Kung Fu Summer Camp-Sword Immortals Week

Kung Fu

Kung Fu Summer Camp-Sword Immortals Week

sword camp was great!!!

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Sand Bath: Ibusuki, Japan

BC Roll in Japan

Ibusuki City is located almost an hour train ride from Kagoshima, Kyushu. It’s been on my bucket list for the longest time as this past weekend I finally had the chance to get around to visiting a Sunaburo (aka. sand bath). It’s been a traditional cleansing treatment for the past 300 years, and recently has been working it’s way on promoting itself as one of the most unique experiences on Kyushu.

The weight and natural thermal heated sand is very effective to cleanse the body through perspiration, and improving circulation. The suggested time for a good sweat is at least 10 minutes, however, if it gets too hot they don’t recommend guests push themselves to continue.

Sunamushi Kaikan Saraku

A popular sand bath house in Ibusuki. From Ibusuki Station it’s either a 5 min taxi ride, or a nice scenic 15-20 minute walk along the beach. Walking along the beach…

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Dragon Girls

http://vimeo.com/64671356

Keep your eye out for this documentary charting the lives of three young girls at Tagou.

DRAGON GIRLS is the story of three girls and their life at the martial arts school Shaolin Tagou, China’s biggest Kung Fu School housing 26.000 students. Far from their families, Xin Chenxi (age 9) and Chen Xi (age 15) are fighting an every day battle of discipline, rules and hard physical training. However, despite this Kung Fu is their chance. The girls do everything they can to become the country’s best fighters, to be able to provide for their parents in future and lead a better life than them. Huang Luolan (age 17) couldn’t cope with the training regime of the school. She fled for Shanghai. The girls lead an extremely hard life concentrating on their achievements. But deep inside they have the same dreams as children all over the world have. And no one can take that from them.

SMA School Visit – Rising Dragon Martial Arts School (Part 1)

Exceptionally small tables and chairs at the Qing Tang Fu Restaurant
Exceptionally small tables and chairs at the Qing Tang Fu Restaurant

Last night I went to a Shaanxi Food Restaurant with my fantastic girlfriend that happened to have the smallest table and chairs I’ve seen outside a nursery. Check them out!!

The perfect cup of joe at Beijing Airport
The perfect cup of joe at Beijing Airport pre flight

The restaurant, Qing Tang Fu, serves great suantang shuijiao and is located in Beijing’s Dongcheng District. Here’s a link if you are ever in the neighbourhood and have a craving for their sour soup dumplings. https://studymartialarts.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=338&action=edit .

With a 5am start at the back of my mind and fully satisfied from the delicious food we headed home so I could prepare for my trip. Now I’m chilling out and blogging to pass my time at the airport while waiting for my flight to Shanghai.

So I’m off on another one of my frequent martial arts school visits. I usually concentrate these annual trips to the summer holiday due to other commitments. This time I’m off to meet up with Scott from Rising Dragon Martial Arts School for a tour of their new school location. The school will move to Jiangsu province in September and will be a short train ride outside of Shanghai.

With great transport links to and from both Shanghai and the capital Beijing it will be in easy reach for our SMA international martial arts students as well as those already in China. Situated within a revitalised Taoist site costing in-excess of 10 million US dollars the school will offer a very different experience from the existing site which is currently in one of the most beautiful rural areas I have visited here in China. A number of questions spring to mind for my meeting with Scott. Why the move from the current location having spent half the last decade creating such an amazing school there? How did the opportunity for the new school location come about? What will you miss about the last school? And of course what plans do you have for the new school?

Having talked a number of times to Scott over the last few weeks prior to my trip I can tell he is excited to tell me about his future plans for the school.

A picture of Rising Dragon Martial Arts School. In the picture you can see the students from the schools BJJ class. This is one of the only international full-time martial arts schools that combine Chinese arts stand up game with BJJ's ground game. Check out that stunning location in the background.
A picture of Rising Dragon Martial Arts School. In the picture you can see the students from the schools BJJ class. This is one of the only international full-time martial arts schools that combine Chinese arts stand up game with BJJ’s ground game. Check out that stunning location in the background.

To be continued…….https://studymartialarts.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/sma-school-visit-rising-dragon-martial-arts-school-part-2/

If you want to study martial arts in China make http://www.StudyMartialArts.Org your first contact for information on schools, training discounts and travel and training resources all at no additional cost.

Day 17:3 – Take Responsibility for Yourself.

30 Days of Self Discovery

“I’m still young and health is the last thing I need to think about. It’s ok for me to stay up late, miss a few meals, stuff myself on M&M’s and hang out at McDonalds every week. Oh and exercise? I train my brain with the PS3 and Xbox so there’s no time to worry about fitness. If I really need to do it, maybe I’ll invest in a Wii.”

And so says the brain…my reasoning for more years than I can count.

I realise I’ve been naive, lazy and irresponsible. It’s true I could get away with a lot a few years ago, but now I feel the bite of all those bad habits mixed with late nights.

