How to Learn Zhan Zhuang From a Book

A recent entry in the suggestion box reads,

“What is the best book or DVD for learning zhan zhuang?”

My zhan zhuang background

My formal introduction to zhan zhuang (standing meditation) was provided by “Michael”, a master of Taoist self-cultivation methods. Continue reading How to Learn Zhan Zhuang From a Book

Five Reasons Why Sitting Meditation is the Ultimate Self-Defense

5) Personal protection experts agree: “the best defense is not being there” when trouble starts. If you are sitting at home meditating, then you obviously aren’t there.

Cung Le kicks Frank Shamrock
Cung Le kicks Frank Shamrock

4) Some expert fighters, such as Cung Le, throw punishing high kicks. Sitting down renders you completely invulnerable to these kicks! They will sail right over your head, missing you completely. Continue reading Five Reasons Why Sitting Meditation is the Ultimate Self-Defense

Return of the Jedi: Five Questions with a Neigong Expert

內功 neigong (pronounced nay-gung): the science of observing, strengthening and directing bio-energy, or chi.

The Magus of Java

A repository of extraordinary skills such as telekinesis, pyrogenesis, telepathy, remote viewing and levitation, the esoteric Eastern school known as Mo-Pai has been described as a real-life order of Jedi Knights. Some have even speculated that its history inspired George Lucas’ script for Attack of the Clones.

Among the ancient neigong lineages still in existence today, the Mo-Pai is characterized by an unusual openness. The school and its headmaster, known by the alias “John Chang”, has been the subject of two recent books and a video documentary.

Jim McMillan, who identifies himself as a longtime disciple of John Chang, has graciously agreed to share a few of his experiences with Martial Development readers: Continue reading Return of the Jedi: Five Questions with a Neigong Expert

The Zen Habits of Master Hsuan Hua

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. Continue reading The Zen Habits of Master Hsuan Hua

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?

Ordosclan, The Grumpy Savant of rec.martial-arts

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.

Black Belt Mama's Admired Martial Artists Month

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.

Continue reading Ordosclan, The Grumpy Savant of rec.martial-arts

Qigong and Energetic Arts a Danger to Health?

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…

Feature articleDangers 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… Continue reading Qigong and Energetic Arts a Danger to Health?

Vladimir Vasiliev, Russia’s Mind Warrior

Excerpted from Vladimir Vasiliev: Russia’s Mind Warrior is Set to Hit the U.K. by Trevor Robinson

Through training in the martial arts, we begin to pay more attention to aspects of experience that might have seemed peripheral, if not hard to believe before. We begin to start noticing and giving more credence to experiences such as meeting someone for the first time and instantly liking them or disliking them without knowing anything about them. We like their vibes, we can tell if someone is staring at us and when we look up (what makes you look?) we feel we know what they are feeling or that something is going to happen, the phone rings and we know who it is before we answer it. As we allow ourselves to develop new sensitivities, we begin to view the world quite differently.

Training in Psychic Energy

Vladimir Vasiliev is a Master in The System [Systema] and he has an outstanding command of its use. Though he is so humble, I’m sure he would be the first to deny it! What I will relay now is on his personal account of the Psychic Training he received while he was with the Special Operations unit in Spetsnaz. In his own words:

The goal of the training was to make you multi-functional. You were to be able to work effectively in any kind of situation and never fear it. Perhaps more importantly, you were expected to learn how to be creative and act spontaneously. Divergent thinking, being able to come up with unconventional and unusual responses and decisions in different situations was an absolute necessity. You had to be totally adaptable to survive in the unit.

The key to this adaptability was the Psychic Training you received. You were expected to go well beyond the mere physical and psychological mastery to a point where intuition and that sixth sense, that we all have but seldom use, became a part of your daily life.

Awareness, or tapping into your sixth sense, was a focus for many of the exercises. Training classes could run for five hours and in some, you’d be blindfolded for the entire time. You’d have to follow what was going on, do your exercises and come to an understanding of the principles the instructor was teaching without the use of sight.

While sparring, the instructor would also walk around the class looking for trainees who weren’t paying attention to the total environment they were working in. If he thought you weren’t aware of his presence, he’d hit you with a stick over the head, this taught the trainee very quickly to be aware of where everyone was at all times.

At other times, we were brought up into pitch-black rooms and had to guess how many people were in it, if any. We’d also be blindfolded and have to identify colors just by touching colored blocks of paper. Again, awareness was to extend far beyond the normal five senses into the area of the psychic.

Some instructors who were skilled at passing psychic energy would take a few glasses of water and charge them with energy. This was a charge grounded in a psychic form of energy. It was much like touch healing. They’d concentrate on the water and send energy into it through their fingers without touching it. The trainee would then have to come into the room and tell the instructor which classes had been charged with the energy. The purpose behind this exercise was to teach the trainee how, on a mission, to tell if their drink was poisoned. Poison has a much stronger energy than regular water and that energy is discernible to those who have learned to access and use their psychic abilities.

Continue reading Vladimir Vasiliev, Russia’s Mind Warrior

Meditating on Death Increases Happiness, Study Shows

Philosophers and scientists have long been interested in how the mind processes the inevitability of death, both cognitively and emotionally. One would expect, for example, that reminders of our mortality—say the sudden death of a loved one—would throw us into a state of disabling fear of the unknown. But that doesn’t happen. If the prospect of death is so incomprehensible, why are we not trembling in a constant state of terror over this fact?

Psychologists have some ideas about how we cope with existential dread. One emerging idea—”terror management theory“—holds that the brain is hard-wired to keep us from being paralyzed by fear. According to this theory, the brain allows us to think about dying, even to change the way we live our lives, but not cower in the corner, paralyzed by fear. The automatic, unconscious part of our brain in effect protects the conscious mind.

But how does this work? Continue reading Meditating on Death Increases Happiness, Study Shows

The Comforts of Mindless Consistency

Recounted by psychologist Robert Cialdini:

One night at an introductory lecture given by the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program, I witnessed a nice illustration of how people will hide inside the walls of consistency to protect themselves from the troublesome consequences of thought.

The Science of Meditation

The lecture itself was presided over by two earnest young men and was designed to recruit new members into the program. The program claimed it could teach a unique brand of meditation that would allow us to achieve all manner of desirable things, ranging from simple inner peace to the more spectacular abilities—to fly and pass through walls—at the program’s advanced (and more expensive) stages.

I had decided to attend the meeting to observe the kind of compliance tactics used in recruitment lectures of this sort, and had brought along an interested friend, a university professor whose areas of specialization were statistics and symbolic logic. As the meeting progressed and the lecturers explained the theory behind TM, I noticed my logician friend become increasingly restless.

Looking more and more pained and shifting about constantly in his seat, he was finally unable to resist. When the leaders called for questions at the completion of the lecture, he raised his hand and gently but surely demolished the presentation we had just heard. In less than two minutes, he pointed out precisely where and why the lecturers’ complex argument was contradictory, illogical, and unsupportable. Continue reading The Comforts of Mindless Consistency