Archive for Education

3 Essential Tai Chi Reads

Posted in Martial Arts, Products, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2015 by chencenter

Just the other day, I had a student come up to me and ask if there is “Anything I can do or read to help me improve” [in Tai Chi].  Immediately, three books shot to mind (out of several dozen that I’ve read over the years).  The first book that I think anyone with an interest in the art of Taijiquan should acquire and read (and definitely if you’re an instructor of Taijiquan) is Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain by Chungliang, Al-Huang. [click on the image for Amazon.Com link]
Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain

Embrace Tiger Chungliang

Published in November of 1973, it is probably safe to say that North American hadn’t had its influx of Taijiquan influence, however it was this author and masterful teacher, Chungliang, Al-Huang that helped me to form my vision of what I wanted (my personal) Taijiquan to become.  There are many parts to Taijiquan and although everyone will see them differently, Master Al beautifully illustrates what they can grow into, and how you can use the power of Taijiquan to create boundless energy and freedom.

Pros: This book is highly under-rated. Because of this, people are selling used copies for only pennies.

Cons: Many people are interested only in the combative potential of martial arts (even Taijiquan) and will thus will get very little joy from this movement/energy/spirit-based book.

Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power

Taijiquan Book Yang YangPublished in 2008 by one of my early teachers, Master Yang Yang, this book is  more detailed on the science and study of Taijiquan as a martial art and system of mind-body therapy.  If you are looking for a clear explanation how and why Taijiquan practice can benefit you, look no further! Very thorough and well-written, Master Yang Yang gives you the foundation for not only Taijiquan practice but gives you principles that can benefit all martial artists.

Pros: This book encompasses everything that is great in a martial art book. Very easy-to-read, and explains what is (for some) a difficult, and deep subject to breech.  As an indoor disciple to the late Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang, and someone who stands strong to his Master’s teachings, you can feel and can’t help but to get swept up in the feeling that this could have easily been written by the founder of Hunyuan Taijiquan (GM Feng) himself.

Cons: Available only in Hardback, this book comes with a higher price tag of approximately $30-40

Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method, vol. 1: Theory

Chen Style Practical Method BookThis book, written by Hong Junsheng was translated and published by his disciple, and my primary teacher, Master Chen Zhonghua.  Hong Junsheng, as many of us know, was the most senior disciple of Chen Fake; one of the true legends of all Taijiquan.  Hong spent his lifetime dedicated to the cultivation and perfection of his master’s art, faithfully practicing and passing on his master’s teaching.  If any book can be called a “Masterpiece,” this one should!

Pros: The one and only book diving right to the source of Practical Method theory, a useful resource for any martial artist (particularly those that study Taijiquan).  Although the book can be costly ($39.99 at PracticalMethod.Com), you can get a digital copy for only $20.

Cons: In order to obtain a copy of this book, you’ll have to spend $39.99, which makes this the most expensive book on the list (and it’s not even hardback). Although you’ll be reading a well-translated volume, the read can be a bit tedious; more cerebral in parts.  There are parts of the book that are quite poetic and without a bit of clarification here and there (most likely from Master Chen’s articles, videos and workshops) you might misunderstand certain concepts. Needless-to-say, this book is certainly for all serious practitioners of Taijiquan (particularly the Practical Method).

Well there are certainly some other books that I could add to the list, but these are my TOP 3.  Do you agree with my list?

WHAT BOOKS WOULD MAKE YOUR LIST?

LET US KNOW!

MICHAEL JOYCE

CHENCENTER.COM

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Sifu Lee on Giving & Pain

Posted in Day's Lesson, Miscellaneous, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2012 by Sifu Freddie Lee

I love giving, but the problem that I constantly encounter is that it teaches a person to become spoiled. For many years I have always had a problem with spoiling others. If you spoil others you do not teach them. They never learn how to wash a dish b/c you always wash it for them. They never learn to do their own laundry b/c you always do it for them. They never really learn to be self-sufficient b/c you have always babied them. People have a very hard time going backwards in life. You give them something they like, they will become very upset if you then take it away.

If you never gave it to them in the first place, they would not know how to be upset b/c they have not become attached. If you have never smoked before, it is easy to stay away. But if you have been smoking for many years, it will be hard to let go. We have all been so accustomed to the internet, if they take it away, it will cause pain for many. Understanding both sides is not easy. A child may have to go through many decades of life before he understands the actions of his parents in the past.

