Archive for March, 2011

The ‘Real Taiji’ : A Lesson in Epistemology

Posted in Day's Lesson, Internal Arts, Taijiquan, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , on March 29, 2011 by Combative Corner

Epistemology, means, well, you know: the study of knowledge.

In terms of being real (and discovering the real in RealTaiji!) consider 3 concepts:

  1. Input/Output
  2. Purposes of Beliefs
  3. Experience is Knowing


We each own various ways and vast potential for bringing information from the World into our bodies and minds. We gather information through sensory systems.

We see, hear, touch, taste, smell, and a lot more. We sense heat, weight, pressure, speed, locations of limbs in space, balance, and more. Each sense offers various ways of focusing intensely or softening and opening-up to a wider range of sensation.

While we gather input in various ways, we only output one thing: tension.

When we talk or gesture or walk or practice Taiji, all we can do is tense our muscles. Relaxation is not-doing; i.e. when we don’t tense, we do nothing. Actions roll between doing and not-doing, literally. Again, remember, this is way down: we’re focused on the nervous system.

It’s very physical: any implications or abstractions you might draw from this fundamental reality may be true too, but abstractions ride on this physical detail. (By the way, I’m not manipulating language: do and not-do reflect how our nervous system physically works.)

Relax: you’ll see more.

Purposes of Beliefs

From a physical reality perspective, beliefs limit our sensory input.

Like a fine strainer, beliefs provide existential relief to systems that would-be or could-be overwhelmed by too much sensational input. (Is that a belief? An experience?)

Beliefs are great at first. They develop naturally. They seem, at first, to keep us safe. And then, they inhibit, limit, and prevent experiencing what’s real.

Beliefs create internal tension.

To see more: relax.

Experience is Knowing

Many forces, the internet, educational institutions, your Mom and Dad, and more…insist that information is power. But we know better. Information is more like a map, a road-sign, or a clue.

When we get real, we realize that experience creates knowledge….

Does attacking beliefs and beliefs systems cause turmoil, relief, or wonder? Let me know by leaving a note…

Either way, I hope studying knowledge…and releasing the hold that tension has on your senses…brings brilliance and vibrancy to your Real Taiji.

About the Author: Steven Smith is the owner of RealTaiji.Com and the online learning aid, Peeking Over The Fence.  Steven Smith teaches people to move with exquisite power & fluid elegance…get access online and visit pristine Montana landscapes.

– Original article posted by Mr. Smith on his website, RealTaiji.Com on Nov. 2nd, 2010.  Re-posted with his permission.

10 Questions with Master Hai Yang

Posted in 10 Questions, Baquazhang, Internal Arts, Taijiquan, Xingyiquan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2011 by Combative Corner

Master Hai Yang is an amazing martial artist and teacher from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The CombativeCorner got to know of him through his videos on YouTube.  What caught our eye was his strong, fluid and explosive Xingyi forms.  Little did we know that he’s well-versed in Chen Taijiquan and Baquazhang as well!  He has been running the Center for Wudang Internal in Montreal since 2001.  To learn more about Master Yang and his school, visit his website at InternalStyle.Com.  To view is YouTube Channel, simply click on the graphic above.

What was life like when you were younger? Did you always know you were going to be a martial artist?

I was born in 1968. When I was a child life was totally different compared to now in terms of lifestyle and living conditions. I was born in the city of Tianjin (beside Beijing), which had been a hot bed for development of internal martial arts, especially for Xingyi and Bagua. So, I had much more opportunities to experience direct teachings from some famous masters. Also I had the chance to learn some styles and practices which have begun to disappear.

China was very poor back then. We did not have many choices for entertainment. There was no Internet and no big screen TV (i.e. there was TV but only 2 channels). There were a lot of movies, but mostly communist revolution related. So in Tianjin, it was very popular to practice martial arts. I still remember clearly that during the summer time in my living area (Hedong district, many famous Xing Yi master lived there), you could see martial art demonstrations on the street every night, which is like summer music festival in North America.

In my family, there is a tradition in which each generation would have one person practice these arts in order to maintain the family practice. I was the only child who was chosen by my grandparents. So, I did not have any idea of why I had to practice and what I would do with this training in the future, because all I could do was follow what they told me to do.

