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January 2009
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March 2009

2009 U.S. Workshop Tours for Chen Xiaowang and Chen Xiaoxing

Two of the top Chen Tai Chi grandmasters will tour the U.S. again in 2009. If you have a chance to train with them, you should do it. There is a little information missing on a couple of these. I'll try to fill in the blanks soon. Also, Chen Bing is making another U.S. tour this year. I'm trying to track down information (his are just about the best workshops you can attend).

Chen Xiaowang 2009 Schedule

August 15-16 -- Washington, D.C.   Contact C.P. Ong

August 22-23 -- Flushing, NY  Contact Ren Guangyi

August 29-30 -- San Francisco  Contact Tony Wong

Sept. 5-6 -- San Luis Obispo, CA  Contact Liu Yu

Sept. 11-13 -- San Diego, CA  Contact Bill/Allison Helm

Sept. 18-20 -- Seattle, WA  Contact Kim Ivy

Sept. 25-27 -- Chicago, IL  Contact Andy Loria

Oct. 3-4 -- Troy, MI  Contact Han Hoong Wang

Oct. 7-11 -- Miami, FL  Contact James Cravens

Chen Xiaoxing 2009 U.S. Schedule

April 18-19 -- Chicago, IL  Contact Andy Loria

April 25-26 -- New Jersey  Contact Mitch Magpiong

May 2-3 -- Washington, D.C.  Contact Stephan Berwick

May 9-10 -- Seattle, WA  Contact Kim Ivy

May 16-17 -- San Diego, CA  Contact Bill/Allison Helm

A Dragon Stretches its Claws - Bagua Fighting Applications

Switching250-1 Bagua is a fascinating martial art -- circling and changing, taking control of your opponent's center and countering.

A common movement in Bagua is sometimes called "switching," and it is part of the movement "Green Dragon Stretches its Claws."

It's an excellent fighting application for the street or even for tournament sparring.

Here's how it works: in Photo 1, the opponent's punch is met with a deflecting arm. This is easily done if you connect with your opponent and anticipate his attack.

Switching250-2In Photo 2, you turn the arm with the waist and with whole-body movement, starting with the ground. As you do this, your opponent's arm is flung into emptiness and often, his back is now turned.

In Photo 3, you take advantage of his vulnerability and deliver counter strikes, in this case a palm strike to the head.

Like any art, learning to use Bagua for self-defense takes a very long time. You must start with the basics and lay a good foundation by working on circle-walking, the mother palms and their applications, and basic fighting techniques -- one-by-one.

Switching250-3There are many video lessons on Bagua fighting techniques in our online school, and more are being added all the time.

I'm working with Chris Miller in these photos. Also pictured are Kim Kruse (green sash) and Kim Miller.

I'm also editing my first Bagua DVD, which should be finished within a week. It will be at least 90 minutes of basic Bagua techniques, instruction for tea-serving exercises, mother palms, circle-walking, a basic palms form, and fighting applications for almost all of these.

The Road Back -- Dodging a Bullet

I went to practice with some students last night. My breathing has gotten worse, and after doing a few movements I had to stop and catch my breath. I began to get alarmed. I got home and coughed until 1 a.m. with a feeling that there was something in my lungs I couldn't get out.

Today I badgered the pulmonologist's office for results of the PET scan and the biopsy-type scrapings that he made during the scoping procedure when he said he found a very small bloody tumor.

This evening the doctor called and said the PET scan showed no evidence of a tumor or a malignancy, and the pathology report showed no evidence of either.

Something is causing bleeding in my left lung, and when he did the scope he thought it was a small tumor. He says he was mistaken.

Thank you sir, may I have another? Sheesh!!!

To try and stop the bleeding and begin healing, I was told to stop talking (I cough a lot more when I talk), rest my body for a week, and take robitussin with codeine to calm the lungs. I'll get another chest X-ray on Thursday, meet with him on Friday and plot the next step. He may do another scope procedure to try and find out where the tearing is that is causing the bleeding. My cardio conditioning has gotten worse very likely from the bleeding, and possibly from some blood in the lungs.

Nancy came home and I whispered and wrote out the news. We celebrated and I had her call my daughters, oldest sister, and my best friend Ed back in Kentucky.

Since I had atrial fibrillation last year, and made the decision to undergo three heart surgeries to fix it, my goal has been to get back in top shape. The pneumonia that hit me after the third heart surgery has been the hardest thing I've had to deal with -- much harder than the surgeries. I was wondering during the past week if I would reach my goal of getting back in shape.