Sifu Freddie Lee

[via FMK’s Facebook]

The West, Still Not Ready | Sifu Lee

Posted in Day's Lesson, Miscellaneous, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2012 by Sifu Freddie Lee

When Bruce was alive, he knew that the West was not ready for real Martial Arts, he was disappointed with the progress of his kwoons, so he decided to close his kwoons to go into acting. Over 40 years later, right now, the West is still not ready for real Martial Arts. I love teaching Martial Arts, but it is almost impossible making a living doing so if you teach it the way that it is truly meant to be taught, I’ve decided to go into field of personal training to make a living. The masses of people just want to lose weight, gain muscle, feel & look good – few of them truly wish to learn real art. Out of 100 people, you will be lucky to find one that has the Martial Spirit within.

People can be taught but they must be ready to listen.  Many are not ready to listen. I love to give, but if I give too much, I will go out of business. Martial Art is not meant for business.  I am truly experiencing the struggles of how to get a Martial Art school to stay completely pure & uncorrupted. You work so hard to find people who have the Martial spirit within them, but then they have no money to pay. Then you find those who have much money but then they are far from being ready to enter into the realm of Martial Arts.

You have to reach out to the right people, but the right people are often times thousands of miles away. I will try to last as long as I can, but eventually I may have to once again become more hidden, working a job to make ends meet, while keeping the spirit of the Martial Arts within me, hidden from the mass of society. The mass of society is not ready for what I have to teach, & during the course of my lifetime, I may never see a time when they are ready. The truth is meant to be hidden; it cannot be exploited & mass produced.

Martial Arts requires thousands of hours of study & training.  How can anyone progress rapidly if they must pay for every hour? It is like a child who must pay you by the hour in order to raise him until the age of 18, he will have to repay you for the rest of his life, or at least take care of you for 18 years in which to break even. It takes time to develop into a Martial Artist, but who has the time to wait? Bruce could not wait. By waiting you are slowing your own development, but forging ahead you are leaving loved ones behind, finding the balance is a difficult thing. I know if I forge ahead there is nowhere to go – Bruce already taught me this. By waiting I can be of great assistance. But I will only wait for those who show appreciation; I will not wait for those who do not appreciate. Some people are ready, some people are not, those who are not, I will not force. When they are ready, they will show me, they will not just tell me.

The pressure is on to make me perform. Without the pressure, I will find no need to perform. Why try hard if you are already living comfortable? When your living conditions are rough, that forces you to work hard, when you work hard you grow. This kwoon can only grow through hard work. Nothing comes easy in this commercialized world. The masses are constantly being bombarded by negative advertisements that it makes it very difficult to see the positive.

Sifu Freddie Lee

[via FMK’s Facebook]

Teaching Kids & Big Kids (Adults)

Posted in Day's Lesson, Miscellaneous, Philosophy, Teaching Topic with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2012 by hybridfightingmethod

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW…..

You learned in kindergarten.

That is the common maxim touted since I first found myself IN kindergarten.  Being in Ireland right now writing this, I am inspired to reflect upon my past world travels.  In 2000-2002 I spent time teaching kindergarten in southeast China.  My mentor back then, Alex Abdulnour, told me something about teaching kids that I hold very close to my heart to this day.  I believe that this same thing is applicable to teaching adults, as adults are just kindergarteners in bigger clothes.

Apply these concepts and you will become a much better instructor.

He said the following –

They want to know how much you care before they care how much you know.

This I find to be absolutely true.  You need to care about your students.  They can sense when you don’t, or when you are being disingenuous.  Relationships are like bank accounts.  You have to make a deposit before you make a withdrawal.  Before you can expect anything from your students and from people in general, you need to invest and show them you genuinely care.

Have a plan prepared for them or they will have a plan prepared for you…and you won’t like their plan.

Make sure you have a guideline going into class or you will be sorry you didn’t.  Dogs can smell fear.  Students can smell unpreparedness.  You don’t have to stick to the plan exactly – but have at least a skeletal structure in place to navigate your class.

Make them laugh.

Elicit positive emotions and make them feel good.  If you do this, they will connect the concepts you offer with positive emotions.  If you make your students feel good while learning, they are more apt to remember what you taught.

Think to yourself what teachers you remember fondly?  Did they care about you?  Were they prepared?  Did they make you laugh and feel good?

Also, as with everything, be a critical consumer of information (another tidbit given to me by Alex).  Take what I say, and weigh it like you should all incoming information.  Include the concepts in this article into your teaching, and you will have far more success in empowering your students with the information you are communicating.

T.J. KENNEDY

HYBRID FIGHTING METHOD

Roundtable Discussion 015: Seminars & Training

Posted in Roundtable Discussion, Training with tags , , , , on December 11, 2011 by Combative Corner

We asked our author panel consisting of five professional martial art teachers this question:

“Do you make attending seminars a part of your training? If not, why?  And if so, briefly explain why and ONE workshop/lecture/camp you went to this year that was the most beneficial.”

