Peasant Talk The 12 Secret Rings of The Yang Family: Part One Katherine Loukopoulos Sensei in 20 Questions
Editor Nasser Butt
perception realization activation action
Lift Hands The Internal Arts Magazine Volume 2 February 2017
Published by L’orso Solitario Books, Leicester, United Kingdom Lift Hands The Internal Arts Magazine Editor Nasser Butt Copyright © by Nasser Butt, 2017 & 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: Katherine Loukopoulos at Chinen Castle, Okinawa. Cover design © Nasser Butt, 2017 Cover Photography: Appears courtesy of Katherine Loukopoulos Back Photography: Tim Churcher Photography
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The Sweet Spot…And The Relevance Of A Single Bone In The Foot Colin Power Page 11 Falling Petals In Stillness Dr. Gregory T. Lawton
The 12 Secret Rings of the Yang Family Part One: Form/Rolling Thunder Nasser Butt
Characteristics Of Chen's Xiao Jia Alan Sims
Training Methods For Martial Artists: Systema - The Floor Mikey Wright
Ken Zen Ichi Nyo (The Fist and Zen are One) Katherine Loukopoulos
20 Questions With Katherine Loukopoulos Sensei
How To Begin The Study Of Joining (Push) Hands (A Basic Overview) Nasser Butt
Hadjios Valley Resort T’ai Chi Ch’uan Weekend 2017 Booking Details Page 55 Peasant Talk
The Art of Louiseneige Be
Baguazhang The Art of ‘Tung The Fugitive’ www.fajing-chuan.co.uk Email: move2survive@gmail..com
elcome to the second issue of Lift Hands: The Internal Arts Magazine!
The weeks and months have seem to flown by and here we are well into 2017, with the wisps of spring already in the air! This issue, although only the second, is already a milestone in the infancy of the magazine. We have been able to interview and hear from the incomparable Katherine Loukopoulos Sensei - a true Master of the Okinawan Fighting Arts. Not only did Katherine Sensei give her time and support for this issue but she also agreed to write features for our future publications. I wish to thank Katherine Sensei for her generosity and spirit and bow in respect. Just as we promised and envisaged - this issue is packed with information from both the internal and external arts, as well as information useful for all stylists. We are still a work in progress and will continue to adapt, learn and change along the way. I'd like to thank all those who have contributed with the making of this issue, from those who have submitted articles to those who have advised and guided me in many ways. I especially want to say a massive thank you to my full-time brother and partner in crime - Colin Power. Colin has spent many hours on the phone with me, constantly challenging me and taking me down a labyrinth of 'rabbit-holes' over the years. We are kindred spirits and I blame him for a lot of my sleepless nights! But, mostly, I want to thank him for pushing me towards a greater understanding of my art and keeping me grounded, and for being there whenever I have needed him - despite being literally on the other side of the world! In the modern era, martial arts appear to be losing their spirit. We live in a world where claims of 'mastery' after only a few years of training are rife. Students are a commodity and part of a business plan, and martial arts themselves have simply become a footstool to the pedestal upon which self-preening and self-important peacocks perch. Delusions of grandeur abound, along with falsehoods of training and lineages! Yet despite all of this, in the past year, I have stumbled across many good, decent folk, who are still trying to walk the Way. They have already taught me much and I hope to learn much more from them. They have also given me hope even though they, themselves, are having to face what appear to be hopeless odds. I hope that some of these folk will feature in these pages in our future issues. It is only by bringing such spirits together can we remain true to the brotherhood of the martial arts and martial arts themselves. The warrior spirit is alive and well... though you may have to search for it. Nasser Butt
The Sweet Spot…And The Relevance Of A Single Bone In The Foot Colin Power
ow you have heard of the ‘Sweet Spot’…tennis rackets have them, golf clubs and even croquet mallets have
them and you have them. Actually you may have many sweet spots depending on where your mind runs to however one of the sweet spots relevant to martial arts resides in your foot. It is a magical spot that shifts about like all allusive magical spots yet rarely ventures far from the talus. In simple terms the talus is the bone that connects your foot to your leg so when you come to think about it…it could be important. I’m not going to bore you with anatomical jargon in this article because I want you to have a little fun and let you explore for yourself and travel down a few thought rabbit holes. Now run your hand down the front of your lower leg and where you foot joins on you have now discovered the talus. Where the lower leg bones, tibia and fibula end is the top of the ankle joint and the talus makes up the bottom of the ankle joint. Here is your first interesting fact… …the talus has no muscular attachments (unless you are weird). Think about it…the connection between your leg and your foot has no muscles to pull it here or there. The rest of
you must position ‘You’ around the talus because it has no way of moving itself to a better position. Now the ankle joint has very strong ligaments to try and keep everything in place however my friend the talus just sits there like he is the centre of the universe. Second fact… …the other name for the talus is the astragalus. Now in Australia we don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story and if you allow for a little linguistic licence we could say ‘Astra’ from astragalus refers to astral or the stars and our friend the talus could get away with thinking he is the centre of the stars. Keeping it easy to understand when you move your foot up and down by bending at the ankle you are moving your lower leg bones relative to the top part of the talus. The talus is passive, just sitting there relying on his good
Now in Australia we don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story and if you allow for a little linguistic licence we could say ‘Astra’ from astragalus refers to astral or the stars and our friend the talus could get away with thinking he is the centre of the stars. Keeping it easy to understand when you move your foot up and down by bending at the ankle you are moving your lower leg bones relative to the top part of the talus. The talus is passive, just sitting there relying on his good looks and everything is moving around him. Same goes for below the ankle the talus and the calcaneus (heel bone) make up another joint called the subtalar joint meaning below the talus and the heel moves relative to the talus…the talus is just sitting there waiting for a beer.
We have all met someone who thinks they are the centre of the universe and it rarely turns out they are correct yet the talus may prove the exception to the rule (That rule being if someone tells you they are the best, they usually aren’t). We can all agree the ankle is pretty important and I’m not going to disagree however this subtalar joint is special. He is unique because of a few things. Firstly he or she is the only joint that has an axis that moves in the three planes of motion…he is what is called a Triplanar joint. Now this is probably not the most important, the most important thing is that this joint has a huge amount of receptors called proprioreceptors. These are the group of receptors that let you know where you are in space that allow us to know where up and down is when we close our eyes. Thanks for staying with me…
With martial arts balance and our perception of where we are relative to the universe is rather important. The subtalar joint and the ankle joint are a big part of the feedback we require to align ourselves correctly. When everything is going well we have this feedback and we can even train it to a fine edge. It can even let us know when the upper and lower body is not in sync once we explore this so called sweet spot.Every posture will have its sweet spot that ‘AHHH’ feeling when everything is just right. It requires a good instructor to help you find ‘YOUR’ posture because you will often not have the correct tools to see or feel when you are in that sweet spot. What if you can’t find your postural sweet spot? It can be a long hard road to connect your upper and lower body and move in a synchronised united fashion. Our modern environment challenges us to sit at a desk for eight to ten hours then glide like a butterfly and sting like a bee in our pursuit of martial art grace and poise. We carry all manner of injuries and don’t want another thing to worry about let alone a bone that thinks it is the centre of the universe. Generally you don’t have to worry about the talus and the sweet spot…know its there and learn to listen to it when you get up to that stage of fine tuning. Here is the thing though…if you have had moderate to severe ankle sprains you may have some instability in this area and may benefit from an assessment by someone that has a handle on all things talus. You may find that someone who specializes in foot mobilization therapy may be able to assist you if you are having trouble finding your sweet spot and you have tried everything else. In my job as a podiatrist the talus is one of the 1st things that I check when I have a patient that is struggling with sporting issues even if it seems unrelated. In future articles we will explore posture in relation to your martial arts and give you some homework so that you can investigate your own posture and a few training methods to complement whatever style of martial arts that you pursue. These articles will not replace the advice of your qualified health profession. They are designed to give you food for thought and the vocabulary with which you can discuss your individual needs with your chosen health professional.
Erle Montaigue Master Degree, China July15, 1949 - January 26, 2011 IN MEMORIAM
Falling Petals In Stillness Dr Gregory T. Lawton
inding the center is difficult. It might take one student ten years, another ten months, and yet another but a moment. We seek the quiet, the still point, the silent unity of our souls. In the Michelangelo painting a finger of God touches the hand of man, the hand of the child grasping the finger of its Father and holding tightly.
In Tai Chi take the Hand of God and allow yourself to be lead through the dance following like an obedient partner. Step by step, the dance. It is only by following, not leading, that we find the center, ourselves. No intent. No direction. No will. We follow, we relax, we yield, we soften, we comply, we find our true nature and define it in a loverâ€™s embrace as we stand on the shoes of our Father as He foot-steps us through Eternity. I hang my limbs, rags upon a pole, and pose a Tai Chi posture. Is the form an external shape, a bronze statue? Or is the form a mirage, formed by the heat of the soul, compressed by a fevered spirit and released, a flower unfolding in the Sun, by inspiration. I see before me the dance of dying moths. They swirl upward like white ashes lifting on waves of heat.
As we begin with Tai Chi we stand in Wu Chi and perform the commencement. At first we do not understand. We hurry on through it, the stable horse stubbornly returning to the stable without regard for the commands of the rider. We are eager to experience the movement of Tai Chi and so we miss the essential truth, Tai Chi is stillness, in intent it is stillness, in purpose it is stillness, in reality it is stillness. As we age in our training, if we are persistent we will discover the Wu Chi, the not doing, the stillness is the hidden gift, the secret, the essence of Tai Chi. The center where we become the still point upon which the world turns and everything touches us. The Seed Sower, He spreads the seeds without regard for kind and delights in the surprise as varied shoots spring up. He rejoices in the kaleidoscope of color and shape. Move from your center and delight in the dance as you would the unfolding of a spring day with wind, sunlight, flowers and the impromptu serenade of birds. Tai Chi is such a thing! I have never done my Tai Chi perfectly. In every practice I have erred. For a time this bothered me. No longer. When I play my Tai Chi I am always over stepping, turning my foot a little too far, reaching too far, reaching out a little too much, never perfect. When I play my Tai Chi I often lose myself in the flow and forget what comes next, embrace tiger, grasp the sparrows tail, slant fly? I recall the story of the Zen archery master who had never hit a bullâ€™s eye in his life. I guess like that Zen master Iâ€™m just not aiming for the center of the target. When the arrow flies it goes where it intends, when I release myself to Tai Chi I follow the arrow. It is not the Tai Chi we dance, it is ourselves. It is not the form, it is what lies within us. What a wonderful mystery! The discovery of inner self through outer movement! Tai Chi should be this, Tai Chi should be that, a stance is this way, not that, your weight is here, not there, your foot turned this way, not that. Who wrote these stone tablet prescriptions? Is life so predictable? Do we always know what comes next, the next move, the next step? Art is CREATING! Life is unpredictable. We sit before the canvas and who knows what will materialize? We sit before the blank paper and who knows what words will flow? We breathe, and air from the Arctic, the Amazon, Australia, and Asia fills our lungs and enters our blood to infuse our cells. We seek to create and we are inspired by symbols, metaphors, similes and parables. Matter is energy, energy forms matter, the two constantly interchange one becoming the other. We are butterflies, eagles, moths, we are happy, sad, serious, silly, intense, frivolous, we are strong, weak, stoic, fragile, we are female and feminine, female and masculine, male and feminine and female and masculine. That which is solid is impermanent, immaterial, invisible. That which lives has form, life and force. Our religion is law and mystery. Our life becomes death becomes endless life. What then? Live as if life is change. Dance the Tai Chi as change. My eyes alone do not see the Tai Chi form, rather my eyes, my pores, my senses, my inner mind sees the dancing spirit celebrating life. In the highest heaven, nearest to the Throne of God the sweetest music is sung by love struck Angels in the Choir of Light. How can we not dance to the music?
