Tai Chi Videos for Beginners: the Chen 19 Form DVD is an Introduction to the Original Style of Tai Chi

Chen-19-2017-250If you are looking for a great introduction to the art of Tai Chi Chuan for beginners, the Chen 19 form is a short, easy-to-learn series of movements that can be practiced both for health and for martial art.

The Chen 19 was created in the 1990s by Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang. 

The most popular tai chi form in the world is the Yang 24 simplified form that was created in Beijing to provide a standardized form. It took off because it is short and can easily be learned and practiced by Westerners who do not have the time or patience to do a longer form on a daily basis.

It seems logical that the Chen family saw this and decided to create their own form to compete with the short Yang form.

The Chen 19 is perfect. The basic movements can be learned in a weekend and it takes about five minutes to perform, easily fitting into a hectic modern workday.

I have practiced both forms. I taught the Yang 24 when I first began teaching Tai Chi, but after I switched to Chen style in 1998, the only "short" form I do is the Chen 19. I prefer the body mechanics of Chen style, and the "lively" body method.

My first Chen 19 instructional DVD came out in 2008. Last year, I revised it. I take you step-by-step through the entire form. The DVD runs just over 2-and-a-half hours. Besides solo instruction, you will also see me coach a student through the movements. You learn by watching him make mistakes and get corrected on camera. It's the next best thing to being in a live classroom setting. Each movement is taught with detail that you won't find on any other tai chi instructional dvds.

Check out a clip from the DVD here. It is available in standard and Blu-Ray versions. If you or someone you know is curious about trying Tai Chi, this is an inexpensive and convenient way to try it out.

 


Disciple of Chen Qingzhou: the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Chen Taijiquan Instructor Mark Chen

Mark ChenI get to meet a lot of dedicated martial artists when I do interviews for my Internal Fighting Arts podcast.

I've had Mark Chen's book, "Old Frame Chen Family Taijiquan" on my bookshelf for years, but the only thing I knew about him was that he is a disciple of Chen Qingzhou. When he was recommended recently for the podcast, I pulled his book out again and realized he had a refreshingly clear perspective on Taiji -- down-to-earth and free of mystical woo woo.

He agreed to talk with me a few days ago, and gave a very good interview about training with traditional martial arts instructors. It was a very enjoyable interview, especially his stories of training with "old school" teachers.

Mark has also studied with other gongfu masters, including Guo Lianyin, Bill Gee, Chen Youze, and Zhang XueXin.

Follow this link to listen to the interview with Mark Chen on Audello. You can listen online or download the file.

It will be on iTunes within a few hours.

This is the 29th Internal Fighting Arts podcast I have done, and I am enjoying it more than ever. I get a great feeling in promoting these instructors, who have worked so hard and gone through such pains to learn Taiji, Xingyi, Bagua, and more. I'm very happy to give them a spotlight and provide information that listeners don't get in the national martial arts magazines. It is also fun to provide "real-world" interviews. I try to peel back the curtain so listeners can get some behind-the-scenes information about the real world of high-quality internal gongfu. 

Enjoy!


An Effective Tactic for Verbal Self-Defense: Flipping the Script

Assault"Hey, what are you looking at?"

Every boy learns to recognize this question. It's one of the first things a bully will say when he chooses you for a target.

It doesn't matter how you answer.

You might say, "I'm not looking at anything."

"What? Are you saying I'm nothing?" the bully will reply.

And then he walks closer. He is ready to fight. 

As adults, these types of encounters are not as common, but they do happen. Often, the bully is replaced by someone with more sinister motives -- someone who wants to do us harm.

Dan Djurdjevic is a martial artist from Perth, Australia who has developed the concept of "flipping the script" on someone who is verbally setting up an assault. 

You can "flip the script" when you reply to a leading question with something that the potential attacker is not expecting.

For example, he might say, "What are you looking at?"

He is expecting you to be afraid and reply, "Nothing." Then he can continue with his script.

