Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mike Patterson: Bagua

And here we have Mike Patterson showing some Bagua apps.
I never thought of this kind of exercise with a staff that he shows at the beginning, I'll have to give it a try!
One thing I see about his applications is he does demonstrate a knowledge of meridian acu-points. People have a misconception that palm or finger strikes to the body don't work. But if you have the correct angle in application, it can be devestating. Perhaps you have experianced this in sparring, where out of the blue an ordinary slap or punch really rocks you and you feel it in your intestines or bladder. Now think about what a well timed, well foucused and well angled hit would do with intent behind it.
Granted, it's not easy to get to peoples vulnerable areas like that, but more often they present themself to you, and you have to seize the moment.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mike Patterson: Liu He Ba fa

Here's Mike Patterson again, this time performing a more obscure internal art known as LiuHeBaFa. The name translates to "Six Harmonies, Eight Methods" and is also known as "Water Boxing".
While I have not yet found anyone that practices this art, I see it is remarkably similar to Tai Chi Chuan.
Here, Patterson does a good job at first demonstrating the soft, flowing movements of the art, then showing how powerful the applications can be.
More information on the history and development of LiuHeBaFa, "Water Boxing" can be found on this Wikipedia page.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mike Patterson Hsing-I

This week we'll take a look at some of the work of Mike Patterson, one of the best internal martial arts practitioners in the United States.
Here's from his Bio:

He "began Martial Arts training at the age of six. He has over 42 years of Martial Arts experience, 32 years teaching the Internal Styles of Hsing I, Pa Kua, Tai Chi and Liou He Ba Fah. He is the highest ranking teacher in the United States Shen Lung Tang Shou Tao Association, and is Head of the United States Branch.
When he had barely turned thirteen, he moved to the island of Taiwan and began his formal studies in the Internal Arts under Master Hsu Hong Chi. He was with Hsu Shr Fu, as his primary teacher, until his untimely passing in 1983.
ShrFu Patterson was the All Taiwan Full Contact Martial Arts Champion in 1975-1976, an all inclusive contest open to all styles and all ranks. He was the youngest champion ever in the history of the event and retired undefeated. He has since trained Numerous World, International and National Full Contact Champions himself. He served as the West Coast Regional Director of the United States Chinese KuoShu Federation from 1996 to 2001 and now serves as a special advisor for the same organization on the internal martial arts, he was Men’s Coach of the 1996 World Team U.S.A. Inside Kung Fu Magazine chose him as The 1997 Coach Of The Year."

Here's his website

Sunday, September 27, 2009

An Assassin Speaks Out

Ok. You guys know I can't resist this. I gotta post it.

I am not a huge Chavez fan, but he is immensly popular in Venezuela and has really, really helped the poor with- Gasp; redistribution of wealth.
In 2002 the Bush administration used American Navy ships, signals intelligence and covert ops to help the coup that briefly overthrew Chavez.
Now, even President Carter admits this:

"Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, speaking to a South American newspaper recently, claimed the United States may have been involved in an attempted overthrow of Chavez’s regime.

“I think there is no doubt that in 2002, the United States had at the very least full knowledge about the coup, and could even have been directly involved,” he told El Tiempo last week.
Carter told El Tiempo that he believed Chavez was elected in a “fair” vote in 1999, had carried out necessary reforms for Venezuela and ensured that “those who are traditionally excluded are able to get a larger share of the national wealth.”
But he also said he was worried by the Venezuelan leader’s drift towards “authoritarianism.”

The fact that the U.S. is opening up new military bases in Colombia, under the guise of drug interdiction, is a clue that the military industrial complex is increasingly worried about populist movements in Latin America that are currently rejecting unbridled corporate capitalism.
Stay tuned, back to martial arts soon.
More information here

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Little Change Of Pace

I thought we could use a story/picture to ease us out of the political relm and back into martial arts. Can't remember where I got this, but I really like it...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chump Norris And The Road To Anti-Government Violence

Former respected martial artist Chump Norris has come out with another anti-government screed, which you can read HERE.
In it, he basicly says everything that the Republicans caused in the past eight years is actually the result of President Obama who has been in office for some ten months.
To prove this, he uses selective quotes from Adams, Jefferson and other founding fathers. I suggest Norris, who would like to see Texas drop out of the United States, might have thought about quoting the founders when the country was lied into the Iraq war, secretly and illegally wiretapped, and the banking system was de-regulated to the point where our entire economic system collapsed. All under Republican supervision.
Now that 70% of the country has spoken and shifted the political landscape by electing Obama, the lunatic fringe on the far-right is approaching violence, with the so-called "conservatives" fomenting civil war.
Things are getting serious

Census worker found hanged; 'fed' scrawled on body
A U.S. Census worker found hanging from a tree near a Kentucky cemetery had the word "fed" scrawled on his chest, a law enforcement official said Wednesday, and the FBI is investigating whether he was a victim of anti-government sentiment.
The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, did not say what type of instrument was used to write the word on the chest of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher. He was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky.
Lucindia Scurry-Johnson, assistant director of the Census Bureau's southern office in Charlotte, N.C., said law enforcement officers have told the agency the matter is "an apparent homicide" but nothing else.

