David Roth-Lindberg has a good Tai Chi blog called "Thoughts on Tai Chi."
He recently asked me to do a Q&A and I was happy to do it.
The interview was published today.
David Roth-Lindberg has a good Tai Chi blog called "Thoughts on Tai Chi."
He recently asked me to do a Q&A and I was happy to do it.
The interview was published today.
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.
-- by Ken Gullette
I am reading "Bruce Lee: A Life," by Matthew Polly. Bruce possessed one quality that he had in common with almost all successful people.
Bruce Lee believed in himself, had a goal, and worked hard to reach his goal.
Do you have a martial arts goal? Do you want to learn Bagua, or Taiji, or Xingyi?
It is a good idea not to write down a goal that is overwhelming. Do you want to learn Chen Taiji? Then start with the silk-reeling exercises. Set a goal of learning one every two days, and set a time to study. It may only be ten or twenty minutes, but that is okay.
Perhaps your goal is to learn a form. You can have a big goal such as "Learn Xingyi," but then have smaller goals that help you achieve the big goal.
Do you want to learn the Five Fist Postures? Then write down your goal, set a day to complete it, and then plan out the time to study and practice and get feedback.
Maybe your next goal is the Bagua Swimming Body form. Set a time to complete it, then make a plan to take it movement by movement. Study part of one section each day. Before you know it, you will reach the end.
Do you want to manage the stress in your life? Then set a goal to do that, and begin studying and practicing qigong every day. Even just five minutes a day can make a difference in your life if you work at it.
On my website -- www.internalfightingarts.com -- members find step-by-step instruction in the skills they need, from basic to advanced, in these arts. Plus, they have the opportunity to get personal feedback on their movement, mechanics, techniques and their progress.
But they have to set their own goals and work at them.
Success in anything does not happen just by thinking about it or watching free YouTube videos.
What are you going to do about it today? How much time will you spend setting your goal and planning the steps and the time you will take to get there?
An instructor can only point the way. The rest is up to you.
Bruce Lee didn't let anything stop him from achieving his goal. At one point, he was earning less than $200 a month teaching gongfu. His first school closed because students moved away or had to quit for various reasons. He faced discrimination in Hollywood and the cancellation of his first TV show, "The Green Hornet," left him unemployed.
But he had the vision. He knew what he wanted and he did not let anything stop him. Unfortunately, he did not live to see just how well he achieved his goal, but he did achieve it. So can you.
What is stopping you?
-- by Ken Gullette
I came across Graham Barlow's blog, the Tai Chi Notebook, a few months ago and saw that he would be a good guest for my podcast.
Graham has studied Tai Chi for 25 years and began studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at age 39. He now has his black belt in BJJ.
So do the skills for self-defense in Tai Chi transfer to jiu jitsu, or does BJJ simply give you more tools for your arsenal?
Here are links to the podcast. Listen online or download it for listening on the go. It is also available to subscribe in iTunes (Apple Podcasts).
I taught a journalism course at a local university in 2016, both the spring and fall semesters. It was my first experience teaching. I do not have a Masters, but I had enough experience in journalism (I won a few Associated Press awards during 22 years in news) that the department chair thought I would do a good job.
The students filed in on the first day of my first class. I spent a LOT of time working on an entertaining and informative PowerPoint and lecture.
A couple of students looked at me, smiled and said hello as they found a seat. Most of them walked in without acknowledging me, found a seat, and began staring at the computer screen that they each had on their desk. There was no attempt to engage by most of the students.
I have always enjoyed kids, and young people, and have always found ways of making them laugh and have fun.
But a college setting was different.
It was fascinating, watching some students trudge into the class each time, heads down, never looking my way to say "Good morning." Some of them rarely looked at me during class.
And when I gave a reading assignment, and the kids slogged in for the next class, it was surprising just how many of them had not bothered to read the assigned chapter.
I would ask a question in class and no one would answer. I sometimes stood there asking, "Bueller? Bueller?" Some of them didn't even get THAT joke.
When I was in school, I enjoyed being the class clown. I would crack jokes that would make the teacher and other students laugh. That is also how I am as a teacher.
