Monday, November 23, 2009

What Does Chen Style Taiji Look Like?‏

One of many lectures by Master Chen Zhonghua, at Taiji Traditions
Camp, Shawnigan Lake, BC, was sparked by a question, "what makes Chen
Taiji 'Chen Taiji'?". Master Chen drew a diagram of the four prominent
characteristics of "Gong": “Fa”, to issue power or energy, “Hua”, to
neutralize the oncoming forces or energy,“Da”, to hit, and "Na", to
Master Hong Junsheng (1907-1996) the man who developed Chen Style
Practical Method Taiji, and one of Master Chen Zhonghua's teachers, is
world renowned for his abitity to issue power (Fa). His nickname is
"the Man with the Magic Hand", because of his ability to bounce
opponents away by issuing internal power through his hand. As far as
Taiji Legends go there is quite a lot of video and information about
Grandmaster Hong online.
Here is a video of his push-hands:

And a video of his Yi Lu form:

Master Tian Xiuchen (1917-1984) studied from Grandmaster Chen Fake
(pronounced Fah-kuh) for 15 years, and became his disciple. He is
known for his ability to nuetralize (Hua), but there is little
information about him online, if you know of any more info or students
of his please leave a comment.
Here is his Yilu form (Warning: turn your volume down):
Part 1:

Part 2:

Grandmaster Chen Zhaokui (1928-1981), the son of Grandmaster Chen
Fake, is known for his skill in neutralizing (Na) his opponenents.
Chen Zhaokui's students included the "four tigers" of CHen Village:
Chen Xiaowang, Zhu Tiancai, Wang Xian, and Chen Zhenglei. Master Chen
Zhaokui's only son: Chen Yu, is a prominent figure in Chen Style
Taiji, and is famous for his Qin Na (joint manipulation).
There is only one video clip of Chen Zhaokui, and it is eleven seconds

But, there are many clips of Chen Yu:

Grandmaster Feng Zhiqeng (1928) is a living legend of Taiji, and
creator of the Chen Style Xinyi Hunyuan Taijiquan System. Feng
Zhiqiang life is nothing short of amazing. Orignally a Xinyi (Qigong/
health art) Master, a diciple of Grand Master Hu Yaozhen, he then
became a disciple of Chen Fake. He is known for his ability to hit
(Da), and I have felt a hit from his disciple, Master Chen Zhonghua,
and the force rattled my entire skeleton. He was once the training
partner for Chen Zhaokui. In his personal letter to Mr.
Wan Wende of Shanghai, Zhaokui wrote,
"I have a senior brother, his name is Feng Zhiqiang, he is extremely
intelligent and among our brothers, his kung fu is the best."
(Houcheng, Pan, A Standard for Martial Art- The Story of Grand Master
Feng Zhiqiang, English translation can be found here:
This is an example of his excellent Taiji power:

What does Chen Style Taiji look like? I'm not sure. As you can see
from these videos, it looks like many different styles, maybe even
different martial arts, but these teachers of Taiji represent today
what the Taiji Classics texts wrote of centuries ago. I am just
beginning on my Taiji journey, and my knowledge is little compared to
my teachers and Taiji brothers. I hope this post inspires interest and
dialogue for the art I have become so passionate about.
Comments are appreciated,

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Weeds Don't Sleep, But I Could Sure Use Some

Those of you who know the intimate details of my life, know that I pay the bills as gardener, or an industrial athlete (I prefer the latter, it sounds tougher). 

If we provide bad work, we sacrifice the reputation of our business.

To paraphrase Andre 3000, If I do not move my feet, then I do not eat. The quality of my work is directly connected to the quantity of service the company I represent recieves. If we provide bad work, i.e. getting caught asleep on site, at the local grocery store reading magazines, or not showing up on site but still billing, we sacrifice the reputation of our business, and therefore loose clients. However, as gardeners, we try our best not to represent ourselves this way, because we rely on word-of-mouth advertising. If we do not recieve word-of-mouth recommendations, we would be out of business, or competing with phonebook, fly-by-night, minivan, landscrapers.

Remember word of mouth advertising? 

- A handy-man, or a gardener, did a quality job, without unnecessary extras, or going over-estimate, and you recommend them to your friends and neighbors.

The butcher shop is always hiring

For gardeners, weeds are recession-proof, and those who are aesthetically motivated and need to maintain a kempt facade for their beautiful houses require our services. At our graduation ceremony, my mentor, Gil Wilkes, Ph.D., made a joke that the butcher shop is always hiring. Due to my geographic location, Victoria, BC, aka "the city of Newly-weds, nearly-deads, and garden-beds", gardening is my butcher shop.

