A Dark Turn

There is a lot to unpack in this article from Bitter Winter about Marital Arts Schools in China being forced to “Take the Red Road.” I do not have time to unpack it today, but it is worth thinking about. The Chinese government has these types of goals for the whole world. I guess it is an example of law as a yinyang symbol, rather than the Western idea of a law as a wall. In the West, we believe that a law should be like a wall, or at least a clearly defined line, so that we know exactly when we have crossed it. In China, traditionally as well as now, the law moves in both directions simultaneously. It can seem like religion is getting less illegal in one place or situation, and more illegal in another.

The Little Red Phone is scary. It is scary to me because it is a horrible intrusion into people’s pursuit of individual happiness and creative expression. But even scarier because there is no apparent resistance to it.



To end on a humorous note, here is Paul Brennan’s latest translation: On Making Martial Arts More Scientific. Regular readers already know what I think of this type of scientizing. This version of it is truly bazaar. It is not something anyone is expected to read. Although it is an important moment in the solidification of the YMCA Consensus. Below is an image from the text called: INFANT GRABS AT ITS MOTHER’S BREASTS. No, really.

Favorite Things

I know that a significant portion of my readers are attracted to weirdness. I had a new weird idea recently I call “Baby-fat power.” To begin with, if you have to use force, even deadly force, don’t get stuck in fighting. Have a goal to neutralize the threat or escape. In training this translates nicely as: Dance don’t fight. Why? Because dance is not about dominance and submission, it is about the movement itself. Dance is movement imbued with beauty, rhythm, grace, efficiency, fun, and good-will towards your opponent(s)—partner(s).

Now thinking about martial arts as Dance, there are people who dance with their muscles. This tends to look stiff. For example, gymnasts tend to look stiff when they dance. A certain type of ballet dancer, dances with their muscles. If you’ve ever seen Lines Dance Company (led by Alonzo King who was my teacher everyday for two years about 30 years ago) they look strong. They are dancing with muscles, which creates a very solid, extended, and powerful feeling. That’s why it is called “Lines,” it is emphasizing a type of stiffness. There is another, perhaps more common, type of ballet that is “on the bones.” It uses the bones for structure and balance. A good example is George Balanchine’s (1904-1983) style of ballet. The effect, (and this is common among martial artists too) is to look like a fairy—light and perfectly balanced.

My new weird thought is that instead of using muscles or bones, the most beautiful martial artists and dancers use baby-fat. When you dance with baby-fat you are expressing the ancient Daoist practice of returning to the baby, of becoming an infant, of reversing the aging process, of embracing innocence and simplicity. As the Daodejing says: “Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak, but its grip is very strong.”

Here is a fun, short, documentary about Mongolian wrestling. I think the Mongolians have mastered dancing with baby-fat. Watch the whole thing when you get a chance, but you can see how the master teacher moves from around the 12 minute mark to about the 17 minute mark.


Moving on. I just discovered silicone cups for massage. They are similar to the bamboo or glass cups used by acupuncturists, but they can be applied simply by squeezing. They are applied like the old snake bite kits, if you remember those. Because they make such a good suction, they are easy to move around on oiled skin. This is a great product, I expect it to take off like wild-fire.


Still moving. I practice standing meditation for an hour everyday. I do this in the snow during the Winter here in Colorado, which is shockingly warmer than San Francisco was. However, when the temperature drops below 15 F degrees, my feet tend to get cold. At least they did until I discovered these awesome North Face Kung Fu Practice booties.

Africa and Chinese Black-Face

In the last two weeks America has been shocked by Black-Face and a Lynching Hoax. We need humor now more than ever.

Virginia, which has unofficially been designated a “swamp state,” has a governor who just got caught having performed in Black-Face many years ago. As did the Virginia DA, I think, and some other guy is accused of…wait for it…transgressive sex at sometime in the past. Who knows where it will go. But it unearthed a large number of people who have done some version of Black-Face…in the past.

We used to have a lunch item called a Hero-Sandwich, but it has been re-named, the Victim-Sandwich. The Lynching Hoax happened at 2am in Chicago during the coldest night ever, it was negative 300 degrees, or something. It also involved a sandwich, some bleach and two Nigerians. I am not providing links, if you missed these things you are blessed.

I feel motivated to say, on a serious note, that as someone who taught martial arts as world-dance for many years in San Francisco public schools, one of the biggest problems is the use of the N-word by black students. My opinion is that the practice should be discussed everyday until it stops. Make it the only conversation. It is deeply harmful to society, it makes education painful, and it needs to stop.

