A very courteous and decent young-ish martial artist who I have actually worked with briefly in-person sent in some questions that are worth writing up here. Apply your usual filters on bullshit coming from a single highly biased and mainly ignorant source (me).
The guy writes as follows:
Posted at 10:28 PM | Permalink
Jay the guy who slammed my book with a recent 1-star actually took the trouble to come here to my blog and read my rebuttal. Respect! Amazing... Good guy.
However he got the wrong take-away's from the rebuttal, here's his conclusions after reading that:
1. Author confounds Chi with Jin. Confirmed.
2. Author doesn't know the basics the rest of the system is supposed to expand on. Confirmed.
3. You can not master so many styles. With as short as most lives are, you might not even be able to master one. Confirmed.
4. If you don't want to learn anything useful about Tai Chi Chuan. Confirmed.
The red coloration is mine, you can't color on amazon reviews as far as I know. Probably again I wasn't writing literally and clearly enough still.
Jay gets A+ for effort in coming over here, F- for reading comprehension.
Posted at 01:31 PM | Permalink
Stuart Shaw, a UK or possibly AUS? guy, has seen fit to try to take down WOO factor fake Tai Chi.https://www.facebook.com/stuart.shaw/videos/o.419921708046890/10204642390876560/?type=3
This is an interesting and fun video, let's thank my UK Xingyi expert/
pal Graham Barlow for turning me onto this through his excellent new Tai Chi commentary Facebook group or blog:
The video shows Sifu Mizner applying energy through two large jalapeno peppers to fling a guy away, off his feet. I do NOT have any opinion pro or con Adam Mizner. I would not really dare to put my thumb up or down based on any video, but I have to say this analysis is interesting and perhaps very principled in intent, but possibly wrong in a deeper technical way.
First I have to say, this is why I am not in the top tier of Tai Chi teachers. It's because I do not do demo's of this kind. I may be very far from the most skilled Tai Chi instructor out there, I openly admit that. But one thing I do is that within the basically sane confines of kuzushi (no striking, no overt full grasp grappling are the basics, though I do allow agreed testing the limits smile emoticon but the key thing about any film from me is that the guy is always told to do his best, I hope anybody who had ever worked with me will recognize this phrase: DON'T MOVE YOUR FEET. That's it. I *always* tell them: DON'T LET ME MOVE YOU.
I hope that even the people who think I suck and my form is all wrong and my body is so weird and not real tai chi or not proper alignment or structure - all the shit I constantly get from RSF and everybody, but I really hope that even my bitterest critics would grant that in pretty much every video and every live encounter I am *ALWAYS* telling the person to do their best within the framework. NO hamming it up! And they are free to adopt whatever strategy they believe will serve their goal (stand there!) the best. If they think relaxation is better for that, they will relax. If they think tension and strength are better for that, they will stand strong. Up to them. I request and assume they are doing their very best at all times, within the framework (can't pull a knife) whether that is to relax maximally or to stand strong is not my call.. I also allow them to move their hands and body (but not feet) as they wish to wipe me off them, turn, neutralize, yield or resist - whatever. they want to achieve the basic goal.
My approach bites me sometimes. Over the four decades of my practice there have been big, highly skilled experienced guys who've I've found very challenging and when I think we've both ceased to learn anything I will occasionally say hey you are getting me with move X so for fun let's put move X aside and see what we can learn. That's happened over the years and I'm not ashamed of it because both sides have gone on to learn something from it. I also (though here's my most controversial claim) do not bring my full energy to any encounter EVER due to some situations that have happened in the past.
Feel free to shit on THAT particular claim, but at least give me .2 props for, in my videos, never attempting to show WOO - all my vids, like the one below with a 6th dan Aikido teacher are "real" in the sense that if their body is reacting with structure and tension (as the beta in the Mizener clip is accused of injecting artificially) that is their NATURAL inner tension that I am exploiting, NOT any kind of faked up tension that I have overtly or covertly told them to fake.
Now all that said, I have sympathy for Adam in the sense that after all, Tai Chi is always exploiting tension, that's all a Tai Chi person can do with the internal energy. Tai Chi is the art of detecting and exploiting tension in an opponent. What else can it ever be?
