moving about. learning Chinese, practicing Tai Ji Quan, doing Qi Gong, or simply going out running. resisting the monkey impulses.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Poking around with the sword

At James' class today, bumbled through the lao jia and the Chen sword. Good crew there, about 8 students in all. Nice day for once, so we cracked open the doors for a bit of breeze. Off to youtube now to look for Chen Zheng Lei performing the sword form for reference.

Probably shopping tomorrow (a wedding next weekend, so want to look decent), so I put in a longish run (1:20) this evening. Then back to HQ to catch the last of Wimbledon in between cooking operations.

Labels: ,

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Back to it

Quick report on last week. Lots of gym, a run OUTSIDE, bit of swimming.

James' saturday tai chi. Great to be back in class. Bumbled through the lao jia (manageable with others. totally impossible on my tod). Bit of push hands. No I don't remember any of the two-hand push hands patterns. Got introduced to Chen style sword (jian). Interesting!

Mandarin classes started up again. The momentum seems to be building there, more conversations. I think our teacher should force us to speak autonomously a bit more, we can handle it. I've tried to be systematic in the week, in terms of pushing the vocab and han zi (i.e. characters). Lost track of cpod though.

This week wasn't so great. Missed lots of gym "slots" due to random social gatherings and late working. I should just have a Rule. Six o clock, down tools, phones, pens, mice.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 10, 2007

Master Wang Chieh, Push Hands Practice, Taiwan

I saw this intriguing photo on Flickr (I have a feed looking at photos with the "Tai Chi" tag) which then led me to this clip of a blindingly brilliant push hands session. This got everyone in the office wondering what was going on. Strength through softness, innit?

Mike Martello (reasonably well known in European/US/Taiwan Tai Chi circles), who put up the YouTube vid, along with dozens of others, seemed to be at the event (looks like it was organised by this club) photographed by Flickr user BeijingKungfuCamp2007.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sword (links)

Dunno whether the class will start doing sword form again, so for now my little floppy practice sword is gathering dust. I would actually like a one-piece practice sword rather than an extendable version. I heard a nasty rumour about sch things becoming harder to get hold of in the UK – some sort of forthcoming weapons legislation?

Here's Mike Garafolo on taiji sword forms in general. Click through to find his excellent links and bibliographies.


Saturday, March 31, 2007

March Progress

Chinese : classes over for another term. Waiting to hear what will happen next - the classes don't run unless there are a minimum number of students, and some of us (there were 6 left at the end) are dropping out for various reasons. Chinesepod is a great backup, and now that I've got a car adapter, I can crack through the podcasts. I don't listen to Newbie level now, and I keep running out of Elementaries. Intermediates are still slightly too hard.

Running : I seem to be able to manage three sessions a week now, plus one gym. Or two gyms and two runs. Some good runs lately, around familiar loops.

Taiji : At the weekly class, we got to the end of Lao Jia Yi Lu. Admittedly in a very ragged way, but yeah! Off to Wang's class today to do it properly, where we are about 12 moves in. Although the level is more consistent there (only reasonably serious folk turn up), his method is to go over and over the moves rather than go through forms at a high rate of knots.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Bit of progress

It might be hubris to say that I might actually be getting the hang of things. This time last term I was getting the distinct feeling of slipping downwards, or at least not going up. This could well have been due to the chaos, or at least the intensity, of my term 1 schedule. I counted at least 6000 of the ten thousand things.

The new year's been a bit better. I've almost got a rhythm going with Chinese, helped I think by getting a gizmo to listen to ChinesePod in the car. The classes are being run a bit more steadily now, and I think the rest of the class is bit less panic-stricken.

As well as my regular taiji classes, the Wang Hai Jun monthly specials have started again. Two this year so far, both excellent. I got on the same tube train as him last weekend on the way to the class, and we kept up a 90%-in-Chinese conversation on the way to the class. It's hard to gauge, but I think that's way above the level of my O-level French. The taiji was good too, working through the lao jia yi lu, and concentrating a lot of figure of eight hip movements in the form and in silk reeling.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Chinese: 5 weeks into new cycle of classes at UCL. Our teacher left to go and do stuff in Aberdeen, so we have new one. The class is good, full of nice people. We are mostly practicing conversational stuff now.

Tai Chi: Occasional practice. No lessons since the summer break! Our trip to Morocco didn't help us get back into the routine, neither did a whole bunch of worky stuff at the start of term.

Running. M is travelling around madly as usual, so I'll blame my lack of dedication on my inability to persuade myself to go out alone in the cold. I've been down to gym a few times, just to demonstrate to my CV system that there is a plan. Don't know what it is yet.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Naah, there's no such thing as chee ... is there?

An account of a skeptic/hostile's encounter with reiki, when he was the young Luke Skywalker. As the slightly older version, he reflects:
about five minutes later, I felt really tired. Two minutes after that, I sort of slumped in my chair and the taiji teacher asked me what I was feeling. I said that I could still feel the pain but it’s like it was a thousand miles away. The throbbing was like hearing a drum in the distance. I also felt totally relaxed and calm, like after a total body massage.

He stopped and said that was the power of reiki, and I remember feeling a bit sheepish. Not only did the treatment work to alleviate the pain, but it worked DESPITE me thinking that it wouldn’t. That really surprised me. There was no hypnotic suggestion or chalking that experience up to the power of belief, etc.

