A review of my book and images of Boxer Rebel flags from Paris!Read More
Strengthness with a Twist: A blog about internal martial arts, theatricality and Daoist ritual emptiness
Brand New Book: TAI CHI, BAGUAZHANG AND THE GOLDEN ELIXIR, Internal Martial Arts Before the Boxer Uprising. By Scott Park Phillips. Paper ($30.00), Digital ($9.99)
Also buy: Possible Origins, A Cultural History of Chinese Martial Arts, Theater and Religion, (2016) By Scott Park Phillips. Paper ($18.95), Digital ($9.99)
As I pick myself up and head to Paris for the 11th International Daoist Studies Conference, definitions of religion are even harder to get at. We have this net called Daoism which stretches or shrinks depending on who is using it, it even splits sometimes. Especially problematic is trying to place Daoism inside of, or outside of, culture. Often posed as—is it still Daoism when it moves to a new culture? Many would say it can’t move, because it is too complex, deeply intertwined, and embedded to make the jump.Read More
Ben Judkins over at Kungfu Tea-Martial Arts Studies Blog asked me to do a more complete examination of the YMCA Consensus which separated theater, martial skills, and religion. So I put together an extended essay with citations and references, and Ben added a few awesome photos from his collection. It looks really good. I hope this will inspire some conversations which are valuable to the (soon to be fully unified?) fields of theater, martial arts, and religious studies.
Check it out!
Professor Lee Fong-mao is one of the greatest living experts on Daoism. He is speaking in Boulder, Colorado tomorrow. This is going to be so awesome!
The Five Camps are on Guard: The Four Quarters Spatial Model and the Belief in Protectors of the Borders 2017.04.18
CAS Speaker Series
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
5:00 p.m., HUMN 1B50
Prof. Lee Fong-mao, a founding figure in the study of Daoism in Taiwan, will present a public lecture on his research into the development of China's indigenous organized religion. Prof. Fong-mao is Professor Emeritus at National Chengchi University and former Research Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. Prof. Liu Yuan-ju, Research Fellow at Academia Sinica, will assist as translator for the talk.
(Sorry for the late notice, I just found out myself.)
This is some great old 35mm film. Notice at the beginning that a few of the basket holders are carrying baskets solo on a stick, as I suggested the name Single Whip implies in my "Cracking the Code Tai Chi" Video linked above.
The capacity to improvise is up at the top of the skills I advocate developing. If you read Keith Johnstone's book Impro, Improvisation for the Theater, you will notice that he is acutely aware of the process of conditioning. That is because improvisation is in the category of things that happen too fast for analysis. If you are making choices you are not improvising. If you are consulting a voice in your head you are actually experiencing a type of "freeze," your pre-frontal cortex is suppressing action. Improvisors leap before they look.Read More
I moved into a beautiful three bedroom home in a trailer park in Louisville which is about two minutes on the Denver side of Boulder, Colorado. The location is great, in general, and my wife works six minutes away at Dova Center. It has a big enclosed patio which I have dubbed the gym. It is big enough to teach small classes in and do videos. But the whole thing needs a lot of work, cleaning, construction, repair, painting, gardening, wiring, etc...a lot of work.
Since it is only me and my wife, there is an extra bedroom for guests. So now we can host guest teachers, and week/month long live-in students. It also has a good sized kitchen so I can teach Daoist cooking classes. Perhaps I can organize the gym so that it can double as a small improv theater space.
My work load was already full, now it has doubled. If any of my contractor friends want to come out and mix a little training with a little work, I think we can make an awesome arrangement.
I promise to keep blogging through the chaos.
Sometimes for an intellectual project to move forward, a whole body of study has to be given a proper name. In this post I intend to coin a new term, The YMCA Consensus.
In 2011 David Chapman wrote a fantastic summary of the conflicts in modern Buddhism in which he coined the term Consensus Buddhism. His work is a powerful investigation of the way religion and culture interact, and how East meets West. It is essential reading for people interested in the history, dissemination and evolution of martial arts.
The problem I was confronting...Read More
How did I become a rooting skeptic? Twenty years ago I was giving private Northern Shaolin lessons to a high school football player. (His father happened to be on the public school board of one of the wealthiest school districts in the USA, so from a business point of view this was a high pressure gig.) The student had been training with me for a couple of months and I decided to work on rooting skills with him. The method I chose came from the Xingyi taught by Kumar Frantzis. It involved a progression of challenges where the two of us hold opposite ends of a staff and root against each other. The progressions involve stepping and twisting, opening and closing, bending and straightening. Frantzis had instructed that these exercises should be done until both people's root is so good that the staff breaks. Normally it takes a lot of practice to get that good.Read More
What are muscles for? And what do they actually do? Let's dispense with the conventional explanation first. Muscles are for strength. Perhaps, but that explanation isn't useful. We don't really need more strength. Okay, everyone can invent a situation where more strength would be handy, but for every situation we can also invent a work-around or a way to adapt without increasing strength. I'm not anti-strength here, we should all try to make each other stronger, smarter, richer and better looking. I'm just saying it isn't a need. Being normal isn't a deficiency. Anyway, strength is relative. If you are doing athletic competition against people in your weight class, in most situations more muscle mass is an advantage. But that is a small part of the martial arts world. And to the contrary, it is the minimum promise of most martial arts classes that skill and training can confer more advantage than strength alone.
So if muscles aren't for strength what are they? What do they do?Read More