Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.


Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Infusion


In many ways, Scott Meredith uses martial arts as a way of cultivating energy for it's own sake. He is a long time student of Ben Lo, and besides Taijiquan has studied many martial arts. 

He has published a number of books and videos full of innovative exercises that cut to the quick, the business of energy cultivation in a language that most people can grasp immediately.

Recently, Scott has released a new book called Infusion: Advanced Internal Power Drills. What is unique about this book is the graphical format Scott is using to depict exercises he has drawn from Taijiquan, XingYiquan, Baguazhang and Mantis Kung Fu to get past the words and communicate directly the sense of these exercises.

It's well worth checking out.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

The 48 Laws of Power, #34: Act in the way you want to be Treated

One of my favorite books on strategy is The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers.  Where The Art of War, by Sun Tzu is written as an overview of the whole topic of strategy, seeking to provide an overall understanding of the subject; and The 36 Strategies tries to impart the knack of strategic thinking through 36 maxims related to well known Chinese folk stories, Mr. Greene focuses on how we influence and manipulate one another, ie "power".

Mr. Greene draws from both Eastern and Western history and literature as his source material. Sun Tzu and Machiavelli as cited as much as wonderful stories of famous con men. 

Each of the 48 Laws carries many examples, along with counter examples where it is appropriate that they be noted, and even reversals.

It is a very thorough study of the subject and the hardback version is beautifully produced.

One of the things I admire about Greene is that he not only studied strategy, he applied what he learned to his own situation and prospered.

Today we have #34, Act in the way you want to be treated.

You know the old saying, dress for the job you want? You must act like it. Project it. Other people, the great mass of them anyway, subconciously  pick this up and fall into line. 




Friday, October 16, 2020

Birthday post


Today is my birthday. Won't you help me celebrate?

 

 It's been quite a year, hasn't it? Life comes at you fast. 

There was a point this year that I could have said that: in the previous 18 months, we've had seven deaths in the family; I changed jobs twice within 8 months and I bought and sold a house, then moved with the last two months.

Of the seven deaths, five of them were old and in poor health at the time. Of the remaining two, one was a cousin who was about to turn 50. He died suddenly after some post surgical complications. The other was my sister in law who passed at 52 with brain cancer. 

 

The two job changes happened this way - two jobs ago, I could see the writing on the wall that my position was going to be eliminated where I worked. I wanted to leave before I could be laid off, so I started looking.

I went back to a company that I had worked at some 10 years previously. It was not my first choice but they met my salary requirements and the position suited me. 

For the company sales and engineering were two distinct silos. I floated between them being a sales minded technical guy who could support salesmen when they were talking to their technical customers. It was good enough.

Then one day, there I was just sitting there at my desk, minding my own business, when I received a call from a recruiter I had known for many years. Did I know "X" company and would I be interested in an account manager position with them? Heck yes!

I went to the interview and spoke to the hiring manager. It turned out that we had worked at similar places in similar positions for a long time. It was a wonder that we hadn't crossed paths before. It was like speaking to an old friend.

So I hired on and was on boarded just everyone was told to lock down on account of Covid. 

 

For years my wife and I had talked about downsizing. Our house was too big for the two of us. We lived there for 23 years and soon would have to put money into a new furnace and windows. Putting that kind of money into the house would pretty much mean that we'd have to stay there. Also, the value of the houses in the neighborhood were pretty topped out; all we could expect in the future was that the value of the homes would rise at the rate of inflation.

We've been wanting to downsize and buy a ranch. Climbing up and down stairs was getting old  (as are we). They are really hard to find.

But - one day we were driving and saw a ranch with a sign in front saying "move in in 30 days." The realtor couldn't show it to us because of Covid, but she could open it up and we could look around ourselves. 

I said to the Mrs "I could see us living here." The next thing you know, we bought the place, listed our own home, sold it in 5 days (sight unseen) and moved two months later.

We moved from  a 2500 sq ft 4 bedroom colonial to a 2000 sq ft 3 bedroom ranch. I love living in the new house and neighborhood. I have several friends who already live out this way, and it already feels like home. 

The only thing wrong with the house is that there isn't a lake directly behind my patio.

 

I still continue to practice taijiquan every morning before I go to work. I noticed a karate school not far from me that hosts an aikido class, so I signed up for that. 

