volume 9 March 2019
Editor Nasser Butt
perception realization activation action
The Internal Arts Magazine Volume 9 March 2019
Published by L’orso Solitario Books, Leicester, United Kingdom Lift Hands The Internal Arts Magazine Editor Nasser Butt Copyright © by Nasser Butt, 2019 & Fa-jing Ch’uan Internal Chinese Boxing Schools Nasser Butt asserts the moral right to be identified as the editor & owner 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 (main): Reverend Anthony Sean Bedlam Pillage - Pillage’s Last Huzzah! Cover design © Nasser Butt, 2019 Cover Photography: Nasser Butt Back:Tony Pillage & Scott Caldwell
The House of Mouse The Art of Amy Faulkner
Qigong & Slow Forms: Master Stillness To Become Faster Krish Pillay
Let Me Sleep Dr. Gregory T. Lawton
Reverend Anthony Sean Bedlam Pillage Sarah Pillage
Bohemian Rhapsody Nasser Butt
Death Of An Era… Or Not? Katherine Loukopoulos
Karate’s Three K’s - Are They Still Relevant? Gavin Mulholland
Erle Montaigue’s Mother Applications To The Small San-sau Peter Jones
Give Us A Smile Sarah Pillage
The 12 Secret Rings of the Yang Family Part Eight: The Training Methods Of Yang Nasser Butt
20 Questions: Elliot Morris
Unlocking The Small San-sau: The Five Levels From Principles To Combat - Part Three Nasser Butt
Footwork: Sort Foot Exercises For Greater Stability Colin Power
Progression, Change, ‘Erle-isms’ & The Classics Nasser Butt
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elcome to Volume 9 of Lift Hands Magazine!
It’s been a tough start to 2019. As I sat writing the editorial for Volume 8 of Lift Hands, the legend that was and in my view still is - the great Reverend Anthony Sean Bedlam Pillage was fighting his final battle and on December 25, at 12.10pm he finally let go and set off on a new adventure! But, as we all know, with The Pillage the end never really means the end! On January 15, 2019, ‘The Fellowship of the Woof ‘ gathered at Coombe Abbey, along with a host of friends to bid our farewell to the Reverend. It was not a goodbye... it was simply a reaffirmation of all that is beautiful and all that we hold dear in our lives. The day was full of love, honour and strength... personified in Sarah Pillage and there was plenty of mischief - the perfect mix just as Pillagius Maximus had wanted. We laughed and cried during the tributes - how often are you going to see Deadpool, Father Christmas & the Mad Hatter side by side - and the Anti-Poet’s ‘Bedside Manners’ was simply exquisite! For me the most haunting memory of the day, the one which will be seared upon my heart, was Gavin Mulholland’s impromptu Irish dirge by the graveside after we had lowered Tony into the ground! It was perfect! Such things can never be planned... they emerge at the heart’s desire! The typically English winter’s afternoon simply added to the mood. If Tony could’ve physically risen and bowed to Gavin... I’m sure he would have done so. But, if you knew Tony - then you’ll know that in the years to come, he’ll still be getting up to no good and Gavin Mulholland, here we are a tad over 3 months later and I have a message for you from Pillagius… On one of the last occasions when he was well enough to be at the dojo, we sat in the office talking and the subject turned to yourself and how much respect we both had for you. Tony proceeded to tell a few stories about how you met and one of them involved an event at a DKK camp. He laughed so hard telling the story that he genuinely hurt from the pain and then he took his phone out and sent me a meme he had created in memory of that moment you know the one! I believe only the three of us know about the story behind the image on the next page! Tony made me promise him that I would publish the meme in the magazine - as a token of the love and respect he had for you, and the value you held for him as a friend! And of course… he was just being himself and would we have had him any other way?
I am genuinely sitting here smiling whilst I’m writing this… I can hear his laughter in my ears! Now to the matters of this month’s issue! I want to thank everyone who has contributed articles to make this a truly bumper issue and a great start to 2019. It would be impossible for me to put out these quarterly magazines were it not for the kind support I receive - literally from around the globe! More importantly, I want to say a big heartfelt thank you to everyone who donated to keep Lift Hands free on issuu.com. Your generosity and kindness has touched my heart! I won’t mention your names but you all know who you are - Thank You! We continue to move forwards and some of the articles appearing in these pages have been critically acclaimed and even translated into another language! Looking forwards to what promises to be an interesting 2019. See you in Volume 10, which should be hitting the ‘shelves’ in June!
et that grabbed peoples attention quick!
Like any martial artist, although using this term makes me think of some teenager fooling around with nunchucks in their back yard, let me rephrase that: As a person who practices martial arts, speed has always been the holy grail. The ability to be quicker than our opponent, the small man's advantage (yes I'm a small man, if this didn't give it away already). So like most people with a logical mind I initially trained for speed by trying to move faster and faster, trying to perfect movements after countless repetitions. Inevitably, in our pursuit of speed we all come across the concept of the no mind state, not consciously thinking about the movement we are executing. So isn't this gained by these endless repetitions? When you build up muscle memory it allows you to carry out practiced motions effortlessly. That should have been the end of that quest. Well done King Arthur time to go back to Camelot. A while later I was introduced to Qigong, part of tai chi's foundational training, which was stressed as one of the most important areas of training. It got me thinking. As I sat at my desk at work, I started to notice little tensions here and there that crept in. The raised shoulders, hunched back, bent neck or nervous leg tapping (nervous leg tappers at work are the worst). When I'm walked around, a slight tightness in the shoulders, or my heel striking the floor as I walked. It made me wonder, how come I carried all of this tension while doing all these simple movements? If they were not required to complete what I was doing at the time, why did my leg need to tap while I was typing? It was all a waste of energy, and it wasn't as if I was thinking about these movements, no quite the opposite in fact! They were automatic subconscious little habits that crept into my daily routine, but where were they coming from? It's a well known fact that while we are awake we only use a small portion of our brain power for conscious tasks, our subconscious tasks include small unimportant things like, not forgetting to breath or our heart not forgetting to beat. It also well known that the less useful subconscious habits are caused by stresses in work life, home life etc, again a well known cause of poor posture! These actions are all governed by our mind, including these little surplus habits. Even while just sitting and typing, walking or talking, there was excess muscular tension, wasted movement. So what about when I did complex movements like martial arts? Of course it was there, and don't forget that I couldn't say that I wasn't thinking about this excess tension, since these things had become subconscious, so how would I know! In essence I was slowing myself down. Remember the old saying: ‘Practice makes perfect’? Well, it really should be ‘practice makes permanent.’ So during my practice of endless repetitions, I was making all my movements including the ones hindering me, permanent! To really understand speed and overall efficiency of movement, you have to understand stillness. Stillness is the ability to remove the excess tension until only the exact right muscles are doing the job required of them, only then can movements be truly efficient. Many of the great martial artists understood this and made the practice of stillness part of their art. In Tai Chi it's qigong, in karate it's zazen. Gaining the ability to just be still, and let the mind empty itself so all excess tension is removed. If you can't sit still and get rid of tension, your going to have very little chance doing it when you are moving. Another way of looking at it is like this, explosiveness is the key to speed, how fast you are out the blocks. Going from 0% to 100% in as little time possible. Unwanted tension in the body means we never start at that 0%, more like 20%, so we are only using 80% of our explosive capability. In addition this tension will increase the time it takes to speed up so we become less explosive so the negative effect is multiplied. A more poetic way of putting this would be that if our bodies cannot understand the concept of ‘nothing’ then the concept of ‘everything' (striking with every bit of power we contain) cannot really be understood. No wonder the Tai Chi masters of old placed so much importance on the ability to cultivate stillness of mind. Who knows? They may have been onto something.
Let Me Sleep Dr Gregory T. Lawton
Would you hold me while I sleep? Hold me close, I fear the cold. Hold me tightly, my soul to keep. In your arms I find such peace, That of my fear, there is not a trace. Carried away on the breath of grace. I beg you, hold me through the night. In the morning you will find me sleeping still, But don’t wake me with the morning sun. I am tired, and my work is done. So, do not wake me at the break of day, In the comfort of your arms let me stay. I beg you, quietly sing me to sleep, And ferry me across the river deep, Lifted by the soft melody of your voice. My dear, I know this is a lot to ask of you, There are so many things that we could do, But you see, I am tired, and I need to sleep.
Kindly reprinted with permission from: Soul of the Night Sky (Draft), Copyright 2019 Dr. Gregory T. Lawton Muyblue Productions 2040 Raybrook Street, SE Suite 104 Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546 616-285-9999
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.
All images appear courtesy of Sarah Pillage
hey say that, “Behind every great man there is woman rolling her eyes”. I am She. Over the years I’ve
done a lot of eye-rolling, a lot of “oh my Gods” but wouldn’t have changed one single iota. There has never been a dull moment chez Pillages. There was the time I finally succumbed to his Christmas wish for a flame thrower (I’d ignored his pleas successfully for years and years… just why I cracked and bought him one, I don’t even know to this day). He was so chuffed that he did a short clip for Facebook – at the end of the 10 second clip you can hear my voice screaming in the background “Tony, mind the wallpaper!” To this day we have a burn mark on the wall. The chainsaw was another one. He wanted one. I didn’t want him to have one. I racked and got him one. I was convinced I’d come home to all the garden trees chopped to stumps. Much to my surprise, I didn’t. Then there was the rifle and police helicopter incident in the back garden… But as I said, his enthusiasm for life was amazing. I did manage to squish some of his more madcap ideas, you’ll be glad to know. He was a human version of Winnie The Pooh’s best friend Tigger… a coiled spring of frenetic energy. He woke up like that and he’d be full of a ridiculous energy right up until he went to bed This energy and drive was to carry him through from his heart-stopping cancer diagnosis in the tail end of 2014 right up to 25 December 2018. As we all know, only Tony would hijack Jesus’ birthday like this. Weirdly, this fact does bring a small ironic smile to my lips. Typical Tony! We met at an exhibition in London at the London Arena in 2001. My company ran event exhibitions and his company was one of our clients at the show. I was with my boyfriend of two years and he had just started seeing a 21-year old. In true romantic style our eyes met across a crowded exhibition hall and that was it. There seemed to be no contest; within a day we were together. Four months later, we were married (much to the concern of my mother, as you can imagine)!.
He would be the first to put his hand up and say that, at times, he wasn’t the best of husbands - but I am firm believer that those people who say, “We never had a cross word or an argument in their life” are lying. All relationships need to be worked on. And we did just that. We grew together and we developed a most unique and wondrous love and friendship that will never be broken whatever the future holds. His own childhood was a turbulent one – his parents splitting not long after he was born. His mother was a ballerina and a dancer and she was one of the original Television Toppers who danced every week on the “Black and White Minstrel Show” of the 1950s and 1960s. She moved from London where he was born to a small town in Essex called Brightlingsea, and that was where he grew up and spent his formative years. He was bullied at school as a teenager for being very tall and very beanpole-ey, this was when he first got involved with martial arts. His personal experience at the hands of bullies meant that, as he grew older, he could empathise with the children (and adults) that came through WOTSW door, struggling with similar situations. He loved sports and studied Sports Management at college. He was one of those annoying people who are instantly good at whatever sport they turn their hands to… tennis, badminton, golf (his absent father was an international golf manager and even invented a putter, The Pillage Putter… Google it), you name it, he could do it… well. I rode a lot as a child myself and decided I’d try and get him on a horse after I met him and hopefully find something he couldn’t do. Would you believe it, the bugger was up and riding confidently within minutes. I sulked all the way throughout the ride, and had THE worse ride of my life. So he, in fact, was better than me. And he gloated. Rugby became the love of his life during and after college and he played for his town and Harlequins Second XI. Tales of constant broken bones, hospital visits and drunken escapades were recounted when asked. One favourite story was when they were touring the Netherlands and the team was out in Amsterdam, a few of them decided to steal something from a bikers’ bar they’d stumbled upon. They ran out with their stolen booty into the cobbled streets thinking they’d made their escape… but the bikers followed them, hunting them down with ever-frightening accuracy. They couldn’t work out just how the bikers were finding them. Then they looked down at their feet and noticed that they were all wearing souvenir wooden clogs… the bikers had been following the sounds of their clogs on the cobbles! Fast forward a few years and he was working in Sales in an up-and-coming audio-visual company in Egham. Not surprisingly for a man who could sell snow to Eskimos he was one of their most successful sales
managers and soon rose up the ranks to achieve greatness there. Is there anything he could not do? I hear you cry. I have some… Pick wet towels off the bathroom floor? Nope! Put dirty mugs in the dishwasher? Nope!!! Turn off lights around the house, when he wasn’t there? Nope!!! But, do you know, when you are left with an empty house and missing the sound of another heartbeat, you’d give anything (and I mean ANYTHING) to have that wet-towel-dropping-dirtymug-leaver-light-switcher-on-ner back if only for five minutes. Anyhoo, back to my tale… We met and married in 2001 (Friday 13 July, naturally) and Tony moved up to Coventry to be with me. We mutually decided that the corporate rat race wasn’t for us so Tony made the decision to return to his martial arts roots and set up the Way of the Spiritual Warrior in 2003. I had been made redundant just before Christmas that year so I got some consultancy work to keep us afloat whilst the club became established and then, in 2005 I was able to jump ship and came on board full time. Tony’s infectious energy and humour got us through some very rough times. We had Christmases when we wrote each other IOUs as we couldn’t afford presents. But we believed in each other and that was enough. We had days when we used to dig down the sides of the sofa cushions for coins. But we worked at creating the club and a legacy that will live on. That was important to him. The club and Tony’s reputation grew. Fast-forward to 2014 and, in December that year, the worst word you can ever hear a doctor utter. Cancer. The four years since then have been hard and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone – not even my worst enemy. But weirdly they brought us closer and made us far stronger than we thought was possible. Tony would actually say he was GLAD that he has/had cancer… it made him more focussed on what was important to him as a person; it weeded out people who weren’t really there for him; it brought people into his life who wouldn’t normally have crossed paths with him. His last few months were difficult. I can’t and won’t lie. We knew the inevitable was approaching. He was struggling with his breathing, his lungs were filling up with fluid, he was frightened but he was still Tony… and ridiculously there was always that little “he’s Tony Pillage, he’ll get over this little hurdle” thought. But we all know that at 12.10pm on Christmas Day, that last hurdle became just too large to get over.I’d slept in his room for the previous few nights, but he was unconscious and he went downhill very quickly.
Something I am actually thankful for. He didn’t want to be one of those poor people who rot away in a hospice for weeks and weeks. He went the way he would have chosen. Quickly. With little fuss. And because he knew just what an ugly snotty crier I am, he waited until I’d gone home for a shower and change of clothing before he drew his last breath. It was crazily quick. Only three days before he died he’d asked me to take in his laptop as he was going to spend his time on the ward writing some articles and making a start on the follow-up of Breaking Bob. He’d even chased the Orderly down the corridor trying to persuade her to give him a second bowl of Cornflakes. He was his usual self. His death has left a most enormous hole in my soul. His last few months were spent preparing and briefing a small group of amazing people to be there for me. I wasn’t even aware of quite the size of this team until he’d died. He knew I’d be terrible for asking for help – I always have been an independent being at the best of times. This group of very special people, the “Fellowship Of The Woof” as he called it, is there for me and I made a promise to him that I would call upon them if needs be. So I thank him for thinking of me like that. Me? I’ll continue to teach in my Pilates studio and in the evening, when I come home to the cat, I can still feel him in the house. That’s comforting. I thank him for showing me a different way to live my life in a way that makes me happy. He taught be to live completely and utterly out of my comfort zone. If it wasn’t for Tony and his giving me the confidence to break out of my corporate mindset, I’d still be that corporate whore, working a 9-5 existence with a company car and company pension. I will love him for ever for that. To paraphrase JM Barrie’s Peter Pan... “to die will be an awfully big adventure”. I like to believe he’s on the biggest adventure of his life. Am still waiting for him to come through with the winning Lottery numbers, though… SP
“Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me, it has given me purpose and clarity!”
