Tai Chi, Fascia & Whole-Body Movement

The Internal Athlete

I have always had a deep passion for nature which is one of the reasons why I love Tai Chi so much. In particular I am consistently fascinated at how all of Earth’s inhabitants, from the tiniest of bacteria to the biggest of mammals, are inextricably linked through one vast ecological web.

When running nature workshops for children one of my conservationist friends illustrates this fact by building a working model of an ecological web using many bits of twine. All of the children assist with the construction; each tentatively holds their own a piece of string which represents some aspect of, or creature from, the natural world. All the threads are then tied together to form a delicate three dimensional web and thus the many facets of our ecology are visibly connected and the constant but gentle pressure of the integrated structure is felt by each individual. Pull on…

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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.

A Guide to Teaching English Abroad & Studying Martial Arts

Do you have friends or classmates that have taught English in China, Japan, or Thailand and wondered to yourself, “How can I get paid to live in China,  Japan or Thailand and follow my passion for Studying Martial Arts?”  With millions and millions of people learning English in Asia, the demand for native English-speaking teachers is insatiable and virtually any native or fluent English speaker can gain employment teaching English abroad.  But like any great endeavor in life, moving to a foreign country to teach English and follow your martial arts path requires research, planning, initiative – plus a few tips from teaching abroad experts like those at StudyMartialArts.Org who have experience of combining English teaching with Martial Arts studies.  Take a peak at these 12 crucial tips and pointers for teaching English abroad to help you get started.

teach-english-in-china1. Know that virtually anybody can teach English abroad

With approximately 1 billion people learning English worldwide, the demand for native English-speaking teachers is insatiable and virtually any native or fluent English speaker can gain employment teaching English abroad. Remember this:

  • A background in education or professional teaching experience is not required to teach English abroad.
  • You do not need to speak a foreign language to teach English abroad.
  • Prior international travel experience is not a prerequisite to teach English abroad.
  • A college degree is not required to teach English abroad. But it certainly will help. As more and more people take the English teaching route to discover Asia the market is becoming increasingly flooded with job seekers. With this increase tighter controls are being applied. Visas require more often now those with experience and so a TEFL certificate is becoming more handy. Ultimately, the more qualified and well connected you are the better employment opportunities you will get. Because after all you are here for the most part to study kung fu so the last thing you need is to be stuck in a job that requires too much travel, too little work to make ends meet or too many hours.

Remember that hiring standards will certainly vary from country to country, so remember to consider what countries you are qualified to teach in.

2. Research your tail off

If you plan to move halfway around the world to teach English and Study Martial Arts, you owe it to yourself to research all aspects of your great international adventure to make it as rewarding and successful as possible. To start, focus on the martial aspect. Where is that Shifu you have dreamed of learning from?What styles are you interested in? Also check out this country chart which compares salaries, hiring requirements, interview procedures and visa information for teaching English abroad in more than 50 countries around the world. Also, check out our other articles for more information about teaching English abroad. When you’re ready to start diving into program options, be sure to read reviews and weigh all of the possibilities. Salary, livability, conditions, benefits, time commitments, and the potential for an incredible and positive experience will all play major factors in your decision.

05.brucelee3. Make sure to earn your TEFL certification

Even though you don’t need a degree or professional teaching experience, if you want to teach English abroad professionally, you need to take an accredited TEFL certification course, especially if you have no background in teaching English as a foreign language (our guide to TEFL helps lay this all out for you). An accredited TEFL certification course will provide you with the skills you need to competently run 4-6 classes a day, and will outline the best ESL teaching tools. TEFL certification will also provide you with a recognized qualification that most schools and language schools around the world seek when hiring new teachers. Remember, most schools around the world will not hire you off the street to teach English professionally simply because you are a native or fluent English speaker! One of the biggest difficulties that new teachers face is the challenge of creating fun, engaging, and plenty of activities for the ESL classroom. TEFL courses will give you insight on the types of games and lessons that are successful with different age groups. Get a head start by reading our tips for lesson planning or take notes of the 10 best games for ESL teachers.

