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

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

The LXD Mixes Kung Fu With Dance Battles

The LXD: Legion of Extraordinary Dancers

From the New York Times:

“They lie amongst us, preparing for battle, waiting to rise and change things for good. Some are gifted in ability, others are trained to master it and some, some have it bestowed upon them at birth, but they all must choose.” These words, spoken in a James Earl Jones baritone, could be the opening crawl for the latest “X-Men” movie. But they aren’t referring to traditional superheroes, at least not in the masked and overly muscled sense. They are dancers.

The lines come from the first episode of “The LXD” or “The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers,” a new dance-inspired Web series created by Jon M. Chu, the 30-year-old director of the hit 2008 movie “Step Up 2: The Streets” and the soon to be released “Step Up 3D.”

The series, which made its debut on July 7 on Hulu is produced by Mr. Chu and Hieu Ho with Agility Studios, and is a leap in Web-based original programming. “This is the most ambitious project that has been done for the Internet,” said Thomas F. Lesinski, the president of Paramount Digital Entertainment, adding later that the cinematography “could hold up in a movie theater.” New episodes will appear every Wednesday throughout the summer. Changing public perceptions about dancers was part of what Mr. Chu had in mind when he conceived the series.

“Dancers actually have a real power,” said Mr. Chu, who studied tap growing up in Palo Alto, Calif., before he fell for filmmaking, and this is how he views the dancers in the show. “Some people call it aura, some people call it chi, we call it ra,” he said. “And the ra is that power.” He added: “So when a b-boy does his spins, if you concentrate, you can see him shoot out that power, and it can affect someone physically. Or like when a ballerina cuts her leg through the air, it’s actually like a Ninja slice across someone’s face. And a jazz dancer’s jazz hands can actually rumble the floor if they know how to do it in the right way.”

Continue reading The LXD Mixes Kung Fu With Dance Battles

Penn and Teller: Two Morons Learn Martial Arts

Penn & Teller: Bullshit

In a recent episode of their hit Showtime series, stage magicians Penn Jilette and Raymond Teller warn viewers away from the universally fraudulent field of martial arts. Now a real expert martial artist rescues us from their half-baked debunkings.

For their own convenience, Penn and Teller divide the world of martial arts into three categories: traditional, mystical, and murderous. Continue reading Penn and Teller: Two Morons Learn Martial Arts

Interview with an Intuitive Warrior

Intuition is a phenomenon most widely associated with women and mothers–but what about soldier’s intuition?

The Intuitive Warrior: Lessons from a Navy Seal on Unleashing Your Hidden Potential

In his new book, The Intuitive Warrior: Lessons from a Navy Seal on Unleashing Your Hidden Potential, author and retired Navy SEAL Michael Jaco describes how he channeled the challenges he faced in military training and combat toward aligning his body and mind. With the two working in unison, Jaco remained calm and positive in extremely stressful situations. When he retired, Jaco then used these techniques as a civilian to enrich his everyday life.

Through personal accounts of real experiences, Jaco explains how the challenging situations he endured as a member of one of the most elite Special Forces units in the United States taught him to control his emotions and tap into his intuition. Using these capabilities, he enhanced both his mental and physical strength. In The Intuitive Warrior, Jaco says that anybody can develop the perception and awareness skills that he learned and employ them to achieve a more fulfilling life, whether seeking to improve job performance, personal relationships or physical shape.

Michael Jaco answers a few questions for Martial Development readers in this exclusive interview… Continue reading Interview with an Intuitive Warrior

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

Real-Life Ninja Assassin Threatens Journalist

Rain as 'Ninja Assassin'

If you have to choose between seeing Ninja Assassin and Red Cliff this weekend, I recommend the latter–even if this abridged US release is not quite as good as the original 4-hour Chinese version. (Curious John Woo fans can order the longer cut of Red Cliff on DVD today.)

Fantastic tales about Ninja clans and other secret fighting societies are depressingly common in the martial arts world. These legends are used for marketing and entertainment purposes; repeated often, but rarely taken seriously.

Benjamin Fulford wants to be taken seriously. Formerly the Asia-Pacific bureau chief at Forbes Magazine, Fulford spent years reporting on the highest and lowest echelons of Japanese society, from politicians to Yakuza gangsters. Continue reading Real-Life Ninja Assassin Threatens Journalist

Watch “The Men Who Stare At Goats” Free Online

Maj. Gen. Albert N. Stubblebine III: The key to all of this…it has nothing to do with bending metal [spoons]…Lord Mercy, if I can do that with my mind, what else can I do? It wasn’t clear whether they thought I was nuts. In any event, the reaction that I got was, “we’re not very interested.”

But as Jon Ronson’s investigation shows, they were in fact very interested. During the last few decades, the United States military has conducted a series of experiments in psychic warfare. On the record, these attempts to create superhuman “warrior monks” for a “First Earth Battalion” were a complete failure. (Off the record, you have no need to know.)

The Men Who Stare at Goats

One of the least successful experiments is parodied in the new Hollywood comedy “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” and further documented in a book of the same name. It is also covered in the British documentary “Crazy Rulers of the World”, which you may watch for free below. Continue reading Watch “The Men Who Stare At Goats” Free Online

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

Mantak Chia on Sex, Discipline, and Qigong

Mantak Chia
Mantak Chia

Mantak Chia was born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1944. His pursuit of Taoist teachings led him to meet the White Cloud Hermit Master Yi, a Taoist Master living in the mountains near from Hong Kong.

Over a period of five years, Master Yi transmitted to Master Mantak Chia the most sacred and closely held Taoist practices, formulas and methods of internal alchemy, culminating in the Reunion of Heaven and Man.

The author of dozens of books, booklets, videos and CDs describing these practices, Master Mantak Chia has taught hundreds of thousands of eager students the principles of Taoist internal practice over the past 40 years.

Following is an excerpt from a recent Blog Talk Radio interview with Mantak Chia:

Lama Tantrapa: What is the purpose of qigong practice?

Mantak Chia: The initial purpose of qigong practice is to become stronger, to heal yourself, and increase your wisdom and knowledge. The early stages are like Taiji, and afterwards we can begin what we call supreme inner alchemy practice. Continue reading Mantak Chia on Sex, Discipline, and Qigong