When you have a positive customer experience, you want to tell your family, friends, and maybe even your enemies, so they can get in on the goods. Last week, I went to the Pacific Northwest Raptor House, in Duncan, about 45 minutes from Victoria, BC.  After a discussion on the historic use of falconry, my friend, Steve, a plumber, suggested I make the trip, and I propositioned a friend, from Alberta, to accompany me.  

During the falcon demonstration, I kept saying to her "I am SO excited", and "This is AWESOME!". The bird of prey demonstrations were quality. One of the dives a falcon did even made the trainer say "That was so AWESOME!". The trainers were informative, and friendly, and we walked away feeling like we had gotten our money's worth out of our trip. 

Here is the result, the best 6 minutes you will have all day:

This video is not an advertisement, marketing ploy, or public relations stunt: It is a friend recommending a quality product to their friends/ acquaintances. I have not been paid to make this video, nor do I expect any reparations for it. If someone who reads this goes to the Pacific Northwest Raptor House, and has the same positive experience, this is payment enough. 

Do you provide a service that would make someone, as busy as me (weeds don't sleep, but I could sure use some), write and edit for hours to recommend your business?   

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What Makes Shaolin Soccer the Best Martial Arts Movie Ever?

         This is not a review. This is a serious question. Why is the Steven Chow movie Shaolin Soccer so awesome?

             Yeah. That's right. One guy kicks a soccer ball in a pool, and another guy a demolishes a wall with upside down kicks.  The movie has little martial value, but who really want to watch a movie with realistic, and brutal, fighting.  The reason I fell in love with Kung-fu films was not because it taught me to kick ass, but because of the exaggerated movies that the Wu-Shu actors could pull of in an exaggerated situation. It was not the punch, but Bruce's "Waaaaahhhh!", that I watched for. 

       This movie is all round fun. It is positive, and inspiring. There is nothing to learn from the moves, but they are practical applications of martial art. There are some fights, but they are so farfetched they are entertaining.   Next time you are in the video store trying to decide between Angela's Ashes or Saw 27, grab Shaolin Soccer instead, and have an uplifting good time instead.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Youtube Posts

Here are a couple youtube videos I produced, nothing special. Worth a watch though. This first is a documentary called Time on Task, about the Victoria Chen Style Tai Chi Academy. The second is a slide show/ video from our school's annual dinner.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

The Future of Tai Chi

After reading Matthew Honan's article, Meet Online Friends in the Real World (Beware: It Will Be Weird), in the August '09 issue of Wired Magazine, I was super reluctant to meet people in the Meatspace (I believe David Maguire coined the term) that I have met in Cyberspace.

"Often, the trouble isn't what you're saying but how you're saying it. Language is more than words. It also includes kinesics (body language) and paralanguage (pitch, tone, and wordless noises)"

Having had one positive experience meeting with a local maven I met on Twitter, thanks again @Lacouvee, my reservations for future meatspace meetings was, and remains, low; however, that meeting was about business, and networking. Also, having not read Honan's article, I was unaware of the awkwardness that can occur. In the article Professor Nancy Baym said, "Often, the trouble isn't what you're saying but how you're saying it. Language is more than words. It also includes kinesics (body language) and paralanguage (pitch, tone, and wordless noises)".

When I found myself in the exact same situation Honan presents, traveling to a city where a longtime (in Internet time) Tweep (person who tweets) lives, my confidence in tweetups was ruffled. To be safe, or possibly not, neither of us talked publicly about the possibility of meeting up, but talked behind the scenes about meeting up for a Tai Chi workout.

"The purpose of our meeting was to discuss and practice kinesics and body language: only we call it Tai Chi"

We both practice different styles of Tai Chi, him: Yang and Cheng Man Ching styles, me: Chen Style Practical Method, but we both have had limited experience in the other's style. Politics and titles aside it is all the same Tai Chi, but with nuances and distinctions noticeable to the trained eye. Referring back to what Professor Baym said, the main purpose of our meeting was to discuss and practice kinesics and body language, only we call it Tai Chi.