Now, there's no doubt. I just need to shut the hell up for a few days, do my communicating through emails, and avoid doing anything that is strenuous enough to trigger a coughing spell. I think I can handle it.

I was looking forward to doing some good strong Chen tai chi forms in three tournaments in March. Those plans have been discarded. I'll have to make my comeback later in the year. But that's okay with me. After I got off the phone with the doctor this evening, it felt as if I had already made my comeback.

The Mind Goes Numb and then You Fight Back

 Toughman1 In 1991, I entered the Toughman Contest when I was living in Sioux City. Back then, it was all boxing, and at age 38, I was nearing the end of eligibility, so it was now or never. I entered the contest.

I was matched up against a guy who was 15 years younger, 3 or 4 inches taller, and 35 pounds heavier. In the third round, he hit me on the side of the head just right. My brain began vibrating like a tuning fork and I was numb. I covered up with my gloves and he pummeled me for a few shots. I was thinking, "This is what it's like to get knocked out in the ring. Here it comes." The first photo at left shows the punch that rang my bell (my body is hidden by the corner post but his glove is colliding with the side of my head.

Suddenly, he got tired and backed away. My head cleared instantly. I uncovered, walked a few feet across the ring and snapped his head back with a punch (the photo below shows his head snapping back). I ended up winning by unanimous decision. Physically, I had never done anything as difficult. Although I was eligible to return the next night for the final eliminations, I decided that I was proud of myself for trying it and "retired."

Toughman2 When the doctor told me a few days ago that the scope showed a small bloody tumor in my left lung, I felt like I did in the third round of the Toughman Contest. This was not something I expected. I've never even taken one puff from a cigarette, and I've worked to stay in good shape all my adult life. I felt as if I had taken a good shot to the head.

Nancy and I couldn't help but think the worst for a few hours. I knew my daughters would take it hard, so Nancy called to tell them.

By morning, my head had cleared and I was ready to fight back. Now, I'm not even worried about it. The good thing about my philosophy -- I can detach and try to rise above crisis and think clearly. Remaining centered is a skill that you can achieve if you practice long enough. I began practicing in 1987, and it works.

I had a PET scan on Friday. They inject you with radioactive glucose, then put you in a machine and look at how your cells are using the glucose. Cancer cells are hungry and the scan reveals which cells are the hungry ones. I'll learn the results sometime this week -- the sooner the better. I'll also learn this week the lab results from the cell scrapings from the tumor -- it was too small for a biopsy, which might be a good sign.

I had to lie quietly for an hour after being injected with the glucose prior to the PET scan. I did chi kung for the entire hour. They took me to the machine, and as soon as they slid me in I began coughing up blood. Oh, well.

This afternoon it happened again as Nancy and I were at her son's house. I had to go into the bathroom and use the sink until it stopped about five minutes later.

Then I came home and practiced Cannon Fist (not at full speed).

I'm not worried that this little tumor is life-threatening. I don't like the breathing problems I'm having, but I believe as soon as we know what's going on, we can take the right action and walk on. I lost my voice a couple of weeks ago from all the coughing from the past two months, but it's a little stronger today, and I'm hoping it's back in the next day or two so I can tape more lessons for the online school.

The Road Back -- One Heckuva Pothole

I have a small tumor in my left lung.

It was discovered today by my pulmonologist, who I started seeing a month ago because I was having trouble recovering from the pneumonia that hit me hard on December 20th.

A week ago, I began coughing up blood -- one episode each day that lasted about 5 or 6 minutes. Two doctors shrugged it off when I told them. On Saturday it happened twice, so I went to the ER and had a CT scan that didn't show anything in the left lung.

After two episodes yesterday, I called the pulmonologist again and he set up a scope procedure today. They put me in la la land and it was up my nose with a rubber hose (and a camera attached).

He says the tumor is so small he couldn't get a good biopsy. He brushed it to get some cells.

Well, there goes the March 7th tournament.

I was recovering -- I was feeling better and stepping up my workouts slightly, and then it felt as if I took a couple of steps backward a week or so ago. Now I know why.

I don't know if this is malignant -- but I want it out of my body ASAP.

I'm doing standing stake a little bit longer tonight, trying to center myself.

As Roseanne Rosanna Danna once said -- It's always something. It's either a tumor in your lungs or toilet paper dragging on your shoe.

I decided to make this public because I'm still determined to get back to top conditioning. After what I've been through in the past year -- three heart surgeries and now this -- if I can do it anyone can do it. And I want to do it.

