Using Internal Principles in Grappling -- How to Escape a Clinch

Can Tai Chi, Xingyi or Bagua be used against a grappler?

A lot of macho types say no, but that's because they do not understand the internal martial arts.

Tai Chi has been slandered, maligned and unfairly criticized during the past year or two because a couple of people who claimed to be Tai Chi "masters" (they are not masters) had the stupidity to take on a trained MMA fighter and they lost. Badly.

I had a Wing Chun guy come into my school once and he wanted to spar full-contact. I told him we didn't do that, but we would gladly spar with him and do light contact. We hit him in the face anytime we wanted. My top student and I both tried him out. It was pitiful, but I did not judge Wing Chun based on this guy.

The internal arts have principles and body mechanics that work if you follow them, just like any art. Sometimes, you simply have to fight. That includes punching. But sometimes, you use body mechanics to take advantage of your opponent's force or to break his structure.

This past Wednesday night at practice, three students -- Justin Snow, Colin Frye and Chris Andrews -- worked with me as I demonstrated how to escape from a clinch. We had a good time playing with this.

Justin and Chris are both around 300 pounds. They are strong guys, around 30 years old. They have experience fighting. Real fighting.

I am 65 with one lung, heart issues, and I lost a lot of muscle mass when I got sick 9 years ago. 

They still can't hold me in a clinch if I use internal principles. And I can't hold them, either.

We had fun playing with this. Enjoy the video and I hope you learn from it. And remember, 850 video lessons and pdf downloads are available 24/7 on my membership website at www.internalfightingarts.com. Check it out.

 

 


New Book by Ken Gullette - Internal Body Mechanics for Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi

Book CoverI believe this is the first time that someone has tried to organize and teach, step-by-step, the fundamental body mechanics that are required for high-quality Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi. I have seen at least one book titled "Body Mechanics," but it did not discuss body mechanics. After 31 years of studying these arts and 21 years of teaching them, I decided to write a book that is clear on this topic.

Body mechanics for Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi are much more than simple directions such as "turn your foot out 45 degrees and relax."

I have included 250 photos and clear, straightforward descriptions in this book. I am confident you will have several "Aha!" moments about internal body mechanics when you read it. If it does NOT teach you anything important, or give you insights that help you in your internal arts journey, send the book back to me and I will refund your money.

Basically, I wanted to write the book that I wish I had when I began studying the internal arts back in 1987. If I was able to read it back then, it would have saved me many years and thousands of dollars in class fees. Based on some of the martial artists I have met during the past 20-something years, I know there are millions of internal arts students who are not learning these skills.

The six fundamental body mechanics for internal power include:

** Establishing and maintaining the ground path at all times.

** Using peng jin at all times along with the ground path.

** Using whole-body movement -- when one parts move, all parts move.

** Silk-Reeling "Energy" -- the spiraling movement that adds power to techniques.

** Dan T'ien rotation -- guiding the internal strength and power as the body moves.

** Using the kua properly -- opening and closing the kua, like a buoy in the ocean, helping the body stay balanced as incoming force changes.

Each of these body mechanics represents a physical skill -- NOT metaphysical. You can "imagine chi" for the rest of your life and still not be able to develop real power in your Tai Chi, Bagua or Xingyi. It takes hard work and practice -- real study -- to move with internal power in these arts. When a teacher does not know the body mechanics, it is much easier to make students think that "cultivating chi" is the goal. It is not the goal. 

The intent of Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi is self-defense. You can practice for health and meditation if you want, but unless you understand the body mechanics and the way the movements are used to defend yourself with relaxed power, you are not studying the complete art.

The book does not attempt to explain the history of the internal arts, much of which is lost in the mists of time and usually results in political squabbles among different factions within the arts, much like different denominations or sects will argue over religion.

I also do not use abstract wording that confuses more than it clarifies. 

Instead, I try to get right to the point, as I do in my teaching, writing in a straightforward way that attempts to strip away the mystical mumbo jumbo. Along the way, I try to deliver a few good heel kicks to some pillars of mythology that stand in the way of many students. 

