Jiu-Jitsu and Mental Health

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Recently Ron Drumgoole from breaking grip made a guest post for StudyMartialArts.Org on how jiu-jitsu can help your mental health. Check out the full article and learn this fantastic combat art can make a big difference to not only your physical fitness but also your mental health.



The problem with push hands challenges

The Tai Chi Notebook


This is a really interesting article from Practical Method Tai Chi about the passive-aggressive world of Tai Chi push hands challenges in China – I really try to avoid pushing hands with people I don’t know for many of the reasons described here.

I think the best use of push hands is as a teaching tool, where it is invaluable. Used as a method to compare skills it inevitably turns into ‘Wrestling Lite’, and the best wrestler wins.

Check out the article here.

You might also like: Thoughts on Push hands by Mike Sigman

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Best Kung Fu School in China for Kids

This is my list of the best kung fu schools in China for 2017. In this article I have chosen only the very best kung fu schools based on what they offer in terms of training, location, food and how well they cater to kids. Each year we will update this list based our school visits and student reviews.

Best for Kids

Best Martial Arts School for Kids
Best Kung Fu School for Kids

I have chosen Yuntai Shan International Culture and Martial Arts School as being the best school for kids 12-16 because unlike other martial arts schools this one offers an authentic opportunity for your children to interact and train with other Chinese kung fu students of a similar age. This means that they are not forced to hangout with older students, and so are less likely to be exposed to inappropriate language or behaviour.

Another benefit of this schools is that throughout the day students are expected to present themselves for line ups. This means that students are regularly monitored and accounted for throughout the day. On the downside however, older students can find this tedious. In terms of the schools accommodation and amenities. These are fairly basic and internet connections can be irregular. Nevertheless, this school has much more experience than other schools of a similar nature. Hence it has a better track record of dealing with foreigners.

To find out which school I recommend for Best Location, Best for Kids and Best for Food. Click here. Learn Kung fu in China with StudyMartialArts.Org

To learn kung fu in China or learn more about any of these schools. Visit the StudyMartialArts.Org website or email us direct at info@studymartialarts.org

The Dark Side

by Phillip Starr

For many martial arts enthusiasts the main goal of training is to become stronger and faster, and to master fighting techniques and tactics so as to defeat any aggressor who dares assault them. Basic techniques are drilled over and over while muscles scream and the breath comes in gasps. Forms are practiced over and over and then studied and analyzed in minute detail until their true meaning is understood. Students leave their blood on the striking post and their sweat on the training floor. But underneath it all is something more, something personal, insidious, and dark.

We’ve all faced times of hardship and times of “testing” as we’ve traveled the martial path. These difficulties come in all manner of shapes and sizes, from minor to major injuries, illnesses, delays, loss of interest, problems with relationships…and there is simply no way to intellectualize or buy your way out of them. Oftentimes, you must work or even fight your way through them and at other times you must simply grit your teeth and wait them out. Sometimes simply staying on the path is all you can do. The legendary founder of aikido, Morihei Uyeshiba, put it succinctly:

“In extreme situations it seems as if the entire universe has become our foe.
At such critical times unity of body and mind is essential.
Do not let your heart waver.
Bravely face whatever God offers.
One should be prepared to receive 99% of the enemy’s attack and stare death right in the face in order to illuminate the path.
Transcend the realm of life and death and you will be able to make your way calmly and safely through any crisis that confronts you.”

In the practice of martial arts we must eventually confront our own “shadow side.” All of us have fears – from a simple fear of the dark to fears of pain, financial ruin, loneliness, and disease. And although these fears seem to come from outside of us, I think they are often the result of an internal process. This is a process of which we may not be consciously aware, a process that lies below our surface personality.

In training we strive to perform correctly, even under pressure. It usually doesn’t take long for inhibiting problems to begin to surface; poor attitudes, envy, self-pity, criticism (of self or others), insecurities, anger bubble to the surface to be seen by everyone. You can’t hide them although you may try and then it becomes obvious that you’re trying to conceal them!

The fact is that we’ve lived with these “shadows” for so long that we’ve developed our own personal ways of handling them. They’ve become a part of us – habits, if you will – and we’ve become so accustomed to carrying them around that we don’t even notice them until we get involved in martial arts training, which is really very different from most other physical activities because we’re dealing with the basest form of human relationships…a punch in the mouth. We have to learn to respond appropriately to physical attack while we must simultaneously “be with ourselves” under gradually increasing levels of physical and emotional pressure.

Before long we must face the ways in which we typically handle this and other forms of stress; how we armor ourselves against them, how we withdraw (into ourselves) or attack aggressively and what we see may not be pleasant. We’re exposed not only to ourselves but to all of our classmates as well. The way we defend ourselves under great pressure (as when a partner tries to punch us in the face) shows us how we work to survive in daily life.

As Wilhelm Reich said, your body acts as a “prison” that holds “you” (or what you perceive as “you”) in place. Although you can see an open door before you, you are held back in your “prison” by your limiting beliefs, attitudes, and so forth.

A skilled and caring instructor will see immediately what you see but he cannot present you with an instant “cure.” All he can do is encourage and guide you and you must listen. He’s been where you are. Your chosen martial art can be used as a vehicle to explore those things that you find undesirable in yourself – your fears, what threatens you, feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, and so on. It is at this time, when we recognize various aspects of our “dark side” that we must take master Uyeshiba’s advice to heart.