4. Consider whether to go with an organized program or independently

Many TEFL training schools do provide job placement assistance and it’s definitely something to check for when researching your options, because quality assistance should insure that you don’t have to pay for a job placement. Many top programs provide it for free with the course tuition. Others may charge additional fees for placement or assistance. Teaching abroad through an organized program is a great option for first-time travelers to a new region, especially if the local language is one you’re less-than-absolutely-fluent-in. For most people looking to go abroad, there are enough jobs and plenty of resources in the way of free job boards, recruiters, and other resources, that there really should not be a need to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a placement. Also, programs that guarantee or receive payment for placements will limit you to job options offered by the program, which are a drop in the ocean of the thousands of job opportunities worldwide that you may be qualified for. If you are looking to teach English in Asia, Russia or the Middle East, you may consider working with recruiters that interview and hire English teachers from the U.S., Canada and elsewhere on behalf of schools in these countries. Typically you should not pay such recruiters for placement. Working with recruiters can make the process of interviewing and lining up a position abroad easier though as they can provide assistance and guidance with matters like setting up interviews and arranging documents for your visa. The key, as always, is to research and work with reputable, well-established recruiters. But be aware, most recruiters who do this will then get paid by the school you work for so their payment could be coming out from your potential monthly wage.

5. Remember: hiring and interview procedures vary from country to country

Be flexible and open to new experiences

Remember demand is high in Asia so schools hire all year-around, nevertheless elementary and high schools recruit primarily during the spring, summer and winter for positions beginning in Jan/Feb and September. Many Asian schools will hire new teachers directly from their home country, this is good for a number of reasons one being securing that all important visa and having the right papers from day one. This means that if you want the security of having a job waiting for you when you hop on a plane to your teaching destination, you should concentrate your efforts here.

6. Plan to break even

This means that even as a first-time English teacher teaching you can expect to earn enough to pay your bills – rent, food, daily transportation, etc. – and live comfortably, though modestly. This means that you’ll be able to travel and go out on the weekends and engage in other personal pursuits like taking language lessons and martial arts. However, this will often be very dependent on luck, your color and whether you are a native speaker. You shouldn’t expect, at least at first, to be making enough salary to put money in the bank at the end of every month. This can take time and it is often 6-12 months before you start earning back on your initial investment, the money you spent on settling in job, hunting and securing accommodation and finding with the right kung fu master.

640x450_thai_boxing7. If you want to make more money, this is possible but very dependent on your qualifications and experience

Most people don’t go into teaching for the money, but if you’re looking to make enough to save for extra travel it is possible with the right qualifications and connections. English teachers can typically make enough to save 30%-50% of their income after expenses, and often receive benefits like free airfare and housing. Monthly savings typically range from about $400 a month in a nation like Thailand up to $1000 or more in South Korea. However, be realistic. More and more these opportunities are limited to those with experience, the right papers and longer term commitment.

8. Consider using a Martial Arts School as a springboard

The growing number of martial arts schools in both China and Thailand offer a great opportunity for the savvy martial arts adventurer to use the schools as a base from which to explore teaching opportunities and of course training with other masters outside the international kung fu school system. To make the most out of these opportunities your current school location or planned schools location will be the key.

Rural schools in the depths of the Chinese, or Thai countryside will not be the most suitable if you’re limited to weekend for finding a school or another master. The good news is that StudyMartialArts.Org offers a great Free consultation service. They can easily help advise you both on potential schools, masters near by and that all important teaching job or employment contact.

9. Set a realistic timeline and plan ahead

Getting a job and moving half-way around the world to teach English or Study is not like choosing which parties you’re going to hit this weekend or selecting what you’re going to wear to the gym – it’s not a spur of the moment sort of deal. While hiring cycles and procedures vary worldwide, you should usually plan on taking 3-6 months from the point when you begin your TEFL certification and job search to actually getting on a plane and taking off to go abroad and begin your teaching job. In some cases, as when applying for government public school programs like JET in Japan. Remember the process of applying, interviewing and making travel arrangements may take 6-9 months or even longer.

10. Be prepared for start-up costs

Teaching English abroad may be the most cost-effective way to live and travel overseas for an extended period, but like most major undertakings in life, it requires a degree of financial planning. Major start-up costs typically include:

  • TEFL Certification: $1,000 – $2,500 for a fully accredited online or in-person class – trust me, it’s worth it.
  • Transportation to your destination country: typically $300-$1000 for North Americans traveling to other continents.
  • Support in your new country until you start getting paid: even if you have a job waiting for you when you arrive, you won’t typically get paid on your first day of work. These expenses can range from $500, if your housing is provided and your job is pre-arranged, to even higher while you interview for a position, wait for the right job, rent an apartment or find a conveniently placed master that you want to study with.

Although start-up costs for teaching English abroad in Asia are typically lower because in many cases you can line up your job in advance, and many schools, particularly in South Korea and China, cover airfare and housing costs. But more than often these are not paid until a trial period has been complete or certain part of your contract. In addition to this as your purpose is not just to teach but also to study kung fu extra complications and few choices may be available to you. This is why some managed programs with initial costs are worth considering.

11. Engage your friends and family

You will need their love and support, and in some cases, their advice and financial assistance. At the same time, don’t let their fear of losing you stop you from going abroad – Mom will just have to understand that you’re going to miss a Thanksgiving or two. The good news is that thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch from all corners of the globe. Email, Facebook and other social media make conversing and sharing photos a cinch, and with Skype, you can enjoy video calls with friends and family as often as you like, for free.

Guilin12. Be open-minded and flexible

If you won’t even consider teaching anywhere but places that are just like the home, you’re only cheating yourself. The fact is that you are unlikely to get a job just like at home. This should not stop you from experiencing the adventure of living and traveling abroad, whether it be in China, Thailand, Japan or anywhere else. Also, bear in mind that you are not limited to one destination – you can always teach in one country or region and then move on to another and as in any field, the more experience you gain, the more opportunities will come your way.


Essentially the only way that you can’t teach English abroad is if you don’t have the initiative to make it happen – so let’s go! That means researching your options, getting a TEFL certification and putting together a timeline. Be realistic and organized, but don’t hesitate to broaden your horizons and take chances either. Moving abroad is meant to be adventure, so embrace it! Inspired by – Go overseas.

SMA School Visit – Rising Dragon Martial Arts School (Part 2)

Arriving in Shanghai a little later than expected due to some technical problems. I walked through Terminal 2’s of Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport and bought my ticket to Zhenjiang. The ticket was reasonably priced at 109 rmb for the 1.5 hour journey. Considering the various transfers and rural transport modes I’m used to taking to visit schools this was going to be a very straightforward journey and one that even the most green western adventure martial artist with little to no Chinese language skills could accomplish with relative ease.

1.5 hours later I was in Zhenjiang and heading to the Xijindu area of the city where I would be meeting up with Scott and would also be staying for the duration of my trip.  Xijindu is located in the northern foot of Yuntai Mountain below a stunning pogoda over looking the city. It’s composed of the Ancient Xijin Ferry and Xiaomatou Street and the area contains the most and best-preserved cultural relics and historical sites of Zhenjiang. The area is picturesque has handcraft shops, restaurants and bars, and more. All of which are blended into a historic setting.  http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g297444-d1724025-Reviews-Xijindu-Zhenjiang_Jiangsu.html

Xijindu Area
Xijindu Area

Normally, when I visit a school I stay in the standard student accommodation to get a feel for the school and also so I can get stuck into the school training with the various masters. This time however, as the school’s accommodation was still being developed and most of the masters have yet to arrive I stayed in a hotel Scott recommend and treated myself to a soft bed and an air conditioned room, which considering the heat was thoroughly made use of.  A room for a night in at the holiday inn in Xijindu works out at approximately 300 rmb per night. For those on a budget hostel accommodation in the same area works out at 55-200 rmb for either a shared or private room.

Rested and refreshed I met up with Scott in the hotel lobby and we headed to a local restaurant also in Xijindu to grab a bite to eat and catch up. Scott explained that at his kung fu school the food was good but simple and healthy so wherever away from the school on business or when traveling he enjoyed eating some of the things he couldn’t get back in Taining, Fujian.

Not one to turn down good food we headed to a local restaurant. and sat down to a 5 course meal for 160 rmb. I figured that the 5 courses and the restaurants relaxing environment would give me ample time and a great opportunity to quiz Scott on his new martial arts school and the challenges ahead.

The awesome food of Xijindu
The awesome food of Xijindu

1. Scott you came to China in 2003 with every intention of staying a year then returning to the UK. What happened that changed your mind? And how did that lead you to becoming the first western to open a residential Martial Arts School in China? “When I came to China I went to a school in Siping. I’d no real idea what it would be like but expected the training to be hard and the quality to be high. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and it was that experience that led me in 2007 to open the Rising Dragon Martial Arts School in Taining County, Fujian Province.”

2. Scott, I remember the first time I visited RDS in Fujian and was blown away by its stunning location and the talented group of masters you’d brought together to teach your western students.  Your school has even performed live on TV with Jackie Chan and has also been featured in Chris Crudelli’s latest kung fu documentary series. With the foundation of such a successful school in Taining why the move? “Since starting RDS my drive has always been to make my school one of the best martial arts school’s in China. Each year the school has continued to grow and expand and I have been working hard to  improve the schools existing facilities and accommodation. As a result I drafted up a redevelopment plan for the site with better accommodation choices a temple within the grounds. These plans were then given the ahead by the local government however, when the recent change in Chinese national and local government happened everything slowed down to a stand still. I guess I just got tired of the small town mentality in Taining.

