Here is the link to the write-up of my meeting with Tabby Cat (featured in the videos above).  I do hope he'll agree to another meeting with me one of these days!  He has a new book out too:

Juice: Radical Taiji Energetics

Please discuss and report below. 


Yin Yang

I wouldn't be a martial artist at all if I didn't love the "doi!" moments where I hit my self-on the forehead because I've just realized how wrongly I've been practicing for x number of years.  That's because those moments are transitions to new freedoms.  

Yinyang theory is among the most basic aspects of North Asian cosmology so I'm not going t go into it here because most of my readers already know it.

What got me excited is that I suddenly came to understand the yin and yang meridians in a way I never had before.  Or rather, I put together a bunch of discrete experiences into a coherent whole.  So I'll just make a list.

Zhang Xuexin taught that qi rises up the meridians on the insides and back of the legs, then moves to the yang meridians coming up the the back over the head and out along the tan side of the arms, and then comes from the palms inward along the yin meridians of the arms and down the face and then down the front of the body and then, moves down the yang meridians of legs which are on the outside edges and along the front.  Kumar Frantzis taught the same thing.  And generally this is part of any heaven-earth qigong series.  

Liu Ming expained that meridian flow, like the flow of qi in meditation, happens by itself, of its own accord, effort only inhibits it.

Markus Brinkman, on his roof in Taiwan, explained and demonstrated channel theory as it applies to martial arts using a finger counting system.  He was astonished at how fast I picked it up.  I puzzled on it for awhile and did a bunch of experiments.  The idea is that force is generated, defused/transformed and transmitted along specific groups of meridians in sequence.  The theory is in this book: Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine Wang Ju-Yi's Lectures on Channel Therapeutics

I figured out through my own experiments that the yang meridians are better for defense and yin meridians are better for attacking.  In the language of tai chi, pengjin takes force on the yang meridians, jijin issues force via the yin meridians.  A corollary for this is that yin is gathered when our structure is organized towards the inside edge of the feet, yang is gathered when our structure is organized towards the outside edge of the feet.  

In an attempt to reduce all structural power (jin/jing) in my body I figured out that I could put my foot down during baguazhang walking as if it were a vacuum cleaner, allowing qi to draw inward as my foot takes weight. 

George Xu said to me sometime in the last year, "The yin and yang meridians have different jobs."

Anyway, all this fit together for me recently.  All these things have to happen at once --simultaneously and continuously.  Without this piece, we can not achieve an 'I know you, you don't know me,' situation.  Without the crystal clear differentiation of the roles of the yin and yang meridians, the dantian can not do its job of meeting our opponent before our mass does.  

It wasn't that hard to say, and no doubt, I believed many times over the years that I understood it intellectually and physically.  But until it was happening in my body under the pressure of testing and resistance, it was just words.  

There are so many ways to be wrong, it feels good to get a few more of them out of the way.


• For more background read this article on making a sandwich.  Or for tai chi structure theory read this. For the concept and rationale of reducing jing/jin read here.


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)


Coregasm Armageddon

Are you okay with this people?  My first thought was, "Well, that's the end of tai chi then."

(also see here, here and...you can watch a coregasm video here, and here, and oh what the heck.)

If women are doing core strengthening and boot camps because they are having orgasms during training, it's going to be pretty hard to convince them that weakness is better.  I frequently get questions about core strengthening and I simply had no idea what was really behind them.  Duh!  Farewell innocence.  I will never think of boot camps the same way again.   As I'm doing my 6 am standing meditation (Yiquan) in the park and over the sounds of chirping birds I hear the characteristic boot camp sounds of panting and grunting ("Push it ladies!") -- I will long for the days of simple vanity.

Of course tai chi-gasms™ happen in every cell of your body, and your mind!  Meaning that they happen from your fingers all the way to your toes and even outside your body.  Coregasms are merely abdominal. Yawn.

That's why it is so important to find a qualified master.  North Star Martial Arts is the first organization in the world to offer a full certification in tai chi-gasms™.  There is no substitute for the real thing.  We deliver.

Oh, and when you least expect it, expect it!

Camp Jing!

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
953 Dewing Ave., Lafayette, CA 94549

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




Chief among the claims made about the Health and Wellness benefits of Tai Chi is it's ability to improve balance.

Health and Wellness justifies its existence by claiming that more visits to the doctor reduces the incidence of serious chronic ailments and thereby reduces the overall costs of healthcare for our society.

But it can also be viewed as a way to justify more and more comprehensive insurance, that is, more and more expensive.

A hospital administrator in Oakland told me that lots of people just wait until they are sick enough to go the the emergency room-- and that's an expensive visit.

I don't know, I like Toyotas because they are cheap, safe and last a long time.  If you ask me how to fix healthcare, I'll tell you to model it after the Toyota!


This is no longer just a fad.  There are numerous studies about Tai Chi and improvements in balance.  People are being sent to me by doctors for the single purpose of improving there balance.  Hospitals are now offering "balance" classes.  I'm game.  Teaching balance is so easy.  It's like cheering at sporting event.  Raaaaaaahh were winning.  It's a pretty small part of Tai Chi, and if that is all new students are interested in, I'm going to get bored pretty fast.  But it is amazing how much a person can improve their balance when they are given a few simply exercises!

Check out this fun video by fellow George Xu disciple Susan Matthews:

China to build first Tai Chi theme park

China to build first Tai Chi theme park

WUHAN, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- China will build a theme park showcasing the traditional martial art of Tai Chi in Wudang Mountains area, legendary home of the marital art and a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned as a center of Taoism.

The administrative office of Wudang Mountains and American company Landmark Entertainment will cooperate to set up the Tai Chi theme park in the central province of Hubei, said an official with the administration on Wednesday.

Folks were fretting about the commercialization of Tai Chi and Wudang Mountain on Facebook and then a cooler head pointed out that this sort of thing can work to filter out the more oafish tourists while creating a source of funds to nourish or protect tradition.  I just got excited about the Tai Chi Pirate Ride!  The Wuwei Bumper Cars that never actually touch!  And the Silk Reeling Roller Coaster is not to be missed!

Maybe they will have people dressed up as the Eight Immortals-- the way Disneyland does Mickey and Goofy.  Now that I think about it, if Landmark Entertainment wants to win hearts and minds they really ought to hire me as a consultant for this.


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