Two evenings a week, I'm going to aikido again. It's not the beloved Yoshinkan of my youth, but a different style and organization. I'm starting again from the very beginning and having a lot of fun.

Actually, we're not really doing aikido yet because of Covid. Because of distancing, we're working on Toyama Ryu Iaido after doing aikido warm ups and break falls. I'm having a blast.

I've also taken up (western) archery. I'm on the lookout for a used fitness bike. The neighborhood is filled with bike trails and I want to make use of them.

As a result of all of this, I've lost 25 lbs since the beginning of the year. 

The Mrs and I will be celebrating our 37th wedding anniversary this month. I remember at our wedding, we let the band select the song for the bridal dance. It didn't seem appropriate:

 

Both of my kids are doing great. 

I've been blessed.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Body Weight Training

Over at the Art of Manliness blog, there was a post on body weight training. Below is an excerpt. The full post may be read here.

Besides a few brief stints of freedom, notorious British criminal and troublemaker Charles Salvador (better known as Charles Bronson) has been serving time since 1974. During these decades behind bars, and often confined to isolation, Bronson has become a fitness fanatic, creating workout programs that require only his bodyweight and a few odd objects. 

His extreme regimen has given him near-superhuman strength — he claims to be able to do 172 push-ups in 60 seconds, pick up a pool table by himself, and bend a steel prison cell door with his bare hands. He’s set many prison fitness records as well, including one for most push-ups in an hour: 1,727.
Now, it’d be easy to take Bronson’s claims with a grain of salt. The man is not only a convicted criminal, but his violent, loose-cannon behavior has earned him the label of “Britain’s most notorious prisoner.”
But Bronson is hardly the only inmate who’s managed to gain impressive strength without access to barbells, nutritious food, or supplements. Prisoners all over the world have created highly effective strength-building routines they can perform in the tiny space of their cell or with limited equipment in the jail yard. For men who are locked up, being strong and looking strong isn’t just about aesthetics and personal development; the appearance of size and prowess acts as a deterrent to attack and can be necessary for survival.
While most of us will thankfully never end up behind bars, I think we can all take a lesson from convicts on how to not let your circumstances be an excuse for your fitness goals. Below we highlight bodyweight exercises used by prisoners the world over to get strong and stay strong.

The Benefits of Bodyweight Workouts

You can do them anywhere. Don’t have time to make it to the gym? Travel a lot? Locked up for 5-10 years? Great! You can do the prisoner workout anywhere . . . bedroom, office, hotel room, or solitary confinement.
It’s free. Don’t have the money for a gym membership or purchasing your own equipment? That’s not an excuse for not exercising. With a few simple bodyweight exercises, you can create a full-body workout that’s completely free.
Strength+cardio in a single workout. By increasing the tempo and decreasing the rest between sets and exercises, you can turn a bodyweight workout into both a high-intensity cardio session and a strength workout. In 30 minutes, you’ll be done with your exercise for the day.

The Exercises

Below I’ve highlighted six main bodyweight exercises that work the entire body. However, with a little tweaking of each exercise, you can create over 50 different exercises from just these six basic movements. If you’re locked up for life, I’m sure you could come up with another 50 variations.

Push-ups

According to the book he wrote in prison, Solitary Fitness, Bronson performs 2,000 push-ups a day. If you start doing 10 push-ups a day and add 5 more each day, in a little over a year, you can get up to that level.

Push-up Variations

The push-up works multiple muscle groups including the chest, anterior deltoid, and triceps. And the great thing about it is that the exercise can be easily modified to increase difficultly and work different muscle groups.

Narrow/Wide Hand Placement. By simply adjusting the placement of your hands, you can emphasize different muscle groups. Narrow hand placement works the triceps, while a wider hand placement emphasizes the pecs.

Monday, October 12, 2020

A Survey of Kung Fu Training Dummies


Asian martial arts is replete with training dummies is all sorts of shapes and sizes. From the simple makiwara to the legendary 18 wooden dummies that had to be negotiated to graduate from the Shaolin Temple, there is a bunch of them.

Below is an excerpt that appeared at Kung Fu Tea on this very topic. The full post may be read here.

One of the most iconic images in the annals of Kung Fu training is that of the lone student, lost in the zen-like practice of his wooden dummy routine.  Dummies of various sorts and sizes have a long history in Chinese boxing.  Kang, in his timeline of the development of the Chinese martial arts, notes that legends and references to their use in military training date back to the 12th century BCE (Spring and Autumn of the Chinese Martial Arts, 1995. pp. 22).