"the man with the magic hand"

One of many stories about Grandmaster Hong Junsheng's life that resonates with me is about the Japanese students who called him "the man with the magic hand", because of his ability to bounce opponents away without using what we normally consider to be strength. Grandmaster Hong was among the first Chinese Tai Chi Masters to indiscriminately teach the art to those from outside of China. From 1956 to 1988 master Hong developed a reputation in Japan, and elsewhere, of being of incredible skill. These years, however, were a dark time in Chinese history. Hong, and many others, suffered at the hands of political oppression, war, disease, and famine. Two of his best students, twin Japanese women, died of Scarlet Fever, and Grandmaster Hong was isolated due to poverty. The art that he saved, and shared with the world, almost died with him.

"There will be no lines of Tai Chi bras or stretch pants"

Today, Tai Chi's future is threatened again. This time by the isolation caused by an increase of media consumption. Tai Chi has to compete with Video games, Television, the Internet (sorry Radio you do not make the list), and a overworking generation of people. Tai Chi is hard, believe me, and not sexy, there will be no lines of Tai Chi bras or stretch pants. This is why the art is threatened.

"Sorry Myspace: not on the list"

On a positive note, Social Networking sites like Twitter, and Facebook (sorry Myspace: not on the list), are bringing the community together in ways that are astounding. On Youtube, every style of Tai Chi are represented, and tutorials are available at your convenience. On, a group of local Tai Chi people are inviting those who live in the West Shore/Landford, BC, with any experience level to come practice with them. On Twitter, there are people meeting fellow practitioners everyday, and some, like @Vanadia, and @Jordan_Keats, who are taking online discussions into the meatspace, traveling from Victoria, BC, to Portland, Oregon, and doing our best to ensure Tai Chi has a future.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

The Tao of Communication

Two mysteries:
What is a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Communications, and what is Tai Chi?

Mention Prof. Comm., or Taiji, those two questions arise, followed by: "What can you do with with that Tai Chi practice?", "Chi is like Zen, right?", or "What can you do with an degree in Communications?".

The most common assumptions are that Professional Communications has something to do with telemarketing, and Tai Chi is something like yoga or pilates: only magical, meditative and mystical. There are many people feeding the superstitious reputation of Tai Chi, and many greasy snake-oil salesmen marketers out there giving the name of communication a black eye.

In everyday communications, and in professional communications, there are negative and positive aspects. There is a damage control side, where the aim of communication is to save face for ourselves, or a company, and a promotional side aiming to gain face or respect.

In other words, there is a positive, and a negative aspect to communications.

The foundational exercises in the Practical Method of Chen Style Tai Chi are called positive and negative circles. In these drills, the elbow moves in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, while moving inward the hand moves reluctantly, and on the outward the elbow moves reluctantly forward.

Elbow in - No Hand in. Elbow out - No hand out.

For a More Detailed Explanation:

The idea of positive and negative should not be confused with an idea that in communicating, or in Tai Chi, all actions are black and white. Think of the Ying-Yang symbol, there is a small white circle in the large black wave, and a small black circle inside the large white wave. The same theory applies to communications, there can be a dot of hesitation in your celebration, or some pride in wallowing in the mire: a bit a doubt in your love, or a bit of enjoyment in your hatred.

In Tai Chi class we laugh, and have all round good time with friends, while practicing movements with quite horrible applications with the intention to defeat opponents without mercy. This opposition is natural, and a thread throughout life.

I am not a Taoist scholar, and much of the theory is beyond me; however, the value of practicing to communicate, or learning a skill like Tai Chi or Qi Gong, becomes more obvious upon reflection. These are skills like any other, the more time spent on task the more effective and efficient you can become.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Gorillas do not lift weights, so why do you?

Have you ever wondered why gorillas are estimated to be fifty times as strong as a human, yet you never see one in a gym pumping iron? Or, how a little cat can jump up to and above ten feet in the air, when you never see them training to do so? They use internal power.

Internal power is when a body uses gravity to its fullest. When we consider why gorillas are so strong, we look to their massive arms and chest, and assume this is the source of their superhuman power. We rarely consider their legs, and why gorillas move closer to the ground than humans. The center of gravity for gorillas is in the waist, yet you will rarely see a gorilla standing upright like a human. Even when gorillas are fighting they keep their knees bent to lower their center of gravity, to enhance their balance.

When we move upright we are fighting against gravity. We bend our knees and elbows, and scar the tissue around our bones, causing muscle. On a vehicle, the coils or springs inside our shocks soften impact. The spring creates stability too; with compression the spiral becomes strong and loaded. Any amateur carpenter knows the saying "why nail when you can screw". The nail does not root into the wood or steel, and can be easily removed, bent, or broken. By fighting gravity our entire lives our bones and joints become brittle and tired as the years pass.

