Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Humans: One Big Electro/Chemical Battery

As we dig ourselves out of two long weeks of deep snow and intense cold, I have given much thought to how our bodies react in the dark of winter. We loose our inner routines and find it difficult to manage our lives in a way we are used to. The winter solstice on December 21st marks the shortest day of the year, and this week we can finally see the return of the light.
Our bodies are one big electro/chemical battery, largely influenced by the circadian rythm, described HERE on Wikipedia. As described:
"It appears that the SCN takes the information on day length from the retina, interprets it, and passes it on to the pineal gland, a tiny structure shaped like a pine cone and located on the epithalamus. In response the pineal secretes the hormone melatonin. Secretion of melatonin peaks at night and ebbs during the day".
Of course, the pineal gland is widely believed to be a powerful center of psychic energy, often linked to the "Third Eye" many cultures depict above the eyes in the center of the forehead.
All of this seems quite interesting in relation to the book I just finished, "The Chi Revolution" by Bruce Frantzis, and another I am about to start, "Chi Gong" by Paul Dong.
With this in mind, I dug through the Dojo Rat archives and found a post worth repeating, as I can't see how my view has changed since I wrote it.
So from April of 2007, here's one of my first posts on Internal energy:

From the comments in a previous post:
ta2urnfs said...
Just wondering, where does the internal energy come from?

Well, I don't know if I can adequately answer this question, but here are some thoughts: For thousands of years The Chinese and other cultures have believed in pathways of energy in the body that are not specificlly associated with blood flow or nerve impulses. In Yoga this is represented in the "Chakras", in Chi-Kung (Qigong) it is found in meridians associated with the organs and structure of the body. There is "pre-natal chi", which one is born with, and "post-natal chi which we can gain or loose. It is believed that through certain techniques, this mysterious energy can be cultivated and improved for health and strength.
This is obviously a controversial subject, and is constantly debated. Let's look at how western science tries to examine this subject:
From Wikipedia-
"Bioelectromagnetism (sometimes equated with bioelectricity) refers to the electrical, magnetic or electromagnetic fields produced by living cells, tissues or organisms. Examples include the cell potential of cell membranes and the electric currents that flow in nerves and muscles, as a result of action potentials."
..."Biological cells use bioelectricity to store metabolic energy, to do work or trigger internal changes, and to signal one another. Bioelectromagnetism is the electric current produced by action potentials along with the magnetic fields they generate through the phenomenon of electromagnetism."..."Bioelectromagnetism is an aspect of all living things, including all plants and animals. Bioenergetics is the study of energy relationships of living organisms. Biodynamics deals with the energy utilization and the activities of organisms. Some animals have acute bioelectric sensors, and others, such as migratory birds, are believed to navigate in part by orienting with respect to the Earth's magnetic field. Also, sharks are more sensitive to local interaction in electromagnetic fields than most humans. Other animals, such as the electric eel, are able to generate large electric fields outside their bodies."
(D.R.); The way I see it, our bodies are nothing short of huge electro-chemical batteries. What happens sometimes when you have a thought that makes you worry? That electrical impulse sends a message to glands and organs that make your stomache seem upset (electro-chemical interaction). Likewise, when you get scared or suprised, your breathing becomes short and rapid.
So the idea is, through meditative and posture techniques you can have more control over how your battery charges and discharges. For instance, if your attitude (electrical impulse) makes your breath short and rapid (chemical) then by controlling your breathing you calm the mind.
Chinese texts also state the obvious that the food you eat and the air you breathe affect postnatal chi also. This is one reason people like to practice chi kung in forests, where the air is clean.
I have also written in the Dojo Rat archives about the subject of light touch and no-touch knockouts, one of the most controversial aspects of this subject in the martial arts (see "No Touch Knockouts?" Jan 4 2007)
In summary; the Internal Martial Arts practice chi cultivation through deep Psychophysical (mind-body) integration, as opposed to the detachment of Trancendental meditation. This is generally different from the hard or external arts that use more muscular strength in the limbs of the body and less core or whole-body action. All martial arts that I know of practice some type of meditation or energy cultivation however.
As far as how I precieve chi energy, the only thing I can say is after a session of calm, focused internal training such as Tai Chi Chuan, Bagua or Chi Kung, I often feel warmth in my palms, and an occasional "shiver" up my spine. Colors are more vivid and the senses more alert. It's like a tune-up on your car. I have also experimented with dowsing rods to find buried water and electric lines, which I believe is somehow related.
I encourage any other thoughts or suggestions from readers...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Nice Image... Plus UPDATE

I was just really was taken by the image...
Gotta visit with family, back soon!

