Taijiquan and the Role of Government

October 20, 2015

Someone recently asked me about my political views, and indicated to me they were often hard to pin down. That’s probably because I believe in working toward a society which uses violence or the threat of force as little as possible to allow people to live together in harmony. In other words, I think government should do as little as possible. Most people, however, are much more accustomed to the idea of the government doing things that they want, even if other people in the same society don’t agree with that decision.

Taijiquan has a similar problem. We call it a martial art, yet we want to defend ourselves using as little aggression and injurious techniques as possible. Whereas most people think practicing martial arts, means learning to defeat other people precisely by learning techniques that can cause great injury and require an aggressive mindset, Taijiquan seeks a calm mind so as to learn to read and respond to the aggressive intent of others.

People that believe in having more freedom in society, don’t necessarily want chaos, as that could lead to less overall freedom. Likewise in Taijiquan, we are not advocating pacifism, as that would not be a martial art and could allow others to bully you. In both cases we want to use only the precise amount of power necessary to get the job done. Neither idea represents dogmatic extremism, merely thoughtful, sober efficiency.

CMC Full Form Video

September 12, 2014

Senior Center Classes (Please register ASAP)

May 30, 2013


Classes begin next week on Tuesday & Thursday 6-7pm. Go here to register:

Spring 2013 Experimental College Classes

April 7, 2013

Lots of great, new classes are being offered this quarter!

Here is the schedule:

Chen Style Taijiquan: Tuesday 9:00-10:15am & Saturday 8:45-10:00am

Beginning Taijiqan: Sunday 9:00-10:00am

Xingyi Level 1: Friday 7:30-8:30pm

Xingyi Level 2: Saturday 5-6pm

Baguazhang Level 1: Friday 8:30-9:30pm

Baguazhang Level 2: Saturday 6-7pm

Kung Fu Basics:  Wednesday 5:30-6:45pm (Free to students of all other classes)

For those that like spreadsheets:

Day/Time Mon. Tues. Wed. Thurs. Fri. Sat. Sun.
9:00 AM    Chen   Tai Chi  Chen   Tai Chi Tai Chi  beg.
10:00 AM
5:00 PM   Kung Fu Basics 5:30- 6:45pm Xingyi 2
6:00 PM Bagua 2
7:30 PM Xingyi 1
8:30 PM Bagua 2

For more registration information and course descriptions please see the experimental college website: http://ecollege.ucdavis.edu/courses/catalog?term=__None&group=130&instructor=100306&number=&name=

Please note that the online registration process is not always functional.  Please come to a class first if you are unable to register and we can help you.

For any questions you may contact Daniel Pfister at 530 574-3684 or e-mail daniel_pfister@msn.com

Instructor Shot

Traditional Yang Style practice with UCD Tai Chi Club

February 12, 2013


Photos from the Experimental College

February 5, 2013

BGDaoLow Picture of me with my big Bagua broadsword.  More can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151244101850986.452753.126539245985&type=1

New Classes at Experimental College in Davis, CA

January 3, 2013
Tai Chi, XingYi, and Bagua classes are now listed on the Experimental College’s website:


Please spread the word!

Push Hands 101: The Single Hand Method

December 14, 2012

One cannot learn push hands from a blog post.  Consider these just a few reminders for when practicing without the aid of a teacher.


Begin by bowing to your partner a few steps away from them.  Then take one step to close the distance and a second step to get into the position.  The front foot should be parallel to your partner’s, a few inches away, and with the toes at least as far as their heal.  The forearms will touch in a peng (ward off) position, but as soon as contact is made movement should commence as the slight touch of your partner should give a signal as to how you should respond.


Most of the weight of the body should be kept on the back leg for the duration of the exercise, but be careful not to push back with the front leg as this may loosen ones connection to the ground.  Turn the body via the kua (hip joints) without excessive movement of the hips or knees and rotate as if your back leg were a swiveling stool with the upper body resting upon it.

Arms Relaxed

As your partner pushes forward on your elbow joint respond by simultaneously sitting into the front kua, bending the elbow, and turning the hand palm up to ward off your partner’s movement.  Although these moves happen at the same time, we must think that the movement is driven by the bending of the hip joint while the elbow and hand are merely following along.  This prevents the movements of the arm, which is in contact with your partner, from becoming discernible or telegraphed. As soon as you’ve moved your partner’s arm off your center, begin to turn the palm face down again and open the the front kua.  As you follow your partner’s elbow back and rotate the forearm make sure not to raise the elbow too high or lift the shoulder.