But what if you give him something he isn't expecting, for example, "Oh, I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention, I just found out my wife has cancer."

He would be completely thrown off his script. He would not know how to react, and the threat might be over quickly.

Or, you could smile and reply, "Hey, how are you? I haven't seen you in a while."

He might stop in his tracks and wonder what the hell is going on. You could say, "Oh, sorry, you look like a good friend of mine that I haven't seen in years. You look just like him."

In the latest Internal Fighting Arts podcast, Dan Djurdjevic gives two or three great examples of how he flipped the script on a stranger who appeared at his door one night with a knife held behind his back, a robber who was looking to take his money at the train station, and he describes a funny story of how a friend disarmed a potential attacker by saying something that made no sense at all.

It's an interview that will give you some great ideas, but it's also great self-defense. If you can avoid a fight, that demonstrates that you have the ultimate self-defense skill.

Here is a link to the Dan Djurdjevic interview on Audello (listen online or download the podcast).

Here is a link to the podcast on iTunes.

Here is a link to the podcast on Stitcher.

Make sure you subscribe to the Internal Fighting Arts podcast and hear interviews with top internal martial artists around the world.

 

 


Join Me on the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast: What is Your Biggest Challenge or Question in Practicing Tai Chi, Hsing-I or Bagua?

Internal Fighting Arts Logo 250Do you have a question about training in the internal arts? If so, you can click the link below and leave your question in a voice message. I may use it on the next Internal Fighting Arts podcast.

If you don't have a question about training, can you describe your biggest challenge as you try to make progress in your training? If so, click on the link and leave a voice message.

If I select your question or comment for the podcast, I will give you a heads-up before it goes online.

You will need to be on your phone or on a computer with a mic.

Ask your question by going to my page on SpeakPipe.

I hope you join me in helping listeners around the world, because if you have a question or a challenge as you practice martial arts, you are not alone, and other people may benefit from our discussion. 

 


A Chen Pan Ling Lineage: the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Dan Djurdjevic

Dan Djurdjevic and Chen Yun Ching
Dan Djurdjevic (standing) with his teacher Chen Yun Ching.

One of the things I admire about the guests on my Internal Fighting Arts podcast is the determination they have, and the pains they go through, to learn and to develop their martial arts skill.

The latest interview -- with Dan Djurdjevic -- is no exception. Dan is considered by his teacher, Chen Yun Ching, to be a master instructor in the style of Chen's father, Chen Pan Ling.

Dan lives and teaches in Perth, Australia. He and his brother have a school in Perth called Traditional Fighting Arts and he has an excellent blog called "The Way of Least Resistance."

This wide-ranging interview touches on subjects including the teaching style of Chen Yun Ching and modern-day self-defense.

As an attorney with experience as a prosecutor, Dan has an interesting angle on self-defense. The section on "flipping the script" is outstanding; a tactic that every martial artist needs to hear.

Click this link to listen to the podcast on Audello, or to download it to your hard drive.

You can also listen to the Internal Fighting Arts podcast and subscribe to it on iTunes.

 

 


Chen Village Taiji, Beijing Taiji, and a Reunion with Jim and Angela Criscimagna

Ken-Jim-Angela-2017
Jim and Angela Criscimagna with Ken at their home last week.

I had a great visit last week with my first (and best) Chen taiji instructors, Jim and Angela Criscimagna, at their home in Escondido, California. Nancy and I went to San Diego to attend the Social Media Marketing World conference, which I used as an excuse to see Jim and Angela and get some input on taiji.

I began studying with them in 1998 when they lived in Rockford, Illinois, and continued until around 2004, when I met and became a student of Mark Wasson. This is the second time I have seen Jim since 2004, and the first time I've seen Angela since then.  

