Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Sword Master Scott Rodell - interview

A excellent interview with Sword Master Scott Rodell found HERE

Angelika Fritz features this blog in her blog. So she recently asked me to answer a few interview questions. Here are my responses -
• Could you please tell a bit more about yourself? (e.g. since when are you doing Taijiquan? martial background?)
I began studying martial arts at the age of nine and jus kept going. I started studying taijiquan with Robert Smith while I was at University and through him met many accomplished teachers who helped me get where I am today, including my principle teacher, Wang Yen-nien. I also studying with TT Liang and William C.C. Chen.
• Which style are you into and why? (you could also talk about what you emphasize most: health, fight, meditation, philosophy…)
I practice Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan (楊家秘傳太極拳) which I studied under Wang Yen-nien. Though today taijiquan is often presented as either a heath art or a martial arts, suggesting that it is one or the other shows a basic misunderstanding of the art. This is the result of contemporary repackaging of the taijiquan. One only needs to read any of the period literature left behind by the Yang Family for it to be blindingly obviously that taijiquan is a martial art. It is also clear from the writings that the mediative and heath aspects are and integral part of and the result of a solid martial approach. As Cheng Man-Ch’ing wrote in Master Cheng’s New Method of T'ai Chi Self-Cultivation, “Taiji form practice that ignores functional application bestows health benefits that are artificial at best.”
• You focus a lot on Chinese swordsmanship. What fascinates you about the sword?
Something that can not be put into words. I suppose it is the same feeling a surfer has when he or she rides a really powerful wave or a musician jams with other great artists. I hope that in our time we will see more students rediscover this wonderful art and leave behind the practice of simply waving their weapons around as if it is Harry Potter’s wand and treat it with the respect it deserves.
If I may add one more thing… Through my company we offer real Chinese swords that are the size, weight and as sharp of Qing and Ming period swords. Occasionally we have had calls from practitioners who self described themselves as “teachers” who then asked if our swords are sharp? I reply, certainly, swords are sharp. (You don’t call a gun store and ask if their guns shoot bullets do you?) The next question is do we have any that aren’t sharp, because this “teacher" is afraid of cutting him or herself. No. I then in return ask, no offense, but if you are afraid of cutting yourself with your own sword, what is that saying about your skill level? Remember, these are people who have announced themselves as a “teacher.” Next is either, you are right and an order, or more commonly, “yeah but… ”
• What is the biggest benefit you get from your practice? (does it help you in any specific way? Which impact does it have on you? What changed since you started?)

A good, well practiced martial art It benefits every aspect of life.  When practiced in the fashion the founders laid out for us, Taijiquan is no different. It is only the limiting of the art by ignoring these instructions that the art is less, as in when it is presented as a only health or spiritual art. It is ironic that practitioners take up such a holistic art only to ignore it’s core aspects and disregard the teachings of Yang Luchan.
• Which piece of advice would you give a beginner in Taijiquan? (e.g. what is most important? How to get better?)

Don’t pick your teacher based on who is closest and most convenient to get to. Find one who really teachers the entire art rather than watering it down because he or she hasn’t the skill or courage to practice sanshou.
• Who are or were your most important teachers? (please refer to max. 3 teachers, you could explain why they are so important to you)
Wang Yen-nien.
• Is there any teacher or master you would like to learn from in the near future? (you could name 1-2 and write shortly what you would like to learn from him/her)
No. There must come a point where a student must stand on his or her own feet and stop relying on teachers. The false humility that is popular in martial arts is as much a delusion and egoistical as is false bravado, both equally hamper students. Better to be clear and honest about where you are. This is not to say that I am not always looking to learn. I find that teaching pushes me to constant learn and look more deeply into my practice. As does training with other skilled practitioners of any martial art.
• Is there a book you recommend? One you often like to pick up and refer to? (1-2 books about Taijiquan could be one of yours or from another author, maybe even another blog you like to follow)
Most books on taijiquan are pop culture fluff. For the most part, it is best to stick with the classic works. I recommend Douglas Wile’s translation of the Yang Family Manuals, “Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions.”
And Loius Swaim’s translation of Yang Chengfu’s book, “The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan.”
I hope that my forth coming work, “The Taijiquan Classics - A Martial Artist’s Translation,“ will also be of use to students of the art. The eBook version should be out later this month or early January.
I hope that you will answer my questions. Because I really like to connect with other Tai Chi people and bloggers. Let’s spread the word of how great Tai Chi is!
Thanks for asking me…
Be well, Scott M. Rodell

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