The good thing is it’s not too late to turn it around. I still have more than half a century to get it right, so I might as well practice it…

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TAIJI SPEAR METHODS ACCORDING TO CHEN YANLIN

Brennan Translation

太極拳刀劍桿散手合〔卷九〕
PART NINE of Taiji Compiled: The Boxing, Saber, Sword, Pole, and Sparring
陳炎林
by Chen Yanlin
[published June, 1943]

[translation by Paul Brennan, June, 2013]

太極扎桿
TAIJI THRUSTING POLE

太極拳中之扎桿。亦稱沾黏桿。或曰十三勢桿。有十三字訣。開、合、崩、劈、點、扎、撥、撩、纏、帶、滑、截。為太極拳中重要功夫之一。其沾、黏、化、拿、引、發、諸勁。與徒手拳式相同。亦異常奧妙。練法分單人雙人兩種。功至深造時。桿卽如手。週身之勁。可直達桿頭。猶如水銀裝於管中。發可至首。收可至尾。斯種扎桿。練法用法。含有畫戟與大槍二種。近人若以之全為大槍者實誤。蓋其未明太極拳中扎桿之效用耳。楊氏扎桿。甚為著名。而楊露禪以之救火。誠奇聞也。(見卷一楊家小傳章內)其與人對桿時。無論拿人發人。皆如用手。人遇其桿。卽失自主。被擊出一如手發。往往不知其所以然。惜此種深奧功夫。今已失傳。考桿之練習方法。計分單人扎桿法。雙人平圓沾黏扎桿法。雙人立體圓形沾黏扎桿法。及雙人動步刺心、刺腿、刺肩、刺喉、四桿法等數種。茲分述於後。俾大好國術餘粹。得以保存。不致復失傳矣。
桿、一稱蠟桿。係籐類。產於河南山東等地。性韌而堅實。不易斷裂。昔時用作槍戟等之把柄。有青白兩種。以白而有皮者為佳。其中尤以長過丈三外。兩根成對。下部三尺各無節。三尺以上所有苞節。均陰陽相對者為最佳。稱之謂成品。如用藏得法。經年愈久。其色愈鮮紅。愛此者每作為古玩。惜此種成品桿子。今已罕見。
[While in Yang Chengfu’s 1931 manual such exercises are explicitly termed as “spear” (鎗) techniques, the word chosen in this book (桿) instead represents the unbladed spear-shaft, and as it is also a different character from the usual word for “staff” (棍), hence “pole”.]
     Taiji Boxing’s “Thrusting Pole” is also known as “Stick & Adhere Pole”, or “Thirteen Dynamics Pole”, the thirteen being spreading, covering, flicking, chopping, tapping, thrusting, deflecting, raising, coiling, leading, sliding, and severing [although there are only twelve in this list]. As one of the major practices in Taiji Boxing, its energies of sticking, adhering, neutralizing, seizing, drawing in, and issuing are the same as with the bare-handed postures, it…

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A Lesson on Breathing

From Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

by Shunryu Suzuki

A path between a bamboo forrest.
A path between a bamboo forrest.

When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world.  When we exhale, the air goes out to the outer world.  The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless.  We say “inner world” or “outer world,” but actually there is just one whole world.  In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door.  The air comes in and goes out like a swinging door.  The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door.  If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra.  There is no you to say “I.”  What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.  It just moves; that is all.  When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing:  no “I,” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door….

Tozan, a famous Zen master, said,

“The blue mountain is the father of the white cloud.  The white cloud is the son of the blue mountain.  All day long they depend on each other, without being dependent on each other.  The white cloud is always the white cloud.  The blue mountain is always the blue mountain.”

This is a pure, clear interpretation of life.  There may be many things like the white cloud and blue mountain:  man and woman, teacher and disciple.  They depend on each other.  But the white cloud should not be bothered by the blue mountain.  The blue mountain should not be bothered by the white cloud.  They are quite independent, but yet dependent.  This is how we live….

When we become truly ourselves, we just become a swinging door, and we are purely independent of, and at the same time, dependent upon everything.  Without air, we cannot breathe.  Each of us is in the midst of myriads of worlds.  We are in the center of the world always, moment after moment.  So we are completely dependent and independent.  If you have this kind of experience, this kind of existence, you have absolute independence; you will not be bothered by anything.

BOOK LINK – http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Mind-Beginners-Informal-Meditation/dp/0834800799

www.StudyMartialArts.Org

Master Zhou: The Man, The Artist, The Teacher

By Jonathan Bluestein

Zhou_solo
Master Zhou Jing Xuan

Over the last few years, master Zhou Jingxuan has become a known figure among some online martial arts communities, due to the many videos of his published on youtube, featuring action from a wide variety of traditional Chinese martial arts. Relatively few people, though, are really familiar with the man behind the videos – the unique personality that he is in the real world. In this article, I wish to therefore allow a glimpse into the life and times of this fascinating individual.

It is a peculiar and somewhat surreal thing that, a Westerner belonging to a nation of people who are less than 15 million in number worldwide, who dwells in the Middle-East, would come to be a student of another man, half a world away – one of nation counting over 1.5 billion people. Some would call it Karma, Fate, or Divine Intervention. I, for one, attribute this to the power of Human Wills. For where two people search the same thing, its shape, nature or distance matter less than its essence. What one looks for, with unquestionable desire and an utmost thirst, will bring one to find the answers, in the existence of other human beings. So it came to be, that I have become a student of master Zhou Jingxuan; a man quite unlike myself, who nonetheless shares with me something transcendental and special. A connection to an ancient mindset, now long gone from the soul of the majority of humanity. This keen interest in the Martial Arts – a glue that brings persons together and bridges across cultures like no other; a gift that Zhou is handing over to those eager to accept, passing it on as it had been passed to him.

