A Real-Life Use for Qigong -- Getting a Cardiac Stress Test

Pet Scan
The cardiac stress test machine was similar to this.

I went in to the hospital yesterday for a cardiac stress test. After a freak side-effect from a medical procedure nine years ago this month, my left pulmonary veins shut down, meaning my left lung is virtually useless. Doctors at Cleveland Clinic tried to stent one of the pulmonary veins, tore the vein and accidentally pierced my heart with the wire.

That set off complications that I have survived, barely it sometimes seems. But my chi is strong, right? Still, I sometimes have to get tests to make sure nothing is getting clogged up.

Cardiac stress tests have changed. They used to hook you up to electrodes and put you on a treadmill.

It's All in Vein

Now, they stick an IV in your arm, hook you up to electrodes and slide you into a tube, as if you're getting an MRI or something.

They pump radioactive crap into your vein and then take pictures. The new pictures are supposed to be a lot better than even the ones they took during my last cardiac stress test three or four years ago.

"Are you claustrophobic?" the nurse asked before sliding me into the tube.

"No," I replied.

But as they slid me in (my head remained partially out of the tube), they told me I would need to lie very still for about 30 minutes.

Me? Lie still for 30 minutes? Okay, I'll give it a shot, I thought.

How to do Qigong During a Test

I closed my eyes, relaxed, and began doing qigong.

Using reverse breathing, I put part of my mind on my Dan T'ien and focused on my breathing.

With each inhalation, I imagined air and energy coming into my body and collecting at the Dan T'ien.

Each time I exhaled, I felt my Dan T'ien growing warm.

It only seemed like a couple of minutes when the first set of pictures had been taken, but almost 10 minutes had passed.

I did the same thing during the second set of pictures. Relax, remain aware of everything around me, and put part of my mind on my breathing, Dan T'ien, and feeling of warmth.

Second set seemed like only a couple of minutes, too.

Shoot the Juice to Me, Bruce

Then the third set, when they pumped in the drug that made me feel as if I was exercising hard. I began breathing hard to keep up, but relaxed and just went with it. In my mind, I visualized doing Laojia Erlu.

Within a couple of minutes, the heavy breathing eased and before long, the test was over.

Qigong can help you in many ways.

If you are suddenly faced with a tense moment or a crisis, an unreasonable boss or an upset spouse, or someone cutting you off on the highway, you can relax, put part of your mind on your Dan T'ien and your breathing, and keep part of your mind focused on the problem at hand. 

I have found that this has helped me in many real-life situations that would normally result in stress and tension -- even when you get poked and shoved into a tube and pumped with radioactive chemicals.

So remember to do qigong during these moments, and shine on, with or without radioactivity. :)

-- by Ken Gullette

Check out Ken's Qigong DVD -- 90 minutes of exercises to help you remain centered and manage stress. 


William C.C. Chen's Daughter Says I Am Arrogant

Body MechanicsWilliam C.C. Chen's daughter called me arrogant the other day. She also mentioned "gossip," and implied that I do not understand what I was reading.

At first, I couldn't believe it. Then, I thought it was funny. But the more I thought about it, the more bizarre and creepy it became.

Here is what happened.

I pulled a book from my martial arts library this weekend: "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan," by William C.C. Chen.

Since body mechanics is something I am very interested in, and somewhat knowledgeable about, I wanted to read his take on it. 

I respect all teachers, unless they claim supernatural powers. I have always heard very good things about William C.C. Chen. His name is among the most famous of American tai chi teachers. You have to admire someone who has done so much to spread tai chi in America.

On the back of the book, he writes, "My book.....deals with the human body under the action of given forces and is based on practical physics such as body leverage and the hydraulic pressures which exist in our body."

Great! I opened the book and began to read it for his explanation of body mechanics.

The book is short. There is background on the art, including a disappointing section that attributes the origin of the art to Cheng San Feng, despite the fact that there is no evidence he existed. There seems to be a reluctance among some Yang style branches to admit that tai chi originated with the Chen family, although this book does mention Chen Changxing, who taught the family art to Yang Luchan.

I look at the "Cheng San Feng" legend to be mainly perpetuated by tai chi politics. Just admit the art originated in the Chen Village. What's the problem with that?

The book briefly discusses relaxation, tension and developing speed, but before long it goes into photos of William C.C. Chen's 60-movement form. A step-by-step approach, with instruction such as "Shift weight to left leg 100%. Turn body 45 degrees to the right. Turn left foot out on heel 90 degrees. Extend left palm forward slightly, facing down."

But there was nothing about body mechanics. 

I put a photo of the book cover on my Internal Fighting Arts Facebook page and commented on how the book contains no mention of body mechanics. I did not insult Master Chen personally, it was a post about a book called "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan" that does not discuss body mechanics.

Isn't that fair? It was a very short review to let people know not to buy this book if you are looking for information on body mechanics.

Apparently, Tiffany Chen did not think it was fair. One of her friends tipped her off to the post. She wrote:

"Everyone's entitled to their opinion... however, if you're only looking for the words "body mechanics". Body Mechanics requires understanding the actual physics of movement and weight shifting of the body. Not everyone can grasp everyone's else's ideas, especially in writing. But, given the popularity of my father's book as a learning tool for those studying Tai Chi, this is just somebody's opinion with a few other people who agree and they are entitled to express that. Life is always filled with a rainbow of perspectives. People like to talk and most often people like to talk down about the accomplishments of others because it makes them feel good. We all have our own medicine. Mine is listening, learning, always finding a reason to smile and moving on. Thank you for bringing this to my attention Brian Sherman. I was raised to only speak when there was something nice to say and just to work hard, so that's what I do. Gossip always reminds me of my Father's Golden Words."

I have always heard that her father is a very nice man. Another visitor to the Facebook page mentioned that her father never said a negative word about anyone. She replied:

"Yes, this is very true... his humble, golden nature is how he approaches anything and everything in life. He has never spoken a negative word about anyone ever and he never tolerates anyone speaking negatively about anyone else, he simply says "it's ok, maybe we just don't understand, doesn't mean anyone is wrong". I just don't appreciate the arrogance of those who will very opinionatedly speak on my father and our method without ever having met any of us or visited our school... it's quite a lofty thing to wear your eyes so high on your head. Then again, maybe this how people motivate themselves to do better than others, so if that is the goal here, then great. Perhaps I just don't understand..."

I was simply astounded, and so I asked Ms. Chen to let me know which parts of the book contained information about body mechanics and I would apologize if I was wrong, but she did not respond to my request.

I read her comments again, and realized that she did not directly address me. That struck me as incredibly passive-aggressive.

Then I went onto Amazon and checked out the user reviews of the book. There were some 2-star reviews that indicated there was nothing about body mechanics in the book.

For some reason, Ms. Chen had not replied to those people to tell them how arrogant they are for spreading "gossip."

Here is how a review works. You write a book, make a DVD, record a song, produce a movie or a play, and people review it. It is even better when someone who knows the subject (body mechanics of tai chi, for example) writes a review of it. Does the book live up to its title? Does the title even apply to the contents? Should tai chi students invest in the book?

A review typically serves as a heads-up to potential customers. It did not discuss her father personally or his "method." 

I studied Yang style for more than a decade. I won a gold medal at the 1990 AAU Kung Fu National Championships performing the Yang 24 form. I have studied Chen style and its body mechanics for nearly 20 years. That is a total of 30 years studying, practicing, competing with and teaching tai chi.

So here is how Ms. Chen could have responded to my short review that included no personal criticism of her father or his art whatsoever.

She should have said something like, "I am sorry my father's book did not meet your expectations. Let me suggest a couple of other of his books or videos that will have the information you are seeking."

And then tell me which books or videos have information on body mechanics.

The honest thing to do would be to admit, "Yes, the book is a lot more about the 60-movement form than it is about body mechanics." 

Boom! That would not be difficult, would it?

But martial arts is a lot like religion. Teachers become deities. If you dare criticize their work, you are seen as attacking them personally, along with each and every student. And this is especially true if you are an "outsider." It's us versus them, don't you know? We are the best and naturally, nobody else understands what we are doing. Right?

Shame on them. That attitude does nothing positive for your art, and it certainly does not honor your instructor.

I believe in real-world discussions, martial artist to martial artist. No instructor deserves to be stroked when they are phoning it in, and that includes any instructor. By the way, I have learned face-to-face from some Chen instructors whose DVDs contain virtually no real instruction. That is why I began making DVDs. I was tired of buying videos that left me with more questions than I had before. I was tired of tai chi books that delved more into woo-woo than reality. 

But the entire point of my post is very simple. If I buy a James Bond book, I expect 007 to make an appearance in the story. If I buy a book on refrigerator repair, I expect to get some pointers about how to fix my refrigerator. 

