Board-Breaking with Tai Chi - Hsing-I - Bagua - and the One-Inch Punch

We like to have fun in my practices. A couple of nights ago, we took three rebreakable boards of different strength and practiced the following:

** Dropping Power

** The One-Inch Punch

** Movements from Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Bagua forms

We don't make board-breaking a regular part of our classes, but occasionally it's important to make sure you are focusing power for self-defense, even with internal movements.

At the end of the video, we do breaks with two or all three of the boards together. I hope it's as much fun to watch as it was to do.



New in the NOOK Store -- Silk-Reeling and Baguazhang Ebooks

Three of my ebooks are now available in NOOK format and are on sale in the Barnes & Noble Nook Store.

I published my first ebook in Amazon's Kindle format in June, 2013. Since that time, each new ebook has been exclusive to Kindle, but I am now beginning to roll them out in the NOOK format.

Each book is a great portable reference for its topic.

Bagua-Bldg-Blocks-Cover-3D-250The newest book, just completed last week, is Basic Building Blocks of Bagua Self-Defense. It contains 606 photos and detailed instruction in some of the primary principles for fighting with Bagua. Photos are in stop-action, step-by-step sequences, frozen from videos so you can get a clear idea how the technique is supposed to be performed. This book costs only $5.99.

Many martial arts books contain photos, but often there are gaps in the action, and it is not clear how to get from Point A to Point B. My books are written to be crystal clear. I write them with the eyes of a student.

Bagua 8 Main Ebook Cover 250Another ebook that is new in NOOK is the Baguazhang 8 Main Palms Form. It contains 340 photos and detailed instruction, taking you step-by-step in stop-action format through the entire Cheng-style Bagua form. This book costs only $4.99.

The Baguazhang Eight Main Palms Form is the first major form that my students learn after they are familiar with the basic skills of Bagua, including circle-walking, the mother palms, tea-serving exercises, and more.

SRE-Ebook-Cover-250My Silk-Reeling Energy ebook is also now available in NOOK format. Silk-Reeling Energy is a spiraling action that travels from the ground through the body, giving more power to your internal techniques. It is not mystical, it is physical, and this ebook is a great reference, showing exercises that are taught by Chen Xiaowang and others to beginning students. This spiraling motion is an essential element of Taiji and Bagua, and is also a key part of Xingyiquan. This book is also only $4.99.

Each of these ebooks are companions to a DVD, and is very handy if you are in a practice location with a tablet or phone and need to reference a movement or technique.

I don't really like to put this type of "commercial" blog post up, but this is a major development in the dissemination of my internal arts curriculum and I want everyone who uses NOOK devices to know.

In the coming week, two more ebooks that have been on Kindle exclusively will go up in the NOOK format -- my Qigong ebook and the Chen 19 Form Self-Defense applications book. Stay tuned.

Bagua Self-Defense Ebook Contains 606 Photos and Step-by-Step Instruction

Bagua-Bldg-Blocks-Cover-3D-250Baguazhang is a beautiful art -- smooth, flowing, with spiraling, twisting movements and circle-walking. 

But how do you fight with it? How do you use it when someone attacks you?

Like any martial art, you start with the basics and practice, practice, practice.

My newest ebook, titled Basic Building Blocks of Bagua Self-Defensetakes you step-by-step through some of the most basic and important fighting concepts in Bagua, and walks you through more than 130 fighting techniques that really work -- without mysticism, laser-focused on internal body mechanics.

Ken Gullette Bagua Self DefenseThese are the techniques I practice with my students. I believe in self-defense that works, not flowery, metaphysical stuff that falls apart as soon as you face someone who is not cooperating. Bagua is like any other martial art -- the most effective techniques are often the most direct.

You will learn 25 ways to achieve the three main goals of a Bagua fighter -- uproot, unbalance, and control your opponent's Center.

You will learn self-defense concepts such as Rotating, Twisting, Supporting, Boring, Scooping, and 20 more -- each one demonstrated and explained through specific self-defense techniques that highlight the movement and "energy" that each concept represents.

Photos are presented in stop-action sequences. You are not left to fill in the gaps from one movement to the next. Every movement and technique will be clear through the images and instruction.

The sequence of photos here shows one technique from the concept of "Scooping."

