Yelp* Reviews

duh!A few years ago some inexperienced internet people came up with a great idea. They created a search-able review site for local businesses called Yelp*. Any business owner could list and describe their business and anyone else could write a review about it. Brilliant, they should have become billionaires by now.

Would that it were.

Yelp(ers) were the first people to get a site up and running, and they quickly cornered the niche, but they have had such poor business sense that years later they are still having problems.

First of all let me encourage you all to check it out. Secondly, if you've ever studied with me please write me a review. Lots of people in San Francisco use Yelp* to decide what businesses to patronize. forewarned...(because they won't tell you) if you only review one business or service, they will erase your review after a few days. Why? Because they are loony. They have some theory about the ethics of single-reviews. Whatever, if you take the time to write me a review (for which I will be deeply appreciative) also write one about a sushi restaurant, or a bed and breakfast, or a dentist.

I first found out I was dealing with amateurs three years ago after I wrote a review of Mao's Village Restaurant, which used to be an annoyance around the corner from my house. The next day I got a call from a guy at Yelp* who sounded like he rides his skateboard to work (nothing at all against skateboards, he just sounded young and unprofessional). We talked for about half an hour. His reason for calling me was that he didn't think I had actually eaten at the restaurant, which was true and obvious from my review. I commented on the Chang Kai-Shek's Wife's Chicken on the menu as well as many Mao and Zhou Enlai references that just made me think about starving babies. I mean would you buy an oven from a store called Hitler's Stoves? I commented about the mess around the cash register and the fact that hardly anyone ever eats there. In fact, I was pretty sure that it was a mafia money laundering scheme. A restaurant which has no customers can invent cash receipts, then pay taxes on them, which makes the money clean. The only people I ever saw in there were partying and drinking whiskey late at night.

Anyway, they took my first review down off the site.

Then, last year they called me to say I had some pretty glowing reviews, perhaps I would like to have my business moved to the top of the search for a fee of $300 a month. They worked really hard to sell me on this, obviously having no idea how my business works. I mean, look, if I was in a competitive business like a restaurant, and I had 20+ customers a night, $300 might look like a good price. But heck, I'm happy if I get 2 new students a month! Their business model made no sense at all.

So just the other day I (and nearly every small business person I know) got this message from Yelp*

I'm writing to let you know about our decision to close your account. Your user account was flagged by the Yelp community, and our Customer Service team has determined that your account has violated Yelp's Terms of Service (

Specifically, the Terms of Service state that:
> "You shall not: create user accounts by automated means or under false or fraudulent pretenses."

We have determined that you have been using Yelp to improve your business' and your friends'/other small business owners' ratings on Yelp through review trading. We have determined that review trading does not reflect unbiased customer opinions which violates the spirit of Yelp.

We review every situation with detail and care and take account closure very seriously.

Yelp Inc. User Support
San Francisco, California.

Did you notice that Kris spells his name like the spirit capturing daggers of Indonesia?

Don't worry, they didn't take down my business description itself, just the reviews I had written for others and my personal ability to comment on other people's businesses--Oh, and all of the reviews people had already posted about me, except for one.

See, by Yelp* Logicâ„¢, if I write a review for someone in my business network it must be fraud! Thus all my students and former students who have their own businesses are automatically disqualified from sharing their opinions because they might be biased in my favor.

Get a clue Yelp*! The majority of my clients/students run small or even one-person businesses. This is San Francisco! A whole host of technologies, starting with the answering machine and now including Yelp*, have made it possible for individuals to run their own businesses. The possibility of the one-person business is the greatest single institutional change in the direction of freedom in my lifetime.

I was prepared to ignore the whole thing and move on but then this article made it into the San Francisco Chronicle, and someone started up a site called


UPDATE: My honey tells me that not only do you have to review some other business in addition to mine, you also have to add a picture--otherwise they'll just toss your review in the cyber-trash.

Accidents (part 3)

Greg MooneyPeople sometimes achieve very high level martial arts by accident. Accidents happen when we aren't paying attention, so they are often effortless.

A few years ago I was teaching Northern Shaolin to juvenile delinquents. A program was set up that was a collaboration between the school district, the sheriff's department, and Performing Arts Workshop. It was a lock down school which had a significant performing arts component. My classes always had a probation officer present watching on the side. All the students were between 13 and 16 years old and had been convicted of crimes.