I didn’t know what to do with that experience for many years, and, to some extent, I still don’t even today.
In the blogging tradition, I've stolen the punchline, right? If this sort of thing interests you (the boundary between what you know, and what works, and the fractal nature of that boundary) read the full post from Formosa Neijia.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Result of blood test "nothing actionable" though Cholesterol was 6.1. [mmol per litre presumably], which puts me in the uppper 25% or so of the population. That could be lower – recommended is nearer 5 – so I might have to look at the cakes/pies/sausages intake a bit more critically. I know what to eat, but usually am pretty lazy. Oh a nice ham and mozarella sandwich to go with my coffee and almond croissant. OK then.

As a result, somebody has been putting fruit in my lunchtime sandwich box. Fruit! £@&*?!

I went for a little run yesterday, for the first time since the initial chest discomfort anomaly.

Other signs are all about laziness too. I took Chinese in Steps textbook on holiday, read one lesson once with the audio on the iPod, wrote nothing. As a result Mandarin progress feels pretty static (though I seem to be comfortable with most Elementary Chinesepod podcasts) and taiji the same. Short (18-move) Chen is done pretty often (daily-ish), long form not at all (I'll probably forget this over the summer), and silk reeling when I feel like it. Push hands when I bump into Peter, as described before.

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 14, 2006

Who are those madmen? ... and subconcious development.

When I go to one of my departments for a meeting, I often bump into Peter, who bumps back with his xing yi, or more likely his ba gua. We had a nice meeting room with a bit of space today, so indulged in a bit of three-quarter speed sparring/push hands after the meeting. Hence the what-are-they-doing-mummy noises from new members of the admin team.

Regular readers will know that I'm feeling under the weather, so I deliberately wanted to keep things low key. Peter is much more practiced at his favoured styles than I am with my taiji, so it's usually a struggle for me to properly resist his attacks. And pointless to try and use strength anyway. I found that my being not "up for it" I was better defended. By not resisting (Grrrr!), but calmly moving around (OK then let's see what you do next) and keeping some sort of contact and letting the tactics flow from the form, I was able to maintain more of a viable position. Occasionally I could unsettle Peter's root (bastard keeps walking around!) or plant a token strike or kick. Calmly, as if doing something mundane yet tricky like folding an envelope in a strong wind, rather than fighting as if it were important for life or honour. At present that seems to be the way for me to keep proper attention to root and form over the natural (yet flawed) reflexes associated with someone else invading my space.

This was a great improvement on last time, six weeks ago. It's not that I've been doing masses of tactical work or push hands (though I've done a bit). It's more that the subconcious has been working away, doing its thing: processing little inputs from past lessons, putting pieces together, speeding up transitions, making new connections.

I think this is such an important component of learning, and highly underrated or disregarded by Western teachers in many fields. At the said university department, one of the agenda items has been proposal (not from any of us I should add) to shorten 10-week courses to 5 weeks, but doubling the intensity. There were allegedly some good administrative reasons for this, but the basic premise seems to rest on a false equation. The number of hours formally studying is one parameter, but the number of times the head hits the pillow during a course is another very important one.

Brains have to simmer sometime, they can't always be boiled.

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Mixing it up

Formosa Niejia's been freaking me out with his intensity and acronyms. BJJ: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? IMA: Internal Martial Arts, obvyusslee. What else? NHB: No Holds Barred. All getting scary for this monkey. He's even got a favourite MMA bout: sheesh who are these guys? Ahh: Cook Ding sorts me out with this post.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Mike Sigman Workshop

Mike Sigman is running a two-day workshop "Basics of Internal Strength" on 1st 2nd Juy 2006 at Wadhurst, East Sussex.

Here's a good background interview explaining some of Mike's approach.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

End of month report

Unlike most of my other blogs, this one's hosted on my own webspace. Which means I can read the log file. Therefore I've just noticed that another internal martial artist blog is linking this one. It's called Formosa Neijia, and it's pretty hardcore wushu-type stuff. Ni hao! This is what he says in his (presumably) About thingy:
I came to Taiwan six years ago to pursue my interest in IMA (internal martial arts). I am a continuing student of xingyiquan, baguazhang, and taijiquan. Lately, I have also started studying Han Qing-tang's long fist system.

Edit: he moved his blog in October 06 to another location.

I also noticed some search interest for "Mike Sigman". Amazing, these logfiles. I do know he's going to be in the UK, in Sussex, in July I think, doing another internal strength workshop. I've got the flyer somewhere, so I'll dig that out the pile of paper on the kitchen table and post details here. Otherwise there should be some floating around in Wang Hai Jun's taiji class tomorrow (looking forward to that).

On the Mandarin learning front, reading and comprehension is going pretty well. I'm actually enjoying the backwards difficulty step, as it's obvious that some of the basics didn't go in properly the first time. Right now we are doing some of the 了‘s and the 是...的 construction. Having the audio on the ipod really helps.

I found some great grid-paper on the web, with included diagaonals, ideal for practicing han zi. Scroll down to the Chinese section at the end, but wonder at the other varieties on the way. Oh the depth of human ingenuity! If you want just squares, I got squares. (Doc and PDF, A4 and Letter. 60 kB zip).