In their simplest form a dummy might consist of a single living tree or planted pole which a practitioner can walk around (practicing entry), kick and strike.  If one accepts trees or simple posts as dummies then they are ubiquitous throughout the Chinese martial landscape.

However, legend also speaks of more sophisticated, or even diabolical, wooden combat machines.  A common story (dating to the second half of the 19h century) states that the southern Shaolin temple had a hall of ingeniously designed wooden fighting machines.  Rather than being totally reactive these machines could also take the offensive.  One could not graduate (and leave) the temple’s training program without being able to make it across the training hall.  This image of a training hall full of automated and dangerous wooden dummies lives on in modern folklore as anyone who has seen the recent children’s film Kung Fu Panda is aware.

In modern times (from the middle of the 19th century on) the wooden dummy has been markedly more popular in southern, and to a lesser extent coastal eastern, China.  Nor will we be surprised to learn that this is also where the legend of the Shaolin hall of the wooden dummy men first emerged (before being popularized throughout the Chinese cultural sphere—See Hamm (2005), Paper Swordsmen, chapter 1).  Most of this post will focus on those areas where the greatest number and variety of dummies are found.

Before going on it might be useful to develop a typology of dummies.  For the most part training dummies break down into two categories.  There are those that focus on stepping and balance, and those that emphasize striking (either to improve technique or conditioning.)

Watch Your Step: Plum Blossom Poles

Stepping dummies are more wide spread than their striking cousins.  While not all styles use them, “plum blossom poles” are currently seen in all regions of China.  They are often employed by Plum Blossom Boxers (Meihua quan) in Shandong, Henan and in the north. Additionally, they are also an absolute fixture in a number of styles in Fujian and Taiwan, as well as commonly encountered in Guangdong and Hong Kong.  The wide spread adoption of this technology probably says something about its relatively ancient origins and the ease with which such training devices can be constructed.

Traditionally a field of plum blossom poles (I am using the approximate English translation to avoid confusion as the Chinese name varies between dialects, regions and styles) was comprised of a group of two meter long posts, approximately 10-14 cm in width, that were set firmly halfway into the ground.  The number and pattern in which these are laid out can vary quite a bit.  Often in modern southern martial arts only five poles will be used, replicating the five blossom of a plum flower, but more elaborate fields of a dozen poles or more are fairly common.  Additionally the height of the poles is sometimes kept even and sometimes staggered depending on the requirements of a given school.  If the posts are made high enough it is not uncommon to see students also using them as a striking target (for both hands and feet) while they are standing on the ground.  In fact, I have often wondered if this wasn’t the actual origin of the three posted kicking dummy seen in some Wing Chun schools today.

Different sorts of “portable poles” have been constructed over the years.  Esherick (Origins of the Boxer Uprising, 1985) reports that in the late 19th century Plum Blossom Boxing instructors would travel between temple festivals and marketplaces in Northern China after the wheat harvest to demonstrate their skills, meet old friends and recruit students (pp. 148-149).  Small benches, pots and other mundane objects were occasionally employed in these demonstrations of martial and acrobatic prowess.

Training on the plum blossom poles is still common today in a variety of schools.  It has a number of benefits but the most obvious are better balance and greater precision in stepping and turning.  Working on the poles can also build leg and core strength.

The Invincible Training Partner: Striking Dummies

Striking dummies are also seen in the north, but probably less frequently than the plum blossom poles.  Certain Bagua schools for instance will walk circles around a tree that might occasionally be struck.  Others have been seen using a single planted pole for similar purposes.  Some of these practices even resemble the Japanese use of the makiwara.  This simple but effective training device was used in Okinawan Karate and may be of Chinese origin.

More rarely Bagua schools might employ a pole with four arms radiating out from the top in the form of a cross.  These objects are struck in a free flowing way, and in that sense they are fairly different from the more rigorous set dummy forms that are practiced by folk styles further to the south.  The emphasis here appears to be on both conditioning and the initial approach of the target.

 


Friday, October 09, 2020

Single Stick Play

Nothing says to your friends that you love them more than bashing them in the head with an oversized night stick. 

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at Kung Fu Tea which describes our ongoing interest in what boils down to single stick play. The full post may be read here.

