Friday, June 2, 2023

Anything goes!


Marty S. has left a new comment !

"Like anything else to be proficient in tai chi the practitioner must put the time in. As a practitioner of over 40 years, I've learned and I am still learning. 

With that said if you are interested in learning tai chi as a self defense you must practice push hands with many opponents and then practice sparring with many oponents.

You can not get the feel and practical ability without having the experience of sparring. "


It is true that one must "practice push hands and sparring with many opponents" as an integral part of martial training in Tai Chi.  In the case of Classical Tai Chi however, push hands and sparring are taught after one can show at least some rudimentary internal discipline.  Practicing even push hands before that physical internal development is putting the cart before the horse. All it does, is to confuse the student and merely gives one the illusion of progress.  Notice, I say "physical" internal development, because merely having the right mental attitude aka an "internal demeanor"  does not confer physical internal discipline.  We have spoken extensively of Internal Energy, and to reiterate, it occurs inside the body with the physical turning of the body at the core, using a compact frame not the hips, kua, etc. of a large frame.

Now we have to go a bit off the beaten path from our discussion of internal energy to deal with self-defense.  The reason is that in self-defense...anything goes and we are not limited to using internal energy/internal discipline.  I  do agree with your assertion however about push hands/sparring  being an integral part of self defense training, but with the stringent caveat that it also has severe limitations which are overlooked.  My own 40 years of experience and research tell me that sparring, push hands, weapons, etc. are good martial training but unfortunately most often give people the "Illusion" that they have self defense ability.  

 In all self defense situations however,  I learned the hard way that "anything goes" which Tai Chi in a controlled push hands and sparring does not teach.    I also have rather unfortunate experience with personal self defense in light of violent physical attacks. As it has been said, one can be attacked by people and wild animals but what holds one in stead is an accurate appraisal of one's integrity.  In other words, not only an  honest assessment of one's own abilities and/or limitations martially, but ask yourself do you honestly want to hurt someone or do you simply want to just defend yourself. I've met many people over the years both teachers and others who seem to take enjoyment from the hurt that others have to endure at their hands. 

To close,  I think that in being honest with myself and my own abilities  that the experience of sparring and push hands is  wishful thinking when it comes to being mugged by a large group of people. Sparring and push hands is wishful thinking when it comes to someone trying to run you down with their automobile.  Sparring and push hands is wishful thinking when it comes to someone confronting you with a firearm from 5 feet away.  I think you see my point and I'm sure you would agree that sparring and push hands have their uses but we should also be aware of their limitations.  Hence, my feelings that martial training may often give people the illusion of self-defense in one time situations but internal energy is for life.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The "tuck" in Classical Tai Chi


First of all, this is not an argument with anyone as to which is “better”, more “powerful” or a tribute to “our style does it this way and thus it is the correct way”.  Whether Karate, Kung Fu, Boxing, MMA, etc., is not the issue here;  I don’t care to argue with students with experience from other styles or no.   I recall a student who quit after 8 years of study in Wu style Tai Chi when he said:  “You are studying Classical Tai Chi and I don’t understand why.  I can see where Wu Style gets its power but for the life of me, I cannot see where Classical Tai Chi gets its power”.  As my teacher, Master Stephen Hwa says, “They  do not do “internal” Jim, so how should they understand”.

Which brings me to my next point and that is how Classical Tai Chi gets its power. For that we have to do a bit of an analysis on how Classical Tai Chi utilizes the body to derive internal motion but by means of comparison and an understanding that internal energy comes from places in the body that most do not even know exist.   In external styles , the power comes from a tremendous push and surge from the back leg, driving the punch forward.  I will not do further analysis on how external styles “use the hip”, suffice it to say, that the back leg acts to push and drive forward.  What is obvious in external stylists, or even beginning Tai Chi students with no experience however,  is how their spine and lower back is tilted. 

