Defend Yourself the Taoist Way

Pick up an issue of Black Belt or Inside Kung Fu magazine. Watch a self-defense DVD. Browse a martial arts website. If you had to write captions under each picture, what would they say?

Black Belt Magazine

My hands are deadly weapons.
I am nobody’s victim.
Don’t mess with me, or you’ll regret it.

These poses remind your would-be attacker what they stand to lose. And sure, they are intimidating, to a degree.

The problem is, your attacker doesn’t harbor any intention of losing, and so the potential downside may just be disregarded. Continue reading Defend Yourself the Taoist Way

Postel’s Law of Sparring

My teachers have disagreed on many things, but in these two points they are all in accord:

  • If you want to excel in martial arts, you must touch hands (spar) with as many people as possible; preferably, hundreds or thousands.
  • For a great achievement, you must use the correct training methods in a disciplined fashion. Avoid deviant and inferior methods, and refuse to entertain the people who use them.

In theory, there is no contradiction between these two ideals. In practice, compromise is required. Nobody agrees on what the correct training methods are, and everyone measures their progress by a different standard—except for those who reject the concepts of “progress” and “standards” altogether.

Of all the frustrations that hinder interaction among martial artists from different schools, lineages and styles—money, reputation, physical safety—this is perhaps the most difficult to address: everybody else is practicing incorrectly! Continue reading Postel’s Law of Sparring

Master Wang Says: “Taijiquan Sucks”

This is a distillation of previous published interviews with Master Wang.

Having traveled across China, I know that Taijiquan has the most practitioners of any martial art. Upon hearing that this boxing method was handed down from Zhang Sanfeng, I despised him for a long time.

Taijiquan is far from the art of actual combat; they have nothing in common with each other.

Later on, I read the collected edition of Zhang Sanfeng’s teachings, and realized that he had progressed deeply into the great Tao—and I came to believe that Taiji was not handed down from him at all! Actually, it doesn’t matter; even if one is a descendant of Sanfeng, he is not worthy to talk about this method without first gaining its essence. Continue reading Master Wang Says: “Taijiquan Sucks”

Real-Life “Fight Club” Ends in Tragedy

Fight Club

Months before Noel Lopez was found dead in the rubble of a construction site, he challenged co-workers at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront hotel to fight him in the garage where they parked cars as valets. His co-workers chalked up the strange request to Lopez’s increasingly erratic behavior and his fascination with the movie “Fight Club.”

Last weekend, Lopez, 25, was involved in a real fight that ended his life. At least 20 people surrounded Lopez on April 13, after drinking alcohol together, and watched him fight another man in Freeway Park, according to court records released Saturday. Construction workers found his body the next day. The man who police say fought Lopez, a 22-year-old from Federal Way, was ordered held without bail Saturday on investigation of murder.

Police are still looking for a second suspect in the slaying, a 20-year-old man.

The 22-year-old, who had not yet been charged, told police he had been contacted by friends to “straighten out” Lopez because he “was treating people wrong,” according to court documents. The man told police he wrestled Lopez for the title of “King of Freeway Park,” court records said.

But he claimed it was the second man who broke boards over Lopez’s head and body and stomped on his stomach and chest. He said the second man fought Lopez after the three walked together to a nearby construction site.

(Continued in the Seattle Times.)

Word to the wise: assume every gun is loaded, and there is always a second man.

Reflections on Bruce Lee’s Water: Does Skill Actually Matter?

Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

Bruce Lee said it*—but did he actually do it? Did he flow like water? Judging by his performances in Enter the Dragon, Chinese Connection and Fists of Fury, I’d say: no, not at all.

Bruce Lee in The Chinese Connection

Maybe Bruce didn’t show his real kung fu skills on the silver screen. Continue reading Reflections on Bruce Lee’s Water: Does Skill Actually Matter?

Warren Buffett on MMA Training and Self-Defense

A Fake Interview with Real* Quotes

Warren Buffett
Credit: Mark Hirschey

Martial Development: First of all, congratulations: a recent surge in Berkshire Hathaway’s stock price has made you the richest man in the world. $62 billion dollars, I hear. According to my estimates, you could literally buy up all the tea in China.

Warren Buffett: I drink Coca-Cola.

Martial Development: Fair enough. You know, kung fu is all about profitably investing time and effort. As one of the world’s greatest investors, I thought you might have some unique insights to share with us.

Warren Buffett: I’ve never even made a hostile acquisition! What do I know about kung fu?

Martial Development: More than you realize. Continue reading Warren Buffett on MMA Training and Self-Defense

Drunken Boxing With The Stars

On the unusual Chinese style of kung fu known as Zui Quan, or drunken boxing, Bruce Kumar Frantzis writes:

Eight Drunken Immortals [style] stresses several unusual martial qualities. It embodies more joint- and body-folding techniques than any other external or internal/external martial art. It imparts the ability to fold the body like a rag doll, thus enabling the practitioner to both block and attack from quite unpredictable angles with every part of the body, including the buttocks and back. The extreme body folding skill of the Drunken boxers makes it virtually impossible to apply joint locks on them.

Eight Drunken Immortals is neither a “this or that” style, and equally uses punches, hand and finger strikes, and a large assortment of usual and unusual kicks from odd angles, joint-locks, all kinds of throws, both upright and crouching, and extensive use of the legs while on the ground.

The precise control of their own and their opponent’s space enables Drunken boxers to create optical illusions and use deception to great advantage. Another weight displacement focus is the ability to make any point on the body, say an elbow tip, head, tantien, or knee become the center of balance and movement, and then to rapidly change at will from any of multiple balance points to another. Such maneuvering allows Drunken boxers to appear totally unbalanced when in fact their balance is perfect. Thus, multiple traps are set for an unsuspecting opponent.

Most of the performances you will see at tournaments, in video games and movies are only theatrical imitations of genuine Zui Quan—but that is no reason not to enjoy them! Here are a few of my favorite drunken boxing movie scenes: Continue reading Drunken Boxing With The Stars

How Fast Are You? Check Your Reaction Time with this Online Test

It seems my critics are right: I am a little slower than average.

Patrick Parker (of Mokuren Dojo) and I were discussing the feasibility of intelligent responses to physical attack. Patrick asked:

What exactly do you have to do to get the faster intelligence that Chris says we need? Well, really we can’t. From my understanding of the neuromuscular machine I don’t really think that you can make the brain/spine/muscle machine work faster than it already does. There is hardwired into us about a ¾ second delay (if not more) in the OODA loop.

A search for evidence supporting or refuting this unavoidable delay, led me to the Human Benchmark reaction time test. Continue reading How Fast Are You? Check Your Reaction Time with this Online Test

Kung Fu: Basic Instinct, or Advanced Intelligence?

What is the best way to approach kung fu training? Should we seek to train our instincts, or cultivate our intelligence?

The answer seems obvious. In a fast-paced and dangerous combat scenario, there is simply no time for intellectual deliberation. We must let our animal instincts take control, to react instantly with the self-defense techniques we have drilled to perfection…right? Continue reading Kung Fu: Basic Instinct, or Advanced Intelligence?

Bullying and Harassment Prevention Tips

Two weeks ago, I asked Martial Development readers to share their bullying and harassment stories. Here are the responses:

Of Brick Walls and Petty Tyrants by Karen Shanley
How I helped my daughter deal with a difficult teacher.

How to Deal with an Office Bully by The Career Counselor
…I really need to keep this job but I’m dreading going to work everyday because she is so mean. What should I do? Continue reading Bullying and Harassment Prevention Tips