Entries from March 2008
Long before the invention of the blog, and even before the creation of the World Wide Web, there was Usenet. The world’s first electronic social network was established in 1980, and martial artists have been arguing there ever since.
Back in the late 1990s, I started reading the rec.martial-arts newsgroup as most people do, with posts sorted by discussion topic. I soon discovered that, since 90% of the replies on any given topic were rubbish, it made more sense to sort by author instead. Although I abandoned rec-martial arts years ago, due to its low-signal-to-noise ratio, I can still remember the names of some of my favorite writers. At the top of that list, I place the mysterious Ordosclan, also known as Turiyan Gold.
I don’t know Ordosclan’s real name, or his training history. I don’t know how many of his posts were written under the influence of anti-psychotic medication, as his critics claimed. Perhaps not enough of them.
Ordosclan’s martial arts commentaries were sagacious and entertaining, sometimes cryptic and unfortunately brusque. In honor of Black Belt Mama’s Admired Martial Artists Month, I’d like to highlight a few:
Why punch from the hip?
In boxing, the boxer keeps his hands up on either side of his face for protection. Punches are thrown from this position. One hand goes out, the other stays by the face for protection.
Why does karate require that you throw a punch from the hip? What is gained by this?
The point of pulling the fists back is to open the chest. Doing so during stance changes makes it harder to use the arms for balance. It’s not for punching. Punches done from the hip are just a training exercise. The Japanese simply copied basic Shaolin from the Chinese. Some teachers try and read ridiculous theories into why something is the way it is: “It’s for qi,” “it’s for jing,” “It trains you to monkey elbow a guy that puts you in a bear hug from behind”, etc.
If you start taking things out of MA that are not combat-relevant, you’re left with punches and kicks, knees and headbutts. The simple answer is: it’s not martially oriented. Its just a myth that Shaolin monks are/were “fighting” monks. That’s nonsense. And everyone knows it.
[Read more →]
Welcome to the fourth edition of Qigong and Energy Arts Forum, a monthly collection of the best new articles on qigong (chi kung), reiki, kundalini yoga, meditation, and other related disciplines. This edition focuses on the risks and dangers–physical, intellectual, and spiritual–of improper practice.
Army’s New PTSD Treatments: Yoga, Reiki, and Bioenergy by Noah Shachtman (The Danger Room)
The military is scrambling for new ways to treat the brain injuries and post-traumatic stress of troops returning home from war. And every kind of therapy–no matter how far outside the accepted medical form–is being considered. The Army just unveiled a $4 million program to investigate everything from “spiritual ministry, transcendental meditation, [and] yoga” to “bioenergies such as Qi gong, Reiki, [and] distant healing” to mend the psyches of wounded troops…
Dangers of Kundalini Yoga by Anmol Mehta (Mastery of Meditation, Enlightenment and Kundalini Yoga)
Kundalini Yoga is certainly a powerful science and if not approached with intelligence and respect it can produce some challenges and difficulties for the practitioners. That is not meant to discourage you from taking up its practice, it is meant to help guide you so that you undertake Kundalini Yoga practice safely and thus, enjoy the enormous benefits that this form of yoga bestows… [Read more →]
Excerpted from Breathing Spaces: Qigong, Psychiatry, and Healing in China by Nancy N. Chen
Qigong in the Scientific Community
Qigong began to be actively debated within the [Chinese] scientific community during the 1980s, when scientists, especially physicians, sought to legitimate the phenomenon of qi. While popular publications focused on practice or gave life histories of particular masters, the discussions of qigong among scientists addressed questions of how to measure the force field of qi energy. Qi as a material phenomenon had to be quantified. This interest paralleled attention to the phenomenon of teyigongneng, or special psychic abilities.
…The doors of scientific research opened when Qian Xuesen, the prominent founder of China’s space research, declared that teyigongneng merited serious study. In his account of this movement, Paul Dong, a US-based qigong master, described how young children in China were tested for their abilities to “hear” characters being written and to perform psychokinesis (the power to move objects with their minds); there were reports of pills disappearing from bottles only to materialize outside their containers.
Scientific experiments also commenced during this period, as many researchers believed that special abilities could be enhanced with qigong. Over a dozen scientific journals and publications, among them, Zhiran Zazhi (Nature magazine) and Dongfang Qigong (Eastern qigong), began to discuss human potential and somatic science. [Read more →]
From the March-April 2008 issue of Desi Life:
Gitanjali Kolanad: A Force of Nature
Some scholars estimate that Kalari (also written as Kalari Payatte or Kalarippayattu) dates to 12th-century India. According to one legend, Kalari is the world’s first martial art.
Gita Kolanad is 54, but she looks, and moves as though she were at least a decade younger. Born in Kerala, she moved to Winnipeg at age 6. She used to do yoga, but says she found it boring and took up Kalari in her 30s to keep in shape for dance.