An Eternal Passion
 
As a martial artists that I work with likes to tell his students, “Hitting someone with a stick is not difficult.  Noting getting hit with a stick is…a lot of fun.”
 
The history of Western single-stick practice suggests that innumerable soldiers, fencers, students, athletes and regular people have come to the same conclusion.  Perhaps this explains the repeated rebirths of these systems of weapon practice.
 
My own brush with single-stick occurred rather recently.  A local instructor had agreed to introduce me to a system of early 19th century American military saber.  Of course I brought my fencing mask, gloves and other gear.  While I had been informed that we would be working with “historical training methods” I was nevertheless surprised when I was presented with a set of slender rods fitted with tough leather bell guards.  What followed was one of the most enjoyable afternoons of training that I have had in a while.  At least part of that, I think, had something to do with the simplicity of the sword analogs themselves.
 
I haven’t yet made a detailed study of the history of single-stick practice in the West, nor am 
I sure that such an adventure is in the cards.  That is a shame as most of the material on this topic is in languages that I can actually read.  Still, a few general points are clear.  First off, what we now think of as single-stick seems to have started off as a training regime for back-sword, and latter saber, practice in the UK.  Something like single-stick was being practiced as early as the 16th century.  During the first half of the 18th century, single-stick seemed to hit the peak of its popularity in both cities and the countryside and was widely practiced.
 
This sort of mania has not always been the norm.  The popularity of the practice has waxed and waned (somewhat cyclically) through the decades.  The construction of the sticks, their hilts and other safety equipment has also evolved as different rule-sets were invented, or as the practice was adapted for different social uses.  This makes for an interesting case study within the field of Martial Arts Studies precisely because we have a long history of continuous usage which nevertheless shows a distinct pattern of stochastic innovations.
 
Nor has the humble stick attracted the sort of nationalistic myths that follow the katana or the jian.  As such we seem to have hit something of a sweet spot.  This practice was popular enough that it left a documentary record.  Yet it was not so popular that 19th or 20th century nationalist myth-makers would be tempted to rewrite it, in essence obscuring the past.  In that sense single-stick has benefited from being viewed as “just a game” and not a “martial art,” where a good dose of myth making and invented tradition seems mandatory.
 
While fairly common in the early 19th century, its popularity later declined.  During the final years of century, and the first years of the early 20th, it seems to have enjoyed a short lived (but influential) return to popular consciousness.  This resulted in a flurry of articles in magazines, newspapers and other sources.  Of course, some militaries had continued to use it as a training method all along.
 
The late 19th century resurgence seems to have been culturally driven. There was something about single-stick that fit with the era’s notion’s of “muscular Christianity” and the supposed benefits of living a “strenuous life.” We should note that its brief revival also coincided with other trends including an expansion in boxing’s popularity outside the working class, jujutsu’s entrance into the West, and the rising tides of nationalism and imperialism that would set the stage for the First World War.

This reemergence was ideally timed to provide us with some great vintages images and sources which will be of interest to martial arts historians.  Much of this material is not cataloged in libraries as it initially circulated as ephemera.  Single-stick postcards seem to have been quite popular for a while.  Many of these had a naval theme and showed sailors training on ships.  Other sorts of soldiers can also be seen drilling on land.  One commonly encountered card even shows a group of Canadian Mounted Police engaging in a mass melee.  This cannot have been an uncommon activity as other images, and even films of similar events, exist.
 
Other surviving bits of ephemera suggest that single-stick had come to be accepted as a civilian game and an ideal pastime for boys with too much energy.  The Boy Scouts included it (along with boxing, wrestling, staff fighting, fencing and jujutsu) in their short lived  “Masters at Arms” merit badge program.  Teddy Roosevelt also lent some of his own mystique to the practice by training in the White House.  And multiple groups promoted the walking stick as a weapon with practical self-defense benefits.  Indeed, the cultural multi-vocality of single-stick, its ability to be all things to all people, foreshadows in some ways the social position of the Asian martial arts in the post-WWII period.
 
This conceptual flexibility sometimes leads to confusion.  For instance, “single-stick” can refer to a type of training tool, or a very specific set of competitive rules coming out of the UK.  As such, some sources draw a clear distinction between English and French practices (Canne de combat) while others do not.  Yet one gets the sense that in the late 19th and early 20 century it was precisely the perceived universality of the phenomenon that gave it a degree of cultural power.

