Interview with Stuart Shaw and Ben Ng: Progressing Taijiquan down in Australia

I’ve met both Stuart and Ben on Facebook through the various forums there. The Fajin Project was designed to weed out that garbage of mystical Taiji bullshit to bring a light of truth as what is real and what works in real confrontation vs. mystical fajin and other non-sense. I was quite impressed with there push hands gathering that involved both Stuart, Ben, Joey Nishad, John Fung, and many others willing to test their push hands. More of these with video need to be done, especially with the ones who “talk more than do”. Having been friends on Facebook, I have had many good conversations and been involved with several forum discussions on future of competitions, and reality of using taiji kung fu for no-nonsense self defense.

Stuart Shaw

Where do you reside?
Toowoomba Queensland Australia.

How long have you been training in Tai chi chuan?
21 years.

Currently training under and how long?
Principal of my own school now, not directly affiliated with any other school, teacher, or lineage.
Trained through Yang style, but I have taken my work in more combat direction, fusing with Systema. My first teacher was from the CMC lineage … Yang style was down from Yang Sou Chung / Chu King Hung line …. but I have formally turned my back on that line because of their silliness. Silliness = delusional bullshit in believing in super powers.

Name the all styles you practice and teachers?
Taijiquan, Ziranquan (free boxing), Systema.

Awards, certifications, titles, competition experience, etc.?
I have kept a fairly low profile, a few fights here and there, recently took home a nice silver dragon at the Coffs Harbor Push Hands Bootcamp.

Please discuss the World tui shou forum and how it is going, the future of the sport and vision for the sport.
As I have said on the forum, I would like to see “push hands” comps become a meeting ground between Taijiquan and the rest of the martial arts community. Stand up grappling, take down wrestling as a competition format is unique and with the right rule set and promotion it could become a popular sport. “Hopefully” it will make the Taijiquan community step up their training; I know that it has for me since I have been playing more with it.

Here’s the reality … Taijiquan is a toothless tiger. Somewhere along the way, probably folks like YCF, the teeth and claws of Taijiquan have been systematically removed. From there each subsequent generation have continued that trend. The whole collective herd is about to run off the edge into the abyss of delusion and martial irrelevancy and a few of us are trying to head off that occurrence … perhaps we are doomed to fail, but that won’t stop me trying.

What is your view of the current status of traditional martial art like tai chi with the explosion of MMA fight events?
MMA is what all martial arts should be anyway. Life is not insular and the only way “evolution” progresses is through genetic exploration adapting to the current environmental factors. If your art is only “great” in the past than it was never great … you either have to evolve or become extinct … superseded by newer models better fitted to the environment. Taijiquan as a martial arts is all but dead; filled either with delusional fuckwits pretending they have Dragonball Z superpowers, or with old foggies playing handsies in the park. Less than ½ a percent of Taijiquan schools in the world actually have anything resembling good combat skills.

Please share your Views on ranking, certifications, teaching, etc. Any words of encouragement to fellow practitioners?
I have never much been into rankings and belts, though they certainly are a good way to get students motivated into staying in a school. The allure of “the next belt” is certainly a good way to build a school. My way of teaching is: Purify, naturalize, integrate, and temper. Purify your body and mind from conditioned thoughts, beliefs, and responses. Naturalize your body and mind until you are free and spontaneous. Integrate your body and mind to develop efficiency of power and movement. Temper your body and mind through pressure testing your skills and strategy.


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Ben Ng-
Name:
Ben Chon-Sing Ng

Where do you reside?
Sydney Australia

How long have you been training in Tai chi chuan?
I had first been introduced to Taijiquan when I was 9 years old and just came to Australia. My father tried to introduce me to Wu style, but for a youngster, I did not have the patience for it. I regained an appreciation for Taijiquan around 2001. It is now what I primarily practice.

Currently training under and how long?
I have trained with Master Alice Dong, (recognised lineage holder of Fu Zhong Wen’s Yang style) since around 2004. I have been her representitive in teaching and competition since 2005.

