Taichi and MMA

by Nick Osipczak

After my last fight for the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) in 2010, I didn’t know whether I was going to fight again, so I was afforded the luxury of easing off the punishing training regimen that having an upcoming fight forces you to endure, and instead I could focus on training purely for the love of it once again. I found myself drawn to Tai Chi and immediately began noticing all the imbalances in my body, and it took about two years to undo most of the significant damage I had caused to myself from years of sparring and pushing myself to the limits in training.

The beauty and depth of the internal arts

Once I’d realized the efficiency, beauty and depth of the internal martial arts, I was 100% committed to its mastery. Having a somewhat obsessive-compulsive personality when it comes to doing what I love, I immediately devoured all the texts and videos on the subject matter and began my travels to learn from various masters around the world. I took three years off from sparring, and instead focused on moving as slowly and smoothly as possible. It was both a beautiful and humbling experience to feel like a complete beginner again, and this helped me realize that, more than anything, it is the learning that I enjoy. I love a challenge, and when I read claims that Tai Chi Ch’uan takes 10 to 20 years to master, my imagination was instantly captured and I knew what my future had in store for me. I had to completely “empty my cup”, detaching from my previous training methods, which is no easy task! As my brain was attempting to rewire itself to learn this new language, most of my old habits were actually in direct contrast to what I needed to be doing in order to evolve further in this new direction. The concept of doing less to achieve more is certainly a tricky one for Westerners to wrap their heads around!

taichi in Watlington

Changing beliefs

And now today, when I try to pass on what I have learned to my friends in the MMA community, I encounter two common scenarios. The first is the confused look as I try to explain a concept which is too alien to their current way of thinking, one that does not harmonize with – indeed, even threatens – their limiting beliefs, or the way they see the “sport” of martial arts. The other is simply an inability or unwillingness to “start over,” to throw away the old to make way for the new, even if they can see the value. People too often feel that they have invested so much energy for so many years that they would be doing themselves a disservice by starting anew. As I see it, our attachments can become our downfalls, and adaptation is the key to longevity and harmony.

After years of study on everything from nutrition to philosophy, anatomy to alternative health systems, as well as the classic texts on war and peace, every aspect of my training has shifted dramatically from what it once was. A significant moment came when I felt I was no longer just following what everyone else was doing, or what my coaches were telling me to do. I was coming from a place where I could draw on my own experience and research – and, more importantly, I was following my intuition.

Over the last three years, my main training partner has been my son Shen, who is now three. Becoming a father forces you to adapt in so many ways, and in order to fit the daily amount of training hours in, one is required to make changes both to lifestyle as well as the type of training. Motivations change too. Now I am inspired to lead by example and I have to be more consistent and thoughtful with my approach. Shen is of the age now where he can spot anomalies and he loves nothing more than to ask, “Why, Dad….?”

Four ounces to move a thousand

Tai Chi Ch’uan talks of using four ounces to move a thousand pounds, so when I wrestle my son, it’s not a case of the strong and experienced versus the weak and unaware. Instead, I make it so I literally use as little effort as I can, and would have to say that he becomes the stronger of the two of us. I constantly play around with his balance, trying to affect it so subtly that he is unable to grasp what is the cause of his instability.

Jumping knee

Taichi principles in training and life

From my many years studying ground fighting, I am well-versed in the best offensive and defensive techniques; but I have yet to teach any to Shen. Instead, I just put some weight on him, pinning him to the ground or against something upright, and ask him if he can get out. Then I let him try and wiggle and squirm his way free using movement and the principle of finding space. Sometimes he says he is stuck and I give him a pointer on which part of the body he should move to free himself up. He has become blocked, limiting his own movement through lack of awareness. We all do it, becoming attached to one way of thinking; and when that doesn’t serve us, if our vision has become too narrowed, then we are unable to come up with any new, creative ideas because we are drawing from memory instead of feeling in the present.

