China’s Confucius Institute

confucius_institute_logoWhat is the Confucius Institute?

The Confucius Institute is a non-profit public educational organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. Since its founding in 2004 it has been the main educational organization tasked with the job of promoting Chinese language and culture to the world outside the Middle Kingdom. It seeks to do this through Chinese language courses, and cultural exchanges. These cultural exchanges normally focus on language music, calligraphy, and martial arts.

Due to its status as a non-profit the course and cultural exchanges offered through the institute are not only affordable but often include the chance for student participants to gain free scholarships.

These scholarships allow high school level Chinese language students, college level Chinese students, self-taught Chinese language students and Chinese language teachers and researchers to go to China for a specific period of time and have the chance to choose from more than thirty different destinations from the most well-known and “obvious”, like Beijing and Shanghai, to Harbin, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, and Qingdao, which are less known to the general public. There aren’t yet any scholarships from the Confucius Institute that go to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Confucius Institute Locations throughout the world

Confucius Institutes’ can now be found all over the world, and through its educational programmes links and relationships are fostered through the promotion of Chinese language and culture. The aim being to promote China, its culture history and language to the world.

Scholarships

Scholarships are awarded for exceptional knowledge of Chinese culture by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (HANBAN) through Chinese Bridge. These scholarships are checked on this site and generally fall into four types.

1 – Brief program of 4 weeks

Financial contribution from Hanban with complete coverage for lodging and the price of the course. Minimum requirements: having completed a HSK exam and not have previously studied in China (that last requirement is decided by the individual Confucius Institutes).

2 – Six month program

A half year in China completely covered by Hanban. Minimum requirements: having reached the HSK at level 3 or greater and the HSKK of any level.

3 – Year Program

Completely covered for a year. Minimum requirements: having reached HSK level 4 and the HSKK intermediate level.

4 – Graduate course for Chinese language education

Complete coverage for two years. Minimum requirements: having reached HSK level 5 and HSKK intermediate.

A few partner universities with the Confucius Institute also make Masters available in conjunction with universities in China mainly centred on production, to put it briefly, two degrees for the price of one. Quite appealing!

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Standardised testing

The Confucius Institute organizes Chinese language exams recognized throughout the world. The most important when applying for a scholarship, are HSK and HSKK.

HSK is an acronym for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试, Chinese language level exam). The HSK is subdivided into 6 levels. To pass this exam, the Chinese language student must have a strong knowledge of Chinese grammar but above all, Chinese characters. In fact each level requires the knowledge of a certain number of words:

  • HSK 1 – 150 words
  • HSK 2 – 300 words
  • HSK 3 – 600 words
  • HSK 4 – 1200 words
  • HSK 5 – 2500 and more words
  • HSK 6 – more than 5000 words

The HSK exam consists of various tests that require just the spoken and written language.

The HSKK, which stands for Hanyu Shuiping Kouyu Kaoshi (汉语水平口语考试, Spoken Chinese language level exam), is an exam that mostly tests the ability to read out loud and speak the Chinese language.

The HSK and HSKK are the minimum requirements to be able to apply for a scholarship in China. The exams are open to all, just go on the site
www.chinesetest.cn (or directly on the site of the closest Confucius Institute), enrol in the exam with the Confucius Institute you prefer and show up on the day of the test with the document and admission ticket you can print on the www.chinesetest.cn site.

The prices for these exams are:

HSK 1 = 20 USD, HSK 2 = 30 USD, HSK 3 = 40 USD, HSK 4 = 50 USD, HSK 5 = 60 USD, HSK 6 = 70 USD.

HSKK basic = 20 USD; HSKK intermediate = 30 USD; HSKK advanced = 40 USD.

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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.

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

The Martial and Mandarin: Are you a type A student or a type B student?

In China dedicated martial arts students who plan to make the most of their time generally fall into two categories.

Type A – You’re a martial arts student in China and you’ve reached a level where in order to further develop your understanding and skill as well as make your life easier you’ve got no choice but learn the language.

Type B – You’re a Chinese language student who’s always been interested in martial arts but has yet to take the step into training. But things have finally come to a head and you’ve had enough of conversations about where you’re from, how much you earn and whether you like Chinese food, girls or football.

Chances are a few of you reading this post have had at least contemplated at least for a second combining martial arts with language learning.