I first heard about these body mechanics from Mike Sigman, through his online discussions and his videos. Through his online forum, I was guided to instructors Jim and Angela Criscimagna, living at the time in Rockford, Illinois, a couple of hours from my home. I became their student, and through them and another teacher I had later, the late Mark Wasson, I was able to learn from Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang, Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing, Ren Guangyi and Chen Bing. I have also learned from Chen Ziqiang and Chen Huixian.

I began studying martial arts in 1973 at age 20, and I also practiced with the Iowa State University boxing team when I was 39 and 40 years old, when I was "adopted" by Coach Terry Dowd and the young boxers on the ISU team. I began studying the internal arts in 1987, and three years later, I won a gold medal performing the Yang 24 form in Tai Chi competition at the 1990 AAU Kung-Fu National Championships. I won more medals than any other competitor in the championships -- six medals in all, for Tai Chi, Xingyi, Bagua, and sparring. I thought I knew the internal arts, but years later, after learning the body mechanics I describe in this book, I realized that not only did I not understand internal body mechanics, neither did the judges. I was probably the best of a bad group of students who were doing external, muscular arts but calling them internal.

As I taught Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua beginning in 1997, as the Internet was becoming popular, I was reading Mike Sigman's online forum and realized there were holes in my knowledge. A few months later, I met Jim and Angela, and realized that what I had learned and practiced during the previous decade was empty. Over time, I identified the six key body mechanics that are basic to good internal Chinese gongfu. This book offers information on these skills that your teacher may not have taught you.

A few years ago, Kiefen Synnott wrote to me and said, "I live in Japan and study Baguazhang and Xingyiquan, but the language barrier makes me miss some of the meaning. Your training has filled in the gaps and has been responsible for most of the progress I have made so far."

Another martial artist who lives in Shanghai wrote to me that he was "amazed at how few instructors here know the body mechanics." 

The book is sold in the U.S., the UK and Europe through Amazon. It is available for Prime shipping. If you are in the UK or Europe, please go to Amazon and search for "Internal Body Mechanics." In Australia or other parts of the world, you may be able to order it through bookstores.

If you are in the U.S. you can order the book directly from me on this blog.

There is Free Shipping within the U.S. (Sorry, due to high shipping fees, Ken cannot mail the book internationally). BONUS -- If you buy this book plus a DVD from this site, you may select another DVD free of charge as a bonus (just email Ken with your selection for the bonus DVD). 

Order the Book Now with Free Shipping - U.S. Customers Only 


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!

 


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.

 

 


Newly Revised Silk-Reeling DVD Offers Detailed Instruction for 19 Chan Ssu Jin Exercises and Tai Chi Pole-Shaking

SRE-Workshop-2015
Portions of the new Silk-Reeling DVD were shot at a workshop Ken did in 2015.

My first DVD on Silk-Reeling Energy was shot in 2008 in the old 4:3 TV format. I was never really satisfied that it was spread over two DVDs, forcing me to charge a bit more for it ($24.99). But it has been very popular over the years with internal artists worldwide.

Now, I have completely redone it in widescreen format and I have managed to put more than 2 1/2 hours of instruction onto one DVD at a lower price ($19.99). The camera angles are better, too.

Silk-Reeling "Energy" has been misinterpreted by many literal-minded people. When you talk about internal "energies," you are not talking about an actual "energy" coursing through your body like the concept many use for "chi." What energy means is "method." What are the methods of moving in the internal arts that helps give you relaxed power, without the muscular tension that some martial arts use?

Silk-Reeling, or Chan Ssu Jin (Chan Ssu Chin) is part of that method. It involves spiraling movement through the body, which is combined with the ground path, peng jin, whole-body movement, Dan T'ien rotation and proper use of the kua. Now, I always get flamed when I say that SRE is not mystical, especially by people who are into the woo woo, but it's true. The spiraling movement of Chan Ssu Jin is a physical skill, like all skills in the internal arts. You can still believe in the woo woo if you want, but the exercises still work.

SRE-1-CoachingThe Silk-Reeling exercises on this video teach you how to take the six key body mechanics that form the basis of internal movement and put them together into exercises that will help make your internal movement better.

There are many "energies" involved when you practice self-defense with Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Bagua, but there are also basic body mechanics that you need; without them, your movement is empty.

I first learned these exercises and concepts from Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing, and their students and disciples.

One thing I love about these exercises is the fact that you can do most of them even if you don't have a lot of room. Most of them can be done in a cubicle, or in a small office, anywhere you find yourself without room to do a form.

