Thursday, 26 July 2012

The end of an era as we say farewell to the Journal of Asian Martial Arts

The Journal of Asian Martial Arts has always been a quality magazine that I have enjoyed for many years. Filled with thoughtful and scholarly articles about the many faces of the various Asian fighting traditions - an enjoyable source of inspiration and education. It came as a shock a few months ago to hear from the editor Michael DeMarco that the journal was to cease publication due to cost issues. So ends one of the very best Asian martial arts publications, as my friend Kim Ivy said - a sad reflection of the times on many levels!    
 On a brighter note - In celebration of the journals' two decades of great work the JAMA team are publishing a new book called Asian Martial Arts: Constructive Thoughts & Practical Applications. With nine articles by leading martial art scholars covering history, media, healing, spiritual, and combative components and 27 articles by renowned practitioners of many different disciplines demonstrating their favourite techniques and offering practice tips. I was honoured to be asked to contribute a piece about Chen Taijiquan applications.The cover is fantastic and I can't wait to get hold of a copy.

The journal's new website will be live in a few weeks where you can get hold of  a fantastic archive of articles, with new content to be added. Anyone who loves traditional martial arts would do well to support this project.


Saturday, 7 July 2012

Don't Just Look for the Good Things!

Training with Zhu Tiancai during his first visit to the UK in 2001
We are all striving to improve as we learn - even Chen Xiaowang says he's constantly examining and refining his practice.   Some years ago, another great contemporary teacher of Chen Taijiquan, Zhu Tiancai, stayed in our home for about a month during his first visit to Europe.  One of the things he encouraged us to do was to watch films of well-known practitioners, to see if we could spot any mistake in their practice.  He explained that even if a master's skill is higher than your own,  when you can pick out a mistake, then you have understood something important and can begin to work on this aspect within your own training.  If the mistake is there and you cannot see it, this is indicative of your own level of understanding.  Also, just because you have spotted some deviation doesn't mean you can do better, or that that practitoner's overall skill level is not superb.  Here we are not talking about differences in choreography, but in deviations from Chen Taijiquan's core principles.  Some people never get past the stance of seeing all famous practitioners as perfect and any suggestion that they could be making mistakes as almost sacriligious.  Even highly skilled practitioners have deviations within their forms. Your ability to spot these is indicative of your own level of understanding.  Drawing motivation from the fantastic skills of the famous teachers is great, but do it with your eyes open!