While Black-Face may be offensive, it is almost always used for humor. Or at least it used to be before humor was banned. Anyway, humor was banned in China in the 1960s and they got excited about Black-Face as propaganda. This link is to a dance video and you will find it fantastic if you are a collector of Communist Propaganda. (Make sure you hit the enlarge button). It’s from this book, which has a bunch of cool videos connected to it: Revolutionary Bodies—Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy, by Emily Wilcox. The clip is an excerpt of “Fires of Fury Are Burning,” from Sun Rises in the East. August First Film Studio, 1964.

…“Fires of Fury Are Burning” (Nuhuo zai ranshao) [was produced] by the PLA General Political Department Song and Dance Ensemble, a small-scale dance drama about racial discrimination in the United States that melded Chinese military dance with Afro-diasporic movement and racial impersonation, offering a message in support of African-American civil rights. Among the many striking images in this dance are an altercation in which a white police officer, who is exposed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, brutalizes a black boy, which is followed by a battle in which a multiracial group of protestors battles the KKK set against a backdrop of the US Capitol and a giant cross.

This is a fascinating article about the affects Africa is having on China. China has been steadily increasing its influence in Africa through investment and construction. When I first heard this was happening, about fifteen years ago, my first thought was, oh, I bet Chinese and Africans will bond of over religion. It is happening! Not quite the way I predicted (chicken sacrifice and trance-mediums) but it is happening nonetheless.

Meanwhile, self-censorship in academia is getting worse, fast. Bummer. But good article.

Ai Weiwei is blaming the US and Canada for making China worse. He is right. We need start using our trade and military prowess to stop China’s turn for the worse. If you are anywhere near Toronto, go see the show!

Ai Weiwei,  Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn  (1995). Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio and the Gardiner Museum.

Ai Weiwei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995). Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio and the Gardiner Museum.

Lao She's 120th Birthday (Feb. 3rd)

Here is an article that will introduce people to the short story writer Lao She. (It’s from the Wall Street Journal so you may get a pay wall.) He was born to a Manchu Bannerman who was killed in the Boxer Uprising. His grandmother told him endless horrifying and heroic stories about the Righteous Boxers who he was too young to remember himself.

He wrote a lot. He travelled a lot, studying in London and teaching in the USA. He was super important in the humor writing movement (which was eventually crushed by the Communists). His most famous stories are The Rickshaw Boy and Crescent Moon. The story I recommend most is Soul Slaying Spear” which is about the changes that happened to martial arts in the first 20 years of the 20th Century. It is pretty awesome. It has the lead character, old man name Dragon Killer, reading Fengshenyanyi. The significance of this will all be explained in my almost finished new book. But the angry baby god Nezha is a dragon killer and his epic is Fengshenyyanyi (Canonization of the Gods). It appears that he also made Soul Slaying Spear into a play! But it is still in manuscript form. He also wrote a play about the Boxer Uprising.

“Soul Slaying Spear” is “Duan Hun Qiang”" 斷魂槍 It is also the name of a Baguazhang spear routine in Sha Style Bagua. Wow. Here is the story in Chinese

Lao She was tortured to death by his students at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. He was a great man.

Thanks to Eric Kozin and Israel Kanner who told me about this story while sharing a wonderful (because of the company) meal at an outdoor cafe in Israel two years ago. I expect they are both going to publish about it soon.

Lao She 1899-1966

Lao She 1899-1966

Lao She’s Diary open to 1966, his home is now a museum. The image is from Twitter.

Lao She’s Diary open to 1966, his home is now a museum. The image is from Twitter.

Happy Year of the Pig (2019)

Wiki Commons. CC

Wiki Commons. CC

Hhmmm…what to say about the pig year. It’s kind of a divination year. How will it go? Nobody knows. Certainly a great year to take up orderly conduct and tighten up those schedules. It is the best of all twelve years for general socializing, don’t hesitate to expand your network. Its worth betting on big projects because the chance element of this year is favorable for multiplying. Yes, like having lots of babies. But in this case your babies may be artistic projects. Whatever you do, try to stay out of politics, it is mudslinging year.
The nose of the pig, the first few months, is a great time to acquire something of great quality, because you’ll be able to sniff it out. The middle of the pig is huge, expect abundance in the summer. The end of the pig is a little squiggly tail, so watch out for illnesses and don’t be surprised by all the twists and turns. Finally, the pig year is good for sexual expression (not as good as the snake, but second best). Get out on the dance floor and shake it!