In everyday movement we do not use spirals, thus, we do not have the ability to jump like a cat or have the speed or strength of a gorilla. As spirals compress, one half goes down and the other raises, this is the theory of complimentary opposites. Also known as ying and yang, a theory at the foundation of Taoist religion, representing the balance between opposites, or dualism. Day and night, male and female, inert and animated, are examples of dualism. Trees are the balance between living and dead. The dead bark provides stability for the living roots and leaves to grow. Roots move using spirals, and rotation, to create stability. The trunk and branches can flex and bend with the force of gravity being disbursed, and anchored, through the roots. Trees use spirals instead of lines, so do gorillas, and cats.

The Practical Method of Chen Style Tai Chi can show us how to develop the mechanics of motion we never learned, but animals seem to posses intrinsically. This jewel of Chinese history is the embodiment of Taoism, because it is founded in the duality of anchoring and rotating. By anchoring and rotating we can lengthen our muscles and use our joints as coils to compress, pressurize, and release, instead of a hinge, and increase human power to superhuman levels. No other martial art, or sport, uses the mechanics of the body like the Practical Method of Chen Style Tai Chi. Gorillas do not lift weights, so why do you?

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Dude Abides


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Friday, January 09, 2009

Do You Squidoo?

This is a cross post from:

Book Recomedations

I read, a lot. I love it when someone recommends a book to me or appreciates it when I do the same for them. So here is a list of books separated into three sections, Taichi books, Non-Fiction, and Fiction. Let me know what you think or leave a recommendation that you think I would like, thanks.

Jordan's Choice Tai Chi Books

I do Tai Chi, a lot. These are some must haves for you taiji library

Yang Style Traditional Long Form T'ai Chi Ch'uan: As Taught by T.T. Liang

Gordon studied directly with Master Liang from 1981 until 1988 and then spent several more years working with senior students. At the time of its writing Gordon had more than 20 years experience with Yang style Tai Chi. His understanding of the art is not based solely on work done on the long form but also on his intense practise with Cane, Broadsword, Sword and the two person exercises including Push Hands, Ta Lu and San Shou.

Amazon Price: $11.53 (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method (Volue One: Theory)

This is a long waited book. The author of the book, grandmaster Hong Junsheng studied from grandmaster Chen Fake for 15 years and was the only disciple who lived with the grandmaster from time to time. Hong spent his entire life practicing and writing this book on the Chen Style Taijiquan. Many of his views, opinions and experiences are rare, authentic and traditional. There simply is not another master who could compare.

His disciple Chen Zhonghua did an excellent job of translating this book. An English teacher and translator in Canada by profession, Chen rendered this book in both loyalty to the original and in readability for the Western readers.

This is definitely a book that all martial artists must have.

Amazon sells this book for $210. Find it Cheaper here:

Amazon Price: (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

T'ai Chi Ch'uan for Health and Self-Defense: Philosophy and Practice

T.T. Liang was Gord Muir's Yang Style teacher, this book is known as a modern classic too.

Amazon Price: $9.60 (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

Hunyuan Qigong

This is the only authorized English translation of Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang's Hunyuan Qigong book. This book has the full content of the 12-Form Hunyuan Qigong exercises in detailed explanations. Translated by his disciple Chen Zhonghua. Text and pictures are both provided.

This book is currently unavailable on Amazon. Find it here:

Amazon Price: (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

Way of Hunyuan: a Personal Odyssey

This is an essential book for anyone practicing Qigong. Its contents are mainly based on the Hunyuan Qigong of Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang and the personal experiences and explorations of Master Chen zhonghua. Many rarely discussed aspects of Qigong are included in this book. There is a glossary of Qigong terms that are useful to all Qi Gong practitioners.

Amazon prices this book at $125. Find it cheaper here:

Amazon Price: (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

Great Stuff on Amazon


We all love non-fiction, it is the stuff of life (how descriptive!). Here are a few of my picks, (I can't wait to pick my Fictions).

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

This is a life changer. A great supplement to the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. My description of this this book could not do it justice, so I'll let Chris Anderson's (Wired Magazine) review speak on my behalf:

Four hundred years ago, Francis Bacon warned that our minds are wired to deceive us. "Beware the fallacies into which undisciplined thinkers most easily fall--they are the real distorting prisms of human nature." Chief among them: "Assuming more order than exists in chaotic nature." Now consider the typical stock market report: "Today investors bid shares down out of concern over Iranian oil production." Sigh. We're still doing it.