Don't I say REPEATEDLY in JUICE that it is HIS energy that moves him physically, NOT your physical energy and your internal power is also not DIRECTLY moving him - it's only your triggering force, like a thin neutron beam penetrating a fissile mass. So to me its fair for Adam to demo his exploitation of his beta's tension. The only issue is whether (as Shaw suggests) that tension is somehow 'faked' or not. But the whole point of Tai Chi IS to use the partner's tension to move him, so in that sense I say Mizner is absolutely innocent until and unless a skilled practitioner who does his very best and does not fake tension in any way tells us otherwise. And I don't see that happening any time soon.
Here are clips of me working with a man who is very experienced in general kuzushi and outweighs me by over 40 lbs. I told him ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST within the framework. If he's reacting with structure and tension (which I'm exploiting) that's because he's unable to help himself. I understand it may look totally fake but if you asked him he's say he was totally doing his best and good not stop his feet from moving. And presumably the beta in Adam's tape would in good conscience say the same thing. These things can't always be analyzed on the surface.
Posted at 08:20 AM | Permalink
Some people are just basically courteous and rational. For example, a guy wrote to me after the recent post on the internal 'key' of Snake Style in Xingyi asking about that 'key' thing for Hawk as Hawk Style is also one of the Big Three covered in my book and DVD. I have already covered the internal key for Chinese Alligator (outer edge of cestus, elbow to little finger outgoing energy) and for Snake (recent post on daling point) but what about Hawk? This guy did not accuse me of ripping him off, did not say that I obviously don't know jack about Xingyi because I don't smoke the same cigarettes do it the same way as his own teacher. He didn't jump to post a 1-star review on amazon (meaning: this book is total shit) ignoring hundreds of pages of explanation and nuance just to driveby frag me on a single line which supposedly makes it obvious I don't know shit about real Xingyi.
He just courteously inquired whether there is any more to say on Hawk, this particular point?
Yes, the internal key for Hawk is also very simple to tell. And again, in a way it's an advanced effect in terms of actual triggering, performing, controlling, and experiencing it. But there's no mysticism to it.
First you have to know the right mechanics for Hawk, as covered in my book and/or DVD. Then you'll know that Hawk is basically two moves:
In the DVD and book I emphasized only the ming jing aspect, the super jolt of electricity on the initial downward strike. So you want to keep working that. Then, as always in Xingyi, you want to generate both the mingjing (obvious) and the anjing (covert secondary) energies within the scope of every full Animal or Fist technique.
So what you do it, just after you perform 2. (the wide open back fist thing) while you are still in the final position of that, VERY BRIEFLY just press the sole of your rear foot a little firmer on the floor. This is 90% mental, do NOT make a big physical deal out of it. Four ounces of physicality is enough, just enough to engage your mind down there. Then just FEEL the gigantic surge of anjing secondary surge blasting from that rear sole instantly up through your entire upper body and arms. It will naturally particularly vector into the front arm and (soft) fist. To make this work your upper body must be totally relaxed and soft and yet perfectly shaped and sharply focused.
Just a very soft mental/quasi-physical press with that rear foot will trigger this, so as you gently give a single pulse of foot press, pause just a micro-beat to FEEL the surge through both arms, vectoring toward the front, then continue. The pause can become shorter and shorter as you learn to tigger this. It is a truly powerful overwhelming effect, but hold frame no matter how much it blasts up through you. Just press-foot/pulse-arms, move on to the next rep. You can start slow, no shame in that, until you really feel it, then keep speeding up without losing mind, principle, or good shape. That is real internal Xingyi.
The reason Hawk is one of the Big Three animals styles is that this secondary pulse effect is actually the entire point of Xingyi and operates in every Fist and Style (I have a quotation from Guo Yunshen explicitly laying this out in my book) but so once you understand and feel it, it will generalize across the board, but Hawk is one of the clearest to start feeling it. That's the way all these keys are in the styles - they are general, universal Xingyi energetics effect, which certain particular styles or techniques make a bit easier to understand and feel - in the beginning. Then start to work with them universally.
Posted at 02:14 PM | Permalink
Guy has written asking for more on SNAKE STYLE in XINGYI, wondering why I write more about other animals and not that one in the blog, even though SNAKE is one of the Big Three Animals in my book and DVD both. Is it because SNAKE is inferior in some way?
Answer is NO not inferior in the least! Just the opposite, it's an incredibly effective energy 'style' and was regarded by my teacher well, as I wrote, one of the Big Three. I'm almost tempted to say "first among equals" of the three. So then? What gives? What gives is that I personally feel it is too advanced for most people. Obviously my teacher felt otherwise. But to me, if you haven't felt much of anything, you can't really control or instantly call up the internal power on demand and so on, you will end up doing a physical clumsy, energetically dead, mechanically stiff, wooden version of snake, empty and meaningless.
