March 31, 2012

Expressing Oneself Honestly

Posted in culture, film, martial arts at 2:38 am by Jerry

“To express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself… now that, my friend, is very hard to do.” – Bruce Lee.

The cultures we grow up in may have different ideas about who we should be, what we should do – what it means for us to be a successful human being.

Fighting your culture’s image of a successful you may demand the ultimate martial art skills within one’s heart, mind, and will. Training your body to be skilled in fighting can be a reflection of this internal fight for authenticity.

And if you can’t help but fail at being something you’re not, there really is no other option. Your only real choice… is to fight for an honest expression of your whole being.

January 1, 2012

Breaking in the New Year with a Little Kung Fu

Posted in martial arts at 3:08 am by Jerry

June 30, 2011

Unlearning 20 yr.old Karate Lessons

Posted in martial arts at 10:21 am by Jerry

Now that my martial art training has returned to include punching and kicking again (Baguazhang has no punching, and my Baguazhang training had yet to include any kicks), I’ve been reminded of the Karate lessons I took over twenty years ago.

I was surprised to find out that the kicking and punching I’ve known for so long was still following Karate techniques (that is, the Karate that I was taught).

When I punched in my Wing Chun class, my elbows were not in front of my center and I was punching with my first two knuckles (yang) instead of my middle two (yin). And when I kicked in my Wing Chun class, I was sending my thighs into my core and then trying to send them and the rest of my leg back out to my opponent. My Wing Chun Sifu showed me how to use my core to send my whole leg out to my opponent in one thrusting move.

All this time while I had been studying Baguazhang, I never thought that within my fighting arsenal, I still had Karate techniques. Huh!

March 15, 2011

Baguazhang in the Movies

Posted in art, film, martial arts at 1:01 am by Jerry

Though it’s hard for me to recognize any outward appearances* of the kind of internal training I would expect in an experienced Baguazhang practitioner, I still enjoy the artistic style of the Baguazhang portrayed by the actors/martial artists (with black shirts) in these two movies.

*A strong upright structure rooted in every step with the parts of the body moving as one unit in a circular fashion. For example..

December 2, 2010

Unicorns and Violence

Posted in martial arts, mythology at 3:20 am by Jerry

I’ve been feeling uneasy when the subject of my martial art training (Baguazhang) comes up. It’s the word “martial” that bugs me.

I’m not an experienced fighter. And as I explained to Becky some time ago, if I were to show another person how to do what I do, I wouldn’t call it “self-defense”. The way I practice Bagua is not to make me a fighter, I just use Bagua for exercise. I like this kind of exercise because I want to increase my standing balance by developing whole-body strength.* So, my physical training might increase my advantage if there’s ever a chance I find myself in a violent situation. But that doesn’t mean I have the training of a warrior.

I started reading Sgt. Rory Miller’s “Meditation On Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence”. I have a feeling this book will help me understand even more than ever how big of a gap there is between my martial art journey and actual combat.

Just as travelers’ tales passing from person to person and place to place and century to century managed to morph the reality of the rhinoceros into the fable of the unicorn, the insular tradition and history of each dojo has morphed a primal understanding of violence into the modern ritual of martial arts.

– Sgt. Rory Miller

This quote came from Miller’s introduction. The rest of the book should be an interesting read.

* The best way I can briefly explain “whole-body strength” is to say that every part of the body supports all parts of the body.

January 5, 2010

I’m a Kung Fu Animal Lover

Posted in culture, film, martial arts at 5:39 pm by Jerry

During my movie-watching mid-teens I was fascinated by martial artists mimicking animal styles of fighting. For milleniums people have turned to other species to gain insight into the power intrinsic, yet diversified within nature. The survival techniques of other animals have either been feared, respected, or both. And many of the well known animals have become symbols, representing various human characteristics. But Phillip Starr feels that mimicking animals as a martial art is “seriously flawed”:

Our distinctive human structure allows us to lift heavy objects and strike in a wide variety of directions–things that cats and snakes cannot do.