Come on people; we know everyone is angry and worried about the future of the country. Unfortunately, with clowns like Chump Norris and Glen Beck (and the rest of his Fox "News?" circus), that mis-placed anger is not looking at what caused this country's problems, it's being directed at Obama who is trying to clean up the mess. There is no shortage of racist rage bubbling just below the surface, something we should have seen coming.
But hey, this is 2009, not 1909. I thought we'd grown up a little bit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Samurai Mind Training For American Warriors

On the heels of the book and movie "The Men Who Stare At Goats" we see that the U.S. Military is indeed still involved in mind training for it's "Warriors", and you can bet this story is just the tip of the iceberg:

From Time Magazine, link

"Not long ago at Fort Bragg, N.C., the country's largest military base, seven soldiers sat in a semi-circle, lights dimmed, eyes closed, two fingertips lightly pressed beneath their belly buttons to activate their "core." Electronic music thumped as the soldiers tried to silence their thoughts, the key to Warrior Mind Training, a form of meditation slowly making inroads on military bases across the country. "This is mental push-ups," Sarah Ernst told the weekly class she leads for soldiers at Fort Bragg. "There's a certain burn. It's a workout."
"Think military and you think macho, not meditation, but that's about to change now that the Army intends to train its 1.1 million soldiers in the art of mental toughness."
"The Samurai image was selected after careful deliberation; it was certifiably anti-sissy. "We took a long time to decide how we were going to package this," says Ernst, who moved to North Carolina in 2006 and teaches classes at Fort Bragg as well as Camp Lejeune, a Marine base near the coast. "There are a lot of ways you could describe the benefits of doing mind training and meditation. Maybe from a civilian approach we would emphasize cultivating happiness or peace. But that's not generally what a young soldier is interested in. They want to become the best warrior they can be."

(D.R.)- Interesting, I think it's a good idea. Read the complete report at the link above...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Good News, Fellow Dojo Rats!

From our friend and fellow Dojo Rat Chris Dow-
"After those four guys kick your ass, you're going to need a lot of beer, and you can rest assured that it will be good for you as well as good. Check out the following link":

A frosty, cold beer can aid patients before and after surgery, according to the anecdotal evidence in the Journal of Irreproducible Results. The article details the many benefits that beer has over acetaminophen—like Tylenol—including helpful vitamins, minerals, and sleep-aid properties. Drinking beer also involves the physical activity of arm curls, which is largely absent in the administration of acetaminophen. Medicate responsibly.

Thanks for writing in Chris,
Check out my review of Chris Dow's excellent book on Chi development, "The Wellspring"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Movie: The Men Who Stare At Goats

Oh my freakin' DNA, I gotta see this movie!
A while back I read Jon Ronson's "The Men Who Stare At Goats", and loved it. For some reason the original Blogger post can't be recovered but it is mirrored on Zimbo HERE
--Obviously the movie doesn't follow the same thread as the book, but it looks hilarious. Here's a copy of my original book review from several years ago:

The Men Who Stare At Goats

Pat over at Mokuren Dojo posted This Review of Richard Strozzi-Heckler's book "In Search Of The Warrior Spirit", a book I had recommended because Aikido is part of the theme. As Pats review suggests, the book touches on the difficulty of an Aikido instructor's experiance teaching a group of Green Berets in a special military program. This program used sensitivity and bio-feedback in an attempt to create a super-soldier. Heckler obviously did not realize how deep the entire program went, which is detailed in Jon Ronson's "The Men Who Stare At Goats". Ronson gives the entire (unclassified) background of "The First Earth Battalion", which used Psychic Spies and other unorthodox warfare with mixed results. For instance, assassin training included developing photographic memories, to walk into a room and know at an instant where every pencil, chair, ashtray or other potential weapon lay, down to minute details. The title refers to a special lab, "The Goat Lab", where a large group of goats were kept. The subject would concentrate his psychic energy on one goat, and kill it while sitting in a room nearby. It is not exactly clear how well this worked, but Ronson's sources said at times it was performed successfully. You can see the obvious implications of this. Ronson travels across the country, interviewing people who were involved in the secret program, including martial artists that train assassins.
Now, most of us don't go for this Woo-Woo side of the martial arts, which borders on the occult. None-the-less, the military (and not just ours) is involved in this stuff. Here is a post from last January I did on "No Touch Knockouts" Which I have witnessed, performed by various Masters, with mixed results. There is a guy on YouTube who is offering thousands of dollars to anyone who can do one of these "no touch knockouts" to him, and I don't think he has had any takers.
The bottom line is, the U.S. military thinks this stuff may work, and has been involved in these types of training programs. I have read accounts of the Russians, who have been ahead of the Americans in all things Psychic, training their elite killers in this also.
Ronson's book opens a view into a dark world of Psuedo-science and the military-occult industrial complex. It takes up where Heckler's "In Search Of The Warrior's Spirit leaves off. "The Men Who Stare At Goats" is a quick read and is suprisingly humorous, considering the subject. It's also chock-full of martial artists that he interviews along the way.

And for those who are fans of Stephen Colbert, check out his interview with Jon Ronson, where Stephen attempts to stare a goat to death!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Man Kills Intruder With Sword

Here's the link to The Baltimore Sun

Hours earlier, someone had broken into John Pontolillo's house and taken two laptops and a video-game console. Now it was past midnight, and he heard noises coming from the garage out back.
The Johns Hopkins University undergraduate didn't run. He didn't call the police. He grabbed his samurai sword.
With the 3- to 5-foot-long, razor-sharp weapon in hand, police say, Pontolillo crept toward the noise. He noticed a side door in the garage had been pried open. When a man inside lunged at him, police say, the confrontation was fatal.
"He was backed up against a corner and either out of fear or out of panic, he just struck the sword with force," said Baltimore Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. "It was probably with fear for his life."
Pontolillo, who rents the house in the 300 block of E. University Parkway in the Oakenshawe neighborhood, struck the intruder no more than twice, police say, nearly severing his left hand and inflicting what police termed a "spear laceration."
The intruder, Donald D. Rice of Baltimore, a 49-year-old repeat offender who had been released from jail only Saturday, died at the bloody scene.

(D.R.) So I imagine lots of us will have mixed feelings about this incident. The short video above is not the original from the article, which did not have an embed code.
In that video, the robber/victim's sister states that Rice never entered the house, and was killed in the garage.
She makes a legal point here. I believe in most States you are required to prove that you have retreated to another part of the house to avoid an intruder before using lethal force. I'm not a lawyer, so I can only speculate.
Let's re-frame the context of the incident:
Is a sword the right choice for a home defense weapon? I know that my swords are too big to effectivly use them inside a house. Secondly, I would rather leave an intruder alive and beat-to-shit than possibly face prosecution for killing him.
Other weapons?
1. Claw hammer: The absolutely most useful self-defense tool for anyone
2. Club or short stick: Not as effective as a hammer but in trained hands effective
3. Baseball bat: starting to get too long for use in hallways etc., but not bad
4. Short Bladed weapon: Possibly as lethal as a sword, kitchen or hunting knives
5. Shall we say it? Handgun. Well, you have to worry about bullets going through apartment walls etc., but I can't deny that it may simply work as a deterrent.
6. Call 911 and let the police deal with it, since it is IN THE GARAGE

Prosecuters are deciding if they will charge the swordsman. How would you handle the situation?

***Thanks Eric, for sending the story

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Four Guys I'd Like To Have Kick My Ass

Pat Parker

1. Pat Parker, Mokuren Dojo
Yes, mild-mannered health professional by day, but a terror on the Dojo Mat. Pat was one of the first Bloggers I met through this crazy interwebtube thing. He has put up with my endless diatribes and shit flipping and always remained a gentleman and friend. Pat specializes in Judo and Aikido, but Pat wouldn't be so nice as to use Aikido on me, He would repeatedly body-slam me with powerful Judo techniques until I puked up my last Beer. Then he would carefully explain to me exactly what he did and write it up for his next Blog Post.
I love Pat.

2. Wim Demeere
So for the first time in my life I would actually get on an airplane (no kidding) and fly all the way to Belgium to get my ass kicked by another redhead. They'd better at least have pretty girls there. Wim is an expert in "Combat Sanshou", author of several books and a video series. Wim would probably film himself kicking my ass. His superior conditioning would grind me into a puddle of my own urine while he quoted scenes from Jean Claude VanDamme movies. Then he would take us out for some really, really good local Beers, even if he had to push my wheelchair.
I hope to meet Wim someday.