But if people are asking I will say more on it now. As you should know by now, every Xingyi Animal Style has its basic 'external' mechanics and then also an internal 'key' that enables you to access it's deep energetic content. Most classic example is the 'clawback' internal key to Tiger, but they all have this property and Snake is no exception.
I did not include the energy key for Snake in the book and DVD because it is just too advanced, I get enough SHIT all the time for taking this 100% internal road on this stuff. If nobody will be able to understand it, if it's just going to blow shit back in my face anyway, it's better to feed the external mechanics first and gauge the level of interest and courtesy from there. And you do need to master and heavily practice the external form at first anyway.
But fine let's go to it. As always, the internal key is something brain-dead simple to teach or tell and therefore will be totally dissed and shat on by the causal reader. But one or two of you all will work with it, I know.
In SNAKE STYLE, the external moves break down pretty much as follows: (see the book or DVD for more detail)
You should be able to do the above with the proper rotational style, compressive-then-expansive body and all that. That's the mechanics of it. As always in Xingyi you stay totally empty NO PHYSICAL TENSION in your upper body!! So important but nobody takes that seriously. Everybody doing Xingyi wants to hammer and jam with tense arms, chest and shoulders, what's with that ?? Why don't they just forthrightly join a Shotokan dojo instead of crapping up their Xingyi with that? CLUE: the name of the art is "FORM" plus "MIND". Those two, Simon did not say "TENSE UP" or "STRIKE WITH A BOUNCY PHYSICAL POWER" - none of that.
OK the internal 'key' comes at the end of stage 2 above, at the end of the vertical spike-down motion. At that point, most people will rush into the final snake-y up-strike, and their WRISTS will be tense. Try it, I bet yours are too.
So what you need to do is, for just the tiniest micro-beat at the end of the down spike gesture, mentally collect your mind into the da ling (inner wrist) point on both hands. Right there in-place, with your arms configured in the protective moment of the downward vertical spike gesture, mentally just for the tiniest microbeat hardly, or not at all, perceptible to an onlooker, flash your mind to the da ling points and instantly take all tension out of that area, out of your wrists. THEN do your final snake up-strike. That moment of relaxation in your inner wrists will instantly collect the energy right there, and the strike will release it. You'l come to feel that with perfect clarity, nothing mystical or mysterious about it.
Just after that downspike you really need to feel the huge pooling of energy in your inner wrists, just beginning to spill over into your hands before the final strike. You need that micro-pause to relax and collect that. Over time that pause can be shortened to almost nothing while retaining the same functionality.
Then as always after an Animal (or any Xingyi technique, a few lines up and back) you do quiet standing and collect yourself. Then you'll realize that the function of Snake is to HUGELY activate the huiyin (perineal) energy hotspot and it will seriously throb and pulse power all up your spine - like the manic energy of a snake!
This is so cool. But I have not emphasized it because I consider it an advanced effect that took me some time to appreciate.
Posted at 09:59 PM | Permalink
Among the dozens of internal training methods laid out in my book SURGE RADICAL TAIJI ENERGETICS there's one little gem that I think has been pretty much ignored, but it's really powerful and incredibly interesting to work with. That is called 無臂樁 (Armless Standing). So how does that work?
Very simple. First just stand in any ZMQ37 pose whatsoever. There are seven good ones laid out in detail in my book PENG ROOT POWER RISING and the same set of seven is covered in the DVD PENG SURFING THE SOFT WAVE. But I don't mean to shill here because obviously you can learn any pose from one of Prof. Zheng's books (with Robert Smith) or my teacher's DVD (for perfect modeling!) or even just watch one of Prof's free YouTube vids where he's doing the form, screenshot any pose you like and do thou likewise. So that's the mechanical/physical part. All poses are equally good for this, and later you'll easily be able to generate the amazing energetic effect to any of the 37 and beyond. For just getting started I will use Single Whip, as in the illustration above.
Once you are standing correct in the pose, you need to experiment with MIND ALONE. You want to develop the ability to sense a "difference" in your energy state based on a purely MENTAL SWITCH. That switch is between two simple strictly mental (no physical change) conditions: STATE 1 where you are conscious of 'having' two arms; vs STATE 2 which is your same body, same pose - but you have no arms. I mean, like they've literally been amputated or birth-defected, like a Greek statue with the arms just GONE. I discuss Professor Zheng's "broken arms" dream in PENG book and point out the misunderstanding that has grown up around that. This drill work directly with the real "broken arms" insight (in the original Chinese, it isn't broken like a ski accident, it's broken OFF, like a Greek statue).