When you do a Silk-Reeling exercise, you are doing Tai Chi. 

They can be done as qigong, too. Sometimes, if I'm watching TV at night at the end of the day, I'll get up and do these exercises rather than sit on the couch. They build leg strength and, if you practice as intended, they will improve your internal movement.

The DVD also contains a section on pole-shaking, which is one of the ways to begin putting all the body mechanics to work for fajin (issuing energy).

Here is a short clip from the Silk-Reeling Energy DVD. If you are interested, you can click here for more information and to order it. There is free shipping worldwide and an iron-clad, no hassle, money back guarantee. If you're not happy with it, just return it for a fast refund. I have never had anyone return this DVD after selling more than 1,000 of them since 2008. All the video from the DVD is also on my website at www.internalfightingarts.com. 

 


Xingyi and Bagua Instructor Robert Allen Pittman - the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview

Pittman
Robert Allen Pittman

The new edition of the Internal Fighting Arts podcast features an interview with Robert Allen Pittman, a martial artist and author who teaches Xingyi and Bagua through his system that he calls Wisdom of the Body. He is the type of martial artist I love to talk with -- a man who has gone to extraordinary lengths to learn his arts, particularly Xingyi and Bagua.

Allen was a student of Robert W. Smith, a pioneer who wrote some of the first books about Chinese kung-fu for the Western audience. Allen also co-authored books with Robert W. Smith on Xingyi and Bagua

I was thumbing through my martial arts library a few weeks ago when I came across his book, "Walking the I Ching." I tracked him down on the Internet and we arranged an interview while he was visiting his mother in England. I have seen his name for a long time, because of his work with Robert W. Smith, but I had no idea that he had such a good story.

Download the file or listen online by following this link, or play here:

 

 

 

 


The Eye of the Tiger and the Three Internal Harmonies -- Spirit is the Beginning of It All

Ken-Spars-1983-EyeofTigerDid you ever find yourself in a situation where a bigger bully attacked you and it was clear that you didn't have a chance? Have you ever been frightened and covered up to protect yourself?

Here is another question. Have you ever found yourself in a position when you had to defend yourself and you were determined to win?

There is a big difference between those two situations, and the difference is Spirit.

In the internal arts, Spirit is called "Shen." It is the "emotional mind."

The Three Internal Harmonies begin with Spirit. The state of your emotional mind combines with your Mind/Intent ("Yi" -- pronounced Yee). Shen is often called the "emotional mind" while Yi is sometimes called the "wisdom mind."

Think of one of the greatest fighters in history -- Muhammad Ali. Think of his attitude when he entered a fight. Confident, bold, smart, ready and willing to rumble.

Then think of a time when you were sparring -- or perhaps in a fight in school or on the street -- and you were not confident, not sure of your toughness, and afraid you were going to be defeated.

This is the difference between strong and weak Spirit.

You can train spirit when you are practicing. If you practice weak technique and fail to push yourself toward excellence and precision, you have weak Spirit. But if you push yourself to be stronger, faster, and precise and powerful with your mechanics and techniques, even when you are just practicing, you train your Spirit to be strong.

Sometimes, I get on students for having weak Spirit. They just sleep-walk through their techniques in a sloppy way. Sometimes, I can tell a student's spirit is weak when he expresses doubt in his ability to defend himself.

TourneyOne student spent years training, but he was unable to solve his own poor self-esteem. He constantly put himself down and said he would be unable to defend himself in a real fight. Early on, he competed in tournaments, but he was defeated time after time, and it became a vicious cycle -- he did not have the Spirit to win and he did not win. He gave up and stopped competing.

"I can point the way," I told him many times, "but I can't take you there. You have to understand and believe that you can do this."

When I find myself in a situation that could potentially require self-defense skills, I instantly adopt the Eye of the Tiger. I am calm but ready, and I will not be defeated. It is this Spirit that helped me win fights when I was younger and tournaments when I was older. 

When rapists are targeting victims, they look for women who appear to have weak Spirit. Women who are confident and appear strong are passed by in favor of victims who look like they will not fight back.

In Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Bagua, your Spirit and Intent combine, then your body mechanics, body structure and technique are directed to achieve the Intent. If your mechanics and technique are right, your Chi is flowing. In this way, the Yi leads the Chi. Your mind's intent leads the body mechanics and technique. 

When you are determined, and have good technique, your Strength (Li) happens naturally. Strong Shen and Yi and good Chi cannot help but generate strong Li.

This is the meaning of the Three Internal Harmonies. It is not mystical. Chi does not mean a mystical invisible energy flowing through meridians in your body. It means proper structure, mechanics, and technique. Strength is the result of a strong mind and a precise body.

By training seriously, pushing yourself toward precision, power, and good conditioning, and sparring with a variety of partners to develop your self-defense skills, proper Spirit should come naturally.

But I can't take you there. I can only point the way. Your Spirit is unique and lives within you.

Finally, do you want to see a great example of Spirit? It is embodied in a small French bulldog who could have been eaten by two big bears that invaded his yard. But his Spirit and his Intent produced some powerful Chi. It is a funny video, but it truly drives home the point. Do you have the Spirit of this bulldog?  


Do You Understand the Body Method ("Shen Fa") of Your Martial Art?

Body Method
Colin Frye and Chris Miller work on Xingyi body methods with fighting applications.

What does the term “body method” mean when it comes to Xingyiquan, Taijiquan and Baguazhang? The Chinese term for body method is “Shen Fa.”

Putting it simply, body method is the way you train your body to move in practicing an art so you achieve the result of moving in this same way when you do self-defense. It involves structure, body mechanics, and concepts for receiving and discharging force.

Each art has distinct ways of training, but I have broken some of the key body mechanics down, and I teach those body mechanics as a way to begin developing the body method for effective internal arts.

The six key body mechanics include:

  1. Establishing and maintaining the ground path at all times.
  2. Maintaining peng jin at all times.
  3. Using whole-body movement.
  4. Silk-reeling energy connected through the entire body.
  5. Dan T’ien rotation.
  6. Opening and closing the kua.

When you develop these six body mechanics as you train the various exercises, forms and fighting concepts of the internal arts, you develop the body method.

Ken Hsing-I 2-25-06 Web
Ken performing Xingyi at a tournament in 2006.

For example, holding the San Ti stance in Xingyi. With proper instruction, it teaches you to drop your energy, to root, to establish the ground path, peng jin, and develops leg strength, a solid base from which to move. Some people also use Standing Stake (Zhan Zhuang) in their Xingyi practice, but holding San Ti accomplishes the same thing. Other teachers have various training methods and exercises to help develop the body method.

When you learn the fist postures, you learn to move in a connected way, using whole body movement and maintaining the ground and peng even when exploding forward to take an opponent’s ground. You learn Dan T’ien rotation and opening/closing the body. And you learn how to apply all these mechanics and delivering power through opening the body and closing the body, in rising and in falling, in crossing, at angles, and in moving straight.

This body method is developed as you work on your forms, but the test comes when you apply it against a partner.

Working with partners in two-person drills helps you develop further, and then you should incorporate light sparring into the mix. As your experience and skill grows, your sparring can include a bit more contact.

Along with body mechanics and structure, sparring also allows you to develop the proper intent – the proper “spirit” of Xingyi – which should be confident, strong and willing to explode through an opponent and take his ground.

When most of us are new to martial arts, we react to someone attacking us with tension – by “rising” up with the body and tensing the muscles. Our mind scatters and we are often overwhelmed by the information our brain is receiving, not to mention our mind’s refusal to believe we are being attacked. Quite often, our reaction is to cover up, hoping the attack stops.

When you develop the body method and the proper intent of Xingyi, you react differently – sinking your weight, establishing structure and instantly adopting a mindset of driving your opponent off his ground – and driving his head off his shoulders.

I have been involved in martial arts now for nearly 42 years. We all start with the desire to improve our self-defense skills. And even as we grow older, as the arts evolve into something beyond simple self-defense, it is common to go through “what if” scenarios in our minds when we are out in public. “What would I do if this guy suddenly took a swing at me,” or “What would I do if that group of guys came rushing at me?”

I study three internal arts, but Xingyi is the one that I use when I visualize those “what if” scenarios. As I think through these visualization drills, I also visualize my body moving in the way I have trained it to move when doing Xingyi.