You might have considered the following options. A university course with a certain amount of martial arts training, finding an elusive badass master and informally studying the language or by joining one of the many international kung fu schools and taking their free classes.

The benefit of combining martial arts and language learning can be found in the practical skills you learn that not only add to the experience but also your CV. Indeed such a step can take many in completely new directions abound with opportunities for the wily foreigner. Overall these programmes allow participants the opportunity to develop their martial arts and deepen their own understanding of Chinese culture and language.

“It’s a unique way to study with a high level master outside the normal international kung fu school route as that all important Chinese visa can be provided relatively cheaply through a University.”

Find a badass kung fu master  

This video clip above was taken in Yantai, Shandong province.

Yantai is a small second tier Chinese City on the northeast coast of China. It has cheap housing and has a good environment. Yantai is famous for a number of kung fu styles including Taichi Mantis, Tongbei quan, and Baguazhang. Locally with a little care you can find good masters. The city itself is a hot bed of kung fu schools and is well worth a look.

“Yantai is a hot bed of kung fu schools and masters on the east coast of China”

For details of our Traditional Martial Arts and Language Learning programmes in Yantai email info@studymartialarts.org. You can also check out Master Sui’s full biography and training schedule here. Or you can have a look at this school Kunlun International Kung Fu School which has links to Ludong University in Yantai for long term visas and currently has a very good Shaolin Kung Fu and Mantis Kung Fu master that you can study martial arts with.

Two alternatives that may be more suitable for those who are less independent or would prefer an all-inclusive experience are  The Yuntai Mountain International Culture and Martial Arts School founded by Shi Yan Lin, also known as Xie Xu Yong. This school is the only martial arts school currently offering a quality half day martial arts and half day language learning programme. The other option I would recommend is Capital Sport University of Physical Education in Beijing.

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Yuntai half and half programme

Master Shi Yan Lin is a master with over 10 year experience in teaching to both Chinese and International students Shaolin Martial Arts. The school is located in the famous Yuntai geological park, which attracts thousands of tourists every year and is fairly close to the fabled Northern Shaolin Temple. The Martial Arts training at the school will primarily focus on the various Shaolin fists and weapons as well as Sanda and Taichi. The school building formally a hotel has been converted into student accommodation, as a result the rooms are comfortable and comparatively of a high standard. The newly built training area and performance hall is five minute walk from the main accommodation area, so everything you need is close at hand.

The Chinese language course organised as part of the half martial arts, half language learning programme is available in partnership with Jiaozuo University. These courses can be specially tailored and intensive. This, makes the school a very real prospect for serious Chinese language learners. This close relationship between the martial arts school and the university means that long term student visas can be obtained for long term International students of the school.

The down side to the programme primarily relates to the schools relative isolation and the management insistence for compulsory school line ups throughout the day. Sometimes this can make students feel like they’re prisoners rather than students.

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University Programme

Captial University of Physical Education & Sports is one of Beijing’s premier Martial Arts Training Universities providing top-ranking conditions for international and domestic students. The university is supported by Hanban and Confucius Institute offering Chinese Language Learning Programs, Martial Arts University Programs, TCM, Sports & Health Care Programs.

The University offers the following programs; 4 Year Undergraduate Programs, 3 Year Master Programs, 3 Year Ph.D Programs, 1-2 Year Non-degree Programs and Short-term Programs.

The Universities Featured Programs are:

1. Chinese Language Programs
The University employs a special team for teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. This team is specializes in training international students who want to learn Chinese Culture and speak the Chinese Language. Class sizes are smaller than other universities and attention and help given to students is higher than at other Universities.  Thjs helps to ensure that students acquaire the language competences sufficent for their speciality studies in China. Small classes of differnt levels are provided as well as one-to-one teaching to meet students needs.

2. Martial Arts Programs
According to the period of study students can expect to study martial arts from martial arts champions who are experienced in both teaching and competitions for performance and also sport.

3. TCM Sports Health Care Programs
The instructor for this program is Ru Kai an assistant professor of Sports Rehabilitiation Department of Schools of Sports Science and Health. He is also the successor and master of Xisui Neigong, Baduanjin and Yijinjing.

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One of the main benefits from studying Mandarin at Capital Sports University is obviously the facilities, access to top coaches plus relatively small class size for language learning.

If you would like to learn more about studying martial arts and learning Chinese check out these great articles.

