New Class for Short Form Tai Chi starts May 6, 2024

Announcing New Short-Form Tai Chi Class

New to Tai Chi? Get started, deepen your skills, or just try it out!

Karl Forest demonstrating Single Whip

Single Whip

A new 3-month introduction to the beautiful art of Tai Chi for beginners starts May 6, 2024.

Learn proper structure and bio-mechanics that give this ancient martial art its well-deserved reputation as a health and longevity practice. We will teach you a Yang-style short set that Sifu Ted Mancuso specifically designed which follows authentic and traditional principles. It is also learnable in a 3-month time frame.

Taught by Karl Forest

Learn more and sign up!

 

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Slow Learner

tedrelaxingIn less than two years, I will celebrate my 60th year in the martial arts.

When I started studying, I had no idea or plan to make this a lifetime practice. I joined up for the same reason a lot of 16 year olds do: I was getting bullied at school and I wanted to learn some self-defense. Wait– you mean it took me 50 years to learn to defend myself? Am I just a slow learner, or did I find something else to keep my interest all these years? Honestly, the answer is “both.”

I had learned all the self-defense moves I’d ever need by the time I was voting age (it was 21 back then;) Continue reading

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Deep Practices

art_deeppract3Learning Kung Fu can be a unique experience or, if you are not paying attention, it can be just another subject with the same tired educational template thrown over it. By a “unique experience” I do not mean the kind advertised on vacation posters. I mean an experience that shoots through your veins and hovers over your skin. I mean unique, not in the sense of “really good,” but “one of a kind.” I mean deep.

Kung Fu is not the only tree that bears this luscious fruit. But I believe that to satisfy the idea of ‘deep,’ a practice, discipline, study or exploration must be somehow firmly rooted in our basic humanity, and probably supported by hundreds or even thousands of years of thinking and tinkering. These pursuits often loop back into life with their lessons, then loop back out to inform further participation. Continue reading

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Bridging: Engagement in Traditional Kung Fu

Comes a moment in every martial student’s practice when their focus shifts from attaining perfect posture to one effecting meaningful transitions. Or, better to say: There SHOULD be a moment in each martial student’s practice when their intent moves from picture-perfect postures to efficiently applied transitions.

Don’t get me wrong: the pre-structure of postures — from the correct weighting of the stance to the lowering of those shoulders around the ears to the intentional bend of the elbow and wrist — are all important. But I have seen teachers who put way too much emphasis on attaining these perfect mannequins — even to the point of blowing up old book illustrations to human-size for comparison, while de-emphasizing the movement between the postures. Those transitions are where kung fu often happens; everything else is voguing.

Probably the most significant feature that distinguishes the sophisticated from the beginning student is the skill of going from here to there and back. The study of these transitions is the gift that keeps on giving. The subject is too large for one short article, so I will restrict myself to just one method, “bridging.” In these almost magical moments, bridges reveal themselves as a kind of prestidigitation, the truth that actively shapes what they create, including the postures themselves. They catalogue the human highway with its hundreds of connected byways.

Bridging, simply, uses your and your opponent’s body to close the gap between you. The amount of power should be negligible — it is not a bump, shove, or strike. It relies on touching, continuing, sticking, wrapping, checking. As with the most effective kung fu movements, bridging is both defensive and offensive.

In a recent Kung Fu Skills class at the studio, I taught a lesson on bridging, and caught footage of some examples. You should be able to see sticking — following and shaping along the opponent’s body; contouring — using the opponent’s shape against them; leaking and sealing — recognizing and taking advantage of openings in the opponent’s structure. The sound is not perfect (it was a spontaneous shoot) but we hope you enjoy some highlights from this class.

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Qigong: 10 Points for Body Control

A very long while back, we published a 30 minute video on 10 points for controlling the body in Qigong. Over the years, this was one of our most popular DVDs — it is simple, accessible, and provides solid information for any martial artist wanting to understand basic Qigong structure.

The information is ageless, but videographic technology is not so compliant —thankfully, our skills and equipment have improved over time — so when it came time to reproduce a new batch of DVDs, we decided instead to offer this vintage video for free. Yeah, there is a blue tint to some of the film, and it definitely qualifies as lower-res compared to the quality gotten from newer cameras and even phones. Still, we hope you enjoy it.

 

By the way, if you are interested in Blossoms in the Spring, the book/DVD mentioned in this video, we have it on sale at the moment, HERE

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Tai Chi Chuan For Health Class Returns September 5

It’s that time of year again!

Narrye Caldwell’s popular 3 month class on Tai Chi will return on Sept 5, and for the first time class will meet twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, 9 – 10 am. This will give students more time to learn, practice and really understand the movements and structure of this essential practice.

This workshop is perfect for beginners, as well as for students with some experience who want to deepen their practice. She will also incorporate a bit of Qigong practice to support the well-known health benefits of Tai Chi.

Class size is limited, in order to assure that students receive individual attention.

Narrye brings more than 40 years experience in Chinese medicine and Tai Chi to her teaching.

To read more about the class, and to register, Click HERE.

(The Academy follows Covid protocols for the health and safety of students and staff.

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A Very Short Lesson on Bagua Zhang’s Reeling Silk

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Kung Fu Has No Corners

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Mat of Asphalt

The pandemic shifted everything, even our martial arts practice. Here at the Academy of Martial and Internal Arts in Santa Cruz, the most prominent change has been that we now train outside in parking lot. I know we’re not the only school to do this because I’ve passed others doing the same thing. Some schools lay out mats, but we don’t bother because the bulk of the curriculum at the Academy doesn’t require it.

I love training on asphalt. For me personally, it’s a throwback to when I first began training Kung Fu at Lam Kwoon way back in the 70s. We trained in the parking lot there too.

But before I go on, I’ll take a ‘teaching’ moment to explain the term ‘Lam Kwoon’ for any newbie readers. Lam (林) literally means ‘forest’ but it is also the surname of the Northern Shaolin master that Sifu Ted, Sifu Linda, and I all studied under, the late Lam Kwong Wing (林广荣). He became known in America as Wing Lam, which was an unconventional shortening of his Chinese name but in retrospect, it helped non-Cantonese speakers avoid his more alien Kwong. Lam Sifu was from Hong Kong, so he spoke Cantonese; In Mandarin, his name would be pronounced Lin Guangrong. Continue reading

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Defending The Self

As the story goes, a young boy wanted to avenge the murder of his parents, so he went to a sword teacher and begged to be accepted as a student.

“How long will it take me to train myself to be a warrior?” the potential student asked.

“Seven years,” the teacher advised.

“No, you don’t understand. I want this so much that it’s in my blood. I will train day and night, never stop practicing, completely dedicate myself. If I do that, then how long will it take?”

The teacher looked for a second at the boy standing in front of him, then said, “In that case, 14 years!”

People often come to our Academy for self-defense lessons. This is invariably because they have images in their heads: either scenes from martial arts movies, where they would like to star, or pictures of fear-filled confrontations which they would like to avoid.

In the search for self-defense, they also have ideas and limits built into the scenarios.

“I only want the defensive part.”

“I want to be able to respond just enough to neutralize the attacker.”

“I only need to be aggressive on Tuesdays, and passive on the weekends.”

This is natural, of course. But Americans have a funny consumer orientation to everything. So many products are touted as being “easy” and “convenient” — why can’t the martial art be the same?

But the martial arts spends time on the self itself. It tempers the temperament and performs its subtle alchemy with each repeated punch and kick. It sets personality aside for awhile, and pursues true nature.

Quick self-defense courses are useful as is any emergency training. They show the rudiments and, if you’re lucky, the moves you will learn will fit the circumstances that arise. But real self-defense is an inner technique and an awareness that has to be cultivated slowly. In fact, one of the best ways to learn self-defense is to forget it is self-defense and enjoy the art and physical training.

Understanding this, martial artists for centuries have practiced things that look very un-martial: beautiful moves, quiet meditation, disciplined reflection. The idea isn’t just to protect the treasure of self, but to invest in it. The body becomes stronger and learns to defend itself, then the personality is free to grow.