Most of the students I have taught in Classical Tai Chi, come to the discipline holding the hips in a position where the buttocks are in an anterior tilt.  What is an “anterior” tilt? When I ask them to stand with their back to a wall they readily see that the small of the back is normally an accentuated curve, an anterior tilt.  It is of course unintentional that the hips are positioned in this manner but for the most part I believe that it is related to the lifelong habit of using the legs to push the body forward and back…in other words what we call normal walking.  In moving forward for instance, the back leg pushes, the front leg reaches or some would say “swings” forward, the accompanying hip also “swings” forward and the back leg straightens.  When the back leg straightens, the hips will tilt back by default.  At the same time I studied Tae Kwon Do and Isshin Ryu Karate,  I was also studying Tai Chi and I could notice such a contrast where the deeper my stance even when I was motionless, the more my hips seemed to tilt.

Not with the “Taoist” Style, Yang Style or even Wu’s Style, but it was finally with my own personal study of Classical Tai Chi that I found how incredibly important it was for the hips to be tilted forward which is called “tucking” the pelvis or a “posterior” tilt.  In the world of Tai Chi “stances”, or “frames” (the size of things), Classical Tai Chi is incredibly compact but is the poster child for the clichΓ©’ that good things come in small packages. The tailbone is pulled under and down in a process where the spine is stretched both downward and upward if the rules about “stretching the head” up are followed correctly.  When I have my students stand with their back to a wall, they readily see  and perhaps for the first time, that the small of the back can be straightened.

To add to the problem of taking “command and control” of a tilted back pelvis (anterior tilt) in Classical Tai Chi a beginner will find that it is also  quite a distance from their pelvis to their shoulders.  As a former Tae Kwon Do and Karate practitioner I had the disconcerting and sometimes painful experience as a beginner of hitting the enormous heavy bag while it was swinging toward me and finding that my shoulder gave way.  I of course managed to learn to correct this problem but it is only later in my advanced Tai Chi studies that I now understand this as a corresponding “giving way” or “disconnect” in my body structure.  As a beginner in Tae Kwon Do I was amazed as a beginner, at how little power I had when punching the bag.
Where exactly does the power or ability to deliver force go when the hips are tucked under and when they are not?  For one thing I have come to realize that the road to connecting the torso or “core” of the body to the legs, as my teacher says,  goes directly through the pelvis and hips.  In any fashion I can do this by tightening my abdominal muscles but what happens when I stretch my abdominal muscles?  In the “anterior” tilt of beginners that I  described ?  Well, this “stretching”(energizing) and not “tightening” (tensing) of the abdominal muscles is exactly what happens when the hips are back and not tucked.

Then we come face to face with Newtonian physics as well because we find our high school science teacher was right when he drilled “every action has an equal and opposite reaction” into us.  Hitting that heavy bag with a punch “action” can only be accomplished if your force is less than the amount of “reaction” support.  If the body muscles achieve a great amount of muscular energizing (there are many who abhor the word tension so we use energize)  when the fist hits the bag, then the greater the power in the punch.  I should point out at this juncture however, that  the “internal” style of Classical Tai Chi achieves such “great muscular energizing” in a manner far different than “external” styles as I explain forthwith.

There is another problem with the body’s ability to withstand reaction force and that has to do with how much strain its structure can withstand in delivering the punch.  It is true that in an external punch the back leg “drives” forward but that drive is mostly in a horizontal fashion.  All of us humans align our body vertically however.  The horizontal “drive” line of force from the back leg intersects the body at the point where it becomes vertical.  The result is an increase of pressure at the hips and pelvis…where the hips are either tucked or not tucked.

One only has to think of a basic analysis of the physics involved in why  sprinter’s start all races in such a crouched position.  It is also easy to see that sprinter’s keep the hip very “tucked” and in fact very well “tucked” in the starting position. In that crouched position, with hips tucked,  the push from the back leg will also support a great amount of reaction force and as we know a great acceleration can be achieved.  It is interesting however that videos of sprinters taken while they are walking show they have almost severe “anterior” pelvic tilts and buttocks that protrude quite a bit.  Humorously, these folks do not need belts to hold their pants up. 