I like writing han zi, but I can barely remember more than a few dozen, or so it seems, and I am s-l-o-w. It takes at least half an hour to fill an A4 sheet.

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Puffing and Panting

A big chunky week this week.

On the Mandarin front, the class's usual teacher returned from Shanghai, and we got stuck into the dialogs. As I've said before, the level is OK/a bit easy/ but it's going good. I got my iMac back from the menders, so the latest podcasts from ChinesePod are getting listened to on trains. The ChinesePod forum is lighting up a bit, and there's a few good tips coming out. One of which was a full dictionary for Palm (and other handhelds) called Pleco. I even spent real money on it! Good thing, this weak dollar!

I spent a good hour or so studying han zi yesterday, and I should be doing the same now, except ...

I'm feeling pretty wasted from this morning's run. We missed the rain that's been persisting down for the rest of the day, and didn't deliberately train that hard, but I feel like I've just done a Half. It was one the usual Munstead/Bramley loops. Would have taken the camera, being jealous of Running in Suffolk's splendid photo/running blog, except it was grey as a damp battleship.

I went down the gym on Friday (my sixty-quid a time visit!) and whizzed around the place on the bike yesterday, so I'm not suprised the batteries are low. I really can't study when I'm tired. Put the kettle on, love!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Just back from the second Wang Hai Jun class. I'm knackered now. Some of that was due to the Northern Line being out of commission, but also because of the intensity of the sesssion. It became a very humid afternoon just as we started getting into the stamps, leaps, kicks and jumps of the 18-movement Chen style form. As before, nothing that I strictly speaking had not seen before, but a different quality altogether. Loads of people took pictures, which might get posted later. I think Andy who runs Palmchange was going to post the group photo there.

Met Julia who was at the Norfolk weekend (photos on Flickr) last year. She amazed me by having a photo of us lot – on Holkham Beach during the course – still on her camera since last August. I'm more of a two-memory-cards-a-day man.

On the way up, I studied Chinese in Steps. It's going quite well. If I put in a couple of good long sessions each week, the size of the lessons is not too much to keep up with. I spent about an hour yesterday translating simple sentences, and writing them out.

second character should be "zhi2" - error in IME?

Yes, it took me about that time to do all six.

So, as I was studying on the train today I briefly chatted to a guy sitting opposite who admitted to wanting to start learning. He looked Chinese, but turned out to be Thai, though I heard him speaking German on the phone! He said he'd studied lots of Western European languages and had moved on to Russian. Thai is tonal, and grammatically similar to Chinese (lots of implied verbs and sentence components, particles-a-go-go, all that) so I reckon he's got it easier than most. Also being a pianist he'll know what it's like to hunker down and practice, and he'll be used to reading strange notational systems.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Tai Chi class assembling

Tai Chi class assembling
Tai Chi class assembling,
originally uploaded by Drift Words.
Here's proof that I went along to Wang Hai Jun's class this Sunday. No great innovations to report, however, it was really great to stand and practice with this master. His style is at once fluid and powerful. Best thing he said? "AAAAAHHH!!" (A sound emphasising the development of power during silk-reeling and form).

Incidentally, because his English isn't great, I got a some Mandarin demonstration into the bargain. I could understand the odd word here and there, though nothing approaching a functional level.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 31, 2006

YouTube, and going to Wang's

Do you remember ages ago I talked about doing taichi practice video? No? Well, I even dreamed in the bath about a site to store little clips, and share them with friends. Well here's one such site: You Tube. It's like Flickr for video, and it's not the only such site. Like most of these Flickr-copies, it's got tags, groups, friends as well as the basic media storage and viewing. Have a look! There's some Chinese form competition on there that's quite eye-opening. You mean that's Yang-style, jumping around on one leg like a insane thing??!

Calm down. I'm off to Wang Hai Jun's workshop in London this Sunday. I reckon we'll be going over Chen style short form.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Slightly white water

If I'm just floating along, I don't see the need to bother the world.

On the other hand, if there's white water, I'll be too busy not drowning to give a commentary.

OK, here's a bit of moving stream, with a few bubbles and waves that you might like. As usual, it's about learning Chinese and Taichi.

Chinese class was a little bit frightening. I reckon if I had put in about 30 minutes of proper study a day, right from the beginning, I would be comfortable. The last couple of weeks have been 75% incomprehensible to me, and my effective speaking vocab has been a couple of words at a time. I know once shouldn't compare, but others in the class have been rattling away while I've been gripping the edge of the desk. Aaaagh!!

Let's do homework. A simple thing to start, after having spent most of an hour writing out han zi. Connect the front end and back ends of these five sentences. An hour and a half later ...

The problem is that if you fall behind on vocab, the grammar points are inaccessible. I'm hoping some of my vocab will come back from its Christmas holiday soon. I'm also looking for ways to inject confidence. A colleague is a year behind, in a totally different evening class, and bragging to her helped enormously!

Tai chi: last night we did the short Chen form at normal practice speed, then faster, then faster still, then a little bit faster! Great! Even though one doesn't put much effort into the form, you can feel the punches and pushes go SNAP SLAP BLAT by themselves! This was great heat-building entertainment and the rest of the session was challenging too. We encountered a series of new moves in the lao jia (Old Form) that normally would have taken us weeks.

