Archive for Tai Chi

Bring Tai Chi into the New Year

Posted in OFFERS, Products, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , on December 30, 2014 by chencenter

Hunyuan Tai Chi DVDThe art of Taijiquan is a big part of my life.  It has helped me to eradicate my low back pain.  It has helped me become a relaxed and patient jiu-jitsu practitioner.  Taijiquan has certainly helped me to manage stress, and channel these stressors effectively.  In 2010, I remastered my dvd on the Hunyuan 24-Posture form of the late, Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang.

Being December 30th… just a short time till our New Year begins… I’d like to offer this dvd for a low price (U.S. only).  If you are interested, please click on the above image.

(or search “Hunyuan dvd” on Ebay.Com)

Enjoy,

Coach Michael Joyce

ChenCenter.Com

Push Hands: Learn to Fight, Not Push

Posted in Internal Arts, Martial Arts, Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Techniques, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2014 by Combative Corner

Eli Montaigue Mountains Push Hands

By Eli Montaigue of WTBA ©2014

Push Hands, is probably one of the most misunderstood training methods in Taiji.  Most schools of taiji teach push hands for the sake of doing push hands, to beat other people at push hands.
Taiji is about learning how to defend yourself in a fight. Pushing is not fighting.  No one is going to come up to you in the street and try to push you over. They are going to punch your face in, then kick you while you’re down.

I know people who have been training in push hands for many many years, and they are very good at “push hands”. If I play push hands with them, we are of equal skill etc.
However, I have been taught to hit from push hands. With these same people, when I start to put in any kind of strikes, they have no idea what to do. Because they have only trained in how to push. They might for example push me a little off balance, which makes me react with a strike. Followed by “you can’t do that, we’re doing push hands!” This only applies to a beginner doing push hands. Of course they must do it in a certain way, to learn certain principles. But if two advanced Taiji practitioners are doing push hands? You can do what you want. You can stand there and kick me in the groin, or head but me in the face. If I cannot stop you? My push hands is not good.

Eli Push Hands 1

picture 1

Ok, so how and why do we train push hands?

First up, stance!
Most schools of Taiji teach Push Hands from the same stance as they would use in the Taiji form. See picture #1.
This is a big mistake! The large stances in the form, are there for 3 main reasons. 1, to build heat in the legs to help the flow of Qi. 2, to strengthen the legs. 3, to stretch the legs. It is for health and exercise, and is in no way meant to be used for fighting.

The big stance in push hands teaches us many bad habits.  My father Erle Montaigue, use to teach big the stance to beginners, then he would advance them onto the small stance later on.
This is how he was taught.
However, after years of teaching, he found that the big stance, although easier to learn, was teaching the student nothing but bad habits. The big stance gives you a false sense of balance. What use is it to be able to hold your balance in a big stance, when you can’t fight from a big stance. In a small stance, you are more
mobile, you can protect your groin and knees, and you are
training yourself to be able to fight from the stance you’re already in when walking down the street.
The only way to deliver force from a small stance, without losing balance, is to use the same muscles as you would to strike. Via twisting of the waist, compression and release of the spine.
Thus training your body how to strike with power.

Eli Push Hands 2

picture 2

In a big low stance, you will be more likely to be training your body in the best way to push.

There are no pushes or pulls in Taiji, as they do not have a place in self defence. Unless your opponent is standing on a cliff edge!
{See picture #2}
It’s like if you were doing 500 squats every day and
hoping it would make you a faster runner.
You have to train the muscles for the work you want them to do. When we hold a big stance, this causes us to get into a forward backward weight change.
The pusher comes forward, the receiver evades by sitting back. See picture #1 again.
What’s the first thing you learn in self defence?
When someone attacks you, don’t sit back! You are
putting yourself in a vulnerable position. See picture #2.
In a small stance, when we shift the weight, this causes us to evade to the side, maintaining our forward intent. This now changes the intent of the pushing, from you attack and I defend, to you attack and I defend by attacking! In every attack there is defence, and in every defence there is attack. Basic Yin and Yang. See picture #3 and #4. Notice the closer proximity of the players, and that in Lu #4, it is applied with an intention of sitting to the side, rather then sitting back as in Pic #1.
This means you can maintain forward intent, and truly evade the attack. Sitting back does not get you out of the way of an attack. The closer lateral evasion also puts you in a
position to re attack.
The mind set is most important in Push Hands. Even if you are doing a pushing movement, you should have the body structure and intent of striking.

