Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chinese Medicinal Tea

No, It's Not Hashish

Not long ago I picked up another great Qigong (Chi Kung) book, this one titled "Qigong- The art and science of Chinese energy healing" by Kenneth S. Cohen.
Cohen presents a useful bridge between esoteric energy studies and modern science, but what caught my eye was his chapter on Tea.
Now, I had quit coffee at least fifteen years ago, and have used common teas (Lipton, Red Rose, or Green) as well as herbs such as Dandelion, Milk Thistle and others, which are technically "Tisanes", not true tea.
As Cohen describes, infusions from the camellia sinensis plant are the only "true" teas, and they are indeed medicinal.
Much has been said recently about the health benifits of green tea (which is un-fermented) as far as antioxidents and weight loss. What interested me was the research on black fermented teas, in particulear one called "Pu-Erh" (pronounced poo-air).

Cohen, on page 310 writes: "Pu Erh, a semifermented Oolong tea from Yunan Province, is probably China's most famous medicinal tea. - Pu Ehr is characterized by a mellow, earthy taste, almost smokey and peat-like".

I might add, it's earthy taste resembles "compost", because it is indeed processed in that way. The Holy Mountain Trading Company website describes the process:
"Tea leaves are withered, then, still slightly moist, they're heaped into piles where a bacterium creates a reaction. The leaves are then dried loose or compressed into teas or cakes". --and this:
"In the 1970's Chinese doctors in Kunming reported clinical experiments in which drinking pu-erh was shown to lower cholesterol levels in the blood stream. French researchers at St. Antoine Hospital in Paris duplicated these results and found that three cups of pu-erh a day for a month brought lipids down 25 percent in 20 hyperlipidemia patients, while those on other teas showed no change. These tests showed pu-erh performed at least as well as clofibrate, the most advanced medicine for the purpose, without the drug's side effects. It has since been shown to help reduce body weight by increasing the metabolism". -And this:
"In the study, men with a high flavonoid intake had a 73 percent lower risk of stroke during 15 years of follow-up, compared with men with a low intake of flavonoids. The men in the study got about 70 percent of their flavonoids from drinking black tea.
Men who drank more than 4.7 cups of tea a day had a 69 percent reduced risk of stroke compared with men who drank less than 2.6 cups a day, said the researchers of the National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection in Bilthoven, the Netherlands.
Tea also helps prevent tooth decay in several ways. It contains a solid dose of fluoride and works better than the antibiotic tetracycline. According to researchers at the Tokyo Dental College, it fights the kinds of bacteria in the mouth that cause gum disease and the eventual loss of the teeth. It also kills the greatest cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, Streptococcus mutans".

One of the reasons I quit coffee years ago was because of the caffine. While teas also have caffine, Cohen suggests that tea contains other chemicals that may change or mitigate the effects of the caffine. He also reviews many studies including the Paris hospital experiment (it bears repeating) where twenty patients with abnormally high blood fat levels were given three cups of Pu-Erh tea a day for a month. Their blood fat levels dropped by 25 percent.
A quick spin around the internet will provide you with lots more information on the health benifits of tea, this research inspired me to rise above commercial teas and try some Pu-Erh.
As you see in the picture above, the best ones come pressed in neat little bricks that look like nice chunks of Afghan Hashish. I have yet to try the high-end varieties. Instead, for my first try I bought two pounds of loose Pu-Erh, shipped for a total of $35.00 from a supplier on This tea only needs a tablespoon to my one-liter work thermos, and I can even add more hot water after I drink half of it.
The taste is indeed peat-like, very rich like coffee. The color is a beautiful root-beer ruby-brown. This tea is much richer than a Pekoe like Lipton, for instance. The two-pound bag should last me six months. I plan on trying the high grade pressed cakes later, but for now I really like this tea.
I may have a chance to do my own science project with Pu-Erh tea. While my cholesterol levels have been good lately, I have another test in three months. This may be an interesting experiment in body chemistry, and if there are any significant changes, I'll write about it again.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Music Jam: The Aftermath

For those who have been following the progress on the little Western Saloon we're building, here's a shot of some of the mess after the Thanksgiving music jam. There was a small drum kit there also, so we had a complete Band. Lots of really crappy music, and lots of fun. You can see that the sheet rock is completed and ready to paint. Then window and door trim, the antique woodstove and most important; the Bar!

