Dream Practice

The five practices of orthodox Daoism (Zhengyidao) are zuowang (sitting and forgetting), jindan (the golden elixir), ritual (the spontaneous and routine nourishing and re-balancing of living communities), daoyin (revealing ones true nature through exploring the limits of stillness and wildness), and dreaming.

I'm not sure anyone is really qualified to teach dreaming.  The other name for dream practice is "day and night the same."  In my own practice I have been experiencing a mind-body sensation that feels like dreaming.  It first started in my kua (hip area) and has spread to my entire body.  Sometimes it is intermittent, and sometimes it is only a portion of my body.  So it has become a measure of "good" practice that my entire body feels like it is dreaming.  Perhaps I could describe it as being outside of time.  Another characteristic of this "dream body," is that when I want to move, I move the environment around me.  I just think, "put the house behind you," and my body turns away from the house.  The sensation I get is a sort of short cut to doing what I've already been doing.  In that sense it may simply be the integration of new material.  But it feels deeply familiar.  Dream-like.

(Here is a post I wrote in 2007 on Tai Chi and Dreaming)



I'm reposting the info about Camp Jing below.  If you are interested in attending please contact me immediately!  I have had some enthusiastic interest but not enough sign-ups to run both weeks so I'm going to cancel one of them by May 16th-- I need to decide which one to cancel so people from out of town can buy plane tickets.  Give me a call or drop me and email:

gongfuguy@gmail.com    415.200.8201


Basic Chinese Internal Martial Arts 5-Day Training

Lafayette, CA

Session 1 - JUNE 11th-15th
Session 2 - JUNE 18th-22th

The internal martial arts are famous for the cultivation of qi and effortless power; however, the qi levels
and spirit levels can only develop from a physical base.  Without a solid base of practice the higher
levels are in accessible.  This class will focus on physical prowess and high-level body mechanics.  We
will use spiraling, lengthening, shrinking, and expanding to connect the whole body into a powerful
platform for spontaneous freedom.

Zhanzhuang - The practice of standing meditation also called yiquan or wuji.  No one ever got good by skipping this step.

Neigong - Internal power stretch and whole-body shrinking and expanding. This is all the soft stuff!  It develops the four corners of martial fitness -  Unliftable, Unsqueezable, Unmoveable, and Unstoppable.

Jibengong - Basic training for internal martial arts, which includes individual exercises to develop irreversible body art (shenfa), exquisite structure (xing), and refined power (jin). Taiji, xinyi, or bagua focus, depending on your experience.

Lecture-encounters will include a Daoist text studies introduction and history, along with group exploration of the experimental links between theater and meditation. All instruction will be given in the classical one-to-one naturally disheveled style in order to meet and match each person?s unique experience and insights.

Two Person Practices develop spacial awareness and technical spontaneity while systematically testing every part of our physical and emotional bodies. This includes everything to do with resistance, light contact, throws, rough footwork, tui shou, and roshou. How can we discard our social need to dominate or submit, and embody nonaggression without giving up marital prowess?

Begin in the parks around Lafayette, CA
6 AM  Zhan Zhuang
7 AM  Neigong
8 AM  Jibengong
*9 AM  Breakfast  (Optional: rice porridge made from bone stock with pickled foods)
10 AM Two Person Practices Training
12 PM Lunch - bring your own or eat locally.  Take a nap, drink tea...
2 PM Lecture/Encounter
4 PM End

*Breakfast will be based on Traditional Chinese Nutritional Theory.

There is camping in the area, hotels, youth hostels, and many other options. We will be walking distance from a BART train stop which means you can stay pretty much anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Cost per session - $350

To reserve your spot send a check made out to:
Scott P. Phillips
62 Stanton St., San Francisco CA 94114

Feel free to email gongfuguy@gmail.com or call 415.200.8201 to discuss details.

Daoism and the Martial Arts: What is Emptiness?