This ebook, and the companion DVD, is what my students learn after they learn Bagua basic skills and their first form, the 8 Main Palms form. Without understanding the basic building blocks of Bagua self-defense, Bagua movements are meaningless. This knowledge gives their movements depth, and provide them the tools they need to begin moving from form to self-defense.

I try to give a lot of value at a reasonable price. The cost of this ebook is only $5.99 on Amazon Kindle. Follow this link to the Amazon page for Basic Building Blocks of Bagua Self-Defense.

The internal arts seem mysterious, and when the techniques are clouded in abstract, mystical terms, they become indecipherable. Some of this is perpetuated by teachers who simply parrot what their teachers said, like people do in a religion. Other teachers have giant egos and they need people to see them as possessing of supernatural powers and "indoor" knowledge.

I write all my ebooks and produce my instructional videos to break through all of the nonsense and show you the real martial art beneath the supernatural silliness. Real Bagua fighting does not depend on some invisible and unproven energy (qi) flowing through your body. Real Bagua is amazing enough on its own without all that baggage heaped on it, so my ebooks and videos are aimed at showing you the internal body mechanics that give you the relaxed power that makes Bagua an effective art for self-defense. 

Punching Through Paper - A Test of Fajing for Taiji, Bagua and Xingyi

Can you punch through a sheet of newspaper?

Sounds easy, doesn't it?

Okay, smarty pants, have a partner hold a sheet of newspaper very lightly on the top corners. You stand in front of it and punch through it.

It's an eye-opening experience but it is a good test of your internal body mechanics. Are you able to maintain the mechanics as you "put on the gas?"

This is one of the videos on my membership website. It was shot around 2005 - maybe earlier. I was practicing with a student last night and he mentioned the video, so we got a sheet of newspaper out and tried this. He was not successful in breaking it, but I (fortunately) was able to do it with my first punch.

The secret is in applying all the internal mechanics -- ground path, peng jin, whole-body movement, silk-reeling, Dan T'ien rotation, and opening/closing the kua -- in a connected, relaxed way while speeding it up -- fajing.

Try it yourself. Let me know how it goes. And thanks to Nancy for being my partner, as usual. She is an ace at paper holding. :)


The Coiling Leverage of Silk-Reeling Energy -- Four Ounces Deflecting A Thousand Pounds

Taiji and Bagua are especially dependent upon Silk-Reeling Energy (San ssu jin) but it is also present in Xingyi.

Silk-Reeling Energy provides “coiling leverage” to movement. Silk-Reeling is not a scientifically valid “energy” in our bodies and it is not related to an invisible energy called “chi.” It is just like every other “energy” in the internal arts – it is a method of moving in response to force. The body mechanics of Taiji, Bagua and Xingyi are physical skills that require a lot of mental focus so you can be prepared to respond like an echo to an opponent’s force.

5-5-Lute-vs-grab1Silk-Reeling energy gives more power to concepts such as “four ounces repels a thousand pounds,” or “four ounces deflects a thousand pounds” depending on who tells it.

One of many ways this can be demonstrated is with a wrist grab. Your opponent grabs and you try using normal muscular actions to pull away as he tries to hold on. It will be difficult to escape. You may be able to escape, but it will take a lot of muscular strength.

Next, try spiraling out of the grip and see how the coiling leverage gives you an easier escape. It is described very well with the term "rotational force." By connecting the ground through the wrist and using the spiraling movements of silk-reeling (and other body mechanics listed below), your movements can overcome simple muscular force.

In normal internal movement, the rotational force of silk-reeling is dependent on your core internal strength:

  1. Establishing and maintaining the ground path
  2. Maintaining peng jin
  3. Whole-body movement
  4. Silk-Reeling (spiraling) movement
  5. Rotating the Dan T’ien
  6. Opening/Closing the Kua
Coiling gives you the ability to deflect the energy of the grab.

Four ounces (“si liang”) cannot generate enough force without the core internal strength provided by the key body mechanics of the internal arts (neijia).