Editor’s Note: The tribute which I read out at Tony’s celebration was requested by many folk to be placed in the public domain. I do so here in memory of my friend.
And here we are gathered. An eclectic group of people from many walks of life.
I have 3 minutes to do justice to a life that was so dear to me…
Martial artists - stylistically and philosophically far removed from Tony’s own - yet brought together by him in a way only he could’ve!
I can hear Tony in my head - “Mate, don’t think of it as 3 minutes, think of it as 180 seconds of sheer lust!”
A network of support, help and friendship whenever and wherever you need it.
So, here goes:
A little while back I did a seminar entitled, ‘O Me! O Life!’ - based on the poem of Walt Whitman. The purpose of the seminar was to raise monies for Tony’s treatment - his ‘fighting fund’.
A fitting tribute and testimony to the rhapsody that existed in his mind, which he could see - whilst many had their doubts about him during their first encounters!
This poem has always been close to my heart. A poem in which the protagonist - Whitman questions the purpose of “Me” & “Life”…
I, for one, am honoured to be a part of this Bohemian’s Rhapsody!
“Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish; Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)…
I had heard or read somewhere that: “There’s never really an ending. There’s only a place where you leave the story - yet, the story continues…” Journey well my friend until the Gods Will that we meet again!
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me; Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined; The question, O me! So sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?” Whitman answers his own question: “That you are here—that life exists, and identity; That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.” Indeed, we all contribute a verse. But what would Tony’s verse be? In my opinion - “Bohemian Rhapsody”! Bohemian - an artist - an unconventional person or free spirit! Rhapsody - an epic poem; a composition free in structure and highly emotional in character! And just like the song - in theory - it shouldn’t have worked. A fusion of styles consisting of a cappella, opera, soloist, classical harmonies, rock, pop, rapture, with allusions to murder and nihilism, etc. But, in Mercury’s head it was clear… as it was in Tony’s, who once told me that:
Samurai Warrior Image by WikiImages Source pixabay License No Rights Reserved
“There are places I’ll remember all my life, though some have changed…” John Lennon and Paul McCartney
said “goodbye” to friends and foes and left Okinawa after 15 years of living on the island. It was December
2000. My personal teachers, Shoshin Nagamine Sensei, Nakamura Seigi Sensei, Miyazato Eiichi Sensei, Akamine Eisuke Sensei, and many of their friends, also teachers, had left for the Great Dojo Above… Thereafter, many senior students parted in order to become headmasters of their own organizations. Lower ranking students found themselves with the painful task of having to choose sides… It was time for me to leave. With Internet, Social Media and friends I kept abreast with what was happening on the island; so I thought! Culture Shock A favorite tourist destination for newlyweds, karate lovers and affluent Chinese, the Island of Okinawa was, and still is, a safe place. The Japanese government takes nothing for granted and state of the art security measures are in place. Smoking is prohibited outside the airport grounds, as well as, on Naha’s major city streets. Rest benches have been installed which is a welcoming feature for the weary tourists and senior citizens. On Sundays, private vehicles and busses are prohibited on Kobusai Dori (International Street) in order for handicapped, and families enjoy their walks and shopping without danger. Shopping is Tax Free! Just like Duty Free Shops at airports one only needs to present a Passport and return ticket… and that’s it! Hoards of Chinese fly daily into Naha; three times a week cruise ships bring 4,000 to 5,000 thousand Chinese tourists and they buy everything! For the rest of us who might need simple commodities such as shampoo or toothpaste, the best time to go is in the mornings because the tourists have not gotten up yet. Okinawa has received an extensive face lift! Tall buildings, new roads and expressways run through where once there were quant homes and narrow streets. A monorail from the airport to Shuri serves all major locations to include the newly built Karate Kaikan and several other major tourist attractions. There is also an underwater tunnel that connects Naha Metropolis to the International Airport. Taxis are very expensive. There is a network of busses which serve most of the main arteries on Okinawa. Most bus drivers wear masks which make communication difficult to understand even though the gaijin (foreign) may speak some Japanese. Renting a vehicle would be best as most dojo are located out of the major transportation city bus routes. One needs an International Driver’s License and some bravery to drive on the left hand side of the road. Okinawa’s Prefectural Government has taken ‘Karate & Kobudo’ under its wings. On the 12th Floor is the Okinawa Karate – Do Promotion Association (Shin Ko Kai) and Public relations Miguel DA LUZ is eager to accommodate every seeking karateka. One can also make inquiries via the Shin Ko Kai website: www.odks.jp ‘Karate & Kobudo Tourism’ is booming. Karateka are lured and dazzled by the opportunities presented. When it was not possible to have a lesson with a teacher of Matayose Kobudo and on next day with a teacher of Ryu Kyu Kobudo, and mix & match, now all is available. But every ‘good thing’ has its down side. ‘Old fashion teachers’ will perceive us as ‘shoppers’, and not serious enough for them to instruct us. In the end we would have seen, tasted, but we would not have absorbed. We would
have visited the land of Karate but we would not have swum in its fountain of knowledge. The only way we could do this is to select a teacher who loves his art (even though he does not understand the Internet and does not sport a website) and stay with him for a long time. If he is a good teacher when the time is right he will take you and introduce and share you with another teacher whom he respects. This is what happened with me. In December of 1982, Nakamura Seigi Sensei of Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu personally introduced me to Miyazato Eiichi Sensei headmaster of Jundokan Goju Ryu.
Nakamura Seigi Sensei (left) introduced me to Miyazato Eiichi Sensei (right).
In 1985, Nakamura Seigi Sensei introduced me to Uehara Ko Sensei who besides Goju Ryu was also a Ryu Kyu Kobudo Teacher.
Nakamura Seigi Sensei (left) and Uehara Ko Sensei (right) took turns to teach me and to critique me. They demanded excellence be it Matsubayashi Ryu, Goju Ryu or Kobudo. I was expected to deliver the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;goodsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; or suffer their disappointments! Uehara Ko Sensei personally took me to his teacher of Ryu Kyu Kobudo, Akamine Eisuke Sensei, and was present every time Akamine Sensei taught me.
Testing at the old dojo! Uehara Ko Sensei can be seen in the background.
Akamine Eisuke Sensei Hombu dojo no longer exists. A new dojo was built when Akamine Sensei was still alive; Uehara Ko Sensei was always there. Every Saturday, Uehara Ko Sensei invited Masters Miyahira Tamotsu and Song Li in order to teach us Chinese Kung-Fu. It was compulsory!
Left to Right standing: Kamimura, Uehara Ko, Miyahira Tamotsu, Song Li, and the younger brother of Uehara Ko, Yonekazu. Front Row first from right is Cheng Lai Sheung from Hong Kong.
Master Miyahira Tamotsu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkWlrPvX84U Master Song Li: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8CAFlvtm2I Okinawa hosts countless events with participants often exceeding 2,000 people. A Budokan and a Karate Kaikan are indispensable in order to hosts international events and to house the thousands of athletes and spectators. They are meeting points, training locations of smaller groups, or one-on-one with a teacher. Believe it or not, many teachers do not have their own dojo; they teach in their back yards, sometimes at their friendsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; dojo or back yards, they meet with students at various locations on the island, and of course, at the Budokan. The cost of the Budokan is less than two US dollars a day for each person who can stay as long as would like. That is not the teacherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fee. Teachers do not ask for money and often students make the mistake that the teaching is free of charge. It is very embarrassing to a teacher to ask for money; it is even worse if the financial transaction takes place from hand-tohand without first the money be inserted in an envelope, or at least, be wrapped up with a clean sheet of paper. One way to save face for both student and teacher it is to ask some other student what is the fee, and give the envelope to the student to pass it on to the teacher.
At age 77, Ogimi Choukaku Sensei teaches and trains students ever since I’ve known him. With the exception of Tuesdays when the Budokan is closed, all other days Ogimi Sensei is in the Budokan from 7 pm until 9 pm. Refrain from asking the teacher who agreed to teach you as to why he does not have a dojo. Furthermore, refrain from asking questions, and especially asking his opinion about other teachers. Let the Sensei speak and give what he wants to give. Show sincerity when you do thank him.
And who could imagine that the owner of Seisa Gallery, Yasumoto Minoru Sensei, age 74, is a Sai Master and direct student of Chokei Kishaba Sensei who in turn learned from Sokon Matsumura Sensei and from his nephew Hohan Soken Sensei? But one simply could not walk in the gallery and seek Sai or Makiwara instruction. Student-teacher relationships take years to develop. The beginning is most important; work diligently, keep the mouth shut, and do as told. We don’t have to stay with a particular teacher; however, our reputation precedes us and Okinawa is a very small island with a closed knit martial arts community. Found on Facebook: 青砂⼯芸館 Seisa Gallery
An Akamine Eisuke Sensei’s Ryu Kyu Kobudo banner found a permanent home in Katsuo Shiroma Sensei’s dojo.
Although Karate Kaikan offers a state of the art museum where one can learn about the history of Okinawan karate, there is no match of the historic collection of Tetsuhiro Hokama Sensei. Hokama Sensei has been collecting all his life; words are simply not enough to describe his collection. It is a ‘MUST SEE’!
Master Nagamine Shoshin Karate Gi hangs in the James Pankiewicz DOJO BAR. It is a gift from Arakaki Toshimitsu Sensei of Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu and teacher of James Pankiewicz Sensei.
1982 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Master Nagamine Shoshin Hombu Dojo after Zen training
More and more people visit the birth place of Okinawa Karate. The majority of the teachers are busier than ever before whether teaching on Okinawa or teaching abroad. With karate in the Olympics almost being a reality, it is not enough to keep spreading Okinawan karate. We need to produce excellent future champions to a level that can easily compete with the Japanese major styles; thus, be a part of the global total karate scene.
Photos Archive: Property of Katherine Loukopoulos
Main Picture: DKK 4th Dan Tunde Oladimeji performing Kata Seiunchin
t was the Shorin Ryu master, Choshin Chibana who first highlighted an old Okinawan saying likening Karate to a pond. The saying basically states that Karate is like a pond and that in order for it to live, it must have fresh water or it becomes stagnant and dies. Chibana goes on to say; “If the martial arts teacher does not receive an infusion of new ideas/methods, then he, too, dies. He stagnates and, through boredom, dies of unnatural causes.”
As such, it is clear that we all have a duty to our respective arts to examine them, their methods, and ourselves on a reasonably regular basis to ensure that our students are getting the best we can possibly give them, and that we are being true to our art, its founders, and of course, ourselves. In early September in 1994, I was in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, training with a teacher and friend of mine, Nick Hughes – 6th Dan Karate, ex-para/frogman with 2nd Rep; Légion étrangère, and bodyguard to the stars and the royals. We had finished our training for the day and Nick mentioned that there was some sort of martial arts tournament happening in town that evening, and did I fancy going and having a look? So we did. What we were watching was the third event of the Ultimate Fighting Challenge – the birth of the UFC. Twenty-five years later, it would be naive to suggest that the traditional martial arts have not been affected by the onslaught of MMA unleashed in the early 1990s via the Ultimate Fighting Championship of the UFC. Regardless of your stance on this discipline, it cannot be denied that it posed some serious questions of the traditional arts. Now we should never fear questions – the moment we no longer accept questioning is the moment that we move into cult status and no longer have any business in the dynamic flow of information exchange that has always made the martial arts powerful (sorry for the spoiler, but all martial arts are ‘mixed’). I was once told that if a student asks you a question that you haven’t already asked yourself, then they are ahead of you on the path to enlightenment! And so, I want to go to the very heart of Karate and many other ‘traditional’ arts; to the very building blocks of the discipline; to the 3 K’s of Kihon, Kata and Kumite, and ask the brutal question – in this post-UFC era, are the 3 K’s of Karate still relevant?
Gavin Mulholland with DKK fighters Edge & Neil
Before I go on to address each of these areas in turn, I would just like to suggest why I believe I am in a good position to address this question. While by no means unique, I am in the unusual position of having taken traditional Karate into the heat of the Cage at the highest level in the UK. In our first 20 professional cage-fights, we had 16 wins, one finalist in the reality TV show ‘Fighting Hurts’, one Welterweight National Champion and one Heavyweight World Champion. Being for the likes of Cage Rage, BAMMA, UCMMA, Bellator, and even one showing for the UFC, many of these fights were televised and all are a matter of public record. I list these achievements, not as a boast, but simply to show that I speak from more than theory alone.
DKK fighters Edge, Shola, Goliath & Dyson
I know well the arguments that cage fighting does not equate to street fighting due to the lack of weapons, multiples, etc. And while I agree up to a point, the Cage is nevertheless an extremely good test of your training structures and mechanisms, and if the 3 K’s still have any relevance whatsoever, they need to have a direct role on training people to succeed in this extreme environment. So let’s take a look at them. Kihon Kihon is a Japanese term meaning ‘basics’ or ‘fundamentals’. The term is generally used to refer to the basic techniques that are taught and form the foundation of most Japanese martial arts. In order to say whether or not Kihon still has relevance in today’s fighting structures, it is important to understand exactly what it is trying to achieve. And this is my biggest concern with martial arts today. From what I see, a lot of people and schools have simply forgotten what it is that they are attempting to teach with the various drills and mechanisms within their own training schematic. In fact, to many it seems as if the drills themselves have actually become the martial art. Kihon in itself is not Karate – it is simply a drill that we use and what it is attempting to teach is twofold: firstly, it teaches the initial part of a given movement; and secondly, it seeks to burn in neural pathways in the form of muscle memory. As such, if we take the punch as an example, it is important that during Kihon, the focus is on the body, and not on the extended fist. Too many people spend too much time on the dojo floor making minute adjustments to a student’s fist position. I’m not saying this shouldn’t be done; just that it should only be done once or twice in the first few weeks of a new student’s training. It only has value as a preparatory correction before the student actually hits anything. Once the student progresses to hitting things (makiwara, bags, pads or people), this adjustment becomes self-administering – there is no longer any need for the instructor to make these adjustments as the student and his body will adjust naturally on impact. Pain, adjustment and muscle memory are far more eloquent teachers than the rest of us put together! With pads, bags, makiwara and people taking care of the actual impact, the Kihon is set up to work the initial movement and hence the actual power source for the punch. Therefore, where the instructor’s attention should be is on the student’s body – not the fist. What you are looking for and working, is the hip moving ahead of the shoulder in order to produce torque; You are looking for the striking shoulder to lag in time in order to engage the stretch reflex across the chest which will really fire that punch out with speed (and acceleration); You are looking for the correct pattern of foot movement, (or at least placement), to put the optimum (not necessarily the maximum) amount of body movement (hence mass) into the strike. And ultimately, as Force = Mass x Acceleration, Kihon clearly has a role to play in the
Gavin Mulholland, Neil Grove & Dan Lewis
development of power. And above all things, power was our key weapon in the cage. Knockouts and technical knockouts delivered us 11 of our first 16 wins. We hit hard!
Of course, you need to add on the impact phase in a separate part of your training (makiwara, bags, pads and people) but Kihon is of fundamental importance when it comes to developing the trigger element in developing knockout power. I would never claim that what we in the karate community do, is the only way (it clearly isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t), but it is an effective way and trained properly, it really does work. We therefore have to conclude that of the 3 Kâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, Kihon is still directly relevant and indeed, of fundamental importance to building genuine fighting ability. Kihon works.