Lecture Series (2)

Daoism and The Martial Arts:

"What is Emptiness?"

21701773_godWhat are the uses of emptiness?

Why was emptiness sought after by generals, princes, actors, exorcists, daoist hermits, fengshui masters, poets, judges, martial artists, and weavers?

Could emptiness mean being really, really relaxed?  Or could it refer to becoming a container?  If so, a container for what?

What is the difference between an empty body and an empty mind?

If becoming empty is a good thing, how is it applied?

Does qigong, yogic daoyin or tai chi help with this stuff?

Is there more than one type of emptiness?

This talk will cover the latest research into these questions and more.
May 20th, 2012

East Bay Yoga Shala

Sunday, 10:30 AM

2050 4th Street

Berkeley, CA

Scott P. Phillips teaches traditional Chinese martial arts, which he began studying when we was 10 years old.  Instead of summer-camp, his parents sent him to a Buddhist monastery.  His life long study of history, spontaneity, and Daoism is a regular part of his teaching.

Wuxia - Film Review

Just saw an awesome new movie at the San Francisco International Film Festival by Peter Ho-Sun Chan, starring Donnie Yen titled Wuxia. A wuxia is a man or woman of extraordinary martial prowess. "Kungfu Hero" could have worked as a translation in a simpler time, but wuxia are generally capable of transcending conventional morality and their prowess can come from darker sources than just character and hard work. They tend to wander the lands of "rivers and lakes," the edges of society, the "bad lands," the wilds. And they often seem to take up a new name, wear a disguise, or impersonate an official. Sometimes they are loyal, sometimes they are cruel. They are chaos unleashed on civilization, at times tipping it out of balance, at other times putting things right. Their alliances, service, sworn brotherhoods, gangs, and grudges are of supreme consequence, the world teeters on their actions. Wuxia is actually a literary genre.
So now that we understand what wuxia is all about I can reveal the plot. No, no, that would spoil everything! All you need to know is that it takes place in 1917 and the lead bad guy has all the powers of one of the founders of the Boxer Rebellion. He is a super qijock, even metal blades can not puncture his qi egg! there is also a crazy smart guy who fights using acupuncture techniques!
The film has great costumes, sets, and props. That's important in a visceral movie like this one because you feel yourself inside their clothes, your grip on the handle of their swords, sweat on your brow, and acupuncture needle in your foot!

Warning: The acupuncture points used in this film are not only real, they are officially recognized legal causes of death!*

Seen as historical narrative, the film gives us a good sense of how a weak central government negotiated its position in relationship to gangs of toughs out in the provinces-- and by implication how important martial arts really were.

There are glimmers of religion visible here, obviously in the notions of chaos and order mentioned above, but also by showing the importance of lineage, decisions by family heads, the cult of scholarship, hints of ghostly presence, a seasonal martial display of opera generals, medicinal herbs, and the subtle image of hell on earth as a torture chamber where human flesh is consumed (and happens to be quite tasty, ha, ha, ha).

Total enjoyability aside, the film left me wondering about censorship.  It is not horror, that is clearly an illegal genre.  It is mostly a violent epic comedy, and as such fits well into the old Shaw Brothers Hong Kong legacy.  Perhaps it is a test of Hong Kong's right to make movies the way it used to?

Uggg!  IMBD is telling me that they plan to distribute this film in the USA under the title "Dragon." Why not just title it "Lame?" it makes about as much sense.

*note: (the wordpress plug-in Explanation Point Blocker tells me I've gone over my limit!!!)

The Glorious Kidneys

alg_kidneys[1]Autumn is the season for clearing heat from the lungs and refining technique.  One of the best foods for clearing heat from the lungs is the pear. The skin of the pear is used if the condition is medical.  So eat pears raw or lightly stewed with a dribble of honey.  The Classic of Medicine (Neijing) says clearing heat from the lungs protects against fevers in Winter.  Not sure what the mechanism is there, but I love pears so I'm sharing.  The suggestion to refine technique is a message about efficiency, the Autumn is about toning it down and taking time to integrate all the wild experimentation of the past two seasons.

