William C.C. Chen's Daughter Says I Am Arrogant

Body MechanicsWilliam C.C. Chen's daughter called me arrogant the other day. She also mentioned "gossip," and implied that I do not understand what I was reading.

At first, I couldn't believe it. Then, I thought it was funny. But the more I thought about it, the more bizarre and creepy it became.

Here is what happened.

I pulled a book from my martial arts library this weekend: "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan," by William C.C. Chen.

Since body mechanics is something I am very interested in, and somewhat knowledgeable about, I wanted to read his take on it. 

I respect all teachers, unless they claim supernatural powers. I have always heard very good things about William C.C. Chen. His name is among the most famous of American tai chi teachers. You have to admire someone who has done so much to spread tai chi in America.

On the back of the book, he writes, "My book.....deals with the human body under the action of given forces and is based on practical physics such as body leverage and the hydraulic pressures which exist in our body."

Great! I opened the book and began to read it for his explanation of body mechanics.

The book is short. There is background on the art, including a disappointing section that attributes the origin of the art to Cheng San Feng, despite the fact that there is no evidence he existed. There seems to be a reluctance among some Yang style branches to admit that tai chi originated with the Chen family, although this book does mention Chen Changxing, who taught the family art to Yang Luchan.

I look at the "Cheng San Feng" legend to be mainly perpetuated by tai chi politics. Just admit the art originated in the Chen Village. What's the problem with that?

The book briefly discusses relaxation, tension and developing speed, but before long it goes into photos of William C.C. Chen's 60-movement form. A step-by-step approach, with instruction such as "Shift weight to left leg 100%. Turn body 45 degrees to the right. Turn left foot out on heel 90 degrees. Extend left palm forward slightly, facing down."

But there was nothing about body mechanics. 

I put a photo of the book cover on my Internal Fighting Arts Facebook page and commented on how the book contains no mention of body mechanics. I did not insult Master Chen personally, it was a post about a book called "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan" that does not discuss body mechanics.

Isn't that fair? It was a very short review to let people know not to buy this book if you are looking for information on body mechanics.

Apparently, Tiffany Chen did not think it was fair. One of her friends tipped her off to the post. She wrote:

"Everyone's entitled to their opinion... however, if you're only looking for the words "body mechanics". Body Mechanics requires understanding the actual physics of movement and weight shifting of the body. Not everyone can grasp everyone's else's ideas, especially in writing. But, given the popularity of my father's book as a learning tool for those studying Tai Chi, this is just somebody's opinion with a few other people who agree and they are entitled to express that. Life is always filled with a rainbow of perspectives. People like to talk and most often people like to talk down about the accomplishments of others because it makes them feel good. We all have our own medicine. Mine is listening, learning, always finding a reason to smile and moving on. Thank you for bringing this to my attention Brian Sherman. I was raised to only speak when there was something nice to say and just to work hard, so that's what I do. Gossip always reminds me of my Father's Golden Words."

I have always heard that her father is a very nice man. Another visitor to the Facebook page mentioned that her father never said a negative word about anyone. She replied:

"Yes, this is very true... his humble, golden nature is how he approaches anything and everything in life. He has never spoken a negative word about anyone ever and he never tolerates anyone speaking negatively about anyone else, he simply says "it's ok, maybe we just don't understand, doesn't mean anyone is wrong". I just don't appreciate the arrogance of those who will very opinionatedly speak on my father and our method without ever having met any of us or visited our school... it's quite a lofty thing to wear your eyes so high on your head. Then again, maybe this how people motivate themselves to do better than others, so if that is the goal here, then great. Perhaps I just don't understand..."

I was simply astounded, and so I asked Ms. Chen to let me know which parts of the book contained information about body mechanics and I would apologize if I was wrong, but she did not respond to my request.

I read her comments again, and realized that she did not directly address me. That struck me as incredibly passive-aggressive.

Then I went onto Amazon and checked out the user reviews of the book. There were some 2-star reviews that indicated there was nothing about body mechanics in the book.

For some reason, Ms. Chen had not replied to those people to tell them how arrogant they are for spreading "gossip."

