Long before the invention of the blog, and even before the creation of the World Wide Web, there was Usenet. The world’s first electronic social network was established in 1980, and martial artists have been arguing there ever since.
Back in the late 1990s, I started reading the rec.martial-arts newsgroup as most people do, with posts sorted by discussion topic. I soon discovered that, since 90% of the replies on any given topic were rubbish, it made more sense to sort by author instead. Although I abandoned rec-martial arts years ago, due to its low-signal-to-noise ratio, I can still remember the names of some of my favorite writers. At the top of that list, I place the mysterious Ordosclan, also known as Turiyan Gold.
I don’t know Ordosclan’s real name, or his training history. I don’t know how many of his posts were written under the influence of anti-psychotic medication, as his critics claimed. Perhaps not enough of them.
Ordosclan’s martial arts commentaries were sagacious and entertaining, sometimes cryptic and unfortunately brusque. In honor of Black Belt Mama’s Admired Martial Artists Month, I’d like to highlight a few:
In boxing, the boxer keeps his hands up on either side of his face for protection. Punches are thrown from this position. One hand goes out, the other stays by the face for protection.
Why does karate require that you throw a punch from the hip? What is gained by this?
The point of pulling the fists back is to open the chest. Doing so during stance changes makes it harder to use the arms for balance. It’s not for punching. Punches done from the hip are just a training exercise. The Japanese simply copied basic Shaolin from the Chinese. Some teachers try and read ridiculous theories into why something is the way it is: “It’s for qi,” “it’s for jing,” “It trains you to monkey elbow a guy that puts you in a bear hug from behind”, etc.
If you start taking things out of MA that are not combat-relevant, you’re left with punches and kicks, knees and headbutts. The simple answer is: it’s not martially oriented. Its just a myth that Shaolin monks are/were “fighting” monks. That’s nonsense. And everyone knows it.
Why So Few Kicks In [Taekwondo] Tae Geuk Forms?
Isn't TaeKwonDo known to be a martial art that especially prides itself on its powerful, beautiful kicks? Why then do these sets of patterns, which are the two sets most often used to represent two very popular styles of TaeKwonDo, incorporate very few kicks?
Walter Mitty walks in and wants to learn Korean Karate, but can’t even bend over and touch his toes. Guess what his first 3 belts are going to consist of?
He's always at a state of complete calm and CONSTANT neutrality - nothing ever was statically positive or negative with him, therefore, he was always one with truth in the "living".
Sounds like a combination of sarcasm and hyperbole. Bruce was unable to reconcile the issue of principles vs. techniques vs. methodology…
Dualism, like that touted in Chinese Taoism, is just a matter of words. Semantics. Semantics is text, without context. And text without context is pretext.
Yellow Bamboo: Indonesian Empty Force
Alvin has shown video of Yellow Bamboo knocking people down without touching them. I am keen to see if this can be done in reality. If you are interested in doing a no touch knockout on me the same as I have seen on video I would love to meet up to do it.
There are other methods of inner power in Indonesia…it’s not all about “knocking people over”. This is just one method, a [provincial] “village art” if you will. Reiki, Yellow Bamboo, it’s all pretty low grade stuff…
Perhaps you have another definition of austerity that most people have. Since when has the MA world been inspired and driven by pragmatics? If you were to omit things in the so-called “martial arts” due to ineffectiveness or superfluousness, you’d essentially have boxing and wrestling.
You have to focus on health before martial application. You can’t take a guy with bad eyes and sniffly nose and weak knees and tell me he has “internal strength”. Helloo buddy. Your liver is your eyesight. Your kidney is your knees and back. A chronic nasal condition forbids certain exercises where you must only breathe through the nose. If you can’t breathe through your nose most of the time, then you have to treat that condition until it goes away, or else that’s your glass ceiling…
Reading sutras is not the path to Buddha-land
One cannot access or experience Bodhi while at the same time experiencing or suffering the mundane affairs of daily life. This is what is implied when Bodhidharma entered the cave and became “enlightened”. In psychological terms, he withdrew from the dyadic circuit of social interaction.
