A Blow to the Ego: the Price of Progress When Studying the Internal Martial Arts

Ken-CXW-Private
Being corrected by Chen Xiaowang, 2001.

Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang was teaching us the proper way to do fajin ("issuing energy") with the Hidden Hand Punch movement from Laojia Yilu. He had each person stand in front of him and do the movement.

I had really been practicing, and I was particularly proud of the way I was able to close into the kua before firing the punch. I had been studying Chen Taiji for over five years, practicing and practicing. I knew I was going to get a "good" from the Grandmaster.

He stood and watched as I assumed the position, legs wide, and I closed into the kua.

He shook his head. "Too much," he said.

"Too much?" I asked.

There was a bit of a language barrier, but it was clear that he did not like what he saw.

"Too much."

He showed me, and he settled into the kua the way I had done. "Too much," he repeated. Then he did it again, closing into the kua in a much more subtle way.

"Just enough," he said.

Ahhh, just enough.

I tried to copy him, and closed much softer. Then I fired the punch.

He nodded, said, "Okay," and moved on to the next student.

Laurel-Hardy Handshake
A laurel and hardy handshake?

Okay? Just okay? I didn't even deserve a laurel, and hardy handshake?

When you are a student of the internal arts under traditional teachers, do not expect a medal just for showing up. In fact, regardless of the number of years you have practiced, you should expect to be corrected as if you are a beginner.

Studying the traditional martial arts is not for those with fragile egos. Your ego needs to strap on a cup, because it's going to be kicked in the psychological groin for a few decades.

I have students who have achieved black sashes, and some that have studied 13 or more years and have not achieve a black sash. Others are just starting. When I see them perform, from beginner to advanced, I see different things that need to be corrected.

A week ago, I was correcting Colin, a student who has been with me for quite a while, and he seemed frustrated that he had not yet gotten a certain skill.

"Do you know what a special kind of person you are?" I asked him. "It takes a lot of strength to keep being corrected year after year. Not many can do it."

He had not considered the value of possessing this very great quality: persistence. It requires a lot of determination.

Over the years, you teach all kinds of students. Some can't handle criticism at all. Some decide as they become more advanced that they are not interested in being coached by you, and others take correction in stride, knowing it is intended to help them develop.

Occasionally, a student will quit very quickly, as soon as he or she realizes that it is very difficult, and the coaching can be picky. 

Ken-Gullette-Chen-Huixian-web
Chen Huixian corrects me in 2013.

This August, I hope to attend a workshop with Master Chen Huixian and Michael Chritton. A few years ago, I was training with them, and they reminded me not to collapse my legs, a habit I picked up training in the Chen Xiaowang lineage. If you look at videos from some folks, even some who are called master, you will often see a collapsed leg. 

"Maintain peng in the legs," Huixian said.

Instead of resenting the correction, it had a huge impact on the strength of my stances.

Another time, we were doing a movement, and Huixian said, "Relax the hip." 

I realized she was talking about closing the kua. Suddenly, what Chen Xiaowang could not properly describe to me in 2003 became clear. By relaxing the hip, your kua closes in a much more subtle way.

Ahhh. Okay. Now I can make progress.

I have seen my teachers corrected by Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing, and Ren Guangyi. Being corrected in front of others is not a bad thing. You see, you will never be as good as you can be until you set aside your ego and realize that all good players -- in any physical activity -- need a coach to watch them and make corrections. The top golfers have coaches, basketball, baseball and football stars have coaches, and martial artists need coaches, too.

Without a coach telling you where you are screwing up, and what you are doing well, improvement takes a LOT longer.

We also tend to slip into bad habits. A coach can spot a bad habit and correct us. When I see some masters collapse their legs, for example, I realize they have no one correcting them, so a bad habit persists, and their students then pick it up.

So the next time your teacher corrects you, thank him or her. You have just been given a gift -- time. And if you are like me, you will drive away absolutely fired up over taking one baby-step further down the road on your internal arts journey.

If you can't handle criticism, perhaps you should do something else for fun, like stamp or comic book collecting, hobbies that don't require a teacher to slap you upside the head with the Dim Mak of a critique.

-- by Ken Gullette

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Dusting off the Yang 24 Tai Chi Form

Yang 24 7My membership website, InternalFightingArts.com, will turn 10 years old on July 4, 2018, just under six weeks from now. When I launched it in 2008, it had around 200 video lessons on Chen Taiji, Xingyi, Bagua and Qigong, plus some downloadable pdf files.