9 Mistakes to avoid when learning Chinese at a Kung Fu School in China

The things Chinese People Say

 

Timing, Placement and Power

by Sifu Adam Mizner

When I am teaching classes or workshops on taijiquan I always emphasize the three principles of timingplacement and power.

These three skills are not only fundamental to acquiring real world taijiquan skills but are fundamental to the successful application of any martial arts technique.

TIMING

Timing Placement PowerBruce Lee and other famous martial artists often talk about speed as one of the most important attributes of a successful martial artist.  This is not untrue, though I would say that timing is more important than mere speed. It is certainly possible to miss the mark because one arrives too early or is too fast.

Understanding this we should strive to master timing rather than just speed. When we arrive “on time” in this way, our opponent is where we perceived him to be and our technique is neither early nor late.  In tai chi chuan this ‘correct time’ is when the opponent has “fallen to emptiness”, he is off balance and frozen or double heavy.  This is the right time to attack and finish the confrontation. Many attacks delivered with the wrong timing are not as effective as one that is delivered on time, whether it be delivered fast or slow.

PLACEMENT

The skill that is most often overlooked in modern martial arts training is the skill of being in the right place at the right time, not just applying the technique at the right time.  This is referring to the footwork, angle of attack, distance and also the impact area. The training to develop this skill of placement is honed and refined in tai chi chuan within the arena of push hands practice. It is here within pushing hands that we can investigate and ingrain all the different body positions and their advantages and disadvantages.

Push hands allows one to train this in a safe way and to get familiar with the up close and personal fighting range of tai chi chuan, a range that is shared by very few styles, somewhere between the clinch range and the striking range. This taiji range gives us the advantage of being able to strike or throw without changing range and keeps us in a range that most opponents simply are not familiar with.

When you placement is correct you naturally exploit the weakness in your opponent’s structure while capitalizing on the strength of your own.   The application of Da or Fa will leave you in a perfect structure, neither confined nor over extended and the placement and angle of the body and arms should make you as safe as possible, whilst still being able to apply your technique on the opponent.

POWER

It is said in Chinese martial arts that Gong Li or power is the most important skill a martial artist can possess.  I consider this to be absolutely true and in my teaching and training I place a great deal of effort into the development of power.

Just imagine fighting with a small child who has many techniques, has good timing and good placement but lacks power. The child would be unable to finish the fight and we, as grown adults could easily defeat the child simply with power, even with little technique.  This illustrates the importance of Gong Li or power in martial arts.

Waijia cultivates Gong Li with many methods, including various kinds of weight lighting and resistance training, striking bags to develop powerful full body coordination and conditioning of the body to make the body hard and resistant to impact.  Within the Neijia schools the development of Gong li is equally important, however the method to attaining it and the kind of force we generate is very different.  This is where the differentiation between Jin and Li becomes important.  While Li is generated by the contraction of muscle and the acceleration of mass, Jin is generated by the release of tension and the propagation of waves of force through the body.  This topic is beyond the scope of this short article, we can look at it in a future blog.

For practical purposes, in taiji quan the jin is cultivated through the practice of standing pole, form practice and sometimes heavy weapons.  Although the jin is cultivated in such solo trainings it is in the partner practice of pushing hands and fajin that we learn to refine this power and how to apply it with timing and placement. When these three skills of timing, placement and power come together, we have the almost magical looking effortless power that tai chi chuan is famous for.

In the below video you can see a demonstration of timing, placement and power.

Sifu Adam Mizner teaches Yang Style Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan), in the tradition of Huang Sheng Shyan and Yang Shao HouWith his Discover Taiji online training programme you will find one of the most complete and powerful traditional Tai Chi Chuan systems available today.  The programme openly provides all of the tools, methods and training secrets his personal students at the Heaven Man Earth Taiji school have been enjoying.

Yang Family Fajin

by Sifu Adam Mizner

The idea of fajin is highly debated in Taijiquan circles, where some consider it the be all and end all of taiji quan skill, while others who have never experienced it, consider it a fallacy. In truth, fajin is a fundamental method of taijiquan.

No matter what one might think or argue, the fact remains that fajin is a standard part of the tai chi chuan skill set and has been practiced and developed by tai chi masters since the founding of the art until present day.

Below are excerpts from an article by Li Ya Xuan, one of the top students of Yang Jien Hou and Yang Chen Fu, on Yang family fajin.

