Many teachers teach form

Master George Xu distinguishes his approach by taking his theory of applying the movements of predatory animals to martial arts training. He says that most masters don’t explain how a style is effective. Either they don’t know it or they don’t want to share it. In contrast, Master Xu combines his theory with basic training techniques. In describing the art of the predator, he shows learners not just how an animal moves and how that can be applied it in martial arts. He encourages to put yourself in the place of the tiger or the lion, and become the essence of their art. To be wild like the wind. To raise the shen in an instant like a predator in the chase.

I studied with Master Xu for about 20 years until the pandemic hit. I still get considerable exposure through new video lessons on his patreon.com site (Students of Master George Xu hosted by Dr. Tim Dymond) and on YouTube.com (Golden Gate Lion Tiger).

Learning and the martial mind

pushing hands

As a tai chi instructor, I find that beginning tai chi learners almost always find even the slightest amount of new information a lot to absorb. I tell them to trust that it will come, because it always does, and they are always amazed when it does. Even after a few practice sessions they see a difference. The mind becomes more clear on what the person is learning. The feeling is one of satisfaction and optimism for the future of practice.

At an early stage of learning tai chi, I started to think that my teachers were going too fast in class. I thought they were asking too much too quickly. At first it seemed that they were not taking into consideration the limitations of the students. They were not sensitive to the needs of learners. How can a person learn if the teacher goes too fast for them to integrate the information being transmitted?

But as time passed and training continued, I came to see a lesson in it. To reason this out, I thought they must know something that I don’t and there is a legitimate teaching methodology there. They have not conveyed that, but I never asked either. Maybe it doesn’t matter. I have had to figure things out for myself and that is a good thing for every student of tai chi. Sooner or later you must be your own teacher.

The lesson in the teaching, I concluded, was that the fast delivery of new information flooded my senses so much that in order to make room for the new knowledge, I had to let go of habitual mental positions I had been harboring. The experience was hectic, but I eventually realized the value of this flood of data for opening my mind to new possibilities of movement and awareness. I had to make room for new knowledge in mind and body.

Whether my teachers intended this consciously or not, I cannot say. Perhaps it was purely intuitive. Maybe the trick is in how the student chooses to see the opportunity being offered despite intentions—take the path of a true martial art mind and work through the obscurity of learning.

Eventually, the idea of seemingly rushing students through learning tai chi became a another lesson in how one must be quick in an actual martial setting. You must be fast and explosive in threatening situations. Maybe it’s a good thing when the teacher presents information faster than you are able to assimilate it. There will be time for absorbing afterwards. In the moment, one must act, let the body absorb the experience and preserve that knowledge for analysis later. Don’t think. Don’t feel violated. Don’t feel unfairly treated. Act with a martial mind.

George Xu bio

George Xu · Chen Style · Lan Shou Shaolin ·10 Animal Xing Yi 

George Xu (Xu Guo Ming) started martial arts training in 1966 with Zhu Hong Bao, in the three Muslim styles in China: Xing Yi 6 Harmony, 10 Animal Cha Fist, and Chi Shu 7 Postures. Following that he studied with Zhang Qing Lin, a Snake Bagua Master, in this very unique system. He studied the Lan Shou System with Qing Zhong Bao; Cotton Fist with Yang Tian Gui; Chen Style Taiji with Shuong Guang Ren, a student of Chen Zhao Kui, Ma Hong, and others; Yang Style Taiji with Shi Wen Deu; and Xing Yi Master Yu Hua Long. His boxing teacher, Zhang Li De, was the undefeated Middleweight Boxing Champion from 1951-57. He graduated from Shanghai Normal University in Mathematics.