Seeking truthful and serious traditional instruction, I came to study, many years ago, under master Zhou’s student, Nitzan Oren – a fellow Israeli, and nowadays also a dear friend. Later, on two occasions, I have had the chance to study directly under Zhou shifu. With both teachers I have studied Xing Yi Quan and Pigua Zhang. My latest training period with Zhou had been for 40 days of daily training, during summer 2012. Prior to that, I have also trained daily with Zhou shifu for a month in summer 2010, when he had come to Israel to instruct his Israeli students and their students.

Master Zhou, now about 48 years old, was born and had lived all of his life in Tianjin city, China. Today, Tianjin is a booming metropolis of 13 million people, with infrastructure and facilities no less impressive that those of famous European cities (albeit its pollution being quite terrible). But at its core, Tianjin is an ancient city, and up until 30 years ago, it was still quite primitive in its construction and accommodations, not to mention the living standards, which were quite fitting to a third-world country. And, while culture in some respects has always flourished, either above or below the surface, the mentality and mindset of most of this city’s inhabitants was always that of the poor and struggling. Even today, it can be said that large portions of the city are one big ‘rough neighborhood’. This is the environment Zhou had grown up and still lives in – a place which builds character, psychological endurance, and sharp survivalist instincts.

Tianjin 1930
Tianjin 1930
Tianjin 2012
Tianjin 2012

In 1931, the Empire of Japan had invaded Manchuria, with the goal of conquering all of China, marking the (true) beginning of World War II. The China that had been invaded had been at its weakest point in many centuries, following 200~ years of economic conquest by Western powers, and a succession of terrible civil wars. The Chinese barely survived the war, in which the Japanese Imperial Army was not only close to occupying all of China, but performed some of the worst atrocities and war crimes in modern times, including mass murders and rapes of thousands and tens of thousands of people at a time. Tianjin suffered greatly from this occupation, and so had Zhou’s family. His grandfather in turn, set out to fight the Japanese. The Chinese army was so scarce in resources, that it was frequent that the soldiers would run out of ammunition, or lack firearms altogether.

A Chinese soldier, carrying a Da Dao sword on is back, waiting at the Tianjin railroad
A Chinese soldier, carrying a Da Dao sword on is back, waiting at the Tianjin railroad

The 29th army, which Zhou’s grandfather joined, had therefore experimentally equipped their soldiers with additional weapons – Dao and Da Dao swords, to fight the Japanese at close quarters, or when the ammunition would run out. It is almost unthought of that in the age of automatic and semi-automatic guns, that people would be fighting against such weapons with swords, but the 29th army did so quite successfully. Zhou’s grandfather survived the war, at the cost of seeing all his friends being killed by the Japanese. It seems to me that this traumatic experience of the most brutal kid of fighting had undoubtedly affected young Zhou shifu, who took to heart the lessons of war and violence.

Another soldier of the 29th army, carrying Dao swords on his back.
Another soldier of the 29th army, carrying Dao swords on his back.

For Zhou, it was obvious from a young age that he was going to practice martial arts. The district he was lives in, Hong Qiao, is one of two districts in the city of Tiajin famous for their martial artists (the other being Nankai). He lived (and still lives) near Xigupark – an impressive island of greenery in the middle of gray Tianjin, which had over the years become an attraction point for many martial artists. The teaching atmosphere was very different from other places, especially compared to schools in modern times. People simply came to the park and practiced. You could have a choice from many teachers, and if you had the right connections, also be recommended by your own teachers to become a student of others. Because of these unique circumstances, Zhou had the opportunity to get to know hundreds of highly-skilled martial arts teachers in his lifetime, and study under quite a few of them.

Beginning at age 9, Zhou started his studies with the arts of Chuo Jiao, Fanzi Quan and Tan Tui. Later, he also learned Pigua Zhang (under two teachers), Xing Yi Quan (under four teachers), and Baji Quan and Jingang Bashi (under two teachers who are gongfu brothers) and Li style Taiji Quan. Additionally, all of Zhou’s teachers taught him several weapon forms, each. Some of these weapons are related to the arts he had studied, while others (such as the Six Harmonies Spear form) are interdependent from style. Overall, Zhou shifu ended up having 11 long-term teachers, out of which he became an official disciple (indoor student) of 7 of them.

Master Zhou's Lineage
Master Zhou’s Lineage

Zhou also had encounters and knowledge exchanges with several other martial arts teachers. Since he had over the years become such an enormous fountain of martial knowledge, there were always people who were interested in learning his skills – especially material from his rare art of Shaolin Jingang Bashi. It is not the custom in Chinese society, however, that two people of the same class (say two veteran teachers) would become each-others student. Because of this, Zhou exchanged knowledge with these teachers on a friendly basis, and gained insight into the use and theory of many other martial arts and weapons in that manner.

Members of Zhou's gongfu family – practitioners of Baji Quan and Jingang Bashi, together with members of the Communist Party. Circa 1980s. Zhou is sitting in the front row, on the far left, wearing a white shirt. Behind Zhou stands his grand-teacher, Tian Jinzhong, wearing glasses. To Tian's left stands another grand-teacher of Zhou's – Zhao Fujiang (bald man with dark-blue shirt), who was master Tian's younger gongfu brother in their Baji lineage.
Members of Zhou’s gongfu family – practitioners of Baji Quan and Jingang Bashi, together with members of the Communist Party. Circa 1980s. Zhou is sitting in the front row, on the far left, wearing a white shirt. Behind Zhou stands his grand-teacher, Tian Jinzhong, wearing glasses. To Tian’s left stands another grand-teacher of Zhou’s – Zhao Fujiang (bald man with dark-blue shirt), who was master Tian’s younger gongfu brother in their Baji lineage.

As a child, Zhou was mischievous and adventurous. This had probably been his way of coping with the harsh living conditions in Tianjin, past the Cultural Revolution (a time of great poverty and death throughout China). The country was difficult to survive in, and life was chaotic at times. People had to learn how to endure and manage, and teach these skills to their families as well. Thus, beginning when Zhou began his martial arts learning at the age of 9, and through his teenage years and early 20s, he was involved in a lot of fights that were forced upon him by others. Times have since changed, China and Tianjin have become relatively safer places, and Zhou have since turned more peaceful in nature. Also in accordance with the times, Zhou has since been accepting students with all types of goals in training – not just martial; enjoying teaching people who may seek learning the arts for self-preservation and development as well. He himself has too begun to practice more health-oriented methods over the years, to balance his previous martial experience. Zhou’s previous martial experiences are still evident though, when demonstrating the proper execution of movements and martial techniques – with a fierceness of a true fighting scenario.

When Zhou was a young teenager, he recalls, there was a certain Taiji Quan teacher in the park. To Zhou and his friends, he was a target for ridicule, as he looked funny, and they did not think much of the slow movements he had been practicing. The old man, on his part, did not mind at all the children’s behaviour, and completely ignored them. They used to come at him in the park when he was not training, and try to push him over. Zhou vividly remembers how, despite their best attempts, they could not do anything to him. Whenever they pushed on him, his body would collapse and absorb their energy with no apparent effort. Those who used too much force on him would be bounced back on into the ground by their own strength and momentum. Today, Zhou is stricken by this silliness and his disrespect towards the old man, when he was younger. He says: “I wish I was wiser, and would have gone to study under this man, as he had obviously possessed a great skill in the martial arts”.

Baji Quan
Baji Quan

Such experiences, as well as Zhou’s tutelage by many teachers over the yearshave made him garner much respect towards other arts and martial artists. It is difficult, and often impossible, to make Zhou shifu speak badly of other people and their arts. He could go in-length for many minutes on end, on the wonderful skills of practitioners which he thinks highly of. But ask him of someone who is not skilled or is not a good person, and Zhou would rather say he does not know enough about this person or his martial art, than speak badly of them. He also regrets not having the chance or the time to practice under or with martial artists of styles he has not learned. While Zhou is very satisfied and enthusiastic about the styles he practices and teaches, this yearning for more knowledge is derived from his great appreciation of other practitioners and their arts.

Having trained in Xigu park since childhood (and later started teaching there), Zhou is a very familiar figure in the park. It seems that most people who gothereknow him somehow – if not by name, at least by recognizing his face and composure. Since his youth, he has also been famous around his neighborhood for his excellent skills in Pigua Zhang.

In Chinese society, where one’s name, Ego and ‘Face’ often play a huge role, it is rare that people publicly ask others, who are not their own teachers, to instruct them. Such an act would, in this traditional society, indicate that the person asking instruction is ‘lesser’ or even ‘inferior’ to the other. Nonetheless, I have myself seen many people in the park approach Zhou shifu, asking him to teach them little something here and there, or to correct their practice. I have also been witness to several parents who came to Zhou, and asked him to formally accept their children as his students. These parents were interested in the physical well-being of their children – their health and ability to protect themselves, and also in exposing their children to traditional Chinese culture, in an age in which most Chinese children are more interested in imitating American culture.

China at large has suffered from two centuries of Economic and Military occupation by Western powers. The very center of this ugly takeover was the city of Tianjin, which still features several neighbourhoods with lots of Western-style architecture, reminiscent of 19th century Europe. These times were then followed by several decades of strict Communist rule, which was also anti-Western in ideology, and actively fought the West in the Korean War and during the Cold War. That said, it was to be expected that the older Chinese generations would not think highly of Westerns. Neither did Zhou think too positively of Westerners, when he was younger. Having never learned a foreign language or known a Westerner as a friend, like most of the Chinese of his generation, his opinion of Westerners was shaped by the bloody, turbulent history of China over her last few centuries. While one could hardly suggest that this social mindset was stained by harsh things like Racism, one could say that suspicion, prejudice and bias are definitely common in this society towards foreigners.Which is perfectly understandable, by the way, considering their historical circumstances, and China’s isolation from the Western world throughout most of the last 100 years.

Zhou shifu, with one of his top students, Nitzan Oren from Israel. HaYarkon Park, Tel-Aviv, Israel, August 2010.
Zhou shifu, with one of his top students, Nitzan Oren from Israel. HaYarkon Park, Tel-Aviv, Israel, August 2010.

I believe that Zhou’s ideas about foreigners must have taken their first shift once he began to teach Westerners in the 1990s. Slowly but surely, he came to understand that they were not at all as bad as they were always portrayed to be when he was younger. A major change of heart was in the years following Zhou’s acquaintance with my teacher, Nitzan Oren. At the time, and also nowadays, Zhou have had trouble with students leaving his side before they could learn a reasonable amount of martial material and skills.Most of the young Chinese tend to neglect serious martial arts practice, possibly because Zhou is more readily available to them (don’t appreciate him enough because of that), and also because the pursuit of careers and finance is of a greater interest to them than training. Few of Zhou’s Chinese students have stuck around for over 2-3 years, and those who did, usually never trained as hard as Zhou had probably hoped for. One Chinese female student of Zhou had stayed with him for 11 years, and had reached a very good level. Unfortunately, she quit training altogether once she got married (as commonly happens in Chinese society, which is still very chauvinistic compared to the West).

Zhou shifu, with one of his top students, Ben Bario from Israel.HaYarkon Park, Tel-Aviv, Israel, August 2010.
Zhou shifu, with one of his top students, Ben Bario from Israel.HaYarkon Park, Tel-Aviv, Israel, August 2010.

Nitzan was the exception, remaining by Zhou’s side for 7 years straight, and studying with him daily. It was the first time that Zhou had had such a serious-minded student. In the beginning, Zhou still carried some cultural biases and prejudices towards Westerners. Over time though, Nitzan’s persistence and perseverance have made him change his mind about Westerners. Following Nitzan, more and more Westerners came to study with Zhou. He then noticed that, not only were these people willing to come all the way from another continent to train with him, some of them also invested more effort in their training than many of his Chinese students. He also figured that these Westerners were genuinely interested in traditional Chinese culture, which ironically, many of the younger Chinese were now throwing away, in favour of chasing fantasies related to the Consumerism and Hedonism of the globalized “American” culture. In an age in which the Chinese are quickly losing their own cultural roots, Zhou has found comfort in knowing that there are foreigners willing to put in the time and effort, to preserve what is dear to him, besides his few dedicated Chinese students. That is why, as a mature adult, he had a drastic change in some of the ideologies he had been indoctrinated into since early childhood, and have come to accept Westerners as equals, and decent people. To the extent that at such an age (when he was over 35), a person is willing to consciously have this big a change of heart, is in my opinion a wonderful testimony to Zhou’s pragmatic, humble and down-to-earth character. In our time, many Chinese (in mainland China) treat foreigners nicely, but think and speak badly of them behind their backs, as a result of the education they had been receiving from youth (though the situation is improving, and there are also many Chinese who are most welcoming and kind towards foreigners). Zhou has transcended that nationalistic mentality, and have come to accept Westerners without prejudice or bias. That sort of attitude may ‘go without saying’ for a person educated in the safe confines of a Liberal Democracy, but for a person who has been brainwashed all his life as a citizen of a Totalitarian state, this is not at all obvious. Today, Zhou has many foreign students worldwide, and takes great pride in all of them.

Zhou shifu teaching Ilan – a 3rd Dan Aikidoka from Israel.HaYarkon Park, Tel-Aviv, Israel, August 2010.
Zhou shifu teaching Ilan – a 3rd Dan Aikidoka from Israel.HaYarkon Park, Tel-Aviv, Israel, August 2010.

In general, it can be said that Zhou is very dedicated to his students. He treats everyone with equal care and attention, whether Indoor or Outdoor students, young or old, Chinese or Western, long-term or short-term. He garners respect for any student with sincere interest in martial arts, and would out of his way to teach more if the student works hard. Sometimes, one even has to ask Zhou to slow down, as he is so eager to teach more as soon as he thinks the student is capable.

As mentioned earlier, in China, many still have mixed or negative feelings towards non-Chinese. Therefore, in the park, rude people would sometimes pass by and mock or laugh at foreign practitioners. These acts are disgracing, since usually a Chinese would not dare to behave in that manner towards another Chinese in public (that said, we should consider that sadly, this phenomenon also exists in the West). Zhou can become very upset with such people, and would immediately shout at them and scold them for talking of or behaving badly towards his students; making sure they would leave the place at once. It is important that I stress in any case, that such people are an exception to the rule, and that most Chinese think positively of people who are sincere in their efforts to learn aspect of their culture. More commonly, I would encounter Chinese people who were very happy to see a Westerner practicing Chinese martial arts.

It is important to understand that martial arts are everything to Zhou – his hobby, his job, and his way of life. While educated to an extent in Calligraphy, Chinese literature and Classics and even in Traditional Chinese Medicine, martial arts were always his focal point. In his lifetime, he has had many jobs in commerce and trade, from book-salesmanship to gem-trade, but teaching martial arts have remained his only steady occupation. Like many other great teachers in the past, this kind of lifestyle is what had helped him reach a superb level of skill in his pursuit of choice.

There are some teachers who have had more influence over Zhou than others. One such teacher, which he holds in high esteem, is master Li Guoliang (of Tianjin; there is another known teacher by the same name from Taigu, whose name is written with different characters in Chinese). From master Li, Zhou had received much of his knowledge of Xing Yi Quan – a lot of which is rarely seen elsewhere nowadays, and have also gained the deep foundations in Zhan Zhuang (standing post) training. These teachings have deeply affected the way Zhou shifu practices and teaches martial arts. Zhan Zhuang, and other skills taught  by master Li, are now ‘obligatory material’ for any student who comes to study under Zhou (with proper, specific adaptations being made for the particular martial art the student is practicing). Zhou considers the Zhan Zhuang training to be the most important, and have told his students that: “Even if one cannot practice at all on a certain day, it’s still vital that one would somehow make time for practicing Zhan Zhuang for at least 20 minutes”. Another skillset that Zhou would teach, to advanced students, are his Dan Tian development methods, which he had learned from several teachers, but in particular and most of all from Zhao Fujiang (one of his grand-teachers). To train these, one first needs a solid foundation in Zhan Zhuang, which requires prolonged daily practice. The Dan Tian methods can then be introduced, and later be implemented and embedded into any of the arts Zhou teaches, in most fighting movement.

Master Zhou is also a big exponent of the notion of Quality being more important than Quantity. Although he himself have studied many arts, he had dedicates several years, and many hours a day, for the practice of each of these arts. Therefore, it is important to him that student spend the time required to hone their ability with each method, drill or technique, before they move on to learn more material. That said, Zhou is pragmatic in his approach, and does not force the students to abide by his wishes. Nor does he even force anyone to study a particular art or skill, and the final choice is up to the student. His words are a hearty recommendation – one’s that’s often better adopted, but is not strictly dictated or enforced. A student’s free will and self-actualization is, eventually, what’s most important to Zhou when he teachers.

Master Zhou, demonstrating application with his Israeli student, Etai. During this particular moment, Zhou was showing how proper alignment and structure, as developed through Zhan Zhuang training, can make it easy for a small person to resist a much larger individual. Zhou is roughly 5'6 in height, and Etai is 6'4. HaYarkon Park, Tel-Aviv, Israel, August 2010.
Master Zhou, demonstrating application with his Israeli student, Etai. During this particular moment, Zhou was showing how proper alignment and structure, as developed through Zhan Zhuang training, can make it easy for a small person to resist a much larger individual. Zhou is roughly 5’6 in height, and Etai is 6’4. HaYarkon Park, Tel-Aviv, Israel, August 2010.

Because many of the higher-level skills Zhou has learned had originated from his Xing Yi Quan practice methods, and possibly because of his teacher’s requests, Zhou refrains from allowing video of his Xing Yi to be taken. It is a shame, as his Xing Yi truly exceptional. I remember vividly how I watched Zhou demonstrate things with his Xing Yi that others only speak of.

For example – many people have written of the difference between ‘Ming Jin’ (obvious power) and ‘An Jin’ (hidden power) in the art. Few teachers, though, can show the difference well. Zhou once demonstrated this difference to us students, using the same movement – Pi Quan – Xing Yi’s most basic movement. The first variation, of ‘obvious’ power, had cut through the air like a baseball bat making a home-run. It was blunt, solid, sharp and defined. Then he delivered the ‘hidden power’ variation, which is of the higher level. It shot away like lightning tearing a gap in the air, lashing out with a true killing intent, which was at once both subtle and frightening.  Myself, I could demonstrate this too, but certainly not as brilliantly as master Zhou does. In his demonstration, even though he had not touched anyone, you could feel the differentiation of spirit and intent behind the movements in a very distinct fashion.

Another time, I’ve had the ‘privilege’ of Zhou asking me to try and use short-power striking (Cun Jin) on him. This meant I needed to shock him with a strike from zero distance – my hand already on his chest. I was not skilled enough at the time, and Zhou was not satisfied with my power. I could not at all affect him. He then asked me to be his dummy. I was to stand in a strong stance, and flex my chest muscles as he was about to release his force on the side of them. As he did, I felt nothing on the surface of my skin, and he barely seemed to move at all. It was as if he had touched me with cotton. From roughly the middle of his striking palm, it felt as if a very thin needle had dug deep into my chest, and within it had carried an explosive charge, which was then detonated as it had reached the middle of my torso through the route set by the ‘needle’. For a split of a second, I felt Death. Psychologically, the closest sensation I could think of is when one vomits badly when one is very ill, and momentarily feels like he is about to die. That is somewhat how I felt – for a moment, as if my game was over; there wasn’t even enough time to fear what was going on – it was only the knowledge of impending doom that was quick enough to enter my consciousness. Luckily, master Zhou knows what he’s doing, and did not shock me with his full capacity. Neither was there any damage or pain following the moment of the strike. Still, this was a humbling experience, which had made me realize some of the true potential of what Zhou is teaching.

Zhou shifu, demonstrating an application on Tom, one of his Israeli students. HaYarkon Park, Tel-Aviv, Israel, August 2010.
Zhou shifu, demonstrating an application on Tom, one of his Israeli students. HaYarkon Park, Tel-Aviv, Israel, August 2010.

This all reflect Zhou’s liking for the hands-on teaching approach. He rightfully believes that in order to truly understand martial arts, the student must feel them. This means, beyond the obvious, that the student should have free access to touching Zhou’s body when he performs movements, to get a sense of how the body is supposed to move; also, that the student be able to execute the techniques on Zhou himself. These things are absolutely essential for learning Zhou’s martial arts. They also expose the intimacy of the relationship between Zhou and his committed students – with both sides expected to openly ask any question, and not shy away from physical contact. This is the traditional manner in which many Chinese martial arts were taught, but this approach is becoming exceedingly rare in the teaching of traditional martial arts; especially in the West and in Japan, where because of cultural politeness and social norms, many prefer a more ‘sterile’ learning environment and a teacher that keeps his distance and plays the role of an ‘authority figure’. Zhou would have none of that, and would never claim to be an authority on anything, or expect a better treatment by anyone because he is a teacher.

Now closing in on his 50s, measuring by his skill and power, one could never guess. He would still casually perform splits, move faster than any of his students, exert a greater amount of force than them in his strikes, and easily toss people weighing twice his weight. Other things Zhou can do are, too, out of the ordinary. By the power of his mental intent alone, for example, he could make the hairs on his hand stand erect or fall (these are moved by tiny muscles under the skin, which in medical literature are said not be under one’s conscious control). I have also seen Zhou using mere one or two fingers to strike people in demonstrations, making them collapse sideways or to the ground at a great velocity because of the shock.

It is not that Zhou is a Superman of sorts. He is nothing but an ordinary person who has taken his skills to a very high level, in a process lasting several decades. He is the first to admit, for instance, that he is not a strong man, and cannot carry or lift exceedingly heavy weights. His skill with the martial arts, involving an attuned technical ability and a body built around this skillset, is what enables him to handle other human beings, in fighting, much better than people who are physically bigger and stronger than him. Some of the arts his teaches, such as Baji Quan, lend themselves well to people of a greater mass and height. Still, Zhou has proven that with dedication and perseverance, one can reach a level in which is the skill itself matters much more than other attributes.

Zhou shifu, teaching Baji Quan to a group of Chinese students. All of them are bigger and heavier than him. The Chinese guy standing directly behind Zhou is Xiao Hei – a national Western-Boxing champion, who is 6'3 and weighs twice Zhou's weight.
Zhou shifu, teaching Baji Quan to a group of Chinese students. All of them are bigger and heavier than him. The Chinese guy standing directly behind Zhou is Xiao Hei – a national Western-Boxing champion, who is 6’3 and weighs twice Zhou’s weight.

To have had the opportunity to learn with Zhou and his student Nitzan is something I shall always cherish. I feel that such a privilege, of finding a true traditional teachers of the Chinese fighting arts, who is both capable and a good person, is rare, even in the age of globalization and access to Internet resources. One of the biggest regrets I have in life is, that my own personal circumstances have not allowed me to spend more time with Zhou shifu, and take from him what he so willingly aspires to give to those interested. It is my hope that, in the future, many others would have the opportunity to get to know Zhou, as a teacher and a human being. From the times I have spent with man, I have undoubtedly benefited more than I could have ever described in an article.

Anyone who wishes to study with master Zhou can find out more and contact him through – http://www.studymartialarts.org/school/shang-wu-zhai-martial-arts-academy-/51.html

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All rights of this article are reserved to Jonathan Bluestein ©. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission, in writing, from Jonathan Bluestein. All rights of the pictures presented in this article, besides those in black and white, are reserved to master Zhou Jingxuan of Tiajin, China, and his students, Nitzan Oren and Jonathan Bluestein.

Fujian White Crane Kung Fu “The Scholar’s Style”

A Brief Introduction to Fujian White Crane Kung Fu

Fujian White Crane Kung Fu, once known as Tiger Crane Combination Kung Fu comes from Fujian Province in China. Fujian Province is famous throughout China for its flamboyant, fierce and efficient White Crane Kung Fu styles. For the sake of simplicity, it is known as Fujian White Crane Kung Fu in the West. It is the complete system of White Crane (the tiger stance providing a strong base for the more flamboyant hand techniques of the crane).

Created by a female martial artist called Fang Qi Niang it incorporates fighting principles to suit every body type and personality, and has a defense to counter various attacks. The characteristics of this style are deep rooted stances, intricate hand techniques and fighting mostly at close range.

Because of its complexity, the system is often known as a “scholar’s style”, suitable for students who wish to take their skill to the highest possible level. The efficiency and practicality of the Crane system is such that a number of other styles have borrowed elements of this style to make those styles more effective.

The Crane is a Chinese symbol of happiness and longevity and Crane style exercises are renowned in China for improving the general wellbeing of the practitioner. As well as the muscle groups, Fujian White Crane Kung Fu exercises increase flexibility, improve lung capacity, strengthen the joints and increase bone density.

If you’re interested in studying Fujian White Crane Kung Fu full-time in China visit the http://www.StudyMartialArts.Org website there you will find a host of masters and martial arts schools where you can learn traditional Chinese Martial Arts.

The Way Of Nature in Beijing

Capture

Bringing the way of nature into polluted Beijing from the inside out.

Living in Beijing, China’s capital has lots of benefits. In China’s annual 2012 expat survey, Beijing was voted in the top 3 of China’s most attractive cities for expats to live in.
Beijing’s Parks and open spaces are beautiful and full of life no matter what time of day you might visit them. Literally any open space buzzes with life. The old talk, play, stretch, sway, practice qigong or dance while the young chillout, cuddle or keep fit.

For foodies Beijing has an abundance of cheap and delicious eateries. There are traditional and exotic offerings available that are either local or from further afield. All of which can be easily obtained and many of which can be obtained without even leaving the house. Thanks to the numerous delivery services like Jinshisong, sherpa and many more. Yet, of course, food and parks aren’t the only thing on offer: Beijing also has a rich history and culture, as well as a maze of hutongs and hidden gems, all there for you to explore should you wish to leave your house. For many Beijing’s cultural scene is a legitimate draw and, for many, has more substance than Shanghai.

Beijing is a City of parks, restaurants, historic sites and culture, knitted together by an ever expanding subway system that allows its 20 million plus residents easy access around the city for as little as 2 rmb.

Beijing it seems has everything and in abundance. However, this abundance does not come without a cost. Air pollution, traffic and overcrowding are the biggest challenges that the city faces.