Michael Joyce  |  GTS / ChenCenter

While tremendous gains can be made through solo training, nothing can substitute another set of eyes and, more importantly, another individual with experiences and perspectives unique from your own.  We are continuously learning, experimenting, but as someone once said, “We all see the world through our own distorted Coke bottle.”  Although we might think that this or that technique is completely fool-proof… nothing is.  Discovering new ways, or more efficient or effective means with dealing with a scenario or technique often demands the experiences and insights of another; this is where seminars and workshops are highly beneficial.

Personally, I try to visit between 2-3 workshops a year.  Cost-wise there are constraints (mainly because I’m a licensed therapist as well and must also pay for Continuing Education).  But if you want to be “competitive” in a market and (at the same time) feel confident that you are doing everything you can to succeed in your trade, seminars/lectures/workshops are a must!

In 2010, I visited two workshops that helped me immensely.  As someone with a passion for the ground-game, I was thrilled when both Ryron and Rener Gracie made a trip so close to my hometown in North Carolina.  Both Brandon and I attended these workshops and their respective articles can be seen here : A New Passion and Secret to GJJ Mastery.  While it is impossible to choose between between these two tremendous teachers, all I’ll say is that I love and am continuing to work on perhaps the most important element of control, the super-hooks!  [Article on this coming at some point. Stay tuned!]

Freddie Lee  | Freddie’s Modern Kungfu

No. I have children to care for, a wife to spend time with, & a school to run. While I am running the school, it is my science lab. Discoveries & creations are made, this is much more valuable than any seminar in my eyes. I teach people that the truth is within themselves, not within outside resources.

Robert Lara  |  Four Winds Aikido

Yes! I do! I do as much as I can. From youth my Judo Sensei told me to respect all arts and use what you can. Seminar’s with Sosa Sensei were.. well a turning point for me. Big time in my life. At that moment I knew I would train Aikido and I would be a Sensei. That was my dream. So without Seminars I never would have met Sosa Sensei and may have never had a chance to train Aikido again. I say go to them with an open mind. You never know. You could find your art or your path in the arts.

T.J. Kennedy  |  Hybrid Fighting Method

Attending seminars whenever I have the opportunity to do so is an integral part of my training. Seminars allow you to learn potentially new skills, from a different perspective than your own, as well as network and train with a variety of different people.

When I attend some seminars, I find them useless and a waste of time. Other seminars, though, have proven beneficial to my training and combat preparedness.

One example was the Luke Holloway seminar that I hosted in Canada back in September of 2011. I got to get a glimpse of his RAW COMBAT. Although what Luke teaches differs from me, it is highly compatible, and has also helped to fill in some gaps and/or expand my training to further limits.

I am fortunate to have him back here on December 17th and 18th again for some more valuable training.

Johnny Kuo  |  I-Liq Chuan

Attending seminars has been an important part of my training. I have found several benefits from learning in a seminar environment. Seminars have provided an opportunity to meet and train with teachers with whom I would not normally be able to interact. It was in seminars that I was able to meet and train with Zhu Tiancai, Yang Jwing-Ming, and Sam F.S. Chin. None of these teachers were close enough for me to attend their regular classes. Going to a seminar allowed me to tap into some of their knowledge and delve into their arts.

I’ve also met a good number of martial artists at seminars whom I would not have met otherwise. Seminars provided a common learning environment which allowed me to interact with martial artists from different backgrounds and with different perspectives. Without attending those seminars, it would have been easy to fall into a rut and continue training in a cloistered world. Those interactions helped expand my understanding and forged bonds of friendship.

These days, life keeps me too busy to attend as many seminars as I used to, but I still feel seminars are a useful learning tool. Attending seminars is the primary means by which I get feedback on my training. Since I don’t live near my Sifu, seminars are where Sifu can assess my progress and give me pointers on how to advance my skill. Seminars are also where I get a chance to cross hands with my gongfu brothers and sisters. Expressing martial arts skills requires touch feedback, preferably with as many skilled people as possible. Seminars allow me to interact with more people and get more opportunities develop the feel for the art.

Brandon Vaughn  |  Sanshinkai Karate

Running a karate school full time doesn’t leave me much time to focus on my own training, at least not to the extent that I would like. This is especially true when it comes to exploring other styles that I have an interest in. Attending martial arts seminars gives me the opportunity to learn more about other styles as well as meet other martial artist and instructors. This year I had the opportunity to attend a couple of seminars that I enjoyed immensely and learned a lot from. I absolutely love learning new things and the more I learn the more knowledge I have to pass onto my students. This makes it easy to keep my classes fresh and exciting.

The seminar that I actually found most beneficial actually didn’t involve self defense, weapons, or kata but teaching. It was Dave Kovar’s Instructor College that my wife and I attended at the 2011
M.A. Supershow in June.