Reader Tom sent this really cool video of a dance depicting a version of the image above, Thanks Tom!

Well, Im back, still digging out of the snow. Working on some stuff, more martial arts coming soon...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: "The Chi Revolution", By Bruce Frantzis

For some reason, the stars have aligned in such a way to bring me into a deeper study of getting to know my body better. This just so happens as the Pacific Northwest is slammed with a two-week snowstorm, and except for cutting firewood I haven't been able to meet with any of The Dojo Rats for group workouts.
So into my life pops the first book of several I am going to review on how to experiance and cultivate Chi Flow.
In "The Chi Revolution", Bruce Frantzis provides a refreshing and understandable format to help us understand how we feel Chi in our bodies. I have many books on acupuncture meridian theory and five-element study, but there is so much deep knowledge in such topics a beginner could get lost in details.
Bruce Frantzis makes the distinction between western standards for fitness as opposed to an eastern tradition, based on Taoist energetic practices. Frantzis recalls meeting dynamic atheletes and Yoga masters that were outwardly fit and able, but had no continunity of movement in Tai Chi Chuan for instance. People can be outwardly fit, but disconnected internally. As described, this lack of internal presence can not only prevent heathy organ function, it may not make potential illness identifiable.
While dealing with the seemingly mysterious notion of Chi energy, Frantzis offers suggestions of how to recognize the feeling in our bodies. The occasional stimulation, the shiver up your spine, the warm glow of a lover. His treatment of chi flow during the sex act really stands out against what is often viewed as a life of monastic chastity to achieve enlightenment.
For those of us that already practice Chi Gong, Internal Martial Arts or both, Frantzis provides us with a matrix of ideas in which to feel, experiment and get more out of our practice.
For those new to the concept, "The Chi Revolution" has simple, easy to practice "Chi Rev" exercises to get people off to a good start. These include:
* Longevity breathing
* Chi scanning
* Chi balencing
* Freeing trapped Chi
"The Chi Revolution" explores enhanced energy flow in relation to spirituality, meditation, Internal Martial Arts and the ancient philosophy embedded in the "I Ching".
I found the practical information in this book to be very helpful to my ongoing learning process, martial arts, health and relaxation. I hope you will too.
Check out "The Chi Revolution", and other works at this Bruce Frantzis Energy Arts Link.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Humor: A Little Holiday Green

Well you can probably tell I'm still snowed in, about 5 more inches yesterday. So what to do but spend time surfing the fetid waters of the internet...

-And oh my freakin' DNA, this is the funniest damned story I have read in a long time. I mean I KNOW THESE PEOPLE! (Actually, people just like them). If you have the time, and want a good laugh, read this story of life on a California pot farm during harvest time. I mean, this is laugh-your-ass-off funny -- and believe me, this is absolutely how these operations are run. Here's a sample:

"If the production of weed were legal, trimming
weed in Humboldt would be a lot like the seasonal
job of stomping wine in France. It is not legal, so
trimming weed in Humboldt is like cooking meth in
Kentucky. What can I tell you about going to work
on a weed farm that the Grower, The Trimmers and
The Landowner won't kill me for? Soft criminals are
especially tense about getting put in cages by men
with guns.
For the sake of this story I will posit that every
Grower is, due to certain skill sets and predilections,
essentially the same kind of guy. All Growers have
three shitty houses but don't live anywhere in particular;
all Growers are trigger hippies who learned all
Growers have a truck, a dog and an ex-girlfriend
with an axe to grind; etc. I don't know if crime makes
cliches come true or if it's the other way around, but
I would guess that a variation of the following drama
is acted out in remote camps across Humboldt every
year at harvest time".