A Karate friend of mine recently asked Shen to punch his hand and was surprised that I hadn’t taught him “correct technique” yet. But that will come later, and it will come easily and quickly once he knows how to move correctly and has cultivated a mind which stays open to assimilating new information. Besides, I don’t really want my three year old knowing how to punch just yet!

Shen’s favorite film is The Jungle Book, and there’s nothing more he likes doing than climbing on me. Even my 10-month-old has started joining in, crawling as fast as he can across the room to get in on the action. We mimic animal movement, moving primally across the floor like gorillas, monkeys, snakes, bears…

Aside from our training together, just observing how a baby navigates this world is enlightening for those of us obsessed with movement. From the first few months when you can feel the strength of their grip and how all limb movements originate from the dantien, to when they begin to perform deep squats and exhibit perfect posture. Getting to feel true softness, noticing how their pliant muscles can move freely around the bone, and realizing what is actual full-joint mobility.

It can be an awakening experience knowing that we all once moved like that, and somewhere along the line we picked up some bad habits, and are continually paying the price for it as we age and strive to unlearn, simplify, return to our youthful ways.

When I was a boy, my friends and I would regularly dare each other on, challenging one another, pushing our boundaries in the quest for new experiences and overcoming fears. I find myself continuing that tradition with my son. When we come across some cold water and I ask Shen if he wants to go in, I’m really asking myself if I want to go in. Without him there, I may not always verbalize the idea, which brings it one step closer to reality. Like all good training partners, you find ways of fitting more training into the day and bond through the shared experiences.

I am a believer in the saying, “Do one thing a day that you are scared of.” It is an excellent way to prevent the mind from calcifying. When the mind begins to set, this is a sure way of letting fear creep in, and it only needs one foot in the door. The mind is like a parachute – only useful when open!

When carrying Shen on my shoulders, it forces me to adopt more and more efficient posture. With him constantly growing a little heavier, it reminds me of the old story of Qing-Gong training when one jumps out of a hole every day and each day the hole gets made 1cm deeper.

When he climbs on my arms as I am sitting, my structure is tested and I strive to apply all the principles that Zhan Zhuang practice cultivates – keeping the shoulders down, elbows heavy and spine tall.

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Practicing patience

But most of all my son helps me develop PATIENCE! An integral component to successfully training internal martial arts, it is something we could all have more of – the ability to not get frustrated and to continually adapt to our ever-changing circumstances. Having kids has forced me to reassess how I spend my time each day, and trim off the unnecessary. Time is more precious, and sleep, food and even breathing has to be respected even more due to their significant contributions to my energy levels. When you start your day with breathing exercises in the morning, it forces you to become more aware of your environment, more in the present, and has the ability to make you consider how you will spend the rest of the day a little more carefully. As the saying goes, “The yi leads the qi.”

The chances of the average MMA student today incorporating standing practice into their daily routine? Slim to none, and Slim just left town! The current MMA fighter wants quick results, and there is the prevailing dogma that if they haven’t finished the day exhausted and beat up, then they haven’t trained properly. There is also the irony of being partly motivated to rush through the stages of training in order to hit the “big time” in their twenties, believing that they will be “past it” by their mid-thirties, not realizing that it is this very mindset that will cause the damage to their bodies (and brains) that unfortunately force so many of them into early retirement. With often irreparable knee, spine, and shoulder injuries to name a few, it is a sad situation when professional athletes cannot even nurture their health into their forties.

Maintaining a neutral state

Nowadays, it is a rarity when I feel sore, and I enjoy the process of returning my body to a balanced, neutral state as soon as possible afterwards. This enjoyable process of putting a little wear and tear into the body before healing ourselves can be likened to the tempering of steel, where thousands of oscillations between hard and soft alchemically transcend us to a new way of being. There are no shortcuts for the sword that is destined to become great; it must be willing to endure and persist. It must also love its journey, and believe in its destiny.

