Choice Videos: Tai Chi, Aikido and Fencing

Recently I had a yen to see what good viewing I might find in martial arts videos around the web ( at least in the realms I’m acquainted with) and bring them back to this blog.

I’d like to start with a common perception of tai chi as a martial art in this presentation of …Tai Chi Masters!

I’m not sure what the mouthful of white milk is all about…

Moving on from the ridiculous to the sublime, here’s a video of Cheng Man Ching teaching and playing push hands many years ago in New York City. Senior student and teacher in his own right, Ed Young, stands by to translate with a microphone.

The video gives a sense of the Professor as not superhuman, but very poised and balanced.

I’ve admired other tai chi video chronicles of Mike Martello playing push hands with masters in Taiwan. Here’s one I hadn’t seen:

“Push hands” is really kind of a misnomer. It should be something more like “sensing hands” or “by touch I know you hands”…

In this next video, one can see power and relaxation working together. The demonstration does suffer sometimes from “too sensitive/anticipating” students.

It does bring up the matter of what push hands is for… it shouldn’t be thought of as fighting. It’s a kind of wonderful training that teaches your body and mind to listen and respond with right timing.  It’s a laboratory.

Alright, on to aikido, but first with a sort of push hands slant. An aikido group is using a kind of push hands or sensing hands to teach awareness of the other person’s balance:

I think they would benefit from a more standard form of push hands… the way they’ve chosen lacks connection, but you can see how much fun they’re having. The first time I did push hands, the laughter just bubbled out of me, the enjoyment was so huge…

This also highlights one of the difficult aspects of traditional aikido training. Typically, you pick up the sense of relaxed connection and awareness of your partner’s body only through many long hours of training as a kind of by-product of efficient movement.  It’s relatively easy to pursue the wrong path of using a lot of muscle; and bad habits are hard to change. The kind of sensitivity and awareness that push hands teaches is often left unspoken, although you see it regularly in the old senior teachers.

You won’t find undue strength at work in the next video, only a squirrel surprise:

Here’s a clip of O Sensei, the founder of aikido, moving very well at an advanced age. What I especially get out of this is how he immediately moves to blend with his partner as soon as his partner begins to advance.

You do have to remember that this is a demonstration and not a fight.

To show a little more of the dynamism of aikido here’s a clip that concentrates on the technique of irimi-nage (entering):

The demonstrator is Christian Tissier of France, considered a shihan or master teacher.

Moving on to my last martial art, fencing. Well, actually it’s nowadays more of a sport than a self-defence discipline, while also persisting as a theatrical art:

That has some of the best movie sword work I’ve seen. Basil Rathbone seems to actually be able to fence, although the script requires him to be run-through in the end.

Modern fencing has evolved (or devolved) into a kind of linear back and forth tag as the following shows.

Foil fencing in particular is so fast it is hard to follow and machines are necessary for accurate scoring of hits. As artificial as it is, though, I think it still can teach us martially, especially with respect to feeling the distance between the two parties.

There are those trying to return to the old ways:

There are a number of groups trying to revive aspects of traditional western martial arts.

Finally a comparison of the old and the new.

Unfortunately, human beings like to fight.

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2 Comments on “Choice Videos: Tai Chi, Aikido and Fencing”


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