A Brief History of Some Walls: The Great Wall of China


Learning about the great wall, a brief history.


The Great Wall of China Source: en.wikipedia.org

Many describe The Great Wall as the longest structure built on earth. According to legend it is so magnificent that one can see it from space. It travels for 4, 500 miles in the North, touches the East Coast and the North Central of China, meandering through mountains, lower lands and the Gobi Desert. It is interesting to note that the translation for the wall was not always ‘Great’ but ‘Long Wall.’ As Julia Lovell puts it, the Great Wall is a collection of walls. The Chinese are known for their love of walls based on their early construction [from the 1st millennium BC], around the fields of farms, temples, houses and palaces. Furthermore, in the spiritual realm the Chinese paid homage to their God of Wall and Moat. According to Louise Chipley Slavicek, the Chinese believed that the God of Wall and Moat informed a person of their death…

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by Phillip Starr

In the wee hours of most mornings, millions of Chinese people flock to the local parks to practice various and sundry forms of qigong, which are exercises intended to gather, store, and/or manipulate what is known as “qi” (life force, internal energy). Dozens of books on the subject are readily available in many bookstores and on the internet and for those who prefer a more “hands-on” approach, there are many qigong instructors who will provide direct, detailed instruction. To say that there’s some considerable interest in this subject would be a serious understatement. However, the fact is that most of the available instruction in the subject is…flawed. I realize that this statement isn’t going to make me a slew of new friends but it’s true, so listen up.

To begin with, the are three main types of qigong. In a nutshell they are:

*Qigong for Health

Many millions of people around the world practice qigong as a form of health maintenance, which is intended to strengthen the body’s immune system and prevent illness. They also look to it as a way of slowing down the aging process and staying fit.

Additionally, many people also practice it as a form of medical therapy. Suffering from various injuries and/or illnesses, they look to qigong as a healing technique.

*Spiritual Qigong

Qigong has long been popular with many Buddhist and Taoist sects that believe that regular practice will promote spiritual awakening.

*Qigong for Martial Arts

Practitioners of numerous martial arts, especially the Chinese “internal” schools of taijiquan, xingyiquan, and baguazhang practice assorted qigong routines, believing that it will enhance their martial arts skills. They assert that regular qigong practice will augment their striking power while also protecting their bodies against an opponent’s powerful attacks.

Martial arts enthusiasts often get confused as to which exercises are best employed to complement their martial skills. For instance, practicing qigong exercises that are intended to maintain good health will not necessarily have any impact on one’s combative skills. Qigong can be divided into four types:

Breathing Exercises

There are four main breathing exercises, which are usually practiced in a seated position. The first three (Long Breath, Microcosmic Orbit, and Macrocosmic Orbit) are used by martial arts devotees. The first two (Long Breath and Microcosmic Orbit) are used for health and healing, and all four (the last one is known as Imminent Breathing) are used by Taoists who seek spiritual development.

Solo Postures

In this form of qigong, certain breathing and visualization techniques are combined

with a static position that is held for a given period of time. This is done to circulate the

life force through the body. How long the posture is maintained varies from one teacher to


Solo Exercise

In this type of qigong, breathing and visualization techniques are combined with

various movements to circulate the life-energy. Some of these exercises are really very

simple; just one or two movements are repeated several times. Others are considerably

more complicated.

Two-Person Qigong

This form of qigong requires the assistance of a partner. It is an excellent training

method as it acts as a barometer for students and proves to them that there is indeed more

to them that what their eyes perceive. Moreover, it bridges the gap between qigong

exercises and the actual application of internal power through one’s martial arts

techniques. Oddly enough, this form of qigong practice is not found in Chinese qigong

training, which likely accounts for their frequent inability to effectively emit qi (known as


In most of the Solo Exercise and Solo Movement routines, the method of breathing AND INTERNAL “MOVEMENT” is crucial. By “internal movement”, I mean the contraction, “twisting”, and relaxation of various internal tissues, which include small muscles, fascia, and tendons. These unseen actions must be properly coordinated with the breath and physical movements (in the case of Solo Movement exercises) to assist in gathering and manipulating qi and to “massage” certain internal organs/tissues. Simply standing in a particular posture or making a certain movement is not enough and results will be minimal.

