July 18

Book Review: Simplified Tai Chi Chuan

Overall, I enjoyed Simplified Tai Chi Chuan: 24 Postures with Applications & Standard 48 Postures (Revised).

After many years of reading books on Okinawan martial arts, it’s refreshing to learn new information from the Chinese martial arts, and it’s enlightening to corroborate information between the two styles.

To me, the first three chapters were the most beneficial of this book. That almost seems contradictory, since the final two chapters are dedicated two the 24 postures with applications and the 48 postures.

I’ll explain why.

First of all, the history and philosophy of martial arts are always interesting to me. Dr. Liang and Mr. Wu do it in a way that’s different from another prolific YMAA writer, Dr. Yang, but effective, nonetheless.

I found their explanation of yin and yang very beneficial, explained to me in a way that resonated with me that hadn’t before. Additionally, they goes into detail about the five element theory, which I also benefitted from.

Dr. Liang and Mr. Wu go to great length to suggest the proper body movements and breathing for tai chi chuan practice.

Finally, they provides a number of stretches and qigong exercises, adding to my growing library of them.

As the authors say, “it is never an easy task to learn from a book.”

I would agree. They provide great information for body awareness and positioning as you’re in the postures, but I take issue with some of the applications here. I would prefer to see principles of movement taught by tai chi chuan as opposed to the selected applications that are in this book.

There are two people in this book: White and Gray. White is always attacking Gray, and Gray is always showing you the applications of the moves.

Except White’s punches often look very much like a traditional karate-ka’s, a position that is often criticized. It’s something I’m to move myself and my students away from in karate for the purposes pointed out in that link.

Two, some of Gray’s defenses seem awfully contrived.

For example, in the second application of Wave Hands Like Clouds, White attacks with a simultaneous punch and a kick. I don’t watch a lot of UFC, but it’s the closest thing to actual street fighting I see. And I don’t see a lot of simultaneous punches and kicks.

Further, White often appears to have the ability to throw a second punch when Gray completes his initial defense. Some moves, in particular, suggest Gray moving directly into the line of White’s attack.

This means one of a couple of things.

One, the pictures were taken for one of the earlier editions of the book.

Two, the authors are showing very basic interpretations.

Three, a combination of both.

Whatever the case, there is a DVD available to accompany the book (as is with most YMAA publications).

To give you a preview of what the moves look like, YMAA has selected a few videos to watch on their site.

What’s more, they’re great at giving you a PDF excerpt.

Pick up this book if you’re serious about tai chi, but work the applications with an instructor you trust to help you decide whether you think these will work for you.

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

December 27

Book Review: Tai Chi Qigong by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming

If you’ve ready any of my reviews here or here, you know that while I consider karate my primary art, I’m a sponge when it comes to gathering information about other styles of karate or martial arts in general.

In my last review, I explored qigong for the first time. I’ve practiced tai chi chuan for more than three years now, but qigong – or chi kung – is an element that is rarely covered in our class.

Tai Chi Qigong: The Internal Foundation of Tai Chi Chuan begins by covering the basics of qi, or chi – I’ll use qi because it’s the convention in the book. I would hazard a guess that most of the first chapter is the same as Dr. Yang’s Simple Qigong book. Either one will give you a decent primer on qigong. The only new stuff – for me, at least – in this book’s first chapter was covering a brief history of tai chi chuan, or taijiquan.

The key part of this book for me was the second chapter, which talks about yin and yang – the root of tai chi chuan.

Dr. Yang writes that the qigong series in this book are based on the theory of yin and yang: two opposing forces that must balance each other. “If the balance is insignificant, disaster will occur,” he says. “However, when these two forces combine and interact with each other smoothly and harmoniously, they manifest power an generate the millions of living things.”

By understanding this, he says, you’ll have a better idea of what you’ll accomplish in your practice.

He discusses still and moving meditation, breathing, mind and movement, and ways to classify tai chi chuan.

The third chapter brings together a number of pictures displaying how to perform the series he mentions. I personally find these chapters less useful than the theory sections since I would much rather learn movements from a live interaction or, at a distant second place, via video. I think there are many intricate movements we miss out on my trying to practice techniques from a book.

Luckily, there is a companion DVD.

If you’re interested in learning more about this book or about martial arts in general, leave a comment here or shoot me an email.


(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in order to review it.)

August 25

Steve Aldus Demonstrates Tai Chi Chuan at Peoria Martial Arts Seminar

A few weeks ago, I did an (almost live) blog from a seminar hosted by Ms. Vera Harrison in Peoria.

For the first time, I’m unveiling video from that event.

Here, Mr. Steve Aldus – with more than 40 years of martial arts experience – demonstrates “White Crane Spreads Its Wings” from the old Yang style tai chi chuan form. This move is just one of 188 in this form.

In this clip, Mr. Aldus talks about “push hands” or “push practice,” and demonstrates some striking as well as grappling techniques. At the end, he shows a great drill to practice.

Prior to uploading these clips, Mr. Aldus gave me permission.

My students have heard stories about my training experiences with my instructors.

Earlier this summer, after our grand re-opening demonstration, I invited Mr. Hawkey to introduce our students to sparring. The students were excited after that session to have learned from a true great.

At that same event, they also met Mr. Aldus, but he (and his wife) were there for support and not so much demonstration.

