Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tai Chi & Kung Fu Movies

On the lighter side! We are coming up on Christmas 2007. It is time to enjoy the season, and I thought that I would suggest a few martial art's movies... for those who enjoy them (not everyone does). I have only seen parts of these movies, however they all had pretty good ratings... as far as subtitled martial art's movies go. I am going to order all three. The reason I picked these is that there are aspects in these movies related to the martial arts you are studying. Don't make too much of the movies, but just use them for some enjoyment while you enjoy a pizza or some Chinese food.

1. The Tai Chi Master (2003) Starring: Billy Chow, Jacky Wu

2. Tai Chi II (1996) Starring: Jacky Wu, Christy Chung

3. Five Shaolin Masters (1974) Starring: Gordon Liu, Ti Lung


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Wisdom and the Martial Arts

As many of you know, I have been teaching the martial arts for many years now. I have taught children as young as four years old and adults as old as ninety. As a teacher I see that those students who approach their studies with an open mind, sincere heart and enthusiasm will always do the best.

Understanding the importance of what you are studying is key! You must realize that you are not just learning a dance step and moving on to the next thing. This transient mentality has become prevalent due to many parents trying different things with their children. We must realize that we are not just trying out a hobby or some other fly by night class. In order to be a success in the martial arts, we must identify ourselves with it as an important part of our lives. Because I teach and run classes, this is easier for me... however as a student you must strive to continually make your martial arts training another part of who you are.

The concept of "I take martial art's lessons" or "I am a martial artist" are just descriptive of something you do or some title. Rather it would be better to realize that you in training for life and that your martial arts training is an integral part of that training!

I believe that all martial artists should have a teacher mentality... wanting to transfer their knowledge and train others. If you think like a teacher, you will improve your learning and your general life skills, such as communication and modesty. Consider your martial arts training an investment into all of your life skills.

If you are taking the time as an adult to learn the martial arts, it must be very important to you. Don't diminish the importance by turning it into some type of hobby, which it was never meant to be. Rather... think of your training as something that is special and fit it into your whole life.

© Copyright 2007 David West

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Martial Art's Animals

I have added some links on our Articles Page that have information on Martial Art's Animal techniques, forms and styles... that are prominent in most martial arts. Please use discernment when viewing these pages, articles, videos as I have not 100% verified them. Use them for reference only. I also welcome your comments on these blogs!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rooting in Taijiquan (Tai Chi)

Rooting is the process of making a good connection to the ground in stances and during transitions.

We were talking about rooting in class the other day. I thought that this would be a good forum for discussing this in more detail. In one of our recent blogs, I discussed the 333 principles consisting of 3 bows, 3 internal unities, and 3 external unities. We must maintain these three principles and an upright posture to achieve proper rooting. Mainly speaking, we need to maintain a stretched and bowed Kua and an upright stretched and bowed posture. When we refer to rooting we are talking about rooting the legs (and thus the entire body) of the completed postures as well as the legs during the transitions as well.

Yong Quan: When we are trying to achieve rooting in Taijiquan, we should visualize below the surface of the floor or ground... much like the roots of a tree. The "Bubbling Well" an acupoint called Yong Quan (KI-1) located on the bottom of the foot should be used as the point from which this imaginary root extends into the ground from which to draw strength. Rooting in Taijiquan will transfer from foot to foot, but never stays equally rooted on the right and the left. The weight should remain on the outer edges of the feet and remain a slight gripping feel with the toes, the ball of the foot, and the heel. Although the Yong Quan never touches the floor, you should still focus on this area as the root of each movement. Techniques to build this skill vary from person to person. I recommend using different visualizations and thoughts to see what works best for each person.

Posture to be maintained to achieve proper rooting: The Bai Hui (GV-20) acupoint, located at the top & slight-rear of the head lines up vertically with the Hui Yin (C0-1), located at the exact center underneath the groin area. This is done by turning the hips upward... thus opening the Ming Men (GV-4) located at the small of the back... and also tucking the chin in slightly but keeping the head upright.

Rooting is an essential part of our Taijiquan training and often takes years to develop good consistent skills... so be patient and thankful for making incremental gains.

© Copyright 2007 David West

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Internal vs. External

Taijiquan (Tai Chi) is an internal marital arts form. Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu is considered mostly an external martial arts form. I found this article on the web contrasting internal and external martial arts. I agree with most of the article and have posted it on our articles page for you to link to... I hope it is helpful to you.

I will be traveling to Virginia this weekend starting Friday. I can still be contacted via our regular phone number on our contact page.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

333 For Internal Martial Arts: Three Internal Unities, Three External Unities and the Three Bows

These are some important internal martial art's principles taught to me by Sifu Mathews. I have found them to be the most valuable concepts to observe if you wish to develop a strong and graceful form.

