Tuesday, March 30, 2010

6 Steps to Developing Your Own Secret Weapon Move in Kung Fu and Tai Chi

Many Kung Fu masters have developed unique signature moves that are known as their "secret weapons." Master Guo Yun Shen, who practiced Xing Yi Quan, the ancient, classical "internal" style of Kung Fu is famous for his Beng Quan or "Half-step Crushing Fist." He can release power in a short distance with this famous punch. Grandmaster, Cai Longyun, called "The Big Dragon with the Magic Fists" is known for his signature move, the “Golden Leg Hook." He can throw his opponent off-balance in seconds with a single leg kick. My Grandmaster, Cai Hong Xian, nicknamed “Fast Leg," has a great move called “Wind Following Palm.” He can hit his opponent's face with his palm four times in one second. He can also use his leg to joint-lock an opponent's arm.

These moves all sound so incredible, but what if it was possible to have your own secret weapon?

When you practice your Tai Chi form, do you have a move that you do best? Which move you are so familiar with that you think you don’t have to spend more time on it? Or do you have a particular movement in mind to which you want to devote more attention? If you do, maybe you can spend more time concentrating on this move. Here are some tips on how to start developing your secret weapon:

1. Practice it often! When you have identified your signature move, repeat it 300 times or more every day, so you can do it even without thinking.

2. Sharpen it up! Make your move unique by adding some of your own flavor. Think about smaller or bigger turns or a change of direction.

3. Test it out! If this move is for fighting, test it on partners. (Make sure do it slower at beginning and use good protection, so that nobody gets hurt.)

4. Get Feedback! Improve your move by getting feedback from your partners, classmates, or teacher.

5. Combine it! Combine your signature move with other movements. Do you ever repeat the same move in a fight or performance? Secret weapons often reveal themselves in fighting situations. Familiarize yourself with all the movements of your signature combination.

6. Give it a good name! When others start saying that you have a secret weapon, make sure you are ready with a good name. But remember, just as the grandmasters never called themselves Kung Fu Master or Sifu (teacher), you never announce that you have a secret weapon. The word has to come from other people’s mouths.

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Lesson from Zhang Liang

We see it everyday: people making superficial judgments of strangers they have never met.We all do it. The moment we meet someone new, we begin to judge them. We judge
politicians, celebrities, and more importantly, simple strangers that we meet in our everyday lives. When I meet a new person, I try to keep in mind a legend that my father told me when I was little. It is about Zhang Liang, (262 BC – 189 BC), a strategist and statesman of the early Han Dynasty in China.

One day when Zhang traveled to Xiapi in the province of Jiangsu. It is there
where he is said to have met an old man while walking across the Yishui bridge. The man walked towards him and threw one of his shoes off the bridge and on to
the bank below.

"Hey you, little boy, go down and fetch the shoe for me!"

Zhang was not pleased. But despite the danger of falling into the cold water, he descended down the bank and picked up the shoe. When he returned, the old man lifted his foot and ordered Zhang to put the shoe on for him. The boy controlled his temper, kneeled and carefully helped the elderly man put on his shoe. The old man said nothing, did not show any sign of gratitude. Instead he walked away in laughter. After walking a distance, the old man returned to the bridge. He praised the young Zhang.

"This child can be taught!"

He asked Zhang to meet him at the bridge again at dawn five days later. The boy was
confused but he agreed. Five days later, Zhang rushed to the bridge at the stroke of dawn. The old man was alreadywaiting for him there.

"How can you be late for a meeting with an elderly man? Come back again five days later!"

Zhang Liang tried his best to be punctual the second time but the old man still arrived earlier than he did, and once again he was told by the old man to return again five days later. The third time, Zhang Liang went to the bridge at midnight and waited until the old man appeared. This time, the old man was impressed with Zhang Liang's fortitude and humility. He then presented Zhang with a book and he said to him:

"After reading this book, you will become the tutor of a ruler. In ten years' time the world will become chaotic, and you will use your knowledge from this book to bring peace and prosperity to the empire. Meet me again in thirteen years. I will be the yellow rock at the foot of Mount Gucheng in the town of Ji Pei."

The old man was none other than the legendary wise man, Huang Shigong, whose name
means Old Man of the Yellow Rock. The book was titled The Art of War by Taigong and was believed to be the Six Secret Teachings of Jiang Ziya . Others would call it the Three Strategies of Huang Shigong. Zhang Liang returned home and studied this book very hard until he had mastered its essence.

Ten years later, he went on to assist the emperor Liu Bang who would establish the Han dynasty and unite China. In legend, when Zhang Liang returned to the indicated site thirteen years later he did see a yellow rock there. He built a shrine to worship the rock which was buried with him after his death.

What I have taken away from this story is that it is important to be humble and respectful of others. Humility is an important leadership quality. It involves learning from others, something you cannot do if you are too busy judging them.

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

How Long does It Take to Learn Tai Chi?

Recently, I started teaching a new Tai Chi section. I had one student ask me a question that I have heard many times before. “How long do you think it will take me to learn the whole Tai Chi set well?” His question reminded me of an old Buddhist story.

A young man went to a sword master and asked him:
“How long will it take to learn the sword well?”
“30 years.”
“What happens if I practice very hard?”
“40 years.”
“What happens if I practice as much as possible?”
“50 years.”

In Chinese, we have a saying: “you can’t reach your goal if you are in hurry.” Anything takes time to learn well. When practicing Tai Chi, the goal is not speed, it is patience. When we practice Tai Chi we train our patience as much as we train our bodies. Only if you can quiet your mind will you have the patience to pay attention to the details and learn each exercise well. Without patience, you would only jump to the next move without completely finishing the first.

In light of message, I give the following advices to my students:
- There are 85 movements of Yang Style Tai Chi. No need to hurry. Learn one at a time.
- The key is to learn each movement in detail.
- Go over the notes before class, ask questions during class and review at home.
- Concentrate on practicing on the movements you had trouble with.
- Watch the teacher carefully from different angles, and concentrate on how the whole body moves together.
- Ask the teacher how each movement should feel if you are doing it correctly. Do it yourself to make sure you are getting that feeling.

Copyrighted By Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

6 Most Important Words for Tai Chi Beginners

The six most important words for Tai Chi Beginners are

Quiet – In Tai Chi language, We say "Step like a cat". There shouldn’t be any sound when you lift or step down your foot.

Relaxed – Don’t raise your shoulders and elbows, and release all your tension on muscles.

Centered – Your eyes should see straight; and your body should be vertical to ground.

Slowness – There is no hurry to get a movement done, please transfer weight bit by bit.

Evenness – You need to try to perform with even speed, and even coordination between upper and lower body.

Stable – Have the right stance and structure is the key. Your feet shouldn’t stay on one line. A good stance will help you to maintain a stable position .

Copyrighted Huan's Tai Chi 2010