Properly using the coiling leverage of silk-reeling involves practicing the mechanics so you can develop an understanding from a physical perspective. When Chinese masters talk abstractly about developing “rou jin” (soft) with “gang jin” (hard), it can sound like gibberish. But you want your Taiji to be “iron wrapped in cotton.” The cotton is the softness – sensitivity, relaxed strength, supple flowing motions; the iron is the core strength of the body mechanics that give the movements their underlying power.

6-9-Monkey-vs-punch5Another way to apply this (there are countless ways) is to have a punch directed at you and you intercept it and spiral as it comes toward you, leading it softly into a different trajectory.

When you see someone like Chen Xiaowang do a form and suddenly explode with fajing, you see a burst of power that is a perfect combination of soft and hard (rou and gang) – yin and yang. It is not really that abstract but it requires an instructor to show you so you can practice it properly, and then it requires years of corrections and practice to begin getting it right. I am still working on it, but I have been shown the way by some talented internal arts teachers.

I will shoot a video this weekend showing this principle in action. It will be on the membership website by Monday (Aug. 11, 2014) at In the meantime, if you have not yet learned the core body mechanics of the internal arts, I would suggest checking out my Internal Strength and Silk-Reeling DVDs. They provide the foundation that you need for this long journey. They are available through my website (free shipping all over the world) and for U.S. members of Amazon Prime, they are available through Amazon with free 2-day shipping.

Both DVDs are available as a bundle at a special discount price. Go to this page and scroll down for the special offer.

Both DVDs are also available in the form of Amazon Kindle ebooks through Amazon’s Kindle Store.

Tai Chi Pluck Energy for Real Self-Defense

There are many different "energies" in Tai Chi and the internal arts. Cai energy is also called "Pluck." It is a sudden pulling action that can take your opponent off-balance.

Pluck can be done in a subtle way in push hands but in real self-defense, when your life can be in danger, it is not subtle and not especially pretty -- but it is definitely effective and it can be used against all kinds of attacks. 

Ken Gullette covers protectively against a sudden attack by Colin Frye.

Here is how to begin practicing this particular method of Tai Chi Pluck energy. Have a partner attack you without warning. Your first goal is to cover and block the attack. Instinctively, you should drop your weight and avoid the lifting of the body. This takes a lot of practice and presence of mind. In fact, it is a very good idea simply to react to an initial attack by practicing -- over and over -- the dropping and covering technique to protect yourself in the event of a surprise attack. 

Despite what some people claim, not all attacks are surprise attacks. Very often, guys will go into their "monkey dance," and give you some warning they are about to strike. Sometimes, the initial action will be to shove you back. Either way, once your attacker invades your space, covering and blocking is an appropriate response.

Pluck 2
As quickly as possible, grab and jerk downward, using internal body mechanics.

Next, as quickly as possible, grab the attacking hand (or foot if it is a kick) and give it a sudden, hard jerk downward. This will take your opponent off-balance, usually in a big way.

Internal body mechanics are required. To pull with sufficient force, you must be connected from the ground of the front foot through the hands. As you pluck, the whole-body connection allows the ground to work with the arms and the Dan T'ien rotation and you close powerfully into the kua (my right kua in the photos) as you jerk the opponent down.

Be careful when doing pluck in this way with a partner. You can literally give a partner whiplash by jerking quickly and powerfully. So make sure your partner is ready and take precautions that you don't cause injury.

Pluck 3
Pluck puts you in position to counter effectively.

This is an extremely effective technique for real self-defense. Remember, in the internal arts, your goals are to uproot and unbalance your opponent. You do that by neutralizing the incoming force and countering with good internal body mechanics. Tai Chi is not always gentle. It is a brutal fighting art. Pluck Energy is an excellent self-defense technique. Try it against all types of attacks. Pad up and use it in sparring. Try it against combination attacks. Any time you can grab your opponent, pluck is an effective way of disorienting him to set up your counter-attack.

The video for this lesson is in the Internal Strength section of my website at 


Baguazhang's Fierce Tiger Emerges from Mountain - One of Cheng Bagua's 8 Basic Palms

Cheng Ting-hua, one of the most prominent early Bagua masters (he was a student of Bagua creator Dong Haichuan) taught eight stationary Bagua postures to students. They were put into a form called the Eight Basic Palms form, which is practiced while walking the circle.

