Chen Huixian -- A Great Chen Tai Chi Instructor Living in the United States

Chen Huixian Workshop 7-16-17What would you have if you attended a workshop with a highly-skilled member of the Chen family who deepened your understanding of body mechanics, structure and movement, showed fighting applications that amazed you, spoke English to communicate the information, and made the atmosphere joyful and full of laughter as your legs burned and you sweated and grew stronger?

You would have Chen Huixian, the niece and indoor disciple of Chen Zhenglei who lives in the Kansas City area with her husband Michael Chritton, another talented Chen teacher.

I have learned from Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing, Chen Bing, Chen Ziqiang, and I admire each of them. I have learned excellent things from them (and especially from their American students/disciples, who studied with them and other teachers) and would study when them again in a heartbeat. I have had some excellent moments with each one. But the two workshops I have done with Chen Huixian are the most satisfying of any of my experiences in martial arts.

This is not a political statement, it is just honesty, and it is something that I wanted to share because I don't think it is widely known. Yet.

In 2013, after working with her and Michael for a weekend, I came away with two major corrections and concepts that boosted the quality of my tai chi, involving the kua and peng jin.

This weekend, after 15 hours of training, I came away with deeper understanding of empty and solid, grounding, using the kua, and "sitting in the chair," the type of posture that makes your legs immediately scream for mercy if you are not accustomed to it. Patrick Rogne, a student of Chen Huixian's, hosted the workshop in Madison, Wisconsin.

I have paid a lot of money and traveled a long way to study with teachers, and I did not always walk away with the same types of advances in my own understanding as I feel like I have each time I have trained with Chen Huixian. But it goes beyond the information she gives and the corrections she makes. It's the sense of humor and joy she brings to her classes, and the interest she shows. There is a lot of traditional pain in her classes, as there is with any good tai chi master, but there is also laughter.

Once or twice, if I were really honest with myself, I would admit that I walked away from a couple of workshops by a "famous master" feeling as if I got very little except "one, two, three, four," and a photo opportunity. Not with Chen Huixian.

If I were 20 years younger, I would be seeking to become her disciple. At this point, the best I can do is tell everyone that we have a real taiji jewel here in the U.S., and anyone who brushes her off because they have a teacher or because she is female is losing out on an outstanding teacher, a tough martial artist, a great human being and a wonderful learning opportunity.

Visit the website of Chen Huixian's school in the Kansas City area by following this link.

Learn more about Chen Huixian - Listen to Ken's interview with Michael Chritton on the Internal Fighting Arts podcast.


Writing It Down: How to Get the Most Out of Your Teacher's Corrections

Ken Gullette and Chen Xiaoxing
Chen Xiaoxing correcting me in 2005 in Livermore, California.

In 2005, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of private days with Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing. My teacher at the time, the late Mark Wasson, invited me to his home in Livermore, California, for an exclusive opportunity to hang out with him shortly after Xiaoxing arrived in the country for a tour of workshops. 

We spent most of the time going through Laojia Yilu, movement by movement. Grandmaster Chen and Mark would watch as I did a movement, then Xaoxing would make comments and gestures, and often hands-on corrections. Mark would listen and watch his comments intently, then interpret with additional instruction.

I was grateful to have such a valuable opportunity.

When I left Mark's home to drive back to San Francisco to the airport, I was a few hours early, so I stopped at a park, went to a table, and started furiously writing notes. I continued on the airplane flying back to the Quad Cities. Starting with the Opening movement, I went step-by-step through the form and wrote down every correction and piece of coaching I could remember. My mind had retained a lot of it, and it flowed out of my pen and into the pages of my notebook.

Those notes were crucial. I referred to them, thought about them, and I worked hard to incorporate them into my movement. I still refer to them sometimes, to see if I have let anything slide over the years. 

Chen Huixian and Ken Gullette
I can't help but smile as Chen Huixian gives me a subtle bit of coaching in 2013.

This weekend, I plan to attend a workshop held by Chen Huixian in Madison, Wisconsin. On Friday night, she will teach push hands. On Saturday and Sunday, we will go through at least half of Laojia Yilu. I also attended one of her Laojia workshops in Madison four years ago. 

I am looking forward to studying with her again. She is a very good teacher, and she speaks English well enough to not need an interpreter.

You can bet I will be writing down notes at the end of each day's practice.

Are you making notes after classes with your teacher? We don't always retain information over time. We spend a lot of money for instruction, and we spend a lot of time, sweat, and energy to "eat bitter" and to learn.

