training methods for martial artists
moving with awareness: the 13 dynamics the old man and the sly fox
20 questions with anthony pillage and more
grounding qigong Editor Nasser Butt
perception realization activation action
Lift Hands The Internal Arts Magazine Volume 1 November 2016
Published by L’orso Solitario Books, Leicester, United Kingdom Lift Hands The Internal Arts Magazine Editor Nasser Butt Copyright © by Nasser Butt, 2016 & Fa-jing Ch’uan Internal Chinese Boxing Schools Nasser Butt asserts the moral right to be identified as the editor of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the editor. Waiver of Liability: The publisher assumes no liability for the use or misuse of information contained within this book. By purchasing or electronically downloading this publication, the reader hereby, waives any and all claims he or she may have now or in the future against Nasser Butt and Fa-Jing Ch’uan Internal Chinese Boxing Schools or its affiliates.
The points of view represented here are solely those of the authors’ concerned. You do not have to subscribe to them if you do not wish. Nor is their inclusion here necessarily an endorsement by Fa-jing Ch’uan Internal Chinese Boxing School or its affiliates. Cover photo: Nasser Butt with Elliot Morris . Cover design © Nasser Butt, 2016 Cover Photography: David Garcia Back Photography: Nasser Butt
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Heartbeats From The Soul Dr. Gregory T. Lawton
Grounding Qigong For Small San-sau Nasser Butt
Tai Chi and Postural Stability in Patients with Parkinson's Disease Dr. Sebastian W. Hofbauer
Through The Eyes Of A Basketmaker: The Growth And Uses Of Willow Maggie Cooper
The Old Man And The Sly Fox Dr. Gregory T. Lawton
Moving With Awareness - The 13 Dynamics, The Cornerstones And Their Significance.
Formlessness And The Tao Of Movement Alan Simpson
Training Methods For Martial Arts: Falcon Capturing A Rabbit
20 Questions With Anthony Pillage
USA 2016 - A Report
The Pace Of Taijiquan In Form Practice Nasser Butt
The Art of Louiseneige Be
elcome to the first issue of Lift Hands: The Internal Arts Magazine!
Why Lift Hands - or T’i Shou as it is known in the Taiji lexicon? Lift Hands is considered the ‘master’ key from amongst all the postures of the Taijiquan form. — It is the key to Qi balancing and development internally as well as physical balance! It is also the key where we first experience pure Yin Yang in a singular posture. The posture represents the lifting of the Qi from K1 (Kidney 1 or the ‘Bubbling Well’) up the backbone and into GB20 (Gallbladder 20) - This is what the masters of old wrote about in the classics that, “The Qi must rise up the back”. This occurs during the ‘lifting’ component of the hands. As the hands are lowered, the Qi is balanced throughout the body as it falls back into the Tantien. In this posture it is said that the body is in a state of perfect balance with the Earth. The breathing is deep and natural which, in turn, further enhances the balancing effect. The posture must be done over two full breaths before continuing into the next posture — not a single breath as performed by beginners. The arms must be in a total state of sung and move in perfect harmony with the body and empty foot. So, there we have the technical description of Lift Hands but, is that all there is to it? When one really thinks about Lift Hands, you’ll discover that it is not just an isolated posture from one of a myriad of martial arts available around the globe. No - far from it - just as we lift our hands for combat, equally we also lift our hands in prayer, play, dance, to write, to paint, to greet, to wave goodbye, to hold and support a child or one of age, or to embrace or protect those we love. Lift Hands is innate within us all - regardless of the fact of whether we do martial arts or not - a movement inherited in the womb just like sight, taste, smell and hearing. It is an intrinsic, instinctive, unlearned and untaught part of the human condition. Everything we do in life involves lifting our hands… it is our intent which dictates what our hands do once they are lifted! Lift Hands will dare to be different from the usual crop of magazines on the subject. We will be more inclusive, not only focusing on the Neijia, but also looking at a host of other martial arts and martial artists. This is where we’ll come together to share ideas and experiences, and dare to ask questions about inherited histories! There is no one path in martial arts, there are many Ways and each Way can be manifold: The Way of the Empty Hand; the Way of the Sword; the Way of the Brush; the Way of the Healer; the Way of the Pen; the Way of the Poet: the Way of Song; the Way of Music; the Way of Salvation; the Way of Law; the Way of Learning - many Ways and many skills. Each person practices as they feel inclined.
Heartbeats From The Soul Dr. Gregory T. Lawton
With prayerful hands I lift up these words to you, And drape myself upon The cross of your arms. Hear then my soulâ€™s confession In words that transform wave and flame To apparitions of mist and vapor. Through water and air I travel this lonely path to you My heart lies broken on the shore Shipwrecked and hopeless. Smothered by the sobbing wind, Is it the waves or the rocks that roar? The light we cannot see Fills the darkness around us, But we are blind to it. I did not ask for this light, Or the scarcity of self that it reveals. Light and shadow They are the same to me But only light will shine. I am made of love and salt And this flesh is both sweet and sour, But yet do I hunger for you.
You swallowed the bitterness of sorrow And showered us with infinite tenderness. You adorned yourself with the scars of our sins That we would be delivered, pure again. At the dawn of separation Will I remain true to you? How can I bear this gentleness, This love, this devotionâ€Ś This gift you gave to me. I passed it from hand to hand, I gave it to a bird, to the sky, I laid it on the shore, and in the waves But still it always returned to me. This pulsing vein issues a red river of life In a gushing flow of love. These words, are heartbeats from my soul, And the very pulse of my life.
Kindly reprinted from Heartbeats from the Soul, Copyright 2014 Dr. Gregory T. Lawton
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Grounding T Qigong For Small San-Sau From The Erle Montaigue System Of Fighting & Healing
he Grounding Qigong shown here is a â€˜Power Qigong,' which
helps us to develop rooting whilst moving, walking, running or leaping. This is a critical tool and should not be overlooked by any serious students of the internal arts - or external for that matter! All the usual rules of qigong apply: Shoulders relaxed. Tailbone tucked under. Tip of the tongue on the upper palate, behind front teeth. Breathe through nose, sinking the breath into the tan-tien. Slightly concave your chest. Crown of the head raised as if 'suspended from above' - in the latter part of the qigong only! What makes this qigong interesting is the position of the head in the opening part. The head is tilted slightly backwards and you are also looking upwards, thus making balancing and the rooting process through the heels a far more difficult exercise. 1.Stand with feet parallel and slightly wider than shoulder width
Nasser ButtÂŠ2016 Photography by David Garcia
Fig.1 apart, with the toes slightly scrunched as if gripping the ground (Fig.1). 2. Raise your hands up over your head, palms facing each other as if they could clap together (Figs.2 & 3). DO NOT LET THE SHOULDERS RISE! In order to achieve this correctly, we raise the shoulders up really high and then drop them - relaxing them straight down into the back.
Bend your head backwards, looking upwards with your eyes, so that the palms are just visible through your peripheral vision (Figs. 4, 5 & 6). Imagine water pouring down from through your fingers above, running down your back and into your heels - as if you are standing under a shower.
Fig. 3 Fig. 4
4. Move your right hand across to your left hand, keeping your hips locked forwards as your upper body twists to your left to allow the hands to join. Your eyes are focused on your left hand. Hold this posture for 5 breaths, i.e., 5 inhalations and exhalations (Figs. 7 & 8).
5. Your eyes now follow your right hand back to the right as your left hand moves across - your eyes remaining focused on the right hand. Again, allow the upper body to twist naturally whilst holding the hips forward (Figs. 9, 10 & 11).
Hold this posture for 5 breaths as before. 6. Now bring your left hand back to the left as your eyes follow it. Breathe in and as you exhale allow the hands to come together over your head and hold them there. This is your qigong position. At the point when the hands come together the head drops into its normal position as if â€™suspended from aboveâ€™ as the eyes look naturally forward (Figs. 12, 13 & 14).
6. As you hold the position for approximately 15 minutes continue imagining â€™suckingâ€™ energy from the heavens and into your heels as if growing roots into the earth itself. 7. At the end of the qigong, allow the hands to gently fall and close as normal (Figs 15, 16 & 17).
