Robert Downey Jr’s Kung Fu Redemption

From the May 2010 issue of Men’s Journal…

Robert Downey Jr. in Wing Chun pose

“Wing Chun is all about guarding your center line,” Downey tells me, talking about the place where the touchy-feely art of Wing Chun kung fu meets philosophy of life. “Don’t fight force with force; use to hands at the same time; concentrate on your own thing; and after you have that dialed in, effect the balance, look for openings, look for arms to be crossed.”

So that’s the secret to his newfound prosperity?

“Oh, yeah, dude,” says Downey. Continue reading Robert Downey Jr’s Kung Fu Redemption

Qi Magazine: Free To Download Today

Qi Magazine covers

For almost twenty years, Qi Magazine featured original articles on kung fu, qigong, and other facets of Chinese culture, many written specifically by and for martial artists. (Qi Magazine is not to be confused with Qi Journal, which seems more targeted to the Goji berry set.)

Qi Magazine ceased production in early 2009, and publisher Michael Tse has since opened the archives. Continue reading Qi Magazine: Free To Download Today

Why Natural Breathing is Smart Breathing

When I hear a professional martial arts instructor advising their students to be more natural, I cannot help but feel contempt. Could any help be less helpful?

What is the most natural method for safely evading a knife thrust, while simultaneously positioning oneself for an effortless disarm and throw? How does one naturally reverse a guillotine choke? People who know the answer to these questions don’t need an instructor or a class; for the rest of us, more detailed guidance is appropriate.

With that said, I am a strong advocate of “natural breathing” for martial applications, in contrast to the more exotic approaches advanced in some dojos. Continue reading Why Natural Breathing is Smart Breathing

My Art is Sustainable, Ethical and Green

Bamboo electric car
Bamboo electric car
Environmentally friendly, or death trap?

Looking at ridiculous news reports of bamboo laptop computers and recycled toilet paper, it would be easy to conclude that the so-called “green revolution” has gone too far.

I think it hasn’t gone far enough. While many embrace the concept on a shallow and symbolic level, fewer people are asking themselves difficult questions about sustainability. Continue reading My Art is Sustainable, Ethical and Green

Ip Man Goes to Hollywood

Donnie Yen as Ip Man

Grandmaster Ip Man—the man who ushered Wing Chun kung fu out of obscurity, and presided over the instruction of a young Bruce Lee—is the subject of a exciting new Hong Kong biopic. Action star Donnie Yen portrays the petite but powerful Ip in early adulthood, as wealthy playboy and martial arts fanatic. Continue reading Ip Man Goes to Hollywood

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

Martial Art is a Perspective, Not an Activity

Rewriting History, Wiki Style

Martial arts are systems of codified practices and traditions of training for combat. While they maybe studied for various reasons, martial arts share a single objective: to defeat a person physically or to defend oneself from physical threat.
~ Wikipedia

Wikipedia’s simplistic definition begs the question: martial arts are martial arts. The statement itself is neither true nor untrue—it is a game rule—but it does reflect an ignorance of, or perhaps a malevolence towards historical facts. Taken at face value, it encourages a dismissive, one-dimensional analysis of the arts’ tremendous potential.

To avoid limiting our achievement in the martial arts, we should begin with an honest and dispassionate accounting of the past. What was the real original purpose of various “martial arts”?

The first clues may be found in our forefathers’ own speech and writings. Continue reading Martial Art is a Perspective, Not an Activity