I bought a bag of candy bars. I told the class that if anyone disrupted class with a smart-ass comment or a joke, they would get a candy bar. I was encouraging them to be engaged and crack jokes.
Peer pressure is an incredibly powerful force. I did not give out much candy.
The university cost $28,000 a year -- just for tuition. There were a handful of students who tried. I wondered why the rest of them were there. Why were they spending the money and not trying?
Some students turned in assignments and did not even know that the letter "I" is capitalized when you write, "I rode the bus."
By the time I completed my second semester, I was ready to stop teaching. I was working at least 40 hours a week to teach three times a week. I figured out that my adjunct teacher's salary amounted to less than $3.00 per hour. And that was before taxes.
It took a tremendous amount of time to prepare the classes, it took a tremendous amount of energy to deliver the classes, and it had become obvious that most of the students sat in the class scrolling through Facebook instead of listening.
I used humor and real-world examples, and I taught them news-writing concepts and principles only to see them turn in papers that loudly screamed, "I did not pay attention to one word you said in class."
I could not see what was on their computer screens, and I took the position that I was not their father. If they wanted to surf Facebook, they were all over 18 and could make that decision.
$28,000 a year is a LOT of money to spend on Facebook.
But on the days when one or two students would be involved, engaged, and speak up, it lifted me up. It felt as if I was reaching someone. Over there in the first row, there was one person who was making eye contact. That person would benefit, and would perhaps have a better start to their career because they were actually listening.
It doesn't take much to make a teacher happy. All you have to do is put in a little effort.
The same is true in a martial arts class.
I have been teaching martial arts now for more than 21 years. My classes are very small now. I do not recruit new students very often. I am content to teach a handful, and as I do, I work on improving my own skills. I am not interested in teaching a large group unless it is a workshop.
There have been students through the years who will learn something in class and then show up the next class and I will ask, "Did you practice what we went over last time?"
They shake their heads no. Work was too busy, or I didn't have time, they will say.
As a teacher, it is an empty feeling.
If I spend my time and my physical and emotional energy showing up and teaching you, but you do not have the interest to carve out a little time each day to practice, it is a reflection on just how seriously you take the art, and how serious you take my time.
And then there is the student who practices, and he comes in, excited to show his own progress, get corrections and continue moving forward. He asks questions and describes any problems he is having with a movement or a technique.
In class, if you teach this student something new, and then you back off to let them practice it, they continue practicing it until you are ready to continue. He does not stop and stand around.
That is the type of student who makes a teacher happy to be alive, and excited about teaching.
The first martial arts class I enrolled in was in 1973. I went home that night and practiced the punches, blocks and kicks that we went over in class. At the time, I was a student at Eastern Kentucky University, living in Commonwealth Hall. I spent at least an hour each day doing punches or kicks in my dorm and doing my stepping, punching and kicking down the hallway, then back to my room, then over and over again.
In 1987, when I started in the internal arts, I was the father of two daughters and I worked as a TV news producer in Omaha, Nebraska. I found an hour a day to practice when I was not in class.
And after I started teaching in 1997, I practiced up to six hours a day on weekends, working and working to get better. When I visited my teachers, I wanted them to know that I was working on the material. And since I was teaching, I felt a certain pressure to be very good.
One of the students in my journalism class paid attention, spoke up, and came up to me after class with questions. When he walked in each day, he looked at me, smiled, and said hello.
Joe worked as a bartender at my favorite local Italian restaurant, Lunardi's. Months after the spring semester ended, I walked into Lunardi's to pick up a carry-out order and Joe was behind the bar. He was glad to see me.
"I just want to tell you how much I learned in your class," he said. "What you taught me is really helping me with the advanced journalism course I'm taking now. You are one of the best teachers I have ever had."
It would be difficult to describe how his comment lifted me up. I think I was beaming with pride and joy as I left the restaurant.
Being a good student -- in high school, in college, in a martial arts class -- is not necessarily about being the most highly skilled in your class.
Being a good student is about showing up and trying, and practicing the material outside of class. And not just practicing it, but thinking about the movements, principles and techniques. Slowing them down. Feeling it.
