Interview with Lainas Paris

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 1.As a quick intro, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your school? When, where, how and why did you start practicing?

My Name is Paris Lainas (born in Vienna 1979). I am practicing Chen Style Taijiquan since 1999 and started my studies in Austria (Vienna) with Master Chen Shi Hong and his Master Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang (19th generation of Chen Family).

Since 1995 I did southern mantis and shaolin boxing but later on I focused Chen Taijiquan.

In 2010 I went to China (Chen Jia Gou – Henan Province) where Master Chen Bing (20th generation of Chen Family) taught me and later that year I studied with Master Chen Yingjun (20th generation of Chen Family and Grandmaster Chen Xiaowangs son).

With Master Chen Bing and Master Chen Yingjun my studies are still in progress.

For more than 10 years I teach this internal martial art in Vienna. My own practice and my teaching developed and changed a lot during this period.

I focus my training on the old frame of Chen Style. The so called laojia, which contains jibengong (basics like loosenings exercises, pole standing and silk reeling), the first and second form (yilu and erlu), as well as various weapon forms and of course tuishou (push hands) in different ways.

I always like to exchange experience with other practitioners from Taijiquan but also practitioners from other styles to improve my skills, view and teaching methods.

2. What are the most common mistakes, or assumptions, you’ve encountered during your years of teaching?

In Taijiquan espeacially there are some common problems. Those problems appear mostly in Western countries, but some of them also in China.

For example:

Here in Europe most teachers and practitioners are mystifying the whole Taijiquan and Qigong stuff. People tend to push it in an esoteric corner. In China it is much more a practical method and terms like qi (raw energy), yi (mindfullness) or shen (spirit) are concepts from Chinese medicin and the daoist philosophy.

In fact they were the scientists from their period, like the old Greek were the foundation for many European languages.  Today many of those words/terms can be related easily to already known lore and make the understanding and study of such a martial art much easier.

Another problem we are facing in the West is the concept of fang song, which translates in ‘loosening’. Most students are not able to relax right away or they get too loose instead of finding the centre. My teacher Master Chen Bing always calls it minimum effort.

It’ll teach relaxation but it will also keep structure that gradually turn into internal strength while practicing. I took my quite a while to master that idea.

The traditional way of teaching is not easy for a Western person. You learn by doing and practicing. The old texts are too hard to understand in the beginning. I didn’t know how to relax during exercises. 

Later I focused more on the soft aspect but I still missed the actual point. I am still working on finding perfect balance between relaxation and stability. Many years of practice increased my understanding and old, classic texts now make sense to me.

Last, people get impatient when it comes to progress in martial direction of Taijiquan. Because of that they quit and try other martial sports. It’s a waste of time and energy.

Do not misinterpret what I’m saying. Every martial art or martial sport is effective when you learn it properly. But investing years in one way, only to quit later and start another practice often leads to problems. 

First, during practice (basics, forms, partner exercises and more) we change our bodies so we can move a certain way. That body will work well with the method that you practiced.

When you practice Taijiquan for 10 years and build up softness, internal structure, adaptability and calmness. If you then decide to kickbox, you only build up external strength (muscels, endurance but also agression which will lift your piont of balance). You then lose the qualities you gained practicing Tajiquan.

Someone should decide where he or she wants to go and follow one direction. Only so we will achieve Gongfu. Of course we may exchange and learn from other styles but never forget our way and always integrate new skills into our system.

Furthermore one should decide if he or she wants to learn traditional martial art for self defense or professional martial sport. Both ways are very effective but are formed for different uses.

Many traditional martial artists may not be able to conquer a good boxer, kickboxer, MMA-Fighter or wrestler, but might be able to defend themselves on the street very well.

On the other side I heard from many professional and sucessful sport fighters that got beaten by a single, much weaker and untrained guy on the street. Again. It is not about quality here. It is the focus.

In most situations a good boxer will handle most dangerous situations. Also a good traditional martial artist might join a competition successfully but you should know that you train different. For me it is always a little difficult to do sparing with full contact fighters because I have to be very careful where or when to attack. Every kick is going for the groin or knees. The hands are going for vital points such as groin, throat or ears.

In a friendly fight you cannot attack such a point with force. I guess that’s one reason why many traditional Chinese martial arts have some practices like push hands or wrestling, where you are able to train without hurting your opponent.

3. Movies such as “Yip Man”, “The Grandmaster” and such are probably one of the reasons many people start to practice at some point. Since reality is mostly not matching most of these movie scenes, what are some key aspects a beginning martial artist should focus on?

I haven’t seen these movies but of course I know about their “magic”.

