Freitag, 27. November 2015

Film: The Thin Line That Defines

Martial arts is an endless cycle of search and discovery.
A deep well of philosophy and journey.
Which is the beginning? Which is the end? Which is the point that connects all points?

The Thin Line That Defines from SPACE by Spot Marasigan on Vimeo.

Dienstag, 24. November 2015

Anecdote: Old Shanghai

After a morning’s training four of us were sitting in the living room of the family Ma in Shanghai. Having a cup of tea, Ma Yueliang started to tell an anecdote from old Shanghai, from when he was around 30 years old:

When I was walking through the little lanes of the town, I saw a strong foreign soldier blocking the lane. He was standing with one shoulder against the lefthand wall of the lane and leaning with his right hand on the oppposite wall. Any Chinese who wanted to pass had to duck under the arm. I couldn´t stand this and went up to the marine. He saw me and indicated with his left hand that I should pass under his right arm. I looked into his eyes and pointed to my chin.

At these moment Ma Yueliang could not sit still anymore in his chair. He stood up and a friend of mine to stand opposite him and to play the soldier. My friend looked very surprised, but he made a fist with his right hand and punched Ma Yueliang with his full strength. Although Ma Yueliang was more than 90 years old, he moved faster than you could see, swept the punch aside with a , borrowed my friend’s strength and threw him with a loud ‘thump’ on the floor. Then he smiled and said:

Yes, yes, Taijiquan is really a practical thing.

Dienstag, 10. November 2015

Small Thought: Embellished Movements

I am constantly fascinated how plain the movements of the great masters are. They are soft, round and flowing, but never embellished or overstated, or as the Chinese would say flowery. They express a high degree of concentration and focus on the essential.

That this idea is also know in the West, is shown in the following short story by the German writer Gotthold Ephraim Lessing:

The Owner of the Bow

A man had an excellent bow of ebony,
with which he shot far and accurately, he valued his bow highly.

Once, however,
when he looked at it attentively,
he said:

"A little too plain you are!
All your adornment is your smoothness.
What a pity! But this can be changed!"

"I will go and find the best artist.
He will carve the most beautiful images into the bow"

He went
and the artist carved an entire hunt scene on the bow -
and what would be better on a bow than a hunt?
The man was full of joy.

"You earned these ornaments, my dear bow!"

But then, he went to try it - stretched it and the bow - broke.

Foto with Ma Jiangbao by Manos Meisen

Samstag, 7. November 2015

Interview: On Tai Chi Chuan and Natural Movement

Interview with Andre Oelofse, Cape Town/South Africa.

Martin: Hello Andre, welcome to Germany. Before we talk about Tai Chi Chuan, please can you introduce yourself a little.

Andre: I am located in Cape Town, where I have an exercise studio with the name “Body Technology" specialising in the rehabilitation of injuries and movement analysis with sportsmen and women and anyone who wants to discover their true potential. The basis of my teachings stem from 20 years Pilates experience coming from a strong sporting background (both mother and father were professional athletes). I specialise in a unique technique to free up the spine to allow for a freer movement and use boxing principles to help people find their natural rhythm.

M: Andre, how did you become exposed to Tai Chi Chuan?

A: I met with Robert Rudniak in Cape Town and he invited me for a private lesson and within that session I was so inspired to see that this was the missing link on how natural movement should be taught today.

M: So you got inspired but what did Robert teach you in that lesson?

A: He taught me the gongbu and xubu and showed me the first preparation with the rotation of the waist.

M: This does not look like much, so why is this so special to you?

A: Because it is so clear to me that this is the natural diagonal functional movement pattern of the body.

M: So if this is natural, why is this so important?

A: Today, people don’t spend enough time on the legs and this is a great tool to teach people how to create a relaxed natural strong structure, without collapsing or being rigid.

M: Is there no specific training for that in the other sports that you used previously in your teaching?

A: The previous sports training and with regards to Pilates were limited to weight bearing exercises on the legs and did not offer enough natural rotations of the waist. An additional tool I used was the boxing which offers a lot more rotation of the waist, the only thing is it was too yang. That is where Tai Chi Chuan comes in with its blending balance of yang and yin.

M: So I think you have found a good name for our Tai Chi Chuan?

A: This is the missing link for me – the power of natural movement.

M: You also told me, that you got very excited about the body-awareness in Tai Chi Chuan. Please introduce us to the 25% rule.

A: It is been proven in research that the natural stabilisers of the body (muscles inside the body) will support the body structure best at 25% of their maximum strength. If one uses more than 25%, the global stabilisers become too active and can’t support the body structure effectively. This is just raw power and is not supporting the power of the natural kinetic chain, which relies on the power of the relaxed tendons.

M: I do not understand this in full? Can you try explaining again?

A: If one uses more than 25% of maximum effort to stabilise one‘s body structure then there is no synergistic connection between the natural internal stabilisers. Instead you get over activity of the bigger muscle groups of the outside of the body. This results in a stiff structure.