Single-stick is currently going through yet another period of increased visibility.  As HEMA grows more popular, people are once again taking an interest in it as a historical practice. 

But I wonder if its former status as the ideal adolescent recreation has had other, less obvious, implications.  I was recently talking with a HEMA instructor who has started a lightsaber club.  He was noting how difficult it was to get long sword and rapier guys to get their heads wrapped around this new weapon analog.  But he noted that “everything finally clicked when I told them to think of it as a single-stick or longer two handed staff.”
 
This makes perfect sense when you consider the geometry and round blade profile of both training analogs.  But it also suggested something else.  Perhaps lightsaber combat is growing so fast because it owes more to prior cultural mythologies than we may have guessed.  Whereas early Boy Scouts with their single-sticks may have dreamed of pirates and colonial adventure, their modern counterpart envision the Sith (space pirates?) and Jedi (no doubt colonizing some newly discovered planet for the Republic).  The more things change…
 
To give readers a better sense of how single-stick was discussed in the late 19th century I have concluded this post with a short excerpt from the fourth chapter of R.G. Allanson-Winn and C. Phillipps-Wolley’s comprehensively titled, Broadsword and Single-stick, with Chapters on Quarter-Staff, Bayonet, Cudgel, Shillalah, Walking-Stick, and Other Weapons of Self-Defence, as published in New York City in 1898. Please note that I included these passages for historical interest only. Few modern coaches would endorse the author’s notion that we should go without (readily available) safety gear because one learns faster and “build character” through pain or injury.  That is just the Muscular Christianity talking.

SINGLE-STICK is to the sabre what the foil is to the rapier, and while foil-play is the science of using the point only, sabre-play is the science of using a weapon, which has both point and edge, to the best advantage. In almost every treatise on fencing my subject has been treated with scant ceremony. “Fencing” is assumed to mean the use of the point only, or perhaps it would not be too much to say, the use of the foils; whereas fencing means simply (in English) the art of of-fending another and de-fending yourself with any weapons, but perhaps especially with all manner of swords.
 
In France or Spain, from which countries the use of the thrusting-sword was introduced into England, it would be natural enough to consider fencing as the science of using the point of the sword only, but here the thrusting-sword is a comparatively modern importation, and is still only a naturalised foreigner, whereas broad-sword and sabre are older than, and were once as popular as, boxing. On the other hand, the rapier was in old days a foreigner of particularly shady reputation on these shores, the introducer being always alluded to in the current literature of that day, with anathemas, as “that desperate traitour, Rowland Yorke.”
“L’Escrime” is, no doubt, the national sword-play of France, and, for Frenchmen, fencing may mean the use of the foil, but broad-sword and sabre play are indigenous here, and if fencing is to mean only one kind of sword-pay or sword-exercise, it should mean single-stick.
 
Like the swordsmen of India, our gallant fore-fathers (according to Fuller, in his “Worthies of England”) accounted it unmanly to strike below the knee or with the point. But necessity has no laws, still less has it any sense of honour, so that before long English swordsmen realised that the point was much more deadly than the edge, and that, unless they were prepared to be “spitted like cats or rabbits,” it was necessary for them either to give up fighting or condescend to learn the new fashion of fence.
 
As in boxing, it was found that the straight hit from the shoulder came in quicker than the round-arm blow, so in fencing it was found that the thrust got home sooner than the cut, and hence it came that the more deadly style of fighting with the rapier supplanted the old broad-sword play.
 
Single-stick really combines both styles of fencing. In it the player is taught to use the point whenever he can do so most effectively; but he is also reminded that his sword has an edge, which may on occasion do him good service. It seems then, to me, that the single-stick is the most thoroughly practical form of fencing for use in those “tight places” where men care nothing for rules, but only want to make the most out of that weapon which the chance of the moment has put into their hands. It may further be said that the sabre is still supplied to our soldiers, though rarely used for anything more dangerous than a military salute, whereas no one except a French journalist has ever seen, what I may be allowed to call, a foil for active service, the science of single-stick has some claim to practical utility even in the nineteenth century, the only sound objection to single-stick being that the sticks used are so light as to not properly represent the sabre.






Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Saturday, October 03, 2020

The Chinese Saber


Today we have a guest post by Jeremy Thomas on the Chinese Saber, the Dao.

 Dao: The First Weapon of Kung Fu

"Cut pulling back,
 Cut pushing forward;
 Chopping the wrists,
 There is no enemy."

