Michael Sternbach

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About Michael Sternbach

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  1. Chat Room?

    Those were the days! Who knows, maybe they will be revived? Time is circular...
  2. Chat Room?

    I and a few others are using it almost on a daily basis. Others chime in occasionally. We would be really sad if it ceased to exist... Michael
  3. And all that I am interested in is if a practice leads to real results in my own experience. This is the crucial criterion also according to the Buddha and other great masters. Anything else is of no consequence to me.
  4. Hi! First post.....

    Hi Tim Nice to have another Taiji instructor here. I'm more of a dabbler in Taiji while my principal art is Parker style Kenpo Karate. Welcome to the forum!
  5. Once upon a time, while chatting with a store's cashier, she let me know that she was a black belt in Jiu-jitsu. I asked her about the particular style she was practising and she said to me, "why, it's the original one! The real thing, you know..." She was obviously totally unaware of the fact that - already long before the advent of BJJ and other modern variants - Jiu-jitsu existed in the form of numerous schools spread out all over Japan. It was not uncommon that they were rivals and would jealously guard their secrets from one another. I experienced similar things when I was training Aikido at various schools. I would ask a senior what style of the art we were actually practising and would consequently earn a blank look. Once a female black belt rushed off to ask the head instructor about it. His reply was "Ueshiba style" - said with an undertone as if he was stating the obvious. Alright. Fair enough. In those days, I was practising Aikido at the same time at another dojo in Kyoto simply because the two evenings a week the aforementioned one offered were not enough for me. Its respective head instructors were from the exact same lineage, yet there were some significant technical differences between the two schools. Sometimes I would find one school's version superior over the other and absorb it for my personal practice - ever hoping not to upset the other school's instructor too much by doing so. Now I have experienced the very same phenomenon even in so rigorously defined a style as Shotokan Karate, even though to a lesser degree. And I have definitely seen it in Yang style Taiji. - All of which left little doubt in my mind that, invariably, a style changes not only over time, but with each instructor. Please bear in mind that I am sharing this as someone who (in my younger days) used to be rather adamant about doing things 'the right way' in martial arts! And I would be quite unhappy if it was hard to ascertain that right way because different instructors (from the same school!) would tell me different things. Sometimes I would enlighten them as to a particular detail not being in keeping with what grandmaster so-and-so shared in his manual (which allegedly were authoritative to us). A rectification that was not always appreciated... Due to the dojo's strict hierarchical structure, I sometimes felt compelled to back down, even though I knew I was right. For I was making in-depth studies of the relevant literature, much more so than my instructors... At present, my principal style is Kenpo Karate in the tradition of Grandmaster Ed Parker (who was my principal instructor's direct teacher). Actually, the term 'tradition' sounds a little odd in reference to Ed Parker's Kenpo as the system defines itself as non-traditional. Mr. Parker was continuously developing his system over the 30+ years he was teaching it and was encouraging his students to adapt it to their own needs and preferences - to 'tailor' it as he put it. It is said that his greatest fear was that it would be set in stone and stop evolving when he was gone! Maybe he went through a somewhat similar process like the one I described above. Perhaps at some stage he too was comparing different styles and instructors. And rather than blindly following one or the other, he decided to combine the strenghts of all of them into a new system of his own making... Many (if not all!) arts (long since considered traditional) were the result of just that kind of synthesis. Ed Parker's genius lies in not only admitting this fact in regards to his own system, but to invite further development and evolution. Upon watching one of his senior's (Barbara Hale's) class, he enthusiastically congratulated her: "Excellent! Not one of your students moves the way you do!" As a matter of fact, it was his vision that every black belt would be "a style unto themselves." It is said that Bruce Lee was inspired to create his famous Jeet Kune Do (called Kenpo Karate's sister style by some) along similar lines of ongoing exploration due to Mr. Parker's influence (the two martial artists knew each other well). What Mr. Parker's spirit of progression led to is a martial art that the CIA (after an extensive study conducted over a time span of seventeen years) considers to be the most effective of all due to its adaptability and practicality. It has spread all over the US as well as to other parts of the world. Following the guidelines given by its founder, among the numerous individuals teaching it, many have taken it into various directions according to their individual strengths and preferences. I keep watching quite a few of them on Youtube. Sure enough, I don't always like what I see. However, I may choose to integrate anything that fits into my own practice - thanks to this style's open approach. The same holds true even for elements from the other systems that I got involved with to one degree or another during my three decades of studying the martial arts. At some stage, I became concerned about people expecting to learn the original Parker system from me, when in fact what I was teaching deviated from whatever that may be in certain ways. I asked the senior instructors on a Kenpo forum about it and was laconically told not to worry about it. That said, at some stage I may indeed want to give my system a name of its own... Right now, there seems to be no need for that, despite its various features assimilated from Japanese Karate, Aikido, Taiji and other arts. True, the lack of a binding curriculum does not exactly facilitate qualification in Parker style Kenpo. Then again, as I have seen, methods and content of instruction can vary from one school or instructor to another even in the more traditional arts. So when people ask me what style I recommend to them, I tend to suggest they go and visit the various schools in their vicinity and choose the one they most resonate with. (As an aside, I essentially give them the same advice for finding a doctor, babysitter or whatever.) At the end of the day, it is that personal resonance with a school and teacher and with what they have to offer that should be the criterion for seeking them out for instruction - far above their belonging to a particular tradition or organization. It is likely going to be the one that you can learn from the most, provided who and where you are.
  6. This thread's header made me wonder: What makes an original source original? There is no text, practice, or system that didn't have some kind of predecessor. Many a form of cultivation is called 'traditional'. The implication generally being that this is the real thing, not some modern fad. Something created long, long ago by a legendary master. Something that stood the test of time. Something you can have faith in. But take a closer look and, in all likelihood, you will find that your time honoured traditional system is hardly more than 100 years old. And that even in that period, it has been subject to various alterations and modifications for reasons you may or may not approve of. Every living thing is in a state of flux and change. Yes, there is value in preserving not so much the outer form of things, but their essence. And in restoring the latter when some of it has been lost (as so often is inevitably the case) - going back to the sources. Ideally, the result will be a blend of that old 'original' material with the best which innovative practitioners from later generations have found. Such is the nature of true evolution.
  7. Qi/Martial arts Cultivation