I urge you to get the most out of your training by taking notes and referring to those notes as you practice.

This week, I was coaching a student in one of the movements in the Chen 38 form. At the beginning of the movement, there is a slight closing of the left kua, a sinking, then a sitting back and turning. Even though I had corrected him on this movement before, I noticed he wasn't sinking or closing the kua before the turning, so I reminded him that we had gone over this, and I encouraged him to write down notes after practices.

Go to a workshop and some people will have notebooks or tablets with them. Each time there is a break, you can see them scurry over and scribble or type furiously, recording the tips they had received during the previous hour or two. I often take a notebook and do this during breaks. At other times, I will go back home or to my hotel room, if I am travelling, and I will write down as much as I can remember.

You can also do that after a regular practice with your teacher. We are no different than high school or college instructors. When a student pays attention, takes notes and focuses on what is being taught, it is what we live for -- to know they are hearing us, taking it to heart, and documenting it so they won't forget.

The best way to get the most out of your teacher's corrections is to write it down and then practice, practice, practice. 


Happy 9th Birthday to My Online Site for Learning Tai Chi Hsing-I and Bagua

Internal Strength
In one of the first videos I put up on the website, I teach Tom Revie Zhan Zhuang.

Nine years ago today, on July 4, 2008, I opened my website -- www.internalfightingarts.com -- to the public.

Wow, it has really grown.

On the day it opened to public members, there were maybe 100 video lessons on the site and some pdf documents for downloading.

Today, there are more than 800 video lessons covering Chen tai chi, Hsing-I, Bagua, Qigong and more. The video lessons range from 90 seconds to 20 minutes. It is now the video equivalent of more than 66 DVDs, and it is growing every week as I shoot, edit, and put up more instruction.

We have members all over the world. Everyone gets two weeks free to make sure they like it and to make sure it offers what they need. There are no contracts and members can cancel anytime.

The lessons start with the basics of internal body mechanics, including the ground path, peng jin, whole-body movement, silk-reeling energy, opening/closing the kua, Dan T'ien rotation, and it builds from there. Members get to stream any and all of the content from day one -- all information and videos are available even during your first two weeks, when you pay nothing. It is my way of being transparent and honest.

I have spent almost 44 years studying martial arts. I have spent thousands of dollars and I have traveled and worked for a long time. One of the great compliments I get from members is how surprised they are that I hold nothing back. In a world when some instructors keep secrets, I pass along what I know to anyone who can learn from it.

Am I the highest level instructor you will find? No. There are many other instructors in these arts who are at a higher level of skill. But what I know is quality information, and I explain it in a plain-language way that you can understand. What I teach can cut a lot of time off your skill development.

I know for a fact that a lot of internal arts instructors do not teach -- and many of them do not know -- the principles, body mechanics, and applications that I teach. That is why I give new members two weeks free. I am confident that most new members will realize that this is information they have not yet learned.

If you haven't checked out www.internalfightingarts.com, you have nothing to lose by checking it out. You actually have a lot to gain.

Nine years has gone by pretty fast. This is a labor of love. By this time next year, I hope to have 1,000 video lessons on the site. What a great tenth birthday celebration THAT will be!


A Fighting Strategy for Self-Defense: Receive and Return

There are seven main fighting strategies in my curriculum. I have begun shooting instruction on these strategies for my website (internalfightingarts.com). I also worked on a pdf document for members of the website to download -- a companion to the video lessons.

The Seven Strategies are:

  1. Receive and Return
  2. Lateral Return
  3. Mutual Striking
  4. Yield and Overcome
  5. Control the Center
  6. Join and Unite
  7. Instant Resolution

The first one, Receive and Return, is especially useful when I work on sparring with Xingyiquan. It is like pushing on a tree branch. The branch will bend as you push, but when you let go, it will whip you when it springs back.

With Receive and Return, you maintain your distance when your opponent attacks. You move back, load the rear leg, then you spring back when his technique misses its target. You can also spring back between his techniques.

Here are two short clips from tournaments showing me using Receive and Return. In the first clip, a young MMA fighter who had also studied Taekwondo and some kickboxing came to a tournament for the sparring competition.

In both clips, I move back, load the leg, then spring forward with a punch to the head. Check out the website for a lot more detail and instruction.


New DVD Set Teaches Bagua Elk Horn Knives Form and Applications

Bagua Elk Horn Cover-250Have you ever bought an instructional DVD that didn't really teach much detail?

Yeah, so have I. 

Some DVDs include different views of a form, different views of movements repeated over and over, but not very much about WHY you're moving this way, exactly what the body mechanics are, and what the movement means for self-defense.