Here's the LINK

I promise I'll get back to martial arts, coming up soon...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ice Age, "08 Version

The obligatory frozen outhouse photo

Darn those guys over at Mokuren Dojo, they're one step ahead of us again. Pat tells us that Hell Has Frozen Over In Mississippi and New Orleans for the first time in years and years.
Well, we get it every year. The freeze that has hit the Pacific Northwest is the worst since 1990, with temperatures below freezing, often in the low teens for what may be two weeks. We've had 60 mph wind gusts, and trees are down everywhere.
Right now we are just working on keeping the pipes from freezing, and continue cutting firewood. It is beautiful, but definately cuts into our work and holiday schedule.

Here's a picture of my tractor shed. As you can see, we only have about 4-5 inches of snow, but it's turning into one giant frozen glacier. We're expecting another 4 to 6 inches starting tonight, with no end to freezing weather in sight.

And above is a pic of my current project; "The Swamp Ridge Saloon"!
Yes, that's right, a little Western Saloon. Of course, we are still in the early building stages, but it's mostly dried-in and kind of on hold until after the first of the year. My wife even bought me a keg cooler with Co2 and everything. What more does a guy need? Fellow Dojo Rats out there can expect to see more of the saloon when the weather breaks and we get a little further along.
--Meanwhile, we took inventory-- let's see;
-- I think we'll be just fine for a few days...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kung Fu Congressman In Trouble!

Embattled Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

Last February We took a look at Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D. Illinois), and saw how he had dumped a bunch of weight and took up Kung Fu. Jackson, who apparantly has somewhat of a temper, threatened to kick-ass on a Republican Congressman that had told him to "shut up" during a debate on the House Floor. Jackson challenged Rep. Lee Terry to "step outside and settle it".
As reported in the Washington Post:
"The consensus in Washington is that Jackson would have whupped Terry's butt. "It would have been Bruce Lee vs. Pillsbury Dough Boy," one congressional aide told the Post."
Well, as we can see, those were "Happier" times for Jackson, he is now front-and-center in the corruption scandal revolving around Governor Blagojevich:

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. declines to answer questions as he leaves a news conference in Washington where he denied being involved in any scheme to buy the Illinois senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama.
Ah, for the good old days When Jackson's only problem was where to beat the crap out of Republican Lee Terry, pictured below:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pat's Take on "ART"

I highly recommend that everybody check out THIS ARTICLE over at Mokuren Dojo. Pat has possibly hit upon the answer as to "What makes a Martial Art "ART"?
Pat's analogy of "Art" as "abstract" is brilliant, and makes complete sense in the context of those of us who practice a martial art that expresses itself through forms.
Check out Pat's article at the link above, and remember:
"Combat brings necessary pain, Art necessarily brings pleasure"...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Review: Yin Style Bagua: Seizing And Grasping Attacks

Bagua Master He Jinbao

Unlocking the secrets within the Bagua circle-walking forms can be a daunting task.
The spinning, coiling and stepping patterns are beautiful to watch and perform, but beginning practitioners can have difficulty understanding how to use the system in self-defense.
In this video, "Yin Style Bagua: Seizing and Grasping Attacks" Bagua master He Jinbao covers a multitude of locks, controls and throws from the Yin system. The production quality is generally good, with the video shot in full sun outside on a clear day. Master He Jinbao is an imposing figure, tall and thickly built, perfect for the grappling methods of Yin Bagua. The DVD suggests that "the video is intended for practitioners already familiar with the fourteen seizing and grasping forms of the Qian trigram lion system". This may be the video's only shortcoming, which I will explain later.
The video covers:
*Very close grappling, pre-clinch to clinch
*Using strikes to bridge the gap
*Wrapping and trapping both arms
*Throwing - by using leverage against joints, by pulling the opponent off balence by crossing his arm or arms across his centerline, and by seizing the waist
*Manipulating the head and neck
*Pressure point strikes
-- What the video lacks:
While I have had classes in Yin and Sun style Bagua, I currently am practicing a version of the Cheng system. It would have been very helpful for the Master to have introduced more motion into the techniques. Many are shown from somewhat static postures, assuming the viewer has clear knowledge of the various Yin palms. It would be more easily understood by a wide variety of stylists if the techniques were introduced from the circle-walk or a more active attack-defend pattern. If anything, the video has too many techniques, rather than centering on a more complete presentation of fewer techniques. Despite these issues, I found a great deal of information and ideas to process that will directly translate into the stepping and coiling patterns I practice.
For Yin Style Bagua students, this video is a valuable training tool. For any internal arts stylist, this video will give ideas of locking and throwing that you may not have considered, and will add some unique techniques to your grappling toolbox.
Contact the producers of "Yin Style Bagua: Seizing and Grasping Attacks" at the Yin Style Baguazhang website Link Here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Young Punks

Isn't there always some young punk that wants to screw around with you because they hear you practice martial arts?

