Fu Zhong Wen, Yang Chen Fu, Yang Shao Hao, Sun Lu Tang, Wu Chien Quan, Ma Yueh Liang, Tung Ji Yieh, Chen Wei Ming (below Sun Lu Tang)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Interview with Mike Graves: Tai Chi Chuan Fighter who fought in England and Europe

Interview with Mike Graves: I first met mike on Facebook in the Internal martial arts forum. Mike posted one of his fights on his profile, I was pretty amazed. some fights-

fight 2-

Q: Where does your Taiji fighting background start? Who were all your teachers? what lineage do you represent?

Mike: I started training T'ai Chi Chuan in early 1995 with Bob France, an instructor of Cheng Man Ch'ing and Traditional Yang Style from Master Chu King Hung of Master Yang Shou-chung lineage (Yang Cheng Fu eldest son). Looking for Pakua Bob France passed me on to David Nicholson, who quickly told me to forget Pakua and focus on my T'ai Chi (in his words "You're T'ai Chi is crap"...lol). He also had studied with one of Chu King Hung students, Ray Wilke, as well as with Chu himself. From Dave, I practiced Traditional Yang and 24 Modern form, which we all learned from Professor Li Deyin, nephew of the creator, Li Tian Ji; here I need to point out Dave's instructor at the time was Mr. Richard Watson (17 year indoor student of Chu King Hung), who founded the Longfei Taijiquan Association of Great Britain and the organization I belong & represent. Also from Professor Li, Master Wang Yanji, (student of Li Tianji and Niu Sheng Xian), I learned Sun Style Taiji and 5 Elements of Xingyi and basics of Pakua... All of my core tutelage was from David Nicholson primarily, and intense studies and private lessons with the others as well as summer camps, seminars and training sessions.

Q:In all your fights I notice that you quickly engage the opponent and kind of smother all their attempts at striking and win the take down. was this part of the strategy in your school?

Mike: Not necessarily a strategy, as much as, not being that experienced & not knowing what to expect, per se...tried to adapt to what was presented & “no strategy” was more the concept...a bold step I suppose in hindsight...A classmate, Adrian Izzard & I would go to a boxing gym in York, England and do a bit of sparring with the guys there and that's how the crowding was noted as a possibility, but also, we had a concept..."take his root..." Dave would say. So that meant, take his root…pick him up slam you've taken his root, pull his leg from underneath him, take his root... use ward off to "peng" him away, you've taken his root...and then the follow up was, now see how they respond...

Q: did you guys train any specific taiji striking or more take down? did you have a wrestling or boxing background at all?

Mike:For Taiji striking, we came out of a heavily pushing-hands based training; lots of drills, conditioning exercises, stretching, theory and practicum from that theory. Ensure that it works, how it works...striking was really basic, which again in hindsight, was unfortunate, because I wasn’t a good puncher, like with jabs and hooks, boxing type...I had no other background in fighting, except movies, lol, before I started Taiji; this was at 25 years old...

Q: what is your fight record? amateur and pro. Did you compete only in England or did you get to travel around? what other countries have you trained or competed in?

Mike: My overall fight record was 5-3 (I lost two pro fights); the intent wasn't actually to fight more than one or two fights period, just to get the experience of fighting someone who doesn't know you or train with you coming at you without regard. And then to only apply Taiji principles, fail or succeed; not kickboxing or any other style of fighting which could be easily adapted for the San Shou & full-contact environment! The only reason I did full contact pro fights was because I was asked by someone, (can't actually remember the name at the moment, who ran the British team at the time) to participate in an San Shou event being held in London, on TV (Eurosport), he liked my throws and things that you've seen from my videos on YouTube; my instructor actually said no, "...he's not making a career of it...". After some deliberation over a few weeks, we talked & thought it would be a good opportunity to represent our perspective of Taijiquan for combat. For that event I fought twice; won the first and lost the second for the championship, to a Romanian fighter. I only competed in the UK in San Shou/Full Contact; my other competitions were primarily form and push hands. We would travel to mainland Europe and compete, we had an annual trip to Utrecht, Holland, just south of Amsterdam; this all happened in a span of about 3 years. I returned to the U.S. in 2001. I did a bit of training in Australia, Alice Springs in the outback. There, I actually trained with some Aikido and Eskrima practitioners; we did an exchange. They were practicing Taijiquan (Traditional Yang) but wanted some insight & details, so in exchange they showed me some Aikido and Eskrima (this was only a little over a three week period though). They were impressed that they couldn't throw or off balance me with their Aikido...a nice experience...I've only done pushing hands, here in the U.S.

Q: What parts of Taijiquan training do you think has helped you the most?

