.

I also do not use abstract wording that confuses more than it clarifies. 

Instead, I try to get right to the point, as I do in my teaching, writing in a straightforward way that attempts to strip away the mystical mumbo jumbo. Along the way, I try to deliver a few good heel kicks to some pillars of mythology that stand in the way of many students. 

I first heard about these body mechanics from Mike Sigman, through his online discussions and his videos. Through his online forum, I was guided to instructors Jim and Angela Criscimagna, living at the time in Rockford, Illinois, a couple of hours from my home. I became their student, and through them and another teacher I had later, the late Mark Wasson, I was able to learn from Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang, Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing, Ren Guangyi and Chen Bing. I have also learned from Chen Ziqiang and Chen Huixian.

I began studying martial arts in 1973 at age 20, and I also practiced with the Iowa State University boxing team when I was 39 and 40 years old, when I was "adopted" by Coach Terry Dowd and the young boxers on the ISU team. I began studying the internal arts in 1987, and three years later, I won a gold medal performing the Yang 24 form in Tai Chi competition at the 1990 AAU Kung-Fu National Championships. I won more medals than any other competitor in the championships -- six medals in all, for Tai Chi, Xingyi, Bagua, and sparring. I thought I knew the internal arts, but years later, after learning the body mechanics I describe in this book, I realized that not only did I not understand internal body mechanics, neither did the judges. I was probably the best of a bad group of students who were doing external, muscular arts but calling them internal.

As I taught Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua beginning in 1997, as the Internet was becoming popular, I was reading Mike Sigman's online forum and realized there were holes in my knowledge. A few months later, I met Jim and Angela, and realized that what I had learned and practiced during the previous decade was empty. Over time, I identified the six key body mechanics that are basic to good internal Chinese gongfu. This book offers information on these skills that your teacher may not have taught you.

A few years ago, Kiefen Synnott wrote to me and said, "I live in Japan and study Baguazhang and Xingyiquan, but the language barrier makes me miss some of the meaning. Your training has filled in the gaps and has been responsible for most of the progress I have made so far."

Another martial artist who lives in Shanghai wrote to me that he was "amazed at how few instructors here know the body mechanics." 

The book is sold in the U.S., the UK and Europe through Amazon. It is available for Prime shipping. If you are in the UK or Europe, please go to Amazon and search for "Internal Body Mechanics." In Australia or other parts of the world, you may be able to order it through bookstores.

If you are in the U.S. you can order the book directly from me on this blog.

There is Free Shipping within the U.S. (Sorry, due to high shipping fees, Ken cannot mail the book internationally). BONUS -- If you buy this book plus a DVD from this site, you may select another DVD free of charge as a bonus (just email Ken with your selection for the bonus DVD). 

Order the Book Now with Free Shipping - U.S. Customers Only 


The Only Surefire Way to Achieve Your Goals in Martial Arts (or Anything Else in Life)

Ken Trophies 2008On April 7, 2008, a vice president at the university where I worked as the director of media relations walked into my office with a Human Resources manager and closed the door.

Oh, crap, this is not good, I thought.

It was not good. After almost a year on the job, I was being let go. A month before, I went to lunch with the VP and he said, "Ken, you have been set up. I don't know if it was intentional, but you have been set up."

So I had an idea that this would happen, but it is still a shock when you lose a good job, even a very political and public job where you are placed in front of news cameras to hold news conferences on sensitive university issues, then you walk away from the news conference and realize there are arrows in your back, fired from within the university. It was a very interesting, intense job. I loved it, but I was, as the VP said, "set up" for a fall.

After the VP and the HR person left my office, I quickly cleared out my stuff and within a couple of hours, I was sitting at home wondering how I was going to replace a six-figure paycheck.

My feet had been on firm financial ground for years, and suddenly, the floor had collapsed like the trap door on a stage.

A couple of days later, I was talking to my nephew Brian, who was launching a website to teach language skills online. Previously, I had tried to launch a website called the Media Relations Coach to teach media relations, but it had not been embraced by the public.

In talking with Brian, three days after I lost my job, the idea came to me -- I would do what I loved the most, the internal arts, and I would create a website to teach what I had learned, step-by-step in plain English, without the mystical mumbo jumbo that so many instructors teach.

My wife, Nancy thought privately that it was a crazy idea, but she supported me.