When a snake strikes, it hurls itself at its prey. It has no control over itself once the attack is initiated. The same is true of the praying mantis. Monkeys possess enormous upper-body strength, which is essential to their survival as tree dwellers. Birds such as cranes and eagles have hollow bones that make them light enough for flight.

You are not a tree dweller, nor can you fly. No matter how much you practice or fantasize about it, you will never develop the great strength of the monkey, the lightness and agility of the crane or the blinding speed of the mantis. You aren’t built like these creatures and you’ll never be able to move as they do. You’re a human being and you move like a human being. It is therefore essential to learn how to make the best use of your uniquely human structure.

I think he makes some good points. Nevetheless, I still love the animal styles if only for the shear entertainment value.

September 15, 2009

Favorite Jackie Chan Fight Scene

Posted in film, martial arts at 4:03 pm by Jerry

I don’t know how much value Drunken Style would have in a reality-based self-defense context, but I love how Jackie plays with the style in this scene.

Oh, and the part about alcohol giving a fighter more power is hilarious! It would take a fighter with an overly rigid body and no sense of momentum for alcohol to maybe have some martial benefit – although, I suppose dulling any pain inflicted by an opponent would be useful 😉

Circle Walking

Posted in film, martial arts at 5:59 am by Jerry

Here’s one of many examples you can find of Baguazhang practitioners performing the most common characteristic of Baguazhang training – Circle Walking.

Just recently I’ve started to move more and more from my Zhan Zhuang training into the classic circle walking found in the internal martial art of Baguazhang.

The circle walking has been evolving out of my “post standing” when I rotate, turning from one side to the other. Eventually, my outside foot needs to take a step around if I’m to keep turning, and so the circle walking begins. Obviously, the circle starts off pretty small for a beginner like me. So I make it bigger and try to keep training the principles I’ve been working through in my standing exercise. I suspect that eventually I’ll be trying to take the circle walk back into a rotating standing position, and then standing still once again.

September 8, 2009

Zhan Zhuang (post standing)

Posted in film, martial arts at 12:42 pm by Jerry

Lately, my physical training has involved a dualistic perception of my body. I’ve partitioned it throughout my limbs, torso, and head into what you could call a “yin-yang” partition. nei-gongThe ‘yin’ parts are the parts that welcomes the force of gravity, becomes friends with it, becomes relaxed while moving horizontally, with the gravitational pull. This horizontal force begins in the foot, spiraling up through the legs, supporting whatever stable base I had – much like the bulk of a spinning top supporting its standing needle.

The ‘yang’ parts throughout my body (the ‘standing needle’) are the parts that, really, should have been the only parts I’ve already been using to hold up my body. These are the parts that rebel against the force of gravity. They are the parts that spike through the core of my body directly upward. And when they are not trying to lift the ‘yin’ parts upward too, they are free to act in the light, mobile manner they were meant to.

When both yin and yang parts are combined (‘Taiji’), your whole body can work together to create diagonal power.

Among other things mentioned in the video above, inertia is an important principle to recognize. My goal is to have the ability, the self-control, to both destroy and create whole-body inertia at will – which isn’t as easy as one would think. For instance, applying the principle of friction to whatever object my feet, torso, arms and hands are touching is just one of the many ‘soft art’ aspects that require a tremendous amount of fine-tuning.

July 7, 2009

Breath Without Breathing

Posted in culture, literature, martial arts, mythology, poetry, psychology, soup at 4:48 am by Jerry

It is said that when you breathe out you contact the Root of Heaven and experience a sense of openness, and when you breathe in you contact the Root of Earth and experience a sense of solidity. Breathing out is associated with the fluidity of a dragon, breathing in is associated with the strength of the tiger. As you go on breathing in this frame of mind, with these associations, alternating between movement and stillness, it is important that the focus of your mind does not shift.

Let the true breath come and go, a subtle continuum on the brink of existence. Tune the breathing until you get breath without breathing; become one with it…

– Zhang San Feng (widely accepted as creator of “Taijiquan”)

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