It now has around 830 videos offering a step-by-step approach to learning all three internal arts.

Now it also has something different -- Yang style instruction for those who want a slower, gentler version of Tai Chi.

Yes, I know. I love the self-defense aspects of Taiji -- how each movement, how each placement of the hands and body represents a powerful self-defense technique and a principle of internal body mechanics.

But over the years, it has occurred to me that a lot of people do not know what they are missing when they just study Yang style, so I have decided, after years of resisting it, to include Yang style instruction on my site. I believe it will offer them something they want, and then expose them to more high-quality instruction on a wider range of internal principles than they are accustomed to seeing.

I resisted this for years, because of my love for Chen style Taiji, but when I polled some members, they were almost all enthusiastic to see Yang style instruction from my perspective -- especially with the body mechanics and applications -- because many of them started, as I did, with Yang style.

Yang style was the first Tai Chi style I learned, beginning in 1987, and I began teaching it in 1997.

In 1990, I won a gold medal with the Yang 24 in Tai Chi Competition at the AAU Kung-Fu National Championships, held in Omaha that year.

I gave up Yang style around 2000, after taking up Chen style in 1998, and finding it much more "alive" and powerful. Chen Taiji is still my foundational art.

Yang 24 Ken Nancy 800pxIn the past few weeks, I have dusted off the Yang 24 and I am recording the form plus instruction on individual movements. My wife Nancy Gullette is usually my videographer, but she has stepped out from behind the camera to learn the form as I teach it and correct her. And trust me, an opportunity to humiliate and correct and tease your wife on camera is something no man should pass up!!

I am still recording and editing lessons, but my goal is to very soon have the complete forms of the Yang 24, the Yang 48, and the Yang Straight Sword form on the website, plus detailed instruction on each movement, including the body mechanics, and fighting applications for each movement. 

After working on the Yang 24 again for the past few weeks, I understand why it is the most popular Tai Chi form in the world. It was created in 1956 by the China Sports Commission, with guidance from four Yang style masters. It is an easy, graceful form, perfect for an older student who is not especially looking to study a martial art. 

On my website, those who study the form for health, fitness and meditation will also have the option of learning what the movements mean in self-defense.

In the meantime, I am also doing new videos for the website drilling into other internal principles and techniques. One of them is a video on where to generate the ground path in the feet -- what point in the foot do you focus on when grounding? And I am writing a book on Internal Body Mechanics in time to publish for the 10th Anniversary of the website.

Join me on the site for two free weeks. It is the most honest site on the Internet. You can cancel anytime, and you can even get personal coaching from me.


Charles Neville: The Death of a Kung-Fu Brother, Brilliant Musician and Member of My Website

Charles Neville
Charles Neville

We lost a kung-fu brother this week.

I was very sorry to read in the New York Times about the death of Charles Neville, one of the Neville Brothers, one of the greatest bands to come out of New Orleans. Aaron Neville is one of his brothers.

Charles bought several of my DVDs and joined my website when it launched, 10 years ago this July. Each month, I would get a notice that he had paid his monthly fee, but I never really connected his name to Aaron Neville and the Neville Brothers. He remained a member until less than two years ago, and I wondered if he was in poor health. I knew he was in his 70s.

He called me on the phone a couple of times over the years, before I realized who he was. I talked to him like I do all of my website members.

The last time he called, he had forgotten his password to the website, so I created a new one for him. He said, "I haven't been on the website in a couple of months because I've been traveling, playing music."

Almost as a joke I asked, "Are you related to the famous Neville Brothers?" He replied, "Yes, I'm one of the Neville Brothers."

I almost fell out of my chair.

Charles Neville played the sax for B.B. King, Bobby (Blue) Bland, Johnny Ace and more. He overcame a drug addiction and eventually studied taiji and meditation, and that brought him to my DVDs and website.

He was 79 years old. I hope his internal arts and qigong helped him ride through the ordeal of pancreatic cancer a little bit. I was honored to think that he and I were connected, and that he supported my efforts and studied my material. In the video below, from 1994, Charles is in the white shirt with the saxophone.

Rest in peace, my man.