Kindly reprinted with permission from: Scent of a Forgotten Flower, Copyright 2010 Dr. Gregory T. Lawton 6757 Cascade Road, SE Suite 172 Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546 616-464-0892
About the authorDr. Gregory T. Lawton began his martial art training as a child. He has trained in western boxing, wrestling, and Asian martial arts such as Aikido, Jujitsu, Kenpo, and Tai Chi Chuan. He is an 8th degree black belt in Kosho Ryu Kenpo Jujitsu and holds the title of Yudansha Taigu. Dr. Lawton’s main and most noted Tai Chi Chuan instructor was Professor Chi-Kwang Huo. Professor Huo, the renowned Chinese scholar, artist and calligrapher who served as Taiwan's ambassador to France and who was a personal friend of Pablo Picasso, was a master martial artist and was a student of Yang Shao Hou of the Yang Family. Dr. Lawton is a health science writer and the author of over two hundred books, manuals and educational products ranging from massage therapy and martial arts, to health promotion, and from alternative medicine to conventional medicine. He is a Vietnam era veteran and was honorably discharged from the US Army with the rank of Sergeant E-5.
Prologue In the spring of 2005 Erle invited myself to come train with him at home in Llangadog, Wales for the first time. The family had moved from Australia at the end of 2003 and had been living in Wales now for a little over a year. However, by the spring of 2005, Erle had decided to return back to Australia for personal reasons - reasons which Erle explained to me clearly back then, but which are of no consequence here (He would later go on to change his mind and then think again about leaving in 2007 to return back to Australia). Upon hearing this news I was saddened and disappointed. I had been training now for almost 8 years and Erle’s arrival in the UK had evened the playing field for the likes of myself, who couldn’t afford to fly to Australia to train. I had never missed a training session with Erle (and would only ever go on to miss two sessions over a span of 12 years)! Erle had sensed my disappointment and in his inimitable manner - something those who knew him personally, will be familiar with - said, and I quote: “I am very pleased with your progress! … I will try to work out something else to correct your form.” A few days later, he would contact me again to ask if I would like to come train with him at home! I couldn’t believe this! Such an amazing offer - but that was Erle! I accepted immediately and asked if he would mind if I brought Elliot Morris along with me, as Elliot and I had been training together for a number of years now, and had stuck at it through thick and thin! Erle had no problem with that. So, the two of us headed to Llangadog on the appointed day with no idea of what lay ahead. Upon our arrival, Erle had both of us duly fed and watered, and then picked up a clipboard along with some paper and said, “Let’s see what you have?“ He led us out to the back of the house towards the building in the yard and marched us into a room. I have no idea how long the three of us were in there, however, during that time Elliot and I went through our entire Yang Lu-ch’an form whilst Erle sat there watching and occasionally scribbling onto the clipboard. It was nervewrecking to the say the least being under so much scrutiny! Once we had finished the form, Erle began the corrections he had noted down onto the paper in minute detail. He was very pleased with what he had seen and yet he went on to say: “I expect even higher levels from you two!” After Erle finished correcting the form, we moved onto the small San-sau. Solo first and then the two-person. Again, Erle put us through the mill as he partnered us through the two-person set checking our power, stability and movement - correcting even the smallest errors.
Having done the small San-sau, Erle asked to see the Pauchui - again, solo first followed by the two-person. More corrections, more detail. Finally, we came to Push Hands. Elliot and I, both, started with single push hands - static, then moving, then adding breaks before rolling into double push hands as Erle stood there watching intently and correcting us along the way. He was very impressed with a couple of the breaks we had put in whilst joining hands with him questioning us from where we had learned these? When we told him we had figured these out ourselves from watching him, he simply smiled. He then stepped forwards, arm raised - as we joined hands he said: "You two are ready for the Rings or Houses of the Yang family! I am going to show you how to 'lean on a fence and talk to your neighbour' whilst 'deflecting a 1000 lbs with only 4 oz’!" I looked at Elliot and he looked at me - both of us clueless, having never heard of these Houses or Rings! Erle joined hands with us both individually and began to explain…
Above: A part of Erle’s handwritten notes and corrections from our first private training session at his house in 2005. N is Nasser and E is Elliot. Both Elliot and I cherish these corrections - we both have copies - a rarity.
rle formally introduced the Twelve Secret Rings or Houses of Yang during his next monthly class in the
spring of 2005 in Swansea, Wales. He was very explicit from the start to the nature of these: “These secret Houses were only ever taught to the inner club or the inner school! I have slowly introduced some principles from the first three of these Houses, slowly along the way, without actually coming out and saying that these are the secret Houses!”
(MTG281 - The Secret Houses/Rings of the Yang Family: Volume One: House 3)
The first formal House to be taught was House 3 - The Way of Joining Hands. This was how Erle explained House 3: “The Secret Houses of Yang are what makes Taijiquan great. This is what distinguishes the 'red herring' Tai Chi from the real thing. What makes a silly, 'you push me, I push you' tai chi into a real fighting self defence system. These 12 houses or rings as they were often called, were what the Masters taught only their most treasured
[students] and or family members and even went as far as giving us all the wrong information to stop us from getting the 'family jewels' as Yang Sau-chung once told me. Why is it that we are told that Tai Chi Ch'uan means 'Supreme Ultimate Fighting' when we are taught this silly thing of Pushing Hands? Why would you want to do that? You do not push each other in real fighting. This way of pushing hands was also a red herring to keep us off the trail of the real thing of 'Joining Hands', which is the way that we are taught how to fight in Tai Chi. Joining Hands is an eye opening experience and will probably answer many of your questions and fears about learning how to use Tai Chi for fighting.” (Moontagu DVD Catalogue 2010: MTG281 - The Secret Houses/Rings of the Yang Family: Volume One: House 3)
So, the Houses were important! Erle continues: “People often wonder how it is that they will ever be able to use Tai Chi for self defence using what their teacher has taught them. Other systems even go so far as to prop their styles with hard style techniques such as western boxing or even kick boxing , etc. The reason is they have never stayed long enough to learn the secret
'houses' of Tai Chi which will take the student into the real fighting and healing areas, the advanced areas. These 12 'Rings' were only ever taught to the inside group or family members. And it's interesting that those who either never learnt them or who gave them up or forgot them, died very sickly deaths!
The first 'Ring' involves learning the Form at its higher levels, which I have alluded to in my own teachings and DVD videos. However, even I have held back on some areas such as 'Rolling Thunder' Form! This form is taught to students in the 2nd House. The 3rd House/Ring we learn about REAL push hands and not the version that was put out to simply keep outsiders off the real track! Here we learn how to fight adhering to all of the internal classics and not having to rely upon our physical strength to win. Why is it that when you see people doing push hands, it looks like a wrestling match? This is because they are still doing the low wide stances taught by the Yangs in error to put outsiders off the scent! In REAL push hands, there is very little body movement, just the same as in fighting, we stick to the principle of 4 Oz moves 4000 lbs. And you cannot do that using 'normal push hands' methods. I will be slowly but surely putting all 12 of the Secret Rings down onto DVD so that all will be able to gain the great benefits of training in the secret house of Yang.” Source: taijiworld.com/Articles/Yang Family Secret Rings (or Houses) circa 2005.
As Erle began publishing further information on the ‘Houses’ from 2005 onwards - his detractors, as always, immediately began to shout foul play - that there was no such thing as the secret Houses and that Erle had made them up! Exactly the same accusations were hurled at Erle way back in the late seventies and early eighties when he began talking about the Old Yang Form - a family form which was not taught publicly like the modified Yang Cheng-fu form. Chinese ‘masters' living in the West and growing ‘fat’ on their unsubstantiated lineage claims and their western proteges protested in unison - “Liar!" - Internet forums went into a meltdown with every armchair martial artist wanting to have his say. It would take two major publications in the late eighties and nineties namely; T’aichi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions by Douglas Wiles and Chen Pan-ling’s Original Tai Chi Chuan Textbook by Y. W. Chang. & Ann Carruthers to prove otherwise - Erle had been right all along! I have already written in detail regarding the Old Yang Style and do not wish to repeat the lengthy evidence here, suffice to say that I refer the reader to my essay - Whose Line Is It Anyway? Part One - which appeared in Combat and Healing Volume 67 January 2014. Erle continued with his work. I remember having many conversations with him on this subject filling out pages in my notebook with his replies, as they were pertinent to our training. What is interesting was the fact that nobody had ever asked Erle if there were any ‘secret forms’ or methods of training? It was Erle, who had always shared his knowledge freely, who offered these to his students without any coaxing! It is important that we understand this, for here we are at the beginning of 2017, exactly six years to Erle’s passing and these ugly accusations are rearing their heads again. What’s interesting is that, this time, the main protagonists who are hurling these accusations at a dead man’s legacy are exactly those who are supposed to be the ‘keepers’ of his legacy!