In 1981, he came to the United States and began a long career of teaching and bringing Chinese masters not only to the United States, but also exposing the art of high level practitioners to Kung Fu enthusiasts worldwide: Zhou Yuan Long, Chen Style; China Heavyweight Champion Liou Wan Fu (full contact); Ye Xiao Long, Lan Shou Master, Yang Style Taiji Master; Ma Hong, Chen; Wang Hao Da, Wu Style (student of Ma Yueh Liang); Lu Gui Rong, Wu Hao Style; Qian Zhao Hong, Xing Yi; Wang Zhi Qiang, Yang; Yun Yin Sen, Liu He Ba Fa; and Ji Ah Dong, Yang StyleTaiji.

Tai Chi movement, qi and yin-yang equilibrium

The word Qi (pronounced “chee”) in Chinese refers to vital energy and is found everywhere in nature. The Chinese refer to Heaven Qi, Earth Qi, and Human Qi. In learning tai chi, when we talk about Qi, we often talk about Yin and Yang— two opposing, but complementary, forces that are seen in endless variations. Taijiquan and Qigong are activities that you could think of as exercises, or methods, for working towards a balance of yin and yang in the relationship between our minds, qi, and bodies. I lead tai chi practice with these relationships in mind.

According to Chinese thought some of us are too yang, some too yin, generally speaking. The movements introduced in practice can help balance out your Qi whether you are too yin or too yang.

You can be both at the same time, as well. Too yang in some aspects and too yin in others. For example, you may be too yang in your Qi and too yin in your physical body. As Yang, Jwing-Ming writes in The Root of Chinese Qigong, “A person who seems to be externally strong and healthy may be weak internally” (p4).

Either case can result in the whole being being weakened. Most of what I teach focuses on both external and internal exercise with mental concentration, or mind practice. You’ve probably heard of mind-body connection. I try to bridge the mind and body with what is often the missing link in rebalancing one’s being—vital energy. I truly believe that the motivation to learn and practice tai chi comes from feeling the need to rebalance your energetic configuration. It’s marvelous that tai chi movement performed with mind intention can result in profound shifts in mental, energetic, and physical equilibrium.

A Basic Tip

The mind, energy and body interact in a sequence of movement. Your attention travels from mind, to energy, to physical in that order. It works this way: You focus attention on a specific point in the body, which invites the energy to go there. You actually feel it. Then the body is invited to move in the way that you intend. So you allow it to move. Over time, you refine this progression to build inner strength and skill.

How this happens is a kind of mystery to me, but it happens. You may not detect the sequence at first as a beginning practitioner, especially the feeling of energy flowing to a place where you direct your attention. You will with practice, but I think everyone is familiar with it very quickly.

Ling Cong Shen Shi Men of Master Xu

Ling Cong Shen Shi Men of Master Xu

Master George Xu told me that he has developed a system of taijiquan that he described in the following ways: light and agile, empty and indirect, spiritual potential system. This is distinct from theories that he has elucidated over the years. The system, or “men,” contains at least six degrees of understanding which direct the content of his teaching session. He has simplified, even returned to some basic skills, in his approach; but often with more profound meanings. The six states he discusses are:

  • Feet must attack straight out to opponent.
  • Touch arm touch ground. Body is like conduit through which energy is transmitted to the ground. How to do this? “What you think is what is.” I interpret this to mean that just thinking is not enough to successfully achieve this ability. It is more physical effort that you may think.
  • Zhong ding. Shrink and expand. Zhong Ding attacks enemy. Don’t stay on your self. Master Xu shows exercises to develop this skill.
  • Dan tian is the most difficult. It must come out first, space to space. Master Xu suggested standing in front of a tree and “play the feeling.”
  • Ling Cong is light, empty; but also “moves above, floating.”
  • Centrifugal refers to “Shi” (“Si”), which translates as “potential,” but is much more. It is action, too. This is the most phenomenal talent of Master Xu’s that contains great power and intention.

Other more technical directions include include things like, “outer leg muscles carry energy from feet.”

Work on making “dead arms” more than building stability with feet and legs until you get it. “Dead arms, dead body.”

In the workshop setting, Master Xu discusses these things and leads the group in single basic drills designed to help cultivate awareness of these components of his system and build the skills to effectively practice them at will in whatever you do.