More observations on “internal” and Chinese martial arts in general

26 Sep

Please note: Unless I explicitly state otherwise, the opinions presented here are my own.

It probably isn’t much of a secret that I have been interested in Hsing Yi / Xing Yi for a long time. My interest has been both technical and historical, and I discuss it at some length in my book “Chinese martial arts: A historical outline”. It is not only the oldest of the so called “internal arts” it raises a lot of questions about that very term. It links back to a demobilized Ming military man who was disarmed (they took away his spear) who adopted his battlefield methods to a personal method. Even its legendary history is full of references to generals and Shaolin, not much about Daoists and such. Hsing Yi / Xing Yi was well represented in the fighting events of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, while the famous Taiji Quan players were just “honored quests” sitting in the stands.

I first became aware of Luo Dexiu (羅德修) from Mike Patterson. The Chinese martial arts community being what it is, it then took me some time to find an opportunity to train with him. I was impressed with his attitudes; power was already in the body and “standing work” only made you more aware of your body and that power, the “Qi” in martial arts was NOT the “Qi” in Daoism and Chinese medicine, the ideas and concepts are more important than the initial outward appearances, etc.

I was even more impressed with Luo’s skills. The first time I trained with him we did applications of the first three of the five fists and then the “Tai bird”. Honestly, it went over the heads of a lot of the participants, sadly so. It would have also blown the minds of many “Mixed Martial Arts” MMA types.

This year, we worked material from the “linear Bagua” of the Gao school. Shihfu Luo was quick to buck the idea that Bagua is “just” walking in a circle, and instead stressed angles and ways to “cut in half” the opponent. Among the many things we worked (training with Shihfu Luo is always a day FULL of variations and follow ups!) was the Bagua punch no one seems to talk about; Beng Quan. It was remarkably like the Lama Pai approach I learned from Chan Tai-San. And Luo commented on how it was utilizing the “seven star stepping” which is the same thing Lama Pai says.

Another observation I made was how inter-related the techniques were to the Xing Yi Quan we had done the previous year. Shihfu Luo responded that no matter what martial art you do, humans only have two arms and two legs. My own thoughts, related to Shihfu Luo and inter-related were how Bagua had long already been associated with Xing Yi and how at heart, all the Chinese martial arts that were effective seemed to all be built upon very similar bases. I saw things that were not only similar to Lama Pai but also to the Bak Mei or “white eyebrow” I had also learned from Chan Tai San. Once again I came away convinced that much of the marketing and mysticism of the Chinese martial arts has done it a great disservice and made learning how to really use them even harder.

MORE TO COME

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The NSFW blog: in today’s news F–K YOU…

21 Sep

Did the title of today’s blog get your attention? Good! Now read at your own risk.

Today, people do martial arts for a lot of reasons but today’s blog is for a very specific group. There are TONS of people who claim they want to train “to fight” and/or want to step onto a mat, into a ring or into a cage. First fact: most of them will never do it. It’s all talk.

If you think regular classes are hard, if you shy away from sparring, especially full contact sparring, if you aren’t ready to puke a few times or get knocked out in a training session, being “fighter” is not meant for you. Now that is 100% fine, but only if you don’t talk about “fighting” and if you don’t pretend to be a fighter. That makes you a wannbe.

If you are in a class and you complain “jab, cross and hook again”? F–K YOU. My next response is “again? and you are STILL NOT DOING IT RIGHT“! Related: how many people who CLAIM they do “Chinese martial arts” talk a huge game yet seem to forget the tradition of doing the same basics THOUSANDS OF TIMES? Remember “iron palm in 100 days”? That did NOT mean 100 days of two hours a day; it meant 2400 hours of practice!

Also, if you are in a facility with a coach who has produced many fighters, many champions, and you still have an “opinion”; F–K YOU. Opinions are like a–holes, everyone has one and they are all full of sh-t. Successful fighters shut up and listen to their coaches. At least until they get a little down the road and start thinking they got there all by themselves; but that is another blog.

NSFW: mountains and other sh-t

14 Sep

老僧三十年前未參禪時、見山是山、見水是水、及至後夾親見知識、有箇入處、見山不是山、見水不是水、而今得箇體歇處、依然見山秪是山、見水秪是水

Or, in other words

Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.

This famous Buddhist teaching, often called “Mountains are Mountains” comes from Ch’ing-yüan Wei-hsin. Yet most martial artists know the teaching from a paraphrasing that Bruce Lee used. Forgive me, really, but people seem to love Bruce Lee without ever understanding that most of his “deep thoughts” were from his many philosophy classes in college and without ever really embracing the ideas behind them.