Articles began appearing accusing Erle of having made up these 'secret Houses' for the amusements of those students who “liked secrets”! That Erle had never been formally taught these by any of his teachers and that he had only managed to make up four in almost forty years of training despite the fact that Erle in his lifetime had already placed six in the public domain and had clearly documented who had taught him these and when! Ludicrous claims that they were really Erle’s own “best practicing methods” and that he wanted to “spice them up” in order to sell DVDs and get more students in class! That he was “superstitious” and liked Chinese stories and therefore invented the name - The 12 Secret Houses of Yang! To an outsider who is looking to study Taijiquan and if during their research they came across these words - they would be correct to assume that Erle Montaigue was a liar and a fraud! Erle’s students and friends came from many backgrounds. They were doctors, surgeons, police officers, forensic criminologists, scientists and martial artists of the highest calibre - intelligent and experienced folk who had the capability of smelling bullshit from a mile - yet we are to believe he fooled them all! So, what had changed? What were the motives behind these attacks on ‘certain instructors’ not to mention Erle’s work and legacy itself? With the demise of a prolific head of any system you can be certain that jealousies, egos and fraudulent claims will always come into play. This happened in Wing Chun with the death of Ip Man, in JKD with the death of Bruce Lee and in Taiji with the death of Yang Shou-hou - Erle’s system was no different! Suddenly, the advocates involved are claiming to have “studied Dim-mak for 24 years” and having started training from the “age of four”. That they had been given masterships (and had achieved this level in less time then Erle) or had been “named disciples,” when in reality their training only began when they were in their mid-teens and was far from complete less then ten years later, when Erle died! Others who barely knew the man claimed to have trained with him for years, when in reality they were students of Erle’s senior students! Rather then simply admit to this lack of experience, knowledge and incomplete training, their incredulous and narcissistic nature demanded that they turn Erle and those of his students who knew better into liars! Students who had travelled thousands of miles and invested much time and effort into training with Erle, not to mention the financial burdens, were belittled because they weren’t with him all the time - as if that makes a difference? Erle was with Chang for only a few years and did not live with him or see him daily… yet he managed to learn and glean more from him then anyone else! What made these claims even more incredible was the fact that several of Erle’s closet friends and senior personal students are still alive and well, and know exactly who trained with whom, how and when, and can easily disprove these absurd claims. When Yang Shou-hou died and Yang Cheng-fu became the head of the Yang family, in his book - Taijiquan Tiyong Quanshu (The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan) - published in 1934, it was claimed that Yang Cheng-fu was reluctant to train as a child and that it took his grandfather, the legendary founder of the Yang style, Yang Lu-ch’an himself to persuade him to do so otherwise! Yang claimed: “From that point on, I worked with unrelenting effort through twenty hot summers. Now my grandfather, uncle and father have all passed on from this life.” Yang Lu-ch’an died in 1872, eleven years before the birth of Yang Cheng-fu in 1883! The conversation NEVER happened! It is accepted by most historians that Cheng-fu began his training late - most likely well into his teens - the late 1890s or the early 1900s. By 1914 he was already working at the Beijing Physical Culture Research Institute, so he couldn’t have trained “through twenty hot summers”! Yang Shou-hou died in 1930, so in 1934 his students would still have been around to disprove and challenge Yang Cheng-fu’s claims and they did! According to Harvey Kurland, who traces his lineage to Yang Shao-hou through his disciple Hsiung Yang-ho:
“The senior students of Yang Shao-hou, who did not become disciples of Cheng-fu were written out of the Yang family lineage after the death of Shao-hou… Hsiung was one of those who did not affiliate himself with Yang Cheng-fu… some historians and writers claim that Yang Cheng-fu did not have the martial skill of some of his father's and older brother's students... "Official" history is revised liberally depending on who is telling the stories.” Here we are, almost a hundred years later and it would appear that nothing much has changed! Erle Montaigue was no liar nor did he fraudulently ascribe his own work to others - sure, like others before him, he tweaked things here and there from his own experience! He worked hard at getting information which would have otherwise become lost or misunderstood, or locked away behind some closed door! Once he got that information he shared it willingly with the public at large so that they may develop as the original founders of the system had intended and, like all good teachers, he never put “all his eggs into one basket”. He made sure that he deposited his knowledge into all his personal students - some of whom had been training with him for far longer then his own children - according to their skill, understanding and experience. They were his back up drives! If Erle made anything up or if he had revised an earlier method, then he had no problem to owning up to his own work: “He [Chang] used to use a series of 8 and I’ve added 1 myself - 8 training methods which were also his preemptive strikes…” Source: MTG222 - Chang Yiu Chun’s Pre-emptive Attacking Methods
So, I present here the ‘Houses’ or ‘Rings’ of the Yang family as Erle taught them - those which he had already placed in the public domain officially and those which we had discussed privately, and form my notes, and he was yet to release formally. I will present these in six parts. Each part will cover two ‘Rings’ with explanatory notes and references to both internal and external sources, where possible at the end. For Erle…!
The Rings (Houses) of Yang A
ccording to Erle himself, the ‘Rings’ of the Yang family were taught to him by Chang Yiu-chun (and he
discussed these with Yang Sau-chung - the son of Yang Cheng-fu in 1981) his teacher who was one of Yang Shou-hou’s inner circle students and a relative: “In this series of articles, I delve into the old pile of hand written notes that I took down during my training with Chang. Mainly to preserve such treasures but also to get the good information out about Tai Chi. This first conversation took place on the Sydney dockyards in a small alcove overlooking the Australian Navy depot early one morning in 1978. “What did your initial training consist of?” “As I was already an inner student, I was introduced to the houses.” “The houses? What is that?” “He would only ever teach inner circle students so he always taught the inner houses. These were the direct transmission from his Grandfather which taught the highest levels of the style. The movements… adhere strictly to the Old Classic writings.” “You use the backs of your forearms greatly in this system which is not inherent in other Yang systems or in any system of Tai Chi that I know of, why is this?”
“It is one of the Houses of Yang where we learn about the Thunder. When you use the backs of your arms, it will make the whole body aligned and balanced and also give one much great power in attack, it is like something rolling over and over until the fighting is finished. When the arms roll over, it makes the body as the Universe which is constantly changing and moving forward. This was the 2nd House.” “Your way of doing pushing hands is the same as the ‘Rolling Thunder’ isn’t it? I have only just now realised this. In what ‘house’ do you learn this way of Joining Hands?” “This is the number three house.” Source:Taijiworld - Conversations With Chang Yiu-chun
It should already be abundantly clear to the reader as to the source of Erle’s knowledge and that the names and order of the ‘Rings’ were already established (So, if this was a ruse, then Erle had planned it as early as 1978 according to his own writings - or at least places it that far back)! One thing I must add here though is the fact that Erle often wondered why they had been placed in that order? In our conversations, he’d often say that he felt that some of the later ‘Rings’ made more sense to teach earlier, yet despite that, he stuck to the order in which he had been taught! Again, the question comes to mind: If Erle was indeed the originator of these, then why did he not teach them in the order of his choosing? So, what can we deduce about the ‘Rings’ so far: 1. They were transmissions given to inner circle students and family only. 2. They adhered strictly to the Classics. 3. The subject matters in themselves were not the ‘secret'-at least not in most cases. The secrets were really in the how to apply and understand the Classics to one’s training in order to reach the highest levels of the style! 4. In order to achieve the above one had to know and understand the Classics. The Classics, however, according to Erle, were difficult to understand by the beginner: “It’s all there in the Taijiquan and Bagwazhang ‘classics’. However, most teachers take these classic saying too literally and try to execute what those classics say before they have risen to a high enough level. You cannot understand what the great old masters have said when you are not at their level to begin with. The old masters did not write the classics when they were beginning! They wrote them once they had understood fully the meaning of ‘internal’ and ‘small frame’. They wrote them when they were very advanced. What is the use of writing a guide for beginners? The beginner can learn the basic movements from anyone who knows them well enough. But once learnt, it is very important to have a teacher who is able to impart the inner knowledge and also to take the student onto the more advanced forms. And only then will the students understand the true meaning of what the classics are trying to teach us.” Source: Reflex Violence - The Way of Internal Gung-fu, The Erle Montaigue System (2000)
And further: "The classics give us explanations on how to use every facet of T'ai chi from the form through to push hands and street fighting. If we are able to understand them and use them as back-up to our own learning then they are the greatest learning tool available to any T'ai chi student... Chang was doing exactly what it said to do in the classics, but at a true internal level which is the only level at which to do the classics. If for instance, the classics say that you must 'raise the back' and you actually raise your back physically, then you do not know this classic. If it says that we must 'round the shoulders', and we round the shoulders greatly, physically, then we do not know what this means. If it tells us to 'concave the chest' and we greatly concave the chest physically, then we also do not know what this means. One of Chang's expressions was that we should be like a monkey, "No, like the big monkey" he would say, meaning a gorilla. At that time, I had no idea of what he meant other than to walk around like a monkey! "No, inside". He would say. Modern science now tells us that this is what is meant by the 'C' back and the 'getting of' the reptilian brain.” How To Use Taiji & Bagwa For Fighting ©1983 Erle Montaigue Chapter 4 The Classics Page
Defining The Ring or House: A ring is synonymous with a circle and the circle is a universal symbol with extensive philosophical meaning. It is an unbroken line which has no beginning, no end and no direction - representing totality, wholeness, the Self, timelessness, eternity, the sacred, perfection, all cyclic movement - Yin Yang. The circle expands and evolves from its centre. All points on the circular line meet at the centre of the circle which is thus their beginning and their end. The circle is also the symbol of protection. It is the shape which continues around its edge to protect the inside like a house. In astrological terms a house is defined as a twelfth division of the celestial sphere, based on the positions of the ascendant and midheaven at a given time and place! According to the Taiji Classics: "Stand like a scale. Move like a wheel… 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.” The martial arts world is abound with the concepts of rings, circles and houses. It is a theme which extends through the length and breadth of these arts. Baguazhang is perhaps one of the most well known arts associated with the circle and let us not forget to mention one of the greatest books ever written on the Way of the sword and strategy - Miyamoto Musashi’s A Book of Five Rings! So, it should come as no surprise that the Yangs referred to their most critical transmissions in the understanding and perfecting of their art as ‘Rings’ or ‘Houses’. In fact, one can think of no better way to describe the very essence of movement in Taijiquan.
The Form The First Ring (House) of Yang -
"The beginning and the end are one."
“The first ‘Ring’ involves the form at its higher levels.” Everything in Taijiquan begins and ends with the Form! All the ‘Rings’ - like rivers - head towards the ocean which is the Form. However, when we talk about the Form as a ‘Ring’ we are talking about The Old Yang Form at its highest level and not the modern standardized version of Yang Cheng-fu’s form! Of course, in the time of Yang Lu-ch’an, it was not called the Old Yang, in fact it wasn’t even called Taijiquan - it was most commonly known as "Mien Quan” (Cotton Boxing) or “Hua Quan” (Neutralizing Boxing) - Erle’s teacher Chang Yiu-chun referred to the art as “Hao Ch’uan” (Loose Boxing). At the highest level of the Form the practitioner becomes the embodiment of the Classics or as Chang once said to Erle: “You are doing Taiji, I am not… I am Taiji.” (Source: Chang Yiu-chun, The Last Interview by Erle Montaigue)
That the Yangs held back their family form from the general public is no longer contested - it is a fact - and we now have many books, articles and historical references to confirm this, as well as training methods which were only given out to close students of family members. According to the historian and practitioner Xu Yu-Sheng, in his book Taijiquan Shi (Taiji Boxing Power Enhancement [Containment]), written in 1927 and recently translated and annotated by Bradford Tyrey:
“… he had learned the original practices and fast moving sets of the Yang family from Yang Jian-Hou, and from Yang Shao-Hou he had acquired soft-boxing application skills. Under Yang Cheng-Fu, Xu said he became skilled at embracing largeness within smallness [referring to the practice of expansive postures while adhering to unification within].” Further: “… Yang Jian-Hou [his principle teacher] and Yang Cheng-Fu were extremely devoted practitioners of taiji and followed all of the training secrets that their family imparted to them. However, Cheng-Fu found that such rigorous methods were very difficult for the common person, so he created numerous small sets to practice, then consolidated these sets into three longer sets, and then consolidated these three sets into a single form composed of 115 movements. This 115-posture form is still taught in China by students of Li Ya-Xuan, a senior student under Cheng-Fu and classmate to Xu. Cheng-Fu later took out numerous difficult movements that resembled Shaolin boxing, jump kicks and fast spinning movements, giving the form the auspicious number of 108 movements.” In the same book, Bradford Tyrey, the translator informs us (Translator’s Preface): “In 1939, Xu published the text Taijiquan Internal Boxing Secrets concerned with both Yang Cheng-Fu’s and Yang Shao-Hou’s training methods. I chose to translate Xu’s first text because it is rare to find a complete edition and for the reason that the information that he writes on is obscure, providing a necessary foundation to understand the advanced training methods that he imparts in that book. Taijiquan Internal Boxing Secrets was quite a difficult task for Xu to undertake.” We shall return to the above information a lot later in the last ‘Ring’. According to Erle, there were Four Skill Levels to learning the foundations of the Yang Family Large Frame Form (Note: we are talking about the Form here - of course there are many other skill sets which also need to be acquired!): Level 1: Beginning level, where we learn each of the movements in block form—the simplest way to teach beginners. Level 2: Where we begin to connect the blocks without stopping, i.e., a flow has started to happen. Level 3: Where we learn about opening and closing or yin and yang. Level 4: Hao ch’uan - where most of the ends of the movements have a fa-jing, or explosive shake. These Skill Levels were to be developed over many years performed at Three Heights (Levels) - High, Medium and Low. The Low level was only to be attempted after many years and only to be done if one could do it without causing tension. This still does not mean taking the toes further than the knees, the stance becomes longer to compensate for this. Once the Form internalized, the practitioner would slowly begin to rise again until he or she had found ‘their level’! Each time the Form was practiced it was to be performed three times - once for the bones, muscles and sinews, once for the mind and once for the spirit. With each attempt the speed of the form would change. The general rule to be followed was that: Bones, muscles and sinews - This was the fastest pace of the form (usually performed in 10-15 minutes). Mind - This was done at half the pace of that for the bones, muscles and sinews. Spirit - This was to be performed at half the pace of that for the mind. If the practitioner did not have the time to perform the Form three times then they would break the form at each “Apparent Close-up’ with a brief waiting time before continuing on to the next third. The waiting time would vary relevant to each practitioner’s skill level.