Name the all styles you practice and teachers?
By Chronological order: Yang style Taijiquan- Bret (not sure of his surname, he used to teach the FZW Yang style, but currently teach Hun Yuan style in Canberra Australia)
1993-2001 Rhee TKD- 1st Dan
2001-2002 Kyokushin Karate- 5th Kyu
2002-2007 Shorinkan Shorinryu Okinawan Karate- 1st Dan 2002 Shinkenryu Kenjitsu- 5mths unranked
2002-2007 Matayoshi Kobudo- 2nd Dan
2004- present Pei Lei Wushu Association (Master Alice’s School)- Yang Style Taijiquan, Youlong Baguazhang, Sanda.

Awards, certifications, titles, competition experience, etc.?
2005 AKWF Oceania Championships- Gold in Male Traditional Yang Style.
2005/6 Shorinryu Kenyukan Association Australia Championships- Open Male Continuous Sparring 1st place.
2008 World Traditional Wushu Championships (Wudang, China)- Silver x2 in Male Yang Style Bare hand and Taiji sword.
2010 World Traditional Wushu Championships (Wudang, China)- Bronze in Male Yang Style Taiji sword.
2012 KWA National Championships- Gold in ‘Male- Other Kungfu styles’, ‘Male- Traditional Yang style Taiji Sword’ and ‘Male – Other Taichi weapons’.

Please discuss the World tui shou forum and how it is going, the future of the sport and vision for the sport?
I was invited by Stuart to contribute to the forum due to my background in both competitive and traditional martial arts practices. Personally, The most that I gain from competition is meeting other practitioners of the craft, and seeing the large varieties of styles. I think that if we want to turn heads towards Taijiquan and other Chinese styles as a practical martial art, then we need to go to the most watched combat arena and do well there, which I currently think is MMA. Yang Lu-Chan gain fame that way and his style is now the most practiced Chinese physical activity in the world. BJJ is now currently enjoying the same attention. If we only compete amongst our selves, we won’t get very far.

What is your view of the current status of traditional martial art like tai chi with the explosion of MMA fight events?
Status is in the eye of the beholder. MMA fans would say that traditional martial arts are useless because most their practitioners need specialised training to do well in the MMA arena. Traditional martial arts practitioners look at MMA and think that its just brutal nonsense. Its one of those debates that can never be won and there are merit on both sides. In my humble opinion, from one who has done everything from forms, full contact sparring and friendly matches with local level MMA guys, people have to look at ‘why’ they want to train and find the thing that suits them. You need to find a ‘style’ that has the same goal as you. One should have a realistic idea about what they are doing. One who does Wushu as a cultural activity, health and character development, should not delude themselves or others that they can chuck a Yip-Man and take on 10 guys on the street. One who goes into stuff like MMA and/or Sanda training need to accept that there are risks and a price to pay on your health from hitting and being hit on a regular basis. I think the best way for Taijiquan to be put back on the map as a combat art, is to take it back to the most watched arena and prove its worth there (which I think, is currently MMA). That was how Taijiquan came to fame and right or wrong, is now the most widely practised style of ‘Chinese martial art’ on earth. When people start going to Taichi schools asking to be taught ‘real combat’ and walk away when they can’t, will naturally raise the level of practicality in Taijiquan.

Please share your Views on ranking, certifications, teaching, etc.
Rankings and certifications are like picture frames. A beautiful work of art should naturally have a fittingly well crafted and beautiful frame. You can take an ordinary painting and make it look more valuable than its worth with a nicer frame. Sometimes people discover in their basement, a dusty unframed painting that happens to be worth millons. Regarding teaching, a good teacher teaches for the good of the students. Not every student who walks through the door can be trained to become a proficient fighter or even do forms properly, but as long as they are better this week than they were last week, every week, they have already won.