And if you've been doing that, in about four weeks you will be ready to start transitioning into Winter practiceIn Winter we store Qi, water the root, and nourish the kidneys. So what does this mean?  In the days before industrial commerce made food cheap and plentiful, to the average peasant it probably meant eat whatever rich foods you can find.  The best way to do that in our era is with nutrient rich bone stock that you make yourself.  If you want organic stock bones, in my part of the country, you are in direct competition with the massive pampered dog population.  However, if you buy bones in bulk it's a little more reasonable.  We filled up our freezer with bones for the Winter for about $60.  'Watering the root' basically means drinking nutrient rich broth the way most of our ancestors did.  Think stews.

The Daodejing says, "to be full, hollow out," thus in order to store Qi one must first cultivate emptiness.  Once emptiness is established, storing Qi is automatic.

Well, not totally automatic.  You must also nourish the kidneys.  How does one do that?  Hold that thought.

Hopefully none of my readers were paying attention last year when I had an argument on the insane internal martial arts discussion website Rum Soaked Fist about whether the terms jin 勁 and jing 精 actually mean the same thing.  As my Indian Dance teacher used to say, "A little learning is a dangerous thing."

Jin is translated by Louis Swaim (I'm doing this from memory) as 'power which resembles the flowing of underground streams.'  Jin is an expression used in compound forms like pengjin (wardoff), mingjin (obvious power), or tingjin (skillful sensitivity), to mean a specific type of power which requires skill and time to develop.

Jing on the other hand is a much bigger and harder to explain key concept in Chinese cosmology.  It is usually translated 'essence,' because of it's association with purification.  But it generally refers to stuff that reproduces itself.  In quasi-medical terms it is sperm and eggs, scabs, what clots the blood, and when it is strong in the body--a full head of hair and strong finger nails.  In Daoism Jing is the most solid and substantial form of Qi. If we posit that the entire cosmos is one giant mind form, then jing is its memory function.  Stay with me...

Any first year Chinese Medicine student will tell you that Jing is stored in the kidneys.  They will also tell you that sex, drugs and rock'n'roll will deplete it.  Daoism has a precept against wasting jing or qi.  The term is pretty amorphous as you may have deduced by now.  In is particular Daoist precept the distinction is that qi wasting is unnecessary effort, while jing wasting is depletion to the point of injury.  So to damage ones body is to damage ones jing.  Why? because the moment injury happens, the kidneys start to release jing-- jing is released from the kidneys because it is what repairs us.

Obviously, jing is one of those concepts which, as Roger T. Ames might put it, offends against the most basic  notions of Western categorical thinking--it is simultaneously an event, a substance, a trend, and an action.  Jing repairs (verb), it is what repairs (noun), it is visible only indirectly and is measured by that which it repairs so to some degree it is the substantive aspect of our bodies.  Jing is the shape of our eye, and the dark circles that accumulate around them after years of not enough sleep.  Jing is the markings of age.  Jing as a substance decreases in either quantity or quality as we age.  But as a substance it remains pure.

Tension in our bodies is simply qi concentrated by the mind.  Disperse the qi and the tension will be gone.  But chronic tension is qi concentrated in the same location day after day.  Qi is pure and has no memory function, the tension's location is remembered by jing.  So chronic tension is regularly drawing jing out of the kidneys where the mind mixes it with qi.  Because jing and qi are both pure, they naturally separate, like oil and water.  For chronic tension to happen at all takes considerable and regular effort.

I would never have gotten into the argument at Rum Soaked Fist if I hadn't been repeating what I heard from George Xu: "Jing and jin are the same."

"What?" I asked, "How could that be, they are different characters in Chinese?"  (精 and 勁)

"It doesn't matter," he said, "They were once the same term and the same character."

