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)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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...
Long time readers of this blog will recall the Phillips Theory of Democracy. Here is the back story.
In the mid-1990s I ended a 10 years Movie and Media fast by attending a foreign horror movie festival. It started as a whim, but I fell in love with several of the movies in that first festival. After that I became a mass consumer of horror films, particularly foreign horror. I became a specialist in Asian Religious Horror and wrote a lot of reviews for the San Francisco Film scene.
In 2004 Natan Sharansky…Read More
I am going through some big shifts. I had a dream about the perfect dance partner, everything we did together always worked. Part of the dream was that this is a dream I have had over and over out to infinity. It as if the perfect dance is always here with me, and yet my life is an obstacle to it.
Here are a few choice links for my weekly blog.
Ever wonder why women in the 1800s dueled topless? The best part of this fascinating piece of history is the reason they were dueling. Not love, or truth, but beauty.Read More
I just finished reading Do Not Say We Have Nothing, by Madeleine Thien. It is a fictional account of China from 1920 to the present. It follows a family of musicians. It is a great piece of fiction because it gets you inside peoples thoughts. It is historically accurate and emotionally mature, although incredibly sad. I highly recommend it. I am considering making it mandatory reading for my students.Read More