3. Sensei Strange
Sensei Strange is my distant relative by some freak of nature, my long-distance little Bro. He wrote me to inform me that he is a younger, stronger, and trimmer version of me. Well, then get out there and split some firewood for me, Dude!
When we meet for our match, it will be on Strange's turf. That's because he is a Magician, and he has sneaky gadgets hidden around his Dojo To confuse me. We would face off, he would hypnotize me, and then take the cold Beer out of my hand and drink it himself. Bastard! Before the spell was lifted, he would pull one of those party stunts where he paints Japanese Kanji on my forehead so everyone could point and laugh at me when I snap out of it.
I would spend the next two years on my remote undisclosed Island hideout reading Madame Blavatsky books to steele myself against his Magician's powers.
- Now get out there and mow my lawn, whippersnapper!

4. Loren Christensen
Loren doesn't mess around. He's one of those Rip-Tear-Shread guys. Loren is also a prolific author and video producer. Loren has been training in Martial Arts since 1965, when I was still watching "Sesame Street".
When I was in Portland, Loren was the head of the Gang Task Force for the Portland Police, and was well respected. He's obviously knocked his share of Dirtbags around, so he'd have no trouble with me. When Loren and I face off, I will simply tear off my own ear and bite a large chunk out of my left hand.
Then I would allow him to handcuff me while we had a long discussion about Portland in the good-old-days, and what went wrong in my mis-spent youth.
I would love to train with Loren sometime.

Anybody else up for the challenge? Huh? Huh?...

Monday, September 14, 2009

When Animals Attack; Part Thirteen

I've had my run-ins with Raccoons. I've had them reach through chicken wire, dismember chickens live and pull them through the fence piece-by-piece. I've shot and skinned them. My friend had hounds; a raccoon led them into a deep stream, climbed up on the hound's head and drowned it. Two of my dogs caught a raccoon in a culvert under a road and it was the most hellish fight you've ever heard.
Now this:

Ballard family attacked by raccoon
Posted by Geeky Swedes on September 13th, 2009
Update: We have an update on the warning we posted earlier this weekend about a raccoon who attacked a Ballard family in their backyard near 14th Ave. and 73rd St. Joanna Silverstein told us a raccoon attacked their dog, then turned on her and her husband Mark on Thursday night.
Joanna said it all began when her little Yorkie “Bee” was walking the perimeter of the yard, and a raccoon suddenly jumped off the fence and made a beeline for the dog. “She’s a pretty little dog and he’s a big raccoon,” Joanna said, explaining that the raccoon attacked just before the dog made it inside the house. She said she tried to pull the dog away, but the raccoon wouldn’t stop its attack, biting the dog and then her in the leg. Her husband Mark, who was tending to their two-week-old child inside, heard his wife’s screams. She said he hit the raccoon with a flashlight and was able to throw it into the backyard.
“The raccoon scratched him pretty badly,” Joanna said. Because of their injuries, they both had to submit to rabies and tetanus shots — more than 25 between the two of them — a “very painful” experience, she said. The dog Bee was bitten on the snout.
After the attack, they distributed flyers in the area warning neighbors to “be watchful of your animals and children as this wild creature has become a threat.” And Joanna tells us, she seen two raccoons in her backyard since the attack. They plan to trap the raccoon(s) in the next couple of weeks.

(D.R.) One more raccoon story; when I was about 6 years-old I was in my Grandma's yard, and saw a big raccoon. I chased it, and grabbed it's tail as it climbed over a fence. It literally pulled me up the fence. I scrambled over and kept following it. Down the street, under a postal mailbox, was it's litter of about 5 kits, man they were cute. I wanted one. Fortunately there was an old couple that lived in the house there that warned me not to mess with them, and the mother raccoon hustled them off. I told my Mom later and she freaked out, I was damned lucky I didn't get shredded to pieces when I grabbed it's tail...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Scenes From The Saloon

Regular readers of Dojo Rat probably know that I'm building a little Dodge City-type Western Saloon.
Why?, you ask?
Well, because every guy needs a Beer hall in his backyard. And besides, it is a great practice building for the house we are going to start building soon. And wait, there's more; I gotta keep the crew happy while we are building that house, so hey, keg on tap, barbeque fired up, you know...

As you can see, I still have a pile of insulation on the front porch that has to be installed under the floor. But the big project is putting in the ceiling right now. One of my friends gave me an entire package of 1-by-3 t&g cedar, already stained that was left over from a house his crew built. And free is a very good price. So far, I probably only have around $3,000 in this building. I figure if our house is appx. 2 1/2 times the size of the Saloon, I should be able to frame it up and dry it in for around $10,000. That's with a lot of volunteer labor and a huge amount of Beer.