Here is how a review works. You write a book, make a DVD, record a song, produce a movie or a play, and people review it. It is even better when someone who knows the subject (body mechanics of tai chi, for example) writes a review of it. Does the book live up to its title? Does the title even apply to the contents? Should tai chi students invest in the book?

A review typically serves as a heads-up to potential customers. It did not discuss her father personally or his "method." 

I studied Yang style for more than a decade. I won a gold medal at the 1990 AAU Kung Fu National Championships performing the Yang 24 form. I have studied Chen style and its body mechanics for nearly 20 years. That is a total of 30 years studying, practicing, competing with and teaching tai chi.

So here is how Ms. Chen could have responded to my short review that included no personal criticism of her father or his art whatsoever.

She should have said something like, "I am sorry my father's book did not meet your expectations. Let me suggest a couple of other of his books or videos that will have the information you are seeking."

And then tell me which books or videos have information on body mechanics.

The honest thing to do would be to admit, "Yes, the book is a lot more about the 60-movement form than it is about body mechanics." 

Boom! That would not be difficult, would it?

But martial arts is a lot like religion. Teachers become deities. If you dare criticize their work, you are seen as attacking them personally, along with each and every student. And this is especially true if you are an "outsider." It's us versus them, don't you know? We are the best and naturally, nobody else understands what we are doing. Right?

Shame on them. That attitude does nothing positive for your art, and it certainly does not honor your instructor.

I believe in real-world discussions, martial artist to martial artist. No instructor deserves to be stroked when they are phoning it in, and that includes any instructor. By the way, I have learned face-to-face from some Chen instructors whose DVDs contain virtually no real instruction. That is why I began making DVDs. I was tired of buying videos that left me with more questions than I had before. I was tired of tai chi books that delved more into woo-woo than reality. 

But the entire point of my post is very simple. If I buy a James Bond book, I expect 007 to make an appearance in the story. If I buy a book on refrigerator repair, I expect to get some pointers about how to fix my refrigerator. 

And if I buy a book called "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan," and body mechanics are not discussed, it is worth a heads-up to other potential buyers.

I still believe what I hear about William C.C. Chen being a nice man, but he should have called his book "Instruction for the 60-Movement Form" instead of "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan."

So, dear readers, would you like to learn about the body mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan?

You can learn about body mechanics in depth from Mike Sigman's videos and written materials. He was a major influence on me. And you won't find any woo-woo in his instruction.

You will also learn about body mechanics in depth in my Internal Strength and Silk-Reeling DVDs, and in every DVD that I produce. And if you don't like a purchase you make from me for any reason, even if you simply think I am ugly and my mother dresses me funny, just send it back and I will refund your money, and I will not criticize you personally. I will not call you arrogant, accuse you of gossip, or accuse you of not understanding what I am teaching.

No. When I receive negative critiques of my work, I think about it and think about how to make it better next time. And if the critique is accurate, as mine was, the honest response from someone who is secure about their art would be to say, "Yes, you might be right about that."

Wouldn't that be the type of emotional balance that would honor an art such as Tai Chi Chuan, and an instructor as accomplished as William C.C. Chen?

 


Internal "Energies" and Takedowns -- The Holy Grail of Tai Chi Self-Defense

Ken Gullette using tai chi to break opponent's structure
Breaking my opponent's structure and controlling his center.

The Holy Grail of Tai Chi self-defense -- in my opinion -- is when you can "feel" an opponent's energy when you are in a clinch and you can break his structure and use Tai Chi "energies" to take him down.

On Saturday, about a dozen martial artists of different styles gathered at Morrow's Academy of Martial Arts in Moline, Illinois and we practiced some of the basic concepts and energies. We recorded the workshop and the video is already going up on my website -- www.internalfightingarts.com -- and I am putting it together for a DVD.

Anyone can use muscular force to pick someone up and throw them to the ground.

But can you use Tai Chi energies to unbalance, uproot, and control your opponent's center so you can take them down?

You have to be able to do a few things:

** Determine how your opponent's center is turning

** Break his structure to unbalance him

** Have your hands and legs in place to help his center turn

** Then turn his center and take it where it wants to go.

The term "energies" has been misinterpreted. Peng, Lu, Ji, An and the other energies are actually "methods" of dealing with an opponent's force. When force comes in, you can roll it back and then press him to unbalance him. That is one example of how energies are used.

