Happy Christmas!

A very merry a Christmas to all my readers! 2019 has been a terrible year in many ways – not personally, but for the state of the world – but this blog has kept me on my toes, forcing me to think and rethink my ideas, and distracting me from world events.

Thanks to everybody who has inspired me – you know who you are.

Here’s a book I got for Christmas that I’ll hopefully make time to read. It’s time we all started to turn our heads back towards nature.

Tai Chi Notebook, the book, will be coming in 2020, so look out for it!

Have a happy New Year!

Graham

Elite Sports Ultra Light Preshrunk Adult Gi Review

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So far I’ve mainly reviewed martial arts books, but I’d also like to branch out into reviewing other martial arts products, so, being a BJJ enthusiast, I jumped at the chance to review the Elite Sports Ultralight Preshrunk Adult Gi when they offered to send me a review sample. Here’s my review.

Elite Sports Ultra Light Preshrunk Adult Gi review

Price: £59.99

Web: Elite Sports (UK)

Direct link to product

Verdict: Great value!

What is it? The Elite Sports Ultra Light Gi is a kimono for wearing in Jiujitsu classes. Jiujitsu gis differ a little in style and shape from Judo gis, and they also need to take a lot of wear and tear. They need to be tough, yet light enough that you don’t end up drowning in your own sweat.

How did it look? See for yourself. Here’s a video:

The video is also on our new Instagram account.

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There’s a nice range of colour options available. I went for the navy colour, which I really like. If I was being picky I’d say there was about a 10% difference in colour shade between the trousers and the top. That’s not a big problem for me though.

Is it tough enough? Yes, there were no signs that it was going to rip any time soon, and at under 3kg in weight, it was also light and didn’t feel cumbersome. The Elite Sports Gi manages to hit a great balance between toughness and lightness. The stitching looks solid and there were no problems with the tailoring at all.

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Did it fit? I went for the A2 size and it fitted me perfectly. The cut is great – called “fitted” – and being preshrunk it fits nicely as soon as you put it on. Flowing through jiujitsu movements the gi felt great – it’s been tailored so that there’s enough room for your arms and legs to move freely. It’s got a nice balance between stiffness and softness so that it keeps its shape as you roll. It’s not going to end up wrapped around your head like really soft gis can, but it also doesn’t feel too stiff.

The trousers are tied with a chunky cord, which looks like this:

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The cord might feel a bit odd to start with compared to other gis, but they didn’t untie once for the duration of a whole class.

The material of the gi itself is really smooth – this had the advantage that it’s easier to flow around people, and makes your jiujitsu feel really silky because there’s slightly less traction against the other person, but equally, it could make it slightly harder to hold people in positions.

What do you get in the box? Along with the gi you also get a free white belt. Like the gi, it’s good quality, and thick.

Did it shrink in the wash? No. I washed it at 30 degrees (which the label recommends)  and there was no shrinkage at all. There was also no colour loss.

How did it smell? Some cheaper gis can have a nasty smell when you first open them, but it’s important to note that when I first got the Elite Sports Gi, the gi smelt great – apparently there’s an “Antimicrobial Inner Lining” to this gi which has the effect of reducing sweat odour over time as well, which is a nice feature. I’d say it works too – even after a heavy rolling session, the gi didn’t smell that sweaty.

Would you recommend it? Yes. At just £60 this is a great value product: recommended!

 

 

 

 

 

Tai Chi is open and close happening simultaneously

 

Wu Jienquan not lean

Wu Jianquan

Tai Chi is opening and closing happening simultaneously.

That’s one of the secrets of Tai Chi, right there. Unfortunately, as with much of the truths about Tai Chi Chuan, the statement doesn’t make any sense unless you already know what it means.

As an art, much of Tai Chi is self secret like this. In one way that’s frustrating, but in another way it’s freeing because it means teachers don’t have to hold things back. The secrets reveal themselves over time.

Look at the Tai Chi Classics, for example. They’re a collection of pithy martial arts sayings that hide deeper meanings. “5 ounces of force deflects a thousand pounds“, “Walk like a cat.“, “Store up the jin like drawing a bow.”, etc.

Many of the sayings in these documents don’t mean anything to people reading them who don’t already understand them. So, there’s no risk in losing ‘the secrets of the art’ by publishing them, which is perhaps one reason why the Tai Chi classics are in wide circulation, while other martial styles keep their writings secret, held only within families.

Perceiving opening and closing

When you’re doing your form, can you perceive movements that are obvious opening movements, and movements that are obviously closing movements?

It’s good if you can. If you can’t then think about this – roll back (lu) is clearly a closing movement, and ward off (Peng) is obviously and opening movement. Look for the same actions in the other movements. On the opening movements, the body expands outwards. On the closing movements the body contracts inwards.

