Archive for Tai Chi Chuan

10 Questions with David-Dorian Ross

Posted in 10 Questions, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , on August 20, 2012 by Combative Corner

The Combative Corner is pleased to present to you a man that shouldn’t need any introduction. If you’re a martial artist, you’ve certainly seen his dvd (likely alongside the yoga videos of Rodney Yee).  Truth be told, he’s been spreading the joy of tai chi for many years and nowadays, thanks to the many social media platforms, his wisdom, positive energy and wonderful tai chi can be seen and felt the world over. 

For more information on Mr. Ross, please visit his website by clicking the image above.  For the answers to the much-anticipated questions, please continue to read.  Enjoy!

How did you initially get interested in Taijiquan?
I got into Taijiquan by accident. I was initially looking for a way to learn how to meditate, and I really sucked at traditional sitting techniques. After failing miserably at zazen and some other even more “beginner” methods, I heard about “moving meditation” and decided to give it a try. I have to confess that the idea of Taijiquan really appealed to my whole Kwai Chang Kane/Bruce Lee/Kung fu fantasy (yes I grew up in the 60’s & 70’s). I was completely unprepared for the experience. I took a class from Sifu Kuo Lien Ying, the man who brought Guang Ping taiji to the US. In my first class, I had a sudden spontaneous opening of all my meridians. It lasted probably all of 60 seconds, but it was enough to completely change my life from that moment on. The rest is history, as they say…
As a long-time teacher & promoter of Taiji, what are some of the changes you’ve seen?
The main thing, I think, is how much T’ai Chi has grown in popularity and availability. When I first started teaching T’ai Chi, it was definitely a little-known and niche exercise. I used to compete in Karate tournaments all across the country, and so over and over people would come up and ask me what I was demonstrating – because although they had heard of T’ai Chi, they had never seen it. Now it has found its way into the mainstream so much so that Jack Black raves about it on late night, and Keanu Reeves is making a movie about it. There are a lot more teachers here in the US – more Americans have access to it. And I think that’s amazing.
In playing Tai Chi for the first time, what’s most important for the student to understand?
This changes every time I teach a class. Everything is the most important thing – because T’ai Chi itself changes every time you look at it from a different angle. Years ago, I had a yoga teacher who would always introduce a position by saying, “This is the most important asana you’ll ever learn.” Then the very next position he would again say, “Now THIS is the most important asana you’ll ever learn.” Teaching taijiquan is kinda like that for me.  But if I had to pick just one thing, I think it would be this: don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun. Enjoy T’ai Chi- play it, don’t work it to death. Taijiquan is a technology for finding, restoring and maintaining balance, harmony, bliss and authenticity. Being overly serious and significant leads away from those things, not towards them. Every time I meet a taiji teacher or practitioner who has to exert how much better they are at taiji, or find fault with the way another student is doing it – I feel sad that they’ve forgotten this most important point. Lighten up, people!

