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

Karate Kata Secrets of the NBA

First and foremost, a master of Karate must become a master of the obvious. While mid-level belts are distracted by the novelty of obscure or secret kata applications, the expert must constantly return to his or her fundamentals.

Wilt Chamberlain is an intriguing example of this approach. Decades after his retirement from the NBA, he still dominates the record books. Wilt took the most shots, and scored the most points of any player in the league. (He was also very successful on the basketball court.)

Wilt Chamberlain's 100 point game

Yes, Wilt Chamberlain was clearly a gifted athlete; but there is another important contributing factor to his success.  Did you know he used a free throw kata?

It’s true. Not only that, but he remained loyal to this practice, despite clear evidence that his kata did not work.

There is a lesson here for every teacher and student of Karate. It’s a lesson about deep fundamentals. Continue reading Karate Kata Secrets of the NBA

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

James Arthur Ray: Downfall of a “Spiritual Warrior”

March 2009

Times have been tough for Matthew Smith. A self-proclaimed “Star Wars” fanatic from Clifton, N.J., Mr. Smith, 38, was laid off from his job as a retail manager five months ago and has been living on unemployment ever since. His dream of starting his own business fizzled along with his marriage — one was directly tied to the other, he says. And his efforts to find a new job have so far been futile.

“My life has not been working,” he said, as he stood inside a huge ballroom at the Westin Hotel on Saturday along with 500 other people, many of them also unemployed and looking for something better.

But this was not a job fair. They were here to see a motivational speaker and self-help guru, and paying a hefty price to do so: $1,297 for a high-decibel, two-day seminar. In this case, the speaker was James Arthur Ray, one of the emerging names in the $11 billion self-improvement industry, and the event was called the Harmonic Wealth Weekend.

Continue reading James Arthur Ray: Downfall of a “Spiritual Warrior”

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?

Derren Brown Investigates The Bronnikov Method

A Martial Development Meta-Investigation

I can see inside Vyacheslav Bronnikov’s head.

Not because I possess the disputed X-ray vision skills–though if I did, I would probably keep quiet about it. No, I’m just saying that I may understand what Bronnikov was thinking when he did what he did.

I should back up, and tell the tale from the start. Derren Brown is a renowned ‘psychological illusionist,’ a performer who combines magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship in order to seemingly predict and control human behavior. Imagine a younger, more talented, and more personable version of James Randi…

For the past ten years Derren has created TV and stage performances that have stunned audiences, debunked the paranormal and encouraged many to improve and enhance their own mental abilities. His first show appeared in 2000, Derren Brown: Mind Control, and followed with Trick of the Mind, Trick or Treat and a series of Specials including the controversial Russian Roulette and the hugely popular Events.

In the second episode of his latest television series, Darren Brown Investigates…, the illusionist set out to test The Bronnikov Method of human potential development. Created by Vyacheslav M. Bronnikov, this system–based in ancient Tibetan Yoga–promises to awaken dormant human skills and abilities, among them the ability to see while blindfolded, or indeed with no eyes at all.

Derren traveled to a Bronnikov seminar in Belgium, accompanied a woman who has been legally blind for more than a decade. As for what happened next… Continue reading Derren Brown Investigates The Bronnikov Method

Mark Nesti on Chi, Consciousness and Quantum Gravity

This is the second entry in our special week-long focus on Qigong and energy arts.

Mark Nesti

Mark Nesti is not your average New Age flake. After five years’ service with a recon/sniper cell in the Australian army, his career shifted into helicopter testing and maintenance, emergency communications, and business development. When he eventually began to explore the fields of theoretical physics and alternative therapies, his broad engineering mindset granted him a unique perspective.

Mark wrote a book about his exploration and research into quantum mechanics, meditation, chi, and consciousness. He isn’t promising you a new car or a diamond necklace in return for your fealty, but you may find his work rewarding in other ways. Mark recently sent me a few words regarding his personal inspiration and investigation, which I share with you below.

Perhaps, in some measure, modern society has lost regard for nature, in a divine sense, or otherwise. If true, this can only be attributed to a loss of spirit within the individual. In an attempt to define the connection between science and spirituality, between the observer and the included, I hope that spirit will be reunited.

If We Are Anything: OM, Chi, Consciousness and Quantum Gravity

I would like to share with you a personal experience of just how powerful some types of meditation can be. Many of you already know that there are many forms of meditation, from practices which are designed to energize and relax, all the way to practices aimed at raising awareness, and some with the specific goal of raising the levels of Chi (accumulations called Kundalini) within the human system. I am of the belief that western society, in a general sense, is not yet ready to tackle the more advanced forms of meditation. My reasoning is that, as a culture, we have not yet been exposed to this type of practice as a part of our daily activities. Furthermore, we have not been raised from children with such disciplines integrated within our daily lives. You will see what I mean as we progress.

Several years ago, my partner and I brought over an Indian meditation teacher to conduct courses at our wellness centre and alternative therapy training institute; this became a regular event and one which attracted many students. One type of meditation he conducted, Dhyan, is a practice originally designed to promote prolonged awareness. However, the ancient Indian Hindu yogis referred to this particular meditation in a more appropriate manner: “the practice of dying”. Continue reading Mark Nesti on Chi, Consciousness and Quantum Gravity

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

Crossing The Pond – Martial Expo 2010 Review

Crossing The Pond
  • The inaugural Crossing The Pond Martial Expo was held last weekend in West Seattle. This seminar brought together five six well-known and highly skilled instructors of martial arts and self-defense from across the United States and United Kingdom.
  • Over the weekend, two one-hour workshops were held by instructors Al Peasland, Nicholas Yang, Kris Wilder, Rory Miller, Marc “Animal” MacYoung, and Iain “Tuna Fish Pizza” Abernethy.
  • Approximately thirty-five people were in attendance. Among the students, at least one third appeared to be black belts and/or instructors themselves.
  • Participants were open-minded, polite, and patient–especially with this author, who hadn’t done any Karate training since elementary school. Egoism, inappropriate competition, and input from self-declared “assistant instructors” was minimal. This is a credit to the affable seminar host, Kris Wilder, and the other teachers as well, who together set the right tone for the event.

Continue reading Crossing The Pond – Martial Expo 2010 Review

Teaching Children Martial Arts: A Winning Approach

By guest author Matt Klein

Martial arts for children

Many martial arts schools teach children as a sidelight to their main focus: adults. They are not that interested in children, and only do it because it represents a sizable chunk of their school’s income. Children are routinely thrown into adults classes or treated as “miniature adults.” A school that can focus on the needs of children will be very successful, as there are few that get it right. To be a successful martial arts school for children, it is important to recognize how teaching them differs from the teaching of adults. Continue reading Teaching Children Martial Arts: A Winning Approach