Bagua-Fierce-TigerThe first of the stationary postures is Fierce Tiger Emerges from Mountain. After the opening movement of the form, you walk the circle with your upper body turned toward the center of the circle and your palms downward, with fingertips of both hands pointing towards the other hand. Thumbs are angled downward.

The point of Fierce Tiger is to practice "downward" energy. The intent of the body -- the weight of the body -- is focused into the palms as they press downward. This press is not done with muscular tension, however. It is done by relaxing the shoulders, sinking the energy of the body (I often call this "sinking your weight" to avoid mystical interpretations) and putting your intent into the palms.

Bagua-Fierce-Tiger-2One of the self-defense applications for Fierce Tiger involves a low punch or kick to the stomach or groin. In the second photo, my friend Sean Ledig gives me a low punch. I put my weight into my hands and use the entire sinking of the body through the hands to knock down the punch. By dropping the body weight into the palms, it jolts his body off-balance and turns him slightly away, giving me the opportunity for a counter strike. Looking at the photo, the jolt of the redirection caused him to lean in, giving me an opening for an immediate elbow strike with my right arm to the left side of his face.

It is important to point out that both palms are not necessary in a fighting application. I can apply the energy from Fierce Tiger using only one palm, knocking down a low punch or kick while the other hand remains ready to counter or protect.

Fierce Tiger Emerges from Mountain is the first of eight stationary postures in the form. It is an important form that helps students practice circle walking along with the focusing of different energies with the palm postures. Complete instruction of the form and some of its fighting applications can be found on my Bagua Basic Skills DVD and on my Internal Fighting Arts website.

Some students rush through this form and, after they learn it they do not practice it often. I urge everyone to take their time. The circle walking builds leg strength and agility, and the holding of postures develops the ability to relax and use various "energies" of the palm postures. Breathe naturally, coordinate exhalations with "yang" movement, and focus on the martial intent and whole-body connection.

Video Highlights of New Kindle Ebook - Baguazhang Self-Defense

Here is a short video with highlights of some of the self-defense techniques in my new ebook - Baguazhang Self-Defense: Fighting Applications of the Cheng Style Eight Main Palms Form. 

The ebook has 380 photos and descriptions of 150 self-defense applications from this one Bagua form. Each application is discussed and shown with an emphasis on internal body mechanics. The ebook costs only $6.99 and is available on Amazon's Kindle Store. Many nations have their own Amazon stores (if you are outside the US, check Amazon in your country). Here is the link to the ebook on Amazon's store in the United States.

The video was done for still photo purposes, to illustrate how each movement in the form is used for self-defense. 



New Bagua Self-Defense Ebook -- 380 Photos and 150 Fighting Applications from One Baguazhang Form

8 Main Apps Ebook Cover 250My new ebook is titled Baguazhang Self-Defense - Fighting Applications of the Cheng Style Eight Main Palms Form. It contains 380 photos and offers a breakdown and detailed descriptions of 150 self-defense applications from the 8 Main Palms form.

The ebook costs only $6.99 and is available through the Amazon Kindle Store. Here is a link to the U.S. Kindle Store. It is also available on Amazon's site in the UK, France, other European nations, India, Japan, Brazil and more -- just search for it in your country's version of the Kindle Store.

There are three main goals in Bagua self-defense -- Uproot, Unbalance, and Control Your Opponent's Center. Sometimes, a Bagua fighter seems to disappear in front of his opponent, and the opponent finds that the Bagua fighter is behind him. Some of these techniques are included in the instruction.

8 Main Apps 7-48This ebook is a companion and reference to the fighting applications in the recently produced Bagua Eight Main Palms Form DVD, which is available through this blog (see the list of DVDs on the right side of the page) and through my websites and Amazon (Amazon charges shipping for my DVDs and I don't charge for shipping even on International orders).

Among the applications are palm strikes, punches, elbow and shoulder strikes, joint locks, kicks, sweeps, throws and takedowns. The techniques are explained with an emphasis on internal body mechanics, which give you a relaxed power.

There are eight sections to the Eight Main Palms Form:

1. Single Change Palm

2. Double Change Palm

3. Following Posture Palm

4. Back Body Palm

5. Turning Body Palm

6. Grinding Body Palm

7. Overturning Body Palm

8. Returning Body Palm

Some of the old Bagua masters claimed to be able to handle any attack with Single Palm Change, Double Palm Change, and Following Posture Palm. I believe it. Like all great martial arts, there is an amazing amount of information embedded and hidden within the fluid, graceful, flowing movements of each section.