 
 

My Interview on the Whistlekick Martial Arts Radio Podcast

Sifu Ken Gullette WhistlekickIt is strange to be on the other side of the microphone. I am accustomed to doing interviews for my podcast, so it was a different feeling to be interviewed by Jeremy Lesniak for his Whistlekick Martial Arts Radio podcast. I was honored to be asked. My friend Jonathan Bluestein, who was interviewed a few weeks ago, recommended me to Jeremy.

Here is a link to the show. I almost postponed it because I had been battling a lung issue for almost two weeks, and with only one lung, I could hardly speak without coughing for several days. The heavy breathing is very obvious, and the microphone picks up every bit of it!

Here is a link to the show:

https://player.fm/series/whistlekick-martial-arts-radio-podcast-shifu-ken-gullette


Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interviews with Tai Chi Instructor Ian Sinclair

Ian Sinclair2
Ian Sinclair

Ian Sinclair is a tai chi instructor in Orillia, Ontario who studied with Grandmaster Shouyu Liang and Sam Masich.

I interviewed him almost two months ago for the Internal Fighting Arts podcast. It was a long conversation, so I broke it up into two parts. 

He tells stories about training the Grandmaster Liang, we talk about fighting applications of tai chi, and the importance of practicing basics. We also talk about the controversial "fight" between MMA fighter Xu Xaodong and Tai Chi "master" Wei Lei last year, when Wei Lei was defeated in just seconds.

Here are parts one and two of the podcast interview with Ian Sinclair. You can listen online or download the mp3 file to your computer. It is also available on iTunes.

Part One of the interview with Ian Sinclair:

http://internalfightingarts.audello.com/internal-fighting-arts-35-ian-sinclair-part-one/

Part Two of the interview with Ian Sinclair:

http://internalfightingarts.audello.com/internal-fighting-arts-36-ian-sinclair-part-2/

I enjoyed the interview. He is a nice guy and a dedicated martial artist. His websites are sinclairmartialarts.com and relaxharder.com


A Bully Depends on Your Fear: The Most Effective Way to Deal with a Bully

Kenny-Sept-1967-web
I didn't look very tough at 14, and that's why bullies targeted me, but I was rocking that Beatles haircut!!

He was 16 years old; taller, heavier and stronger.

And he wanted to beat me up.

I was 14, a skinny, friendly kid with glasses who was a magnet for bullies back in the days when boys settled arguments by fighting.

He was the son of the sheriff of Jessamine County, Kentucky, and he had a couple of young toadies who followed him around.

A couple of my cousins were with me, leaving the drugstore in downtown Wilmore where we had been drinking Cokes, looking at comics and lusting after Helen, the pretty girl who worked there.

Back in the 1950s and '60s, dogs and boys ran free through the streets and farms around Wilmore because, by God, that's how the good Lord made us. We walked on the train tracks, explored the graveyard, went swimming at local creeks, and even walked across High Bridge, a dangerous feat especially when trains were coming.

Our parents didn't care where we went as long as we went outside and left them alone. We were always ready to oblige.

"Kenny, Don't Ever Run from a Fight"

On this day, as we left the drugstore, the bully and his followers began taunting us, then challenged me to fight behind the drugstore.

I did not want to fight, but what could I do with my cousins watching?

The words of my dad rang in my head. "Kenny, don't ever run from a fight."

My dad was born in the 1920s and joined the Marines near the end of World War II. He was the nicest, friendliest man I ever knew, but he had a limit if he was mistreated. He would fight back.

As a kid, I took his advice to heart. I was not going to back down.

We went behind the storefronts where no adults could see us. The bully began circling me in the gravel and dirt as our friends cheered us on.

I was trying to figure out how to get out of this alive. Then he punched me in the face.

The Hard Punch of Reality 

Fear gripped me. He is taller, heavier, and stronger, I was thinking. If I punch back, he will kill me.

He slapped at me and scratched my face. He got me into a head lock and I managed to escape. He kept hitting me and pushing me for what seemed to be half an hour. I could feel the scratches and welts on my face and head.

Eventually, I knew that I had to hit back. Either way, I might be whipped. 

It is said that courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is doing what needs to be done despite your fear.

I remember thinking, "Okay, here goes...."

The bully stepped in and finally, I uncorked a punch to his face as hard as I could.

Pow!

He stumbled backward, pain and surprise in his eyes.