Mike: For me, things are so married. Without the form I wouldn't have been able to grasp the applications, which feed my pushing hands, which helped my fighting overall...as an isolation, there were a ton of drills we practiced, very accurately, repetitive, heavily principle based (visualization, breathing, coordination, yin and yang, etc. the gamut) hammered in...it always started rough and ugly but once it all click it was a nice as a form. Speaking of drills I will need to give some credence to Vincent Chu, son of Chu Gin Soon, and Rob Poyton, also in the UK (most noted nowadays for his Systema, which I dabbled in too). Vincent kind of bridged the gap between pushing hands & fighting. One night at Rob Poyton's during a party, in Rob's garage...I was beat down by Vincent in what I thought was going to be some run of the mill pushing hands. I expected to be tossed about and pushed & pulled...but he was smacking & hitting me all over the place and then explaining with broken English and re-positioning what he was doing, what I was & wasn't doing and how to? Bing, eye-opener...I've heard others say, "Oh, he doesn't teach that stuff over here"...we got a lot of conditioning drills from Vincent and fighting sets, a lot of which I've since forgotten. Not because it wasn't worthy, just not anyone to practice with once I got here (here, being San Antonio, Texas). Phew! so to answer the question it would probably be the principles because you can apply them to so many things.

Q: what is your current view on the current state of taijiquan as a martial art?

Mike: My current view of the state of Taijiquan as a martial art is that it's not in good representation for what it has been described to be, a martial art. The best thus far in recent years was the Chen vs the Muay Thai fighters; it was good but we all know what we really want to see; representation of the "amazing" Taijiquan. What most see as relevant is when you represent your art without excuses, i.e. "oh I had on gloves", "I can strike the vital points", "there are too many rules", a plethora of excuses emerge, but we are not short of talk about how great the art is and what can be done. I consider myself low on the totem-pole in regards of being a representative, I will always do my part, but I'm not that person to take a pounding day in & day out in a ring. So from that perspective, I do understand but I'm also not a member of any major families. One would think there would be one, that would say (pardon the language), but "Fuck it, I will show them" and put the mystery to rest. That was the mindset we had. We were confident it would work and if it didn't, it wasn't the art, it was the person. I don't appreciate all the talk of who has the "secret transmission" and if you don't have it, you're never going to be able to achieve any true level of skill. There's a lot of people on the internet that are Masters, Grand Masters, indoor disciples but with very limited skill. They talk in abstract terms and pundits listen and watch in awe; but look at the typical Taiji practitioner, middle-aged, not very athletic & somewhat easy to impress. And they become the cheer leading squad and some go on an ego ride at the expense of the art. I would just say, don't hide behind the stories or legends of the past, you do it, show that it's still relevant!

Push Hand clip- similar to Wing cChun "oh my Striking Hands...that kind of comes from some of the pushing hands from Vincent Chu...adapted with my experience and Dave's concepts...some training I got in boxing...so a myriad of influences, key though was redirect and attack, collapse and attack, uproot and attack.."-Mike Graves

Q: What is your opinion of the talk on tui shou (as a means to an end), fa jins, and other mysterious "qi power" and such for fighting?

Mike: Tui shou can be quite good to grasp many of the fighting concepts, but definitely not a means to an end, a connecting piece. What I know and practice of Fa Jin, it is functional and useful, and at times, devastating! I don't think it is mysterious, but I do think a lot of what is presented as Fa Jin or proof thereof is a crock. Again, it goes back to if you can do it, then do it. Don't tell me about it or create some isolated situation where you're doing it under established circumstances...Vincent Chu did some things on me and I wasn't a willing subject, not bouncing uncontrollable but definitely shifting me away and I know I wasn’t thinking about attacking and if I was to try and attack I would be in a horrible position. Some of the things on videos online I can do, so I know it's not mysterious, but it's also not the "...barely touch and person flies away from you..." stuff (maybe my skill is just piss poor). It's truly annoying though and makes us look like buffoons, because when it comes to fighting and applying it to the "high level", no one seems to be able to do it or try it...I have seen some Taiji folks fighting in full contact bouts, but they picked up other arts and only use a small portion of the concepts of Taiji; so no confidence in the principles... I always thought that I had a bit of success with the little skill I had, so those who were more skilled and renowned should fair way way better than me...so to me the so-called fa jin bouncing people away is cool to show foundation, coordination, root, etc. but now show it in a practical sense, when someone is punching, kicking, shooting, whatever...I've been in these situations, outside of the ring as well, again with success...I just don't see myself as a high level practitioner so I wish for that person to step up...until then I will do what I can from my platform to ensure what I show is legit... As for researching whether it exists, I think it needs to be better defined, that is, the mystery of Fa Jin and the "qi power"...too many definitions and confusing ideas of what should be the end result...if you look at my video my best example of me attempting any semblance of fa jin is my push and the punch at the end. The punch because of the technique I was introduced to, if you want warm fa jin, they should bounce away (push, sort of), if you use cold fa jin, they shouldn't be able to stand (the punch); that was the basic concept. Nowadays, it's so far fetched and doesn't deliver with the claims, which is shameful. I can go on with this stuff for ages...lol...
Oh, now, get this if you look at some of the videos of Vincent Chu, Chu Gin Soon, and Chu King Hung...the stuff is psuedo...I know it's not legit but, at least I know first hand Vincent can do some powerful stuff and Chu King Hung can also, as told to me by a David Nicholson, who, please believe me, is not a tag-along, he calls it as he sees it...thus the reason we trained really hard because he was trying to obtain it like a madman and I was his guinea pig, along with my senior classmate Adrian Izzard...this Adrian (6'2" close to 200 or so pounds) in China in park with this amazing Tai Chi guy pushing hands...

Push-hand of Master Yuanxing vs British Hypo-heavyweight Four 老六路袁興推手 www.youtube.com 袁興先生早年與英國次重量級推手第四名交流視頻 袁興,生於上世紀六十年代,北京人,畢業于北京大學醫學部(原北京醫科大學),早年隨形意名家李耀亭先生學習少林、形意等拳術,八十年代開始隨汪永泉--孫德善之首徒高友 臣先生(石匠高)練習京城皇族王府體系的楊式老六路太極拳,其間又經該體系隱士指點, 加之二十多年酷愛武術悟修...

This is Master Wang Yanji (I studied Yang 24, Sun Style, Hsing-I, Pakua and pushing hands with him)...he's also a member of Longfei Taijiquan Association based in Sweden.
形意拳传统套路鸡形 Xingyiquan Chicken performance by Master Wang Yanji. 王燕基, The Tiger form as taught by Master Li Tianji and Pro.Li deyin.

And you've probably seen this one, but this is David Nicholson and I working on peng and the "fa jin" concepts: Dave Nicholson & Mike Graves Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) peng (ward off) training drill. A demonstration by David Nicholson and student Mike Graves in Scunthorpe, England of Taijiquan peng (ward off) and fajing (fa jing, fa jin) energy. This is a new one from a few months back of me working with a Choy Li Fut group who practice Taijiquan (they wanted more martial understanding)...

Practicing a Fa Jin Drill Chu King Hung... http://www.itcca.org/site/content/org/Master_chu_king_hung_20050809020307/index

ITCCA International Tai Chi Chuan Association | Master Chu King Hung | www.itcca.org

Vincent Chu... http://www.gstaichi.org/english/vincentChu.php

Gin Soon Tai Chi Chuan Federation www.gstaichi.org

• Today My school site is, www.longfei-taiji.co.uk
Tai Chi helps promote good health by balancing the body's structure and its function. Benefits include Relaxation, De-stressing, Strength and Peace of Mind.
Some info on me on page two: http://www.longfei-taiji.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Longfei-Newsletter-1999-Vol-2-Issue-1.pdf

on the second page here... http://www.longfei-taiji.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Longfei-Newsletter-1999-Vol-2-Issue-2.pdf

Not something that I coined but have said that I went through the "Harvard" School of Taiji...lol...we had a lot of exposure to great people and material...some standardized and other traditional...

Q: i think we have talked about Dj'ing on occasion, who were your earliest influences? I grew up in the 1980's break dancing era. I think i have had more concussions not from fighting, but from soccer, competition skateboarding, and break dancing. Old school we had LL Cool J, Run DMC, EPMD, Stetsasonic, Eric B and Rakim, BDP (I met KRS One once), Beastie Boys, etc.

Mike: Wow, earliest influences pretty much matches all those you mentioned above actually, very East Coast based hip-hop, all the way up to the Wu Tang, Biggie, Jay-Z era...(when I DJ'd I met Public Enemy, Naughty by Nature, hung out back stage with the Beastie Boys for a bit, so down to earth, and a slew of others)...KRS-One has always been my all time favorite hands down,period!...from there I started branching more & more to what is coined as "underground" hip-hop; J Dilla, Madlib, MF Doom, etc., but still maintain the staples, old school artist...it all really influences my fighting style per se, even to this day...it's rhythmic, that's what had always attracted me to Chinese Martial Arts, the old Shaw Brother's Production, and then coming up in the early hip hop era, with break dancing and acrobatics; keep in mind some of the major actors where as Opera Performers or trained under those tenets...So it seems we came in the same era, I'm originally from North Carolina, but haven't lived there since I was 17; went to England at 18 due the Air Force (thank you!) where I later began my Taiji training on my second tour there.


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