Posts Tagged ‘Tai Chi’

The Beginner in the Martial Arts

Written by bryan. Posted in Events, Training Diary

Tai Chi, Split, Tai Chi Kick, TaijiThis week, I’m in the Czech province of Jizerka training on the 24th Shikon Jizerka course hosted by Shikon Czech and it’s Chief Instructor Ondra Musil 7th Dan in Karate and 6th Dan in Aikido who along with Steve Rowe 8th Dan in Karate and Tai Chi Sifu and Martin Gatter 7th Dan Karate and Tai Chi Sifu from Shikon International have been the teachers.

With around 80 participants mainly from the arts of Karate, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Ju Jitsu and Aikido, there has been a range of diverse skills to sample and learn from.

Today is Wednesday and we’re half way through the course. My training plan for the week has been simple:-

7:00 Tai Chi (Chi Gong, Long Form and Long Boxing)

8:00 Breakfast

9:00 – 10:30 Tai Chi (Long Boxing, Fa Jing, Dao Lu)

10:30 – 12:00 Aikido

13:00 Lunch / Enjoying the countryside / Free Practice

15:00 – 16:30 Tai Chi (Long Boxing, Fa Jing, Dao Lu)

16:30 – 18:00 Aikido

19:00 – Dinner / Enjoying the Countryside / talking about all things martial and more free practice

So the training plan itself was easy, right. Okay it was and is tiring I have to admit. When I decided to come to Jizerka earlier in the year, I committed to myself that I would make the most out of the training experience and learn as much as I could. So many good things shown and explained, shown again and clarified, it felt like at times my head was about to explode.

I’ve tried to train as a beginner with no preconceived ideas,  actions or knowledge whilst training. It’s been hard to do and sometimes I haven’t managed to, these times have generally been easy to spot, it’s when I’ve been doing it badly. It’s been oddly satisfying though when I’ve have got it right. Some light bulb moments and several real “oh yeah, I get it now” moments, followed quickly by “Doh, it’s so easy to understand, why did it take me so long.” Simple Young Jedi, it’s all down to the key principles, I was told more than once. Principle #1 – Feet, Principle #2 – Posture, now use them. Steve Rowe is my teacher and his long term students know his style of teaching very well. No false, “that was great” or “You’re awesome” or anything like that. In fact the only time Steve will say something like that is when one has been crapper than usual and he’s taking the mickey out of you. Even he’s excelled himself this week with some of his comments and insightful remarks. Many of us attending are long term Martial Arts coaches and practitioners in our own right. Yet I can’t begin to count how many times, I’ve heard a ‘Steveism’ and some attempted correction at whatever we needed to work on. I snuck off before lunch for a sneaky bit of training with someone on some Springing hands work and Long Boxing, from about 300m away, Steve spotted an error from my training partner and sent someone over to stay “stop sticking your butt out and stand straight.”

Remember those days as a kid and being told to sit still at school, or was that just me? Anyway today Martin led us in some Neigong or standing post work. Simple stuff, again! Or so it seemed at a superficial level. Hold five postures for two minutes each. Oh yes, there are a few things to consider when you do them. Stand tall, spine straight, start spiralling from the feet and carry it on up and around the body, heighten your awareness, map your body, be sensitive and be aware. I managed about three out of the five, but then lost focus. Only one person said that they managed all those things throughout the 10 minutes.


I’ve seen some demonstrations of Aikido over the years and I must admit to not been hugely impressed with it as as art. My mistake, big mistake. The Aikido classes I’ve taken part in have all been by Ondrej Musil a 6th dan in Aikido or one of his senior students. The classes were filled with Czech students and one English person, me. Consequently all have been taught in Czech. So listening to instructions was definitely out, but I had to focus very closely to see what was being demonstrated as both Tori and Uke and then work to replicate it with my partners. I was able to cheat a little bit as many of the a few Japanese terms used in Aikido are also used in Karate, such as Maai, Kuzushi and Atemi Waza. It made me realise that although I was learning this way, only learning visually was very difficult for me. But I muddled through and most things I managed by watching and best of all trying the techniques. The moral is, you can learn by talking, you can learn by watching. But the best way is to learn by doing and making mistakes and doing it again and again.


It’s been good to see so many students finish the formal practice and then find some space in the great outdoors to continue their practice. My last training session tonight, after dinner, but still in the restaurant, I asked “Wasn’t sure how to do this technique, is this correct?” From the laughter from my colleagues it would appear not, Martin Gatter, didn’t laugh, well not out loud anyway, his brow however does the same as a ‘Steveism.’ 

Key points for me

– When the teacher says do ‘x’ technique, don’t ask how many times, keep going until you’re told to stop.

– It’s reminded me of how much we should listen and watch our teachers and actually try to do what they say.

– Be aware of your body

– You can learn by talking, you can learn by watching. But the best way is to learn by doing and making mistakes and doing it again and again.