Classical Tai Chi is where it all comes together because the action at the hips and pelvis is dynamic.  That is to say that the body will fluctuate appropriately between “anterior” and “posterior” tilts of the hips. The back leg is also not acting to powerfully “push off” like a sprinter.  In fact, whether moving forward or back the lead leg (after all depending on your viewing angle, a “back” leg can be in either front or back) is pulling and not pushing.  Quite frankly, the step size and vertical structure of Classical Tai Chi will not accommodate a powerful “push off” from the leg, it would topple your body.  So the extreme "energizing" necessary to drive a punch has to come from skillful movements of  the core and not the back leg.  In Classical Tai Chi we call such movements “quarter body movement” and as an example, one “quarter” of the core itself is actually fully engaged with the arm.   The “quarter” of the body achieves extreme energizing and then it relaxes instantaneously after the power is delivered. In doing so we can accomplish the famed “one inch punch” so popularized by Bruce Lee…but we do not have to stand in the large stance that he adopted to do so.

Any muscular energizing from the core will use the back leg to act as a shock absorber to the reaction force from the punch. Not a perfectly straight back leg which had to work to drive the body forward either.  Here is why we see,  it is also not necessary for the aficionado of Classical Tai Chi to beat on a makiwara or heavy bag to “practice their punches”.  This in contrast to the protestations of a student who lamented to both Master Hwa and I that he had not developed “self defense abilities” in his Tai Chi practice.  He was going to study Wing Chun instead of Tai Chi and build a makiwara so that he could practice his “power” punches. In studying the small frame stance of Wing Chun stylists, it is relatively easy to see they also “tuck” their hips under.  The disillusioned student will be right back where he was in the first place.  He certainly will not achieve power if he punches the makiwara or heavy bag by holding back his hips in an “anterior” tilt from such an upright stance.  Every time he punches with that tilt a great pressure will be exerted against the spine in an unusual direction.  Does he also plan to straighten his back leg in such a small frame stance, thus compounding  the pressures on the spine and small of the back?  How will he stay “rooted” if he pushes off, or does he plan on his body leaving the ground with every punch?

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Dual purposes of Tai Chi

 I'm not a diplomatic teacher, and that sometimes turns people off...I can make no apologies.  I am not diplomatic here.  There has been too much belittling of Tai Chi and I explain that below. I teach students to also check their reasoning in Tai Chi.  My teacher does not pussyfoot with me either, he calls me on it when my reasoning is wobbly or way off.   

Dual purposes here in this video link

When you view the video, read my blog and Facebook, in-depth,  I think you'll find the raison d'etre of Classical Tai Chi is not stress and inner peace.  Many things call themselves Tai Chi but are merely exercise or "wine and cheese" excuses to socialize...they are not Tai Chi.    In my experience, those Tai Chi's all cut corners in learning. Take out movements here, take out moves there, and pretty soon it does not resemble what should be passed on.  You do all that cutting of corners and the whole logical structure collapses. There has been way too much of that  

In my experience, those things like stress relief are "perks" however that come with much, much time, not a fad of the month club.  Tai Chi's existence is to enable one to attain longevity while living like a young person ( while living in the springtime of one's life). This takes time to come. 

Many people don't think Tai Chi is a martial art.   Yang Wabu (my teacher's teacher) was a top-notch martial artist when he met his teacher Wu Chien Chuan. Yang was already a Master of Pekkwar Monkey Boxing and versed in numerous other external styles martial arts .  He was well-known in Hong Kong. Yang told my teacher that he could not mount an attack against Wu because Wu would just keep him off balance.  That is Tai Chi as a martial art. 

 I talk to many people who not only don't think Tai Chi is a martial art, they run the other way when you tell them it is.   In light of things like Tai Chi for seniors, Tai Chi for spiritual growth, Tai Chi for stress relief, Tai Chi for idiots (name of book on Amazon) Tai Chi for arthritis, Tai Chi for Fibromyalgia, Tai Chi for kids, etc. is there any wonder why people think that way? I am a martial artist but above all, I'm here to right the Tai Chi ship not cater to Heinz's 57 varieties of Tai Chi. 