The three paces above are in addition to the pace changes which occur within the Old Yang itself! 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.” 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 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. By the time the foundational training was complete, after many years of practice, study and contemplation, the body should have acquired all the pre-requisites for combat and achieved Balance - relevant to the six balanced pairs of organs and their corresponding body parts as far as yin and yang Qi or energy is concerned:
Balanced Body Part
Stomach & Spleen
Kidneys & Bladder
CV1 (Point at the base of the torso between the anus and sexual organs) & The Crown of the Head (GV20)
Triple Heater & Pericardium
Gallbladder & Liver
Coccyx/Back of Skull
Heart & Small Intestine
Lungs & Large Intestine (Colon)
Now, the ‘Ring’ can begin! This could and should be considered a ‘Fifth Level’ - the culmination of one’s training, still learning and developing as we journey into the final years of life - and would be in tune with the ideas expressed by Chen Xiaowang, in his excellent treatise - The Five Levels of Taijiquan! However, before we continue, I’d like you to ponder on Distillation. The definition of distillation is: 1. The action of purifying a liquid by a process of heating and cooling. Synonyms:
Distilling, purification, refining, filtering, filtration, treatment, processing; sublimation; Pressing, squeezing; extraction, extracting, draw out; Concentration, condensation, reduction.
The extraction of the essential meaning or most important aspects of something.
The highest level of the Yang Family Form is commonly known as the Small Frame Form. However, we must not confuse this Small Frame with the Small Frame that Yang Lu-ch'an and his sons taught in the Imperial Court. That form, although not inferior, was a variation of the Large Frame, “to allow combat and practice to be performed in the long sleeved, long skirted imperial robes worn by members of the imperial court .” Yang Shao-hou publicly taught the Large Frame, like his younger brother Yang Cheng-fu.
Privately, to those of his close students who had learned and advanced in the Large Frame, he began teaching his Small Frame Form. Yang Shao-hou’s Small Frame was a combination of the elements of the Large Frame and the Small Frame, done at pace “but without losing the qualities of the large frame such as relaxation, sinking, calmness and continuity.” In other words the Classics were fully adhered too! It was called the Small Frame due to its compact movements. Peter Lim Tian Tek, author of Yang Shao-hou’s Small Frame, tells us: “According to Wu Tu Nan, Yang Shao Hou's small frame was also known as the 'usage frame'. The form was supposed to have been created by Yang Lu Chan by distilling the essence of Tai Chi Chuan into this advanced combat set.” He continues: “This set can only be learnt after attaining a high enough level in the large frame and is not the large frame done fast. Yang Shao Hou's Tai Chi Chuan exhibited the little known advanced level skills that an extension of the basic combat skills of sensitivity, control of centre and positional advantage to overcome a stronger force. These skills included attacking acupoints, bone locking, bone hitting, sinew splitting, blocking and controlling pressure points relating to blood flow, spectacular fa-chin at great speed and continuous motion with one technique flowing into another so that there were no breaks for counters. Without first gaining the basic skills, the advanced skills cannot be properly learnt and applied.” And further: “Though he had only a few students, we are fortunate that the form still exists today though it is known and practiced only by a very limited number of exponents. It is in danger of becoming extinct. The advanced skills are present in the form but proper understanding of it is required before they can be gained. Just learning the form by rote without this understanding gains only the shell and not the marrow of the art. In doing so one does not gain the art at all.” According to Erle Montaigue’s teacher, Chang Yiu-chun - one of only a handful of students of Yang Shao-hou this form was called Small frame H’ao Ch’uan. However, it was not the large movements simply being done smaller, rather it is the “Qi becoming more” concentrated. Again, this in tune with Wu Tu Nan’s “distilling” description above. (This is a critical understanding to be developed and we will return back to it in much more detail in one of the later ‘Rings’!) Further evidence confirming the above comes to us from Chen Xiaowang - a nineteenth generation lineage holder of Chen Family Taijiquan - in his excellent treatise, The Five Levels of Taijiquan, we are told: “ ‘If your boxing skills are to achieve quality, you must learn to make the circles smaller!’ ” He explains the above statement as: “The single steps in practicing Taijiquan include progressing from mastering large circles to medium circles, and from there to small circles. The term ‘circle’ in the respect does not describe the path of the single body parts movement, but the gentle flow of internal energy, Qi.” Once more, we have confirmation of the process of distillation and all our sources are in complete harmony - yet we are being told to believe that this was made up by Erle! So, how do we get from Large Frame H’ao Ch’uan to Small Frame H’ao Chuan? I will let Erle explain: “I really like to give what I have been given but often this is impossible because of the relative levels that my students are at. When I discover something that I thought I knew about but which was not then internal and
which now is, I become excited and want to call in my students and show them this new revelation so that they too can receive the treat benefits that I feel. So I hold a class and sprout forth of this wondrous thing and I see blank faces bar perhaps one or two. The reason of course is that in my zeal to teach others, I have not taken into account the fact most are simply not ready to accept this advanced area of training… For years now, I have been trying to find a way of teaching my students about the 'Small Circle' way of performing the Taijiquan form… The small circle level of Taijiquan has been talked about ever since this great art became popular back in the late sixties in the West. But not many have actually understood what this actually meant. Many simply performed the form smaller, making every movement proportionately smaller. But this was nothing different as everything was still basically the same, only smaller. The BALANCE was the same! So if we are out of balance, (and most of us are), causing the form to be smaller will do nothing but perhaps give you less exercise value.” So, in order to resolve the problem and in order to try to explain the various energies involved, Erle taught a set of ‘interim forms’ through which to convey these energies and manifestations to his students. Alongside these forms were placed certain training methods to help the student further understand. Sadly, as always is the case, a lot of this information got misunderstood and students started seeing these as other ways of doing the Form! There is ONLY ONE FORM! Of course, whilst teaching these interim forms, Erle was continuously introducing concepts from the remaining ‘Rings’ at the appropriate times. I will only deal here with the main interim forms and give a brief description of each, for to go into detail would require a tome of several hundred pages and the purpose here is to introduce the student to the ‘Rings’. 'The Scapular Form’ The scapulae are a part of the power source of the whole body. They control the vital power band encircling the the back, thereby controlling the arms and what they do! The scapulae move in accordance with Yin Yang thus creating not only great power in striking, but also help in achieving balance of Yin Yang, and far more importantly sung (pronounced soong)! By balance we are not talking about physical balance - this should already have been achieved, along with the balancing of the pairs (see above) - but rather about balance of Yin Yang. This is critical in understanding how we begin to distill and concentrate the Qi into smaller circles thus beginning us on the path of the Small Frame. Each part of the Form has a Yin Yang movement, thereby corresponding to two movements of the scapulae - one for Yin and one for Yang. This occurs throughout the Form. Whilst initially these movements of the scapulae will be large and noticeably visible, as we progress the said movements become barely noticeable. By using the scapulae to move our arms, we need not worry about are hands - which will now move naturally in a sung state! Once we start using the scapulae to initiate our movements then, we will automatically begin to enter the Small Frame mode due to the fact that the scapulae have a small range of movement - therefore they will show the practitioner the ‘correct’ size of the movement itself. Whilst practicing the Form in this manner we must ensure that we do not sacrifice any of the Classics, in order to achieve this. In other words, even whilst using the scapulae the structure of the shoulder must be held, i.e., they must not rise up! The centre must still be the cause of the movement in any case. ‘The Rhythm Method’ Although it is important that we practice our form regularly, what is more important is that we mix our body’s natural rhythm with that of the movements or rhythm of the form itself! The 'Rhythm method' shows us how to gain this total harmony. Doing the form in this way, allows our hands and arms to move in the way that they want to, thus causing certain Qi activation points to trigger by these new movements acting upon the tantien. There are Qigong methods which help enhance the effect of these ‘special’ Qi activation points but we will deal with these in more detail in Ring Eight.