Out of all the locations that you’ve performed Taijiquan, name 3 of your top spots and why (this might be a thinker!)
Top three? Hmmmm…. in reverse order: #3 is up in the mountains in Oregon, in the middle of a blizzard. I was so bundled up in snow gear that I could hardly move, and the snow was coming down so thick that I couldn’t see past my hand. But the white-out experience was so surreal that it felt like I was doing taiji in some other dimension. Far out, Man! #2 was in the Beijing Sports Arena when I competed in the 1st World Wushu Championships in 1991. A stadium filled with spectators from all over China and a panel of Taiji master judges. Wow! It was a once in a lifetime experience. (drum roll please) #1 was at Esalen, taking a T’ai Chi class from Al Huang. He is such a lighthearted spirit. We were on the pool deck, overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean, and at one point he stops and says, “You know, I have done T’ai Chi with all the luminaries (of the Human Potential movement) on this deck. Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, Abraham Maslow – they all did taiji with me here. ” I felt like was swimming in the river of history.
Besides another martial artist, name of your biggest influences
I’d have to say that aside from my father – who introduced me to the Human Potential movement back in the early 70’s – my biggest influence is probably Joseph Campbell. Campbell, the author of The Hero’s Journey and the person who popularized the phrase “follow your bliss,” helped me understand the real power behind the study of taijiquan. We are all on a journey of life – to find our way to the Soul, or “authentic inner self.” But where do you find the map and compass for that journey? What are the rules for successfully managing the voyage? And how do you prepare for the dangers or recover from the disasters of the trip? T’ai Chi is the perfect training for our Hero’s Journey. T’ai Chi is a classic example of what Campbell would call a ritual – a formalized set of actions that immerse us in the “myth” we are living, and bring us closer to our Soul.
What is the largest obstacle for you in terms of being a successful taijiquan teacher (or promoter, if different)?
Believe it or not, the largest obstacle turns out to be the taiji community itself. Like almost any group devoted to their art, or their philosophy or their leaders – taiji people have a tendency to be iconoclastic. You know the old joke: how many taiji teachers does it take to change a light bulb? Ten – one to change the bulb, and nine to stand around a say, “Well, you COULD do it that way, but in OUR school we do it this way…” I read a lot of blog posts and FB conversations, and while I love intellectual discourse and a healthy debate, I think it is self-defeating how much wrong-making I see. Come on, people – lighten up! At the end of the day, the main effect our internal bickering has is to drive people away from getting into taiji as beginners. I think if I were a beginner these days and I started reading the FB discussion groups, I’d be thinking – “OK these guys are whacked! I’d rather do Zumba – much less violence!”
Who is your favorite martial artist (living or dead) and why?
Bruce Lee, without a doubt! Why? Because he was a total hipster. He was like the quintessential hipster. What passes for hipster-ism today – why Bruce had more soul in his one-inch punch than modern hipsters have in their whole collective body. Bruce didn’t try to be hip – he was just authentic, and that is hippest thing a cat can do.
What are some of your tips on starting & invigorating a Tai Chi Community?
I have main pieces of advice I give to teachers trying to jump-start their community. First, continually organize extra-curricular activities. Arrange trips, flash mobs, or field trips to other martial arts schools. Put on a movie night, and let the students bring their kids. The second tip I have is to bring in guest speakers and teachers on a regular basis. I know a lot of “traditional” teachers who have a cow about exposing their students to some other teacher or school.  I say, “Oh shut up.” We should be focused on the experiences that delight and benefit the students, not somehow put our own selves on a pedestal. Your students will appreciate the education, respect you more for it – and typically become even more loyal than before.

What’s a funny Tai Chi experience that you’ve had? (You’ve probably had one or two from people who haven’t seen tai chi before)
I could be influenced here by my 4-year old daughter, who thinks that farting is the funniest thing EVER… but in fact one of my funniest taiji stories has to do with gas. One Sunday morning many years ago, I went up to the campus of my old university to play some taiji. An older Chinese gentleman wandered by and stopped to watch. He said, “I really like your taiji! Can I practice with you?” I said of course and he said, “Do you know the 48?” I said yes, and so we stood side by side and started the routine together. Somewhere around the 4th movement, I heard a pretty loud… musical note? I couldn’t help it- I glanced over at him.  He was just blissfully looking straight ahead, continuing with his motion as though nothing had just happened. I went back to focusing on my own moves. and then it happened again. For the next nine or ten minutes, my companion provided a real symphony of sounds to go along with our T’ai Chi. He never changed expression or missed a beat. When we were done, he simply smiled a big smile and said thanks for the T’ai Chi – and walked off into the trees…
What’s one or two of your personal goals within the next 5 years (this can be anything!)
Well, I just turned 55 and I’m ready to settle into the next phase of my career and body of work.  I’m turning my attention to doing a lot more writing. I just published my   first book on the iTunes library, using the new technology to create multi-media experiences as both learning tools and entertainment. You can expect to see me publishing at least ten new books in the next five years.  I’ve also started writing a regular advice blog on my website, using my t’ai chi/life coaching blend called Invincible Living. That’s been really exciting, and I look forward to doing a lot more with that. With regards to my T’ai Chi, I would like to contribute to making taiji more hip. I’d like to firmly implant taijiquan and taijicao into American culture, in a niche called “if you want to be hip, you’ve got to be doing T’ai Chi!” LOL – just part of my philosophy that taiji is supposed to be fun. It’s meant to be played, not worked.

Wisdom of the Masters | Taijiquan

Posted in 10 Questions, Day's Lesson, Martial Arts, Philosophy, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2012 by Combative Corner

Erle Montaigue
How ‘intense’ should Taijiquan be?
…Sure, Taijiquan has the above aspects (e.i. soft, calm, peaceful) simply because the body must be relaxed, or as the Chinese put it, in a state of sung, but for the most part, Taiji is a very violent martial art. In fact, I always tell people when they are looking for a Taiji class, to look for violence in that class. If it is not there in the advanced classes, then leave that class.

