My remaining taiji training partners know that I can be tedious in repeating certain phrases and one of my favourites is "Taiji must be easy; after all even an old man like me can do it." On the other hand, this old man has been learning, practising and teaching Yang style taiji for many decades. Fortunately I can still remember that it wasn’t so easy for me at first. I had some perserverance but not much self-discipline in my early years of learning; I had some apptitude but not as much as I liked to think on my more arrogant days. I had some experience with hard styles at a recreational level; but the reality of fighting hadn’t been beaten into me sufficiently. I didn’t find out about the old Chinese adage “that not to beat is to cheat the student.” until much later.
This is my first blog post in some months as I was pre-occupied with endless medical appointments needed to diagnose the extent of a cardiac condition — Angina — that first showed up in the early Winter of this year. That long investigation resulted in my having double bypass surgery in early September and, some five weeks later, I had recovered enough to supervise and gently participate in my first small group taiji class since that rather momentous surgical experience.
Rehabilitation after such a procedure isn’t easy. I won’t go into detail about it as you can get more than enough info [and any video visuals you might want to stomach] by looking around the internet. I was left with a scar on the chest and a longer scar on my left forearm where they took a donor artery to use to replace clogged ones at the heart. Rehabilitation involves a lot of daily exercises which are mild though demanding under the circumstances. Within a few days of being home; I also started to add solo taiji work and more recently some baguazhang and xingyiquan as well [though I go carefully and not too quickly through those more demanding sets].
I don't often recommend particular martial arts clips but this one by Ramsey Dewey on the "controversy" over the value of open hand sparring is worth the 20 minutes investment.
Mr Dewey is a very prolific Youtuber™ and I have watched many of the clips on his channel. He seems like an objective, experienced and mature commentator with a great deal of relevant competitive fighting experience. Mr. Dewey runs a MMA gym in Shanghai and as a fighter obviously knows his stuff as do the others appearing in this clip,
For the purposes of their discussion, they filmed some free sparring [light contact] and one of those participating is identified as being a baguazhang practitioner. The discussion particularly addresses the issues of using the open hand vs the fist which is often a popular topic when discussing the differences between Chinese internal styles and the more forceful hard styles.
I found it very interesting in its general analysis of the several clips of open-handed sparring and in particular how bagua can be effective at close quarters. That certainly resonated with me as a long-term bagua practitioner and instructor. This type of demonstration and analysis of actual usage is head-and-shoulders above the usual tripe passed off as bagua applications on social media.
Watch the whole thing [it's worth it] especially for bagua practitioners interested in the self-defence aspects of that discipline
N.B. I've never met Mr. Dewey and have no other reason for recommending his channel and this particular video except that it offers something of value to those who care about their martial training -- whether it be on a recreational or professional level.
Copyright Michael A. Babin ©2019
I was watching a martial arts video on Youtube™ and was struck by a comment by one fellow with bulging muscles, arm tattoos and a shaved head who said that it seemed sad to him to study a traditional martial art so that you spent 10-15 years developing skills that might only let you defeat someone in a real fight who had no training ["an ordinary bloke", as he put it] and it got me thinking.
Those who have a legitimate amateur or professional standing in boxing, wrestling or mixed martial arts do have some grounds for thinking that a lot of the stylized training to be found in the traditional martial arts are largely useless in fighting opponents who have the desire to hurt you as well as the size, strength and experience to back that up.
Not all instructors treat their students like puppets -- not the ethical ones anyway -- BUT it is important for each serious student to let their metaphorical strings be pulled skillfully till they can stand on their own two feet. That usually takes some real investment of time and effort and involves paying attention to what is being taught and then trying to develop the ability to do the physical skills as well as understanding the essential theories of the discipline in question.
I've put in my time and tried to implement the advice and instruction of a variety of teachers over the decades. It's also true that I have spent considerable time teaching other people's training methods and taiji forms [that's called "getting a good foundation". For many years, I tried to copy them in detail, to the best of my ability; however nowadays I am also as likely to practise solo forms and training methods that I have modified slightly as seems sensible to me in my physical twilight as opposed to those that I feel obliged to do simply because "that's the way I learned them".
ck here to edit.
In my experience, being self-taught, once you have some relevant experience, is useful in terms of deepening or broadening one’s understanding. However, there’s no doubt that it can be tough for beginners to recognize real quality when they meet up with it. No matter what your level of experience, it ends up being the same problem for all of us trying to learn new material: figure out what you want and try to find a teacher who meets at least some of those needs and in a few years, you may be better prepared to recognize a better teacher if he or she comes along. Have fun along the way, work hard, be a good student and someday you may be a better practitioner, perhaps even a good instructor.
Training seriously in the Chinese martial arts since 1973; accredited and teaching Yang Taijiquan since 1985 and Baguazhang since 1994.