You face your opponent (your training partner) and he becomes you. You project your fears, your weaknesses, and even your strengths onto him and confront them as you practice fighting. And as you strive to “not lose”, it isn’t really your opponent who you are trying to defeat. It’s your “shadow side.” This is why practice fighting is so very important because in actual combat it’s the same thing. Your opponent, whether he’s just a training partner or a real assailant, is a mirror.

I believe that the willingness to face our “dark side” and striving to understand and eventually overcome our weaknesses, fears, and the many things about ourselves that we would rather keep stashed away is what makes a true warrior. You must begin by being bold enough to admit the truth of what you see about yourself. Then you must be strong enough to resolve those aspects of yourself that you find undesirable. This can be accomplished through correct martial arts training but it isn’t easy and many students will quit training in order to avoid having to face themselves although many of them, perhaps even the majority of them, are unaware that this is the reason they’re quitting.

Remember the word of master Uyeshiba.

moriheiueshiba“In extreme situations it seems as if the entire universe has become our foe.”
(Ever felt like the whole world – maybe even the whole universe – was against you?)

“At such critical times unity of body and mind is essential.”
(First, recognize the situation and the feelings it evokes. Then “Get One-Point” and exercise reverse breathing. Unify your body and mind!)

“Do not let your heart waver.”
(Don’t get cold feet. Don’t even think about the possibility of giving up or failing. Ever. Those are not options.)

“Bravely face whatever God offers.”
(Face the problems directly and remember that every problem you face has a hidden gift to give you.)

“One should be prepared to receive 99% of the enemy’s attack and stare death right in the face in order to illuminate the path.”
(Like the old Japanese saying; “You only live twice. Once when you are born, and once when you look death in the face.” )

“Transcend the realm of life and death and you will be able to make your way calmly and safely through any crisis that confronts you.”
(When you have overcome your fear of death, you can make your way calmly through any crisis.)

Old Wu style Tai Chi video

The Tai Chi Notebook


A video surfaced recently of an old performance of Wu style Tai Chi from a gentleman called Cheng Wing-Kwong (1903-1967), who was a disciple of the Wu Jian-Quan, the founder of Wu style Tai Chi.

The video is poor quality, but I like the performance – it’s flowing, well coordinated and done at a good pace, which makes it more interesting to watch. As Wu and Yang style continued to evolve along their separate trajectories they started to look more and more different to each other. In this older video, I think you can see that they looked closer to each other “back in the day”.

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Mixed Martial Arts in Shanghai, 1925

Kung Fu Tea

I recently had a chance to explore and organize a large database of vintage newspaper articles. This material was gathered as part of my on-going “Kung Fu Diplomacy” project. Yet every so often I ran across news items which, while not really related to that project, are still quite interesting.

We generally talk about the rise of the mixed martial arts as though it is a totally new phenomenon, but in truth it is only the latest incarnation of a very old impulse within the Asian martial arts. It is hard not to look at the specific histories of certain styles (Jingwu, Choy Li Fut and Five Ancestors all come to mind) and not notice a similar acquisitive impulse.

Still, if we fast forward to the early 20th century one can find much more direct analogues. As the forces of imperialism and globalization brought the fighting arts of East and…

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Traditional vs Brazilian Jiujitsu

The Tai Chi Notebook


Thanks to Stephan Kesting for providing these videos comparing techniques that are common in Brazilian Jiujitsu with how they’re done in traditional Jiujitsu. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the past – when you had to worry about more “battlefield” things like hidden weapons, other attackers, armour, escape routes, who needs assistance, etc.

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The Forgotten Style: Moral Art!

The Tai Chi Notebook

This is a guest post written by Justin Ford  of Cup of Kick (cupofkick.wordpress.com) a great martial arts blog you might like to check out.

pexels-photo-724184.jpegClose your eyes. Now imagine the best student ever:  They are always on time. They always take notes.

They absolutely LOVE learning. They ask really thought provoking questions that lead to even more learning. They work hard, in class and outside of class.

Just keep thinking about how amazing they are. Are you ready to teach them?

Oh, but…I forgot to mention something. They have a couple of flaws: They are arrogant and egotistical.

They are always bragging and showing off. They never show respect. Heck, are their lips staying closed together when somebody else is teaching or talking? They tell lies and are hard to trust because of it. They really couldn’t care less about anybody other than themselves.

Not so perfect now…

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Top Ten Figures Who Shaped the Asian Martial Arts – Part II

Kung Fu Tea


Welcome!  This is the second (and concluding) section of my list of the top ten figures who helped to shape the development and spread of the modern Asian martial arts.  Putting such a list together is easy, but once you start to explain why certain individuals made the cut, or what their contributions were, things inevitably start to run long.  If you are just joining us now, you probably want to start here, with section one.  My goal has been to select the most influential individuals from a variety of styles, professions and areas of the world so that we can better understand these global fighting systems.

The broad nature of “the Asian martial arts” probably makes this an impossible task.  Still, it is fun to speculate and I think that the experiment is a helpful one as it forces us to consider the many social functions…

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January forms challenge!

The Tai Chi Notebook

New Year, new form


Due to a nasty training injury, I’ve had to lay off the “rough stuff” for a while, which means I’ve got more time to spend on forms practice than usual. The latest little project I’ve been amusing myself with is learning the start of a different Taiji form than the one I know.

I’ve picked Chen style, since this is the oldest style, and pretty different to my Yang style form.

It’s often hard to see the connection between Yang and Chen style since they look so different, but as I’ve discovered, if you start to learn the beginning of one after already knowing the other it’s very easy to see how they have the same root. This has already provided lots of insights into my regular form by looking at how Chen style treats familiar movements.

To be clear, I’m just learning the first few…

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