Eli Push Hands 3

picture 3

Eli Push Hands 4

picture 4

Hard or soft?
Ok here is where a lot of people get things wrong. Ever heard the quote “Steel wrapped in cotton?”.
This means we should seem soft on the outside. It does not mean we do things in a soft manor.
Anyone who tells you that you can defend yourself without using any substantial force, has clearly never been put under pressure.
What we do however is to structure the body so, that we have to use very little strength to get great effect. This is what P’eng training is all about. We learn this first in single Push Hands.

For example, when I do Push Hands with a beginner, but someone with much bigger muscles than me, their arms will get sore before mine. To them it seems like I have really strong arms, not that I am all soft and jelly like. But in fact my muscles are not stronger, it’s just that I am structuring my body so that I only have to deal with half the pressure.

The pressure of the incoming push, should start soft for the student to learn. Too much pressure in the
beginning can cause the student to use bad technique. But be sure to increase this to as much pressure as you can develop, as someone attacking you is not going to do so lightly!
From the receiving part, well you should use as much pressure as you need to. As you get more advanced, this amount will get less, as you will learn to move your centre around the force coming in.
Very soft training has it’s place, this teaches us to “listen” with our hand.
But to have this as your only practice? Well that would be like learning to kick without being able stand on one leg.

When I was learning push hands, if I did something wrong, lost my balance, or opened my guard etc,
I did not get pushed over. I got punched in the side of the head! Or kicked in the groin!
Two advanced Push Hands players should look like they are having a fight, not like they are dancing.

Eli Push Hands 5

picture 5

Ok now onto attacks.
In the beginning, for students learning the ground work for Push Hands, we do some “pushing” attacks. This teaches the beginner how the hold up a strong guard, stay grounded and move their centre out of the way of the
incoming force.
Then the power speed and aggression of the attacks are increased gradually, till they are full real attacks. Any type of attack can be put into push hands, from a practical cross punch, (see picture #5) to a silly back spinning kick to the head. It is most important not to see Push Hands as a competition!
It is a training method. Yes you try your best to hit the other guy, so you could say that you are trying to beat him. However, what you have to do in your push hands, is to use all types of attacks, not just the ones you’re best at. For example, if I was competing, I would only use the techniques that I knew were best for me. But this would not give my partner a very rounded training.

I would never throw a back spinning kick in a competition, because I know it is not my forte.
Same with grappling, I would not use this if I wanted to beat the other guy.
But I will use them in training, so that my partner gets to train against them. I still throw the attack as best I can, trying to catch my partner out. But knowing that due to the fact that I am throwing an easily defeated attack, I will most likely be the one to get hit. I have tested this one many people. They only train practical attacks, then they get hit by the silly attacks, because they are not use to them.

Eli Push Hands 6

picture 6

In defence though it is different. You see if you attack, you are not reacting, you have made a conscious choice to attack. But if you are defending, you are reacting to
something your partner is doing. And when you are training your subconscious to react, you want to train it in the most practical way that will be best for protecting yourself in the street.

Your first reaction in a situation should be to strike.

It is the quickest and most likely way to protect yourself. See picture #6. In my opinion, other methods such as arm/wrist locks, sleeper holds etc, should only be used when you know you have control of the situation. Perhaps there is a drunk guy in the pub, you have some mates there, you know there’s no real danger. So you would try to take care of the guy without doing too much damage.
But someone breaks into your home and catches you off guard, you have to protect your family. So your first reaction should be to strike. This is why we practice our locks and holds from the attacking part of push hands.

So to consolidate, if you have been training in push hands for anymore than a year, but don’t feel comfortable when someone is throwing punches at you, then your push hands has not done its job.
As I said at the top, what use is a training method that only makes you good at doing the training method.

Eli Push Hands 001

Eli is a guest writer for the CombativeCorner.  If you enjoyed this article, please check out the others that he’s done for us.

