Strengthness with a Twist: A blog about internal martial arts, theatricality and Daoist ritual emptiness
Watch the Video: A Cultural History of Tai Chi
Buy the Book: Possible Origins, A Cultural History of Chinese Martial Arts, Theater and Religion, By Scott Park Phillips. Amazon Kindle ($9.99), Paperback ($18.95)
Workshop Travel Schedule
Daodejing Online Open for New Members - Click for Info: Next meeting, Sunday Dec 16th. 8am to 10am (MT) (12/16) (2019: 1/13, 2/10, 3/17)
New Book, New (New) Deadline: December!!! Thanks to everyone sending me encouragement!
Los Angles: 5th International Martial Arts Studies Conference (May 23rd-24th)
Los Angles: 13th International Daoist Studies Conference (June 20th-23rd)
The debate often surfaces around martial artists who have been at it for a long time about the relative value of tradition vs. innovation. I am for both.
On the tradition side I believe we need more of the intact mythology and cosmology to guide us. We need to re-infuse the arts with enchanted knowledge from many sources without damaging the roots. Accurate histories, like the one I’m almost finished writing, give us direct access to the sources in mythology so that we do not lose our way. Without the guide and the enchantment, we are in danger of becoming antique collectors.
On the side of innovation, the sky should be the limit. But we still need models. This is an awesome model of how to innovate. It is sort of a Chinese-West-African Restaurant in London that invents all of its own dishes. Yum. Inspiration! Book a table: Ikoyi
This is an amazing find, and an amazing martial artist. I want to go meet these guys if anyone has a connection to them?
This Lanna Dance is closely related to Baguazhang. I have been saying that Kathak Dance is closely related to Baguazhang as well. My reasons are different. In the case of Kathak, the movement aesthetic and the mythology line up perfectly. But the connection is more distant. Likely because the separation between Kathak and Baguazhang is centuries old. That is a big part of my next book (almost finished!).
But this Lanna Dance is closer to Baguazhang in pure movement terms, and probably separated by less time.
We must ask these questions. Is there something innate about human movement with or without weapons which allowed these arts to become so similar? Is there an element of culture that these countries share that caused them to develop the same thing separately? Or more likely, because they had contact; Did Baguazhang developed from Lanna? Did Lanna develop from Baguazhang? Did they both develop from Indian Dance? I suspect that all of these countries were sending Martial-arts Dancers as tribute to each other’s kings.
This video on Facebook, Fudoshin Shotokan Karate, shows a form of court dance from Okinawa that has many elements of Kathak Dance from North India. It is undeniable.
My conclusion: A form of martial-dance was traded back and forth between the courts of Asia for a thousand years. Beauty transcends.
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.”
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.
Revolutionary Bodies, Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy by Emily Wilcox is an impressive looking piece of work. It can be downloaded for free, awesome! The pictures are amazing and the video links all work! Here is one showing the amazing art of Chinese Blackface.
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.
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?