I don’t have a post this week (yet) because I was working on my final audition for the Martial Arts TEDx event on May 25th in Los Angeles. It’s done, it’s in. Fingers crossed. And this is the beginning of what is going to be a haichuan (ocean-river) of videos.
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 Jan 13th. 8am to 10am (MT) (2019: 1/13, 2/10, 3/17, 4/14, 5/19, 6/16, 7/14, 8/18)
New Book, New (New)(New) Deadline: April! 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)
Here is an article that will introduce people to the short story writer Lao She. (It’s from the Wall Street Journal so you may get a pay wall.) He was born to a Manchu Bannerman who was killed in the Boxer Uprising. His grandmother told him endless horrifying and heroic stories about the Righteous Boxers who he was too young to remember himself.
He wrote a lot. He travelled a lot, studying in London and teaching in the USA. He was super important in the humor writing movement (which was eventually crushed by the Communists). His most famous stories are The Rickshaw Boy and Crescent Moon. The story I recommend most is “Soul Slaying Spear” which is about the changes that happened to martial arts in the first 20 years of the 20th Century. It is pretty awesome. It has the lead character, old man name Dragon Killer, reading Fengshenyanyi. The significance of this will all be explained in my almost finished new book. But the angry baby god Nezha is a dragon killer and his epic is Fengshenyyanyi (Canonization of the Gods). It appears that he also made Soul Slaying Spear into a play! But it is still in manuscript form. He also wrote a play about the Boxer Uprising.
“Soul Slaying Spear” is “Duan Hun Qiang”" 斷魂槍 It is also the name of a Baguazhang spear routine in Sha Style Bagua. Wow. Here is the story in Chinese
Lao She was tortured to death by his students at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. He was a great man.
Thanks to Eric Kozin and Israel Kanner who told me about this story while sharing a wonderful (because of the company) meal at an outdoor cafe in Israel two years ago. I expect they are both going to publish about it soon.
Hhmmm…what to say about the pig year. It’s kind of a divination year. How will it go? Nobody knows. Certainly a great year to take up orderly conduct and tighten up those schedules. It is the best of all twelve years for general socializing, don’t hesitate to expand your network. Its worth betting on big projects because the chance element of this year is favorable for multiplying. Yes, like having lots of babies. But in this case your babies may be artistic projects. Whatever you do, try to stay out of politics, it is mudslinging year.
The nose of the pig, the first few months, is a great time to acquire something of great quality, because you’ll be able to sniff it out. The middle of the pig is huge, expect abundance in the summer. The end of the pig is a little squiggly tail, so watch out for illnesses and don’t be surprised by all the twists and turns. Finally, the pig year is good for sexual expression (not as good as the snake, but second best). Get out on the dance floor and shake it!
The Zhang Sanfeng Conundrum: Taijiquan as Enlightenment Theater—by Scott Park Phillips
Journal of Daoist Studies, vol 12 (Paperback, 258 Pages)
The Journal of Daoist Studies (JDS) is an annual publication dedicated to the scholarly exploration of Daoism in all its different dimensions. Vol. 12 Contents:
Shen Ming-Chang—Laozi and Community Policing;
Tang Man-To—Ji Kang’s Theory of Music;
Livia Kohn—Armored Gods: Generals, Guardians, Killers, and Protectors;
William T. Sanders—Echoes of Esoteric Buddhism in Manuals of Internal Alchemy;
Scott Park Phillips—The Zhang Sanfeng Conundrum: Taijiquan as Enlightenment Theater;
LiChien Hung—Ritual Healing in Taiwan; Herve Louchouarn—Daoist Medicine: Human Nature and Physiology;
Denise Meyer—The Taiji Path to Non-Duality; Helene Bloch— From Daoist Asceticism to Longevity Market? “Nourishing Life” on Mount Qingcheng;
Ron Catabia—Blue Mountain: A 20th-Century Korean Daoist Master; Mateus Oliva Da Costa—Daoism in Latin America; David Jeffrey—Zhuangzi in the Classroom: A Teacher Diary Study;
Peter Deadman— The Black Pearl and the White Pearl;
Monk Yun Rou—The Mad Monk Manifesto: A Daoist Cry for a Paradigm Shift
I presented the first version of this essay at the 9th International Daoist Studies Conference in Boston in 2014. It was a huge hit, and immediately selected for publication. It was going to be part of a collection called Daoism and Warfare, but after several revisions the editor took ill and it never came to be. Meanwhile I produced a short performance variation of the original paper at the 1st International Martial Arts Studies Conference in Cardiff in 2015. At the same time I produced my famous (now almost 15 thousand views!) video Cracking the Code, which covered some of my early discoveries. Then as I was completing my book Possible Origins, in 2016, a whole bunch of new material fell in my lap. Most notably I realized two things:
General Qi Jiguang was a 20 year disciple of the Sage Lin Zhao’en, who studied directly with the Immortal Zhang Sanfeng. Since General Qi Jiguang is widely cited as an original source of Taijiquan, that upends most scholarship on pre-20th Century Taijiquan—which has wrongly claimed there is no connect to the Immortal Zhang Sanfeng.