"You hit me!" He held his face with one hand and unleashed a string of profanity that I hadn't heard since my dad hit himself on the thumb with a hammer.

Yes, I did hit you, I thought, and it felt really good. I advanced on him, but he backed away, covering up and wailing like he was scared to death.

He took off running with his toadies.

The Birth of a Legend

My younger cousins stared at me with a hero worship usually reserved for Superman or, in Wilmore, the mere mention of Jesus.

At that moment, I deserved that look. I had defeated the town bully, the sheriff's son, with one punch.

The legend spread through Wilmore. Kenny beat up the town bully. Gullette boys could hold their heads up with pride.

It was not my first fight with a bully, and it would not be my last. But as I look back on all those fights, I see a common thread.

A bully acts angry and tough to instill fear in his target. When he identifies someone who is afraid, he chooses that person as his target, thinking that the target will not fight back.

And the bully always has his friends behind him, weaker guys with their own personality issues who run away when the bully gets taken down.

Bullies Feed on Fear

I was always friendly, always ready to joke around, and bullies typically saw that as weakness. But there is one thing they did not understand.

I tried to avoid the fight as long as possible, but once I began fighting, I really loved it.

Nothing was more exciting than putting your own safety on the line against a bully.

Fighting another person is the ultimate macho one-on-one competition.

Even now, at 65, a cage fight is mesmerizing to me. I find MMA fights to be ugly and brutal, but I am drawn to them if I happen to see one on TV. It brings out something primal in me.

The last thing a bully wants is to fight someone like me. 

When my daughters were in school, girls began getting mean. Only "trashy" girls fought when I was a kid. In middle school, a girl threatened my oldest daughter, Harmony.

"You have my permission to hit a bully," I told her. "You might get in trouble at school, but you will never get in trouble at home."

Harmony took after me. She was very friendly and never met a stranger. But eventually, she stood up to bullies at least a couple of times and it worked.

Remove the Fear and Change Your Reaction

You see, the worst thing about dealing with a bully is the fear they instill in you. The only thing you have to fear about a bully is your own emotional reaction. If you react to a bully with fear, you give them exactly what they need. They thrive on it. They depend on it. 

When you change the way you react and remove the fear, you take away the fuel that drives their actions.

Bullying gets more complicated as you get older. In relationships, bullying can take the form of emotional control or domestic abuse. Once again, the bully does not believe he or she will face a backlash from their targets.

At work, bullying can be more insidious, with verbal bullying, giving you impossible deadlines or tasks, and the invisible bullying that can happen when someone poisons your reputation behind your back. 

In the workplace, bullies understand you can't hit them back. 

I have seen them all. I cannot explain why they behave this way. A lack of self-esteem, abuse they endured as a child, or simply mental instability or internal demons they cannot control. It does not matter if you are the target.

In the workplace, bullies know they have economic power over you. If they sabotage you, it can be much more damaging than a punch to the face. It can be life-changing.

Here is a great article about dealing with bullies in the workplace.

Bullies love Facebook. If you write martial arts posts, or put video up showing techniques, bullies come out of the woodwork like roaches, belittling you from the safety of their keyboards. I have a one-strike-and-you're-out policy. One drive-by bullying comment and you are blocked forever. I will take away your control, remove the target, and lead you into emptiness.

How to handle bullies -- online and in the workplace -- would make a great podcast. I'm going to work on lining up an interview with an expert.

We study martial arts for a reason. We study so that we never have to use our skills, but if suddenly we find ourselves to be the target, or we see someone else become the target, we are ready to set aside fear and do the right thing.

Violence in school is taken much more seriously now than when I was growing up. But bullying has not stopped, and administrators still don't do enough to stop it and put the hammer down on the bullies. If my daughters were back in middle school, my advice would be the same if they ever feared for their physical safety. You may get in trouble at school for hitting back, but you will never get in trouble at home for defending yourself or someone else from a bully.

I never saw the sheriff's son again, but the story of our fight behind the drugstore echoed through Wilmore, Kentucky for years.

 


Do Good - Be Kind - Four Simple Words that Can Change the World

Do Good Be KindYour philosophy of life does not have to be complicated to be effective. Sometimes, the simplest of messages can have the biggest impact.

Let me explain.

A Facebook friend of mine, Abby Cheesman, posted a link a couple of months ago that struck a chord in my heart.

