Tai Chi Videos for Beginners: the Chen 19 Form DVD is an Introduction to the Original Style of Tai Chi

Chen-19-2017-250If you are looking for a great introduction to the art of Tai Chi Chuan for beginners, the Chen 19 form is a short, easy-to-learn series of movements that can be practiced both for health and for martial art.

The Chen 19 was created in the 1990s by Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang. 

The most popular tai chi form in the world is the Yang 24 simplified form that was created in Beijing to provide a standardized form. It took off because it is short and can easily be learned and practiced by Westerners who do not have the time or patience to do a longer form on a daily basis.

It seems logical that the Chen family saw this and decided to create their own form to compete with the short Yang form.

The Chen 19 is perfect. The basic movements can be learned in a weekend and it takes about five minutes to perform, easily fitting into a hectic modern workday.

I have practiced both forms. I taught the Yang 24 when I first began teaching Tai Chi, but after I switched to Chen style in 1998, the only "short" form I do is the Chen 19. I prefer the body mechanics of Chen style, and the "lively" body method.

My first Chen 19 instructional DVD came out in 2008. Last year, I revised it. I take you step-by-step through the entire form. The DVD runs just over 2-and-a-half hours. Besides solo instruction, you will also see me coach a student through the movements. You learn by watching him make mistakes and get corrected on camera. It's the next best thing to being in a live classroom setting. Each movement is taught with detail that you won't find on any other tai chi instructional dvds.

Check out a clip from the DVD here. It is available in standard and Blu-Ray versions. If you or someone you know is curious about trying Tai Chi, this is an inexpensive and convenient way to try it out.

 


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!


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.

 

 


Chen Village Taiji, Beijing Taiji, and a Reunion with Jim and Angela Criscimagna

Ken-Jim-Angela-2017
Jim and Angela Criscimagna with Ken at their home last week.

I had a great visit last week with my first (and best) Chen taiji instructors, Jim and Angela Criscimagna, at their home in Escondido, California. Nancy and I went to San Diego to attend the Social Media Marketing World conference, which I used as an excuse to see Jim and Angela and get some input on taiji.

I began studying with them in 1998 when they lived in Rockford, Illinois, and continued until around 2004, when I met and became a student of Mark Wasson. This is the second time I have seen Jim since 2004, and the first time I've seen Angela since then.  

Jim and Angela became disciples of Chen Xiaowang, but Jim was drawn more and more to the Beijing style of Chen taiji, which was taught by Chen Fake and handed down by students such as Feng Zhiqiang (teacher of Zhang Xue Xin), Chen Zhaokui (father of Chen Yu), Chen Zhaoxu (father of Chen Xiaowang and Chen Xiaoxing), among others.

Jim and Angela have had several martial arts teachers over the years, including Zhang Xue Xin, who they studied with before training with Chen Xiaowang. I met Chen Xiaowang because they sponsored his workshops in Rockford.

Around 2005, Jim and Angela met Chen Yu while in China. The quality of his art and his body method caught their attention, and Jim began exploring the differences between the Beijing way and the Chen Village way.

When I studied with Jim and Angela, we were primarily doing taiji the way Chen Xiaowang was teaching it. Last week at his home, Jim coached me on some of the differences between the Chen Village way and the Beijing way.

I returned home on Sunday. Last night at practice, a student asked me what I had learned. I had to tell him that I really wasn't in the position of showing much because I am still processing the information. It will take some time and some dedicated practice, and some followup questions, before I will be able to translate it into movement. In general terms, it involves slight changes in stances, in the shifting and placement of weight to establish root, in the way the inside leads the outside, and other coaching that involved openings and closings and sinking. It is very difficult to explain.

Ken-Jim-PushHands-2001
Jim and Ken practicing push hands in the early 2000s.

In recent years, the debate has risen about the differences between the Beijing way and the Chen Village way. Did Chen Fake take the highest quality of the art to Beijing when he relocated there from Chen Village, leaving the art in the Chen Village to decline in his absence? Did Chen Xiaowang's generation learn as much as they really needed to learn from Chen Zhaoxu, Chen Zhaopi and Chen Zhaokui? Since most of my training has been in the Chen Village way, this is an important question for me. And I have never been afraid to change my viewpoint when new information comes in; that is true in religion, politics and martial arts. I have changed beliefs, parties and styles based on new information. I have changed my beliefs about psychic phenomena and "alternative" medicine. When new information arises, you have to change and evolve if you are going to be intellectually honest.

From the explanations and coaching I received last week, I believe there are differences between the Chen Village and Beijing styles of Chen taiji that are worth exploring. Is one better than the other? That's an individual decision.

CXW-Jim-Angela-Ken-2000
From left to right: Jim, Angela, Chen Xiaowang and Ken at a 2000 workshop in Rockford, Illinois.

These are complicated and political issues. Let's face it, those of us who did not grow up in the Chen Village or Beijing can learn from both camps. We can't touch any of them in the quality and power of their taiji. My philosophy is simple -- I can learn from anyone. About three years ago, I was at a workshop with Chen Huixian and her husband Michael, and they gave me some input that had a profound change in my movement. Huixian is the niece of Chen Zhenglei, of the Chen Village. So there is quality throughout.  

Some people make this debate out to be a much more negative thing than it should be (more about that on my next podcast, which features an interview with Dan Djurdjevic), but the goal here for all of us should be knowledge. We should learn what we can from everyone who can teach us. From there, we develop our own taiji.

In the meantime, I deeply enjoyed our visit with Jim and Angela. The time went by way too fast, and I was bummed when Nancy and I left their home last Tuesday to drive back to San Diego. Good instructors are hard to find. I always appreciated Jim and Angela because they asked questions and looked under the hood. They were not content to just follow along with their instructors. And what they learned, they passed along to their students. That attitude of sharing and teaching continues, even though Jim has officially retired from teaching, and I was grateful for the opportunity to learn. 