So a bit of heavy work with the paddle against the tide, and some fast lazy riding the swift current. Incidentally, it's perhaps because I don't feel the need to bother the world that I float along, in some ways. That's a thought for tomorrow.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Wakan and Yi Quan

From Cook Ding's Kitchen, this interesting language tool. Windows-only unfortunately. Since I've almost entirely switched I'm passing on the recommendation as is. The project website looks nice though.
While I was at it, I came across a very interesting program entitled Wakan. It’s available as a free download as long as it’s not put to any commercial use. Wakan translates between Japan and English, and between Chinese and English. It’s a very handy way to look up words and characters. Even if you have no intention of studying either Japanese or Chinese, but may want to look up a word or character from time to time, I think you would find it useful.
Wakan can be found at

Also on Cook Ding's Kitchen a post relating to Yi Quan, which I've not come across before. It seems to be a newly (i.e. early 2oth C) synthesised internal martial art system, a re-factoring of xing-yi if you like. The site linked to has some interesting background and a substantial qi-gong booklet for free download. Anybody else heard of this?


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Back on the list, the river meets the ocean ...

... or the hills lead up to the mountains.

A while ago I linked to Peter Bojanic's blog, but of late it seemed dormant. But it now seems he's revived it. Excellent. Here's an interesting post about the illusions of early progress in Taiji (or anything, really) that chimes so well with this extract from the Zhuang Zi. The latter is from another blog, Cook Ding's Kitchen, that hereby goes from my list of possibles to the definites.

I keep bloglines folders for "maybe subscribe to properly" and "maybe get rid of as it's dead or rubbish". PB was there but he's back in the RM main list again.


Friday, November 25, 2005

Consider videotaping

My video project never got anywhere. When it's nice outside again (brrr!) I may revive it. I was reminded of it by Master Paul's 6th point.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

What is push hands?

This is from Interesting Thing of the Day, where you'll find some nice little essays on a whole buncha stuff.

Here's a nice little article on what push hands is all about, for those who might not think tai chi is any sort of martial art:
In general, players stand facing each other with their hands in light contact with each other’s arms. As one person’s arms move, the other person follows the movements, keeping both hands in contact at all times. A player may push against the other person’s arms, chest, shoulders, or waist; the person receiving the push yields by turning the waist and redirecting the pusher’s arms in a variety of ways. Pushing and yielding continues in a circular fashion until one person is “uprooted,” with one or both feet losing contact with the floor; then the cycle continues. If you were to watch two skilled push-hands players in action, you may see virtually no movement, as each person gently feels for a point of tension in the other person’s body to push against. All at once, someone’s hand will move, the other person will stumble, and the two partners will smile and begin again.
full article here


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bingo! Thanks Bryn and Sergey!

Here is a marvelous list of sword-related resources, amongst a rich tai chi site: form lists, books, videos. All nicely referenced. There's a list of the Yang style sword movements! It will be interesting to compare to the list we've been given (which I may find time to type up, or not).

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Other tai chi blogs you may like

In general, tai chi people aren't big on blogging. Most tai chi sites are quite traditional, static things, or else shops. I've found a few though, and they should be in the sidebar, underneath Previous Posts. If I see any more I'll add them.


Monday, September 26, 2005


James brought along a box of swords for the class tonight. That means we are now learning two things now: the old first form (Chen style) and Chen Man-Ching's (Yang) sword form.

These are the totally blunt retractable practice swords, that you are unlikely to get arrested for, but still I managed to cut myself.

The sword actions, just the simple ones such as cycling the blade, really start hitting little muscle parts that not only other exercises do not reach, but parts that clearly have never been reached at all before. We had already covered these basic moves in the Norfolk course, but then we moved to the opening parts of the Yang form. My main worry at the moment is tassel control – I keep getting tangled threads and am constantly biffed by the pom-poms.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Look back at the summer

The Castle Acre workshop was a great success. We weren't, after all, overwhelmed by the expertise of the others – a bit of a worry for this monkey's mate, but, truth be told, for me too – since there were all sorts of skills and styles within the group.

There are a few pictures at the head of my Norfolk holiday set which I hope demonstrate how nice the surroundings were.

We worked on a lot of qi gong, a good base of silk reeling every day, a fair amount of Chen short form and only a little push hands. We started to go into the lao jia yi lu, the old [Chen] first form, and I also took part in sword exercises, including two-person parrying and thrusting.

All very stimulating and enjoyable, and the surroundings and people were wonderful too.

Labels: ,

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Easy video

I knew my monkey-mind would come in useful!

I've borrowed a little DV camera from a friend and I've played with it a tiny bit. My sexy Manfrotto tripod came in useful. Using iMovie, it's as easy as picking fruit to set up a timeline of clips. I needed to scrabble around in the help to work out how to trim video and audio clips, but from then on it was easy. Transistions are a right pain though - they seem to adjust the length of the clips in unpredictable ways.

It's going to take me an hour or so to run through my forms from various angles, then another hour to put it together on a DVD (hello iDVD!). Don't wait to buy it from me though, I recommend Wang Hai Jun's Chen Style Tai Chi 18 Movement Form.