Most martial artists who aren't JSA (Japanese Sword Art) practitioners or smiths don't realize that the Japanese katana is a type of saber. If one were to seperate and classify a list of swords and sabers, it may look something like this:

Sword:
Gladius
Claymore
Jian
Rapier
Chokuto

Saber:
Scimitar
Falchion
Dao
Katana
U.S. Cavalry Saber

These are just two short lists of handy examples, but the general idea is: swords are for stabbing, sabers are for slashing/cutting.

Of course, there is overlap; swords have a sharp edge (or two) and sabers (generally) have a sharp tip. This observed, it's fairly obvious there is going to be a certain amount of overlap with technique between the two.

Which brings me back to the katana. 

When I started learning Lam Hung Pak Mei, I was mostly excited about learning jianfa. I thought, in essence, it would be most similar to the katana in usage. Little did I know, in most kung fu systems, weapons are taught in a certain order for reasons of progressive training. Even "little-er" did I know, jian is one of the most advanced kung fu weapons and is often taught late or dead last in weapons cirriculums.

What brightened this otherwise cloudy outlook was the dao, the Chinese saber or broadsword.

At that time, I knew literally nothing about it's use, forging methods/materials, nor history. I didn't really like the shape of it..

At first.

My very first lesson with my Sigung, Master Simon Lui Long Chun, we worked on daofa. Even early on, I could feel similarities in the mechanics of kenjutsu and iai, arts of the Japanese sword. Many techniques in kenjutsu ryuha (Japanese sword schools) are done one-handed, techniques known as kataté-waza (lit. one-hand technique).

Daofa felt exactly like kataté-waza.

One of the most common beginner's mistakes in kenjutsu and iaijutsu is the mistaking of trying to use too much power, or "muscle" cuts. As anyone who uses tools or weapons knows, you have to let the tool do the work. If one tries to "muscle" the dao (saber/broadsword) they will quickly burn up their ging, and the cuts will be weak and ineffective. Using different joints and points-of-rotation, one must use the centrifugal force created through large and small rotations of both the dao and the body itself. Using the off-hand, or empty hand, against the back, unsharpened spine of the saber creates a point of leverage to add extra speed (and thus, cutting power) to saber attack techniques. With any unserrated blade, it is always important to remember, deep cuts are made both pulling and pushing the sharpened edge against the target.

In our Lam Hung Pak Mei single saber form, our stepping is done "large", as in, we should cover as much ground with our steps as possible. The footwork should lend to the aforementioned rotations, moving as to allow the dao to "wrap" and "unwrap" around the body. Cross-stepping is often used to facilitate centrifugal force, allowing the body to rotate as the crossed legs "unwrap". This same footwork should be applied to "rotating" inside the opponent's range, when they are using a pole or spear.

To that point, it is wise to train the dao against an opponent armed with another dao, but training the dao against the gwan (staff/pole) should likewise be done often. Getting inside the longer range of the pole can require grabbing or knocking-aside the pole with the non-saber hand, which in real-time, requires a keen sense of timing.

This is yet another example of the principle we refer to as, "Beware the Empty Hand". In regards to training this principle, in this instance, the pole-fighter is learning as much about his range and attack/defense with his chosen weapon, as we are with the saber.

I'm very glad the dao is "the first weapon of kung fu. Coming from a strict Japanese martial background, the dao was a bridge between worlds, that helped me to feel more comfortable in a new environment, with a totally foreign art. In fact, the character for katana and dao is the same "刀".

Nearly 8 years later, I can now say the dao is my favorite kung fu weapon, and the one I practice most frequently. My students practice it frequently, as well; the Pak Mei Daan Dao (白眉單刀) form is an important form to my school, in particular. Because of the forms large stepping, it is one of the earliest templates I use to teach footwork. Holding the weapon builds grip-strength, arm-strength and encourages awareness. Lastly, Pak Mei Daan Dao was the first form I performed formally, in front of Sigung Lui, Sifu Aaker and the rest of the pai at the 2016 banquet. We put in a lot of time training and free-sparring with sabers.