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Yang Cheng Fu – Roll back

But that’s not the end of the story.

If you’re perceiving the form like this – a series of opening and closing movements that happen one after the other, then you’re not quite on the right track.

The key is that the opening and closing are both happening all the time simultaneously. So, as one part of the body is closing whilst another part is opening.

Look at the yin yang symbol. If you follow it around in a circle with your eye you can see that as one aspect grows stronger, the other aspect diminishes, but is also being born again and growing. It goes on in an endless cycle.

PakuaPostHeaven

It’s these cycles you need to pay attention to in the form. It should feel like this cycle of opening and closing movements is going on with one movement giving birth to the next, rather than perceiving them two separate movements where one starts, then stops, then the other starts and stops. The movement is continuous. It goes out, it comes back, it goes out again.

Silk reeling circles

Let’s break this down into something more tangible.

A while ago I made a video course on the basic single handed silk reeling exercise. This exercise is great because it gives you a chance to work on opening and closing in a relatively simple movement.

Out of the whole course, part 1 is probably the most relevant video to explain what I mean:

Here’s what I’m doing in the video: I’m looking for a slight stretch across the front of my body and a slight stretch across the back of my body (the yin/yang aspects). As the arm goes out the front of the body gradually becomes more taught until there’s enough tension there that I can use it to pull the arm back in. As the arm comes back in, the back of the body becomes slightly more taught until there’s enough tension there to use it to expand the arm outwards. This is all integrated with reverse breathing which powers everything from the Dan Tien area. It’s a very stretchy, rubber band-like practice.

You can start with big, crude circles, but work down to smaller more subtle circles.

But ultimately you’re looking for the feeling of the cycle of yin and yang, opening and closing going on in the body.

It’s this feeling that you need to take into the Tai Chi form where opening and closing happening simultaneously through a myriad of different movements.

New Heretics Facebook page

Just a quick heads-up. If you want to be notified when a new episode of the Heretics podcast is out I’ve created a Facebook page that you can follow. I think it will act as the ‘Homepage’ for the podcast until we get a website sorted.

So far we’ve managed a new episode every week since we started. The next one will be on… Xingyi.

Link.

Happy New Year! Here are my most popular Tai Chi Notebook posts from 2018

As we enter 2019, the year of the earth pig, let’s look back on the last year with the most popular posts on this blog each month.

Note: These are based purely on the audience figures, not on being the ‘best’ stories of the year. As such it gives you an interesting picture of what people are searching for, or find most interesting on Tai Chi Notebook.

January:

Old Wu Style Tai Chi video

“A video surfaced recently of an old performance of Wu style Tai Chi from a gentleman called Cheng Wing-Kwong (1903-1967), who was a disciple of the Wu Jian-Quan, the founder of Wu style Tai Chi.”

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February:

How meridians relate to Tai Chi

“I think that somebody doing some background research into “Tai Chi” inevitably ends up looking at a picture of the “acupuncture meridians” and starts to wonder how they relate to Tai Chi Chuan.”

mawdaoyinpos

March:

Wing Chun (Ding Hao) vs MMA (Xu Xiao Dong), in China

“After his fight with the “Tai Chi master” Wei Lei, which rocked the contemporary martial arts scene in China, Xu Xiao Dong, the MMA fighter on a mission to expose “fake masters” is back on the scene this time showing his skills against a Wing Chun fighter.”

 

April:

The post Wave hands like clouds was actually written un 2016, but it has consistently been one of my most popular posts, and this month it rose to the top again.

“A look at the Cloud Hands movement of Tai Chi, and what it’s really all about”

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May:

The post Tai Chi vs BJJ in China was actually the most popular by just 4 views, but the video has since been removed, so just 4 views behind we have:

Forrest Chang’s “Stupid Jin Tricks” video

“This is a great video from Forrest Chang showing what Jin is in Chinese Martial Arts and how it can be used.”

 

June:

Thoughts on an interview with Wang Yan, head coach of the Chenjiagou Taijiquan School

“Born in 1990, Wang Yan became head coach of Cheng village training centre in 2013 and is as a Taiji fighter as well as a coach, not to mention an expert in forms. He was one of the “nine tigers” – the best nine students of Chen ZiQiang. There’s an interview with him in English on Chen Taijiquan blog, with some great pictures from his private collection. The interview is pretty long, but there are lots of really interesting insights into his daily training, San Da competitions training and how exhausting it all was!”

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July:

Does Cormier’s dirty boxing point the way for CMA in MMA?