In my “initial phase” of life I spent my time learning staff, sword and spear, learning many hand sets and in the world of “traditional martial arts”. That’s the world of the so-called Northern and Southern styles, the so-called “internal” and “external” styles. They will tell you that there is “Daoist breathing” and “Buddhist breathing”. They will tell you there is Qi Gong and Nei Gong.

In what to many may seem like another life, I spent many years doing “mixed martial arts” or “progressive training”; my friends were Muay Thai fighters, wrestlers, Jiujitsu people, MMA fighters. I have said often my evolutionary path was based a lot upon Japanese shooto. The “mixed” or “progressive” world is one in which people doing boxing, Muay Thai, Judo, Jiujitsu, wrestling, Catch wrestling, Sambo, etc.

These days, I am to many an even more unusual animal; you are equally likely to find me in Muay Thai shorts teaching what I call (for convenience sake) a “kickboxing class” OR teaching students the first foundation set of Lama Pai kung fu called “Siu Lo Han” 小羅漢拳 with its “traditional” applications.

Clearly some people will wonder how (maybe “why”?) I can do these things? How do I “compartmentalize” it all? The answer is simple, but probably uncomfortable to many, I DO NOT. I do not compartmentalize them in any way because to me they are all the same. If you ask me, once you learn them correctly and dismiss the “marketing” (and bullshit) they you learn that the human body only moves so many ways and there are only things that work and things that do not.

People may want them to be different, they may in fact believe them to be different. Many are certainly emotionally invested in them being different. But, to quote an old friend, “all the shit is the same”. Your shit, their shit, my shit, all the same……

Remembering the late Chan Tai San

1 Sep

Remembering the late Chan Tai-San (July 12, 1920 – September 1, 2004) today.
Authentic Lama Pai, the teachings of the late Chan Tai San

The first time I saw Chan Tai San, I didn’t even know who he was, much less that I’d spend a good part of my life with him.

To borrow a phrase, often imitated but never duplicated.

To remember him, save 25% on “Authenitc Lama Pai” with discount code LNJQEYED only at https://www.createspace.com/4891253

Authentic Lama Pai, the teachings of the late Chan Tai San

Sorry, you’re wrong, get over it…..

28 Aug

Another NSFW post, building upon yesterday’s blog and the responses from many. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

We are more than half way through 2017 and we still hear the same old tired non-arguments from so called “traditional martial artists” about how martial arts is about “real fights”. People say you are supposed to be polite and engage in conversations; but when people flatly ignore logic and display cognitive biases you aren’t really left with much else other than to call them out. In other words: Sorry, you’re wrong, get over it….

You want to talk about “real fights”? Fine. Let’s talk about how they frequently happen; an overwhelming barrage assault that overcomes the senses and frequently shuts down the person being attacked. That is precisely what it is designed to do. That is why PRESSURE TESTING is so important if you want your martial arts to be REAL. Learning to function with adrenaline response is the ONLY way to fight effectively. It’s why so called “sport fighters” are always going to be better prepared for a real fight than the guy who never leaves his traditional school. It is why military around the planet train with combat sports, even engage in “war games”, not the “games” part….

Studies by the FBI have consistently shown that when attacked with a knife, it is usually the last few attacks that do the damage and/or kill. IE again the way it works “for real” is that all too frequently a person attacked is overwhelmed and gives up.

Hate to break it to you, but it is not all that different than covering up the first few rounds in a match against an aggressive opponent, surviving their initial assault, letting them gas out / “blow their wad” and THEN “making them pay”.

If you really know anything about “combat sports” you’d know that in these matches things that the average martial artist cites as “deadly” happen all the time, with LITTLE EFFECT. The human body, especially on adrenaline, can take damage that most would assume would KO or kill you. NOT SO. People who talk about “real fighting” and then resort to “the deadly” can not be taken seriously.

So returning once again to yesterday’s blog about the Mayweather vs McGregor match; we can see that the average “martial artist” knows very little about how real fights happen, has no idea what fighting strategy is and clings desperately to their preconceived views. The fact things didn’t happen “their way” must mean it was fake, or worked, or a set up… The justifications and denial is astounding! And, sorry, I am not going to let it slide…

NSFW: Mayweather vs McGregor and what it should tell us about martial arts

28 Aug

WARNING: I am going to offend you. If you decide to continue reading, you’ve been warned.