I think its not about what the hands or posture is in a school, but whether they have a reasonable reason for doing things the way they do it. So to me, any school any style can be good or bad. I don’t follow a style, I follow a good teacher And don’t worry so much about the ‘levels’. No one else really gives a shit about them. Don’t sweat too much about “testing”. They are only valid in their system. The most important thing is that you are doing what you know is the ‘real’ way. It would not do you justice to end up mis-representing yourself.

Any words of encouragement to fellow practitioners?
Don’t find a style that you like, find a teacher that you like and do whatever style that they teach. Do what you love. Don’t waste time arguing with people. Being happy and successful is the best validation for what you do.

On Standing gong:
I do standing first to ‘build the frame’. In my school of thought, all of the other movements are different expressions of ‘the frame’.
Warm-ups and stretching:
Now-a-days neck circles are not done anymore as a continuous rotation, as it puts a lot of strain on the neck joints. I would just do the front half then look up, push the chin back and look down, then turn left and right. Also with stretches, instead of bouncing on them, take a deep breath and the stretch down on the exhale, hold it for 5 sec, then take another deep breath, and stretch further, hold for another 5 sec and do that total 3 to 4 times. You can do that for the neck as well.


Please tell me about your training in TCM, how long you have been a practitioner? what are some of the types of treatments you mostly do? how has TCM helped your Taijiquan?
I graduated in 2001 as a Bachelor of Health Science in Acupuncture, from the University of Technology in Sydney (UTS) Australia. UTS has always had a foundation in scientific research in TCM.
I have been practicing full time since then. I have been treating musculoskeletal problems (aches, pains, injuries, etc.) primarily, but also have a reputation for my work in fertility enhancement.
I feel that I use the same perspective to study Taijiquan as I do with TCM, which is to try and ‘decode’ what the ancients mean, instead of taking all the ancient writings at face value. I think that a lot of seemingly magical stuff in Taijiquan, such as Fa-Jing and Qi cultivation, can be dissected and explained scientifically. But even if things can be explain scientifically, still requires mental concentration, visualization and sensitivity to make it work.

Posted in Fighting: San Shou/Sanda/Shuai Chiao, Tai Chi Chaun/Taijiquan | Leave a comment

What is a Sifu really? metrics available

In Chinese martial arts, a “Sifu” is an accomplished teacher of a tradition and philosophy. They pass this knowledge and skill on to a student or apprentice. In this day and age, the term Sifu has been abused by many Chinese, and non-Chinese martial art instructors, without having proper lineage, training skills, and background. We want to clarify to the potential consumer, what is the right metrics for a good (Tai Chi) kung fu instructor aka Sifu.

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Some metrics suggested from Dr. Ken Fish@RSF forum thread here:
1. Teacher has spent not only years in training, but put in several hours each day of those years under the guidance of a strict teacher.
2. Has an understanding of, and can clearly explain (verbally and physically) the physical mechanics of the system .
3. Understands that things like pushing hands or sticking hands are exercises that develop certain attributes or test structure and alignment, but are not ends unto themselves and that time spent in training these exercises may not have actual value in real world application of the art.
4. Has experience (police, military, criminal organization, security) that put his/her training to the test. Has been in situations that required him to defend him/herself for real.
5. Understands that martial arts are not a vehicle for competitive sport (unless one is looking for sport oriented martial arts), and does not confuse tournament activities (sparring, push hands) or compliant application drills with actual fighting.
6. Can demonstrate the techniques of the art against full speed, non-compliant (or relatively non-compliant) attacks.
7. Has no “cult of personality” – students are not encouraged to see the teacher as anything more than a teacher deserving of respect.