Remember way up at the top of this post I asked the question, "How does one nourish the kidneys?"  We're getting there.  The kidneys love sleep.  They love sleep because they love stillness.  The kidneys are like a very fine instrument measuring vibration, shock, tension and fatigue.  If we can feel our kidneys they will indicate when we are exerting effort or experiencing strain.  And...They will tell us when we are using power. Ah hah! You say, power, you mean jin right?  Yes, young Skywalker, any trained or refined gathering of power or release of force is called jin, in Modern Chinese.  The kidneys experience all jin as stress, as a loss of jing.

Thus pure internal (martial arts) should be defined as not using jin/jing.  If an art uses jin, then it is mixing jing and qi.  It is exerting some strain on the kidneys.  The basic Tai Chi adage goes:  "The body follows the qi and the qi follows the mind."  If the mind causes jing to be released from the kidneys, qi will mix with jing in the body, and the mind will move the three all at once--thus destroying the mind-then-qi-then-body order of movement.  On the other hand, if the body is totally quiet, as measured by no loss of jing from the kidneys, then the qi will automatically float off of the body and the mind will easily lead it.  If the whole torso is also empty, it will naturally fill with qi.

And that is what it means to nourish the glorious kidneys.

pebble in water

Torture and the Martial Arts

There is some percentage of people, perhaps it is one in a hundred, who in the midst of being tortured suddenly realize that it is only their body which is being tortured and not their mind.  We have a mythology about this in our culture.  The first time I heard about it I was a kid.  One of my neighbors was from Nebraska and he had moved to San Francisco when his father died.  His father had been an archaeologist and told him that there were many accounts of Indians being tortured or burned at the stake in the 1800’s who would just laugh at their torturers.  I’ve since heard many such stories, people who just stopped being effected by torture and in the midst of it noticed that their true nature was freedom.

It’s as if their body was already dead and they had no attachment to it.  The name for this quality in Chinese is XuWang Xiangzai said, Xu Kong Ling Tong:  Body as if dead (Xu),  emptiness inside (Kong), lively elasticity of the spacial mind outside (Ling), and body functioning as a single liquid mass (Tong).  So simply having Xu would not be enough, but it would be a heck of a head start.

It’s my theory that some of the founders of great martial arts systems were tortured or had torturous experiences which showed them that they could separate their spacial mind from their physical body in such a way that pain had no effect.  And by no effect I mean that they didn’t feel the need to contract, recoil, or tense up in response to it.

And that brings us to Systema.  I haven’t written about systema, or seen much in person or played around with anyone who swore by it, and I keep forgetting to order the book.  But it has a lot of devotees and you can watch hours of Systema videos on Youtube.

The founders of Systema were members of the Russian special forces.  From first hand accounts I’ve heard, hazing is a constant in the Russian military.  So it wouldn't be too surprising to learn that the founders of Systema were tortured at some point.  The Russian Orthodox Church kind of has a history of that too.  It is my suspicion that they were among those rare individuals who happen to find torture liberating, in the sense that it freed them from fear of body inflicted pain.

Systema training has a lot of different types of hitting and beating, with small sticks, with big sticks, various objects and with hands of course.  They have a whole thing about how you have to release the fear with the breath.

We could posit that there is a martial arts history of torturing people to perfection.

Meeting Tabby Cat

YangtaichicarI have much neglected writing about my meeting with Billionaire Genius Tabby Cat.  First off I should say that in person he is warm, worldly, charming, thoughtful, generous, agreeable, and a great conversationalist.  I am truly delighted to make his acquaintance.  We fully agree on 99% of everything!  But as I’m sure my readers are aware the fiercest, most contentious arguments happen with people you very nearly agree with.  That 1% of difference starts to seem like the key to everything.  So I will take the liberty, in the interest of furthering the evolution of all human knowledge, and trusting that he will do the same for me, of making my case raw, without niceties.