“I’m always looking for ways that the sticky hands-like training found in Chinese martial arts like Tai Chi Chuan, Wing Chun, Praying Mantis, White Crane and Hung Gar, where contact between the forearms or hands is maintained and the practitioner is encouraged to ‘listen’ to the movements of the opponent through this contact, can be used in MMA.”

MMA: UFC 226-Miocic vs Cormier

August:

Book review: Internal Body Mechanics for Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi, by Ken Gullette

“Anybody who has attempted to learn Tai Chi in any depth instantly realises that the choreography of a form is just that – choreography – and that the devil is in the details. Internal Body Mechanics is all about the details: How you move, what you move and where you move it to.”

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September:

This month the review of Ken Gullette’s book was again the most popular post. The next most popular post was this one:

The whole Chen Tai Chi curriculum, in video form

“Well, this page is interesting. It’s from Chen Bing, a Chen family member who is based in Los Angeles, USA, and from the looks of things, and it looks like a video reference for the whole Chen style Taijiquan curriculum!

October:

What makes Xingyi’s Bengquan different to a normal straight punch?

I got into a discussion about Bengquan, one of the 5 fists of Xingyiquan, a Chinese martial art I’ve written about before, recently, which prompted me to consider what really made a Bengquan different to a regular straight punch that you’d find in any number of other martial arts. I thought I’d just jot down a few of my ideas about it, because that forces me to organise my thoughts, but it has turned into quite a long post. So, apologies for that, but I’m going to post it anyway 😉

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

November:

Once again, the post Wave hands like clouds rose to the top again this month, but the next biggest post was part 2 of the article above, What makes Xingyi’s Bengquan different to a normal straight punch? Part 2: The bow draw.

Following on from my previous post about Bengquan, one of the 5 Element fists of Xingyiquan, I want to take a closer look at some of the internal characteristics of the strike.

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December:

Aikido Heresies. The dark side of Aikido.

“Just remembered I didn’t post about the last Heretics podcast we did. This one was about the history of Aikido. I thought it would be quite a light-hearted one, but as Damon explains, it turns out the history of Aikido, and its parent art Daito Ryo, is largely unknown to the average martial artists (i.e. me) and also pretty dark and nasty. Very nasty.”

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The Origins of Jiu Jitsu and Kempo (part 5)

The final part of our podcast series on Jiu Jitsu and Kempo is live. In this episode we spend a long time trying not to talk about Aikido, then agree to talk about it more next time. Apart from that, we follow the developments in Japan through to modern times, with particular attention paid to the history of the yakuza.

https://www.spreaker.com/user/9404101/5-the-origins-of-jiu-jitsu-and-kempo-par

 

The history of Jiujitsu and Kempo. Part 4

The latest episode of the Heretics podcast is out!

https://www.spreaker.com/user/9404101/episode4final

In part 4 we examine the time period between 1960 and 1980 in Japan, and discuss topics such as martial arts marketing and the different ways in which the Japanese created and promoted a wide range of new martial arts.

Here are a few links to videos of the things we talk about this time:

Gracie vs. Kimura – October 23, 1951 (Maracanã Stadium – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil)

Gracies vs bullies on beach:

Rikidozan vs Masahiko Kimura (1954 – Part 2/2)

PRIDE 25: Kazushi Sakuraba vs Antonio “Elvis” Schembri

Muhammed Ali vs Antonio Inoki Boxer vs MMA Fighter 1976

 

Mas Oyama vs “bull”:

TV show about Iwama and Aikido, Ibaraki Prefecture (茨城県, Ibaraki-ken) Japan featuring the late Morihiro Saito Sensei.

Taido:

Kodo:

Heretics podcast episode 2

Episode 2 of the history of Kempo and Jiujitsu is out!

Starts in 1850. Extensive discussion of Kano Jigoro, the evolution of Judo and beyond. Plus a lot on the political-cultural situation of Japan at the time. Plenty of martial arts Heresy as always 😉

If you found the first episode too history-heavy this one, while still having a bucket-load of history in it, is more conversational and has some lighter-weight elements, talking about BJJ, Chuck Lidell and other things. We take a slightly controversial listener question at the end.

iTunes link:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/heretics-by-woven-energy/id1442072590?mt=2#

Spreaker link:

Let the Heresy begin…

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So, the new podcast is out! Check it out here.

Now on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/heretics-by-woven-energy/id1442072590?mt=2

In the first episode we explore the development of the concept of heresy by two early christian teachers, Valentinus and Irenaeus. We then begin a multi-part series on the origins of Jiu Jitsu and Kempo, addressing some of the myths surrounding the samurai class in the process, as well as talking about some of the other, less famous, inhabitants of feudal Japan.