Somewhere towards the end of my residency I brought my friend and Choi Li Fut expert Greg Mooney in as a guest artist. One of my rules is that students bow as they enter or exit the room. On this particular day, like most days, they were unruly, rude and disorganized as they entered the auditorium. As I introduced Greg they started pestering and shouting that they wanted us to fight, "We want to see you fight."

I looked at Greg, he is a performer, a stunt clown (he used to do 500 shows a year), we had sparred enough to know each others stuff. He looked game.
"OK," I said, "I'll make a deal with you guys." "You give us your full attention, you work hard, concentrate, and give todays class the best effort you've ever given, and we'll fight for you-- at the end of class."

As I said it, I thought to myself, 'these kids don't have any discipline, there isn't much chance that they will really concentrate?'

"Really?" They asked, "If we do our best you'll really fight each other, for real?"

"Yes," I said. I knew I was taking a little risk, I looked over at the probation officer and he was motionless. "Alright, it's a deal then let's practice."

That day they practiced harder than they ever had before, it was a fun class. I guess they trusted me. So at the end I had them all sit down and Greg and I went at it.

Neither of us were looking to connect a punch, we were putting on a show. Our strikes were intentionally missing by just enough to make it look real, we each took a couple of dive rolls on the hard floor, our sweeps were slow enough to give each other time to fall the easy way, our kicks were to the meaty parts. The juveniles were screaming with delight.

Then I did a simple bagua zhang single palm change. Greg accidentally turned into it. I was trying to make all my movements empty of force, and at that moment I wasn't even aiming at a target, I was paying attention to my audience. But my elbow connected with Greg's temple and he flew backwards into the air. His temple opened up and blood spurted out everywhere. My movement at that moment was so effortless I didn't even feel my elbow connect.

I helped Greg to his feet and we had an eye to eye bonding moment. The juveniles were completely blown away, their enthusiasm was profound. They also found it incredible that after such an event we were showing all the signs of being best friends.

As they left class that day, each of them bowed with reverence and sincerity I hadn't believed possible. The staff of the school reported to me that a year later the students were still talking about it as their best day ever at school.

Accidents (part 2)

geekologie.comWhy are accidents so potent? Have you ever seen that style of both Chinese and Japanese painting which begins by spilling the ink on the paper?

I've seen it done a few times. For instance, a blotch of wet black ink still creeping is led out into the branches of a plum blossom branch. As the ink sinks into the paper, the peddles are added.

I was with George Xu the other day and he mentioned a Chinese Idiom which I didn't quite catch in Chinese. He said it meant, "A Wild Man Beats the Master." In other words, for some reason a completely wild man with terrible technique, who kicks in the wrong place and loses his balance...can beat the trained master of martial arts. It is as if the wild man beats the master because he does everything so wrong, he is unpredictable and unselfconscious. (He is not in his own way--he is not his own obstacle.)

Does this suggest a way to practice? Can you find a martial arts way to spill the ink?

(I accidentally got the cool photo of the ceramic cup/cans from a google search for "spilled ink demo" but the site itself ( was too big for my computer so I don't know the back story, still it is a cool picture. If anyone figures it out please add the artist's name to the comments.)

Kung Fu Panda

kf pandaYes, I saw it. I'm a very easy reviewer when it comes to anything with kung fu in it. I liked it. If you have a child or two to take with you as an excuse, definitely go see it! It's fun--even if the sweet parts are really too sweet for anyone over age eight.

Philosophically it has something to offer. First of all I should get out of the way that modern-romantic obsession with "you must believe." What a lot of nonsense. Think: Yoda talking to Luke Skywalker about how to get his little rocket ship out of the swamp.

Noooo, kung fu is about hard work my friends, belief has nothing to do with it.

But philosophically the film explores fate, both personal and collective. It gives great attention to the power of accidents. The joke line in the film is, "There are no accidents." But actually it is about how important it is to accept accidents and work with them. Accidents can reveal a lot about how rigidly we try to control our fate.

Perhaps the most important aspect of martial arts is the ability to improvise, and improvisation cannot happen if you are struggling to control outcomes. In an improvisation, an accident is something to embrace, a thing to work with.

Falling on your face is no reason to stop the action, heck, I meant to do that!

Cranes Feet

Bay Area NatureTaijiquan is often said to be the combination of the movements of a crane and the movements of a snake. I haven't had a lot of time to observe cranes but there are some great blue herons around the park where I teach.

