Weighing in on the “no touch” “light touch fajing”.


Youtube is now full of clips showing a teacher demonstrating a light touch and even no touch fajing skills.  Fajing refers to a quick release of force.  It has the characteristics of a shock or whip type energy.  What one sees is the teacher touching a partner or pushing hands with a student.  With very little movement or show of force from the teacher, the student then bounces back several steps.  The extreme of this shows teachers just waving their hand before a student reaches them and the student is knocked backward or downward by some force.  Now that enough of these teachers are demoing their art, there is a stronger and stronger push back from some in the Tai Chi community saying that this is embarrassing them and is giving the wrong impression of Tai Chi.  I think it is a valid subject to address.

Some take the position that if this skill is for real why doesn’t one person with this skill (and the number is growing) enter one of the most popular venues such as MMA or Jujitsu competition and show their stuff.  Some of the reasons that have come back is that these competitions have rules which would be unfair to their art.  Seems to me this skill just needs to touch lightly and that is all that is needed (I’m discounting the no touch for now).  Some have answered that it is not ethical to desire to hurt someone through the use of martial art only for personal fame or glory.  Sounds nice but you know there is always at least one rogue warrior in any group.  One teacher even honestly suggested that it would take away the mystery of the skill and would hurt the selling of tickets to their seminars.  Sounds honest but doesn’t seem to score high on the ethical side.

My take on this is that there are actually things to learn from the teaching of this skill.  But realistic thoughts and critical thinking should rule.  Any time in combat, especially at close range if one becomes stiff, the Tai Chi expert can apply projection to the stiffness of the opponent which can certainly knock the person away. The study of this projection on a target of opportunity is good training.  If the dynamic of momentum is included and the opponent is over extended etc. a more dynamic outcome or result is possible.  But what if the opponent is loose when the touch of projection is applied and they yield or give to the sudden projection? How is the yin controlled. This would indicate that the partner or opponent needs to be in a certain state of tension and maybe motion in order for this technique to work.  Whether this state is come by naturally or whether the partner is a student that has been brainwashed or trained to react as we see on film is a good question.  It is true that the type of projection thrown can indicate how a person is affected.  Being one who has received these things from a teacher and learned how to ride it out with the bounce jump, I can say that it can be faked in the sense that the helping student can be stiff enough so the teacher’s projection will knock them back.  Now when the touch is extremely small or nothing it causes one to wonder if this is something a little more magical and beyond physics.  I believe in some things that are transcendent, but I have to have good reasons and facts to do so.  That I think is what the believers in this method have failed to explain if that is what they want to do.  The ability to bounce takes effort as well. Those I think acquainted with athletic movement can see the effort of the student in the hops that occur.  If these things were powerful and real you would probably see people go out of control more and fall awkwardly more than is exhibited by the sometimes very athletic students.

The deception is that some of these people who do this do have skills of energy control that can be understood.  So when some people who are skillful go this direction it does make it harder for the average person to give a fair judgment.

Another point that I would like to make that is often discussed on this topic is the need for the Tai Chi practitioner to enter the MMA etc in order to prove the value of martial Tai Chi.  I have problems with this on several levels.  Tai Chi is primarily an art at close range.  While the instructor can make the difference in teaching an art, most of the Tai Chi theory works when one is at close range in touch.  I have heard well known Tai Chi teachers say that Tai Chi begins at touch.  One must only protect with coverage but once the attacker’s arms touch you the Tai Chi will take over.  I see problems with this approach as there is a whole world of skills in the area pre-touch.  The footwork and upper body explosion coming form deceptive footwork and upper body deception can account for a head start and big advantage on the defender.  Of course Tai Chi starts working at touch but there is a difference in starting neutral and at a considerable disadvantage. Depending on the quality of the attackers non-telegraph and deceptive skills one can get a disadvantage that is difficult to overcome.  Is Tai Chi willing to give that pre entry area up.  I don’t think so but Tai Chi is not known for teaching much in that area publicly.  The reasons that one wins a fight can depend on many factors.  We know that size, strength, speed, non telegraphic speed, timing, will, endurance, toughness and technique all play a role.

I use to be irritated when the original UFC would indicate that we would be learning what the best style was from these matches.  In the end it is not the style that wins but the fighter.  When you limit the fight with rules then you may favor certain styles having advantages over other styles but still the fighter himself or herself is the bottom line.  Much of martial art development was based on the weak overcoming the strong.  This meant that one had to take advantage of the no rules aspect in real lethal fighting.  For every rule in a competition the fight potentially changes for one of the participants.  Advantages and disadvantages exist anyway, but the rules will always lean toward a certain way of fighting. It only takes one mistake to lose a fight and when weapons and targets are taken away especially from the lesser athlete what we are seeing is fighting that may give us a skewed view of what is best.  The study of realistic fighting is a difficult journey since it takes great effort to train in a way that will contribute to realism while maintaining safety.