Tai Chi has to achieve 2 purposes, be there for martial ability and be there for health.  It comes from martial artists, for instance, Wu Chien Yau and his son Wu Chien Chuan were bodyguards in the Imperial Palace and officers in the Manchurian Banner Guard.  They learned from the Yang Family (martial instructors of the emperor's family), and Yangs learned from Chens. Wu Chien Chuan (bodyguard/soldier) was a teacher of Young Wabu who was the teacher of Stephen Hwa who is my teacher.  

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Can "Controlled Falling" (ordinary walking) improve balance?

 Classical Tai Chi walk goes to numerous dimensions of movement  (video)

Can everyday walking improve your balance?
I told a friend I was going to write this article. They said they vividly recall the time when they broke their femur from attempting to learn rollerblading. One of the family dogs had run in front of them and they crashed onto their side. OK, enough of the anecdotes but I just want to add that their Doctor did not tell them to "take walks" and improve their balance.  The reason being he knew that the friend practiced Tai Chi. However, he was familiar enough with its pros and cons to know that it may not keep beginners from falling on rollerblades.  Taking a walk will not improve balance and here's why:  It is well-researched that everyday walking improves cardio. Walking, however, just keeps you moving your body in one dimension, let's call it "X" and most often that is forward and upright.  Tai Chi multiplies those dimensions, let's add in "Y" and "Z" as you see in the video, side, back, up, down, bending, arms, legs, angles, etc. Your area in which you can viscerally learn postural stability is multiplied, and its size is increased. One learns to "catch" themselves and right their balance in any situation where they go off-kilter. How's that for logical reasons for you to start learning Classical Tai Chi?

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Trade in your "inner being" for "internal energy"

Re this image: Getting Internal Energy also involves knowing what is "incorrect" about body structure and what is "correct"...

I would love to join your classes when you start them in California! I hope there is room, or else Im sure I can find another time:) I love energy work and connecting with my Inner Being (as everyone does without knowing it;) Cant wait to start! I take long bike rides. I was wondering if this would hinder any of the energy flow? Maybe it would ground it more? Anyways peace and love!

Peace and Love,

Dear aaauuummm,

So much of what we do with Classical Tai Chi is directed toward "inner". Conversely there are books, dvd's, varieties of "Tai Chi". In all of those we hear of "inner" as well but what "inner" is has never been made clear and how to achieve "inner" is not articulated.

So much of what we do with Classical Tai Chi is directed toward "energy flow". Conversely there is much information along with many varieties of Tai Chi. In all of those we hear of "energy flow" as well, but what "energy flow" is has never been made clear and how to achieve "energy flow" is not articulated.

So what has not been made clear and what has not been explained can be considered to be the essential parts of the picture that have been left out. What is "inner" in Classical Tai Chi? and How do I get "energy flow"? might be 2 questions to ask oneself.
The videos at the end of this discussion(click on them) are parts of what we teach in Classical Tai Chi. Looking at them one might see things as being complicated. Further viewing is necessary then one begins to see that there are rules for what we do. Then one begins to see the outline or structure of what we do. Finally one sees that this is indeed based on scientific reasoning. All of these things are stringently linked together even though one may not see that linkage in the beginning.

The definition of "inner" can also be interchanged with the word "internal". The word "Inner" can be linked with "energy flow" and we have "internal energy" View the videos and then begin summarizing to yourself how (much like a puzzle) the pieces fit together to achieve "internal energy flow".

Your use of the word "inner" out of context from "energy flow" suggests that you may believe that Tai Chi is simply about having the correct mental demeanor and that any movement will thus be a correct one. I have heard this many times before and in his book "Uncovering the Treasure" my teacher refers to it as "an unspoken belief among modern Tai Chi practitioners that as long as one has the right mental state, almost any movement is a Tai Chi movement".