Bruce Lee DefeatThis was April 10, 2008. I set a goal of July 4th, Independence Day, to launch the site to the world.

The plan was that I would do it all myself -- content creation, photos, Photoshop, shooting video, editing, creating the membership website, marketing it, posting the content to the site and working with payment processors so members could pay monthly.

I had my goal, and I developed my plan. 

I got to work, and less than three months later, on July 4, 2008, www.InternalFightingArts.com was opened. It is still going strong. I work on it every day, creating content, videos, marketing it -- and the content I create for the site also helps me create new DVDs, which I sell on my websites and on Amazon.

Setting Goals is Only Step One

I was talking with a couple of students this week about the new year that is fast approaching.

Both students are within striking distance of some major goals. One is one test away from his brown sash; the other will test for his black sash.

Progress has stalled for both, and as the teacher, I am faced with the challenge of motivating them in a positive way.

We all go through stagnant periods -- plateaus -- where it seems like our progress has stalled. Many things compete with us day-to-day to knock us off our martial arts path, from jobs to relationships to children and more.

I completely understand. The week before I lost my university job, I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. After three procedures to fix it, the pulmonary veins from my left lung to my heart shut down.

For a few years, the challenges I face each day after losing the lung, going through heart failure, and struggling to regain some muscle mass that I lost in 2009 all conspired to stunt my progress. I made progress here and there, punctuated by periods when I was simply trying to survive. 

A few months ago, I suddenly felt as if I had broken through to another level, as I gained insight through practice of the use of taiji "energies" in close-up fighting. It has boosted me again.

In other words, I am very familiar with hitting plateaus. It happens to all of us.

There is one surefire way to make progress on any goal in martial arts or in life. The coming of a new year is always a good time to look ahead and plan.

Let's not use the word "resolution." We all know what happens to resolutions by February first, don't we?

If you have a goal, you must visualize yourself successfully achieving that goal.

For example, you are going for a brown sash. You know the curriculum you are working on.

Here are steps that will help you achieve this goal:

Step 1 -- Visualize how good it will feel to wrap that brown sash on your waist and hang the certificate on your wall.

Step 2 -- Look at the calendar and set the date when you will achieve your goal. Since I am writing this on December 20, let's say March 1 is the day I will earn my brown sash. I write this on the calendar.

Step 3 -- How do I realistically set aside time to practice and polish the curriculum needed for the promotion test? I have four tai chi forms to work on, weapons fighting techniques, and freestyle sparring with xingyi, tai chi, and chin-na. I will need to work on it all, but I will set aside time each day. At the end of week one, I will be done working on the Chen 19 form. Week two, finished reviewing the Chen 38; Week three, finished reviewing the Chen Broadsword form and applications; Week four, finished reviewing the Chen Straight Sword form.

Step 4 -- Spend the month of January and February working with my instructor and other students on the forms, applications, and freestyle sparring needed for my promotion. Work to internalize the information. Work to infuse the body mechanics into the forms and applications. By February 1, I will have reviewed it all, and I will take the month of February to practice each day to internalize it.

Step 5 -- On March 1, take the test. On the afternoon of March 1, visualize wrapping that brown sash onto your waist.

There is a simple truth to achieving any goal in life, in business, in anything.

Here is the truth:

You will achieve the goal that you believe you can achieve if you set the goal and establish a clear plan of steps you must take, and then work hard to complete the plan, step-by-step.

If you set success as your goal, you will achieve it.

If you set failure as your goal, you will also achieve it.

In my life, I have seen this truth play out time after time, and as I have gotten older, I have gotten better at it. This truth becomes evident if you shoot for any goal, whether it is a better career or a tournament victory.

If you cannot believe in your own ability to set a goal, work a plan and achieve success, your self-expectation becomes your reality.

In my latest Internal Fighting Arts podcast, one of the most successful martial arts instructors in the world, Keith R. Kernspecht, said that when he decides he wants to do something or learn something, no one can stop him. Listen to the podcast by following this link.

There is a reason some people achieve their goals and some people fail. Which path will you take in the coming year?

It is your decision.

The best book ever written on this valuable concept is called Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. It is available at a low price on Amazon, and a free Kindle ebook is available. I highly recommend it.

--by Ken Gullette

Are you ready to achieve martial arts knowledge and success step-by-step? Try two weeks free on Ken's Internal Fighting Arts website.