The other day I watched a heron stand on a grassy field and eat five live baby gophers. It waited in stillness and then struck suddenly into the soil. I have it from a reliable source that they are actually feeling the vibration of the gopher under the ground. They must use the difference in the intensity of the vibration in each foot to determine the location of the gopher. They may even develop a mental picture of the gopher's movement and tunnel system.

When you practice internal martial arts you want your feet to be so relaxed that you could pick up even the slightest vibration and get a mental picture of what is causing it. Any tension or excess movement in your feet and this ability will be obstructed. Your feet must be completely devoid of an agenda.

Our great ape ancestors hunt gopher-like critters called bushbabies. They sharpen sticks and wait by their holes to spear them. My guess is that they also have some ability to sense vibration with their feet and use it to create a mental picture.

I have an "edge theory" based on my experience which goes like this. At the tip of our tail bone there is a small sphere called the coccygeal body (Wiki). It is surrounded by a capillary net strongly suggesting that it excretes something which goes directly into the blood, a property which would make it an endocrine gland. But so far, no one has figured out what it excretes. My theory is that vibrations come up both legs and meet at the tip of the tail bone simultaneously triggering this gland and vibrating the spine all the way up to the teeth. If the frequency of the vibration is one we associate with small animals which we would like to eat, our mouth starts watering. If the frequency of the vibration is very deep like from an elephant, a stampede, or a lion, our mouth goes dry, creating a fear response. (Here is a wacky site which presents another edge theory.)

Anyway, practice keeping your feet so relaxed that you can feel under the ground.

Fight to the Death

Shake and Bake!Is push-hands a fight to the death or an intimate bonding experience where you try to get your partner to blush?

That depends on what rule set you are using. The rule set you choose will be determined by your view-- that base or root which orients you towards experience.

People whose primary orientation is health, are often worriers. Push-hands is just not self-centered enough for them. Put in a push-hands situation, they will be flimsy and blasé. They'll be thinking, "Why would I want to puuuush you?"

People who see life as a struggle will be looking for an advantage because "Baby, if you aren't on top, you're on the bottom!"

Nobody holds on to the same view all the time, it would be too exhausting. I often teach push-hands from the view that aggression is a naturally occurring process which obscures subtlety. Aggression makes it more difficult to see or feel what is happening. At the same time, this view is not a rejection of aggression, after all who wants to live in a world where everything is subtle? A world without sci-fi or punk rock? (OK, I know the answer, Buddhists right?)

So from this view, the rule set should be designed to bring out an aggressive intent which consistantly loses to a less aggressive intent.

I know some of you are reading this and thinking, "Come on, how is that going to train killers?" or "How could we apply that idea to produce the worlds greatest fighter?"

Is it possible that the weakest approach is destine to prevail? This is not about me claiming to know.  It's about having fun trying.

But let's return to the beginning and look at the question of how people determine their rule sets for push-hands.

I was one of several people teaching at a retreat and after class a guy wanted to push-hands with me. He was strong and thin, about 5 inches taller than me and about 30 lbs heavier. He had been practicing martial arts all his life. We agreed on fixed foot rules. As I filled in his empty spaces, he would duck and twist rather than lose his footing. This is what my students and I call, "losing your frame." If I want to win in such a situation (at least at the jin level of practice) I have to apply either shoulder attack, elbow attack, or split. All three types of techniques could be considered an increase in aggression because they have a high probability of producing an injury in the opponent. Since I didn't want to hurt him, I didn't apply those techniques and I didn't win. But he really wanted to win and so after one of these duck-twists his stiff hand came up and hit me in the jaw chipping my tooth.

Afterwards he told me that he usually practices push-hands with a mouth piece. Later he told one of my students that all of his teeth were knocked out, he had false teeth.

Over the years I've had many push-hands matches which I lost because I would not up the aggression when the other person did. In all cases, at the point in which we were playing by the same set of rules, I was winning, but as the rules changed I accepted the loss.

Kuo-lien Ying said, "You can't convince someone that martial arts works if they don't want to be convinced." They will always have a reason why that wasn't the "real thing."

When I'm teaching I give myself handicaps. I create rule sets which allow the student to win if they catch me being aggressive. For instance, rather than trying to sink below my student, I may sink my qi to exactly the level they are sinking to. I'll take out all the tricks I know and try to use the simplest clearest techniques. If I win, the student has a better chance of understanding why. If I lose, the student should be able to show where my defect was.