There are many additional training methods to help develop the Small San-Sau (SSS), besides the form itself, obviously. The qigong here, although specific, is not just limited to the SSS, but can also be used to develop other parts of one's training.
Note: It is always advisable to consult your GP before starting any exercises. Inexperienced students are advised to consult their instructors and initially practice under supervision to ensure personal safety.
Tai Chi and Postural Stability in Patients with Parkinson's Disease Dr. Sebastian W. Hofbauer
n 2012 the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published an original article on Taiji in patients with
Parkinson's disease. This is remarkable in terms of the fact that the NEJM is the top ranked and most prestigious journal of modern medicine normally publishing state of the art molecular biomedical studies. Furthermore, 384 citations (24.07.2016 in google scholar) of this article reflect the attention this investigation arouses among the scientific community so far. In this study, the authors, Dr. Li and colleagues from the Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, state that with the progression of the disease, patients lose postural stability and have gait dysfunction, difficulty managing activities of daily living, and frequent falls. Importantly, whereas any motor dysfunction, such as tremor, may be alleviated with drug therapy, characteristics such as postural instability are less responsive to medication and require alternative approaches. Normally, resistance-based exercises to address deficits in balance and strength, but research on alternative forms of but research on alternative forms of exercise that could improve balance, gait, and function in patients with Parkinson's disease brought Taiji into play. The primary aim of this study, therefore was to examine whether a tailored Taiji program could improve postural stability in patients with Parkinson's disease. In the trail (ClinicalTrials. Gov number: NCT00611481) 195 patients got randomly assigned to Taiji, resistance training or stretching. A 60-minute exercise routine was conducted twice weekly for a total of 24 weeks. For study details, read Li et al. (2012), reference, see below. The Taiji group performed consistently better than the resistance-training and stretching groups. Taiji lowered the incidence of falls as compared with stretching, but not as compared with resistance training. The effects of Taiji training were maintained at three months after the intervention. Importantly, no serious adverse events were observed. Therefore the authors conclude that Taiji training appears to reduce balance impairments in patients with mild-tomoderate Parkinson's disease, with additional benefits of improved functional capacity and reduced falls. Considering the success of the reported study more studies are highly desirable, but a careful study protocol with emphasize on a proper Taiji routine is warranted. I am currently collecting ideas for a study draft and contributions are cordially welcomed. Sebastian Walter Hofbauer, PhD Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org https://scholar.google.at/citations?user=vwpDlzoAAAAJ&hl=de References: Li, F., Harmer, P., Fitzgerald, K., Eckstrom, E., Stock, R., Galver, J., ... & Batya, S. S. (2012). Tai chi and postural stability in patients with Parkinson's disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 366(6), 511-519.
Through The Eyes Of A Basketmaker: The Growth And Uses Of Willow Maggie Cooper
of any flexible plant material. One of my favourites and the most versatile is willow. It comes in many different colours, shapes and strengths, and because of its bendy qualities it has been used for thousands of years to make strong and long lasting basketry. The plant has a generic name of Salix, but has many other names, which indicate the nature of the materials as well as their uses. Names like sallies, osiers, withies, whips and rods denote the uses from a basketmaking perspective, as do the names for the sizes of basket willow, for example ‘luke,' ‘three penny’ and ‘middleboro’. Apart from basket work, historically, willow was used to make clog bottoms, it can be split and was made into fence posts and rails. The variety Salix Coerulea has always been used to make cricket bats when the trees mature at about 14 years. Nowadays scientific research has shown that willow has many other properties, leading to exciting advancements in pharmaceuticals, and it is also used as an energy source and building material. New varieties such as Bowles Hybrid and Swedish Clone, which originate from the fast-growing Salix Viminalis, have been developed to supply the commercial world of biomass willow as they can be used as a renewable fuel used to generate power. All of the Salix varieties come from four hundred species found world wide, some reaching maturity as tall trees, some growing as shrubs found in sub-tropical areas, and some growing only a few centimeters found in Alpine regions. Willows are easily propagated. They can be grown by simply making cuttings from original stock and pushed into the ground. It takes up to five years before these cuttings become a productive plant, from which biomass is harvested as a short rotation coppice (cut every two years) or harvested annually for basketmaking. For basketmaking I use different willows for different purposes. Some of the thicker willow rods have uses for large sculpture structures as well as uprights for big log baskets. Some have very flexible stems and are more
suitable as weavers, often in beautiful natural colours. They can be woven ‘green,' freshly cut, or dried and resoaked. Sometimes I use willow with the bark stripped off; white willow, which has been peeled when the rods are green, or dried willow, which is boiled and therefore stained from the tannins in the bark. These stripped willows need a short soaking time to make them pliable for weaving. I spend a great deal of time sorting the willow for sizes, which is an important part of the basketmaking process. Small rods are used for weavers and larger ones for framework of the structure. There are interesting ways to work the willow, it can be easily split with a minimum of tools and can be twisted into rope, as well as woven in a variety of patterns. Commercial applications of willow growing have recently attracted attention because the material can be easily grown on poorer soil, and have many attributes. For example, it is a sustainable source for low-carbon power production, green house gas reduction, and natural water filtration systems, as well as being useful for noise reduction on roads. Extracts from the willow bark are also used within medicine for the manufacturing of aspirin, as well as in pioneering studies where it is being trialled within the development of cancer drugs.
Lab Technician at Rothhamstead Institute working with willow bark, taken when participating in ‘Teatime Tales of Willow’ November 2014
Willow harvester and chipper Rothhamstead Institute
The future of willow is looking promising, shown by the increasing number of organizations growing it commercially and individuals growing it for fun. As a craft material there is a resurgence of basketmaking, sculpture and willow fencing. Additionally, there is now a clear demand for large quantities of the material as a result of its many uses from fuel to medicine, and as a building material and ornamental plant for gardens and parks.
The Old Man And The Sly Fox Dr Gregory T. Lawton
nce upon a time in a land not so far away, there lived an old man. This old man was remarkable. His white beard and hair were not remarkable. His wrinkled skin and toothless smile, these were not remarkable. What was remarkable was his knowledge of how to become invisible. Now not far from where the old man lived, there lived a sly fox. This sly fox thought, “If I could become invisible the farmer would never see me steal his chickens.” So the sly fox went to see the old man. “Old man,” said the sly fox, “I want to learn your secret of invisibility.” “Why?” asked the old man. “Old man, I am a fox, and many animals fear me. If I could become invisible I could observe my fellow creatures and I could learn more about why I am a fox,” said the clever fox. The old man pondered the fox’s words, he was not fooled by the fox and he knew that the knowledge of how to become invisible had a mysterious power to change the heart of even a sly fox. There was just one condition to this change of heart; the recipient of the knowledge of invisibility must possess the virtue of sincerity. Somewhere in the heart of the fox, there had to be even a small drop of the essence of sincerity. “Fox,” said the old man, “I can’t teach you how to become invisible so that you can observe life in a quiet way. I can only show you my technique, but you must discover the invisibility in your own heart!” The fox thought, “So I can trick this silly old man into showing me his technique of invisibility. Now I will have all the chickens I want. I will pretend to be a sincere student and once I know his tricks, I will just disappear!” The fox said, “Yes, old man, you are right. I will be a true and dedicated student. I will learn the essence of what you teach; and if I am a worthy fox I will move among my kindred creatures in peace.” “Let us begin,” said the old man. “First, fox, you must find your true compassion; your compassion for the little fox within you and the fox nature you see in all living things. This is your link to the love of creation and to the God that created you.” “What dribble,” thought the fox, “who does he think he is, this old fool! He doesn’t know any more than I do. I will pretend to listen to learn his real secrets. This is just like stealing chickens from the farmer, ha, I am a sly fox.” The old man was not fooled by the fox. Many of the forest’s creatures had come to him in the past wanting his knowledge of invisibility, the timid bunny, the fierce wolverine, the insidious snake, the graceful swan, and the greedy raven. Many had come, but only a few found the true gift the old man taught: knowledge of the invisible soul. Others came and acted the role; thinking that the techniques the old man taught would make them invisible. Some of the creature left alone, having failed to find the gift, and others joined together to blindly celebrate their false sense o success. “See,” they would exclaim, “I am invisible! I have learned the old man’s tricks! See how remarkable I am. I learned so quickly. There is no secret to this; I already knew most of this stuff. Now I have even created my own techniques of invisibility. I am better than the old man, after all he is ‘old’ and his forms are not as good as they once were. I think that he is losing his ability.”, or so they would think. Of course they were not invisible at all, and they danced about playing with their so-called invisibility, the hunter and the predator had easy work killing them and feasting on their flesh.
