Category Archives: Blogs & People

Interview with Violet Li from “Violet Li Tai Chi”

One of my goals with Qialance is to connect with other Taijiquan and Qi Gong enthusiasts around the world. And I like blogging. Obviously I had to create a list of the Top 15 Tai Chi Blogs! But I want to go further and learn more about those bloggers. So I hope you are just as curious as I am because I interview them. And this is the talk with Violet Li from Violet Li Tai Chi.

Some of you may know her as the journalist behind the Tai Chi Examiner. Because that platform was bought and she could not write there anymore, Violet decided to start her own thing. I am glad that she continues to share her well researched articles with us. She actually won the Best Media Award at the World Congress on Qigong, Tai Chi, and TCM in 2016!

Violet, could you please tell us a bit more Violet Li Tai Chiabout yourself?

I tried Tai Chi in my teenage years. But I did not find it attractive then. However, I started to learn it serious about 17 years ago. My knowledge and skills took off seven years ago when I started to take private lessons directly from Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei, a 11th Generation Chen Style Lineage Holder.

Which style are you into and why?

I learned Qigong and Tai Chi from many grandmasters of multiple styles. But I study Chen Style Tai Chi most. Chen Style is more rigorous and complicated. So it is more fun to practice it.

What is the biggest benefit you get from your practice? 

I was extremely weak physically from childhood. As a working mother of two children and a traveling husband, I constantly felt exhausted. With Tai Chi practice, I gain so much energy and I am more physical flexible then ever.

Most importantly, the practice of Tai Chi makes me rethink the value of life and it also offers me a different way to view my relationship with the nature, universe, family, and friends. I feel a lot more calm and content.

Additionally, four years ago I used Qigong and Tai Chi to cure myself from a serious shoulder accident without surgery, shots, and physical therapy.

I am also a mother of two children and I can totally confirm that my Tai Chi practice is really crucial for my sanity! And it’s good to hear that you could use your experience to help yourself heal.

Which piece of advice would you give a beginner in Taijiquan?

Find a good teacher. Learn Tai Chi Chuan not just the forms but also the philosophy and principle of it by reading.

Who are or were your most important teachers?

Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei and Grandmaster Effie Chow.

Is there any teacher or master you would like to learn from in the near future?

I consider myself privileged and fortunate since I am a journalist and I have the opportunity to meet and interview some of the greatest minds and masters of our time.

Is there a book you recommend? One you often like to pick up and refer to?

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi even if people do not practice the art.

(Actually, Violet wrote an article about why everyone should read The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi. You can read it here.)

Thank you Violet for this interview and for your enduring promotion of Tai Chi and its benefits!

 

If you want to read more from Violet Li have a look at her homepage here!

Happy Qi!

Angelika

 

Interview with Scott Meredith, blogger at “Tabby Cat Game Space”

One of my goals with Qialance is to connect with other Taijiquan and Qi Gong enthusiasts around the world. And I like blogging. Obviously I had to create a list of the Top 15 Tai Chi Blogs!

But I want to go further and learn more about those bloggers. So I hope you are just as curious as I am because I interview them. And this is the talk with Scott Meredith from Tabby Cat Game Space.

Could you please tell a bit more aboutScott Meredith, blogger at TGCS (Tabby Cat Game Space) yourself?

About me, I have been practicing Tai Chi since age 13 (now 58). I have also learned and practiced many other martial arts in depth such as Western boxing, Chinese Shaolin systems, and Russian Systema.

Wow, 45 years of Taijiquan is quite a long time! You surely tried many things, so which style are you into currently and why?

I have learned most of the major Tai Chi styles. My daily preference is the Zheng Manqing modified Yang Style Tai Chi form, as transmitted by Benjamin Lo. I have explained in my books the technical reasons why I find this particular style to be an excellent embodiment of the core foundational principles of Tai Chi as expressed in the Tai Chi Classic Writings.

I also practice the Chen Style Old Frame and traditional 5 Element / 12 Styles Xingyiquan, which are supplementary internal arts.

What is the biggest benefit you get from your practice?

Tai Chi is known to be good for health maintenance and for instilling a calm and peaceful mind. Beyond those general benefits I find the mental training involved in the experience of the overwhelming torrential surge of internal power and it’s guiding, intensification and shaping by the mind to be of astonishing and endlessly fresh interest.

Which piece of advice would you give a beginner in Taijiquan?

The most important thing in Tai Chi is to learn to relax without sacrificing your mind. A drunk, unconscious or comatose person is physically relaxed but no mind is present. In daily life our mind is present but we tend to get over tense, which constricts the internal power flow. Tai Chi is a way to work consciously on keeping our mind active even while giving up unnecessary physical tension.

That is also one of the main benefits for me: my daily life is smoother when I practice Tai Chi!

Who are or were your most important teachers?

Though I have learned from many great masters, my most important Tai Chi teacher has been Benjamin Lo of San Francisco. I consider his combination of a physically rigorous yet highly principled practice, under a regimen of strict mental discipline with invariant expression of absolute lightness and gentility of touch and approach to be among the highest real-world realizations of the abstract Tai Chi ideals.

You already mentioned that you’ve already written books about Taijiquan. Is there a book you recommend? One you often like to pick up and refer to?

All of Tai Chi is defined in a collection of brief essays that can be considered a single book. Those are called the Tai Chi Classic Writings. These define the art and their principles cannot be departed from while retaining the name ‘Tai Chi’. Apart from that, I have offered more detailed answers to many of your interview questions in my own book JUICE: Radical Tai Chi Energetics.

Thank you, Scott, for the interview and for sharing your martial arts story.

If you want to read more from Scott Meredith, visit his blog here!