The post told about a simple campaign that was trying to spread a message with only four words:

Do Good. Be Kind.

When I saw the baseball jersey with these words printed on it, I had to have one.

Abby's mom and dad, Peg and Brad Neilson, who were in my tai chi class this winter, gave me one of the shirts at the end of a series of classes. They also gave Nancy a shirt.

In the couple of months since, these words have haunted me every day, but in a good way. I wake up and think about how I can accomplish this every day.

How can I do good, and how can I offer kindness to others today?

Since the 1970s, I have tried to live according to philosophical Taoism and, to a lesser degree, Zen Buddhism.

Do Good Be Kind Ken NancyThe center of my personal philosophy is to "connect" to all things, and to remain centered at all times.

If you are truly connected to others, to the world around you, doing good for others becomes natural. You treat others as you would treat yourself. You do not do good because you hope to be rewarded with something -- money, eternal life, etc. -- you do good for moral reasons, for goodness' sake.

Likewise, being kind to others is rooted in being connected and centered. You cannot treat another person with cruelty if you have your act together. You only behave in a mean way when you perceive yourself as better, or as special, or perhaps even as worse than they are, and your mean actions are masking a feeling of inferiority.

It is complicated to explain how to connect to all things, and how to remain centered at all times. It also takes a lot of practice.

That is why "Do Good. Be Kind." hit me like a two-by-four. In its simplicity lies perfection. This is really all you need. 

If you seek to do good in each action you take, and if you seek to be kind to every person you encounter each day, you will connect and you will be centered.

In the real world, however, we do fall short. There are times when anger is appropriate. I study and teach self-defense because, even if our goal in practicing kung-fu is to master ourselves, we understand that there may be times when we must defend against those who are not kind, are not good, and are not centered.

But most of the time, the choice is ours. How do we behave each day? We can decide for ourselves.

So each day now, I ponder these four words. As I go through today, I will look for every opportunity to Do Good. Be Kind.

I hope you will, too. Think of the ripple effect we can have in the lives of others, the Butterfly Effect that an act of kindness could have.

It's worth a try, isn't it?

A philosophy is useless if it is not put into action. So let's live our philosophy today. Do Good. Be Kind.

Visit the website -- www.dogoodbekind.life -- and check out their mission and their apparel. It was started by Christopher Kurtz of Peer Thru. He and his wife Brittany run the nonprofit for Do Good. Be Kind. Please help spread this wonderful message.


Suck It Up, Buttercup: Success in Martial Arts Requires You to Be Uncomfortable

Tai Chi Class 1Last October, I offered a free tai chi class for people aged 40 and over. I stopped teaching older students a decade ago because I wanted to focus on the martial-oriented side of the internal arts. But we used to have a lot of fun with the older friends we made, so I started this new, free class to make new friends, have fun, and teach the Chen 19 form. Some of the students were nearly 80 years old. The oldest student was 83.

When you have practiced a form for 20 years, it seems easy. It was clear the very first night that even a beginning, short form like the Chen 19 appears like a deep, yawning abyss in front of someone who has not studied it before. The idea of actually getting through the thing seems impossible when you are learning the first movement.

As we went through the opening movement, I began coaching them through the simple stepping out and raising the arms, then dropping the energy while lowering the arms.

We practiced it a few times and then I said, "Okay, practice the opening movement on your own and I'll watch."

Reaction - DeerSuddenly, the entire class looked like a herd of deer in the headlights. Most of them had no idea what to do. Most of the others could not step out and then remember to raise and lower their arms.

It had been more than a decade since I had taught a group of beginners. The enormity of the task hit me like a roundhouse kick to the head, and I believe it hit them, too.

Oh Crap! This is Hard!!

In the past 20 years of teaching, I have seen a lot of students show up for their first martial arts class, eyes shining and with eager faces, ready to discover the mysteries of self-defense and Chinese kung-fu.

I have also seen a lot of students fail to return for their second martial arts class.

There is a good reason for this. Martial arts pushes people out of their comfort zone, and when they get a glimpse of the hard work and physical and mental challenge ahead, it's far too easy to run back to an easier life.

Very few activities push you out of your comfort zone like martial arts. It isn't like running or lifting weights. With running, you simply try to run a little farther or a little faster than the last time you laced up your running shoes.

With weight-training, you add one more rep or a few extra pounds of weight.