If you haven't seen the Saloon, here's an outside picture from one of our last parties (I think in June):

And here is the little creek that is running behind the Saloon:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turkeys: Fear The Lowly Rooster!

Well, since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, (and Roosters have been on Dojo Rat the last few posts) I thought this Turkey vs. Rooster story might be appropriate...

When I was running the farm down in Oregon, I had lots of animals, many of which tasted pretty good.
One year I bought six Turkey chicks. Out of the six, one died right away. I fed them out, and when Thanksgiving rolled around I butchered two and a friend butchered a third for himself. That left two very lucky Turkeys.
As it happened to be the Presidency of George Bush senior, I named the male George, and the female Barbara. I figured I'd keep them around until we needed to eat 'em.
All winter long I watched with disgust as the birds drug themselves through the mud at the farm, eating bugs and wheat shoots coming up in the field. They didn't look so appetizing as they battled winter storms and made themselves a general nuisance.
Winter turned into spring, a new girlfriend (now my wife) moved in and the nuisance became a hazard. It seems that Barbara couldn't stand having another female to compete with, and took to flying up in my sweetheart's face. At thirty pounds, that's something to watch out for. I gave her what we called "the Barbara stick" which my sweety swung mightily and beat some respect into that bitch Barbara.
Now George on the other hand, well he became the life of the party. He would chase anything with a motor. Tractors. Cars. Lawnmowers. Anything.
We would have parties where George would wander in and out between the legs of the guests and stomp his feet and hiss. My buddies would pour beer on his head just to watch him turn purple with feigned Turkey rage. George thought he was top cock.
At times when I let my chickens out to free-range, George decided he hated one of the Roosters. He was at least three-times the Rooster's size, and chased him relentlessly for weeks on end.
Finally the Rooster had had enough, and learned how to fight back. While George the Turkey would try to use his size and weight to bear down and stomp the Rooster, the Rooster figured out how to expertly duck under the Turkey's wing and come up spurring from George's blind side. Over and over he bloodied that Turkey George, and before long it was the Rooster that was top cock. Now we watched with amusement as the Rooster chased huge George the Turkey all over the farm.
Lesson learned?
The mobility, agility and sheer willpower of the Rooster overcame the immense bulk of George the Turkey.

And with that said, here's Lou De Xiu demonstrating applications of the Rooster form from Xingyi:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Xingyi: The Song Of Six Unifications

From the classics; 'Xingyiquan" by Liang and Yang-
"The body forms the six postures;

Rooster (chicken) legs, and
Dragon body,

Bear shoulders,

And Eagle claws,

Embrace like a Tiger,

...And sound like the Thunder

Friday, November 20, 2009

Meditation Cuts Risk Of Heart Attack By Half

A while back I was watching someone do a Karate kata, Sanchin I believe. Every change in posture was accompanied by loud hissing of breath, dynamic tension and intense straining of arms, legs and torso. You could see the veins pop out in his forehead.
And this is healthy? I think not.
Again, we see the Taoist philosophy of not harming the body during exercise as being a superior path. No pain no gain is pretty much bullshit for longevity, which is why practitioners of the internal or "soft" martial arts reach their peak in their fifties.
With all the stress of daily life, why would someone hiss and strain in a kata that is ment for health and self-defense? Even in self-defense we have to cultivate a calm mind. While I find seated meditation difficult and a little boring, the moving meditation of Tai Chi Chuan, Bagua and Xingyi really helps me focus and center. The difference from Trancendental Meditation is that instead of trancending the body to a seperate state, we strive to have full and complete mind-body integration.
Here's a great article from The Telegraph.UK that cites medical studies showing that meditation cuts heart attack risk by half. Here's some quotes:

"The researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in collaboration with the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, calculated heart attacks, strokes and deaths as one result and found a 47 per cent reduction in meditating patients.
They also had lower blood pressure and significant reductions in their stress levels, the researchers said.
Dr Robert Schneider, lead author and director of the Center for Natural Medicine and Prevention, said: "Previous research on Transcendental Meditation has shown reductions in blood pressure, psychological stress, and other risk factors for heart disease, irrespective of ethnicity.
"But this is the first controlled clinical trial to show that long-term practice of this particular stress reduction program reduces the incidence of clinical cardiovascular events, that is heart attacks, strokes and mortality."
Dr Schneider said that the effect of Transcendental Meditation in the trial was like a newly discovered medicine for the prevention of heart disease.
"In this case, the new medications are derived from the body's own internal pharmacy stimulated by the Transcendental Meditation practice," he said".