Kata So what about Kata? Surely, there is no place for Kata in the Cage right? Wrong! Again, it comes down to an understanding of what these training mechanisms we use are intended to do. And again, this is really the rub – what is it that you believe Kata is for? I don’t mind that people have different views from my own (and believe me, a great many do); I don’t mind that some people believe that Kata is purely for the perfection of movement; that it is moving Zen; that it is and exercise in precision; that it is a physical exercise; that it is a spiritual exercise, that it is about fighting multiples; that it is about spatial awareness etc. And the reason I
Tunde Oladimeji & Goran Powell
don’t mind is twofold; One, I agree with all those things; and two, as long as you ‘know’ what it is for, you will have a reason for training/teaching it. What I do object to, is instructors who ‘don’t know what the Kata is for’, why they are training it, or why they are teaching it. Under such circumstance is it any wonder that the Kata is seen to have no use? Or that its invaluable lessons are lost? Or that ultimately, the students of these people end up dropping the Kata all together? Of course it’s not. To train in the multi-faceted and widely compartmentalised system that is traditional karate, you need to be very clear about each and every aspect of the system - otherwise, what we do just becomes a collection of unrelated training drills. As a Goju Ryu karate exponent, I have to use Goju as my example but again, I am in no way claiming it as the only way – far from it. It is however, a way I know and in order to explain how Kata is entirely relevant you have to understand the separate and different mindsets associated with the early Kata of Goju Ryu. The first Kata, Gekisai Dai Ichi, translates as ‘Attack and Smash Number One’ and the essence of this Kata is in straightforward blitzing style attack. Very little is done in the way of evasion or subtlety. Gekisai Dai Ichi is about directly attacking and savaging your opponent. A good boxing example would be the early Mike Tyson who simply tore into his opponents and destroyed them. The second Kata, Gekisai Dai Ni translates as ‘Attack and Smash Number Two’ and while still focusing on a blitzing attack, introduces the concepts of evasion and positional advantage. The legendary Muhammad Ali destroyed much larger opponents using the concepts outlined in Gekisai Dai Ni. He was a heavyweight who
like a lightweight and his record stands as a testament to the practicality and devastation of this subtle fighting style. You will notice that I am deliberately using examples outside of Karate circles to illustrate my points. This is because, if we are seeking to prove the relevance of our training mechanisms, it must be the case that other people have arrived at the same conclusions about fighting. It doesn’t matter that they might use different training methods to arrive at the same point, but ultimately, we do all need to be arriving at the same point. And in truth, the only real differences between styles are the training methods that they employ. It’s never been the case that Goju has six wrist locks while Wado has 15. Or that Shotokan has 14 different types of high kick, while Kyokushin only has 9. All that is ludicrous. What we have is a different set of kata and a different set of training maps to ultimately produce much the same thing – a competent well-rounded fighter. The next Kata in the Goju syllabus is Saifa which translates as ‘Tear and Smash’. You will notice that we are still about smashing (remember how a lot of our Kihon is about developing knockout power?), but now we are talking about, and training to escape from a wide variety of grabs and holds. We are training to break free from someone who has grabbed us in order to get the fight back to the striking phase where we are most comfortable. A phenomenal example of this style was Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell and I’ll come back to him shortly. Finally (before Black Belt) we have Seiunchin – ‘Trapping Battle’ – and as the name suggests, this is a grappling Kata. While the mindset of Saifa was to escape a grab, the Seiunchin mindset is very different. Now we are happy to stay and grapple and in fact, we might even have initiated the close quarter contact ourselves. A good UFC example would be Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture - a man undoubtedly skilled in striking, but primarily a grappling (Seiunchin) fighter. If we follow the early path of the UFC we can see all of these Kata manifest in the progression of this ‘new/ancient’ discipline. In the early shows you basically had world class grapplers (Seiunchin fighters) fighting and beating less skilled strikers (Gekisai fighters). Many of the strikers appeared to panic as they then attempted to strap grappling onto their existing systems with little success. It wasn’t until the likes of Chuck Liddell arrived that this gap started to close. What Liddell did was Mark Salomone performing Kata 1 to recognize the folly of attempting to beat someone with 5 years grappling experience, by studying grappling for 6 months. What Liddell did was to train to break free of grabs and holds – to frustrate grapplers and get the fight back to the striking phase where he was most comfortable. Of course, he didn’t have the same name for it, but what Chuck Liddell introduced to the Cage was a Saifa fighting strategy, and his domination of several weight divisions for many years is testament to its combat effectiveness. As long as we believe that the practice of Kata is not simply a repetition of its moves; as long as we understand that in order to ‘train’ a kata we have to understand and work on the principles that underpin it; as long as we can see what the individual Kata are attempting to teach us, we once again have to conclude that of the 3 K’s, Kata is not only directly relevant, but in fact utterly fundamental in the formation of fighting tactics and strategies within the Cage environment. Like Kihon, Kata works. Kumite
Mark Salomone & Dave Urquhart
So we have two out of three – not bad, but what about Kumite. What does the limited target, controlled contact of dojo sparring have to do with the no-holds-barred, chaotic aggression of the Cage? Well, everything really…
I keep repeating myself but in order to train effectively in the traditional arts you need to be intelligent. And I don’t mean that in a superior type way, I mean it in respect of needing to understand how to piece everything together to fight full on, without necessarily fighting that way week in, week out. Basically, there are two key ways to train to fight. You can either just get in there and go hell for leather and pick it all up as you go – an effective but painful and injury prone way; or you can take the traditional route and Gavin Mulholland & Tunde Oladimeji
use drills and set-ups to train the different aspects of the fight before bringing it all together on the night – a less painful but intensely more risky strategy. Kumite, obviously doesn’t teach you about the grappling phase of Seiunchin; it might (depending how you spar) teach you about escaping the grabs and holds of someone attempting to get you to the ground (Saifa); but its real value lies in the initial stand-up phase of the fight – Gekisai’s attack and smash. At some stage you are going to need to glove up and go for it with head shots and all in. But controlled Kumite has huge benefits in terms of positioning, speed, entering, getting in and out without getting tagged, setting up shots, taking body Edge vs. Matt Lane - Cage Rage and leg shots, ingraining combinations, and best of all, experimenting and working on weaknesses. If you only ever go full on, you will fall back on what you are already good at. But if you take the pressure off for a while, you are far more likely to experiment and start to put together interesting and effective combinations. The key is to recognize that training is not fighting and in training you must not be afraid to experiment and above all, fail. All greatness comes out of failure and you must learn to embrace it – at least during training. Fail in the dojo to succeed on the street – or in this case, in the Cage. We are basically talking about another core traditional principle – the elimination of the ego.
Charmaigne Powell & Karen Sheldon
So again, we have to acknowledge the benefits of controlled sparring and conclude that the last of the 3 K’s, Kumite, is also a useful tool in the development of a complete fighter. Kumite is not only relevant but fundamental in training to fight within the Cage environment. Kumite also works.
In conclusion therefore, while acknowledging that a lot of Karate appears to have lost its way somewhat, at a basic level, we have still got it right. The very building blocks of Karate, the 3K’s are as relevant today as they have always been. The key is to recognize that we don’t actually ‘do’ karate. What we do is ‘train’ in karate and for most of us, the fact that we will never have to ‘do’ karate is a good thing. It is easy for people to level the criticism that what we did in the Cage was not ‘traditional’. I disagree. What we were doing is pressure testing the system, bringing the lessons back within the dojo and effectively calibrating and recalibrating our training mechanisms in order to refresh the pond and deliver the best information possible to our students. That is not only traditional, but essential if the systems are to survive. The beauty of the traditional systems is that not everybody has to fight, (in fact a great many people turn to the martial arts so that they never have to fight), but we do need genuine and current fighting knowledge within our ranks (particularly the instructors) and the Cage gives a good approximation of many of the aspects of real combat. In order to make Karate work in the way that it was supposed to, it is crucial that we understand exactly what all its different facets are trying to achieve and that we as teachers, then understand how to bring it all together to produce well rounded, skillful students. Ultimately, the 3 K’s are still entirely relevant in this post-UFC era but it is vital that we understand it’s not about Kihon, or Kata, or Kumite, it’s about the 3 K’s as a unit – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and all of the parts must work together in harmony to produce the well rounded, skillful fighters and dedicated martial artists that we all seek to be.
Gavin Mulholland & DKK 4th Dan David Urquhart
—————————————————————————————————————————————— Gavin Mulholland is the author of the number one bestselling book, Four Shades of Black – The Traditional Path to Building the Complete Fighter which can be purchased from Amazon or direct from the DKK website. He is joint Chief Instructor for Daigaku Karate Kai and the Chief Instructor for DKK Fighters based in Central London. All images appear courtesy of Gavin Mulholland.
Erle Montaigue’s Mother Applications To The Small San-sau A Brief Introduction Peter Jones
he applications in this article come from Erle's ‘Mother Applications’ which are tied to the small San-sau,
which Erle, also, called "add-ons" to the small San-sau. This doesn't mean you add the ‘Mother Applications’ to the San-sau itself! You still do the small San-sau in the same way as it is meant to be learnt. So, please bear this in mind and learn the San-sau as it is meant to be done. What I'll be doing here is beginning where each move ends in the San-sau and adding the ‘Mother Applications’ relevant to that segment. Please be careful when training in these applications as they can be DANGEROUS. I am simply presenting them here for informational use only, as a part of Erle’s system. If you do wish to learn the ‘Mother Applications’, my advice is to go along to one of Erle's Instructors who actually learned these directly from him - that way you will receive a truer transmission then someone who may have simply learnt them from watching a video and received no direct input or corrections from Erle, himself, on the subject matter!
First Mother Application Some of the points used: Pericardium 6 [Pc6] - located on the wrist. Stomach 9 [St9] - located on the neck, lateral to the ‘Adam’s apple’. Conceptor Vessel 22[Cv22] - located at the pit of the throat. Small Intestine 16 [Si16] - located on the side of the neck. Your partner has thrown a round house punch towards your head as in per the small San-sau. You then strike your partners forearm with your left palm [Pc6] and with your right palm you strike the side of the neck [St9]. (Photo 1) Now your ‘Mother Application’ begins! Almost immediately you strike using your right elbow straight into the front of your partners neck [Cv22] - (Photos 2/2a).
Now, using your right arm, you strike the side of your partners neck [Si16], (Photo 3/3a). Continue snaking your right arm around your partners neck, whilst pulling him down and at the same time you are pushing your partners right arm up. You now have your partners head locked with your right arm (Photos 4/5). Finally, place the edge of your left palm onto the right side of the neck, and using your right forearm on the opposite side, simply squeeze, thus applying the choke or sleeper hold to finish - (Photos 6/6a). Keep in mind that you are doing this with your training partner so take your time. You don't really want to hurt your partner by moving too aggressively and too quickly, too soon! As Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve already stated at the beginningâ&#x20AC;Ś these applications are simply being presented for informational purposes only at a very basic level to help you develop your understanding of Erle Montaigue's Mother Application of the small Sansau.
I love these applications. You still have to learn the small San-sau as it is meant to be done - it will make learning the ‘Mother Applications’ a bit easier to get your head around. I am not taking nothing away from the small San-sau as it is a great form to learn, it’s a great solo from and when you get a partner involved they‘ll throw a few punches at you, so you can understand the mechanics you’re developing. And with the ‘Mother Applications’ added on it makes for good training and a great understanding to a complete system. What I like about the small San-sau and the ‘Mother Applications’ is that we are learning about point striking not just from the martial aspects but, also, the healing aspects too, not forgetting about timing, balance and coordination - the pre-requisites to self defence. They are not simply a set of movements or techniques, they are a lot more than that - they encompass the principles and essence of Taijiquan! As in everything, take your time to learn and understand your subject so that you develop correctly. See you in the next issue of Lift Hands.
Image source: Pixabay - No rights reserved.
ive us a smile! Are you using more or fewer muscles than it takes to frown?
Is it true that you use more muscles to frown than smile? Actually, there isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t any proof behind this old saying. Scientists have studied the muscles needed for both facial expressions, and to do a small smile generally uses 10 muscles; a small frown uses 6. On average, a smile uses 12 and a frown 11. However, since humans tend to smile a lot, these muscles are stronger. A frown may be slightly more effort to produce, just because we arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t as used to using these muscles. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t move! Are you using any muscles if your body is still? Yes, in fact you are using many muscles right now. For example, your back and neck muscles are working if you are sitting up, your intercostal muscles (between your ribs) are working if you are breathing, muscles which control eye movement are working so you can read this, and your heart is beating away by itself without you having to think about it. We have 3 different types of muscles within our bodies, which are specialised for different roles. Types of muscles: 1. Skeletal muscle This is, as the name suggests, the type of muscle used to move our skeletons. Muscle tissue is attached to bones by strong tendons, and we contract this muscle to move. We can decide to move these muscles or not, so we say they are controlled voluntarily. We use skeletal muscles to maintain our posture, and hold our bones in place. Skeletal muscle is striated muscle, meaning it has repeated sarcomeres (the basic unit of a muscle) bound by a sarcolemma (muscle cell membrane).
2. Cardiac muscle The type of muscle that makes up our hearts is called cardiac muscle. This is controlled involuntarily, and is striated. 3. Smooth muscle This is the type of muscle found within our body that is controlled involuntarily, and is not striated (not arranged into repeating sarcomeres) For example, in the digestive tract, blood vessels, and bladder, muscles are working without us putting thought in. Smooth muscle typically has more elasticity than skeletal muscle, and can be stretched further whilst still allowing contraction. Voluntary or Involuntary? Although we can control voluntary muscles, sometimes they are outside our control. One example of this is in reflex movements. When babies are born, they have several reflexes which are outside their control. One of these is the ‘grasp reflex’. If you stroke a baby’s palm (under 6 months old), they will close their fingers in a strong grip. Their muscles contract so strongly that it is possible for them to support their own body weight. I’m not recommending that you go and hang the first baby you see on a washing line – they might let go unexpectedly! – but it is possible for them to hold their own weight thanks to the grasp reflex. Another involuntary movement using voluntary muscles is a twitch, and this leads on nicely to…. Fast twitch, slow twitch Skeletal muscle has fast twitch and slow twitch fibres. Fast twitch fibres contract quickly, but they also tire quickly. Slow twitch fibres contract slower, but will keep on working over a longer period. Thinking back to the Winter Olympics – different athletes bodies are adapted depending on what their event is. A downhill skiier will tend to have more fast twitch fibres, whereas a long distance skiier will tend to have more slow twitch fibres. Antagonistic Muscles Antagonistic muscles are skeletal striated muscles. They work as a pair to provide movement.
Antagonistic muscles control flexing and extension at the elbow One pair of antagonistic muscles is in our forearms: biceps and triceps.
Muscles work by contracting. When our bicep muscle contracts, this pulls on a tendon connected to the bone in the forearm, flexing (bending) the arm at the elbow. To return the arm to its original position, the triceps muscle contracts, pulling the forearm downwards (extends arm at elbow). Another example of antagonistic muscles is your quadriceps and hamstrings, used together to move your lower leg. Did you know that…? ● ● ●
Our hearts beat approximately 40 million times a year There are about 642 skeletal muscles in the human body Your tongue is the only muscle attached at just one end
The heaviest weight ever lifted by a human was 6270 pounds, which was achieved by Paul Anderson in 1957.
he twelfth and final Ring is simply called ‘The Training Methods of Yang’.