With time, I found out that there’s so much fun in practicing. Therefore in my 20’s, I began to have the dream of having my own martial art school.

If martial arts and teaching hadn’t been such a big part of your life what would you probably have done for a career?

In China, I have obtained two degrees at two universities; one was in engineering and the other one was in Chinese medicine. Teaching martial arts was my hobby. I began teaching when I was 18 years old, but still, it remained as a hobby. After I moved to Canada, I realized that my life would be much more interesting if I had worked as a martial arts teacher. So instead of trying to find a job in IT or Chinese medicine, I just opened my own martial art school in Montreal.

So, what would I have done if I hadn’t devoted myself to teaching martial arts as a career? I think that I’d probably focus on Chinese medicine. I still am currently practicing Chinese medicine as part of my “hobby” here. I do not think we can separate these two practices totally because they are from the same fundamental root.

What is your favorite aspect of teaching others Xingyiquan, Taijiquan & Baguazhang?

I like the straightforwardness of Xingyi, the subtlety of Taijiquan and the fluidity of Baguazhang. More importantly, I like the diversity of each style and the common characteristics of them as a whole.

When I practiced in the beginning, I was told to maintain the distinctive characters of each style and I did exactly that. Lately, I realized that it is very beneficial and helpful to combine some basic principles of these 3 styles together. This idea is very useful during teaching. So, I always tell my students what the manifestation of the other styles are in order to realize the same result through the one they are learning.

So, simply speaking, I can say that I love all of these three styles equally. It is not because that I lost myself in front of the richness of these arts, I try instead to abstract the essence from these three styles and apply them into my teaching.

As a student of the martial arts, is there an area in which you feel you excel more? (and do you give equal attention/time to each style of your martial arts training?)

As I mentioned in question 3, I love them equally.

In chronological order, I started Xingyi training first, then as a teenager, I began my Baguazhang practice. Finally, in my late teenage years, my grandfather taught me Taijiquan (Yang style first, then switched to Chen style under my uncle’s tutelage). Right now, I mainly focus on the Chen style Taijiquan practice.

What do you think is important that other teachers know about teaching the internal arts?

-I have some students who teach martial arts in different cities and countries. I always feel very happy to share my experience and I would like to learn from their teaching experience as well. There are many important aspects to martial art teachers. I would like to talk about this based on my own experience.

-Learn how to teach. Teaching is an art. Some teachers are good at combat or demonstration, but they lack teaching experience. Teaching is not for showing how good he/she is, but also, the teacher should be able to make the learner master the content, which they are teaching. Sometimes, transferring knowledge is more difficult than gaining the knowledge alone.

-Combine physical practice and theoretical study together. Some teachers focus greatly on physical practice, but they do not put enough attention on the theory, the concepts and the principles. Teaching martial art involves physics, philosophy, psychology, history, culture, medical knowledge, strategy and so on.

-Focus on details. I always tell my students: there are only two type of teaching in the martial art field. One is good teaching and the other one is bad teaching. The difference between them lies on the depth of understanding the details of each movement. Our ancestors created these arts with detailed thinking, researching and testing. Focusing on details of each movements will help us to be able to follow their path of practice.

-Be open to other styles and arts. Any style’s existence offers an opportunity for us to learn from. Martial art teachers should not be restricted by their own style. Concentrating on our own style does not prohibit the martial artist from borrowing useful principles from other styles. Most of my students have a certain training background. I found that most of the time their former training experience can be helpful in learning internal styles.

How important is spirituality or meditation in martial arts you practice?

Theoretically, martial art practice should combine spirituality and meditation.
Technically, practitioner should know how to differentiate these practices to each other.

They are related to each other, but one cannot replace one for the other one.

Who in your life has had the most impact on your development as a martial artist/teacher and why?

I have the fortune to study from many prominent masters. Among them, I think my grandfather gave me the most impact on my development as a martial artist. He taught me not only the form, routine, application, but also he helped me understand how important and beneficial it is to practice these arts.

I had experienced some very hard times in my life, and my practice helped me overcome these difficult periods.

