Nabil Ranne and the Art of Chen Style Taijiquan - The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview

Nabil Ranne 1
Nabil Ranne, instructor of Chen Style Taiji in Berlin and a disciple of Chen Yu.

The latest guest on my Internal Fighting Arts podcast is Nabil Ranne, a Chen Taijiquan instructor based in Berlin. He is a disciple of Chen Yu, the son of Chen Zhaokui who lives in Beijing.

Nabil is a co-founder of the Chen Style Taijiquan Network Germany. His website is www.ctnd.de.

We talk about the differences between Chen Yu's taiji and the taiji taught in the Chen Village, among other topics. 

You can listen online below or download the audio to play later. You can also subscribe and share this podcast (and I hope you will). Total running time is one hour 22 minutes.

 

 

 


Born a Chen -- the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Chen Huixian

CHX_CWTIf you were able to have a conversation with a member of the Chen family, what would you ask?

On the 50th edition of my Internal Fighting Arts podcast, I have a nearly two-hour conversation with Chen Huixian.

Among the topics we discuss:

What was it like growing up in the Chen Village?

What is it like being a woman teaching in a martial art long dominated by men?

Does the Chen family hold back information from outsiders?

What was it like moving to the United States when you had never been here before?

As the milestone approached for the 50th edition, I have hoped for months that she would do an interview. I'm very happy that she did.

Chen Huixian is the only Chen family member living and teaching Taijiquan in the United States.

She lives with her husband, Michael Chritton, in Overland Park, Kansas, part of the Kansas City area. Michael was the guest on my very first podcast. It is really cool, in my humble opinion, that Huixian would be the guest on the 50th. These are good people, as you can hear if you go back and listen to the first podcast and also this one.

Chen Huixian was born in 1981 in the Chen Village and her uncles include Grandmasters Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing, and Chen Zhenglei. Her father was Grandmaster Chen Chunlei. Her grandfather was Chen Zhaopi.

You can listen to the podcast or download it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Podbean and other distributors. Here is a link to the Stitcher page:

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/internal-fighting-arts/e/73897646?autoplay=true

-- by Ken Gullette


Tai Chi Instructors Should Not Throw Their Pants in the Fire

 

James-Davenport
James Davenport, 1716-1757

Nancy and I watch the TV series "Billions," and last night one of the characters told the story of James Davenport, an evangelist preacher back in the 1700s in the American colonies. He traveled and held revivals and preached fire and brimstone, hell and damnation.

He said he could tell if someone was "saved" or not just by looking at them.

James Davenport became known for his "Bonfire of the Vanities." He would urge his followers to throw books and other material goods into the fire. He was once charged with disorderly conduct because of his behavior and was convicted in a Hartford, Connecticut court. His punishment was simply to be sent back to his hometown.

Davenport kept preaching and holding his bonfires, and he began encouraging his followers to also throw their fancy clothes into the fire. Fancy clothes, he said, was a false god, it symbolized their vanity and kept them away from God.

One night, in front of a group of followers, he took his own pants off and threw them into the fire.

A woman in the congregation grabbed the pants, pulled them from the fire, gave them back to Davenport and told him to get hold of himself.

This act by the woman broke the spell Davenport had over his followers, and they walked away. His behavior was simply too bizarre. He died in 1757 at the age of 41.

What does this have to do with Tai Chi and internal arts instructors?

I studied with an instructor that I really liked. and I tried to ignore some of the things he said about chi. He said we could read a person's aura and we could direct an opponent's chi over us so they could not attack us.

Okay, maybe you can and maybe you can't, I remember thinking. I'll just go with it and keep an open mind.

Then one night in class, he told us how he created his style. A disembodied Voice spoke to him in his room. He spoke with the Voice for three days and the Voice outlined his entire system of internal kung-fu.

I stood there, around 35 years old, and his words had the same impact as if he had thrown his pants into the fire.

Suddenly, I looked at him in an entirely new way. Why would someone insult the intelligence of these students, and me, a 35-year old professional journalist, by making this type of claim?

A few years ago, I was talking with another Tai Chi instructor who told me that all of the senior citizens in his class had their hair color change from grey to black by doing Tai Chi. 

He actually said this. And he was serious.

He might as well have thrown his pants in the fire.

You have to keep it real. There are people who are motivated to believe and to say very unusual things. Who knows what the motive is? It could be to build a reputation, or they honestly believe their stories, or they have an issue that you can't explain.

Keep a clear head and do not check your brains at the door of any martial arts school. Keep your wits about you when you read martial arts books, or watch videos. 