Just doing the camera test (web-quality Quicktime 8MB, about 4 min) with Start ... Pounding the mortar ... lazy tie coat, I've noticed loads of inadequacies already - so I'm confident that this techno-learning is going to be juicy fruitful!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Summer dreams

Baah! Classes are over. I'm probably not going to practice standing, silk reeling and forms every day. I'm looking forward to the push hands/applications workshop in Norfolk. In the meantime, I might grab a handycam and see what my forms look like from the outside.

Mandarin-wise (classes also over), I'm probably not going to practice reading and writing at all. But I've bought the next in the Practical Chinese Reader series, as if material acquisitions can do anything for my dedication. I really should be seeking out and chatting to 中国人 either in my department or who are in college improving their English.

I picked up the text book from Guanghwa in Newport Place (opposite the bandstand in Chinatown, London). If there's anyone from the class reading, you can see what books I have on Bookcrossing (look for Education or Reference titles).

Nice shop (website broken), with a decent learning section AND a selection of wushu and taijiquan books. Best title of the day: 12 Fatal leg-attacks.

Enough of this madness.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

No messing about.

Yesterday, we practiced in a simple way, yet it had great rewards.

We were outside for a start, on the playing field behind the town. It can be noisy (cars, skaters, microlights, hot air balloons), and the ground wasn't that flat. The former distractions can be dealt with, given the right attitude, and the slightly uneven ground is actually good for knowing about your balance.

We simply went through the Yang short form three times, then the Chen 18 movement form three times.

Brilliant! The first time in each case is always all over the place with me. The second is OK - generally I feel steady but not capable. The third is when some learning gets done. A fourth might have been damaging without a rest.

After that, Neil and I worked on Chen style pushing hands (not sure what it's called, it's a two-hand/elbow style with a fixed stance and lots of repositioning of the hands - one of these, number 5 in the second list maybe?) which is sort of coming to the point where it makes some sense. Almost good enough to work on softness, listening and development of force, but not quite.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Palm changes

originally uploaded by Drift Words.
We stayed on after Tai Chi last night for a go at the Ba Gua class which James also runs. We did some mud walking practice in lines, a simple palm change and graduated to a circle walking. Oh and some sadistic spine stretchers, the Heavenly Stems. Then we let the already-practiced people demonstrate the ten palm changes.

It's a bit like country dancing in some ways, since James calls out CHANGE now and again and the group follows.

I'd like to have a go but where will I find the time and energy?


Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Ahoy there!

Here's a (young guy, presumably) reflecting on his taijiquan path in his blog, Wujibits.

He's quite the Chen style adept already, having graduated to the longer forms.

It's so interesting to see how it's going with other people.


Monday, January 10, 2005

Week 1

Back to the beginning. A bunch of new faces were seen in what is now James Langcake's Tai Chi class. After a few warm ups, simple silk reeling, and a bit of standing in an Embracing Position, we proceeded to work on the 18-move Chen Form. For even the part of the class that "know" the entire form, most things after Hidden Hand Punch were a bit wobbly.

Despite other more serious things on my mind, and a persistent cough (I even had to sit down at one point to gather some energy) I concentrated well. I can see my Tai Chi going well this year, and I'm looking forward to Aarvo's summer workshop already.

Chaos at UCL : not only are my rooms being moved about, the Mandarin evening class has been rescheduled - the start delayed by a week and a day. Have I remembered anything since the summer? Back to the beginning I think.


Saturday, November 20, 2004

Looking for Internal Strength

Peng and An are the main directions that Mike's internal strength workshop, reported last week, have opened up for me.

I've been spending the week trying to digest the idea of generating Ground Strength primarily through alignment and (reverse-abdominal) breathing. I've been practising, not only when "practising" but also when moving round the kitchen, opening doors, picking up pieces of paper.

Tried it out with Peter, and we saw that the Peng had improved, and to some extent An and mild Fa Jin.

(Peng is the force - or Jin - of outward pressure, like an inflated structure, used in Ward Off. An is a downward Jin, acting as a weight on the opponent. But I simplify grossly.)

We had an excellent push hands in the week (and in the corridor, alarming the students), finding the strength without muscles.

I've also got my head in one of the late 70's /early 80's wave of English language Tai Chi books, which talks about the internal aspects fairly thoroughly. The spindly form diagrams are useless for me, though. I'm too inexperienced to interpret them.

Matt doing single whip Tai Chi book inspecting Form diagrams

I liken this (Internal Strength) power-up to music practice. Tunes and scales are not music, and neither are the forms Tai Chi. The forms are some material to practice on. It's like when the music lessons first turn from notes and fingering onto phrasing, and the beginning of artful expression.


Saturday, November 13, 2004

Mike Sigman workshop

Just got back in from a workshop with Mike Sigman, arranged by James Langcake (and I think Aarvo Tucker - anyway, he was there), on Internal Strength for Taiji, Ba gua etc.

Roy and Anthony James Orbital Listening

I'm knackered now (yes, because of it), so a better report will be here later.

However, I do think this will definitely power-up my Taiji.

Interview with Mike Sigman thanks to Internal Strength magazine.


