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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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

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

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

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

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

The six fundamental body mechanics for internal power include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Chen Pan Ling Lineage: the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Dan Djurdjevic

Dan Djurdjevic and Chen Yun Ching
Dan Djurdjevic (standing) with his teacher Chen Yun Ching.

One of the things I admire about the guests on my Internal Fighting Arts podcast is the determination they have, and the pains they go through, to learn and to develop their martial arts skill.

The latest interview -- with Dan Djurdjevic -- is no exception. Dan is considered by his teacher, Chen Yun Ching, to be a master instructor in the style of Chen's father, Chen Pan Ling.

Dan lives and teaches in Perth, Australia. He and his brother have a school in Perth called Traditional Fighting Arts and he has an excellent blog called "The Way of Least Resistance."

This wide-ranging interview touches on subjects including the teaching style of Chen Yun Ching and modern-day self-defense.

As an attorney with experience as a prosecutor, Dan has an interesting angle on self-defense. The section on "flipping the script" is outstanding; a tactic that every martial artist needs to hear.

Click this link to listen to the podcast on Audello, or to download it to your hard drive.

You can also listen to the Internal Fighting Arts podcast and subscribe to it on iTunes.

 

 


Jeet Kune Do Instructor Tim Tackett -- the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview

Tim TackettLast summer, I was looking through my martial arts library and I ran across a couple of old Hsing-I books written by Tim Tackett in the '70s and '80s.

I thought, I wonder if he is still alive. In all these decades, I never made the connection between this Tim Tackett and the one who co-authored a couple of great books on Jeet Kune Do.

So I did some Google research and realized it was the same guy as the Jeet Kune Do instructor. I sent him an email and he agreed to an interview for the Internal Fighting Arts podcast.

I've always had a lot of respect for JKD. I studied "The Tao of Jeet Kune Do" cover-to-cover back when it first came out in the original hardbound version in 1975 and tried to adapt some of the techniques and philosophies. 

As I got older, attacking on recovery and between my opponent's punches (I believe in JKD that is on the "half beat") became essential to winning tournament sparring matches.

Tim Tackett began studying kung-fu while living in Taiwan in the early '60s. He was an early pioneer when most Americans Tim Tackett 4had no clue what kung-fu was about. He received his senior instructor certification from Dan Inosanto in 1973.

He co-authored a couple of great JKD books and he has written a couple on his own. At age 75, he still teaches a Wednesday night class in his garage in Redlands, California.

It is my honor to present this edition of the Internal Fighting Arts podcast, featuring an interview with Tim. Follow this link to listen online or download the file -- Tim Tackett interview on Audello.

Use this link for the Tim Tackett interview on iTunes.


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

Pittman
Robert Allen Pittman

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 


Xingyiquan from Form to Fighting - Pi Chuan Splitting Deflecting Block

When I teach the internal arts - Xingyiquan, Chen Taiji and Baguazhang - I teach fighting applications with the movements.

It is very important to learn how to move from form to self-defense. A positive learning environment helps, where your partner is trying to help you internalize the meaning and the application of the movement.

My website - www.internalfightingarts.com - has more than 750 video lessons and downloadable pdf documents.

This is a short clip from some of the videos we are currently shooting and putting on the site. It shows a Pi Chuan cutting block and deflects and redirects your partner's energy, setting you up for a counter.

If you enjoy this, visit the site and try two weeks free with absolutely no risk and no contracts.

 


Xingyiquan Self-Defense and the Pursuit of Improvement

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

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

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

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

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


The 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?  


12 Animals of Hsing-I Chuan -- DVD Now Available for 2-Day Amazon Prime Shipping

12 Animals DVDI have been making my instructional DVDs available for the Free 2-Day Shipping with Amazon Prime, and the latest to be offered this way is my "12 Animals of Hsing-I Chuan" DVD.

The DVD takes an in-depth look at each of the 12 short individual animal forms of traditional Hsing-I (also spelled Xingyi). Each movement is broken down, and extensive fighting applications are shown for each of the animals.

The 12 Animal forms are:

1. Dragon

2. Tiger

3. Monkey

4. Horse

5. Chicken

6. Harrier (Hawk)

7. Swallow

8. Water Lizard

9. Chinese Ostrich

10. Snake

11. Eagle

12. Bear (Eagle and Bear are combined into one form)

Each of the animals has its own "essence" for fighting. The DVD includes 2 hours of instruction, including:

** Demonstrations of each form.

** A breakdown of each movement with an emphasis on internal body mechanics.

** Fighting applications of each movement that will enable you to use the 12 animals in real self-defense.

These are short forms but they are challenging and physically demanding. I teach them to students who have reached "black sash" level.

Here is the link to my "12 Animals of Hsing-I Chuan" DVD on Amazon. Check it out if you are an Amazon Prime member. 

 


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.