Another lesson MMA fighters would do well to learn is to tone down their competitive natures for partner drills, and increase their sensitivity. They are like a fighter-plane locked onto a target with one objective: seek and destroy. This extremely yang approach doesn’t lend itself well to being aware of what the opponent is intending, limiting the amount of information one can garner through touch and even sight. A simple grounding drill where one applies pressure slowly and steadily to their partner becomes a great challenge for the MMA adept, as they are not used to toning down their force and learning to vary it in such small increments.

Future goals

One of my goals is to help spread the internal martial arts into MMA, not just because I believe the current standard of fighting on display is well below where it will be a few years down the line (the sport is still relatively young – the first UFC was in 1993), but I am also highly motivated to spread the health benefits to my fighting brothers and sisters. For this to be achieved, I am regularly reminded of just how much I will need to continue learning from Shifu Shen’s main lesson – the art of patience!

About Nick Osipczak:

Nick Osipczak began Hung Kuen at age 18 and six years later was competing for the world’s largest fighting organization – the UFC. No opponent could finish Nick in any of his 18 career fights. For 5 years he ran a martial arts club in London where at one stage his students amassed a 22–0 record in professional MMA bouts. Now specializing in Tai Chi Ch’uan, Nick passes on his knowledge and experience through seminars and intensive workshops.

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30 Challenges to Enlightenment

This is your chance to change your life forever…And join me on this journey to tame your monkey mind!

HighExistence has designed a legendary self-development obstacle course! 30 Challenges to Enlightenment.

Before you read further, you should watch the trailer to introduce the course.

Excited yet?! 

This thing is the culmination of the HighExistence team’s combined 25+ years of research in self-development, spirituality, science, and philosophy. They spent 6 months engineering the course, and it’s honestly unlike any self-improvement tool I have ever seen.

Over SIXTEEN THOUSAND people have now joined the tribe for 30 Challenges to Enlightenment.

What is 30 Challenges to Enlightenment, exactly? At this point you might be wondering: What is a “legendary self-development obstacle course,” exactly? What does it consist of? Oh-ho-ho, my friend, what a Pandora’s Box you’ve thrust open by asking such a question!

30 Challenges to Enlightenment is the ultimate life experiment. It’s an Odyssey of self-actualization. It’s a toolkit for disrupting your default state and claiming a High Existence. It’s the Hero’s Journey toward mental, emotional, and spiritual liberation.

It’s many marvelous things, rolled into one mega-empowering bundle. Philosophically, the course is rooted in Nietzsche’s idea of a “gymnastics of the will”—a practice of undertaking difficult life experiments to become stronger and wiser. The course includes three indispensable components:

The Challenge Mapphoto

The Challenge Map is the most iconic component of 30 Challenges to Enlightenment. A beautiful 24” x 36” poster, it’s simultaneously a habit-formation tool, progress chart, challenge list, work of art, and conversation piece.

The Challenge Map lists all of the challenges, providing a title, icon, and short description for each. For each challenge, there are 30 checkboxes—one for each day of the challenge. We used the Don’t-Break-the-Chain technique of habit development—as you check more boxes, you’ll feel averse to breaking the chain, so you’ll keep going.

The Challenge Map also divides the 30 challenges into 6 unique quests, which are based on the stages of enlightenment in the Zen tradition. The quests map out a natural progression toward self-actualization and spiritual realization, providing meaningful structure to your journey.

The most powerful thing about the Challenge Map is that it’s UNMISSABLE. 99.9% of self-improvement tools are either digital or relatively small and easily hidden. This leads to people ignoring or forgetting about them. You can’t ignore or forget about the Challenge Map, once it’s on your wall. It serves as a gorgeous, vitalizing reminder of your commitment to self-development, inspiring you to continue to undertake new challenging adventures.