You learn to maintain your balance as your opponent loses his, and then you counter.

Colin Frye, in blue, works with a student at the Internal Energies and Takedowns workshop.
Colin Frye, in blue, works with a young student on takedowns.

You can't learn all this in a three-hour workshop, but it is fun to see people from other styles of tai chi and martial arts as their faces light up and they realize they are experiencing something really different.

It is also refreshing to meet people who put aside their "style" for an afternoon, empty their cups and try something else. One of the reasons I do it this way is to educate others on the internal arts, show them that these arts are not as "soft" as the popular image would have them believe, and to add training partners to the videos.

Push hands starts with the basic patterns, working on form and sensitivity. Gradually, you work into applications, then moving, freestyle, and in the end, learning to take your opponent to the ground while using the various energies of Tai Chi to do it. Chen push hands is the bridge between form and fighting. 

I have been working on these principles for a long time. To my knowledge, no other Tai Chi instructor has actually put this information on video in a step-by-step way. It is not really an "ancient Chinese secret," but it is a place that few Tai Chi students get to on their journey. 

This is my mission for the rest of 2017.

 


Workshop on Internal "Energy" and Takedowns on Saturday, Oct. 7 in Moline, IL

Chen-Xiaoxing-Ken-Gullette-2006-webI was doing push hands with Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing in my basement in 2006. We were doing a push hands pattern that includes a step, forward and back.

I stepped forward, maintaining contact with his arms.

Suddenly, I was slammed down on the basement floor. On my back!

I was surprised, to say the least. I got up and touched hands with him again. I stepped forward as we did the pattern. I stepped back. Then, as the pattern continued, I stepped forward.

BAM! I was on my back again!

What in the world was he doing? I didn't really feel him do much of anything.

I got up and we started again. Within a few seconds, WHAM! On my back again.

I laughed. Chen Xiaoxing laughed. I got back up, we started again, and within a few seconds, WHAM! On my back.

I laughed harder. He laughed harder. I got back up, fascinated.

He must have done it ten times before I realized what he was doing. He was controlling my center, breaking my structure, making me turn a certain way, and reaching around to grab my shoulder and keep me turning that way.

It was one of the most important moments of my martial arts career.

A lot of tai chi (taiji) students never get to the point where they can use internal body mechanics and internal "energy" in takedowns.

Often, their teachers only teach them tai chi for health and meditation.

Teachers often focus on "chi cultivation" instead of the main purpose of tai chi -- a martial art.

All of the energies that they talk about in the internal arts are not really energies coursing through your body. This is a misinterpretation.

The different energies -- peng, lu, ji, an, etc. -- are methods of dealing with an opponent's force.

Tai Chi is also a close-up fighting art. The closer your opponent gets, the better you can use the sensitivity developed in push hands and lead him into a position of vulnerability.

Your goal is to "listen" to his force (sense where it is going and its intensity), adapt to it, neutralize it, and counter with a self-defense application.

Most people think of tuishou, or "push hands," as a sensitivity drill with a partner. It is much more than that. And the closer you get to your opponent, the more you learn to "listen" to his energy and then, break him and put him on the ground.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, I will hold a 3-hour workshop where we will look at how these concepts are used to take your opponent down.

It does not matter what style of tai chi you study -- in fact, this will be useful for any style of martial artist.

Here are some of the things you will learn:

--How to break an opponent's structure.

--How to control an opponent's center.

--How internal "energies" are used in takedowns.

--How to unbalance your opponent with less force.

--7 ways your legs are used in takedowns.

The workshop will be held at Morrow's Academy of Martial Arts at 1321 5th Avenue in downtown Moline, IL.

The cost of this workshop is only $40. All proceeds go to Morrow's Academy for the use of the building. 

The workshop will be videotaped for a DVD. All participants will receive a copy of the DVD when it is produced within two months. I don't charge much for my workshops. I want people to come. I make my money on the back end. The video shot will be used on my website and in a DVD. It's a win-win situation for everyone involved.