On Taiji ‘Doldrums’
…Once you know that it is the Taijiquan alone that is healing you, you will then practice every day no matter how great you feel as you will realise that it is this simple set of movements that is causing you to be in this great area of health and well-being.

Full 10-Question Interview : Click Here

Master Hai Yang
On teaching the internal arts.
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.

Full 10-Question Interview : Click Here

Chen Huixian
What is your favorite aspect of teaching others Taijiquan?
My favorite aspect is letting people know more about Chen style Taijiquan. That it is not just for health, but that it is also an effective and realistic martial art. Many people in the west do not know what “Tai Chi” really is and where it came from. They don’t know it can be fun for people my age and younger and I like breaking those misconceptions. I also like watching my students’ leg muscles burn as they learn how to practice properly. Then they start to understand what gong fu is.

For many people, Taijiquan and the concept of Qi is still “mysterious.” How do you address your student’s questions regarding the energy in Taijiquan?
Taijiquan, and Chen style in particular requires balance, both internal and external, mind and body. If you only read books and use your mind to think too much about Qi without physically practicing, you can’t experience this “feeling” of Qi energy moving through your body. That’s not balanced and it’s not Taiji. Likewise, if you only practice your physical skills without using your mind, that’s not Taiji either. So when you practice, you have to balance your mental intent with you breathing and movements. Only then you can start to feel your Qi moving in your body. The more you practice, the stronger and more noticeable this feeling becomes. I always tell my students that Chen Taijiquan has no shortcuts. You need to practice correctly, practice often, and work hard. And don’t think too much about Qi. It will come it time. If you want to feel your Qi faster, practice more.

Full 10-Question Interview : Click Here

Eli Montaigue

What are some of your favorite forms or exercises to practice and why?

My favorite form would be the Yang Lu Chan Tai Chi form – For it’s “stoner qualities!” It gives the best feeling of building power in my body, and switching off the mind – getting high off the Qi.  It to me is the most complete form, I could do just that form everyday and get what I need out of it.  I’ve felt the most interesting things happen to me in that form, and seen great things in other as well.
Push Hands also.  I feel push hands has taught me more than anything else about the fighting side of things, and it’s s a great full body work-out as well.

Your father imparted many things to you over the years, what sticks out most in your mind?

To not take things so seriously.  Make fun of yourself.  Never think yourself better than anyone else.  How to love, how to hug, even to those you don’t even know.  To show love to them and care.

Full 10-Question Interview : Click Here

Yang, Jwing-Ming
What is your primary teaching message?
Art takes a lot of time and the right mind to truly appreciate and enjoy. Many things we do in our everyday lives and careers can be considered very complex and beautiful forms of art. Whether it is martial arts, music, writing, painting, engineering, speaking a language, healing and helping people, playing sports, playing chess, or whatever we concentrate on and dedicate ourselves to, the development and true feeling of the breadth of each art-form can only be felt when practiced diligently, with discipline, with humility, and with the right intentions. Without these things, the art you practice will always be only on the surface. You should continue searching deeper and deeper into your practice. Keep finding resources and people to learn from and help lead you. Don’t get stuck in the same spot. What you will discover is so rewarding. Keep your cup empty and you will always see the beautiful horizon ahead. If your cup is full, then there will be too many clouds obstructing your view. I began training martial arts because I wanted to fight, but from that time until now, after more than 50 years of practice, it has evolved into something so much more.

What has been the hardest obstacle in teaching?
The hardest obstacle today is finding committed students. It is not easy to find a student who is able and willing to sacrifice or compromise things such as their job, families, or social lives to sincerely dedicate to training. Kung Fu has been downgraded to a hobby or sport. Some might even view it as a luxury in today’s society. Additionally, it is not easy to find a student who has the will, patience, endurance, perseverance, and morality required to train to a meaningful level. Due to the exaggeration of martial arts in the media today, just about all students have fantasies about how good of a martial artist they can be in a short period of time. However, any deep art takes a lot of time and patience (Gongfu) to reach an accomplished or exceptional level….

Full 10-Question Interview : Click Here

Glenn Hairston
What do you think is the best way to bring people into the study of Tai Chi Chuan?
To actually be “That”, which we claim Tai Chi has to offer.