So instead of waiting for a perfect dream, you can consciously work with this principle. At first it will seem like a totally empty, imaginary and abstract (therefore pointless, since 'a difference that makes no difference is no difference', right?). But there is a very concrete reality lurking in the wings if you persist.
Eventually you will discover a distinct different in the energy state (not the physical state) of your arms depending which position the switch is in. First, just try to discover whether you can feel that difference at all. Then, try to intensify the contrast between the two different switched conditions. Then, as a very advanced exercise, try to play with it, by (for example only - you can creatively develop your own play once you get the basic idea of this drill) you can switch super-fast between the energized vs. emptied arms; or you drag out the 'full' or 'arms on' condition as long as you like, or vice-versa.
When you do this, in the 'arms off' condition you are conscious of your entire body - soles of feet, legs, trunk, spine, neck, head, chest - everything is totally LIT UP with energy - but you literally HAVE NO ARMS so of course no energy can go into them because you don't have them. Then you mentally 're-attach' your arms, become mentally aware of them again. This, if practiced over time, will eventually lead to an immediate giant power surge flowing down into both arms at once. Again, in the beginning this will seem like a totally empty pointless abstract thing. But trust me, work with it, it's really fun once it becomes real.
Study the illustration above (from SURGE book) for the basic idea. The key thing is you have to keep the difference in your switch control purely mental. You'll be tempted to physicalize it by fiddling somehow with your arm's position or angle or extension or whatnot between the two conditions. DON'T DO THAT. Learn to work it with your mind alone and the energy will follow.
Eventually you will realize that through this work you have developed absolutely precise conscious mental control over the energy gate to the arms, the yuan ye energy hotspot point at the armpits. It's really fun to calibrate how precisely you can sluice this completely tangible stream using your mind alone to flip the gates at that one precise juncture.
Posted at 02:39 PM | Permalink
People (well, the more honest and polite ones) often ask me after a meetup, what's the secret of that soft-yet-jolting power. Sometimes I say "Just learn Zheng/Lo Tai Chi and yer good". But that's me being lazy. The real answer is deeper - it isn't necessarily tied to any one style or framework (though in practice it almost comes down to that anyway).
But the real answer in concrete terms is that you have to work and strengthen the lower body like hell in cultivation mode, and then never use any physical strength whatsoever in deployment mode. Just that simple to say, hard to do. As for teaching frameworks that impose this discipline, well as TC readers should know, I tend to plump for one in particular uber alles, the Zheng/Lo Tai Chi 37 system.
The Zheng/Lo Tai Chi system has the required attributes, one for power/energy cultivation, and the other for its deployment.
Cultivation: my teacher worked us like a rented mule on lower body training to the point that I had to use my arms to lift my own legs into bed at night aftereach 3-hour class (daily, back in SF time). Now that's working yer lower bod. If you haven't trained with my teacher back in the 80's/90's you don't know the taste of it and probably never will.
Deployment: At the same time, in the push hands / kuzushi part of the training, there was his absolute uncompromising insistence: no power, no strength, no more than four ounces of force what-so-ever.
Those are the twin attributes required of a serious internal training system. All the rest, your qi gong hand waving, your posture/structure fetishisms, your three gates and meridians and meditations and what have you -that's all just window dressing and icing on the cake.
But I don't mean to say that the Zheng/Lo system is the only possible approach that could incorporate those essential two attributes (extreme lower body training in cultivation, no strength whatsoever in deployment).
The only other framework known to me that incorporates the correct approach to both aspects above is one that seems on the surface to be miles away from Zheng/Lo Tai Chi (or any kind of Tai Chi). It's SAGAWA Yukioshi's Daitou Ryuu jujutsu, learned by him from TAKEDA Sokaku and amped up with his own add-on's.
I always say: Sagawa's AIKI power and the authentic TAIJI power are one and the same thing.
An overview of Sagawa and his method is given in the book Transparent Power by KIMURA Tatsuo. But people love to bitch about that book that he didn't give any training details, no take-away's you can really sink your teeth in and work with for daily training.
However, the cognoscenti are aware that an extensive set of Sagawa's personal training notes and diaries, including his own outline of his daily solo private training regimen and how he came to develop it was actually collated and published as a special feature in the June 2008 issue of the popular Japanese martial arts journal, Hiden.