I heard one person say that they were glad there were some mma fighters who listed Tai Chi among the many arts they are credited with training.  Ok, many of these arts have opposite theories to Tai Chi so if he wins is it because of Tai Chi or because of one of the other arts?  Actually we can see the defining moments of the fight when there is a winner and can often really see the reason for the outcome.  Sometime it is very simple.  Could be simply speed or timing. Could be any number or combination of things but when a fighter list 8 styles with Tai Chi one of them, what are we suppose to think unless we see a clear example of something in Tai Chi that caused the outcome?

All this is not to belittle the great shape, athleticism and skills that some fighters in the MMA possess. They are young, they are professionals and they do their job.  They would win many fights against other people based on these attributes alone.  It also should be said that if one is to bring Tai Chi to a high level of fighting there has to be training of high intensity and there would have to be competition of high level.  Tai Chi people would need to master the entire Encounter and not just the part standing and at touch distance.  But a realistic art will never be fully tested without injury if you remove all the restrictions. So we can say that we would have to settle for a restrictive sport that will give the advantages to certain ways of fighting based on the environment, the rules etc.  It means that at best we would be left again with speculation as to the question about the effectiveness of the arts.

Some of this problem of Tai Chi teachers focusing on this bouncing exercise could be averted if people who demonstrate would just be honest about the demonstration.  I had a great teacher of Tai Chi named Master Tao Ping Siang.  He was very knowledgeable about all phases of Chinese Martial Arts but using Water Style principle he loved to teach out of the Cheng Man Ching Push Hands and teach his technique in that venue.  Most of his teaching was on the reading and yielding side of things but when he would teach something about pushing the opponent out with projection he used the ground and gave a fairly light swift unitary push/strike to bounce a person back.  Some of his students did the bouncing but the demonstration was explained and why you can get results by pushing at such and such a time and when the opponent is tight and overextended and out of balance etc.  He taught that somethings can look like magic but it was all physics and know how.  He did not mislead and I appreciated his honesty.  What we are seeing many times now are people that do these things on their students and allow the viewer to think it is some kind of magic and the explanations are not meant to really teach or explain.  Some will say you have touch or you don’t or maybe you will get it after 20 years or so.

I don’t think ridiculing these people is the answer to the problem either.  I think they should be questioned as far as they are willing and we can always ask for more proof.  But why ridicule.  We don’t need to force others to operate as we believe they should operate.  The person who seeks for the truth sincerely and is skeptical enough to always question, test and verify will come to an understanding if they keep open to research. I think the pressure remains on these teachers to show some evidence this will work against someone who is not cooperating and in some sort of “blind test” environment.


Critiquing Martial Art Clips

In today’s world the internet is full of video clips of everything one could imagine and the martial arts area has no shortage.  The comments that often are found are often unreadable as everyone thinks they are an expert and behind the computer screen in some remote part of the continent brutal critiques are common place.  We all know how it is.  I just thought I would offer some guidelines in watching martial art clips for the serious martial artist especially for the ones that study the Chinese Boxing arts and Internal studies.

For those who are not experienced and have no understanding of realistic martial arts you would not expect an accurate evaluation of the clip.  The majority of responders probably fit into this category.  For those who are serious here are some guidelines

1. Understand the problem of demonstrating realistic martial art.  The helper is normally there to help the instructor or practitioner demonstrate the merits of their art.  If the demonstrator wants to protect the helper from injury they cannot possibly really show realistic martial art.  If it is realistic then one of the two parties at least will be injured.  One should also understand that it would not necessarily take any skill to hurt a helper.  We have all seen people demonstrating out of control and injuring the person that was willing to be the helper.  It amazes me when the person commenting says things such as “that would never work in the real world” and “what if that person was fighting back”.  Well yes, someone would be hurt, but then you are not looking at what it looks like when it is in the realistic environment.  This simple understanding can allow one to look past the unrealistic demonstration and see if there is anything to glean from the demonstration.  By the way, there are many realistic demonstrations of fights on the internet (youtube etc.).  Good luck learning something about fighting skill from watching these adventures.

