Religious Culture and Violence in Traditional China

Religious Culture and Violence in Traditional China, is a new short book by Barend ter Haar. It shares about 3/4 of the bibliography with my new book: Tai Chi, Baguazhang and The Golden Elixir.

A pdf of Barend ter Haar’s book is free to download until May 27th, check it out!

I have read much of his work, he writes highly academic stuff about Chinese religion and this book is no exception. It is a necessary update to much of his work because of the recent publications of Mark Meulenbeld’s Demonic Warfare (which I reviewed for the first issue of Martial Arts Studies Journal). I am only 25 pages in to Barend ter Haar’s book, but since the free give away is for only a limited time, I thought I would give my readers a heads up.
I am both delighted and disappointed. It is a great discussion, but I’m afraid that outside of religious studies, people will not be able to follow it. It requires too much specialized knowledge. In a way that is great for me, because much of the material is covered in my book for the general reader. What disappoints me is that in the introduction he decides to dodge martial arts. This another example of the YMCA Consensus ruining everything, it has been going on for too long. In the intro he even acknowledges the problem from the religious scholar point of view. He refers to the work of David Palmer and Vincent Goossaert who have pioneered explaining the imposition of the Christian Secular Normative Model on Chinese peoples ability to think about religion, and how that has affected scholarship in general. But the subject of this book is violence, so it is truly sad that he would dodge discussing martial arts. But again, that is a great reason for people to read my book.

Barend ter Haar does refer to Nezha’s role in Daoist martial rituals, which is exciting, but he calls him Third Prince Li, with no other reference. Which is a good example of why people may find his work difficult to follow. Anyway, I am enjoying it. Check it out.

Baguazhang's Lotus Body Origins

The video below is the first in a series I plan to make showing the 27 close links between Baguazhang, Kathak, Krishna, and Nezha. Here is an excerpt from my book:

In China, everyone knew the story of the Buddha walking through mud and lotus flowers blossoming in his footsteps. Nezha’s body was made of lotus flowers. The iconography of Baguazhang conveys the idea of walking through mud to produce an indestructible lotus body. Nezha, like the Buddha, is originally from India. In the Twentieth Century the culture-wide iconographic bond between history, literature, and theater was severed by the YMCA Consensus. This type of self-apparent knowledge became hidden…

…The basic lotus-hands pattern in Kathak is a key movement pattern used to develop spiraling power in Baguazhang. The spinning tea cups exercise is basic training for both Kathak and Baguazhang. When combined, lotus hands and tea cups integrate to become an advanced whole-body movement pattern that underlies all Baguazhang movement. This whole-body integration then becomes the basis for improvisation.

Improvisation is a big part of both Kathak and Baguazhang. Advanced fighters and dancers must be capable improvisors, but both arts are outliers in their respective cultures because of the emphasis they both put on improvisation. No other dance form in India emphasizes improvisation to the extent that Kathak does. Baguazhang is an improvisational martial art, rote forms were later additions. Again, Kathak is Krishna, Krishna is Nezha, Nezha is Bagua.

The Lotus Body connection between the Chinese Martial Arts of Baguazhang and the Classical Indian Dance of Kathak.

Feedback Coming

Graham over at Tai Chi Notebook wrote something funny by way of previews.

Edward Hines of I-Bagua wrote something funny with a little more sting.

If you read French, my first book gets credit for being the lone voice of sanity in the wilderness. This is from José Carmona, who has written the four best books on Chinese martial arts in French. It is the first article on this page. Here is a direct link to the pdf. And he is promising a part two. Thanks to Daniel Mroz for finding it!

This is not direct feedback but high praise in the sense that someone is now working on explaining some of the finer points of the YMCA Consensus. Bill Hayton is working on a book titled The Invention of China. From Unheard: The Welsh Baptist Who Transformed China

Okay, this podcast is really indirect. Because I argue for the moral foundations of history, and of knowing history, I am more closely aligned with fundamentalist Christians these days than I am with most of academia. I have known this for a while, but it is nice to hear it laid out so enthusiastically by Peter Boghoassian, one of the people who put together the Sokal 2 Academic Hoax. One thing most people don’t know is that they tried to hoax Martial Arts Studies and failed. Good news. You can dig around in their archives for fun. Here is the podcast link again. The interviewer, Peter Limberg, is interesting too, he did the Mimetic Tribes of Twitter project, (note, the spreadsheet is better is a more direct experience than the article, find yourself).

Portland Workshop: Pure Animal


Please come to my workshop if you are anywhere near Portland Oregon, or if you know anyone near Portland Oregon. An alternative title floated for this workshop was “Scrambling Your Opponent’s Mind.”

I’m also doing a book talk and signing the Friday night before. (The school is going through some positive transitions at the moment, so they don’t have the talk listed yet, but I will have my books with me to sign so come on by.)