And if I buy a book called "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan," and body mechanics are not discussed, it is worth a heads-up to other potential buyers.

I still believe what I hear about William C.C. Chen being a nice man, but he should have called his book "Instruction for the 60-Movement Form" instead of "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan."

So, dear readers, would you like to learn about the body mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan?

You can learn about body mechanics in depth from Mike Sigman's videos and written materials. He was a major influence on me. And you won't find any woo-woo in his instruction.

You will also learn about body mechanics in depth in my Internal Strength and Silk-Reeling DVDs, and in every DVD that I produce. And if you don't like a purchase you make from me for any reason, even if you simply think I am ugly and my mother dresses me funny, just send it back and I will refund your money, and I will not criticize you personally. I will not call you arrogant, accuse you of gossip, or accuse you of not understanding what I am teaching.

No. When I receive negative critiques of my work, I think about it and think about how to make it better next time. And if the critique is accurate, as mine was, the honest response from someone who is secure about their art would be to say, "Yes, you might be right about that."

Wouldn't that be the type of emotional balance that would honor an art such as Tai Chi Chuan, and an instructor as accomplished as William C.C. Chen?

 


My Favorite Martial Arts Tournament Memory was When I Got My Butt Kicked by an Old Man

Ken Gullette tournament sparring
Ken Gullette in red, sparring and connecting in Keokuk, 2000.

A little old man kicked my butt at a tournament in Keokuk, Iowa in 2000, and it is one of my favorite memories from my years competing in martial arts tournaments.

It was a hot, August day in a gymnasium that was not air-conditioned. I had been out-pointed by a black belt from Georgia in a match for first place, so I was next paired with a nice old guy to fight for the third place trophy.

My opponent was short, feeble, very slow, left himself open, had slow reaction time, and could hardly get a kick above his own waist. He wore hearing aids in both ears.

I had seen him perform at the tournament at least two other times, but he never went home with a trophy. He didn't even come close. It was a fluke that we were put in the ring to fight for some hardware.

The center ref told us to bow to each other, then bow to him. He signaled us to begin.

In that moment, I felt a connection to my aging opponent. In other tournaments, I had encouraged him to stay with it, even though he competed and never won anything. It was great just to see him there, still plugging away despite not having the tools to succeed.

But now, for the first time, I was in a position where I had to dispatch him, and I had a surprising reaction to it. Or, considering my personal philosophy, not so surprising.

What would his children think; how proud would they be if at his age, and with his limitations, he brought home a martial arts trophy for sparring?

And how much would another trophy mean to me if I won under these circumstances? 

We touched gloves and the match began, and I approached him. He threw a kick, then a punch.

I could imagine his children bragging to his grandchildren, showing them the trophy he won late in life.

I didn't want to make it obvious. He needed to do some blocking, so I blocked some of his punches and threw a few that he blocked. Then I left my stomach open just a bit for a kick to land.

Two points.

The match resumed and I threw a kick for him to block. He threw a couple more kicks and one landed.

Two points.

At this point, I knew my students, who were in the stands recording the match, would be wondering what the heck was going on. And on the video, you can hear one of them give an "Awwwww," in frustration as my opponent got his second kick in.

We touch gloves and the match resumed. I needed to act a bit more desperate, so I came in with a little more energy, bouncing, threw a few quick punches that were easily blocked, and I kept my head out front and open. 

He landed a ridgehand for his fifth point.

The judges called it and had us bow to each other. My opponent and I slapped each other on the shoulder.

"Why?" my puzzled student asks on the video.

He found out why a few minutes later when I explained.

As I walked out of the ring, an Asian judge approached with tears in his eyes.

He slapped me on the back and said, "That was one of the most wonderful things I have ever seen."

I just nodded at him and said, "Thanks."

Later, a couple of other black belts came up and commented on the match, thanking me for displaying such sportsmanship.

But the best thing that happened was one week later, when I went to a large regional tournament in Dubuque, Iowa. One of the more prominent black belts, Ken Dunkle of Dyersville, was standing across the large high school gymnasium when I walked in carrying my gear and my weapons.

I watched as Mr. Dunkle walked across the gym, directly at me, like a man on a mission. When he reached me, he stuck out his hand.

"I heard what you did last week in Keokuk," he said, warmly shaking my hand. "I just want to tell you that I think it was great."

I don't remember exactly how I replied. I was probably surprised and just said thanks, it was nothing, glad to do it.

Attitudes seemed to change towards me at the tournament that day. I could feel a greater sense of respect from my black belt peers.

