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 ( 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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Kung Fu in the Snow

Kung Fu Tea

Winter is Coming

There are many attributes that make Cornell unique among America’s top universities. One could choose to focus on its philosophy of undergraduate education, beautiful setting or its long and pioneering history of Asian studies. All of that is true and good. The library’s collections are stunning. And yet the campus has a dark side.

The first hints suggest themselves shortly after halloween when small signs begin to appear on campus staircases and walkways warning unwary travelers that these paths will not be maintained during the winter. One undertakes the journey at your own risk. At first all of this seems like the ramblings of an over enthusiastic legal team. The staircases and walkways in question are not in some deserted corner of “the plantations.” These signs dot the campus’ main quads. They are referring to the areas that one will likely traverse.

By January the situation comes…

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Capoeira as Graceful Resistance

Kung Fu Tea

***I am happy to announce that our first substantive essay for 2018 will be a guest post by Lauren Miller Griffith.  While this is Prof. Griffith’s first appearance on Kung Fu Tea she is already  leaving her mark on the wider Martial Arts Studies community.  Her recent book, In Search of Legitimacy: How Outsiders Become Part of the Afro-Brazilian Capoeira Tradition(Berghahn Books, 2016) will be of great interest to anyone who employs ethnography, or participant observation, as a research method.  It is also a wonderful addition to the growing literature on capoeira.  Her current post tackles a critical question, namely, to what degree might participation in a martial arts community influence someone’s social and political views? How does this process typically unfold?  As a political scientist I have always found these questions to be very interesting, and I think that after reading her thought provoking essay you will as…

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Tips for practicing Yi Jin Jing

Integration of mind and body with a relaxed spirit

Yi Jin Jing is a qigong set and like most other qigong sets it should be practiced with a relaxed spirit and peaceful mind. The mind should thus follow the movements and should be coordinated with the circulation of qi with the body’s movements. Meanwhile concentration is required to accompany individual movements.

For Example:

  • The mind should concentrate on the palms during the Wei Tuo Presenting the Pestle 3 routine
  • The mind should be focused on the Mingmen point at the back of the waist while fixing the eyes on the upper palm during the routine 4 of Plucking a Star and Exchanging a Star Cluster.
  • The mind should be focused on the palms during the Black Dragon Displaying Its Claws routine.

Other movements require imagination, not consciousness to accompany them. Among them are:

  • Three Plates Falling on the Floor
  • Displaying Paw Style Palms like a White Crane Spreading Its Wings
  • Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails
  • Bowing Down in Salutation

Natural Breathing

  • Breathing throughout the exercise should be relaxed and easy. This is particularly important when:
  • lifting the hands during the Wei Tuo Presenting the Pestle 3 routine
  • when expanding the arms and chest during the Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails routine,
  • and when expanding the arms and chest and relaxing the shoulders during the Nine Ghosts Drawing Swords routine.

This is because the chest cavity expands and contracts during these movements, and should be allowed to do so freely and to the full.

Free and unrestrained inhalation is particularly required when:

  • lifting the hands during the Wei Tuo Presenting the Pestle 3 routine,
  • and when expanding the arms and chest during the Nine Ghosts Drawing the Swords routine,
  • while natural exhalation is required when relaxing the shoulders in this routine,
  • when withdrawing the arms in Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails routine,
  • and when pushing out the palms in Displaying Paw-style Palms like a White Crane Spreading Its Wings routine

The reason for this is because the chest cavity expands and contracts during these movements, and should be allowed to do so freely and to the full.


Softness in toughness with the interplay of the substantial and insubstantial

“The softness and toughness of the exercise movements interchange throughout the practice. When stretched or relaxed, they display a dialectical relationship of a unity of opposites, in the same way as the reactions of Yin and Yang, the two opposing and interactive aspects of the body according to traditional Chinese medicine. Various movements require the practitioners to relax for a while after strength is applied, and suitable force is required after softness or relaxation. In this way, the movements will not be stiff and restrained or slack and fatigued.” – Chinese Health Qigong Association

Movements should be appropriately firm and gentile instead of going to extremes. Whether with too much force or with too much slackness.

