Postby Erik » Tue Jun 25, 2002 12:07 pm

Hi Audi,

The truth is, when I was 16, I read an article on Taijiquan in which many Kung Fu teachers stated that they felt Taiji training developed martial skills and character to the highest level. After reading the article I ran to the nearest college to sign up for a course.

I went through a few teachers before I was convinced that it could be thought of as a martial art. I was already a ranked kick-boxer with golden-gloves boxing, AAU wrestling and 5 years of 7-star Praying Mantis experience. I felt I could beat most of my Taiji teachers when I came down to real fighting.

I continued practicing Taijiquan for years with the belief that it would all just "come to me" with enough practice. I thought of it as working on the mental and spiritual side of martial arts while I relied on my other disciplines for my fighting skill.

An injury in the ring left me with 2 cracked vertabrae and 3 fused disks. A few years later the operation had to be repeated. Taiji was the only thing left that I could practice without causing pain. In fact it really helped. The problem was I still wanted to find a way to spar and fight so I had to completely re-evaluate my personal fighting style. A good teacher (dead now) named An Tanqiu really helped by showing me a more martial look at Taiji. I later looked up Teacher Yang in Taiyuan and went through a very enlightening forms correction with him there and sword & saber a few years later when he was in the States.

Later when I moved back to the States I met up with Tim Cartmell after he had just moved back from Taiwan. I studied with him for just shy of 3 years and he really opened my eyes as to what Chinese Internal Martial Arts could and should be. I don't want to sound like a commercial for him but he's truly an incredible teacher and martial artist. The book I talked about includes throws from Xingyi, Bagua and Taiji. It was his first book and in it he outlines principles of body mechanics and strategy in such a clear and concise manner that it makes complete sense to the reader and becomes immediately applicable. VERY unambiguous. Tim has a well deserved reputation for making the self-defense aspects of Internal Martial Arts practical and applicable in a very short time without giving up some of the more traditional aspects.

Since then I've been studying Internal Martial Arts and Chinese ground finishes from Xing Yi, Bagua and Chinese Wrestling. I've also incorporated a bit of Ground-fighting but only to round out my skills. As I mentioned earlier I'd rather not ground-fight if I don't have to.

How 'bout you? - Erik
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Postby Audi » Fri Jul 12, 2002 8:12 pm


Thank you for sharing. You have certainly had access to wonderful individuals and terrific experiences.

My introduction to Taijiquan was in graduate school. I decided to sign up for a Karate class at the university I was studying at. The system I was taught (Tenchi Kenpo) was explained to me as a blending of soft and hard, heaven and earth, curved and straight, Chinese and Japanese. These opposites were supposedly reflected in the name, Tenchi Kenpo, which in Japanese can be interpreted as “heaven and earth ‘boxing’ method” and would be "tian di quan fa" in Mandarin.

Somewhere around the brown or black belt level of the system, we were required to learn a version of the Yang long form and begin push hands patterns based on what I now know to be the Cheng Man-Ch'ing system. Although we did form and push hands, the Taijiquan was not integrated into our sparring practices or self-defense drills that I can recall. Beyond Taijiquan, our system included more throws, chokes, and joint locks than I think is normal for Karate. As we advanced in levels, we also started doing more forms from other Chinese martial arts (e.g., some form of Praying Mantis) than Japanese katas.

As I recall the theory of the founder of the system, who taught my teacher and whom I once met and sparred with, he felt that "square, hard, and 'Japanese'" techniques were easier to learn and allowed one to become proficient in self-defense quicker. With more experience, one learned "more circular, softer, and 'Chinese'" techniques. After one got older and could no longer keep one's techniques at the same level, Taijiquan would then allow one to defend oneself, since strength and speed would be less important. The problem with Taijiquan in his view was that it took 10 (or maybe 5?) years to be practical for self-defense.

As part of the Karate training, I also volunteered to help my teacher with a women’s self-defense class, which was basically a watered down version of our system that focused on situational self-defense.

After I graduated, I dropped practice for about 10 years. When I decided to resume, I thought I would explore more Taijiquan, since the years were now definitely beginning to tell on my body. I first used books and tapes to try to recapture what I had known before, since I was unaware of any teachers in my area. After a while I was able to find a teacher I liked. This was also the first time that I discovered that Taijiquan had such an extensive non-martial dimension.