Dillman protege debunked as a fraud?
The whole [TCM] belief system is retarded. I've actually read some of this stuff for amusement at the local book store...
It’s not a belief system. It’s a work system. Get it straight. Belief is the Western/Christian privilege: read a book on dim mak, you know everything about dim mak. That’s like saying: “I read a book on feng shui, now I can just believe [into existence] a balanced environment and relationships…because I went through the motions of moving my eyes back and forth over a piece of paper, and formed various verbalizations, rationalizations and judgments based on what I saw”…
Chinese medicine was “transformed” by empiricism since a very, very long time ago. Pulse reading, tongue diagnosis, urine and scatology, all empirical. That’s “scientific”. You just don’t understand it.
The terms neikung and weikung are misnomers. Neikung is supposed to be esoteric. Weikung is supposed to be exoteric. The old texts say there is ONLY ONE golden elixir method (but then list hundreds of schools and methods). If you’re not doing that ONE golden elixir method, you’re not doing neikung. What you’re really looking for are internal exercises as opposed to external exercises. Like heikung…[Hung Gar] threading bridge, dynamic tension, etc…
What you are looking for cannot be obtained without great difficulty. People really don’t talk much about their neikung…it’s like starting a conversation with a stranger about politics and religion.
The Meanings of Tai Chi Postures
What are the discrepancies (if any) in the following Tai Chi postures?
a) Lift hands vs. Play Guitar
b) Diagonal Flying vs. Part Wild Horses Mane
c) White Crane Spreads Wings vs. Step Back and Ride the Tiger
…Interpretation of function leads to degradation of structure. If a posture can be rooted to a canonical reference, pre-natal or post-natal posture, then that’s the ultimate authority on the subject. Period.
“Wisdom” is a comfort zone you get into where you never have to do or learn anything new…one must carry on the tradition of 10,000 year old fighting principles handed down from tree lichen on principle…
Forget principles, structure is principle. You have to stay in structure, or you’re not principled. You can’t forget the rules and say, “sure, all martial arts are equal”…there isn’t a infinite multiplicity of ideas and principles. The human body only works certain ways. How many different kinds of levers are there? How many kinds of fulcrums?
To Gong Sau or not to Gong Sau, that’s the question
I have been more then a little skeptical about the martial application of Tai Chi. It doesn't look like fighting to me, and I've been told that I can't judge it before I have "felt" it.
THERE IS NO CONNECTION BETWEEN TAIJI AND APPLICATION.
This would be someone trying to suggest that fajing is kinematics or some nonsense about bones and joints and alignment…
If you learn one thing from TCM and Chinese folklore, Ayurveda, etc., you learn that the ancients—whether they were space aliens, faeries, devas, immortals, ghosts or the spirits of dead ancestors or some scholar or king—knew a WHOLE LOT about the function of the “internal organs” but, apparently, didn’t know JACK about human anatomy and physiology. This contradiction EXISTS FOR A REASON.
If you want to base your ideas on A&P, become a general practitioner of Western medicine. Leave the folklore, Chinese black magic, shamanism, feng shui, TCM, herbs and magic potions and secret hand signs to the people that are preordained by heaven to be the capstones of those systems. There are just some things which are inseparable from Chinese culture, that are inseparable from qigong, herbs, feng shui, weiqi, calligraphy, etc. To try and modernize them with asinine theory of empirical “science” and physiological facts is pure and utter nonsense.
The Chinese liver is not the Western liver. The “pores”, “skin” and “joints” are not even the same thing as spoken of in human anatomy and physiology…where A&P and empirical science and physics end, this stuff starts.