Newly Revised Chen 19 Form DVD - In-Depth Instruction on the Short Chen Taiji Form

Chen-19-2017-250My newly revised and expanded Chen 19 DVD is available starting today. It replaces the original, which was produced in 2008 in the older 4:3 TV screen format. The new DVD is longer, at 2 1/2 hours, with much more detail on each movement, and in widescreen format with better camera angles and overall better production.

The Chen 19 was the first Chen Taiji form I learned in 1998 from Jim and Angela Criscimagna. Through them, I also met Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang and studied the form with him. He designed the form in the mid-90s in response to popular demand for a shorter Chen style form that would fit into busy modern Western lives. I suspect it was also the Chen family's answer to the Yang 24, which is probably the most popular form in the world.

The new DVD includes:

** A complete demonstration of the form from front and rear views.

** Detailed instruction on each movement with an emphasis on internal body mechanics.

** You'll also see a student being coached through the movements, so you can learn to avoid beginner mistakes.

There are a few self-defense applications sprinkled throughout, but I decided to focus this DVD on the form. If you are interested in the fighting applications, I would recommend the DVD set on Laojia Yilu Fighting Applications, which explores over 400 applications from the longer form.

Here is a short clip from the DVD, part of the instruction on movement #3, "Lazy About Tying the Coat." The DVD costs only $19.99 and there is free shipping worldwide (International orders are shipped without the plastic cases). As usual, there is a no-hassle, iron-clad money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied for any reason. Follow this link to order the Chen 19 DVD. All of the video is also available for streaming for members of my website - www.internalfightingarts.com

 Sample Clip from Chen 19 DVD

Follow this link for more information and to order.


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.

 


New DVD Explores Fighting Applications of the Chen Taiji Straight Sword Form

Chen-Sword-Apps-DVD-250I have always believed if you are going to learn a martial arts weapons form, you should learn to fight with the weapon.

My newest DVD mines the gold inside the Chen Taiji Straight Sword form. I demonstrate 79 fighting applications, at least one realistic application for every one of the 49 movements in the form.

There is also a section that shows step-by-step how to go from form to fighting with a straight sword. How do you work with a partner to put the applications into practice? It is clearly demonstrated.

You will learn how the movements are used in parrying, deflecting, intercepting, adhering, controlling, and also how to counter with various cutting techniques. As usual, I teach with an emphasis on body mechanics.

This DVD is a follow-up to my Chen Taiji Straight Sword Form DVD, which provides instruction on the movements of the form. While it focuses on how to do the movements, this new DVD explores the fighting applications of the movements.

Running time is 1 hour 48 minutes. Check out the clip below for a sneak peak.

The Chen Straight Sword Fighting Applications DVD costs $19.99. There is Free Shipping worldwide, and a No Questions Iron-Clad Money-Back Guarantee -- if you aren't happy for any reason, just send the DVD back and you will get a prompt refund.

Click on this button for our secure order page and within a few days you will deepen your knowledge of the Chen family Straight Sword Form.

 

Buy Both DVDs and Save $10 --

The Chen Taiji Straight Sword Form DVD and the Chen Straight Sword Fighting Applications DVD -- Buy Both for only $29.99 with Free Shipping worldwide and a Money-Back Guarantee if you are not satisfied.

 

Here is a short clip from the Chen Straight Sword Fighting Applications DVD

  

 


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.

 

 


Disciple of Chen Bing -- the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Bosco Baek

Podcast LogoBosco Baek is the first senior disciple of Chen Bing who was given permission to have his own disciples. Bosco is the chief instructor at the Chen Bing Taiji Academy USA in Los Angeles.

I first met Bosco when he lived in Chicago, and since I have wanted to have a podcast guest with ties to Chen Bing, I asked Bosco to do an interview.

In the podcast, he talks about growing up in South Korea, how he met Chen Bing, and his thoughts on discipleship and whether it is a "master/slave" relationship or if it is something more positive.

Here is the link to the podcast on Audello. You can listen online or download the file.

http://internalfightingarts.audello.com/internal-fighting-arts-22-bosco-baek/

 


173 Board Breaks in the Chen Tai Chi Laojia Yilu Form

Tai Chi (Taiji) is performed slowly so students can learn the internal body mechanics that make it a powerful fighting art.

Every movement in Taiji has several self-defense applications. In my DVDs on fighting applications, I show more than 400 strikes, kicks, joint locks, sweeps, and takedowns in the Laojia Yilu form.

Recently, I decided to go through the 75 movements of Laojia Yilu -- also known as "Old Frame First Form" -- and do as many board breaks as I could find, without repeating any of the movements (several movements are repeated in the form). This video focuses only on striking possibilities in the form -- not chin-na or sweeps or throws. Just strikes and some kicks.

I came up with 144 board breaks in a little over two hours, then, after first posting the video a week ago, I saw 29 breaks that I wanted to add, so we shot those yesterday. My thanks to Colin Frye for holding the boards and my wife, Nancy, for being the ace videographer.

Now for some Breaking News -- 173 board breaks in one Taiji form. If you want to learn the body mechanics behind the movements, join my website at www.internalfightingarts.com, or check out my DVDs on this blog.

Chen Xiaowang says fajin ("issuing power") is the same as the slow movements of Tai Chi. The only difference is when you want to do fajin, you "step on the gas." In this video, I step on the gas.

One more thing about board-breaking. Bruce Lee said "boards don't hit back." Well, neither do heavybags, speedbags, or makiwara boards. These are all tools to develop power, technique, and to get a little instant feedback. Anyone who dismisses board-breaking because of something Bruce Lee said in a movie needs to think a little deeper.