2. Sometimes the critique is given that the helper is faking the degree of force that is being applied.  That is an accurate critique in many cases.  Lets say we are not talking about the fakers that get “pointed at” and then shake and wobble and fall away many times without being touched.  Now this could be possible if there is a spiritual power being administered but to me that is another subject that can be discussed another time.  Again, for the serious Chinese Boxing student who wants to demonstrate various aspects of his art one tries to give a picture of what could happen without injuring the helper.  For example, suppose one wanted to demonstrate an interception or stop hit as an attacker moves forward.  Now if the technique is perfect and timing is right considerable impact may occur.  Now the impact may or may not knock someone out, so if there is a total plan in following up the hit, one may want to demonstrate in such a way to show the reaction if one was hit.  So if one uses a punch with the lead hand moving into the opponent…  surprising the opponent as to the distance …. then if the helper reacts as if he is colliding and jerks his head back a little bit the observer can understand that the collision of the stop hit has occurred and in many cases that gives the stop hitter a chance to launch an aggressive attack to try and defeat the opponent.  Now, one can holler fake, but the option is to injure the helper with the punch causing the type of reaction which would give the stop hitter a chance to launch his secondary attack.

3.  In an idea world, what should happen is that when one post a clip as a means of showing an art, it would be extremely helpful if an explanation would be presented explaining to the viewer what is being shown and what is not.  If one makes the proper claims and explains properly certainly there should be less complaints.

Ah, in a perfect world.  Probably not going to happen.  Just speaking for a lot of people.

j. cravens

What does Kai Sai Kung Fu Mean?






This post was on a Facebook page, so it is necessary to know this to understand some references in the article.  

I have not been a contributor to this page as I don’t spend that much time on Facebook to start with, but one day I found my name with this group. I am not sure who started it but someone got me on it and made me an admin as well. I have not really played that role because of time, but I do want to make a statement about the term and my opinion of it.

When Dan Inosanto and Bruce Lee were talking about what to call what they did, they came on the name Jeet Kune Do which both described something about their fighting theory and their symbol spoke of the philosophy which would govern the art. Jeet Kune Do was to speak of the principles of the art and the higher overview. Jun Fan was Bruce Lee’s name so the art Jun Fan Gung Fu was often associated with Bruce Lee’s art. Jun Fan Gung Fu was the actual techniques and physical movements taught by Bruce Lee. Mr. Casey received the name Kai Sai from a couple of his teachers and as a favor to a request I made to him, he created a curriculum he called Kai Sai Kung Fu. It represented the variety of physical techniques that he used from the various arts that he studied. He never exactly had a name for the principles or theory that was the overview. However, he used numerous names to describe what he did in the martial arts. Mind hit boxing, unitary boxing, 6/9 boxing, Chinese boxing, adamantine boxing, Gong Ka (real boxing), and just “the boxing”. He referred to anything else as “the other”.

I have always been uncomfortable in using the term Kai Sai Kung Fu to represent the art that I teach. I guess the reason is that I find myself a fighter that is much different then Casey yet following the theory that he taught. Mr. Casey had such amazing projection in his grip and pressing skills that it allowed him to finish fights quickly as he seized control of people once he entered their space. I never developed near the projection that he had in this area. So the things I would do in a fight especially at the finish would have some differences. Secondly Mr. Casey’s mind technique can be learned but is not easy to execute. Those two things made me hesitant to use his name in that I knew I would not duplicate his exact method. What he did do, is that over time, he lay out an excellent theory of martial art that was a synthesis of physical technique and mind technique that was doable by many people because it was not dependent on that one aspect that Mr. Casey was so skilled – projection.

There are people who represent Kai Sai Kung Fu who were exposed to Mr. Casey for a small period of time who make conclusions about his teaching that are not looking at the overall of his teaching. This happens because there exposer time was when he was teaching a single style or possibly a principle such as projection. With part of the total info, they defined an entire teaching while only seeing a portion of the teaching. This was partially due to the way in which Mr. Casey taught. In my opinion only time would allow one to see an entire picture. This is not a comment about the evolution or change that was seen. It is a statement about what the final picture was that he devised in his CB theory. While he never named the theory or philosophy we have called it simply the Chinese Boxing Theory of fighting and the Chinese Boxing Encounter Study. To me this overview is the genius of his martial arts accomplishment.

When one is learning about the Kai Sai method, the teacher should have a deep knowledge of the encounter and while physical technique may have some variation there are definite characteristics that would define the Kai Sai method. I say this not as a downer but for those interested to seek out someone who is fully exposed to Casey’s full teaching over time.