So, I appreciate him greatly from the bottom of my heart.

When a beginning student comes to your school, what is the most important thing for them to concentrate on?

Mastery of basic practice of the style.
Then, understanding the basic idea of timing, angle, speed, concentration and related topics.
Adapt a healthy life style and apply training concept in real life.

Teaching and martial arts aside, how does Master Hai Yang have fun?

I love painting, calligraphy, Beijing Opera, Chinese Poetry and technology.

All of them are related to martial arts if we talk about it from a broad level..

This month’s discussion is on goal-setting. Seeing as though it’s the New Year, do you find it important to make goals for yourself? What kind of changes or aspirations do you have for this year and/or years to come?

I totally understand that without a proper goal, we will lose our target in life.

I setup my personal goals at every New Year’s season. It has been my personal “tradition” for years.

In the Year of Rabbit, I have two goals. One of them is to polish my Taijiquan teaching, in order to help more and more students go master this style in a systematic way. The other goal will be more interesting. I will try to combine modern technology with traditional Kungfu training together, in order to more efficiently promote what I have learned.


Setting Your Feet Free

Posted in Day's Lesson, Health, Products, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2011 by mindbodykungfu

I have recently come across a couple of writings advocating a more barebones (or more specifically, barefoot) approach to footwear.  The first is an article expaining how running shoes do nothing to reduce injuries; the second is a blog post by lifestyle design experimenter Tim Ferriss about his experience with Vibram Five Finger shoes.  Both come to the conclusion that modern running shoes hinder natural foot biomechanics and usually lead to foot and/or lower leg problems.  Since our body movement is more of an interconnected kinetic chain than isolated movements, the impaired function of the feet causes other parts of our body to compensate for the dysfunction at the foot.  Ultimately, poor foot mechanics induced by shoes leads to knee, hip, back, and shoulder problems

I’ve written about the overly supportive shoe issue before in a previous blog post, and I have since then become even further convinced that shoes–particularly athletic shoes–are a major reason we have so many foot problems, lower leg injuries, and overall dysfunctional body mechanics.  Thick soled, elevated heel, motion constraining shoes prevent the foot from moving naturally and reduce the feedback we get from our feet about our balance and body positioning.

Unnatural tilt creates compensation issues


Over time, our reliance on support from the shoe weakens our feet.  I’ve noticed this in my own feet.  I inherited the flat foot gene that permeates my dad’s side of the family.  My feet were once so flat that I could step on a surface and tell how level it was by the feeling on the soles of my feet.  I also sprained my ankles a lot playing basketball.  After switching to thin soled aqua socks for several months, my feet became stronger, and my balance got better.  These days I suffer far fewer rolled ankles since my feet better sense the ground and can react faster to protect my ankles and my balance.  As an additional pleasant surprise, my previously completely flat feet now have a noticeable arch; not much of an arch, but enough to that my friends and family have confirmed that I’m not hallucinating.

I won’t deny that cushioned shoes are still useful; after nearly a year of my minimal shoe experiment, my feet still hurt after extended periods of pavement pounding.  I’m glad that I no longer fork over gobs of cash for fancy shoes that ultimately do nothing for me other than weaken my feet.  I don’t know if I can win over more converts to the minimal shoe/barefoot lifestyle, but I know I plan to continue minimizing how often I wear my cross trainers.

Johnny Kuo

Combative Corner Author

*Article was originally written in 2009 by Johnny on his blog, Zenfulness.  The information, we feel, is still very pertinent.  Proper training (footwear) is important in becoming not only a good athlete but a healthy (and well-informed) one as well.  For more postings by Johnny, follow him at MindBodyKungfu or subscribe to us, here, at the CombativeCorner.

The Work Ethic of Chen Fake (Pt. 1)

Posted in Internal Arts, Internal Development, Taijiquan, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , on March 22, 2011 by chencenter

Chen Fake is considered by many as the greatest Taijiquan master of the century.  Born as “Fusheng” in the village of Chenjiaguo, in Henan Province, China, Master Chen grew up to become an extraordinary martial artist and teacher through persistent practice, respect for his family background (ancestors masterful in Taijiquan), and love for the artform.

