Martial Development

Martial arts for personal development

Entries from August 2008

In Defense of the Dojo Kun

August 30th, 2008 · 5 Comments

In thousands of halls across our great nation, an archaic manuscript hangs on the wall. Written many decades ago, in a time and place quite foreign to our own, this inscrutable document anchors us to a primitive culture that we would do well to forget. I submit to you that it holds no value to us today; as rational men and women, we should put our sentiments aside and discard this anachronism immediately. Our traditions must not be allowed to stand in the way of progress.

What makes this document so odious? Simply put, it is subjective. Instead of identifying specific behaviors for its reader to follow, it describes general principles and leaves each reader to interpret them as they see fit. These statements are so vague and meaningless that they could conceivably be used to justify anything.

Who decides what this document really means? [Read more →]

Rhonda Byrne’s Dirty Little Secret

August 26th, 2008 · 102 Comments

The Other Secret

The full story of how Rhonda Byrne turned a positive thinking realization into “the greatest success story in the annals of viral marketing”-–to quote The American Spectator-–is only now emerging in court papers filed in the US and Australia, and from interviews with the participants. To Byrne, it’s the story of a small group of people bringing “joy to the world”; to some of those involved it’s a story of hypocrisy and ruthless double-dealing.

Like many of her public utterances, the message that Australia’s platinum-haired self-help guru Rhonda Byrne sent out last November to her millions of followers was a rhapsodic outpouring of goodwill. Thanksgiving Day was approaching in the United States, where Byrne now lives in a Californian celebrity enclave just up the road from Oprah Winfrey’s 17-hectare, neo-Georgian estate, and the creator of the New-Age blockbuster The Secret wanted to remind the world about the crucial importance of gratitude.

“Remember,” Byrne wrote, “if you are criticising, you are not being grateful. If you are blaming, you are not being grateful. If you are complaining, you are not being grateful.”

Those are worthy sentiments, but it was an odd time for Byrne to be expressing them because her lawyers had just sued two of the very people who were instrumental in launching her book and film The Secret to phenomenal success. [Read more →]

In My Dojo, Cheaters And Failures Are Welcome

August 25th, 2008 · 10 Comments

Nothing fails like success because we don’t learn from it. We learn only from failure. ~Kenneth E. Boulding

Want to become an admired and successful martial artist? It’s easy: just find a style and dojo where the rules favor your natural traits and talents, and insist that everyone follows the rules.

Do you have long legs and flexible hips? Try sport Taekwondo.
Overweight? Take up Tai Chi or knife fighting.
Prefer horizontal combat? Enroll in a BJJ class.

If this sounds like ridiculous advice, it is because you expect more than comfort and fraternity from your martial art. You want a practice that enables you to grow, and to realize your latent potential. Martial arts are supremely useful for this purpose because, at their most basic level, they have no rules; with no impermissible attacks, no fault is too small to remain uncorrected.

How to Become a Failure

Immanent success in martial arts is always a simple matter of lowering your standards. Failure, in contrast, becomes increasingly difficult to achieve. And as the opportunity for failure decreases, the rate of learning slows.

Martial arts skill vs. practice

Progress in martial arts tends to follow a logarithmic curve. When a ten-year veteran of the arts possesses only three years worth of skill, it is probably because they long ago exhausted their opportunities to fail.

There are many ways for a student to increase their failure rate. [Read more →]

British Kungfu Hero Demonstrates Qinggong for BBC News

August 18th, 2008 · 4 Comments

(Qing gong is the legendary Chinese Kungfu skill that enables masters to run up walls, and fly through the air.)

From Manchester, we bring you the unique Mr. Tony McCabe, a man who claims he can jump on hen’s eggs and human noses without breaking them…


BBC Nationwide

Gentle, Sweet and Mild? You Still Need a Martial Art

August 17th, 2008 · 9 Comments

Outside the school gym, two men sat idly on a bench, waiting for Tai Chi class to begin. “If anyone were to attack me,” the first student offered, “I would simply run away, living to fight another day.”

A faint smile crossed his companion’s face, as both continued to enjoy the summer sunset. Allowing a respectful pause, the second man finally replied: “And how fast can you run?”

While it is true that a fight requires two consenting parties, a brutal beating does not. There are times when strategic retreat is not an option. We all know that martial arts experience is valuable in such times, for everyone.

