Category Archives: Training

Exploring the Myth of T’ai Chi: T’ai Chi isn’t Useful for Self Defense

Karate, Kung Fu, Ju Jitsu, Krav Maga, Boxing, MMA… all of these arts are known for their excellent self defense techniques. T’ai Chi, on the other hand, just doesn’t have the same reputation. To the average observer, it’s just too slow, too gentle, and not nearly aggressive enough to be a viable method of combat.

On top of that, many modern instructors only teach T’ai Chi for health benefits, leaving very few examples of combat applications available to the public. It’s no wonder that among non-practicioners, there’s a sense that T’ai Chi isn’t very good for self defense.

To many out there, T’ai Chi combat might look something like this…

So, how can we begin to dispel this myth? What practical application can T’ai Chi bring to martial training?

In order to explore this myth, we have to consider the ways T’ai Chi takes a unique view on self defense training.

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Exploring the Myth of T’ai Chi: T’ai Chi is Only for the Elderly or those in Ill Health

There’s always a little bit of truth behind every myth, but you rarely get the full story. Sometimes the myth is born out of the exaggerated retelling of a story or a memory. Sometimes they come from misunderstood stereotypes, started by people who never really had a grasp of the subject in the first place.

The art of T’ai Chi is filthy with these kinds of myth. Some are the result of grandiose imaginations, others are worn out cliches spread through the media and pop culture. For those of us that really want to understand this art, we have to look past those legends in order to explore the truth of T’ai Chi.

A few of these myths have been passed around for so long and been so pervasive in our culture that even regular T’ai Chi practitioners might fail to question their authority. We owe it to ourselves to understand and challenge these myths, so that our own training isn’t tainted by the opinion of others, who might not really get what it means to do T’ai Chi.

We’re going to start a series of posts that uncover and explore these myths. To find out how they started and to challenge them in order to improve our own understanding of the art.

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Thich Nhat Hanh & T’ai Chi: The Mindful Dichotomy

Inspirational quotes are a great source to help us stay motivated to practice. The best quotes are the ones that act as gentle reminders for the principles of breathing, movement, and keeping a mindful attitude while training.

On the subject of T’ai Chi, one author who really seems to speak to me is Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and Peace Activist who has written extensively about the philosophy, practice, and art of Mindful Meditation. It’s a bit odd that I choose Thich Nhat Hanh for T’ai Chi inspiration because his personal philosophy admonishes any kind of violence, either in thought or action. It’s doubtful that he would advocate the practice of a martial art in relation to any of his teachings.

Thich Nhat Hanh was born in Central Vietnam in 1926. As a young Buddhist Monk, he was confronted by the war that engulfed his country during the l960’s. He opposed the war and traveled the throughout the world, calling for peace and exchanging ideas with writers, scholars, and the activists of the time.

He met with the Civil Rights Leader, Dr. Martin Luther King and discussed the ways non-violent action could be used to change political thought and oppose injustice in the world.

He eventually led the Buddhist delegation at the Paris Peace talks in 1969 in the hopes of ending the hostilities in his Homeland.

After the war, Thich Nhat Hanh continued to travel and teach, opening monasteries and meditation communities so that he could spread his message of peace. He has written well over 100 books and articles on meditation, mindfulness, and Buddhist practices. He continues to be a voice for political and environmental injustice, as well as a Spiritual Leader in the Mindfulness Movement.

While age and an unfortunate stroke in 2014 prevent him from traveling and speaking, Thich Nhat Hanh continues to practice mindful meditation at his Plum Village communityy in France.

It’s difficult to reconcile the non-violence philosophy of Thich Nhat Hanh with the martial aspects of T’ai Chi; However, both adhere to a mindful approach and a reflective awareness that is difficult to ignore.

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Thirteen Reasons MMA Fighters Need to Crosstrain in T’ai Chi

Mixed Martial Artists are always looking for a competitive edge. They’re constantly checking out the latest in sport nutrition and the first to explore a new workout or training routine. They need to be on top of all the trends in order to stay competitive in their sport.

Like its name implies, Mixed Martial Arts was founded on the idea of taking skills and training methods from all the fighting sciences and then combining them to create the best sport-combat strategy possible. They carefully select the most proven methods and use them in order to prepare themselves for the ring.

However, there’s one training method that seems to have been overlooked. -Or at least no one’s been willing to talk about it… until now!

I discovered this ‘secret method’ years ago while I was preparing to enter the ring for a kickboxing match.

My previous fight hadn’t gone very well and I was really tight and nervous. Before the fight, one of my trainers, Jerry Cheng, took me to an open room and led me through some T’ai Chi exercises that his father had taught him. He had me start by slowly circling my neck and shoulders, then proceeded with a routine that worked its way down my body; gently moving my arms, torso, hips, knees, ankles and feet until every muscle was stretched and warmed up. Even better, my mind began to relax and I was able to focus on the fight ahead.

I fought very well that night, easily winning by TKO in the second round. I felt loose, aware, and relaxed the entire time. To this day, I still credit T’ai Chi with helping me win that fight.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “T’ai Chi? You mean that slow-motion thing that old people do in the park on Saturday afternoons? How could that possibly help me in the ring?”

Well, here’s the deal, I know MMA looks a lot different than T’ai Chi. You have to hit really hard and really fast, while T’ai Chi moves softly and slowly. I know you practice grappling skill on the ground (Sometimes for hours on end), while T’ai Chi is all about standing and rooting in place. (So, it’s not the actual techniques but the training methods that make T’ai Chi so valuable to fighters.)

