Phew – for some time there, it looked like my epic Kung Fu pilgrimage was looking like turning in to the most extravagant wild goose chase in human history. Ok, apart from the search for the Holy Grail. And Noah’s Ark. Oh, and there was the Ark of the Covenent for a while there, and something about a golden fleece for the Greeks? Oh no they got that in the end, didn’t they.
OK fine it’s not the most extravagant wild goose chase in history, but grant me a little dramatic invention with a splash of poetic license and things will go much easier for the both of us in the long run, I promise.
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes. After a week of searching, I was beginning to worry having not seen an ounce of Kung Fu, anywhere – and this was only confirmed by a student in one of my first classes who took no small pleasure in telling me that the nearest place that specialised in Wing Chun was halfway across China, and nobody really did Kung Fu in Sichuan Province. Having travelled several thousand miles specifically for this sole purpose, this came as something of a disappointment. It turns out that I have managed to pick the only province in China where nobody really gives a monkeys’ about Kung Fu – not even Kung Fu with monkeys in it (yes, for those uninitiated in Kung Fu lore, there is such a thing) or Kung Fu done by magical ghost monkeys (I can back this one up too – put ‘Monkey King’ in to You Tube for the most random five minutes of your life). There is, in fact, a distinct lack of Kung Fu, or monkeys, or any combination thereof, in this province. I hope I am clear.
Indeed it was all beginning to look rather bleak, until the wife of a fellow English teacher at the university mentioned a group of older women that do Tai Chi every morning, right outside my flat. Now I have to admit that two weeks ago this news would not have filled me with joy, but by this stage I was beginning to panic that my best laid plans were rapidly laying to waste, so I decided to check it out.
Which is why, at 6:45am on a Sunday morning I was roaming the streets of the campus in a pair of tracksuit trousers and a t-shirt in rain that, were it any heavier, would have required a pair of armbands instead of an umbrella. After about twenty minutes of soggy wandering the nearby streets I began to wonder if they came out in the rain after all, and was set to turn home when I espied an open door to a hall, with music drifting out of it and in the gloom, an elderly gentleman inside, wearing duck-egg blue silks and moving slowly, ethereally, slipping through the air as if he were floating on top of it. I had found my Tai Chi.
Cautiously I sidled up to the door, lingering awkwardly in the foyer like only a Brit can. Taking pity on me, the old man smiled and motioned toward a chair, indicating it was OK to watch. I tried to explain that no, I wanted to learn, and we soon discovered common ground in that I spoke not a word of his language, and he not a word of mine. This led to an awkward five minutes of miming and pointing from me and much awkward, albeit patient, grinning from him until realisation dawned and my brand new Sifu invited me to follow him. Two things immediately sprang to mind. One, that in China Tai Chi is not so soft and slow as it is in the west (the martial form is punctuated with snaps of speed and power that I was not expecting) and two, that although it is slow (or because it is slow) Tai Chi is actually one heck of a workout. After the first hour I was sweating; movements that I would have used kinetic energy to achieve in the past (kicks, stretches etc) now had to be achieved through strength and suppleness alone.
I am put in mind of a swan floating on a lake; the beauty visible above the surface of the water belies the churning effort of the legs to create all that graceful floating. And disguises an incredible power – the swan also, as the saying goes, has the power to break a man’s arm. I ended my first two hour class exhausted and excited. Tai Chi Quan is not the Kung Fu I came here seeking, but it may well be what I find.
Inherent in BaJi Zhandao philosophy, is the Daoist concept that is woven throughout Daoist philosophy; namely the vital and integral theory of Yin and Yang.
That, at the same time something can be large and limitless in its size and entirety, like the infinite expanse of the universe itself; simultaneously there can exist side by side, its opposite of such infinitesimal size, like the tiniest of atoms.
Baji Zhandao (Baji Fighting Dao) is the combination of Qi (breath or energy), martial arts, health, medical/therapeutic healing arts, aesthetics, and fighting skills, all of which can be applied to a skillful fighter or to produce an accomplished martial artist. Judging from its name, “Fighting Dao” is the instrument through which the proponent can gain victory.
I have been practicing Ba Ji Quan, Pi Gua Tong Bei, Ba Gua, Tai Chi, Xing Yi and many other kinds of traditional Chinese martial arts since I was very young. The great Ba Ji master, Wu Zhong, went to Shao Lin temple to compete in three matches, all of which he subsequently won. Some emperors in the Qing Dynasty learned Ba Ji from Huo Dian Ge, who was then an armed escort in the retinue of Wu Zhong. Many Ba Ji practitioners also served as bodyguards for among others: Sun Yat-Sen, Chiang Kai Shek, Chen Shui Bian, Mao Ze Dong, and Zhou En Lai. Ba Ji’s success in this area is testament to its practicality and martial techniques, which are not flowery or useless moves, but instead a series of deadly weapons.
I have won many gold medals in both national and international martial arts contests and in April 1995 was listed in A Compendium of Chinese Martial Artists. My students and apprentices come from 15 different countries around the world.
In 2007, I founded Ba Ji Zhandao, which, with the basics of Ba Ji Quan, also incorporates aspects of Tai Chi, Xing Yi, Ba Gua, Tong Bei, Praying Mantis Boxing, Chuo Jiao and Wing Chun and has developed into a new school of martial arts. The internal training aspect, or Qi Gong, was exclusively passed on to me from my teacher, as I was an indoor student. Following years of practice and my own research, I have developed Ba Ji Zhandao, so that the practitioner can attain even more powerful internal strength and more efficient internal breathing, to time in perfect accompaniment with the martial art moves. Other external strength exercises practiced include Tie Sha Zhang (Iron Palm), Huang Long Zhang (Yellow Dragon Palm), and so on.
Ba Ji Zhandao theories
无为不漏法：The method of energy retention and circulation and the creation of a “steel jacket”.
The body has 4 main acupuncture points, namely the Bubbling Well in the feet and the Lao Gong in the palms. To initiate the retention and circulation of energy throughout the body; first, using the mind the practitioner must “close off” the 2 Bubbling Well points (Yong Quan) and the 2 Lao Gong points; following which the practitioner can begin to close off the remaining acupuncture points throughout the rest of the body.
Although one is closing off these points, this is to close off the points to outside interference or incoming energy/power; one must use the heart and mind to focus the concentration on keeping the inner body’s energy gates open to allow the energy to flow through; doing thus will allow the muscles, tendons, sinews, vessels, organs and energy channels to become stronger and more invigorated, until finally your body will feel like it is made from some kind of indestructible material like a diamond or “steel jacket”, that cannot be penetrated by an opponent’s force, yet will enhance the practitioner’s health and longevity.
People practice Ba Ji Zhandao to promote Chinese Kung Fu and to enhance communication among Kung Fu fans around the world and to continue to develop the art and their own practice. It can build your body, health and strength, dispel disease, plus bring you a long life. We are committed to bringing out the true martial, health and curative functions of martial arts and clearing the misunderstanding caused by “flowery but useless Kung Fu”. Ba Ji can also cultivate your willpower, intelligence and health, as well as develop a firm and indomitable spirit.
Ba Ji Zhandao training regimen
Body conditioning and training to make your body flexible and agile.
Gang Yang training (yellow dragon palm, iron palm) is to make your palms deadly weapons.
Post training (“engraving the wooden post”), striking the board, kicking the ball can make different parts of your body strong enough to resist blows and defeat your opponent, enhance your blood circulation and make your body more sensitive i.e. Increasing the sensory perception and awareness, in Chinese this is referred to as “Ting Jing”, that is making the body, even the skin, the limbs, the senses and the visual awareness and all perceptory organs/features more and more sensitive, so the practitioner becomes even more aware of what others are doing or even intend to do.
Palm chop or hack. Every day you should practice palm chops 1000 times to make your body have the qualities of aliveness, agility and elasticity, plus the coiling, explosive power of a spring, additionally, after training your palm will be able to slice through objects.
Practicing Ba Ji Zhandao’s internal breathing, energy and strength (Qi Gong) training for 2 hours everyday, can soon change the overall functions of your body and integrate it into the martial arts so that every part of the body can be as hard as a diamond and every movement can be deadly.
Ba Ji’s Zhandao includes 6 forms, a dagger form, a sparring form, a 2-person sparring exercise, (wrestling and qin na or joint-locking, striking acupoints (Dim Mak) and dislocating the joints) small Ba Ji, large Ba Ji, six big opening, eight big moves, six elbows, broadsword, spear, rapier, cudgel, Tai Chi, Xing Yi, Ba Gua, Pi Gua, Tong Bei, Mantis forms and so on. After some period of diligent practice, successful students will become accomplished martial artists who can deal with a variety of potentially dangerous situations, plus have great skills to fight with and defeat opponents.
The essence of Ba Ji’s Zhandao: Ba Ji Zhandao has its roots firmly embedded in traditional Daoism, which is the very essence of Han Studies. China is a sound milieu conducive to the development of martial arts. Here, every style and school of martial arts is in full bloom, each with its own respective uniqueness. Ba Ji Zhandao incorporates Ba Ji, Tai Chi, Xing Yi, Ba Gua, Pi Gua, Chuo Jiao, Tong Bei and Wing Chun. Internal breathing, energy and strength are the essence of martial arts, so the better these qualities and components are, the better the martial artist you will be. Inherent within the core of martial arts are also philosophy, military strategy, psychology, scientific theories, the theory of meridian science, Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. All the aforementioned are essential to Ba Ji Zhandao. I have been practicing martial arts for more than 50 years and with overseas students coming from 15 different countries, I am proficient at teaching martial arts in a scientific and efficient way, to allow students to comprehend the material and movements taught.
Run tall. Gravity and weak core muscles cause many runners to “fold” in the middle when their feet land. This sitting-down movement wastes energy. Imagine that wires are attached to your shoulders, pulling you up slightly. Thrust your hips forward a bit and think “stability” when your foot hits. It’s easier to run tall if you’ve worked your core properly.
Relax. Tension in your arms, shoulders, neck, and face reduces efficiency. Arms and fingers should be loose. Unclench your hands and let your jaw jiggle.
Breathe right. Your breathing should be rhythmic and deep, and you should feel your diaphragm, not your chest, doing the work. Exhale with controlled force. When you pick up the pace, don’t let your breathing get shallow.
Land on the midfoot. A heel-first landing is a brake. It means you’re extending your leg out too far in front of your center of gravity, so it takes more energy to move forward. And it’s shaky, so your muscles are working on stabilization instead of forward motion. Shorten your stride. It’ll feel odd at first, like shuffling, but once you get used to it, focus on thrusting backward with force.
Run softly. The louder your footfalls, the less efficiently you’re running. Try running more quietly; you’ll be unconsciously switching to a midfoot strike and a shorter, quicker stride.
Swing symmetrically. Check your form on a treadmill in front of a mirror. If one arm is bent more than the other or swings more, you have a musculo-skeletal imbalance that can slow you down. Target the weaker side with strength and flexibility exercises.
Always stretch after you run. It may not seem like you need to stretch after, but it helps you get rid of lactic acid, which is what makes your muscles ache! In addition, stretching your muscles will allow them to become stronger/faster. Also, by stretching after your run, you need not worry that you are stretching cold muscles. Pre-run stretching, while not inherently unsafe, is more likely to cause injury if not preceded by a warm-up.
Don’t feel pressured to continue faster than you’re able. Repeat weeks and move ahead only when you feel you’re ready.
Don’t skip the warm-up, and be sure to walk for a bit when you’ve finished, to allow your body time to cool down gradually.
Always consume adequate amounts of fluids before, after, and during (if runs last more than 45 minutes or so) your runs, especially in the heat. If you feel at all thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
Running truly requires the least equipment and planning of all exercise. Grab your shoes, a couple of running buddies, and head outside. You’ll be looking and feeling better in no time.
Last night I’ve told you about theTai Chi Zero… Tonight I am telling you about the second part of the trilogy. They are Chinese steampunk martial arts blockbuster about the early years of Tai chi master Yang Luchan, the man who founded in the 19th century what has now become the most popular Tai Chi style in the world.
He was a shooting star – brilliant, breathtaking, rare, and gone too soon. But in his 32 years, Bruce Lee practiced what he preached, reaching a near-perfect physical and mental state few can even fathom. Obviously this took him his entire life to reach; there are ways that we can learn from Bruce’s lessons and mishaps so that we can reach our own self-perfection.
Bruce Lee’s life reads like mythology. There are magnificent stories within his overall story that made him into the legend he has become. The same can be said about fitness; there are lessons within the overall model (we call these lessons “attributes”). But one must start with the overall story – the overall attribute – before one can break things down and focus on the small stories. I am going to call the overall attribute “the Jeet Kune Do fitness ideal”; that is, what makes a JKD practitioner fighting fit overall.
I think to set this in context, we need a story from Bruce Lee’s life and I can think of no better one than the catalyst for Bruce Lee’s split with traditional Wing Chun Gung Fu and the beginnings of Jeet Kune Do. The year is 1964 and the place is Oakland. Bruce Lee is in trouble for teaching non-Chinese gung fu, so he is challenged to a fight with Wong Jak Man, supposedly one of San Francisco’s gung fu champions of the time. The fight begins, Bruce hits Wong, and Wong begins to run around the room with Bruce in hot pursuit. Eventually Bruce catches him, jumps on him and hits him a few times, and forces him to conceded defeat. What was the problem here? There were two main ones, actually. First, Bruce could not apply his techniques adequately to end the fight in any acceptable amount of time, thus the beginnings of his search for better ways (JKD). Second, and most important for this entry, Bruce was exhausted from chasing Wong around the room. It suddenly became very obvious that he needed to improve his fitness level, and fast.
From that point onward, Bruce upped his conditioning routines and the results can be readily seen in any of his movies (notice, too, that his physique improves from one movie to the next, until you see his ultimate physical perfection in Enter the Dragon). Bruce was meticulous in recording his routines, so we are lucky to have many of them still. One will notice while looking through them, though, that his routines evolved over time. The being said, he always had a few exercises he stuck with until his death in 1973, the main one being running (usually with his dog, Bobo). Bruce ran not just for conditioning, but for mental clarity, which was needed more and more as he approached the end of his life. The point here is three-fold: 1. Jeet Kune Do has a focus on conditioning, 2. conditioning is important for both mental clarity and fighting ability, and 3. the forms of conditioning evolved over time.
Fast forward to today and my personal routines, in and out of class, for my overall attribute-building. I always begin class with conditioning routines, usually involving rounds of running with interval exercises mixed in (I will cover this more in a later entry). Personally, I have turned to plyometrics (jump training) for my fitness needs and the results have been astounding. I combine these exercises into intervals, so I may do a set of 3-5 plyometric exercises for 4-5 minutes, take a 30-45 second break, and repeat. I have found this has not only drastically improved my conditioning attributes, but it has also improved my overall physique. That is not to say I don’t run. I still run 3-5 miles (more than that is excessive, in my opinion) once or twice a week if I can. I combine this with bag work and calisthenics and I am currently in the best shape of my life. I can train longer and harder, spar more effectively, and perform techniques with more ease than ever before. Bruce Lee was onto something, but there is no surprise there.
To sum up, overall conditioning is very important in Jeet Kune Do. It should be key in every martial art and to martial artist. Too often martial artists rely on nothing but their training to carry them through, but Bruce Lee found out the hard way that sometimes pure training isn’t enough. We have to supplement and constantly improve and evolve. That is one of the core essences of Jeet Kune Do. Stay fit and fight longer.
It all started with this picture. What’s the realstory. I have no idea, but trying to figure out the real story caused some friction on a Facebook group called The Kwoon. The facts behind this picture aren’t important. The fact that a simple image could cause ripples leading to this blog post are (the first about martial arts since revamping my website).
The Delusional World of Taichi
If you practice taichi and think it’s a superior martial art to others, you are delusional. This is just a fact. There’s a whole community of people practicing taichi as a martial art and believe it’s truly superior (in some respects) to other martial arts (I am a part of that community). Like it or not, the community is inherently delusional. There are no current facts to support the belief of taichi being superior in any shape or form. In fact, there…
What the fuck is going on? Not only do we have the UK breeding terminators for the Olympics, but now we have fucking China training red pandas to be expert gymnasts. Is that even legal? Don’t panda’s have their own fucking Olympics? Give me a break. Regardless of what future Olympics hold for us, one thing is for sure. I need a pet red panda and I needed it yesterday. I didn’t realize they had gigantic wooly bear caterpillars for tails!!! That’s fucking sick. And I’m definitely going to train it to do things more useful than pull ups. My red panda is going to pick me up chicks and do my taxes and shit like that. It’s called being smart. Try it sometime.
Sagicho Fire Festival, one of the three most dangerous festivals in Japan. 13 Districts in Omi-Hachiman participate in their annual event, spending months building their huge, heavy floats and then, over one weekend, parade them, bludgeon other teams with them, and, finally, destroy them.
Sagicho Festival was also the event that brought three keen amateur travel journalists together to make our first travel documentary. We interviewed a local underdog team, District 10, and got unwisely close to the massive moving floats, and slightly singed on the night of the festival.
Working on this project has been an amazing learning experience. Learning how our different styles work together, how to use the editing software, (learning not to hate the editing software), mixing audio and finally getting it all to hang together. It’s worth it though. It’s ridiculous how good it feels to look at a completed product and think: We made…
Worth checking out? Review this movie for our blog.
I know there’s a lot of haters out there, but I unapologetically like Keanu Reeves. Okay, JOHNNY NEUMONIC sucked ass, but I loved POINT BREAK, the BILL & TED movies, SPEED, the first 2 MATRIX movies, CONSTANTINE, and his dramatic turn in Sam Raimi’s THE GIFT. Last year he hosted an important Documentary called SIDE BY SIDE, which focused on the “Film vs. Digital” debate.
But now he’s going to direct a Martial Arts flick called MAN OF TAI CHI. But wait a minute!!! Looks like the film is already shot, because as you’ve seen above, there’s the trailer (even if it’s just an international one)! This looks very old school…. in an 80’s sort of way (not 70’s). The fights look amazing and the directing looks quite good. Let’s hope it’s better than THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, which I’m sure it will be. Keanu should know what he’s…