Freitag, 11. Mai 2018

Book: The Martial Arts Teacher - A Practical Guide to a Noble Way

After 30 years of teaching Tai Chi Chuan intensively I was very curious to have a look at this book from Jonathan Bluestein. The topic of teaching martial arts touches my heart and it is never wrong to learn more about it.

Already after reading the firsts chapters I was very excited. Wow. Jonathan is writing about many important topics in an inspiring way. There a chapters like:

- Not a Business, But a Community
- Ways to Approach a Curriculum
- That First Class
- The Challenge of Trust
- Better Than You
- To Teach is Never Enough
- Enthusiasm and Its Limits

Of course I was pondering about some of these topics for years and have my own opinion. But Jonathan sees aspects new to me and has a way to put them into words, which gave me a lot of insights. Additionally he writes about topics, which I never thought of. They gave me a lot of inspiration for how to go on in my future teaching.

The chapters of the book are quite independent from each other. So you can place the book next to your coach and reread individual chapters here and then. This will be always useful and can help in you certain situations.

The way Jonathan writes is very personal. In this book he connects general ideas about a topic with a strong emphasize on his own point of view. He shares with us his vast experience in teaching and running a martial arts community. This is one of the strong parts of the book. It not only provides you with information, but makes you think, because Jonathan's opinion is always well reasoned.

All in all, if you want to teach martial arts or you do it (even for a long time) and you want to reflect on the topic of being a martial arts teacher, this is the book which should be on your buying list. You will be not disappointed.

Montag, 19. März 2018

Dao as the Source

A weapon that is too stiff will burst.
A piece of wood that is too hard will break.

A piece of leather that is too brittle will split.
The teeth being harder than the tongue,
suffer damage first.


The soft and the weak
are the trunk of life.

The hard and the strong
are the disciples of death.

Yuandao - Dao as the Source

Picture by Michael Busch: Ma Yueliang 1992

Pushhands and being in the moment

In Pushhands you have to give your full attention. But do not try to figure out what is the right thing to do. Once you plan, you will miss. Be in the moment and "listen" to the other. Do not force your ideas. Wait for the right moment and the good opportunity. Give up yourself, follow the other and the result will be amazing.

Samstag, 17. März 2018

Forget about yourself

In Pushhands one knows the idea:

Forget about yourself and follow the other.

If you do not do that, to forget your own ideas, two things will happen:

1. You stop paying attention, you miss what’s going on and don’t really develop tingjin.

2. You will not fit to the changes that have occurred and you get easily suprised by the actions of the other.

All the best and have a nice day


Mittwoch, 28. Februar 2018

The Power of the Paradox

by Martin Boedicker

Just thinking about a quote of Wu Yinghua:

"Never let the slightest idea of attack enter your mind."

This is the skill of going along with - to give oneself up to follow the other. It is the noble art of waiting for the other to attack. I have been working on this for decades.

And then ... we are training yin-jin, the tempting jin-power:

Tempting-jin is for when an opponent is not moving, tempting them to move.
Or for when an opponent is already moving, tempting them along a path of your own choosing.
One tempts the other with action and if they react to it, they will fall into the trap.

What now???

Should I be inactive, wait and then follow or should I become active, take control of the other by tempting them into a movement, they originally did not intend to do?

How paradoxical! How beautiful!

Once yin, once yang. That is the Dao.

This is the foundation of Tai Chi Chuan. The change between inactivity and activity, between stillness and movement - one of the great skills of Tai Chi Chuan. By applying the power of this paradox, one overcomes the other with greater skill and less force.

Montag, 26. Februar 2018

The Intention (yi)

by Martin Boedicker

One of the central requirements in Tai Chi Chuan is:

Use the intention (yi) and not muscular strength.

(Foto of Ma Jiangbao by Manos Meisen)

This sentence explains us one of the highest ideals of Tai Chi Chuan and it emphasizes the importance of yi. Yi is already in the classical Chinese philosophy a technical term, which covers a wide range of meaning. One can say e.g. that yi is everything, which one has in mind, what one is thinking. Zhuangzi points out:

What can be verbalized is the coarse of the things.
What can be in the mind (yi) is the fine of the things.

Yi In the epistemology of Xunzi is best translated as imagination. But yi can also be mood, inclination or intention, like the intention of a painter preceding his brushwork. This is called bi-yi the intention of the brush. This 'intention' is also often attributed to nature, e.g. when one feels the end of the summer, with a chill in the air. In Chinese this is called chu-yi, the intention of the autumn.

There term yi is often found in the Classics of Tai Chi Chuan, e.g. in the Song of 13 Basic Movements:

Yi and qi as the ruler - bones and flesh as the servants.