What is little known (a missing piece) is that Tai Chi has a physical "inner" or internal discipline which is called in Chinese..."Neigong" (nay gong). The other missing piece is that the physical "internal energy flow" is what is transmitted and generated from the correct use of body mechanics. This is called "neijing" (nay jing) it is the physical "inner or internal energy" created and circulated within the body while the body externally is physically relaxed. Note my persistent use of the word "physical". This gets us away from reliance on "inner" as a strictly mental component necessary to do Tai Chi or what my teacher calls "the emphasis on the ethereal aspects of Tai Chi".

See you in class,
Sifu Jim Roach

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Aid to footwork for beginners

 Link to aid on "footwork"

"Very good. It really should help beginners on the footwork."  Master Stephen Hwa

An unlisted Youtube link to a video. My student Jason Bulger is doing a variation I "discovered" in my experimentation with lower body movement. Also, "discovered" one needs to do this to 8 angles, N, NE, NW, S, SE, SW, E,W, not just front. That type of practice coincides with Classical Tai Chi Form instruction, wherein the first piece of business is teaching students to step and move in one of the 8 directions.

* Turning feet to various angles coincides with foot placement in the "Form
* Turning feet to various angles coincides with the numerous foot positions in the "kicking section".
*As you get comfortable with this, I recommend just very lightly touching (we had a tree) a surface or wall with just tip of a finger.
*Lightly touching with a finger is not a crutch, but it is enough to help you maintain good body structure while you do this.
*This is Jason's first try, so he is bending his head too much; otherwise, the internal movement seems very good.
*Use abdominal and back muscles to lift

Lift Legs using lower Quarter Body movement

"The leg lifting is accomplished by using abdominal and back muscles to lift either side of the pelvis, which in turn lifts the leg. In this case with Jason, either leg is completely relaxed since the lifting is done by internal power and not the leg muscles. The moving part is the leg and its associated abdominal and back muscles, while the other body parts remain stationary to provide support and grounding. Depending on which leg is lifted, the Yin-yang junction may be visualized in either the right or left side of the abdomen and back region. One could classify this as a lower-quarter body movement. All lower body movements are from the core. This is just one example of it. Practicing with an imaginary mental picture that the legs do not end at the hip joints, but rather there is a leg extension into the core of the body has helped some students learn how to initiate lower body movements from the core."

Paraphrase and excerpted from Page 5., "Internal Discipline of Tai Chi":  Uncovering The Treasure: Classical Tai Chi's Path to Internal Energy & Health Paperback – May 12, 2010

"Walking" in Classical Tai Chi

"Walking" video link 

A relatively new student was asked to clarify what they experienced when learning the footwork for Classical Tai Chi. It was done with the caveat of placing a palm on their belly to feel the core movement as they moved.

"I'll try my best if I can clarify that correctly. In forward walking, every footwork is done through 3 phases.  Let's say that we want to step forward with our right foot.

In the first phase, step forward so that the heel of the right foot lands on the ground and the toes point up, but the whole weight is still on the left back foot.

The second phase: The right foot is fully landed on the ground, but the whole weight is still on the back foot.  This phase is critical because here, we begin to feel the engagement of the core area in the movement. 

The third phase:: At this stage, the weight shifts from the left to the right foot, and the body leans forward, provided the right knee does not exceed the toes. "

I asked him if he found the training difficult and liked or disliked it.

"I think it is very interesting, and I like how Master Hwa explains the movements in the online Teachable videos. I like your notes on the Teachable course and the information you provide on the Classical Tai Chi of NY and California Facebook page. One should repeatedly watch the videos because I find there are points I should reconsider."

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

1. HEALTH AND STRENGTH WITH TAI CHI 1. What is an internal martial art?


 Video Link

From Stephen Hwa's book: "Uncovering the Treasure, Classical Tai Chi's Path to Internal Energy and Health" @ Amazon, Streamlined Online course at Teachable and Overview from the DVD series. Thanks to Master Stephen Hwa for his permission to publish this video here. This video is from Master Hwa's streamlined online course. The video link is to an "unlisted" version; only students with the link can see the video. 