Here you can see the 3" t&g ceiling we are installing. We're trying to get some of the interior done before our big fall party in October.
Memo to self: Don't use this shit in a real house. It takes FOREVER to install. 3" stock makes me appreciate 4x8 sheets of plywood. I could have had these guys build a World-War-One bi-plane with all the cedar it takes to do a ceiling, even in this little building.
Note however the ubiquitous blue cup, and the keg cooler in the back. This is one happy crew.

And finally, you can tell it's fall in the Pacific Northwest, my wife snapped this pic of the mushrooms that are popping up everywhere-

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sensei Strange Resolves Conflict

I hope everybody can take the time to read this short piece by fellow Dojo Rat Sensei Strange, Here's the LINK.
Strange, who's Mother calls him "Eric", is my long-distance drinking buddy and fellow internal martial arts practitioner, as well as being a magician!
In the true spirit of Budo, Sensei Strange resolved a potentially serious situation with compassion and martial arts skill.
This story should serve as a lesson to the adepts of overkill and armchair UFC-types, please go to the link and have a look.
I shall hoist (another) cold Beer in your Honor, Sensei Strange!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Interview With Jess O'Brien, Author Of "Nei Jia Quan"

What would it be like to meet and train with dozens of the top experts in the Chinese Internal Martial Arts? Can you imagine the vast knowledge, the combined years of wisdom and experiance these teachers could transmit to you?
Well, that's exactly what author Jess O'Brien did as he compiled interviews with master instructors of Tai Chi Chuan, Bagua, Xingyi and other related arts.
I've wanted to get my hands on this book for some time now, and I've dog-eared page after page with insights and instruction for future review.
O'Brien visited scores of instructors and whittled his compilation down to 16 interviews that are solid gold for students of the Chinese Martial Arts.
This book is not a "how-to" of technique and application, it is a collection of deep thought and personal experiances of some of the best martial artists of our time. As Chinese Internal Martial Arts are unique, this is a book of self-exploration.
Jess O'Brien was kind enough to describe his journey in writing "Nei Jia Quan", here's a few questions I asked him:

(D.R.): How did you choose the master instructors that you interviewed?
(J.O.): My boss said I could publish anything I wanted. So after I thought about it for a while, I started making a list of everyone I'd ever heard of that would be cool to talk to and train with. I think I had close to 200 names. After that it was a matter of luck and timing as I was on the lookout for visitors to the Bay Area as well as on my own travels. Unfortunately I wasn't able to go to Asia, so it was only people here in the states that I was able to access. Luck was with me and many good teachers either came through or were teaching here. So the book developed quite randomly. I wish I could have done it more systematically with a budget for time and travel, but that was impossible. I did about one interview a month for two years and picked from the best of them. I hope other people will interview their teachers and publish them, because this was just a tiny drop in a huge bucket.
What was really amazing was how open these teachers were to speaking with me. Most interviews were done after a day seminar or class, and often on my first meeting with the person. I was expecting to be turned down often, but virtually all of the teachers in the book were willing to go out of their way to speak with me. Furthermore they all answered honestly and with depth, never did anyone deny any of my questions, even about their own teachers! A number of times their students said to me that they were surprised at how much was said at the interview, as Chinese martial arts teachers are fairly conservative about what they say. Normally they only tell the student what would actually be useful during that stage of their practice. Since I was an outsider they could expound more deeply on the topics I mentioned, not speaking to me as an individual but to the public at large through me.
Many of the discussions I had in the book didn't make much sense to me at the time, but have gradually become more clear as I've trained more. Various things pop out at me and I go, wow why didn't I pick up on this before? Which is cool, I'm as much a reader of the book as anyone else, all I did was copy down what the teachers said, without trying to interpret it beyond editing for clarity.
My intention for the book was to follow on the footsteps of great writing like Pa Kua Chang Journal, RW Smith's books, BK Frantzis's books, and all the others out there that kept inspiring me whenever I got bored in training. Not focusing on the mystique and uniforms, but on the people, the history and the day to day training. PKCJ was especially a ground breaker. Dan didn't use the word master or grandmaster, only people's names, and that made a lot of sense to me. We are past the era of inflated expectations and mystical flying combat nonsense. Chinese martial arts offer very pragmatic and utilitarian training concepts, whether on a physical, mental or energetic level. That's plenty, we don't need to use the word "devastating" any more. We can speak of effective and useful, we don't need to carry the weight of being secret and deadly, that just leads to fear and frustration.
Part of the mystique of Chinese martial arts is this image of a wise, unapproachable master who sits above the crowd. I found the opposite to be true, all of the teachers I spoke with were gracious and friendly and open to questions. They didn't feel threatened at all by my questions. I hope readers of the book will seek them out. They were normal people who had trained to an extraordinary degree. They all emphasized cultivation and hard work, not short cuts or fantasies. However, each had a somewhat different take on the path. Some liked combat sports, some focused on chi, some were TCM oriented, some were fascinated by the intricacies of physical mechanics. Some were oriented toward mindfulness and awareness, some loved to fight in the street, and others gave me very cool lessons in history and culture. Chinese martial arts has all of these things and much more within it. I set out trying to find out how to define internal martial arts, but in the end the definition is much wider than any one person can ever uncover, in my opinion.