Studying martial arts is like a college class. The work you do outside of class is more important than the class itself.
Being a good student is about valuing your teacher's time and effort by putting in some of your own.
You can now listen to the Internal Fighting Arts podcast on Google Play Music.
Here is the link:
On this podcast, you will hear the following types of guests:
** Top English-speaking internal arts instructors, most of them with close ties to top Asian masters
** Taoist priests, Zen masters and other philosophers
** People who have inspired us in our martial arts journey
** Martial artists who can shed light on issues of interest and controversy
The podcast is also available on iTunes (Apple Podcasts), Audello, Stitcher, Podbean, and other podcast distributors.
I hope you will subscribe. The interviews take a real-world approach. It is a Woo-Woo Free Zone.
In 1990, I won a Gold Medal at the AAU Kung-Fu National Championships performing the Yang Tai Chi 24 Form, the short form that is practiced daily by millions of people worldwide. It is the most popular Tai Chi form in the world.
It took me 28 years, but I finally recorded step-by-step instruction and put it on a DVD. It is 2-1/2 hours of step-by-step instruction with a fresh perspective on body mechanics and movement.
The DVD includes complete demonstrations of the form from front and rear views, at regular speed and in extra slow motion. Then, I guide a student through each movement. That student happens to be my wife, Nancy. I teach her the form as we go, and you will learn by watching the mistakes she makes and you will learn what to avoid as I humiliate, I mean COACH her through the movements. Nancy is a good sport, and there is an outtake reel at the end of the DVD.
Even if you have studied the Yang 24 form, I believe this DVD will give you new insights into the body mechanics of the movements. I show you details of the movements that are rarely taught by instructors who teach this form.
The video is already online on my website, Internal Fighting Arts. Many of my members began their Tai Chi journey with the Yang 24, as I did. The reactions to the instruction have been better than I expected.
When I began teaching in 1997, the Yang 24 was part of my curriculum. I taught it for a few years, even after I switched from Yang style to Chen style in 1998. After studying the body mechanics of Chen Tai Chi, I realized what was missing in a lot of the Yang Tai Chi that you see being performed around the world.
Many people are doing an empty form. This DVD attempts to correct that. You will learn how the ground path, peng jin, whole-body movement, Dantien rotation and the kua are used in the movements. You will learn how to sink your energy and use spiraling movement.
The Yang 24 was designed by a committee of experts in Beijing in 1956. It was intended to be a simplified form that people of all ages could use for fitness, exercise, and "moving meditation." Tai Chi is a martial art first and foremost, but the Yang 24 is not usually practiced that way.
This DVD is intended to teach the form for health and fitness. Clinical studies have shown that older people who practice Tai Chi see benefits ranging from improved balance and leg strength (fewer falls among the elderly) and reduced blood pressure and stress.
You will learn the Yang 24 Tai Chi form from this DVD. This is a Tai Chi beginner form that got me started in the art. It fits into anyone's hectic, modern lifestyle, and it can bring you benefits in health and quality of life.
The DVD costs only $19.99 and it comes with an Iron-Clad, No-Hassle Money-Back Guarantee. There is Free Shipping Worldwide. If you aren't satisfied for any reason, mail it back and receive a prompt refund, including your mailing costs.
Click the button below for our secure order page.
It was the start of the Bruce Lee craze. "Enter the Dragon" had only been in theaters for a little more than a month and Bruce had only been dead for two months. "Kung-Fu" was a popular TV show. I loved David Carradine's show and I had seen "Enter the Dragon" half a dozen times.
The crowd of new students that night spilled into the parking lot. I was 20 years old, a student at Eastern Kentucky University.
I had no idea that I would still be in the arts 45 years later, and that I would be working at it full-time after more than four decades.
I stayed in my first school long enough to earn a brown belt, then I began exploring, studying Taekwondo, Tien Shan Pai kung-fu, and discovered the internal arts in 1987. In 1991, I was working as news director of the TV station on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, Iowa, and was practicing in the gym when the coach of the ISU Boxing team, Coach Terry Dowd saw me and invited me to workout with the team. I was 39 and they sort-of adopted me. I trained with the boys for two years.