Flexibility in performance and articulation of “HAI”

The range of movements and extension of postures in Yi Jin Jing are adaptable for all ages working from easier to more difficult.

When squatting and pressing the hands down during the Three Plates Falling on the Floor routine, the sound “HAI” is made. By doing this the practitioner helps move the breath and vital energy to the Dantian. It also has the advantage of avoiding restraint of the lower limbs caused by the squatting motion and upward flow of air back to the head. It also helps to strengthen the Dantian and the kidneys. The sound should be produced from the throat and concentrated at the Yinjiao point of the upper gum.

Full video teaching the Yi Jin Jing from the Chinese Health Qigong Association.

This article has been based on the information provided from the Chinese Health Qigong Association. If you would like to learn Yi Jin Jing there are a number of special qigong retreats where this is possible.

Best Kung Fu School in China for Location

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 Location

Studying Martial Arts in China is gaining in popularity as an adventure travel experience. Part of that experience along with intensive martial arts training is being able to train hard all year round in an environment that not only inspires but adds to your development. Rising Dragon Martial Arts School provides one of the best places to learn martial arts in China.

Best Kung Fu School for Location
Best Kung Fu School for Location

Located in Yong Ping county in Southern Yunnan the province is mountainous and borders Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, and has an average altitude of 1980m. Yong Ping has a population of around 170,000, and is roughly in between the two Cities of Dali and Bao Shan. Dali and Bao Shan are an hour away from the school.

Immediately surrounding RDS is an area steeped in history. There are numerous temples, scenic areas, mountains, lakes and even natural hot springs for attending students to visit. The School is 15 minutes away from Yong Ping town and is within a million square meter private park. This park is filled with beautiful multi-coloured plants, amazing wild-life, statues, lakes, forests of wild bamboo, as well as RDS’s own temple.

Despite being at an altitude of 1,700m there are many neighbouring mountains that tower over the school reaching altitudes of 4000+m, which make for many a challenging hike during your free time. Considering the schools remoteness it is still quite easy to get to with airports in Bao Shan, Dali City, and Lijiang International airport. The capital, Kunming, is only a 40-minute flight from Dali and Bao Shan making travel very convenient. There are many Kung Fu schools in China, but few can complete with this in terms of location, and low pollution levels.

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

Trends and Stories that Shaped the Chinese Martial Arts in 2017

Kung Fu Tea

Kung Fu training at the Shaolin Temple. Source: Global Times.

This is the time of year when it is only natural to pause and reflect on where we have been and what may be coming next.  2017 has been a busy year in the Chinese martial arts.  Progress has been in made in certain areas, while suggestions of trouble have arisen in others.  Lets explore all of this together as we count down the top ten news stories of the last year.  As always, if you spotted a trend or article that you think should have made this list, please feel free to leave a link in the comments below!

10.  Lets start things off with one of the more interesting trends that has been evident in the TCMA community for the last few years.  While we normally focus on the “transmission” of living traditions, projects that focus on the…

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by Phillip Starr

One of the very worst pieces of advice ever given to the martial arts community at large came from the lips of Bruce Lee.


Determining just what is useful and what isn’t is quite a daunting task and one that should be examined closely. After all, a goodly number of today’s so-called “mixed martial arts” crowd as well as followers of numerous eclectic martial ways state very clearly that traditional martial arts aren’t entirely applicable to modern combat or combat at all. They believe that numerous techniques that are taught within the traditional martial arts either don’t work very well or, in some cases, not at all. This, they say, is why they have chosen to follow their “own paths.”

Executing a correct reverse punch, front snap kick, kotegaeshi, or o-soto-gari is a pretty daunting task for most raw beginners who have had little or no previous martial arts training. The new student can spend hours working on any one of these techniques for a whole month and it still is practically worthless in a real fight. The reason why is obvious; to develop any technique so that it is truly usable requires a great deal of practice over a period of time! There are no short cuts. My teacher said that developing effective technique is like making tea. It can’t be hurried and any attempt to do so will only ruin the drink.