I gotta go practice my Tai Chi Chuan now...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Homage To Master Hong Yi Xiang

A very, very nice performance by Abi Moriya, in honor of his late teacher:

"In memory to my teacher, the late master Hong Yi-Xiang : martial artist, doctor & painter, founder of the Tang shou Tao school, Taiwan."

And here is Moriya at a seminar in Israel, demonstrating some nice techniques, including some chin na locking:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pat Parker: "Psy-Ki-Do"

Anybody else seen the movie "The Men Who Stare At Goats"?
While I have read the book, Pat Parker from Mokuren Dojo saw the movie last week, so he wanted to team up and do a little guest posting here on Dojo Rat.
Here's my last post on the book, reposted on Zimbo (I don't understand why, but the previous Blogger post only comes up in some kind of html).
--So here's Pat Parker from Mokuren Dojo:

Psy-ki-do - Inciting Blind Rage

Pat Parker here from Mokuren Dojo. Dojo Rat has been kind enough to agree to let me pollute his blog with my crazy ideas. Today, inspired by the movie, The Men Who Stare at Goats, I have an interesting little experiment in psychological violence for you.

Have you ever noticed that blog comments that contain direct quotes more often seem like an attack? When someone quotes what you say (or write) but slightly twists the inflection or connotation or meaning of of your words, you tend to perceive that more negatively and you tend to respond more vigorously to that sort of blog comment? You can use this phenomenon to your advantage.
Have you ever noticed that the scariest, most troublesome attackers are the calm, cool, collected, ruthless, careful ones - the ones that carefully dissect you? The ones that leap at you in a blind rage are relatively easy to deal with. You can use this phenomenon to your advantage.
If a conflict is imminent and you want the attacker to have greater energy and commitment (perhaps even to the point of blind rage), then repeat whatever they say to you verbatim, but change the tone or inflection of 1-2 words at random. Perhaps rephrase everything they say as a question. It works like this:
Them: "Hey, jerk!"
You: "Hey _jerk_?"
Them:" Yeah, you! I'm gonna kick your ass!"
You: "_You're_ gonna kick _my_ ass?"
Them: "You'd better kiss your ass goodbye!"
You: "You want _me_ to kiss my ass goodbye?"
If you practice this a few times on your buddies then you should be able to see the tension level in them rising after 1-2 of these exchanges and you can probably have them literally hopping mad after about 3-4 exchanges. Even if you hope to never get into a fight and you know for certain you'd never do this to anyone, it can be fun and instructive to try this with your buddies. If you don't learn anything else from it, it will make you more aware of this funny glitch in your wiring so that you don't explode on someone next time they throw some direct quotes at you.

Disclaimer - Don't get into fights - nobody ever really wins them. But if you do get into a fight you might be better off if the guy is in a blind, unthinking rage. If you make that decision then this technique might work for you. But if you try it, don't blame me if you get your ass handed to you. When you sew the wind, you may reap the whirlwind!

(D.R.)-- Aw Pat, don't get into fights? Nobody can see it when you hit them with your mind!

Be sure and swing over to Mokuren Dojo for some of the best Aikido and Judo analysis on the net!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Team Seattle Tears It Up At No-Gi Championship

Brian Johnson Kicks Ass

Some of the local boys Did quite well at the recent No-Gi World Championship grappling tournament held in Irvine California.
Watching Brian Johnson go to work on these guys is truely seeing a grappling master in the creative process.
Now, aside from High School wrestling (which had quite different rules) I really have no working knowledge of how BJJ-type systems operate.
With that in mind, I got quite a lot out of hearing Brian coaching Jake Burroughs (fight below) from the side of the ring. You can hear Brian helping Jake with strategy and brings him along to a successful win.
As Jake says on his Blog; Respect the wristlock, Bitches!

Jake's Wristlock

Congratulations to Brian Johnson, Jake Burroughs and David Meyer!