10 Questions with Eli Montaique

Standing Three Circle Qigong

Special thanks to Francesca Galea, Leigh Evans, and Lars-Erik Olsen, for appearing in the pictures

Proof read by Francesca Galea
Written by Eli Montaigue 04/12/2014

© Eli Montaigue 2014

____________________________________________________________________


eli montaigue profileEli Montaigue is a man of many talents.  He’s the chief instructor of the World Taiji Boxing Association, inherited from his late, legendary father-teacher Erle Montaigue and also the lead singer of the band Powder Monkeys.  Originally from NSW, Australia he currently resides in London, England.  Intent on spreading quality martial art teaching, he conducts many workshops throughout the year, locally and internationally.  For more information, visit the WTBA website at www.taijiworld.com

Can Modern Students Rise To The Challenge?

Posted in Taijiquan, Training with tags , , , , , , , on March 14, 2014 by Combative Corner

David Gaffney SingaporeI saw the new year in in Singapore, a place with a great martial arts vibe. Whenever I’m there I usually take the chance to drop into the Tong Lian martial arts book and equipment store in Bras Basah. While browsing through some of the books in the store I came across the following quotation from the famous Taiwanese internal martial artist Wang Shujin: “Follow the rules honestly: do not doubt, do not cheat. All these rules come from our ancestors. I did not invent them; I am simply transmitting them”. It made me think of Ma Hong, a well-known student of Chen Zhaokui, who passed away earlier this month. He kept copious notes of his years training with Chen Zhaokui, which he documented in a number of books. These were a great reference tool that we turned to in writing our own books. Like Wang Shujin, Ma was adamant that his role was to pass on the knowledge that had been passed down to him.

In the last few years we have lost some of the greatest of the older generation of Taijiquan masters – Feng Zhiqiang, Wang Peisheng, Ma Yeuhliang, Yang Wenhu to name a few. These teachers all learned first hand from an older generation in the slow, painstaking way that characterises traditional Taijiquan.

Can we say that Taijiquan is in such good hands today? How many teachers stress the realities of real Taijiquan and how many students are prepared to  go down the traditional route. Traditional Taijiquan has many sayings that point to this complexity:  “Don’t go outside the gate for ten years”….”Three years small success, five years medium success, ten years great success”…..”One days practice, one days skill”…..”Treat 10 years as if it were one day” etc etc…

David Gaffney ChinaI was in Tiantan park in 1998 killing a few days before we traveled to Henan. We walked through the park in the early morning looking at the different Taijiquan and Qigong players. What I was looking for really was any interesting Chen Taijiquan, but what arrested my attention was an old Wu style practitioner. At that time there were lots of groups, some being quite large. Zhang Baosheng was training with one student. As we watched it was immediately obvious that this was high quality Taijiquan. When he finished his routine he came over to chat and we arranged to do some training with him over the next few days.

Zhang was a student of the aforementioned Wang Peisheng, who he described as simply the “best Taijiquan teacher in the world”! Zhang believed that there was too much emphasis upon different styles of Taijiquan. To him what was important was understanding the correct method and then being able to apply it practically. For example talking of the merits of different styles pushing hands he simply concluded that “It doesn’t matter who is doing what style, the one who is still standing up at the end is doing it correctly”. Zhang described the tortuous early years of training fundamentals with his own teacher – everyday for the first few years having to do several hours standing before beginning any form training. At seventy-three years old he was still very strong doing one legged squats while holding the other leg above his head – as a warm up.