Saying that I will put in a plug for Anthony Caucci who has been working almost a year on some products to release. The topic is Kai Sai Wing Chun. While he was not exposed to Kai Sai himself, he has been an exceptional student of the Chinese Boxing and does understand the full encounter taught by Mr. Casey. He recognized the basics that must be developed and has down well. He has only adapted that to Wing Chun as it can be adapted to any of the arts Casey taught. I am sure each of you who get his products in the coming months will enjoy and hopefully learn more about the art that Mr. Casey shared. Best to each of you! jc

Chen Xiaowang Teaching

A nice clip of Chen Xiaowang teaching about the 8 essentials in Tai Chi as well as the guiding principles of Tai Chi. It is best to click on the Youtube in lower right side to watch on Youtube site. Then when you have it going in youtube.com click on the CC or Captions link in the bottom of the window and you will have a choice of English or Russian translation. Choose and you will get subtitles for what is said. You can go straight to youtube by clicking this link: http://tinyurl.com/bh2bcvn


Chen Xiaowang test his Root!

Chen Xiaowang is tested by an Asian strong man.  This is  a three round test.  No Taiji is being implemented here — only root and core being tested.  Chen Xiaowang near 70 years old and the opponent about half his age.  If Taiji was being done there would be sharp turning using the opponent’s force.  This is quite difficult to hold ground when you can’t do your true Taiji.  Root is not meant to be everything, but you can see that a strong root underneath your Taiji can be very useful.


Lo Man Kam Wing Chun and Christopher Casey



Picture of Lo Man Kam holding Mr. Christopher Casey’s Wing Chun Teaching Certiicate

Gordon Lu, the son of Lo Man Kam has been teaching Wing Chun in Virginia Beach, Virginia for some time.  He learned his Wing Chun from Lo Man Kam who taught my Chinese Boxing teacher, Mr. Christopher Casey Wing Chun.  There is an interesting article which was a narrative written my Lo Man Kam that appears on Gordon Lu’s site and blog.  The link is http://vbwingchun.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/my-uncle-grandmaster-yip-man/

Take note of the very last paragraph of the article.  He mentions Kai Sai who was Mr Casey’s given name form Lo Man Kam.

Several interesting notes in the article.

Master Tao Lecture!

Master Tao lecturing on Chinese Medicine and Taijiquan. The clip is lengthy and around 30 minutes. His voice is soft and the English will take a bit of practice to understand, but if you listen you can see his personality and his knowledge come through. Master Tao died in 2006 in his late 80’s. He taught me from 1990. He taught my teacher Christopher Casey in the 70’s. He taught me the Yang form and his push hand method drawing from Water Style. Nathan Menaged in Columbus, Ohio was able to study with him closely for many years and learn the Water Style in full. Thanks to Nils Klug in Hannover for his permission to use this link. His Youtube id is TaiChiStudioHannover.

Master Tao Ping Siang

Recently found a page of a German Taiji school that had a report on a Tao Ping Siang seminar bak in 1999. Thought it was interesting and some of you might enjoy. Many thanks to Nil Klug for this picture etc. It is at http://www.taiji-europa.de/taichi-taiji/push-hands-tui-shou/push-hands-dr-tao-ping-siang/

You may need to use google chrome browser with its ease to translate from German to English. If not go to google translation and copy the url above and put it in the google translation page for translation. We have covered these topics many times, but even through the translation you will enjoy the story. The author of the story is Giles Rosbander.wpid-tao_1-2012-07-13-07-55.jpg

The Magic Touch

The Magic Touch

I noticed recently that Mario Napoli put a clip on Youtube that caught my interest. It is an example of the type of technique that is all over the internet especially in the Tai Chi field showing the special touch to knock someone away with little effort. Mario is making a point that without practice he could do a similar thing. Of course Mario is very good and has a big background. If you read his comments on the youtube page he explains that it is not bad to practice this, but there is a lot more to understand.

I agree and have been bothered by these demonstrations mainly because the one demonstrating usually does not explain what it is that he is doing. It is normally left to the imagination that if your Tai Chi is very good you can just do this little movement with your body and it is easy to control and knock people around. This is very deceiving because this is usually demonstrated with a lot of cooperation from the helpers who are often students, and know how to attack and respond to the teachers actions. I don’t think it takes a lot of skill to notice that this is a cooperative effort.

