Taiji Body Method -- the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast with Nabil Ranne

Ken Gullette and Nabil Ranne 2023The 68th edition of the Internal Fighting Arts podcast features an interview with Nabil Ranne, who lives in Berlin and is a disciple of Chen Yu.

Nabil was first on the podcast in 2020. Shortly afterwards, I began studying with him. 

Two weeks ago, I attended my second workshop with Nabil in Philadelphia. He focused on body method, the Yilu form and push hands.

In this interview, I wanted to "go into the weeds" and discuss some concepts that are difficult to talk about in an audio interview because things have to be shown, but I wanted to give it a shot and discuss details on body method that might stimulate the listener's curiosity.

You can listen to the podcast or download it here.


"SkepDoc" Dr. Harriet Hall Dies at Age 77

Harriet HallDr. Harriet Hall, known as the "SkepDoc" and a former guest on my Internal Fighting Arts podcast, died unexpectedly on January 11, 2023 at the age of 77. She had been in poor health including heart issues for the past three or more years. I was very sorry to hear the news. She was an intelligent person with integrity.

Dr. Hall was a critic of "alternative" medicine that so many people involved in Taijiquan seem to believe in. She did a lot of good work bringing critical thinking skills to the discussion of science and medicine. As Dr. Steven Novella wrote about her:

"....Harriet has been tireless in her efforts to help educate the public about how science should inform the practice of medicine, and how medicine, and even common sense, can go horribly wrong when we abandon good science as our guide. Among her many contributions, Harriet is remembered for coining the phrase, Tooth Fairy Science, which nicely crystalized and communicated one of the many core problems with alternative science. To paraphrase, you can study in detail all of the aspects of the Tooth Fairy phenomenon without ever getting to the core question – the only question that really matters – does the Tooth Fairy actually exist?"

Dr. Hall was a family physician and a former Air Force Flight Surgeon who retired at the rank of Colonel.

I have been a skeptic about alternative medicine since I studied acupuncture in the late 1980s and early 90s, and attempted to learn how to read someone's "aura" and other bogus things as part of my Traditional Chinese Medicine studies with a former kung-fu teacher. I opened my mind and gave it a shot, studying acupuncture for two years. In the end, I came to the conclusion that the traditional "science" behind acupuncture is superstitious fantasy. If acupuncture works in some cases for minor pain or nausea relief, it is not for the reasons explained in TCM.

Among the points Dr. Hall made in our podcast interview:

** Our ancestors, and people in China, evolved in an environment without books or, of course, the internet. They relied on personal experience and information from others to learn about the world. As a result, we are programmed to listen to stories and anecdotes more than scientific research.

** There is a lot of bad research coming out of China. In fact, you cannot trust medical studies on alternative medicine from China.

** Many studies of alternative medicine are financed and supported by organizations with a financial interest in the outcome of the studies.

** If alternative medicine was proven to be true, it would be called "medicine," not "alternative medicine."

** Skeptics are not closed-minded, they are completely open to evidence.

** Belief in something like alternative medicine can be similar to belief in a religion, where it causes the believer to reject evidence that suggests they believe in something that is not true.

** Medical doctors are not necessarily scientists, and many of them lack the rigorous training in scientific methods that help them evaluate the true validity of clinical studies. 

** If a medical treatment works in Beijing, it should also work in Dallas or it is not medicine.

** Alternative therapies such as "breathing in colors" and healing sounds are unfounded and their claims are ultimately false.

** Misinformation about TCM can cause harm if it leads to people rejecting legitimate treatments.

There were so many important points made by Dr. Hall in our interview that it is important for anyone interested in the internal arts or TCM to listen. You can listen online or download the podcast with Dr. Harriet Hall through this link.

Some people in the world of Taijiquan and TCM got angry with me after I released this podcast, and I can't help that. Evidence is evidence, and when someone makes a medical or scientific claim, it is our responsibility as intelligent creatures to demand valid, rigorous evidence before we believe. So as I can imagine Dr. Hall saying, "Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out." 

I am sorry she is gone. We need more people like her, not fewer.