That 6/08 issue is essentially impossible to get your hands on now, totally sold out and unavailable either in Japan or overseas. However, I have a copy of this on hand, so as an Xmas present to you guys I am posting my original translation of the entire special section in that issue: 'Sagawa's Training Legacy'.
Yes - I'm fully aware that some disjointed slices of this special section have been translated and posted here and there on the web in the past. The problems with those are:
The full feature consists of the following four sections:
The first part is done and linked above (Tai Chi website). Others to follow when I feel like it and get to it.
Posted at 02:20 PM | Permalink
Total pointless stupid rant I just buzzed out for fun. Go away now!
XING YI is such an amazing incredible experience - when you finally do it right. It's just so fucking incredibly unbelievable - the energy you can generate. But how can I convey that? I have tried in my book and DVD, but they really fall far short of the mark in two ways.
(1) They cannot convincingly convey just the sheer intensity of the result you can get, the impact of experiencing that; nor, (2) on the technical training side, can they provide enough info for people to replicate it.
Not that I've tried to hold back or anything, but for some reason I think people just don't really "get" it. Because if they really GOT it they would be just going nuts with this stuff. The Xing Yi experience is just so blowout fucking RAD but I can tell that even after my book and DVD, the point hasn't gotten over. Maybe a few exceptions. I have nobody to blame but myself. I haven't been able to do the two jobs above. Even when people do practice XYQ, they just do it as bad karate. AHAHAHA! So beautifully ironic, such a perfect joke.
Hmm but if this XYP (Xing Yi Power :) gets any stronger maybe I will do something that could be more convincing to the masses... what would it take, maybe enter the UFC with it or something, I don't know. But really it shouldn't be necessary for me to put on a dog and pony show, with just a bit of practice you can play with this yourself. After a certain point it really is the most fun you can have in a human body bar none.
Ahhh... I'm just not really putting it over yet am I? No, it's not a religion, or a delusion, or a mystical fantasy. It's a reality of the human body/mind-plex, just like sex or pain or anything else. But why should I care if anybody else knows it? It's just the irrationality of the situation that gets to me.
Such a paradox that this incredible stuff exists but essentially people give very little of a fuck about it but frankly I don't blame them. There's no money in it. SHOW ME THE MONEY ahahaha! And yet, weirdly, there's tons of money in all kinds of dumbass stuff that doesn't hold a candle to the intensity, pleasure, and overall kickassedness of this internal power current. Movies, videogames, rock shows, coke, crack, meth, beer, cigs, porn ... the whole bogus healthcare system, politics, religion, universities, athletics - how come there's tons of money in all that stupid shit? I'm not on a morality thing here at all, I don't give a shit what people do but it's just the strange illogic of it that intrigues me.
Ah... we are shallow creatures... and yet even by standards of shallowness (stacked up against sex, drugs, rock n roll) THIS STUFF FUCKING ROCKS. Seriously it does. I'm just so amazed that even people who practice rigorously honestly have not grokked the blowout profundity of the art. Of course in a way it doesn't matter at all because nothing matters (except food, clothing, shelter, and basic sanitation). But but but this energy ... well, nothing more to say on it.
Posted at 09:06 AM | Permalink
*** After reading this post, read THIS too ***
Hmmm, a fat and juicy water balloon of pure Amazon 1-star hatred lobbed onto my book JUICE RADICAL TAIJI ENERGETICS today. Of course, author-responds-to-review isn't quite the done thing (though many authors can't restrain themselves actually). In fact, many schools of thought counsel that you should never respond to a hate review in any way, just take the high road and ignore. But probably I'm already regarded as such a nut case that how would it possibly downgrade my threadbare rep any further, just by "stooping" to analyze an attack?
Besides for those few relatively fair-minded blog readers out there, it can be instructive to step through a real blitzkrieg of venom like this latest. But just because I'm down there in the mud, where I need to be to read the thing fully and fairly, does not mean I'll be fish-hooking and clothes-lining the guy. I will really try to conduct an impartial and scrupulously academic consideration of the guy's points and manfully acknowledge every good hit.
You have the link up above where you can read the whole thing in its native habitat, so I don't know if it's productive to just slather the full slab of that hate speech right here. Maybe it's best to take a more surgical approach and try to respond to specific issues or lines that most jump out at me. But don't think I'm trying to censor the discussion. Although I'm sorry that I can' re-open comments here because the troll control is too tiresome, but I truly welcome any intelligent reasonable person (not only those who 100% agree with everything I've ever written) honestly, if you have Facebook account go ahead and join our MERGE group and we could truly have some gentlemanly back and forth, seriously. For here and now, sorry this will have to be unilateral.