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1. “Yang Lu Chan’s fajin was empty, leaving the opponent not knowing what happened or how the jin was released. His jin was so perfected as to be called mysterious.”

2. “Yang Ban Hou’s fajin was SUDDEN, like lightning without rain, emerging from nowhere with the sounds of «Pa!». One fajin would send the opponent out many zhang ( 1 zhang = 3.3 meters). His jin would leave people in pain and injured.”1. Yang Luchan 2. Yang Ban Hou 3. Yang Jian Hou 4. Yang Shou Hou 5. Yang Cheng Fu

3. “Yang Jien Hou would use the lightest of touch, his sticking energy was so high that people could not disconnect, then they would be suddenly released like an arrow from a bow.”

4. “Yang Shao Hou’s jin was ever spontaneous and song to the extreme, fast beyond compare. His body skills were mysterious and treacherous like a ghost appearing and reappearing, fooling his opponents so they would have no idea what was happening or how to defend themselves until they had fallen to his jin before even knowing it.”

5. “Yang Chen Fu’s fajin was powerful with great sudden dantien force. Before he would fa there was a deep intention; when he would fa it was like Guang Gong taking off a head with a single stroke…”

6. “Wu Hui Chuan used song elastic energy preferring to use just a little jin to send his opponents out, he did not lose face as a student of the Yang family. His students could produce long jin, both song and sunk, not bad.”

7. “Cui Yi Shi was skilled in fajin both song and sunk. Before he would fa he would inhale one time and use the elastic jin. His jin was song and springy, propelling his opponent away. On release the jin would cause the opponent to release a sound from the mouth as the wind was knocked from them. This is the kung fu of the qi striking the qi.”6. Wu Hui Chuan 7. Cui Yi Shi 8. Li Xiang Yan 9. Dong Ying Jie 10. Zheng Man Qing 11. Tian Zhao Lin 12. Li Ya Xuan

8. “Li Xiang Yan in his youth studied and trained deeply in long fist, after which he followed Yang Feng Hou taijiquan and achieved great gong li. He was dedicated to study and practice and achieved jin that was full and hard, penetrating deep inside the opponent. Later he bowed to Yang Chen Fu as his teacher.”

9. “Dong Ying Jie liked to use Rou Cou Jin, pressuring his opponent from side to side, forward and back until they fell defeated.”

10. “Zheng Man Qing would use light touch and clean sticking energy, entering close with his body before firing the opponent out with jin. He was small but had kung fu and courage and was skilled at penetrating the defense of his opponents.”

11. “Tian Zhao Lin’s kung fu was soft and penetrating, breaking his opponents as they were knocked down, amongst other skills.”

12. “I myself Li Ya Xuan use many strange changes, making it difficult to follow. The jin is fast like lighting. I don’t like to just play sticking and circling.”

As a picture is worth a thousand words and a video worth a thousand pictures, here are some videos of past taiji masters demonstrating fajin,

Wang Yong Quan – student of Yang Jien Hou, Yang Shao Hou and Yang Chen Fu:

Dong Hu Ling – son of Dong Ying Jie:


Ma Yue Liang
 – Student and step son of Wu Jian Quan:


Fang Ning
 – student of Cui Yi Shi:


Yang Jien Hou
 said:

When you hit people with Fa Jin it must cause both your opponents feet to leave the ground and jump back. They should feel pain on both feet (because of jumping) but not on the contact point, they just feel it as soft and fast. This is correct!! “

We can see examples of this correct fajin in the videos above as well as demonstrated by some present day teachers. Real taijiquan fajin is not lost.

Translation: Adam Mizner, from Thai, with assistance from 梁德华, the original translator from Chinese original article from 杨氏太极拳诠真 by 陈龙骧

Works cited: Chen, Long Xian. Yang Family Tai Ji True Transmission. Beijing: Beijing Physical Education University, 2008. Print. 陈, 龙骧. 杨氏太极拳诠真. 北京: 北京体育大学, 2008. 打印

This article was written by Sifu Adam Mizner. 

Sifu Adam Mizner teaches Yang Style Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan), in the tradition of Huang Sheng Shyan and Yang Shao HouWith his Discover Taiji online training programme you will find one of the most complete and powerful traditional Tai Chi Chuan systems available today.  The programme openly provides all of the tools, methods and training secrets his personal students at the Heaven Man Earth Taiji school have been enjoying.