In some translations of this sentence one finds often the word spirit or mind for yi. Even though yi is close to spirit (shen) and the heart-mind (xin) one should know, that the spirit and the heart-mind are not identical with yi. One says:

When the heart-mind moves, the yi is also moving.
The heart-mind orders, the yi implements.

To place yi below the spirit and the heard-mind and to take the special meaning of yi in Tai Chi Chuan in account, it is best to translate yi as intention.

Donnerstag, 15. Februar 2018

Mittwoch, 14. Februar 2018

The Haystack

In Pushhands one should be not active but reactive -
well may be like that:

Don't waist time looking for a needle in a haystack.
Jump around in the haystack. Let the needle find you.

Dienstag, 13. Februar 2018

The Unknown

Do not just clever rearrange the techniques you know.

Wait - go along with - follow - into the unknown.

Then get inspired by what comes and get creative.

Sonntag, 21. Januar 2018

The Borrowing of Strength in Tai Chi Chuan

By Feng Guodong

From the Club Magazine No. 10, p. 7 of the Jianquan Taijiquan Association Shanghai of April 30, 1984

In the Pushhands of Tai Chi Chuan one emphasizes: "The other is hard, I am soft" and "Overcome hardness with softness". In order to do this, one has to rely wholeheartedly on borrowing the strength of the other. In other martial arts it is usually said: "Simple strength overcomes tenfold technique" or "The greater strength defeats the smaller strength". And how is it in Tai Chi Chuan?

A light-weighted practitioner of Tai Chi Chuan training with a heavier partner Pushhands will not be able to win if he does not rely on the art of borrowing strength. When talking about borrowing the other's strength to beat him, you have to know that this is not an easy thing. First, one must not direct the strength of the other on his own body. Second, one must not borrow one's own strength to the other, otherwise one will be beaten oneself. In the following, the "borrowing of strength" is a little bit to be discussed.

- Knowing yourself - knowing the other. Divert the attack and let it fall into the emptiness

When two partners practice with each other, one must first grasp the state of the other. An opponent, whose strength is very big and who likes to use it, has an advantage as well as a disadvantage. When the other pushes with great strength, I immediately move to the left or right and neutralize so that his strength falls into the emptiness. You have to take advantage of this "et the strength fall into emptiness". Quickly, I use my strength so that the other loses his posture and falls.

- Keep the center.

If the other attacks me with big strength, I can not let it hit my center. I would fall if it hits my center. So I have to go along with him and neutralize so that he can not find my center. By sticking to him, he will lose his center. Then I apply my own strength and will beat him.

- To gain the opportunity and the strategic advantage.

Opportunity means here the right time. Borrowing strength and then using it is based on precisely mastering the right time. If the other does not develop any strength at the beginning and I use my own strength already, the situation turns against me. I have to try to borrow the others strength, when he starts to attack, but if I hesitate only a little, the right time is over and the other will beat me for sure. If the strength of the other is already fully developed, I have to retreat for a moment and then quickly use my own strength due to the developed strategic advantage. The strategic advantage here is the method of positioning the body. By borrowing the strength of the other, you have to bring the other in a bad position. So I have the opportunity to apply strength and can achieve a due result.

- The movements are agile.

You have to have a deep understanding of the phrase "The other is hard, I am soft". The other attacks me with big strength. My upper body is completely relaxed, but it does not always stay relaxed. If that were the case, the other would just have to press down and I would lose my stability. After relaxation has reached a proper level, one must transform immediately, use transversal force, or use other hand techniques. In the moment when the strength of the other develops, you can not wait, otherwise you will be beaten.

- Fast fajin (issuing jin-power).

One borrows the strength of the other, interrupts it and uses a short and fast fajin. The fajin by stretching the arms does not necessarily have to reach far or cover a greater distance. The jin-power is fired as you shoot an arrow. The right time must be met exactly. The power is focused exactly on one point, but is used only very, very lightly. The other will be unable to disengage or change, and he will inevitably fly away, as in a bomb explosion. Speed is an important part of the fajin.

- The change between empty and full.

If you borrow the other person's strength to beat him, you have to change between full and empty, sometimes very fast. Only then can you do what you have in mind. If you do not know about full and empty, your waist and legs are heavy and immobile. So you can neither neutralize the strength of the other, nor use the borrowed strength of the other or beat him. 

- Understanding jin-power (dongjin).

To master the borrowing of strength, you have to develop understanding jin-power first. Only when you understand, you can borrow strength. If you understand, you can evade the strength of the other so that the other can not hit your center. Thereafter, by means of a circular transformation and a straight delivery, the power of the other is directed against his own body. The other is struck by a strength that actually is its own strength. This is called borrowing strength.