But martial arts pushes you in more ways. If pushes you physically. Your legs are burning and exhausted, you are sweating and gasping for air, and your arms are sore and feel like they weigh a ton.

Martial arts also pushes you mentally. You are asked to learn movements that rewire your brain and make you feel uncoordinated.

Look at how uncomfortable it is to learn a new form. It can take years to learn one Tai Chi, Xingyi or Bagua form and do it well. 

No Comfort for the Achiever

I have seen my teachers being corrected by teachers such as Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing, Ren Guangyi and others, as if they are beginners.

Ken-Gullette-Chen-XiaoxingI have been corrected by those same masters, and others such as Chen Bing, Chen Ziqiang and Chen Huixian. Each of them made me feel like an uncoordinated fool. And I would collapse from the physical pain and fatigue as they made me hold stances until my legs burned and would not hold me up any longer.

It isn't easy for our egos to take such a beating. 

But that's what excellence requires. 

Each time I left a class feeling as if I had been humiliated, but feeling as if I had taken a baby step forward in my insight and skill, I was excited, bouncing off the doors of my car as I was driving home. Yes, it was not easy for my ego or my body to take, but the payoff was worth it.

Success in martial arts is awarded only to those who are willing to put themselves in an uncomfortable place for a long time.

Practicing the same movements year after year is too boring for many. Practicing the same body mechanics, the whole-body connection, the smooth unfolding of internal strength through the body -- the slow, step-by-step progress year by year -- it's just too much.

Darren Hardy, the former publisher of Success magazine says, "Comfort is mediocrity. Success is hard. Enjoy that fact. It eliminates the weak."

The Difference Between Successful and Unsuccessful

Hardy says that the things we have to do to be successful are the same for both successful and unsuccessful people. Both groups of people HATE doing the uncomfortable things that are required to achieve your goals.

But there is a big difference between successful and unsuccessful people.

Even though they don't want to do what is uncomfortable, successful people do it anyway.

It really is true, and it is true not just for martial arts but for any goal in your life.

As I was reaching my fifties, I adopted a tougher conditioning program as I prepared to compete and spar in tournaments. I would go 12 rounds on a heavybag -- three minutes per round with 90 seconds of rest between each round. During the first round, I would punch as fast and as many times as possible for three minutes. The second round, I would kick as fast and hard as possible. 

This was very difficult. I wanted to pour a glass of wine and watch TV, but I got in shape, and continued to win sparring competitions until my mid-fifties. 

Do you want to succeed at something? Do the things that most people won't do. 

Chen Xiaowang practiced Laojia Yilu 10 to 20 times a day for many years. Imagine spending that much time each day practicing one form. How boring! How uncomfortable.

But what a master he became!

Small, Consistent Steps Over Time Equal Results

My class of older Tai Chi students reached the end of the Chen 19 just four nights ago, after five months of practice (with a little time off during the holidays). As we practiced the last move, the closing of the form, I turned to the few remaining and said, "See? That wasn't so bad, was it?"

I could see the recognition in their eyes that they had achieved something special.

Out of 75 people in the first class, around eight or nine remained for the end. But they now have something the others do not have.

Do you want to succeed in martial arts? Decide what you need to practice today and do it. You don't want to spend an hour practicing? Do it anyway. You are tired of working on this form? Work on it. You think you are good enough at these body mechanics? Good enough is not good enough. Drill deeper, think deeper, and break down your movement again. And again.

Your success requires a constant state of discomfort, of going farther and pushing harder than the person who simply wants life to be easy and comfortable.

As Chen Xiaowang says, "If it were easy, everyone would be master."

--by Ken Gullette 

Try Two Weeks Free on Ken Gullette's Membership Website -- Take Years Off Your Development Time and Save Thousands of Dollars with More than 800 Step-By-Step Video Lessons -- Basic to Advanced -- in Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua. Check it out via this link. 

 


Zhan Zhuang and My 96-Year Old Buddy: An Idea for Your Elderly Friends and Family

Earl Hansen
Me, Earl, Minnie and Nancy when we delivered a 95th birthday card to Earl in 2016.

My neighbor Earl is one of my best friends. He is also 96 years old. A couple of weeks ago, I realized that he could benefit from the practice of Zhan Zhuang -- "Standing Stake" or "Standing Pole."

If you do Zhan Zhuang as part of your practice (I call it "Standing Stake"), you can teach it to elderly people in your life.

