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?

 


The Martial Arts Teacher -- New Book by Jonathan Bluestein is a Great Addition to Your Library

Martial Arts Teacher BookJonathan Bluestein has written a new book about being a martial arts teacher: The Martial Arts Teacher: A Practical Guide to a Noble Way.

I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of the book. It is a great addition to your martial arts library, just like his earlier masterpiece, Research of Martial Arts.

When I began studying martial arts in 1973, I had a dream of one day owning and teaching at my own school. I finally began teaching in 1997, in rented space, but in 2005, my wife and I bought our own building for our school.

It was very challenging for many reasons -- working full-time in addition to running a school; having to put up with students who weren't serious because I needed to pay the bills; dealing with students who did not practice or show respect to the teacher or to other students; playing psychologist, motivator, teacher, mentor, and friend.

For many reasons, running a martial arts school in 2017 is different than it was in 1973. At that time, the martial arts were mysterious and new. Bruce Lee was bringing a completely new way of fighting to our attention in the United States (and elsewhere). Suddenly, martial arts schools were popping up everywhere and they were filled to capacity with students eager to try this new, "deadly" way of self-defense.

Now, young people grow up in a different world. Martial arts are part of the wallpaper, taught in the local strip mall and at the YMCA. It is old news. 

But for that reason, running a martial arts school is more challenging than it used to be, especially if you want to teach an authentic traditional art and not become a McDojo, where the owner is worried more about signing the next student to a contract than teaching a high-quality art.

Jonathan's book provides insights from his own teaching experience that can help you become the teacher your students need. He addresses a wide range of topics, from developing an atmosphere of equality to setting expectations of quality, how to handle new students, how to be a mentor and much more.

The book includes many outstanding pieces of advice that I never considered, including a tip to keep the written curriculum of the entire art on a wall inside the school. I mean, "Duh!" Why didn't I think of that? It provides every student with a constant road map, and will help with their own inner motivation.

The Martial Arts Teacher is a book that is instructional, informative, and even philosophical. One of my favorite quotes from the book is from Confucius: "True knowledge is knowing the extent of one's ignorance." 

Being a good martial artist does not guarantee, in any way, that you will be a good teacher. All of us need ideas, input and guidance to help us develop and become the kind of teacher that our students will point to as someone who was an important part of their lives. Jonathan's book is one stepping stone on your own journey of personal development.

 

 

 


Disciple of Chen Qingzhou: the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Chen Taijiquan Instructor Mark Chen

Mark ChenI get to meet a lot of dedicated martial artists when I do interviews for my Internal Fighting Arts podcast.

I've had Mark Chen's book, "Old Frame Chen Family Taijiquan" on my bookshelf for years, but the only thing I knew about him was that he is a disciple of Chen Qingzhou. When he was recommended recently for the podcast, I pulled his book out again and realized he had a refreshingly clear perspective on Taiji -- down-to-earth and free of mystical woo woo.

He agreed to talk with me a few days ago, and gave a very good interview about training with traditional martial arts instructors. It was a very enjoyable interview, especially his stories of training with "old school" teachers.

Mark has also studied with other gongfu masters, including Guo Lianyin, Bill Gee, Chen Youze, and Zhang XueXin.

Follow this link to listen to the interview with Mark Chen on Audello. You can listen online or download the file.

It will be on iTunes within a few hours.

This is the 29th Internal Fighting Arts podcast I have done, and I am enjoying it more than ever. I get a great feeling in promoting these instructors, who have worked so hard and gone through such pains to learn Taiji, Xingyi, Bagua, and more. I'm very happy to give them a spotlight and provide information that listeners don't get in the national martial arts magazines. It is also fun to provide "real-world" interviews. I try to peel back the curtain so listeners can get some behind-the-scenes information about the real world of high-quality internal gongfu. 

Enjoy!


Is Tai Chi a Healing Art? Interview with Author of Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi - Peter Wayne

HarvardTai Chi is a martial art. Every movement is a powerful fighting application for self-defense.

But is it also a healing art? Does it have benefits that are more powerful than normal exercise, and if it does, do those benefits come from the slow, controlled nature of Tai Chi and the mindful, meditative components and from the flow of chi?

I would guess that more people consider it to be a healing art than a martial art. But is it really? Or when it is done in slow motion, is it one of the most low-impact exercises that elderly people can do to get them moving and to get their minds off their problems?

Do we think of it as a healing art based on outdated stories and science that doesn't hold up?

And do clinical trials show benefits that can be attributed simply to exercise and calming meditation, or is it something more? Are the health benefits of Tai Chi anything special?

Almost a year ago, I bought the Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi, by Peter Wayne, Ph.D. I began asking Peter to appear on my Internal Fighting Arts podcast last August. After the podcast last month with Dr. Harriet Hall, the "SkepDoc," and the heat I encountered from some in the Tai Chi community following that interview, I thought it was time to balance the scales and talk to someone who is obviously more inclined toward the "traditional" view of the art.

