I am in Chicago teaching and all out of brain cells, so instead of a blog post this week I will give you some stray paragraphs I am working on from my upcoming book! Enjoy!

“Humor was, up until the 1930s and even into the 1940s, a central and glorious part of Chinese culture. As I will show, humor was an important part of Chinese martial arts. The Chinese traditions of humor were tortured and crushed in mainland China beginning in the 1930s before the Communists took power, but after 1949 China became a humorless desert. Of course, humor is part of human nature and it keeps popping up no matter how many times it gets pounded down. But the story is a bleak one. One reason to know the mythic and cosmological origins of Tai Chi and Baguazhang is so that we can recover the glorious and powerful jester-like energy that they intrinsically embody.”

“The first half of the twentieth Century saw a fight over the origins of Tai Chi. Initially everyone said that it came form the Immortal Zhang Sanfeng. Because Immortals were considered superstitious and therefore the cause of China’s misery, the origins of Tai Chi were shifted to a lineage that came directly from a real person named Zhang Sanfeng. This was a sloppy sleight-of-hand because Zhang Sanfeng was obviously an immortal, and it came under attack by China’s first martial arts historian Tang Hao. Tang Hao was the head of propaganda for the Guoshu Institute. He argued that Zhang Sanfeng was not a real person, and even if he was, he had nothing to do with martial arts. Instead, Tang Hao argued that Tai Chi came from a Ming Dynasty General named Qi Jiguang. In the year 1563 General Qi Jiguang published a poem that described weaponless fighting techniques and used twenty-nine of the Tai Chi movement names. That was a good argument, but Tang Hao neglected to mention that Qi Jiguang was a student of the Golden Elixir and that his teacher claimed to be a direct student of Zhang Sanfeng. This was a rather large omission, an omission that has been repeated over and over.”

When Buddha finds Zhang Sanfeng he asks, “Why are you so dirty?” Zhang answers, “The stinking skin bag cannot be escaped.”

Buddha asks, “If you cannot escape it, how can you get fruition?” 

“Zhang then gives the Buddha a comic lecture about the nature of enlightenment. The answers he gives in the text were lifted from one given by the leader of the Eight Immortals, Lu Dongbin, in the earlier published epic Journey to the East. I believe this part of the play is meant to be improvised. A debate between Zhang Sanfeng and the Buddha about the importance of having a body is a great set-up for laughs! Actors in this era were expected to improvise much of the dialog.”

Research News

This is a short documentary on Tangki, Chinese spirit-mediums.

The Immersion Labs Foundation has a go-fund-me page for The Last Bajan Stick Fighters Very cool, you will be hearing more about this project from me in the future.

See Jane Fight Back is worth checking out. Fortunately, this is an evidence based site dedicated to the positive value of teaching self-defense. Unfortunately it is interwoven with false and socially damaging feminist claims.

In the category of just weird, Modern Art was heavily promoted by the CIA!

If you have not yet read my page on Dance as Self-defense, or even if you read it a while ago, you will enjoy reading it again! I am proud of how fun this workshop/research sounds.

Winter Squash

Saints, I see the world is mad.
If I tell the truth they rush to beat me,
if I lie they trust me.
I've seen the pious Hindus, rule-followers,
early morning bath-takers-
killing souls, they worship rocks.
They know nothing.
I've seen plenty of Muslim teachers, holy men
reading their holy books
and teaching their pupils techniques.
They know just as much.
And posturing yogis, hypocrites,
hearts crammed with pride,
praying to brass, to stones, reeling
with pride in their pilgrimage,
fixing their caps and their prayer-beads, 
painting their brow-marks and arm-marks,
braying their hymns and their couplets,
reeling. They never heard of soul.
The Hindu says Ram is the Beloved,
the Turk says Rahim.
Then they kill each other.

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Mythology of Martial Movement

I just got back to Boulder from Chicago and I’m headed for Utah for the weekend. Chicago was a blast. While I was gone, Google sent bots to re-read my blog and upgraded its status. Now if you google “What is the Kua” my answer is featured at the top of the search. Try it!

Here are some quick thoughts for the road:

The greatest damage done to the transmission of traditional Chinese martial arts is the idea that the mystical and magical are not real and have noting to do with traditional martial arts. This is a great tragedy, not only because martial artists were murdered over it, but because the world is poorer for it.


Why don’t we make up a martial art based on a Euro-American God, like Thor? The answer is that we don’t know how they moved because our gods are not connected to the theater the way Chinese gods were. Now of course we can make up movement based on sports. But I don’t think that would be very interesting. They made up a bunch of martial arts for the Lord of the Rings movies. These were based on character types like elves and orcs, but also built on existing martial arts from various cultures. But I don’t think many people find them deep enough to make a regular practice out of them. Historical European martial arts are largely recreations, the real European martial arts can still be found in Dance, but as far as I can tell I’m the only one say they might be the basis for re-inventing a tradition. Perhaps Thor moves like someone doing the Polska?

What's Up China?

Here are three good articles on what’s happening in China these days.

This is an analysis of the Current Trade war framed as a part of the Cold War.


China is Losing

It is roughly predicated on the assumption that American (USA) leadership is aware that it is in a war. That assumption seems new. What does winning look like? I have no idea. Are we talking ideology, power, stability, individual freedom, or something else?

Perhaps the conversation is about social control or a future bodycount. In that case it will depend somewhat on how we frame the bodycounts of the past. These two articles together paint a dark picture. The ‘game of life’ is a totalitarian metaphor. Speaking as a non-conformist, Big Brother was birthed to crush human spirit.

Remembering People Who Died During the Cultural Revolution and How

Big Brother China Gives Everyone and Obedience Rating

Georgian Dance

Great video of Georgian Dance group Erisioni. They call it “folk” dance, but it is competitive professional dance, partially sponsored by the state. I think I saw this group live around 1990 before the end of the Cold War. They were more neutered back then.

I did about three years of professional Ballet. Georgian dance is one of the roots of Ballet, and Ballet had a big influence on Georgian dance as well. I took a few Russian Character Dance classes back then too, and they are even closer to this sort of dance.
For Baguazhang practitioners notice how much power they get in the spins and how committed they are to them. Spinning is a major defining element of Baguazhang, I love to spin, I suspect the old school Baguazhang performances in Beijing before the Boxer Uprising were street displays, rituals of speed and power, with incredible whirlwinds of spinning. That’s the descriptor they use to describe Dong Haichuan’s movement on his tombstone (dated 1883). Much more about this will be revealed in my next book! But for now, enjoy the video.

Read about the group here. And here is their website: Erisioni

Was 'Kung Fu Hustle' Based on Historic Events?

Was 'Kung Fu Hustle' Based on Historic Events?

I have been reading a dissertation called, "Opera Society and Politics: Chinese Intellectuals and Popular Culture, 1901-1937," by Li Hsiao-t'i. It is from 1996, and an updated version will be published in 2019 but I could not wait. 
Li Hsiao-t'i explains that Beijing Opera used fake weapons [probably because after 1860 it was constantly being performed inside the city gates, where weapons were banned]. However, Shanghai developed a version of Beijing Opera using real weapons, swords, spears, etc...

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