Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Difficulty in Learning Chinese Internal Martial Arts

Internal Martial Arts (IMA) are difficult to learn

IMA takes a long time to unpack and process into the body, I tell my students it is a “custom fit” meaning you have to discover it yourself. In today’s instant gratification society people taking years to really dig into something and learn it are the minority. The mind set it takes to spend hundreds of hours practicing forms, push hands, standing, alone or in a small class setting, and receiving individual corrections is few-and-far-between.

Unlike a lot more accessible martial arts (BJJ, Muay Thai) it takes a significant investment of time and energy to reach a minimum threshold of competency, just to embody the basics. I am not demeaning Muay Thai or BJJ, I think they are fantastic arts, but when people with no experience come to me and say they want to learn fight with Bagua Zhang I tell them to go learn Muay Thai. They are going to be happier, sooner (e.g. they are going to learn how to fight) years sooner by learning Muay Thai or BJJ than they would learning Bagua Zhang. Bagua, Xingyi, Taiji are going to take a long time to achieve even a basic level of competency.

This brings me to my second issue, these arts cannot be learned, from the ground up, from a video. Sorry, I just don’t think it is really possible. These arts are hard enough to learn and transmit with a dedicated student/ teacher relationship. A student and teach showing up to class multiple days a week and training. In many cases that is not even enough to reach a minimum threshold of competency. A practitioner who understands the basics and can articulate the correct body mechanics can learn another set or art from a video, no problem.

So, how do you do it? Find a good teacher, practice daily, go to class and train with your class mates as much as possible, think about it a lot and ask questions. 

Miao Dao Competition 2013

Miao Dao Competition 2013

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Taijiquan Classics: A Martial Artist's Translation by Scott M. Rodell - Book Review

The Taijiquan Classics: A Martial Artist's Translation by Scott M. Rodell - Book Review

An amazing book by an expert well versed in Chinese Martial Arts, Chinese Internal Martial Arts (IMA) and Chinese history and culture. The depth of his 40+ years of practical experience in Taiji Quan brings these classic texts to life and gives them a context that make them both accessible and practical to the beginner or the advanced practitioner of any style of Taiji Quan.

I appreciated the candid outline of his translation process. The time and care Mr. Rodell took during the process reaffirmed my confidence in the work. The layout of the book is useful as well, he leaves the classical Chinese, the pinyin and the English translation on the page together. I like that because it gives me the opportunity to see the character (I don’t speak Chinese) and look at the tone in Pinyin as well as see the translated meaning in English.

The classics are enigmatic guidelines, sometimes couched in flowery language, designed to help practitioners to remember various important points of practice. Without guidance to elucidate them they become less useful and accessible to the lay practitioner. Mr. Rodell’s commentary is where this translation shines. His commentary is clear, concise and accessible even to the practitioner with a basic level of Taiji skill and vocabulary.

This book is a must for any Taiji practitioner. The content and execution make this book unique among translations of the Taiji classics.  

I am a 20+ year practitioner and teacher of Xingyi Quan, Bagua Zhang and Tai Chi Quan

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bagua and Xingyi: An Intersection of the Straight and Curved

Bagua & Xingyi an Intersection of the straight and the curved: An anthology of Articles from the Journal of Asian Martial Arts Compiled by Michael A DeMarco, M.A. is an amazing book spanning years of in depth articles from the Journal of Asian Martial Arts about the Chinese Internal Arts of Bagua, Xingyi and Taiji.

In the name of full disclosure I am a lineage holder and teacher in the Gao Bagua Yi Zong lineage which is featured heavily in this book.

Over the last 20 + years of my learning, teaching and training these arts I have read or heard about most of the articles in this book but to see them finally collected in one edition is really a great resource for any practitioner of the Internal Marital Arts (IMA).

The articles span multiple generations of practitioners of Bagua Zhang/ Pa Kua Chang (the eight trigram palm) and Xingyi Quan/ Hsing I Chuan (mind-shape boxing) so the depth and breadth of the information can inform the new practitioner or the advanced student. I have read and re-read most of the articles included in the book countless times and have always gained a new perspective on the arts.

Owen Schilling is a 20 year practitioner and teacher of Xingyi Quan, Bagua Zhang and Tai Chi Quan, a lineage holder in the Yi Zong School and the lead instructor at Boulder Internal Arts in Boulder, CO.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bagua, Xingyi, Taiji - What to look for in a teacher?

Bagua, Xingyi, Taiji - What to look for in a teacher?

Finding a teacher who will teach you Chinese Internal Martial Arts (IMA) is easy. You can find any number of teachers at the rec center, online, etc., some of which will have good credentials and lineages, some of which are high profile but can’t (or don’t want to) deliver the goods. How are you going to know without an investment of time, energy and money on your part?

The short answer is, you can’t.

But you can ask “who is this teacher as a person?” as you talk with them, watch their behavior, listen to them. You can see the outcome of training this art in your potential teacher.

  • ·         Are they out of shape?
  • ·         Are they happy?
  • ·         Are they arrogant?
  • ·         Are they a bad ass?
  • ·         Are they crazy?
  •       Are they the only ones who have "the real thing"?

I once knew a TKD teacher who had his hips replaced when he was in his early 40’s. That is something I would think about before learning his style of martial arts.

Look at their students, are they engaged? Happy? Did they buy into the “life-style”? Did they drink all of the Kool-Aid or just enough of it?

And this begs the question “who do you want to be?” Who do you want to be at the end of this martial journey?

In my opinion learning IMA and martial arts in general needs to be a balancing act between health and happiness. Inevitably, if you engage in sparring, rolling, hard training or other types of “use” training you will get a significant injury. Know you are going to get injured doing most martial arts even at a recreational level but most of those injuries are not going to impair you in 10, 20 or 50 years.

Finding a teacher is easy, finding a good teacher is hard. You have to do some research and ask some questions, but in the end you have to get in there and find out for yourself. But the real test is, does your art make you a better person in your everyday life? Does it make you happier? Healthier? More confident? Or does it make you an asshole? A bully? Or some mix of the above? Look to your teacher to see where your art will take you.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Kunwu Sword Manual by Li Lingxiao Translated by Scott M. Rodell

Advice from the
Kunwu Sword Manual by Li Lingxiao (昆吾劍譜, 李凌霄)
Yī kě chuán zhī rén bù chuán, shī rén. Bùkě chuán zhī rén ér chuán, shī jiàn. Rú rèn rén bù zhēn, níng shī rén wù shī jiàn. Zìgǔ jiē rán, fēi wúbèi zhī lìn yě.
If there is someone that the art can be transmitted to, but it is not, that person is lost. If someone who can not receive the transmission is taught, the sword art is lost. So recognize the people who are right. Rather lose a person than lose the sword art. Since ancient times it was always this way, it is not our generations stinginess.
from the Ten admonishments for the Sword Art
Translated by Scott M. Rodell