It was 8:30 AM on a warm Thursday.  After about 20 seconds of friendly posturing, we squared off for some fixed foot push hands.  Seconds after contact I found my hand around the front of his neck, slowly and gently lifting him backwards.  “We could do that,” he said and then proceeded to jump around like a feather weight boxer.  “No, no,” I said, “I want to learn your game.”

yang-chengfu-tuishouThe base idea of Tabby Cat’s theory is that push hands is not a game, it is a single attribute training drill.  The attribute it trains is so key to Tai Chi, that until you acquire this attribute, nothing else matters (except money and sex).  Before we discuss what that attribute is, lets address the consequences of this type of view.

Since historically speaking it is quite clear that the serious fun of martial arts developed in a social environment with theater, religious ritual, health ideas, and a wide range of prowess inspiring everyday problems, both social and asocial--the notion that a single attribute drill could be at the center of what defines Tai Chi is a profoundly Modern notion.

We tend to think of people like Yang Chengfu and his student, Zheng Man Qing, and his student, Ben Lo (Tabby’s teacher) as representatives of tradition.  But Yang Chengfu most likely saw himself as a modernizer, and Zheng Man Qing even more so.

SpockVulcanThe idea that a profuse, weirdly complex, theatrical fighting art like Chen style Tai Chi could be whittled down to just an attribute drill and a simplified 37 move form with, as Ben Lo put it, “Fair-ladies hands,” could only have come about as the result of a Dr. Spock-like inspired purging of all irrational impurities.

Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  But it gets weird when all your students think you are the representative of a long and stable tradition.  When in fact you represent only a small part of it.  When in fact you were just playing around with language, trying to find words to describe your practice which were clear, simple and direct.  The huge problem here is that words get stale.  “Go with the flow,” was a great expression when it was first uttered, but now it is cracked and tasteless.  The instruction, “Just relax,” has become as polysemous as “You’re so spiritual.”
So there we are in the park and I’m trying to understand what this single attribute is and how I can tweak the game of push hands in order to use it as a tool for acquiring this all important attribute.  We cross hands again, this time I ignore the fact that Tabby is curving his chest inward making his head and neck vulnerable to any upward expanding movement.  I let him lead me around and then suddenly he pushes me and I move my foot.  I lose.  We do it again, I lose again, and again.  He says, “See, you’re really tense.”  I reply, “Should I try to melt my tension when you push on me suddenly?”  “Yes," he says.  I try it, it doesn’t work.  Then I push him without giving him a chance to lead me around.  It works, I win.  He says, “You can’t do it that way.”  I’m confused, I say,  “Your attacks are all straight forward and sudden.  Can you do them slowly?”  “Okay, he says.”  When he attacks even a little bit slower, I have time to melt, and he has a much harder time getting me at all.  His slower attacks sometimes reveal a connection to the ground and I win.  But mostly I lose.
He clearly has a special attribute.  The attribute is a wave, or surge that hits me before I feel his mass pushing me.  But only just before, which is why he can’t do it slowly.  If the wave could hit me a full second before his mass did, it would be way more impressive.  The surge comes forward from belly height and seems to have influence all the way down to the feet.  But it comes in the same way every time, so when it’s slow, or if I’m allowed to move my foot or if I attack any part of his body besides his belly or chest, the “attribute” doesn’t work.
I point this out and challenge him to do push hands flank to flank.  He says, “The point of the drill is to acquire the attribute and then you can do anything you want with it.”  “Okay,” I say, lets do it on the ground then.  “Systema has drills like this, in every possible position and angle.”  (Later I learn that he literally wrote the book on Systema!)

He doesn’t want to do it on the ground, so I offer, “I clearly see that you have acquired a valuable attribute, but for it to have any martial significance it would have to work in a surprise attack, in which you begin to fight from a terrible position.  Can you do it if I’m grabbing you from behind?”  I circle in slowly for the kill but he retreats to, “Ben Lo can do it from any position.”  He describes a bunch of examples, but if I understand him correctly, Ben Lo is generally attacking fast.