But did you know that martial arts training offers special benefits for the kind and gentle? [Read more →]

The Shaolin Temple Definition of Courage

August 12th, 2008 · 6 Comments

From American Shaolin, a autobiographical tale of Matthew Polly’s intensive training at the modern Shaolin Temple:

American Shaolin

With most TV programming so dull, the boys at Shaolin were kungfu movie freaks, constantly visiting Shaolin’s multiplex to watch the latest blood-spattered Hong Kong releases on VHS. Wanting to undermine the assumption that laowai (non-Chinese outsiders) suck at martial arts, I brought VHS copies of Steven Seagal’s Above the Law, David Carradine’s Kung Fu, and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Lionheart back to Shaolin after winter vacation.

The monks were used to highly fictionalized portrayals of the Shaolin temple, so they weren’t bothered by the fantasy version of Shaolin in David Carrdine’s Kung Fu. They were, however, shocked by the casting of David Carradine.

“The actor is a laowai,” I said. “He’s pretending to be half-Chinese.”

“That explains why his kungfu is so terrible,” Little Tiger said, as he ducked to the back row to avoid another cuff from monk Deqing.

David Carradine

For the rest of the movie I ignored the slights about Carradine’s kungfu skills, which were admittedly poor. (To be fair, however, he did capture that California New Age, faux-Zen blankness perfectly.) I was waiting for that climactic moment that nearly every American male who was alive in the early 1970s remembers: the scene where Carradine lifts a burning chalice to pass the final Shaolin test, permanently branding a dragon one one forearm and a tiger on the other. I hadn’t seen or heard anything like this legend since my arrival, but I had to know.

“Is the story true?” I asked. “Did that used to be the final test for Shaolin monks?”

[Read more →]

Tanuki: The New Official Mascot of Tai Chi?

August 9th, 2008 · 5 Comments

Platypus swimming
Platypus: The Unofficial Mascot of MMA
Sporting a duck’s bill, otter’s feet and beaver tail, the platypus is considered by some to be the greatest combination of all animals.
Photo credit: striatic

While many Chinese martial arts take inspiration from animals—Tibetan Crane Kung Fu, Monkey’s Fist, Dragon Style, and White Ape Boxing are just a few popular examples—Tai Chi Chuan uses dreary references to binary arithmetic. Small wonder, then, that most people consider Tai Chi boring. It has a serious image problem.

To remain competitive with the thrilling spectacle of mixed martial arts, Tai Chi Chuan should adopt a provocative animal mascot. But what kind of animal best embodies Tai Chi’s unique qualities? [Read more →]

Tai Chi in the 2008 Beijing Olympics

August 9th, 2008 · 5 Comments

On August 8, 2008, Beijing staged most the elaborate opening ceremony in Olympic history. 2008 Tai Chi performers played their form in perfect synchronicity. Enjoy these pictures and video clips from their spectacular demonstration.

Tai Chi in the 2008 Beijing Olympics

[Read more →]

Are You Fit Enough to Fight?

August 7th, 2008 · 10 Comments

Which of the following photos depicts an athlete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics?

Brett NewlinSarah HammerChristian Cantwell

[Read more →]

The Zen Habits of Master Hsuan Hua

August 1st, 2008 · 7 Comments

What is Zen?

Zen Buddhism is a way and a view of life which does not belong to any of the formal categories of modern Western thought. It is not a religion or a philosophy; it is not a psychology or a type of science. It is an example of what is known in India and China as a “way of liberation,” and is similar in this respect to Taoism, Vedanta, and Yoga. A way of liberation can have no positive definition. It has to be suggested by saying what it is not, somewhat as a sculptor reveals an image by the act of removing pieces of stone from a block.
- Alan Watts, The Way of Zen

If Zen has no positive definition, then everything is Zen. And if everything is Zen, then naturally every blog is Zen too. Right?

Actually, this argument is a perfect illustration of New Age rhetorical misdirection. While one can say that everything is Zen in its transcendent sense, such a statement cannot serve as the premise for an immanent logical conclusion. In other words: Zen proves nothing, by definition.

Applying transcendent or non-dual definitions to conventional worldly contexts is a popular tactic amongst false gurus. [Read more →]