Well, this is a simple tale and it does end sadly for the fox, for the fox came to think that he had stolen the knowledge of invisibility. The old man had tried over and over again to reach the heart of the fox. But the fox, being a sly fox, could not overcome a predatory heart. The fox used the training to become even more practiced in insincerity and the art of argument. He became so practiced in fact, he could not hear the truth in the old man’s simple words. One day the fox, with a false sense of invisibility, went to the farm to steal chickens. “Ha!” thought the fox, “There is the farmer, I can steal chickens from right under his nose!” And so the fox began to steal chickens. The farmer, being a practical man, looked at the fox stealing his chickens in the plain light of day and thought, “What a stupid fox.”, and then raised his gun and sent the insincere fox to absolute invisibility. The fox had learned at last. “Too late!” thought the old man, “Better to learn here by choice, than ‘there’ with remorse. The nature of a fox is to be a fox, but with sincerity, God is greater than nature.” The old man regretted the loss of his student, the fox but soon another fox or perhaps an elephant (now that would be a trick!) would come asking to learn his secrets. The old man fondly remembered all of his students, the sincere and the insincere. But for him the hard work of teaching invisibility was important. And somewhere, and soon, he would find a true and sincere student who would learn the secret of invisibility. (Now that made it all worthwhile.) This is what gave the old man joy. As he thought of this his wrinkled face lit up, and smiled his toothless smile, and he said, to no one in particular, “Thank you.” So ends the parable of the old man and the fox!
Kindly reprinted from: A Students Journey through The Martial Arts, Finding Meaning and Purpose through Martial Discipline and the Study and Practice of Tai Chi Chuan A Collection of Lectures from the Blue Heron Academy. Dr. Gregory T. Lawton, Copyright 2013.
Alexander M. Krych Chief Instructor, USA - Erle Montaigue System April 3, 1957 - December 3, 2014 IN MEMORIAM
he Thirteen Dynamics (commonly referred to as
‘postures’) were the original ‘postures’ of the first attempts to put together a single set in H'ao Ch'uan (“Loose Boxing”) - which later became known as Taijiquan [There is ample historical evidence that the art of Yang Lu-Ch’an was referred to by many names before it became known as Taijiquan - Juan Ch’uan (Soft Boxing); Hua Ch’uan (Transformation Boxing); Zhan Mian Quan (Cotton Boxing)]. Those thirteen dynamics remain today and in fact they remain more so in advanced push hands. Without understanding and being able to grasp the essence and principles of these Thirteen Dynamics - there is NO H’ao Ch’uan! It is that simple! The concept of ‘No Mind’ boxing arises from a thorough understanding of these principles. For example, if we do not understand why P’eng is considered a Yin defence and Lu is considered a Yin attack, then we have no way of understanding how to connect to our opponent’s energy, on a subconscious level, thereby producing a ‘No Mind’ response. According to Dong Yingjie, one of the foremost disciples of Yang cheng-fu, in his book - Methods Of Applying Taiji Boxing (Taiji Quan Shiyong Fa) - co-authored by Yang Cheng-fu: “When beginning to learn the Thirteen Dynamics solo set, it takes about three months to become acquainted with it, about a year to become familiar with it, and about five years to become good at it. After that, the more your practice the more refined it will be. But without the authentic transmission, that will not be the case. Without the authentic transmission, the only result will be a slightly strengthened body. The boxing theory after ten years would still be confusing. How would you know its profound subtleties?” Note what Dong is telling us - “five years” of study of a single subject “to become good”! No advanced forms, no small frame or anything else to simply become “good," not excellent nor understanding it all - the refinement begins after this period providing you have stuck diligently to the “transmission”! Dong continues: “When training, you must calm your mind and consider your breath. Dispel your thoughts and let nothing distract your intent. Focus your mind on the practice. Taiji’s way of dealing with opponents is very subtle but is not useless. Today most people only train superficially and then quit… Do not complain that Taiji cannot be applied nor blame your instructors for a lack of instruction. It is fundamentally related to internal skill…” Again we must heed Dong’s words! Most people who do not
train the Thirteen Dynamics with diligence will ultimately fail or have a poor understanding of their Taiji! It is usually these practitioners who will ultimately try to change the Taiji Form due to their own lack of ability and understanding! To put it simply - they are the ‘alphabet’ of Taijiquan, without which we cannot produce words, sentences or develop the skills with which to ‘read’ the art! The Thirteen Dynamics consist of Eight Energies (Gates) and Five Directions (Steps), thus giving us a total number of thirteen. These are: P’eng (Yin defence) - Means to ‘Ward-off’. Can act as a sensor , which can be turned into an attacking yang hand. The arm is held slantingly upwards, with shoulders relaxed and elbow angled downwards, whilst the wrist is lifted upwards slantingly causing a lift in the attacker’s qi. Lu (Yin Attack) - Means to ‘Roll Backwards’. Both hands attach with the attacker, whilst the body moves from the centre thus activating the lower tantien, thus attaching our own qi with that of the attacker causing him to topple past you. At this point the yin hand turns into a yang strike with great force. Chee (Yang Attack) - Means to ‘Squeeze’. The power again comes from the lower tantien. The elbows squeeze inwards as does the lower tantien itself - one hand is yang while the other is yin as the whole body attacks, thus causing the two hands to change state and release adverse qi into the attacking region. Arn (Yang Attack) - Means to ‘Press’. Again, the attacking movement stems from the body as a whole issuing both yin and yang qi. This is a ‘key’ to understanding the fault of ‘double-weightedness’ in that we never use a two-handed strike holding the same power in each hand at the same time! The above four are generally referred to as the Four Primary Methods, corresponding to the four cardinal directions - north, south, east and west. However, we must remember that in Eastern traditions and early Western designs, cartographers placed south at the top! (See Diagram 1 Below.) As a general rule, P’eng jing is the major jing used in all of the above and is considered as ‘moving Qi’, while Lu is ‘collecting Qi. Chee is ‘receiving Qi’, while Arn is ‘striking Qi’. The Four Secondary Methods correspond to the four corner directions - southwest, southeast, northwest and northeast - and are used to avoid defeat when our primary methods have failed due to poor technique: Tsai (‘Inch' Energy) - Like plucking fruit from a tree with a snap of the wrist. The power must come from the centre. Lieh (‘Split’) - This has both a physical meaning and an internal meaning. Physically it is used when our Lu has been defeated. You ‘split’ your opponents energy between his shoulder, elbow and wrist, thus forcing his own Qi back into him via the shoulder. Internally it is referred to as the ‘small strike Qi’ due to the close proximity to our opponent. Chou (2nd Line of Defence) - This is where we begin to understand and realise the ‘folding principle’ by using our elbows for devastating strikes. Although referred to as a secondary strike it can be used as a primary weapon! K’ao (Third Line of Defence) - This is a continuation of the ‘folding principle’ using the shoulder and can be devastating at the correct distance. Again, the power must come from combining both the legs and the waist together. The position of the Eight Energies are based upon the principle and understanding of the passive and active aspects inverting and following one another cyclically during the process. In other words, the passive (Yin) and the active (Yang) generate each other, whilst hardness and softness assist one another, with polarities endlessly transforming into one another! The remaining five postures are in reality Directions or Steps. The Five Directions are: Move Forward (Fire) Move Backward (Water) Look Right (Metal) Gaze Left (Wood) Central Equilibrium (Earth) Advancing and retreating are the steps of fire and water respectively, while turning right and left are metal and wood - all four are held together by the central axis of the earth, through which each must pass! This, however, must not be understood to mean that we are only limited to the relevant element in that particular direction - no! Nor are they fixed techniques.