Jim and Angela became disciples of Chen Xiaowang, but Jim was drawn more and more to the Beijing style of Chen taiji, which was taught by Chen Fake and handed down by students such as Feng Zhiqiang (teacher of Zhang Xue Xin), Chen Zhaokui (father of Chen Yu), Chen Zhaoxu (father of Chen Xiaowang and Chen Xiaoxing), among others.

Jim and Angela have had several martial arts teachers over the years, including Zhang Xue Xin, who they studied with before training with Chen Xiaowang. I met Chen Xiaowang because they sponsored his workshops in Rockford.

Around 2005, Jim and Angela met Chen Yu while in China. The quality of his art and his body method caught their attention, and Jim began exploring the differences between the Beijing way and the Chen Village way.

When I studied with Jim and Angela, we were primarily doing taiji the way Chen Xiaowang was teaching it. Last week at his home, Jim coached me on some of the differences between the Chen Village way and the Beijing way.

I returned home on Sunday. Last night at practice, a student asked me what I had learned. I had to tell him that I really wasn't in the position of showing much because I am still processing the information. It will take some time and some dedicated practice, and some followup questions, before I will be able to translate it into movement. In general terms, it involves slight changes in stances, in the shifting and placement of weight to establish root, in the way the inside leads the outside, and other coaching that involved openings and closings and sinking. It is very difficult to explain.

Ken-Jim-PushHands-2001
Jim and Ken practicing push hands in the early 2000s.

In recent years, the debate has risen about the differences between the Beijing way and the Chen Village way. Did Chen Fake take the highest quality of the art to Beijing when he relocated there from Chen Village, leaving the art in the Chen Village to decline in his absence? Did Chen Xiaowang's generation learn as much as they really needed to learn from Chen Zhaoxu, Chen Zhaopi and Chen Zhaokui? Since most of my training has been in the Chen Village way, this is an important question for me. And I have never been afraid to change my viewpoint when new information comes in; that is true in religion, politics and martial arts. I have changed beliefs, parties and styles based on new information. I have changed my beliefs about psychic phenomena and "alternative" medicine. When new information arises, you have to change and evolve if you are going to be intellectually honest.

From the explanations and coaching I received last week, I believe there are differences between the Chen Village and Beijing styles of Chen taiji that are worth exploring. Is one better than the other? That's an individual decision.

CXW-Jim-Angela-Ken-2000
From left to right: Jim, Angela, Chen Xiaowang and Ken at a 2000 workshop in Rockford, Illinois.

These are complicated and political issues. Let's face it, those of us who did not grow up in the Chen Village or Beijing can learn from both camps. We can't touch any of them in the quality and power of their taiji. My philosophy is simple -- I can learn from anyone. About three years ago, I was at a workshop with Chen Huixian and her husband Michael, and they gave me some input that had a profound change in my movement. Huixian is the niece of Chen Zhenglei, of the Chen Village. So there is quality throughout.  

Some people make this debate out to be a much more negative thing than it should be (more about that on my next podcast, which features an interview with Dan Djurdjevic), but the goal here for all of us should be knowledge. We should learn what we can from everyone who can teach us. From there, we develop our own taiji.

In the meantime, I deeply enjoyed our visit with Jim and Angela. The time went by way too fast, and I was bummed when Nancy and I left their home last Tuesday to drive back to San Diego. Good instructors are hard to find. I always appreciated Jim and Angela because they asked questions and looked under the hood. They were not content to just follow along with their instructors. And what they learned, they passed along to their students. That attitude of sharing and teaching continues, even though Jim has officially retired from teaching, and I was grateful for the opportunity to learn. 


10 Quick Ways to Break or Lock an Elbow with Chin-Na Joint Locks

Elbow Hyperextention
Ken Gullette (with Colin Frye) demonstrates an elbow lock commonly found in movements such as "Single Whip."

Most traditional martial arts styles give names or numbers to joint-locking techniques. In Chinese chin-na (also spelled qinna), we have names such as "Half Moon," or "Push the Boat Down the Stream." I have always loved these descriptive, poetic names, but sometimes they get in the way.