I will be taking a relaxed approach to the rules of debate. For example I will ask some questions about the guy himself, motives and so on, more just to point out various black holes that hobble any fair and reasonable conclusions than for the purpose of fouling the guy. But since I will be taking that kind of relaxed approach, don't think of this as a formal debate where you need to proudly try to school me on 'ad hominem' or 'straw man' or 'tu quoque' or whatever, as though I've never heard of those things. Think of this as just an informal reaction, from which you might or might not pick up some interest or at least a moment's entertainment.
One of the main themes pissing this guy off is introduced as he steps up to the plate: he should have learned from a real teacher. And later in the review: My thoughts were that this guy needed to find a real teacher. About this whole area, I kind of do have to plead guilty. NOT that I never learned from a 'real' teacher. There are many other great teachers and masters out there, but surely most people in the Tai Chi world, even if they do not accept Benjamin Lo as a great teacher (but why not?) would surely not quibble too much at characterizing Ben Lo as at least a "real" teacher? I mean, just by looking at his resume facts of lineage and time in the art and so on, and the luminaries who have in fact praised him, surely he is at least a "real" teacher of Tai Chi? So then, why do I plead guilty? Well, it's possible that in JUICE I was too coy about naming Ben (I honestly wasn't sure how he'd react to the book, this was not a joint project it was all me, me, me). So I kind of played games about identifying him or hiding him, it's not conducive to a rational evaluation of who exactly I learned from, for how long, and with what degree of acknowledged attainment. Subsequently I've tried to be a little more straight-forward, but reading JUICE alone one could be forgiven for a certain doubt on my training background.
But anyway all I can do it state here and now that I did in fact study continuously and intensely for 25+ years with Benjamin Lo, who even if you don't like him or his approach or you think your own Teacher X is way more of a genuine Tai CHi master or whatever, but come on - surely it's not toooo much of a stretch to at least call Ben a "real" teacher? It's a fairly low bar isn't it? I mean, he taught tens of thousands of students, what more does a person have to do? What is the definition of a 'real' teacher of Tai Chi if not those kinds of things? So while I'm sorry I triggered some doubt on this point, I have to assert firmly and factually that I really did learn from a real teacher, surely not too much doubt can be shed on this point.
So now to be fair to Jay (the assailant) I might be permitted to re-phrase his criticism: Scott should have been more clear and definite about his Tai Chi training background and lineage in this book. That is a fair and good point from which I could learn. Presumably then the reviewer having accepted this conciliatory, logical reasonable-meeting-halfway-point would go on to refocus his claim, maybe he thinks that unfortunately this author (me) didn't actually learn jack shit from that real teacher, in all those years? That might well be the case but that's a different claim that we can consider separately.
So that brings us to maybe the whitest hot heart of Jay's hate for this book/me, which apparently primarily centers on this line on page 16 of JUICE:
I'm not a master of Taiji. If I'm honest I should say I'll never learn it. I'll be a beginner all of my life.
This line really offended the hell out of Jay. He returns to this theme explicitly or implicitly throughout his review. Again, I can meet him halfway here too. Even I, myself, could see this as a blatant example of the infamous 'humble bragging' thing, which is defined as:
Yes, I can see that. I do apologize that the cited quote definitely has that flavor. I suppose that I have some pride in whatever bit of Tai Chi I've managed to come to grips with, but on the other hand, this might be a case where the guy (me) comes across wilder in print than in person. I'm not really quite so arrogant as that could make a reader believe. To be fair, no doubt that a reviewer can only judge based on what's written. That statement on the surface seems arrogant and condescending.
If however, we try to be just a touch more sympathetic, go below the surface, put aside the road rage of righteous hate that reading something like that boils up naturally within us, we might conclude that (a) ugly as the wording may be, it is the basic truth both for me and (b) frankly for almost all practitioners. Isn't it? Is the statement really that outrageous? Actually I wonder that people haven't criticized that line, not so much for revealing the sordid and shameful truth about me, but more just for being an obvious truth that applies pretty much across the board to almost all Tai Chi teachers of today, and therefore not even worth stating. The good Tai Chi people all talk this way.