Now there is some truth to the physics being presented. That force comes in and that force can be neutralized and returned sending the attacker backward or away. However, this takes a little bit of precision and you will usually notice that the helper is expecting the bump and is ready to go backward sometimes by the physics response and sometimes you can see that a bit of acting is occurring. The real point being made is that if an attacher’s energy is stiff and the receiver reads what is coming well, then it is possible to take advantage of that incoming force and the rigidness of the opponent’s body to cause a strong rebound effect. In many cases if you just took someone who didn’t know what was about to happen, the results would not be the same because there is no expectation and no assumption that the attacker is rigid. I would have no gripes about such a demo if someone gets up and explains what is being done and what it means. Usually it creates a deceptive and wrong conclusion which is very misleading and at times embarrassing to those that study openly etc.

I tip my hat to Mario who I do not know personally. Studying truth in the martial arts is not always popular.

Chinese Boxing Encounter Philosophy

The Chinese Boxing Encounter is built on a decision of choosing the best probability for success.  The decision is that one should choose a method which will pick a moment to commit to go into the opponent and get close for a finish often manipulating weak areas of the opponent’s body that even the strong can not defend.  The other option usually rejected by CBII is the hit and run method or the hit until the fight is over method.  We are definitely not against hitting.  As we enter we can hit and during the finish there may me hits, but hit and run philosophy loses to the faster and strong hitters the highest percent of the time.
In figuring percentages it is a tricky process.  First of all there is a general truth that the better athlete/fighter will win the fight over the lessor athlete/fighter regardless of the strategy.  This seems to be true most of the time in the hit and run or hit until finish method.  In the Commitment to finish method still often the better athlete/fighter will win, but there is a greater chance of overcoming the greater power and speed by a smart method of getting inside the hitter and attacking the weak areas for control.  Those of you who are involved in this process understand but these comments are for the outsider to just consider the strategy.
In developing the Chinese Boxing Method many obstacles stand in the way.  First the smaller person is usually not excited about commitment to move in close to the opponent to capture.  The smaller person will have obstacles to conquer here, but I believe still increase his/her chances.  We are not talking about a self-defense situation, but we are referring to a fight between two skill fighters empty hand without the help of weapons etc.
Another obstacle are the interruptions and obstacles that occur during the forward pressure or closing stage of the fight and finish.  As one reaches close to the opponent and is about t0 seize a vulnerable area or part of the opponent’s body, many last moment deflections and movements occur which an opponent in panic or otherwise will attempt to keep from being captured at an ending movement.  The point of the encounter that we are focusing on is occurring while one is gaining distance on the opponent.  This forward pressure point is building so touch at this point is not usually developed in traditional chi sao or push hands exercises and training.  The body’s flexibility and softening is essential to produce the need moves so that one will not lose the advantage achieved in gaining distance to get close and capture the opponent.  There will be variations to this as tall and short plays a role but to conquer this point of the fight is critical and is the topic for the Weat Coast CBII group that is coming to study this weekend.  Little to nothing is written about this area of combat because the forward pressure is not used very much except by grapplers who are coming in many times for a different type of finish.
Again, one can incorporate hitting into this method and we are not endorsing a “non striking method”.


The Pizza Burn Observations

Those who have been around Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang know that he corrects and fixes postures hands on.  Sometimes he will tell the student that he has fixed them in a soup or spaghetti level which indicates lower intensities.
I have observed on occasion that while he is correcting someone with pizza (a highly intense stance) that he has pushed the person while holding on to them forward where pressure increases forward into the knee and the students foot comes off the ground.  If he were not holding them they would fall forward.  He is not lifting them at all as the intensity is fully on their leg.  Now it was a bit curious that sometimes he would do this and push a person out of proper position in order to achieve the “pizza” intensity.
I think that when Master Chen corrects postures he often will get the person into the general position and then he will try and make adjustment that will relax the person’s energy downward.  I have seen a few instances where students would be in a nice lower stance and he corrected them and they would hold the posture for a long time.  Knowing some of these students, I knew that they were not really in “pizza” or rather, they were not focusing their relaxation in one spot on the weight bearing leg.  Their legs were strong, but their bodies had not learned to hold the weight of their body fully on their legs and specifically on one spot.  I have seen this happen with some students and then one day as they learned more about how to relax their body, they suddenly began to burn out their leg.  They never could do this before because they did not know what it meant to fully relax their weight downward.
So my conclusion from watching this occasional event in which Master Chen will push a person into a strange position in order to achieve pizza, is that he understands that this person cannot let their weight drop yet and so in order for them to burn out he gets them in a position that does not require their participation in relaxation but simply isolates the leg to land the weight in a position the student is not use to bearing the weight.  This is only my speculation as I am not in his mind, but he is too exact to not notice the position he has pushed them to.  Anyone else notice this?