It is important that the practitioner discovers the natural rhythm of the Form, which in turn has effect of changing their Form into something unique to the practitioner. The ‘Rhythm Method’ - like the ‘Scapular Form’ - allows us to distinguish between Yin Yang in the lower and the upper body. Again, this is linked to understanding ‘Balance’ as already mentioned above - so that the Yang (legs) can take care of itself, allowing the Yin (upper body) to work! This means that the legs must be grounded, yet powerful, but the minute any tension creeps into the upper body the grounding will fail! Should you start to loose this grounding then within the form are certain points which allow us to regain this grounded-ness! At this level - providing that one has trained correctly - the movements should be ninety percent internal! Chen Xiaowang, in his treatise (see above), again confirms this where he tells us that: “During Level 1 in Taiji_Gong Fu, it is quite normal being limited to 10 percent Yin and 90 percent Yang. This means that the martial skills are hard rather than gentle, and an imbalance prevails between Yin and Yang. The student is not able yet to replace the hard with the soft…” During the ‘Rhythm Method,’ the hands are constantly “churning” the Qi in the Tantien, sometimes referred to as “lighting the fire under the cauldron” - in order for the Qi to do its work! To be able to this we need to convert Qi into Jin - and that’s where the fire comes in. Now, once more, the reader should be alert to Wu Tu Nan's description of Yang Shao-ho’s Small Frame as “distilling the essence of Tai Chi Ch’uan" and compare it with the description above - we are talking about the one and the same thing! In fact, Yang Ban-hou in his treatise Explaining Taiji Principles (Taiji Fa Shuo - circa 1875), uses a similar analogy to explain the Inversion Principle: “The inversion principle can be explained with water and fire. Left to their own devices, fire rises and water sinks, but if water is placed above fire then they are in an inverted state. Of course, if not done properly there would be no inverted state, [just a fire put out and some water made into steam,] and so it has to be a situation of water being put in a pot which is then positioned over a fire. When the water in the pot receives the fire’s heat, not only will it not be able to sink away, it will also absorb the fire’s heat and inevitably become warm, and although the fire is rising to the pot, it is stopped there and goes no further…” Whilst practicing the Small Frame, one of the common errors is to make the legs do small movements just like the hands. This is wrong! This is NOT Small Frame as the hands and feet are still doing the same thing as the Large Frame - only smaller! This also is not understanding the balance between Yin Yang as mentioned above! In fact, during Small Frame we sink deeper as far as the legs are concerned so that the base becomes stronger and heavier and the upper body smaller to make the differential between Yin Yang greater! The ‘Waving Form’ This is the form that is said to be the closest emulation of the internal flow of Qi in the body. According to Chen Weiming: “Your mind makes the command, the energy is its flag, and your waist is its banner.” According to Erle: "Well, there is no way to teach this form other than doing it as others watch, hoping that one day your students will eventually see internally what they should be doing. By 'seeing' the form with the inner eye, it will work on you over time causing your body to come in line and move correctly in harmony with your Qi flow. It grows internally like a small seed growing into something huge. Qi Flow! Yes, that is an entirely different story. It's one thing to simply tell students that we must move in harmony with our Qi flow but what does that mean? How does one teach Qi flow! You cannot see it, you cannot tell someone to move like this or that because as soon as you tell someone to move like this or that, their conscious brain takes over and all is lost. So the only way to teach Qi flow, is to allow Taijiquan to teach you over time. Then when your body is ready, it will begin to move in harmony with your Qi flow and you will eventually discover what Qi flow is like by the action of your body moving in small frame waving form! And you will then know that Qi flow is nothing like what you expected it to be nor what you were told that it was like. You cannot place conscious thought processes upon Qi flow as we only have physical things to compare it with, so we are told that Qi flow is like a river, or that it is like the clouds rolling in the sky, or that we must move like the wind and any other of the hundreds of things that we are told. Qi flow cannot be
put into physical terms, you simply must experience it. But when you do experience it, it will change the way you move and you will never wish to perform your form in any other way. Complete harmony is a wonderful thing. Whilst practicing the form in this manner the postures become one posture, with the beginning of one posture and the end of the previous posture becoming indistinguishable! In other words, an observer watching someone practicing the ‘Waving Form’ would not necessarily see individual postures but rather a long single posture with only a beginning and an end! This version of the Form is performed slightly quicker then the others as we connect with our own energy, which will be unique for each individual practitioner, and therefore will be done at varying speeds according to the individual and the state of their internal energy - the Form will never look the same twice and our own internal energy will become the guide to how we do it! Also, at this increased pace and at this level of practice the Fa-jing components of the form will not be necessary as the body has already learned and understood this! Erle described the origin of the wave as starting from the waist (tantien) and ending up in the finger tips… “like a big ribbon flapping in the breeze.” Let us compare what he says to what Yang Ban-hou says on the subject: “Standing in a vertical line, all depends on a horizontal rotation. My adaptations can catch the smallest change, and I can distinguish all measurements. Rotating my waist, the great flag is waved. My mind sends the command, the energy carries the directing banners, and I naturally move with facility. My whole body is activated like a toughened arhat warrior. In fighting, one will be either early or late. Joining with the opponent, I send him away, but it is not necessary for me to try to launch him into the stratosphere. With an amount of power contained, I need only express a “ha!” and he goes far enough. But this is something that must be taught personally in order for the door to be opened and the view to be seen.” Look at the description here - identical to Erle - are we not witnessing the ‘Waving Form’? Ban-hou even confirms that this “must be taught personally in order for the door to be opened and the view to be seen’! Yet, if we are to believe the aspiring young ‘masters’ claiming much in Erle’s name - he made these up! Readers can decide for themselves! Again, this form like the previous forms is connected to the balance of Yin Yang - in fact it is said to be one of the highest balancing of Yin Yang in the body and also teaches us to fight without thought - uniting the inner and outer self. ‘Silk Reeling Form’ "Move energy as though through a winding-path pearl, penetrating even the smallest nook… Step like a cat and move energy as if drawing silk.” - Chen Weiming; Taiji Quan Shu - The Art of Taiji Boxing (1925). According to Erle: “Ch'an Ssu Chin or 'Silk Reeling' is an important part of one's Tai Chi training. In fact it is an integral part of the advanced way of performing Tai Chi. Everything in Tai Chi is done in spirals, in a slow (sometimes explosive) manner, in just the same way that silk has to be pulled from a cocoon so as not to break the thread. Fa-Jing's correct name is actually "Fa-Jing Ch'an Ssu Chin" or Explosive Energy Silk Reeling, where we throw out explosive energy and then bring it back. So we are given 8 fa-jing training methods in order to gain this ability.” And Chen Xiaowang tells us: “At Level 4 the progression from medium to small spiral movements should be mastered. This is the stage where we are nearing accomplishment, and this success is very high in Gong Fu. By now the effective training methods should have been mastered.”
In The Taiji Boxing Manual of Gu Ruzhang, circa 1936, we are given a distinct Solo Set Checklist which “will serve as a means to inquire and verify…” This checklist is quite unique in a way that it gives us very precise and specific things to look out for. Gu was already a famous and adept martial artist known for amongst many things his Iron Palm, when he met General Li Jing Lin - the most famous sword expert in China - who taught him the Wudang Sword and Yang Taijiquan. Gu also trained in Xingyi and Taijiquan with Sun Lu-tang. Solo Checklist 1ST STAGE – six things to check: (Classification – Indicator of skill / Indicator of error) 1. Body – Are you centered and comfortable? / Or are you bowing forward, yawning back, slanting away to the sides? 2. Shape – Are you lively and absorbed? / Or are you stiff and unaware? 3. Waist – Is it [rotating] like a wheel and [poised] like a flag of command? / Or is it merely twisting like a bit of string and standing like a stick? 4. Head-top – Is it forcelessly guided to lift? / Or is your head drooping, your forehead sticking out? 5. Spine – Are you leading movement with the energy sticking to your spine? / Or does your spine have no influence on the movement? 6. Step – Are you stepping like a cat? / Or are you walking clumsily and falling weighted onto your foot?
2ND STAGE – four things to check: 1. Wielding – Are you rotating like reeling silk? / Or are your hands moving straight and not attacking with rotations? 2. Pushing down – Are you folding with an upward intention that contains a downward intention? / Or are you being hard and brittle? 3. Storing – Is it as powerful as a drawn bow? / Or does it collapse and shrink in? 4. Issuing – Is it fast as an arrow? / Or are you timidly releasing like a bow with no elasticity? 3RD STAGE – four things to check: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Smoothness – Are you reeling silk both inward and outward? / Or are your rotations not round? Lightness – Do you have an upward ward-off energy? / Or are you floating aimlessly? Heaviness – Do you have a downward ward-off energy? / Or are you stagnant and sluggish? Nimbleness – Are you nimbly transforming? / Or are you holding your ground inflexibly?
If one is to carefully read this checklist one cannot but help see ALL the intermediate Forms taught by Erle to help develop the advanced Small Frame! However, we are not done yet! We still to need look at ‘Heaviness’ and 'Stone Hands'! ‘Stone Hands' Form The ‘Stone Hands’ way of doing the Form should be performed between 3am - 4am. It works on the lungs associated with the ‘seat of power’ - thereby increasing the energy levels of the power band itself. When practicing the ‘Stone Hands’ Form, there is no state change in the hands. They just ‘hang’ from the wrists. It should take approximately 4 hours to complete the entire Form, with some movements being so small that they are actually done in the mind! By the time one has finished doing the Form in this manner, your hands should feel heavy and full - like lead weights hanging from the end of your wrists! This introduces heaviness into the hands and further adds to the “Balance’ of Yin Yang, which all of these advanced interim forms are leading towards. After having finished the Form, according to Erle, when we walk around - it almost feels gorillaesque!
Remember what Chang told Erle about being “like the big monkey… on inside,” mentioned earlier? This Form would help bring us to that state internally - developing the ‘C ‘ - Back and the Reptilian Brain! When Erle taught me and explained the finer details of the ‘Stone Hands’, he was clear that like most of the advanced Forms these cannot be taught per se like the Foundations can - these Forms are to meant be seen by the student, the “seeds” planted for the future! Also, that, as in the case of most of these advanced Forms the main point of study does not kick in from the very opening movement - they will appear as the body settles in to its rhythm!
When Erle showed me the ‘Stone Hands’ way, in Germany 2007, the ‘Stone Hands’ only kicked in from the Double P’eng component of Grasping Sparrows Tail and onwards (Figs.1-4).
He not only planted the seed but also allowed me to capture his movements for posterity!
Left: Fig. 5 - Erle showing Single Whip from ‘Stone Hands. The movement is “done’”in the mind! (Note: Ron Beir - Erle’s Germany Representative is standing in the far distance ,with his hand to his mouth, watching as Erle took me to one side during an afternoon break to teach me ‘Stone Hands’ & ‘Rolling Thunder’!)
Rolling Thunder The Second Ring (House) of Yang -
“… the four techniques of ward-off, rollback, press, and push are the first of the thirteen dynamics to work on. Stand in one place and do the four techniques rolling in circles, then do them advancing and retreating, doing them at a middle height. Then do them higher and lower as well, practicing at all three heights. Starting with the basics, work your way through the solo set. Then begin working with the four techniques, 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”. Yang Ban-hou - Taiji Fa Shuo (1875) “It is one of the Houses of Yang where we learn about the Thunder. When you use the backs of your arms, it will make the whole body aligned and balanced and also give one much great power in attack, it is like something rolling over and over until the fighting is finished. When the arms roll over, it makes the body as the Universe which is constantly changing and moving forward. This was the 2nd House.” Chang Yiu-chun (1978) “However, even I have held back on some areas such as 'Rolling Thunder' Form! This form is taught to students in the 2nd House. Erle Montaigue (2004) The ‘Rolling Thunder’ Form is an advancement upon the Silk Reeling Form. It is also the bridge to understanding the First, Third and Fifth Ring of Yang. Above & below: Erle teaching me the finer points of ‘Stone Hands’ and ‘Rolling Thunder’ Forms.
The natural result of the spiral movements of energy cause the arms to roll over even more so, so that we end up using the backs of the arms, producing powerful attacks whilst utilizing the whole body! The attacks roll endlessly, the body “moving like the great river” - like waves crashing onto the rocks. As the body expands and contracts and rolls, the sinews, the muscles and the tendons as well as the blood are strengthened for both health and combat. Once more, the Form is meant as a visual learning tool. Something that you must have seen your teacher do. There’s no way of teaching it - it is something which has to be felt and understood when one has reached a level of understanding beyond the so-called advanced forms! Eventually, all the energies will merge into one, to produce a continuous flow of unbroken energy as per the highest Classics: 1.When your emotions are stable and your mind is calm, you will naturally be nimble and alert at every point. 2. When energy flows through your whole body, there is a continuousness that cannot be interrupted. 3. When you are never affected by opponents going for your throat, everyone will think of you in heroic terms.
What here is the great achievement? It is that all has been reached, inside and out, in general and in detail. An Outline of Taiji Theory - Chen Yanlin (1943) Whilst the ‘Rolling Thunder’ Form, itself, cannot be taught - its true concepts and principles come to light and fruition in the Third Ring of Yang - Joining Hands. The journey to Yang Shao-hou’s Small Frame H'ao Ch'uan is a long and arduous one. We are reminded: "Unfortunately, because Yang Shao Hou only taught this form to a handful of disciples. There are very few people who know this form and practice it... only the closed door disciples and early students got to learn these advanced forms... This form represents a facet of Yang Tai Chi Chuan that few know about and realise exists... It is a clear representation of Yang Tai Chi Chuan at its finest: a deadly combat art and a wonderful health art.” Peter Lim Tian Tek - Yang Shao Hou Small Frame
In 2007, Erle not only showed me the ‘Rolling Thunder’ Form but also allowed me to film it. It was his intention to ultimately release all 12 Rings and place them into the public domain. He, however, sadly passed away before he managed to achieve his aims! Above and below are images of Erle taken from screenshots of the only video which exists of him teaching that form!