These were deemed by Erle to have been the epitome of training methods, attributed to Yang Lu-ch’an himself, as they were handed down and taught to subsequent generations - Jian-hou, Ban-hou, Shou-hou and to a limited extent Cheng-fu1. Erle told me about the twelfth Ring very matter of factly, without any fanfare! As I’ve already stated in Volume 8 of Lift Hands, this final piece of the jigsaw was given to me during what turned out to be Erle’s final months of life. Once again, for the record, it was Erle, himself, who was forthcoming with the information. Whilst he had alluded to most of the Rings throughout his career, openly naming six in his own lifetime, he had never specified the final Ring - this is the first time the Ring has been officially named and placed in the public domain. The Training Methods of Yang should not be confused with the training methods of the Fifth Ring - The Physical Side! These training methods help us to develop the marrow of the art and not just the shell. They should be considered as the means by which we extend our basic combat skills - sensitivity, control of centre and positional advantage to overcome far stronger forces without break of flow. It is here were we understand the true meaning of balance. Furthermore, we develop our skill in the concepts of ‘Rolling and Sealing’ (this is an advancement of ideas developed in Ring Two - Rolling Thunder) as well as understanding the true meaning of ‘Fullness and Emptiness’ in the internal as opposed to the physical meaning taken by most, along with ‘Heaviness and Lightness’. The practitioner now will further understand the difference between force and power, and their link to squareness and roundness - that muscular force is limited and that once it reaches its extreme… weakness and clumsiness await - and the role of aligning the Upper and Lower Stars to achieve true power! ——————————————————————————————————————— 1. I do not wish to enter the debate of Yang Cheng-fu’s Taijiquan here. I have already written on the subject matter extensively elsewhere and will be coming back to this topic in the future with further additional information to update ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway?’. For now, I will simply quote Chen Weiming - one of Yang Cheng-fu’s main disciples - from his book ’T’ai Chi Ch’uan Ta Wen - Questions and Answers on T’ai Chi Ch’uan’, in which Chen openly admits that: “Yang Shao-hou once taught me a method in which two men, their right hands touching, from low to high drawing a circle, simultaneously circled to the right with their right legs inside. Their left feet stepped forward lightly - “walking like cats.” And further, “Other methods I have heard about (but for which I do not know the use) are grabbing the ligaments, attacking pressure points, and special techniques of seizing and controlling.” According to Xu Long-hou, a disciple of Yang Jian-hou, who also trained under Yang Cheng-fu and briefly with Yang Shao-hou himself, in his book - Taijiquan Shi, Taiji Boxing Power(Developing Power in Taiji Movement) - states: “Shao-hou taught according to the studies learned from his uncle, Yang Ban-Hou (1837-1892), which included bone twisting methods, techniques to injure the adversary’s muscles, grasping veins and tendons as in Shou Wei Pi-Pa (Hands Play the Lute), fast hands combined with explosive kicking methods, joint locking, and methods to affect qi and blood through striking vital points.” Historians acknowledge that Shou-hou’s fighting and training methodology was brutal and closer to his grandfather Lu-ch’an’s through his training with his own father Jian-hou and primarily with his uncle Ban-hou, as well as his grandfather himself! Chen Weiming is simply confirming the existence of training methods to which he is not wholly privy nor understands and attributes these directly and indirectly to Shou-hou and not his own teacher Cheng-fu - with whom he studied for several years!
Watching and learning circa 2010
I have started teaching these methods in various guises during my workshops and classes - primarily to those of my own students who have persevered with their training - as well as introducing their concepts and ideas to martial artists from other styles with great success. I shall include one of the training methods here - â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Sparrows Hoppingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. I have deliberately omitted the explanations build up and the final additional concepts. Suffice to say that the training method involves developing the skill of how to take an impact from a more powerful force. Of course, the ultimate skill is to not allow your opponent to deliver the strike or force in the first place, or to evade it as per the Taiji Classics. However, one must prepare for all eventualities - things can go wrong and do go wrong! The series of images on the following page show my student Andy Haynes delivering a shove or strike to my chest. This is a common street scenario. In the first series of images [on the left] my structure and root are broken with the inevitable consequences of me falling backwards allowing my opponent the advantage [Again, I remind the reader that this is a training method and the danger should have been dealt with far earlier ]. In the second series of images I apply the basic concepts of Sparrows Hopping ending with a different result - I remain grounded - the post! There are many variants and advancements to the this training method and we build our skill sets progressively until we can brace ourselves in any direction as per the Classics. It is not my intention here to give a full detailed explanation of all the training methods involved [that would require an entire volume all of its own] nor the concepts which they cover in their entirety. This is simply an introduction - nothing more, nothing less! Some things must be taught in-situ... student to teacher - a direct transmission as it was done in the old days!
According to Yang Cheng-fu in his Methods of Applying Taiji Boxing - Taijiquan Shiyong Fa - he reminds us that: 'In the martial arts, the question of how much the teacher offers lies completely with the student, and not with the teacherâ&#x20AC;Ś Respect the art and respect the teacher, and you will naturally receive the true transmission. Slight the art and slight the teacher, and you might as well not waste your time.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Let Cheng-fu's words be a reminder to those who are busy blowing their own trumpets whilst denigrating the hard won information of a great teacher!
That these training methods exist should not be in doubt. There are historical documents clearly confirming these [see note concerning Chen Weiming above] above as well as snippets spread out over many major texts. I have already provided the diligent reader with the corroborating evidence should they care to look. This is all I wish to say on the subject of Ring Twelve - for now. I shall be writing a concluding chapter to these Rings in the next volume of Lift Hands - Volume 10.
Inside Next Issue 61
lliot Morris started training
way back in 1988 in Korean Karate, where he rose to the level of 1st Dan Black Belt and then went on to study Jujitsu between 1996-99. In 1999, he responded to an advert in a local newspaper offering classes in Taijiquan - it was the word "Chinese Boxing,” which particularly caught his eye and set him on the road to the internal arts and the work of Erle Montaigue, in particular. From the end of 1999, Elliot began training directly with Erle himself. Initially, attending Erle's annual workshops, until his move to the UK, and then meeting up with him on an almost monthly basis at the Instructors' workshops and other venues until his untimely death in 2011. Elliot and I forged a strong bond from our first meeting in 1999 and have been training and teaching together ever since. It's been brilliant having Elliot as a friend and a training partner for all these years. It would be fairer to say that I regard him more as my brother and a part of my family. It has allowed us to be consistent with our training and push each other to far higher levels then would have been possible otherwise. Also, it has allowed us to bounce ideas off one another, especially since we came from different martial backgrounds. Elliot’s input into developing the school and the training curriculum, as well as his support and martial arts expertise have been invaluable to myself and our students alike. Even after 20 years we still meet up outside of our teaching to train together. I think I can literally count the days and weeks on one hand when we haven’t met to train. Over the years he has certainly kept me grounded and made sure that we never lose sight or purpose to our training. Elliot achieved his Third Degree Senior Instructorship from Erle himself - and like myself, Erle had nothing but respect for Elliot’s skill and knowledge. Erle would often jokingly refer to Elliot as his ‘other son’ due to the fact that he kept his hair long! Life Hands proudly presents 20 Questions with Elliot Morris.
LH: If you could have personally witnessed anything, what would you want to have seen? EM: Dinosaurs! LH: If you had to leave earth on a spaceship and take 4 people with you, who would they be? EM: The four horsemen! LH: In what ways are you the same as your childhood self? EM: I still have the tendency to leave things to the last minute . LH: What animal best represents you and why? EM: A hound - see below! LH: What is your greatest strength or weakness? EM: Persistence, hunter! LH: Do you trust anyone with your life? EM: Not sure if I even trust myself, a couple of weeks ago I nearly got lost in a +50mph snow storm! LH: How do you want to be remembered?
Above & below: Training with Erle in Leicester
EM: As someone dependable! LH: What have you always wanted and did you ever get it? EM: Bilboâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s magic ring! LH: Do you know your heritage? EM: No! LH: Are you still learning who you are? EM: Definitely! LH: What, if anything, are you afraid of and why? EM: Of being unable to do things for myself !
Training in Llangadog, Wales - Erleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Instructors Only Sessions
LH: What is the most memorable class you have ever taken? EM: First class with Erle - watching him doing the form and knowing I had a long journey ahead! LH: What book has influenced you the most? EM: The Hobbit - it was the book that made me want to read! LH: What ridiculous thing has someone tricked you into doing or believing? EM: That all people are treated equally ! LH: Who or what has been the greatest influence in your life? EM: My Parents! LH: What is the craziest thing one of your teachers has done or made you do? EM: When an instructor was unhappy with the class and we all had to go from kneeling on one leg straight up to a front again and again until he was satisfied.We all walked like John Wayne the next day! LH: When did you screw everything up, but no one ever found out it was you? EM: Never got away with my screw ups! LH: If You had to choose to live without one of your five senses, which one would you give up and why? EM: Smell! LH: If you could select one person from history and ask them one question - who would you select and what would the question be? EM: L. Ron Hubbardâ&#x20AC;Ś really? LH: How would you describe your art in ten words or less? DK: A complete art balancing self defence and self enhancement! LH: Elliot Morrisâ&#x20AC;Ś Thank you for sharing your thoughts with our readers and we hope that we will hear more from you in future issues of Lift Hands.
Keeping Erleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s legacy alive - with Peter Jones
The Small San-sau Xiao SÃ n Shou The Five Levels: From Principles To Combat Part Three
NASSER BUTT With
Author’s Note: Readers are reminded that this is an abridged version of the original as yet unpublished work!
here are many training
methods involved in the development of the Small SànShǒu - in fact, one could say that there are far too many to mention without writing tomes on the subject. The array of training methods cover all aspects of martial skill - these are the pre-requisites of self-defence. I shall be specifically focusing on a handful of the training methods here - primarily associated with Grounding or Rooting. Whenever Erle was teaching ‘non-internal’ practitioners, he would always insist that they learn ‘The Post’, sometimes also referred to as ‘Stepping Over The Gate’ - this was one of his pre-requisites to learning the Small Sàn-Shǒu! This should come as no surprise since the Yang manuals have a song dedicated to this: 對待⽤功法守中⼟ 俗名站橦 Practicing Maintaining The Central Ground In Fighting [Commonly Called Standing Like A Post] The song appears in Taiji Fa Shuo - attributed to Yang Banhou, circa 1875. However, Banhou’s not the only one to mention this - versions of this appear in most Yang manuals, including Yang Cheng-fu’s Taijiquan Shiyong Fa [Methods of Applying Taiji Boxing] as well as those of the Wu family:
72 Training and practicing rooting atop a tree in Bradgate Park, Leicester circa 2011
‘When standing centered, your feet should be rooted. Start by understanding the four primary techniques, then advancing and retreating. The four techniques are ward-off, rollback, press, and push. You have to do a lot of work to get them to be real. For the body posture, your waist and head-top should both be correct. When sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, your intention and energy are to be uniform throughout. Movement and awareness respond to each other. Mind is sovereign and body is subject. When you get the degree just right, you will naturally have both the civil quality and the martial. [i.e. If the “degree” is not right, there is “overcooking” or “undercooking”, in which case too civil would be undercooked and too martial would be overcooked.]’ According to Erle this was: ‘… the singular most important exercise in one's internal training. This is a relatively simple exercise that teaches so much about self defense in an abstract way.’ I will give a brief description of the main Post method below: Sink downwards! Focus intent on standing leg. Use abdomen to lift. Works on ball-joint of hips. Weight on right leg, step over gate with left leg. Place foot on ground, move weight forward onto left leg. Right foot steps over the gate and kick to front. Right foot steps back and kicks to rear. Right leg steps over and kicks to front again. Place foot down (knee to knee). Left leg swings through and kicks to front and then rear. Keep back straight. Repeat on opposite side!
The Post teaches us about balance and timing whilst co-ordinating yin and yang, as we learn how to our ‘sink Qi’. There are other versions of the Post. Baguazhang has its own far more intricate version of the same exercise which can be done in conjunction with the above. Further, the above method can be practiced as a more advanced two-person drill called ‘P’eng Post’. This training method should be considered by all martial artists regardless of style as it teaches us the basis of grounding. The second grounding method is simply referred to as ‘Horse Stance’ or ‘Horse Riding Qigong’. This is another relatively simple and straightforward exercise. However, one should not allow the simplicity of the exercise fool the practitioner into thinking that it has no value. Many of the great internal exercises are simple and it is this very simplicity that makes them a difficult proposition! The main purpose of this training method is to solidify the skill of the practitioner’s lower body whilst enhancing the internal power of the body as a whole, as well as increasing the Qi in the Tan-tien. You start with your feet parallel, almost double shoulder width apart. Your body squats down, knees slightly bent. The weight is spread between both legs. Your upper body is upright and obeys all the rules of Taijiquan, i.e., the crown of the head is raised [as if suspended from above], loose waist and chest contained with rounded back, etc. You hold your hands out in front, both palms facing each other as if holding a ball. Your elbows are bent and your eyes focus on your hands [Photo 1]. Breathe in and out through your nose, with the tip of the tongue gently resting on the upper palate, behind the front teeth. The method divides into ascending and descending. As you ascend, your body rises slightly as you breathe in and your hands begin to spread apart. Imagine energy rising up your back [spine] and make sure that both palms remain facing each other [Photos 2,3 &4].
When descending, your body slightly sits down and your hands start to return to their original position. Exhale, as you visualize your energy sinking to your Tan-tien [Photos 5 & 6]. The opening and closing of your hands is imitating the movement of your lungs inflating and deflating. As you become more skillful and attain sung in your posture, the movements of your hands will become physically smaller and help develop the concept of ‘small Yang’! In the beginning, you only need to practice for about five minutes, then gradually add more over time. There is no upper limit and legend has it that students would practice this method for up to several hours per day! The third method is a very little known one and literally called Grounding Qigong. I re-introduced this training method around 2013/14 as a part of teaching my students Erle’s 35 Weeks. Luckily, I had started looking into the 35 Weeks during Erle’s lifetime and he clarified a lot of the training methods and their importance to myself, before his death, providing me with additional information which was not contained in the online publication!
To date, I am the only student of Erle Montaigue’s to have completed this program in its entirety as a part of my own training post his Sydney students! The Grounding Qigong is a ‘Power Qigong,’ which helps us to develop rooting whilst moving, walking, running or leaping. This is a critical tool and should not be overlooked by any serious students of the internal arts - or external for that matter! All the usual rules of qigong apply: Shoulders relaxed. Tailbone tucked under. Tip of the tongue on the upper palate, behind front teeth. Breathe through nose, sinking the breath into the tan-tien. Slightly concave your chest! Crown of the head raised as if 'suspended from above' - in the latter part of the qigong only!
Grounding Qigong: Left - Right, front view and side view.
What makes this qigong interesting is the position of the head in the opening part. The head is tilted slightly backwards and you are also looking upwards, thus making balancing and the rooting process through the heels a far more difficult exercise. Stand with feet parallel and slightly wider than shoulder width apart, with the toes slightly scrunched as if gripping the ground. Raise your hands up over your head, palms facing each other as if they could clap together. DO NOT LET THE SHOULDERS RISE! In order to achieve this correctly, we raise the shoulders up really high and then drop them - relaxing them straight down into the back. Bend your head backwards, looking upwards with your eyes, so that the palms are just visible through your peripheral vision. Imagine water pouring down from through your fingers above, running down your back and into your heels - as if you are standing under a shower. Move your right hand across to your left hand, keeping your hips locked forwards as your upper body twists to your left to allow the hands to join. Your eyes are focused on your left hand. Hold this posture for 5 breaths, i.e. 5 inhalations and exhalations. Your eyes now follow your right hand back to the right as your left hand moves across - your eyes remaining focused on the right hand. Again, allow the upper body to twist naturally whilst holding the hips forward. Hold this posture for 5 breaths as before.