Close to Zhang’s patch in the park a large group trained in one of the modern simplified forms of Taijiquan. With accompanying music and many of the students chatting casually to each other as the leader set the pace, it was little more than a nice social way to begin the day. His one student, on the other hand was serious and disciplined. When we commented on this Zhang said that unfortunately that was the way it was now – “young people in China are not interested in the old ways”. While he felt an obligation to pass on what he himself had been taught, he sadly concluded that the authentic Taijiquan was in real danger of becoming extinct. When we we visited him again in 2005 or 2006 he was in the same place – still training and still looking great. Now in his eighties, and now alone – Zhang’s sole student had left to find work.
Contrast the above approach with Jet Li’s new Taiji Zen project, a high-profile modern example of Taijiquan in the “internet age”. Prospective learners are wooed with the possibility of achieving a 9th Duan grade in as little as 3 years. And to validate their “achievement” at each level they receive a certificate signed by Jet Li himself! Forget the fact that Jet Li is a wushu guy who did a little Taiji on the side, the difference in approach could hardly be more striking. But sadly it seems that this is what people want today. I’ve touched on this phenomena in previous blogs with the explosion of short and simplified Taijiquan forms and fast track instructor courses. If that’s what people want that’s what they want, but don’t anyone kid themselves that they will get any of the often mentioned benefits of Taijiquan. The traditional art is a lifetime process of constant introspective refinement. Traditional skills are hard earned. An individual is said to have “good gongfu”, whether it be in Taijiquan or any other pursuit, when it is clear to a skilled observer that they have put three elements into their discipline: The first is that they have studied for an extended period of time; the second is that they have worked very hard or “eaten bitter”; and the third is that they have exhibited yongxin – literally “using their heart” – more than just working hard, they have given it their full, deep and unwavering concentration.
Wang ShujinI’ll leave the last word on whether this fast track type of Taijiquan can give results anything like the old ways to Wang Shujin. Talking about the merits of slowly and meticulously training the fundamentals of Taijiquan (in this case the likelihood of gaining high skills without seriously training standing): “You must practice Post Standing (Zhan Zhuang). No matter which Chinese martial art you study, Post Standing is considered fundamental practice. In ancient times, students had to practice standing for one or two years before they were allowed to learn any forms. That is why each generation produced outstanding martial artists. Society and people’s way of thinking have changed, making adapting to these requirements difficult…If you skip the fundamentals, your form will remain undeveloped and you will be ridiculed by experts”.
David Gaffney
Talking Chen with David Gaffney
Originally titled: “Can Modern Students Cope with Traditional Methods?”
Reposted with Permission.
Original posting Jan. 6, 2014

Tai Chi Will Make You Soft

Posted in Internal Arts, Martial Arts, Taijiquan, Training with tags , , , , , , , on January 9, 2014 by chencenter

Michael Joyce Tai Chi TaijiThe title is a bit provocative, and carries with it a double meaning. One being the ‘softness’ that is implied when someone normally speaks about Tai Chi (i.e. yin).  The other (viewpoint) being ‘softness’ as it is implied by many non-taijiers – especially those practitioners that put emphasis on physical strength.

What may infuriate many taiji players is that, in my opinion, both are true.

What many teachers will have you believe is that internal energy will improve internal health and thus, foster physical (external) strength.

Speaking from personal experience, I’ve noticed tremendous gains (over the past year) in fluidity, balance, coordination and power when supplementing my taiji training with jiu-jitsu, inversions (yoga), and various body-weight exercise (movnat).  These supplemental methods of exercise provided me with a mirror that showed several imperfections, the two most notable being; strength and control.  With these reflections, it allowed me to see that my so-called “perfect practice” was quite “less-than perfect.”

The late Grandmaster Feng said:

“If you are physically strong but can also work on internal strength, then that is the real strength.”

(Tai Chi Magazine, vol. 25, no.5)

Michael Joyce tai chi 2If you exercise using the tai chi forms, a strong standing practice and occasionally engage in pushing hands – how can you develop sufficient strength?  Why wouldn’t tai chi practitioners supplement their training with other methods if by doing so it: enhances your feeling of progress, improves confidence and body image, keeps the mind engaged & growing with new skills and movement patterns, aids in the management of pain and in the reduction of common injuries?

[We welcome your comments! Please let us know what you think.]

Focus

Many practitioners refuse to change focus, adhering to the classic myth of “A Jack of all trades, a master of none.”   Many studies have shown this to not be true.  On the contrary, those that dabble in different activities show more creativity, broaden their field of understanding and are generally less likely to become bored and/or unhappy with their life/practice.  Doesn’t this play into what GM Feng meant by “striving to reach the Big Tao?”