The best way to learn chin-na is not to memorize names and techniques. The best way is to look at principles -- look at the way joints move -- and then do free-flowing sparring exercises and push hands to practice recognizing opportunities for joint locks when they arise in a fight.

IMPORTANT RULE FOR CHIN-NA:

When someone attacks you, you will NEVER be able to say, "I'm going to get that guy in an Outside Wrist Twist." If that is what you are planning, he will probably knock you out while you are looking for your opportunity.

The best plan is no plan. And that is what practice is for.

You practice with this goal in mind: you want to be able to recognize opportunities for joint locks that arise during close contact with a partner. In that way, you learn to flow with what is happening.

There is no plan for any particular joint lock, but when the opportunity appears -- there it is! 

Study this video, practice the techniques carefully with a partner. The next step is then to practice push hands or getting into a clinch with a partner and looking at how you can recognize opportunities that arise on their own during the give-and-take of a push hands or grappling session.

And as always, use caution and be gentle when practicing joint locks with your partners. And for those who are not on the website, the next video shows how to incorporate this into push hands. For more than 800 video lessons in the internal arts, plus downloadable pdf documents, try two weeks free at www.internalfightingarts.com. 


Think Before You Strike -- the Legal Side of Self-Defense

Pi Chuan Cutting 1Oh, sure, you talk big. If someone threatens you or comes at you, he will get his butt kicked, right? You'll kick it for him, won't you?

We all have an image in our minds of the guy who gets attacked and we take out the attacker with a few cool techniques.

It is more likely that you will be in a bar where someone gives you some crap, you'll both do the Monkey Dance, and he will tell you he's going to kick your butt. You punch him out and he crumples like an empty suit.

In reality, that could land you in jail.

Here are some guidelines that can help you decide if the law is on your side in a case of self-defense.

Is there an imminent threat of violence?

Do you fear for your physical safety?

If someone shouts at you from across the room that they are going to beat you up, that is not justification for you to strike. If someone insults you or calls you or your girlfriend rude names, that is not justification to hit them. You can go to jail if you strike when you are not in imminent danger of physical harm.

If someone is throwing a punch, there is no longer a question of whether you are in danger.

Is the threat of physical harm over?

Someone hits you and hurts their hand. He doubles up in pain and staggers away, clutching his hand. You walk over, punch him in the face, and he falls and strikes his head on the floor, causing serious head trauma.

Be ready to go to prison for a while. The threat of physical danger was over and you took a violent action that injured someone.

A bully pushes you and swings at you. In self-defense, you punch him in the solar plexus and he falls to the ground, the wind knocked out of him. At this point, he is no longer a threat to you. Any further action you take can land you in trouble.

Is your response proportional?

A tough guy in a bar picks up a pool stick and takes a swing at you. Reaching into your pocket, you pull out a knife and stab him.

You could be going away for a while, because it could be successfully argued that your response was deadly force, when you were not on the receiving end of deadly force.

There are a lot of scenarios that you can imagine if you are one of the people who takes advantage of concealed carry laws.

Would a reasonable person be afraid for their safety?

This is a question often asked in a court case. If a "reasonable person" were in your place, would that person have been afraid to the point of violence?

If you weigh a muscular 250 pounds, and a person weighing 140 pounds is threatening you, a jury could consider how serious a threat the smaller person presented to you in reality.

An insult or a challenge would not necessarily cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety. 

Do you have the opportunity to retreat instead of using deadly force?

In many states, you have a "duty to retreat" if you can leave without harm and without using deadly force.

Self-defense laws can change from one state to another, so it is a good idea to do a little research for the state where you live or the states you visit.

Another Important Point

Okay, perhaps you hurt somebody badly in a self-defense situation, you are charged with a crime but you are found not guilty. 

That is not the end of your troubles. A civil lawsuit is always possible by the person you hurt or their family.

