Monster Motor

I've been thinking about the difference between three types of movement:

Fine motor movements like typing, making a cup of coffee, or cleaning a gun.

Gross motor movements like throwing a baseball, carrying a bag of laundry, or swimming.

Monster motor movements are a third category that I have invented.

Last Thanksgiving I watched a two and a half year old defeat a three and a half year old in a no-holds-barred wrestling match.  She did it, not by superior weight or strength, but I believe by the use of superior access to monster motor movement.  The young man she defeated, when not wrestling, was particularly concerned with improving his fine motor skills.  He spent a lot of time playing with small Lego men and would get frustrated when he ran up against the limits of his dexterity.  Hopefully we will get to see a re-match this Thanksgiving and all future Thanksgivings so that I can continue my research.

Monster motor movement begins in the womb, with whole body shrinking, expanding and spiraling.  In Chinese medical terms-- open, close, pivot, in cosmological terms, heaven, earth and center.

dog_v_catLately I have been teaching new Taijiquan students two basic daoyin animals, the cat and the dog.  They are somewhat opposite ways of moving, but in my current way of thinking they both embody monster motor movement.  They each begin from a pre-locomotor physicality and progress to two very different sorts of four legged walking.  I'm avoiding the word crawling because everyone already thinks they know what that means, and what I'm talking about is animal specific movement.    I then try to get students to use this information to animalize their Tai Chi.

More on all this later but it ties into something else I've been thinking about.

At the rock climbing gym I noticed that climbing routes with bigger hand holds are more tiring.  This is deeply counter-intuitive, particularly because the climbs which are ranked easier always have bigger hand holds.  But the fact is, climbing with my finger tips is more efficient than climbing with my whole hand.  Each joint is an additional source of leaverage.  I'm not sure exactly what is going on here but I think that engaging the finger tips for balance and locomotion improves access to monster motor movement.

The Importance of Sometimes Being Obscure

The process of discovery, like the process of returning to simplicity, requires some wandering and fumbling about.  Part of that involves being, saying, and doing what may appear to others to be obscure.

Ben Lo famously said that one of the most important aspects of Taijiquan is that we make our hands like the hands of a beautiful woman.  What?  You mean like Paris Hilton?  Or Emma Stone?

Power Generation

Since you axed me, I'm gonna essplain it to you.

--Rush Limbaugh

A small part of the Rory Miller workshop a few weeks ago was dedicated to power generation. The simple reason for this is that striking a violent threat without doing damage is a waste of time. If you are already receiving damage, your ability to fight is diminishing as time passes.
Rory is able to pass on some very useful material about power generation in a very short time.
Let me start out by saying I think he did a great job of getting people to think about the importance of power generation to self-defense, and how to improve ones power in a short period of time. Tasked with the same goals I would not have done things much differently. However, I’m dedicated to discovering the highest level of martial arts theory available, so we have some taking apart to do.

Here is what he taught.

The drop step is the most immediate way to generate power.
Press the back heel.
Twist suddenly at the hip (kua).
Keep the whole arm and back loose like throwing a baseball.

These all increase power. When put together they dramatically increase power.
I realized a long time ago that I have way more power than I actually need to fight, from a self-defense point of view what I have to say about power generation is trivial. I suppose the charge of esoteric is a fair description of my opinion.
Rory himself raised the issue of why each of these work. With a better understanding of theory we can improve our results. So here are my explanations.