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The Challenge Guidebook

The Challenge Map is all about action, but action is never complete without knowledge to back it up. That’s where the Challenge Guidebook comes in. It’s a 290-page eBook that contains in-depth sections elaborating on the science and philosophy of every quest and challenge within 30 Challenges to Enlightenment. It also contains an introduction that explains the philosophical framework for the journey and our grand vision for the course.

For each challenge, the Guidebook provides profound quotes, philosophical perspectives, actionable advice, thought-provoking Reflection Questions, and insights on the purpose of the challenge. At over 40,000 words, the Challenge Guidebook is truly dense and comprehensive—the most thorough articulation of the HighExistence philosophy we’ve ever created.

The Challenge Guidebook is a potent complement to the Challenge Map. Before embarking on any challenge, you will first read its description in the Guidebook. This will provide you with a deeper understanding of the challenge’s context and purpose, rendering it more meaningful and alluring. The Reflection Questions will prompt you to pause and reflect throughout the course on many aspects of your life, your reasons for undertaking challenges, and the obstacles which prevent your growth. They will facilitate a richer learning experience and further motivate you to complete challenges by helping you understand your “reasons why.”

The Challenge Tribe

The Challenge Map is about action. The Challenge Guidebook is about knowledge. And the Challenge Tribe is about community. The Challenge Map and Guidebook are immensely powerful on their own, but we understand that people are less likely to follow through in isolation.

That’s why, when you grab 30 Challenges to Enlightenment, you’ll gain access to an exclusive Facebook discussion group for everyone who is taking the course. Here you can find inspiration, make friends, get support and advice, and help others who are going through the same experience. This community will show you that you’re part of something larger and keep you motivated to continue with your quest. It will also provide a space for ongoing learning, enrichment, and connection that can last for the rest of your life.

Be(come) who you are…

Carl Jung once observed, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

30 Challenges to Enlightenment is designed to help you become the strongest, wisest, and most honest expression of yourself.

This course is engineered to help you overcome destructive habits, deepen self-understanding, and become a more enlightened version of yourself. It’s designed to allow you to liberate your mind, develop self-mastery, gain confidence, and discover bliss.

Once more, if you want to join the insider tribe—if you want to be the first to know when this thing is live and receive an epic gift—click below:

CLICK HERE

One thing is absolutely certain: After completing these challenges, you will not be the same.

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via Doing Research (8): Taking Seriously the Mundane, or How I Learned that a Choke is Never Just a Choke — Kung Fu Tea

Is Practicing Forms Important for Real Fighting?

by An Jian Qiu

In all martial arts, many students will one day ask themselves:

“Is practicing forms important for real fighting? Should I just be performing drills, or sparring?”

The answer to this is not a simple yes or no because it depends on how you practice your forms:

  • Do you let your mind wander, or are you incredibly focused?
  • Do you ‘take it easy’ and treat it as a warm-up, or are you challenging yourself each time with deep stances and powerful movements?
  • Are you just ‘following the motions’, or do you have a specific goal in mind?

At An Wushu, we believe form training done correctly is incredibly important for developing your kung fu:

  • Forms develop what we call your ‘kung fu body’. Strength and endurance are a very important part of kung fu, but can be developed by many activities; the specific attributes you need for perfecting your kung fu, however – such as flexibility, timing & chi skills – can be best developed through forms
  • Forms teach movements in a logical sequence (e.g., “Strike… if they block, then you do this”) and create useful muscle memory*
  • If you practice your forms the way you fight – with spirit, power, and accuracy – then you’ll fight the way you practice your forms

*Many students are also curious about the applicability of ‘grander’ movements, such as flips, spins, kicks and so on. There are a few schools of thought on this:

  1. In years past, it was not uncommon for future masters to be taught incredibly slowly, often learning a single form over five years! If you have practiced a movement 100,000 times or more, you will definitely be able to use it in combat – even if it is perhaps not as efficient as it could be
  2. Many movements are taken to their extreme to better develop the body: e.g., if you train with your horse stance at parallel, spending minutes then hours in this position each day for many years, your legs will become incredibly strong. If you only stand at ‘fighting height’ for these years of training, you will miss out on this strength.
  3. In some styles, there are moves that are simply not meant to be used in combat, e.g., backflips, and are simply there to develop the body of the practitioner. Similar to Point 2, if you spend years training backflips, you will have much more explosive muscles and better co-ordination than if you didn’t. (Note: There are no movements like this in An Wushu, however, as part of a complete training system this is a great way to train.)
  4. Much of the power generated in kung fu is difficult to do in a small way until you can do it in a big way: e.g., even a beginner can sharply twist their body, push off their heel and throw a strong ‘cross’ punch (albeit at the probable cost of their balance). But if they limit their twist to only 1-inch, can they generate power? The answer is no. By starting with an over-exaggerated movement, a beginner is able to gain the internal feeling needed for any movement and gradually refine the movement to its usable form.

So, is practicing forms important for real fighting? As with anything in kung fu and in life, you only get out what you put in.

To learn more about An Wushu or how to study with Master An full-time in China visit www.StudyMartialArts.Org we work exclusively to help dedicated students connect to quality martial arts schools. This includes visa assistance and independent information all at no additional cost to you. Check us out with no obligation.

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3 Reasons to Track Your Fitness

Today there are so many fitness trackers available for you to choose from various bands, watches and apps. All these gadgets are equipped with accelerometers and sensors to track you all day (and night) long. But do they really work or are they just a gimmick? Here are 3 reasons why if used correctly they can help you become fitter and healthier.

1. You can see your fitness goals: It’s one thing to have a sense of how healthy you are, but it’s another thing to see the numbers. Many fitness trackers can record your steps, calories burned, and sleep, so if you’re not meeting your goals in one or more of those categories, you’ll be able to see it in no time. Fitness trackers force you to be aware of your fitness shortcomings so you can modify habits as necessary.

2. You can track your progress: Investing in a fitness tracker forces you to think about what you’d like to get out of your workout routine. Many trackers allow you to add goals — like steps per day or calories burned — so you can keep tabs on whether or not you are progressing. It’s nice to have numbers backing up just how much more fit and active you’ve been feeling and to use as a basis for future goals.

3. You can push yourself safely: Listening to your body is the best way to know your limits, but having extra help doesn’t hurt. Many fitness trackers compile the data they collect from your daily habits to show you trends over time. That means that if you find that you’re being too sedentary on your non-workout days or that you aren’t burning as many calories as you thought in yoga class, you’ll be armed with the information you need to modify your workout routine or your daily activity habits.
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Here’s few of the best on the market

Fitbit Surge ($153+)455645-fitbit-surge

The Fitbit Surge is a sophisticated touch-screen wristwatch. It not only tracks your steps and sleep, but also alerts you to incoming phone calls and text messages, keeps tabs on your heart rate with a built-in optical heart rate monitor, uses GPS to track outdoor activity, and has much more functionality especially for runners.

PROS

Continuous heart rate monitoring. Built-in GPS. Comfortable, secure fit. Tracks new activities like hiking, yoga, and weight-lifting workouts. Excellent app and easy syncing. Supports incoming texts and call notifications. Accurate.

CONS

Limited push notifications. Moderately large. Not waterproof for swimming. Below average battery life with GPS enabled. Charger not interchangeable with other Fitbits.

BOTTOM LINE

With continuous heart rate monitoring, GPS, and broad appeal, the Fitbit Surge is the best all-day fitness tracker to date.

 

Garmin Forerunner 735XT ($307+)505861-garmin-forerunner-735xt

The Garmin Forerunner series blends the best fitness trackers with all the features you expect from running watches. Additionally it offers a 24/7 activity and sleep tracker with continuous heart rate monitoring, GPS, push notifications, and special features for triathletes. It’s not cheap but it manages to be both lightweight and excellent battery life. If you’re a hardcore martial artist who love to compete in triathlons this is the one for you.