There is a lot more to it than the techniques that Chen Xiaoxing used 11 years ago to give me a new perspective on my basement floor. But the insight I gained that night started me on the road to exploring, thinking, studying, and practicing different ways to use my opponent's energy against him, using the methods (energies) of internal movement.

I love this stuff, and you will have a new appreciation for it if you come to the workshop, then get the DVD, and keep practicing.

If you have any questions, email me at ken@internalfightingarts.com.

If you come to the workshop, I will show you exactly how Chen Xiaoxing put me on my back over and over in my basement. You will learn to do it, too. 


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. 

 


A Guided Chaos Workshop - Tai Chi Fighting Insights from the Outside

Guided Chaos Workshop Teachers 9-17-2016
Left to right: Kevin Harrell, Joe Martarano, Ken, and Lt. Col. Al Ridenhour.

Those of us who practice Tai Chi (Taiji) as a fighting art pursue concepts that represent a holy grail. They are written about in the classics, and spoken of in quotes by long-dead masters including Chen Wangting, who supposedly said:

"I know everyone, but no one knows me."

When I first became interested in the Kung Fu TV show back in the early Seventies, one of the interesting quotes from the show was:

"A Shaolin monk, when reached for, cannot be felt."

When I was 18 and watching that show, I thought that meant something mystical, as if a Shaolin monk vanished in front of you. But the quote resonated with me.

I have done push hands with some Chinese instructors, including Chen Bing and Chen Xiaoxing, who, when I pushed on them, they disappeared and very quickly I found myself off-balance (or on the floor). When I reached for them, they could not be felt.

In other words, I could not find their center, but they could find mine.

For a long time, I've been working to get better at maintaining my center while I control my opponent's center, setting him up for a counter. There are muscular ways of achieving this, and more subtle ways. And so, when my friend Evan Yeung introduced me to Guided Chaos, and its practice of "contact flow," I immediately saw the connection between this aspect of their art and the goal that eludes so many Tai Chi folks who end up using muscle to overpower their opponents, rather than relaxing, sensing, flowing, and controlling the opponent's center.

On September 17, 2016, I spent a day in Cincinnati working on contact flow with three talented Guided Chaos instructors: Lt. Col. Al Ridenhour, Kevin Harrell, and Joe Martarano. It was my second time working with Al and Kevin, and the first time I have met Joe. I hope it isn't the last. These guys are great martial artists.

Another important phrase that we often repeat in martial arts is from Bruce Lee, who borrowed from Taoist philosophy when he urged people to "be water." Pour it into a cup and it becomes the cup, Bruce said. Water can flow, and it can crash.

"Be water, my friend."

Contact flow, developed by the founder of Guided Chaos, John Perkins, teaches you to relax and flow around obstacles, redirecting incoming force, moving and maintaining your root, maintaining your center, and, as you flow and find your way, you knock the crap out of your opponent.

This is what Tai Chi is supposed to be. Tai Chi is about fighting, but it aims for more subtle principles and body mechanics than some arts do.

Chen Tai Chi push hands can be brutal. I know people who have gone to Chen Village and come back nursing broken bones. There are strikes, throws, joint locks and more. A good pluck can cause whiplash. If you aren't careful, or if you get a little aggressive, someone will need to heal up for a while. But in the beginning, you should develop sensitivity and be able to move from form to fighting. To do that well, you should develop subtle skills. At least that's what everyone talks about, but few seem to do it.

Practicing contact flow triggered insights and connected some of the dots of Tai Chi in an effective way. A year ago, after my first Guided Chaos workshop, it changed the way I thought about push hands, and this year, it has changed the way I practice push hands.

You should be able to learn some of these subtle skills, but it's not easy to find good push hands instructors, or experienced push hands partners. Another problem we face is that Americans simply do not grow up learning the concept of relaxing and flowing while maintaining the ground, peng, and using the spiraling movements of silk-reeling. Instead, we tense up and want to smash like the Hulk. It's funny to me now when I push hands with someone from outside the internal arts -- how tense they are. But that is how we all feel until we learn, and practice, practice, practice.

Guided Chaos - Ken - Evan
My friend Evan Yeung introduced me to Guided Chaos.