I’m not going to tell you that T’ai Chi can replace any of the bagwork, focus pads, or sparring that you currently do, but I can tell you that T’ai Chi can bring incredible benefits to your training. It’s the perfect supplement workout for anyone who’s serious about MMA competition and it’s benefits are something you just can’t afford to ignore.

Here are my thirteen top reasons why you NEED to crosstrain in T’ai Chi if you’re a competitive fighter…

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The Best Place to Train T’ai Chi

Every time you see someone practicing T’ai Chi in a book, magazine, or website (even this one!), you’ll likely see someone standing outside on a beach or in a lush garden, striking a perfect pose. Usually they’re practicing on a clear day with the sun rising  behind them. It’s no wonder those people in the photographs always look so happy.

But it’s that picture perfect image of T’ai Chi training at all realistic?

Let’s face it, picture perfect T’ai Chi is kind of like the way we imagine going on a picnic with a loved one. We’d like to think it will be all sun, fun, and even a bit romantic; But, when you get to the park, you realize that the ground is hard and uncomfortable, there’ are bugs everywhere, and if you don’t wither from the heat, there’s sure to be a raincloud heading your way. Meanwhile, the food gets cold, the drinks get warm, and you start to feel lucky to survive the whole ordeal without catching salmonella. Picnics just aren’t as much fun in real life as they may seem in a magazine -All in all, it’s much easier to drive to the nearest Hot Dog stand and grab a bite!

But, how does this relate to the training experience of T’ai Chi? I mean, shouldn’t we be outside, ‘becoming one with nature’ as we find our our ‘Center’? Doesn’t the fresh air and sounds of nature help us relax and to become rooted into the Earth around us?

The answer is “YES,” outside training, close to nature and fresh air is best for the T’ai Chi experience. But there are a few things to consider before you head out to that sunrise beach…

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Book Review: ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer… Why It’s One of My Favorite T’ai Chi Books

A while back, I was doing some pretty intense HIIT training and quite a bit of running during my morning routine. I was working on building my aerobic endurance for kickboxing.

After about 12 weeks of this type of training, I noticed that the heels of my feet would really hurt when I woke up, first thing in the morning. The pain continued as time went on and eventually it got to the point where it became hard to exercise or even walk.

I ended up seeing a podiatrist, who quickly diagnosed me with plantar fasciitis, a foot injury common among runners that happens when the tendon leading under the foot becomes inflamed and painful. The Doctor prescribed some pain meds, a pair of foot inserts, and a special brace for me to wear at night.

I was okay with his treatment until he told me that I wouldn’t be able to run anymore.

Now, I’ve never been a really competitive runner, but it’s always been a part of my exercise routine to run a few miles as a warm up and also to clear my mind for training. I’d been running since Middle School and it just didn’t feel right to give it up.

I started searching the internet for ways to deal with this injury and found a group of barefoot runners. These are people who run without shoes and rely on special running techniques to protect their feet from injury. Without shoes, they are compelled to run very deliberately, making sure that only the proper areas of their feet come in contact with the ground.

After giving my feet some time to heal, I began to try the barefoot running technique and quickly became hooked: I found that without shoes, I could learn to run more naturally and with greater awareness.

I started slowly, running first on grass before eventually building up to pavement. As I improved, I continued to search for and practice everything I could find on natural running techniques.  That’s when I discovered the book that changed everything for me; Danny Dreyer’s ChiRunning.

(Now, I need to mention that Chi Running IS NOT about running barefoot. Danny Dreyer recommends his techniques are practiced in  proper running shoes. –Now, I still like to run barefoot because it feels very natural and forces me to stay honest to the technique.)

Danny Dreyer’s insights into both running and T’ai Chi are actually quite amazing…

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Martial T’ai Chi Chuan & Mindfulness

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” – Amit Ray

 

The “Mindfulness Movement” has become a popular trend among many people trying to improve their  lives.

Yoga, meditation, and T’ai Chi are among the most common ways people strive to achieve this mindful state. And while all these practices can help us achieve this elusive frame of mind, there is one important difference between them…  T’ai Chi is a martial art period.

WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?

Everyone wants to do T’ai Chi in order to be “Mindful“;  To be One-With-Nature, to find Inner Peace and Contentment, to be in Harmony with the World around them… well, screw that!

Look, you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, thinking about all the things you’ve got to do… pick up bread at the store, pay the electric bill, plan a birthday surprise for Grandma, and have someone check into that funny noise your car’s been making lately. When suddenly someone jumps out at you from behind a corner. “Give me your money”, he yells as he comes rushing towards you… then you see a punch heading straight towards your face!

Moments ago you were thinking about Grandma’s birthday and now and you’re suddenly fighting for your life.

Your attacker on the other hand, has had time to prepare. He knew when he woke up this morning that he was going to sneak up on someone, beat them up, and take their money. He’s been watching you and pumping himself up for the attack. He has adrenaline and ‘bad intentions’ surging through his veins.

If you knew he was coming, if you knew what was going to happen, you also could have got ready. If you couldn’t somehow escape, you would have at least built up your resolve to fight  and prepared your mind for the combat ahead.

But it’s too late now. There’s no way you can match his energy or intensity as he comes rushing forward. You simply can’t go from ‘Grandma surprise’  to ‘ Vicious Street Fighterthat quickly.   -So what do you do?

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