So You Think You Can Dance?

In 2006, I saw a few episodes of MTV’s reality TV show Final Fu. At the time, I thought the performers displayed physical competence, but not greatness, and I found the level of demonstration and competition disappointing. Head judge Ernie Reyes Jr. praised his players’ abilities to throw a variety of high kicks.

When I subsequently watched auditions for Fox’s televised dance competition, So You Think You Can Dance, I was both delighted and appalled by the disparity in standards. Somehow, I had expected martial austerities to result in a deeper achievement, when compared to the frivolous motivations of dance. Continue reading So You Think You Can Dance?

Defend Yourself the Taoist Way

Pick up an issue of Black Belt or Inside Kung Fu magazine. Watch a self-defense DVD. Browse a martial arts website. If you had to write captions under each picture, what would they say?

Black Belt Magazine

My hands are deadly weapons.
I am nobody’s victim.
Don’t mess with me, or you’ll regret it.

These poses remind your would-be attacker what they stand to lose. And sure, they are intimidating, to a degree.

The problem is, your attacker doesn’t harbor any intention of losing, and so the potential downside may just be disregarded. Continue reading Defend Yourself the Taoist Way

Investing in Loss, Investing in Ego

Manjusri
Manjusri, destroyer of illusion
Credit: Jpatokal

“Tell me, Subhuti,” Buddha inquired, “Can an arhat think to himself: ‘I have attained the realization of an arhat’?”

Subhuti, his disciple, replied, “Of course not. With such a thought, he would be grasping to the illusory notions of an ego, a personality, and an individual self. Any so-called arhat who holds these notions is a fake.”
~Diamond Sutra

The meaning of “investing in loss”, as originally recommended by the late Tai Chi master Cheng Man-Ching, was to neutralize a superior force through the practice of non-contention:

Now when I say, “Learn to invest in loss,” who is willing to do this? To invest in loss is to permit others to use force to attack while you don’t use even the slightest force to defend yourself. On the contrary, you lead an opponent’s force away so that it is useless.

Against genuinely applied force, the method is so difficult to apply that it usually fails; thus, it is called a loss. After becoming familiar with every misapplication of wuwei, the non-contention principle, one can eventually start using it correctly and effectively; thus, it is called an investment.

Investing in loss can be a tiresome and disheartening method, but it is a reliable one. Sadly, the term is often misapplied as a catch-all justification for fruitless endeavors. Not every loss qualifies as an investment. Continue reading Investing in Loss, Investing in Ego

Postel’s Law of Sparring

My teachers have disagreed on many things, but in these two points they are all in accord:

  • If you want to excel in martial arts, you must touch hands (spar) with as many people as possible; preferably, hundreds or thousands.
  • For a great achievement, you must use the correct training methods in a disciplined fashion. Avoid deviant and inferior methods, and refuse to entertain the people who use them.

In theory, there is no contradiction between these two ideals. In practice, compromise is required. Nobody agrees on what the correct training methods are, and everyone measures their progress by a different standard—except for those who reject the concepts of “progress” and “standards” altogether.

Of all the frustrations that hinder interaction among martial artists from different schools, lineages and styles—money, reputation, physical safety—this is perhaps the most difficult to address: everybody else is practicing incorrectly! Continue reading Postel’s Law of Sparring

Chuck Norris and Google: The Facts

Google

How do you think Google established their complete dominance of Web search? Superior engineering? Nope. Shrewd business strategy? Guess again. They have a secret weapon…

Chuck Norris built Google’s first data center from a roll of barbed wire, a pallet of lumber, and a side of raw beef. The barbed wire was just for snacking.

Google Health

A recent Google Health survey has identified the three most common medical diagnoses in the United States: Chuck Norris’ Right Leg, Chuck Norris’ Left Leg, and Other. Continue reading Chuck Norris and Google: The Facts

Guo Lin’s Qigong Cure for Cancer

Qigong Fever

Excerpted from Qigong Fever: Body, Science, and Utopia in China by David A. Palmer

There were no officially sanctioned qigong activities in China until its rehabilitation in 1978, after the end of the Cultural Revolution. However, one woman, Guo Lin, an artist and cancer victim from Guangdong province who had cured herself by practicing qigong during the 1960s, was brave enough to teach other cancer patients in the parks of Beijing as early as 1970. Her ‘New Qigong Therapy’ inaugurated a new, collective form of qigong teaching and practice that would later be adopted by most qigong masters. Guo Lin can thus be said to have triggered the qigong wave of the 1980s.

Born near Zhongshan, Guangdong in 1909, Guo Lin was trained as a young girl in traditional body technologies by her paternal grandfather, a Taoist in Macau, where her family had fled following the 1911 revolution. Later, as a student of landscape painting, she visited several holy mountains; the breathing technique she used when climbing the steep slopes would become the basis for her future qigong method.

In 1949 Guo Lin was hit by uterine cancer, which was treated by hysterectomy. The cancer recurred in 1959 while she was teaching at the new Beijing Painting Academy. Guo Lin remembered the techniques that she had learned in her youth, and decided to practice them to treat her cancer. Continue reading Guo Lin’s Qigong Cure for Cancer

Who Wants to Learn Mo Pai Nei Kung?

John Chang
“John Chang”
a.k.a. “Dynamo Jack”

The Final Qigong Demonstration of John Chang remains one of my most popular posts. With the help of Youtube’s new viewer demographics feature, we can learn more about the people who find this video so fascinating. Continue reading Who Wants to Learn Mo Pai Nei Kung?

Advanced Tai Chi Balance Training Tips

Tai Chi Parry and Punch
Zeng Nailiang’s Xin style Taiji
Parry and Punch

The positive effects of Tai Chi Chuan training on balance and stability are well known. Clinical studies have shown that, with as little as a few weeks of Tai Chi practice, students are significantly less likely to fall down accidentally, inside or outside of class. From a martial arts perspective, they are also less vulnerable to trips, throws and takedowns.

Not every slow-motion exercise routine is worthy of the name Tai Chi, though. The subtle details of your performance will determine whether your practice is excellent balance training, or just marginally beneficial. Here are three adjustments to enhance your Tai Chi form practice for improved balance: Continue reading Advanced Tai Chi Balance Training Tips

Why Pretty Boys Avoid Taijiquan

Tell the truth, pretty boy. You don’t really care whether your martial art works on the streets. You just want to burn calories and build muscle, because that is what works on the beach.

So let me warn you: although Taijiquan can benefit your health, your physical appearance will pay the price. Continue reading Why Pretty Boys Avoid Taijiquan

Master Wang Says: “Taijiquan Sucks”

This is a distillation of previous published interviews with Master Wang.

Having traveled across China, I know that Taijiquan has the most practitioners of any martial art. Upon hearing that this boxing method was handed down from Zhang Sanfeng, I despised him for a long time.

Taijiquan is far from the art of actual combat; they have nothing in common with each other.

Later on, I read the collected edition of Zhang Sanfeng’s teachings, and realized that he had progressed deeply into the great Tao—and I came to believe that Taiji was not handed down from him at all! Actually, it doesn’t matter; even if one is a descendant of Sanfeng, he is not worthy to talk about this method without first gaining its essence. Continue reading Master Wang Says: “Taijiquan Sucks”