Chenhan Yang

Internal Martial Arts: Chenhan Yang

As a practitioner and enthusiast of internal martial arts, I am always on the lookout for great teachers and representatives of those styles: Tai Chi, BaGua, and Xing Yi being the most popular. While there are many teachers, there are few that are gifted in teaching the principles clearly, and fewer still in demonstrating proper execution of the techniques and form. Chenhan Yang is unique in his ability to do both.

Chenhan Yang is President of Shouyu Liang Wushu Taiji Qigong Institute, and also a gifted teacher with five volumes of DVD programs covering Chen Tai Chi and BaGua. How do great martial artists arrive where they are? What lessons can they teach us? Yang shared his martial arts journey, and why studying martial arts is an important part of his life. Read on for his intriguing story.

The Beginning

Whether it was The Green Hornet, Enter the Dragon, Good Guys Wear Black, Kung Fu, or any number of other classic films and television programs, most martial artists were drawn in by their heroes executing flawless techniques and dismantling the bad guys with aplomb. Chenhan Yang was no exception "Like many boys, I started to have an interest in martial arts from watching many Hong Kong Kungfu action movies and TV shows. I marveled at seeing them flying over the trees or rooftops. At that time, Hong Kong action movies were very popular in Asia, and I was crazy about all the fighting scenes in the movies. I didn't take any martial arts lessons, but I would watch TV and movies from videotapes and try to imitate the movements in the fighting scenes. I'd repeatedly play one single movement in slow motion over and over again for hundreds and thousands of times just to learn that movement."

Despite his interest and ingenuity in learning what he saw on screen, Yang's parents wanted him to focus on his schoolwork, and so his practice was limited to solo training in front of a mirror. His dedication would serve him well, later on, when he did begin to formally study martial arts. At the age of 14, Yang moved from Taiwan to the U.S. before ultimately moving to Canada. Figuring he would only have a couple of months before the move, his parents let him study, and he got his first lessons, "They thought I would only have two months there, so they let me do the things I wished to do. Luckily, my close friend's classmate's father happened to be a Wushu Coach, Coach Wang. I started my first formal Wushu lessons with him and followed him for two months. Later, he introduced me to world-renowned master, Grandmaster Shouyu Liang who lives in Vancouver. When I moved to Vancouver, I went to visit Master Liang's gym and started my training under him, until now."

Internal Martial Arts

Tai Chi is probably the best-known branch of internal martial arts, with BaGua and Xing Yi families of styles following distantly behind. Chenhan Yang is a master of Tai Chi and BaGua and has a great set of instructional videos of each. But what makes one go from the flamboyantly familiar to seeking more meditative styles? Yang explains how he first began studying internal martial arts, "I didn't know much about internal martial arts back then. I was young and was more excited over those cool kicks, jumps, and combinations of external wushu movements and forms."

For his first black belt test, Grandmaster Liang required that students master at least one internal martial arts form. Yang started with the Tai Chi 24 movement form and then moved on to the Chen style form. Though different from what he was used to, Yang found he enjoyed the internal styles, "From Chen style Tai Chi training, I started to grow more interest in other styles of Tai Chi as well as other internal styles. I started to train Xing Yi, BaGua, Liu He Ba Fa, Wuji, and more. I really like the combination of training from both internal and external martial arts. They have allowed me to see the many different aspects of martial arts. External and internal styles have different approaches to reaching the same goal."

For those interested in trying out internal martial arts, is there a best style to start with? Yang advises, "I would say there is no one art that is better to start with than another. Every art is unique and valuable. They each have a different focus and approach, but in the end, they all are reaching for the same goal, which is harmony and balance. When choosing an art, I would say the best thing to do is to look around and understand what they are and pick the one that is most suitable for you.For example, if you enjoy slow movement and a gentle and meditative type of exercise, Tai Chi would be a good start. If you like a solid and more powerful type of exercise, Xing Yi is a good choice. And if you like something more agile, complex, with quick motion, Bagua would be your consideration. There is not a best art, there is only the most suitable art for each person." Click here for more on Chenhan Yang.

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Two-Time Black Belt Hall of Famer Hayward Nishioka has been campaigning for judo in the United States to harvest more shodans (1st degree black belts) Shodan literally means student. It's analogous to being a freshman in college. It's not the end but the beginning according to Jigoro Kano, the Founder of Judo.

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Destinee Tartuffe

My friend Destinee Tartuffe a 4th dan and Head Sensei at Good Time Judo in Santa Rosa, CA has always been a pioneer and developer in all her life endeavors. She first took over the judo program at Santa Rosa Junior Collegestarted by my old friend Terry Kelly upon his retirement then went on to complete getting her law degree, JD.