[In shamanic medicine] you treat the root, which isn’t the same as saying “cause and effect”. The physical body is the effect. It’s a moot point. It’s not Daoism, it’s not Buddhism, it’s not Zen; it’s dualistic realism. The “hierarchy of values” starts at the immaterial (brahma or ether) and cycles down to matter which is stasis (even Newton said matter is a stasis)…
Tilopa said the root of all disease is the mind. Well, your “mind” is more than a body, more than feelings, and more than emotions. If you haven’t realized that, than forget any of this stuff and take up a real sport or exercise routine…
You don’t look at structure for function. You look at structure as manifestation of function.
Someone asks: “How many licks does it take to get to the middle of a tootsie roll lolly pop?”
I reply: “Is the pop hitting the tongue, or is the tongue hitting the pop?”
A Zen master would think when licking a lolly pop: “What is the lolly pop?” He continues to lick, till there is nothing left. The idea of pop has fallen away. He tosses the stick aside. The lolly pop has become him.
You see, one may erroneously attach meaning to the lolly pop, but when the pop has disappeared, the stick is meaningless…We throw it away. Why not eat the stick part? Because we are no longer attached to it.
Ordosclan is racist, sexist and rude (I edited the selections above). He is also one of the most brilliant martial arts writers I have ever encountered. So, if you have an hour of free time, and are not easily offended, I encourage you to browse his crooked oeuvre in the rec.martial-arts newsgroup [NSFW].
P.S. And if you disagree with any of his opinions stated above, please explain why.
Turiyan Gold. What a blast from the past. Great topic.
I don’t have much of a background in martial arts aside from taking Karate when I was much younger, but I did really enjoy reading about perspectives from the various famed martial artists. Good article.
Some of his claims seem a bit dubious, and some seem rather confusing. I especially don’t understand why a picture from No Country for Old Men is there. Is this guy similar to the character of Anton Chigure?
I think I’m beginning to see where differences in our values and principles lie, but I really do love the insights I get from reading your blog.
Thomas, I don’t have a photo of Ordosclan, so I improvised, based on known similarities in personality type.
I like these particular quotes because they are non-obvious, non-tedious and most importantly, true. Which do you find dubious or confusing?
Okay… long post ahead.
“…If you start taking things out of MA that are not combat-relevant, you’re left with punches and kicks, knees and headbutts. The simple answer is: it’s not martially oriented. Its just a myth that Shaolin monks are/were “fighting” monks. That’s nonsense. And everyone knows it.”
I do agree with this. However, it’s exactly because of this that I question you when you describe the combat applications of arts like aikido and taiji. If they’re not combat applicable, that’s great, it’s still great fitness and exercise. My trouble is when people defend non-combat oriented disciplines as combat oriented, as you’ve done on occasion.
“…Sounds like a combination of sarcasm and hyperbole. Bruce was unable to reconcile the issue of principles vs. techniques vs. methodology…”
How do you define principles or techniques or methods? His principle was one of humility, to be learning more and refining what he had previously learned. Being like water is meant to be interpreted as being adaptive to differing situations. As we’ve talked about before, it’s about adjusting to the rules (or seeing how far to bend them) in any given situation. His techniques were about effectiveness, taking the principle of adaptation and applying it to the combat situation. On the ground, he used wrestling. On his feet and at distance, he used kicks. On his feet and closer in, he used the “machine-gun” style of Wing Chun you described in your other post. It was about whatever worked, the path of least resistance. I don’t know too much about his methods, but I know he emphasized physical training a great deal, probably much more than I’d be willing to commit myself to. I don’t profess to be some kind of Bruce Lee expert, so I could be wrong about this stuff. Honestly, I don’t see why so many people fantasize about him as some kind of martial arts god or whatever; Mitsuyo Maeda, Jigoro Kano, and Miyamoto Musashi (along with many others) have done as much as he has without as much press or flare. Also, I don’t know why anyone would call him a spiritual expert. Sure, he had a degree in philosophy, but he’s still pretty human, with his own character flaws and chips on his shoulder.
