Internal Strength Workshop in East Lansing, Michigan to be Held on Sunday, October 24

KenTaiChi3 If you live within driving distance of East Lansing, Michigan, you're invited to attend my Internal Strength workshop on Sunday, October 24th. 

It's sponsored by Sifu Doug Lawrence, who has a great group of people studying Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Bagua.

There are a few key skills that are absolutely crucial for the practice of quality internal arts. If you don't incorporate these skills into your movements, you are not really practicing internal arts. We'll focus on these skills at the workshop, and everyone will receive personal attention. My goal is for everyone to walk away with a realization or two that will take their skills forward a step.

What we'll practice:

  • Standing stake
  • Development of Internal Strength skills -- ground path, peng jin, silk-reeling energy, whole-body movement, use of the kua, dan t'ien rotation
  • Pole exercises
  • Martial applications

Where: Hannah Community Center in East Lansing -- 819 Abbot Rd, East Lansing, MI 48823

When: Noon to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010


I'm looking forward to the workshop, meeting new people and doing some good training on internal skills that will help participants see a little deeper into the movements of their Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Bagua.




Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang Workshops in the U.S. 2010

Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang, the standard-bearer for Chen Tai Chi, will do a series of workshops in the U.S. this year -- some stops in San Diego (Bill & Allison Helm's school), Seattle (Kim Ivy's school), Chicago (Andy Loria's school), among others.

I plan to attend at least part of the Chicago workshop (Oct. 1-3), where he'll be teaching silk-reeling and the straight sword form. For more information on all of Chen Xiaowang's workshops, including the contact information of the hosts, go to

Here is an older video of Chen Xiaowang demonstrating the Chen straight sword form.

How to Hold Self-Defense Seminars -- From the Martial Arts Supershow 2010

DefensebyDesign One of the informative and helpful sessions I attended at the Las Vegas conference was held by Jeff McKissack, owner of Defense by Design (the photo at left shows his booth in the Exhibit Hall). He had some very useful advice for martial arts teachers who can supplement their income teaching self-defense classes for various groups.

Some of the people who would be very interested in self-defense seminars would include:

** Women's organizations

** Real estate companies (female realtors are often at open houses alone)

** Apartment communities (talk with the manager's office)

** Crimewatch groups

** Homeowners' associations

Jeff's advice on how to present the seminar was very insightful. He says you shouldn't teach more than three or four techniques in an hour. Focus your time and teach them something practical, especially techniques that teach them to cover, block, punch, and kick. Then run.

Another great tip -- make it affordable. Don't charge more than a bill that you would expect someone to have in their wallet. In other words, no more than $20 for an hour or two. By keeping it affordable, you can drive up the number of people attending.

If you own a school or rent a space for your classes, don't expect these people to come to you. Instead, offer to go to them. If you're teaching a group of realtors, see if you can teach it in a large room at headquarters. If you're teaching at an apartment complex, you might be able to use their community room.

And remember, men and women seek different things from self-defense. Men want to train for a fight. Women are training because they expect to be attacked. Men want to learn self-defense so they can be a protector. Women generally assume the role of the protected. Men have the mindset of a predator. Women have the mindset of prey. Women are looking for empowerment. Men are looking for a rush.

It's interesting stuff. I believe everyone should know a little self-defense, but if you try to teach more than a few techniques in a seminar, no one will retain very much, so keep it simple, silly. 

Meeting a Ninja - Stephen K. Hayes and the Martial Arts Supershow

Ken-Hayes-web There were a few good sessions at the Martial Arts Supershow in Las Vegas this week. Bill Wallace was great, of course. I also met Stephen K. Hayes, the ninja master that I had been reading about and seeing videos since the 1970s.

After his presentation, we talked briefly. He is located in Dayton, Ohio and I used to live and work in Cincinnati. He laughed when I said, "I've been reading about you since we both had no grey in our hair."

He spoke about "Protecting the Master." He talked about his life story and among his messages was one that I've been preaching for some time.