Is it best to separate Tai Chi for Health and Tai Chi for Combat?
There is only one Tai Chi; to ignore the Martial is to limit the Health benefits. When you visualize applications during solo practice the body makes subtle adjustments. With the idea of encountering an opposing force the entire body alignment is changed causing everything to work harder. It’s the difference between just standing and standing with the knowledge that someone is going push you backward. Just the knowledge that you will be pushed is enough for you body to make subtle adjustments in its structure in preparation of the incoming force. The mind makes adjustments as well. These ongoing adjustments are what over time promote health by strengthening and toning the muscles, increasing blood and oxygen circulation, improving mental focus and more.

Full 10-Question Interview : Click Here

Chen Zhonghua
For someone who is just starting out in Taijiquan, what do you recommend for them to concentrate on?
Learn the rules and regulations of the art. Don’t try to make them up on your own.

Full 10-Question Interview : Click Here

10 Questions with Eli Montaigue

Posted in 10 Questions, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2012 by Combative Corner

What was it like as a youngster growing up with a father so well-versed in martial arts?

Well when I was younger, it was always cool knowing my Dad could kicks anyone’s ass kind of thin.  It was great also because I was home-schooled, and Dad did a lot of his classes from home, so he was always around.  There was of course a lot of play fighting etc, though from as far back as I remember whenever we’d be wrestling, he’d be getting me to strike in ST9 etc, so of course I was to small to hurt him, so I got a lot of Dim-Mak practice.  It was when I was 14 I started taking the training seriously, 7am every morning for 2 hours, a class with Dad.  Girls were the only thing that ever made me late!  Like father like son!
As I started getting better at the fighting arts, I became his main training partner, he called me Kato (Pink Panther), as I would always attack him in the house, either with a punch or a heap of questions.
I started at 14 with him having to push me to train, then by 16 he was having to hide!  I was so into it, and wanted to be as good as him.

When and how did the drive to become a martial art teacher start and/or evolve?

I guess ever since I started enjoying the training I figured I’d start teaching one day.
When I was 16 I started attending all of Dad’s workshops and classes, and helped out teaching the beginners.  Then when we moved to Wales, when I was 18, I got a job offer through one of Dad’s other students  to teach Tai Chi form and self-defence to children at the public schools in Swansea.
It was a great place to start teaching on my own, as they were aged from 5 to 15 years old.  So didn’t matter if I made mistakes.  That built up my confidence as a teacher.  Then after a year of doing that, I opened my first self-run classes.  At 19 years old I was very skilled in the arts, and a good teacher, though looking like a kid I wasn’t able to get many people to stay with the class.  (As so many people think Tai Chi teaches have to be old!)
So most of my students were of people who knew who I was.
I opened up more classes in the week, knowing I wouldn’t get many people to the Bagua one, but just did it because I liked this girl that was attending, so meant I could see her more.
She became my first love, and we were together for nearly 4 years.
So yeah I loved the arts, loved teaching them, and found that I could make money doing it!  So it’s not really something you’d say no to.  And when I started traveling all over the world with it, I got hooked, and has grown bigger and bigger.  Then Dad died, and I suddenly had a lot more work to do!
What is your daily training routine like?

I get most of my training though all the teaching I do.  That’s been one of things that has taught me most in my training.
So at the moment, I just do a little on my own.  Wake up, do a little stretching on my legs, Qigong, Tai Chi form etc, then I get all my partner training in classes.
When I was younger – 14 till 20 or so, I did a lot of learning new stuff through the day, class with Dad in the morning, and then watching DVD’s.  Then I would get Dad to look at what I learned to show me where I was going wrong.  And I would do my Standing Qigong for 20 to 30 minutes morning and night, in Australia in the summer I’d get up at 5am just as the sun was coming up, as even then it was 30 degrees, so was to hot in the day for Qigong.
As someone from the fast-food generation and someone who constantly travels, how does your diet fare?

And I’m a Vegetarian! No. I really don’t have much of a problem finding food.  France is the hardest.  They don’t seem to understand the concept of not eating meat.  But I always manage to find good healthy food.  The only time I would not eat well would be on a long driving trip, as the food in the Motorway services is not great.
You have to look a bit harder, but there’s good food in most places.

What are some of your favorite forms or exercises to practice and why?