Again, step through the logic: If we consider Yang Luchan's level as "advanced" then Yang Chengfu's level, by all accounts awesome but nowhere near his grandfather's, must be categorized as "intermediate" - then what does that leave for almost any teacher of today? What else is there but "beginner" level? Is it really so outrageous? Kind of obvious I would have thought. That doesn't mean Jay's wrong to flag it. It's such an obvious point that it probably could be edited out with no loss. But I don't think it's 100% fair to twist this into a disqualifying feature (beginner-hood) that distinguishes me from every other Tai Chi author (presumably all intermediate or advanced level) out there to the point that nothing I say could possibly be of interest.
Is it really fair to say, regarding this cliche of a quote, that: This is where you reach a full stop, and go read a good book. This book is 315 pages, and he invalidates everything he says on page 16 [i.e. with the 'beginner' truism under discussion]. But maybe I should give Jay some credit, in a way it's nice for an author that a reader takes small, throw-away points so literally. Probably I should either stand by the 'beginner' thing more manfully (warn people not to read the book I guess) or else remove or re-word it. 2nd Edition planning begins now, thanks Jay!
But now that we've established that you should only learn from a "master" (my extrapolation of Jay's attitude, I believe it is fair considering the above discussion) we could be shocked to find that there may be nobody we can learn from at all:
He then goes on to bragging about all of his experience in various styles. This is what is refereed to as a collector. You can not master so many styles. With as short as most lives are, you might not even be able to master one. If you are an eternal beginner, you should not be passing on your teachings to other students.
So 'masters' must be extremely rare, and we could doubt whether various famous guys could possibly be masters (as masters are the only people from whom we can pick up interesting ideas? I mean it's not like I was calling for people to be my disciples or sex-slaves like Jonestown or anything, in JUICE I am passing along some thoughts for a modest enough 1-time purchase fee). Multi-style greats, not just one or two 'styles', but many 'styles' - hmmm... what do we think? Sun Lutang, Wang Shujin, Bruce Lee, and lesser but respected luminaries like Bruce Frantzis, Yang Jwangming, Mantak Chia, and so many others, not to mention all the Xingyi greats who also worked in Bagua and vice-versa.
It gets down to the question of what it means to master a 'style'. One of the points of Juice is something that Jay hasn't grappled with, which is: why think in terms of style to begin with? I am trying, perhaps unconvincingly in Jay's view, to end-run the idea of style and concentrate on the essential attributes we hope to absorb from any kind of work. In order to meet reader expectations halfway I did need to couch the discussion initially in terms of a 'style' but I was hoping to kind of undermine that whole 'style' obsession by the end of the book. But again I could plead guilty, because that sure didn't reach Jay at all. One Xingyi master (I don't think anybody would dispute this guy's credentials) put it very well as follows:
Therefore when learning how to practice martial arts, it starts from emptiness and returns to emptiness. When you reach this point, the notions of Xingyi, Bagua, or Taiji all disappear into nothing but waves and ripples, an undifferentiated oneness in which there can no longer be a “Taiji” or a “Xingyi” or a “Bagua”. Therefore the practice of the boxing arts does not lie in the postures, only in the spirit and energy being fully rounded and without gaps.
– Che Yizhai (車毅齋)
Now again, I am not making myself out to be a great practitioner like Master Che, but can't I agree with his profound point here without ruffling feathers? That quote, in a nutshell, is all JUICE is really doing, just putting that idea out there again. To be fair, probably Jay would say that only a guy like Master Che, who has worked all through a 'style' is then qualified to disregard the boundaries. We just have to disagree. I want to have fun working directly with the energy per se, using the style as only a necessary evil to get that kick-started, not as the be-all and end-all of training.
Jay also makes some more specific points, as follows:
He confounds Chi with Jin, and talks about spirit without any explanation on what these terms might mean.
Hmm. Not entirely sure I can completely roll over for this one. Qi vs jin. Well it's a standard distinction usually phrased along the lines that qi is a relatively unfocused but pervasive life energy while jin is the more concentrated and vectored combative (or at least functional) application of that energy, different enough in quality and function to qualify for its own special terminology. I think I said in my Xingyi book somewhere that QI can be compared to humidity while JIN compares to lightning. But we could endlessly quibble about this, and I guess it is possible I didn't drill into the exact possible distinction between these two terms to any expert's (is Jay an expert?) satisfaction. The fact is that even original Chinese sources can be a little fast and loose with this distinction.
In the Tai Chi classic writings, sometimes QI is used in an obviously combative context:
The QI must begin at the feet, then ascend through the legs and waist, so that whether in advancing or retreating you can apply power at just the right moment.