RANT: Things sketchy “Sifu’s” do that isolate themselves from the CMA community in general, or what is not a sifu in my view and why they lose face:

1. Never participate in CMA community events: competitions or network with peers. Prime example is the person who talks smack about push hands and full contact comps.
2. Sifus who have an unknown origin of who gave them title of Sifu. Even after researching people they trained with, and peers within that style, do not like that person.
3. Lose of face factor: is willing to have plenty of videos of defeating his compliant students in push hands, will not push hands with you, or others who are skeptics especially after talking to much #5 below.
4. Talks as if representative/authority of a Family they are not apart of. Mouth off and say like, ” _____ family art is a one touch knock-out art, tai chi in fighting without our principles looks like bad kickboxing.” All the while they having no real-world fighting experience, or ability to show fighting experience against a non-compliant partner.
5. Make unsubstantiated claims that are too woo-woo in nature: “we do one-touch knockouts” “we launch people in the air with our fajin”, all the while being compliant play.
6. Competitions- they will chastise you as a fighter, yet their fighter can’t survive first minute of fight and gets knocked out. Has nothing to show of fighting, then calls fighting “boring”.
7. Remain in their comfort zone around their worshipers. Forget ever seeing them outside their circle of influence.
8. Critical of people who have actually gone and won championships: publicly said so-and-so wasn’t using Tai Chi when he defeated everyone in Chen village, or calling out the Tai chi guy who fought 3 opponents and won heavy weight championship on the Lei Tai, had the nerve to say “it wasn’t tai chi”.
9. Makes fun of other martial arts or CMA’s while being hypocritical: for instance disrespects Wu-shu, but then uses the term “jibengong” which is “basics” from wu-shu.
10. As a internal stylist, thinks cardio and weight training is stupid. Publicly even saying is “allergic” to cardio. I guess they “allergic” to having what their internal needs…aka strength and what their body needs: to lose weight.
11. Altering peoples belief systems: flooding the students with religion. Nothing wrong with Buddhism, however Tai chi and Buddhism are two separate fields of study and not part of the same. What tai chi system teaches Buddhism? none.
12. Hiding behind minions: having their students contact you rather than themselves.
13. Wu De- does not possess, no respect, no ability to have a normal conversation, their behavior talks louder than kung fu, and since you don’t hero worship them, they not interested in discussion.
14. By not allowing you to touch hands with them, they save their face because if the truth was found that the skills they claim are fake, they know it will be reported publicly.
15. Sifu as a business move, they do not want to lose their “rice bowl” because they have no other real life skill or source of income other than to make claims and sell of Tai chi “secrets” or skills tai chi people think they want like ‘fajin’ and enlightenment. Skills that will not work against other skilled martial artists in a real fight anyways.
16. When they come to town, no interested in friendly visit, to network with other people, just here to make seminar money. Often excuses “I have an injury” to want to try push hands with you.
17. Anytime you question them on a forum or have an opinion, it comes down to getting name called, troll bashed, and getting banned from the forum group. Will not answer where they learned the “secret tai chi form” of so-n-so.
18. Questionable training. Claiming to have trained with someone, but not really over a time frame of years. More like a week retreat or workshop.
19. Complains they are that good. Claims, ” Not enough people to touch hands with” and “I’ve never been taken to the ground”. Yeah…cause you shelter yourself from real fighters and martial artists.
20. Online video Marketing of “Tai Chi secrets to fighting” and other non-sense. Excuse me, what are you famous for? You are not an combat athlete, you have no push hands championships, or full contact fighting championships. It is disgraceful to those who have competed and actually “put up and shut up” about it.
21. Lucky Money: require students to give them more because it makes them have “better kung fu” and relationship with Sifu.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it! aka “Please contemplate my arguments against your delusions.”

Link to some honest and good Sifu’s can be found here.

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Wushu Kung Fu- Taolu, Weapons, San Shou. The hardest training in the world.

Wushu (catch-all name for all Chinese martial arts)Kung Fu is generally misunderstood, often to the point that it gets a lot of ignorant statements from many traditional stylist in Chinese Martial Arts. It is one of the hardest and most physically demanding training in the world next to fight training, and it respectfully honors “Tradition”. The Jibengong “basics” alone are very tough. The range of motion gained from the flexibility training, the stamina and endurance training from the jibengong and Taolu (forms) is second to none.