The drop step is used extensively in African dance and many dance systems, it is also the main strategy taught for punching in Northern Shaolin. It works primarily because it adds the force of falling mass. Rolling an elbow forward on the opponent’s arm while doing a drop step puts at least 100 pounds of force, multiplied by a few inches of gravity, onto the opponent. If the opponent’s structure is compromised already, the movement will likely cause damage. It can also shake up a person who has good structure. The flaw of this technique (all techniques have flaws) is that it is vulnerable to a sweep (or a rotation) while in the air, and tends to be over committed at the moment when it lands, particularly if it misses its target.
The same technique can be done internally, without leaving the ground or committing to one foot, but it takes a long time to train.RoryCert

Pressing the back heel is also a major part of Northern Shaolin training. It’s main value is that it backs up projections-- it is what most people do when they jab with a spear to stop from being thrown back by the forward motion of the wild thing they are jabbing. It is not actually a power generating technique. A foot pushing off the ground (whether with the heel or the toe) generates momentum; however, once the momentum is achieved the foot can leave the ground without any loss of force. Pressing the back heel can have another purpose, which is to uproot. In tai chi, we teach people to uproot off of either foot and generally it is the foot which is weighted over the toe which does the uprooting. So even if your back heel is down to root against the forward motion of your opponent, your front foot can still be used to uproot.
Perhaps the full extension of the back heel adds a little momentum (as compared to leaving it up), but that isn’t its main function. No doubt everyone who studies martial arts should learn this technique and build on it, but eventually it should be abandoned. Its flaw is that it combines with the drop step to create an on/off switch. The drop step entails a loss of stability, the pressing of the heel is an attempt to regain it. A superior theory of fighting seeks to eliminate the gap in power created by this transition between “on” and “off.” Some stability is gained in the front/back plane from pressing the heel, but it is lost in the other planes, making the striker vulnerable to rotational force or up/down force. A superior theory of fighting would never strike in a way that sacrifices the six dimensions of power: up/down, left/right, front/back (called liuhe in Chinese). It is preferable to keep the body moving like a rolling, spinning, expanding/shrinking ball which never comes out to a point. Lot’s of Tai Chi guys take this to mean don’t punch, but that isn’t correct, it just means that when you punch, the punch has to be part of a rolling ball.

Keep the whole arm and back loose, like throwing a baseball” is correct and needs no amending. The more relaxed and empty the movement, the more whole body integration and weight are available for generating force. In class I actually interjected that some people may experience shoulder injuries if they lack protective shoulder muscle. The injury can happen when a person throws the arm with a lot of force while only relaxing halfway. It’s probably best to work this idea gradually. Eventually ones entire body weight can be added to the force through the sequence relax, empty, unify.

Rory actually told us he was uncertain why “Twist the hip suddenly” helps increase power. Here is my explanation. First, rotation in the hip, what in Chinese martial arts we call 'turning the kua,' adds some rotational force so it makes forward force more difficult to stop, deflect or neutralize. Second, the suddenness of the technique is akin to shaking. It loosens the ‘meat’ from the bones and automatically adds fluid weight to the strike. Third, it cuts the body at the waist. This is actually a flaw, but it works! It diminishes structural force from the feet to the hands, however, it increases the moving mass available for the punch. It basically sacrifices the structure of the legs for the weight of the torso. No doubt many people will think I’m crazy for suggesting that loss of structure is a good thing.
Structure can be broken or uprooted-- fluid, dynamic mass can not.

So to summarize: The drop step can be hidden. The heel press isn’t necessary for power but can help with rooting against an on coming force or uprooting a threat’s structure; however a superior fighter will use your structure against you so eventually heel pressing should be discarded. A loose arm increases power if it integrates with the relaxed emptiness of the whole body. The sudden twist of the hip is a flawed technique but has positive effects on power generation anyway.

The big problem with martial arts is that they work. Since most of us will never need to cause massive damage to another person, if we measure martial arts by “effectiveness” they are all a massive waste of time. Most martial arts training will effectively increase power generation as long as you don’t train yourself to pull punches with free sparing, or subordination to the teacher.
While power for power’s sake is a fools errand, the martial arts I teach should give the student more than enough power to overpower a much larger person, or multiple people. But hopefully that will never need to happen. For me, the never ending search for power is just like a dance-- it is simply a happy consequence of freedom-- it is a unique expression of real joy.