Body alignment must also be considered. If the body’s structure isn’t correctly aligned, you’ll experience considerable discomfort after a short time. Many qigong teachers simply tell the student that the pain they experience is due to misalignment and they should learn to relax. This kind of instruction really isn’t very helpful; the student needs to be shown how to stand and move correctly.

Moreover, your intention (known as “yi” in Chinese) must be brought into play. One of the fundamentals principles of all qigong is this:

“Where your yi goes, your qi also goes.”

Without the special ingredient of yi, your qigong is worthless and you’d be better off taking up knitting.

So, there you have it. The principles of utilization of yi, body alignment, and internal movement/breathing are largely identical to those that are outlined in detail in my upcoming book, “Developing Jin” (released in April of 2014). I will provide additional articles in the future on the basic principles of qigong.

New Excerpt from “Zhan Zhuang Breathing – The Breath of Life”


An excellent book that has got a bucket load of information for all those standing tall.

Inside Zhan Zhuang

IZZ-Facebook Page Art

Aloha from Maui, here’s a new excerpt in which I discuss allowing the breath to become round and then spherical…


The Full Moon breathing method adds three additional points on the back to the five Half-Moon points already mentioned. These are Mingmen, GV-4 and two points roughly equidistant between Mingmen and the two Jingmen points. These are located in the vicinity of Zhishi point BL-52, on either side. In combination, these eight points create a complete circle, and when the inhale is generated from the body’s centerpoint, they form the basis of Spherical Breathing. That is, an equal expansion in all eight directions from the tiny sphere of our centerpoint to an energetic sphere that eventually encompasses the entire torso and later the whole body, including the extremities. As this technique becomes comfortable, the practitioner finds that the vertical elements also come into…

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Kung Fu in Thailand Day One: Arrival

Steve-Website-Photo1I have arrived in Pai, Mae Hong Son Province for two weeks of traditional Shaolin Kung Fu training in northern Thailand. After a flight delayed by fog we flew a short but spectacular journey over forested mountains and I’m now at Nam Yang Mountain Retreat, International Martial Arts Kung Fu and Meditation Training Centre. Although my work contract allows for 6 weeks of holiday, this is the first real vacation I’ve had since our honeymoon 8 years ago. I really need it.

It is very special here. Nam Yang was created by Sifu Iain Armstrong and his wonderful Thai wife under the guidance of Grandmaster Tan Soh Tin with whom he has studied 30 years. Grandmaster Tan’s master brought southern Shaolin (Tigre-Crane) Kung Fu out of China after Mao’s ascendancy when the Shaolin martial artists were being executed. Nam Yang is near the town of Pai in northern Thailand about 30 km from the Burmese border. They grow most of their own food, including the rice, pineapples and bananas. The architecture is beautiful in the local traditional style giving the whole place a Shaolin Temple like quality. It is an extraordinary achievement! They have a large kitchen and open eating area, an office, Buddha House for meditation with two great Nagas (Dragons) descending the stairs, two training octagons, one which is covered and one open-area, plus the living quarters. Accommodations are simple, almost spartan, but we have what we need to get by and it is lovely!