If you paid to watch the Mayweather vs McGregor fight, I feel for you. Not because it wasn’t an exciting fight. It was entertaining. But that you paid $100 for something whose outcome was 100% certain. And, starting to apologize here for what I am going to say in this blog, yes it was 100% certain the entire time.

If you are one of those people who after the fight either asked or claimed the fight was a “work” then I really feel sorry for you. If you thought that fight was a “work” in any way, the only thing I can say in response is the obvious; you do not understand much about real fights and/or combat sports. Which is sad but forgivable if you are just a “fan”.

HOWEVER, if you are a “martial artist” and you think that fight was a “work”, I am really going to have to ask you; are you really a “martial artist”? How can you be martial artist and really have such a poor understanding of how a real fight works?

Among people who are active in training fighters, coaches who really understand how these things work, the overwhelming theory going into this was that McGregor let his big mouth create an excellent pay day for himself with very little to risk. Losing in boxing, not only not his sport but one he had never even competed in, to one of the best boxers of all time wouldn’t likely effect his “reputation”. The fact that McGregor didn’t contest the stoppage in the least lends credence to this theory. Also, the reality remains, if he really thought he was going to win this match he is really one of the biggest idiot blowhards of the century.

That people who claim to be martial artists after the fight thought it was a “work” demonstrates one of the biggest problems in “martial arts” today. Aside from my often cited “laundry lists” of random techniques, people are not learning STRATEGY. To make something real, to FIGHT, requires strategy. It is virtually absent in today’s martial arts training. I’d even say that a lot of so called “fight gyms” have virtually no strategy.

That one of the best camps in professional boxing history came into this match with a strategy is NOT a “surprise”. What is more significant for this particular discussion is that the strategy used was so simple and straightforward that pretty much any professional boxer would have used it. It’s a strategy used in professional and amateur fights. It’s a strategy used in a lot of combat sports. And it’s a strategy used in war. There were no “surprises” here. So that so called “martial artists” did not recognize it really tells you something…..

Tim Cartmell on the Xingyiquan Fighter

17 Aug

As always, good stuff from Tim

Ground Dragon Martial Arts

Hey everyone, here is another my posts on Xingyiquan and Baguazhang specifically.  This time let’s discuss Tim’s view on the Xingyi oriented fighter and what that means.  All of this materially was found on the Shen Wu Discussion Boards, this is just a small bit that I pulled off a few years ago.

4171_4_15-hsing-techniquesStrategy and Technique

The underlying strategy of Xing Yi Quan is based around ending a martial confrontation in the most expedient manner possible (usually, while inflicting the maximum amount of damage to the opponent). It is not so much a system of self-defense as aggressive offense. The founder of the Art, Ji Ji Ke (Ji Long Feng), was a famous warrior, and his warrior’s mentality carried over into the boxing style he created. The “self-defense mentality” is one of escaping from a violent encounter unharmed. The ‘warrior’ mentality is one of taking out the opponent as quickly…

View original post 1,884 more words

The kung fu hobbyist…

16 Aug

Another NSFW blog from Sifu Ross…

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of video footage of the late Chan Tai-San. It just wasn’t a time when video cameras were something we all walked around with in our pockets. Much of the footage of Chan Tai-San is from demonstrations, but one particularly good film involves him teaching some Bak Mei (白眉) to Michael Parrella.

The footage is on the internet, so it is inevitable it will inspire various reactions. However, the reaction I want to focus upon today is this one; people ask why Chan Tai-San performs so differently than so much of the other footage that is available.

It has often been said that Chan Tai-San was one of those links to a lost past. But more importantly, he was indicative of a major change in the evolution of Chinese martial arts. Chan Tai-San was born in 1920. It was a time when we first began to see the kung fu hobbyist. Chan Tai-San was more indicative of an earlier period, he was not a hobbyist. He had occupational necessity for practical kung fu. He was in the military most of his life.

As my book Chinese martial arts: a historical outline details, prior to the 1920’s almost everyone doing kung fu had occupational necessity for practical kung fu. It was something almost exclusively practiced by military men or police (or, the other side of that equation).

Other great kung fu men, such as Chang Tung Sheng, continued to follow in this tradition. Chang was both a military officer and a member of the CID in Taiwan. He taught his brand of Shuai Jiao in the police training college.

As my book details, the “break” was not immediate, nor was it complete. In the 1920’s organizations like the Jing Wu still offered BOTH military related training (bayonet training for example) and public kung fu classes focused on physical education, ie for the”hobbyist”. None the less, more and more people who were not necessarily dependent upon practical application became involved in martial arts practice.