I always tried to have fun in martial arts tournaments. When my opponent landed a good punch or kick, I congratulated them right there in the ring. I didn't try to brush it off or act as if it didn't happen, as some competitors do to try and fool the judges. And I did not get angry. I never got angry.

No, I felt that if someone scored on me, they were pretty good, and I appreciated their skill.

Sometimes, I would joke in the ring. At least once, a younger, faster opponent would score, and I would take out my mouthpiece and loudly say, "He's young and fast. I HATE that." And the judges would all laugh.

It is a lot more fun for everyone, whether it is at a tournament or in the workplace or at home, to enjoy yourself, help everyone else enjoy themselves, and not take yourself too seriously. Good things happen when you get out of your head and connect with others.

Do you live your philosophy or is it all about you?

I have won a lot of trophies in a lot of tournaments -- in forms, weapons and sparring. But I think my warmest memory comes from the day in August, 2000 when I got my butt kicked by an old man in Keokuk, Iowa. That was the day I saw a judge with tears of gratitude in his eyes, and I saw an old man take home a shiny trophy to show his grandchildren.

I think I won that day, too.

 



TRY TWO WEEKS FREE ON KEN GULLETTE'S INTERNAL ARTS WEBSITE! MORE THAN 800 VIDEO LESSONS AND EBOOKS!

 


The Martial Arts Teacher -- New Book by Jonathan Bluestein is a Great Addition to Your Library

Martial Arts Teacher BookJonathan Bluestein has written a new book about being a martial arts teacher: The Martial Arts Teacher: A Practical Guide to a Noble Way.

I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of the book. It is a great addition to your martial arts library, just like his earlier masterpiece, Research of Martial Arts.

When I began studying martial arts in 1973, I had a dream of one day owning and teaching at my own school. I finally began teaching in 1997, in rented space, but in 2005, my wife and I bought our own building for our school.

It was very challenging for many reasons -- working full-time in addition to running a school; having to put up with students who weren't serious because I needed to pay the bills; dealing with students who did not practice or show respect to the teacher or to other students; playing psychologist, motivator, teacher, mentor, and friend.

For many reasons, running a martial arts school in 2017 is different than it was in 1973. At that time, the martial arts were mysterious and new. Bruce Lee was bringing a completely new way of fighting to our attention in the United States (and elsewhere). Suddenly, martial arts schools were popping up everywhere and they were filled to capacity with students eager to try this new, "deadly" way of self-defense.

Now, young people grow up in a different world. Martial arts are part of the wallpaper, taught in the local strip mall and at the YMCA. It is old news. 

But for that reason, running a martial arts school is more challenging than it used to be, especially if you want to teach an authentic traditional art and not become a McDojo, where the owner is worried more about signing the next student to a contract than teaching a high-quality art.

Jonathan's book provides insights from his own teaching experience that can help you become the teacher your students need. He addresses a wide range of topics, from developing an atmosphere of equality to setting expectations of quality, how to handle new students, how to be a mentor and much more.

The book includes many outstanding pieces of advice that I never considered, including a tip to keep the written curriculum of the entire art on a wall inside the school. I mean, "Duh!" Why didn't I think of that? It provides every student with a constant road map, and will help with their own inner motivation.

The Martial Arts Teacher is a book that is instructional, informative, and even philosophical. One of my favorite quotes from the book is from Confucius: "True knowledge is knowing the extent of one's ignorance." 

Being a good martial artist does not guarantee, in any way, that you will be a good teacher. All of us need ideas, input and guidance to help us develop and become the kind of teacher that our students will point to as someone who was an important part of their lives. Jonathan's book is one stepping stone on your own journey of personal development.

 

 

 


The Best Way to Meditate While Doing Tai Chi, Hsing-I or Bagua -- Mindfulness

A philosopher asked the Buddha, "What is your method? What do you practice every day?"

"We walk, we eat, we wash ourselves, we sit down," the Buddha explained.

"What is so special about that? Everyone walks, eats, washes, sits down," the philosopher said.

"Sir," replied the Buddha, "when we walk, we are aware we are walking; when we eat, we are aware we are eating. When others walk, eat, wash, or sit down, they are generally not aware of what they are doing."

In Buddhism, mindfulness is the key. -- from Zen Keys by Thich Nhat Hanh

Are you mindful when you practice your gongfu?

Are you mindful when you are at work? Does your mind wander when talking to other employees or when sitting through meetings?

