Yang Lu Chan’s old house and Tai Chi in Yongnian — The Tai Chi Notebook

The Wu Yu Xiang style Tai Chi I found this video recently of an old gentleman called Mr Han practicing his Tai Chi form in the courtyard in front of the old house of Yang Lu Chan (the founder of the Yang style, pictured top left) in Yongnian County, Hebei province. The video says he’s […]

via Yang Lu Chan’s old house and Tai Chi in Yongnian — The Tai Chi Notebook


The Tai Chi form of Yang Shau-Hou

The Tai Chi Notebook

220px-Yangshaohou Yang Shou-Hou

Below is a video, shot in 1977, of the Tai Chi form of Xiong Yangho who was a student of Yang Shau-Hou, the (much) older brother of Yang Cheng Fu. Born in 1862 he was effectively of a different generation than his brother Yang Cheng-Fu who was born in 1883, which is 21 years later.

You can see that the form follows the same pattern as the Yang Cheng-Fu version but has a few unique characteristics. Again, this hints that there were different ways of doing the form before Yang Cheng-Fu standardised it into “Yang style”.

These different interpretations are a bit like the Gnostic Christian gospels – they’ve been rejected from the main orthodox canon, but they have just as much validity as any ‘official’ version of the form.

The description reads:

“Taiji Grand Master Xiong Yang He (1889-1981) The Interpretation of Taiji Quan The Teaching…

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Nonviolence and Martial Arts Studies — Kung Fu Tea

***One of my goals in creating Kung Fu Tea was to inspire more enthusiasm for (and participation in) the scholarly discussion of martial arts. As such, I am happy to share a reader’s lengthy response to a recent essay. After seeing his original comment I felt that it could be expanded to make a […]

via Nonviolence and Martial Arts Studies — Kung Fu Tea

How to get better at push hands — The Tai Chi Notebook

Today’s Tai Chi tip is all about how to get better at push hands simply by adjusting your posture. Push hands should really be an exercise in which we get to test our ability to absorb Jin from an opponent and project it into an opponent as required, to uproot them. It shouldn’t devolve into a […]

via How to get better at push hands — The Tai Chi Notebook

Want to keep your brain in shape? Get physical!

I’m no longer the spring chicken I was. I’m approaching 40, and I want to maintain a healthy brain as well as healthy body. Turns out according to this article in Psychology Today that I’m on the right path, because Physical Activity is the No.1 way to keep your brain young. This article explains the link between aerobic fitness and cognitive function. Christopher Bergland the author of the article goes further stating that maintenance of close knit social bonds are second only to exercise in terms of maintaining longevity and psychological well-being.

Great news for martial artists

This is great news for martial artists practicing in quality clubs and gyms. Not only are they getting the benefits of exercise on cognition but also the psychological well-being of close knit bonds with their martial arts classmates. Provided of course you’re training at the right kind of club or gym.

The benefits of finding the right club

This highlights the benefits of finding the right club where not only you receive great instruction but also the support, help guidance and camaraderie of your classmates. I’ve been lucky throughout my martial arts journey and when creating my company StudyMartialArts.Org to meet and learn from the right kind of people. At present I’m based in Beijing and loving the training and the community at Big King BJJ and Muay Thai (insert shameless plug).

So what about the science?

Well according to Richard A. Friedman’s article in New York Times.

“Intriguingly, exercise in humans and animals increases the level of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, in the blood and brain. BDNF promotes the growth and formation of new neurons, and it may be responsible, in part, for a remarkable effect of exercise on the brain: an increase in size of the hippocampus that is linked with improved memory.

Conversely, adverse experiences like major depression can lower BDNF levels and are associated with hippocampal shrinkage, a phenomenon that helps explain some of the cognitive impairments that are a hallmark of depression. Aside from making people feel better, antidepressants can block the depression-induced drop in BDNF, so these drugs are, in a sense, neuroprotective.”

This helps to explain the double whammy benefits of physical training with the right kind of people. Whether your martial arts training involves BJJ, Kung Fu, Karate, Boxing, or MMA etc a large part of that will be focused on individual students physically learning a new skills, as well as ways to move, or being tasked with problem solving, through martial arts puzzles of the body, distance, technique or timing. I.e. Controlled sparing or combat sports competition. All that being said this article doesn’t even touch on the other psychological benefits of martial arts that cover increased self confidence and general mental health.

