10 Questions with Frank Allen
The Combative Corner had the great privilege to interview the legendary bagua, xingyi, and taijiquan teacher, Mr. Frank Allen. Allen “Laoshi” has practiced the internal energy arts since 1973 and is the founder of The Wu Tang Physical Culture Association of New York City (with a brother branch in Frankfurt, Germany). Along with his partner, Tina Chunna Zhang, Frank Allen is the co-author of two great books, “Classical Northern Wu Style Tai Ji Quan: The Fighting Art of the Manchurian Palace Guard” and “The Whirling Circles of Ba Gua Zhang: The Art and Legends of Eight Trigram Palm.” Mr. Frank Allen teaches workshops throughout the United States, Europe and holds regular classes in New York City. [Click the above picture of Mr. Allen to visit his homepage]
You’ve been a student of the internal arts for over 30 years. What experience/emotion/etc pulled you to study the internal martial arts rather than the external?
When I began studying martial arts in the early 70’s, my first teachers, Jan “The Iron Man” Lang and “Irish” Jimmy O’Mara were East Village fighting legends and instructors of Chinese Internal martial Arts … I was properly impressed … Then I met B. K. Frantzis in 1975 and at that time his fighting skills were phenomenal… and … there was also the arrival in New York City of Master B. P. Chan, the first person here to teach Ba Gua & Xing Yi to non-Chinese … The example of these four men led me into studying the Chinese Internal Martial Arts as a complete system of fighting, health improvement and meditation.
Many martial artists talk about becoming a master of only one style. You, however, have deeply studied Bagua, Xingyi, Taijqiuan, Qigong, Western Boxing and Wu Style? What is your take on learning a particular system or systems?
The constant thread through everything I teach and practice is the Internal Principles which join the arts of Ba Gua, Tai Ji and Xing Yi and are applied to everything I study and teach.
How frequently do you train (outside of teaching) and how strongly is meditation/qigong a part of your training?
I train daily, but with varying amounts of training time depending on the day. Personally I run the principles of Qi Gong through my forms practice, augmenting this with a few Qi Gong exercises. I have periods where I meditate daily and periods when I don’t.
Do you (your school) place much emphasis on the martial aspects of each art form? (or does it vary on the class/participant)
I try to ALWAYS teach the martial aspects of everything in our martial arts classes. Obviously this doesn’t apply to Qi Gong and Meditations sessions.
I understand that you take annual trips to China to continue your training. Do you feel that you get a deeper understanding of the martial art by being in China? And/Or do you feel the quality of teaching/information is better there?
My partner Tina Zhang leads annual training trips to Beijing as she is from there. I’m extremely pleased to get to study with Cheng Style Ba Gua Grandmaster Liu Jing Ru (who Tina and I are formal disciples of) and Grandmaster Li Bing Ci of Northern Wu Style Tai Ji Quan. These men are the absolute top of their fields and training with them is a major opportunity and a complete joy.
As someone who is quite recognizable for his long hair, beard and tattoos,… where you ever discriminated against in martial art circles?
I have never been discriminated against in any martial arts circles … when I started my look was fairly common in those environments.
Now that you’re in your 60’s, I understand that you are taking on disciples? Did you never take on disciples before your 60th or are you following a martial art tradition of teaching?
I am following the Chinese martial arts tradition that says that no one is actually a master until they have passed their 60th birthday … and are a formal disciple of a Grandmaster whose teachings they are obligated to pass on to their own disciples…. therefore I began accepting disciples at the age of 61 and a couple years after becoming a formal disciple of Grandmaster Liu Jing Ru.
In many of your pictures, I see you have lots of fun sparring with boxing gloves. Is this just to practice your love of western boxing or do you implement your various styles into each session?
I DO love western boxing… but I teach boxing in my Fighting for Health classes With all the Internal Principles inserted into Boxing … as well as kickboxing.
A century from now, when we remember Mr. Frank Allen, what would be the main thing you’d like people to remember about you?
A century from now I would like people to remember Frank Allen as a competent teacher who lead many students into a study of the Chinese Internal Martial Arts.
Any future hopes or aspirations… Any dreams that remain unfulfilled for Mr. Frank Allen?
All of my hopes and dreams are in place and working and I simply hope for more of the same.
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