Recently Destinee contacted me about a new training tool she’s invented. Upon my investigation, I was so impressed with this product that I asked her to write something about it for this week’s Black Belt Blog.
Judo Equipment

Members of Good Time Judo using Judo Jaime Training Tools.

As judo practitioners we know judo is an exciting dynamic Olympic or recreational sporting activity that offers social interaction, stress relief, and tons of fun. However, we also know that judo can be a dangerous, and potentially deadly activity when used for self-defense or when not practiced safely.

For all the fun and benefit that judo provides an enthusiast it seems to be the world’s best kept secret from the general populace. My coach and mentor taught me that judo is an inclusive, not an exclusive activity. So, I look for ways to get more people interested.

One of the biggest issues relates to the very idea of inclusiveness, which for me translates to one dojo cannot be everything to everybody. The age old saying jack of all trades, and master of none comes to mind.

Recently, I watched YouTube videos of three respected Judo coaches discussing the state of Judo in the United States. One of their common observations is that students who come to train with them lack the fundamental skills which would allow them to actually help those students reach a level of Judo expertise whereby the student could compete at an elite level of competition.

While I was disappointed to hear their dire opinions, they were similar to what I was experiencing in my college classroom. Honestly, I have been concerned for many years about how to continue when so many of the students come to class with an attitude of being a “super ninja” when in actuality they are often uncoordinated and seemingly unwilling to follow even the simplest of instructions. This creates a situation or environment where “bullies” prevail, injures occur, and students are lost. This attitude seems a direct conflict to the principle of Mutual Benefit and Welfare, and it made me think about hanging up my judogi.

Then, COVID caused programs to close, but as a college Judo instructor I was tasked with creating an online curriculum for my students and doing so within one week! I knew my students did not have the proper safety equipment in their homes to continue with the rolls and falls that we were practicing in class. We spent the last eight weeks finishing out the semester via Zoom class. I found the biggest challenge to be communicating to the student how they needed to correct their postures, or their ability to visualize the skill and apply my instructions for any given lesson.

The last night of class of had a vision of how these issues could be addressed. That’s when I created the Fundamental Directional Movement Mat and a Proximity Training Device that I call Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke. These tools can be used together or separately. The benefits conferred to the user by using the tools together can greatly excel the beginning students understanding of the application of Judo.

These tools are not just for beginners, it is important for even the most experienced judoka to review the fundamental movements regularly. Think about it there are pre-arranged forms (katas) that specifically address movement!

The Fundamental Directional Movement Mat is a durable vinyl mat with an elliptical design (mapping the movement of the Judoka in the plane of applied Judo). The instructor whether in-person or in an online class can assist the student by directing them to orient either along the horizontal or vertical 180 degree lines, which are also used to demonstrate and solidify 90 degree turns/pivots that are important to the fundamental movements for application of Judo. The mat also has indicators for the student to see the 45 degree angle of technique application easier.

Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke is a proximity training device that allows beginning Judoka to develop the proper posture and understanding of the proximity for applying judo techniques without the resistance, frustration, or fear that working with a partner initially brings. My years of teaching adults have shown me that despite what the student says, they often approach contact with another with fear and the mistaken belief that over-powering or resisting their partner is the proper thing to do; however, one-half the goal of Judo is that someone falls down! With Judo Jaime the student has the opportunity to develop the confidence and skills to make an actual attack when they are ready to engage with a person.

The device weighs no more than five pounds and is approximately 53” in height (when assembled). It is easily transportable and fun to use vs. the usual training dummies which are awkward, heavy and unsafe to use without proper instruction or direct supervision. While either product can be used alone we recommend using the tools together. This allows the student to fine-tune visualization skills and apply techniques, here again, without resistance from a partner. The student will develop an understanding and integration of the techniques for proper response timing more quickly.

The Fundamental Directional Movement Mat and Instructional material is copyrighted by Destar Productions, Inc.

Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke is a proximity training device with a patent pending by Destar Productions, Inc. For questions regarding orders and other product descriptions email Destinee Tartuffe at or visit our online store directly.

Judo Jamie

Judo Jaime

Fundamental Direction Training Mat

Fundamental Training Mat

Good Time Judo Outdoor workout with Judo Jaime

Outdoor Judo Jaime2

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Demonstration of Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke

Demonstration of Judo Jaime: Your Training UkeBe sure to check out our video Judo training while social distancing.

I’m always looking for new subjects to write about regarding judo as well as contributions from my readers. Please send them to, thanks.

Gary Goltz
Xiaolin Gruv
Photo Courtesy: Carmichael Simon

Title Image: XiaolinGruv Masters 2005 : Nigel Bolton, Carmichael Simon, Kory Watkins, Anthony Gooch, and Jeriel Bey

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