9 Mistakes to Avoid when Learning Chinese at a Kung fu School in China

If you’re studying martial arts in China whether north or South, the chances are you might also be learning the language or at least have it as one of your goals. Whether your motivation is a deeper understanding of your Shifu and the various martial arts concepts he or she is teaching you or whether it is simply to make living in China easier, learning the language makes your experience more colorful and opens greater possibilities. And yes and those possibilities also improve your chances of success with the opposite sex.

This article is specifically tailored to highlight the common mistakes that martial arts students and adventure travelers often make when attempting to learn the language.

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Mistake #1: Assuming the language learning classes at the kung fu school of your choice will be enough to give you a basic understanding of Chinese

Over the past 10 years many kungfu schools in China have developed specifically to cater to international kung fu students. Many of these have divided and sub divided over the years. The result has been many schools are hard to tell apart except for their locations. The heads of these schools through their shared experiences have caught onto the fact that many of their potential students are looking for a total experience. They are not just after expert kung fu tuition from ‘Shaolin masters’ they want language learning classes, buddhism classes, calligraphy and even TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). So with one school offering this the rest attempt to follow suit. Promising to over deliver on value for money with these optional evening classes.

The truth is however, that the optional evening classes most schools offer are generally very basic and only meant to be introductory at best and at worst are poorly structured, and a total waste of time. For the purpose of this article I am going to concentrate on the mandarin classes.

Generally, these are taught by inexperienced translators working at the schools who often have little or no teaching experience. This makes the class itself, structure and content rather random. Another additional challenge you will face is that these classes are often open to all school new comers who have a varying degree of seriousness about learning the language. The result is that every few sessions you might be back to learning, ‘

'Ni hao'
你好

And listening to your new class mates ask questions such as, ‘how do I say you are beautiful in Chinese?’ or ‘how do I say this is too expensive!’

The solution is to not expect too much from the free language learning classes and instead to take control of your own learning.  I recommend you buy structured Hanban HSK Chinese language learning books, Practical Chinese Reader. And work toward completing the HSK exams. This will help you set achievable incremental goals. HSK books generally have a text book, workbook and audio files/cd’s, dvd’s. These books start from beginner level and work up to advanced. HSK Level 1-6.

Using these books as the main foundation for your course material will give your Chinese class structure and provide the teacher with set lessons to help you complete the books.

NOTE: If you would like us to send you any of these books please let us know and we will order them and send them direct to your school so they are either ready for you on your arrival or soon after.

So the language classes at the kung fu schools might not be the best. However, they are great value for money and with the right attitude and some dedication they can still get you the basic Chinese and the foundational level you want.

26BBAE0C00000578-3000324-image-a-13_1426675428565Mistake #2: Not mastering tones

If you speak Chinese without proper tones you might as well be half deaf and dumb. The tones are the foundation of the language so time spent here and reviewing this will really help you get your learning off on the right track. If you don’t almost no one is going to understand you. No one except your classmates and your, teacher, the same teacher that’s used to students mangling his or her language. Once you step outside the warm cocoon of the classroom, everything changes.

But Chinese people can guess what you’re trying to say, right? Wrong.

The reason why is simple but hard to fathom for people who didn’t grow up speaking a highly tonal language — to a native speaker of Chinese, the different between tones is just as pronounced as that between consonants — perhaps even greater. Now, I’m sure you will debate time and time again with your fellow foreign friends but surely the context makes it clear! Trust me save yourself some pain, embarrassment and frustration. Master the tones early on.

Here are some articles that might help speed up the process: Master the Tones and Mandarin Tone Tricks.

In addition to this in the SMA Welcome Pack provided to students who book their training through www.StudyMartialArts.Org we’ll provide you with a Michelle Thomas Audio that will help you distinguish the tones and make you familiar with them in quite a unique way. Green Thumb Up!

Kung Fu Hustle_5

Mistake #3: Not learning characters

What about characters — won’t leaping over them help you reach conversational fluency faster? Sure, in the beginning, Pinyin is easier, after all, and you’ll free up time to practice conversation. But characters are nothing if not an aid to your learning at the higher levels. They help you watch TV, get around town, and do pretty much everything you need to live in China without assistance. The other thing is that visual learners find learning characters re-enforces their existing learning.

Wouldn’t living in China be even better if you could read those old kung fu manuals. What price would you put on learning the ancient buddha palm? Like in the movie ‘kung fu hustle’?