Now bring your left hand back to the left as your eyes follow it. Breathe in and as you exhale allow the hands to come together over your head and hold them there. This is your qigong position. At the point when the hands come together the head drops into its normal position as if ’suspended from above’ as the eyes look naturally forward. As you hold the position for approximately 15 minutes continue imagining ’sucking’ energy from the heavens and into your heels as if growing roots into the earth itself. End the qigong gently allowing the hands to fall and close as per normal. The fourth method is called the ‘Stamping/Stomping Method’! This method not only helps with grounding, but it also helps develop co-ordination as well as powerful kicks! The method is based on the dynamic ‘Brush Knee Obstinate-Twist Step' and has a host of variants. It’s usually trained alongside a two-person variant based upon 'Advance, Parry, Grasp, Hammer,’ however, we shall only be focusing on the Stamping/Stomping Method here. To practice, stand with your right leg forward and your left hand approximately chest high [Photo1]. When stamping, your body slightly leans in and squats down, both hands spread apart forward and back in unison, and the knee of your standing leg slightly bends [see image on next page]. When stamping an opponent with your left foot, your left hand goes to the rear, drawing in and seizing, and your right palm extends forward with a palm strike to his face, while your left foot stamps forward and downward, your right knee slightly bent, the weight on your right leg [Photos 1-5]. The exercise is repeated marching up and down the room whilst alternating hands and feet [Photo 6]. The value of this exercise cannot be over emphasized. Like all internal training methods this one, also, is multi-
Stamping Method - Side View
faceted - teaching us about a host of other concepts! However, it is not my intention to spoon feed the reader or the practitioner. A major part of learning is to discover through one’s own effort and study! I have deliberately omitted detail of many of the other training methods associated with the Small Sàn-Shǒu as a matter of expediency for this abridged work. However, I will mention a handful here by name: Hawk Captures Fowl Peripheral Training Connectivity Training Walking Qigong Wall Training The Folding Principle Rending Method Three Line Qigong Willow Method Referees Hold
It should go without saying that both single and two-person physical training methods play a major role in the Small SĂ n-ShÇ&#x2019;u. However, once again for expediency, these have been omitted here simply because they should be a part of your routine training. The aim here is to provide the practitioner with training methods which help advance the understanding of the internal machinery and associated concepts.
Part Four of Unlocking The Small San-sau
Solo Method will appear in Volume 10 of Lift Hands
Image by Megan Menegay - Source: Unsplash
n Martial arts we often talk about form and posture but have you ever looked at your foot posture and if so
can you do anything about it. As a Podiatrist I’m often called upon to treat all sorts of athletes with many varied conditions with one of the most demanding being the Martial artist. They come with an assortment of preconceived beliefs about what can and can’t be done for them about their foot or lower leg pain. One of the biggest being that they can’t wear shoes in their art and therefore can’t wear foot orthotics (arch supports) so nothing can be done for them other than tapping and putting up with the problem. This article is a quick look at some foot exercises that can help with many and varied sports related problems. Sadly many people think that feet can’t be trained.... Our Korean friends have done some research on a group of exercises that are commonly called the “Short Foot exercises” (SFE) and our American friends have used these exercises to see if they influence foot posture in long distance runners and also improve performance in single leg stance. To make sure these exercises actually worked on the muscles that we thought they were working on some researches threw some healthy athletes into the lab and measured the activation of the intrinsic foot muscles with MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging). Guess what... the short foot exercises actually work the muscles that we thought they did and they influence foot posture (Medial longitudinal arch height, navicular drop) and make you more stable on one leg. So if a few quick exercises help those people that run away then they may be useful for those people that stand and fight (especially on one leg). Rather than spend this article debating foot posture and the biomechanics of movement let us come to an agreement that if your foot muscles could be stronger and better activated .... this could possibly be a good thing. The SFE activate the intrinsic muscles of the foot which are the muscles that start and finish within the foot as opposed to a muscle group like the calf that starts in the leg and attaches to the foot. The table below gives the names of the muscles and the increase in activation however all you need to know is that you need to do all of them if you wish to hit these muscles and get the greatest increase in activation across the group.
So how do we do these short foot exercises and can we make a progression out of them starting easy and working our way up.
Exercise Descriptions (Start in seated position) Short Foot: This exercise is my favourite and you start by raising the arch of the foot by bringing the ball of the foot back towards the heel. The aim is NOT to curl the toes under whilst doing this or using your leg muscles. Hint; think about gently dragging the ball of the foot along the floor back towards your heel with the heel firmly on the ground. Toes-spread-out: Lift all 5 toes and then lower the 1st and little toe to the ground whilst trying to spread all your toes. The middle three toes stay in the air and as relaxed as possible. Hint; a game the whole family can play with lots of laughter. First-and Second-to-Fifth-Toe extension: First-toe extension involves bringing big toe off the ground leaving all the little piggies (toes) on the floor. Second-to-Fifth-toe extension involves lifting all the little piggies and keeping the big toe to the ground. Hint; some people need to hold the toes up or down with a helping hand to start with.
Figure: Short foot exercise group;(left to right) Short foot; Toes-spread-out; first-toe extension; second-to-fifth-toe extension.
Now that you and the whole household are rolling around laughing trying to figure out how you are going to do these you may as well know that you can step it up once you have mastered this magical feet (pun intended). Once you can do this in a seated position you can give it a go standing up on two feet then progress to performing them in a single leg stance. Some of you will have no trouble performing these short foot exercises and others will think that only freaks and Tai Chi instructors can do them. They are worth persisting with and developing a little endurance. You may give yourself a foot cramp or two...hey what are friends for. I start my patients holding each exercise for 10 seconds then cycle through each one...rinse and repeat. You can also do sets of 10-15 one-second reps. This article is not suggesting that you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need to see a good Podiatrist if you are having foot troubles. It does suggest that if you do these exercises you can improve your foot posture and single leg stability. If you are a keyboard warrior you can do these exercises whilst commenting on some forum or social media page and not totally waste your time...win win for everyone.
References: Gooding, T. M., Feger, M. A., Hart, J. M., & Hertel, J. (2016). Intrinsic Foot Muscle Activation During Specific Exercises: A T2 Time Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study. J Athl Train, 51(8), 644-650. Retrieved from https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27690528. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-51.10.07 Kim, E. K., & Kim, J. S. (2016). The effects of short foot exercises and arch support insoles on improvement in the medial longitudinal arch and dynamic balance of flexible flatfoot patients. J Phys Ther Sci, 28(11), 3136-3139. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27942135. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.3136 Mulligan, E. P., & Cook, P. G. (2013). Effect of plantar intrinsic muscle training on medial longitudinal arch morphology and dynamic function. Man Ther, 18(5), 425-430. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pubmed/23632367. doi:10.1016/j.math. 2013.02.007 Sulowska, I., Oleksy, Ĺ ., Mika, A., Bylina, D., & SoĹ&#x201A;tan, J. (2016). The Influence of Plantar Short Foot Muscle Exercises on Foot Posture and Fundamental Movement Patterns in Long- Distance Runners, a NonRandomized, Non-Blinded Clinical Trial. PLoS One, 11(6), e0157917. Retrieved from https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27336689. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0157917
progression /prəˈɡrɛʃ(ə)n/ noun noun: progression; plural noun: progressions 1. The process of developing or moving gradually towards a more advanced state. Synonyms: development, progress, process, continuation, continuance, advance, advancement, movement, forward movement, onward movement, passage, career, march; More evolution, growth, evolvement. 2. A number of things in a series Synonyms: succession, series, sequence, string, stream, parade, chain, concatenation, train, row, order, course, flow, cycle. change /tʃeɪn(d)ʒ/ verb verb: change; 3rd person present: changes; past tense: changed; past participle: changed; gerund or present participle: changing 1. Make or become different. Synonyms: alter, make different, become different, undergo a change, make alterations to, adjust, make adjustments to, adapt, turn, amend, improve, modify, convert, revise, recast, reform, reshape, refashion, redesign, restyle, revamp, rework, remake, remodel, re-mould, redo, reconstruct, reorganize, reorder, refine, reorient, reorientate, vary, transform, transfigure, transmute, metamorphose, undergo a sea change, evolve;
‘In boxing arts, what is taught or not taught is entirely up to the student rather than the teacher. The reason is simply this: Everyone these days understands that Taiji is worthwhile and they have a mind to learn it, but they worry the teacher might not have the real stuff and before they have even made it through the door, they are already doubting a third of it. And so even if a teacher wants to pass it down, how would he be able to? Most students only go halfway and quit anyway, then only think to blame their teacher for not teaching and never imagine a need to examine their own neglect of learning. Yes, for those of you who claim your teacher did not teach you, this is an admonishment. Yang Chengfu will teach boxing to anyone and teaches everyone the same. So why do some turn out better than others? Because everyone has a different nature, a different degree of intelligence, a different capacity to understand the principles. Also because Taiji theory is rather deep and takes more than one lesson to grasp. Since progress is a step-by-step process, Yang teaches in a step-by-step manner. If you only go halfway and quit before learning the essence of it, to proclaim that the teacher does not have the real stuff is truly an absurd assertion. If you put hardly any time or work into it and then demand it pay off with glittering results, you simply do not understand. By gradually and continuously advancing in your learning, there will not be a notion of neglect in the teaching.’
would like the readers to take some time reading and re-reading the definitions of progression and change on the previous page - as defined by the English Dictionary followed by the quotes from Yang Cheng-fu. I shall be referring to them throughout this article.
Progression is sequential! A, is followed by B, followed by C… 1, 2, followed by 3 and so on. It is not rocket science and if you struggle with this base concept, then perhaps you should stop reading now! Progression is a process through which we evolve or improve, or advance through a continual process - it should not be confused with the act of change! Change is the act to make or become different - it does not require a progression, it can be done in an instant! Quite often people use the terms ‘progress’ and ‘change’ interchangeably. but - and it’s a big but - there’s a fine line which differentiates between the two which people are missing! ‘Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary [11th Ed.], defines "change" as "to make different in a particular way; to alter drastically; to undergo a modification." It defines "progress" as "Gradual Betterment; to advance forward in quality". In short, while "change" requires that whatever is in question becomes different, but not necessarily closer to a goal, "Progress" requires that whatever is in question becomes different gradually and towards a specific end or goal.’ Generally or broadly speaking, whilst progress signifies gradually moving forward in a positive manner change doesn't necessarily imply an alteration for the better! The old saying: ‘If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ is true! Often people mistake change for progress and try to fix something which was never broken in the first place [usually due to a lack of understanding of the subject matter or to impress]! And the above phrase comes with an inbuilt implication that the attempted ‘improvement’ is risky and may well backfire! Whilst we are continuously learning and developing all the time - one must look carefully to understand if we are actually progressing or changing? As I’ve already stated - change does not necessarily mean for the better! People change, but does that mean that they have become better persons or an improved version of themselves? The answer is - No, not necessarily! Equally, people progress - whether towards a goal, an aim or simply a state of mind. The progression is always gradual and for the better! So, when someone says that something or someone has changed, the immediate question that should come to mind is - Have they changed or progressed? And more often or not it is folk not knowing the difference between the two which makes them draw the wrong conclusion! Now that we have, hopefully, established an understanding of what progression and change actually mean, I shall proceed with the subject at hand, however, before continuing, I need to make a qualification. This qualification is not one of ego or some delusion of grandeur - I have made it before in other works! Those who know me will already know of my close, personal association with my teacher and mentor Erle Montaigue. Those who don’t - well you need to understand that our relationship was one built on mutual love, respect, friendship, martial arts, and a simple fact - Erle regarded me as one of his handful of real students and
friends! I was someone in whom, he stated, he had all confidence, as well as someone who had the heart, spirit and physical ability for his system, and whose progress he had watched improve - pleasing him so much that he could entrust things completely to myself! Not only that, I had unprecedented access to Erle and he allowed me to document his teachings for over a decade and even provided me with information from the earlier years. Further, he personally introduced me to other Yang Shou-hou lineage students, with whom I have developed a strong friendship over the years and we continue to exchange information and share our knowledge. I can evidence all this but, I hope that for the reader my words will be enough! As I’ve already said, those who already know - know this to be true despite the numerous efforts to besmirch my person as well as what I have been saying for the past few years! This qualification is only to make a simple point… I know what I’m talking about and can demonstrate and evidence this through skill, knowledge and fact and that my authority comes from non other then Erle Montaigue, himself!
Change Versus Progression It has been argued for sometime now that Erle was continuously changing things and even making them up! Throughout his career Erle had his detractors - most of those folk, in his lifetime at least, were folk who belonged to other schools - however, after his passing, these accusations have been thrown at him rather matter of factly from within his own school and particularly by his own progeny! The primary reason for this is simple… the present incumbents and self-declared [self-deluded some may say] masters need to justify the changes they, themselves, have made and when challenged have simply pointed a finger towards Erle - claiming that their changes are simply a continuation of his teachings and methodology and that these changes were authorized by him or at least initiated by him! This is simply a lie and a fabrication - Erle authorized no such thing! Had he done so - I, along with a handful of his real students would have been the first to know - this is another simple fact! In fact, in the eleven odd years that I spent training with, watching and documenting Erle, I can categorically state that Erle never changed a thing! He certainly progressed and he corrected but he didn’t change anything. I shall elaborate with a couple of examples.
Take a look at the five images above representing the posture ‘Picking Up The Golden Needle From The Sea Bottom’ from left to right: Photo 1 is Yang Cheng-fu taken from his book Taijiquan Shiyong Fa, 1931. Photo 2 is taken from Erle Montaigue’s Power Taiji, published in 1995. Photo 3 is taken from Yang Lu-Ch’an Form video circa 1990 and Photo 4 from The Old Yang Style Taijiquan Book, published 2000. Finally, Photo 5 is
Wu Tu-nan - the famous student of Yang Shou-hou - taken from his book A More Scientific Martial Art: Taiji Boxing, circa 1931. The first 3 images are deemed incorrect as per the Taiji Classics, which clearly state that: ‘ With your head-top pressing up naturally and energy sinking down to your elixir field, there will be no leaning in any direction.’ It is now an accepted fact that sometime during 1914-1927, Yang Cheng-fu modified and simplified his family form, gradually removing all the explosive movements, leaping kicks, weighted turns and low postures etc. for ease of use for the common folk. This confirmed as early as 1921 by Xu Yu-Sheng in his book Taijiquan Shi: ‘…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.’ This is further confirmed by Douglas Wile in his book T’ai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions: ‘Not until late in Ch’eng-fu’s career did retentions of the Ch’en style jumps, flying kicks, stamps, changes of pace, and shouts finally disappear from his form.’ The above facts are irrefutable! If you still think that your all even paced, slow form is the original Yang family form then you seriously need to wake up and smell the coffee! Photos 1 & 2 represent Yang Cheng-fu’s modified form. Photo 3 represents the same posture from the Old Yang as he had himself learnt it from his teacher Chang Yiu-chun. This is how Erle had taught it to myself as well as countless others at the start of our training! During his second trip to China, whilst training with Master Liang Shih-kan, the leader of the original Internal system of Wudang Shan, Erle was given access to their library and it was here, whilst browsing through various manuscripts and documents, that he came across one where on the first page alone it was emphasized multiple times that the back must be kept straight and upright at all times as per the Classics [see above]! Upon his return to Australia, Erle simply heeded the advice and ‘uprighted’ all the postures in the form which were performed with a bent back. This was NOT a change to the form - it was simply a correction made from knowledge obtained in China! Photo 4 is a reflection of this correction! The image of Wu Tu-nan in Photo 5 absolutely and categorically confirms that Erle’s correction was right and conforming to the ‘original’ Yang teachings! This book was published in 1931 - at the same time as Yang Cheng-fu’s book! The major difference between Erle’s posture and that of Wu Tu-nan is that, Erle is performing the posture in the ‘Tall or High Frame,’ whereas Wu is performing the posture in the ‘Low Frame’ - further confirming that the Yang form was practiced at three height levels and that students could not bypass this progression. This is something I have written upon in detail in the articles on the ‘Rings of Yang’. Erle taught this and stated this clearly: ‘Start out with a higher posture and the steps not too long, just a natural step is sufficient in the beginning. There are three levels - high, medium and low. The low level should only be attempted after many years of practice and only when you are able to do it without creating tension. This still does not mean taking the toes further than the knees, the stance becomes longer to compensate for this.’