In this ebook, I show 150 applications that are hidden inside the form, and I encourage the reader to use their creativity, take this information and build on it by searching the movements for techniques they discover on their own. That is one of my greatest satisfactions in studying the internal arts -- getting better at the movements from an internal perspective, and then finding new ways of applying the movements in self-defense.

It is in that spirit that I have written this ebook. 

How to Learn Advanced Bagua Self-Defense Techniques

Title Page PhotoA DVD customer sent me a message. He had purchased my Basic Building Blocks of Bagua Self-Defense DVD and he had this question:

Where can I find advanced Bagua self-defense techniques?

I asked him how long he has studied Bagua. His reply -- he is new to the art.

He probably has good intentions. I am sure he is a nice person. But the very idea behind his question is one of the frustrating aspects of teaching a martial art -- and especially an internal art.

It's the equivalent of a student walking into your school and asking, "How long does it take to get a black belt?"

Well, that depends. How much of your life are you willing to commit? How many years are you willing to spend thinking about, practicing, pondering, studying the art?

Bagua -- like Chen tai chi and actually any other fighting art or sport -- is a very complex art that requires specific body mechanics that take years and years of hard practice to develop. Asking for an advanced DVD when you haven't spent years practicing the basics is like asking for advanced video on Michael Jordan's best moves before you have learned to dribble a basketball.

8 main apps 4-73I have been involved in Bagua since 1988, and I'm still trying to work out the advanced techniques myself.

If you find video from someone who claims it is "advanced," the instructor is probably doing the "advanced" techniques against willing partners -- their students -- and the techniques demonstrated probably would not work very well in a real fight. You'll see his student throw a punch and stand there while the teacher winds and twists his way through three or four techniques that look pretty cool until you try them against someone who is not cooperating.

Or the instructor will try to appear supernatural, as if his "chi" gives him an edge.

The old school masters in China who know the advanced stuff don't teach the way we do -- they hold knowledge in and don't really do much in their videos except demonstrate movement (with no real teaching). The language barrier is also a problem. Let's face it -- they just aren't that into teaching you their advanced material. It's a cultural thing. They want your money, but don't expect to get much of their art in return.

BaguaDVD-1-250As of the writing of this blog post, I have put together four Bagua DVDs -- the Basic Skills (crucial), the Basic Building Blocks for Self Defense, the Eight Main Palms Form and the Swimming Body Form. Both of the latter DVDs include instruction on the movements of the form plus some of the fighting applications. I also have two DVDs that teach foundational skills required for success in Bagua, Xingyi or Taiji -- my Internal Strength and Silk-Reeling DVDs. I began putting my knowledge on video 10 years ago, and it has taken me this long to even begin approaching the advanced material.

If you are really interested in learning Bagua, you'll need to spend months or years practicing the basic skills, just as you would spend months, or years, working on a jab, hook, uppercut and a right cross if you took up boxing. You would spend years working on dribbling, ball handling, a jump shot, and a layup if you took up basketball.

In the end, Bagua is just like any fighting art. It's a lot prettier in a form than it is in actual fighting, where it relies on simple concepts used in creative, fast-changing ways. In my opinion, the old masters who built reputations using Bagua in real fighting in Chinese villages were simply good fighters using simple techniques in skillful ways.

So how do you develop advanced Bagua technique? My first recommendation, if you really want to learn, is to focus on the basics and spend some time. As you do, the advanced techniques will be more clear. But you need to start by really studying Internal Strength (ground path, peng, silk-reeling, whole body movement, opening/closing the kua, and Dan T'ien rotation) before studying Bagua basics. And then you must work on circle-walking, mother palms, tea-serving, and a dozen other skills before you can even consider advanced techniques.

If you were handed a paint brush, would you be ready to paint a masterpiece? By giving you basic instruction on DVD and on my website, I am handing you the brush. I was handed this brush decades ago. How much of our lives we commit to that brush -- and struggling through the basic principles, strokes and techniques -- will determine if we will ever go beyond doodling.