Dominoes 3

This is unexpected. Xingyiquan has been touted as an aggressive internal art; like a cannon on wheels. However, in this match the xingyi practitioner is more like a cannon stuck in the mud.


I asked my student if he had seen this as he had previously learned xingyi. It was surprising to hear hear him say that he got out of xingyi because of the over-emphasis on power, making him stuck to the spot and unable to move.

I can understand this considering that after so many years I am still working on getting rid of his old habits. For example, when I throw a strike from the side his instinct is to block it rather than to use the angle to absorb the strike. I pointed out the part of the form where we practice this.

The key to nailing this part of the form is the position. However, it is common for students to be obsessed by the strike in the movement. Hence, when they do that they will overlook the importance of the secondary hand.

When the hand is not positioned properly his attempt to block the strike caused his balance to be affected, leaving him vulnerable to follow-up strikes. With proper use of angles and stance he can neutralize the strike with lesser movement and keep his balance intact.

The other point is that if he tried to block the side strike he would be vulnerable to a chain of follow-up strikes from the same hand that he just blocked. This sequence of strikes from the study of Pok Khek Kuen made a nice study in how to link up strikes to overcome attempts to stop it. For the person under attack it is a good practice in not freezing up.

To remedy the problem fortunately his form training has made it much easier for him to pick up on the corrective skill right away. The only thing to do now is to keep drilling it until it becomes second nature.

This was also the right time to re-emphasize and explain again why proper study of push hands is important. An important point to keep in mind is that push hands is not sumo shoving so we should refrain from mindless shoving matches which is not useful.

The study of push hands should include distancing, spacing, angling, positioning, stepping, guarding, changes, flow etc. For example, an old habit that is also commonly seen in other students in the tendency to move back whilst still staying in the path of a strike.

The practice of push hands is to eliminate this response which allows our opponent to continue with the attack. Instead, we should study how the principle and strategy of Step Back, Repulse Monkey is to be used to teach us how to instantly counter-attack and not give a free pass to the opponent.

We should keep in mind that combat is about movement. Hence, in our Tai Chi we do not practice zhanzhuang which can promote a habit of standing there trying to resist an opponent that is moving around and launching missiles at us. No matter how rooted you are or how powerful you are in issuing power if you get tagged in the head you will go down. So learn to move and stop standing there like a punching bag.




It started with Tai Chi versus MMA.

In the space of the last two days we have two more Style X versus MMA / Sanda / Boxing. And man, its badddddddd…………. so bad that the only thing I can think of is dominoes falling……..


Last night I saw a link to a Baguazhang versus Sanda – see below :-


Did I wish for a video that sees a traditional Chinese martial art prevailing? Yes, that would be nice. But realistically I was not holding my breath and my worst fears came true as you can see above.

And if I thought that was the end of it this morning another video; Wudang vs Boxing. This was worse…….

You might wonder why as a teacher of Tai Chi I would highlight the bad publicity of Tai Chi and other Chinese martial arts. Why not?

Especially when there are lessons to be learned………


Wake Up


If you are a Tai Chi practitioner did you get a wake up call after watching the MMA versus Tai Chi video in this post?

I’ve read negative and positive comments on this. Some are indignant and want to challenge the boxer. Will they succeed? Or they be another feather in the cap of the boxer? Stay tuned.

On the flip side others say this is a good wake up call to those Tai Chi players who have lost their way and still live in the land of the delusional. How did we get here in the first place? I found the following passage in the book The Emperor of All Maladies : A Biography of Cancer to be illuminating :-

File 3-5-17, 18 58 21

This is more ironic in the light of the video below which gives us some background information on the Tai Chi master who got his ass handed to him by the boxer :-

At 19:38 in the video you can see this master demonstrate power. As I would tell my students you got power so what? Are you fast enough to hit a moving opponent? So we should not be too smug with our fajing ability because ultimately it may mean nothing if our opponent does not stand still long enough for us to hit him not to mention that he will be trying to hit us back.

We should take this video as a wake up call to take a long hard look at what we do if self-defense is what we are looking for. Success in combat require certain skills. What works against one person in one environment may not work against another is a different environment.

There is no point making excuses for failure in combat. The only sensible thing to do is to move forward. Take a long hard look, examine why we failed, how we can fail, open up our mind; a punch, a lock, a submission – they are blind – get caught by any good technique and you are toast.

I had a student look at the video. I wanted him to see that he had the same habits as this Tai Chi master; habits that I have told him are not desirable and make him easier to hit. But how did he get here in the first place?

One factor is, I suspect, old habit from training xingyiquan where the way he stood made him easy to get hit if he had to step back. The learning of weaponry such as the Tai Chi straight sword is meant to help him eradicate this linear back stepping and replace it with a stepping that will remove him from the path of an attack and at the same time move into a better position.

Those time we practice jousting with the straight sword was meant to teach this lesson – step the wrong way and you end up in the wrong place, and you get poked and slashed. These principles are meant to be global, to be infused also into the application of emptyhand techniques; to be poked, examined, tested in push hands under controlled experiments to educate our responses.