Monday, November 08, 2004

Sparring - settle rising Chi

In blobbed, vanillasky reports an entertaining kick-boxing workout, which, as she put it "possibly sounds a bit barbaric to a non-kickboxer". Probably any martial artist would recognise the appeal of more "live" forms of training, even a wet scholarly layabout like me.

Peter and I played with some pushing hands last week, after our meeting had freed up a nice big room which, coincidentally, had had the usual bored-room tables pushed to the edge of. We pushed each other gently around circles for a bit, trying to listen properly, before we moved to a game of trying to unbalance the other. We used peng, an, and lou with a few others thrown in. After a few goes, the senses seemed to click in, but at the same time an excitement rose - drowning out the listening skill. We calmed and settled, and found the tactics worked better. Stillness within intense movement, and all that.

Much better than a previous stab at this game I partook of a while ago, which degenerated all too rapidly into thrashing about, the Chi having risen without control.


Sunday, October 10, 2004


originally uploaded by tamaki.
He's great isn't he? There's something about cheerful monkeys that we could learn from.

The author monkey has got grumpy-potential today. Too much work, crick in the neck, running and other bodywork going nowhere and my Mandarin class has been cancelled for this term.

Positive things: went to Aarvo's push hands and Applications morning and learnt of some big gaps in my technique. Fundamental stuff: sink the weight, turn from the waist.


Friday, September 17, 2004

Ass kicked ... movie reviews

I've been watching too much telly. The Chris Crudelli series / extended Far East trip report draws to a close, and wasn't it fun? He duly got his ass kicked by assorted wily old dudes and we were highly amused along the way.

Clearly there are some amazing techniques and well-practiced bodies out there as well as perhaps some convincing-looking performances of, well, something. Auto-suggestion? Masterly control of Qi?

Despite any doubts I may have about what is really there when a sword or bar is bent or a block smashed (all I can really say is that if I were building a house in China I would look carefully at the bricks), I continue to practice my Qi Gong most days. Keeeping my mind on my breath and dantien, I felt a great innner boost doing my local cross-country. I didn't quite win, but never mind.

I bet you three coins there's a book out before Christmas!

Also out now Hero - another stunt fest in the CTHD mould. From the clips I've seen, I'm sure Twin Warriors has been a source for the imagary (aside from the Jet Li involvement). This was shown late on BBC the other night - another nice surprise. Comedy/slapstick/allegory in the Iron Monkey vein (i.e. entertaining - disregard any negative IMDB review), with a denoument reliant on the Good twin's (Jet Li) single-handed invention of Taiji ! A reviewer says:

It's not Drunken Master, (not the Legend of Drunken Master, the original, noodge), but what is? It is a well made tale of an ousted Shaolin monk who through hardship and madness, learns the ultimately taoist T'ai Chi Chuan.

The thing I love about this film, (and you'd have to be a geek to go with this) but I love the fact that he learns T'ai Chi through his own hardships, not from a sifu (teacher), and the typical sifu or friend who dies is his friend, who, instead of dying, turns evil with power.

The entire movie is a great representation of Taosism (yin, yang, good and evil). I don't agree that Michelle Yeoh (or Michelle Kahn at she time in the film) was not well used. She provided the idea of the easy path, drinking in this case, that is so lacking in gong fu movies. She and he both redeem themselves against the head bad guy (His character name escapes me at the time), but there is no love interest between themselves. She's tough and troubled, he's tough and troubled and they actually help each other (read: she stops drinking to save him, he learns from her care and she helps cure his madness).


Thursday, August 26, 2004

Good lunch

Having started with 3 mins swinging/twisting and a minute standing, I had a really good 25 mins doing one each of my two forms this lunchtime. Despite a pre-existing splitting headache, I felt relaxed, smooth and energetic:

- loads of connection sensation between the palms

- an inkling of inner heaviness

- the occasional thought of developing forward-going power (as in Ward Off) as the front leg softens, as oppossed to as the root leg strengthens (which it does by itself).

I also worked on the Lotus Kick, and got closer to being able to feel where it was supposed to go. The first one was crap -- hands and feet nowhere near each other and uncoordinated -- so I tried about 10 more kicks. Let's see if next time the pattern is stored.

I've launched a Surrey/Hants bulletin board area on the Palmchange site. You'll see me in there as RepulsiveMonkey.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004


It came to my awareness that Aarvo has hooked in with PALMCHANGE where the Godalming classes are listed under Hampshire (close but not quite). There's a BB there which might be nice ...


Thursday, August 19, 2004

Telegraphing intent

Another example of Zaha Sensei's understanding of karate also occurred at the All-Japan Tournament held at the Osaka Central Gymnasium. Sensei and I were watching the tournament from the main seats; Sensei indicated one fellow, remarking that he would probably win the tournament. He won, just as Sensei predicted, but he merely commented, "I question his skill from a budo perspective." Another example occurred when I was doing kumite with Sensei at his home. As I took my stance, he asked, "Are you planning to kick, Mr. Ushiro?" "Now, a punch?" before I could even make a move. I was shocked and wondered how Sensei could read my intentions. I asked how he could foresee my movements, and he replied that with the stance I had taken I was only able to kick, or could only throw a punch. I hadn't noticed-though I understand clearly now-that I only kicked using a certain stance, and only punched with another.