The body method of Taijiquan has some similar qualities to the body mechanics of Xingyi, but it also includes many different ways of moving that you don’t find in the more explosive art of Xingyiquan. It includes methods of dealing with an opponent's force and controlling an opponent's center that are sometimes unique and more subtle than Xingyi.

The body method of Baguazhang has certain mechanics that are also common to Taiji and Xingyi, but it also involves unique ways of moving, twisting and walking. It also involves concepts of dealing with force and controlling the center that are subtle like Taiji.

The concept of Shen Fa -- Body Method -- is fairly new to Western students of the internal arts. Quality internal arts instruction has only arrived in the United States during the past 20 years or so. 

Can you summarize the body method of the art you are studying? If you can’t, you should ask your instructor for help in understanding it. 

Two DVDs that help you start developing body method are the Internal Strength and Silk-Reeling DVDs. They contain exercises and concepts that provide the foundation for all three of the internal arts.


A Simple Concept of Baguazhang - The Spinning Wire Ball

Bagua BallThere are three images that summarize the three main internal arts. They are simple images and do not encompass all the subtleties but still represent good concepts.

You can think of Xingyi (Hsing-I) as a wedge driving through an opponent. A Xingyi fighter explodes through an opponent and takes his ground.

A Taiji fighter is like a beach ball being submerged into a swimming pool. The ball will take your energy and Bagua-2give a bit, but there is strength underneath, and it will spring back and spin, dumping you into the water.

Bagua is like punching into a spinning wire ball. The ball catches your force and spins you off-balance, controlling your center and spinning you out in unexpected directions. It often leaves you broken by the time it spins you out.

Here is just one example. My opponent Bagua-3punches. I intercept the punch, wrapping my left arm around his punching arm. At the same time, I begin spinning to his outside.

I hook his right arm and continue to spin. At this point, I can break his elbow or dislocate his shoulder, or both. At the end of my spin, I am in position to also strike to the back of the neck or head.

Bagua-5Some of my favorite Bagua techniques involve uprooting, unbalancing, and controlling the opponent's center. This technique is a good example of punching into a spinning wire ball and being broken by the spin.I am also striking my opponent in the direction he is traveling. That is part of our fighting strategy called "Join and Unite." This strategy involves taking control of your opponent's center by melding with it, and causing it to continue turning in the direction it is already turning while you strike in the direction your opponent is traveling. Often, that means you are behind your opponent when you strike.

A Bagua fighter is said to disappear in front of his opponent and reappear behind the opponent. This is accomplished by lateral movement, spinning movement, and controlling your opponent's center so that you move him where you want him.

A lot of these concepts are demonstrated with techniques you can use to develop your skill in my DVD, Basic Building Blocks of Bagua Self-Defense. 

 

 


Kent Howard and the Internal Art of Baguazhang - the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview

Ken-Bagua-Small-JPGI love to meet good martial artists who are dedicated to seeking out the best instruction. Since I launched my Internal Fighting Arts podcast a few months ago, I have had the pleasure of going on amazing journeys as I talk with instructors who, like I did, became attached to the internal arts.

The best instructors go through a lot of sacrifice, expense, and effort to seek out instruction. Many people looking to become students don't even realize how lucky they are to have such dedicated martial artists who actually speak their language (I focus on English-speaking instructors in the podcast). I have spent years, traveled many miles, and spent thousands of dollars gaining knowledge, not to mention investing in pain, sweat, and hard work. When I talk with teachers who have done the same thing, I am re-inspired.

I had never spoken to Kent Howard before interviewing him last Saturday via Skype. He is a good man, with a realistic view of the arts and a great sense of humor. He returned three months ago from spending three more years in Taiwan, where he has studied for decades in the Baguazhang style of Wang Shujin through Kent's teacher, Huang Shinjeng.

Kent is about four "generations" of students removed from Baguazhang's creator, Dong Haichuan.

He is the guest on this week's podcast - an enjoyable, no-nonsense and fascinating glimpse into the study of what became known as "Eight Trigrams Palm."

This interview may change the way you look at Bagua. Listen to it online or download via this link. It will be on iTunes where you can subscribe to the series and receive new podcasts as they go up -- about every 10 days or so. Go to the podcast area of the iTunes Store and search for "Internal Fighting Arts" to subscribe.