My favorite form would be the Yang Lu Chan Tai Chi form – For it’s “stoner qualities!” It gives the best feeling of building power in my body, and switching off the mind – getting high off the Qi.  It to me is the most complete form, I could do just that form everyday and get what I need out of it.  I’ve felt the most interesting things happen to me in that form, and seen great things in other as well.
Push Hands also.  I feel push hands has taught me more than anything else about the fighting side of things, and it’s s a great full body work-out as well.

How does your method of teaching push hands differ from most traditional styles?

Our push hands is to train you how to kill.  And there are no rules, just like there are no rules in the street.  All other styles that I’ve seen, seem to do push hands to beat other people at push hands!  I don’t know why you’d want to do that.
They push you and if you move your foot they think they’ve won! – whilst being completely oblivious to the strike I have just put in (while moving my foot).  We don’t stand still when we fight, so we don’t in push hands.
Other styles seem to put a great emphasis on up-rooting.  They try to get you off balance, then push you back.  This is what we teach to beginners only, for a bit of grounding and balance training.  If I try to up-root one of my advanced students, I’ll get a punch in the face for it! You can not up-root someone that wants to smash your face in… just like if I try to put on an arm lock, or throw a fancy high kick.  These things do not work in real fights, and push hands is about real fighting.  So once we learn the basics of push hands, if you were to watch me and another instructor doing it, we just look like we’re trying to kick the shit out of each other.  We try to pull any deadly shots, but there are still a lot of bruises and bloody lips etc.  After one of my last sessions I was limping home, and my partner was throwing up in the street!
Internal arts have been called the “soft styles” – This is because we are soft on the inside, in that we use the least amount of muscular force to get the job done.  So we look softer than someone using more muscle etc.  But in these modern times this has led everyone to believe that we fight softly!  You can’t fight softly, anyone who tells you this has had a very sheltered life!

Your father imparted many things to you over the years, what sticks out most in your mind?

To not take things so seriously.  Make fun of yourself.  Never think yourself better than anyone else.  How to love, how to hug, even to those you don’t even know.  To show love to them and care.

What would you have been doing if it wasn’t for the martial arts and why?

Music –  I do it now anyway.  I’m a drummer in a rock band, and also play for the Swansea Belly Dancing girls.  When Dad died someone had to fill his spot in the band as lead male vocals.  At that time we found out I actually had his voice.  So I’m now lead singer for our band.  So I guess if I didn’t have the Tai Chi I would put more time into singing and try to do something there.

When someone is starting out in Taijiquan, what is most important for them to concentrate on?

Depends on the person.  Young, fit guys usually have to work on softness, whereas girls tend to have to work on power.
I guess the main thing I work on with beginners would be strength and structure, while at the some time staying soft.  And just do it!
So many people worry so much about if they’re doing it right, that they never do it!  You’re not going to get it right at the start, so just do it as best you can.  We all suck at the start, I have video footage to prove it!

What does Eli like to do when he is not training, teaching or traveling the country doing workshops?

Mountain hiking/camping. Skiing, Motorbikes, spending chilling out time with family and friends, hugging, swimming, ping pong, roller-blading, Kayaking, Cycling, playing drums, singing,…or when I’ve just been doing to much, my friends will make me have an evening of doing nothing!  Just sit around watching movies, chatting, and just wasting time.  That’s always nice too, just not all the time!



10 Questions with Glenn Hairston

Posted in 10 Questions, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2012 by Combative Corner

What brought you from the “harder” styles, the security work to the softer style (i.e. Tai Chi)?

Actually it really wasn’t a conscious decision to switch to the “soft style(s)”. To make a long story short many years ago I sustained a serious injury. I was constantly in a lot of pain and had difficulty just making it through each day. The doctors suggested surgery but stated that I would most likely have limited mobility as a result. At that time I found it impossible to continue with my training in the “harder systems”. Actually it was difficult just getting out of bed on most days. By shear accident I found out about a Tai Chi class that was near me and I decided to go and watch. I never intended to participate but figured I might enjoy watching and gaining insight into something new. The teacher Master Yung-Ko Chou was a little old man who basically forced me to participate despite my attempts to decline. I discovered that because of the slow relaxed nature of the movements I could perform the Tai Chi postures on my own terms without risk of further injury. Because the moves were foreign to me they required my total concentration this proved to be a distraction from the pain I was experiencing. So, at that time I found the practice of Tai Chi to be a good method of diverting my attention from the pain that was consistently with me. As time passed, my teacher introduced me to the martial aspects of Tai Chi Chuan. This required structural changes to my postures and gave me a whole new outlook on Tai Chi altogether. Because of these changes I progressed in my training, began grow stronger and experience less pain.