It is true however that not everyone is interested in characters. Maybe your goal is just simple conversations for the heck of it. In that case you don’t need to learn characters. If you want to get any further, characters will help you when you want to go. And luckily for you there are lots and lots of apps, websites and free materials you can get your hands on to help you learn characters.

Here is a good app for learning how to write Chinese Characters, its called Skritter. Skritter allows you to write Japanese and Chinese characters with a mouse or a tablet and get a score and suggestions on how to improve your handwriting. And here is another app its called Memrise.

Memrise is community based learning app that uses images and science to make learning easy and fun. It does this through connecting audio, imagery, pinyin and character recognition.

Mistake #4: Not being consistent and persevering

Use all the opportunities available to you to learn. Pick a day each week where you force yourself just to use Chinese. The trick is to use the language when the opportunity presents itself. Immerse yourself in the language and the country and enjoy the experience. To do this you must be consistent and persevere. Making a learning plan with set learning goals for each week will definitely help but remember having goals is not the be all and end all.

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Mistake #5: Focusing on progress over process

Having goals for learning Chinese is fine, and can take you a long way on the path to fluency. But you may end up going crazy long before you reach your destination. That’s because a realistic expectation for learning Mandarin to true fluency might be five to twenty years!

It’s easy to get discouraged when you make mistakes or don’t see rapid progress. So what can you do to stay sane?

First, accept that you are not Chinese, and even after years of hard work you’re still going to make stupid mistakes. The more the better, as we’ll talk about in a moment.

Second, enjoy the journey — make your goal using Chinese instead of mastering it. Focus on today, not where you want to be next year. That doesn’t mean abandoning long term goals or not setting them at all. It means focusing on the here and now and being happy with your current level of Chinese and using it. And you can do that by avoiding a common mistake that Chinese language learners make:

Mistake #6: Not making good Chinese friends

If you’re really going to master the language, you need to get out there. That’s because language can’t be completely built within the warm confines of a classroom. You find the missing pieces by getting exposed to real Chinese. A lot of it. Making interesting Chinese friends is one way to get this exposure. If you feel awkward speaking to your Chinese friends in Chinese, you need to make more friends or learn more Chinese, or both. When you find a friend who doesn’t mind speaking Chinese with you, see if you can get them to correct some of your mistakes. This is the advice that Tim Ferris gives best, from Why Language Classes Don’t work: “Make it your goal to screw up as often as possible in uncontrolled environments. Explicitly ask friends to correct you and reward them with thanks and praise when they catch you spouting nonsense, particularly the small understandable mistakes. I was able to pass the Certificatdo de Espanol Avanzado, the most difficult Spanish certification test in South America, in eight weeks, which is said to require near-native fluency and years of immersion. How? By following the above fixes and making more mistakes in eight weeks than most make in eight years.” – Tim Ferris Make as many mistakes as you can, and try to get people to point them out to you. It may be awkward at first, but it’s the best way to improve your speaking. But like you wouldn’t jump into the Amazon without learning how to swim, you need to learn the basics before putting yourself out there. One way to do so better is by avoiding this common mistake:

Mistake #7: Not using the best learning materials available

Most people think that having a great teacher is more important than having a great textbook. Personally, I agree with Tim Ferris and what he says in the article linked above: great textbooks + an average teacher > average textbooks + an great teacher. Whether or not you take formal language classes, the best learning materials will help you learn Chinese better.

Here are three sources I highly recommend:

1. Chinesepod.com — Their podcasts and other audio aides make this the best choice if you can’t attend real classes or get much time with a good tutor / language exchange partner.

2. Integrated Chinese (Princeton University Press)– This is the most thorough textbook introduction to Chinese I know of. If you learn everything in the first two year’s worths of books, you’ll have succeeded in building a good foundation for later learning.

3. Fluentu is a website with the best Mandarin Chinese video content. It’s fun, timely, and ideal for Chinese learners. It has Chinese movie trailers, Chinese music videos, Commercials, and Business Chinese videos. No matter what your interest or level of fluency, we’ve got what you’re looking for.

Learn-Chinese-in-China

Mistake #8: Settling for poor classes

A bad class can sometimes be worse than no class at all — spending time and energy on average classes and with teachers who force feed you the same lessons or that have no imagination or class structure is not something you want to do. So take control of your learning.

The quality of the textbooks — Don’t settle for poor texts use New Practical Chinese Reader to being with.

