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February 2016

Internal Fighting Arts Podcast 21 -- Interview with Chen Taijiquan Instructor Jan Silberstorff

Jan Silberstorff
Jan Silberstorff is interviewed in the 21st edition of the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast.

Jan Silberstorff is one of the martial artists who was at the top of my mind when I launched the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast more than a year ago. I have heard such great things about him from other Chen Taiji folks that he was on my wish list of interviews.

Luckily, he was in San Diego a couple of weeks ago, doing workshops at Bill and Allison Helm's Taoist Sanctuary, and Bill helped arrange for me to talk with Jan. By the way, Jan Silberstorff is pronounced "Yahn Zeelberstorff." 

Jan was the first Western indoor disciple of Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang, and he is the co-founder of the Chen Xiaowang World Taijiquan Association. He is based in Germany, but Jan travels the world teaching Chen Taiji.

Our conversation started with his beginning as a street punk in Germany, and his evolution in the martial arts and Taijiquan. His story is that of a determined, dedicated martial artist. Among other things, Jan tells us Chen Xiaowang's surprising reaction the first time he saw Jan perform Taiji, and he talks about how his practice has evolved, and what he is working on now when he practices.

Jan does not have an English website, but you can reach him through this site for the Chen Xiaowang World Taijiquan Association - Germany. 

He has two charity websites, which provide housing for street children in Brazil and Sri Lanka:

He also has a website through the Center for Daodejing Studies:

Here is a link to the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast via Audello. You can listen online or download the file here:

Xingyiquan Self-Defense and the Pursuit of Improvement

Xingyi Training 3I enjoy practicing with students and helping them learn. Actually, I learn as they learn.

Recently, we began videotaping instruction for the website on moving from form to fighting with Xingyi. Doing the videos drove home the need to take your own ego out of practicing with your students. We've all known teachers who must constantly show that they are more advanced than their students.

In these videos, my partner and I feed each other punches and kicks and we "internalize" Xingyi techniques and body mechanics in anticipating and responding to varying attacks.

I don't try to fake out my partner and I don't try to make him look bad. I go lightly and help him learn to intercept, block, and counter. If he messes up, we keep going in a non-judgmental way, with the goal being to improve our skills.

Then my student will feed me punches and kicks and I work on my skills, too. I'm not afraid to make mistakes in front of my students. When I first began teaching, I felt the need to be perfect in front of my students. Now, I don't give a damn. Life is too short and perfection is an ego trip. I continue to learn and, hopefully, to improve. And the website members who study the videos also learn. That's the goal.

The Secret of Making Progress in Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Bagua This Year

Baby Steps 3To make progress in 2016, all you need to do is put in a little time each day. Study, don't just go through the motions. Really think about how you are moving and why. Think about the energies and methods you are trying to achieve.

Every class you participate in should help you take one more baby step down the path toward understanding.

You should be excited about every small insight, and those insights will come with a good teacher and by thoughtful study and mindful practicing. If you are not leaving your classes excited about a new insight you have gained or an improvement you have made -- a baby step you have taken -- then you need a new teacher or a new attitude.

You must set a goal for this year. Where do you want to be with your skill by December 31st? Do you want to learn a new form? Do you want to understand certain concepts more clearly? Do you want to master certain techniques?

Get a calendar and write your goals on December 31st. Specific goals such as, "I have learned Laojia Yilu," or, "I understand and can use the 13 Energies in both movement and application."

Now, put together a plan of the steps you need to take to get there -- specific steps and dates when you need to accomplish it. Then start on those actions. If your goal is to learn Laojia Yilu, get a DVD and begin practicing movement one. Tomorrow, practice movement one and movement two. Get input and instruction from your teacher to make sure you are on the right path.

You can achieve anything you want, but first you have to know what you want to achieve, write it down, plan out the steps to take, and then take action.

One baby step at a time.