 


William C.C. Chen's Daughter Says I Am Arrogant

Body MechanicsWilliam C.C. Chen's daughter called me arrogant the other day. She also mentioned "gossip," and implied that I do not understand what I was reading.

At first, I couldn't believe it. Then, I thought it was funny. But the more I thought about it, the more bizarre and creepy it became.

Here is what happened.

I pulled a book from my martial arts library this weekend: "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan," by William C.C. Chen.

Since body mechanics is something I am very interested in, and somewhat knowledgeable about, I wanted to read his take on it. 

I respect all teachers, unless they claim supernatural powers. I have always heard very good things about William C.C. Chen. His name is among the most famous of American tai chi teachers. You have to admire someone who has done so much to spread tai chi in America.

On the back of the book, he writes, "My book.....deals with the human body under the action of given forces and is based on practical physics such as body leverage and the hydraulic pressures which exist in our body."

Great! I opened the book and began to read it for his explanation of body mechanics.

The book is short. There is background on the art, including a disappointing section that attributes the origin of the art to Cheng San Feng, despite the fact that there is no evidence he existed. There seems to be a reluctance among some Yang style branches to admit that tai chi originated with the Chen family, although this book does mention Chen Changxing, who taught the family art to Yang Luchan.

The book briefly discusses relaxation, tension and developing speed, but before long it goes into photos of William C.C. Chen's 60-movement form. A step-by-step approach, with instruction such as "Shift weight to left leg 100%. Turn body 45 degrees to the right. Turn left foot out on heel 90 degrees. Extend left palm forward slightly, facing down."

But there was nothing about body mechanics. 

I put a photo of the book cover on my Internal Fighting Arts Facebook page and commented on how the book contains no mention of body mechanics. I did not insult Master Chen personally, it was a post about a book called "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan" that does not discuss body mechanics.

Isn't that fair? It was a very short review to let people know not to buy this book if you are looking for information on body mechanics.

Apparently, Tiffany Chen did not think it was fair. One of her friends tipped her off to the post. She wrote:

"Everyone's entitled to their opinion... however, if you're only looking for the words "body mechanics". Body Mechanics requires understanding the actual physics of movement and weight shifting of the body. Not everyone can grasp everyone's else's ideas, especially in writing. But, given the popularity of my father's book as a learning tool for those studying Tai Chi, this is just somebody's opinion with a few other people who agree and they are entitled to express that. Life is always filled with a rainbow of perspectives. People like to talk and most often people like to talk down about the accomplishments of others because it makes them feel good. We all have our own medicine. Mine is listening, learning, always finding a reason to smile and moving on. Thank you for bringing this to my attention Brian Sherman. I was raised to only speak when there was something nice to say and just to work hard, so that's what I do. Gossip always reminds me of my Father's Golden Words."

I have always heard that her father is a very nice man. Another visitor to the Facebook page mentioned that her father never said a negative word about anyone. She replied:

"Yes, this is very true... his humble, golden nature is how he approaches anything and everything in life. He has never spoken a negative word about anyone ever and he never tolerates anyone speaking negatively about anyone else, he simply says "it's ok, maybe we just don't understand, doesn't mean anyone is wrong". I just don't appreciate the arrogance of those who will very opinionatedly speak on my father and our method without ever having met any of us or visited our school... it's quite a lofty thing to wear your eyes so high on your head. Then again, maybe this how people motivate themselves to do better than others, so if that is the goal here, then great. Perhaps I just don't understand..."

I was simply astounded, and so I asked Ms. Chen to let me know which parts of the book contained information about body mechanics and I would apologize if I was wrong, but she did not respond to my request.

I read her comments again, and realized that she did not directly address me. That struck me as incredibly passive-aggressive.

Then I went onto Amazon and checked out the user reviews of the book. There were some 2-star reviews that indicated there was nothing about body mechanics in the book.

For some reason, Ms. Chen had not replied to those people to tell them how arrogant they are for spreading "gossip."

Here is how a review works. You write a book, make a DVD, record a song, produce a movie or a play, and people review it. It is even better when someone who knows the subject (body mechanics of tai chi, for example) writes a review of it. Does the book live up to its title? Does the title even apply to the contents? Should tai chi students invest in the book?

A review typically serves as a heads-up to potential customers. It did not discuss her father personally or his "method." 