Last week, I was finally able to talk with Dr. Wayne for an hour. The result is this podcast, the 24th in the series.

Don't miss the final five minutes, as I clarify part of the interview and have some final thoughts that wrap up some of the issues raised in the past two podcasts.

Follow this link to listen online or download the mp3 file to your computer -- the Internal Fighting Arts podcast 24 - Peter Wayne.

 

 


Ken Gullette Author Page for Amazon Kindle Ebooks on the Internal Fighting Arts

KindleForgive me a little promotion, but I have a new author page on Amazon for my Kindle ebooks. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Gullette/e/B00J23CKYK

I try to write ebooks that are heavy on the photos, step-by-step, with straight-forward explanations of the movements, focusing on internal body mechanics. The ebooks cover Chen Taiji, Xingyi, Bagua, and Qigong.

You can read them on any device or computer, as long as you have the free Kindle app

I have 10 ebooks in the Kindle store now, with another on the way soon with fighting applications from the Laojia Yilu form.

The ebooks are priced very inexpensively to make them affordable to all. And I promise, no mystical mumbo-jumbo!


"Research of Martial Arts" Is A Worthy Book for Your Martial Arts Library - Interview with Author Jonathan Bluestein

Research of Martial ArtsThe latest Internal Fighting Arts podcast features an interview with Jonathan Bluestein, a martial artist who practices and studies Xingyiquan, among other things, and he is the author of a new book called Research of Martial Arts.

Jonathan is a serious martial artist who has worked for years to compile this book. I was skeptical when I received my copy, but it became obvious that this is a solid book and a great addition to anyone's martial arts library.

He does not subscribe to Woo Woo theories. Everything is solid and based on good martial arts, even the sections on the internal arts.

I was impressed enough to ask Jonathan to be a guest on my Internal Fighting Arts podcast. He lives in Israel, and despite the eight hour time difference, we did the interview via Skype.

Here is the link for the Internal Fighting Arts podcast #14 with Jonathan Bluestein on Audello -- listen on your computer or download the file.

Here is the link to the Internal Fighting Arts podcasts on iTunes. You can listen to specific editions of the podcast or subscribe through iTunes so that future editions will automatically download to your computer or device.

 


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. 


Cheng Style Baguazhang 8 Main Palms Form - New Kindle Ebook

Bagua 8 Main Ebook Cover 250The Cheng style Baguazhang 8 Main Palms form is the focus of my eighth Kindle ebook, available now in Amazon's Kindle Store.  This ebook has 340 photos and step-by-step instruction on every movement in this important Bagua form.

The 8 Main Palms form is the first major Bagua form that I teach my students after they have learned basic bagua skills. There are eight sections that contain a lot of information. This form is considered the essence of Baguazhang.

Each section includes a sequence that is performed twice -- once on each side. The photos show a detailed breakdown and instruction of each side.

My goal is always to create books that I would want to read as a student. One of the things I have seen in martial arts books over 40 years is a lack of detail on movements that appear to be "transitions." I try to include that detail so readers know how they get from one movement to the next. I try to leave nothing to guesswork.

The instruction focuses on body mechanics, stripping away the mystical, abstract nonsense that is in some internal arts books. A lot of that type of vague instruction is confusing and leads to misinterpretation. My goal is always to use plain language that clearly communicates the movement and mechanics.

This is Volume One of a two-part series on the 8 Main Palms form. The second volume, available by the end of the month, will focus on the self-defense applications of each movement. The ebook costs $4.99 and is available in Amazon's Kindle Store. Follow this link to read a sample and to get more information.

The ebook is a companion to the 8 Main Palms form DVD that includes step by step video instruction on the movements and their fighting applications.


Chen Taiji 19 Form Self-Defense - Video Highlights from E-book Photo Shoots

Chen 19 Apps Ebook Cover-250During the past month, we have had photo shoots for the new ebook on Amazon Kindle. It's titled Chen Taiji Self-Defense - Fighting Applications for the Chen Tai Chi 19 Form.

The book was published yesterday. It costs $4.99 and includes 239 photos and coaching on 106 self-defense applications from this short Chen Taiji form.

Fighting applications in the form include joint locks, hand strikes, punches, knee strikes, kicks, sweeps, throws, and takedowns. The photo on the cover was taken in 2008, showing an application for the closing movement of the form against a strangle. Most of the photos were taken during the past month.

Below is a video with just a few highlights of those applications. My lovely wife Nancy, the Vice President of Cuteness at our school, is the videographer. Colin Frye is my training partner. He takes a bit of punishment but he's young. He'll survive. :) If you are interested in the ebook, click the link in the first paragraph above.