--by Ken Gullette

 


The Best Part of Teaching Online is the Relationships You Build

Michael Rosch 2022
With Michael Rosch (center) and Nancy at a restaurant during his visit.

I began doing live online classes for members of my website when Covid hit in 2020. Finally, an app like Zoom made it very easy to do.

One of my favorite aspects of doing live classes is the relationships and friendships that I build with the people who attend. I am blown away by the fact that I can be in Ilinois and do a class with people who are in Germany or Sweden or anywhere, with the advantage of being able to see each other move and provide instruction and feedback.

One of the friends I have made through these classes is Michael Rosch. He lives in the German city of Essen and began attending my live classes in 2020. He has a great sense of humor, and I tend to enjoy laughter in my classes and tend to crack silly jokes, so we hit it off pretty quickly.

Michael works for Bayer, and last week he came to the U.S. for a conference in St. Louis, about a five-hour drive from my house. This past weekend, he drove up to meet me, hang out and practice.

It was a great weekend. We had meals together, practiced Chen style Taiji, and met my friend John Morrow, who lets me use his school to shoot videos for my website.On Sunday, he practiced with me and Colin Frye, who Michael had seen in many of my instructional videos.

Michael Rosch and Colin 2022-2
Michael Rosch shows Colin Frye some of the Taiji method he is studying with Falk Heinisch in Germany

A couple of years ago, after he had begun learning from me, Michael wanted to begin studying Taiji in a school in Essen, but he was unsure where to go. He said there was one school doing Chen style in the lineage of Chen Yu. I urged him to check it out. He enrolled and began studying with Falk Heinisch, whose teacher is Nabil Ranne of Berlin.

After a few weeks, Michael suggested that Nabil would be a good guest for my podcast. I contacted Nabil, we did the podcast (listen to it via this link) and I was so impressed with his humble personality that I did two private online lessons with him. I had been very curious about Chen Yu. It's clear by watching him that he is doing something different than what I have been taught, but I couldn't identify what it was. As a disciple of Chen Yu, Nabil taught the method. After the two private lessons, I enrolled in his online live Yilu class. Since that time, I have studied Yilu and Erlu with Nabil, and I am trying to improve in his method. It is giving my Taiji a new dimension.

It's amazing how things happen. Covid forced a lot of martial arts teachers online. Because of that, I met Michael Rosch and he helped me discover Nabil Ranne and begin learning the Chen Zhaokui/Chen Yu method. 

It was wonderful meeting Michael last weekend and showing him around part of the Quad Cities. Nancy enjoyed meeting him, too, even though our home is still a mess as we have our collapsed ceilings repaired.

It was a lot of fun and very informative to practice with someone who had been able to receive so much hands-on training in this Taiji method. I was honored that he would want to visit me, but in the end, I think I learned more from him during his visit than he learned from me. Keep that just between us, okay?

I started my online school because I received messages for years from people around the world asking how they could study when their were no teachers of Chen Taiji, Xingyi or Bagua in their area. I started my website many years before Zoom, and the live online capability has made the website even stronger. I love seeing people improve, often during a live online class. But in the end, it is the deep, positive friendships I have made that gives me the most satisfaction. What a great guy Michael Rosch is, and what a fun weekend! All I can say is "danke schoen," and I'm sorry we couldn't order any Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte in the restaurants we visited.

-- by Ken Gullette

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Talking about Chen Taijiquan and the Internal Arts on Ryan Patrick St. George's Talking Fists Podcast

Talking FistsRyan Patrick St. George asked me last week to be a guest on his "Talking Fists" podcast, so we did an interview on Chen Taiji and other internal arts topics.

He wanted to know the differences between the Chen Village Taiji and the Chen Taiji I have been studying for the past year-and-a-half with Nabil Ranne, who is a disciple of Chen Yu. He also asks my perspective on Yang style Taiji and other related issues.

Here is a link to the podcast:

https://www.buzzsprout.com/501379/9804832-talking-fists-episode-12-ken-gullette-training-in-both-lines-of-chen-taiji?t=0

It's also available on your favorite podcast distributor.