Through these experiences, I began to realize that something was wrong with my karate. At the same time I was really excited about this Zaha Karate that was so different from my own.

From Okinawan Koryu Karate
by Kenji Ushiro
Aiki News #98, 1994, 21:1



A bit of a mixed armful today!

Have you seen, on BBC channel Three (digital/sat in the UK) Mind, Body & Kick Ass Moves. A bit "MTV" for my liking, but nice to see. The presenter, Chris Crudelli, is expert enough to gain the respect of all the masters he introduces, normal enough to be totally whupped by them, yet sensible enough to demo/teach real-world applications that people in the bus stop can use. Which inspires me to crack on with the Chen style practice.

Which brings me to. Now, I'm sure my dearly belov'd would say it's cos I expect too much, but I am uncovering difficulties with this form. My flexibility being one of them. One particular other thing is balance in the cloud hands technique, wherein the foot is stepped behind the other on each step. I just feel so unstable. Must SINK the weight! And practice.

The final berry brought back is simple. How beneficial a holiday can be. I didn't read much (I found a nice enough DK Tai Chi book in a secondhand store - recommended for beginners doing Chen Man Ching's Yang style form) so my usual holiday suitcase'o'books came back unscathed, but I did spend a good while just doing the forms on some beautiful Cornish beaches.

Recipe: Stand on any patch of clear sand. Children and dogs are not a problem. Perform the form once or twice to clear the mind and free the joints, again to focus and strengthen. One more time to discover something about the form or the performer's errors. Rest and repeat ad lib.


Saturday, July 24, 2004

18 steps - rewind and repeat

Our class has been studying an 18-movement Chen style form. Good literature on Chen style Taiji is not easy to come by, and the shapes of the form are strange to those schooled in the Yang style, but lately we have been helped by a DVD of the form featuring Wang Hai Jun (narrated by Aarvo Tucker, our teacher). Wang's teacher, Chen Zhenglei, developed this short Chen form from the old First Form (laojia yilu).

The Articles section of Wang's site contains much of interest, including of course the postures of the form.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

What's that man doing?

More on Hokum later, possibly, now that a more detailed posting has arrived at RSI-UK.

Our class has now completed the 18 move Chen style form. Now that our front brains know it, it is time to begin the work. My hips have certainly got to loosen up a bit for those kicks!

The Monday routine will change a little when it starts up again in September since Aarvo is preparing to move away to Canada (in January) and James Langcake will be taking over as the main teacher.

I feel I want to take things a little further now and will probably attend the monthly Saturday pushing-hands workshops. I may be on the lookout for other class-y things in London or the SE. Know any?

But for now I'm happy to let the summer go on with me practising what I already know.

The blogpost_title is what the kids say to their bewildered mums, now that I've started practising Tai Chi in parks. You see, I've got to do something other than running, when I'm out not running (this knee tendinitis thing wants to make me do fewer miles). Honestly, the kids have got more idea about life than grownups. Not only do they ask in the first place (adults pretend not to notice things that are wierd or disgusting), but also they can guess what it's about and can do the noises : hey yaaaHHH! ah so!! Chop! **"KICK"**

<cheesy lyric>
Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightning
But they did it with expert timing


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Chen v Yang

Peter Bojanic makes some nice observations about learning the Chen style form, having already done the Yang for a while.

1. Fast and slow movement. Where as the overall Chen form is executed slowly (as if moving through water), there are continual hand movements that are quick and are difficult to follow.

2. There' s lots of hiccups. In the Yang long there are a few punches that we back up and repeat. My former teacher, Paul, called these hiccups. There are lots of hiccups in Chen style so the movement isn't as linear and straightforward as Yang.

3. Complex movement. There is much more complex movement in Chen style involving the arms and hands. From single whips to punches, there's a lot of intricacies involved that I'm not prepared to start describing because I'm still getting a hold of them.


Sunday, May 09, 2004

Three streams.

In yesterday's dead-tree version of Runner's World, a short piece on Tai Chi. I paraphrase: Tai Chi: Brilliant!! Docherty: "Chi is really another term for oxygen, so it's not weird and scary", and so on...

Hmm, curious, I've been thinking of both running and Qi in the same mind for years. And strange how many streams flow together. But all is illusory, since monkey-minds are machines to fabricate coincidence, especially when one looks for them. Still, here's what I found:

Tom Landini, a Feldenkrais-type dude, here refers to Danny Dreyer's ChiRunning (R). It's here again in Dreyer's book, and again in this AARP article (where you'll encounter more linkage). All very organised, I must say.

And over here in Zimmerman's vaguely running-related Zhurnal. He's more random, like me.

These days, many Feldenkrais practitioners around the world (Felden-what?) are on the web, and you can read their musings on the connectedness of all things internal/external, ancient/modern, with forms, or without.


Friday, April 30, 2004

name those parts

We were practicing a walking form of silk reeling which was fun. As one turned to face the opposite side in unison with the arms' circulation, it seemed that the best way of effecting the turn was to begin turning the waist, then forget to keep the front foot in place, i.e. let it slip around to accomodate the twisting being set up by the other leg.