S P’eng (‘Ward Off’)
Yang (THE ACTIVE)
NE Chou (‘Elbow’)
NW Tsai (‘Inch Energy’)
Water Arn (‘Press’)
N Diagram 1. The Thirteen Dynamics: Moving With Awareness Copyright©2016FJCICBS/NB)
Yin (THE PASSIVE)
SW K’ao (‘Shoulder Strike’)
SE Lieh (‘Split’)
In movement our body must be able to brace itself in all directions. Wang Xiangzhai - the founder of ‘Dachengquan’ (Yiquan), who knew both Yang Shou-hou and Yang Cheng-fu personally - during an interview explained that the Five Elements were meant to be seen as: “Metal means the strength contained in the bones and the muscles, the mind being firm like iron or stone, being able to cut gold and steel. Wood has the meaning of the bending but rooted posture of a tree. Water means force like the waves of the vast sea, lively like a dragon or a snake, when used, it is able to pervade everything. Fire means strength being like gunpowder, fists being like bullets shot out, having the strength to burn the opponent’s body by the first touch. Earth means exerting strength heavy, deep, solid, and perfectly round, the qi being strong, having the force of oneness with heaven and earth. This is the syncretism of the five elements. It has nothing to do with one technique overcoming another technique as the modern people claim. If one first sees with the eyes, then thinks of it again in the mind, and then launches the counterattack towards the enemy, it is very seldom that one will not get beaten up.” Although, Wang here is discussing Xingyi with reference to the elements, his interview is about the internal arts so, his point regarding the elements is meant to be understood across the Neijia. The Thirteen Dynamics are innate within us but difficult to recognize and achieve. Collectively, they teach us how to ‘move with awareness’ based upon the four terms: Perception, Realization, Activation and Action. Where moving = the activation of movement plus the act of moving, and awareness = the perception that something is plus the realization of what it is - moving with awareness. Without understanding these terms we cannot move with awareness. In other words, we must be able to recognize the ‘source of movement’ and the ‘basis of awareness’ within ourselves before we can identify energies in others. According to Yang Ban-hou: “If there is activation and perception, there will be action and realization. If there is no activation or perception, there will be no action or realization. When activation is at its height, action is initiated. When perception is fully lucid, there is realization. Action and realization are the easy part. Activation and perception are tricky. First, strive to move with awareness for yourself, grasping it within your own body, then naturally you will be able to spot it in the opponent. If on the other hand you try to find it in opponents first, you will probably never find it in yourself. You have to be able to understand this concept in order to be able to identify energies.” If the Thirteen Dynamics are the foundations of Taijiquan, then the Four Cornerstones are what you must build your house upon. From a “Primary Text” attributed to Zhang Sanfeng, bearing Yang Lu-chan’s commentary according to Dong: “Once there is any movement, the entire body should be nimble and alert. There especially needs to be connection from movement to movement. The energy should be roused and the spirit should be collected within. Do not allow there to be cracks or gaps anywhere, pits or protrusions anywhere, breaks in the flow anywhere. Starting from the foot, issue through the leg, directing it at the waist, and expressing it at the fingers. From foot through leg through waist, it must be a fully continuous process, and whether advancing or retreating….” The first Cornerstone (and the most significant) is the position of the head. We are often told about the head being ‘suspended from above’ as if attached to a silk thread in order to rouse the energy up the back. But what does actually mean? Surely the energy must be rooted into the ground? The real meaning of this and the position of the head is to determine where your weight is placed on your body, which makes you feel likes if energy is being raised up your back. This is why the position of the head is critical as it will place your weight on exactly the right spot on your foot - just in front of the heel - or the talus to be precise (the role of the talus is critically important in the evolution of human movement and as such requires a
whole article dedicated to the subject matter in its own right). It is only when the weight is placed on the correct spot that the energy flows - both internal and external - will happen. Not only this but, the correct positioning of the weight will also ensure the activation of energy through the ‘extra’ meridians of the body. It is in this area where we gain the ’energy’ for healing, fighting or whatever else it is that you may wish to do, and is sometimes refereed to as the ‘special’ flow of energy. This ‘special’ flow of energy occurs throughout the Taiji form, but is only felt at the highest levels of the form after many, many years of training. The eight extra meridians are not meridians in their own right per se and would require an explanation far beyond the scope of this article. However, we can simply put them as points which borrow energy from the ten main meridians (the flow of energy up the back and down the front is really a part of the eight meridians - hence ten and not twelve main meridians). There are many special movements during your Taiji form, which occur at specific intervals. Not all of the Taiji postures have these special movements - they simply rely upon the normal flow of energy through the body - and neither do these energies necessarily occur within the main postures! In fact, some of the ‘lesser' or transitional movements or postures are where the really important emanation or generation of energy happen! However, these energies, as already stated, will only be felt when the weight is placed correctly upon the foot and they are responsible for ultimately changing how your body will ‘do your Taiji’. Each movement, no matter how slight or how large, must bring about a weight change. This is what the Taiji classics tell us to do. We must never be double-weighted: “We often see one who has practiced hard for many years yet is unable to perform any neutralizations and is generally under the opponent’s control, and the issue here is that this error of double pressure has not yet been understood.” Footwork is given a very high place amongst ones martial arts training. After all if you don’t know how to stand and balance and how to transmit weight and shift from one point to the next then how are you going to be able to defeat an opponent? Although we are taught footwork whilst learning forms as beginners, as you progress, you’ll realise that there is no footwork per se! Footwork in Taijiquan, and in martial arts in general, is merely an explanation of the fact that if you move correctly from your centre then this is where the feet should end up! This brings us to the second Cornerstone - the feet/legs (as a general rule, the Chinese language does not distinguish between the foot and leg, it looks at the limb as a whole and uses the term jiǎo [腳] - which could denote either or both). It is the waist which ‘kicks’ the foot/leg forward - like swinging a pendulum - making you step “like a cat”. As the heel leaves the ground, the foot is in a yang state. Whilst the foot is stepping, i.e. in its ‘empty stage' it turns concave, as the heel is placed down, the foot returns back to its yang state as you finally roll the weight forward onto the talus. There must be an energy transfer between the issuing (yang) and receiving (yin) legs. For example, when stepping into ‘ward-off’, it is the rear leg which issues the energy and the front leg which receives the energy as it ‘fills’ and turns yang - however, it is the receiving leg (yin) which controls the rate at which the issuing leg releases its energy! This is, of course, also true for when moving in reverse. Wu Yuxiang states: “From foot through leg through waist, it must be a fully continuous process, and whether advancing or retreating… Empty and full must be distinguished clearly. In each part there is a part that is empty and a part that is full… Throughout your body, as the movement goes from one section to another there has to be connection. Do not allow the slightest break in the connection.” This brings us on to the third Cornerstone - the waist. The waist must “move like a wheel”, in connection with the hips, with the sacrum relaxed and centered. Sometimes the two move together and at other times they move in the opposing directions, but they must always work in harmony with one another and in a complete state of sung (pronounced soong). At the end of every posture, the waist and hips move in opposing directions - the source of fa-jing! It is the waist which directs the energy or in the words of the Classics… “the centre moves the peripherals”! The analogy between the wheel and the waist occur throughout the Classics, in fact to be more exact. “the energy is like a wheel and the waist is like an axle”. According to Chen Yanlin: “Your waist is your body’s pivot point. When your waist moves, innate energy turns like a wheel, reaching everywhere in your body and not getting stuck anywhere. There is no part that does not go along with the movements and turns of your waist.”