Myself and two other Dojo Rats had a very nice Tai Chi Chuan application class Saturday. It's a long day trip, involving two ferries both ways (four boat rides) and a fair amount of Beer afterward. Our instructor, Michael Gilman is very detailed in his instruction. I kid you not, we spent three hours on just the first four or five moves in the Yang long form. That's the difference with internal arts, there is a microcosm of structure and alignment, especially when you put it in action against an opponent. The study of these postures explore many of the concepts that carry on throughout the form.
For instance: in the first opening for Ward-off left, do you pivot on the weighted foot? Or do you shift to the stationary leg, turn the unweighted foot, shift the weight on to the foot you just turned - then step forward into ward-off?
The first method, pivoting on the weighted foot is very Yang. The second, shifting from one leg to the other is very Yin, dealing with an unweighted leg. This method tends to be more "old school". It does buy you a little time while you are neutralizing the opponent, but you are not in as strong a position if the opponent is powerful. All this stuff makes a big difference in freestyle push-hands, and of course in self-defense. This kind of study gives us fresh, new ideas to experiment in our solo form practice.
Later this week: a review of a new DVD - "Yin Style Bagua - Seizing And Grasping Attacks"

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tai Chi Chuan Instructors: Take Notice

We had a very nice e-mail from Shai Amir from the Nanking Tai Chi school in Israel, thanking us for posting a previous Chin-na video by their school.
He sent us the link for the video you see above, which is an excellent example of how a modern Tai Chi Chuan school should be run. The instructor is Efi Dinar.
As readers of the Dojo Rat blog know, esoteric new-age Tai Chi - the kind with no martial connection at all - absolutely drives me crazy. I know long-time Taiji practitioners that have NO IDEA what the hell they are doing in their form, therefore NEVER get the form right, or the intent within. They might as well just be sitting on a Yoga mat, they would get more out of that.
The class video above has all the elements for a comprehensive Tai Chi Chuan program;
*Form Work
*Push Hands
*Chi Kung/Meditation
This is a very well rounded program, and if you look at the Chin-na video linked above, you will see how their self-defense Tai Chi Chuan appears very effective.
* Kudos also for the excellent production quality of the video, this is a very nice presentation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Circular Or Linear? You Decide...

Our old buddy Pat over at Mokuren Dojo has an interesting post up titled "Pay attention; Aikido is not circular". Pat's contention is that there are no true circular (or linear) aspects in human movement. I say he is splitting hairs. That is in the context of, let's say a comparison to Shotokan Karate or Hsing-Yi, Both Aikido and Bagua are indeed composed of circular movement. Colin Wee made a good observation that perhaps a better distinction should be if the technique takes the opponent's center directly, or if it captures it and spins it off. The above video is one of my favorite Aikido demos, and I think it displays both linear and circular aspects beautifully.
Below is an example of Bagua circle-walking. The best example of circles-within -circles begins around two minutes in:

So perhaps Pat and I are BOTH splitting hairs, but I have been involved in far more linear martial arts, and they did not employ the amount of circular movement demonstrated in both videos above.
Click the link above to Pat's discussion for his views and the excellent comments that follow...

Monday, December 1, 2008

December: Cute Hippie Chick Of The Month

Ah, yes... it's time for our monthly feature "Cute Hippie Chick Of The Month", and as we can see, things are not always as they seem...

As we roll into the winter, we should conserve energy, not worry about making huge goals and progress. It's best to watch our health, visit friends and family, eat good food and drink good wine and beer. So many people live in artificial environments today - in an office, under florescant lights with controlled temperature. My work is outside every day, this time of year I start tree pruning. I think it's much more natural to live with the cycles of seasons. If you make it part of your being, the wet, cold and dark don't seem to bother as much. Balence it out with warm friendship and lively entertainment!
How do you approach winter? Let us know!