The size of classes — For the most part will be small. The problem is the numbers are likely to fluctuate throughout the year during peak and quiet times at the school

The levels of classes — Most schools will have only one level it therefore will be up to you to put a case for adding extra levels. The most likely solution will be that you recommend the school has 1 level for beginners and new arrivals and another for students serious about learning Chinese.

If your teachers have experience teaching foreigners — part of the reason these classes can be so frustrating is that its likely your teacher will be totally clueless about teaching foreigners Chinese — by forcing the structure of a text and workbook you can limit this. Finally, don’t make this mistake as you will need it:

Mistake #9: Not using kickass tools for learning Chinese

There’re many tools for learning Chinese online. But these are some of the very best:

1. Google’s Character writing software There’s no better character input system than Google’s Pinyin input system. It reponds fast to your typing, guesses what characters you want incredibly well, and allows you to type out strings as long as you want. All that means a really convenient way of typing Chinese.

2. Chinese Pera-kun Have you ever wished you could hover your mouse over a character or group of characters and see its pinyin and meaning instantly? Well, a plugin for Firefox, and google chrome Chinese Pera-kun, can help you do this. It’s not perfect but it comes close.

3. Anki

This fantastic piece of SRS software”) lets you keep track of everything you’re learning and study it efficiently. If you’re starting out learning Mandarin (or any language), I’d strongly recommend using Anki from the beginning. If you’re already some way into the language, start creating flashcards as soon as possible. Anki’s cool because it’s fairly easy to get up and running, but the more you use it the more you come to realise how deep its features and capabilities go. It can’t do everything for you, but it can make the time you put in much more effective. If you use nothing else from this list, use Anki.

4. Sinosplice John Pasden’s blog Sinosplice has a collection of very clear, accurate guides for learning Mandarin, particularly for the early stages. You can save yourself a lot of time by reading these and getting a few things right from the beginning (particularly tones and pronunciation in general).

5. MDBG & Pleco A good quality free dictionary had to make it on to this list somewhere, and I find MDBG to be the best Chinese dictionary. It’s very fast and reliably online, and it’s also the result of an admirable community project to build a free and open dictionary. I would have put nciku here, but I find it’s either very slow or inaccessible, and when it actually does load, the interface is a overwhelmed by advertising. It has great content but really is hampered by these issues. Pleco is a great free app. It also supports the iPad, while many other iPhone dictionaries don’t. Pleco has an integrated dictionary / document reader / flashcard system with fullscreen handwriting input and live OCR.

6. Tatoeba The Tatoeba project logoDictionaries are useful for quick checks on words, particularly from the target language into your own. But experienced language learners know that to accurately grasp the meaning of a word you need to see it in action. For this you need example sentences, and Tatoeba is quickly becoming the best resource for this. It’s already got a huge database of examples sentences, and more are being added every hour. The thing that makes Tatoeba stand out though is that it’s more than a 1 – 1 list of translations; it’s a web of translations. It’s also a free, community-based project (you might have realised by now that I really like free, community-based projects). This means that if there’s something you don’t know how to express in Mandarin, you can just add it in English and wait for someone to come along and translate it.

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So there you have. Watch out for the mistakes and enjoy your learning. For further information on the best places to learn Chinese, visit StudyMartialArts.Org

Taiji Fajin, Hermetics & Metaphysics

The following modest wooden house is where I stayed in Chiang Mai, Thailand when I trained with Sifu Rasmus. Sifu Rasmus teaches Taji Fajin, Hermetics and Metaphysics in this idilic setting nestled at the foot of a mountain and within ear shot of a buddhist retreat.
Leaving the cold and smog of Beijing behind I headed to Chiang Mai for 1 month of intensive training.Sifu Rasmus courses run from 1 to 12 weeks or longer depending on the content. His students tend to be instructors or masters who are looking to add greater depth to their knowledge or a more internal flavour to their art.
During the training period Sifu Rasmus would from time to time hold his class in the grounds of some of Chiang Mai’s most spectacular temples. In this visual blog I share three of my favorite. Below you will see a picture of an impressive nagga (Nāga, a group of serpent deities in Hindu and Buddhist mythology).

Wat Umong

A place were I began training the air element, metaphysics and meditation.