Why a Cell Phone is a Lot Like Chi

News articles have been springing up about phantom vibrations that cell phone users feel. It seems that our brains are so accustomed to anticipating a vibrating cell phone when it's being worn on our belts or in our pockets, that even when the phone isn't there, we can suddenly feel it vibrate.

Our brains learn to anticipate the vibration, and something will trigger the impulses in the brain that make you feel as if your phone is vibrating even when it's back home on the table.

When I saw this story on NBC News this weekend, I saw a parallel to the sensations that so many people say is "proof" that chi is real. They'll do chi kung exercises and they'll swear that they feel tingling or heat or all types of sensations.

I've felt the sensations, too. In fact, there's one chi kung exercise I do and I can feel a ball of energy going from my dan t'ien through my right arm, jumping across from my right hand to my left hand, then coursing through my left arm and back to my dan t'ien.

Your brain can feel a lot of things that aren't real. Anyone who makes the leap of logic that "feelings" are proof of reality are actually guilty of false logic.

Have you ever had a hard time going to sleep at night? I have, and I'll sometimes lie there and imagine myself floating on an inflatable raft on an ocean. After a moment, I can actually feel myself bobbing up and down on the raft, in the water.

If I -- at that moment -- actually believed I was on a raft floating in the ocean, I would need to be taken in for psychiatric treament.

So why do people believe that chi is real just because they have programmed their minds to feel something?

Well, I'll tell you why. Because critical thinking skills are hard to come by, and aren't taught in school. I'm sure you can come up with many instances where people believe in some pretty strange things with every fiber of their being, things that seem pretty impossible, but that doesn't stop them from believing, and getting steamed at you if you don't believe.

I've said for a long time that people who spend too much time and mental energy trying to "cultivate  chi" are missing the point of the internal arts. And from what I've seen, and from the people I've met, the ones who spend the most time doing this have no idea how to use the internal arts the way they were intended -- for self-defense and combat.

Now forgive me, I have to go. I think my cell phone is vibrating.

Subscribe to Free Monthly Internal Arts E-Zine

I launched a new monthly e-zine on the internal arts a week or so ago. If you're interested in receiving it automatically each month in pdf format, fill in your first name and email address in the boxes below.

The e-zine will feature news, information on workshops in the U.S. by top masters, and articles/photos -- even videos -- on internal arts techniques and training tips.

Albert Einstein and a Lesson about Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Bagua

A story is told about Albert Einstein. He had just given a test to a class of seniors, and he was walking across campus, followed closely by an assistant.

"Dr. Einstein," the assistant said, "you just gave the same test to this year's class that you gave to last year's class."

"Ya, ya," Einstein replied. "It was the same test."

"But why would you give the same test two years in a row?"

Einstein said, "Because the answers have changed."

I had to laugh when I heard this story because it sums up how I feel about the internal arts. I suppose it should be true for anyone studying any art.

Studying tai chi, hsing-i and bagua is like trying to reach the bottom of a bottomless ocean. Just as you think you've made progress, you realize that the ocean just became deeper, and in reality, you've only just begun your journey.

If someone had asked me 10 years ago how to perform "Buddha's Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar," the second movement of many Chen tai chi forms, I would have given an answer and demonstrated how to perform it.

When someone asks me today, my answer is far different than it was 10 years ago. The same movement, but deeper understanding. It's much more complex than it was ten years ago. I can't imagine how different my answer will be in another ten years.

If someone had asked me 20 years ago what the fighting application is for bagua's single-change palm, I would have given an answer and demonstrated a fighting application. Today, I might demonstrate 6 or 7 applications for the same movement. And what are the body mechanics for the movement? The answer today is far different than the one I would have given 20 years ago.

Albert Einstein never stopped learning, exploring, wondering, and experimenting. He would have been a genius at the internal arts.

New MP3 Audio - "Using Internal Arts for Street Combat"

InternalArts-SifuKen1_b Charles Prosper, the editor of the book, Fighting Secrets of the Martial Arts Masters, interviewed me recently on the topic, "Using the Internal Arts for Street Combat." Okay, the title of the book makes me chuckle a little, I have to admit, but I'm happy to contribute to the image of the internal arts as strong fighting arts.

Charles is compiling a lot of interviews with different martial artists who contributed a chapter to his book.

Here's the audio file. You can Download Vol.1-InternalArtsStreetCombat-KGullette. You can listen or download it to your computer or iPod.