The importance of the waist is continuously stressed throughout the Classics. It is deemed the ‘ruler’ or the ‘commander’ with the peripherals acting as the ‘foot-soldiers’. The relationship between “Waist and head top are to be exhaustively studied for your whole life.” That is what we are told clearly by Yang Ban-hou and that; “Neglecting either, all your work would be in vain.” We finally arrive at the fourth cornerstone - the hands. The hands are the manifestation of all this energy which begins its journey in the foot and finally culminates in the fingers. The hands must be in a state of sung but this cannot be achieved until all the other building blocks have been ‘mastered’! There must be a yin yang state change within the wrists with every movement, otherwise we are simply moving with ‘dead' hands and no internal. The concept of double-weightedness, expressed above, is also true of the hands themselves. The release of energy through the hands must be constant throughout the whole of the movement. It is here where we begin to link the external movements with our internal energy and this energy will vary according to the time of day and how we are feeling at that particular time, thus making no two practices the same! It is only when all of the above foundations have been 'mastered' that one begins to understand power and the martial, and the beginnings of the small frame. However, these concepts should not be forced but allowed to happen naturally over a period of many, many years. Most, sadly, rush through these without paying heed to or spending enough time understanding the Classics and transferring that understanding into practice. This usually leads to misinterpretations or erroneous understandings of how Taiji develops - often leading to practitioners changing or altering the form due to their own inadequacies in understanding and/or skill! The ‘Masters’ of old have left us with a clear blueprint with which we can develop our Taiji and ourselves. There is no ambiguity in their instruction. We must understand the Thirteen Dynamics - of these the four primary energies of P’eng, Lu, Ji and Arn must first be thoroughly understood. After we have understood the four primary energies, we then must develop and realise the four secondary energies - Tsai, Lieh, Chou and K’ao - in context of the four primary energies. Then comes the Long Boxing or form, followed by the two-person training methods of joining hands - in order to understand the Five Directions and learning how to brace in all directions! “Starting with the basics, work your way through the solo set… larger gross movements at first, then focusing on the finer details until the skill of extending and contracting is fluent, and you will have ascended through the midway of attainment, and then will continue to the top. …After practicing over a long period of time, you will naturally have a breakthrough and attain everything you have been working toward, and nothing will be strong enough to stand up against you.” “Once you are identifying your own energies, you will be working your way toward something miraculous. Succeed at the civil aspect and then delve into the martial. There are at all times in the body seventy-two channels for passive energy [as well as seventy-two channels for active energy]. When the active aspect is balanced by the passive, water and fire are in a state of mutual benefit, skyness and groundness are at peace with each other, and the genuineness of one’s life essence is preserved.” Attributed to Yang Ban-hou “There are four things called the Taiji Cornerstones… you put your huge cornerstones upon which you can build your house. So, it is important to have the Cornerstones and know exactly what they are about! I feel, I’m getting to the point now where I can actually feel something happening through most of the ‘special’ points!” Erle Montaigue 2008, Rostock, Germany. (Author’s note:Erle had been training for approximately forty years when he made this statement!)
Mastery of the Thirteen Dynamics and the Cornerstones is essential. The masters of old have left us with clear warnings otherwise: "Do not neglect any of the thirteen dynamics..." SONG SIX (Known as the THIRTEEN DYNAMICS SONG) “A mere thirteen dynamics is not a lot. But however many there might be, if their standard is not maintained and if the position of your waist and head top is misplaced, you will end up sighing with woe." TAIJI’S EIGHT TECHNIQUES IN THE REALM OF MANKIND “First understand the four primary techniques and get them to be authentic, then you may move on to plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping, performing the four secondary techniques on the basis of the primary.” TAIJI’S SKILL OF ADVANCING & RETREATING CEASELESSLY “The techniques of warding off, rolling back, pressing, and pushing are so unique that out of ten skillful people there are ten who do not understand them.” SONG OF THE EIGHT TECHNIQUES References: 1. EXPLAINING TAIJI PRINCIPLES (TAIJI FA SHUO), attributed to Yang Banhou [circa 1875], [translation by Paul Brennan, Sep, 2013]. 2. THE TAIJI CLASSICS . “WANG ZONGYUE’S TAIJI BOXING TREATISE” APPENDED WITH MY PREFACE & “FIVE-WORD FORMULA” [A manual handwritten by Li Yiyu, presented to his student, Hao He (Weizhen) – 1881]; [translation by Paul Brennan, May, 2013] 3. AN OUTLINE OF TAIJI THEORY . APPENDIX SECTION from Taiji Compiled: The Boxing, Saber, Sword, Pole, and Sparring. By Chen Yanlin, [published June, 1943]; [translation by Paul Brennan, March, 2013]. 4. METHODS OF APPLYING TAIJI BOXING by Yang Chengfu [and Dong Yingjie]; [published by Society for Chinese National Glory, Jan, 1931]; [translation by Paul Brennan, Nov, 2011] 5. Nasser Butt: Personal notes from The Cornerstones with Erle Montaigue (2008) and The Thirteen Postures And Their Meanings (circa 2009).
Formlessness And The Tao Of Movement Alan Sims
The Dao of movement may imply different things to different people, ease of movement, many different stances, continuity, the art of improvised movement, etcâ€Ś The movement of formlessness does have not only a sense of order, but a purpose, defense and offense. But how does one arrive at this point where one can improvise continuously, displaying unlimited creativity? The first step is to learn a form. The more continuity that the form of choice includes, the better. After one learns and is familiar with the form, the next step can be taken. One should practice or move in and out of particular stances. These need to be standard on guard stances at first. For Taijiquan forms, some basic postures include, "Play Guitar" (or "Playing The Pipa"), "Crane Spreads Wings", "Fist Under Elbow", "Mustang Ruffling Its Mane" (single leg stance), "Repulse Monkey" (in between steps, feet close together), single leg stances upon retracting the leg (after kicking), and moving from one posture into another. This process works in an amazing way in that the more stances you find, the more you will discover. Stances meaning postures. One of the things to maintain is the avoiding of any practice of strikes, be they punches or kicks. The more positions you can assume, the more options you have in sparing and self defense. The day that you realize that you have attained it is always after you already have. Any form that you learn after attaining formlessness in movement will also be seen in your formless movement as well. The important thing is to find as many postures, positions, or movements that you can apply as a deliberate state of readiness until they become spontaneous. What needs to follow is the test of this new found level, and the perfect setting is to spar, hopefully in a friendly atmosphere. This is where not only the movement can come into play, but more importantly, the many possibilities and options of all types of combat. None of which by the way, need resemble this system or that system. The bottom line or goal of this practice and level of this attainment is to embody the in between. That is the in between of point A and point B, and later, the in between the in between. That is the Dao of formlessness in movement. Taiji forms in particular are ideal for this practice mainly due to the continuity of movement, despite the difference of styles. This continuity is already more of an improvisational leaning than those characterized by stop and go rigidity. With the discovery of new variations on forms such as the Chen family's small frame with a lineage dating from the 1700s, this should be an exciting opportunity to reach higher martial arts excellence. There are some forms that are a true challenge, and in the realm of Taiji, Cannon Fist is one such form. It is even more difficult to use in this context because one it is based on overt attacks, and two, half of the form is in the air.
Using the "Dao Of Taijiquan" by Jou Tsung Hwa for the illustrations of Cannon Fist, the single leg stance right before posture #8, the single leg stance of #20, two single leg stances (right before #50, and right after #51), the posture between #68 and #69, #49, 26, and probably others. As long as one is not in danger of losing the form (mentally and or the source as a book , etc), one can always combine postures by changing the actual or original stance. In this way, one can still make considerable progress with a "difficult" form. It is important to keep in mind that this is not to become a practice of any techniques, but the I wish to thank my past martial arts instructors James Eaton Jr., Lee Moy Shan, Larry Banks (who introduced me to this subject), and the wonderful students of the late Taijiquan genius Jou Tsung Hwa.