I studied Yang style for more than a decade. I won a gold medal at the 1990 AAU Kung Fu National Championships performing the Yang 24 form. I have studied Chen style and its body mechanics for nearly 20 years. That is a total of 30 years studying, practicing, competing with and teaching tai chi.

So here is how Ms. Chen could have responded to my short review that included no personal criticism of her father or his art whatsoever.

She should have said something like, "I am sorry my father's book did not meet your expectations. Let me suggest a couple of other of his books or videos that will have the information you are seeking."

And then tell me which books or videos have information on body mechanics.

The honest thing to do would be to admit, "Yes, the book is a lot more about the 60-movement form than it is about body mechanics." 

Boom! That would not be difficult, would it?

But martial arts is a lot like religion. Teachers become deities. If you dare criticize their work, you are seen as attacking them personally, along with each and every student. And this is especially true if you are an "outsider." It's us versus them, don't you know? We are the best and naturally, nobody else understands what we are doing. Right?

Shame on them. That attitude does nothing positive for your art, and it certainly does not honor your instructor.

I believe in real-world discussions, martial artist to martial artist. No instructor deserves to be stroked when they are phoning it in, and that includes any instructor. By the way, I have learned face-to-face from some Chen instructors whose DVDs contain virtually no real instruction. That is why I began making DVDs. I was tired of buying videos that left me with more questions than I had before. I was tired of tai chi books that delved more into woo-woo than reality. 

But the entire point of my post is very simple. If I buy a James Bond book, I expect 007 to make an appearance in the story. If I buy a book on refrigerator repair, I expect to get some pointers about how to fix my refrigerator. 

And if I buy a book called "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan," and body mechanics are not discussed, it is worth a heads-up to other potential buyers.

I still believe what I hear about William C.C. Chen being a nice man, but he should have called his book "Instruction for the 60-Movement Form" instead of "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan."

So, dear readers, would you like to learn about the body mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan?

You can learn about body mechanics in depth from Mike Sigman's videos and written materials. He was a major influence on me. And you won't find any woo-woo in his instruction.

You will also learn about body mechanics in depth in my Internal Strength and Silk-Reeling DVDs, and in every DVD that I produce. And if you don't like a purchase you make from me for any reason, even if you simply think I am ugly and my mother dresses me funny, just send it back and I will refund your money, and I will not criticize you personally. I will not call you arrogant, accuse you of gossip, or accuse you of not understanding what I am teaching.

No. When I receive negative critiques of my work, I think about it and think about how to make it better next time. And if the critique is accurate, as mine was, the honest response from someone who is secure about their art would be to say, "Yes, you might be right about that."

Wouldn't that be the type of emotional balance that would honor an art such as Tai Chi Chuan, and an instructor as accomplished as William C.C. Chen?

Update to this Post - October 22, 2018 -- After reading William C.C. Chen's book, which did not cover body mechanics of Tai Chi, and after realizing how little has been written in plain language about the body mechanics of this powerful art, I spent a few months in 2018 writing my own book.

The aim is to explain and teach six key body mechanics that provide the foundation of Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi.

The book is called "Internal Body Mechanics for Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi." It is available on Amazon for international customers, and if you are in the U.S. you can get it from this blog (click this link to go to the book page) or through my website at www.kungfu4u.com (click this link to go to the book page). 

The book costs $24.99 and if you find it teaches you nothing about body mechanics, return it to me for a prompt refund (and I will not call you arrogant if you do).  :)

 


The Martial Arts Teacher -- New Book by Jonathan Bluestein is a Great Addition to Your Library

Martial Arts Teacher BookJonathan Bluestein has written a new book about being a martial arts teacher: The Martial Arts Teacher: A Practical Guide to a Noble Way.

I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of the book. It is a great addition to your martial arts library, just like his earlier masterpiece, Research of Martial Arts.

When I began studying martial arts in 1973, I had a dream of one day owning and teaching at my own school. I finally began teaching in 1997, in rented space, but in 2005, my wife and I bought our own building for our school.

It was very challenging for many reasons -- working full-time in addition to running a school; having to put up with students who weren't serious because I needed to pay the bills; dealing with students who did not practice or show respect to the teacher or to other students; playing psychologist, motivator, teacher, mentor, and friend.

For many reasons, running a martial arts school in 2017 is different than it was in 1973. At that time, the martial arts were mysterious and new. Bruce Lee was bringing a completely new way of fighting to our attention in the United States (and elsewhere). Suddenly, martial arts schools were popping up everywhere and they were filled to capacity with students eager to try this new, "deadly" way of self-defense.

