Seminar in Prague

June 22 – June 24 2018
Taijiquan school Taiji Pod Lupou (Czech Republic) (http://www.taijipodlupou.cz)

Penglujian and Da Lu variations, Yang Style Sword Form
led by Olesya Amacker. 

In this seminar we explored Penglujian and Da Lu variations, such as cloudy hands, elbow, slanting flight, looked for connections between Penglujian and Da Lu exercises. 

In the Sword class we reviewed the sequence of the form and practiced sword exercises in couples.

My greatest thanks go to the director of the school – Vlasta Pechova for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to be part of the school life. Many thanks to the students for creating a warm and positive atmosphere in class.

Trip to California

Just returning from a very productive trip to California. Most of my time was devoted to private lessons for my advanced students in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I also taught several classes for my student of over forty years, Tom Maxon, at his Tamalpais School in Mill Valley. I was very pleased with the progress there and the appearance of several promising beginners. One of Taijiquan’s biggest problems, from a methodological perspective, is the almost logarithmic progression of skill as one proceeds. From a personal point of view, this is gratifying, especially since one’s initial impression of Taijiquan is that one will never live long enough to master it. But it produces a kind of “expanding universe” effect, in which the gap between students is widening, rather than becoming smaller. This effect almost demands a separate class for every student. However, one of the most important and significant features of Taijiquan is that it concerns itself principally with personal interaction with others. Separate classes for everyone, even if logistically feasible, would be completely missing the point. The only solution to this dilemma is for every student to cultivate the skill of learning, not only from his betters, but from those whose skill is inferior to his own. Since my own teachers are either dead or beyond my immediate reach, only this possibility allows me to continue my own personal improvement. On the contrary, I feel that my own technique has done nothing but accelerate in its progress, more and more in the most recent times. The real technique of Taijiquan is a compilation of a great many skills, and a deficiency in any one of them can make the others seem ineffective. Only when one’s progress is well-rounded does this ever disappear, but once the various elements of one’s training start to work together pieces of the puzzle that seemed far in the distance suddenly fall into place, and what was strange and enigmatic becomes somehow natural and obvious. 

This ability to learn from one’s own students, or at least to improve as a result of interaction with them, is possible precisely by virtue of the discreetness and technical rigor of Taijiquan’s various elements, these fundamentals. The good student seeks not only to improve, but to isolate and clarify the reasons for such improvement, in a specific manner. He should not regard any skill to be sufficiently developed until he can completely control its presence or absence in his technique. At this point he can concentrate on those skills most appropriate to the level of his partner, his own discipline providing positive feedback for them without developing bad habits.  As students learn to make use of such sophistication in the realm of personal interaction, they become more and more capable of offering each other positive reinforcement, rather than utilizing a “zero-sum” concept to punish each other for perceived mistakes. Such an attitude, when acted out physically, leads inevitably to a parallel sophistication of interaction on all levels, including those intellectual and emotional, and such an atmosphere resembles, more than any other model, a family. I am happy to say that the Mill Valley school is starting to demonstrate this level of practice.

I suppose that in the first posting for this blog I should introduce myself and present a forthright declaration of my motivation and intentions regarding this website and my plans, both in a general sense and more specifically as they relate to my efforts in Hawaii. My theories and teachings in the art of Taijiquan are increasingly available in books and articles, and serious technical efforts of this kind will be presented occasionally on this website.

My name is Robert Amacker, and I can truthfully say that I have made the study of Taijiquan the central focus of my life, and eschewed the serious pursuit of any other vocation. This was not a conscious decision so much as the result of uncontrollable fascination. From the age of eleven I have pursued the martial arts, first teaching myself Judo, and then being privileged to study Karate from the legendary Bobby Lowe and the manic Gojuryu master Peter Urban, and Aikido from Master Yoshimitsu Yamada. Ten years of such study equipped me with the necessary perspective to appreciate the extreme elegance and sophistication of Taijiquan, when I first tasted the instruction of Cheng, Man-ch’ing in New York City. This was only expanded and confirmed by my years of study with his two talented students, William Chen and Ben Lo, and deepened immeasurably through further years of study with another direct student of Yang, Cheng-fu, Chu, Ch’u-fang.

For the dedicated student of pugilism, of either the Oriental or Occidental traditions, real Taijiquan seems the practical actualization of many concepts and goals. This extends from the literal creation of taijis, a process that eludes the practice not only of most other martial arts, but of most professed masters of Taijiquan as well, to the development of the so-called “one-inch punch,” which is not only a goal of Taijiquan practice, but indeed so integral to one’s overall development that its acquisition is completely assumed as a condition without which much of Taijiquan practice simply makes no sense. Such possibilities were extremely exciting to me, and for over fifty years now I have had the wonderful experience of seeing Taijiquan deliver, decade after decade, on these promises.

However, in my experience the full fascination and resultant dedication possible are only realized through a complete picture of the art, and this is a picture the entire Yang Style curriculum is masterfully constructed to cultivate and reveal. Accordingly, the “mission” to which I previously alluded, and to which my efforts in Hawaii are primarily dedicated, is not only to teach the formal elements of the Yang Style, but to explain how these elements properly fit together to form the complete art.