If you believe it and imagine it, you can achieve it.

When he was beginning in martial arts, he bought a black belt and kept it in his closet. He knew he would earn one someday. He occasionally would take it from the closet, put it on, and look at himself in the mirror.

He already had the black belt in his mind. He only had to earn it through the school. And he did.

Hayes This is a message that can help you in any aspect of your life. It can get you through bad times and it can lead to very good times.

No matter what your goal is, if you believe you can do it, and you make a plan and a roadmap to reach that goal, success is only a matter of executing the plan.

Stephen K. Hayes is old-school. He's a traditional martial artist. I love these guys. We needed more of them at the Martial Arts Supershow.

Tomorrow, I'm going to write about the most embarrassing exhibit booth at the Supershow -- and guess what -- it was related to chi. Wouldn't you know it?

The Business of Martial Arts -- At What Cost?

MASupershow-Curriculumweb I believe every good martial arts teacher should make a profit. I believe in making money. Every good instructor should make enough money to live a good lifestyle and save for a secure future. I try to make money at my arts, and I do, but not enough.

It's sad to see good martial arts schools struggle. The image of the kung-fu or karate teacher living a meager existence, taking little for lessons but teaching a pure art is becoming a memory.

Even Chinese masters have learned that they can make big bucks, and they want the money. Chen Xiaowang, I heard, is a millionaire. He deserves it. He's that good.

And yet, it's disappointing to me to attend a Martial Arts Supershow like the one in Las Vegas this week and see that it's so geared to the business side of the arts. They taught things such as: How do you squeeze more money out of your students? How can you "re-package" and "re-brand" your arts to capitalize on the current fads like MMA?

There were a few great seminars -- I especially liked Bill Wallace (yesterday's post) and I met Stephen K. Hayes, the ninja instructor that I've read about since the 1970's (tomorrow's post). But for the most part, it seemed the fads and non-traditional arts beat the traditional arts into submission at this convention. I may have been the only Tai Chi guy in town.

CageFitness-MASupershowwebIn 2010, even if you have very little experience, you can buy a curriculum, get certified and offer a new class for the public. A couple of the photos here show two booths -- both offering a curriculum and certification. One is for a new fad called "Cage Fitness." A lot of people are discovering that if you just put MMA or Cage in the title of a martial arts program, you can get more young guys in the door. I'm sure it's a good fitness program. I believe it would help you get into great shape. That's not the issue here.

So you can buy your curriculum. You can buy software that will help keep track of students. You can hire a company that does your billing and threatens to sue students who stop paying on their contracts. Yes, contracts are crucial for successful schools in 2010. So are "Black Belt Clubs" where you try to get someone to pay a few thousand dollars upfront and promise that they can study until they get their black belt, even though you know that most of them will drop out long before they achieve their goal.

You also have to launch "Lil Dragons" programs, after school programs, summer camps for children. Kids are money-makers for a successful school these days. Have them practice Laojia Yilu for ten years like they do in the Chen Village? Are you kidding? You can't teach them a real martial art. Teach them punches and kicks and give them a good workout -- stroke their little egos with merit badges and don't forget, everyone is a winner (they'll find out when they grow up that everyone is NOT a winner).

Oh, and by the way, you have to hire and train a staff. The days of black belts teaching classes out of respect and obligation? That's so 1970's. If you want to rake in a million a year, you have to get with the program.

One speaker actually said "lineage is not important." It's probably true. Just attract kids and teens with titles like "Extreme Karate" or "MMA" or "Cage Fighting."

Some schools that practice all these things are raking in more than a million dollars a year. 

I taught a kid's class for over a year. I've always been great with kids. I love kids and I loved being a father to my two girls. In my kids kung-fu class, I had a good sense of humor and I tried to help them understand the movements. When the movements were wrong I showed them the right way.

One 10-year old guy started crying one day. I was shocked. "What's the matter?" i asked.