Question authority. And that includes martial arts instructors. That especially includes people who claim to have been "healed" by the internal arts, or claim to be able to heal others, or claim to have witnessed and felt supernatural things.

You don't have to be rude. Just ask a follow-up question or two. Make sure you understood them correctly, and then make a decision on just how fast you need to depart.

And if you are teaching, understand that there is a line you cross when you begin spewing fantasy. Some people will fall for it. Some people will give you a little slack for a while, but for a lot of us, your delusion lights a raging bonfire.

Keep your pants on.

--- by Ken Gullette

 

 


What Does Being "Double-Weighted" Mean in Tai Chi?

Has a Taiji teacher ever explained to you what "double-weighted" means? It's bad to be double-weighted, but if you are looking for a definition of the term, you will find a lot of them out there. Most of them are wrong.

Some will tell you that you are double-weighted when your weight is distributed 50-50 between the legs.

Others will say something else.

The video below demonstrates what I learned about being double-weighted from Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing and their students (my teachers).

 


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.

 


Join Me in Madison This Weekend for Chen Huixian Workshop Nov. 1-3

Huixian Form 7I will be in Madison, Wisconsin starting this Friday, Nov. 1 through Sunday, Nov. 3 to study with Chen Huixian. If you live within driving distance, I hope you'll join me and train with one of the best.

Chen Huixian is an in-door disciple of her uncle, Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei. Other uncles include Chen Xiaowang and Chen Xiaoxing.

She grew up in the Chen Village and is highly skilled. Each time I train with her, I come away with deeper insights because of the personal corrections and coaching that she gives me.

She is teaching a workshop that will include the following:

Friday Night 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

** Zhan Zhuang (Standing Stake)

** Silk-Reeling

Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (with a 2-hour lunch break)

** Chen Straight Sword Form (1st half)

Sunday 9:00 a.m. to Noon

** Chen Straight Sword Form (1st half)

Sunday 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Laojia Erlu ("Cannon Fist") Review and Corrections

Chen Huixian's workshops are punctuated with laughter. It is very refreshing to have an instructor of her caliber -- a Chen family member -- who brings a healthy sense of humor to classes, and an interest in the people who attend. She gives a lot of personal feedback to each person. She speaks English, so you get the information directly from her, not through an interpreter.

If you live within driving distance of Madison, I hope you'll join me this next weekend. Here is a link for more information and to sign up. Click the "SAVE ME A SPACE" button on the page to get the fees, etc.

And check out this video to see Chen Huixian in action.

 

 

 


Chen Huixian Workshop Nov. 1-3 in Madison Wisconsin Will Teach Chen Taiji Straight Sword, Silk-Reeling and More

Push Hands 15
Chen Huixian coaches two students at the 2018 workshop in Madison.

Chen Huixian will teach the Chen Taiji Straight Sword form at a workshop in Madison, Wisconsin on November 1-3, 2019. She will also review and give corrections on Zhan Zhuang, Silk-Reeling, and Laojia Erlu (Cannon Fist).

I will be there and I hope you'll join me to learn from a highly-skilled member of the Chen family.

Chen Huixian is a great teacher, an "in chamber" disciple of her uncle, Chen Zhenglei. Her other uncles include Chen Xiaowang and Chen Xiaoxing.

Her workshops are an outstanding experience. She gives a lot of personal attention to students, is actually interested in the people who attend, she answers questions, and she offers corrections and coaching that will move your skills forward. She speaks English, which means there is no need for an interpreter between what she says and what you hear. 

Her workshops are traditional and serious. You will eat bitter. But she has a sense of humor that adds an element of fun that is lacking in some workshops. Laughter is not uncommon when Chen Huixian is in the room. It's a refreshing experience.

I am not bashful about my enthusiasm for Chen Huixian's teaching. Each time I have trained with her, I believe I have gotten better.

The workshop is sponsored by Patrick Rogne, owner/instructor at Ancient Root Taiji in Madison. 

You can sign up for part of the weekend or, like me, sign up for all of it. Here is how the training will break down over three days:

Friday, Nov. 1 from 6:00-9:00

-- Zhan Zhuang and Silk-Reeling practice and corrections.