Our brains are wired for narrative, not statistical uncertainty. And so we tell ourselves simple stories to explain complex thing we don't--and, most importantly, can't--know. The truth is that we have no idea why stock markets go up or down on any given day, and whatever reason we give is sure to be grossly simplified, if not flat out wrong.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb first made this argument in Fooled by Randomness, an engaging look at the history and reasons for our predilection for self-deception when it comes to statistics. Now, in The Black Swan: the Impact of the Highly Improbable, he focuses on that most dismal of sciences, predicting the future. Forecasting is not just at the heart of Wall Street, but it's something each of us does every time we make an insurance payment or strap on a seat belt.

The problem, Nassim explains, is that we place too much weight on the odds that past events will repeat (diligently trying to follow the path of the "millionaire next door," when unrepeatable chance is a better explanation). Instead, the really important events are rare and unpredictable. He calls them Black Swans, which is a reference to a 17th century philosophical thought experiment. In Europe all anyone had ever seen were white swans; indeed, "all swans are white" had long been used as the standard example of a scientific truth. So what was the chance of seeing a black one? Impossible to calculate, or at least they were until 1697, when explorers found Cygnus atratus in Australia.

Nassim argues that most of the really big events in our world are rare and unpredictable, and thus trying to extract generalizable stories to explain them may be emotionally satisfying, but it's practically useless. September 11th is one such example, and stock market crashes are another. Or, as he puts it, "History does not crawl, it jumps." Our assumptions grow out of the bell-curve predictability of what he calls "Mediocristan," while our world is really shaped by the wild powerlaw swings of "Extremistan."

In full disclosure, I'm a long admirer of Taleb's work and a few of my comments on drafts found their way into the book. I, too, look at the world through the powerlaw lens, and I too find that it reveals how many of our assumptions are wrong. But Taleb takes this to a new level with a delightful romp through history, economics, and the frailties of human nature. --Chris Anderson

Amazon Price: $18.48 (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

This is the prequel to the Black Swan, but it is almost more enjoyable because Taleb uses less complicated examples from his years of study. Very conversational and easy to read.

Amazon Price: $18.48 (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

Cash: The Autobiography

Speaking of randomness, this is a book I read on the recommendation of John Cusack's character in High Fidelity. He put it as number one on his all time fav's, and it really is a great read.

Amazon Price: $12.47 (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Another book that can be considered a supplement the the Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. Ever wonder why some stories become memes, and others disappear? This book can answer that, and help you write to beat the band.

Seth Godin put this on his booklist, and I want to be like him.

Amazon Price: $17.16 (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme

I am reading this right now, but my Dad read it and it changed his life. Not one of those "New-Age" self-helpers, but a scientific look at how information becomes part of our culture.

Amazon Price: $15.89 (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now


Choosing five all-time favorite fictions is not an easy feat. I could easily choose five per author, but instead I'll try and narrow it down to choice pieces by author.


One of the most surreal books I have read. The plot jumps from host to host, from Mongolia to Japan, as if the book was written by a ghost. There was a huge fuss in the literary community about Mitchell a few years ago, I wonder where it went?

Amazon Price: $10.17 (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Finishes this a few weeks ago, and I enjoyed it more than I can describe. Actually, the hardest part of reading this book was describing the plot to others. Unicorns, code shuffling, and detached shadows = Awesome strangeness.

Amazon Price: $13.07 (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

The Slide: A Novel

The first book by Kyle Beachy, released earlier this year. Cardinals, water coolers, and baseball, are the themes threaded through the summer of Potter Mays, a twenty-something year old guy going through family and love issues. This book contains some mature themes, but Beachy does a great job of writing a book that anyone will enjoy.
"Something, something, teach me./ I may be a writer, but I'm no Kyle Beachy" - David Cohn, aka Serengeti

Amazon Price: $10.40 (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

Cloud Atlas: A Novel

I managed to get another Mitchell on the list. This one is really six different books, drifting together like cumuli clouds. From vampires on tall ships to post-apocalyptic Hawaii, this book covers every literary genre, and is a postmodernists wet-dream.

Amazon Price: $10.17 (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

Dance Dance Dance

"I often dream about the dolphin hotel.", the opening line from the book sums it up. This book will linger with you like a strange dream that throws your day off kilter. An amazing tale of gangsterism and love, the way only Murakami can.

Amazon Price: $10.17 (as of 09/08/2009) Buy Now

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