This is yet another reason to think very carefully before rushing into violence.

Remaining Centered Is Great Self-Defense

I was at a James Taylor concert around 1999 or 2000, with great second row tickets. Three guys were behind me, and one of them was drunk and singing off-key at the top of his lungs, drowning out James Taylor. People around us were seething with frustration, but everyone was afraid to speak up, except me.

JT
I like James Taylor, but maybe not enough to lose a job over.

I finally turned to the guys, who appeared to be around 30 years old, and I said, "Hey guys, I paid good money for these tickets and I would really like to hear James Taylor sing instead of you." 

One of the sober ones, a mean-looking guy, gave me the Evil Eye and said, "The three of us can take you on."

I turned to my wife and we both laughed. Actually, they probably couldn't have taken me on. But as I sat there with others in the area thanking me for speaking up, and the three guys making occasional taunts at me, I realized that the situation could potentially escalate to violence.

At that point, I realized that there was no good outcome. I could get my butt kicked by three guys, or I could hurt one or two or all of them, or we could all be arrested in mid-fight by security.

I had a vision of spending the night in jail, of a story landing in the newspaper, of losing my job and possibly being sued if I injured one of the idiots who were sitting behind me.

I decided to center myself and not react to their taunts. They stopped singing loudly and we enjoyed the concert, despite the layer of tension that existed because I didn't know what would happen when it was over. But when the concert ended, they went in one direction and my wife and I went in the other direction.

No one was injured and nobody lost their jobs.

A friend of mine was in a bar one night and a guy came charging at him. My friend punched him in the face -- hard -- and his attacker hit the floor, out like a light. 

Stories like that scare me. Punching an adult in the face is serious business. Breaking their limbs is a serious act of violence. The most serious injuries don't happen when the punch is thrown -- it happens when the person falls and hits their head. What began as a simple bar fight could now be manslaughter....or worse. You could become a felon in about five seconds.

If you are seriously in danger of harm, or you see another person who is in danger of harm, self-defense is the reasonable thing to do. But it is a wise person who studies the law and understands when self-defense is justified or when it could turn your life into a living hell.

I encourage you to find your state's laws on self-defense and learn them. If you are a martial arts teacher, your students should know the law, too.

And remember, no one is ever hurt when at least one of the parties keeps his cool and defuses the situation instead of escalating it. That could be the best self-defense advice of all, and the best lesson you can teach your students.

 


Do Martial Arts Prepare Students for Real-World Violence? The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Rory Miller

Rory Miller 2Rory Miller's book, "Meditations on Violence," slapped a lot of martial artists across the face with the cold hand of reality.

Miller is a former corrections officer who worked in "booking," where criminals are brought to be checked into the jail or prison when they are angry, still on drugs, and not always searched as well as the booking officer would want. Officers who work in booking are unarmed, and if they work at a county jail, for example, they end up getting in more fights than the entire police force combined.

As a martial artist, Miller soon realized that there is a big difference between real-world violence and what is taught as self-defense in traditional martial arts classes. 

Internal Fighting Arts Logo 250I have wanted to interview Rory Miller since I began my Internal Fighting Arts podcast. He is the guest in the latest episode.

He talks about the difference between "social" violence and predatory violence, and how you can prepare yourself for both.

Listen online or download the file by clicking this link to Audello. The podcast is also available on iTunes.

 

 


43 Years of Flying Sidekicks

I celebrated my 64th birthday two weeks ago by attempting a 6-foot-high flying sidekick.

It was my first attempt at a flying sidekick in three years.

My first attempt ended with me on my butt, and I was so tickled that I cut this short video including some outtakes, along with photos of different attempts beginning in 1974, when I was 21 years old.

This crap doesn't get any easier as you get older, lose a lung, lose muscle mass, and go through heart failure. But one of the reasons I got into martial arts was to have fun.

Take a look and celebrate with me. Hooray for getting old!!!