Saturday, Nov. 2 from 9:00 a.m. to Noon and from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00

-- Chen Straight Sword form

Sunday, Nov. 3 from 9:00 a.m. to Noon

-- Chen Straight Sword form

Sunday, Nov. 3 from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00

-- Laojia Erlu (Cannon Fist) review and corrections

Interested in joining me in Madison? Go to this link for video and for more information on the workshop, the location, and a place to reserve your spot:

https://events.ancientroottaijiquan.com/chen-huixian-bio?fbclid=IwAR1rwl5TCuQ3jsM0Z7c4aC4S7_rpkCQcrzo1I3WqgrO6RAEQwzVTVBywoZc


Say No to Noodle Legs -- Do Not Collapse Your Legs in Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua

Collapsed Leg 4-BestSee the two images here in this post?
 
The top image shows a mistake that I see a lot. In fact, there is a good chance you are making this mistake in your forms, especially Bagua and Taiji.
 
I spent several years making this mistake and I was never called on it.
 
Then, I was training with Chen Huixian and her husband, Michael, and they pointed it out. I was doing "Buddha's Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar" and it was pointed out that my rear leg was collapsed.
 
In the top photo, my right leg is collapsing. I have lost my peng.
 
Collapsed Leg 2In the lower image, I am maintaining peng through the legs.
 
As you can see in the upper image, my stability and strength is far less with a collapsed leg. I cannot "defend from all directions."
 
It is a lot more difficult to maintain peng in the legs. It helps to relax and sit deeper into the kua, and it requires a lot of mental focus until you break the habit of collapsing.
 
That one bit of advice changed a lot of my stances. And now, I see people collapsing their legs a lot; even some people who are called masters.
 
Sometimes, there is no one to tell a master that he has gotten lazy, or perhaps his teacher did not teach him this particular thing.
 
Don't have "noodle legs."
 
Try to find a mirror so you can watch to see if your legs are collapsing. Watch for it in all movements. In Bagua, I see it a lot in movements such as "Sweep the Rider from the Horse" and similar movements.
 
It happens often when you are shifting weight -- the knee on the non-weight-bearing leg will collapse. 
 
Remember to maintain peng throughout the entire body at all times.
 
The photos are taken from my book, "Internal Body Mechanics for Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi." If you don't have it, you can click the link and buy it through my website or through Amazon.
 

Is Your Mind Quiet Enough for Tai Chi? An Interview with Instructor Michael Dorgan

Michael Dorgan
Michael Dorgan

Is your mind quiet enough to do Tai Chi?

In the latest edition of my Internal Fighting Arts podcast, I interview Michael Dorgan, a Hunyuan Taijiquan instuctor and owner of Hunyuan Martial Arts Academy of San Jose in California.

Michael is a disciple of the late Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang. He has also studied with Wong Jack Man, George Xu, Zhang Xue Xin, Feng Xiuqian and Chen Xiang.

Michael was a correspondent for Knight Ridder newspapers stationed in Beijing in 1999 when he met Feng Zhiqiang.

In 1980, Michael wrote the article about the Bruce Lee/Wong Jack Man fight that eventually sparked the movie "Birth of the Dragon."

Michael talks with me about training with Wong Jack Man, Michael's opinion about the fight, his training in Chen Hunyuan Taiji, and the importance of a quiet mind and a virtuous character if someone is to attain high-level skill in this art.

Michael's website is www.taichisanjose.com

Here is a link to the podcast on Audello. Listen online or download the file:

http://internalfightingarts.audello.com/internal-fighting-arts-43-michael-dorgan/

You can also play it here (below) or find it on other podcast distributors, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Stitcher.

 

Practice Tip -- You Kneed to Read This

Chen Taiji SteppingI have been sending out weekly training tips to members of my website and other people on my email list. If you would like to join the list and receive weekly emails, use the form at the bottom of this post.
 
This week's training tip is short and sweet.
 
The next time you work on a form and you come to a stepping movement, put the energy in your knees when you step.
 
If you think about it, most of the time you probably are just moving the leg, or stepping with the foot on movements such as "Stepping Three Steps" or "Whirling Upper Arms" (performed by stepping backward).
 
If you put your mind and your energy into the knee, and use the lifting of the knee as the focal point of your stepping, you will find that your steps will become more light and lively (as long as you don't stomp down as you land).
 
So don't lift the foot when you step, and don't lift the leg -- lift the knee. Think of having your "energy in the knee."
 
It will keep you from shuffling your feet, which is never a good thing, and it will make your steps more lively.
 
Also, when doing moving push hands or otherwise engaging with a partner to practice close-up fighting techniques and methods, the livelier you step, the more you can defend against foot sweeps or other disruptions of your structure if the opponent uses his legs and feet to try to unbalance you.
 
Let me know if you have any questions on any of the material the site or on the DVDs.