For more of the matches, go to Jake's Blog "The Ground Never Misses" at THIS LINK

You can find out more about The Northwest Jiu Jitsu Academy at THIS LINK

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Lies They Told

What a Dick; The most Dangerous man in the world

Well, well...
Years have now gone by since the terrible morning on September 11th when our country suffered the most significant terrorist attack in history. Just as with the failed cover-up known as the Warren Commission after the assassination of President Kennedy, the cover story dreamed up by the 911 Commission is beginning to fall apart.
In his new book "The Ground Truth", Senior council to the 911 Commission John Farmer unravels the Bullshit that was spoon-fed to the public during and after the official investigation. Farmer is no slouch, he is the former attorney general of New Jersey and the Dean of Rutgers school of law.
Remember; the Bush (Cheney) administration did not want to have any investigation at all, and initially inserted fixer Henry Kissinger into the lead roll. Kissinger backed out when he failed to disclose his close ties to the very elements that were accused of the attack.
Now, in his book, Farmer carefully deconstructs the lies that compromised the commissions investigation- From the review in the New York Times:

"Yet both Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Vice President Dick Cheney, Farmer says, provided palpably false versions that touted the military’s readiness to shoot down United 93 before it could hit Washington. Planes were never in place to intercept it. By the time the Northeast Air Defense Sector had been informed of the hijacking, United 93 had already crashed. Farmer scrutinizes F.A.A. and Norad rec­ords to provide irrefragable evidence that a day after a Sept. 17 White House briefing, both agencies suddenly altered their chronologies to produce a coherent timeline and story that “fit together nicely with the account provided publicly by Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz and Vice President Cheney.”
"Farmer’s verdict: “History should record that whether through unprecedented administrative incompetence or orchestrated mendacity, the American people were misled about the nation’s response to the 9/11 attacks.”

So we see that Farmer, as well as other commission members view the investigation as hopelessly compromised and we may never fully understand what really happened.
But here's where Farmer falls short: he faults the Bush Cabal for lying to cover their inept response to the attack, ignoring their foreknowledge that the attack was about to occur.
You see, the head of an empire can be brought down for having received a blowjob from an attractive staffer, but to acknowledge that the empire itself is so deeply corrupt that it would slash it's own wrists in an attempt to lure a sympathetic public into endless war for resources; well, that shakes the foundation of faith that binds the country together. It simply cannot be allowed, hence the cover-up.

Want to go down the rabbit hole?

Read this, and be sure to click on some of the embedded links to verify sources.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fear The Mongols!

Over at "The Ground Never Misses" my friend, Xingyi instructor and general Big-Bald-Badass Jake Burroughs is running This series on Mongolian wrestling. (Also Here).
This brings up a story that old Mr. Choi, my Korean Tae Kwon Do master told me about his childhood;
As I remember, he grew up in North Korea and his family fled to the South when war broke out. His family had a farm, and every day he would take a large potato to school with him. All the kids would put their potatoes on the woodstove to heat them for lunch. They had a pack of farm dogs that they would let loose once a week which probably killed every living bird, rabbit or rodent they could catch.
Once, when Mr. Choi was still quite young, his family took a trip to see a Mongol festival, much like the one depicted in the video above.
They arrived at a village or camp, tents and yurts everywhere. Mongol horsemen swung from their mounts at full gallop. That night, his family entered one of the largest of the tents. Mr. Choi's eyes lit up as he described the scene, which was etched on his memory;
The interior of the tent had cooking fires and torchlight. Huge Mongolian wrestlers were competing for the crowd. The spits on the cooking fires held entire animal bodies that were being turned and roasted. Compared to his Korean family, the Mongols were giants, and he remembers some of them in full-Mongol party-mode eating entire rams legs, the grease dripping and coating the rough garb they were wearing.
It was a spectacle that Mr. Choi never forgot, and some of the roughest and most powerful warriors he would ever meet.
Check out Jake's posts on Mongolian wrestling at the links highlighted above.

My friend and instructor, the late Tae Hong Choi

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Xingyi in Taiwan

Stopping back in Taiwan for another look at the Tang Shou Tao martial arts system.
This style represents a fusion of traditional Chinese arts with the structure and ranking borrowed from Japanese systems.
I love this stuff. Look at the beauty of the forms-- and I think the guy demonstrating the chicken and swallow forms may be Su Dong Chen, who went on to be a famous master in his own right.
From Wikipedia:

Tang Shou Tao is not a separate style of martial art, but rather a practical, step-by-step, systematic approach to learning internal martial arts and developing highly refined levels of skill. It incorporates elements of all three of the major Chinese internal arts (xingyiquan, baguazhang, and taijiquan) as well as Shaolin kung fu and qigong. However, the emphasis of this system is on xingyi and bagua. Although the system itself was formed and founded by Hung I-Hsiang during the 1950s and 1960s, the roots of using the commonalities of bagua and xingyi in practice and application can easily be traced back through Hung's teacher Chang Chun-Feng (張俊峰) to his teachers, Li Cunyi (李存義) and Gao Yisheng (高義盛).
When Hung I-Hsiang took a trip to Japan, he was very impressed with the way martial arts instruction was organized there. He liked the uniforms, the belt system, and the systematic approach to training. Subsequently, he adopted many of the Japanese style martial arts school characteristics when he opened his own school. The students had belt ranks, wore Japanese style uniforms, and Hung devised a more systematic approach to martial arts instruction than what was typical of most Chinese style schools.