Touching is a phase in learning. Not touching is another phase. That’s why I taught him Pok Khek Kuen so that he can see an alternative to not touching. However, snobbery can be problematic. Don’t look down on Pok Khek Kuen. If not for it, Grandmaster Nip’s star might not have risen as high during his teaching period in Malaysia. Pok Khek Kuen’s success in full-contact tournaments demonstrated the efficacy of Grandmaster Nip’s approach.

We should not forget this. If we do we are in danger of ending up like so many other Tai Chi schools, nice to look at but crumble under pressure. We should not shy from self-criticism. Its better to take a hard look than to see what we learn through rose tinted glasses. Otherwise, one day an opponent will shatter our glasses. It is time to wake up, if you have not done so already.


Revisiting the Sau Chui of Pok Khek Kuen

This is a revised version of a clip I first put up on 2013. What I had edited out in the last part of the clip is my wife asking me to do a light hit hence the horizontal strike was not as powerful as I would have like to show it.

Still it gives a good idea of why I changed my mind about circular strikes despite not having a good impression after learning Wing Chun.

Its too bad I do not have a clip of my teacher, Master Leong, demonstrating it. His running footwork while executing this strike one after another was something to behold and altered my outlook on Pok Khek Kuen.



Rhythmic bounce, guard up, keep the distance. Shuffle, shuffle…… tag!

Playing tag is not something I usually do but since my student brought up his experience trying out with a friend I thought I would throw in my 2 cents worth.

I know my student and I think its a bit early for him to try sparring. The reason is that he is still too stiff in the shoulders, a case of focusing too much on resisting and power. Because of this he is unable to instantly throw a punch out when required to.

To play the game of tagging a mobile footwork, ability to close the distance swiftly and accurate quick hands would be of more value than a rooted stance, power structure and strong push. These attributes, a legacy of Grandmaster Nip Chee Fei, are what we work towards when we train push hands instead of focusing on rooted stance,  power structure and strong push which are means to an end, part of the journey and not the journey nor the destination.

Our process to Master Tai Chi Today is not what students would expect when they sign up. But then if the norm is the right approach why do we not see more master level students being produced? Aye, that is the question.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Tai Chi Yang Style (TaijiKinesis) lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today

Student Notes – Beginning Pole Training

Today was my student, X’s, second lesson in handling a long pole. I am moving him beyond the initial 2 movements of splitting and thrusting. The first two movements are important in laying the basics of postural definition, how to hold the pole, fundamental striking power, etc.

However, today we moved on to learning how to do simple defending movements such as Leaking Water Pole (demonstrated by Master Leong Lin Heng below) with forceful power.

poleI worked with X to develop correct body positioning, timing of movements, how to change from one posture to the next and so on by feeding him attacks slowly so that he can practice properly.

Learning the long pole will test X’s mastery of the basic principles from the Yang style and Wu style long forms with their respective characteristics. The Yang style should enable X to move the pole fluidly whereas the Wu style long form should enable him to generate forceful power using tight motions. In turn, the long pole will teach X to redefine his empty hand movements to move more economically and efficiently without sacrificing power.

The long pole is actually a much easier weapon to learn than the straight sword. As X was unfamiliar with handling a pole it was still not a walk in the park for him. He struggled with getting his body into the correct postural construct and was using too much strength such that the pole ended up wobbling.

Such wobbling might have looked powerful but the power was not coming through to the part of the pole that was used for hitting. So when I fed him attacks to practice against he could not knock me off my line even though I was not holding my pole firmly.

A good pole movement should be fluid, swift, forceful and unpredictable. In this way when the pole encounters the opponent’s weapon it will knock it way off position and before the opponent can recover the pole will be brought in to swiftly end the fight.

Striking each other’s pole is what we do in practice to avoid injury. In actual usage the techniques of the pole will be performed slightly differently to make the attacking and defending techniques even more direct and devastating. I let X felt what it was like to be struck by a pole thrust by placing the tip against his body and applying a slight force to move him back a few feet. In this way he can feel some pain but without being injured.

In practicing the issuance of power we gauge the power of the strike by feeling the resultant vibration that is generated when pole is struck against pole. A strong shocking power applied to the opponent’s weapon holding wrist will instantly result in a fracture or a concussion if used in a splitting strike to the top of the head.

Learning the long pole can help accelerate our ability to Master Tai Chi Today. There are other things we can learn through the pole form also but its another story for another time.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Yang Style Combat Tai Chi lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.

Video of Grandmaster Nip Chee Fei

I have posted a video of Grandmaster Nip Chee Fei to the Videos page.

For those who didn’t noticed the addition of a Videos page to this blog’s folder I am also posting the video here.

I have yet to come across anyone posting a video of Grandmaster Nip on the internet so I thought I would put a short extract here. In the video that I have Grandmaster Nip demonstrated the entire form plus a straight sword form.

This is a much older Grandmaster Nip than the one in the picture below :-


Perhaps one day I will post the entire clip.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Yang Style Combat Tai Chi lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.