Happy training. Time to get ready for dinner before I do some training.


The Eight Principles of Martial Arts

Written by Wayne. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013


The Eight Principles of Martial Arts by Wayne Roberts

On the wall of our dojo in Basingstoke is a list of 8 words that face students every day when we train. I have to admit that even though I have previously looked at these words many times, I don’t really think that it is until having worked through much of the research for this project that I now understand these fundamentals more clearly and their applications.

These eight ideas are the underlining principles that need to form the foundation of sound ‘soft’ martial arts. If skill in martial arts can be thought of as a series of layers, then this is the first of these followed by the 13 dynamics (The Eight Gates & Five Steps as covered previously) and then finally different techniques applied on top of these which will be specific to each form of martial art.

The Eight Principles

Feet – are the way in which our bodies connect to the ground, so are key to transmission of energy through the body and to balance. Feet in general should always be pointed in the direction of power and used to press against the floor to generate power – this is the key to good rooting and the ability to generate a spiraling of energy from the feet, up the legs and through the rest of the body. Contact with the floor should be though the pads of the feet, always being mindful of where your center of balance is – toes should just be lightly in contact with the floor.

Posture – in order to really master awareness of where your body is and what is happening in terms of balance and stance it is key to be constantly mindful of this every day, not just in training. Through the pressure generated by the feet, the body naturally brings itself upright. The feeling here should be as if the head is pulled upwards by a string and then allowing the body to soften and relax so the body is effectively not ‘standing on its bones’. Good posture will give you a free passage of energy and also enables you to breath correctly.

Mind – its important to have a high level of awareness or ‘liveliness’ in order to be able to stay highly focused. This is especially important in threatening situations where it is critical to be able to maintain a strong, concentrated and powerful mindset. Discipline and willpower are also key to achieving this. Poor posture or breathing can particularly effect the mindset.

Breath – good breathing is key to increasing the oxygen flow through the body and ensuring the mind stays alert. Breathing action should come from the lower abdomen (the Tan Tien), pushing outwards on breathing in and opening up the back and shoulders.

Internal – in Tai Chi this is also know as ‘energizing the inner orbit’, opening up the energy flow around the body. On breathing in, you channel Chi through the Governing Vessel (running over the skull and along the spine) and breathing out channeling through the Conception Vessel (bisecting the front of the body). The Governing and Conception Vessels are connected by touching the tongue to the top of the mouth. Internal also refers to the ability to channel energy/force from the contact point with an opponent through the body, down the legs and into the feet. Key here is being able to connect the top and the bottom half of the body, so for example force is not just taken into the shoulders or upper body resulting in being thrown off balance.

Power – power can be generated from many parts of the body, but is most effective when used in conjunction with each other e.g. with power being ‘layered’ up through the actions of different joints or muscles. An example would be a punch, which some students may only use the hips to generate power. However, when layered and timed correctly power can be greatly amplified through using first the muscles around the spine, then to bring in the action of the shoulder, arm, waist, hips, legs and finally the feet. The majority of the power in this instance is generated from the spine, which is the core muscle at the centre of the move.

Wedge – the point at which out hands our other part of the body would normally travel to when meeting an attack (the interception point) and combines the first four principles above to be able to first block and then begin to redirect a strike. Key here is the feeling of ‘wedging’ through an attack towards the opponent, and this principle is key to self defence aspects of any martial art, however is offensive rather than defensive. The wedge principle can be applied with many parts of the body including legs, head and shoulders as well as arms and hands.

Spiral – spiraling comes after the wedging action and is a way to turn the an opponents energy or momentum against them, taking force away from the opponent and turning into a lock, strike or throw. A spiraling action is also present in the way force is transmitted through the body and the legs to the feet and again helps to keep the connection in place between the upper and lower halves of the body.
Steve Rowe, Shikon, Gavin King


As can be seen, many of the above are closely interlinked and in most cases cannot really practiced without the other, in particular the first four principles feet, posture, mind and breath. In Chinese martial arts these are commonly know as Neigong which emphasises training the coordination of an individuals body with the breath. The last four principles are closely aligned with Qigong, which is the channeling of Chi through the body. Chi can also be used to repel, parry or absorb an attackers energy.

It is also very important to be able to able to recognise the condition of these principles in an opponent. For example by being able to analyse where their balance is e.g. weight might be in their heels; perhaps they are distracted so may not be fully mindful of the situation; an aggressor may also be breathing heavily with a puffed up chest which will also impact their posture and balance. An initial attack can also be targeted at disrupting one of the eight principles which can then be followed up with the primary attack aimed at disabling the opponent.

The Eight Principles are at the heart for the Shikon system put in place by Steve Rowe Shi Kon’s Chief Instructor. More information can be found her

Martial Arts Standards Agency British Judo British Council for Chinese Martial Arts – National Governing Body The World Union of Karate Federations Shi Kon Martial Arts British Council for Chinese Martial Arts – National Governing Body

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