If my students start to win by aggression I'll change the rule set and my handicap so that they are always looking for the less aggressive way to win.  (People are often so in love with their aggressive strategies, they have so much fun losing, that it takes a long time to get them to progress. )
Unfortunately you can't do that with a friendly challenger from another school, you have to work with whatever rule set you have in common and hope they don't try to change the rules halfway through.

Again, it is not that winning by aggression is bad, we are always winning by aggression even if that aggression is really really subtle.

What is the fruition of this practice? Is it a skill? Do you get really really good at it? The answer to those questions will depend on your view (that which orients you towards experience).

Clearly a fruition for me has been that I have a choice about whether to react aggressively. That choice may have always been there, but I doubt I would have taken it if I hadn't done the practice. Another fruition is that I welcome aggression rather than rejecting it or attempting to flee it or dominate it. Students are free to explore aggression in my classes, if it comes up we play with it.  And that's true in my daily life too.

Is that a skill?  Am I good at it?  The thing about push-hands is that the moment you kinesthetically understand a skill, it becomes a form of aggression--such that-- if you recognize that skill  in your opponent, you can use it to defeat him/her.  If you catch your opponent using a skill you understand, you can easily defeat them in push-hands.  So skill accumulation is not personal, you don't own it, it is something you are learning to recognize.  A skill is something which will cause you to blush if you get caught using it.  Like an old cheesy pick-up line you thought was original.

Liver Cleanse?

Shiso--Liver Clearing LeafIt seems like I'm surrounded by people doing various things they call a seasonal liver cleanse. Inevitably these people are thin. The project varies from simply taking a purgative every other day for a week, to not eating for 10 days.

As winter turns to spring we become more active. There is more sunlight and more qi available for getting things done (whether we exercise more or not). As the weather warms we also eat less. The combination of eating less and being more active actually slows down our digestion/metabolism.

Thus, toward the end of spring people start feeling overworked and stagnant, they want to "detox."

The Daoist approach to Spring is to conserve while simultaneously taking advantage of the extra qi available. Ones diet should have lots of watery soup, lots of liquid, fresh greens. Less grain, smaller portions of meat, fruit only between meals. But it is still important to eat enough food for the type of activity you are doing. Then go to bed early.

SlappingIt's not the season's fault that people have problems, and it is not really the type of food or how much. The problem is that people want to stay up late, they skip their afternoon naps and party right on through.

What most of these fasters and liver cleansers have is a miniature version of anorexia. But don't get exited. To paraphrase the Daodejing: It's not that people get dealt a bad hand, it's that they take a situation of excess and make it more excessive; they take a deficient situation and make it more deficient.

Already strong vigorous athletes, sign up for Iron Man Triathlons. Skinny people who aren't hungry, decide to fast.

There is nothing new here. Spring festivals everywhere are some version of dancing and drinking all night and waking up in the bushes with somebody else's partner.

After a night like that, purification is sure to keep you on the roller coaster road to redemption.

When you fast for 10 days you may drift in and out of transcendent bliss, wandering, day dreaming your way through conversations. By the end of 10 days your sense of smell will be heightened as will your sensitivity to breezes and changes in light. You will be prepped for doing exorcisms. Even the subtlest ghosts will be brought out of hiding--by your acute weakness--where they can be captured or transformed. (Ghosts are unresolved commitments which linger because they don't have enough qi to move on.)

ScreemKids this time of year scream more. They also beg for food. They can't seem to stop talking and they "accidentally" chop, punch, and crash into each other. So that's my seasonal advice to all of you.

Cleanse your liver with loud sounds, laugh, sing, grunt.

Make yourself eat enough. Of course, don't over eat! But don't try to get through the day on a granola bar and a cup of coffee just because there seems to be enough qi "in the air."

And if you practice gongfu, get a little rougher. Make those "accidental" slaps sting. Then take a bath and go to bed early.

After thought: Sometimes people who are overweight from too much rich food in the winter, try to lose weight with a "liver cleanse." If you are really taking off a significant portion of weight through purging and fasting, you are also putting your heart at risk. This kind of up and down with your weight every year will likely shorten your life. Do it once; then use extraordinary discipline throughout the year to make sure you don't gain the weight back again.


It is not a great idea to let your muscles lead. When muscles get tired they are like vampires craving blood! Like hormone enhanced teenagers looking for trouble. Hungry muscles will take what ever they can get, they want slow-food, fast-food, sugar, even beer--anything that can be turned into blood.

