Charles Manson and the Many Faces of Tai Chi

Writer and Tai Chi expert Scott Meredith recently made this keen observation about Tai Chi marketing:

Tai Chi faces

This graphic shows the unconscious cultural bias that affects internal training. What do all these have in common? Yeah – they show only upper body, arm gestures, or at least massively emphasize the upper body, arms, hands and heads, to the partial or complete exclusion of feet, legs, and hips…

Our profound entrancement with the upper body has made us all tense as hell up there. That’s one issue. The other issue is that, paradoxical as it may seem, the only way to get the real internal in the upper body (arms, hands, whatever) is by relentless internal conditioning of the lower body (feet, legs, hips).

All of that is true. Modern humans really are obsessed with their upper bodies. Our middle and upper class jobs are performed with hands and eyes, while the lower body is resting in a seated position. And even after forty to fifty hours of office work, leading to pathologically tight hip flexors and hamstrings, most of us would still prefer to skip leg day at the gym.

Lower body workouts are a tough sell. I myself have accidentally frightened away new students in the past, by demonstrating a low posture in an introductory Tai Chi class. As Scott implied, Westerners have been conditioned to expect a vibrant new level of health, as a result of adopting exotic Asian hand positions. To be confronted with the coarse reality of a low squat is a deeply dissonant experience.

Marketing professionals and cover designers know this, and respond to the desires of the marketplace.

It’s fun to make cynical observations about advertising. Nevertheless, let’s acknowledge that martial artists and marketers have a common goal: influencing others’ behavior with minimal cost and effort. Tai Chi fans ought to learn from the wisdom displayed by these ad packages. It’s not about excluding the waist and everything below. It’s about focusing on a human face. Continue reading Charles Manson and the Many Faces of Tai Chi

Are Action Movies Ruining Martial Arts?

In New York Magazine, Kyle Buchanan laments the decline of the modern action movie:

…Actors often brag about how much Krav Maga or karate or capoeira they had to learn for their roles, but to judge from the onscreen world of modern action movies, that kind of skill set is hardly rare: A built-in understanding of martial arts is instilled in everyone, be they hero, villain, or mere henchman. (Fortunately, heroes always get to fight off bad guys who somehow know the exact same form of martial arts they do.) Too often, it seems like movies grind to a halt for obligatory hand-to-hand combat with low stakes and little invention, as though the screenwriter typed, “A fight breaks out,” and the director left it up to the second unit and fight coordinator to fill three minutes.

With little in the way of stakes, a sameness in presentation, and no blood or bruises, martial arts have turned action scenes into dance scenes…Gone are the days when a fight might involve a gun, a makeshift weapon, or a hit that actually hurts.

Mr. Buchanan misremembers the history of violence in cinema. Continue reading Are Action Movies Ruining Martial Arts?

A Letter to Zangief Kid, the Bully Crusher

Zangief

Hey, Zangief Kid. Millions of people are talking about you these days. They are talking about that final bullying event, captured on video two weeks ago, that made you Internet famous. Reporters, school officials, and other so-called experts are discussing how such events should be “handled” or “managed,” as if they indicated a simple policy failure.

I think you know better, Little Zangief, and so do I. Now, rather than adding to the punditry, I’d like to say a few words to you directly. But first, a quick recap, and please correct me if I am wrong…

School bullies hounded you for years. They tormented you daily, to such an extent that others were reluctant to be seen as your friend, lest they be forced to share in your suffering.

When a group of bullies ambushed you, their scrawny leader throwing punches while the rest stood by in approval, you finally snapped. They had your back against the wall, both figuratively and literally, Zangief. So, on the fifth punch, Continue reading A Letter to Zangief Kid, the Bully Crusher

Seattle MMA “Superhero” Fights Street Crime

First reported by KOMO News:

Phoenix Jones is a superhero.

He has a day job but wears a costume underneath his street clothes in case he encounters crime. He carries a “net gun” and has a sidekick named Buster Doe.

But this isn’t the plot from a Hollywood movie. There are no special effects. This is real-life and Phoenix patrols Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood every week- stopping fights, feeding the homeless and helping folks who have run out of gas.

Continue reading Seattle MMA “Superhero” Fights Street Crime

The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers: Martial Arts Study Guide

This article is intended as a companion piece to The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers series. It will provide additional information on the martial arts themes that frequently appear in The LXD.

AntiGravity Heroes

What styles of martial arts are performed on The LXD?

In Episode 2, AntiGravity Heroes, Jimmy and Justin perform a dazzling set with elements of parkour, XMA, and modern wushu. Although the term wushu technically refers to Chinese martial arts in general, the term is most commonly applied these days to theatrical renditions of the arts, tuned for artistic performance rather than for direct combat application. Continue reading The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers: Martial Arts Study Guide

How to Win at Kickboxing (The Wrong Way)

By Tim Ferriss, no-holds-barred cage fighter, kick-boxer-pusher, and the author of the bestselling book The 4-Hour Workweek

In 1999, sometime after quitting my second unfulfilling job and eating peanut-butter sandwiches for comfort, I won the gold medal at the Chinese Kickboxing National Championships.