Sifu Ross NSFW blog continued

14 Aug

Pretty much every morning I wake up and remember what it was like to be that little kid that walked into the late Pong Ki Kim’s Dojang. I was positive my instructor was some wise old sage (he was younger at the time than I am now). I was positive he had learned some ancient secrets. I wanted to learn to fly through the air like Bruce Lee had done in that movie I had just seen.

I had been diagnosed with Leukemia at age 6. I spent almost two years in the hospital. I had been home schooled. I wasn’t necessarily supposed to live, I was definitely supposed to be a cripple. I didn’t know how to play any of the sports my peers were engaged in. If I hadn’t found martial arts, where would I be today?

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that I took to martial arts. It didn’t just provide me “health”, everyone I knew, everyTHING I knew was related to it. But there is always one thing that I am quick to point out; somehow, by sheer luck (?), I started off my path with an awesome and pretty unique martial arts teacher, and I continued on that path literally stumbling into great opportunity after great opportunity.

From Pong Ki Kim, I stumbled into Dang Fong (aka Tang Fung) Hung Ga under an herbalist from Malaysia. I wandered around NYC’s Chinatown mostly getting into trouble (that is another blog entirely) until I stumbled in Jeng Hsin Ping’s Shuai Jiao school. Perhaps the world’s best authority on Chang’s method and certainly full of knowledge, it prepared me to appreciated Chan Tai San’s method later. It was also where I met the late Stephen Laurette, who not only introduced me to Chan Tai San, but also exposed me to many of his Praying Mantis classmates under the late Chiu Leun.

Of course, Chan Tai San’s social circle was the stuff of legends and I met and interacted with a lot of them. But I continue to “get lucky”; recently we trained with Taiwan’s Luo Dexiu.

For whatever strange reason, I also got interested in “fighting”. This led me to meeting a whole other sub set of extraordinary people. ME, the little sick kid that wasn’t necessarily supposed to live and was supposed to be a cripple?

Sifu David Ross NSFW blog…

13 Aug

People approach martial arts like religion, perhaps with even more devotion in many cases; so suggesting anything counter to their dearly held beliefs, especially any criticism, frequently causes violent reactions. But just like religion, when you have holy cows you never question there are consequences. There can be SERIOUS consequences.

Yesterday on Facebook I posted a new response to the now infamous “Taiji vs MMA” challenge fight that was not a fight (it lasted about 10 seconds). The response, a video with comments, was actually from a well respected Taiji person with excellent credentials, but the inevitable ensured. It follows a predictable pattern, ALWAYS. First, the unqualified claim that Chinese martial arts is indeed effective in fighting, and to say other wise is ridiculous (i.e. like the five stages of grief, the first response is denial). Second, when confronted with logic and requests to provide evidence of their claim you get ANGER. Gosh darn, it really IS like the five stages of grief, isn’t it?

So, predictably, you get to the third stage; BARGAINING. There are SOME people who “do it right”. Maybe they are mythical monks. Maybe they just don’t feel the need to prove their skills. You (general, to no one in particular) just have not met/encountered a “real master”.

After a few hours of consideration (and a few cups of coffee); I think the problem is more nuanced and more difficult. When I think back to growing up in the martial arts community in New York there were indeed Chinese martial arts schools and there were indeed good teachers. Teachers who understood how their systems worked and who could fight.

The first problem was, you could be aware of these schools and yet they were still very hard to get the training. They were all in NYC’s Chinatown. Unlike the average karate, taekwondo or judo school you didn’t just show up and sign up for classes. There were both language and cultural barriers.

Of course, I should also mention that NYC’s Chinatown is a maze of Tongs, associations and street gangs. This was especially true in the “old days” which were supposed to be the “kung fu age”. And, sad as I am to report it, more than a few of the schools and their teachers were involved in these things.

The point here is simple. The high quality people were probably ALWAYS the minority. They were hard to find, hard to convince to train you and then of course there the nasty fact you’d have to devote your entire life to studying with them.

Make no mistake, there were (are) a number of non-Chinese who also learned these real skills. Some learned them in NYC’s Chinatown. Others learned them in Hong Kong, or Taiwan. Unfortunately, upon consideration, most of them that I know of also seemed to learn from their teachers the same qualities of eccentrism and reclusiveness. Or, another way, a lot of us are simply a–holes….

So, when the real people abandon the community and the discussion, what is left is the charlatans and the snake oil salesman. And unfortunately, Chinese martial arts seems to attract these types in droves. And martial arts students seem eager to buy their bullsh-t. Sad but true.

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