It will come as no surprise to regular readers that I am a fan of late 19th and early 20th century martial arts ephemera. Postcards, being visual, cheap and easily mailed around the globe, were one vector by which popular images of a wide variety of physical and combative practices were spread. As we […]
“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” Niels Bohr (among others). With Trepidation I would like to outline three quick points about the current situation in Hong Kong, particularly as it relates to (and sometimes sidesteps) the traditional martial arts. Like many of you, I am following events in the city […]
Byron Jacobs has another video out in his XingYi series, this time focussing on footwork. If you’re after the basics of XingYi then this is the best place to start. I think footwork is especially important in XingYi as much of the defending is done not by deflecting things (like you find in Tai Chi) […]
While there are a number of people who read this blog and don’t do jiu jitsu, there are some, and maybe a few of them have thought about competing in the near future. This is by no means a complete list, but here are a couple of tips and things to keep in mind if […]
Legendary actor and martial artist, Bruce Lee, once stated that ‘martial arts means honestly expressing yourself.’ During his short life span, Bruce Lee blessed us with several timeless truths that are applicable not just to martial arts, but to life in general. The practice of martial arts, according to Lee, does not simply entail learning how to fight better; rather it means understanding your being in a more holistic way, and thus being able to express yourself better and more honestly. To express oneself honestly means having the confidence to go against the fear of being judged by others. This confidence is developed through martial arts training in two main ways.
Skills Self-Confidence Leads To Overall Self-confidence
When you begin training for martial arts, you will discover that with time, you become self-confident in the specific martial arts skills that you’re learning. For example, if your primary goal was self-defense, you will become confident in the skills you have learnt to defend yourself. Indeed, self-defense comes from skills and confidence. After martial arts training, you will have confidence in your ability to execute specific martial arts techniques in the correct way and with the correct timing. With time, this skills-confidence will translate into overall self-confidence. When you become self-confident, your possibilities for integrity and autonomy are expanded, meaning that you will be able to express yourself more honestly without fear of being judged. This can mean doing something you have always wanted to do but were held back from through fear or lack of confidence. It could be starting a new personal business, taking a world trip or getting an extreme tattoo, such as the face tattoos which have recently become a common trend amongst rappers. These are all means of honestly expressing yourself without fear of judgement. Undoubtedly, honest self-expression by standing up for yourself and doing things with confidence is critical in a society that is always judging us. Martial arts training greatly aids this cause.
Discover Your Strengths And Weaknesses And Work On Improving Them
Through martial arts, you will be able to honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses, and will have an opportunity to work on both. At first, this will relate to elements such as physical strength, agility and speed. However, martial arts is different, in that it will give you both freedom and a non-judgemental avenue to work on both your skills and weaknesses, and make improvements in any way that you choose. This is especially true once you find the perfect style of martial arts for you: the one that best fits with your personality, whether that’s karate, Brazilian jiu-jitsu or MMA. You will be able to honestly express yourself, not just on the mats or inside the dojo, but also in life, where after discovering your strengths and weaknesses, you will possess the confidence to improve yourself in an honest way, and then similarly express yourself without fear of judgement.
We live in a significantly judgemental society, and having the confidence to express yourself honestly can go a long way in helping you live a happy and fulfilled life. Training in martial arts is one of the best ways to acquire this confidence.
My martial arts journey began in 1969 at the first classes of the Tomiki aikido style in Melbourne, Australia, under the guidance of (then) Leoni Heap. I was a drifter at the time, doing unskilled work in order to finance my travels in Australia and overseas. I was playing several contact sports at the time and Aikido was a fitness adjunct for me. Eventually, against my better judgement, I was persuaded to attempt my shodan grading. I had coached junior sports during my youth and suspected that I would be requested to teach when I made shodan, so I had resisted for nearly a decade.
Sure enough when I received my grading and whilst making preparations to travel to South America, I was asked to go to Sydney to fill in for a teacher who was relocating. Not being particularly stable at the time, I accepted and through that decision was able to meet and learn from the first person to teach Shindo Muso ryu jyodo (way of the stick) in Australia, Paul Maloney sensei.
I was ready to depart for South America after a couple of years in Sydney, when the Falklands war broke out and I was advised it was an inopportune time to visit South America. Step up Paul Maloney, who suggested a trip to Japan instead. As he had not long returned from Asia himself and was full of praise for the culture and fighting arts, I quickly agreed.
Through Paul and his contacts, I obtained various introductions to Jyodo and Aikido dojos,where I trained under such notables as Kaminoda Tsunemori (SMR jyo), Ohba Hideo (Tomiki aikido), Nitta Suzuo (Toda ha Buko ryu naginata jutsu) and long-time Japan resident Phil Relnick (SMR). Through the introduction of the principal of my Japanese language school, I commenced my third style of karate and Taijichuan, with Nakano Harumi sensei, a well-known teacher in Japan and China. I studied with her for the best part of 8 or 9 years and, through her, was introduced to various teachers, including Matsuda Ryuichi who taught me Xingyi chuan, Bagua zhang and Shaolin chuan. We were also regularly exposed to teachers from the Chen jia gou (Chen village) in their annual visits to Tokyo.
In 1989, I was introduced by friends to Nitta Suzuo shihan of the Toda ha Buko ryu naginata jutsu school, which I have also studied since that time.
When it was time (a regular occurrence for foreigners) to leave the country to renew my visa, Nakano sensei suggested the Chen village for further training. Most foreigners either went home to renew their visa or went to Korea for a few days, but I wanted something more.