From reading about Chen Fake, through the words of his disciple, the late Hong Junsheng (via my teacher Chen Zhonghua), I’ve developed a deep admiration for the man and for his accomplishments as an artist and teacher.  To understand who Chen Fake was, in terms of his gift of Taijiquan, these two characteristics must be mentioned:

First, it was with the dent of hard work and preserverence that harvested this amazing gongfu skill.  Second, Master Chen never withheld anything from his teaching.  His students asked and they were given an answer.  In most cases, a detailed understanding.  Withholding anything is strictly for the ego.

Lesson 1: Work, Work, Work

Part  1 is dedicated to that which is most important. To accomplish anything in life, we must put forth effort…never an aimless attempt… but a steady, direct and focused study of that which we feel we must accomplish.  The word “work” being just another of those four-letter words that, for many, initiate a conditioned response of dread… is just the first problem of many.  Our first direction should be to make work into something else.  For me, when I’m teaching, studying, or training in Taijiquan or fencing…I’m “play”ing.  So, in essence, “hard work” might best be called “hard playing.”  The only criteria one must follow (after this change in vernacular) should be a change in “how we play.” Whether we are playing the piano, ice skating, or doing a martial art form we should look to our actions a heavenly experience and never anything reminiscent of a chore.  Embrace your bliss with your entire being and you’ll be surprised at the growth and jubilance that follows.

Part 2: Soon-to-Come!

Coach Michael Joyce

Combative Profile

The London Story – Tim Larkin Interview

Posted in Crime, Day's Lesson, Safety, Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Violence with tags , , , , , , on March 21, 2011 by Combative Corner

The following story is transcribed verbatim from our 10 Question Interview posted on March 17th, 2011.  The entire interview is available on our Youtube Channel (here).

Tim Larkin is the man behind Target Focus Training in Las Vegas, NV. (website)

The London Story

I was training in London in , I think it was 2004 or 2005, and this young lawyer –  one of those Horatio Alger stories – 1st one to make it past high school in his family – lives in a nicer part of London, gets off the subway and decides to walk through the park, which, yes, it’s at night but it’s a pretty safe park – no big deal.  He gets followed by two guys.

As they approach him they put knives to his throat, demands his watch and wallet.  This guy engages them, gives them his watch and wallet, the jewerly, gives them the briefcase, gives them everything… and they take off.  They leave.

And everyone loves that part of the story, because it worked.  He did everything that they tell you to do in all self defense classes, and in law enforcement.  (They say) “Don’t resist; give them everything.  Engage them socially.”  And it worked.

The second time, when they came back, their heads were down, their knives were drawn.  He said, “Hey, hey! What are you doing?”  And they stabbed him 47 times.  He was heard screaming, “I gave you everything, I gave you everything!”

My goal in Target Focus Training is that you know the difference between the two.  In the first engagement there was a chance you could use your social skills and there is a chance you can talk your way out of it and comply.  The second time they weren’t engaging you socially.  When the heads were down and the knives were drawn there is only one thing that’s going to work in a situation like that… the tool of violence.  That’s the only way the kid had a chance at surviving at that point.

What probably happened as the guys were walking away is – one guy says to the other, “umm… you know what? He saw our faces.  It’s probably not a good idea, we better go back and kill him.”  They literally put no more thought in it than that.  I can’t control what the other guy is about, I can only control what I’m about!  If I’m worried about what he’s doing to me, I’m going to be behind the power curve.  I have to sit there and make sure I have the best opportunity to affect an injury on that individual.  And I need to be focused on those opportunities.  The way I can do this is by understanding the difference.





10 Questions with Tim Larkin [Video]

Posted in 10 Questions, Self-Defense, Videos with tags , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2011 by Combative Corner



[Remembering our ‘Discussion’ post (here) about Gunmen]

Larkin says… “I look at it from a different standpoint.  We use our vision in two ways: focus vision & peripheral vision.  I look at it from a reaction standpoint.  If something’s happening now.. we’ll look mid-level on somebody.  The reason we are doing that is because… like right now I’m look at you.  You and I are engaged; my peripheral is disengaged and a lot of “social” happens in the fascial features and we get caught up in that.  I show my students this all the time, and they don’t think that’s the case.  I’ll watch them as they train and I notice a lot of time they’re “checking in” with each other before they go to their target area and put a strike in.

