Martial Arts Secrets: Are You an Insider or Outsider?

Equality. Transparency. Trust. Fairness.

These are all qualities one would expect to find in a good Chinese martial arts school. Expecting the modern American cultural interpretation of these ideals, however, can lead to confusion and disappointment.

The traditional distinction between indoor and outdoor disciples tends to bother American martial artists. Following this tradition, a master selects a subset of his students for special attention and secret information. Continue reading Martial Arts Secrets: Are You an Insider or Outsider?

Rhonda Byrne’s Dirty Little Secret

The Other Secret

The full story of how Rhonda Byrne turned a positive thinking realization into “the greatest success story in the annals of viral marketing”-–to quote The American Spectator-–is only now emerging in court papers filed in the US and Australia, and from interviews with the participants. To Byrne, it’s the story of a small group of people bringing “joy to the world”; to some of those involved it’s a story of hypocrisy and ruthless double-dealing.

Like many of her public utterances, the message that Australia’s platinum-haired self-help guru Rhonda Byrne sent out last November to her millions of followers was a rhapsodic outpouring of goodwill. Thanksgiving Day was approaching in the United States, where Byrne now lives in a Californian celebrity enclave just up the road from Oprah Winfrey’s 17-hectare, neo-Georgian estate, and the creator of the New-Age blockbuster The Secret wanted to remind the world about the crucial importance of gratitude.

“Remember,” Byrne wrote, “if you are criticising, you are not being grateful. If you are blaming, you are not being grateful. If you are complaining, you are not being grateful.”

Those are worthy sentiments, but it was an odd time for Byrne to be expressing them because her lawyers had just sued two of the very people who were instrumental in launching her book and film The Secret to phenomenal success. Continue reading Rhonda Byrne’s Dirty Little Secret

Mencius, Morality and Martial Virtue

Master Po and Kwai Chang Caine

A Socratic Dialogue

Master Po: Grasshopper, soon you must leave the mountain. We shall now begin preparations for the day that you accept disciples of your own.

Kwai Chang Caine: Be not concerned, master. I have committed each of your Kung Fu fighting techniques to memory.

Po: Grasshopper, these techniques are trifles. It is most important to transmit wude, the moral principles of Kung Fu.

Caine: Yes master, I have also memorized the 377 rules of virtuous conduct, and I will require my students to do the same. Rule number one: “Don’t show up drunk.” Rule number two…

Po: Stop right there. It is not the teacher’s job to recite these rules; it is the teacher’s job to embody them. They are descriptive, not prescriptive. Wude is not something you do, it is something you are.

Caine: Master, I do not understand. On the day I arrived in the temple, I took an oath to follow these rules. Are they not important?

Po: Grasshopper, that stuff is just for the newbies. It is time for you to receive the inner gate teaching on martial morality. Continue reading Mencius, Morality and Martial Virtue

Spinoza: Old Master Philosopher of the West

There are two kinds of agnostics in the world. The first are lazy and ignorant fools; the second reject the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza.

On further consideration, maybe there is only one kind of agnostic?

Baruch Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza

Baruch Spinoza was one of the great thinkers in the history of the West, celebrated by his peers as a “prince of philosophers”. His work recognized a unity of the human mind and body, science and spirituality, God and Nature, in a manner more commonly associated today with Asian than with European thought.

Like the Taoist sage Lao Tzu, Spinoza was a champion of Monism. Continue reading Spinoza: Old Master Philosopher of the West

Does “Final Fu” Give Martial Arts a Black Eye?

A Fight to Become the Top Dog

Final Fu, a martial-arts themed reality show, made its debut in July. According to the producers’ description:

Final Fu is an unprecedented series that will pit the best practitioners of their respective styles against one another in an arduous competition of challenges and stand-up, tournament point fighting to determine which art is capable of producing the definitive martial arts champion.

Does this show deliver on its promise? Is it informative or entertaining? Will Final Fu have a positive or a negative impact on the public perception of martial arts? Continue reading Does “Final Fu” Give Martial Arts a Black Eye?