Chris Crudell visits Rising Dragon School to film a part of his new kung fu documentary series.
Chris Crudelli visits Rising Dragon School to film a part of his new kung fu documentary series.

I’ve worked hard for seven years without a break on the school in Taining and since that time I have continued to evolve.  With that so has my ideas and plans for the school. So now its time for a change.”

3. Okay, so before we move on to the next part of our interview which will be all about your new school and will let our readers and indeed potential future students know about the plans you have for the school, can you first tell us what things you’ll miss about the old school. I am sure there will be lots of returning students visiting your new school that will relate to this and have fond memories about RDS Taining? “Although I have some great memories of the old school, to be honest I’m really not that sentimental about the move. Actually, I’m really excited about the change and can’t wait to move.

When I first opened the school in 2007 I wanted a location that was remote and I found one that was stunning. Now I want something that offers a great environment for studying martial arts but also more of the creature comforts. But if I there was something it would be our mountain training runs. The run was about 5 km and we used to run along a mountain path to a remote lake where you could cool off and swim. Luckily however, the new location is going to be equally as good.”

A view from the mountain path along side the lake RDS Taining students used to run along during special training sessions.
A view from the mountain path along side the lake RDS Taining students used to run along during special training sessions.

The final installment and full details on Scott’s plans for RDS II coming soon…….

If you want to study martial arts in China make http://www.StudyMartialArts.Org your first contact for information on schools, training discounts and travel and training resources all at no additional cost.

Sand Bath: Ibusuki, Japan

BC Roll in Japan

Ibusuki City is located almost an hour train ride from Kagoshima, Kyushu. It’s been on my bucket list for the longest time as this past weekend I finally had the chance to get around to visiting a Sunaburo (aka. sand bath). It’s been a traditional cleansing treatment for the past 300 years, and recently has been working it’s way on promoting itself as one of the most unique experiences on Kyushu.

The weight and natural thermal heated sand is very effective to cleanse the body through perspiration, and improving circulation. The suggested time for a good sweat is at least 10 minutes, however, if it gets too hot they don’t recommend guests push themselves to continue.

Sunamushi Kaikan Saraku

A popular sand bath house in Ibusuki. From Ibusuki Station it’s either a 5 min taxi ride, or a nice scenic 15-20 minute walk along the beach. Walking along the beach…

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Dragon Girls

http://vimeo.com/64671356

Keep your eye out for this documentary charting the lives of three young girls at Tagou.

DRAGON GIRLS is the story of three girls and their life at the martial arts school Shaolin Tagou, China’s biggest Kung Fu School housing 26.000 students. Far from their families, Xin Chenxi (age 9) and Chen Xi (age 15) are fighting an every day battle of discipline, rules and hard physical training. However, despite this Kung Fu is their chance. The girls do everything they can to become the country’s best fighters, to be able to provide for their parents in future and lead a better life than them. Huang Luolan (age 17) couldn’t cope with the training regime of the school. She fled for Shanghai. The girls lead an extremely hard life concentrating on their achievements. But deep inside they have the same dreams as children all over the world have. And no one can take that from them.

SMA School Visit – Rising Dragon Martial Arts School (Part 1)

Exceptionally small tables and chairs at the Qing Tang Fu Restaurant
Exceptionally small tables and chairs at the Qing Tang Fu Restaurant

Last night I went to a Shaanxi Food Restaurant with my fantastic girlfriend that happened to have the smallest table and chairs I’ve seen outside a nursery. Check them out!!

The perfect cup of joe at Beijing Airport
The perfect cup of joe at Beijing Airport pre flight

The restaurant, Qing Tang Fu, serves great suantang shuijiao and is located in Beijing’s Dongcheng District. Here’s a link if you are ever in the neighbourhood and have a craving for their sour soup dumplings. https://studymartialarts.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=338&action=edit .

With a 5am start at the back of my mind and fully satisfied from the delicious food we headed home so I could prepare for my trip. Now I’m chilling out and blogging to pass my time at the airport while waiting for my flight to Shanghai.

So I’m off on another one of my frequent martial arts school visits. I usually concentrate these annual trips to the summer holiday due to other commitments. This time I’m off to meet up with Scott from Rising Dragon Martial Arts School for a tour of their new school location. The school will move to Jiangsu province in September and will be a short train ride outside of Shanghai.

With great transport links to and from both Shanghai and the capital Beijing it will be in easy reach for our SMA international martial arts students as well as those already in China. Situated within a revitalised Taoist site costing in-excess of 10 million US dollars the school will offer a very different experience from the existing site which is currently in one of the most beautiful rural areas I have visited here in China. A number of questions spring to mind for my meeting with Scott. Why the move from the current location having spent half the last decade creating such an amazing school there? How did the opportunity for the new school location come about? What will you miss about the last school? And of course what plans do you have for the new school?