Since that time I have had major experiences with one other teacher and minor ones with three more. Most of these taught Yang Style. Two have been very eclectic, mixing lots of different approaches. One, who is the most martial and least traditional in his approach, mixes his Taijiquan with Bagua, Aikido, and Xing-Yi, seeing them as essentially the same art and having the same principles. He even sees Taijiquan as applicable to using Filipino fighting sticks and firearms. My main take away from all this is that there are many different approaches and versions of Taijiquan and that many people use the same words to mean different things. I no longer take such terms as “mind,” “relaxation,” “whole body,” and “qi” at face value, now that I have seen people teach almost diametrically opposite methods under these names. This was also why I was curious about your background, since knowing a little bit about it makes it easier to avoid misunderstandings based more in terminology than in fact.

Before I did any Asian martial arts, I wrestled in high school. I participated in a few AAU tournaments beginning as a sophomore and because of some unusual personal circumstances, trained very briefly with an eye to international competition under “Olympic-style” rules. One thing that this taught me was that minor differences in rules make a huge difference in strategy and tactics. As you may or may not know, under some wrestling rules, merely having an opponent turn his back toward the mat is enough to win two points, whether or not you are “in control.” Under the Olympic rules I recall, I was reluctant to launch a Fireman’s carry or a double leg takedown in the same way as under regular “collegiate rules” because of the risk of having my shoulder blades momentarily turned towards the mat.

I have a slight second and third-hand knowledge of some ground techniques and would like to know more. I studied one video that included material on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and was amazed at how unlike wrestling the techniques and theories were. How could a wrestler ever conceive of lying on one’s back with hands and arms pulled in and legs spread as a defensible “guard” position?

One of my major touchstones for authenticity in Taijiquan is, paradoxically, what I learned from wrestling. I have much sympathy for what you say about the relative fighting skills of wrestlers and many people who teach Taijiquan. I have no problem understanding why people unfamiliar with takedowns or ground fighting have difficulty with someone like Gracie. My experience is that the majority of people who I see doing Taijiquan are interested in it primarily as a leisure activity or exercise. As a result, I do not expect people to be very interested in acquiring or demonstrating specific competitive or martial ability and do not judge the art as a whole by this. Although I personally find the martial side of Taijiquan essential to my understanding and progress, I would have to confess that I do not view myself as even a “weekend warrior.” I try to push hands and explore applications whenever I can, but this is different than sparring regularly, putting on gear, stretching, doing strength training, etc.

I see pursuit of health, performance, competition, combat, and self-defense as all related aspects of Taijiquan that share the same basic principles; however, I believe quite strongly that these different goals require different methods once one goes beyond the basics. Since I am usually dealing with what I perceive to be basics, the distinctions between these usually are not relevant for me. However, if one is talking about whether a particular technique or posture “works” or not, I like to know what context is being addressed. I even make strong distinctions between combat and self-defense, where, for instance, I view “Push” as an excellent self-defense technique, but only a marginal “combat” one. I can also think of many “health promoting” ways to practice Push that I would not consider very effective for either self-defense or combat.

My attraction to the Yangs’ teachings and to the association is that I have found their Taijiquan presented in ways that seemed to fit my needs and aspirations. I went to my first seminar at a time when I was wondering whether Taijiquan was supposed to be essentially either applied Qi Gong, Chinese medicine, and meditation or simply a more introspective and philosophical approach to the same athletic and martial arts principles I had seen elsewhere. I found a very clear and simple approach that seemed to be neither, and this is exactly what I wanted.

I am glad you have chosen to contribute to the discussion board, since you certainly have a perspective that differs from most of the people I have worked with. Thanks again for sharing about your background.

Take care,
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Postby Quan_Jing_Shun » Sat Aug 17, 2002 9:54 pm

Greetings to Audi and all,

This is a very good question. Here is my understanding with the knee tackling :

I believe in the knee tackling there are two type of energies that are involved. One is pulling and other is pushing energies. These two energies combined creating a trap door for the leg or legs. The objective of these combination is to make the tai ji person lost his center and fall on to the ground. If after the tackling taking place and the tai ji person is still on his feet and ready to strike the tackling person on the ground, the taj ji martial artist has won this wave of tackle attacks. ( This is of course putting aside the ideal case where the tai ji martial artist could evase the tackling attack before it formulates ).