Zhang Sanfeng was a character in a play during the same period (early Wanli). The play (Xiyangji) features Zhang Sanfeng fighting 24 palace guards using the same movements named by Qi Jiguang and identified with Taijiquan. This (along with other strong evidence) proves that theater was an important source of Taijiquan’s mysterious slow motion martial prowess.
Anyway, that’s just a taste of what went into the new essay. Very Exciting! Please grab a copy while they are HOT!
A few weeks ago I was on a social media platform talking back and forth with a few young American-educated Chinese now living in Shanghai. They started off explaining that mainland Chinese people feel justified in not doing anything to stop Fentanyl deaths in the USA, because of their ‘memory’ of the Opium Wars. i got a bit “Ya’ll need a history lesson” on them.
I read a handful of books on the Opium Wars back in the 1990s. But none of those books addressed the massive Anti-American propaganda campaign around this issue in the Chinese education system and news-propaganda.
The fact that these young people I was talking to were educated in the USA, made me doubt my own….Read More
Happy New Year Everyone!
I’ve been working like crazy on my book, the writing is done, working on footnotes now…images next….
Let me know if you want to be a reader-who-helps-edit.
Meanwhile, I ditched Google search for Duck Duck Go! When I searched for my name I got these three wonderful reviews of my book I had not seen! Please enjoy them as much as I did.
I have a complaint. People associate the label “Daoist” with slow.
Looking at the Daodejing, the concept of “slow” is not there. Stillness in motion, be like water, sure, but not slow. We also have constructions like ‘do without doing’ (wei wuwei). But they are meant to be read two ways at the same time (quickly): 1) Do Nothing 2) Use Not-Doing to do it.
Most Tai Chi and Qigong teachers who speak Chinese use the expression “man man” which means: slowly slowly. Or “do it slower.” Whereas Daoist ritual uses the expression “kuai kuai” which means quickly quickly. In fact, the English expression “chop chop” which means “do it fast,” comes from the Hong Kong Pidjin-English for kuai kuai.
In Daoist ritual the expression “kuai kuai” is used for sending messages, executing contracts, and communicating with unseen forces. It comes from officialdom, in which, an order is given followed by the command to carry it out quickly.
Most of the Daoyin I know is fast. It can be done slowly, some of it. Tai Chi is slow, and should be. Baguazhang not slow. It drives me crazy that people do it slowly. Xinyi, not slow either.
Daoyin is a complex subject, and one that by definition is constantly evolving. One principle of Daoyin is whole-body-unity. Daoyin, via its role in Chinese martial arts, has had a massive impact on the American Fitness Industry. This is never acknowledged. (This is a problem of Modernity, but whatever, its better than post-Modernity.)
The Daoyin critique of American Fitness for the last 40 years is that weight-lifting makes you slow and stiff like a robot. So it is with great pleasure that I present to you the guys at Speed of Sport. They fully accepted the Daoyin critique and have adapted what they do. Everything they do is based on the Daoyin principle of whole-body-movement.
Speed is a great way to test whole-body-unity, and if the result you want is speed, then whole-body unity is the method. Almost everything they do starts with stimulus outside the body. So this approach is getting closer to the Golden Elixir too. Soon they will be sending messages to the unseen world via contracts delivered kuai kuai.
There are probably fifty short videos on the Speed of Sport Instagram Account, Check it Out! Then start evolving!
It seems only fair to also point out that a lot of Dance training is highs peed too, especially the dance I teach for Self-Defense. Most martial artists are on the ground begging me to stop after an hour of continuous Waltz, that’s when I hit them with Samba!
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.