New Zhang Sanfeng Essay in the Journal of Daoist Studies (12)

The Zhang Sanfeng Conundrum: Taijiquan as Enlightenment Theater—by Scott Park Phillips

Journal of Daoist Studies, vol 12 (Paperback, 258 Pages)

Price: $25.00

The Journal of Daoist Studies (JDS) is an annual publication dedicated to the scholarly exploration of Daoism in all its different dimensions. Vol. 12 Contents:

  • Shen Ming-Chang—Laozi and Community Policing;

  • Tang Man-To—Ji Kang’s Theory of Music;

  • Livia Kohn—Armored Gods: Generals, Guardians, Killers, and Protectors;

  • William T. Sanders—Echoes of Esoteric Buddhism in Manuals of Internal Alchemy;

  • Scott Park Phillips—The Zhang Sanfeng Conundrum: Taijiquan as Enlightenment Theater;

  • LiChien Hung—Ritual Healing in Taiwan; Herve Louchouarn—Daoist Medicine: Human Nature and Physiology;

  • Denise Meyer—The Taiji Path to Non-Duality; Helene Bloch— From Daoist Asceticism to Longevity Market? “Nourishing Life” on Mount Qingcheng;

  • Ron Catabia—Blue Mountain: A 20th-Century Korean Daoist Master; Mateus Oliva Da Costa—Daoism in Latin America; David Jeffrey—Zhuangzi in the Classroom: A Teacher Diary Study;

  • Peter Deadman— The Black Pearl and the White Pearl;

  • Monk Yun Rou—The Mad Monk Manifesto: A Daoist Cry for a Paradigm Shift

I presented the first version of this essay at the 9th International Daoist Studies Conference in Boston in 2014. It was a huge hit, and immediately selected for publication. It was going to be part of a collection called Daoism and Warfare, but after several revisions the editor took ill and it never came to be. Meanwhile I produced a short performance variation of the original paper at the 1st International Martial Arts Studies Conference in Cardiff in 2015. At the same time I produced my famous (now almost 15 thousand views!) video Cracking the Code, which covered some of my early discoveries. Then as I was completing my book Possible Origins, in 2016, a whole bunch of new material fell in my lap. Most notably I realized two things:

  • General Qi Jiguang was a 20 year disciple of the Sage Lin Zhao’en, who studied directly with the Immortal Zhang Sanfeng. Since General Qi Jiguang is widely cited as an original source of Taijiquan, that upends most scholarship on pre-20th Century Taijiquan—which has wrongly claimed there is no connect to the Immortal Zhang Sanfeng.

  • Zhang Sanfeng was a character in a play during the same period (early Wanli). The play (Xiyangji) features Zhang Sanfeng fighting 24 palace guards using the same movements named by Qi Jiguang and identified with Taijiquan. This (along with other strong evidence) proves that theater was an important source of Taijiquan’s mysterious slow motion martial prowess.

Anyway, that’s just a taste of what went into the new essay. Very Exciting! Please grab a copy while they are HOT!

Lin Zhao’en’s Shattering the Void to Experience Taiyi. From  Lord of the Three in One— Kenneth Dean 1998.

Lin Zhao’en’s Shattering the Void to Experience Taiyi. From Lord of the Three in One—Kenneth Dean 1998.

Imperial Twilight

Imperial Twilight

A few weeks ago I was on a social media platform talking back and forth with a few young American-educated Chinese now living in Shanghai. They started off explaining that mainland Chinese people feel justified in not doing anything to stop Fentanyl deaths in the USA, because of their ‘memory’ of the Opium Wars. i got a bit “Ya’ll need a history lesson” on them.
I read a handful of books on the Opium Wars back in the 1990s. But none of those books addressed the massive Anti-American propaganda campaign around this issue in the Chinese education system and news-propaganda.

The fact that these young people I was talking to were educated in the USA, made me doubt my own….

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Delightful Reviews

Happy New Year Everyone!

I’ve been working like crazy on my book, the writing is done, working on footnotes now…images next….

Let me know if you want to be a reader-who-helps-edit.

Meanwhile, I ditched Google search for Duck Duck Go! When I searched for my name I got these three wonderful reviews of my book I had not seen! Please enjoy them as much as I did.

Possible Origins Good Reads!