About the author: Alan Sims began studying Goju Karate under James Eaton Jr in the early 70's, later he studied Ving Tsun Kung Fu under Lee Moy Shan, and finally learned Taijiquan under Larry Banks who was an original student of Jou Tsung Hwa. He also studied under Mr. Jou in Piscataway and at The Taiji Farm. Alan has had many articles published beginning with Tai Chi magazine, founded and published by the late Marvin Smalheiser. Alan can be contacted at: email@example.com
training methods for martial arts
This is a very simple and practical two-person or more training method which can be utilized by martial artists of any style.
The main purpose behind this training method is to develop forward intent alongside distance and timing, in order to realise at what point a strike begins and where to intercept it using our peripheral vision. No techniques , etc., are given as this is an abstract training method to develop instinctive skills.
The Method: 1.Two players (or more) stand facing each other a few feet apart. 2. Player A (see image 1/2 below) releases a tennis ball (underarm throw) towards Player B, at a height between the chest and head. 3. The minute Player A begins to move his/her arm to release the ball, Player B starts to move in his/her direction in order to intercept the ball (see image 2). 4. Player B does not wait passively for the ball to arrive to him/her. They must reach out and snatch the ball mid flight (see image 4).
A training method from the internal arts: â€˜falcon capturing a rabbitâ€™
5. Player B now reverses roles and throws the ball to Player A and the drill continues. This training method can be modified as the skill level of the practitioners improves. One of the socalled advanced modifications is where each player has a tennis ball and both release their ball simultaneously, thus becoming catcher and thrower at the same time. This really helps develop the peripheral (eagle) vision of the players as well honing distance and timing skills to a very high level indeed.
Photography by David Garcia
Inside The Next Issue
nthony Pillage is one of the best known
pressure point instructors in the UK. His quirky and enthusiastic teaching style coupled with some completely innovative teaching methods means he is constantly in demand for seminars in the UK, Europe and even America. Anthony holds a full Masters Instructorship under Grandmaster Richard Bustillo in Jeet Kune Do and is a published author, writer and has appeared regularly on TV and radio. His DVD sets The Meridian Attack System and Forbidden have been highly acclaimed both by members of the martial arts community and internationally known instructors.
20 Questions with Anthony Pillage
He is an inductee in the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame 2012 British Hall of Fame 2012 and 2013 Seni Martial Artist of the Year 2010 Recognized as a Pioneer of Martial Arts by the Worldwide Council for Martial Arts 2013 World Of Martial Arts TV Personality of the Year Coventry Sporting Hero 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award Martial Arts Illustrated Magazine 2014 Lift Hands magazine caught up with Anthony and despite his hectic schedule, he kindly agreed to sit down and answer a few questions for us in his usual inimitable style! LH: If you could have personally witnessed anything, what would you want to have seen? AP: The Big Bang and the start of our universe. LH: If you could wake up tomorrow in the body of someone else, who would you pick and what would you do? AP: It would be Jacob Rothschild and I would give all his money to make the world a better place. LH: If you could be any age for a week, what age would that be? AP: I wouldnâ€™t want to change where I am now, to be honest. LH: What was your first thought when you woke up this morning?
AP: I need to do Nasser’s article today …no really! LH: What is your greatest strength or weakness? AP: It’s actually the same thing strangely. I have an unbelievable sense that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. The reality is often that I can’t but, I will always give it a go!!! LH: Do you trust anyone with your life? AP: Oh God, yes! There are many. Over the period of my cancer battle this happened on an almost daily basis. However, I also have an enormous number of very close friends who I would entrust this with, as I would hope them with me! LH: Have you ever danced in the rain? AP: Many, many times. My favourite was when I was staying with my Mum in Broadstairs. Her flat overlooked the sea and the most amazing lightening display ensued with the most torrential rain I have even seen in this country. I walked onto the beach stripped naked (it was about 12am though and deserted) and ran along into the sea. I felt like a god and never so energized in my life. It was a precious moment. LH: What have you always wanted? Did you ever get it? AP: YES! YES! YES! . A sense of peace and of belonging and through my martial arts journey. LH: Do you know your heritage? AP: My father some years ago found that we are descended from Viking mercenaries who came over with William The Conqueror. Cool as you like hence the name Pillage, this is apart from the fact my coat of arms is a vomiting pelican …seriously! My martial heritage is very mixed but I was awarded a Master Instructor title from my Sifu Richard Bustillo so that makes me once removed from Bruce Lee. I’ll happily accept that. LH: Are you still learning who you are? AP: Every single day. This was compounded by my illness and I welcome that fact as it taught me more lessons than any other single experience of my life. LH: What, if anything, are you afraid of and why? AP: Cancer and I will explain exactly why and how that actually changed beyond all measure. People get shocked when I tell them “I’m really glad I have cancer”. You get that what the hell just happened look on their faces until you explain. But the reality is that over the past eighteen months, I have had some of the most remarkable things happen to me that would never have come about without this bloody illness raising its head. It has helped me become a far better person and enjoy life at an intensity that very few could match. After speaking to other survivors this is not an uncommon occurrence. So the genuine heartfelt truth is I am 100% glad I have gone through this and of course with the proviso that I have come out the other end scarred, bloody but still smiling. My own dealings previously with the dreaded C Word have been singularly unpleasant as I am sure would most peoples’. As a young man of seventeen, I watched my beloved Grandfather die from what started as prostate cancer but sadly spread throughout his body. The term riddled, was used often by the family and medical teams to describe his illness. I was with him when he passed away, as I was with my Mum, who beat breast cancer the first time around but succumbed when it hit her again four years later. My uncle Ted (Mum’s brother) died of lung cancer when I was in my 20’s. We are a family where it seems to be our fate to have this awful thing beat the crap out of us. So as a heavy smoker I thought that whatever I did to myself I was predestined to die of the BIG C. The irony is that my particular thymic carcinoma can strike whether you smoke or not, he’s a random little shit. It’s a rare and particularly aggressive one, seen only about four times a year at the Arden Cancer Centre in Coventry. Of this I was pleased… I’d hate to have an illness that was a frigging pussy! There was probably little I could have done to prevent it. You see when that spectre is hanging over you there was rarely a day when I didn’t think
of dying of it. It’s like the playground bully hiding in the shadows, the one that terrifies you but won’t stand in front of you and fight. The sad irony being is that stress made me smoke even more. So when I got the first indications there may be something wrong with me, I truthfully wasn’t surprised. I clearly remember talking to my dear mate Ian Goehler, in about March of 2014, saying I knew there was something seriously wrong with me but had no idea as to what? As a typical bloke, it took me nearly six months before I went to the doctor with a cough, which ironically had nothing to do with the cancer. So lesson No.1 chaps: GO TO THE BLOODY Doc’s, stop being stoic and swallow that machismo. If I hadn’t had my diagnosis at that time then I would be dead by now, of that I have little doubt. Remember your body and brain are pretty much on your side. If something feels wrong it probably is! LH: What is the most memorable class you have ever taken? AP: There are in fact two and they were both just before my operation! My favourite song is from the band Elbow “One day like this”. I have seen it sung live on I believe seven occasions and once at Glastonbury where I sang the words with over 100,000 enraptured souls on a magical evening in front of the Pyramid stage. The song contains lyrics, which resonate with me unlike no other, “So throw those curtains wide, one day like this a year will see me right” Think about that - “one day like this a year will see me right”. In my mind I’m sure we all have had that day, that amazing occasion which has nourished us for an eternity. I had two of these during this small period of time. The dates aren’t important. On a good night I may get 30 people on the mats for the Monday self-defence class. I put up this post on Facebook: “Next Monday, may be the last time I teach for a few months. Please everyone come along to the 7:00 pm class and lets go out in some style. I’d welcome all my old students back for a night on the mats...thank you” I knew in my mind there was far more to this post than originally met the eye. I had the nagging doubt that maybe this would be the last class I ever taught. The operation was looming and I obviously had absolutely no idea as to what I would be capable of afterwards or even if I was going to survive the surgery. Maybe I would die during the operation (a 12% chance) or not regain enough functionality to teach properly ever again. 6:30 pm the first unusual face turned up. My old mate Steve Strong had driven up from Dagenham. Whilst greeting him, the mighty Walloper, Gavin Richardson lurched from the car park. Friend after friend, old students (including one who had got a train down from York for the class and travelled home the same evening) training partners and instructors congregated from all over the UK. Seventy-six students had taken the time to come and support me on what could have been a final HUZZAH. On three occasions I had to leave the mat as my eyes betrayed the deep emotions I was feeling. I have seldom been more touched or felt genuine love and affection like I did over the following two hours. I soaked up every bit of energy these beautiful people gave me and revelled in it. I taught a brilliant class and left to rapturous applause. One day a year like this will see me right. Too fucking true! The second one was when I had had the idea of doing a seminar with two of my closest friends. The far too handsome Mikey Wright and Guru Eddie Quinn. Not only two consummate martial artists but two consummate human beings. We decided that we would call it The Approach (Eddie’s baby), The System (Mikey’s Defence Lab and Systema) and the Poison (my pressure points). It worked like a dream with again over 70 people taking part. It turned out to be the best seminar I have ever attended let alone taught. The energy in the room was buzzing, the humour was flowing and I was in one of my don’t give a shit show off moods. The students lapped it up and again we left to tumultuous applause. Apart from Tony Bailey, there would have been no finer people I could ever of have been more proud to share a mat with. I was honored beyond belief. One day a year like this will see me right… I was lucky that I’d had two. LH: Have you ever been in a food fight?