It would be easy but very premature and terribly foolish for the novice to simply dismiss these fundamental techniques as being “useless.” The same holds true for other, more advanced techniques that he or she will eventually learn. I’m sure that you’ve encountered techniques that just didn’t work at first. I know I have. Still do. But with patience, some introspection, and lots of practice you’ve been able to see how they should be done, where your mistakes were, and suddenly they become functional!

When you learn a technique that doesn’t seem to work well for you, ask yourself, “why?” What are you doing wrong? Sometimes the error lies in the physical execution of the technique but sometimes it is hidden in a less obvious place. Maybe it’s your timing that’s off – and that can be indicative of a mental/psychological error or block of some kind, can’t it? Perhaps it’s your approach to the application of the technique or your approach (physical, mental, or even spiritual) towards your training “opponent.” Regardless, the error is thine. Find it and correct it. Sometimes it’s the finding of the error that corrects it.

To say that techniques of the traditional martial arts are not effective (in self-defense) is a blatant display of one’s own ignorance, and perhaps, one’s unwillingness to put in the required practice (which is a nice way of saying “lazy”). In days long since past, professional warriors (e.g., policemen, soldiers, bodyguards, and their teachers) relied on these arts for their very survival. Back then, it was pretty easy to determine if a given technique worked. If it didn’t, you died. Those who developed techniques that didn’t work took their failures with them to their graves. For the most part, we’ll never know what they were.

The techniques that did work are still with us to this day. If they didn’t work, they would have been buried long ago. So, to say that the surviving traditional techniques don’t really work is, in my opinion, a statement made by someone who has never learned genuine traditional technique…or who is unwilling, for one reason or another, to put in the time and training required to develop effective technique.

Beginning piano students dare not say that the classics are worthless and no longer functional! The masters who contributed to the creation of the traditional martial disciplines are our Bachs, Beethovens, and Mozarts.

To truly understand a technique and how it should be performed correctly requires at least 10,000 repetitions. In karate or kung-fu this isn’t terribly difficult, considering that you can easily practice 100 punches each day. In 100 days you should be able to perform the technique correctly, more or less. That doesn’t mean it can’t be improved, though.

But that’s not the same as making it workable. To be able to perform a technique effectively in combat requires much more practice. You see, the effectiveness of a given technique, whether it’s a punch, a kick, a joint twist or throw from aikido or judo…involves much more than just being able to perform the physical aspects of the technique correctly. Much. More.

Back when I trained in forms of Japanese karate, I could not, for the life of me, get a roundhouse kick to work. Actually, it took MONTHS before I figured out how to do it correctly. I guess I just had a mental block and I couldn’t imagine how to do it…but once I was able to throw a roundhouse kick, I couldn’t figure out how such a kick would ever be useful in fighting! I suppose Mr. Lee would have told me to reject it because, as far as I was concerned, it was pretty useless…

Then came Baguazhang. At first glance, this art seems to have about as much in common with combat as a fish does to a bicycle. It would have been all too easy to simply toss it away as being some sort of pointless, flowery, Chinese bilge water. But I didn’t. I stuck with it and studied it…in depth. I examined it carefully, examined myself, examined its strange footwork and body movements…and I practiced and then when I was sick of it, I practiced some more. And when I had problems making it work (which was pretty much all the time, at first), I stayed with it and figured out WHY I was having problems.

In any given martial discipline, at least a decade (or more) is required if one wants to truly understand the art. The problem is that most Westerners don’t want to spend that much time in training. They want “instant martial arts.” We’re accustomed to having “instant food” (which isn’t really food), “instant entertainment”, and now we want “instant martial arts.” But there isn’t such an animal…never was, and never will be.

So, rather than absorbing what you find immediately useful and rejecting what you think is useless, just ABSORB.