Body Upright

Keep the body and head upright at all times during the exercise.  There should be no need to bend forward or back, just rotate horizontally out of the way of your partner’s push.  When you are pushing, don’t lean in to try to push strongly as this could easily result in being thrown off balance.  Stay upright, and be aware of how your partner moves to avoid your subtle push.


After several turns your back leg may start to burn and shake from carrying the weight of the body in movement.  This is good.  Do not immediately come out of your stance when you feel this; rather, try to relax through the burning and notice how your leg wants to straighten itself out to escape it.  Learn to master the body by not giving in to the first presence of discomfort.  Stay focused on your partner, and do not allow the creeping tension in the leg to hinder your responses to his movements.


December 10, 2012

My family and I have moved to Davis, CA, my home town, to be closer to the rest of my relatives.

Welcome to Davis

I am also hoping to teach neijia a lot more, eventually even opening a school.

Last Saturday I went to a Tai Chi push hands gathering held at the local farmers market.  About five or six people showed up.  Interestingly, while nearly all of them knew some sort of  Tai Chi form, none seemed to have a great deal of experience with push hands.  This is perhaps to be expected as the group was only founded a few short months ago.  What was very encouraging was the high-level of enthusiasm to learn more about Tai Chi push hands as well as the other neijia martial arts, particularly bauguazhang.

Having grown up in Davis, I’ve always felt that it was a place where neijia could really thrive, so it is a bit puzzling that there seems to be so few teachers in the area.  While I am qualified to teach many aspectof the art, I also hope that by spreading what I know here, it could attract other teachers here as well.  The best way we can improve ourselves and grow the art as a whole is by constantly comparing and testing our methods and abilities with that of others.

Information about classes to be held at the UC Davis Experimental College can be found here: http://ecollege.ucdavis.edu/pages/7

Tai Chi for Prosperity

April 13, 2012

Push hands practice in Taijiquan can teach us a lot about basic human behavior.  Much of what we learn is obvious in a push hands or martial art context, but not so clear in everyday life.  For example, in push hands we’re trying to sense our partner’s movements to a very subtle degree, but we must also be aware that they are trying to do the same to us.  Thus, if we think we have the advantage and begin to move against our partner, they may sense this change and will act differently in response.  Because we want to make the most of an advantageous position when it arises, we remind ourselves: do not use force, especially when advancing on an opponent so as not to reveal one’s position.  All the time we must think of following the opponent, even if we are on the offensive.

 Taijiquan’s push hands method is very similar to free-market economic theory.  In an ideal free-market, individuals have an incentive to cooperate by maximizing their comparative advantage in labor.  Individuals “follow” and adapt to the labor production of others and then trade on that which they produce in a comparatively better way. The difficulty lies in figuring out what exactly one should produce in a given society.  This entails knowing oneself (what one is good at producing) as well as knowing others (what could be offered to society).  Finding that out requires a push hands-like attunement to ourselves and the environment, yet the better we are at this task the more successful we can be as individuals and the more we can benefit our community. 

 At least two mistakes can be made in this economic paradigm.  First: trying to do something for which one clearly does not have a comparative advantage. This could be likened to having too much force or tension within ones own body, so that the movements are unnatural. In Tai Chi push hands, we act in ways which are forceful we reveal our intentions to the opponent and are also doing so in an inefficient way. Using inefficient force in this way backfires and leads to failure just as it does in the free market.  Second: trying to manipulate market incentives where they are felt to be lacking, such as subsidizing a specific industry. This is essentially trying to create an economic incentive where one does not exist and increase production or consumption of a particular good. Creating incentives artificially like that is similar to using obviously forceful techniques against an opponent, trying to get them to move in a way that is more favorable to your victory. Normally, the opponent will sense what you are trying to do and react. Of course, they may not be able to react in time and the technique may actually work, but it can’t work forever because after being attacked once, the opponent will be more cautious and make adjustments.  Similarly, a subsidy may actually work, and help an industry to be more profitable.  Yet, the act of subsidizing sends a signal to the market as to what the economic planner intends to do, so that in the future the industry may take greater and great risks, believing they can always count on continued assistance no matter their actions.

Economics is merely a hobby of mine, but many of the theories confirm what we Tai Chi practitioners observe every time we do the form or interact with others.  The simple idea of ‘not using force’ has unlimited applications and can help us all to better interact with our environment and ourselves.   


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