As Raymond Chandler wrote: “If I weren’t tough on the outside, I couldn’t survive. If I weren’t soft on the inside, there’d be no reason to.”

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Kaz Checks In From Humboldt

Got a nice letter from our gone-but-not-forgotten student and friend, Kaz, who moved to Humboldt a few months ago. Here are some excerpts:

How are you guys?  I miss you!  We are pretty settled in up here, and generally loving it!  Moving really discombobulated me; I was out of sorts for a couple of months, but now I’m feeling pretty good.  It is beautiful here, a land of vast forest, rivers, coastlines and fog.  I’m beginning to find some favorite outdoor places; in Santa Cruz I spent a lot of time at the river and the beach, but because it’s been cold and wet I wasn’t getting much outdoor time up here so far and that was contributing to my funk (as was having to work a 40-hour a week job again after a decade of treating patients and having my own schedule.  Yuck!).

But for my birthday I spent my first whole day in the sun, at the Samoa dunes, and for the first time since moving I felt like everything was going to be OK.  Naked Kung Fu Guy even made his first Humboldt appearance!

One of the things I miss most about Santa Cruz is training at the Academy, and the community around it.  I’m feeling this great regret that I squandered my time and opportunity while in Santa Cruz, that I should have trained harder so that I could have learned more from you (this includes you Debbie!  If Ted is the paterfamilias and Linda the gruff warrior grandma, then you are surely the beating mama bear heart of the tribe).  I miss class, I miss hanging out with Gene and Nick, and I will really miss watching little Archer grow up and take his first steps (and kicks, and rolls, and stances).

There’s a little park right across the street from our house, and I’m happy to report I am training again!  I always do some standing, some circle walking, lots of pi, always bagua, sometimes yin shou, bagua tui, long fist, or staff/spear/sword.  Though I am a dense student, I am really appreciating what I did manage to learn under your tutelage!  You’ve given me a lot to work with.  Ted, I remember so clearly I asked you once long ago if some move we were doing was a strike or a block, and your response was, “It’s a shape.”  Now, more and more, my experience of practicing kung fu is that it’s a practice of forming my body into shapes, and mastering the fluid transitions from shape to shape, so that at any given moment you are able to express/absorb/deflect force.  And if you practice a lot, you are conditioning yourself, you are making a body and honing a mind that’s able to do that well.  So that’s what I’ll be working on.  Hopefully at some point someone will materialize that I can do partner practice with.

Anyway, I just wanted to check in!  I hope you are all well, and hope I can make it down to Santa Cruz sometime to say hi and work out!

Best,

Kaz

PS Check out my newly re-treaded FeiYues! Everyone raves about these shoes but I was disappointed how quickly the soft rubber soles wear out. A mountain bike tire, a bunch of Shoe Goo, and homemade leather-foam insoles for comfort, and they’re reborn for (I hope) years of use!

 

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The Role of Continuous Movement in Yang Style T’ai Chi Chuan

~Reprinted from T’ai Chi Magazine Millennial Issue, February 2000


At one time T’ai Chi was known as River Boxing (He Quan). The reason is obvious, even to the non-player. T’ai Chi’s smooth, continuous flowing motions move along like a gentle mountain stream turning and tumbling occasionally but never halting its fluid progress.

And to make progress in this art we often return to the set, as to a favored poem, to refresh our remembrance and to gain new insights.

Each of T’ai Chi’s honorable styles has a unique character. But the definite trait of Yang style is its emphasis on smooth and continuous movement. At first blush this appears relatively simple. Set up your metronome and proceed, keeping at an even pace throughout the form. But in a tighter view we recognize that the task may sound easy but, like that mountain stream, there may be a few slippery rocks to navigate. Continue reading

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Ted performing Mizong (Back in the Day)

Mizong Kung Fu is also known as Lost Track Style. It is known for its quick changes, deceptive footwork and unusual walking patterns. Like many Northern styles, it is extended, expressive and graceful.

Here’s a short clip from the early days at the Academy.

 

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It’s Alive!

Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor covid has been able to stop our new book by Sifu Ted Mancuso, “Hawk Splits Sky: Jibengong Practice, Bagua Zhang Mastery,” from publication. But it’s not like the forces of nature haven’t tried really hard.

Nonetheless, the boxes of books and the spindles of DVDs are now arrived, and you can CLICK HERE to read more about our project, and to order at our introductory price.

Woohoo!

Oh, and for the first month (until January 15), if you would like an autorgraphed copy, just ask.

See Below for more info…

Here is a short interview with Ted Mancuso on the project.

Q: Your new Bagua book, “Hawk Splits Sky: Jibengong Practice, Bagua Zhang Mastery” is finally about to come out. I know you’ve been working on it for quite a while. How does it feel?

A: To be honest, I’m very happy that it’s over, but I also have a little trepidation. Of course, that’s true with all the books that I produce; I always wonder: Are they good enough? Did I explain clearly? Do the pictures work? Or, is someone going to read it and say, “This guy Mancuso is an idiot?” That kind of stuff.

But this book especially concerns me. (Jiben)Gongs in martial arts can be difficult, because so many think they know them already as, say, Basics, so they process the concept intellectually before they practice the Gongs physically. In other words, if I say, “This is a book on Jibengong,” some are going to say, “Of course. That’s what you need to get good at Bagua — that and walking the circle of course; Basics are everything!” But Jibengongs are not Basics.

The gongs that I chose for this book come right from my classes; they’ve worked for years. Some of the Gongs may not initially resemble Bagua — possibly more like Xingyi. Some of them may embrace too large a concept, such as Open-Close. Others, of course, will be easily recognized. But because Gongs are both practice and concept, they can be difficult to wrap your mind around.

Q: Well, in addition to the book, you also include more than 3 hours of DVD.

A: That was our idea from the beginning: to give practitioners enough real-life examples of using the Gongs in order to play with the concepts.

The two DVDs are meant to do several things: first, of course, to teach the Gongs themselves, then to employ Usage to incorporate the Gongs into practice. But the usage DVD…I have to tell you — I’m going to be interested in seeing what people think about it, because it is definitely not what most martial artists are used to seeing on DVD. Now, if they are part of a school, that’s probably exactly the way they see it practiced. The word “practice” is key to this: on the DVD you’ll see our two senior students practicing and working out usage; that means that there are lots of hits, but also misses and fumbles; not everything is immediately accurate. Nonetheless, everything is going towards how to use these gongs, or even the concept of Gongs, to get better at Bagua. So, I’m excited about it, but I’m also apprehensive.

I’ll give you an example: You will see that one Gong emphasizes verticality; another might emphasize Open-Close. You’re not going to see the typical “ ‘A’ punches, ‘B’ Blocks,” in other words. Gongs are practiced concepts, and to get towards ‘correct’ you have to travel in the land of ‘incorrect’ for a long while (not unlike Bagua itself).

 

If you would like to read or view a little about this project and Jibengong, click links below:

Jibengongs and the Bear Palm Gong in Bagua

What Is Jibengong?

Bagua Zhang’s Jibengongs

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Bagua and the Pandemic Pivot

The unprecedented changes triggered by the pandemic are ongoing. Like every school all around the world, the Academy of Martial and Internal Arts is adjusting to the changes. We struggle onward despite these challenges, but there are surely more ahead.

Many cling to a hope for the ‘return to normal’ but that’s backwards thinking in so many ways. Change is normal and we’re undergoing global change right now. Others talk about ‘the pivot’. Here at the Academy, it has me thinking about the Bagua. Perhaps it’s because Sifu Ted has been working on a Bagua book, one that I’m sure we’re all eager to read. But also because Bagua is all about changes and pivoting. It is the essence of that art.

NOTE: Just to forewarn you, this essay will spin in circles, like a Bagua article should. As long as it doesn’t become a downward spiral, we’re good, right?

Those who practice alongside with me at the Academy will find this ironic. Bagua is a major component of the Academy’s curriculum, and it is the one style that I do not partake in at all. My aversion is not out of disrespect. I have tremendous respect for the art. It’s just that Bagua has just never resonated with me. Continue reading

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