Thus the metaphor used in Daoism and Chinese medicine is that the muscles are the troops, soldiers. They need to be well trained and well cared for.

If the muscles are making decisions, you will have mob rule. Alternately, the internalligaments organs can function as a government, the heart/mind is the Emperor, the lungs are the chief ministers, the spleen is in charge of ordering, logistics, "ways & means", and the liver is the general, in charge of delivering blood to the troops and mustering them to action.

Well trained troops certainly can take some personal initiative. If it is truly in support of the larger cause, personal initiative can make or break a campaign, still the troops are rarely in a position to make good independent decisions so most of the time it is imperative that they simply follow orders.

For an army to function well, every stage of leadership must be clearly delegated and the chain of command exact.

Our body has things called proprioceptors which tell the brain where we are in space, where we are moving, and how fast. Most people's armies are in disarray because their proproceptors --scouts, spies, and communications networks-- are poorly trained. I don't know for sure, but my experience tells me that large numbers of proprioceptors live in the ligaments.

The muscles can move without consulting the ligaments but it is clumsy, the ligaments should lead--calling the troops, the muscles, to order. Once that mechanism is in place and scenarios have been set up and drilled, then the troops can be commanded.

Demons with Six Packs

Why do Chinese demons have muscles?

I train a fair bit everyday, and the constant challenge for me is to not build muscle. That's because my body builds muscle very easily and quickly, and that muscle would restrict my circulation and inhibit whole-body integration.

A few winters ago I fell on the ice while trying out snow boarding for the first time. Actually, I fell four times on my back on the ice in one day. The next day my whole body was ripped. I had muscles everywhere, my arms, my neck, my butt, I even had a six-pack. Muscles hurt! Of course if you have them all the time you just become numb and insensitive, so they appear to stop hurting.

I prefer to leave my muscles in a "potencial state." They pop up if I'm in an accident or I work too hard or something but otherwise they are just relaxed and active.

Pain becomes chronic pain, then it becomes tension, then numbness, then strength and then stiffness.

Aggression and inappropriate conduct often result from trying to impose ones fear or fantasy on the situation at hand. This often leads to emotional pain which, if left unresolved, becomes chronic pain which likewise is stored in the muscles. Pent-up tension gets stored in the shape, quality, and movement patterns of the muscles.

A Chinese demon is unresolved emotional turmoil that becomes so intense, so physically overwhelming that a person no longer sees what's in front of them.  They become so inappropriate that at the moment of death they don't even notice they died, and so continue to torment the living with their unresolved emotional distress.

Check out the six-packs on these guys!  And here too! Six Pack Demons!

Balance, Blankets and Gnarly

As a teenager I was very good at skateboarding. This was before the technology of super light boards and thus before all the hopping and kick flips. Living in San Francisco we skated down hill using slalom and sliding techniques on both streets and sidewalks. I can count on one hand the number of people that could keep up with me.

gnarlyWhenever I size someone up, of course I look at the usual stuff: their alignment, do they look weak in some areas and stronger in others? what kind of reach do they have? but the big question is, could they do something to me that would hurt more than falling off my skateboard at 30 miles an hour onto the pavement and then sliding to a stop?

I don't personally take credit for inventing the word "gnarly" but many of my friends at the time were convinced that I had a claim to first usage.

You can tell someone who is just learning how to skateboard because he or she will try to use their leg muscles to steer (and because they will say, "ahhggrrhh" and then fall down.) Downhill skateboarding requires using the whole body to balance and steer.

Balance is not something you find and maintain, it is the ability to constantly shift your weight around. To someone watching a skateboarder doing slalom down a not a great turn!hill it looks like he or she is leaning forward and back. Actually what happens is the instant one moves their weight to one side of the board, the board starts turning to come underneath the weight. This creates first a feeling of heaviness as your weight goes into the board, and then a feeling of lightness as your forward momentum takes you over to the other side of the board. As your weight crosses the centerline you feel weightless for a moment and then you come down heavy on the other side of the board as it turns again.

This heavy-light-heavy sequence is what wins fights. Think about the key moment of a martial encounter in which your body weight comes into full contact with the other person. Just like skateboarding, if you try to use your leg muscles to balance, you will be bowled over. Balance comes from being able to become suddenly light then suddenly heavy.

One high level description of this is that you first throw a very fine light weight silk blanket over your opponent, then you throw a very heavy one.