Awakening with Zen Buddhism: the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Zen Buddhist Monk Douglas Gentile

Douglas Gentile, Ph.D. and ordained Zen Buddhist monk.
Douglas Gentile, Ph.D. and ordained Zen Buddhist monk.

Martial arts and philosophy have had a close relationship throughout history, and Eastern philosophies have had a big impact on my life. In the 59th edition of the Internal Fighting Arts podcast, I talk with ordained Zen Buddhist monk Douglas Gentile, Ph.D., who is also a professor at Iowa State University with a Ph.D. in child psychology. He first became intrigued by Buddhism when he watched the "Kung-Fu" TV show at age 10.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Doug talks with me about how to live a more fulfilled life of awakening and balance in a modern world when so many of us seek mental distraction the moment we are left alone with our thoughts. How do we develop awareness, empathy and connection, and the ability to overcome problems and tragedies in our lives, and why is that so beneficial to us? How do we learn to "walk easily over rough ground?"
 
Listen via this link or download the podcast. It will also be available via Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other podcast distributors.
 
 
 I first heard of Dr. Gentile when I received a catalog showing his "Buddhism 101" course on the Learn25 website. I bought the course and found it very rewarding. Here is a link:
 
 

Training in Xingyiquan: the Internal Fighting Art Podcast Interview with Byron Jacobs

ByronByron Jacobs has become the first martial artist to appear on my Internal Fighting Arts podcast three times. He is a teacher of Xingyiquan and Bagua Zhang living in Beijing. He is a disciple of Di Guoyong.

In this wide-ranging discussion, we cover several topics, including how the Chinese people view their own government, the meaning of Xingyiquan "Classics," and what training is like with traditional Chinese gongfu teachers. We talk about the importance of forms and whether that should be the focus of your training and several other fascinating aspects of quality training, including the value of choreographed two-person sets and why you should take a notepad and pen to your next practice.

Here is the page to the podcast episode:

https://internalfightingarts.libsyn.com/website/internal-fighting-arts-58-byron-jacobs

You can listen online or download it. The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast is also available through Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and other podcast distributors.

Byron teaches online through his Mushin Martial Culture videos on Patreon. His does an excellent podcast -- the Drunken Boxing Podcast, which is available through the usual podcast distributors.


Get Out of the Bubble and Pressure-Test Your Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua

Byron Jacobs, an outstanding martial artist and teacher of Xingyiquan and Baguazhang, does the Drunken Boxing Podcast. He recently interviewed Mario Napoli, another great martial artist who went to the Chen Village and won a push hands tournament there. Here is the link to the YouTube version of Byron's interview with Mario. The Drunken Boxer Podcast is also available through Spotify and other podcast distributors.

One of the interesting topics they discussed was the problem of Taiji people not wanting to test their push hands against other martial artists.

Chris Lorenzen and Ken Gullette
Ken Gullette (left) and Chris Lorenzen

One of my former students, Chris Lorenzen, has gotten into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu during the past year or two. So I invited him to stop by one of our practices a couple of weeks ago to pressure-test our arts and to exchange information. I have a lot of respect for other martial arts and I like to see them up close.

It was a lot of fun. Besides banging around a little, we asked about BJJ and he gave us a few demonstrations of techniques on the floor. 

I believe that if your arts are not effective, you are living in a bubble of fantasy. So I like for other martial artists to stop by our practices. 

Most of us are instinctively too tense when another person comes in to take us down. We expect to use muscular tension to defend and counter. But often, that tension is what your opponent uses to control you because they can connect more easily to your center.

We practice relaxing when an opponent uses force, and combining that relaxation with other body mechanics including the ground path, peng jin, using the kua and more to "empty" and then redirect the force our opponent is using.

A couple of months ago, I spent five days in the hospital with blood clots in my left lung, and I'm on blood thinners right now. It's frustrating to be more fragile than I used to be and not able to go as hard as I used to, so I think Chris took it a little easy on me. It was still a valuable experience to feel his technique and learn what I could. Justin and Colin were able to go a little harder with him.