“… most beginners never see the woods for the trees…thinking that they know it all because they have been practicing for fifteen years, when at that small amount of time really know nothing!” Erle Montaigue
Previous page and above: Erle performing ‘Rolling Thunder’. All images are copyrighted by Nasser Butt©2017. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce elsewhere without the explicit written permission of the copyright owner
Inside The Next Issue
Characteristics Of Chen's Xiao Jia Alan Sims
(To contact Alan: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Different Taiji forms have certain characteristics which stand out from those of other Taiji forms. The Yang family's Taijiquan as a whole, is mainly characterized by its long flowing moves, advanced footwork, relaxed postures and whole body movement. The Wu/Hao form is characterized by an extreme emphasis on single footed balance, intense concentration, an achievement of more accomplishments in a shorter amount of time, and the attitude of retention. Chen's Taijiquan (not speaking of Xiao Jia) has the characteristics of openness, alternation of hard and soft, fast and slow, high and low, etc.... In other words, many opposites together. Not that the Xiao Jia or "small frame" Taiji doesn't have these, but the form that I've been practicing has other qualities as well. I can't claim to be an expert, or boast of this or that lineage as I have practiced Jou Tsung Hwa's variations of Chen's 1&2, in addition to having read much of Shen Jia Zhen's book on Chen style Taiji. First of all, the movements of the 64 posture form in Zhi Ru Lei's book are very smooth. This being enabled by the very sophisticated footwork of the form. This allows the manifestation of whole body movement to an impressive degree. Second, the movements are often just unrecognizable, even when we know the movements being performed. After the very first "Buddha Attendant Pounds Mortar," everything is different. The hands make a small circle going down, left, up, and poised with the palms down (I'm doing this from memory) as the weight is shifted on the right foot with the heel of the left foot raised. The weight is then shifted to the left foot, while the right heel is raised, and later the left hand forms a Crane's beak, and the right hand forms a fist. This is after the left foot steps to the left, and the hands move upwards, to the right, downwards, and to the left. Another characteristic of this form are the many overt and hidden elbow strikes. Although almost casually executed, they stand out just in number alone. These are just a few of the characteristics of the updated version of the Chen family's small frame form illustrated in Zhi Ru Lei's 2014 publication. Zhi Ru Lei's teacher was Chen Jinao, who was Chen Yao's student and grandson, and Chen Xin's student as well. Chen Yao is the older brother of Chen Xin, and one of the teachers of Chen Fa Kur. I need to say a few words about the late Erle Montaigue. Erle kindly allowed me to contribute an article to Tai Chi Combat & Healing a long time ago, and I'll always be grateful for that. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but I always thought that he was someone who was determined to do things his own way, and was able to do just that. Not knowing him, he always struck me as an interesting person. Nasser did me a very nice favor by contacting me after I went through a somewhat nasty situation on-line. I don't think that it was a coincidence that he did so. The situation came out of the blue, but so did Nasser's offering. I like to think that Erle would have liked that. Getting back to the Chen small frame routine, there is another characteristic that I have come to encounter. The form is downright addictive. If you play one repetition you want to play two. If you play 3 repetitions you want to play 4, and so on and so on. There have been times when I am about to begin practicing an entirely different form, only to find myself suddenly moving into the opening of the Chen Xiao Jia. I always continue though. May this magazine and its staff continue to flourish and to make Erle proud.
training methods for martial arts
Over the next few articles we are going to look at
some of the fundamental training practices in Systema and how they reflect the underlying philosophies within the System, and how the lessons and the process of learning we use in class can apply to our everyday lives. The first subject we are going to look at and a vast area of study is the floor. Rather than look at grappling, wrestling or even fighting we are going to focus on using the floor as a training partner. There are many solo training practices that involve the floor, learning to fall correctly, rolling, dynamic movement all make it a great training tool. Firstly we are going to look at the floor from a very physical and practical point of view, we do a lot of work on takedowns and transitioning to and from the floor so learning to fall correctly is an integral and early part of our training, it also allows our work to flow naturally and dynamically throughout the class. From a self defence / safety / survival perspective learning to fall correctly could prevent serious injury from a broken bone to a serious head injury. Now there is a huge difference between learning to fall or roll on a mat to rolling on a hard surface like a wooden floor or a car park. Learning to roll on a mat is a bit like your mum sending you on the X factor, she says you sound amazing and it makes you feel good, but the brutal and unforgiving honesty of a hard floor points out every little mistake like Simon Cowell hacking at your shortcomings with the ferocity of a verbal Tomahawk. Receiving honest feedback may be uncomfortable but results in an accelerated learning curve and less pain going forwards, the same would be true in a relationship or work environment, but maybe not too much honesty too quickly where they’re concerned. It doesn’t mean learning to roll on a mat for a beginner is wrong, we need to be sensible and realistic in our approach so as to avoid injury and not damage anybody psychologically.
Falling As with rolling we want to try and spread the surface area that comes in to contact with the floor avoiding hard extremities as much as possible such as the elbows, spine and the head.
The Floor Mikey Wright
1.One of the first things we learn in Systema is to always cover the back of the head when transitioning to the floor. This encourages a good habit when falling backwards to cover the vulnerable part of the head when we are unaware of what may be behind us.
2. We then learn to fall in all directions, learning to spread the contact with the floor and importantly to keep the hard extremities from contacting with the floor such as elbows, spine and knees.
3. From falling we would progress to rolling in all directions, firstly from seated or kneeling position and once a person has built up their confidence progressing to rolling from the feet. 4.Once a student has acquired sufficient skill in rolling and falling in all directions then we can progress to being led by a partner, either being tripped, taken down or working against a joint lock or immobilization. Whilst this article barely scratches the surface, with regard to Systema floor work, it goes a small way towards introducing how the fundamental practices reinforce the same underlying principles. Systema training also makes us aware of how anticipation causes tension in our psyche and body, causing restriction in our movement and prevents us responding to a stimulus in our most efficient way. Learning to roll and fall as with all practices in Systema quickly teaches us the difference between fear and irrational fear. By offering resistance and tension all it serves to do is to cause us pain. It would be crazy to try and fight the floor rather we must learn to be pliable and work with it, in the same way we must apply this philosophy both to our combative practice, health and relationships, and importantly we must learn to embrace changes in environment and be adaptive.
Ken Zen Ichi Nyo Ken Zen Ichi Nyo (The Fist and Zen are One) By Katherine Loukopoulos
Once upon a time, not so long ago (1970), on 72nd Street, Manhattan, there was a Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu Karate Dojo. The name of the dojo was Budo-kan and it was known as the 72nd Street Dojo. It was the place where I grew up.
Zenko Heshiki Sensei, the owner, was a colorful personality with absolute dedication to Master Shoshin Nagamine. Born on Okinawa, he and his mother migrated to Argentina as soon as he finished primary school. A decade later, Heshiki Sensei migrated to the United States (1962), and became a student of Ansei Ueshiro Sensei. The 72nd Street dojo prided itself as being the dojo where only the tough survived. There were beginners, intermediate and advanced classes. What separated the class levels were the number of repetitions executed for each technique. All classes were exact replica of each other. There were no variations.The tempo was quick and every little mistake was pointed out. We had no other choice but to fall in love with pushups. Heshiki Sensei was ruthless, and so were his star black belts. Making money was never the primary focus; money came from donations, and subsidized by sympathetic students who led successful businesses. Military boot camp would seem like a childâ€™s play in comparison to Heshiki Senseiâ€™s beginner classes. At the end of the Saturday advanced class we also run a 10-kilometer around Central Park without shoes regardless of the weather. Shoshin Nagamine Sensei and the senior teachers who traveled from Okinawa were really impressed.
Heshiki Sensei who left from Okinawa at a tender age wrestled to learn Spanish and to be accepted in the Argentinian society; ten years later he repeated the process by migrating to the United States. A person who migrates is never 100% of either side. The longer we stay away from our native land, the more of a stranger we become; and we are never inducted 100% in our new country. It is a constant struggle that only people who have experienced migration can comprehend these words. Therefore, it was very important to Heshiki Sensei to be totally accepted by Nagamine Shoshin Sensei. On the other side of the Pacific, Master Shoshin Nagamine had fine combed his Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu creation. Although the karate training was Nagamine Sensei’s answer to good health, he believed that karate alone was not enough in developing the ‘whole’ person. He espoused Zen and included it in the dojo curriculum. Immediately Heshiki Sensei did the same. Zazen was practiced by the warrior classes of Japan, and therefore, it was fairly easy enough to be inducted in the Hombu Dojo, but in US, this was a different story. The majority of US Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu dojo owners found themselves in a dilemma. Most of them did not understand Zazen training and Zen philosophy. How could they be teaching it to their students? There were students who were offended by the introduction of Zen because they viewed it as a religion being forced on to them, and others found the practice completely irrelevant to the study of martial arts. A smaller percentage of practitioners did find the true meaning of life in their zen training and espoused the training. Needless to say they became the ‘good boys’. The rest of the students either stopped training, or found other dojo which did not participate in the zen program. American Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu teachers tried to find a happy medium. Some reserved Zazen training for the advanced classes. Others simply sat quietly for a few minutes without conducting the zen ceremony. Heshiki Sensei invited Zen Master and Goju Ryu practitioner, Sogen Sakiyama, to live in our dojo for one year and to teach us the physical and philosophical lessons of zen. Taking care of Osho san (Master Sogen Sakiyama) became everyone’s responsibility. Afternoon classes did not include zazen and they became the most populated. Early morning and evening classes always concluded with zazen; advanced classes included two sessions with a ‘kinhin’ in between. Sutra chanting followed, and in the end Osho san spoke to us and Heshiki Sensei translated. We did this every day for one year. When Osho san left, we continued our practice without deviation. Once a week we had all-night zazen training. We started 2000 hours and finished 0600 hours the following morning. We also had monthly weekend retreats where strict silence was observed and only the sound of bells and wood struck together gave us directions. For this event, Heshiki Sensei and his male students shaved their heads. We continued along the laid path until Heshiki Sensei permanently left for Hawaii in order to pursue zen training at the Chozenji International Zen Dojo of Hawaii. It was February of 1977. In the Nagamine Sensei Hombu Dojo the six o’clock class had its most members. Morning and evening classes had the fewer members, but were also the classes whereby zazen always followed the karate lesson. In the Japanese society one does not voice their discontent, and personal opinions remain personal. Instead of students saying that they would not sit, simply they offered Nagamine Sensei a reason as to why they could not take the evening class.This is called ‘ii wake,' that is, a ‘good excuse’. However, there were ‘secret’ trainings in various homes, gardens, and back yards, which never included zazen training. Okinawa students were able to avoid the zazen training without damage because they maintained silence. Americans on the other hand, boasted that they would not sit, and fell from grace. What worse, Nagamine Sensei was always well informed, and when a student from the States visited the Hombu dojo, if that student’s sensei did not practice zazen in America, that student was not permitted to train there. Only too frequently innocent students who made the long trip suffered due to their sensei’s choice of ‘not to sit’. In the matters of zen, Nagamine Shoshin Sensei was inflexible. Takayoshi Nagamine Sensei on the other hand, having spent many years in the United States he understood the
dilemma. In America Takayoshi Sensei did not pressure the issue of zazen; however, on Okinawa if he instructed night classes, then he also lead the zazen sessions. Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu has strong and qualified teachers who will pass on the Nagamine Sensei torch to future generations. If zen will be a part of the entire package that still remains to be seen. Glossary: Kinhin – In Zen Buddhism, kinhin (traditional Chinese: 經⾏ jīngxíng; Japanese: 経⾏ kinhin; Vietnamese: kinh-hành), or kyōgyō (教⾏), is the walking meditation that is practiced between long periods of the sitting meditation known as zazen. Practitioners walk clockwise around a room while holding their hands in shashu (叉⼿), with one hand closed in a fist, while the other hand grasps or covers the fist. During walking meditation each step is taken after each full breath. The beginning of kinhin is announced by ringing the bell twice (kinhinsho); the end by ringing once (chukaisho 抽解鐘 ‘the chime to let go and detach’). Zazen – Zazen is considered the heart of Zen Buddhist practice. The aim of zazen is just sitting, that is, suspending all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them. Zen – Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that developed in China during the 6th century as Chán. From China, Zen spread south to Vietnam, northeast to Korea and East to Japan. Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
ne of the first martial artists Lift Hands
Magazine wished to talk to was the incomparable Katherine Loukopoulos Sensei. An intriguing and inspirational character, - from the ‘old school’ - Katherine Sensei’s achievements in her martial arts are literally the stuff of dreams - one of only a handful of practitioners who have managed to tread the hallowed boards of the legendary Okinawa dojos, despite the odds stacked against her, and in doing so gained the respect of her fellow practitioners from both, within and beyond her own chosen art! This is how Erle Montaigue (Master Degree, China) described Katherine Sensei, when she visited him on The Taiji Farm in Australia in 1993: “When I see someone doing anything… I can tell if the person is doing it well. The main thing to be looking for when looking at any forms or kata or weapons sets is not the movements themselves so much as the transitions between the movements and they should be so precise, still and balanced that there’s just no movement. And when I saw Kathy… I was quite impressed with her transitions between the movements she is very solid and very still and she looks like she is doing Okinawan karate!” Despite her incredibly busy schedule, I was honoured when Katherine Sensei agreed to my request to answer the 20 Questions for the magazine. Her responses give the reader a great insight into the person behind the art - a rarity indeed - but not only that, Katherine Sensei also agreed to write further articles for Lift Hands imparting her incredible knowledge and experience of Okinawa's traditional arts, along with her own insights on the martial arts. We will eagerly await these in future issues. Lift Hands: Katherine Loukopoulos Sensei, welcome. Please tell our readers a little about yourself in your own words:
Katherine Loukopoulos Sensei
I was born in Greece, in a very small village of Kastri named “Oria” which to this day, except for the name, there is nothing notable on the Internet. My father was a Police Officer and my mother, nearly blind, a homemaker. During the Greek Military Dictatorship I was sent to the United States, where I worked during the days, went to school nights and practiced Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu the rest of my free hours.