(D.R.): There is a wide variety of opinions from the Masters about the cultivation and use of Chi in the Internal Martial Arts. After meeting these Masters, have you formulated your personal thoughts on Chi?
(J.O.): I remain open to all ideas on Chi. Whether it is a substance, or a metaphor, whether it is at the core of IMA, or irrelevant. In Religious Studies we speak of simultanous truths. For Islam to be right doesn't mean Taoism is wrong. A Native American who believes in the Creator doesn't negate a Buddhist who doesn't believe in God. Both are right. I apply this thinking to martial arts as well. Our idea of what works and doesn't, our framework of how we construct our training and interactions contain multitudes of unspoken assumptions. That's how humans work, and trying to scientifically define everything and put it all in its correct place is somewhat futile on a grand scale. We can only pick our favorite worldview and work from it, while keeping an open mind. If it gets results, it works. What you want as a result may be radically different from someone else, however. So for me it's a constant process of allowing new insights to arise and keeping the ones I like.
If I learn a technique that doesn't use Chi, then that's how I practice it. If someone else teaches me something energy based, I follow those instructions to the best of my ability. It all doesn't have to fit together neatly in some unifiied theory of everything. I'm not smart enough to put it all togther. That's why I created this book, I couldn't define Internal Martial Arts, so I asked all these other folks to do it. When you look at the mosaic that their answers form, you can find things that you agree with and things that you don't. But all the teachers in the book are or were effective fighters, so that in itself is a lesson for me. Different paradigms can achieve great results.
All these different paths are to suit different personalities and inclinations, not because one way is better than the others. And I think that goes all the way back to historical Chinese martial arts. There have always been the mystics, the nerds, the soldiers, the bodyguards, the sport fighters, the calligraphers, the farmers, etc. Each one needs a martial art to suit them, and no one art will ever give everyone what they need. Different things inspire different people.

(D.R.): Has the openness of the West truely expanded the knowledge base of Internal Arts, or has something been lost from the age-old traditions and training methods?
And; given the popularity of MMA and grappling training, is there a strong future for the Chinese Internal Martial Arts in America?