Three Internal Unities: Xing/Yi --> Chi --> Li

Mind/Intention (Xing/Yi) moves Energy (Chi).... Chi moves the Body (Li). Each movement should start with an intention, then allow the mind to distribute the energy with maximum efficiency to accomplish the intention... then allow the body to move according to your trained skills by means of maximum energy transfer.

Three External Unities: Shoulders/Hips - Elbows/Knees - Wrists/Ankles

The shoulders and hips should traverse in the same general directions and should not oppose each other's movement. The Elbows and knees should also move in the same general direction with out opposition. And finally the wrists and ankles should be considered as to their general direction of travel. All of these principles tie together and are really the same concept of maintaining proper alignment. The first two external unities are the ones to pay most attention to.

Three Bows: Torso with Legs - Arms with Torso - Legs with Kua (Groin Area) Open

All of the postures and transitions should maintain a bowing of the torso arms and legs. A proper examination of the still Yang Cheng Fu postures would reveal this bowing. Another consideration is to make sure as you transition from one posture to another, that these bows are maintained to the best of your ability. The torso should always remain rounded with the upper/lower back straight and the pelvis tilted upward. Elbows should always stay low, but not collapsed to the body... arms are rounded with the relaxed shoulders and sunken chest. The knees should always strive to bow outwards, but do not over bow and put too much weight on the outer edge of the foot. Really watch the leg bows during transitions. Again, these principles all rely on each other for continuity. If you loose one bow, you will probably compromise another.

I welcome your responses on these important concepts.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Fu Zhongwen Videos

I have just posted links to a couple of additional performances of the Fu Zhongwen Form of Yang Style Taijiquan. These are excellent sources for reference. I welcome your responses and questions.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

From Teacher to Teacher!

As I surf the web for articles, videos and other information that would add to our Kung Fu and Tai Chi interests... I find that the various forums are filled with "experts" that know a lot about various martial arts forms and teachers. Even ones they have not themselves studied.

It struck me when I came to a response that renowned instructor Doc Fai Wong had to write to defend his material and the origins of his teaching. He even went to the extreme of having to explain past nicknames that people called him... i.e. the "Five Animal Kid".

Now... I wish I had the kind of background that Doc Fai Wong has. He has studied with some very respectable teachers and has developed an amazing school of his own. I can just imagine having to explain where I learned things if I were under such scrutiny.

I have learned my forms from many different instructors. Sometimes I would start a form with one instructor and due to their moving or other reasons, I would have to find another instructor to finish the form and develop it. I also relied on books and videos to fill in gaps and maintain a standard. This is one reason that I now teach only a handful of forms, all of which are very documented and standardized.

I understand why the "expert" critics in the martial art's forums do what they do... and many times it is very helpful to view their input. However, when it comes to doubting another persons teachings, as to whether they are unchanged, etc... one has to wonder how stable even the originators of particular Kung Fu and Tai Chi forms were. After all, we see various forms of Taijiquan evolving from Chen style, etc. I wonder if Yang Lu Chan were to read a martial arts forum about the imense changes that were made as he developed the Yang Style. I can also imagine the outrage toward Yang Chen Fu as he changed from old style to new.

Martial arts are usually taught to someone by a teacher, and then become influenced by that persons' background, style, ideas and beliefs. Sometimes a martial art can pass from instructor to instructor with very little change. Other times they can undergo major modifications... for better or worse. Inevitably I believe that a student must investigate the movements they are taught and make them work... with the teachers guidance if available.

The main form that I teach is the Yang Style Taijiquan Long Form. This form has many variations and also has a few variations even among it's best known standards. I have been taught the Yang Style form, and portions of the form by quite a few different instructors with varying influences. The information I took from each instructor was of immense importance in understanding the movements. Even though there are many variations... there are standards available in books and videos that now help maintain the art more effectively.

Unfortunately for the purist, there is no way to go back to the originator of each martial art's style. As time goes on... we loose masters each year... so we must now rely on successive generations. The further in time we go from the original masters, the more difficult it is to maintain the purity of the art. Sometimes this is to the detriment of the art, and other times the art evolves into something even more effective.

Fortunately we now have documentation via books and videos that at least keep the postures and movements more standardized. Therefore, I commend instructors that take the initiative to develop such documentation, even though they open themselves to possible scrutiny from the critics.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Martial Applications of Taijiquan

I have uploaded some links to our Articles Page, that somewhat visually represent the martial applications of Taijiquan. Let me know your thoughts and questions relating to this subject. Taijiquan applications are extremely important in developing the Taiji form movements. Taijiquan applications are present, even in very small sections of each movement/transition.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Your thoughts on the Taijiquan Videos?

Let me know your thoughts on the Taijiquan videos just posted on our articles page. Remember to only use them as reference!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Welcome to Our Kung Fu & Tai Chi Blog Page

Feel free to comment on blogs posted here. In addition, please contact us if you wish us to open a blog related to a specific issue you want addressed. We look forward to interacting with you, so please return often to view new postings.

Instructor David West