I had a great sit with Sifu Iain over a special tea to review my training goals surrounded by the beautiful landscape and sprawling grounds of Nam Yang Retreat Centre. Afterwards I joined in the evening’s training. We did about 1.5 hours stretching and prep before doing push-hands and some basic drills. Sifu Iain is so authentic. You can tell a lot about Sifu by how his chief students treat him; that says it all. There are several people training, all male from young to old. Two other Canadians, a Dutch fellow, a Belgian and a Brit. The Belgian and Brit are senior students. One is already a teacher and the other well on his way, lovely dedicated young men. We went to Pai for supper tonight as one is leaving tomorrow after having been here some months. The other pretty much lives here training every day all day and sometimes teaching. Tomorrow we start at 6:00 am with Chi Kung for the sunrise. Wednesday is a rest day and we will go to town of Mae Hong Son on the Burmese border visiting remote hill tribes with whom Sifu is connected.

Kap Kuhn Kap (Thank you in Thai),

David Lertzman Ph.D. is the Assistant Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainable Development PI: Energy Indigenous Environment Interface Research Program, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary.

This blog entry is part of a series of blogs David Lertzman wrote for StudyMartialArts.Org detailing his experiences training at Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat. If you’re interested in visiting this school book your place here and get an exclusive discount  Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat.

Taekkyon: the Original Martial Art of Korea

f0064134_4cb5e92f7d049Almost everybody has heard of Taekwondo and Hapkido these days, but Taekkyon, the original indigenous martial art of Korea, is almost unheard of.  Almost wiped out during the Japanese colonisation of Korea, the art is now making a revival, and is listed both as a national treasure of Korea, and is the first martial art on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list.

The history of Taekkyon goes back to the mid Joseon Dynasty, around the 1700s, where it was practiced as a competitive sport with a winner-stays-on type rule set. It is believed Taekkyon evolved out of an even older, but now lost art called Subak. Little is known about Subak, but it is believed that it may have been the martial art of the Hwarang warriors of the Silla Dynasty (57BC-935AD). During this time martial arts were reserved for the ruling class, but after the fall of the Silla became popular among common folk. During the Joseon Dynasty it fell out of popularity among the Yangban elite, who thought that educated people should stay away from martial arts and focus on scholarly pursuits. It was probably around this time that the competitive “game” version evolved as a game for the farmers and peasant classes.

During the Japanese occupation, the art almost died out, but one man kept the art alive; Song Duk Ki. HeSong-Duk-Ki-foot-slapping1 is credited with reviving the art in modern times. Song Duk Ki was born in 1893 in Seoul. He began training at a young age, under Master Lim Ho, of the Widae style. During that time many young people practiced Taekkyon, and there were two main styles: Widae, which was practiced by people in the city centre, and Ahratdae, which was practiced by people on the outskirts of the city. Big competitions were held between the two styles and rivalry was fierce. Then, after the 1910 Japanese invasion of Korea, Song Duk Ki changed his focus to Gung-do (Korean archery), one of the few arts not shunned by the colonisers. He continued his Taekkyon practice in secret, and after the surrender of Japan, he began to promote the art, gaining the rank of a “national living treasure” by the South Korean government.

Taekkyon has both a competitive, game-like version, and a combat version. The game, which is called Kyulyun, was played where two teams gathered, with a winner stays on format, until one team was completely wiped out. This 1377954_581442335256536_660695014_ngame had a dance like feel, as players stepped around each other while drums were played. Players had to either throw the opponent, or kick them in the head. Like modern day sports martial arts, a player could tap out to surrender. The ring was often made by laying down straw mats, but could also be on dirt or grass. The largest competition would typically be held on the 15th day of the 5th lunar month, which was called Tano, which also held Ssireum, Korean wrestling, tournaments. There was no prize, but the winner would be treated as a hero by both sides. It is said the focus on kicking techniques in Korea is due to the mountainous terrain; people had naturally strong legs from spending so much time climbing hills.

As far as combat, similar techniques are applied as in the game. The main difference however is the target areas and the power used. Pressure point techniques, eye gauges and locks are also common. The rhythmic steps and constant 1926801_647747588626010_174977634_nmotions of the hands distract the opponent, setting up for a kick or sweep. Unlike taekwondo, flying or spinning kicks aren’t often used, rather, low kicks to the shins or knees, sweeps and trips, and direct push kicks to the body are more common.

A typical Taekkyon class is very different to conventional martial arts: there is no warm up or stretching as such, rather, the class begins by practicing stepping patterns in a dance-like rhythm to traditional Korean music.  The stepping is done in a triangular pattern, based on the Chinese character 品. Strikes and kicks are added in, as well as patting of the body and clapping to stimulate blood flow. This is all done in time with the music. Sparring is taught within the context of the stepping patterns. Opponents square off and step in time with each other, constantly changing feet and seeking an opportunity to sweep or trip their partner.

I have just began my training in Taekkyon, here in Seoul, South Korea. I will be regularly updating my website about my training here, as well as continuing my writing about Chinese martial arts. http://www.monkeystealspeach.co.uk

Training with Master Zhou

SMA – Baji Zhandao UK training camp visit to Tianjin to train with Master Zhou.

Master Zhou Jingxuan teaches in Xi Gu park in Hong Qiao District. Historically this park continues to attract many of Tianjin’s famous martial arts masters and students. The park is a hive of activity throughout the day.

Master Zhou teaches the rare inner courtyard Shaolin martial art of Jin Gang Ba Shi. In addition to that he also teaches Piguazhang, Xingyi quan, Baji quan, Li style Taichi and Chou Jiao. As our trip to visit with Master Zhou was relatively short we focused our learning on the basics of two specific styles Piguazhang and Bajiquan.

After a warm welcome in Tainjin and some photos we enjoyed two hours of great training in Xi Gu park with Master Zhou. After the training we were invited for dinner with Master Zhou his senior students and a number of representatives from the Tianjin Martial Arts Association.

The following is an assortment of clips from the two day seminar as well as a short clip from a discussion on the evolvement of Bajiquan in Tainjin.

All the training you see in the video took place in Xigu Park where Master Zhou regularly teaches.

For further information on studying with Master Zhou, the Shang Wu Zhai Academy as well as a host of other masters in China and Thailand check out the http://www.StudyMartialArts.Org website.

Research of Martial Arts by Jonathan Bluestein

10553841_10203654851144377_7178757407568710551_oA Friend of mine has just written and put together his very first martial arts book. The title of the book is Research of Martial Arts. It is a monumental treatise of epic proportions on martial arts theory, practice and culture. 418 pages, 220,000 words. Most of it is dedicated to Chinese martial arts, but a lot is said and written of countless others, and I believe you too will find an interest in it.

More information, as well as 72 whole pages of FREE sample chapters and other interesting articles, are available if you follow this link http://www.researchofmartialarts.com/

You can also check out the book here on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Research-Martial-Jonathan-Bluestein-Shifu/dp/1499122519

Over all the book is very much worth a look if you’re an avid reader martial artist literature. The aim of this book is to present the reader a coherent, clear-cut, and in-depth view of some of the most perplexing and controversial subjects in the world of martial arts, as well as providing a healthy dose of philosophical outlook on these subjects (from various individuals). At its core is the author’s aspiration to build a stronger theoretical foundation for the discussion of martial arts, while addressing matters in innovative ways, which I have come to believe, would help people to better grasp the nature of these arts.

Bajiquan International Training Center

maxresdefaultEarlier this week we announced the addition of a new full-time martial arts school to the StudyMartialArts.Org site.

The Bajiquan International Training Center is one of the best places in China to learn the martial art of Bajiquan. All the masters at this school are dedicated and trainined primarily in this art. The Masters skills, the Wu family lineage and knowledge plus the teaching focus on the practical use of the art, the standardized comprehensive curriculum and the Mengcun facility itself are all huge draws.  9461051

The Bajiquan International Training Center simply put is one of the biggest and most famous Bajiquan schools in the world. How students will learn Bajiquan at this school as opposed to some other Shaolin or Wudang based schools which teach to a smorgasboard of styles is very different.

The location of the school in Mengcun on the outskirts of Cangzhou City firmly puts the focus on training. Site seeing opportunities in Mengcun and Cangzhou City are limited. With so few distractions for students it makes the 6 day training regime easy to stick to. This is one reason why the facilities at the school are so good.

Additionally, another benefit of the school is that it can easily cater to both western and muslim cultures, this makes the Bajiquan International Training Center an attractive multicultural choice.

To see our full review plus prices click the link below. http://www.studymartialarts.org/school/bajiquan-international-training-center/71.html Remember though you must book through us to access our special discounts and additional resources for your training adventure at the school.

Message us privately for our full free school and travel consultation. StudyMartialArts@gmail.com

The Life of Pai


Stepping of the plane in Chiangmai, I instantly liked the place. The warmth of the air was somewhat different to the dry February cold of Beijing.

Rather unwisely though I failed to print of the directions and contact number for where I would spend the next 3 weeks training. “Mai Pen Rai” with a single step I’d quickly adopted the Thai go with the flow attitude like a natural, after all I was in Thailand and what better why to honor my hosts.

I’d only just touched down in Thailand and the journey was already exceeding my expectations and I felt completely relaxed about the weeks ahead. What I love about traveling is meeting people. My experiences to date have shown me that people vibrate on different frequencies depending on their state of mind. When people are on similar frequencies it’s natural for them to attract and connect. With my mind on exploration, discovery and anticipation for the journey ahead it would be this energetic principle that had drawn me to meet a fellow martial arts traveler.

Energetic principle or fait I met Dr David Lertzman at the boarding gate at Hong Kong international airport heading for Chiangmai. Both of us where surveying the room for a suitable plug socket to charge our respective apple products.

David a professor from Calgary University in Canada was a man who’d spent the last 7 years working with indigenous tribes in the Amazon rainforest. He was traveling to a place called Pai for 3 weeks of Shaolin training in order to follow a passion for martial arts that remained with him from his youth.

We rearranged our seats on the plane and from Hong Kong to Chiangmai the professor and I swapped stories and enjoyed the back and forth of good conversation.

Walking Street

An instantly likeable and approachable man he had a way of making people around him feel comfortable. I pondered the thought of how this character trait would be one that would serve him well in the rain forests of the Amazon where he would have to communicate with numerous indigenous peoples. I pictured him bounding through the rain forests like Sean Connery from the medicine man.

We parted company in Chiang Mai with the intension of staying in touch to share our separate training experiences. He set off for the Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat in Pi and I to meet and train with Sifu Mark Rasmus.

Arriving late at Susan Pailomn it was dark but with a warm welcome and smile I was greeted by Sifu Rasmus. I could feel I was in a good place geographically, mentally and spiritually. Mark showed me to my chalet and we headed out to grab some food.

We talked about our respective martial arts journeys, about the training ahead, about life in Chiangmai, places to eat and places to visit. I new I was in the right place studying with the right master. When we finished it was late.

My first night in Chiangmai my plan ahead of arrival had been to make it to base camp familurize myself with the area and get a good nights rest. Mission accomplished.

Nestled among bamboo groves and trees I woke up from my first nights sleep to the morning chants of Buddhist monks and bell chimes, refreshed and ready to begin my training.The days ahead in Chiang Mai would be filled with excellent tuition under the supervision of Sifu Rasmus.

In addition to this there would be amazing temple visits and location based training, delicious local food and one or two healing Thai massages.Each evening as part of my training regime I would journal my progress. Likewise Professor David Lertzman had also been chronicling his training experience in Pai and was emailing the details of what would become a great blog for those thinking about training at Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu School. This is a blog I will post at a later date on the SMA bloggers wordpress site.


The School

Before we parted company in Chiangmai I’d told David about the Study Martial Arts project, about our mission statement and company ethos. I also explained how I was always on the lookout for quality schools and masters to work with, so any insight he had about the school would be much appreciated.

With David’s regular up dates and emails filling my inbox with detailed accounts of his experience I knew that if an opportunity presented itself I would head to Pai, visit the school and catch up with my fellow martial arts adventurer.

On the second week of training a Thai national holiday fell on the Friday. Intuitively, Sifu Rasmus a keen motorcyclist proposed the idea of a road trip to Pai. With his help I rented a scotter and followed Sifu Rasmus along the beautiful, and somewhat infamous winding road from Chiangmai to Pai. We arrived in Pai dropped off our bags then headed out to explore Walking Street.

Walking Street Market in Pai is located on Rungsiyanon Road. It is a shopper’s paradise offering a wide range of souvenirs big and small, unique handicrafts, lacquerware and hand-made clothes some of which come direct from highland villages or local artists. Along with these gift stalls and shops I delighted in the sights smells and tastes of the authentic street food. Thai, Chinese, Western in such variety all fresh and delicious. The Thai street food experience was living up to the hype. The following day a Saturday would be a day off from training for the students at Nam Yang, so I explored Pai a little soaking in the Friday night before returning to my hotel. After breakfast I headed out to the school to meet David and also one of the instructors Eddie.

The school a ten minute bike ride away from my hotel is on the outskirts of Pai close to its small airport. David met me and showed me around the school and introduced me to some of his fellow students.

Mork Fa Waterfall
Mork Fa Waterfall

Some of these students were beginners studying martial arts for the first time, others had been students who had studied in China and were somewhat jaded of the experience and some were seasoned and experienced martial artists. After David showed me around he demonstrated one of the forms he’d been working on, then we sat and took tea with Eddie who at the time was one of the schools instructors.”Out door training areas”Normally the journey from Chiangmai to Pai takes 3-5 hours depending on your pace. I’d recommend taking it slow and taking in the scenery. The road itself is super fun but beware, those that get carried away and go to fast might end up as one of the roads numerous casualties. Both experienced and inexperienced drivers have cut short their holiday on this road which snakes it’s way up and over the mountains to Pai.

We stopped midway for lunch on the journey up and on the return I cooled down with a swim at this amazing waterfall at Mork Fa. For more information on martial arts training at this school or training experiences throughout China and Thailand visit the http://www.StudyMartialArts.Org website.

The StudyMartialArts.Org website has discounts on martial arts training and travel experiences as well as exclusive offers only available to those who book through SMA.


Another amazing translation by Paul Brennan

Brennan Translation

楊家太極拳各藝要義 武術偶談
by Huang Wenshu [Yuanxiu]
[published by 國術統一月刊社 Martial Arts United Monthly Magazine Society, June 15, 1936]

[translation by Paul Brennan, June, 2014]

武術偶談 (1936) - photo 1

Group photo of leading figures in Chinese martial arts:
The people in this photo are (from right to left):
Front row:
Tian Shaoxian [Zhaolin], Zheng Zuoping, Du Xinwu, Li Fangchen [Jinglin], Liu Baichuan, Sun Lutang, Yang Chengfu
Back row:
Shen Erqiao, Huang Wenshu [Yuanxiu], Chu Guiting, Gao Zhendong, Qian Xiqiao, Su Jingyou

武術偶談 (1936) - photo 2

Group photo of famous martial artists from Hebei [from right to left]:
黃文叔 褚桂亭 蘇景由 王向齋 趙道新 張兆東 李星階 高振東 孫汝江 李子揚
Huang Yuanxiu, Chu Guiting, Su Jingyou, Wang Xiangzhai, Zhao Daoxin, Zhang Zhaodong, Li Xingjie, Gao Zhendong, Sun Rujiang, Li Ziyang

武術偶談 (1936) - photo 3

Group photo of famous martial artists from Hebei:
[back row, right to left:]
騎兵團國術敎習 方瑞臣
Fang Ruichen, cavalry corps martial arts…

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