AP: Who hasnâ€™t? LH: Have you ever been in love with two people at the same time? AP: Yes. LH: Who or what has been the greatest influence in your life? AP: My maternal grandfather, Frederick Ernest Talbot. LH: Mountains or seaâ€Ś which would you choose to be closer to? AP: I have a great affinity with both but sea would just edge it. LH: Who would you most like to be stuck in an elevator with? AP: The Buddha or Debbie Harry circa 1979! LH: Which is your favourite season and why? AP: I think all seasons have beauty but if pressed Summer so I can get my flip flops on. LH: If you could select one person from history and ask them one question - who would you select and what would the question be? AP: Jesus and did you really mean all this shit to happen in your name? LH: How would you describe your art in ten words or less? AP: Painful, Intense, Brutal, Expanding, Unfinished, Challenging, Artless, Enlightening, Ouchy! LH: Thank you good sir for your time and honesty. I'm sure our readers will find your words inspiring and up lifting.
Anthony Pillage teaches regular classes at his school as well as holding workshops with internationally acclaimed martial artists from around the globe. For further information about forthcoming events and scheduled classes, please contact:
Way Of The Spiritual Warrior 520 Foleshill Road Coventry CV6 5HP Tel: 024 76331239 www.wayofthespiritualwarrior.co.uk
Anthony Pillage in action.
Photo appears courtesy of Anthony Pillage.
Hadjios Valley Taijiquan, Cyprus
November 2017 See Next Issue For Details
USA 2016 From Vineland, NJ To Hell’s Kitchen, NY
The fall of October 2016 saw my return to the USA and the continuation of the workshop series entitled, “Unlocking The Small San-sau”, which we had begun in the previous year. It was great to be back amongst old friends, all eager to learn and develop, and take their training to the next stage. The focus was on the two-person training methods, whilst adhering to the Classics, and developing our understanding based upon the Thirteen Dynamics, Four Cornerstones and the Four Mistakes - learning to Move With Awareness. Interspersed with the small San-sau were training methods to help develop Joining Hands, as well as grounding and balancing drills taken from both Taijiquan and Baguazhang. Before the serious stuff of training, Ron McCracken and I headed into Philadelphia's South Street district in search of Philly’s perfect cheese steak at Geno’s. Ron then made the fatal mistake of taking me to the local Comic Shop, where I duly spent the entire contents of my wallet! I would have bought more had I not run out of dollars I even offered the bemused cashier Sterling, but to no avail! After a solid weekend’s training in Vineland, New Jersey, at Yi’s Karate Academy I headed back towards New York’s Hell’s Kitchen - the home of Daredevil - where we trained in a park alongside the Hudson River into the late evening accompanied by a mischief of rats! The theme here was the Knife. We went through several training methods to help develop an understanding of the knife and its feel before continuing on to the first Wudang Knife form, called Eight. The evening continued with the training of the Evade, Bump, Strike principle and ended with Baguazhang’s Eight Palm Releases in order to press home why locks don’t work against skilled knife-fighters! We ended the night with a lovely meal at a local Italian restaurant. On the following pages are a few images from the trip and the workshops. I want to thank all those who attended and made me feel so welcome - you all worked hard and made me proud. And Steve Adams… mate I loved each and every one of your questions - can’t wait to hear more next year! Last and by no means least… I want to thank first Ron McCracken for organizing the Vineland event and for tirelessly ferrying me around everywhere. But mostly, Ron I want to thank you for inviting me into your beautiful family home and sharing your ‘salt’ with me. You really are a brother from another lifetime and I love you mate! Secondly, thank you Jose and Sierra for organizing the New York event and for sharing your lovely apartment with me. I loved the view of the Hudson from your window. You are two beautiful souls and you introduced me to a third - Tim! Finally, Carol… I can never be in the USA and not see you and the gang. Thank you for letting me stay in Alex’s den and allowing me to be a part of your lives, and for always making me feel at home. Thank you for sharing Alex’s spirit with me. His spirit is a light for me, just like Erle’s. To say I love you… is simply not enough to convey what I feel for you all. “All for one and one for all!”
With Ron McCracken, -Vineland, NJ
The Boys Club Avenue Road Nuneaton CV11 4NA Kids Classes: Age 5-14 Monday and Friday 7pm-8pm Adults Classes: 14+ Monday and Friday 8pm-9pm Ladies Only: Wednesday 6pm -7pm. For Further Information Contact Carl: Mobile: 07914688654 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pace of Taijiquan in Form Practice Copyright©Nasser Butt (Originally written in February 2015 and re-edited November 2016)
I have often been asked the question by most of my students regarding the pace at which one should perform their Taijiquan form? This is a question that tends to puzzle or perplex many. I recently read the last interview given by Fu Zhongwen, regarded as one of the best students of Yang Cheng-fu, a couple of months before his death in 1994. In the interview Fu states that: “.. the fastest you can go with the 85 movements or the 108 would be 18 minutes and the slowest would be 22 minutes. "You don't want to go past that.” The ideal is 20 minutes exactly. And you cannot do it with some movements fast and some movements slow. It has to be continuous motion. If you do it for 22 minutes but some parts you do fast and some parts you do slow, that is not following the T'ai Chi principles. It must be continuously flowing without stopping.”
In the same interview, James Fu - the grandson of Fu Zhongwen - who was also present tells us: “…some people think that slower is good and some people tell him they do the form in one hour or 40 minutes for a set. "This is useless. This is not T'ai Chi anymore. This is just movements. The reason that we do T'ai Chi slow is because we want to do it faster. This is the principle." “
These are interesting comments coming from a high authority, especially, in Fu Zhongwen but, are they correct? We know for a fact that the original Yang family form was NOT even paced. It was performed at varying speeds with leaps, shouts and rapid kicks! In Fu’s own book, ‘Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan’, we find an introduction to the history of Yang Style by the famous martial arts historian Gu Liuxin, who himself was a former student of Yang Cheng-fu. Gu informs us that the original form included: “… fajin (issuing energy), leaps, stomping of the feet and other moves of comparative difficulty.”
It was only much later from around 1928 that Yang Cheng-fu, himself, brought about changes in his family form when according to Gu: “After Yang Cheng-fu went to the South… he changed… to a continuous pace with no breaking of the cadence, and from a hurried to an even pace.”
Furthermore, he (Cheng-fu) removed all leaps, shouts and stomps from the form as well as revising and/or simplifying the more difficult movements.