I then began to understand what my teacher meant when he would say “It is not the practice of Tai Chi that promotes health, but rather it is the correct practice of Tai Chi that promotes our health” Although my pain has never gone away completely to this day it is quite manageable and as long as I am not foolish (and don’t pretend that I am twenty years old) I can do pretty much as I please. My professional History consists of such areas as Executive Protection, Witness/Dignitary Protection and Law Enforcement with the last Twenty Plus years working as an undercover Narcotics Detective. These are areas where physical encounters are inevitable and regular. I believe incorporating the principles of Tai Chi Chuan have been quite instrumental in the longevity of my career.

What is your favorite form or (exercise to practice) and why?

I can’t say that I have a favorite form or exercise. I enjoy strength, flexibility and endurance training. I also enjoy and benefit greatly from sitting meditation and various breathing and Qi Gong exercises. I believe it is important to exercise in a variety of genres. No matter which Martial Art System you subscribe to good health and fitness is paramount. You should always seek to be as fit as possible. Life is better when you are not hindered by pain and physical limitations. Regardless of your Martial Art system, if you are out of breath after one or two minutes of punching and kicking then how can you defend yourself? The streets are unpredictable. Many times there is more than one attacker. Your ability to fight is sometimes not as important as your ability to run. So even fleeing requires fitness. I personally find all forms of exercise to be enjoyable with my only complaint being a lack of time. I find that the secret to enjoying exercise is moderation. Do not over train, do not under train. You should find a level of exercise that allows for development but does not cause injury or render you unable to train the next day. Your level of exercise should allow you to maintain a positive attitude about working out each day. If you do not find enjoyment in exercise then you will most likely not remain consistent and consistency becomes even more important as you get older. I divide my training into different categories such as: Health, Fitness, Self defense, Strength and flexibility. It’s sort of like eating something from all of the food groups. Just as one food cannot not provide all the nutrients you need one type of exercise has its (nutritional) limits as well. For instance certain exercises are good for health and others for fitness. Health and Fitness are not the same thing. One can be fit (like an athlete) having strong muscles, good flexibility, superior agility other attributes but may have poor health such as problems with liver, kidneys, spleen, colon, stomach etc. This is why in order to get the most from your exercise you must understand the difference between health and fitness. Then you can train accordingly.

How do you get the most out of you training?

 Two ways:

1. Consistency. Working at it all the time and when I’m not working at it I’m thinking about training and when I’m not thinking about training I’m dreaming about it, and when I’m not dreaming about it I’m….well you get the picture…. LOL

2. Thinking outside the box. By thinking outside of the box I mean not getting stuck in repetitious viewpoints and other people’s theories. You must make room for creativity in your training. Don’t just rely on teachers, books and videos. Seek to get information first hand, Experiment. In order to really excel at Tai Chi you have to get into your training, get dirty, dig deep, experiment, experiment, experiment. You are responsible for growing your art.

Do you think there is anything under emphasized in the world of Tai Chi?

I believe that the Martial aspects of Tai Chi have been under emphasized. Martial application is an area where not only the most intricate lessons are discovered but an increase in good health is developed as a by-product. Tai Chi is taught in stages. In the beginning one is taught a series of movements or postures (the solo form) with no further explanation as this would be a distraction to learning the moves. Solo form practice helps us to understand ourselves; if we slip we can recover. If we drop something we may catch it before it hits the ground. After one has become proficient at mimicking the moves then applications are assigned to them. Martial application gives purpose to the movements and movements with purpose are no longer just movements. In this world we must relate to outside forces. Understanding Martial application is being able to adapt to outside forces that are not acting in concert with us; and in truth isn’t that all fighting really is. Do not misunderstand me I am not saying that one must be a fighter in order to study and benefit from Tai Chi. I am saying is that the movements have meaning and that by understanding the meaning you can practice correctly and benefit to the fullest. In Tai Chi our health comes from striving to bring our movements into accordance with Tai Chi principles. These Principles have theory but they also have function. In order to fully benefit we must graduate from Theory (form) to function (application).

Do you stress the importance of Qi development? Why or why not?