One time, around 1999, a Chinese gongfu "master" came to the Quad Cities to hold a workshop at my friend John Morrow's school. I attended, and at one point during the workshop, the interpreter walked over to me and said, "Master Wong says you have gongfu. He would like to visit your school and practice with you."

I was very flattered. When he visited my school a few days later, he had me put my hand on his chest, and he put his on mine. He wanted me to push him off-balance. That was the first time I ever pushed on someone whose center could not be found, and he wasn't nearly as skilled as the Chen family. It was eye-opening. But he had no idea how to explain it to me. So the concept remained like the Shaolin monk. I reached for it, but could not find it.

Guided Chaos has at least part of the answer, but as a combat art, it is about a lot more than contact flow. It is a no-nonsense fighting art and they will flat out kick your butt. I highly recommend any of their workshops.

I could only spend one day at this year's Cincinnati workshop because I had to return to teach my journalism class. Even one day was enough to inform me on some of the next steps in my own development. I am continuing to work on the relaxed strength, moving, centering, and spiraling that makes up good internal arts, but also allows you to flow like water, remain "out of reach" by your opponent, and then, as Bruce Lee also said, "I don't hit. IT hits by itself."

I can fight, but just fighting is no longer the goal for me, especially at my age. There is something else, skills that have been elusive.

I was working with Joe Martarano at one point during the workshop, and I realized that I was repeating some habits that have been part of my fighting but were not as efficient as I was trying to achieve.

"I need to empty my cup," I said, scolding myself. But Joe disagreed.

"Empty your cup?" he asked. "You already emptied your cup or you wouldn't be here today."

Good point. 

You never know when you will taste someone else's art and learn something that contributes to your own art.

 


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?  


New Chen Tai Chi Laojia Yilu Instruction on DVD -- 5 Hours of Detailed Instruction on 2 DVDs

Laojia Yilu Cover Front 250I have been working for more than a year on my newest DVD on the Chen Tai Chi Laojia Yilu form. Now, it is finally done! Five hours of detailed, step-by-step instruction is now available in a 2-disc set.

For years, members of my website and customers of my Chen 19 DVD and Chen 38 DVD have asked for a DVD version of Laojia Yilu instruction. I did video lessons for the website in 2009 and 2010, but wanted to reshoot it in widescreen format for the DVD (technology has changed a little).

Laojia Yilu is considered the "essence" of Chen family Taijiquan. It means "Old Frame First Form." I began studying the form around 2000, and along the way I have had coaching from Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing, and my instructors, who were students and disciples of the Chen family. 

I have been teaching the form for more than a decade, but due to health setbacks along the way, it has taken me a while to decide I was ready to put it on DVD.

I had great instruction and I took a lot of notes. I hold nothing back. The instruction on these DVDs is my effort to pass it on after years of hard work. If you are a disciple of one of the Chen masters, this DVD is not intended for you. For most students of the art, I believe they will find nuggets on these DVDs that would take years to get from some instructors, if you got them at all. For only $24.99, I don't think you will find a better investment, even if it takes you just one or two baby steps forward. 

Ken-Gullette-Chen-Xiaoxing
Getting Laojia Yilu instruction from Chen Xiaoxing in 2005.

As usual, I put a lot of emphasis on internal body mechanics, infusing each of the movements with the ground path and peng jin, whole-body movement, silk-reeling, Dan T'ien rotation and opening/closing of the kua. I try to drive home the body mechanics with each movement. This is NOT just a DVD where the instructor shows a movement at different angles and then doesn't explain the movement in-depth.

When you look at Chen masters, each one performs a little differently than the next. Their stylistic differences make some movements appear quite different. Some are more conservative and others include more stylistic flourishes.

Regardless of who your teacher is, and how differently their movements appear, the fundamental concepts and body mechanics should be the same. Because of this, you will learn from this DVD set. And if you don't, just send it back for a refund. 

You will see a front and back view of the complete form, then each movement is broken down in detail. You will also learn as I coach a student who has never learned Laojia Yilu, and you will avoid beginner mistakes as you watch me correct him in his movement and structure.