Increase the Chaos

Rory Miller's workshop got me thinking about how Tai Chi push hands relates to ground fighting:

With your back to the ground you have a perfect root.
When you are on top, it is very easy to give all of your weight to your opponent.
If you can consistently have a solid root in fixed step push hands, and give all of your weight to your opponent to carry when you are just standing in front of him, then doing those to things on the ground is remarkably easy.
Push hands is great training for protecting the head through continuous attack. Great for learning how not to get locked up.
As you get better in push-hands if your opponent tries to get under you, you let them try to carry you in a position where they have no leverage. If he tries to get on top of you, you float him. (both just like ground fighting, but harder)
As you get better still, you practice moving a heavier opponent from the worst possible angle, that's why push hands needs to be practiced at a slow speed.
And when you have reached a level of skill where you can express power without having any root and completely melt your structure you can increase the chaos for your opponent until they simply defeat themselves.
In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Wrestling the goal is one-on-one domination on a soft mat. In the case of a surprise attack by a heavier opponent or multiple opponents where you go down to the hard ground! --instead of trying to dominate and control the situation, you want to increase the chaos, and keep rolling  You want to keep as much momentum in the fight as possible--and keep up continuous striking the whole time.
Fixed step push-hands and roushou is one of the best types of training for this situation ever invented.

Rory gave a rule of thumb which he explained like this.  If I am fighting on the third floor balcony of a condo and I'm about to die in a choke hold, I jump off the balcony with the guy choking me.

Rory's rule of thumb:  When you are losing, increase the chaos.  When you are winning, gain control.

I have a corollary to that rule:  If your opponent is experiencing chaos and you are comfortable with it, that works too.

A lot of training in internal martial arts is about creating disorientation and relaxation at the same time-- Or perhaps I should say unusual orientations like spinning in bagua, or unfocusing the eyes.

New Tai Chi and Qigong Class

back2Tai Chi & Qigong: 8 week session starts September 22nd, 6 PM to 8 PM.

Class location:
5841 Geary Street

@ 23rd Avenue

1st Hour Qigong

2nd Hour Wu Style Tai Chi

$200 Donation for eight Wednesdays.

Call 415. 752.1984

or email gongfuguy@gmail L0036007 Daoyin tu - chart for leading and guiding people in exe

to sign up!


The space I'm teaching in is above Thom's Natural Foods on Geary Street.  It's quiet and has great natural light and a new wooden floor too.

If you have a health or movement oriented business, or belong to an interesting club, and would like to display some pamphlets about my classes I would be delighted to send them to you.  Just let me know.


(This is my latest marketing rap, feed-back welcome!)


The purpose of all qigong methods is to move with a completely relaxed body in harmony with ones surroundings. There is a saying, “Forms are like blades of grass.” In other words it doesn’t really matter much which forms you practice because they all do pretty much the same thing. There is no doubt that the ability to relax both conscious tension and deeper unconscious tension has extraordinary therapeutic benefits. The best style of qigong is the one infused with life. The purpose of having a teacher is to teach you how to do that yourself, slowly, gently, over time unraveling the stale patterns stored in our bodies, thereby freeing our minds and spirits to act in harmony. We call this nourishing life.

TAIJIQUAN (T’ai Chi Ch’uan)...

is a traditional Chinese art known for its gentle power. Its beautiful silk-spiraling movements emphasize transformation, improved circulation, extraordinary balance and meditation in motion.
There are many reasons people decide to study Taijiquan. Some are looking to try something new. Some have tried it before, perhaps they learned a form and now they want to explore it in depth. Others have a really active life and seek new ways to move which will relieve stress while improving efficiency, alignment, and spacial awareness.
tuishouTaijiquan has also been a gateway for many people to explore culture, philosophy, art, literature, history, changes in diet, lifestyle and even world-view.
In addition to public classes Scott Phillips has been teaching at the American College of Traditional Medicine in San Francisco, where Taijiquan is a vigorous part of the curriculum for adults of all ages.


Here is the link to the classes page on my website.

Here is a description of qigong.

Here is the description I put up on facebook.

Hope to see you next week.