As for tai ji practice goes, we always learn to deal with pulling energy and pushing energy seperately or combinetively. These waves of energies following each other very closely should be deal with same sequence waves of countering energies. For pulling energy is flowing with it and take advancetage for the openning. For pushing energy, rolling back and at the same time deploying "li" to alter the pushing energy direction. This "li" touching surface could be the head,shoulder area where the tai ji martial artist can quickly access. This of course can not be executed effectively without a relatively skill of "ting" jing.

The other more advance skill to deal with tackle is the ability to "hua" the pulling and pushing poweres making them disappearing into the ground by contact surface. I have seen one master demonstrated some time back. The person could not pull his feet. He tried very hard to the point of almost felt like breaking his back. In this case the facilitating power : ting jing and hua jing ( the ability to listen and ability to neutralize ).

The last primitive way that I propose is : The reason why tackling works. It is because it is taking advantage of the fault and weakness of human body structures. The way the joins within human body do not work with all the angles. We can use hide this weakness of structure by just adjust our structure to counter the attack. It is a matter of pivot the body facing the same direction as the tackler is with "gong bo" on foot being tackled. The pulling energy of the opponent is now against his pushing energy. In this moment, the tai ji martial artist is on the top of tackler facing the same direction as he does. The next move is belong to the tai ji, where a strike deploy from above with full weight assistance.

This is just some thoughts not in any order. My two cents for what is worth. Enjoy this forum with decent discussion.

Good practice to all of us,
Shun Quan

[This message has been edited by Quan_Jing_Shun (edited 08-17-2002).]

[This message has been edited by Quan_Jing_Shun (edited 08-17-2002).]
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Postby Audi » Fri Aug 23, 2002 10:35 pm

Hi Shun Quan:

Thanks for your response and nice to see you join the board. Can you elaborate a little on what you mean by:

<<It is a matter of pivot the body facing the same direction as the tackler is with "gong bo" on foot being tackled. The pulling energy of the opponent is now against his pushing energy. In this moment, the tai ji martial artist is on the top of tackler facing the same direction as he does.>>?

What is "gong bo"? Can you describe the characters or the tones?

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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Aug 23, 2002 11:05 pm

Audi, he probably means gong bu or bow step.
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Postby Audi » Sun Aug 25, 2002 3:13 pm

Hi Jerry,

I had thought of "gong bu" (bow step) as a possibility, but then could not get the description to work for me. If you cannot think of other likely possibilities, however, then this must be it.

Do you think the description means that the back of the knee being tackled ends up over the opponent's shoulder and that the hamstring muscles end up over the opponent's back? I would feel very vulnerable in such a position and so need some further clarification about what is meant.

By the way, I also have difficulty following exaclty who is pulling and pushing what.

Take care,
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Postby Quan_Jing_Shun » Thu Aug 29, 2002 3:36 am

Greeting to Audi and everyone,

Analyzing from the human movements perspective, to me, human movements are actually consisting of only two kind of energies : pushing and pulling. Pushing is energy delivering away from one center while pulling is the energy retrieving toward one center or at least in a projection toward one center. A strike whether it is circular or straight is still in a pattern of pushing. I believe there is no exception in analyzing the energies involved in a tackle. It is still in form of pushing and pulling. A grap to a knee, if we look in slow motion, it is pushing and pulling in a great detail. But it is not one motion, they are coming in waves of pushing and pulling with purpose bring down the standing. This is in term of microscopic sense, where "ting jing" is at a level of incretable sensitive. With that "jing jing" ability, we can recognize waves of pushing and pulling then we will response in our own microscopic way with corresponding energies. The responsing energies are the complement energies to the attacking energies.

In the proposed primitive case of pivoting the legs, taking advantage of our body structure to encounter the attack, the circulation of pivoting is aiming on neutralizing the grappling hands. By the time the knee complete the rotation, may be,just may be the opponent hands not in a position to deliver the next move or at lease not as powerful as it was. Also, if he can still grap with pushing and pulling, I found it is easier for me to mantain my gravity if my center is at the same side with his. "Gong bu" is "bow stand".

hope this proposed is clear,
Shun Quan
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