"You're always criticizing me!" he said, tears running down his face.

I was merely showing him the correct movement, but no one had ever had the nerve to imply that he could improve at something. No, he had learned that it's all about him.

I stopped teaching my kids' class in December, 1998 and swore I would never teach another one. I haven't. Children in America are not ready for the internal arts.

Real martial arts take time -- a slow, painful process. Sometimes a good coach has to tell his players -- or students -- that they suck and need to work harder. In a fast-food, I want-it-all-now, ADD culture where more kids want to be rock stars than scientists (it's true, I used to work at ACT and saw the research), the traditional martial arts school has a tough road ahead.

This is one of the reasons I started my online school and why I never again want to run a bricks-and-mortar school. I have a small, dedicated core group of students in the Quad Cities. I don't have to adopt any fads. I don't have to water down my arts. I put what I know online and if it can help you, a membership is very inexpensive and you can quit anytime. My audience isn't the kids and young adults in the Quad Cities -- I have members from Japan to the U.S. to England to Israel -- even a couple of members serving in Afghanistan. I can be true to the art and to myself. And as I keep learning and improving, I pass it all to my students.

There will always be a few people who want the things that traditional arts teach -- things that you don't see in MMA guys. But right now, the business of a martial arts school is to get people in the door and teach them something that will bring in the income. I'm hopeful that things will change, and I hope the good traditional teachers can hang in there until that happens.

From the Martial Arts Supershow 2010 - Interesting Training Equipment

The Martial Arts Supershow is really geared toward martial artists who own schools. I have a small group of students I train with, but I don't have a typical "school" anymore. I didn't like running a school.

In 1975, I got into the news industry to be a reporter and to be able to write for a living. By 1989, I had become a news director, a manager in charge of the newsroom. I had to answer for every photographer who dented a news car, and I had to deal with anchors who threw temper tantrums or wouldn't show up to work on time like the employees who weren't stars. That's not what I got into news for, so in 1997, I left the business.

The same is true for me when it comes to martial arts. I always dreamed of owning a school, but once I did, I had to worry about making money, paying the rent and utilities, dealing with students who skipped a few months on their payments, and simply having to accept students who weren't serious.

I didn't like it.

Looking through the booths at the Supershow, there are good products for school owners and some that I find almost offensive ("buy a complete curriculum from me").

LajustOne of the good booths is by Lajust. They've developed a vest that you can put on a Bob training dummy or any standing heavybag. The vest is wirelessly connected to a receiver and a laptop. When you strike or kick the bag, the laptop shows how much power you've generated.

You can use this to judge how strong your strikes are and train accordingly.

I like it. The price tag was close to $2,000 (including the vest, receiver and laptop with software) if I understood him right, but apparently it's a big hit with students and I can see how it would be a great training tool.

The Supershow is sponsored by Century. I doubt that I'll attend another one -- I don't intend to have a typical school again -- but for those who do, and have to worry about making the overhead and making a living, I suppose this is a good event.

My next post will focus on the dumbest booth of all time -- and unfortunately, it's the closest thing to the internal arts at the entire Supershow.

A Real Martial Arts Champion at the Martial Arts Supershow 2010

Ken-BillWallace-2001 It's funny how your life crosses path with some people in a way you couldn't have predicted.

In 1976, I was 23 years old and watching a live karate kickboxing match on TV. Bill "Superfoot" Wallace knocked out a big bald fighter with a hook kick to the head. I was so excited, I started working a lot harder at the hook kick, and it has won me many tournament matches over the years.

I first met Bill Wallace in 1982. I was a producer at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati and he came to town for an exhibition match and martial arts convention. He stopped by the station and I interviewed him.

Flash forward almost 20 years to 2001. My friend John Morrow sponsors Bill Wallace to come to do a workshop at his school here in the Quad Cities. I go to John's house and meet them and we all go out to the ice cream store. It's a summer evening and we're hanging outside an ice cream store with this martial arts superstar. I couldn't believe it. I attended the workshop and he kept using me as his dummy, showing kicks and demonstrating techniques. He had super control over his foot and could kick me in the head before I could block it -- EVERY time. Photo above is from 2001.

