The easiest way to rob your opponent of their power is to break their connection with the ground. Thus uprooted, Newton’s Third Law compromises their ability to generate penetrating force, and reduces any continued aggression from a potentially deadly threat to a mere nuisance.
The complementary skill—the ability to keep your footing amidst incoming force—is known in Chinese martial arts as rooting.
Typical demonstrations of rooting skill consist of a wushu master in a static posture, with a pack of disciples pushing and pulling to no avail. These shows are impressive, but often fail to highlight the most important characteristic of the skill:
Wuji zhuang is the weakest stance in Chinese martial arts. Standing straight and still with their arms down at their sides, the practitioner of the wuji stance is in no position to deliver an attack, or to defend against one. They are sitting ducks, utterly unable to resist force from any of the four directions. So why is wuji zhuang so esteemed among high hands, and considered an important part of training in taijiquan, yiquan, and other arts?
The practice of wuji zhuang, or standing meditation, releases the hidden power of self-knowledge.
Shield and spear
To the ancient Romans, the concept of a non-violent martial art would be nonsensical. Their literal definition of martial was “belonging to Mars”, the god of war. Modern usage of the term martial arts, however, is hardly related to military strategy and tactics.
Today, most popular martial arts are practiced without arms. Considering this shift in focus, from immediate and practical skills to more abstract and long-term benefits, it is reasonable to ask whether violent destructive potential is still necessary at all.
Is a non-violent martial art worthy of study?
The best warm-up exercises do more than increase your heart rate. They build flexibility, strength, balance and coordination, in a way that is relevant and beneficial to your martial art.
Here is one of my favorite exercises for loosening the kwa, or hip region. Tim Cartmell demonstrated it at a recent seminar in Seattle.
In these video clips, Tai Chi master Peng Youlian demonstrates a fusion of Chinese and Canadian cultures: Tai Chi Hockey Stick. Peng is one of the only surviving masters of this rare weapon form.
Chen style Tai Chi Chuan practice
Attaining competency in Tai Chi Chuan requires hundreds of hours of correct form practice, and mastery requires thousands more. One impediment to sustained practice is a lack of interest: Tai Chi forms are too boring to perform daily.
Perseverance in the face of boredom builds character; however, feelings of boredom may be a sign that your learning has stalled. To keep your practice fresh, productive and fun, try performing these variations on your standard Tai Chi forms.
In this installment of our series on the greatest kung fu movies ever made, we consider the samurai genre.
The characteristics of the samurai ethic include courage, loyalty, and honor. The greatest samurai movies not only illustrate these virtues, but present them in a novel, unexpected, and ultimately enlightening way.
The classification of Chinese martial arts into two families—internal and external—is generally accepted without question. Despite its popularity, the precise definition and significance of these families is not universally agreed upon.
What is the origin of the internal/external categorization? And what should it mean to you as a martial artist?
One of the gentlemen in my practice group alerted me to this video clip. Henry Wang, an expert in the Cheng Man-ching style of Taiji, repeatedly bounces a puncher away through his own punch. Not only that, but he is sitting on a table, with his feet off the ground, while he does it!
Attempts to categorize the various styles of martial arts practice typically place them into one of two groups: striking or grappling, soft or hard, internal or external, etc. But this type of classification is overly broad and misleading; all comprehensive martial arts transcend simple dualism.
Here is a different model you can use to describe and analyze your training. This model is based upon four distinct stages of movement practice. Each stage contains unique challenges, and attaining mastery at each stage confers specific benefits.