I wanted to continue Xingyi and Bagua as well as Taiji, so we decided on Shanghai, instead of the village and Nakano sensei gave me introductions to her friend Mr. Chu Jin Ming, who was then the vice president of the Shanghai Chin Woo athletic society and 2IC of the Shanghai Olympic Hotel, which at the time was the safest place for foreigners to meet Chinese without the obligatory “spies” getting their knickers in a knot. Remember, this was 1987, shortly before Tiananmen
Mr. Chu introduced me to He Bing Quan who introduced me to Wang Zhong Dao. Master He had trained with Chen Zhao Kui when they lived together in Shanghai. He was a Shaolin master who had trained in several styles of Taijichuan under the old masters.
Master Wang had trained under Master Chu Gui Ting, a student of the famous Li Tsun Yi and taught me his version of Xingyi and Bagua – which differed slightly from Matsuda sensei’s version (which he learnt in Taiw
an). When Master Wang died, I continued under Master Chen Jian Yun who had studied Shansi style Xingyi as well as learning from Master Chu. When he died, I was left rudderless, to continue on my own.
Then, in 2018, I was lucky enough to find Mr. David Kelly at studymartialarts.org who provides a wonderful introduction service for practitioners seeking training in Chinese chuan fa. Whilst scrolling through his pages, I happened to come across a reference to Master Chu Yu Cheng. Further research showed that he was the grandson of Chu Gui Ting – fancy that, his other students (my teachers) never mentioned he had a grandson!
David quickly arranged for us to get together and I went to Shanghai for the first time in 15 years to resume my true lineage. I found Master Chu to be extremely knowledgeable and up to date. Lest I be considered to be a poor follower of my previous teachers, they were getting on in years and had possibly forgotten some of the deeper work. No such problem with Master Chu – in the space of a month, he was able to upskill me, even after 30 plus years of training in the art under various Masters.
Unfortunately, it was a test run for me and I had let my Chinese skills lapse, which made it hard for Master Chu, but he never failed to teach from his heart and luckily enough I had enough experience to bumble through. In order to honour him and his compassionate students, I am frantically trying to rejuvenate my language skills before my next visit.
If there is one theme you will notice through this narrative about Asian combatives it is INTRODUCTIONS – they are essential in Asia (for locals and foreigners) and you won’t find a more generous spirit with the necessary contacts than David Kelly.
If you wish to read more you can find my book “At the Feet of the Masters” on Kindle books.
Simplified Taijichuan (Licenced instructor All Japan Taichi Assn.)
Yang style Taijichuan (Fu Zhong Wen lineage)
Chen style Taijichuan (He Bin Quan lineage from Chen Zhao kui)
Xingyi chuan (Chu Guiting lineage)
Bagua zhang (Chu Guiting lineage)
Tomiki aikido (roku dan)
Shindo Muso ryu Jyojutsu (Yodan, Go moku roku)
Isshin ryu kusari gama jutsu
Kasumi shinto ryu kenjutsu
Uchida ryu tanjyo jutsu
Toda ha Buko ryu naginata jutsu (Chuden)
You can find details of Bill’s classes here. at budokaiaustralia.com
Introduction It is so hot outside that it is almost impossible to think about training, which means that there is no better time to get caught up on news – particularly if some of these stories give you something to do while hunkered down in an air conditioned cave! For new readers, this is a […]
***What follows is the text of my keynote address delivered at the 2019 Exploring Imperial China Workshop held on June 5-6 at Tel Aviv University. I would like to thank both the Department of East Asian Studies and the Confucius Institute for inviting me to take part in this event which showcased some great […]
by Phillip Starr
We often hear our teachers tell us to “concentrate your mind on….”, but truly focusing our minds on any given thing is more than a little difficult. One of my early karate instructors had a cure for that. I don’t know if he learned it from someone else or if he thought of it himself, but it certainly worked.
During one class, he instructed all of us to sit on the floor. As we did so, he placed a clock on the floor in front of us. “This is a good exercise for teaching you how to really concentrate”, he said. “Focus on the clock and use your mind to stop the second hand from moving.”
I figured he was kidding but I guessed wrong. The best was yet to come.
“Sit comfortably so you won’t be shifting around or fidgeting your hands…” Okay, no problem. This was sure a lot easier than firing off endless reverse punches and front kicks! Then came the punch line…
“…and don’t blink your eyes. Not even once.”
What the ****!!! Okay. I had faith, so I did it. My mind soon was focused on something other than the clock; it was wholly concentrated on NOT BLINKING! Now, blinking is an involuntary action of the body but…it can be consciously controlled! To do so requires more than a little concentration and determination, however.
We only practiced this exercise for about one minute the first time. With practice and effort, I slowly built up my time to five minutes but my teacher cautioned us that to do it much longer than that might have undesirable results (the eyes dry out pretty quickly). But after I was able to control my urge to blink fairly easily, I was free to focus back on stopping the second hand of the clock.
Which I never was able to do… but then, that wasn’t the point of the exercise.
If you would like to learn martial arts and how to meditation in China you can find a number of great courses and schools when you visit StudyMartialArts.Org. To read more on the subject you can also check out some of these great articles.
Bear up under days of cold and heat, withstand exposure to wind, rain, sleet. Walk mountains and difficult paths. Do not sleep under a roof; consider it fundamental to sleep out in the open. Be patient with hunger and cold. Carry no money or food provisions. If there are unavoidable battles at a destination, participate […]