--Very cool stuff...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sam Masich In 1988 Tai Chi Tournament

A few days ago we took a look at a short compilation video of Sam Masich, a great Taiji instructor from Canada. Here's a few interviews and some action from a 1988 tournament that Sam was in. The quality of the fighting is certainly not as great as some Karate tournaments, but Sam says in the interview that this was his first fighting tournament, and he clearly dominates his opponents.
All-in-all, this gives a nice flavor for the essence of Tai Chi Chuan.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Taiji Secrets: Opening And Closing The "Kua"

Again we have instructor Michael Gilman with a very detailed explanation of the use of the hips or "Kua" in martial training.
This video integrates the rooting aspect of gathering to the inside of the foot and releasing from the heel and outside of the foot with proper use of gathering and releasing from the "Kua".
All of us have seen people who "float" on top of their hips. They move like stick figures and cannot perform proper rooting skills. No matter what art you practice, this will add greatly to your ability to root and then discharge energy.

You can watch the rest of this series and find dozens of other Tai Chi instructional videos on Michael Gilman's YouTube channel at THIS LINK

Monday, November 9, 2009

Michael Gilman: Taiji Inner Secrets

I just got back from another great weekend workshop with our Tai Chi Chuan instructor Michael Gilman. This class was on what he calls "The Inner Journey", and delves into the hidden ways of movement that make for really great Tai Chi Chuan.
Michael explains things in great detail, and this is the second of an eight-part series.
In Tai Chi Chuan, the power is generated from "the root". In this video, Michael explains the importance of "gathering" to the inside of the foot and "releasing"(energy) from the outside of the foot and the heel. This is the key to success in rooting and stability in grappling arts. Taiji players that push hands (and other arts) will benefit from this series.
So many people mindlessly practice their forms with no clue to proper structure, let alone proper application. A good instructor that can explain the subtleties of a complex art like Tai Chi Chuan is a rare find, and our Dojo has a lot to thank for Michael's patient instruction and deep knowledge of the art.

You can see Michael Gilman's website at this link

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fighting Styles That Will Probably Get Your Ass Kicked

A generous tip of the hat to James Keating at MAAJAK for directing us to this funny but ultimately serious article about "Fighting styles that will probably get your ass kicked".
Of course, I fully expected to see my life's persuit of Tai Chi Chuan dashed upon the bloody rocks of FAIL.
Not so!

Spoiler: Judo guys will be very pleased...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nice Sam Masich Video

Here's a nice little compilation video of Sam Masich, a really great Internal Arts practitioner from north of us in British Columbia Canada.
We had the pleasure of having a push hands class with Sam in a very small and infomal setting when he visited our island. Sam is one of the absolute nicest guys I've ever trained with, and has extensive knowledge in the Chinese Internal Arts.
In that class, he asked a Karate instructor from another school to try and touch his face. As the Karate guy reached and tried to simply touch him, Sam had siezed his center and had him on his heels. He backed him across the room and into a counter against the wall. There was nothing the Karate guy could do, as he had lost his base. Sam made the point, that everything in the room was his weapon in a situation like this. Every table, chair, stairway.
The point was well taken...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Watch This Guy Get Away!

Well, I don't know what these Cops got this guy down for, he may have been freaking the attendant of the Gas/Mart out, as he is either putting on a great act or is "a little touched"
Sure the Police have tough jobs, but they blow this one. I think they:
1. could have de-escalated the incident or;
2. cuffed him quicker and got him in the car
3. they did not have him fully under control
4. they tase him for no real reason
5. they fail, he gets away.
Now, as far as the guy:
1. this is the best case of passive resistance I have seen
2. he baffles them with mumbo jumbo and waits for his chance
3. he has the power of the video to keep the Cops from using too much force
4. he successfully gets away

-- I have to say, as long as he's not a serious offender, I can't help but root for the underdog in this one...