The Ba'z Tai Chi and Kung Fu Studio
The studio was started by John C. J. Chen in 1996 in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia. It is now located on the second floor of 5235-43 Ridge Avenue (intersection of Ridge and Manayunk Avenues). The school is a branch of the New York Wu-Tan Kung Fu Institute where Laoshi John Chen continues his masters' level training with Master Marlon Ma.
The Ba'z Tai Chi & Kung Fu Studio teaches the Wu-Tan system of martial arts, described in the section below. Each class starts with a Qigong exercise set, a stretching and warm-up set, then proceeds to forms. Beginners start with Yang-style tai chi and move on to the other major forms of the Wu-Tan system. With these forms, students learn a range of body movements and styles to develop a deeper understanding of one's self. Weapons training is gradually introduced after a firm foundation in footing, turning, and weight-shifting has been established.
Internal Training in the Chinese Martial Arts
The Wu-Tan system requires grounding in the "internal aspect" of the martial arts. This "internal" training concentrates on breathing, stance, and energy-generation in order to create outward form and movement. The best known example of an internal style is tai chi. Internal training emphasize tendon/ligament usage and energy projection to deflect or overpower an opponent rather than on muscle development. Practitioners carry the health benefits of tai chi through their life into their senior years.
The internal method employs four complementary practices and techniques to achieve the development of internal power:
Qigong: "energy work" which revolves around breathing exercises to circulate oxygen and blood from organs to extremities. Although Qigong can be practiced alone, it is actually an on-going component of the three exercises discussed below.
Stretching: opening joints, muscles, and tendons to create pathways for directing energy and creating movement. This open flow of energy (oxygen and blood) also nourishes the skeletal structure and body tissues. Stretching develops flexibility, endurance, and improves range of motion and posture.
Standing Postures: both a form of physical discipline and standing meditation, holding the body in a static form for periods of time causes the mind to settle down and concentrate on itself, thus calming it down for the work at hand. The mind becomes aware of and learns to direct the body's position through physical adjustment and mental concentration. This integrates mental and physical endurance into a simultaneous discipline.
Moving Forms (whole-body movements in self-defense techniques): Forms train the body to respond reflexively to threatening situations. Form practice improves balance, coordination, and memory. The Wu-Tan system teaches five major forms detailed in the CURRICULUM page.
The Wu-Tan System
The Philadelphia studio traces its lineage to the teachings of Grandmaster Liu Yun-Chiao (1909-92) who was born and raised in Hebei Province (province surrounding Beijing). Grandmaster Liu began martial arts training at age 5, served in the Chinese army against the Japanese invasion of the late 1930s, and fled with the Chinese Nationalists to Taiwan in 1949 where he continued to serve in a military role. Grandmaster Liu became the Safety Advisor of the Presidential Palace and trained bodyguards for the presidents of Taiwan. Grandmaster Liu passed away at age 83 in Taiwan on January 21, 1992.
While in Taiwan, Grandmaster Liu gathered what he considered the most effective martial arts forms into a training system that embodies the best of internal and external conditioning, physical and mental discipline, and Chinese philosophy. This system was named Wu-Tan, sometimes literally translated as "martial platform" but bearing the meaning of a "place where the martial arts are revered". The Wu-Tan system revolves around 5 major forms: Baji-chuan, Tai Chi, Pigua Zhang, Tang-Lang, and Bagua Zhang. The fighting form which sets the Wu-Tan school apart from all other schools is Baji-Chuan.
The Baji (8 extremes) form originated in Hebei Province and was known to exist since at least the beginning of the Ching (Manchu) Dynasty (1644-1908). It is a very practical and powerful style designed to intercept and cut down an opponent as quickly as possible. This is one of the reasons that it was often adopted as the fighting style for bodyguard troops of the imperial palace and subsequently, protection of Chiang Kai-shek and other government officials in Taiwan. Its outward appearance is hard and explosive, but its underlying source of power is generated from internal cultivation of energy.
Grandmaster Liu's system has spread to the Western hemisphere with former students teaching in Flushing New York (Marlon Ma), Akron, OH (Tony Yang), New Jersey (Charles Chen), Cupertino, CA (Adam Hsu), Toronto, CANADA (James Guo), Montreal, CANADA (John Hum), and Brazil (Su Yu-Chang) to name a few.