My favorite thing is to square off with other martial artists and ask them to take me down. It isn't about punching and kicking for me anymore. My goal is to get close to them and maintain my center while I take control of theirs. Anyone can punch and kick, but can you make him go off-balance and take advantage of him at the right moment? If someone grabs you to take you down, and uses force on you, can you handle it with relaxed internal strength?

Chris Lorenzen and Justin Snow
Chris Lorenzen and Justin Snow on the ground.

I love to work on it. If they try to take me down and have a hard time because I can keep them from finding my center, that's a good thing. And if I can take them down instead, that's even better. I try to be strict with myself, avoiding the use of localized muscular tension and trying instead to use good Taijiquan principals and methods. I did a DVD on some of these methods of close-up self-defense and you can find the DVD through this link. 

One of the interesting things Mario and Byron talk about in the podcast is how some Taijiquan teachers are calling themselves "master" and yet they have never pressure-tested their skills in competition. If you don't pressure-test your martial ability, Mario Napoli says you are just "moving air" when you do a form. 

"Forms lie to you," he says, and he is right. You can do movements all day and think you can apply it in self-defense, but it's a completely different ballgame when someone is putting the pressure on you.

So get out of your bubble. Invite different people to your workouts. It should be friendly, of course. You don't have to go full-contact because getting hurt is not a good option for adults who have other responsibilities and careers, but there should be a risk of being "shown up" and taken down. Your ego might be deflated a bit, but it's a small price to pay for the truth. We can always get better, but not if we become legends in our own minds.

Let's face it, if you aren't pressure-testing your arts, you are probably not as good as you think you are.

 


Are You Part of a Martial Arts Cult? The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Louis Martin

True BelieversSome people want to become martial arts teachers or "chi masters" for the same reasons some people become ministers or politicians.

Some people want to be figures of authority. They want others to look up to them, to see them as having amazing skill, as a direct pipeline to God, as someone with Ultimate Wisdom, or as someone with supernatural powers.

Even in martial arts, there is no shortage of people who will bow down before a "master." Students might play along with their "chi master" teacher and fall down when he waves his hand. Or they will jump and hop away when their tai chi "master" touches them lightly during push hands. They will talk about their teacher as if he (it's almost always a "he") is god-like. 

Nobody wants to admit they belong to a cult. 

Louis Martin is the author of "The True Believers," a book about his experience in a martial arts school with cult-like tendencies. It is an interesting story for anyone in martial arts. Follow this link to find the book on Amazon

Louie is the guest on the latest Internal Fighting Arts Podcast. Here is the link to the podcast. You can listen online or download it to listen to later. 


From Count Dante to the Chen Pan Ling System: The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with John Scott

John Scott and His SifuThe new Internal Fighting Arts podcast features an interview with John Scott, a teacher of the Chen Pan Ling system in Maryland and a tournament champion.

He has been in martial arts for a half-century, ever since he bought some of Count Dante's training materials as a kid. 

We have a good time talking about the martial arts journey that led him to his teacher, Grandmaster Chen Yun Ching, the son of Chen Pan Ling. The photo at left is John Scott standing next to Chen Yun Ching.

Follow this link to either listen online or download the file. It's also available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Podbean and other podcast distributors.

https://internalfightingarts.libsyn.com/internal-fighting-arts-54-john-scott


From Break Dancing to Wudang Mountain to Bagua Zhang -- the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Jakob Pang Isaksson

Jakob Pang IsakssonJakob Pang Isaksson, a Bagua Zhang teacher in Stockholm, has lived an interesting life. In 1998, he won an MTV Break Dance Competition and appeared in a Run DMC video, "Sucker M.C.'s." Watch the video here.

A few years later, he traveled to Wudang Mountain to search out gongfu instruction. He returned to China later and spent three years there. He won medals at a large wushu competition and was selected to perform and compete with the Guang Zhou University professional Wushu Team. Eventually, he found his Bagua Zhang teacher, Li Jian Min, a teacher of Jiang Style Bagua Zhang.

I talked with Jakob Pang Isaksson about his experiences and it made for as very interesting podcast.

Go to the podcast page where you can listen to it or download the episode.