The 4-Hour Workweek

It wasn’t because I was good at punching and kicking. God forbid. Continue reading How to Win at Kickboxing (The Wrong Way)

Three Questions About Submission Grappling

  1. If you knew someone was trying to kill you in a fight, at what point would you give in, and allow them to succeed?
  2. If you wanted a competitor to submit to your authority, would killing them instead demonstrate a failure or a success?
  3. Do you believe that submission grappling and self-defense are basically the same thing?

Why Are White Belt Fighters So Dangerous?

Many experienced martial artists believe that, of all the different categories of training partners, absolute beginners are the most dangerous. To outsiders, this sounds like a paradox. Shouldn’t those with the least martial arts training be the least dangerous?

It is not truly a paradox, only a misconception. And not all white belts are dangerous, obviously. But those that are, if only on the mat, are so for the following reasons.

Their goal is always to win. They don’t yet understand the difference between trying to win, and trying to cultivate the skills that one uses to win. Real fights are chaotic affairs, and chaos is not a proper breeding ground for skill development; thus, training in respectable martial arts consists of a series of games, first introducing support structures (e.g. rules and conventions), then dismantling them one step at a time.

The need for, or value in this approach is not obvious–and it is not always explained at the outset. So some white belts never appreciate the context of their practice. Others consider themselves above the “organized despair” of the “traditional mess,” and when a rule stands between them and a sparring victory, they break it without hesitation. The conventions and rules of training, they reason, are “unrealistic in a real fight.” Continue reading Why Are White Belt Fighters So Dangerous?

Wang Zongyue’s Taiji Boxing Trademark

All characters and events in this post–even those based on real people–are entirely fictional. The following page contains coarse language and reasoning and due to its content, it should not be read by anyone.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been trolled! Hoaxed! Buffaloed and bewildered!

It doesn’t happen often these days. I’ve been discussing martial arts on the Internet since before Web 1.0. I’ve seen most of the pranks, and yes, pulled a few myself.

What is the best style of martial arts for fit, beautiful women with large breasts? Please let me know, so I can sign up for it. Serious replies only.

So when someone dangles a truly ridiculous assertion in front of my nose, I usually have the good sense to ignore it these days. Usually. But a few days ago, one fairly experienced martial artist and provocateur knocked me for a loop.

We were chatting about the relevance of Taijiquan and push hands to combat. I said that I considered it inappropriate to keep one’s arms below the chest for the duration of push hands practice, regardless of whether one is interested in the martial applications of the art. It wasn’t intended as a criticism, really–just a quick observation in the midst of a wide-ranging discussion. But he eventually replied,

All this about arm position and circling is irrelevant, because in Push Hands, as long as you can touch your partner anywhere on their body, you can pop ’em (as long as they have just a bit more unconscious tension than you do). That’s it. Doesn’t much matter where you touch them as deep unconscious tension (unlike superficial and/or conscious tension) is not localized it is a diffuse property–like a dye that is wicked through a material rather than a local stain. So, hands up or down shouldn’t matter much in the deep sense except that by the standards of physicalized Push Hands which the Guest seems to advocate it should simply make it that much easier to pop me up and out.

In retrospect, I should have addressed the issue in terms a software engineer can understand Continue reading Wang Zongyue’s Taiji Boxing Trademark

Beyond Martial Arts: 3 Essential Steps Towards Personal Security

by guest author Lucas Gregson

Most adults feel incredibly capable of functioning in their day to day activities. They have bought insurance, put locks on their doors and generally adhere to the standard commonsense notions of maintaining their personal security. Occasionally they will be caught unawares and become the victim to some form of crime. After bemoaning the loss of their wallet or iPod, they will either assume that they could not have avoided the burglary or will step up their precautionary measures and go back to feeling safe and prepared.

However, simply buying pepper spray or watching fights on Jerry Springer will not ensure your ability to protect yourself. There is far more effort and introspection involved in appropriately preparing to protect your personal security. For the purposes of this article, I would like to approach the subject matter from a self defense standpoint, wherein the first objective is to avoid harm, and not from a fighting mindset. There is a huge difference between doing everything possible to avoid a physical interaction with a would-be assailant and standing your ground and meeting the challenge with equal if not greater force.

Recognizing the need for personal protection… won’t do anything at all if you aren’t prepared to use it.

Step 1: Recognition of a Potential Problem. Most advocates of personal security devices and training are happy enough to list off the potential dangers inherent in our everyday activities. They can tell you the local crime statistics, and rattle off a laundry list of situations and scams that you should be aware of and take steps to avoid. They can scare the pants off of you and make a condition like agoraphobia seem like the sanest approach to personal security. They may not tell you this one fundamental truth: you can’t prepare for every possible contingency.

Continue reading Beyond Martial Arts: 3 Essential Steps Towards Personal Security