He came back for another workshop a few years later.

Bill Wallace is a funny guy. He uses humor throughout his workshops.

Yesterday morning, he held a one-hour stretching workshop here at the Martial Arts Supershow in Las Vegas. I was familiar with his stretching exercises, but hadn't done a lot of them since being so sick last year. It felt good to go through them. Then, we practiced different punch and kick combinations with our partners.

Wallace has a great technique for closing distance with your opponent. As you're moving and dancing, you suddenly bring your feet together. That closes the distance for a kick.

Ken-Wallace-2010After the workshop (and the room was packed) I shook his hand and reminded him of the interview we did almost 30 years ago. The photo here was taken as we were talking, then he slapped me on the arm and said, "Well, at least YOU still have hair."

He's going to be coming to the Quad Cities in August for a workshop at John Morrow's school. I'm going to encourage all of my students to attend, and see if we can't spread the word. There are guys out there right now who are MMA superstars because they're big and bad. I don't know how many of them uphold some of the important principles of traditional martial arts -- skill combined with respect, humility, and a sense of humor. Bill Wallace does, and it's amazing and gratifying to see that even at age 65, he's still teaching.

A Morning Workout with Chen Ziqiang

Chen-Ziqiang-6-10-10-Web This is the Chen family's world. The rest of us just live in it. Each time I train with a member of the Chen family, it's like trying to go one-on-one with Michael Jordan. You experience people who are at the top of their profession.

Chen Ziqiang is around 30 years old and is possibly the toughest tai chi fighter on the planet. He's the son of Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing and the nephew of Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang. His cousin is Chen Bing.

I got up at 2 a.m. and got to Master Han's school in Skokie, Illinois, a little after 5:00 a.m. Master Han arrived with Chen Ziqiang around 5:45 and at 6, he did a 2-hour workshop on the Chen fan form. This isn't the same form that Zhu Tiancai does on his DVD. This is the original Chen Village form. I've never studied the fan before, so it was an opportunity to add a new weapon to my list. I've always considered the fan to be more of a woman's weapon, but the form is more challenging than I expected, and I rubbed a hole in my right index finger opening and closing my steel-pronged fan.

The photo here is cropped -- in the back row from left to right are my students Kim Kruse and Chris Miller, and I'm in the blue, sweat-soaked t-shirt behind Chen Ziqiang. You pronounce his name "Zih-john").

He went through the form movement by movement. He would repeat a movement several times as the class copied his movements, then he would ask each person - one at a time - to lead the group through what we had studied so far. It was an effective way of teaching. You had to really try to memorize it because you were going to lead the group at any time. Occasionally, he would say, "from beginning," and we would all start back at the beginning. He didn't need great language skills because he repeated the movements and coached us on the proper way of opening the fan, proper footwork, stances, and if you knew what to look for, you could see the other body mechanics and silk-reeling movement that we work so hard to do well.

He didn't get through the entire fan form in 2 hours, so Kim and Chris arranged their own private lesson this afternoon where they'll try to finish the form with him. Then we'll all work on it next week at our practice sessions.

Private lessons with Chen Ziqiang are still quite a bargain (a lot less than his father charges but I'm sure that will change as he becomes more well known). From 8:00 to 9:00 he worked with me on Xinjia Yilu, correcting posture, working on movements and answering some of my questions about some movements.

He doesn't speak much English, and the only complete phrase I know in Mandarin is "My Mandarin is not very good." When I said it in Mandarin, he laughed and said, "My English...not good." 

But the private lessons are effective because you get to watch his body mechanics up close and personal, and he makes corrections in your movement and posture. You can't cover a lot in an hour, but each baby step takes you a little farther down the road, right?

Chen Ziqiang had the reputation for a while of being too rough -- he often injured his training partners. I was told that his mentors in the Chen family had talks with him to get him to not be as rough with the foreigners. I found him to be a somewhat shy but very nice man, and a good and patient teacher. I didn't know what to expect, but he laughed often and it was a very pleasant and challenging training opportunity.

Last November first, I didn't have the strength to walk, I had lost so much muscle lying in a hospital bed for two weeks. Workshops with members of the Chen family are notoriously demanding -- the body mechanics of high-quality tai chi will turn your legs to jelly. Just to make it through three hard hours of training with him was amazing. He works hard and only takes occasional 1-minute breaks. It appeared effortless to him, of course. The breaks are for the American students. :)

Anyone studying tai chi should take advantage of the opportunity we have when members of the Chen family come to the U.S. Until you train with people at this level, it's very easy to live in a bubble. Seeing real tai chi is a humbling experience. I was first introduced to members of the Chen family by Jim and Angela Criscimagna, who hosted several great workshops when they lived in Rockford, Illinois. They changed the way I look at martial arts.

This is a video of Chen Ziqiang working on push hands with students in the Chen Village. He's the one in the light-colored sweatshirt. Chen Bing, his cousin, is doing the talking. This is the Chen family's world. The rest of us are just living in it.

Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing U.S. Workshop Schedule 2010

CXX Push 6 Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing -- brother of Chen Xiaowang and head of Chen family Tai Chi training in the Chen Village -- will hold workshops in the U.S. again this year.

Here is a schedule as it stands now, along with contact information for the hosts. Also listed are workshops scheduled for England and Russia. You can keep track of this and other information on Chen Xiaoxing's new website.

April 9 - 11 -- Chicago, IL -- Andy Loria

April 17 - 18 -- Bellmawr, NJ -- Mitch Magpiong

April 24 - 25 -- Washington D.C. -- Stephan Berwick

May 1 - 2 -- Seattle, WA -- Kim Ivy/Derryl Willis

May 8 - 9 -- San Diego, CA -- Bill and Allison Helm

May 19 - 23 -- Moscow, Russia -- INBI World

October --England -- David Gaffney/Davidine Siaw-Voon Sim

Tai Chi Self-Defense Applications Workshop was a Lot of Fun!

Workshop5-16-09 At least 17 people showed up for my workshop yesterday at John Morrow's Academy in downtown Moline, Illinois. Martial artists from all styles were there -- TKD, karate, another tai chi instructor (Yang style), Shaolin students -- it was a great group of very nice people.

Two members of the online school drove in from Dixon, Illinois and another member, Wally, drove in from Chicago.

We went over fighting applications from the Chen 38 form. Each of the participants will receive a DVD -- Nancy videotaped it for the Chen 38 DVD that's due out in the next two weeks.

I knew I was going to enjoy showing internal body mechanics to a variety of martial artists. It was a blast showing them fighting applications from tai chi, and the relaxed power you can generate from the proper body mechanics.

One of the hallmarks of "external" styles is the twisting of the hips. Many martial artists twist their hips too much when they move, and they kink their posture and put themselves into vulnerable positions. In tai chi, the waist (dan t'ien) turns more than the hips. That was one of the most common things I pointed out to people yesterday.

Also, most martial artists use arm and shoulder muscle and really don't use whole-body movement. They'll pull with the arms while the waist doesn't do much, or they'll turn the hips but the arms lag behind. I showed many of the participants how to connect it through the body, and how relaxed you can be when you knock someone down just because you're connecting the power from the ground through the body. All of this will be demonstrated on the DVD.

In the end, I was glad to educate people about tai chi. So many believe it's a "soft" art that is primarily moving meditation -- it was gratifying to show that there's nothing really soft about tai chi, especially when you put the "iron" in the cotton by using proper body mechanics.

In a 3-hour workshop, you can't show nearly enough, so I look forward to more workshops in the future.