My time spent with wushu was primarily with Coaches: Weiqi He, and Zhou Jianhua both from Shanghai and taught in Richmond Va. Later after moving to Northern Virginia: Coach Lu Xiaolin (Omei Wushu, Chengdu China) and Coach Li Ying (Chinese Martial Arts Institute, Beijing wushu team) in Fairfax Va. In all I spend the years of 1992-2004 deeply studying the forms and grinding in the Jibengong, Taolu, and San Shou (free fighting). I renewed my interest in Wushu in 2011 after 7 years of doing MMA study. I returned to United States Wushu Academy with Coach Pei and also study with Nick Masi to work on San Shou, Shuai Chiao, and Yang Taijiquan. Started testing with Yang family (member since 2004) in 2013.

Weiqi teaching basics (Jibengong)-

Some of the forms I had to learn were Changquan (Long fist or Long Boxing) modern variations of classical Shaolin, Chaquan, and Huaquan Long fist styles. These were called compulsories so that everyone world wide would have the same ‘templates” to work with for competition forms. Later on you could create your own “optional” forms based on difficult moves.

Some of the earlier Wushu Long fist Forms we had to do:
Wu bu Quan
Tan Tuei
Long fist form “32 San duan”
5th Dan Long boxing form
Old compulsory long fist or 6th Dan form*International routine.
Old compulsory straight sword*International routine.

Modern Taijiquan and internal forms we had to learn:
24 form
40 yang form
56 chen form
32 straight sword
42 compulsory (Yang chen, Wu, and Sun)*International routine.
42 compulsory sword (Yang chen, Wu, and Sun)*International routine.
48 form (Yang chen, Wu, and Sun)
Baguazhang compulsory
16 taiji spear

Books from that Era:
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School testing:
From the years spent at Omei Wushu we did many of those forms and a lot more. Basic braodsword, staff, and other weapon compulsories and other forms: Classical Cha Quan, Xingyiquan, Baguazhang Deer hook knife, etc.

I tested 11 times at Omei and stopped at level 3 Black Sash:
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Newer compulsories circa 2001: By the time of video taping these forms here, I was just about near the end of my wushu career at age 30, so my body was changing and focus became more interested in San shou rather than forms.
Taolu- empty hand: Long boxing

Taolu short weapon: straight sword

Taolu long weapon spear:

San shou
Sparring

Full contact

Competitions from that Era: Forms, weapons, and push hands. While I never made the U.S. National team (tried out 42 taijiquan, 42 taiji sword, and Wushu spear in 2001) nor ever made it to Grandchampion of a wushu or taiji event, I did travel to many different competitions Internationally and Nationally. I fought in both local and national competitions in san shou and Lei Tai.
Taste of China:
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United States Koushu Association:
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Shanghai Invitational 1994 and 1996:
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United States Wushu Kung Fu Association:Baltimore, Florida, and Virginia.
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United States Wushu Union: Pennsylvania.
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Chin Woo and Taiji Legacy:

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Other awards/trophies:
U.S. Capitol Classics 2008, International Martial arts Championships 2004.
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Traditional Ranking and Certifications from Yongnian Taijiquan Association, Yang Family Taijiquan Association, Master Cai Hong Xian.
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What is my next wushu ambitions?

-Continue the testing and ranking process with Yang Family Association.
-Start Duan testing with International Wushu Federation.
-Start taking Judging courses in Wushu, become more active in competitions as a judge.
-Begin ranking with North American San Shou Dao Association.
-Complete my Masters of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) degree.