You Can’t Teach Experience

Posted in Day's Lesson, Philosophy, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , on June 3, 2011 by chencenter

I just finished reading a terrific blog by a therapist friend of mine (Geoffrey of Stay-Tuned Therapeutics in Flagstaff, Az) and it motivated me to write a similar post of my own.

What an important topic! And unfortunately it is just this, the lack of “experience” that continues to be the bane of our ‘proper’ professionals.  It truly IS what separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls.

The fact of the matter, as a ‘Coach’ (which is what I prefer my students call me) I see ‘experience’ as being that which puts most people off… that which leads them to a place of discouragement.  Within one lesson (whether it’s taijiquan, fencing, etc) I’ll inevitably see “The Look” cross over their face… a face that once held a consistent gleam of excitement.

One of the reasons I call myself ‘Coach’ is because I’ve always found it most suitable to what I do.  “Master” always had a distasteful ring to it.  I  remember my first encounter with one of my favorite teachers of all-time, Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming (YMAA), and as a sign of respect I called him “Master Yang.” He just smiled and said, “Call me Dr. Yang, or Teacher,… but call me master and I call you slave.”  Still funny to this day.  Anyway, I digress…

We, as teachers, ‘coach’ our students in a particular thought, a way of doing something, we re-align their bodies to be more bio-mechanically sound and we (hopefully) motivate them and inspire them to practice and refine their skills… but it’s always been helpful to remember that –

Experience is what you get when the teacher walks away.

And for all those students out there that wish to be Jet Li in just a few lessons, or if you’re the intellectual that watches YouTube instructional videos, but never calls up a friend to actually work the techniques… experience is never gained, the brain is only momentarily stimulated and given a false sense of capabilities.  Lesson for today/weekend:

Let’s get some experience.

Michael Joyce

ChenCenter.Com

Let us hear your thoughts, questions and insights at the CombativeCorner by posting your response below.  We can also be contacted on Facebook or Twitter

Thinking Inside The Box

Posted in Peace & Wellbeing, Philosophy, Spirituality, Teaching Topic with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2011 by mindbodykungfu

We often hear people talking about “thinking outside of the box.”  Usually what is meant by this metaphorical box is the boundaries defined by some line of thought.  By exploring new possibilities different from the previous ways of approaching something, whether it be a business or artistic pursuit, we hope to leap past the confines of the old ways using a novel approach.  Without people pushing through the boxes of convention, society would stagnate and we would never have the pioneers and leaders to inspire us and drive us to improvement.  We recognize Gandhi, Einstein, Martin Luther King, Amelia Earhart, and Bruce Lee as pioneers who have made their mark in the world; their excellence came about from their willingness to push past and eventually redefine the “box.”

The ability to think outside the box is a valuable skill and is requisite for improvements.  However, that doesn’t mean that thinking inside the box is useless or even undesireable.  The framework of the existing boxes have their own values. Previous established frameworks are often in place for good reason: they work.  The human mind is very good at finding structure in things and working from within developed structures.  Even without a previous framework in place, we will try to establish an underlying structure to achieve understanding.  Currently existing boxes can provide a prebuilt framework to serve as a launching point to facilitate the process of understanding.  Using pre-existing boxes saves you the time and effort of building your own model of understanding, and possibly even saves you the unnecessary effort of duplicating existing frameworks.  The conventional boxes can get you up to speed faster, particularly in pursuits that require being able to do things (for example, computer programming, painting, or even writing).

Though the box is often depicted as a constraining structure, the box paradoxically often empowers creativity and the ability to change.  With no reference framework, our perceptions of the task at hand consist mostly of unknowns.  With so many things unknown, we become uncertain, tentative, and possibly frozen into inaction.  It is here where working inside the framework of the box becomes most valuable.  The box provides a model which either explains the unknowns or defines a course of action to break the cycle of uncertainty and inaction.  The box framework provides the starting point for exploration, and it is from this process of exploration that creativity and change can arise.  You can hand a child paints and brushes, but the child probably won’t become the next Picasso without some framework for learning how to use the paints.

It is the exploration of the box that eventually leads to the recognition of the limits of the box.  Being able to think outside of the box requires that we know what inside and outside the box actually mean.  Thinking “outside” of the box is meaningless without the context of understanding what defines the box; understanding the box and being able to work from within the box gives us a starting point to learn to recognize and perceive the box.  Recognition of the box is the first step needed to move beyond the box and push outside of it.

While we may ultimately wish to break through the confines of the box and become one of the innovators thinking outside of the box, we cannot completely discount the value of thinking “inside” the box.  Thinking inside of the box complements the ability to move beyond the box.  As long as we can learn not to be confined by the box, we can find value thinking both inside and outside the box.

Johnny Kuo

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