(J.O.): Martial arts in the west is certainly an interesting situation. I think the initial appeal of Asian martial arts made a big splash here. It's something we didn't have, the culture of discipleship where a master helps a student forge himself. That's very cool and outside of sport it was hard to find such a situation here. It's part of human nature I think to want to experience such a mentorship. These Asian martial arts had new fighting methods as well, new ways of sparring and competing. They also had ideas about meditation, healing, and developing and training the body in new ways. The emphasis on self-cultivation rather than winning sport matches was also something new that appealed to many of us who were burnt on competitive sports. The focus on longevity and training for life was another new concept in the USA where we watch sports and don't participate as much. So Asian martial arts brought many cool things to the west that we've really come to enjoy. And I think the west is now influencing Asian martial arts with our emphasis on effectiveness in NHB and sport fighting in general. So it's come full circle in that regard. However new circles are being created as our medical and psychological world has become fascinated with the mindfulness and mind training that all Asian arts use as a base, including martial arts.
Working on this book really brought home to me how martial art and sport are two different worlds. As I've ranted on RSF and other message boards for years, they are simply different fruits, you don't get much out of comparing them. For instance, playing the flute and playing football both take time and effort and dedication. But flute is in the ear of the beholder, and football has stats that show who is better or not, clear cut, no BS. Art will always have this undefineable quality, for the creator and for the observer. Sport is great because it has rules and measures to determine quality. If you win the Superbowl, you are the best. If you sell a lot of albums, people may still hate your flute playing. There is no standard that applies across the board.
Many people are frustrated by this, and want to define martial arts in one way or another. Say, if it isn't good in the ring, toss it out and modernize it. However, you risk losing the baby with the bath water. The practices you toss out now, may have benefitted you in some other way down the road. Asian martial arts have many sides to them, sport fighting is one of them. But training the mind is another. Training your nervous system, training your knowledge of yourself, training your ability to heal, to survive. Not all of these things help you in a fight right this minute, but they could save your life in another context.
Nobody does forward rolls in the UFC, yet they've saved lives on the street in accidents. That's just one example. I have learned that martial arts are their own thing, and are not equivalent to sports. I think the term MMA is unfortunate, NHB is much better. Because martial arts is something my grandma or my son could do, and benefit from. NHB, probably not as much, it's emphasis on sport is a world of its own. To excell in sport requires tremendous dedication, resolve and unyeilding desire to win. A good sportsman has a huge high standard to reach if he wants to win a professional match. Whereas martial arts can be forms, meditation, healing or a million different things. It may annoy some people, but martial arts is not just what you want it to be, it is relevant to others in ways that it's not relevant to you.
Of course, martial arts and martial sports cross over. They both fight. And there is much to learn from a good fighter,no matter where he learned it. So this could be a golden age for Chinese martial arts. There are so many great sport fighters out there, we can all safely test ourselves in ways that the previous generation never could. We can win and lose against great practitioners, who are game to fight. Fighting under their rules may be frustrating, but it only makes you better in the long run. Gloves, ropes, pads, points, etc, all these things will limit your technique and help you refine what you have to a huge degree. Chinese martial artists who don't spar widely in this day and age are missing out on tremendous opportunities for growth.
That said, sport is only one aspect of Chinese martial arts. Sparring is a tool, but only one among many. Medicine, meditation are also tools. Forms and conditioning are others. These martial arts have much to teach, if you find the teacher and system that suits you. Some people want to define CMA as one thing or another, but again, from all the interviews I did, I'd never presume to speak for a tradition so vast and deep. There is much we in the West don't know about Chinese martial arts, so the time is premature for anything but hypothesis. A hundred years from now we will know more, and our understanding of it will be refined. Who knows what it will end up being at that point.
On the topic of fighting, one thing I noticed in the people I met was that the oldest guys who had fought in wars and seen people killed in battle and in gang fights all disliked sparring. To them it was like ping pong, a waste of time when training your body and mind is more important. I take their advice quite seriously. However, as a suburban dude from modern Northern California, I've never been in a fight in my life. So I must use sparring as a tool to learn about courage, how to take a punch, how to attack someone who is defending strongly. I've never had to fight for real, so I use play fighting as a way to get something of that adrenaline surge. However, being realistic, the people who I met that did fight for high stakes told me that there is utterly no comparison between a sport fight and a fight where your life is in danger. I'll take their word for it, and if I'm lucky I'll never have to find out if they are right about that.

My last word is to reiterate that Chinese martial arts are in their infancy here in the West. From hints I got in my interviews, there is much underlying these arts that we haven't yet been exposed to or understand. We may well reject these cultural underpinings or change them to suit us as westerners. But before we do that we will need decades of travel, translation, investigation and testing to begin to comprehend the depth of the well that these arts are drawn from. Chinese martial arts are a product of Chinese culture, and the way they look at these arts is not the same as how most of us do. There is vast diversity in the way they are trained and understood, so again, I feel that we need to continue to take them at face value and train them as directed. Over the next few decades many new insights will come to light and we'll have a much clearer idea of the whole tapestry that makes up Chinese martial arts, rather than the incomplete threads we've seen so far. Of course I could be wrong about this too, but I'd rather be conservative and work slowly than presume too much and miss the boat on some of the amazing aspects of this stuff that may not be apparent in the short term. There's a lot of good stuff in these arts, so it's an art I'll always be learning more from.

Thanks so much to Jess O'Brien,

You can find "Nei Jia Quan" and hundreds of other martial arts titles at the website for BLUE SNAKE BOOKS

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Best Spy Story Of The Year

Ghost Ship "Arctic Sea"

Some of you may have been following the story of "The Arctic Sea".
The ship left Russian waters, allegedly carrying a load of timber from Finland.
While at sea, it was boarded by an assualt team of masked men who spoke English. The crew radioed that they were boarded by pirates demanding a ransom, and then the ship mysteriously dissapeared - to be found later off the coast of Africa.
Now, according to "The Telegraph UK", the rest of the story is being told.
Apparantly, a group of former Russian military officers linked to arms trafficking was secretly using the ship to deliver advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. As described in the article, the shipment was being tracked by the Israeli Mossad, who were the team that boarded the ship. This was a well thought out plan. If the Mossad had staged a public intervention and inspection, it would have embarrased the Russian Government and potentially caused an international incident. By covertly boarding the ship and identifying the secret cargo, it gave the Russians a chance to save face and mount a "rescue mission" on it's own.
--I think what this story tells us most, is how loosly controlled military weapons can make their way around the world.
But it's not just the Russians, remember that during the Reagan administration Col. Oliver North sold missiles to Iran also!