When in public, are you on a cell phone instead of being engaged in the world around you?

When your significant other is talking, do you zone out or are you mentally engaged in what they are saying?

Are you constantly multi-tasking? 

Psychology Today reported that we lose 40% of our productivity when we attempt to multi-task.

Our brains are not wired to focus on more than one thing at a time with full attention.

But you know that, don't you? How much time have you wasted when you hop on Facebook to post something, and suddenly it is a half-hour later and you have spent the time hopping from one friend's post to another, clicking links, and then being distracted by another post? How many times have you logged off and then realized you had forgotten to do what you logged on for? Yeah, admit it. You have done it, too. So have I.

Mental Discipline is supposed to be a benefit of meditation and of practicing martial arts.

But mental discipline takes work. You know -- kung-fu. A skill developed over time through hard work.

There are many ways to apply the internal arts and philosophy into your daily life. But first, you have to calm the mind, and that requires work.

One of the best ways to "meditate" while doing any martial arts form is to simply be in the form; focus on the movements and the intent of the movements -- the body mechanics of good internal movement and the "intent" you would need to do the movement as an application.

You do not have to perform with a "blank" mind. Just getting into the form and eliminating other distracting thoughts is one way of meditating while doing the internal arts.

When doing Zhan Zhuang at the beginning of a practice, Chen Xiaowang might say something like, "Calm down. Listen behind you."

The goal is not to detach from everything.

The goal is to become connected, aware and part of everything. The goal is to be in the moment.

When you are in public, are you in the moment and aware of all things around you? When someone looks at you, are you looking back and able to engage or smile, or are you unable or unwilling to make eye contact?

Do you detach, or are you listening behind you?

At the gym, everyone plugs in their earbuds and will hardly make eye contact with others. We are not connected, not engaged -- we are isolated in public. 

Who is the person standing behind you? You wouldn't know. You are not willing to give them that much attention, are you?

If you are a true internal artist, you are connected.

Master Po 2In the Kung-Fu TV show, this was one of my favorite scenes: 

"Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?" asked blind Master Po.

Young Caine looked down to see a grasshopper.

"Old man, how is it that you hear these things?" he asked.

Master Po replied, "Young man, how is it that you do not?"

Be mindful in your forms. Be mindful and engaged with the world around you. Calm your mind. The more distracted you are; the more you "multi-task," the less connected you can be.

Be here now. When walking through a grocery store, be there. When listening to your boss in a meeting, be mentally present. When doing your forms, become the movement.

And whatever you are doing, stop checking your cell phone every three minutes.

Calm your mind.

It is a goal we should all work to achieve. If we achieve it -- if we are able to be here now, in the moment, focusing our attention on what we are doing right now, everything we do is potentially part of our meditation practice.

-- by Ken Gullette 

 


Marketing for Martial Arts Teachers -- The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Dave Dee

Ken Gullette - Dave Dee2
I enjoyed meeting and learning from Dave Dee in Chicago last April.

If you teach the internal arts -- or any martial art -- do you have enough students? 

Probably not.

Do you believe your marketing efforts are effective enough? Are you as successful as you want to be?

I didn't think so.

A lot of martial arts teachers do not understand marketing. Some of the internal arts teachers I have known almost consider marketing "beneath" them -- almost as if "marketing" is a dirty word. Then again, there are others who lie in their marketing, pretending to make students fall down or hop away with the slightest touch.

You can do ethical and effective marketing to have a more successful teaching practice -- or school.

In the latest edition of the Internal Fighting Arts podcast, I talk with one of my favorite marketing experts -- Dave Dee.

I would urge you to take notes during the interview, and then compare what you hear to your ads and marketing messages.

Listen to the podcast online or download the mp3 file through this link to Audello. It will also be available on iTunes (Apple Podcasts) within a few hours.

During the podcast, Dave and I do a quick analysis of this typical tai chi ad. I disguised the addresses and names because we are using this for educational purposes, not to humiliate anyone. 

Tai Chi Ad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, here is a better ad, and you can understand why after hearing the podcast.

Tai Chi Ad 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Enjoy the podcast, and if you have any questions or comments, please fire away!

Want to learn more about how Dave Dee can help your marketing efforts? Follow this link to Dave's website at www.davedee.com


The Joy of Teaching Tai Chi to an "Older" Group of Students

Ken Gullette Tai ChiSomething happens when you start getting older, when your health begins to go South and the hair turns gray.