“Kalari is a real holistic system. It’s not just the martial art, but the healing aspect and the focus aspect,” Kolanad says. “When you get into the weapons, it’s a constant lesson in focus. When you lose your focus, you immediately get hit. I know that yoga has this aspect of meditation, but you don’t get any feedback on whether you’re doing your meditation right. Here you’re constantly getting feedback,” Kolanad says. “That’s why I love Kalari and I think it’s poised to be bigger than it is right now.”
At the highest stages of Kalari practice, it is said “the body becomes all eyes.” Masters become totally aware of everything around them. Kolanad doubts she will get to that point, but says that’s not a concern: “I enjoy every aspect of it.”
[Read more →]
Although Tai Chi is an effective treatment for stiffness and lower back pain, the complexity of its forms discourages some from learning the practice.
Fortunately for back pain sufferers, not all Tai Chi forms are long and elaborate. While some traditional forms contain more than one hundred movements, others contain less than a dozen. The short forms are easier to learn and faster to complete, but no less beneficial to the practitioner’s health.
Among the short forms, Tai Chi Ruler is the easiest to learn. The ruler, or chih, is a simple wooden dowel, approximately one inch thick and one foot long. Fundamental ruler practices consist of a single movement, repeated a few dozen or few hundred times.
Many of the Tai Chi Ruler movements do not actually require a ruler, and can be performed just as well without it. Here I will describe one such exercise, which is suitable for any age and fitness level. [Read more →]
Where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.
~ Mohandas Gandhi
The nation that will insist upon drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking by cowards.
~ William Francis Butler
He who is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.
~ Ben Jonson
The weakest of all weak things is a virtue that has not been tested in the fire.
~ Mark Twain
Courage first; power second; technique third.
~ Author unknown [Read more →]
Credit: Mark Hirschey
A Fake Interview with Real* Quotes
Martial Development: First of all, congratulations: a recent surge in Berkshire Hathaway’s stock price has made you the richest man in the world. $62 billion dollars, I hear. According to my estimates, you could literally buy up all the tea in China.
Warren Buffett: I drink Coca-Cola.
Martial Development: Fair enough. You know, kung fu is all about profitably investing time and effort. As one of the world’s greatest investors, I thought you might have some unique insights to share with us.
Warren Buffett: I’ve never even made a hostile acquisition! What do I know about kung fu?
Martial Development: More than you realize. [Read more →]
On the unusual Chinese style of kung fu known as Zui Quan, or drunken boxing, Bruce Kumar Frantzis writes:
Eight Drunken Immortals [style] stresses several unusual martial qualities. It embodies more joint- and body-folding techniques than any other external or internal/external martial art. It imparts the ability to fold the body like a rag doll, thus enabling the practitioner to both block and attack from quite unpredictable angles with every part of the body, including the buttocks and back. The extreme body folding skill of the Drunken boxers makes it virtually impossible to apply joint locks on them.
Eight Drunken Immortals is neither a “this or that” style, and equally uses punches, hand and finger strikes, and a large assortment of usual and unusual kicks from odd angles, joint-locks, all kinds of throws, both upright and crouching, and extensive use of the legs while on the ground.
The precise control of their own and their opponent’s space enables Drunken boxers to create optical illusions and use deception to great advantage. Another weight displacement focus is the ability to make any point on the body, say an elbow tip, head, tantien, or knee become the center of balance and movement, and then to rapidly change at will from any of multiple balance points to another. Such maneuvering allows Drunken boxers to appear totally unbalanced when in fact their balance is perfect. Thus, multiple traps are set for an unsuspecting opponent.
Most of the performances you will see at tournaments, in video games and movies are only theatrical imitations of genuine Zui Quan—but that is no reason not to enjoy them! Here are a few of my favorite drunken boxing movie scenes: [Read more →]
In medical science, one must pay attention not to plausible theorizing, but to experience and reason together.
The James Randi Educational Foundation has not validated any extraordinary human ability; ergo, none is likely to exist.
— Anonymous crank
Are psi and other forms of mental kung fu real? Some research suggests that they are, but to properly evaluate the data, you need a solid background in experimental design, statistical probability, and the subject itself. Science is hard.
Supposition and common-sense appeals are easy, and unlike research data, they always support the desired outcome. A suitable bit of folk wisdom can be found to justify any emotional investment.
For example, if you want to master a difficult new skill, you’ll remember that practice makes perfect; later, if you become frustrated and finally give up, it is only because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. This is all ex post facto rationalization—not reason, and certainly not science.
So belief and disbelief are not two poles on the spectrum of opinion, or two sides of the same coin. They are both on the same side of the coin. There is nothing inherently rational about a default to skepticism, it’s just another bias.
Maybe we can do better than that. [Read more →]