I think people should first decide what they really want. Do I want do be a good competition fighter? Or maybe an actor with beautiful movements?

Do I want to protect myself and my dearest? Am I interested in studying more than just movements and applications, like philosophy and principles? Any of this ways contains their own treasures but it is hard to conjoin them all.

For me it is importait that a practitioner should train its body, coordination, mind and its character as well. In Taijiquan for example we need to  head for fangsong, proper alignment and careful movements first. To go for internal strength, techniques for application or spiritual enlightenment would be too much and would slow down the progress. That does not mean that a beginner cannot do push hands. But the focus should be on the basics written above.

4. How can Kung Fu be used in an educational, non martial arts setting?

Gongfu (or Kung Fu) is traditional style, not a fighting style. There are many ways of Gongfu in china. They way of wushu (martial art) is just one of them.

Literally it means working/practice time and just means that if you focus on one thing in your life, study it and hone it like a blade you may get high skills and furthermore a deeper understanding about yourself and your environment.

In Japan this kind of practice is called Zen. Doing something for its own purpose. Getting present and conscious. Achieving deep skills and understanding.

Doing proper Gongfu should train your whole being.  Not only your body. Deppend on your styles system you will also train your character and change your view.

For example you can see that professional martial artists are fitting in their characters to their martial arts (like Taijiquan people may appear rooted, calm and friendly but in a fight, verbal or physical they may not be afraid or a Master of Wing Chun, Baji Quan or Xingyi Quan  may appear more aggressive and direct and also may be very successful in a job etc…).

So doing Gongfu in fact has a strong influence in daily live and of course in an educational setting. Every Martial Artist who did Gongfu will achieve some basic qualities that are very useful, like: discipline, respect, passion, curiosity, self-esteem and a clear mind.

Also a trained body will make you feel better and let you calm down and your mind focused.

5. The internet has completely changed our lives over the past 10-15 years. We now have access to lots of information (both good & bad) and connections like never before. How do you feel about this evolution and it’s impact on Kung Fu?

As you say, I think there is a good and a bad side.

the positive side:

A student can find information about different styles much easier. Watching videos might motivate them to their own practice and give them some new ideas. Also you can investigate on the web about the competence of different teachers of your choice.

You may compare their movements and instructions to well known masters of the same styles. When I started with Gongfu, there was no way to get information like that. So I had bad and good experiences with teachers in the past. In the beginning I was not able to differ in between them.

Another positive thing is that practitioners can exchange easier nowadays.  This can be a good way to improve your skills and lore.

the negative side:

I met a lot of teachers and masters in Europe that collect lots of knowledge but lack practice. My School here in Vienna calls Shu Jian, what literally means book and sword. This is often use for an allegory for learning (book) and practicing (sword).

You can’t achieve good skills by just reading a book or study some videos on YouTube. You need to practice (Gongfu) a lot. But if you only train hard, and don’t care about your way (principles, improvement of alignment, motions and understanding), you go in the wrong direction as well.

Especially for a teacher it is important to really understand the style and its principles. How should I teach something that I am not aware of?

6. What direction do you see Kung Fu or martial arts, as a whole, heading in?

Today? I guess it’s strengths lies in building up character and health of the people.

Here in Western Europe there is no need for fighting. So health improvement and the development of our character should go first. Of course it is good for yourself esteem, when you know, that you can protect yourself and others. Also in other situations such as: someone has an accident and you stop and help instead of just passing by.

At least life is about interaction. And so is martial art. All principles of physical interactions (fighting) can be used for other human interactions as well.

Every fight starts before the physical interaction. If you have to fight and it was not an ambush you have already lost the control over the situation before and the physical fight is the last way to safe yourself.

7. To end this interview in style, what is the best Kung Fu or martial arts advice you have personally ever received and what is the best advice you would give to our readers?

My teacher in China gave me the advice to reduce the content of my practice. So I focused on an old frame: the first form. It improved my Taijiquan a lot.

Many teachers are teaching many forms and exercises but for Gongfu you should be quite focused. We wanna go deep into it and don’t want to stay on the wide surface. I have more advice but for now I’ll stick to this one.

My advice to a beginner:

Search for a good teacher (must not be the greatest martial artist but of course he or she should have some good skills), who can teach you all basics, can explain the principles in different ways and with whom you have a good feeling.

It’s better to choose  a course with less exercises. If you see that you learn from one teacher 7 styles, in each 20 forms etc… it will be hard to achieve a good Gongfu for you.

Even though your teacher is good and has lots of skills in martial arts and teaches you, you still might not achieve Gongfu in more then 1 or 2 styles if you don’t start early on.

Contact:

Lainas Paris

Austrian-Chines Wushu Association 

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