Huang Yuanxiu confirms Erle’s teachings almost ad verbatim in his book, The Skills and Essentials of Yang Style Taiji Boxing and Martial Arts Discussions - published in 1936: ‘The solo set divides into three versions: Beginners practice a high frame, intermediates perform a more level frame (gaze, hands, thighs, and crotch flattened out), and then once skill has deepened, there is gradual progress into a low frame. Going from high to middle to low depends entirely on skill level and must not be forced, otherwise a multitude of errors will manifest, and there will be no benefit for you at all.’ The posture as indicated in Photos 4 and 5 are far more difficult to do. They are essentially a single leg squat and the purpose is to help develop stillness and internal power. The second major posture to which Erle applied the above correction is ‘Punch to the Groin/Advance Plant Hammer’. Again, the reader can see the difference clearly in the two images below:
This correction of keeping the back upright occurs throughout the Old Yang Form and is the ONLY correction which Erle made to the form from his original video on the subject all the way through to his last video almost three decades later! In 2003, Erle put out a six part series called 'Yang Lu-ch’an Corrections’ - these ‘corrections' were NOT made to the form but were rather corrections to what his students were doing wrong! Those who knew Erle will already know that the only time he ran a formal school was in the early 80s in Sydney. Once he quit that school, although he would hold regular weekend classes at his farm, he no longer taught in a school like manner. From here on in, Erle’s main method of teaching was primarily through camps, workshops and videos. The weekend classes at his farm really became the base for his video productions, where students were primarily 'taught' whatever it was that Erle was putting on film at the time! I have spoke with many of Erle’s students and they have all confirmed this to be the format and not only that, Erle continued with this even after he moved to the UK! So, in the case of many people who ‘trained’ with Erle - their first lesson was not necessarily from the beginning! I shall give an example, Colin Power - one of Erle's close friends and students - will happily tell you that on the first day he arrived to train with Erle at the farm, his very first lesson consisted of ‘push hands’ - because that is what he was teaching - and his story is not unique - in fact it’s very common! So, a lot of Erle’s students started training haphazardly and whilst he was always saying that you must start or go back to the beginning - many simply didn’t or didn’t spend enough time working through each progression!
It was no surprise then when after producing over 200 videos that Erle in 2003 felt that he had to remind his students how they should have trained and progressed: ‘There are many levels of expertise to this form of Taijiquan beginning with the basic beginners level right up to the most advanced, ‘Soft Fa-jing’ or ‘Small Frame’ form and anywhere in between like the ‘Opening and Closing’ form and the ‘Yin/Yang’ form to the ‘Scapular Moving’ form… You must walk before you can run and so it is essential that every student, especially those who wish to some day teach this form, learn from the very beginning… if you begin with the exact block learning of this great form at its most basic level and do not continue until you are sure or have been checked by a qualified instructor, then this will go some way to insuring that this Original and Authentic Yang Style remains pure for future generations.’ So, if Erle deemed that the form be kept “pure” for future generations then why would he, himself, go about changing it? Erle was inline with what had been taught before… that one must progress gradually and that this progression occurs and happens over a long time! This is exactly what Yang Cheng-fu says in the quote I have already provided above: ‘… Taiji theory is rather deep and takes more than one lesson to grasp. Since progress is a step-by-step process, Yang teaches in a step-by-step manner… By gradually and continuously advancing in your learning, there will not be a notion of neglect in the teaching.’ Huang, as we have seen above reinforces this too: ‘there is gradual progress… otherwise a multitude of errors will manifest, and there will be no benefit for you at all’! Chen Yanlin is even more harsher: ‘These days, students of Taiji Boxing begin with the Thirteen Dynamics set (i.e. the Taiji Boxing solo set, commonly called “winding through the set”, or the “long boxing” set), usually practice for only a few months, then think they have already got the gist of it. They do not understand that when the earlier generations went through the beginning stage, they all first practiced the horse-riding stance and the threeline stance to build a foundation of skill, and after a very long time they then practiced the thirteen dynamics, one posture at a time, which required many months. Once the postures had all been trained and each technique could be skillfully applied, they began to combine them into the complete boxing set. It took them several years to finish the boxing set, and still they had not even touched upon pushing hands, large rollback [Da-lu], saber, sword, pole, or the two-person set [Pauchui].’ So, why are these progressions important? Xu Yusheng provides us with a very clear answer: ‘For Taiji Boxing practitioners, there is a fixed process of progress. You cannot skip steps and rush ahead. The subtlety of Taiji Boxing all comes down to using energy. (This “energy” has to do with nimbleness and liveliness, comes from a deeper level of training, and cannot be explained only in terms of physical strength.) Although the energy is shapeless, it must be in accord with the shape of the technique in order for you to start to be able to manifest it. In Taiji Boxing, whenever you concentrate power it depends on being good at moving energy. If you neglect it when applying techniques, you will end up unable to understand why they are not working, and you will feel pathetic, that you have wasted your time, and that progress is hopeless. Compared to proceeding step by step and progressing gradually, you will instead get half the effect for double the effort, the result of not abiding by the natural sequence. ‘ Xu’s statement is important! Of course when learning any subject, the key to learning correctly is progressive learning. A sequential process as we have already defined above. Xu tells us that this is a “fixed process” and “you cannot skip steps” and this leads me into the next point I wish to make. The current changes being introduced into Erle's teachings are being ascribed to Erle, or at least being associated with Erle. I have already stated these to be a categorical lie and shall proceed to explain as to why? Erle taught all the major components of the Yang system as progressions, whether it was the Pauchui, PushHands or the Small Sàn-Shǒu.
Just as a child learns at school progressively from a simple start with the alphabet, through understanding phonetical sounds, onto basic words and then reading and structuring longer sentences before moving onto grammar and developing more advanced reading skills - Erle's methodology was no different and again I refer the reader to all the quotes, including those from the Yang’s themselves. This was the way! Erle taught the Pauchui and the Small Sàn-Shǒu in exactly the same way. The components started simple and when the required skills had been obtained and understood then he would take you towards the next level! I will briefly deal with these two specific matters separately. Pauchui I have already dealt with the progressional concepts of the Pauchui in detail in Volume 6 of Lift Hands and do not wish to repeat myself here. However, I will deal with the matter of ‘changes’ which Erle himself introduced and those which are now being introduced in his name! This is what is stated about the ‘changes’ he had made to the Pauchui: ‘One extremely famous Chinese Master in the USA who wears the silk suite and Nike shoes recently bought Erle's MTG3 dvd on the Pauchui San-Sau form and then put out his own dvd title on that form. However, Erle, being Erle, has changed some things in the original form so that they work much better and sure enough, this master has re-created these changes in his own dvd titles. So we know positively that this person learnt from Erle Montaigue's dvd!Not that he or anyone else will ever admit it as it is not prestigious o say that one has learnt from a dvd of a chap from a small village south of Sydney in Australia!’ The so-called changes he made was to the double kicking segment. I won’t go into the details of the identity of the Chinese master, nor what ensued after - that is not important - but I will quote from Volume 6 of Lift Hands:
Erle explaining the finer details of the Pauchui to myself during a solo visit to Leicester as my training partner for the last two decades Elliot Morris looks on - circa 2008
‘I spoke to Erle about this and he was categorical on the subject - no changes! When I asked him about the two changes he had made during the kicking segment, his reply to me was very clear: “People say that I am changing things, I haven’t changed anything! In the Old Yang, I made corrections after my visit to China… we used to do ‘Needle Sea Bottom’ and ‘Punch to Groin’ with a bent back - this was against the Classics - I simply corrected my back according to the Classics! The two corrections in the Pàochuí fall into the same category… they are not changes they are corrections and these are the only ones!”’ Further, this is what he himself wrote: “[We] Must do Pàochuí/Sàn Shǒu as it’s taught and don’t complain that this movement is awkward, I wouldn’t do that… of course you wouldn’t because Pàochuí is teaching you something totally different, but if you get it right you are learning something totally different! Do the Pàochuí as it is taught… So you don’t change anything in the Pàochuí because you could be changing something at a sub-conscious level and you’ll never learn the upper echelons of the Pàochuí!” Towards the end of 2015 both Peter Jones and myself were approached independently without knowledge of the other. I was approached sometime in October/November and Peter in December. In both cases, we were asked by the incumbent ‘master’ about a change he wished to make - in this case specifically the response to the lotus
kick towards the end of the Pauchui! The ‘master’ was struggling dealing with the kick coming from a bigger more powerful partner and could not execute the palm strike to the upper leg [it hurt his hand and the kick kept on coming through]. Instead of striking the leg, he wished to strike the hip to stop the kick which he could manage. Both, Peter and I, a few weeks apart gave the exact and identical answer as to why the change was not only unnecessary but it was taking away from the actual skill set that we were supposed to be learning from that segment [of course, I expect denials but there are witnesses to this]! At no point was it ever mentioned that Erle was planning on changing that segment - and why would he? Erle statements on changing the Pauchui are clear as well as the fact that had Erle’s name been brought into the equation, both Peter and I [being his senior students] would have challenged it immediately! This was purely a case of someone not understanding the dynamics and purpose behind the original movements and simply lacking the skill set required and rather then look to one’s own inadequacies chose to change it and is now alluding the changes to Erle! In simple words - this is a cop out! One shouldn’t be surprised though, martial arts history is littered with such examples. Again, I refer the reader to Erle’s statement: “[We] Must do Pàochuí/Sàn Shǒu as it’s taught and don’t complain that this movement is awkward, I wouldn’t do that… of course you wouldn’t because Pàochuí is teaching you something totally different, but if you get it right you are learning something totally different! At the time of his death, Erle was ‘teaching’ the advanced small frame of the Pauchui. It beggars belief that a man who was teaching this at its highest level hadn’t figured out that components of the form needed changing at its fundamental level and had failed to carry them out himself, such is the narcissistic claim. Small Sàn-Shǒu Just like the unjustified and unnecessary changes being brought into the Pauchui, similar changes are being brought to the Small Sàn-Shǒu. I will only give an example here of what is being called the ‘B-side’ to the Small Sàn-Shǒu! Let me state here categorically once and for all… there is no B-side to the Small Sàn-Shǒu! This once again is largely due to a lack of understanding, a fundamental lack of knowledge and a narcissistic need to justify a self-declared mastership. It also highlights non-progressional learning where many steps have been missed! The role of the ‘Wooden Man’ in the Small Sàn-Shǒu is fixed. Again, I have already explained this in earlier issues of Lift Hands. There is a reason why this role is fixed and we must return back to Xu’s quote above to understand the why? ‘For Taiji Boxing practitioners, there is a fixed process of progress. You cannot skip steps and rush ahead. The subtlety of Taiji Boxing all comes down to using energy. (This “energy” has to do with nimbleness and liveliness, comes from a deeper level of training, and cannot be explained only in terms of physical strength.) Although the energy is shapeless, it must be in accord with the shape of the technique in order for you to start to be able to manifest it…’ Xu's statement should be self-explanatory, in order for us to understand the 'shapeless energy’ of the dynamic we must move in 'accord with the shape’ of the dynamic - only then will be able to ‘manifest it’! I have substituted the term ‘technique’ with ‘dynamic’ in my explanation for that is what Xu is referring to. The Small Sàn-Shǒu is the epitomy of The Thirteen Dynamics and it is the Wooden Man who ensures that we move ‘in accord with the shape’ of the dynamic! If the Wooden Man starts to do his own thing as is happening with those who are practicing this absurd B-side, then the practitioner of the Small Sàn-Shǒu will not learn what they are supposed to! Already, I, along with a host of other instructors, including Peter Jones, are witnessing a degradation in the Small Sàn-Shǒu - Erle’s hard
work is simply being rapidly unravelled! Furthermore, we have clear evidence that we are not meant to add to the Small Sàn-Shǒu beyond what already exists within it. For example, after you have studied and developed the Sàn-Shǒu, we are then introduced to the ‘Mother Applications’ - now whilst we are told of the importance of these and how they help us develop and understand the Sàn-Shǒu further on a more practical combative level - we are never to add these to the Small Sàn-Shǒu itself. This is an explicit instruction! Why? Because it will take away from what the Sàn-Shǒu itself has to teach in abstract. There is, however, what we call the ‘Advanced Small Sàn-Shǒu’! This is where we ‘test’ our training partner and the Wooden Man must do a bit more. However, even here the Wooden Man must maintain his/her own structure as they must now block the defenders attacks with a forwards intent - testing angle, power and root. This method is usually only done with the opening salvos of the Sàn-Shǒu - initially in order and then randomized [I will be covering this in more detail in my Unlocking The Small Sàn-Shǒu serialization]. It is often argued that with each generation if the pool is not refreshed with new water, then it will become stagnant and die! Whilst this is true to an extent, it comes with a large caveat - you need to know what water your pool is made up of? Is it freshwater or saltwater, or even a cesspit and is it in need of new water? Remember the definition for change above and the phrase ‘If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’. Often changes are introduced unnecessarily. The world of martial arts is full of massive egos. In a world where egos are meant to be tempered through selfdevelopment, sadly the modern martial artists tend to be anything but! One only has to see the match ups in the UFC and other pugilist sports to see the egos and disrespect on offer towards rivals! And, quite often, it is these very egos which compel us to add or subtract from the arts unnecessarily. That Erle only ‘changed’ one thing is very clear and if you can’t see that then you have no comprehension of how the system works and what Erle was teaching. Of course, over the years, Erle - as any good teacher would - devised a variety of methods to teach the form and its principles to his students. If required, he would strip a move down to its bare essentials and teach it by gradually adding the components back progressively in order to help his students. It is for this reason why you will see Erle teaching the same movement differently on some videos - he wasn’t changing it, he was breaking it down to make it easier to learn! The problem here is that when you lack education and the ability for problem solving - something that most children will have developed as early as their primary schooling - and also have not done all your training from the foundations upwards - you simply lack the skill and information to be able to differentiate between progression and change - as well as the fact that there are huge chunks missing from your knowledge! But, rather than admit to the fact that you do not have all the knowledge, it is far easier to claim that the knowledge possessed by others isn’t real, or that it is irrelevant [because Erle was no longer training like that - a claim I shall show to be ludicrous in the final segment] and that it was made up by Erle in order to amuse his students who wanted ‘secrets’!
This leads me onto the next segment. ‘Erle-isms’ Much of what Erle said or stated is often viewed as something unique! By this I mean that folk view Erle’s work as something apart from the rest of the Taiji world or ‘Erle-isms’ - this couldn't be further from the truth! Erle pretty much stuck to the Classics and not only that but also stuck close to Yang family teachings! The reason why most folk, including his own students don’t recognize this is because they are not familiar with or have not bothered with studying the history of their art - and one other simple fact… Erle, being an Australian, would often try to demystify or simplify the jargon of Taiji using Aussie vernacular. In this segment, I shall highlight a few of these ‘Erle-isms’ and show that there was nothing unique about his teachings - in fact, what was unique was that whilst most of Taiji’s teachings are literally spread out over thousands of words in many different tomes across the decades - Erle’s teachings brought them all under one roof! Those who spent any time with Erle or learning from his videos will have come across some if not all of the following - prepare to be surprised at the source! A note: In most cases I’ve quoted Erle ad verbatim, whilst in others I’ve written them down as he mentioned them in class. So, they may not be exactly as you heard them word for word in class or on videos but, the gist is the same! Erle: ‘I recommend that at each practice session you do the form three times: once for the bones, muscles, and sinews; once for the mind; and once for the spirit.’ ‘If you wish to develop real skill, you should with each practice session go through the set at least three times. The first is just for stretching out your sinews and bones. With the second and further repetitions, you will then be able to develop skill… Once you have become skillful with the whole thing, and essence, energy, and spirit are all able to manifest…’ Chen Yanlin - 1943 Erle: ‘The Post - The singular most important exercise in one's internal training… These two exercises give every thinkable internal body movement for self defense… they teach you about balance, timing and yin and yang coordination. And more importantly how to 'sink the Qi’.' ‘Practicing maintaining the central ground in fighting (Commonly called standing like a Post).’ Yang Banhou - 1875 Erle: ‘Never step backwards!’ ‘Sticking is the energy of not coming away, of staying forward. It is the most important fundamental energy in Taiji Boxing…’ Chen Yanlin - 1943 Erle: ‘Imagine a large chain, it would very difficult to lift it up. Now imagine placing that chain into a hollow tube, the links would fold and stack above each other… thus making it easier to handle’ ‘Think of an iron pole weighing a thousand pounds. Every bit of it is heavy, but if you are very strong you can lift it up with one grab. Then consider an iron chain weighing only a hundred pounds. Even if you are very strong you cannot lift it up with one grab because it is separated into many sections.’ Gu Ruzhang - 1936 Erle: When you take someone's arm and prop it up, you'll feel that it is light and not heavy. That is because the person is not relaxed, the arm contains tension. When you are relaxed, your arm should be heavy - just like lifting someone's arm whilst they are asleep.’ [Note; Erle taught a simple drill to help teach and test the above concept of heaviness and sung.]
'Heaviness is produced by practicing liveliness of the joints. A person stands straight, arms hanging, and I use my hand to prop up his arm. If I feel his arm is heavy and yet is not the weight of his whole arm, it is because his mind is unconsciously influencing his arm and lightening it for me. If I pick up the arm of a person who is sound asleep, I will of course find it to be much heavier. This is because there is no unconscious influence upon the arm and the joints are naturally relaxed. If I then use a hand to prop up the arm of a martial arts expert, I will indeed feel it to be about the same kind of heaviness as that of the sleeping person.' Wu Zhiqing - 1943 Erle: ‘Balance is the most important area of one’s training. I do not mean however, that we can simply stand on one leg. I mean that all of our six balanced pairs of organs and corresponding body parts are balanced out as far as yin and yang Qi or energy is concerned. So when the hands for instance are balanced with the feet, we will have an equal amount of yin and yang energy in these parts… Hands & Feet should be balanced; Knees and Elbows should be balanced; Shoulders and Hips should be balanced; CV1 (Point at the base of the torso between the anus and sexual organs) & The Crown of the Head; Buttocks & Axilla should be balanced; Coccyx & Back of the Skull should be balanced.’ ‘The “six arteries” are the six unions: mind united with intent, intent united with energy, energy united with power, hand united with foot, elbow united with knee, and shoulder united with hip [the “arteries” being the imaginary conduits by which they unite].’ Gu Ruzhang - 1936 Erle: ‘In attacking forwards breathe out, in attacking backwards breathe in. In lifting upward breathe in and in placing the foot or stepping downward breathe out.’ ‘Inhale when your hand goes out and exhale when your hand gathers in, inhale when rising and exhale when lowering, inhale when lifting and exhale when sinking, inhale when opening and exhale when closing.’ Chen Yanlin - 1943 Erle: ‘Lightly grip the ground with your toes…’ ‘While your toes grip the ground, your upper body bends like a bow.’ Gu Ruzhang - 1936 Erle: ‘My opponent attacks me but I hit him first!’ ‘Once there is the slightest movement, I respond [by seeking the stillness within movement of the merging net force which can be taken advantage of]. It is like the saying goes: “Second to shoot but first to hit the target.”’ Xu Yusheng - 1921 ‘If he takes no action, I take no action, but once he takes even the slightest action, I have already acted.’ Yang Cheng-fu - 1931 Erle: ‘The attack begins as soon as he moves - even in the slightest - hit him! That way you do not need to worry about the type of attack!’ ‘The speed of your movement should be based on the speed of the opponent’s. If you want to know his speed, you must first watch for the pivotal moment his power moves, then you will be able to respond appropriately… As long as I catch the timing, it does not matter what the opponent does, for countless variations are based upon that single principle, and so I hold to it, controlling the variations by making them return to their single basis.’ Xu Yusheng - 1921
Erle: ‘The Qi, (ch’i) springs from the feet, (Kidney Point No. 1) is directed by the waist and is manifested in the fingers.’ ‘Starting from your foot, issue through your leg, directing it at your waist, and expressing it at your fingers.’ Gu Ruzhang - 1936
Erle: Walk like a cat, carefully and softly, so that if there is danger you are able to take that foot back. Step like a cat and move energy as if drawing silk. Tian Zhenfeng - 1931 Erle: 'The waist is like a fan… if you throw shit at it, it will fly back out immediately with great force in all directions !' ‘It rotates like a flywheel. Throw an object at it and it will immediately be hurled over ten feet away.’ Wu Zhiqing - 1943 Erle: 'In checking our stances we must remember the nose, knees, toes rule!’ 'Stance training develops a balance that is commonly called “crotched energy”, meaning that when standing like a horsehitching post, you must straighten your spine, settle your waist, suspend your head, have a vertical line from nose to knee to toes, and stabilize your center, and you will thereby maintain balance’. Wu Zhiqing - 1943 Erle: 'As we advance our Bow stance [Gōng Bù] will adjust slightly. We never put our foot down with our toes pointing straight - you must turn the front toes in slightly!’ (See image left). ‘“Wrap your crotch and cover your genitals as you step with the five elements.” “To 'wrap your crotch’ means the toes of your front foot are slightly turned inward. Your knees have an intention of slightly joining together, thereby “covering” your genitals. The “five elements” means the five kinds of steps: advancing, retreating, stepping to the left, stepping to the right, and staying in the center. These are the fundamental stepping methods in the Taiji boxing art. In the center you are stable. Your left foot and right foot can alternate steps. Advance and retreat smoothly.” ‘ Dong Huling - 1956 I could go on and show that every single major utterance by Erle on the subject of Taijiquan has its basis in the Taiji Classics or the teachings of the Yangs themselves - at least the ‘old’ Yangs. But, I feel that I have provided sufficient evidence for the diligent and intelligent reader with which to continue their studies. Bear in mind that the names are those of the document authors - students like myself who bothered to make notes and study these students are not the source of the original material, the original material predates them and is based on oral tradition in the form of songs from the Yangs themselves or even earlier sources!
This leads me nicely onto the final segment - The Classics.
The Taiji Classics Late last year, as I returned back home after teaching in Cyprus, my flight was delayed for almost an hour. As we sat on the plane, the captain kindly kept us updated on the reason for the delay. Apparently, the weather forecasts showed that we were going to be flying into some very strong headwinds. According to the captain this meant that he needed to take on more fuel. However, it was not simply a case of sticking extra fuel into the tank. He informed us that he had to calculate the extra amount of fuel he required based upon the load he was carrying, the distance we were traveling and the strength of the headwinds ahead. Once he had calculated how much extra fuel he needed, the paperwork would then be passed onto the ground staff, who would then check his calculations and provide the fuel. Once the extra fuel was loaded, paperwork would then be sent back to the cockpit for the captain to check and sign off. If all was well then we were ready to fly! Before each landing and take off, no matter how experienced the pilots, they must always work to a checklist. This is to ensure that every single parameter has been checked and rechecked for a safe flight… this checklist is critical - the Taiji Classics are the checklist for the Taiji practitioner and are just as critical! A couple of months back I was sent a post which appeared online with apparent evidence from a book written by Erle in which his teacher Chang Yiu-chun states that the Classics were not important and that he hadn’t even heard about them whilst training with Yang Shou-hou! This was offered as evidence by the author to show that the Classics were not required nor needed to be known to teach Taiji! I would simply ask any reader with even an iota of common sense… would you fly in a plane in which this fool of a pilot announced that he didn’t need to perform any checks or require any manuals which may help him get out of trouble should he encounter a problem? I’d say that the answer is obvious! However, I shall entertain this quote and provide a rebuttal to this foolishness! First, let’s read the quote in question: ‘Chang: Yes, I have read those things [classics] once or twice. My teacher [Yang Shou-hou] never even told me about them. It was long after he died that I was given a book with some words written in about taijiquan, that I knew about these classics. No, I never took much notice of them. If one has learned correctly, then one does not need such classics…' This quote is taken from Erle's book Advanced Dim-Mak - The Finer Points of Death-Point Striking, published in 1994. In it Erle tells us that, “My own ideas on the classics come from those of Chang Yiu-chun. His ideas on just about everything were just about as radical as one could get where taiji was concerned.” Now, taken at face value, Chang’s statement appears to be perfectly straightforward and simple as does Erle’s… or is it? Well, let’s dissect it and give it context. First and foremost, it is not my aim here to discuss the origins nor the authorship of the Classics - that would require a whole separate series of articles in themselves - nor is it my intention to argue how or where they were found! What’s important here is to place them in context of their historical importance! In order to that we must go to the very beginning of the history of Yang style Taijiquan. I shall try to be as brief as possible and only mention the critical points.
1. It is an accepted historical fact that Yang Lu-ch’an trained in the Chen village - Ch’en-chia-kou. 2. According to Professor Douglas Wile in his book Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions: ‘If we cannot be certain of the early phase of t’ai-chi’s genesis and transmission, scholars generally agree that the goods must somehow be delivered to or developed by the Ch’en family of Ch’en Village (Ch’en-chia-kou), Honan, where they were picked up by Yang Fu-k’uei (Lu-ch’an, 1799-1872). 3. Professor Wiles further informs us that: ‘Yang… returned to Ch’ang-hsing for advanced instruction. Ch’ang-hsing gave him the transmissions of Chang Sang-feng, Chiang Fa and Wang Tsung-yüeh, and Lu-ch’an, realising the Taoist origins of the art, journeyed to the Wu-tang Mountains in search of a master. It was here that he studied… the soft aspect of martial arts and invented push-hands. Returning to the world as a consummate martial artist, he was introduced by Wu Yü-hsiang in Peking.’ 4. Erle Montaigue in his book, The Old Yang Style of Taijiquan, published in 2000, tells us: ‘One of Chang’s main students, Wang Tsung-yueh was a scholar and wrote down what he had learnt. This treatise was then put away and handed down through his family as a piece of funny old writing until a man called Yang Lu-ch’an who had been studying at the Chen Style Martial Arts village came across it… when he either found or was given a copy of Wang’s treatise…He finally invented what we now know as the Yang Luch’an form of Taijiquan.’ Simply put, and you’d have to have serious learning difficulties to come to any other conclusion, both Erle and Wile totally agree that you must place a series of “transmissions” or a “treatise” in to the hands of Yang Lu-ch’an without which there can be NO Yang Taijiquan! The pertinent document here is ‘The Taiji Boxing Treatise of Wang Tsung-yüeh of Shanxi,’ sometimes also referred to as ‘Great Pole Boxing: The Theory’! An important observation to make here is that in neither Erle’s reference nor that of Wile are these documents referred to as the Classics - in other words in Yang’s time they were simply referred to as “transmissions” or as the document of Wang clearly denotes - a “treatise” defined as ‘a written work dealing formally and systematically with a subject’! So, it is safe to conclude that the term ‘Classics’ is a much later denotation and certainly wasn’t used by Yang himself! Straight away we have a major problem with Chang’s statement given above. First, the documents in question not only date back to Yang Lu-ch’an’s lifetime itself, ALL historians including Erle Montaigue - agree that without them there is no Yang style! So, for Chang to say that they hold no importance “if one has learned correctly,” holds no sway! Yang Lu-ch’an certainly needed them and not only that, they have been a part of Yang family teachings ever since! Further, Chang claims that Shou-hou had “never even told me about them,” and that he had been given a book long after his teachers death, and that’s how “he knew about these classics.” We are again left with a dilemma on our hands. If Chang indeed studied with Shou-hou [and he did], then it is an absolute impossibility that he would not have been familiar with the Treatise of Wang Tsung-yüeh, since this is literally the ‘Bible’ of Yang Taiji! The entirety of Taiji’s principles are to be found in its words and further still, Yang Shou-hou died in 1930 at the age of 68 years old, having headed his family for 13 years after the death of his father Yang Jian-hou in 1917. Now these dates are important! Why? Because in 1921, during the lifetime of Yang Shou-hou, his father’s student Xu Yusheng published the first known commercial book on Taijiquan containing the treatises in question, along with other Yang family songs. This is confirmed by Douglas Wile, who tells us that: ‘The earliest published form manuals based on the Yang transmission were not of Yang authorship. Hsü Yüsheng, a student of Chien-hou and founder during the late Ch’ing of the Peking Physical Education Research Institute, published what must be considered the first modern manual on t’ai-chi ch’üan in 1921…’
The dilemma here for Chang Yiu-chun is that Xu [pictured left taken from his book The Illustrated Manual of T’ai-chi Ch’üan] had also trained with and was a student of Yang Shou-hou [and routinely accompanied Shou-hou on his travels when he was teaching] - in other words he was a contemporary and classmate of Chang! Not only that, but Xu acknowledges Shou-hou as one of the sources for his advanced information and later would go on to write a book on Yang Shou-hou’s teaching methods with his permission! So, we have a book existing within Shou-hou’s lifetime, with his blessing which became well known in Shanghai’s martial arts fraternity which Chang knows northing about? The problems with Chang’s statement as it appears in 1994 don’t end here nor does the predicament of the self-proclaimed master who is trying to use it to misguide others from his own lack of knowledge!
Xu Yusheng 1879-1945
I will now provide evidence of a whole litany of quotes by both Chang Yiu-chun and Erle Montaigue to the contrary of the quote above. In his article, Conversations With Chang Yiu-chun, Erle Montaigue writes:
‘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. Erle: What did your initial training consist of? Chang: As I was already an inner student, I was introduced to the houses. Erle: The houses? What is that? Chang: 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.’ Erm… Do you spot the problem or do I need to spell it out? I’ll spell it out! In 1978, Chang qualifies himself as an “inner student” being taught by Shou-hou “direct transmission from his Grandfather [Yang Lu-ch’an] which taught the highest levels of the style. The movements... adhere strictly to the Old Classic writings.” So, not only was Chang aware of the Classics, but that Yang Shou-hou had taught him adhering strictly to the writings! But, it doesn’t end with that! Further, Erle asks: ‘Erle: Is there any of the Classic Lessons that you have learnt that really are your favourite? Chang: I think the saying of a very small weight defeats a very large weight (4 oz defeats 4000 lbs) and you have to have it with the other one; a feather cannot land on you without your body knowing it.’
So, not only does Chang know of the Classics and has been taught according to them - he even has a couple of favourites! There’s more… in a further article on Chang, based upon an interview between him and ‘Mr. Hu from China Wushu Magazine. This article is a follow-on from Fighting T'ai Chi issue June 1990.’ We are told: 'H: How does the Yang style look to the Chan (Chen) style? C: Many people know that the Yang style was born out of the Chan (Chen) style. This is true in a sense because Yang Lu-sum began his training at Chen Chia-goh (the Chen Village) but it must be remembered that Yang was not satisfied with his training from the Chens and so he began to change the style to what I know as the Yang style. H: Why did Yang change the Chan style? C: We believe that Yang found an old writing about the Original T'ai Chi Ch'uan and after reading this he did not think that it was like what he had learnt. This original writing was taken right back to the beginning of T'ai Chi Ch'uan and spoke of forbidden subjects.’ The above article originally appeared in 1983 and was taken from interview which appeared in the China Wushu Magazine in the mid to late 70s before being republished in 1990! So now, we have absolute proof that not only did Chang know of the Classics and was taught them but that he was also familiar with the story of Yang Lu-ch’an’s direct connection with them and the creation of his style! Now let us turn our attention to Erle… This is what Erle, in his own words has to say about the Classics and Chang: How To Use Taiji & Bagwa For Fighting ©1983 Erle Montaigue Chapter 4 The Classics Page ‘All one has to do is to read the classics to find the answers. If you do not find the answers then you just aren’t ready to be given the answers. 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.’ Further, in the article Chang Yiu-chun Bits and Pieces, Erle tells us: ‘Everything that Chang said to me then, I am now able to relate both to the 'classics' and to modern science… 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.’ And finally on the Treatise of Wang Tsung-yüeh, Erle states: ‘Take great notice of what Wang has to say as it is his legacy to us all. But do not take it lightly or think that you understand it, you will forever in your own training return to these words and find more and more hidden within them.’
So, we can clearly see that the one statement offered as ‘proof’ that the Classics are not important is problematic indeed and in total contradiction to every other statement provided. In fact, we have to honestly question the integrity of both Chang Yiu-chun and Erle Montaigue. Which statement is correct, why the contradictions since certainly the evidence pointing to the importance of the Classics far outweighs the one which has been offered? I could simply end the article here and let the phony masters explain the contradictions to their ‘sheep’. No doubt they would come up with some far-fetched theory [they always do despite the facts staring them in the face] and their sheep would bleat approvingly, however, this is not only about my teacher’s legacy but also about the art! It is incumbent that a good teacher provides an answer - an honest answer based upon facts. So, I shall offer a Coup de grâce to these fake masters - however, before proceeding, I shall remind the reader of Yang Cheng-fu’s quote at the beginning: ‘In boxing arts, what is taught or not taught is entirely up to the student rather than the teacher…’ In all the years that I trained with Erle Montaigue, the one thing on which he consistently stressed was the Classics. His mantra was simple… “Does your Taiji - regardless of style - adhere to the Classics? If not, then it’s not Taiji!” So, which one of the statements above by both Chang and Erle is the correct one? The answer is simply - both! I shall expand. The Classics were something Erle and I had talked a lot about and I had especially asked him regarding that specific statement many years earlier before the present nescient could even construct a coherent sentence about Taiji! Erle's reply to me was rather simple and then when I re-read it with his answer in mind it made perfect sense He said [taken from my own personal notes with Erle]: ‘Nas, Chang and I are talking about modern interpretation and commentaries those which came much later, representing the thoughts of the later ‘masters’ who knew next to nothing about the old original Taiji! Today everyone refers to them as the Classics, almost reverentially like the works of Confucius, however, much has been added to them. The original consisted only of the treatise of Wang and a handful of songs through which the Yangs passed their knowledge.’ So, lets put this to the test.
Demonstrating ‘single-double push hands with Erle in Rostock, Germany, 2006
Note that in the original quote of Chang’s he talks about books given to him “long after” the death of Shou-hou. Yang Shou-hou died in 1930, so how long is ”long after” - ten, fifteen, twenty years? Take your pick… but one thing is for sure they would have been post Yang Cheng-fu’s modifications and the subsequent proliferation of the various simplified forms! Further, if we re-read Chang’s statement on the houses, we find that he clearly refers to “Old Classic writings”.
In other words, he is already making a distinction in 1978 between “Old Classic writings” and those that came “long after” the death of his teacher Yang Shou-hou - indeed he never knew about them nor paid any attention to them! This old and later connection is also confirmed in his interview with Mr Hu in which he again refers to the Classics as ‘an old writing about the Original T'ai Chi Ch’uan'! [Bear in mind that Chang’s English was very poor, so Erle’s notes with Chang are partially fleshed out by him, however, the interview appearing in the China Wushu Magazine would have been conducted in Mandarin and later translated into English - so it would appear to confirm Erle’s notes.] Erle, too, corroborates this in his commentary on Wang's treatise: 'The following is all that we have from the original classics of Taijiquan or H'ao Ch'uan. Many have tried to translate them and have not done these classics and service or their writer! To write about this particular classic, one must be well versed in the advanced areas of the art. You cannot lay this classic over basic form! It was meant as a guide for those just beginning to understand the more advanced principles of Taijiquan boxing. If you look deeply into what is said (the fine print), you will uncover many great ideas not only about boxing but also about life in general. Like the fact that most beginners never see the woods for the trees, always searching for something better on the other side! Or thinking that they know it all because they have been practicing for fifteen years, when at that small amount of time really know nothing!’ Douglas Wile also confirms that: ‘The core classics in these editions (by their Yang transmission titles) the “T’ai-chi Ch’üan Classic,” Wang Tsung-yüeh’s Treatise on T’ai-chi Ch’üan,” “The Song of the Thirteen Postures,” “The Mental Elucidation of the Practice of T’ai-chi Ch’üan,” and “The Song of Sparring.” And Erle clearly laments the problem with translations in his book on the Old Yang Style: ‘We are left with much written and oral information relating to the practice of Taijiquan. This information was often written down or told in the form of verse which then had to be firstly translated into English and then further translated into something that we Westerners could understand. The problem rose when Chinese scholars who knew a little about Taijiquan and who had not perhaps risen to a high level themselves, began to directly translate the Classics. Some of them came out totally wrong while others just sounded silly! We must remember that these Classics were written by masters who had already come to the very peak of their knowledge and training and wrote what they were feeling from that perspective. So when someone who discovers Taijiquan for the first time, picks up a book of ‘Classics’, they either take every word literally or they do not understand a word of it, even though it is written in their own language. I have asked friends, one of whom was the Chief of English studies at the London University in Hong Kong to translate certain works and he even had a difficult time as he was not up on the Internal martial arts idiom.’ I have to concur with Erle above. I have my own students from mainland China, currently studying their Phd’s here in the UK, and they struggle to translate some of the works which I have given them! More importantly, Xu Yusheng in his 1921 book confirms the problem with translation already way back then: ‘There are several versions of the Taiji Boxing Classic that have been passed down to us, but due to all the re-transcribing of the text, with words getting transposed for other slightly different words, it is hard to distinguish which version is correct. In 1912, I asked the scholar Guan Baoqian to analyze the versions and determine the correct text. Recently my organization has established a physical education school, where he gives lessons in his spare time. [I asked for his help] because I seek to present the Classic in its original form, and I have also added commentary to it. As for the postures of the solo set, I have included drawings and explanations with which to instruct you. In order to deal with what is easy before tackling what is hard, take it one step at a time.’ More so, Xu’s text above reveals that as far back as 1912, almost a decade before his book came into publication, he was looking to “determine the correct text” because he sought to “present the Classic in its original form.” The importance of the Taiji Classics cannot be overstated. As I’ve already said, it is the check-list of Taijiquan and there is no teacher in history who has ever said that they hold no relevance and are not required to be studied bar the current fool!
I will leave the final word on the matter to Erle himself: ‘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.’ Reflex Violence - The Way of Internal Gung-fu, The Erle Montaigue System (2000)
In Conclusion I hope that I have made clear to the readers the difference between progression and change and shown Erle’s ‘isms’ to be nothing more then the traditional Yang teachings from antiquity. Far more importantly, I hope that I have laid to rest the nonsense of not needing to know the Classics! He only made one alteration to the main Yang form based upon knowledge accessed in China - not on a whim or the fact that he struggled doing a movement and the same is true of the Pauchui! The rest is all progression, or teaching methodology - nothing more nothing less! Since Erle’s death, his work and knowledge have been belittled by none other then his own progeny! Erle stands accused of not explaining things properly, to not have fully investigated the form and also, to have made things up - such as the Houses! When these are the words of your supposed legacy, I’d hate to see the words of his enemies! Remember this was a man who travelled around the world and trained with, learned from, exchanged ideas with and gained the respect from the likes of Chang Yiu-chun, Fu Zhongwen, Yang Shou-chung, Liang Shih-kan, Chu King-hung, Wang Xing-Wu, Ho-ho Choy, Kung Guo-Wu, Shao Shan Kan, Wan Wu-Tien, Antonio Illustrisimo, Iri Rangi, Wong Shun Leung, Danny Inosanto, Keiji Tomiyama and Terry O’Neil to name but a handful! Rest assured though, that these words come from a severe lack of knowledge, training and understanding. It is far better to accuse the dead and others of making things up then acknowledging a simple fact - that you don’t know! Erle never declared any one of his progeny to be ‘masters’ or even close, nor did he declare any one of them to be the final and only authority on his system and work! Such claims are the result of a delusional narcissistic mind based upon conversations in dreams - not reality [yes, you have read that right]! Much of the current claims from length of training to development are falsehoods and lies and it doesn’t take much scratching of the surface to find the truth behind the ego. In a recent interview I discussed the myth of lineages. A lineage does not necessarily translate into knowledge or understanding. A person sharing the same name as Einstein [through blood or otherwise], or being taught by him doesn’t automatically inherit his intelligence or knowledge! Yang Cheng-fu himself provides an answer as to why some students turn out better than others? ‘Because everyone has a different nature, a different degree of intelligence, a different capacity to understand the principles. Also because Taiji theory is rather deep and takes more than one lesson to grasp. Since progress is a step-by-step process…’ And there we have that word again - progress!
A while before he passed away, Erle wrote to me lamenting that he was casting pearls before swine - such was his disappointment with his students. They were simply failing to understand what he was teaching - primarily through laziness, lack of commitment or learning progressively! We talked at length about this. He didn’t just talk to myself regarding this - he also contacted other personal students and friends and spoke to them too. At the time I thought he was being a bit harsh, although I could see exactly where he was coming from. Today, I agree with him wholeheartedly! Not only are students being told to discard training methods as being obsolete [because Erle wasn’t doing them at the time of his death or that they were from the 80s - as if to say that the art we practice is current and new], but those who are advocating that you cannot progress without them are being labelled as some kind of Erle ‘cultists’ or ‘loyalists’ struggling to let go and putting him on a pedestal! Far from it, Erle was a regular bloke, warts and all! Those of us who truly knew him and with whom he could be Erle, and talk about anything, accepted him for what he was faults [and there were many just like we all have] included! There is no hero-worship here. Again, rather then admit that they lack the training or do not understand the method it’s easier to discard these as unimportant or irrelevant - just like the Classics!
Demonstrating the figure 4 choke from Taiji’s grappling using squeeze.
There is an old Chinese saying that, ‘Every man gets the teacher they deserve!’ I remember the pride in Erle’s eyes when I started to study his 35 Weeks training. I remember the questions that this training raised and his answers [I have them written down in my notes]. His fine tuning of some of the training methods, expanding further upon others which included grappling and throwing! It has taken me over two years to sift through these to produce the Houses alone - the things he supposedly made up! Within his own lifetime, Erle ensured the survival of his system and methodology. He knew which of his real students he could trust with the goods and to them ALL he gave freely. Those students spanned the continents. Sadly some have departed already but the knowledge still remains for the diligent student who is willing to work hard. This is not the first time and nor will it be the last when upon the death of a prolific teacher his ‘lineage’ have exaggerated their own training claims. When Cheng-fu became the head of the Yang family, it was proclaimed that Cheng-fu had trained with his grandfather Yang Lu-ch’an only for it to be eventually pointed out to the impossibility of this since Lu-ch’an had died 11 years before Cheng-fu’s birth! Yet, in 2019 this is still published in literature despite it being a lie! 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 and for that reason are not as well known. Hsiung was one of those who did not affiliate himself with Yang Cheng-fu so is not well know for that reason… There are 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… the alleged "Official" history is revised liberally depending on who is telling the stories.” From the May T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Wellness Newsletter.:”Hsiung Yang-Ho's San Shou Form"
Erle, himself acknowledged Hsiung Yang-ho as a “classmate” of his teacher Chang Yiu-chun! Sadly, Kurland’s words still ring true! These do however, raise a simple question… why is it that the words of Erle’s students - those who were acknowledged in his lifetime, by Erle himself, as being his most prolific now being represented as falsehoods or unimportant? The answer should be obvious to any with even an iota of common sense! Knowledge, skill and expertise are not the possession of blood… they are treasures that a teacher passes to all those who are worthy based upon the level of ability of the student concerned and his or her understanding! This has always been the way - you cannot hide from this truth. This is not about any one person - this is about the art itself and knowledge - and faithful transmission! It is time to let the ‘Old Tower’ rest. His legacy and his hard won knowledge deserve better. If my words appear harsh… they are meant to be and I do not apologize for them one bit! Summer camp 2009 in Leicester.
‘To me, my path, to you - yours!’
I’ll let my teacher Erle Montaigue and Yang Cheng-fu have the last word with regard to progressional training and authentic transmissions below, as well as a warning to the fools who think that they alone know or possess the authority… ‘When any of you train in boxing arts, be it Wudang or Shaolin, after you have succeeded in it, be sure not to forget about other people and become presumptuously proud. It is often said that, “There’s always somebody better” and “after every skilled person you meet, there’s another one”. This truth is simply the way of things.’ Yang Cheng-fu: Taijiquan Shiyong Fa - Methods of Applying Taiji Boxing
‘It is my belief that as a teacher, I should not only teach what I know but also how I know. I have seen too many instructors trying to teach what they know at their advanced level to beginners and have failed in their teaching obligation. Obviously, a person who has risen to a higher level in life has arrived at that point by learning certain things and it is those things that I must teach my students. I must teach them HOW I came to this point in my own training so that they too might benefit from the wonderful training methods that I have undertaken in my life. Many of those training methods go back thirty years and many I have since forgotten or no longer train in myself. However, being a stickler for documentation of everything I have ever learnt, it is all there in the written word or later in film and video when these documentation tools became available to me. So I am able to draw upon many different sources in order now to document formally all of those training methods that I have found useful over the years…’ Erle Montaigue
‘It is certain that boxing methods from ancient times have not been passed down faithfully. People may move on from their teachers, but if as time passes they are still able to remember what their teachers have passed down, it is certain the true transmission will survive.’ Yang Cheng-fu
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within the ability of hand methods. When striking with the fist qi is to be directed through the wrist and into the region of softness [the center of the palm]. To achieve this it is essential that the fist be only lightly clenched. The four fingers curl inwardly as if embracing and halting the escape of a cricket. The thumb, in turn, curls with roundness [instead of stiffly bending] until finding rest upon the forefinger. This is the proper manner to hold the fist, qi can now pervade. From the wrist, past the pulses, held within the reservoir of the palm [the palmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s center], the qi is drawn into the
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