Pure Animal

from 65.00

Sat, Jun 1, 2019 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Sun, Jun 2, 2019 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM

This workshop is not just about transcending the fear of death, but also about creating beauty along the way—which is the primary purpose of internal martial arts, should you accept the challenge.

In this workshop you will unpack the Total Dragon-Body Experience through games and other types of joyful intensity. By de-focusing your practice, you will improve the speed at which you learn.

Then, re-Focusing on basic movements, you will discover the source of Tiger-Pouncing spirit, power, and instinct.

This marriage of Dragon-body with Tiger-Pouncing is the root of internal martial arts.

But animal movement is not an end unto itself, it is a door way to spontaneity.

By first mobilizing the areas of your body which are too quiet, 

you will remove the obstacles to whole-body power, and reveal the pathways to maximum speed and efficiency

This work re-Enchants the martial arts through connecting you to its authentic origins. In this workshop, you will become pure animal. 

News and Updates

I posted the link to my workshop in Portland above. It’s called Pure Animal. Please come if you are anywhere near Portland. It is going to be another fun, ground-breaking experience. Read about it here. (Note, the times are 2-6PM Saturday and Sunday June 1 & 2nd, the school is going through a lot of changes, the website might not have updated the times yet, but the content is right.)

I have watched the whole INTO THE BADLANDS Series (AMC), it has the best choreographed fight scenes of the last few years, and the show was getting better in each of three seasons. I highly recommend it to the artistically inclined. Great use of blood splatter too. The last season has the character the Widow fighting in 4-5 inch heels, and it is glorious. Reminded me that there used to be a lot of women fighters in Chinese opera that would fight in bound feet (men of course, and fake bound-feet, but a similar aesthetic). Here is a wonderful interview by Gene Ching with the star of the show Daniel Wu. Check it out

Start getting extra excited because my book is done! My official release date is May 12th. The digital book is up on the server. I’m waiting for a final proof to arrive for the print version. I have a short promo video that we shot a couple weeks ago that should be done in about a week too!

Congolese Wrestling : Catch Fétiche

This is a terrific article about wrestling in the Congo that makes you want more and more. (hat tip to Theo)


It is from Vice Magazine.

A local fighter lays "dead" after his opponent tears out his guts and eats them. At a Catch Fetiche match, its sometimes hard to figure out what's real and what's part of the show. Jackson Fager for VICE News.

I googled Catch Fétiche which is what it is called. Lot’s of great stuff, check it out.

Catch Fétiche - loosely translated, "voodoo wrestling" - is a uniquely Congolese fighting style: a combination of traditional African wrestling moves, old religious practices, and one man's obsession with Hulk Hogan.

I could probably write a wild commentary on this if I wasn’t hours away from putting up the pre-orders for my book, with the ToTaL bOOk LaUnCH happening on MAY 12th, which is the angry baby god Nezha’s birthday.

In the meantime, read this book!

Lotus Elixir Body


It is not quite finished but I have been working on the text for the back cover of my book, thoughts?

The Immortal and the Angry Baby…

General Qi Jiguang was coughing up blood, near death in a field hospital, when he received a visit from the Sage Lin Zhao’en. Lin performed a martial exorcism (with talismans and explosions) enshrining the vengeful ghosts (of pirates) who blamed General Qi for their deaths—Lin also taught Qi the first stage of the Golden Elixir of Immortality. General Qi was completely healed, beginning a twenty year relationship between the General and the Sage. Lin claimed to have learned the Golden Elixir during night time visits by the Immortal Zhang Sanfeng. The Immortal was a fantastic theatrical character who could defeat 24 palace guards with 32 moves while snoring like an earthquake and smelling of booze and vomit. These are (nearly) the same 32 moves General Qi wrote about, which later became known as Tai Chi!


Cutting off his flesh and returning it to his mother, then giving his bones to his father, the dragon-killer Nezha was done. Or so it seemed for several months until his secret father Taiyi gave him a new body made of the Golden Elixir and lotus flowers—making him not only invincible, but also the greatest fighter in all of China. Worshipped by caravan guards and rebels, Nezha was also the nick name for the city of Beijing, Nezha City. Once the most important hero-god in Chinese culture—in 1899 thousands of Boxer Rebels possessed by Nezha failed to protect the capital! Afterwards, Nezha followers became the targets of intense ridicule. Martial artists who practiced the dance of Nezha, had to create a new history to hide it, and they called it Baguazhang, a “pure” martial art.

The reason you never heard these histories….is a reason so dark few have dared to speak about it, until now…


Scott Park Phillips has a reputation for making his students stronger, smarter, richer, funnier and better looking. He lives in Colorado, where he mixes martial arts with improvisational theater, dance ethnology, and Daoist studies. He is also the author of Possible Origins: A Cultural History of Chinese Martial Arts, Theater, and Religion (2016).