Having talked a number of times to Scott over the last few weeks prior to my trip I can tell he is excited to tell me about his future plans for the school.

A picture of Rising Dragon Martial Arts School. In the picture you can see the students from the schools BJJ class. This is one of the only international full-time martial arts schools that combine Chinese arts stand up game with BJJ's ground game. Check out that stunning location in the background.
A picture of Rising Dragon Martial Arts School. In the picture you can see the students from the schools BJJ class. This is one of the only international full-time martial arts schools that combine Chinese arts stand up game with BJJ’s ground game. Check out that stunning location in the background.

To be continued…….https://studymartialarts.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/sma-school-visit-rising-dragon-martial-arts-school-part-2/

If you want to study martial arts in China make http://www.StudyMartialArts.Org your first contact for information on schools, training discounts and travel and training resources all at no additional cost.

Day 17:3 – Take Responsibility for Yourself.

30 Days of Self Discovery

“I’m still young and health is the last thing I need to think about. It’s ok for me to stay up late, miss a few meals, stuff myself on M&M’s and hang out at McDonalds every week. Oh and exercise? I train my brain with the PS3 and Xbox so there’s no time to worry about fitness. If I really need to do it, maybe I’ll invest in a Wii.”

And so says the brain…my reasoning for more years than I can count.

I realise I’ve been naive, lazy and irresponsible. It’s true I could get away with a lot a few years ago, but now I feel the bite of all those bad habits mixed with late nights.

The good thing is it’s not too late to turn it around. I still have more than half a century to get it right, so I might as well practice it…

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TAIJI SPEAR METHODS ACCORDING TO CHEN YANLIN

Brennan Translation

太極拳刀劍桿散手合〔卷九〕
PART NINE of Taiji Compiled: The Boxing, Saber, Sword, Pole, and Sparring
陳炎林
by Chen Yanlin
[published June, 1943]

[translation by Paul Brennan, June, 2013]

太極扎桿
TAIJI THRUSTING POLE

太極拳中之扎桿。亦稱沾黏桿。或曰十三勢桿。有十三字訣。開、合、崩、劈、點、扎、撥、撩、纏、帶、滑、截。為太極拳中重要功夫之一。其沾、黏、化、拿、引、發、諸勁。與徒手拳式相同。亦異常奧妙。練法分單人雙人兩種。功至深造時。桿卽如手。週身之勁。可直達桿頭。猶如水銀裝於管中。發可至首。收可至尾。斯種扎桿。練法用法。含有畫戟與大槍二種。近人若以之全為大槍者實誤。蓋其未明太極拳中扎桿之效用耳。楊氏扎桿。甚為著名。而楊露禪以之救火。誠奇聞也。(見卷一楊家小傳章內)其與人對桿時。無論拿人發人。皆如用手。人遇其桿。卽失自主。被擊出一如手發。往往不知其所以然。惜此種深奧功夫。今已失傳。考桿之練習方法。計分單人扎桿法。雙人平圓沾黏扎桿法。雙人立體圓形沾黏扎桿法。及雙人動步刺心、刺腿、刺肩、刺喉、四桿法等數種。茲分述於後。俾大好國術餘粹。得以保存。不致復失傳矣。
桿、一稱蠟桿。係籐類。產於河南山東等地。性韌而堅實。不易斷裂。昔時用作槍戟等之把柄。有青白兩種。以白而有皮者為佳。其中尤以長過丈三外。兩根成對。下部三尺各無節。三尺以上所有苞節。均陰陽相對者為最佳。稱之謂成品。如用藏得法。經年愈久。其色愈鮮紅。愛此者每作為古玩。惜此種成品桿子。今已罕見。
[While in Yang Chengfu’s 1931 manual such exercises are explicitly termed as “spear” (鎗) techniques, the word chosen in this book (桿) instead represents the unbladed spear-shaft, and as it is also a different character from the usual word for “staff” (棍), hence “pole”.]
     Taiji Boxing’s “Thrusting Pole” is also known as “Stick & Adhere Pole”, or “Thirteen Dynamics Pole”, the thirteen being spreading, covering, flicking, chopping, tapping, thrusting, deflecting, raising, coiling, leading, sliding, and severing [although there are only twelve in this list]. As one of the major practices in Taiji Boxing, its energies of sticking, adhering, neutralizing, seizing, drawing in, and issuing are the same as with the bare-handed postures, it…

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