I’m a little disappointed, I really want to be literally ‘blown away!’  I venture that what he is actually doing is leading me around until I make a mistake and reveal some structure or tension at which point he suddenly attacks.  He agrees that he is basically doing this.  I counter that it is quite divergent from fighting because in a fight, action trumps inaction.  He asserts that it is an essential attribute drill which, once mastered, creates a quantum shift in movement and understanding.
I spend the rest of my time with Tabby in the park trying to do exactly what he is doing.  I figure, I might as well try to learn as much as I can right there and then.  His preferred position is one hand on my elbow and one hand reaching for my chest.  I match this, as well as the inward curve of his chest.  He says, “That’s a better position.”  We push some more and then he treats me to a wonderful breakfast and an even better extended conversation on everything under the sun.

It’s been about three months since our meeting and I must say that in the process of deeply considering Tabby Cat’s ideas and developing my critic of them, I think I’ve improved a lot.  I've been learning from both of our mistakes.

What was happening?
The idea of a single attribute drill is a brilliant Modern innovation.  But shouldn’t there be some kind of limit on how long it takes a person to learn it?  I mean at least with single attribute zazen, the practice of sitting still is the fruition, so there isn’t much pressure to prove you are enlightened.  But with Tai Chi there is a reasonable expectation that at some point some serious ass kicking attributes will kick in.  Really, if the single attribute takes more than ten years to acquire is it worth it?  If it were only two years of training we were talking about I’d be like, “Yeah that’s the way to go.  Attribute drills baby!  Drill baby drill!”

But we are talking about less than a handful of Ben Lo’s students having acquired it over a period of 50 years.  Yikes.  Tabby mentioned that two students were super achievers, Terry Li (recently deceased) and Lenzie Williams.  I have yet to meet them, but even if these guys are the cats meow, they are only two in how many 1000's of students?
Zheng-ManqingZheng Man Qing promoted Tai Chi for health, entertainment, and the cultivation of wuwei generally, and that’s awesome wonderfulness.  I’m right there with him.  I am not promoting the idea that there is anything special about me or that learning Tai Chi will make us superheros or enlightened or even better people.  Tai Chi is art, Tai Chi is beauty.  I'm with anyone who recognizes that.  But as promoters of beauty we have a duty to make plain our flaws, and to correct them.

The five training principles Tabby promotes are simply inadequate to communicate the internal aspects of the art.  They are:

  1. Relax

  2. Body Upright

  3. Separate Weight

  4. Turn the waist

  5. Beautiful Lady's Hand

To illustrate this I will describe two problems Ben Lo has had teaching that I learned about talking with Tabby.
After years of teaching push hands, Ben Lo realized his students were getting worse.  Students were simultaneously searching for tension in their opponent, when he found it, he would suddenly blast his opponent.  This caused the loser to fear the sudden shock and develop chronic defensive tension.  Meanwhile the winner was being rewarded for being more aggressive (more on why this is a problem below).  Ben’s solution was to create a new game.  He gave each partner a different role, one would only try to look for tension and the other would only try to evade it, after twenty minutes they would reverse.  This resulted in improved yielding skills but it didn’t solve the problem.  (The first time I pushed hands with a 5 year student of Ben Lo’s, I put my hand on top of his head and he yielded all the way to the ground!  We were playing a completely different game.)

The second problem was that two types of students were coming to him, the jocks with “tense” full chests, and nerds with “collapsed” chests.  Neither one was relaxed and he told them so, but after a while the “tense” students started to become collapsed too.

Here is what’s going on.

We have two bodies.  An outer body, the thing with muscles that most people normally think of as a body,  and an inner body.  The inner body feels like empty space in the torso.  I suspect that the inner body is more primitive in the evolutionary sense.  Obviously this implies a composite body theory. The inner body is clumsy, very strong and innocent.  It is somewhat like Freud’s Id.  It has very simple primal desires.  It lacks artifice, memory, and preferences.

