This video begins with some fun footage of the trip and then gets into some of the reasons we participate in martial arts rituals.
Strengthness with a Twist: A blog about internal martial arts, theatricality and Daoist ritual emptiness
Brand New Book: TAI CHI, BAGUAZHANG AND THE GOLDEN ELIXIR, Internal Martial Arts Before the Boxer Uprising. By Scott Park Phillips. Paper ($30.00), Digital ($9.99)
Also buy: Possible Origins, A Cultural History of Chinese Martial Arts, Theater and Religion, (2016) By Scott Park Phillips. Paper ($18.95), Digital ($9.99)
Workshop Travel Schedule
Daodejing Online Open for New Members - Click for Info: Next meeting, Sunday May 19th, 8am to 10am (MT) (5/19, 6/16, 7/14, 8/18)
Portland, OR—June 1-2 PURE ANIMAL Workshop
Los Angles: 5th International Martial Arts Studies Conference (May 23rd-24th)
Los Angles: 13th International Daoist Studies Conference (June 20th-23rd)
My friend Graham Barlow, who lives in the ancient Roman resort town of Bath, has a wonderful podcast interview about the Origins of Aikido. It is a highly recommended walk on dark side.
This is an interview with Damon Smith. By the end, he argues that Aikido is in separable from the religion of Oomoto Kyo. If you want to read about my adventures in Japan with the Oomoto religion, read my book, Possible Origins, A Cultural History of Chinese Martial Arts, Theater and Religion. The part on Oomoto is in the introduction, where I discuss Japanese Tea Ceremony as a way to experience what a religion based in performing rituals is like.
Every so often I remind people to read Impro, by Keith Johnstone. it is one of the best books ever written. It is about the theater, but it is so transgressive for theater people that they often don’t know what to do with it. However, nearly everyone else who reads it—priests, martial artists, security guards, dentists, navy seals, stay at home moms—they all find it liberating and inspiring. There is a good chance you will too.
I wish I had time to fully review the new film: “Fighting with My Family.”
It is one of these new genre films. It is a Docu-mocku-mentary. It is a comedy with great writing! It is an extreme tear jerker. And it is a bang up fight movie with a lot of great choreography and training scenes. My pick for the Academy Awards so far.
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.
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.
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!
I don’t have a post this week (yet) because I was working on my final audition for the Martial Arts TEDx event on May 25th in Los Angeles. It’s done, it’s in. Fingers crossed. And this is the beginning of what is going to be a haichuan (ocean-river) of videos.