So, why would Fu and his grandson make these comments? Surely, it is obvious that the correct thing to say would be that these comments are true of Yang Cheng-fu’s modified form and the subsequent further bastardizations of his form by later generations. If we look at Fu’s statement carefully this is exactly what he is telling us when he mentions the 85 or 108 movements! They are NOT true of the Yang family Taijiquan as practiced by the founder and elders of the style, including Yang Cheng-fu himself! Change of pace plays a critical role in the practice of ones Taijiquan form and should be obvious to any student involved in understanding how energy systems work. Whilst studying Taijiquan we must develop 3 critical skills: 1. Gather/store energy 2. Balance energy 3. Issue energy Only by understanding change of pace can we even begin to have a chance to develop the above. The clues are in the Classics along with the practice of the founders of the style. We are constantly told, as can ben seen from Fu’s example above, that our Taiji must flow continuously without stopping like water or a river. But does that mean that our Taiji must be practiced at an even or continuos pace? The answer is simply NO! Wu Yu-hsiang, in his ‘Expositions of Insights into the Practice of the Thirteen Postures’, tells us to: “Be as still as a mountain, move like a great river.”
The “great river” in this instance has been interpreted by many as the mighty Yangtze, itself. But whether it is the Yangtze or any other of the great rivers that traverse this planet, I ask the reader a simple question: Do any rivers, anywhere, move at an even constant flow or pace? Again, the answer is an obvious NO! Rivers not only bend, twist and wind but, also, exhibit distinct paces: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Constant/Even/Slow Still Waters Fast Rapids/Powerful Currents
Not only is the above true but, also, that rivers can run deep underground only to resurface many miles later still on track towards their ceaseless journey to the oceans. They can drop suddenly from hundreds of feet with a majesty equal to none. Swelling, overflowing and gathering energy before releasing their benevolence on arid lands, flooding them with lifegiving abundance or being dammed by humans - their energy converted to hydroelectricity
to drive our modern needs. And, yet, at other times unleashing their violence destroying all that stands in their paths! This is exactly how our Taijiquan forms are meant to be - like a great river! Erle would always tell us that in order for us to understand our Taiji, we only have to do as the classics say. In this instance that we flow like a river and in understanding that we can perhaps begin to understand the various energy movements hidden within our form. The slow, even movements of our form are the energy gatherers or storers. The fast movements are the energy balancers. The explosive movements are the energy release or issuers. Let us now look at Gu’s description of Yang Shao-hou, the elder brother of Yang Cheng-fu, doing his form: “… lively steps, movements gathered up small, alternating between fast and slow, hard and crisp fajin, with sudden shouts, eyes glaring brightly, flashing like lightening… and an intimidating demeanour.”
Can we not see the river in Shao-hou’s form? Mighty, great, and dangerous, something commanding our respect? The Original Yang family form contained slow movements for gathering Qi, fast movements for balancing Qi and explosive (Fa- jing) movements to disperse the Yang Qi, built up during practice, as opposed to the slow only style of modern forms, thereby, making it a completely balanced system. This is critical, as the slow movements of these modified forms, lead to an excessive build up of Yang Qi, which then turns to its opposite Yin state thus, causing harmful “Yin Dullness” within the body. If we look at the ‘Old’ Yang form we will see this clearly even in the opening movements of the form. From the stillness of preparation, the form moves evenly through grasping sparrow’s tail and slightly quickens in the first part of single whip (from where the posture derives its name), only to slow down to half-pace during the second part. It again quickens as spear fingers pierce to the rear, before the even pace resumes through dragon palms, and the centrifugal build up of reverse dragon palms leads to the fa-jing release immediately followed by the stillness of lift hands, which is performed as slow as possible - and then the cycle resumes again! It is imperative that we understand the change of pace of some of these vital postures as in them lie clues and in some instances ‘keys’, which open the door to the higher levels of the form! I have already mentioned above that the posture of lift hands is always performed as slowly as possible (over at least two-breaths)! - this is the most important key and it is vital that we explore what this means. The posture of lift hands and all it’s derivatives should be performed as such. Just as single whip and brush knee twist step and their respective derivatives are performed at half the original starting pace of the form! There are 9 of these keys, excluding lift hands. It is up to the practitioner to discover them or, occasionally, their teacher may ‘give’ them through their practice without actually saying what has been given!
Understanding the ‘pauses’ within the form are just as vital as understanding the changes of pace. There are several ‘pauses’ within the form. Some are blatantly obvious, whilst others are more subtle in their nature. The waiting time for these ‘pauses’ is unique to the practitioner and may, also, vary with the time of day as well as at which pace the form is being performed at! Not only must some of the postures within the form, themselves, be performed at very specific speeds but the form itself is also performed at 3 distinct speeds overall during each practice session! The first time is usually the ‘quickest’ pace of the form and represents the bones, muscles and sinews - in other words, the physical body - and should take between 10-15 minutes. Having said that, this time will almost certainly vary according to the physical well-being of the practitioner! The second pace is done at approximately 50 percent of the first pace and represents the mind. The third pace is done at approximately 50 percent of the second pace and represents the spirit, so that by the time all three paces have been done, body, mind and spirit have been unified! The classical times for practice were: Dawn: When coming out of yin and entering yang. Midday: When you are in extreme yang. Dusk: When coming out of yang and entering yin. Midnight: When extreme yin. Again, it’s interesting how these times may also correspond not only to movements of water across the earth’s surface but also to the ‘High Times’ of prayer in most cultures! Another aspect of the 3 main paces could also be looked upon as a metaphor for the three ages of humans. The first pace could also be interpreted as the time lapse between birth and adulthood. This is when we are usually at our most vigorous - learning and developing. The second pace as the time between adulthood and middle age. We are still developing but hopefully we have understood a lot and learned from the folly of our youth and have become more settled.
And finally the third pace as the time between our middle age and our ultimate demise the end of the riverâ€™s journey as it joins the sea! By this stage our vast experience should allow us to see things a lot more clearer and deal with changes without the worry and inexperience of youth. We can ultimately look back and reflect and pass on our experiences to the generations to come. By virtue the metaphor can be extended to the form itself, where each third corresponds directly to each age as shown above. The movements of Taijiquan, therefore by emulating the great river, generate, both, centripetal and centrifugal forces encouraging the flow of blood and life-force energy, or Qi, from the centre of the body, out to the extremities and back, along the acupuncture meridians. Thereby, allowing the body to heal and rejuvenate itself over a 24 hour period. I have deliberately used as much lay language as I can in this article. This is because I do not want people to get confused with metaphysical debates. In part this has been a big problem with the internal arts, where people have tried to use a language that most, including themselves, have little knowledge of! When you do your Taiji, I, just as Erle, or any other good teacher, cannot tell you what it is you will feel during the form. Any language we use to express that idea immediately becomes limited by the rules of the language itself! I cannot say that I feel a tingling sensation in the dantian - I may, you may not! You may express that feeling in a totally different way. Many years ago, at the start of my journey, I was once told by Erle that if we see a hundred people practicing Taijiquan and all of them move identically at the same pace and with the same flow then only one of them is doing Taiji - the other 99 are monkeys, aping the one! We cannot tell the one apart from the monkeys! The even-paced forms, as well as the modified shorter forms, were not only influenced by later practitioners but also by the Chinese government, in whose opinion everybody had to conform! They not only looked and dressed the same but they also had to move in the same manner thereby, stamping out any hint of individuality! This is how we get subservient societies and crush the growth of the individual, and prevent them from becoming all that they can be! Just as no two rivers flow or move in exactly the same way, neither do two individuals! We are all unique and move with our own energy. The only thing we all have in common are the principles as laid down in The Classics - in following those we should be identical! This is exactly how our Taijiquan should be - unique. A river unto ourselves! This monkey has started to explore and develop basic toolsâ€Ś I am a work in progress.
A Last Interview With Fu Zhongwen by Marvin Smalheiser. Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan by Fu Zhongwen, translated by Louis Swaim The Essence of T’ai Chi Ch’uan by Lo/Inn/Amacker/Foe The Old Yang Style Taijiquan by Erle Montaigue
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Lift Hands is a new magazine for the internal arts. When one really thinks about Lift Hands, you’ll discover that it is not just an isolated...
Published on Nov 30, 2016
Lift Hands is a new magazine for the internal arts. When one really thinks about Lift Hands, you’ll discover that it is not just an isolated...