However, whether you’re a Chinese citizen or expat the truth is that we can do very little about these three things individually, without sweeping local and national policy changes and the time for them to take place. At present, too many of us continue to enjoy the convenience of cars, whether it’s our own or a cab, and quite frankly, even the most unsociable of us enjoy congregating from time to time. So what can we do individually to improve our environment?
Consider for a second the saying ‘charity starts at home’. Now why not replace the word ‘charity’ with this phrase; ‘Environmental change’. Maybe for the Beijinger, ‘Environmental change can and should start at home also’, rather than wait for local and national policy changes. Its up to us individually to be more proactive, by having more awareness and connection to our surroundings. We can do this very simply and cheaply by improving our own personal environments.  You can create your own personal oasis of peace and quiet away from the air pollution, traffic and overcrowding by introducing the following key elements (because no matter how peaceful, softly lit or less crowded your home is, it is unlikely that it will be untainted by Beijing’s air pollution).

The surprising and unhealthy truth is that almost all of the contaminants present in outdoor pollution can be found in indoor pollution! These pollutants include PAHs, solvents, organics, heavy metals, particulates, benzene, carcinogens and fecal material. As a result classrooms, offices and homes are introducing more and more air purifiers. But does the introduction of another impersonal home or workplace utility make any real difference without a very personal and natural mental shift? Does the introduction of yet another machine send the right message to students, workers or homeowners? What other measure can we take to protect our little oasis’s and improve our personal environments? Well the answer might just be in creating an oasis.

Below you will find my answer for the practical Beijinger who wants to avoid Beijing’s air pollution, traffic and overcrowding. Here is my list of air cleaning plants that you can order from taobao to create your own oasis without even leaving your home:

Bamboo Palm

 Bamboo Palm: Also known as the reed palm, this small palm thrives in shady indoor spaces and often produces flowers and small berries. It tops the list of plants best for filtering out both benzene and trichloroethylene. They’re also a good choice for placing around furniture that could be off-gassing formaldehyde. ://s.taobao.com/search?initiative_id=staobaoz_20130414&q=%D7%D8%D6%F1%C5%E8%D4%D4

Snake Plant

Snake plant: (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’) Also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, this plant is one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Put one in your bathroom — it’ll thrive with low light and steamy humid conditions while helping filter out air pollutants. http://s.taobao.com/search?%20initiative_id=staobaoz_20130414&q=%BB%A2%CE%B2%C0%BC%C5%E8%D4%D4&cat=0

Areca Palm

Areca Palm: The top air purifying plant as ranked by NASA’s study is the Areca palm tree. The palm has been dubbed as one of the most efficient humidifiers and can be counted on to keep your home or office moist during dry times and continuously remove chemical toxins from the air. During winter time, it can literally replace the use of electric humidifiers altogether! http://s.taobao.com/search?initiative_id=staobaoz_20130414&q=%C9%A2%CE%B2%BF%FB%C5%E8%D4%D4&cat=0

Spider Plant

Spider Plant: A beautiful houseplant with long grassy leaves, the spider plant also grows rapidly. This elegant plant is great at removing poisonous gases as well as other impurities like formaldehyde and xylene. For better effect, it should be kept in the kitchen or near the fireplace, as these are the places where carbon monoxide accumulates a lot.

http://s.taobao.com/search?initiative_id=staobaoz_20130414&q=%B5%F5%C0%BC%C5%E8%D4%D4&cat=0

Peace Lily

Peace Lily: One of the best plants you can get that reduces harmful indoor toxins that may cause cancer is the Peace Lily. An easy-to-care-for houseplant, the peace lily is a great pollution fighter and air-purifier. It helps in removing benzene and formaldehyde present in the house. http://s.taobao.com/search?spm=a230r.1.4.1.VT1G0W&q=%C2%ED%CC%E3%C1%AB%C5%E8%D4%D4&rsclick=1

Gerbera Daisy

Gerbera Daisy: This bright, flowering plant is effective at removing trichloroethylene, which you may bring home with your dry cleaning. It’s also good for filtering out the benzene that comes with inks. A great place to have this little plant is either in your laundry room or bedroom provided it can get plenty of light there.  

http://s.taobao.com/search?initiative_id=staobaoz_20130414&q=%B7%C7%D6%DE%BE%D5%B3%FB%BE%D5%C5%E8%D4%D4&cat=0

Marginata

Marginata (Dracaena marginata): This plant is stunningly beautiful with glossy thin leaves with red edges. It is a famously slow-growing flowering houseplant with very few growing requirements. It also not only removes formaldehyde and benzene from the air, but is also capable of filtering out other toxins present. However, proper care should be taken while placing the plant inside, as it is poisonous to dogs.

http://s.taobao.com/search?initiative_id=staobaoz_20130526&jc=1&q=Marginata+%28Dracaena+marginata%29&stats_click=search_radio_all%3A1

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera: We all know that aloe vera is present in many skin care products. Not only does it help with skin burns but also with filtering various gas emissions from dangerously toxic materials. Claimed to possess tons of medicinal properties, this incredible succulent can also be grown as an ornamental plant and can easily be picked up anywhere there are plants being sold.

http://s.taobao.com/search?initiative_id=staobaoz_20130526&jc=1&q=%C2%AB%DC%F6%D6%B2%CE%EF&stats_click=search_radio_all%3A1

Chrysantheium morifolium

Chrysantheium morifolium:  The colorful flowers of these plants can do a lot more than brighten a home office or living room; the blooms which come in a mixture of different shades and colors also help filter out benzene, which is commonly found in glue, paint, plastics and detergent. This plant loves bright light, and to encourage buds to open, you’ll need to find a spot near an open window with direct sunlight.