    How about taking up a martial art that emphasizes qi cultivation? Taji would be a classic for that.
  8. Daoist/ Martial art Cultivation

    Welcome to TDB! Don't hesitate to ask anything you wish about qi and martial art cultivation and pretty much anything else (you know, life... The universe... And everything...). Best wishes for your journey! Michael
  9. Anyone into strength training?

    I agree that connectivity is key in the generation of 'internal power'. It is not that the so-called external martial arts are totally ignorant of this, it's just that the internal arts take a more refined and sophisticated approach towards it.
  10. Anyone into strength training?

    It may be more a question of how you use your muscles.
  11. Indeed. And doing all your moves free of tension in slow-motion can greatly help you acquire this skill. I suppose this was actually the reason super slow moves were introduced into Taiji in the first place. One of my Kenpo instructors taught me a related type of exercise which he in turn had learned from Paul Mills. But that's more a question of the mental memetics that come with weight lifting sometimes... And will be most prevalent amongst bodybuilders. That said, I believe that martial artists should balance the typically slow movements of heavy weight lifting with sets of fast ones using only light resistance.
  12. I have been using that kind of app for awhile but found the spam that came with it a bit annoying in the long run (no pun intended). I then started using the so-called Gymboss timer, which I am very satisfied with to this day. Highly recommended for anybody who is serious about Tabata - or indeed about any form of HIIT, as the duration of the intervals can be set to your liking.
  13. Any martial art requires decades of dedicated study in order for the practitioner to reach its more advanced levels. And all traditional arts have a concept of chi/ki. The difference is that the internal arts are more sophisticated in terms of its application and development. It's a matter of emphasis, really. At the same time, there is less focus on fighting and self-defence respectively in the in the internal styles - with a few notable exceptions, such as Erles Montaigue's school of Taiji and Bagua. A degree of combat effectiveness can basically be attained both in so-called external and internal systems within about half a year - however, this is rather the exception than the rule in the traditional styles, as the external ones are mostly practised as sports and the internal ones as methods of "self-cultivation". Actually, some internal types are able to hold their own against the external types rather well. The following tournament recording being a nice example: https://youtu.be/Yfj6oI0xOA4 Historically, there were internal masters amongst the most feared of fighters, taking on and winning at virtually every challenge. Soldiers are not taught any martial arts per se. Just simple methods of destroying the enemy. There is no art in that. That should make for an attractive event on visiting day at the retirement home. Thanks, but I am quite satisfied practising what I sometimes call my Aiki Taikyoku* Kenpo Karate - in regards to all of the above. * Japanese term for Taiji. I brought it up to highlight the discrepancy between what we should be able to expect from the internal approach as opposed to what we generally observe in actuality. A problem that does not cease to fascinate me. If that is childish of me, oh well... I couldn't care less! Looks like we have found a place of agreement after all. Oh... That didn't last long. So I take it that, according to you, e.g., renown masters Jwing Ming Yang (Fujian White Crane and Taiji) and Wing Lam (Hung Gar and Bagua) are nothing but ignorant amateurs. The latter actually discusses how much internal vs. external force is being used in each technique in his video on Iron Palm. Rather, it is the difference between individual practitioners that may become obvious.
  14. Personally, I have not found weight training to be detrimental to the power of martial arts techniques (quite the opposite, in fact), however, I recommend supplementing heavy lifting with exercises that use lighter resistance and faster movements. For instance, working out with fairly heavy weights (especially barbells and dumbbells) and low rep numbers - probably still the best way to increase basic strength - in alternation with exercises that are oriented more towards speed, typically employing body weight, kettlebells, resistance bands, medicine balls etc. I consider my own martial art "informed" by the internal arts, however, it is eclectic in every way. Honestly, I am not sure how useful the distinction into internal and external power really is; the best martial artist have both available to them, IMO. Of course, in Daoist circles we often hear about the intrinsic superiority of the internal approach, relying on chi as opposed to muscular force - which may sound plausible in theory, but fact is that IMA practitioners in general don't stand much of a chance against well-trained athletic fighters from more physically oriented systems. For losing weight, there is nothing better than Tabata training (or possibly a related form of HIIT) combined with diet, IME. As for the latter, it is not always necessary to drastically change your eating habits; try cutting down on some of the foods most rich in calories that you are habitually enjoying for a period of several months. My Tabata training has been described in my PPD here: If you have any questions regarding what I outlined, you are welcome to ask me in my thread.
  15. There is an older topic that some may find to contain some valuable information: