The way our meeting came about was through his chiropractor, Dr. Michael Molter, who was my very first taijiquan student when I began teaching taijiquan and qinna in 1988. One day Dr. Molter showed Diego Sanchez a martial arts technique I taught him, and Diego was impressed enough that he asked if I was available to travel to San Diego to show him some techniques. Diego paid for my round-trip airfare, my meals, and also gave me a place to stay during my 4-day visit to his gym in San Diego.
Diego, Joe, and I spent one morning on the beach as I demonstrated various wrist wraps using qinna. On the last day Joe suggested that we film a demo and put it on YouTube. In the first clip, I demonstrated wrist wraps in response to being grabbed by Diego’s left hand or right hand. Joe and Diego both had sore right wrists from our day on the beach, so I had them only grab me with their left hands for the demo.
Diego had mentioned to me when we met that when he would try to do double leg takedowns on opponents, they would frequently grab one of his wrists, preventing him from completing the takedown. He stated that he didn’t know how to escape that type of wrist grab. I initially thought he was kidding me, as escaping wrist grabs are something that comes up in most fights. So I showed him some basic circular techniques that allow one to break the hold of an opponent.
In this clip, Diego starts to take Joe down with a double leg takedown, then Joe grabs Diego’s left wrist, and then Diego uses the circular motion to break Joe’s hold and complete the takedown. One thing that Diego said was that his goal was to win a UFC belt while using taijiquan techniques.
I would estimate that the majority of taijiquan practitioners are elderly and practice their forms to maintain their health. In the past the martial aspects of taijiquan were the focus, but over the years people have come to realize that taiji has numerous health benefits as well.
In my opinion, those who are practicing for health are doing taiji. Those who practice for health and martial arts ability are practicing taijiquan. Quan means fist, so without the martial side, the art is more accurately described as taiji, not taijiquan.
As a young lad, I was always fascinated with what we called “Indian wrestling.” Fixed feet position, you can’t take steps, and you grasp each other’s hands and try to make the other person lose their balance or take a step. Even though I was not as big or strong as many of my opponents, I became very skilled at it and joined the wrestling team in high school. In the sixties, when I attended high school, very few people were practicing martial arts compared to now.
Whenever I came across anyone who was into martial arts I was always intrigued. In 1969 I began studying Daoism, reading the words of Laozi in the Daodejing. My exposure to Daoism and other aspects of Chinese culture laid the groundwork of my becoming a taijiquan practitioner.
I was living in Santa Cruz in 1978, and one day I saw a man doing a short series of some unusual movements over and over for about a half hour. The way he was moving reminded me of how ocean waves go onto land and then go back out to sea. I also imagined that if someone created movements based on the philosophy of Daoism and the theories of yin and yang, they would look much like what I was seeing this man perform.
I ended up talking to that man, whose name was Arthur Lee, and learned his main teacher was Master Tung Kai-ying for Yang-style taijiquan, and for Chen-style taijiquan, his main teachers were Master George Xu, Sifu Patrick Lee, and “Gene” Chen Jin-hong, who achieved master status in Southern Praying Mantis (南派螳螂) kung-fu.
Arthur became my first taijiquan teacher. I studied with him twice a week for 2.5 hours per lesson, which was private, on and off for the next 20 years. In 1988, after I had studied with him for 10 years, he convinced me that I was ready to begin teaching; however, I continued my lessons with him until the late nineties.
From 1978 to 1998 Arthur Lee taught me the “long form” and “Tung family fast set” of Yang-style taijiquan, and the “simplified form” and “yilu long form” of Chen-style taijiquan. From 1988 through the present I have taught group classes, private lessons, and taught at three different YMCAs in the Bay Area.
In 2012 I came across Chen-style taijiquan “Practical Method” as taught by Master Chen Zhonghua. I stopped practicing the yilu I was taught by Arthur Lee, and relearned the yilu in the manner as taught by Master Chen. Since 2012 I have devoted all of my martial arts practice time to Practical Method.
I seriously doubt he’s on the internet. He doesn’t have a computer, although all of his teachers were famous, and although he has taught many students over the past 40 years, he’s kind of a private guy. I believe he studied under Tung Kai-ying from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s, when Kai-ying moved to the LA area. He studied under George Xu roughly during the same time, as well as with Gene Chen during the 1970s, and with Patrick Lee in the 1980s.
Arthur was a unique kind of teacher. He would always say, “You cannot buy my time.” If he felt a student wasn’t practicing every day, he wouldn’t teach them. If you practiced every day but didn’t improve, he wouldn’t teach anything new. He was a very old school kind of guy.
One day he said I didn’t move my foot in a straight line. I mumbled something like, “No, I’m pretty sure I moved it in a straight line.” He immediately said he wouldn’t teach me again and walked away. I managed to convince him that I meant no disrespect and begged him to keep teaching me.
At one point in the 20 years or so that I studied under him, I ran out of money, and he taught me for free for about 4 months, about 80 hours of private lessons. He never owned a school, and neither sought fame nor recognition. He didn’t care for that or the money. He was basically a poor monk whose main goal was to improve his taijiquan.
When I first came across Practical Method in December of 2012, I realized that there were some aspects that I found to be closer to the principles of taijiquan than much of what I had seen before. There are also some clarifications that Chen Zhonghua’s teacher Master Hong Jun-sheng had made, which in my opinion were very important and necessary clarifications.
Changing to Practical Method was also an easy decision for me based on these main reasons:
Taijiquan techniques most definitely would help someone in the Octagon. Be it redirecting, yielding, issuing power, sticking, leading, etc., all of these can assist one in a fight. There are many martial arts that share some qualities with taijiquan. One thing though that I have heard some taijiquan practitioners state is that if a taijiquan fighter gets taken down to the ground, then his skills will not work. Absolutely not true.
Taijiquan practitioners may not for the most part practice groundwork, but the principles still work whether you are standing or lying down. And as everyone has discovered, when you fight with MMA fighters, you need to have a well-rounded set of skills. Skills like boxing, wrestling, submitting, and more need to be in your arsenal. Could taijiquan skills be a part of that arsenal? Most definitely.
Well, I definitely would like to promote Chen-style taijiquan Practical Method. You can find Master Chen Zhonghua’s videos on YouTube. He literally has hundreds of short videos. Longer videos and instructional DVDs can be found on his website.
Anyone interested in taijiquan or CMA in general would find an amazing amount of information provided by Master Chen. Well worth checking out. Keep on practicing everyone, and peace out to all.
Fighting professional has always been a goal and dream of mine. I have been pursuing it but the only reason that I haven’t committed is the pay. Fighters don’t really make that much money. I live in Silicon Valley, which is the tech mecca and it’s expensive to live here.
For me to train fulltime for a pro fight where I’m only getting paid $800 plus ticket sales doesn’t get me excited. You’re going to be taking damage might as well get paid for it.
Martial arts have always been around my house. My father was a professional boxer in Iran, and we would watch a lot of action movies. Growing up in five different countries I would get into a lot of fistfights because of bullies. I knew I would start doing martial arts but didn’t know when. I played football in high school and after graduating I was contemplating whether to play college football or try something else.
And during a random night at Chipotle is when I ran into Alex Khanbabian, who is part owner of American Kickboxing Academy Sunnyvale. I saw that he had cauliflower ears, so we started talking about martial arts. The next day I went to the dojo and I’ve been hooked since.
As a true martial artist and athlete I try not to be a purest. I don’t just love doing BJJ. I also love weightlifting (Olympic weightlifting) to help with my explosiveness. I love powerlifting to help with my strength. I love to shoot my bow to help with my focus, and whenever I have extra free time I love backpacking and camping to keep me honest.
All these things keep my body and muscles adapting. It helps me with being in the flow state. Some people never change their training and keep doing the same routine over and over and they will keep getting the same results. Your body adapts really well to different exercises and the stress you put it under. I want to be remembered as an athlete and martial artist.
My brother Shah is great. He’s also training in different things. He’s doing a lot of rock climbing and stretching these days. He still gets his jiu-jitsu training in every week.
I had a really great time training with Patrick. He’s very knowledgeable in taijiquan. You can tell he has been doing it for years. Every martial art has a place in MMA. Never be close-minded because you can always learn something from different martial arts, it just depends on what techniques you choose to do. I only trained with Patrick once so I don’t know many of the techniques used in taijiquan.
One of the main techniques Patrick demonstrated was qinna. It could really be useful with clinching or wrist control in BJJ or wrestling. Perfect execution of qinna could setup a fighter for a lot of different submissions such as an arm bar, or a really dominant position for ground and pound in MMA.
The only downside with some of the techniques I learned has to do with bending the wrist. They might be hard to pull off in a sanctioned MMA fight because fighters wrap their wrists and knuckles for extra support, so they might be hard to grab, which qinna requires. In an everyday scenario, these techniques can be lethal when done right.
Another great series of techniques I took with me were “neutralization, stretching, and relaxation,” which easily apply in BJJ. For example, when you’re in a submission, you could give yourself more time to figure out a counter before getting choked. But that’s something they teach you in BJJ anyway. It’s all easier said than done.
The figure 8 techniques are a great way to use your opponent’s momentum. Going with the flow. Even though Patrick is much older than me you can see him move me around with this technique.
Frank Shamrock is a legend in MMA. I had a great opportunity to sit down and talk MMA with him. He’s a very smart businessman, too, so it was an honor to have him share his knowledge.
Absolutely. It’s a new year, and I’d like to wish everyone a healthy and happy 2017, and if anyone is interested in different training or have questions, reach out to me on Instagram.