I'm pondering some of the lessons I've learned over the past 45 years. The martial arts attracts people with controlling personalities sometimes, and sometimes the arts attract people who want others to see themselves as mysterious, possessing supernatural powers. There are really great, caring people and also those who will lie about their backgrounds as they take your money. It attracts some people who think critically and others who will believe almost everything their teacher says. There are people who maintain their humility and there are others who troll the internet and Facebook and slam everyone they see.
But beneath all the noise are these self-defense arts. After 45 years I still think they are cool, fascinating, and I take them seriously but I still have as much fun practicing now as I did when I was 20, even though after all these years, losing a lung and developing a heart issue has made it a little more challenging.
45 years went by quickly. I hope to keep training, learning and improving for years to come.
Thanks for being part of my journey by reading this.
"If you can't take on an MMA fighter, your martial art is useless."
Nobody trains all-out. Nobody trains realistically. It is mental masturbation to think that you do.
If you did train all-out, like a "real" fight, you and your partners would not train very long.
Unless you are in a full-contact fight with no rules at all, it is very difficult to defend the way you want to.
If a shooter comes in, I want to knee them in the face and strike down on the back of their neck with my elbow. If someone clinches, I want to bite a hole in their arm.
If anyone practiced realistically, in any martial art, we would all take turns going to the hospital.
We were practicing clinches last week, and we laughed at one point because one of the best defenses is to just reach over and gouge out your opponent's eyes. But we were working on techniques more fitting to our art and we were not hurting each other.
At one point, I asked my partner to put me in a choke hold. He did. I faked a bite to his arm to get the point across.
In a real fight, if someone got me on the ground and wrapped a leg around my throat, he would be screaming when I bit a hole in his thigh. You think you are tough enough to take that pain? Not likely.
You do not have to hurt anyone or be hurt, or defend yourself against a trained young MMA fighter. You can still be a good fighter and defend yourself or others when necessary.
I was in the Toughman Contest in 1991. I was 38 and my larger opponent was 25. I won my full-contact fight, but afterwards, there was a dull ache in the center of my brain from being punched that I had never experienced and could not pinpoint. The photos on this post show highlights. I am in the blue shirt.
It convinced me that full-contact fighting is for people who don't look very far down the road.
The macho guys who now say you have to fight a trained MMA fighter or you aren't a martial artist have my permission to damage their bodies and get all the concussions they want.
I'll watch and then go practice my skills without hurting anyone, and without hurting myself.
Can Tai Chi, Xingyi or Bagua be used against a grappler?
A lot of macho types say no, but that's because they do not understand the internal martial arts.
Tai Chi has been slandered, maligned and unfairly criticized during the past year or two because a couple of people who claimed to be Tai Chi "masters" (they are not masters) had the stupidity to take on a trained MMA fighter and they lost. Badly.
I had a Wing Chun guy come into my school once and he wanted to spar full-contact. I told him we didn't do that, but we would gladly spar with him and do light contact. We hit him in the face anytime we wanted. My top student and I both tried him out. It was pitiful, but I did not judge Wing Chun based on this guy.
The internal arts have principles and body mechanics that work if you follow them, just like any art. Sometimes, you simply have to fight. That includes punching. But sometimes, you use body mechanics to take advantage of your opponent's force or to break his structure.
This past Wednesday night at practice, three students -- Justin Snow, Colin Frye and Chris Andrews -- worked with me as I demonstrated how to escape from a clinch. We had a good time playing with this.
Justin and Chris are both around 300 pounds. They are strong guys, around 30 years old. They have experience fighting. Real fighting.
I am 65 with one lung, heart issues, and I lost a lot of muscle mass when I got sick 9 years ago.
They still can't hold me in a clinch if I use internal principles. And I can't hold them, either.
We had fun playing with this. Enjoy the video and I hope you learn from it. And remember, 850 video lessons and pdf downloads are available 24/7 on my membership website at www.internalfightingarts.com. Check it out.