The subject of Qigong is a difficult one to come to terms with on many levels though we live in a time in which it has become very popular again, both in the West and in China.
I won’t try to summarize any aspect of this exercise/meditative umbrella of practises except to say that many taiji teachers have said that our discipline is not a form of qigong and that such supplementary exercises are not useful to developing any of the six Family styles of taijquan and their attributes.
One of the exceptions to this is the practise of standing quietly for extended periods of time [5-30 minutes] before and/or after doing any of the traditional Yang solo forms. Since I am, foremost, a Yang style practitioner, I will let one of the acknowledged masters of that art voice his opinion on this from "The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan" by Yang Cheng fu  , translated in 2005 by Louis Swaim and published in 2005. It summarizes neatly the Yang Family approach to standing still as being an integral part of learning and practising that discipline
This is a very short article on a very complex subject and It’s not a topic I have usually addressed with either groups or individuals for a simple reason — the only way to defend against a knife in the hands of someone who wants to hurt you is to use another weapon against him or her. Sad to say even if you succeed you’ll be cut [or worse] and then you have to deal with the legal system afterwards as well as the ethical issues to be confronted.
You wouldn’t know this from the endless earnest offerings on the internet and on instructional dvd or short-term self-defense courses on offer by various combative experts all promising that their methods will ensure survival against attacks by edged weapons. I don’t like blanket statements about the value of most of what I have seen but I will use one for this topic — Nonsense!
Don’t believe me… take your best man [or woman] in terms of martial experience; put an untrained attacker into some decent protective gear and give them a magic marker and tell them to attack the ‘good guy’ as if their life, or the life of a loved one, depended on it. Afterwards, count the number of coloured slash marks on the martial artist’s uniform or t-shirt even if it looked as if they had succeeded in defending themselves.
So, don’t play with knives if you think that learning some techniques will allow you to use your empty hands to stop an armed attacker without getting badly cut, maimed or worse!
Copyright Michael A. Babin ©2018
N.B. In the interest of fairness to all the experts touting their unarmed knife defense methods; some are better than others though most offer delusions of safety rather than practical advice. It is also true, I will admit, that some training is often better than none, particularly if the training allows you to get used to the idea that someone is really going after you with potentially lethal results. In the end, it is better to die on your feet trying to defend yourself than to die on your knees in a panic.
Aside from the explosion of the availability of instructional martial arts cassettes and dvds in the last 25 years and now internet courses, the same period has seen the proliferation of workshops and seminars. The good side of this is that practitioners can spend an intensive weekend or week studying with like-minded students under a famous instructor with an international following. Deepening your understanding or contrasting how your style diffes from what is being shown can be very useful for an experienced practitioner. The bad side of this is that some participants will inevitably confuse a superficial familiarity with the material with competence. This can affect all levels of attendees and it is not uncommon to find teachers incorporating new material into their own curriculums based solely on what they were able to glean from a few hours or days with a master practitioner.
In taiji two-person training, we are told to “find” or “stick-to” or “search for” the other person’s Center and how important it is to be relaxed/sensitive to do learn to do this. I have tried to keep this little article rather general in the sense that I refered to the person you are doing [or trying to do this] with as your “partner”. I suppose I could have made it sound a bit more martial by writing “opponent” but many who study taijiquan are interested in formal push-hands training as a sensitivity exercise more than as one of the many tools needed for self-defense — much less fighting for fun or as a competitive sport where youth and fitness are essential — so I will keep my comments to the civil side of taiji two-person training.
By the way, in talking about a partner’s Center in taiji, we are discussing, at a basic level, the practicaliities of training your own physical touch to establish how well connected to the ground the other person is in structural terms [for example, do they feel stiff in some parts of their body or overall? do they feel segmented in terms of their upper and lower body or uncoordinated in general? do they feel solid but relaxed? etc.,]. All this has to be done while moving your body in the manner prescribed by the style/teacher that is supervising your efforts. With time and effort, you can learn to do this “your own way” but that is sometimes difficult to reconcile with stylistic needs.
A traditionalist would argue that one should always practise outside, preferably in a garden or park and whenever possible in the early morning. I have known practitioners over the years who would refuse to practise indoors and instead risk frost-bite or getting wet in the rain. Good for them; but that's not for me. Where I live it seems to rain or snow a depressing amount of time, year-round, and the ground outside is often too slippery to risk doing solo forms. At my age, a broken hip or wrist is no laughing matter -- no matter how good your sense of humour.
So, as my stealing a phrase from Star Trek would suggest, the answer for those of us who are geographically-challenged by the weather is to look for enough space [indoors] to practise safely and in some comfort. However, you may already know that isn't easy if you live in a small apartment or the wife objects to you swinging a sword in the living room while she is trying to watch tv. Of course, some apartment buildings have recreational rooms or gymnasiums that can be of some use for regular practise but your fellow tenants may object, overtly or otherwise, to your taking up space with your slow-motion/strange movements, especially if you are using a staff, broadsword or sword.
I watched a video today of the best of a workshop that Rob gave last year on close range tactics from the perspective of the Systema that he practices and teaches in the UK. I was reminded while doing so that we live in an audio-visual age which might well have made the founder of the Yang style Taijiquan, Yang Lu Chan, green with envy. For those who don't know the story, he was reputed to have learned the basics of his art by watching Chen-style practitioners practising while he hid behind a stone wall and watched them training night-after-night. What would he have thought of the modern opportunity to attend workshops, buy dvds, stream instructional videos or "shop around' at a variety of martial arts that teach openly to anyone?
I felt a little bit like I was "stealing secrets" myself while watching Rob and his students training on my monitor screen. Perhaps I'm only fooling myself as to the depth of my understanding of martial body mechanics but I saw much that I recognized and liked. I also saw much that was done differently or explained in ways that made more sense to me than the kinds of explanations I have used with my own students over the years for similar methods of standing and moving while delivering and receiving "discomfort".
43+ Years of Experience Training in the Chinese martial arts; 33+ years experience teaching taijiquan and 24+ years experience teaching baguazhang