Anyway, all normal human activity is a war between these two bodies.

The jock type of movement uses a tough outer body shape with a lifted chest in order to limit, direct, and constrain the inner body; however, the jock type uses the inner body for power.  In the battle between the bodies the jock type of movement represents the inner body overpowering the outer body.

The nerd type of movement uses a collapsed but tense chest in order to de-power the arms by disconnecting them from the liquid mass of muscle.  This is necessary for fine motor control.  The nerd type of body has a strong collapsed chest and weak arms (the chest and arms have different liquid densities).  In the nerd type of movement the inner body is sneaky and fairly quiet, but it can also manoever all around evading and repositioning to get to tricky angles.  In the battle between the bodies the nerd type movement represents the outer body overpowering the inner.

What we actually want to cultivate in “internal arts” is each body doing a separate job, working together, but completely distilled from each other.  So the outer body is dead, totally quiet and devoid of intent.  The internal body is totally active and free.  The internal body is moved indirectly by the spacial mind moving around in space.  Once you have this conceptual framework it is easy to see Tabby Cat’s mistake.

Tabby Cat actually has a dead external body and a free internal body.  That part he is doing correct, but he moves his internal body by keeping his mind in his belly.  The more he can expand out from his belly in the direction of the ground and his opponent, the more effective his push is.  The more his spacial mind extends down, the more force he has to float his opponent. To the extent that his spacial mind extends past his own hands into or beyond the opponent he can move the opponent without them feeling any structure in the attack.  This is what we call internal power (neijing).  Because his mind stays in his belly it is always pushing his mass, and given a moment to adjust to the unfelt attack, the secondary mass attack is easy to deflect.  In fact, if the secondary attack is resisted and he presses it anyway, he will reveal a structure.  And structure once revealed, can be crushed.

To use different language, he has huajing (transforming power), but he doesn’t know how to use it (not much ling--inner agility, intelligence).  So when he goes to attack he sometimes uses huajing by accident but mostly retreats to anjing (hidden power).  In the brief moment his mass is being pushed forward by his mind inside his dantian, he is exposing his jin, his structure and his root.  This is why he can not attack slowly. This means that although he has reached the level where he can completely distill jing and qi in solo movement, he still mixes them under pressure.

What he should be doing is keeping his mind outside the body all the time.  This will eliminate the initial need to lead the opponent around because the only way an opponent can go directly against outside the body force is if they have the same mind-outside-the-body skill set.  His mistake is that he is leading his internal body in a direct way, when in fact he should be leading it in an indirect way.

The strongest indicator that this is Tabby’s problem is that even though it is on his list of 5 training principles above, he doesn’t have a clear upright posture.  An upright posture comes from another related force called Central Equilibrium power (Zhongdingjin).

To practice Central Equilibrium power by oneself simply requires that one's liquid mass adjusts in relationship to the the center of liquid mass as any force goes out in any direction.  It’s not very complex, but the outer body has to be dead-weight relaxed (xu) in order to do it.  If the outer body is not dead-weight-relaxed, posture correcting muscles will be activated to bring the mass back on center, thus pitting the external body against the internal body in a battle.  If central equilibrium is maintained exclusively by changes in the spacial mind, in Daoist terms, jing and qi remain distilled.

To apply Central Equilibrium power while fighting, the opponent’s mass must instantaneously be included in one’s liquid mass adjustment.  When done correctly, the opponent’s incoming force is dispersed automatically and instantaneously by a continuously adjusting spacial mind.  Thus, there is no advantage in evading by yielding the chest and neglecting uprightness.

In other words, yielding the chest is fundamentally an aggressive act because it is a set up for an outward attack (Lu into Ji in classic push hands terms). When we hit someone using Central Equilibrium power we never shoot out to a single point; as our mass spirals and expands to hit, it is moving equally in other directions.  To use Wang Xiangzai’s language, “Power never comes out to a point, the body never breaks the qi egg.”  Although the opponent gets clobbered, the body doesn't take on the experience of aggression.   That's not much consolation for the injured party, but it's an interesting idea.  No?