I hope that by working with my instructors directly, or by showing these videos, my students recognize the quality of instruction that I have received and that I intend to pass along to them.

July 29

Adam Bockler Appears in Taekwondo Times Magazine

Taekwondo Times - September 2013

It’s true!

I am featured as an attacker in the September 2013 issue of Taekwondo Times.

Mr. Steve Aldus, my tai chi chuan teacher, wrote an article for this issue explaining in detail some of the applications of the art he’s studied for more than 40 years. In this issue, he demonstrates several tai chi chuan moves on me.

Many times tai chi chuan is mistaken for an art without any practicality. However, I can tell you they are for real, and this issue helps illustrate that.

I have trained with Mr. Aldus for three years. But if my regular practice isn’t enough,  being on the receiving end of these techniques during the photo shoot is enough, in my opinion, to understand just how effective tai chi chuan is as a martial art.

Take a look at the last application for “Pluck Needle from Sea Bottom,” and I’ll tell you it hurt just to breathe. Imagine that knee dropping at full speed and you’ll understand how damaging this art can be.

As Mr. Aldus talked to the photographer – Rock Tai, a transplant from Hong Kong whose dad is a revered martial artist – in between shots, he showed a few more applications. “Wow,” Rock said, “I can see the power.” I wasn’t hurt, but Rock was able to see the potential destruction tai chi chuan is capable of.

Select this picture to see more behind-the-scenes images from the Taekwondo Times photo shoot!

Select this picture to see more behind-the-scenes images from the Taekwondo Times photo shoot!

Students and parents are welcome to receive free copies of this issue of the Taekwondo Times. It retails for $7.00.

April 2

April 2012 Newsletter – Seminar, Tournaments, PE Waiver Update, and More

I hope you’re enjoying your spring break. It’s always nice to have some time off because it makes me look forward to training even more.

While you’re off, though, please take a few minutes to read through the April newsletter.

Seminar: Steve & Kim Aldus Come April 28

The month is finally here! Mr. and Mrs. Aldus will perform an exclusive workshop for us on Saturday, April 28, from 1:30-3 at MTHS. The event is only open to high school students, adults, and selected grade school students.

In case you’ve missed the announcement, I have been practicing tai chi chuan and hsing-i chuan with the Alduses since 2010. I’m very excited for all of you to meet them, but more importantly, that we all get to learn from them. I think the connection is special – they practice arts that predated and ultimately led to the formation of Shuri-ryu karate.

One, Two, Three New Yellow Belts!

Congratulations to Samantha Barth, Andrew Nauman and William Bracero who earned their yellow belts on March 22! The rest of the students who were part of the stripe test earned an additional stripe. It was great to see so much energy, but there’s still lots of work to do to refine those techniques before earning the next full belt.

Competition Update: Adair Rodriguez Takes 3rd, Adam Bockler Takes 1st

Tournament season is underway! Joshu Adair placed 3rd at the Supreme Way Challenge in Pekin on March 10. This was Joshu Adair’s first competition as a black belt, an impressive feat in a group of five black belts who are some of the toughest forms competitors I’ve seen in this area.

I grabbed 1st place at Auvenshine’s Taekwondo 13th Annual Open Tournament in Springfield on March 17 in a division of 2nd-degree black belts ages 16 and up. This was a big goal for me to accomplish, as I’ve come up short the last three times I competed there. I did not, however, take the grand championship.

Coming Up: Moline on April 14 and Bloomington on May 19

We have two more opportunities for you to compete. Mr. Morrow hosts his Karate & Kung Fu Championships on April 14 in Moline, and Mr. Walker hosts Tournament of Champions IX in Bloomington on May 19. If you’re interested, please let Adam know as soon as possible to help guide you through registering and to help get you ready.

PE Waiver Update

Please make sure your high school student is attending class. If not, the student can only miss class for other school-related activities. If a student receiving a PE waiver is not attending class, I will make requests to Guidance for that student to be removed from the waiver. This does not mean I don’t want the student in our martial arts program. I want to make sure, however, that we are doing right by the school standards.

Additionally, I have requested that Metamora Martial Arts students not be given a PE waiver next year. I know how popular this aspect of the program has been for students over the years (myself included), but I’ve explained in detail why the PE waiver will no longer be offered on our blog: http://metamoramartialarts.com/blog/news/pe-waiver-update-and-a-stripe-test-change.

June Schedule Coming Soon

Many students and parents have asked about our summer schedule. Because many of our instructors are in college and have jobs, we are only planning one month at a time at this point. Currently, we are planning on having classes Thursday nights. From 6-7 we’ll have grade school students, and from 7-8 or 8:30 we’ll have high school students and adults.

On two Wednesday nights, brown belts and above will be invited to Mr. Hawkey’s house for a special two-hour Wednesday class.

Please stay tuned to our website at http://metamoramartialarts.com to get the most up-to-date information about our summer schedule.

Quote of the Month

Bruce Lee headshot“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

I’d never studied much about Bruce Lee. But earlier in March, SpikeTV aired a really cool special called “I Am Bruce Lee” and I became hooked. There’s a lot to be said about his philosophy on the martial arts, bringing people together and finding the commonalities that all arts share, not to mention technique effectiveness.