That's what I decided to change when I began making videos and DVDs back around 2003.

My latest DVD contains 3 1/2 hours of detailed instruction on the Bagua Elk Horn Knives form, a Cheng-style weapons form that teaches the form step-by-step, with an emphasis on internal body mechanics and the "intent" of each movement.

It is a 2-DVD set.

The elk horn knives are also called "deer horn knives" or "Mandarin duck knives" because elk horns, deer horns and Mandarin ducks are always found in pairs. The names are used interchangeably, depending on the teacher.

Disc 1 is 2 1/2 hours long and includes complete demonstrations of the form -- a front view at normal speed and a rear view in slow-mo. I do solo instruction for each section, starting at the beginning and taking you move-by-move through a section. Then, you learn as I coach a student through the section. It drives home the mistakes to avoid when you see a student learning a form and being corrected on mistakes. It truly is the next-best thing to being in an actual class.

Disc 2 is an hour and 10 minutes long, featuring fighting applications for each movement of the form. If you are going to learn a weapons form, you must learn how the weapon is used. Martial arts depend on the "intent" of movements and techniques. By the end of Disc 2, you will know what each movement means and how to apply it against an opponent with a weapon. There is also a section on how to take the applications and begin sparring with an opponent.

This 2-disc set costs only $24.99 and is available through this blog with free shipping anywhere in the world. Click here to go to the order page. It is also available on Amazon with Prime 2-day shipping. Check out the clip below for a highlight of what to expect.

 

 Click to Order and Start Learning!

 


The Ultimate Self-Defense Technique: A Real-Life Story about the Art of Fighting Without Fighting

ViolenceWhat would you do if a big drunk guy walked up to you and wanted to knock your head off?

It happened to one of my website members recently and he called to tell me what happened.

John was standing in a business and talking to someone when a drunk guy walked in and wanted to fight. The drunk was larger than John, and it was clear that he could do some damage.

Like most guys, John's first reaction was to think about fighting techniques. And as the drunk got more agitated, it seemed that violence was about to happen.

Suddenly, John remembered the recent Internal Fighting Arts podcast with my guest, Dan Djurdjevic. In the interview, Dan talked about "flipping the script," and how it got him out of some potentially violent encounters.

When you flip the script, you say something bizarre to the attacker to throw him off-script; to confuse him.

So just as it seemed that a punch was going to be thrown, John said to the drunk, "Did you see the game last night?" 

The drunk looked confused. "What game?" he asked.

"My daughter's baseball game," John replied. "She made her very first out at second base."

The drunk guy didn't know what to do with that information.

"Oh, that's great," he said. "Congratulations."

With that, the encounter moved in an entirely new direction. The drunk guy calmed down. No violence happened. Nobody was hurt, nobody was arrested, nobody went to the hospital, lost his job or got sued.

Bruce Lee once said he practiced "the art of fighting without fighting." Flipping the script is one of the coolest self-defense tactics I've ever heard, and it is something you will want to remember. Imagine a thug's reaction if he wanted to fight and you said something like, "I love homemade pickles. My Aunt Jane used to make great pickles."

When I was growing up, I wasn't the toughest kid, but I beat up a lot of bullies because I was smarter than they were. As an adult, I have not been in a fight because I have been able to avoid them.

As adults, avoiding violence is the ultimate self-defense skill, and we do that when we use our brains, our awareness, and our ability to remain calm. John was able to do that by remembering a lesson he learned on my podcast, and I am very happy to have been a small part of this story.

 


The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast on Wude - Martial Morality and Facebook Ethics for Martial Artists

KungFuDo you remember how the "Kung Fu" TV show included flashbacks, when young Caine would receive morality lessons from the monks, Master Po and Master Kan?

One of my favorites was when young Caine and another boy were robbed by a bandit on their way to town. They were ashamed as they confessed to Master Kan that they had been fooled by the bandit, who had gained their trust before robbing them.

"And what have you learned?" asked Master Kan.

The first boy angrily replied, "Never trust a stranger."

Master Kan looked at young Caine. "And you?"

Young Caine said, "Always expect the unexpected."

Master Kan turned to the other boy and ordered him to leave the temple. He had not shown the proper character to be a monk.

In 1972, I loved the flashbacks as much as I loved the fight scenes. And the more I watched the program, having grown up in a very conservative Southern Christian household and culture, I realized that the morality presented on the "Kung Fu" TV show struck a chord inside me much more than the stories from the Bible did.

