Archive for Chen Style Taijiquan

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.

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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

Taijiquan Gems of 2010

Posted in Internal Arts, Internal Development, Martial Arts, Styles, Taijiquan with tags , , , , on January 26, 2011 by Combative Corner

Tai Ji Quan (whether you shorten/spell it as “Tai Chi” or T’ai Chi”) is an amazingly fun and therapeutic artform and martial art.  In 2010, we at the CombativeCorner were able to post some great articles and two fascinating interviews.  If you haven’t checked it out already, we highly suggest that you do!  We hope you all have gotten off to a wonderful 2011!

Interviews

Chen Huixian / Chen Zhonghua

Posts

What is Tai Chi? (by: Johnny Kuo)

Reflections on Chen Style Taijiquan (by: Michael Joyce)

The Beginner’s Mind (by: Johnny Kuo)

Reflections On Chen Style Taijiquan

Posted in Internal Arts, Martial Arts, Styles, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2011 by chencenter

I remember my first taste of taijiquan.  It was like eating a watermelon for the first time.  You think to yourself, “Why am I experiencing this only now?”  Enamoured, you take a bite that’s just a little too large for those ol’ cheeks.  You know the story.  Maybe you get it, maybe you don’t.

The Point Is…

I found something that, like watermelon spoke to my taste buds (those many years ago), speaks to my body up to this very day.  [Why some people don’t experience the same degree of “Speak,” I’ll post in another article]

But what could be better than watermelon (if I may continue with my juicy simile)?  How about the seedless watermelon of Chen Style Taijiquan?

I won’t discriminate.  All fruit, all styles of martial arts had, in my past, their own distinct flavor and infused my body with a different kind of energy.  What impressed me most in my discovery of taijiquan was the enormous depth and richness that the art possessed.  How (I thought) could an 85+ year old reduce a youthful and strong man to a stumbling and bumbling child?  What mechanisms were at work?

It all fascinated me to no end.

I was fortunate to meet some extraordinary teachers along the way that helped me to shape my idea of what Taiji is (versus what “Taijiquan” is),.. to help me to see for myself what “Is.”  Now I know this can all seem very esoteric and abstruse, but this is one of the main reasons that people who practice taijiquan have an atmosphere of peacefulness and serenity.  Just by speaking with someone; sometimes just by meeting or shaking hands with someone, I can tell if they are a practitioner of taijiquan.  I wonder if others get the same vibe?  This is most likely attributed to the concept of teaching xiulian.  Now if you’re hearing this word for the first time –

Xiulian isn’t mind and it isn’t behavior.  It’s mind-behavior.  The late, great Hong Junsheng said (in his poem, Circular & Harmonious)

“If you want to learn Taiji, you must first learn the principle.”

It may seem a strange concept, especially to those who want to “kick ass and take names,” but virtue (not athletic skill) is the foundation of martial skill.  And as Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang says,

“Taiji is the gongfu (time-skill) of xujing (emptiness & tranquility).”  

Surprisingly, this is sometimes forgotten or even just momentarily overlooked in the martial artist (even those from the “internal” schools).  It has always appealed to me and made a tremendous amount of good sense to develop the self, and not just in one dimension (i.e. strength, flexibility, focus, or reaction speed), but in all dimensions.

Good luck in your training.

Michael Joyce

ChenCenter.Com

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