Introduction "There are so many books, classes, and styles of tai chi today. There is talk of internal energy in many of them. Yet, the definition could be more precise, and the route to achieving it is unexplained. Join me in uncovering the crucial missing pieces to truly understanding Tai Chi, i.e., the internal energy that powers Tai Chi movements and the learning program to develop such energy. How various components in the Tai Chi teaching program, such as Large Frame and Compact Frame Form, Square and Round Form, silk reeling exercises, etc., fit into the learning program are discussed in detail. It will show that Tai Chi's abilityto mobilize the body's energy and deliver it efficiently s one of the prime reasons distinguishing it as a martial art. It is the cultivation of this internal energy that produces the most significant health benefits of Tai Chi."

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Internal Exercise for Power and Vitality


Video link
Connecting arm to core "advanced"

Explanation of the Movements Section 1: Connecting Arm Movements with the Movement of the Torso (Upper Quarter Body Movements)This choreographically simple movement requires subtle and demanding neuromuscular control. It is the most advanced Internal Move in Tai Chi.

 Articulating basic and essential concepts (such as lowering the shoulder - by dropping the elbow and how to connect the elbow to the abdomen) and making them accessible by demonstration and metaphor ("stick-shift). The instruction is generous and insightful and shows a craft-like path to becoming consciously competent. The student demonstration is quite helpful - as a contrast and teaching. 


About 15 years ago, filming Tao of Martial Applications, I asked my teacher Master Stephen Hwa Ph.D. Chemical Engineer “People from large and medium frames want to use internal discipline; why not?” Stephen Hwa: “The mechanics are different” So I wrote this: π“π‘πž π₯𝐚𝐫𝐠𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐑𝐞 π“πšπ’ 𝐂𝐑𝐒 “𝐅𝐨𝐫𝐦” 𝐦𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐑𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐝𝐒𝐬𝐬𝐨𝐜𝐒𝐚𝐭𝐒𝐨𝐧 𝐰𝐒𝐭𝐑 𝐭𝐑𝐞 π‚π¨π«πž! π“π‘πž 𝐬𝐦𝐚π₯π₯𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐑𝐞 π“πšπ’ 𝐂𝐑𝐒 “𝐅𝐨𝐫𝐦” 𝐦𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐑𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐨𝐜𝐒𝐚𝐭𝐒𝐨𝐧 𝐰𝐒𝐭𝐑 𝐭𝐑𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐫𝐞. 𝐈𝐭'𝐬 𝐬𝐒𝐦𝐩π₯𝐲 𝐭𝐑𝐞 𝐦𝐞𝐜𝐑𝐚𝐧𝐒𝐜𝐚π₯ 𝐚𝐝𝐯𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐠𝐚𝐒𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐒𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐭𝐑𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐫𝐞.”

Monday, April 10, 2023

Key Points In Beginning Part Of Round Form Youtube video

Key Points in Beginning Part of Round Form video link 

Correction of common mistakes of beginners learning Tai Chi Round Form.

 Thanks for this, Master Hwa. The "common mistakes" are indeed endemic.  There is indeed lots of "outward arm movement" in Tai Chi. If one has learned other Tai Chi, It is hard to remove from the "subconscious" when learning "internally". 


I gave up the "other" Tai Chi and those mistakes I learned when I began studying with you in 2003. I gave up the Karate, Taekwondo, and Tai Chi I had learned previously when I began studying with the Wu Family in Toronto, mid "the 80's", I was told I had to because I was teaching it. 


I know your teacher Young Wabu was told to give them up and gave up the martial arts he had learned previously when he began studying with Wu Chien Chuan.  I think there is an imperative people do not think of and that is what they learned previously is "subconscious".  So when I studied in Toronto, for instance, I had a hard time not kicking like I did with Taekwondo and it created many problems in learning Wu's Style Tai Chi.It really showed up in "free sparring".