PROS

Excellent for triathletes. GPS. Optical heart rate monitor. Tracks steps, sleep, heart rate, and an array of activities. Supports push notifications. Waterproof. Lightweight. Top-notch battery life.

CONS

Expensive. Not comfortable to wear while sleeping. More sporty than elegant.

BOTTOM LINE

The Garmin Forerunner 735XT fitness tracker gives pertinent information to triathletes about their sports, including advice you don’t often see, like recovery time. It’s comprehensive and easy to use but will set you back a pretty penny.

 

xiaomi-mi-band-1411724768-y3l7-column-width-inline-1421248072-Zgnt-column-width-inlineXiaomi Mi Band Pulse ($19+)

Best for those on a budget and now available outside of China, the Mi Band Pulse is cheap and cheerful, yet somehow manages to pack heart rate monitoring onto the wrist for an astonishing price. Xiaomi has shifted over a million of its bands in China alone, possibly making this the ultimate fitness tracker. On a down side the main body of the tracker does of a tendency to fall out if you are too rough with it. So don’t keep it on when doing pad work. Another down side is that it will does have a tendency to over estimate your steps in most cases.

Feature check: HR tracking, steps, sleep, smart alarms, incoming call alerts.

PROS
Ridiculously cheap, Easy to wear, easy to use, HRM works for resting rates, Works with Google Fit/Apple Health

CONS

Can overestimate steps, Heart rate goes haywire during exercise, Basic app, Sleep tracking is hit and miss

 

Moov Now ($45+)moov-now-1438020833-ll2s-column-width-inline-1438619840-t0qI-column-width-inline

Is one of the best for getting fit. Geared towards helping you be better at the sports you love, rather than reporting how you did. It’s an easy and compelling sell, and for our money, is what wearable tech should be about. Some of the misgivings remain: the need to carry your smartphone being the biggest downside to the device.

Feature check: Steps, sleep, advanced sports coaching, run/bike tracking.

PROS

Coaches and track, Displays progress, Great for all abilities, 6 months battery life

CONS

Need to take your phone running, Coach’s voice is robotic and annoying, Daily activity         tracking is basic, Strap comes undone now and then.

 

Charity Miles ($4.99+)467513-charitymiles

Earn money for charities every time you run, walk, or bicycle by using the free Charity Miles app. Corporate sponsors (whose information you’ll see as a backdrop image in the app) agree to donate a few cents for every mile you complete. Browse the app’s list of charities, find the one that you support, and then hit the road. When a lot of people use Charity Miles, those little bits of money add up.

Using this app you can rack up some serious miles. With this app you can get fit while donating to some excellent charities. The new UI is very clean and visually appealing. Both the GPS and indoor tracking are for the most part reliable. On the downside view the history can be annoying. The activity log looks nice and is easy to navigate but needs to also have the ability to see the length of time each run was.

 

FitStarr ($7.99 per month or $39.99 per year)467529-358828-fitstar

FitStar creates custom workouts for you based on your fitness level. You start by doing a few workouts with the app and you give it feedback as you go about which exercises were too tough, too easy, or just right. The app uses that information to create a routine that challenges you in all the right ways. FitStar was purchased by Fitbit in 2015 and now works with some Fitbit devices. The in-app coach is former NFL player Tony Gonzalez, a beefy workout buddy who is nothing but a bundle of positive, cheery feedback, and absolutely no excuses.

It is customize to you and after each workout you should feel like you’ve accomplished something. The great thing is it sync with your Fitbit (Fitbit actually recommend this app). You get free sessions but for premium its a steal instead of going to the gym and probably having to pay twice as much. With this app and eating right you will lose weight in no time.

If you make a purchase use our links and help support the www.StudyMartialArts.Org project.

 

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