At other times, it is used in a more alchemical sense, almost interchangeably with JIN:
Effortlessly the JIN reaches the headtop. Let the QI sink to the dantian [field of elixir].
Maybe you could make a case that whenever we talk about 'heavier' energies we should classify those as QI and 'ligher' ones as JIN. Somebody would take issue with it though. (In filmed interviews, Professor Cheng talked about the QI reaching the headtop... ) Anyway, we certainly could make a big deal about the terminology distinction in a passage like the one above. Possibly I should have devoted pages to this terminological problem.
But I was more concerned with using descriptions of feeling and experience to frame the energies that you will arise in your training as you relax more: the superficial tingling and warmth energies, the hard wave, the soft wave, etc. I've already apologized elsewhere for the possibly confusing or just irritating use of ACRONYMS in the book, but I can't fairly expect Jay to take those later writings into account. Nevertheless, I tried to acknowledge a starting point of the traditional terminology and then attempted to re-frame the discussion in terms of what you can actually feel in practice. I admit JUICE certainly isn't a scholarly disquisition that's for damn sure :)
There are a variety of other uses of QI in the Classics:
以氣運身, 務令順遂, 乃能便利從心.
Use the Qi to move the body. You must cause it to accord smoothly, then it can easily follow your mind (heart).
The above is a somewhat more 'combative' usage of QI. It's a little hard to maintain the alchemical/combative distinction between QI/JIN when you read lines from other great Tai Chi masters, such as the statement below:
Let’s say the right hand prepares to strike, the mind directs the qi to the armpit
Faced with the above example, of course we could find a better way to cut the difference than the 'life energy' vs. 'combat force' strawman :) that I established above. There are other, maybe better strawmen out there for this.
Sometimes they talk about 'moving the QI' and sometimes about 'moving the JIN' using one or another verb pretty much interchangabliy:
行氣 move the QI (verb: xing)
運勁 move the JIN (verb: yun)
and in Taoist mediation they use phrases like:
運氣 move the QI (verb: yun)
QI also sometimes means 'breath' and other things. I really don't think any author has established an absolute unvarying distinction in these terms that can carry across all writings of the great masters of Tai Chi and Xing Yi. Even if somebody has perfectly untangled the linguistic thicket, my broader point is that whatever hard and fast terminological distinction you try to make, I can find you counter-examples from some master's writings. That is why I tried (and failed apparently) to focus the discussion mainly on the experiential aspects of the energy rather than the terminological.
I guess it's possible that Jay isn't so much quibbling with exactly how I treated the presumably super important and razor-sharp distinction between these words, as that I may not even be qualified to be throwing around Chinese words at all? There I truly have to differ with Jay. It's just a fact, preserved at the Georgetown University registrar's office that I trained intensively in many graduate course-hours (taken while an undergrad) of classical Chinese, year long courses delving intensively into all aspects of ancient and archaic Chinese grammar, terminology, conventions, allusions, and working only from original raw texts under the supervision of respected scholars. What can I say? It's just a documented fact that I am pretty much as qualified as anybody to attempt to work with these texts.
He goes on to say why people have not gotten to the real core of Tai Chi Chuan is because it's hard. (it's Kung Fu right)
Here again he has a point. I do emphasize that it's hard. However, Jay's tone is overly sneering in my opinion, as he seems to imply that I just stop right there. But I make a big deal about why it is hard, the main specific aspect of the difficulty, which is that people don't take the relaxation requirement seriously enough. That's a pretty specific and actionable point. It may again be just too obvious to Jay himself, but as for me, I'm not so sure it's really taken all that seriously in the field. There seems to me to be a lot of unnecessary and counter-productive tension out there and so I do try to call that out, and talk about some specifics of tension and relaxation as the core issue.
What it boils down to, for me, is the ONE STAR thing. A reviewer (warning here's some ad hominem, you don't need to write to me explaining the concept, this is not formal debate, just informal reflections, thanks). of a book like this falls into one of the categories below:
I feel that Jay is cheating himself. I know it sounds so incredibly arrogant to write that. But it's just a fact that if any reviewer trains long and hard enough, even if in some other (related) internal path, eventually he will experience the things I've talked about, and at that point, when he finally feels and who knows, even learns to use the amazing overwhelming high-octane, hydro-electric tsunami of internal energy, I honestly think he'll have just a small pang of belated sympathy for what JUICE tried to accomplish.
Posted at 09:08 PM | Permalink