What I’ll do is I’ll give them all balaclavas and it takes away the face, so you just have the eyes going.  It’s amazing the change in people.  All of a sudden they’re not head-hunting anymore, they’re not social anymore, and it all just becomes available to them.  They’re seeing the targets and their reaction time increases immediately.

So, I guess my answer to you is – I want my peripheral so I can pick up movement as fast as possible.  So the last thing that I want is to engage the guy… but I don’t want to get into the psychological aspect of it… I don’t want to sit there and worry “oh jeez am I challenging him, am I doing this or any of that shit,” I just want my best ability to react to what we’re going on, so I can affect my injury at that point… if that’s what I think is going down.*

The above question was transcribed verbatim from our interview.


[ 00.10 ]  Who are you and what is it that you do?

[ 00:38 ] How is what you different from what you see others teaching?

[ 03:24 ]  What is the biggest obstacle for you in regards to instructing?

(additional question)[ 07:42 ] Regarding media video “Use of Force”

(additional question)[ 11:25 ] Regarding T.M.Artists & Self-Defense

[ 20:52 ]  How do you deal with all the negative criticisms directed at you and TFT?

[ 27:15 ]  Is there a difference between teaching men vs. women?  If so, what should be emphasized for each?

[ 29:54 ]  What are your thoughts on weapon training?  Should everyone that studies martial arts & self-protection (in your opinion) also study weapons?  If so, which ones and for what purpose?

[ 31:28 ]  What is essential in the early stages of learning self-protection?  Is it different if your teaching law enforcement or military?

[ 37:49 ]  How important is physical fitness in self-protection?

[ 40:08 ]  How does Tim Larkin like to spend his free time?

[44:21  ]  Do you make New Year’s goals?  If so, what are your goals for 2011?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Everyone!

* Tim Larkin’s Website: TFT *  Related Article – Discussion #9 – “Gunmen”

One-On-One with Sifu Lee: Nutrition

Posted in Health, Nutrition with tags , , , , , , on March 16, 2011 by Sifu Freddie Lee

Nutrition and sleep are more important than concentrated exercise or martial arts. If you did not eat or sleep, you would not be able to function or live very long. But if you did not exercise or practice martial arts, you would obviously still survive. This goes to show the importance of getting good rest and eating healthy. Depending on the individual, it is ideal to receive 6-10 hours of sleep a night. If one has not received adequate sleep for the day and has the option to either get sleep or exercise, one should always choose sleep. As sleep is what supplies the body with energy in which to exercise and it is also during sleep that an athlete’s muscles will be able to repair.
As far as nutrition and eating habits are concerned. Similar to exercise, people know what is healthy to eat but many simply do not follow healthy eating habits. First and foremost we should stop consuming obvious foods that are unhealthy and stop practicing obvious unhealthy habits. We should never smoke cigarettes or ingest any harmful substance into our bodies. We should never drink alcohol, not even in small amounts, as this does not serve any healthy benefit to the body. We should not take any harmful drugs. We should not take any muscle enhancement supplements such as steroids, creatine, etc. Those are some of the obvious substances that we should not consume for any reason, as they serve no health benefit in anyway.
Here is a list of some of the basics of nutrition:

  • We should eliminate our consumption of soda. Soda has absolutely no nutritional value. We should drink pure filtered water for most of the day. There may be times that our bodies may crave for some sugar. In order to fulfill this need we can drink 100% Pure Juice with a mixture of filtered water in order to lessen our consumption of mass amounts of sugar.
  • We should not drink anything that contains caffeine or consume energy drinks. These drinks supply superficial energy boosts that train your body to become dependent on this superficial energy boost. Rather you should eat healthy foods and drink natural juices or water to gain the energy you need.
  • We should not intake powdered protein shakes. The money spent on powdered protein shakes can be better used towards purchasing real healthy foods that provide us with the energy that we need for the day. If we eat correctly, the food that we consume will provide us with more than enough protein for the day. Purchasing powdered protein simply is a waste of money.
  • We should eat 5-6 small portion meals throughout the day rather than 3 large portion meals a day. In this way your metabolism will be trained to burn more calories during inactivity resulting in optimal fitness.
  • You should never force yourself to eat more food when you are no longer hungry. You should simply eat enough food so that you are satisfied.  Never overindulge.
  • 90% of your meals should be healthy home cooked meals. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle it is a necessity to learn how to cook healthy foods or to at least live with another individual that can cook healthy foods. This is cost efficient and also the healthiest way of eating. Mostly all restaurants serve food that contains more oil and fats than necessary, resulting in unhealthy eating habits if consumed too frequently.
  • Fruits are a very good healthy snack that should be preferred over unhealthy snacks such as donuts, cookies, cakes, and candy bars. Apples, oranges, bananas, pears, grapes, etc, are all good fruits to consume for snacks.
  • Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, and various other nuts are also very good for snacks. Although they do contain a high percentage of fat, they contain the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that are actually very good for the body.
  • Sweets such as candy bars and cookies can be consumed in small amounts. Sometimes our bodies crave for sweets. During this time we can have a couple of cookies or a candy bar, it’s ok but there is a problem when you start eating 10 cookies a day or 5 candy bars everyday.
  • Ice cream is ok but we should purchase ice cream that has a lower fat content. Slow churned ice cream or light ice cream containing half the normal fat content is ok as long as we consume 1 serving every couple of days or longer. Sometimes our bodies crave for this kind of sweet.
  • If we do need to eat fast food we should prefer sandwiches rather than hamburgers. We should rather prefer Jimmy John’s, PotBelly’s, Subway, or any other sandwich fast food restaurant as these sandwiches are usually much healthier than the normal burger joint.
  • A good daily snack is a self-prepared sandwich with 100% whole wheat bread, the usual veggies, meat, cheese, etc.
  • Potato chips when moderately consumed are ok for a little snack or to supplement a meal.

We are never on a strict diet. We are not on a diet at all. We train our bodies to eat healthy and find joy in eating healthy. We have made eating healthy a lifestyle, a habit. When you begin to live this lifestyle, your body will not feel good when you consistently eat unhealthy. Your body and mind will respond in ways that motivate you to only put quality foods inside of your body. There are times when your body craves for junk food, such as hamburgers, fried chicken, french fries, gyros, hotdogs, etc.
It’s ok to eat these types of foods once every couple of weeks or maybe even once a week but when your body has become accustomed to eating healthy it will not desire to eat those types of foods more than just a few times every couple of weeks. Once you have become accustomed to the healthy way of living all you simply do is listen and pay attention to your bodily functions. You then simply eat whatever you wish to eat and naturally your body will only crave the healthy. Therefore, remember that this is never a diet, this is a way of life, a lifestyle, a habitual way of living that is geared towards the healthy way of living, you eat whatever you want but truthfully it is your body that only wants the healthy.
A day’s example of a food plan while drinking water throughout the day:

  1. Eat cereal in the morning with milk.
  2. Take a daily multivitamin if desired.
  3. 2 hours later eat a banana
  4. 1 hour later eat a self made sandwich
  5. 2 hours later eat your lunch meal such as a stir-fry with veggies, meat, and rice.
  6. 1 hour later snack on a few cookies, some chocolate, or mixed nuts
  7. 30 min. later eat an orange.
  8. 1 hour later eat an apple.
  9. 1 hour later eat your dinner meal such as veggie soup, stir-fry with veggies, meat, and rice.
  10. 30 min. later eat some light ice cream if desired.
  11. Drink some 100% juice mixed with filtered water

Sifu Freddie Lee

Freddie’s Modern Kungfu

NOTE: As anyone will tell you, always consult a physician when concerned about your health, diet and direction of your wellness plan.  As for ANY nutritional and dietary information on this site (or ANYWHERE), please use your own good judgement.  The authors of this website, are not registered dietitians, but have a strong background in health, wellness & exercise.  Proper nutrition just goes with the territory.

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