Carhart Push-Hands

Tabby Cat has really ruffled his fur over the question, "What is push-hands?" In a slight-of-paw he has decided to avoid a direct confrontation by pulling a "Prince." He now refers to what he does as the Drill Formerly Known As Push Hands (DFKAP).  I can probably come up with fifty push-hands genre games or training experiments.  Why fixate on one?  Well, he tells us.

This one DFKAP is a method for revealing Deep Unconscious Tension (DUT).  He keeps telling us that we probably don't know the difference between Surface Unconscious Tension (SUT) and DUT.  I don't know why he is saying this.  In my experience reading a book reveals both SUT and DUT, my arms get tired after about 15 minutes, so do my eyes, at some point my spine too--that's SUT--the root of that SUT is deep in the torso and is distributed all over the body--it is Deep Unconscious Tension (DUT).  I understand the concept but I don't like the terminology.  Why?  Because it's neo-Reichian.  Just for the record, Wilhelm Reich said that the Function of the Sexual Orgasm is to release DUT.  So basically Tabby Cat is saying that push-hands is like an orgasm.  No wonder some people like doing push-hands with him and some people freak out!

I believe he is making a Cosmological Order Error (COE).  Reich was also obsessed with apocalyptic concerns, by the way.  Instead of DUT, I prefer to think of Inhibitions of the Spacial Mind (ISM).  How great are my ISM push-hands powers you ask?  So great that I already defeated Tabby Cat at Push-Hands last Tuesday and he wasn't even aware of it!  He still requires touch to reveal unconscious tension while I can do it from right here in the cockpit of my F160 Fighter Jet.

Not able to fully solve this problem myself I have asked a friend for help, so let me introduce guest blogger the MIT* Daoist:

"Tabby Cat stop worrying about peak oil.  The planet earth is a battery.  Half of this battery is being recharged by the Sun at all times.  The gaseous part of the battery only holds energy for a short time but the liquid and solid parts hold it for much longer, and life has all kinds of creative ways of capturing and storing energy.  All the world's oil is like baby fat, it's nice when you have it, nice when you don't.  Speaking of baby fat, humans are batteries too.  We take in water and air to keep the acidity levels optimum.  We recharge with food and sunlight.  We store energy in fats and sugars.  The purpose of push-hands is to extend our battery-life.  Push-hands does this by revealing both Energy Leaks (EL), and Energy Transmission Inefficiencies (ETI)."

Thank you MIT* Daoist.

What's that buzzing sound?  A mosquito?  It's whispering something in my ear...
Invest in loss.

Here is my unsolicited advice.  If Tabby Cat is so good at using DFKAP to reveal DUT he might enjoy giving up the combat mindset.  How about finding new ways to lose?  Can he still reveal DUT with just two claws of contact?  How about when starting with one paw in his pocket and with his opponent's hand on his face.  How about allowing his opponent to put him in an arm-lock and beginning from there?  How about putting both paws in his pockets and allowing his opponent to grab hold of his jacket and beginning from there?

While I'm giving unsolicited advice perhaps trying to never win would open up new possibilities.  Can you consistently stop yourself from winning?  Try to not win with your hands up by your head and yet still reveal DUT or ISM?

Tabby, you just scratched your ear with your foot didn't you?  See, I did that. Well I didn't actually do it, I just revealed your ISM and they you did it yourself.

I call it ISM because when I truly let go of DUT my Spacial Mind immediately changes.  Pure Tai Chi fighting establishes unity through completely melting DUT.  Once unity is established the Spacial Mind is free to dance with chaos and harmony.  Things like structure, technique, root, or intent are swept aside like those wooden stir sticks at Starbucks.  All mass is available to change without inhibition like a Transformer!  Why not do push-hands rolling on the ground?  It's fun!

Maybe the funniest thing about Tabby Cat's position is his insistence that push-hands is non-cooperative... Oh, never mind, let's do it your way.