Currently, I'm in the process of learning Liu Ye Sueng Dao, (柳葉雙刀), "Willow-Leaf Double Sabers". Two sabers are a great challenge, and one I'm enjoying taking on. The foot work for sueng dao is difficult, as is the "flowering", or double-spinning, but it is definitely a unique skill-set worth persuing. The following poem, or saying illustrates the different defensive approaches to single and double dao:

單刀看手,
雙刀看走

Single saber look hand,
Double saber look “to go”.*

(Look at feet, advancing or retreating)

On the field with archers, a single dao with a rattan shield (tengpai) would be a good set-up. However, certain positions and duties would lend to having two weapons in each hand, either of which can be defensive or offensive. On the field, foot work has to be consistently fast, at least until one can find cover from arrows and crossbow bolts.

Cutting high-speed projectiles out of the air can be done, but it's more trick than tactic, in my opinion.

A soldier or retainer skilled in the use of two sabers might be positioned as, "the last man guarding the gate"; abandoning all defense to protect his lord, employer or family.

The dao is a deep well.

The jian is an amazing and beautiful weapon, and a joy to watch in the hands of a master. That said, it can also be a joy to watch a beginner getting good with a dao, improving their confidence in other areas of training. 

Don't overlook the dao.

-- Jeremy

__________________________________

Joplin Pak Mei Athletic Association Contact Information:

To learn more about our school, about Lam Hung Pak Mei Kung Fu, or to contact us about scheduling training, private or online, please do so @

Joplin Pak Mei Athletic Association Facebook Link:

https://www.facebook.com/whitebrowmissouri//

Joplin Pak Mei YouTube Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/user/Guitarsamurai1134

E-mail:

guitarsamurai1134@outlook.com

Certified Pak Mei Instructor Jeremy Thomas Phone:

(417)-291-4696

Simon Lui Pak Mei Athletic Association of Minnesota homesite:

http://pakmeiassociation.com/lineage.php

Special thanks to my Sigung, Master Simon Lui, whom taught me the fundamentals of the dao, personally. Additionally, special thanks to Sifu Ruston Aaker for his invaluable teachings on both the subjects of dao and sueng dao. Thank you, Sifu.

Thanks, also, to Rick Matz @ "Cook Ding's Kitchen", whose been kind enough to continue publishing my ramblings.  

 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Elements for Successful Internal Martial Arts Training


Today we have a guest post by Michael Buhr and a link to a series of articles on this topic. Enjoy.

I had always hoped to write something of import based on my achievement. And so I find it ironic that I may have written something of import based on my lack of achievement. Because I have not yet achieved the level of internal skill that I set out to achieve nearly forty years ago, I have on more than one occasion asked myself, “Why? Why is it taking me so long to get it?” (The “it” I’m talking about “getting” is whole-body connected movement.)  

 

Anyone who has asked this question has probably heard a response like, “If getting it were that easy, then everyone would be a master.” When we look at this answer, it is easy to see that this, in fact, is not an answer at all. A better answer would be, “Because the amount of time it takes to get it is dependent on a variety of factors.” Ah! Now we’re getting somewhere! The next question then becomes, “Well, what are those factors?”  

 

Allow me to digress for a moment to let you know where I’m coming from. I began with and practiced Tai-chi forms, push-hands, and sparring in the Zheng Manqing (CMC) style for about twenty years. My practice during this period did not include any zhan zhuang or any kind of stance practice. I then switched to practicing Wujifa for the last nearly twenty years. During this period, I practiced only zhan zhuang and other fixed-step qigongs and no forms, push hands or sparring.  

 

Comparing these two very different training curriculums, I did not make the progress I had hoped for during my Tai-chi days but I did make amazing progress during my Wujifa days. And yet despite this progress, I still did not “get it”. Why not? Why is it taking me so long to get it?  

 

For many years I uttered this question out of frustration but when I finally decided to analyze the situation, well, then, an insight occurred to me. The insight was that my practice is deeply connected to and thus influenced by various components of my everyday life! As I worked through this insight, I discovered how these so-called “components” can either help or hinder my practice. And when these components are parsed from a different point of view, I can then estimate how long it will take me to get it.  

 

Well, it took me several months to develop this insight into a series of articles which I posted on my blog. And if I say any more here, then I’ll wind up rewriting large swaths of these articles. Maybe it’s better at this point to say that if you're curious as to “Why does it take so long to get it?” and if you’re wondering how to reduce the time it takes to “get it”, then please, check out this series of ten articles at: Mastering Internal Gongfu: Are You Ready? The Series  

 

I hope you learn as much from reading this series as I learned from writing it. Happy practicing everyone!