We moved into our current home almost four years ago and Earl, who was 92 at the time, walked across the street to introduce himself to us. His mind was sharp and he had a great sense of humor. His wife had died two years before. He fought in the Philippines during World War II, came home with PTSD, but got help and lived a happy and successful life. His three sons all live within a mile.

During the first year we lived here, I was friendly with Earl and would sometimes cross the street when he was outside to talk to him.

But during the last three years, Earl and I have developed a close friendship. My home office looks out toward his house. We sit out during warm weather and my dog Minnie and I visit all the time. When I have health setbacks, he calls to see if I'm okay, and I keep my eye out for him. We have each others backs.

Earl and I go out for lunch sometimes, and he always tells me how glad he is that I am his neighbor. I told him recently that he has become one of my best friends in the Quad Cities. He replied, "We have a good thing going." 

I've never had a "bromance" before, but I think I have one now.

My home office looks out at Earl's house across the street. He says sometimes, he looks over at our house and wonders what I'm doing. I told him I do the same. Instead of looking at him as the old man across the street, I connected with him, and discovered a friendship that has added tremendously to my life.

During the past year, I've seen Earl get weaker, and I have been worried. He fell a couple of times, really banged himself up, and now he walks with a cane, and sometimes uses a walker in his house. This is a man who was using a push mower on his yard a year ago.

So a couple of weeks ago, I taught him how to do "Standing Stake." It's an important tai chi exercise that is used for meditation, but also for strength-building, especially in the legs. When you first do it, you can feel wobbly after just a minute or two. The idea is to add a little time each day.

Earl-Minnie-2-13-2018
Earl giving Minnie a belly rub yesterday.

Yesterday, Minnie and I visited Earl and he said he had been doing Standing Stake every day. He stands next to the walker and does it while watching TV. He has worked up to 15 minutes, and he says he feels stronger and is now walking around the house without his cane. He thanked me for showing it to him.

During the past nine years, I have been in the hospital a few times. The hospital drains the strength out of your body. When I was able, I got out of the bed and did Zhan Zhuang in the room to help build leg strength. It really works, and it even works for people who are unable to do strenuous cardio exercise.

If you know someone who is aging and getting weaker in the legs, through age or illness I believe Zhan Zhuang can help keep their legs strong.

Who knows, next I might teach him some Silk-Reeling exercises. Most of those are the same as taiji without the space requirements.


Close-Up Self-Defense Using Tai Chi Energies and Methods: Takedowns with Tai Chi

Close-Up Self-Defense Front-250You are in a situation where you cannot escape a fight. Someone your size or larger lunges at you, grabs you in a clinch, and tries to take you to the ground.

Can you use your Tai Chi skills to take HIM to the ground instead?

I have been working on this since 2006, when I was practicing push hands with Chen Xiaoxing in my basement and he kept putting me on the ground -- over and over again -- and he did it so easily, I could not understand what he was doing until about the tenth time I found myself on my back.

He was breaking my structure and controlling my center.

The insights from that training have driven me for the past dozen years to explore how to use the "energies" of Tai Chi (Taiji) for close-up self-defense.

How do you use ward-off, roll back, press, push, split, pluck, bump, elbow, empty, advance, withdraw in a real fight? How do you use these methods of dealing with force to take your opponent to the ground without using muscular force or "wrestling?"

My new DVD answers that question and teaches you -- step-by-step -- the principles and techniques you need to unbalance your opponent, control his center and take him down.

When Reached For, You Cannot Be Found

When your opponent reaches for you, he will not find your center, but you will find his.

To my knowledge, this material has not been put on DVD for widespread distribution. Most Tai Chi students never learn this. It has taken me 30 years in Tai Chi to feel prepared to put the instruction on video.

One of the members of my website told me that this material can save people years of development time and a LOT of money that they would normally spend, waiting for their teachers to someday teach them this -- if their teachers know these concepts (many do not).

The reason I make DVDs, and have my membership website where the video streams 24/7, is to teach the details that millions of internal arts students around the world do not ever learn.

Here is a promo video for the DVD, which costs only $24.99 and runs 2 hours 23 minutes. If you buy it from my blog (see the link below or on the right side of the page) there is free shipping worldwide, and there is always a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied.

Watch the promo video below and, if interested, click on the button to go to our secure order page.