*Monkey Institute of Technology


Up-Close-RockI've been sitting on this blog post for a while. It relates both to Sgt. Rory's workshop last weekend and the Tabby Cat push-hands debate, but it is more deeply about how and why I train.

We fight because we are vulnerable.  A little kid can say he wants to kill me but I have no reason at all to fight until I'm vulnerable or someone I care about is vulnerable.  It's a minimum requirement.

When animal predators attack they do so in ways that minimize their own vulnerability.  When human predators attack they usually do the same thing.  A victim may never have the chance to see their attacker, or may only see them as disarmingly charming and friendly in those seconds before the attack.

Here is how a lot of martial artists think:  I have great structure.  Once I have engaged with a threat I will avoid direct structural force against force contact with the threat until I have acquired a superior position.  At that point I will unleash all of my force, weight and structure where the threat is most vulnerable.

Martial games like Mixed Martial Arts, Push-hands, or Boxing all function by limiting both competitor's vulnerabilities.  The game then becomes:  How can I create a situation where I can exploit a limited subset of my opponent's vulnerabilities before she can exploit mine.  The goal is dominance, when that is achieved the game is over.  Which is why it is relatively safe.

When we train games we are training to ignore some of our vulnerabilities.  This explains why Tabby Cat was accused of ignoring the vulnerability of his head and why he countered that push-hands as a game ignores the extreme vulnerability created by close physical proximity, fixed positioning of the feet, and many other "rules."

To paraphrase the Tai Chi Classics:  Because I understand my own vulnerabilities, I understand my opponent's as well.  To the degree that my opponent does not understand his own vulnerabilities, I am totally free to act.

So a little re-framing is in order.

The history of warfare begins with attack and then run, followed shortly by attack from a distance with rocks and then run.  The next step in evolution was fortification which protected vulnerabilities while simultaneously allowing for counter attack.  This works great in the short term but in the long term people with time to plan will overcome your fortifications.  The next step was mobile forts, namely tanks and airplanes.  Then we got nukes and now we are back to fighting with our hearts and minds against terrorist insurgencies.

030624-F-8833H-050It is very logical to begin martial arts training with simple attack, defend and escape ideas.  Then to move on to structure training both as "fortification" and to improve power generation.  Next one needs to understand how good structure is broken, so more power training along with targeting and angles--like siege warfare.  After that it's important to make our forts mobile, and either tougher like tanks, or freer like airplanes.  Whether by conditioning (tanks) or sensitivity (airplanes) we avoid metal (think: structure) against metal confrontation until we have maneuvered into the superior position.

All fine and necessary.  But in the end it still comes down to working with vulnerabilities.  To really put vulnerability at the center of your training, to take it all the way--you need to get weaker.  This is not a good strategy for a nation on the edge of survival.  But for an already confident powerful nation it makes sense to train for attacks based on putting ourselves in the most vulnerable situations.  That's what we are doing of course, planning for systematic terrorist attacks, biological, germ, computer, etc...

The most thorough way to learn about our vulnerabilities is to cultivate weakness.

What did I say?  I said that martial artists usually train the best techniques, from the best positions, with the best possible structure.  Fine.  Go do that for as long as it takes you to see that no matter how good you get at it,  your vulnerabilities still don't go away.  Then start training without structure, from the worst possible positions, and with spacial awareness instead of technique.

The illusion that we have direct conscious control over our bodies is an enormous source of pain, aggression, and defensiveness.  When that civilizing pretense is dropped, the body follows the spacial mind without inhibition.

Kong Ling - Empty and Alive

Over at millionaire genius Tabby Cat we have a little piece I can riff on.  Anyone who has ever done push hands with a Cheng Manqing lineage person has probably encountered the "why do I need to defend my head defense."  It is so weird, they never admit that they are making a mistake.  But Tabby does something interesting.  He claims that the difference in push hands methods is an indicator of a difference in the fruition that each person is seeking.