Tabby Cat has been doing a bit of writing lately and I recommend reading it.

I learned a lot from the exchange, and I have more to write about still.  I'm still open to the idea of a single attribute drill that would eliminate a lot of wasted time.  But in this case I would have to say it failed.   There is so much detail to the internal martial arts that putting off learning it in hopes of some holy grail of power ultimately means never learning that detail at all.  And Tabby is the case that proves the point, he studied Systema in hopes that it would fill in the gaps, and in the end he has retreated to Western Boxing and Yoga to supplement his Tai Chi.  In this case, I think, even Modernity has failed.

Holding Back Chaos

I heard a great story from George Xu the other day.  On his last trip to China, one morning he found himself in a Taxi line.  I assume I don’t have to tell readers how much transformation has had to come to China in the last 50 years for there to be taxi lines.  So anyway he is waiting in this line leading to the curb and just as he is getting to the front of it a big guy cuts in front to take the cab.
So George says, “Excuse me, there is a line here.  You have to go back and wait in the line.”
The guy says, “Screw you.”
So George maneuvers in front of him and backs him toward a pole where he places his hand on the front of the guys neck, and says, “Please go to the back of the line, everyone is waiting.”
Since George has him completely covered with his weight, the guy mumbles, “Okay.”  So George lets him go and moves toward the cab.
Suddenly the guy says, “Hey, I wasn’t ready!”
So George says, “Okay, are you ready now?”
And the guy says, “Yah, now I’m ready.”
So George gives him one arm circle that sends him flying and rolling on the ground.
The people waiting in the taxi line all begin clapping.  Several people offer thanks because this same guy has done this before.
Then the guy gets off the ground and comes forward in a bowed posture and while gesturing with his hand says, “Excuse me, the taxi is yours.”  Then he saunters off, presumably to find another way to get to work.


Taxis-in-China-3-520x338I love this story, but I think I heard it three times before I understood the humor and irony in it.  Key to the humor is the line “Hey, I wasn’t ready!” and George’s flat response, “Are you ready now?”
This is a very particular type of violence.  Really it is a category of social education.  It doesn’t even come close to qualifying as self-defense.  Here is the four part test:
Intent--the guy’s intent was to take the taxi, not to cause injury.
Means--possibly, he was bigger.
Opportunity--well, George is a martial artist so the guy really didn’t have opportunity, and there were a lot of other people around who might have gotten involved.
Preclusion--nope, George could have walked away without injury at any time, and obviously that is what most people would do.

In my mind I’ve tried to spin it as a modified duel, or an older man protecting his physical space, or a spontaneous attempt to stop a sort of snatch and run type of crime.  But the story doesn’t support any of those interpretations.
If the assault happened in the United States and the guy decided to go to the police to try to prosecute George for assault, George would probably get off one way or another.  I mean all those witnesses took his side.  That kind of thing has a big effect on judges, juries and district attorneys.

The explanation that really fits this story is as follows.  Society is a balance between chaos (wu) and order (wen).  Chaos is waiting, mingling about in everything that appears ordered, waiting to break out and cause havoc.  A taxi line is just a temporary facade, just around the corner death and destruction are on the edge of their seats.  Order is maintained only because some individual heros, men of prowess, privately cultivate inner mastery of chaos and can unleash it in the service of order.  These men of prowess are all independent wanders in the realm of ‘rivers and lakes.’  It is only through their temporary agreements, their alliances, their fleeting commitments to a particular order of society that there is a central authority at all.


While I was writing that last line, I watched a San Francisco Police officer crossing the street in a crosswalk while doing spinning tricks with his baton!  Balls!

"Outlaws of the Rivers and Lakes" "Outlaws of the Rivers and Lakes"