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Quotes From Past Masters: Wang Xiangzhai [founder of Yiquan] on Self-Defence

At beginning of 1940s Wang Xiangzhai, the founder of Yiquan, was interviewed several times by reporters of Beijing newspapers. The complete interview is available here . Those interviews in collected form subsequently appeared in many martial arts books published in China.  This is an excerpt that I wanted to share with those who wonder about the relative merits of the various styles of taijiquan as functional fighting arts.  His style was rather unique in China at the time as it almost completely did away with solo forms and focused on two-person training methods, standing and moving qigong and fighting/sparring.  Yes, this is just one man's opinion but remember that he had met many of the taiji masters who have become legends in our time in the 21st Century!  He also was not afraid to get into scraps and his own martial skills were based partly on having paid his dues that way. I am reminded of the validity of the old expression in kung fu "you must eat bitter" to

Review of Exercised! by Daniel E. Lieberman

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Daniel E. Lieberman is a professor of both science and human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. He is also the author of the American national best seller The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Publisher : Pantheon (January 5, 2021) Language : English Hardcover : 464 pages ISBN-10 : 1524746983 ISBN-13 : 978-1524746988 I haven’t reviewed a book or instructional product in some time but Daniel E. Lieberman poses rather interesting questions for anyone, like me, who has exercised regularly or even for someone who sinply wishes they could motivate themselves to do so. One of the many interesting questions he poses is “If exercise is so good for us, why do many people dislike or avoid it?” It has certainly been my experience, in over 40 years of practising and teaching Chinese martial and exercise systems, that many people including myself have very mixed feelings towards fitness. Whether it’s fitness drills, standing qigo

A Year of Pandemic Restrictions Already!

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It's been one year today since a pandemic state of emergency was invoked in our region of Canada. That evening, as my wife and I waited 45 minutes in long line-ups to buy groceries with other worried shoppers we knew that this was not a “normal” situation. Friday the 13th indeed! A few days after that I contacted my regular training partners to tell them my wife and I were no longer comfortable having people come to the house to train in my basement space for fear of infection. It's hard to do contact training when you are asked to stay six feet away from anyone and group solo form outside only holds a certain amount of appeal when it's raining, blisteringly hot or snowing. One year later, this world-wide epidemic has, and continues, to cause a lot of personal, social and economic woe almost everywhere. It hasn’t been as terrible as the medieval plagues that wrenched European society in the Middle Ages and inspired the old etching shown here [courtesy of Wikipedia] but it h

Congratulations to Mark Engelhardt on Being Certified as a Yang-style Taiji Teacher

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    I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate Mark Engelhardt for having earned a teaching certificate today in the Yang-style Taijiquan as I teach it. Dieses Zertifikat ist verdient. Herzliche Glückwünsche. As pandemics call for extraordinary measures; I had decided to do socially-distant testing in the sense that Mark patiently recorded all the solo forms in my curriculum over the course of many weeks and sent me the films to review and critique. He had to redo a few after correcting mostly minor errors so it was not a speedy process; but we all have a surfeit of extra time thanks to the virus. I have mixed feelings about this way to do tests but  hard times call for unusual methods and, let's face it, online and distance learning is here to stay even with the martial arts in general and taijiquan, in particular. Cal Climie was good enough to watch and comment on many of Mark's video submissions and doing so also helped to validate his acting as a witness on the

Thoughts on Swordplay in Taiji and Bagua

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In the late 1970s, when I starting getting into taijiquan and Chinese martial arts seriously, I wasn’t particularly interested in the traditional weapons of taijiquan and by extension of the Chinese martial arts. In Ottawa, at any case, there weren’t any teachers advertising their skills in those areas and those who talked about it seemed content to teach just solo forms.  In addition, it didn’t seem practical to me to spend a lot of time on weapons forms and training methods as there was even less chance that I’d be in a sword fight than that I would be in an unarmed scuffle on the streets. However, in the mid-80s, I and one of my senior students [Thanks, Lance, if I forgot to say it then] started training together in free-style sparring with a variety of wooden and padded weapons and improvised protective gear.  Those weekly sessions while they lasted taught me some valuable lessons about using edged and blunt-impact weapons even if the training wasn’t always as soft, sensitive and s

Thoughts on Yang-style Taiji Long, Slow Form

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I’ve recently come back to doing Yang-style long form again regularly after about a decade of focussing on a variety of short and medium length solo forms in my personal training and even in my teaching of taijiquan. Despite having given so much time and effort to short forms, I still stand by the advice that I used to give honestly to my senior students when I still taught group classes open to the public. To wit: in terms of teaching, a competent instructor of a traditional version of taijiquan is  probably better off focussing on the long form [in the Yang style with the 1st Section also serving as the “beginner's form” when done on its own].  With apologies to the traditionalists, I would also add that the more modern long forms of the Yang-style, such as those taught for competition purposes in China are also worth doing [the Yang-style 88 Posture Set] Whether with a traditional or modern long form, an instructor, in my opinion,  will serve their students best by starting the

Happy New Year... Such As It Is

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When I was a child and being raised as a member of the Roman Catholic Church, January First was a Holy Day honoring Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Church required the attendance of all Catholics for Mass that day. However, it was also a custom in many parts of French-Canada for a vigil Mass to be be held on the evening before a Holy Day as an alternative means of keeping the day Holy so in rural Quebec it had become customary to celebrate Mass on the evening of New Year's Eve.  Both my parents were from Québec originally so that is perhaps why New Year’s Eve was almost as important to them as Christmas Eve. Of course, who would have imagined in the 1950s that there would be another world-wide pandemic to rival the Spanish Flu at the end of WWI? Like many people, this New Year’s Eve seems particularly poignant this year after nine months of Pandemic isolation and worry; will 2021 be any better? We can hope and the new vaccines being delivered around the world promise some return