Here is what Tabby says the purpose of push hands is:
The Push Hands Drill of Tai Ji Quan is a diagnostic practice to identify tension in oneself and a partner and a developmental practice to foster skill in the application of internal energy to such identified tense zones to move the partner's entire body with a light physical touch.

He contrasts that with many other schools who teach push hands as a safe way to approach combat skills development.  He then points out the flaw of the combat approach by saying that the observable fruition does not support it's stated purpose.  For example, defending a position in fixed step push hands (the way many people do) simply doesn't work in combat.

He is using the observed fruition to examine the method.  What he should be doing is using the observed fruition to examine the view which inspired the method.  All views produce an experience.  Tabby Cat has made his view known on his blog countless times, he believes the human race is doomed and therefore he has chosen to become a cat.

For me, views always come first.  My view of push hands is that it is a game designed to get us to drop our aggression.  As the first Chapter of the Daodejing explains, when you drop your aggression the order of the cosmos reveals itself (note: there is no "it" or "self", the use of language creates some limits here).  One might ask, "After I have seen the order of the cosmos, why would I want to do push hands again?"  And the answer is that the order of the cosmos reveals itself differently each time.  Experiencing the order of the cosmos is not an advantage, it doesn't make us superior or more powerful, it is simply a moment of inspiration.

Can you use this 'order of the cosmos' inspiration to fight?  Of course you can.  It would be a very mundane usage by society's standards, but the cosmos doesn't care.

Now let's go back and analyze the method.  The method of push hands is to meet your opponent hand to hand while maintaining, embodying and expressing kong lingKong means emptiness and ling means liveliness.  What I gather from Tabby's description is that his recent push hands partner (lets call him Mr. Pause) was ling but not kong.  I surmise this because Mr. Pause declared he could knock Tabby upside the head if he wanted to (a demonstration of ling), yet he was losing the matches because Tabby could feel Mr. Pause's tension and up root him demonstrating that Mr. Pause was not kong (empty).

Tabby on the other hand must be kong (empty) but not ling (lively) because he only feels obligated to cover his head when he is boxing.

How did it come to this?  If you are aggressive, you are going to have a strategy.  Having a strategy will occlude your ability to see the order of the cosmos.  Tabby's strategy is to be like water.  If he is like water his opponent will find nothing in him to push on, while he can simultaneously use extraordinary sensitivity skills to find a little sliver of tension in his opponent.  Once he finds that tension in his opponent he can expand condense or spiral his qi against the sliver of tension and the opponent will up root himself.  The problem with this method is that it works.  (Most martial arts methods have that problem.)  However, does it work when Tabby has his hands up at head level?  My guess is that it does not.  The test is not a quick hook punch to the head, it is a slow hook punch to the head with a soft lady-like hand.  It doesn't actually matter whether Tabby or Mr. Pause does the hook punch it's the hands going up that matters.

We already know the answer to our test because Tabby believes that boxing is a superior way to hit.  In boxing the body is like an on/off switch, it goes from dodging and weaving like water, then sudden switches on with an icy strike to the jaw.

Ali Video...


Of course boxers don't protect their groin because it is illegal to strike there in the game of boxing.  So what are we doing? trading the groin for the head?  No.  All the push hands teachings about protecting the head or the groin or the space on the ground (fixed step push hands) or the center line or whatever, they are all just mind forms, all limitations, all preliminary experiments meant to show you what not to do.  Even Tabby's idea about finding tension in the opponent is just a trick to get the student to see the limitations of focused sensitivity.  OK, you found the tension in my left baby toe?  you feel it?  You got it?  Now feel this right hook on your chin, subtle huh?

If you are kong the opponent can not feel the slightest bit of tension in your body, they can only feel a big unified whole.  If you are ling you can do anything, you can punch or kick, run around like a monkey, or eat some salad.  Kong and ling are pretty easy to do separately.  In order to do them simultaneously one must have a view which matches how things actually are.  Because we humans are always wanting stuff and setting goals and confusing what we see with what we wish we saw, our view gets out of sink with the way things actually are.  There is a Starbucks on practically every corner.