It is like going through an in-depth class with actual instruction that goes beneath the surface of the movement. There are even a few fighting applications (but the applications of Laojia Yilu are already available on my Tai Chi Fighting Applications DVDs).

As I shot and edited these DVDs, I put the videos on my website. One member who has already learned Laojia Yilu called them "a revelation," and another was stunned by the detail. That's the kind of feedback I like.

As usual, shipping is free anywhere in the world and there is an iron clad, no hassle Money Back Guarantee if you are not satisfied for any reason.

Click this button to go to a secure order page, and check out the clip below to sample part of the DVD.

 

 


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.


How to Use Intent in Your Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Bagua Movements

I am currently updating my instructional videos for the Chen Tai Chi form Laojia Yilu, replacing video shot between 2008 and 2010. As I was shooting instruction on Sunday for the second movement of the form -- Buddha's Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar -- the concept of "intent" came to mind as something a lot of people misunderstand.

A lot of Tai Chi instructors talk about "intent," but too many students are left with the impression that intent is somehow connected to "cultivating chi" or other mystical, healing energy nonsense.

Let's cut out the noise, eliminate the middleman, and cut to the chase.

"Intent" means exactly what it implies. What is the intent of the movement? What are you intending to do with this movement?

The answer is almost always a self-defense application.

Tai Chi was created as a martial art. Every movement in the form is a self-defense movement. 

Buddhas Warrior 1When you perform Tai Chi movements with the intent of self-defense, it informs how your "energy" should be used, how you focus your body mechanics, and where you put your arms and legs. You feel completely different when you move if you are thinking about self-defense rather than becoming One with the universe or trying to be healed by some mystical, cosmic force.

Let me show an example of how the intent of a movement impacts the move. There is one movement that almost always comes second in a Chen Tai Chi form. It is called "Buddha's Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar." 

Buddhas Warrior 2In the first part of the movement -- which contains several parts -- you raise the arms at an angle on the left side of your body. In the top photo, you have just finished the Opening movement. In the second photo, you have raised your arms to the left side. But your arms are angled to the left.

Many beginners go too far to the left, until their arms are pointing sideways.

If you go too far to the left, you violate the "intent" of the movement, which is primarily to grab an incoming punch, get your hands on your opponent's punching arm, and either break it or control it some other way, such as an armbar takedown.

Buddhas Warrior 3Let me show you. In the third photo, if a punch comes in and I move my hands up to the left side too far, I get a bloody nose. And believe me, my nose is hard to miss.

The last photo shows where my hands need to rise to intercept and grab the incoming arm. I deflect and grab the wrist with my left hand and bring my right hand to his elbow.

Buddhas Warrior 4This can be a strike, holding his wrist in place and striking his elbow with the right palm. Elbows break very easily. If the situation does not call for that level of violence, you can do an armbar instead. This is where your hands should be at this point in the movement -- at an angle, not too far to the side. Why? Because it doesn't make sense from a martial perspective to take them too far.

And so, your body, arms, hands, legs, etc. are more likely to be in the proper place if you are able to execute a self-defense application while using your energy in the most efficient internal way.

All of the other principles of Tai Chi are still in play here -- the internal and external harmonies, the body mechanics, the "energies," etc. But the intent of the movement drives it all, and the intent is the application.

If you are not practicing the fighting applications of Tai Chi, there is no way you are going to understand the true intent of the movements. No way. End of story. No matter what your teacher tells you while he is urging you to cultivate chi.

And here is another dirty little secret. As long as you are thinking about cultivating chi and you do not learn the fighting application, you will never have a clear idea on how to properly perform Buddha's Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar or any other movement in the internal arts.

Here is another little secret. If chi actually does exist (and you know how I feel about that), it will be flowing and cultivating if you do the movement properly and if you are practicing the fighting application in a way that uses proper body mechanics. It is much easier to "feel" the "chi flow" when you perform an application and understand "Oh, THIS is the way I close into the kua and use whole body movement to knock this guy over my knee!" Those lightbulb moments will illuminate the "secrets" of Tai Chi for you a lot faster than pondering abstract, flowery descriptions in the Tai Chi Classics.