Our teacher, Aarvo, liked this description. He also remarked that the hand movement was like Parting the Horse's Mane, which in our (short Yang and Chen) forms we have not got. That sounded like naming of parts to me "which in your case you have not got", always a monkey-fave.

Here it is, with some college-style analysis. It's strange how the whole thing turns out to be about (im)balance and (dis)harmony, since there we all were, as it were training to be balanced and harmonious (peaceful) warriors.

Monkey is, as ever, amused.


Saturday, April 17, 2004


Here on the hill, which has not yet been planted with crops, I can see all around: the Hog's Back, bits of Guildford and its Downs, St. Martha's and Munstead Heath.

Doing the form, gazing out, I notice how my gaze does not connect with the horizon. My eyes scan the weeds, distracting me.

Am I usually so down-cast in practice? Not any more, I vow!

From now on: Up!!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 06, 2004


spring easter rush latelunch walk meditate keep balance absorb sensation do not symbolise thought go past workmen clearing forest polluting air use twig practice like Li Mu Bai (AS IFF!!) dirty paw throw bad sword away through wet wood to sandy top where view to wealden grove pierces rain and then to pond (of many photos) and hail starts practice four hand circles symbolizing symmetry of direction of thought/chi being brush knee push cloud hands chen style circling and the rest aaah hail is cold keep walking absorbing coldpain stand on photospot and breathhhhhhh. back to office refreshed. head and trouser legs wet.


Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Spring's here, in Monkey's pure land!

This lunchbreak, having broken free of the mountain of words, I did what I could of my forms, standing on what used to be a fine garden (steps down to where they play footy under "g") where semi-private tai chi is possible.

Squishing my feet on the clumpy grass (not enough summertime trampling yet) I realised how much slipping and sliding goes on in normal practice. Such foot-scraping may or may not be good form, but it makes the balance easier. How to spin and kick on a grabby surface?

Euurh, monkey struggles. But the sun shines warmly, mmmm!


Friday, March 12, 2004

Hmmm. Munky scratches head. Different styles abound. Tai Chi is open source though isn't it, no real Authority and many forks in the road ha ha! Here's a sample of the diverging style dialogue, amongst two close relatives. Thanks to Peter B.

At the end of the day though, as is pointed out beings of greater sageliness than me, the Forms are merely the scales to a large extent, and what matters is playing the tune: living, moving, fighting, loving and all that jazz. Hip hop, away I go!

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I missed practice this week because it was my birthday, and I spent it doing seated raising the glass exercise.

Last week, however, we did some long, for us anyway, standing exercises. After about 10 mins in the lower embracing position I could swear that my palms seemed to be springing together and/or apart! Is this the strange "dodgy etheric field" that Peter warned us not to think about (post has now been deleted), or the reality of Kong Jin, or just an illusion caused by aching muscles and re-calibrated motor nerves?

Randomness: Before I started poisoning yesterday, D. and I went through what we knew of the Chen style (little). Later, back from being freshly Dr'd. Jon and L. seemed interested in the ideas, but probably think I'm a nutter. "How do you square your scientific mind with concepts of etc." I also told the Dr. he had a monkey-mind, a phrase I've stolen from somewhere (see second ever post).

Still, I'm beginning to feel radically better, which Monkey says is a Good Thing. Onward!

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 04, 2004


I'm thinking I ought to read and refer to no more than Seven books, or Nine.

Here's some. Follow the links for susequent links to shop-sites. [x] = ISBN.

  • Dan Docherty : Complete T.C.C. (his site- very well respected UK teacher, history of HK police training, strong on Martial Applications) : history/applications/+a Wu(?) style form. [1861260334]
  • Robert Parry: The T.C. Manual (site) (he also wrote the Teach Yourself TC book(s): v. easy to follow photos of short Yang form + a bit of seasoning. out of print.[0749916990, 074991713-x (pbk)]

  • Cheng Man Ch'ing. Cheng Tzu's Thirteen Treatises on T'ai Chi Ch'uan. Translated by Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo and Martin Inn. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1985. [no coordinates I'm afraid, but this lineage-on-a-catalogue-card must be connected with most practitioners, or are we all Players?

I have seen/read/possess others. Not many worthy of mention, I think.

What else: Barefoot Doctor (no intro or link required, surely, but see The Observer/Boots the Chemists/telly if stuck) : Return of the Urban Warrior.

There must be megablogs of Tai Chi sites, all with booklists. 10,000! Monkey Sighs.

Here's one I spied earlier, with a Joke.

Monkey likes jokes, ha ha!


Wednesday, March 03, 2004


I'd like you all to say hello to Sandy, author of the Dragon Journals.

Now who's going to play Pigsy?


Tuesday, March 02, 2004


The essence of the withdrawing step is that awareness, root, and spirit must be maintained; a distinct contrast to the way an untrained person “backs up,” losing power and reducing his/her capacity to counterattack with any potency. In the philosophical sense, it is about yielding ground or space without losing one’s root, calmness, well-being, and power. It is a Yin movement (sinking and withdrawing) which maintains a powerful Yang potential inside.

[October 2008: Rotten Link!] excerpted from "Don Millers secrets of Repulse Monkey".

Labels: ,


Walking backwards, but with eyes open.

It's a mini-manifesto! No no no I'm not going to write haiku!!

Labels: ,