Suddenly, you feel differently about the old people you see in the store or on the road. You suddenly develop empathy.

Oh, I get it. That old man still thinks of himself as the strong 25-year old that he was just a few minutes ago. Wasn't it just a few minutes ago?

No, it was 40 years ago, before the losses started piling up; before his parents died, before his friends started dying, before his earning power began dropping, and before his heart began beating like a bad carburetor.

Now, when I see a healthy 25-year old, I think to myself, "It seems like just yesterday." When I was 25, life seemed endless and everything seemed to come easily.

As the years passed, I lost a daughter, I lost jobs, marriages, and eventually, my perfect health declined. There were some gains along the way, too, but the losses pile up.

As we get older, it becomes even more important to maintain our mental and physical balance as we try to ride the ups and downs of life.

Ken Gullette Tai Chi ClassLast week, I started a free Tai Chi class for people aged 40 and over. The first class was packed with more than 70 people. The oldest was 83.

I had forgotten how much fun it is to teach a more "mature" group.

When I first began teaching Tai Chi in 1999, I was still teaching the Yang style. My first official Tai Chi class attracted students from their twenties to their eighties.

At that time, I had already begun studying Chen style and was in the process of switching from Yang to Chen in my practice and in my kung-fu class, made up of mostly teens and young adults.

By 2001, I was teaching Chen style in the Tai Chi class, and the older students began slowly dropping out. Chen style was just too athletic for them.

Nancy and I closed our school in 2007, when I took a job in Tampa, Florida. A year later, that job ended and my health began to go South. I lost the lung and developed cardiomyopathy. For a couple of years around 2012, I was living in heart failure.

Ken Gullette-Nancy Gullette-Tai ChiStarting another Tai Chi class did not appear to be in my future.

But a few weeks ago, I decided to do it, only this time, I would not do it for money, I would do it as a labor of love. The class would be free, and it would be for anyone aged 40 and over -- a free, 6-week class in Qigong and the Chen 19 form.

The turnout was surprising. More than 70 people came in for the first class -- so many that I decided to teach two classes per week.

It is surprising how much I enjoy the class. No one is seeking perfection, and so I make it easy for them, remove the pressure, and make them laugh. My wife, Nancy is in the class, and I use her to demonstrate fighting applications, giving me an opportunity to flirt and tease her. The class really enjoys it.

I encourage heckling in my classes, and always enjoy it when someone cracks a joke. 

On the first night, we do some very light warmups, working down from shoulder circles to side stretches and hip circles. Then, I say, "Touch your fingers to the floor," and I bend over, touching my fingers to the floor. There is usually some giggling, and comments such as, "Yeah, right."

"Okay," I say, "Keep your legs straight and touch your head to the floor." 

That gets a big laugh. Then I say, "If you can touch your head to the floor, you get a black belt."

More laughter.

So here are my tips for teaching Tai Chi to a mature group of students:

** Teach them Qigong exercises and tell them how to use it in their daily lives.

** Lighten up. None of these students wants to be Chen Xiaowang. Don't take it too seriously.

** Go over movements slowly, with a lot of repetition and corrections.

** Encourage laughter. They need it and they want to have fun.

** Have patience. Many older people have little experience with athletics, and as they mirror your movements, their arms and legs will often be in drastically different positions than yours. Give them gentle coaching and expect to go over it several times.

** Ask for questions regularly.

** If you put yourself up on a "teacher pedestal," climb down and be a real human being. Show an interest in them personally.

When I taught the class back from 1999 to 2007, we would occasionally have parties at my house. Sometimes, if a new kung-fu movie was coming out, like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, we would pick a showing at the theater and meet there, sitting as a group. It was a lot of fun.

I believe one of the best reasons to teach a class like this is to make new friends. Mature people make great friends. You can add value to their lives, and they can add value to yours.

It is a win-win situation, and nothing is better than that! 

 

 


Internal "Energies" and Takedowns -- The Holy Grail of Tai Chi Self-Defense

Ken Gullette using tai chi to break opponent's structure
Breaking my opponent's structure and controlling his center.

The Holy Grail of Tai Chi self-defense -- in my opinion -- is when you can "feel" an opponent's energy when you are in a clinch and you can break his structure and use Tai Chi "energies" to take him down.

On Saturday, about a dozen martial artists of different styles gathered at Morrow's Academy of Martial Arts in Moline, Illinois and we practiced some of the basic concepts and energies. We recorded the workshop and the video is already going up on my website -- www.internalfightingarts.com -- and I am putting it together for a DVD.