M: I try to simplify this. Please correct me. As soon as you use more than 25% strength to maintain your structure you start to use the wrong muscles. Is that correct?

A: Yes. In Tai Chi Chuan it is the same. One should use the muscles you need in a soft way to get into posture (natural stabilisers at 25% effort) and not more. That is why I think Pushhands is so important because it is a true test to whether the individual can withstand the natural 25% rule in motion and under stressful conditions. And the beauty of this application is that it can be taken into daily lives and everyday movement. This is an amazing tool to stay centred these days.

M: For me it was a great experience to share some time with you, because with your background you have a very special view on Tai Chi Chuan and I hope you can go on to interpret Tai Chi Chuan in a modern western way. Everything that you say conforms to classical Tai Chi-theory, but it explains it in our western way. In your teaching for a westerner it might be much easier to get access to the deep knowledge of the heritage of Tai Chi Chuan.

A: For me I am grateful to have my connection with the Tai Chi-world and I respect your insight, passion and work already done and I hope I can add some more of my insight in the future.

Andre Oelofse: here

Samstag, 24. Oktober 2015

Text: Tai Chi Chuan and Chinese Strategic Thinking

Being interested in Chinese strategy I just read this text from Francois Jullien in his book Detour and Access:

Military strategy was much more than a specific technique in ancient China. It reflected some of the most radical elements of Chinese thought and informed many other disciplines when elaborated into theory.

If there is one basic principle on which all ancient Chinese military treatises insist, it is that of avoiding direct confrontation with an armed enemy. A frontal clash, in which two armies are engaged face-to-face, was always considered eminently risky and destructive.

The whole art of war was crafted with the intention of depriving the other of his ability to defend himself and undermining him from within, even before the confrontation took place, so that at the moment of confrontation the enemy collapsed of his own accord.

"To carry one hundred victories for every hundred battles," wrote one of the oldest masters of the art of war, "is not an end in itself, whereas to subjugate the enemy without having engaged in combat is the height of excellence."

"The best general is he whose merits one does not even dream of praising, since he vanquishes an already defeated enemy."

Rather than glorifying the battle, the art of war taught how to triumph by avoiding battle altogether.

As it was my experience before, Jullien finds words for thoughts I often had in my Tai Chi-training. Tai Chi Chuan is philosophy in action. Its strategy is based on the general concepts of Chinese strategic thinking - just the ideas mentioned above. Is it not written in the Song of Striking Hands:

Divert the attack into emptiness,
the counter-attack follows immediately.

And in the Classic of Tai Chi Chuan:

Once hidden, once visible.
Left weighted – left empty.

Right weighted – right empty.
Look up – higher.
Look down – deeper.

Retreat – longer.
Advance – shorter.
Not even 
a feather can be added.
A fly can’t settle.
The other does not know me;
I alone know the other.
An invincible hero, isn’t he,
who has mastered all of this?

Indeed he is, but not like a Western hero, who wins by extraordinary strength, but like the Chinese wise man, who wins by the superior strategy.

Enjoy your Tai Chi Chuan


Donnerstag, 22. Oktober 2015

Interview Tai Chi Chuan and Alienation

Interview with Annemie van der Gucht and Peter van de Velde, France

Martin: Hello Annemie, hello Peter, we have known each other for some years now and right from the start we talked a lot about bodywork. One of the main topics was the word „alienation“. Can you explain this for us.

Peter: The word „alienation“ comes from the works of Marx, Hegel and Marcuse. Mainly it was used in the area of economics. Here alienation is between man and his enviroment. Today you can also see alienation towards the body. The contact to one’s own body is lost. You can see this in such simple things as cooking, eating and other basic activities in daily life.

Annemie: It begins during childhood. Children are not allowed to make themself dirty. They are not allowed to walk barefoot and anything that is a little bit dangerous is forbidden. At school they have to sit on chairs and physical expression is repressed.

Peter: No matter whether adult or child, alienation is the loss of contact to natural things.

Martin: How is this experience connected to your Taijiquan-practice?

Peter: Taijiquan can be a way to rediscover your body.

Annemie: For that you need an exercise. Taijiquan could be this. But Taijiquan is not a result, it is a way. For some people it is a shock when they feel for the first time how much they lost the contact to their body. They see how difficult it is to do small things, like align the hand to the nose. But this is the beginning of awareness and so the start of the healing process.

Peter: I think, the use of the body always involves the use of the senses. An important cause for alienation is that we are often too rational and have lost contact to our body. It is all to much about knowledge and much too less about feeling. The movements of Taijiquan are a medium to discover your body. But this involves much hard work.

Martin: Dear Annemie, dear Peter, thank you for your time.

Foto: Ma Jiangbao - taken by Manos Meisen

Samstag, 19. September 2015

Articel: Learning to write Tai Chi Chuan

Here a short introduction, how to write Tai Chi Chuan in Chinese.

Please click on the picture and enlarge it,
or pull it on your desktop and enlarge it there.

Thus you can see the numbers clearly.