Happy Qi!

Angelika

 

Merken

Interview with Rick Matz, blogger at “Cook Ding’s Kitchen”

One of my goals with Qialance is to connect with other Taijiquan and Qi Gong enthusiasts around the world. And I like blogging. Obviously I had to create a list of the Top 15 Tai Chi Blogs!

But I want to go further and learn more about those bloggers. So I hope you are just as curious as I am because I interview them. And this is the talk with Rick Matz from Cook Ding’s Kitchen.

Could you please tell a bit more about yourself?

I’m something of a dilettante. The funny thing about martial arts training is that once it hooks you, it’s like gravity. You may think that you can get away from it, but after a while it always pulls you back. That’s my story.

I’ve been hooked on martial arts since the original Kung Fu series came out on TV in 1972. I immediately signed up for Tae Kwon Do under a high ranking Korean instructor, Won Chik Park. I had little talent for this and was soon distracted by my discovery of beer and girls, but the abiding interest, especially in the philosophy, remained.

In the late 70’s I trained very diligently in Yoshinkai Aikido under Takashi Kushida, one of the highest ranking teachers of that style. For Kushida Sensei, Aikido was really a study of Budo and I like to think that I learned something of it.

My Aikido training petered out as a girlfriend became a wife, a career needed building, kids came along and my parents aged.

About 1980, I learned the Cheng Man Ching style of Tai Chi Chuan from Carol Yamasaki, who was a direct student of CMC when he was in New York. All I can say is that I learned the choreography, the sequence, but didn’t go deeply which I regret.

I have continued to practice the CMC form on and off ever since and indeed this has been a focus for me recently.

Carol Yamasaki is actually one of the Cheng Man Ching students who is in the Cheng Man Ching documentary “The Professor”. I interviewed Barry Strugatz, the director!

Now, how did your marital arts journey continue?

In about 1999 I learned the standing practice, Zhan Zhuang from Victor Chao, a Gao style Ba Gua Zhang teacher. I’ve continued learning from Rick Taracks, who teaches a method called Wujifa ever since. I have continued this standing practice in one form or another to this very day.

I studied Wu family style tai chi chuan under Genie Parker for several years, until I was laid off of a job. I continued practicing and eventually practiced the square form in the small frame style taught by Stephen Hwa.

I also trained at a mixed martial arts gym for a couple of years, focusing on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Wrestling with 20 year old kids is quite a challenge!

Over a year ago, Mark Wiley of Tambuli Publications sent me a book to review, Wisdom of the Taiji Masters, which is about CMC’s students and legacy in SE Asia. After reading that book, I decided to really focus on the CMC form and my standing practice as they suit my stage of life and lifestyle the best.

In wanting to really polish my CMC form, I came across the books and videos of Scott Meredith, a senior student of Ben Lo, CMC’s first student in Taiwan and have been following his interpretation.Rick Matz (blogger at Cook Ding's Kitchen) finished Half Marathon

In addition to the CMC form and standing, I am also a distance runner. I have run in several half marathons and completed my first full marathon earlier this year.

Wow, congrats on the marathon. And I’d say you have a lot of martial arts experience! If you call yourself a dilettante since 1972, I am really a dilettante since 2004!

Which Tai Chi Chuan style are you into now and why?

I have been focused on the CMC form and Zhan Zhuang, the standing practice.

At my point in life and lifestyle, I am most interested in the most stripped down and essential practices to enhance my life. It doesn’t get much more bare boned than these.

What I’m after, what I train for, is to cultivate a calm mind and relaxed body. I see these as the foundation for continuing a healthy, happy and prosperous life into my old age.

What is the biggest benefit you get from your practice?

A calm mind.

I’m too old to get into fist fights, and live and work in what are considered safe areas. Life still happens though.

On the way back from visiting relatives in another state a few years ago, I was driving on the highway passing a car, when that driver suddenly decided to change lanes, but didn’t see me.

I had been keeping an eye on him and when he cut over, I managed to get my car over to the shoulder without going into the median. He saw me then, and returned to his own lane. Through my maneuvering, his car just touched mine.

The policeman who wrote up the incident said that if he had hit me a little harder, or a little further forward or backward, it would have been very bad.

As it was, I was the only one among us from the two cars who was in a frame of mind to speak coherently to the policeman.

It’s for that sort of situation that we cultivate a calm mind.

Oh, I am glad you got out of that situation safely! I think your example shows quite well that practicing Taijiquan is not only useful while practicing it or in a (hopefully never happening) fight. But it really impacts everyday life, too. Like being able to catch a glass before it touches the ground.

Which piece of advice would you give a beginner in Taijiquan?

Relax. Try to practice every day. Keep taking stock of what you are doing and try to improve. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll get better over time.

Who are or were your most important teachers?

Takashi Kushida from Aikido, Rick Taracks from Wujifa and Scott Meredith (at a distance) for my present practice of the CMC form.

Is there any teacher or master you would like to learn from in the near future?

Ben Lo and William CC Chen, the oldest of CMC’s direct students in the US. After their long decades of practice, I am sure each of them has a very good idea of “What really matters.”

Is there a book you recommend? One you often like to pick up and refer to?

My interest is a “practical Daoism.” To that end, a book that applies to many aspects of life, not just martial arts or philosophy is Antifragile by Nassim Taleb.

A blog that I like which provides me with many insights is written by an American who is studying Kyudo while he is in Japan teaching English. It is called Green Leaves Forest.

Thank you, Rick, for the interview and for sharing your martial arts story.

If you want to read more from Rick, visit his blog Cook Ding’s Kitchen here!

Happy Qi!

Angelika

 

Merken

Merken