Anyone can use muscular force to pick someone up and throw them to the ground.

But can you use Tai Chi energies to unbalance, uproot, and control your opponent's center so you can take them down?

You have to be able to do a few things:

** Determine how your opponent's center is turning

** Break his structure to unbalance him

** Have your hands and legs in place to help his center turn

** Then turn his center and take it where it wants to go.

The term "energies" has been misinterpreted. Peng, Lu, Ji, An and the other energies are actually "methods" of dealing with an opponent's force. When force comes in, you can roll it back and then press him to unbalance him. That is one example of how energies are used.

You learn to maintain your balance as your opponent loses his, and then you counter.

Colin Frye, in blue, works with a student at the Internal Energies and Takedowns workshop.
Colin Frye, in blue, works with a young student on takedowns.

You can't learn all this in a three-hour workshop, but it is fun to see people from other styles of tai chi and martial arts as their faces light up and they realize they are experiencing something really different.

It is also refreshing to meet people who put aside their "style" for an afternoon, empty their cups and try something else. One of the reasons I do it this way is to educate others on the internal arts, show them that these arts are not as "soft" as the popular image would have them believe, and to add training partners to the videos.

Push hands starts with the basic patterns, working on form and sensitivity. Gradually, you work into applications, then moving, freestyle, and in the end, learning to take your opponent to the ground while using the various energies of Tai Chi to do it. Chen push hands is the bridge between form and fighting. 

I have been working on these principles for a long time. To my knowledge, no other Tai Chi instructor has actually put this information on video in a step-by-step way. It is not really an "ancient Chinese secret," but it is a place that few Tai Chi students get to on their journey. 

This is my mission for the rest of 2017.

 


Celebrating 20 Years of Martial Arts Teaching with Free 6-Week Tai Chi Class

Ken Gullette - Rich Coulter 1998-2
Practicing with Rich Coulter in 1997.

Twenty years ago last night, I taught my first martial arts classes. It was about one month after I earned my black sash.

For some reason, I did not want to compete with my friend John Morrow, who has a kung-fu school in Moline, Illinois, so I chose a fitness center in Muscatine, Iowa, rented a room, and advertised classes would start on October 1, 1997 -- one class for children and one for adults.

Two or three children showed up for the kids' class, and three or four young guys showed up for the adult class.

When the adult class started, and these teenagers and 20-something guys were looking at me as if thinking, "Okay, are you any good?" I began to feel the pressure of the black sash.

They asked questions, and I had to know the answers. They asked, "What if someone does this?" I had to know how to respond.

1997 Kids Class - Copy
The ill-fated Kids' Class.

Teaching was a slap in the face by the cold hand of reality! Being a student is one thing, but being a teacher put me in a new category.

I responded by living, eating, breathing, and sleeping kung-fu. My practice time jumped. It was not unusual, especially on the weekend when I was not working, to practice and workout for six hours a day. Two nights a week I was teaching and the other nights, practicing and studying.

Within a few months, as I studied and researched the Hsing-I, Yang Tai Chi and Bagua I was teaching, I discovered there were holes in my curriculum and my training. I heard internal terms that I had not been taught. This led me to Jim and Angela Criscimagna, who introduced me to Chen Tai Chi, and that changed the course of my training. 

I was lucky. Among my first students were Rich Coulter and Chad Steinke. They walked in with the look of skepticism in their eyes. They had both studied other arts, but they liked what they saw in my class and came back. In the coming two or three years, we tore up the tournament circuit and had a great time together. Rich became my first black sash student and both are still good friends.

The Kids' Class only lasted about 18 months. I love kids, but I felt it was holding me back in my own development. One evening, when one of my 11-year old students began crying when I was coaching him on a movement, I asked what was wrong.

"You're always criticizing me!" he bawled. 

I was stunned, and tried to explain that I was simply trying to help him do the movement better.

At that point, I realized that teaching children was not what I wanted to do. Some people are great at it, and some do it because it's the only way their schools are profitable, but I decided I would rather not make a profit if I had to endure that, so when I moved my "school" to the Quad Cities in January, 1999, I left the kids for good.

Celebrating with a Free 6-Week Tai Chi Class

Tonight, at the Bettendorf Community Center in Bettendorf, Iowa, I am launching a free 6-week tai chi class for anyone aged 40 and over. I have been flooded with calls since the Quad-City Times ran a short article about it yesterday.