I do stress the importance of Qi development but no more than on the other areas of development. I feel that balance is important. Why spend all of your time developing your internal Qi and neglect the physical. I have known individuals who have spent all of their time doing internal Qi training exercises. However they couldn’t run two blocks to escape danger if they had to. That is not practical. The idea of training is to enrich your life. I have found that Balance = quality. Develop your Qi but develop your endurance, your strength, flexibility. Improve your diet and develop a good sense of humor. In my opinion this is the way to good health and longevity. If I would emphasis any single word pertaining to our practice it would be balance.

What has been the biggest obstacle for you as a teacher?

Time. Never enough time with my students and never enough time to improve myself.

What do you think is the best way to bring people into the study of Tai Chi Chuan?

To actually be “That”, which we claim Tai Chi has to offer.

Is it best to separate Tai Chi for Health and Tai Chi for Combat?

There is only one Tai Chi; to ignore the Martial is to limit the Health benefits. When you visualize applications during solo practice the body makes subtle adjustments. With the idea of encountering an opposing force the entire body alignment is changed causing everything to work harder. It’s the difference between just standing and standing with the knowledge that someone is going push you backward. Just the knowledge that you will be pushed is enough for you body to make subtle adjustments in its structure in preparation of the incoming force. The mind makes adjustments as well. These ongoing adjustments are what over time promote health by strengthening and toning the muscles, increasing blood and oxygen circulation, improving mental focus and more.

In your Law Enforcement work, how does your experience in Tai Chi help you?

In every way imaginable. Other than the obvious self defense training the increased sensitivity of being in tune with the intent of others is the greatest factor.

What is your message to people “on the fence” regarding the internal styles of martial arts.

I would first suggest that they write down the reasons for apprehension. Then they should seek out a competent Tai Chi instructor and present these reasons to him/her giving them the opportunity to address them. I realized the Internal Arts still have a lot of myths and mysticism surrounding them, but in reality when the smoke clears you’ll find strong Martial Arts with sound science behind them.


Embodiment Of The Butterfly

Posted in Discussion Question, Internal Arts, Martial Arts, Philosophy, Taijiquan, Teaching Topic with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2011 by chencenter

Three years ago I asked a question of dozens of martial artists within my circle & social networks.  The question I asked was, “Within your martial art, what (if any) animal/spirit/creature/etc do you associate yourself with?”  The responses were numerous and surprisingly varied.  But the connection that I made, several years ago, was with the butterfly.  Here’s the original article.  Enjoy!

Before I get into the fillet of the article, I’d like to say that previously I worked with “the dragon.”  Historically, the dragon is the juggernaut of the martial world.  The dragon spews bellows of fire, claws at his prey and whips his tail unexpectedly.  The dragon is definitely the pinnacle of yang energy and leaves all the others… “how should I say… lacking.”  But it occurs to me, being so dramatically yang OR embracing the spirit of the dragon does not correspond to the natural and quintessential aspect of Taijiquan.  If one is to do the taijiquan form, the spirit must be above the form… we must be quick and evasive, yet resilient and rooted when needed.


I don’t know how it came to me.  But after thinking for a moment on said question (of “What do WE/TAIJIQUAN Embody?”)… I remembered being in a butterfly farm.  This was quite a few years ago and I hardly remember the experience, but it DID make an impression.  Just like the first time I went snorkeling, the experience of having several butterflies land on my arm gave me an instant connection with nature.  Besides the new-found love for these delicate creatures, I remember the impression it left.

Funny that it never crossed my mind before… but you can’t tell when a butterfly lands on your sleeve (at least I couldn’t).  There is no weight.  When you move your arm (obviously this depends on the shyness of these butterflies, but I was at a butterfly farm for pete sake) their legs have a sufficient hold that naturally adheres, without having to grip.  The wings, which you would think would be like an umbrella in the wind, actually adjusts to your movement (as long as the disturbance isn’t a violent shake).  But as it flies.. it eludes you with such lightness, and fluttering quickness.  You need a net to catch one.  Has anyone caught a healthy, wild butterfly with their bare hand (one that didn’t want to get caught)?  I would think it would be a tremendous task.

Taijiquan has the reputation of being boringly slow.  However, the truth is that Taijiquan should be as spritely and lively as a dancing butterfly.  That is just my opinion.  There are probably some classic taiji players that would disagree with me… but I can truly relate to this “dance.”  I don’t know anyone who has seen a real-life dragon, so for me… it would be quite a stretch of the imagination to be one of those.  Plus, dragons are quite the carnivore.  And I’m desperately trying to separate myself from that.  At least as much as I can.

Coach Joyce

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