In conclusion:
Starting from the Cheng Man Ching branch of Yang Taijiquan (Traditional), it is safe say after having done all the hard work that Modern Wushu training has to offer, it is very scientific and draws upon the traditional. From my experience starting in Richmond Va. my first Wushu teachers introduced be to many Traditional Masters seminars with: Ben Lo, Fu Zhong Wen, Fu Sheng Yuan, James Fu, Park Bok Nam (Baguazhang), Liang Shou Yu, Cai Hong xian (Shaolin Qin-na). Northern Virginia teachers into me to Traditional seminars with Chen Xiao Wong, Chen Zhenlie, Zhu Tian Cai, Yang Jun, Chris Pei (Yang Zhenjie and Yang Zhenduo), Willy Lin (Tian Shan Pai), Dr. Weng (Shuai Chiao), Beijing wushu team members: Jiang Ban Jun and Li Jing. All these great teachers I have trained with at one time or another down the road to discovering “Kung fu”.

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Tui shou, Da shou, San shou, and Sparring: May-June 2014

Here are some of my more recent videos I have done. Being busy with day job, TCM school, and now baby Bryson, I wanted to collect some thoughts on these videos with Brian Allen on his visit down here. We got to get some training time on video.
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Tui Shou: pushing hands, sensing hands.

First we went over Tui Shou or “pushing hands” in a friendly non-compliant way, we started with a traditional opening and the formal tui shou pattern used in Yang family style. (not cheng man ching style). we agreed on using moving steps as restricted step is not practical in real-world situations. My objective was to be non-compliant, Brian would work on his recent seminar lessons with Sifu Mark Rasmus and try to neutralize, uproot, etc. 2 videos here.


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second video:

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Da Shou striking hands of Yang Taijiquan.

Da shou or striking hands is the mother to Tui Shou. It is a no-nonsense striking training used in Yang Family Taiji brought to us through Yang Shouzhong. He was first son of Yang Chen fu. Second son Yang Zhenjie also taught these. Since testing vs. other schools, da shou is less friendly, tui shou was created to make a friendlier way to test people. Here I am showing Brian some of the patterns for the first time. He didn’t do bad, it is just very new info to him. You will see some similarities to other martial arts from southern china like Wing Chun, JKD, or even Kali. more on Da Shou in Chinese martial arts.

For actual fighting, these methods are used fast and quickly, no standing and sticking around. Partner wise/training wise, it is trained in a compliant way, it trains attack and defense, with countering. It can become a fun game.
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San Shou: starting with training the hands. Fundamental Boxing.

Teaching Brian first level of San shou: hand techniques. We teach boxing for this and teach it “slow and exact”. he will have to do the following for a few months before I show him the next level of basics. It becomes very internal doing it very slowly with awareness and becomes non-dualistic in regards to thinking boxing as a “external’ arts. we want our boxing to be (internal+ external+ qi power)this equates to = real impact power.

3 month Beginning Boxing basics for San Shou Assignment: 2 hour workout.
*get a mini timer and do each to 3 min. rounds, 1 minute rest:
1. 3 rounds step-jab forward, jab step back.
2. 3 rounds Cross- no stepping.
3. 3 rounds Lead hook- no stepping.
4. 3 rounds Body shots- no stepping.
5. 3 rounds Upper cut- level changing, no stepping.
6. 3 rounds: 5 element stepping (left, right, back, forward variations), one step, 2-step, 3-step variations.
7. 3 rounds Box stepping. clockwise and counter-clock wise variations.
8. 3 rounds spot stepping drill.

After doing this for 3 months. Then I will add more stepping and punch combination drill for Basics level 2 for next 3 months. After basics level 2 test. You will then be instructed on what to do in shadow boxing, focus mitt, and bag sets (heavy and speed bags). Slow and steady progression, but train the hell out of your basics so you have good form for sparring.

Get a friend to hold a focus mitt as well. You are only as good as basics, so drill them deeply.
Goal in a few months time: get the basic punches down with good concentration and mechanics, each about 10,000 times. Proper structural integrity with crisp speed and power.
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Boxing club workout

Boxing with a golden gloves boxer who has been training since 10 years old. This is more toward the end of our workout with consisted of running, jump rope rounds, shadow boxing rounds, heavy bag rounds, focus mitt rounds, glove work, lastly sparring. It is very hot in the room and I was pretty exhausted. I hope to get more sparring footage soon.

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