It's enough to make a person wish to be a cat!

When our view is in sync with the way things are, mind and movement are in harmony.  Then qi automatically fills the space between the quiet body and the active mind.   The body is kind of like a hotdog, wrapped in mustard and lettuce which is the qi, and surrounded by a bun which is the mind .  When you want to take a bite you pick up only the bun and move it to your mouth, don't touch the hotdog or the mustard.

The active mind is not busy or distracted, it is spacially involved like a person standing on the edge of a cliff.
Like crossing a river in winter.


When a person is kong and ling, empty and alive, at the same time he may still sense his opponent's tension-- but he doesn't need to look for it.  He just does whatever movement he fancies and the opponent will not be able to stop him.  With kong-ling there is no impulse to defend or to root.  That doesn't mean there is no defending or dodging.  Like punching or reciting poetry--they are options.

I'm always happy to debate these things over a bowl of coffee-flavored milk in Seattle, or to test them out next time I'm in Tokyo fighting Godzilla.

More Video Libraries

More old martial arts stuff appears on Youtube everyday. This guy has assembled another library, like this one I've posted about before. I found this wonderful bagua video of Bai Yucai. I love the way he does turns off of his front foot from the swallow swoops down pose. Don't much care for the applications and I would like to see some fast movements, but great stuff:

I also found this. I haven't written about Zhaobao style of Taijiquan before because I don't know much about it, but it has created a bit of a stir because some of the practitioners are good and because unlike Yang and Wu it does not derive directly from Chen, in fact it may be older. Zhaobao village is very close to Chen village so the controversy is really about authenticity of lineages... which are all in dispute anyway. I like his way of moving, clean and lively:

A Piece of the Puzzle

Long time readers know that I've written a fair amount about the origins of Chinese martial arts and how they changed during the 20th Century.  I reviewed the landmark book Marrow of the Nation by Andrew D. Morris back in May of 2009.  Here is a little excerpt of what I wrote:
The lineages allowed people to pretend they came from a great and pure martial line of masters dedicated to nothing but martial virtue and pure technique.  Inventing the lineages allowed people to write religion, rebellion and performance out of history. Some of the lineages may have been real, but they were not pure.  By claiming a lineage people were also renouncing the past, both real and imagined, they were saying in effect,  ‘Now THIS art, which was unfortunately secret for many generations is now totally clear and open!  Anyone with four limbs and two ears can learn it!’

There was a guy named Chu Minyi who served as a minister for the Kuomintang.  He invented something called Taijicao (Tai Chi Calisthenics) and in 1933 wrote a book called Tai Chi Calisthenics Instructions and Commands.  “Whereas traditional tai chi was simply too difficult for any but the most dedicated martial artist to master, tai chi calisthenics were pleasingly easy to learn and practice.”  They could be done in a few minutes and they used a counting formula like jumping jacks.  He also gets credit in the book for inventing the Tai Chi Ball practices.  (Hey, I didn’t write the book, but those tai chi ball exercises always looked a little too much like rhythmic gymnastics for my taste.)

Chu’s Tai Chi Calisthenics were performed on stage at the 1936 Olympics.  Fortunately or unfortunately he was a peace activist and so naturally supported the Japanese when they invaded and was later executed for treason.  But not before performing one last taijquan set in front of the firing squad.

Before reading Marrow of the Nation I had not heard of Chu Minyi.  But low and behold he has appeared on Youtube!  This stuff is mind blowing. 

His form and the push-hands are good, 'though I think it gets less lively in the later part of the form.  But the outfit is awesome!  Make sure you watch the whole thing because you see him doing Taiji ball and "stick" exercises on some weird apparatuses he invented.  This was before the invention of bungee cords or even dynamic rope so he must have done this with natural rubber.  Great stuff.  Then we see him playing tai chi hacky-sack! wow.  But what is he doing in his undies?  Grilling hotdogs maybe?

Tragic, weird and wonderful all at the same time.