“…Perhaps you have another definition of austerity that most people have. Since when has the MA world been inspired and driven by pragmatics? If you were to omit things in the so-called “martial arts” due to ineffectiveness or superfluousness, you’d essentially have boxing and wrestling…”
There’s always been some portion of martial artists interested in effectiveness and pragmatism, myself being part of it. Combat effectiveness isn’t the only thing one can gain from martial arts, far from it. However, for better or worse, that is the reason I (and others) train, and I hope you can respect that. People who demonstrate the power of qigong and feats of inner power using bricks and knocking people over are doing the same things as people who go into the ring: they’re trying to show that it’s combat effective.
“…Chinese medicine was “transformed” by empiricism since a very, very long time ago. Pulse reading, tongue diagnosis, urine and scatology, all empirical. That’s “scientific”. You just don’t understand it…”
That’s an easy claim to make. If you can’t do it, then you don’t understand it. Obvious. However, more important is why you can’t do it. Only then can you understand the structure behind the event. Why doesn’t the dim mak stuff work against live and resisting opponents? Empirically, it implies that there is a difference between those opponents and those that it works on, generally students of the sensei. This gives rise the hypothesis of “uke magic.”
“…Interpretation of function leads to degradation of structure. If a posture can be rooted to a canonical reference, pre-natal or post-natal posture, then that’s the ultimate authority on the subject. Period…”
The question then becomes “what is canonical?” I’ve known several people who claim the Bible as a canonical reference for the history of the entire world, and others who quote the Qu’ran. Which is right? There is no completely reliable or valid reference that can be called “canonical,” in any field. This is because all these references are derived from human experience, which has the possibility for flaws. Even empirical data is derived from human methods, which colors it with the perspective of the deriver. The best that we can do is collect from a variety of sources with a variety of methods in order to interpret the structure/function as much as we can.
“…Forget principles, structure is principle. You have to stay in structure, or you’re not principled. You can’t forget the rules and say, “sure, all martial arts are equal”…there isn’t a infinite multiplicity of ideas and principles. The human body only works certain ways. How many different kinds of levers are there? How many kinds of fulcrums?”
However, there are different attitudes and training methods for each martial art, influenced by the rules set and culture that the martial art is developed in. Judo and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu use similar techniques, but the attitudes and training methods are very different. BJJ emphasizes slow rolling to develop technique and attention to detail. Judo prefers much faster randori, focusing on what works for the individual and generally the use of explosive power. Again, by cross-training and learning from a variety of sources, we can develop the best personal development. “Wisdom” and “structure” limit one’s growth with differences that separate what does unify us as human beings. A TKD kick is not a Muay Thai kick is not a Savate kick. Going further, every fighter has their own personal style of kick, and while some are more similar to others, each is different based on that fighter’s conditioning, physical characteristics at the time of the kick, the mental health and attitude going into the fight, etc. I’m not saying that all styles are equal, quite the opposite, but the structure isn’t the same as the principle. The principle differs from person to person depending on what they’re training for. The structure of the school you learn from will generally stick around for as long as the school.
“…Tilopa said the root of all disease is the mind. Well, your “mind” is more than a body, more than feelings, and more than emotions. If you haven’t realized that, than forget any of this stuff and take up a real sport or exercise routine…
You don’t look at structure for function. You look at structure as manifestation of function…”
But what is the difference between looking at structure for function and structure as a manifestation of function? People can’t do anything but look at structure in this world. In terms of medicine, how can we do anything but treat the body? Even mental health seems to be a manifestation of the body, so how do we treat the mind? Christianity, Buddhism, Daoism, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, and every other religion on the planet claims to have the answer. Yet people were fine before the onset of religion, and there are people who are fine without it. Is there really a problem to be treated? I guess I’ll leave the mind stuff for when you decide to talk about the non-imaginary, non-corporeal entities.