Now, young people grow up in a different world. Martial arts are part of the wallpaper, taught in the local strip mall and at the YMCA. It is old news. 

But for that reason, running a martial arts school is more challenging than it used to be, especially if you want to teach an authentic traditional art and not become a McDojo, where the owner is worried more about signing the next student to a contract than teaching a high-quality art.

Jonathan's book provides insights from his own teaching experience that can help you become the teacher your students need. He addresses a wide range of topics, from developing an atmosphere of equality to setting expectations of quality, how to handle new students, how to be a mentor and much more.

The book includes many outstanding pieces of advice that I never considered, including a tip to keep the written curriculum of the entire art on a wall inside the school. I mean, "Duh!" Why didn't I think of that? It provides every student with a constant road map, and will help with their own inner motivation.

The Martial Arts Teacher is a book that is instructional, informative, and even philosophical. One of my favorite quotes from the book is from Confucius: "True knowledge is knowing the extent of one's ignorance." 

Being a good martial artist does not guarantee, in any way, that you will be a good teacher. All of us need ideas, input and guidance to help us develop and become the kind of teacher that our students will point to as someone who was an important part of their lives. Jonathan's book is one stepping stone on your own journey of personal development.

 

 

 


Disciple of Chen Qingzhou: the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Chen Taijiquan Instructor Mark Chen

Mark ChenI get to meet a lot of dedicated martial artists when I do interviews for my Internal Fighting Arts podcast.

I've had Mark Chen's book, "Old Frame Chen Family Taijiquan" on my bookshelf for years, but the only thing I knew about him was that he is a disciple of Chen Qingzhou. When he was recommended recently for the podcast, I pulled his book out again and realized he had a refreshingly clear perspective on Taiji -- down-to-earth and free of mystical woo woo.

He agreed to talk with me a few days ago, and gave a very good interview about training with traditional martial arts instructors. It was a very enjoyable interview, especially his stories of training with "old school" teachers.

Mark has also studied with other gongfu masters, including Guo Lianyin, Bill Gee, Chen Youze, and Zhang XueXin.

Follow this link to listen to the interview with Mark Chen on Audello. You can listen online or download the file.

It will be on iTunes within a few hours.

This is the 29th Internal Fighting Arts podcast I have done, and I am enjoying it more than ever. I get a great feeling in promoting these instructors, who have worked so hard and gone through such pains to learn Taiji, Xingyi, Bagua, and more. I'm very happy to give them a spotlight and provide information that listeners don't get in the national martial arts magazines. It is also fun to provide "real-world" interviews. I try to peel back the curtain so listeners can get some behind-the-scenes information about the real world of high-quality internal gongfu. 

Enjoy!


Is Tai Chi a Healing Art? Interview with Author of Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi - Peter Wayne

HarvardTai Chi is a martial art. Every movement is a powerful fighting application for self-defense.

But is it also a healing art? Does it have benefits that are more powerful than normal exercise, and if it does, do those benefits come from the slow, controlled nature of Tai Chi and the mindful, meditative components and from the flow of chi?

I would guess that more people consider it to be a healing art than a martial art. But is it really? Or when it is done in slow motion, is it one of the most low-impact exercises that elderly people can do to get them moving and to get their minds off their problems?

Do we think of it as a healing art based on outdated stories and science that doesn't hold up?

And do clinical trials show benefits that can be attributed simply to exercise and calming meditation, or is it something more? Are the health benefits of Tai Chi anything special?

Almost a year ago, I bought the Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi, by Peter Wayne, Ph.D. I began asking Peter to appear on my Internal Fighting Arts podcast last August. After the podcast last month with Dr. Harriet Hall, the "SkepDoc," and the heat I encountered from some in the Tai Chi community following that interview, I thought it was time to balance the scales and talk to someone who is obviously more inclined toward the "traditional" view of the art.

Last week, I was finally able to talk with Dr. Wayne for an hour. The result is this podcast, the 24th in the series.

Don't miss the final five minutes, as I clarify part of the interview and have some final thoughts that wrap up some of the issues raised in the past two podcasts.

Follow this link to listen online or download the mp3 file to your computer -- the Internal Fighting Arts podcast 24 - Peter Wayne.