I remember thinking, "What a wonderful way to look at the world."

Every martial art has a code of ethics, or "martial morality." In Chinese martial arts, it is called "wude," pronounced "Woo-Duh." In Japanese arts, "bushido" is the code of honor.

All you have to do is look on Facebook or listen to martial artists talking about each other and you realize that the morality of martial arts is left broken and crying on the training hall floor as martial artists of all styles ignore it while they study how to kick someone's butt or worry whether they can fight an MMA guy.

The new Internal Fighting Arts podcast focuses on wude -- what is it and why it is so hard for martial artists to achieve.

My guests are Jonathan Bluestein and Byron Jacobs, two talented, dedicated martial artists who practice Xingyi. Jonathan, the author of "Research of the Martial Arts", lives in Israel and teaches at the Tianjin Martial Arts Academy. Byron lives in Beijing, works at the International Wushu Federation, and studies with Xingyi Master Di Guoyong.

In the internal arts, which are Chinese, wude includes principles such as:

  • Humility
  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Courage
  • Trust
  • Persistence
  • Loyalty
  • and more

As you can see if you look at Facebook, there is no shortage of arrogance and lack of respect shown by martial artists who flame and criticize others for reasons that only a good psychologist could understand -- usually insecurity, arrogance, or simply to hurt another person or cause trouble. Most of them see themselves as "concerned for the art."

In this interview, we also talk about the recent "fight" between MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong and taiji "master" Wei Lei, in which Wei Lei was beaten up in about 12 seconds. It has caused an emotional earthquake that has shaken China and the martial arts community. But how does it tie in with wude?

Listen to the podcast to find out.

Listen online or download to your computer by following this link to the Internal Fighting Arts podcast on Wude - Martial Morality on Audello

It will be on iTunes and Apple Podcasts within a few hours.

Apple Podcasts

 

 


Facebook Trolls and Keyboard Martial Arts Warriors: the Insecurity of Online Criticism

Anger FacebookI was chatting with a person on FB yesterday who is critical of me for selling DVDs of my instruction. He believes that I promote myself, and he interprets this as me telling people I'm a master. Bottom line -- he doesn't think I'm good enough to sell instruction on DVD, compared with other higher-level instructors.

Then I received this email from Alan in Orlando, Florida:

"Thanks for your wonderful work and your excellent DVD segments. I feel I'm learning more from them than I did from my previous experience taking in-person classes many years ago."

I also reminded my critic on FB of the young man in Beijing who wrote to me telling me how my DVDs helped him bridge the language barrier between him and his Chinese Xingyi teacher, and my instruction was responsible for the progress he had made in his teacher's class. He understood the principles the teacher was trying to get across because of my DVDs.

AngerAs I explained to my critic on FB, I could teach at the local YMCA and none of the trolls in Facebook Land would care. I could advertise my classes and no critics would tell me I don't have the right. But I have a different set of skills, with my radio and TV background, that help me teach a different way, by producing DVDs, podcasts, and videos for online instruction. I am simply reaching students a different way. If they can learn from what I do (and they do learn), why should anyone else care where and how I teach?


Once you put yourself online, even when I continue to insist I am not and will never be a master, a chunk of the martial artists out there will be threatened. They will attack. They see you as competition. Despite their claims of being the real deal, and nobody else is the real deal, and other people are promoting themselves, in the end their criticism comes from insecurity.

Seriously, shouldn't you be practicing instead of sitting at a keyboard on the East Coast or in France passing judgment on other teachers? Yeah. I think you should. And then, the next time you look in a mirror, ask yourself how your heart-mind got so terribly off-track; how your "spirit" got so dirty. You see, you are not my target. If you are at a higher level than I am, my material is not aimed at you. I help people all over the world get back into the internal arts, or take them up for the first time. Anytime I do that, it develops an audience for the art, and I often refer people to good teachers in their area so they can learn in person.

What could be a better win-win situation than that? Unfortunately, a lot of FB martial arts warriors don't want a win-win situation. They believe if I win, they lose. And they actually think they have some strange right to judge other martial artists. Well, here's a wake-up call. I'm helping people, not only by selling DVDs and teaching through my online school, but also by promoting other teachers through my podcast and blog.


Elk Horn Knives Ken Gullette 4-16-2017-2WTF are YOU doing for anyone other than yourself?  
By the way, my new Bagua Elk Horn Knives DVD will be ready next week. It's pretty damn good. I'm no Liu Jingru, but you will learn more on this DVD than you will from his DVD. I guarantee it or your money back. :)


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!