Let me start by saying Turiyan Gold’s views are not my own. In fact, I’d bet even his views are not his own, in the sense that you cannot communicate a developed and nuanced perspective with a few quick Usenet posts.
On with the show…
I do not recall doing any such thing–especially because I do not subscribe to a combative/non-combative dichotomy. Truth be told, I’m not sure that “combat-oriented” represents anything more than wishful thinking; at least, outside of authentic military training (as opposed to SCARS, Krav Maga, etc).
I’d say that if someone is trying to defend themselves on the street using their bare knuckles, then they are not truly combat-oriented, they are fantasy-oriented, and possibly eligible for a Darwin Award.
For now, let’s just acknowledge that they are not all the same thing.
Humble? Bruce Lee’s old girlfriend, Amy Sanbo, didn’t consider him a humble fellow. Neither did some of his Hollywood clients and kung fu brothers, and neither do I. Some people believe he was a spiritual expert because they are familiar with The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, but not its many uncredited sources. I agree that it should be enough to give Lee credit for his real accomplishments, without spreading tall tales and insinuations.
“Whatever works” is not a principle, it is the absence of principle. Compare that with “death before dishonor”, which is the traditional warrior ethos. Some would say that valuing nothing above one’s own life is the very definition of “unprincipled”; just ask Mencius, for example.
Sure, everybody is arguably pragmatic by their own definition, but who has driven and inspired the community as a whole? Who are we still talking about 100 years later? Yang Luchan reputedly fought with a feather duster–not exactly a pragmatist in the common sense of the word. Masutatsu Oyama and Morihei Ueshiba allegedly retreated to the mountains and forests; that is austerity, not five sets of fifty push-ups followed by a protein shake.
I have met people with empty force and other interesting skills. None of them have been interested in proving their combat-effectiveness. On the contrary, they agreed to demonstrate despite the likelihood that people would misconstrue it.
But that is not the claim here. It is a response to people who think they know everything because of, or can learn everything through the inductive application of, their “scientific perspective”.
If you can discern between meridian theory, its applicability to martial arts, and George Dillman’s personal understanding of it, then you will be two steps ahead of the average martial artist.
Yes, I agree. But when I look at videos like this (hat tip to Mokuren Dojo), I cannot help but agree with Ordosclan too. 😉
First, let me explain the context of this issue for anyone who is unfamiliar. When Wing Chun students started entering MMA competitions in earnest, they had the same difficulties as many other “striking artists” in stopping the takedown. Now, the traditional Wing Chun combat perspective is that you’d better incapacitate the man who attempts to get you on the ground, killing him if necessary, because you don’t have any other viable options. (Let’s not talk about running away, and let’s not talk about whether traditional WC/WT/VT can reliably stop a skilled takedown attempt right now.)
Obviously, “kill or be killed” is the wrong mindset for sport fighting, unsportsmanlike to say the least, so these guys needed an alternative. They promptly discovered that “Wing Tsun principles” can be applied on the ground, and called it WT Anti-Grappling. This raised a few objections inside and outside of the Wing Tsun community.
If you are laying on your back throwing bicycle kicks, can you fairly call yourself a principled Wing Chun fighter? Or have you abandoned your principles, and now you are trying to win by any means necessary? That is the core issue here. “Structure is principle” is not the conclusion, it is the premise, and one worth considering deeply. Structure is potential.
You can define a martial art by what it is not. I am in favor of some forms of cross-training–at the same time I reject “Just be limitless!” pseudo-philosophy.
I respectfully decline to address the topic of religion here.
The structural model of the human being is just that: a model. It is a simplified representation. It is more suitable for treating some types of diseases and imbalances, and less so for others. Western psychotherapy is just one example of non-structural, non-material medicine (psychotropic drugs notwithstanding).
Meditation and martial arts are two roads to cultivating nei gong or “inner vision”, through which one can start to comprehend functional models of the human body. The functional models transcend structure, and influence structure.