If you’d like to read more about training your mind and body check out Christopher Bergland’s book The Athlete’s Way: Training Your Mind and Body to Experience the Joy of Exercise.


by Phillip Starr

At different times when I was studying under my gong-fu instructor, he’d drop what I call “morsels” for me to chew on. Some seemed rather small and seemed insignificant; I’d discover their real value later on. What was important was whether or not I noticed them, picked them up, and consumed them. He was always watching to see what I’d do. Some of my classmates would ignore these crumbs of information and those who did found fewer and fewer tidbits were dropped for them. They expected full-blown “meals” of a sort but they never got them…

Of course, I asked why such small crumbs were presented at different times; wouldn’t it be more efficient to give me the whole meal? My sifu shook his head and frowned a bit as he replied, “No. I give you small pieces only when you are ready for them.” He went on the explain as best he could in English that to give me a whole meal would be like setting a full Thanksgiving dinner before a toddler whose teeth had not all come in yet. The youngster simply isn’t physically capable of partaking of the sumptuous feast and even if he could, he’s too young to truly appreciate it. He’d stuff his mouth full of everything that would fit – kind of like a hungry squirrel – and he’d fail to savor the various flavors of the different dishes.

The size of the morsels had to be just right (so I could physically “chew” and digest them without too much trouble) and they had to be dropped at the right time (age, in martial arts terms). And in the right sequence.

And so it is with my own students. Occasionally, one will ask, “Why didn’t you mention this earlier?” I tell them that they weren’t yet ready to hear it or physically able to do it. Then there are a few who allege, “You CHANGED it!” I calmly tell them that nothing has been changed; they’re just seeing another aspect of what they’ve already learned. Further outbursts will put a quick end to any new morsels…

Learn Karate in Okinawa

If you’ve ever wanted to learn Karate in Okinawa look no further. This unique experience can be yours if you are trust worthy and hard working. The Okinawa KarateDo UechiRyu Zankyokai Nagahama Dojo offers both yoga and karate to beginners, intermediates and experienced instructors. The chief focus at the school is of course old-style Karate training with the purpose of creating a peaceful lifestyle while developing the means to protect that lifestyle if necessary.

Chen Ziming’s general comments on Taijiquan — The Tai Chi Notebook

Delving deeper into Chen Ziming’s book. I posted yesterday about a translation of Chen Ziming’s book “The inherited Chen family Taiji boxing art” that is available on the Brennan translations website. I’ve just started reading it and noticed a couple of interesting things I thought I’d post about. (It should be noted that I often […]

via Chen Ziming’s general comments on Taijiquan — The Tai Chi Notebook

FIFTH SON’S STAFF — Brennan Translation

– 五郎八卦棍 FIFTH SON’S EIGHT-TRIGRAMS STAFF 黃漢勛 by Huang Hanxun [Wong Honfan] [published by 香港鎮成書局 Zhencheng Bookstore of Hong Kong, 1955] [translation by Paul Brennan, Jan, 2019] – 國術技擊 黃漢勛著 A book on Chinese martial arts by Huang Hanxun: 五郎八卦棍 Fifth Son’s Eight-Trigrams Staff – 尚武精神 Martial spirit! – 自序 黃漢勛 AUTHOR’S PREFACE 棍不過頭,槍不過手一語為武林前輩所訓導後人之名言,南方拳師以棍稱,北方拳師則多呼為棒,棒之長度由齊眉以至與頭平長為最合度,逾此者則當是別出心裁去習練或以槍化棍,以棍代槍之法矣。至槍之長度則應以舉手向上看齊為標凖,人或以古本小說所言古人動輒槍長丈八為問,余曰:古今之稱與尺之制度不同,且古人乘馬持械其可用長者為一定之理,今人步戰豈可以此相衡哉?短棒之為用與單刀同為步戰中可用之械,並不見於古戰場上乘馬者用之也,今人且利用收藏木桿式之棍作器可避過法律所給予之便利,且隨處皆可超起「扁担」「竹升」之類為用,故此「童子軍」有棍「警察」有棍,此風之盛大逾惜時也。 此套五郎棍法簡單易習易用,實為練棍之基本方式,因長而分為上下兩路,使初習者得分段以成,實乃寓意之良且善也,至其源流當於下路伸述其槪,俾愛好斯技者得其端倪也。 “The staff […]

via FIFTH SON’S STAFF — Brennan Translation

Mongolian Wrestling

The Tai Chi Notebook

A new Heretics podcast episode is up that covers martial arts – specifically Mongolian Wrestling – which I thought you might like.

We cover Mongolian wrestling, culture, writing, language, rivalry with the Chinese, wrestling techniques, Sumo, the three ‘manly’ arts (which are also practiced by women) and female wrestlers.

“Mongolian Wrestling is one of the three warrior arts of the Naadam that originated from Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire. In this episode we explore the history, techniques and links with Shamanism of this surprisingly extensive and complex art which has produced both Sumo grand champions and Judo gold medalists.”

Here are some videos that go with the episode:

Mongolian Wrestling highlights:

Asashoryu, the famous Mongolian Sumo wrestler we mention:

Mongolia’s first gold medal in Judo at the Olympics from Naidangiin Tüvshinbayar, Beijing 2008:

D. Sumiya has won a gold medal in the 2017 World Judo Championships in Budapest, Hungary…

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