Tradition

Many choose not to supplement their art because they fear it will ruin the ‘purity’ of their practice.  If the masters of the past reached their level of skill because they did the form “X”-number of times, then surely I too will excel – right?  Well, we know this is not true either!  Taijiquan masters like Feng Zhiqiang and Hong Junsheng (teachers of Chen Zhonghua) are just a couple who have gained this ‘high skill.’  They had the genetics, strength and psychology to excel.  If you are missing just one thing, you are a thousands miles off course.  Could you practice and reach their level?  Would that be a futile chase?  Would you even want to try?  Not to be pessimistic, only realistic.  Remember though, it’s choice that pulls us through.  If we convince ourselves that ‘mastery’ is bleak, it’s easily done.  But if we take it as a challenge and proceed to take the strides with the pitfalls, and continue to progress towards our personal goals we are 100% assured of success. Agreed?

Another teacher of mine, Master Yang Yang said this at our Blowing Rock, North Carolina workshop (2004):

(Ultimately) Find what works for you & change… adapt.  Only stay true to the principles (of Taijiquan) while doing so.

The New Year

Michael Joyce tai chi 2

To start of the New Year, I would like to urge everyone, especially those people who diligently plug away at one style; internal or external, to add movement, more movement, different movement.  I know it’s cliché, but Life is about balance.  If you consistently practice tai chi form (without any supplemental strength training), I can guarantee that your overall fitness will diminish.  If you train in gymnastics, weight-lifting, wresting, parkour / freerunning, etc, you will likely wear your body down and thus, be more prone to illness and/or injury.  My advice to them would be to adopt a supplemental program that deals with internal development, i.e. yoga, qigong, transcendental meditation… maybe even some taijiquan.

I end with Chen Xin’s Song of Meaning:

With your entire being, develop your Life.

Health & Happiness Everyone!

Coach Michael Joyce

RELATED ARTICLE: BRING MOVEMENT INTO THE NEW YEAR

Martial Art Practice Through The Winter

Posted in Internal Development, Kungfu, Martial Arts, Taijiquan, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2013 by Combative Corner

winter-forest_photoAs the cold season comes on strong, the urge is to be indoors, warm and comfortable. Of course this urge is a survival instinct, because where we are located without the SUV’s, mechanical heating and other benefits of modern technology, it would be quite easy to die outside when the really cold weather comes on.

However, in Chen Taijiquan gongfu practice we want to at least challenge some of those natural comfortable patterns of behavior and use practice as a way of bringing the body ‘in tune’ with natural seasonal changes. Outdoor practice is really best for cultivation and martial arts. On the cultivation side, while naturally we may feel the aversion to the cold and desolate season, over years long practice in the outdoors we can learn to use each seasonal energy to our advantage.

In winter, if we dress appropriately and practice with spirit outdoors, we will build a sweat and cultivate heat inside while cycling the cold winter air from the outside. Upon starting we may need gloves and hats and scarves etc, but for a fairly experienced practitioner we can build a sustainable heat such that the hats, gloves and scarves may come off. The more of ourselves we can expose to the winter energy while maintaining a sustainable heat inside, the more attuned to the season we can become. This is not meant to be so deeply metaphysical, but in a common sense way, when one can practice successfully like this, one feels like a warrior, full of vigor. Afterwards the results persist, making tolerating winter weather and bitter cold much more comfortable.

Although winter is commonly seen as a season of natural death, and an uninhabitable situation, this is more of a relative psychology. Just as the Taiji concept holds that within every extreme is kernel of its opposite, winter (in most places) while extreme, is in fact not dead, but extremely YIN, cultivating the kernel of it’s YANG opposite towards rebirth. Winter here is full of life action, although a quieter, or often just less seen action. Through proper practice we can cycle winter’s strongly YIN energy from the outdoors into the strongly YANG energy we create with heating practice internally, to holistically balance our being, physically and energetically with the season at hand; essentially adjusting our thermostat and perception of tolerance and comfort.

For more on Mr. Spivack and the Chen Zhaokui Association of North America, please visit his website at MoLingTaiji.Com.

Marin “Mo Ling” Spivack

Chen Zhaokui Taijiquan Association, North America.

Disciple of Chen Yu. Teaches in Massachusetts.

*Originally published 12/31/2012.  Reposted w/ permission.

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