Wat Umong was built in 1927 by King Manglai of the LAN dynasty underneath the stupa above there are caves and shrines, and in the grounds you can find a garden of broken sculptures and a fasting bodhisvista. A place of tranquility where resident monks provide willing students a meditation retreat.
“Where talking trees have words of wisdom”
The hidden jungle temple of Wat Palad below has a special energy and was overall my favorite temple in Chiang Mai.
“The monastery at the sloping rock, visited by the God of the Earth”

3 transformations at Wat Chedi Luang.

“Please, come to the monk chat”
The ancient temple of Wat Chedi Luang in the centre of Chiang Mai’s walled city is one of the most important temples in Chiang Mai. It houses the ashes of the 14th century King Saen Muang Ma’s father. The big stupa is guarded on each of its four sides by two mythical serpent naga’s at the base and further up by rows of elephants. Peaceful in the evening the stupa vibrates with energy. Monks and nuns chant sutras and welcome conversation with travelers.

Climbing to the top of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

“Wat Phra That Doi Suthep’s Emerald Buddha overlooking Chiang Mai”
I visited this temple on the festival of Makhachkala Bucha. The festival honours the event when 1,250 of Buddha’s disciples congregated to hear an important sermon.Buddhists carry flowers, lightened candles and joss sticks while walking around the stupa three times on the day and night of the full moon in February.
Although this visual bog focuses on the temples I visited while training in Chiang Mai. It would be a miss of me not to say something of my training time with Sifu Rasmus. So I’ll keep it short and simply say that training with Sifu Rasmus was an excellent decision that helped demystify some of the secrets of Taichi fajin, as well as principles and themes explored in hermetics and metaphysics. Overall the course has been a great help for my own practice and I’d like to say a big personal thank you for Sifu Rasmus, guidance, welcome, coffee and of course friendship. Sifu Rasmus’s YouTube Channel – http://www.youtube.com/user/SifuMarkRasmus

Martial Arts & Language Learning in China

If you’ve ever wanted to Study Martial Arts in China, an awesome way to do that would be with one of these combined Martial Arts and University Language Courses.

The benefit of one of these programs will be the practical skills you can learn throughout the experience that can actually legitimately add value to your CV and future employability. These programs allow participants to develop their martial arts and also their understanding of Chinese culture and also importantly the language. It’s a unique way to study with a high level master outside the normal international kung fu school route as that all important Chinese visa will be got through the University.

This video clip above was taken in Yantai, Shandong province. Yantai is a small second tier Chinese City on the northeast coast of China. It has cheap housing and has a good environment. Yantai is famous for a number of kung fu styles including Taichi Mantis, Tongbei quan, Baguazhang and more.

The city itself is a little hot bed of kung fu schools and masters and is well worth a look.

For details of our Traditional Martial Arts and Language Learning programs contact us now! Study Mandarin and Traditional Chinese Martial Arts in China – http://www.StudyMartialArts.Org

Check out Master Sui’s full biography and training schedule here – http://www.studymartialarts.org/master/master-sui-peng-fei/49.html — with Bernard De Premonville in Yantai, Shandong.

Yue Jia Quan training in Yantai Shandong


Yue Jia Quan
 is the Yue family fist directly attributed to General Fei of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).

Yue Jia Quan is a short boxing combat system based primarily upon the principles of combining inner and outer bodies in theory and application. Emphasis is on low stances centreline and body strikes that over power opponents and the efficient use of kicks. This combat style comes from the principal philosophy of the positive and negative and combines the five elements of the heart, liver,lung, spleen and kidney in the human body.

Yue Jia Fist training consisting of:

Forms practice, combat strength and conditioning drills, free sparing, breathing exercises, hard body conditioning as well as active and standing qigong.

If you would like to study Yue Jia Quan with a traditional master with years of actual combat experience as opposed to forms competition experience follow the link. http://www.studymartialarts.org/master/master-sui-peng-fei/49.html

Master Sui Peng Fei is based in Yantai, Shandong. It is a very pretty and relatively small costal city on the east coast of China. At present we are offering serious students the chance to enrole in a 1 year Chinese course, (1 year visa included), plus 1 year training with Master Sui and accommodation in a new 2 bed apartment for 1 year – Short term options with or without a Chinese language course are available on request. Accommodation would either be at the University and a 3-6 month language course would have to be applied for or alternatively with an invitation letter organised through SMA we have the opportunity to set those interested in this up with a Home-stay Family. All this can be done through only through http://www.StudyMartialArts.Org

Master Sui Peng Fei