Tai Chi Class 2002
Some members of the tai chi class from 2002, in a pose from the Yang 24.

Most of the people who are attending have never studied qigong or tai chi before. It's going to be a lot of fun. A few of my older students from 15 years ago will be there. They are now in their 70s. 

One 78-year old woman called yesterday to tell me she would be there tonight. She thanked me for my gift to the community and she said I am a "gift to the universe." How sweet was that? I can't wait to meet her.

A gift to the universe. At my age, I feel like I have been re-gifted. 

During the past 8 years, since I lost my left lung and have occasionally been forced to spend time in the ICU and the ER, my health has not been dependable enough to hold a regular class like this. But with my 20-year teaching anniversary, I thought it was time to try again.

If it works and people like it, I might try again after the first of the year. But if I don't, the people I bring into the art may seek out other instructors in the area. I am the only one holding classes in Chen Tai Chi, however, but when you are beginning and in your 50s and up, you are not really looking to eat bitter, you are looking for health, fitness, and fun, and that's what this class will be. 

 


Workshop on Internal "Energy" and Takedowns on Saturday, Oct. 7 in Moline, IL

Chen-Xiaoxing-Ken-Gullette-2006-webI was doing push hands with Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing in my basement in 2006. We were doing a push hands pattern that includes a step, forward and back.

I stepped forward, maintaining contact with his arms.

Suddenly, I was slammed down on the basement floor. On my back!

I was surprised, to say the least. I got up and touched hands with him again. I stepped forward as we did the pattern. I stepped back. Then, as the pattern continued, I stepped forward.

BAM! I was on my back again!

What in the world was he doing? I didn't really feel him do much of anything.

I got up and we started again. Within a few seconds, WHAM! On my back again.

I laughed. Chen Xiaoxing laughed. I got back up, we started again, and within a few seconds, WHAM! On my back.

I laughed harder. He laughed harder. I got back up, fascinated.

He must have done it ten times before I realized what he was doing. He was controlling my center, breaking my structure, making me turn a certain way, and reaching around to grab my shoulder and keep me turning that way.

It was one of the most important moments of my martial arts career.

A lot of tai chi (taiji) students never get to the point where they can use internal body mechanics and internal "energy" in takedowns.

Often, their teachers only teach them tai chi for health and meditation.

Teachers often focus on "chi cultivation" instead of the main purpose of tai chi -- a martial art.

All of the energies that they talk about in the internal arts are not really energies coursing through your body. This is a misinterpretation.

The different energies -- peng, lu, ji, an, etc. -- are methods of dealing with an opponent's force.

Tai Chi is also a close-up fighting art. The closer your opponent gets, the better you can use the sensitivity developed in push hands and lead him into a position of vulnerability.

Your goal is to "listen" to his force (sense where it is going and its intensity), adapt to it, neutralize it, and counter with a self-defense application.

Most people think of tuishou, or "push hands," as a sensitivity drill with a partner. It is much more than that. And the closer you get to your opponent, the more you learn to "listen" to his energy and then, break him and put him on the ground.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, I will hold a 3-hour workshop where we will look at how these concepts are used to take your opponent down.

It does not matter what style of tai chi you study -- in fact, this will be useful for any style of martial artist.

Here are some of the things you will learn:

--How to break an opponent's structure.

--How to control an opponent's center.

--How internal "energies" are used in takedowns.

--How to unbalance your opponent with less force.

--7 ways your legs are used in takedowns.

The workshop will be held at Morrow's Academy of Martial Arts at 1321 5th Avenue in downtown Moline, IL.

The cost of this workshop is only $40. All proceeds go to Morrow's Academy for the use of the building. 

The workshop will be videotaped for a DVD. All participants will receive a copy of the DVD when it is produced within two months. I don't charge much for my workshops. I want people to come. I make my money on the back end. The video shot will be used on my website and in a DVD. It's a win-win situation for everyone involved.

There is a lot more to it than the techniques that Chen Xiaoxing used 11 years ago to give me a new perspective on my basement floor. But the insight I gained that night started me on the road to exploring, thinking, studying, and practicing different ways to use my opponent's energy against him, using the methods (energies) of internal movement.

I love this stuff, and you will have a new appreciation for it if you come to the workshop, then get the DVD, and keep practicing.

If you have any questions, email me at ken@internalfightingarts.com.

If you come to the workshop, I will show you exactly how Chen Xiaoxing put me on my back over and over in my basement. You will learn to do it, too.