My first teacher, Zenko Heshiki Sensei, was a strict disciplinarian who loved karate and zazen. At the impressionable age of 17 and with no parental supervision in New York City everything Heshiki Sensei taught and said was “The Law”. Through grueling Karate trainings and painful Zen sessions, Heshiki Sensei stressed the importance of ‘not giving up’. In essence, he taught us ‘survival of the fittest’ Accomplishments: •
Learned English and obtained Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology, 1976.
10 times All American; 3 times All around All American; USA National Karate Team Member for Kata & Kumite; competed and placed in more than 30 International Tournament Events. 1979 – 1985. Named USA Karate Athlete of the Year, 1985.
Journeyed to Okinawa in order to further my karate and kobudo studies. I was most fortunate to study with Nagamine Shoshin Sensei, Nakamura Seigi Sensei, Miyazato Eiichi Sensei, Uehara Ko Sensei, Akamine Eisuke Sensei, Chokaku Ogimi Sensei, and a plethora of other teachers.1985 – 2000.
Bo Kata Gold Medalist at the World Karate Kobudo Championships,Okinawa, Japan.1997.
Have taught in more than 50 countries…
The last five years I am in Athens, Greece, where I split my time between teaching and writing.
On February 1st I will be 65 years old; life has been good to me with Karate & Kobudo… Smiles to all who read this…
LH: If you could have personally witnessed anything, what would you want to have seen? KL: I would have wanted to see The Creation of the Universe. LH: If you could wake up tomorrow in the body of someone else, who would you pick and what would you do? KL: If I woke up in someone else’s body, I would have loved to be Ms. Nadia Komaneci who was a superb gymnast. LH: If you could be any age for a week, what age would that be? KL: I would not change anything; I would be 64 years old as I am now. LH: What was your first thought when you woke up this morning? KL: THANK YOU GOD! LH: What is your greatest strength or weakness? KL: My greatest asset is PATIENCE; my greatest weakness is LACK of enough PATIENCE. LH: Do you trust anyone with your life? KL: Yes, there were (are) times when I trust my life with others. For example: The pilots who fly the planes, Security Personnel who provide security while we work in difficult locations, my friends who drive and I am a passenger… LH: Have you ever danced in the rain? KL: Yes, I do dance in the rain… As I consider Kata a form of personal combat expression, therefore a form of dance, alone or with students, practice in the rain frequently… LH: What have you always wanted? Did you ever get it?
Demonstrating Kata Chinto of Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu at Hombu Dojo. Previous page: Katherine Loukopoulos at Chinen Castle, Okinawa. All mages appears courtesy of Katherine Loukopoulos
KL: I wanted to understand a warrior’s spirit. By living and training on Okinawa I believe that I have obtained a glimpse into the warrior’s spirit. LH: Do you know your heritage? KL: Yes; this is the reason I came to live in Greece. I wanted to learn the spirit of the Greeks since their ancient philosophy had a huge impact on the world which we still feel today. The better we understand our own culture, the better appreciation we have for other cultures, and the lines of discrimination tend to disappear…. LH: Are you still learning who you are? KL: Yes, every day! LH:What, if anything, are you afraid of and why? KL: I am afraid of airplanes, ships, snakes and doctors (especially dentists). LH: What is the most memorable class you have ever taken? KL: On December, 1982, I had my first Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu lesson at Master Shoshin Nagamine’s Hombu Dojo. LH: Have you ever been involved in a food fight? KL: Never! Being an immigrant to the United States, I worked hard in order to earn just enough to eat. Till this day, I never throw food away. I shop only enough in order not to throw food away, and I cook only enough so there are no leftovers… Furthermore, food is the precious energy that when eaten sustains us. The act of throwing it is distasteful to me. LH: Have you ever been in love with two people at the same time? KL: Yes, on Okinawa, I have been in love with Seigi Nakamura Sensei of Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu and Uehara Ko Sensei of Goju Ryu at the same time. Nakamura Sensei introduced me to Uehara Ko Sensei. LH: Who or what has been the greatest influence in your life? KL: I must say that the greatest influence in my life was my father. My father was a Police Officer. When we lived in Southern Greece in a small city called Tripoli, I was three or four years old. Every morning my father took me to see outdoors military exercises. This must have had an effect on me because I grew up to love the martial arts, and to also become a Forensic Psychologist. I learned to appreciate order and precision. At an early age, I learned to take responsibility for my words and actions. LH: Mountains or sea… which would you choose to be closer to? KL: This is a difficult question to answer. In Greece we can live in places where the sea or the mountains are only half hour drive apart… If Greeks have to drive one hour in order to reach the ocean, they consider it ‘far’. Right now I live in a place where I can drive for ten minutes in order to go swimming, and 40 minutes in order to be in a forest. LH: Who would you most like to be stuck in an elevator with? KL: Toshiro Mifune; but, regrettably has passed away… LH: Which is your favourite season and why? KL: Spring is my favorite Season. Spring reminds me of rebirth. LH: If you could select one person from history and ask them one question - who would you select and what would the question be?
KL: I would select Leonidas of the 300 Spartans, to ask him the question: â€œHow did you conquer your fears?â€? Leonidas (c. 530-480 BC) was a king of the city-state of Sparta from about 490 BC until his death at the Battle of Thermopylae against the Persian army in 480 BC. Although Leonidas lost the battle, his death at Thermopylae was seen as a heroic sacrifice because he sent most of his army away when he realized that the Persians had outmaneuvered him. Three hundred of his fellow Spartans stayed with him to fight and die. Almost everything that is known about Leonidas comes from the work of the Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484-c. 425 BC). LH: How would you describe your art in ten words or less? KL: When we throw a stone into a lake, the lake is changed forever. LH: Thank you so much for sharing your valuable time with us Katherine Sensei. I am sure our readers will glean much about the warrior behind the art from your replies to our questions and may we all take this opportunity to wish you a very Happy Birthday on February 1, with many, many more yet to come.
With Akamine Eisuke Sensei. All images appears courtesy of Katherine Loukopoulos.
How To Begin The Study Of Joining (Push) Hands (A Basic Overview) By Nasser Butt Copyright©2017
Joining Hands (Pushing Hands) are the second most important part of one’s training after the form. The method is perhaps as equally misunderstood and has just as many variations as the form itself. Let’s be clear about a few concepts right from the word go: Joining hands were designed for combat training NOT for competition. Period! Nor are there any ‘pushes’ or ‘pulls’ in this most excellent of training methods. Most students usually spend an inadequate time in the developing of joining hands, especially single joining hands as it is not deemed as ‘sexy’ or exciting as the double version. This usually leads to a failure in understanding at best or a severe beating in the street, or worse! Before one begins ANY session of joining hands training one needs to ask a question: What do I wish to learn from Joining Hands today? Without that question being asked you will NOT learn or develop correctly. Too often students join hands with their partner, each training to his or her own agenda and thereby, achieving very little or almost nothing at all! My time training with Erle and my questions to him on the subject are pretty clear - my notes heavily underlined as to what Erle deemed important in his own training - and I have based my entire training upon his methodology, albeit to work for my body type. By posing the question at the beginning of each session you are now eliminating the elements of competition, ego and confusion from the mind. Now you are ready to learn! ALL the elements of joining hands MUST be developed in SINGLE joining hands. If you fail to understand them here then you are wasting your time moving on to double joining hands. Remember... ALL so-called 'secrets' are given at the beginning of one's training NOT at the end - they have no worth there! Advanced methods are merely a reflection of having understood the 'secrets' given at the beginning! The first element to develop, as a beginner, is structure followed by movement and connectivity along with distance and timing. When developing structure one must remove all elements of power from the training method other then that which is required to keep the arm ‘alive’. Adhering to the classics, ones structure should be identical to as if you were in your standing qigong - albeit that we are standing in the classical Bow Stance. The Bow Stance is the backbone of the Taiji system and it is the stance in which we do most of our work! Understanding the Bow
Stance is critical and all beginners must develop this stance not through just form alone, but through joining hands as well - No exceptions!