On my online videos and my DVDs, fighting applications are as essential as the body mechanics of the movements. In fact, the body mechanics of the movements are often understood much more clearly by showing how they work in a self-defense situation. The entire feeling of a movement changes when you work it in a self-defense scenario. That is why I teach applications as I teach the movement -- in person, on my website, and in most of my DVDs. In fact, if you want a really good understanding of Chen Tai Chi applications, many of them also adaptable to Hsing-I and Bagua, check out my 3-disc DVD series on Tai Chi Fighting Applications.

The concept of "intent" is a simple one. The real art, and the real complexity, comes when you try to apply internal body mechanics properly in both movement and self-defense.


Important Internal Body Mechanics Come Together in Silk-Reeling Exercises for Tai Chi

SRE Workshop 2
Leading a workshop on Silk-Reeling Energy March 7, 2015.

When I had my first class in Tai Chi as a student, I had been involved in martial arts for 15 years. Tai Chi was different. For more than a decade, I studied Yang style, and I was taught that I should be relaxing and "cultivating chi." Then I met Jim and Angela Criscimagna, my first Chen style teachers, and I realized within an hour that I had to start over.

The body mechanics of real Tai Chi are very different than other "hard" martial arts that I had studied. I had been a student of Shaolin, Taekwondo, Wushu (Tien Shan Pai), and I had practiced karate on my own. I had also studied Xingyi, Bagua, and, as I mentioned above, Yang Tai Chi.

Nothing prepared me for the nuances and subtlety of Chen family Taijiquan. Over time, as I learned from Jim and Angela, the late Mark Wasson, and masters such as

SRE Workshop 1
Explaining how to establish the ground path with John Morrow and Ron Frye.

Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing, Ren Guangyi and others, I began to isolate six crucial body mechanics that you should know to get started. Another major influence was Mike Sigman and the knowledge about ground path and peng jin that he was spreading, in workshops, videos and online writings.

There are many skills to learn as you study Tai Chi, Bagua, and Xingyi, but over a period of 20 years, as I was learning and teaching, these six body mechanics rose to the top, in my mind, as the most important for internal movement:

  • Establishing and maintaining the ground path
  • Maintaining Peng Jin at all times
  • Whole-Body Movement
  • Silk-Reeling (spiraling movement through the body)
  • Dan T'ien Rotation
  • Opening and closing the Kua

These six body mechanics are explained and demonstrated on my membership website and on my Internal Strength DVD, which I am revising and updating this week. If you have not been taught this information, you should learn it before trying to move forward in your practice. There are many internal students, especially Yang style students in the world who have no idea of the body mechanics required by Tai Chi.

SRE Workshop 6
Silk-Reeling exercises, like all movements in Tai Chi, have self-defense applications.

On Saturday, I taught a workshop on Silk-Reeling Exercises, giving participants a glimpse of each of the body mechanics and how they come together in these exercises. The video from the workshop will also be on my website.

Silk-Reeling Energy is also called "San Ssu Jin" or San Ssu Chin." But do not be fooled by the word "energy." The way the word is used in the internal arts, it does not mean some mystical energy coursing through your body -- "energy" is a method of dealing with force. There are many "jins" or energies in Taiji and Bagua. Each of those jins is a different method of dealing with your opponent's force. They are physical skills that anyone can learn with proper instruction and a lot of practice.

There are many physical things to work on when practicing the internal arts, such as keeping the head up, keeping the shoulders and hips level, the internal and external harmonies, remaining relaxed but ready -- but your internal arts cannot have quality unless you understand these six body mechanics.

I was lucky to receive very good instruction from my Chen style teachers, but as I started teaching with this new information that I learned about body mechanics through Chen Taiji, I wanted to break it down in a way that made sense to me and to new students, isolating these body mechanics and looking at each of them in every movement. It still takes many years to develop skill. I am still trying to get better at all of it.

In the next couple of weeks, in a series of blog posts, I will revisit each of the individual body mechanics and discuss them. Subscribe to this blog to receive them as they are published. If you are in a hurry, check out the Internal Strength and Silk-Reeling DVDs (links above) or try two weeks free in my membership site to explore videos and ebooks on these mechanics and principles.