Link to article

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Repost: Wild Taoist Swordplay

As I wait for my new Saber to arrive, I looked up a post from February 2007:

(From "Bagua, Hidden Knowledge In The Taoist Internal Martial Art; by John Bracy and Liu Xing-Han)
"Noted Sinologist John Blofeld describes his meetings with Taoist holy sages and recluses in the mountains of China before the communist takeover of the mainland. Below is an account of Taoists in mock battle he observed one evening while a guest at a Taoist hermitage:
"The climax of the evening was a combat between two pairs of recluses armed with swords. Dark robes billowing in the wind, sleeves flapping like phoenix-wings, they ran and leapt, cut and thrust with such agility that their weapons darting in the moonlight produced spurts of liquid fire. The clash of steel on steel and the flurry of sparks proclaimed that the great swords were no toys; it seemed impossible that the contestants would emerge unwounded from an encounter fierce enough for me to expect to see heads and limbs sundered from their bodies. The blows were no feints, but dealt in earnest in the sure knowledge that the opposing adepts had the speed and skill to protect themselves by parrying or swift avoidance. The combat had the aspect of frenzied ritual in which the contestants were determined to die beneath one another's swords. By the time it ended, I was sweating with anxiety and could scarcely believe my eyes when the four recluses walked towards the Abbot smiling and unscathed."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just Ordered This Tai Chi Dao Saber

Oooooh, I can't wait!
I've wanted one of these for a while. Now that I have a clue of how it's supposed to be used, the wooden sword can go back in the closet!
Notice how the Saber is long and slender, more like a Japanese Katana but mostly used one-handed. (The power cuts are two-handed though). Note the Ring Pommel, useful for intricate manipulation of the saber.
Compare it to a typical Broadsword:

As you can see, the Broadsword is, well, "Broad". The Saber is much more streamlined and is more functional for thrusting as well as slashing.
Here's the stats:
The Long Quan Tai Chi Dao (tai chi broadsword) is unique among dao broadswords. Its taper is much gentler than the more martial variety and has no flare. Two fullers extend down the blade, one nearly the entire way and one only a fraction of the length. The first third of the blade (the shoulder) is thicker than the rest for strength in parrying. It is fitted with a blade forged in China legendary Long Quan (dragon well) forges, by the Shen family smiths from combat (high carbon content) steel.
Shen Family Swords: Many sword-making families now live in Long Chuan, but the most famous among them is the Shen family. The Shen family's swords have been known to have the best quality and skill for hundreds of years. In the 1911 Long Chuan Master Sword competition, a sword forged by the third generation of the Shen family stabbed through three solid brass blanks as well as split a sword from another maker in half, thus earning the title "King of Swords." The Shen family Long Chuan Master Sword were praised as national treasure in China by the people of the highest social class. In 1942, a Long Chuan Master Sword was made for the second president of the Republic of China by special request and in 1955, a special customized Long Chuan Master Sword was made for Chairman Mao Zhe Don.

Length (w/ scabbard): 43" Length(blade): 32.5"
Weight(with scabbard): 3.51 lb.
Weight(without scabbard): 2,25 lb.

I should get it next week, I'll let you know more then.

Here's the link to Wing Lam Enterprises, with lots of other Kung Fu equipment

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September: Retro-Cute Hippie Chick Of The Month

When I was a kid, my mom used to take me to those old men barber shops to get my hair cut. I hated it.
But the only good part was all the men's magazines that they had to read while you were getting that 1967-style clip.
I mean those with articles like "Cannibals Ate My Leg", and other such titles. I've always thought of "Dojo Rat" as being that kind of rag, part gnawed leg, part smash-mouth, and part girlie show.
Also in that tradition, some of those mags pushed the political envelope, with some of the first expose's of the Mafia, the Kennedy assassination, and other subjects that the mainstream press wouldn't touch. There-in-lies the political nature of my posts on the real story behind the Lockerbie Pan-Am Bombing, etc.
Looking at some of these titiles really cracked me up, Tip of the hat to James Keating at MAAJAK.
-- Here's a link to the "Classic Men's Magazine" site