A simple illustration depicting a left-leg lead Bow Stance. Copyright©Nasser Butt 2017
Without the Bow Stance, beginners can never develop or understand the concept of issuing and receiving; full and empty; distance and timing - far more critically, the beginner, will not fully comprehend the concepts of P’eng, Lu, Ji and Arn - the four Primary Energies nor the Five Directions! If the four Primary Energies are not understood and developed then, the four Secondary or Diagonal Energies will never be grasped either! To form a correct Bow Stance stand with your feet shoulder width apart, looking straight ahead. Let’s call this direction north. Now turn out your right toes by pivoting 45 degrees upon your heel, so that your toes now point to the north-east. With your left leg take a stride straight into the North without losing the width. Push through your rear leg until the front leg/foot fills by approximately seventy per cent of your weight (Fig. 1). The left knee should be bent and in line with the toes of the left foot, however, when positioning the knee we must take account of the parallax error - the displacement or difference in the apparent position of the knee when viewed from above. Do not allow the weight to pass the talus or ‘sweet-spot’. Fig. 1
The right knee should also be bent in a natural state, with the hips resting square to the front and hanging downwards. The shoulders hang naturally in line with the hips and the head is raised “as if suspended from above’. Do not allow the shoulders to rise or tilt unevenly as this will cause the ‘lifting’ of the lungs internally, hindering the breath and preventing the chest from ‘sinking’ correctly. Similarly, do not extend or straighten the rear leg as this will cause a mis-alignment of the hips and shunt too much weight forward! Once the beginner is standing in the bow stance, a simple test can be carried out based upon the ‘nose, knees, toes’ principle - if the practitioner bends his/her head forwards, they should be unable to see their toes since their knee alignment is obstructing the view. At this point, any observer viewing from side-on should see the tip of the nose, knees and toes form a straight line. If this is observed - then the practitioner is standing correctly! Equally, if the practitioner was to bend their head to look towards the rear toes, the same would occur in the correct stance - however, this time the line would be diagonal. To finish off the posture to begin your joining hands, we simply raise our arm - like a crescent - the elbow in line with the knees and the wrist held on the centre, tilted at an angle 45 degrees slantingly upwards (Fig.2). In motion, it is your training partner’s energy and movement which must cause you to move. The power and speed of movement being kept nice and even for beginners. The relationship between head, waist, feet and hands - the Four Cornerstones - to be studied diligently for a lifetime. The Classics remind us repeatedly: “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....” “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.” Simple Newtonian laws of motion: 1. An object at rest remains at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an external force. 2. Force equals mass times acceleration or put simply F=ma 3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Note: When more ‘experienced’ students are training with beginners or less experienced students - they need to come down from their high pedestal in order to not only develop the beginner but also to continue to learn and develop themselves! I have often heard ‘experienced’ male students either moaning about not wanting to train with beginners or with females as they don’t push hard enough or trying to correct them from their position of ‘advanced’ learning! It’s laughable and shows the real lack of understanding and skill of the so-called advanced student!
Every time you train with a beginner, you must bring yourself down to a level where that student can understand you and then gradually take them with you towards the higher level. This can take weeks, months even years. The advanced student or even the potential instructor should not turn their nose up at this thought as it is this precise learning curve which will develop and hone their own skills! It is the lesson taught by a kindergarten teacher that prepares a child to understand the lesson of a university professor, not the other way around! Once we have structure and the basis of movement (weight-shift), we must now turn to understanding and developing Connectivity. Connectivity is sometimes misunderstood to purely mean how we ‘connect’ to our opponent. We, however, ‘stick’ to our opponents and ‘connect’ to ourselves. Physically this means that the body must learn to connect and move as a complete unit, whilst internally, our qi must remain flowing as a single wave - unhindered, unbroken! “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.” Just as we do not move, unless we are initially moved by our partner, equally so, the state of change in the hands, or more accurately in the wrists, from yin to yang must also be brought about by the actions of our partner. We are still standing in the static or fixed posture of joining hands, i.e., no foot movement whatsoever - other than weight shift! (Fig. 3.) We practice our entire range* of prescribed movements in this position, switching our feet and repeat the whole method on the opposite leg. By now the simple basis of power, movement, direction, yielding , etc., should have started to become apparent. These will further develop as we advance our skills. We should now be able to switch sides using a simple change, nothing too fancy, without any change or break in rhythm. The change should be on the spot with no steps forwards or backwards. This should be the base upon which we build our remaining skills until as the Classics tell us: “When there is pressure on the left, the left empties. When there Fig. 3 is pressure on the right, the right disappears… A feather cannot be added and a fly cannot land… Examine the phrase “four ounces moves a thousand pounds," which is clearly not a victory obtained through strength. Or consider the sight of an old man repelling a group, which could not come from an aggressive speed.” Whenever there is a failure in understanding and structure then, we must always return back to these foundational movements to seek the point of error. There is no point continuing onwards erroneously as this will only compound the problems further down the road. As I have already mentioned, far too many students do not spend enough time in single joining hands and therefore struggle. Also, it is not advisable to be standing in any of the advanced stances as a beginner. The length and width of the Bow Stance is specific and unique to the user with which to work things out. By adjusting your stance to the advance stances right from the beginning obvious errors will be ‘masked,’ leading to a false sense of security and understanding.
According to Chen Wei-ming - one of the principle students of Yang Cheng-fu - when he questioned Yang on joining hands and legwork in Taijiquan, responded: “A Taiji Boxing essay [Understanding How to Practice] says: 'First strive to open up, then strive to close up.’ Once you are very skillful, then your stepping and hand techniques can all be shrunken in, for they are now fully understood by your mind and are a part of your body. Therefore, when it is done small it has developed from doing it big, when it is done high it has developed from doing it low, when it is done tight it has developed from doing it loose, and when it is staccato it has developed from doing it flowingly. If so, then whether small or high or tight or staccato, you will be confident. If not, then I fear that when you encounter an emergency, you will still be
unable to respond according to the situation, your steps will be in disarray, and you will be in dire straits… Begin by moving in patterns, every day doing hundreds or thousands of reps, and then naturally your legs will develop root and the flexibility of your waist will greatly increase… You must not be seeking energies too soon. If too soon, you will enjoy using effort until it becomes habitual, making yourself incapable of achieving skillful intent instead… …if you do not have strength in your legs, you will not be able to change nimbly.” Heed the words of the old!
* The scope of this article doesn’t allow for a full list of the prescribed movements - which are far too many to mention. It is up to the instructor to ensure that each training method is given and that the student has diligently practiced it and competently understood it before moving on to the next one!
References: 1. 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. 2. Answering Questions About Taiji (Taiji Da Wen) by Chen Weiming (1929) - translation by Paul Brennan, Oct, 2012 3. Methods of Applying Taiji Boxing (Taijiquan Shiyong Fa) by Yang Cheng-fu and Dong Yingjie (Jan, 1931) - translation by Paul Brennan, Nov 2011. 4. Nasser Butt: Personal notes on Push Hands with Erle Montaigue (1999-2011).
Hadjios Valley Taijiquan, Cyprus
HADJIOS VALLEY RESORT T’AI CHI CH’UAN WEEKEND MAZOTOS, CYPRUS November 2/6, 2017
1 Hadjios Valley Griva Digeni 44, Mazotos, Larnaca 7577 CYPRUS
Fa-jing Ch'uan Internal Chinese Boxing Schools are pleased to announce our second T'ai Chi Ch'uan Camp on the sun-drenched island of Cyprus in November 2017. Based at the scenic Hadjios Valley Resort in Mazotos - a couple of kilometres from the pristine beaches off the Mediterranean coastline this will be a great opportunity to learn one of the most ancient Chinese martial arts, renowned for its health properties, on the island of Aphrodite over 5 days. The camp will include: Qigong Old Yang Style T'ai Chi Practical Training Methods For Health/ Martial Arts Self-Defence Plus One Day for Exploring the Island Whether you are a novice or already have some experience and would simply like to brush up on the foundations, or have ever wondered how the art is used as a system of selfdefence - then this will be the perfect way to get a great insight into T'ai chi Châ€™uan (Taijiquan).
You will receive a minimum of 5 hours of training under instruction over 4 days.
breakfast/brunch and supper. All meals are freshly prepared on site using local produce.
Date: Thursday-Monday 2/6 November 2016
Participants will be expected to arrive on site by Wednesday evening 1 November 2017 and depart Monday 6 November. All accommodation costs must be paid in full at the time of registration. (PLEASE NOTE THESE ARE NONREFUNDABLE.)
Cost of training: 200 Euros for those registering by Monday 31 July 2017. (The cost will rise to 250 Euros for those registering after this date.) Cost of Accommodation: 200 Euros/Villa based upon a minimum of 5 nights at Apollo Villas. (Each additional night is 40 Euros for those wishing to extend their stay.) We have negotiated an exclusive special rate with Apollo Villas, allowing you to spend the weekend in luxury at an incredibly low price! Each villa is selfcontained and has two bedrooms (see below) and can sleep up to 4 people sharing. All villas are fully furnished, including a functional kitchen as well as a washing machine and fridge. Full Wi-Fi is available throughout the resort at no extra cost. Cost of Meals: 50 Euros based upon two meals per day - a late
Nearest Airport: Larnaca (15 km from resort). Information for local carhire services is available upon request. Please contact Nasser Butt for further information and registration: Tel: +44(0)7792242150 Email: email@example.com Visit our website for further information on what we teach: www.fajing-chuan.co.uk Website for Hadjios Valley: www.apollovillas.com/ hadjios-valley/
Apollo Villas Exterior View
Apollo Villas Interior View
Poolside Dining Area
Pick your own seasonal fruit from the nearby orchards.
Panagia Angeloktisti, Kiti Cyprus
Hala Sultan Tekke, Larnaca, Cyprus
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1FUFS+POFT $IJFG*OTUSVDUPS 5BJKJ1B,VB *OUFSOBM'JHIUJOH"SUT
Hands off, the most effective basic self defence course. We teach people how to see attacks, have the body mechanics to stop attacks, and an automatic reflex response.
www.selfdefenceaustralia.com 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
ou can draw sounds?”
“Draw sounds? Yes, I can draw sounds… and I can speak them back.”* “Show me.” “What would you like me to draw?” “P’eng!” “P’eng?” He looked at him, a little confused. “I do not know that sound. What does it mean?” The peasant rose up suddenly and threw his arms up in the air with a shake of his waist. He saw something very innate in that movement - like one trying to wardoff an attack. He picked up a broken twig and drew in the soft earth near his feet:
“What have you drawn?” “P’eng! Well,… see this here, it means hand.”
”And these two, they are
two moons, joined together - like your arms, like two friends!”
The peasant looked at the
squiggles. They neither looked like a hand nor like moons to him! He looked across towards the other man who had been sitting there watching what the first man had drawn intently. The man got up and walked around the fire and took the twig from his colleague and said:
His attention suddenly turned to the excited shrills of the monkey, which had escaped from the foreign ships which had docked earlier during the day. The monkey sat on the floor throwing his arms up in excitement just as he had done earlier. The peasant smiled. The monkey from the foreign land had got it without language or word! He picked up the monkey and headed home leaving the other two arguing over their squiggles long into the night.
“Surely, you meant to write this?”
* Taken form the motion picture - The 13 Warrior - Buena Vista Pictures.
“Wood! Why wood?”
“Because it is about his
structure. Look how he stands!” “No, no!” replied the first, “It is about his energy - it must be written with reference to his hand.” “But how can he release that energy without structure? Surely the wood describes the way he holds his crescent arms better - strong yet not rigid - as if a branch hanging off the trunk of a tree!” His friend shook his head vigorously. “Let us open the parchments of characters and see - you will find that hand describes it best!” The peasant stood there, bemused by the argument - they meant nothing to him, these squiggles on the ground.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images An ape of the genus Pithecia melancocephalia sitting on the ground with both arms raised. Coloured etching by W. H. Lizars.
Peter Jones -
Editor: Nasser Butt Email: email@example.com
Chief Instructor Taiji Pa-Kua Internal Fighting Arts firstname.lastname@example.org
The Art of Louiseneige Be
Published on Mar 19, 2017
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...