How Mario Napoli Beat Chen Village Taiji

Excerpted from Mario Napoli’s interview at Taiji Forum.

I was in a no man’s land concerning this art. I just could not get it! I was lost, demoralized and had [already] quit Tai Chi Chuan [once]. I only went back to it because I heard how good [Stanley Israel] was… so I figured I’d give Tai Chi Chuan one last try.

We hit it off instantly. After just touching him, I knew he was the one who was going to teach me. He made it sound, look and feel so easy. It was very refreshing and I felt as if I understood everything he said explained and showed! He made it fun for me to go to class. The work was hard, but I took to it like fish to water.

“Just push!”

We had many debates and Stan would always say to me, “Why are you so confused?”

It began after a pushing [hands] lesson when he said to me “Mario, just push.” and I would say, “What do you mean, just push? I mean I can push this way or that way…” Then he would repeat “Just push,” and I would again say, “But I may just end up shoving! Shoving is wrong, right?”

Continue reading How Mario Napoli Beat Chen Village Taiji

Charles Manson and the Many Faces of Tai Chi

Writer and Tai Chi expert Scott Meredith recently made this keen observation about Tai Chi marketing:

Tai Chi faces

This graphic shows the unconscious cultural bias that affects internal training. What do all these have in common? Yeah – they show only upper body, arm gestures, or at least massively emphasize the upper body, arms, hands and heads, to the partial or complete exclusion of feet, legs, and hips…

Our profound entrancement with the upper body has made us all tense as hell up there. That’s one issue. The other issue is that, paradoxical as it may seem, the only way to get the real internal in the upper body (arms, hands, whatever) is by relentless internal conditioning of the lower body (feet, legs, hips).

All of that is true. Modern humans really are obsessed with their upper bodies. Our middle and upper class jobs are performed with hands and eyes, while the lower body is resting in a seated position. And even after forty to fifty hours of office work, leading to pathologically tight hip flexors and hamstrings, most of us would still prefer to skip leg day at the gym.

Lower body workouts are a tough sell. I myself have accidentally frightened away new students in the past, by demonstrating a low posture in an introductory Tai Chi class. As Scott implied, Westerners have been conditioned to expect a vibrant new level of health, as a result of adopting exotic Asian hand positions. To be confronted with the coarse reality of a low squat is a deeply dissonant experience.

Marketing professionals and cover designers know this, and respond to the desires of the marketplace.

It’s fun to make cynical observations about advertising. Nevertheless, let’s acknowledge that martial artists and marketers have a common goal: influencing others’ behavior with minimal cost and effort. Tai Chi fans ought to learn from the wisdom displayed by these ad packages. It’s not about excluding the waist and everything below. It’s about focusing on a human face. Continue reading Charles Manson and the Many Faces of Tai Chi

The Automotive Applications of Tai Chi Chuan

Over the past few months, I have made a careful survey of Seattle’s Tai Chi skills.  I have toured the community centers, local parks, and martial arts studios.  Watched many classes, spoken to dedicated and passionate instructors.  After reviewing these groups, I can tell you exactly where to find the best Tai Chi in Seattle.

Go to the northeast end of downtown at rush hour.  Or try just south of Montlake cut.  You can also head west from Green Lake.  Yes, if you really want to see the best Tai Chi applications in town, just find any steep hill with a stoplight. Continue reading The Automotive Applications of Tai Chi Chuan

SlowFlo: The Christian Alternative to Tai Chi?

Are you feeling run down? Suffering from tired blood? Do encounters with foreign cultures leave you confused and angry?

WholyFit SlowFlo Christian Tai Chi

If so, then we have a solution for you. It’s called SlowFlo, the Christian alternative to Tai Chi.

Inspired by Chuck Norris, the art of SlowFlo reforms the inscrutable pagan art of Tai Chi Chuan into a safe and guilt-free form of Christian exercise. Continue reading SlowFlo: The Christian Alternative to Tai Chi?

Wang Zongyue’s Taiji Boxing Trademark

All characters and events in this post–even those based on real people–are entirely fictional. The following page contains coarse language and reasoning and due to its content, it should not be read by anyone.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been trolled! Hoaxed! Buffaloed and bewildered!

It doesn’t happen often these days. I’ve been discussing martial arts on the Internet since before Web 1.0. I’ve seen most of the pranks, and yes, pulled a few myself.

What is the best style of martial arts for fit, beautiful women with large breasts? Please let me know, so I can sign up for it. Serious replies only.

So when someone dangles a truly ridiculous assertion in front of my nose, I usually have the good sense to ignore it these days. Usually. But a few days ago, one fairly experienced martial artist and provocateur knocked me for a loop.

We were chatting about the relevance of Taijiquan and push hands to combat. I said that I considered it inappropriate to keep one’s arms below the chest for the duration of push hands practice, regardless of whether one is interested in the martial applications of the art. It wasn’t intended as a criticism, really–just a quick observation in the midst of a wide-ranging discussion. But he eventually replied,

All this about arm position and circling is irrelevant, because in Push Hands, as long as you can touch your partner anywhere on their body, you can pop ’em (as long as they have just a bit more unconscious tension than you do). That’s it. Doesn’t much matter where you touch them as deep unconscious tension (unlike superficial and/or conscious tension) is not localized it is a diffuse property–like a dye that is wicked through a material rather than a local stain. So, hands up or down shouldn’t matter much in the deep sense except that by the standards of physicalized Push Hands which the Guest seems to advocate it should simply make it that much easier to pop me up and out.

In retrospect, I should have addressed the issue in terms a software engineer can understand Continue reading Wang Zongyue’s Taiji Boxing Trademark

Taiji Robot Showdown!

The advances in robotics over the past ten years are amazing to see. Every year, they get harder, better, faster, stronger.

It is inevitable that they will get tired of vacuuming our floors, and rise against us. Fortunately, nobody is teaching them how to fight…right?

Sony QRIO

Continue reading Taiji Robot Showdown!

Penn and Teller: Two Morons Learn Martial Arts

Penn & Teller: Bullshit

In a recent episode of their hit Showtime series, stage magicians Penn Jilette and Raymond Teller warn viewers away from the universally fraudulent field of martial arts. Now a real expert martial artist rescues us from their half-baked debunkings.

For their own convenience, Penn and Teller divide the world of martial arts into three categories: traditional, mystical, and murderous. Continue reading Penn and Teller: Two Morons Learn Martial Arts

Qi Magazine: Free To Download Today

Qi Magazine covers

For almost twenty years, Qi Magazine featured original articles on kung fu, qigong, and other facets of Chinese culture, many written specifically by and for martial artists. (Qi Magazine is not to be confused with Qi Journal, which seems more targeted to the Goji berry set.)

Qi Magazine ceased production in early 2009, and publisher Michael Tse has since opened the archives. Continue reading Qi Magazine: Free To Download Today

Yang Jwing-Ming: “Tai Chi was the only doctor I could afford”

From his recent interview with Lama Somananda Tantrapa…

“Between the ages of 9 and 12, I had almost no food. Taiwan was preparing for a war against mainland China. Most of us kids were starving.

There were nine children in my family, and at that time, feeding nine children was not easy. All our problems gave me an ulcer by the time I was 16 years old.

One day, I was sitting in the corner in a cold sweat. My White Crane Kung Fu master said I had a stomach problem. “What should I do?” I asked him. I had no medicine, and no money to see a doctor. Continue reading Yang Jwing-Ming: “Tai Chi was the only doctor I could afford”