Hagakure: The Way of the Warrior is Forgiveness

The relationship between real fighting and full-contact martial arts competitions is like that of the dog and the hot dog. Although they are composed of similar elements—striking and grappling in the former, meat in the latter—one should not be confused for the other.

The essence of a real fight is not found in tactics, or even in intensity. Genuine combat is defined by its absence of fairness and finality. There are no honored champions, and no nobly accepted defeats; in their place are uncertainty, postponement and escalation. Today, you win by knockout; tomorrow, you are shot in the back.

Even death is no denouement, considering its legal and karmic consequences—not to mention vengeful friends and family of the recently deceased, with their own troublesome interpretations of justifiable homicide.

Budo shuji by Kondo Katsuyuki

All martial artists know that budo is not for starting fights. Some have unfortunately been taught that martial artists should avoid them altogether. Honestly, avoidance is a tool for agoraphobics and drunks, not warriors; the true purpose of budo is to end conflict decisively.

What can the ancient Japanese code of bushido teach us about conflict resolution strategy? Continue reading Hagakure: The Way of the Warrior is Forgiveness

His Wing Chun Couldn’t Win A Real Fight

This is a true story. I have changed the participants’ names to protect their privacy.

Brandon had good reason to trust his self-defense abilities; his father had trained him in the no-nonsense Chinese martial art of Wing Chun Kuen. Brandon’s father was an expert in the style, a full-contact champion who studied directly under disciples of the late grandmaster Yip Man.

Last month, Brandon’s Wing Chun was put to the ultimate test. A heated argument with two neighborhood residents escalated into a full-blown fistfight, and Brandon was forced to defend himself from their savage attack. Continue reading His Wing Chun Couldn’t Win A Real Fight

Minimize the Risk of a Personal Security Failure

If you must endure long-term exposure to truly dangerous circumstances, your personal security preparations are guaranteed to fail eventually; the only question is when and how they will fail.

Generally speaking, a personal security plan is vulnerable to two types of failure. In a negative failure, your underreaction or poorly chosen response leaves you open to attack. An overreaction, or positive failure, turns you into the aggressor and your alleged attacker into the victim. Reducing the likelihood of one type of security failure increases the probability of the other.

Personal security is a classic trade-off scenario. Risk cannot be eliminated; managing it intelligently will encourage slight rather than catastrophic self-defense failures.

A well-managed self-defense plan exhibits these characteristics: Continue reading Minimize the Risk of a Personal Security Failure

A Primer on Dim Mak Pressure Points

by Rick Bauer

Over the last twenty years, a considerable amount of interest has been generated concerning the use of acupoints and pressure points in the martial arts. These include material on medical uses of acupoints (also referred to in certain Western publications as “pressure points” or “vital points”), as well as their use in fighting techniques. The commercially available products include seminars, books, videotape and magazine articles; much of it coming from Europe, Asia, North America and Australia.

Documentation suggests the martial uses of acupoints were first discovered about fourteen hundred years ago in feudal China… These techniques have been incorporated into several Asian martial arts systems.

The term “acupoint” refers to specific spots along the body, all of which are highly reactive to stimuli. These are the same points used by acupuncturists for treating ailments and promoting health. In all, there are 361 classic acupoints sprinkled across the human anatomy. The martial use of acupoints, however, refers to controlled strikes to these same anatomical locations. When executed correctly, acupoint strikes can elicit an array of physiological effects, dependent on the angle, direction, and force of the strike, as well as the specific point(s) used.

The term “pressure point” or “vital point,” as used in the West, is slightly broader (conceptually). In addition to the classical acupoint centers, the Western conceptual view of a pressure point or vital point may also include sensitive anatomical regions of the body, which are unrelated to acupoint centers, but have useful martial applications (such as certain joint-lock release centers).

Acupoint striking techniques where originally developed in the Orient. Continue reading A Primer on Dim Mak Pressure Points

Three Benefits From Lifting Your Bai Hui Point

Taiji master Yang Cheng-Fu said that, without lifting your Bai Hui point, even 30 years of practice would be a waste of time. Why is this particular point so important to martial artists, and to everyone else?

The Bai Hui point, which sits on the crown of the head, is known by many different names. In acupuncture, it is identified as Du Mai 20 (百会), the point where the body’s Yang energy naturally converges. In kundalini, tantra and other Indian yogas, this point is named the Sahasrara (crown) chakra. In many esoteric traditions, Bai Hui is regarded as the gate between Man and Heaven.

Bai Hui diagram
Bai Hui is not in the middle of the head, but near the twirl of the hair.

If your Taiji practice is in line with the instructions of the old masters, then you are probably already familiar with the benefits of lifting the Bai Hui point. If, on the other hand, you do not currently practice Taiji, zhan zhuang or any other meditative discipline, here is a sampling of the benefits you can expect—benefits which exceed mere self-defense. Continue reading Three Benefits From Lifting Your Bai Hui Point

Push Hands and Competition

Push hands is an accessible abstraction of fighting. Whereas mortal combat follows no pattern and honors no rules, the push hands exercise is relatively limited in scope. Push hands practice alone will not make a top fighter, nor is it intended to do so; it focuses on specific characteristics, such as sticking and following, in order to provide a consistent and effective learning environment.

Yang Jwing-Ming
Yang Jwing-Ming demonstrates Press (Ji)

Abstractions such as the fixed step tui shou exercise are often misused, by students who do not fully understand their context within the larger Tai Chi curriculum. These students shape the exercise into something more or less than it is intended to be, diminishing its relevance and benefits, and shortchanging themselves and their training partners.

What should the pushing hands drill include, and what should it exclude? Continue reading Push Hands and Competition

Introduction to Rooting Skill

The easiest way to rob your opponent of their power is to break their connection with the ground. Thus uprooted, Newton’s Third Law compromises their ability to generate penetrating force, and reduces any continued aggression from a potentially deadly threat to a mere nuisance.

The complementary skill—the ability to keep your footing amidst incoming force—is known in Chinese martial arts as rooting.

Typical demonstrations of rooting skill consist of a wushu master in a static posture, with a pack of disciples pushing and pulling to no avail. These shows are impressive, but often fail to highlight the most important characteristic of the skill: Continue reading Introduction to Rooting Skill

Three Ways to Measure Your Personal Development

The correct practice of martial arts develops physical health, emotional maturity and intellectual acuity. In this sense, it is one of the world’s oldest personal development disciplines.

Whether you enjoy martial arts, or any other activity for personal growth, you need to measure your results at regular intervals; otherwise, as time passes, you are likely to drift away from your original goals. As Taijiquan master Wang Zongyue allegedly wrote, “If you are off by just one inch at the start, you will deviate by one thousand miles in the end.”

But how can you accurately gauge your progress in a complex and personal pursuit? Continue reading Three Ways to Measure Your Personal Development

Boxing and The Law of Attraction

The Secret, a new personal development guide by Rhonda Byrne, is taking the nation by storm. In the last three months, the book has sold almost two million copies, and the DVD has sold one million more. Einstein, Beethoven and Plato knew and used it. Oprah loves it.

What is this “secret to unlimited joy, health, money, relationships, love, youth, and everything you have ever wanted”? Continue reading Boxing and The Law of Attraction