Pacifying Demons

Scott Park Phillips explains the importance of theatrical literature for understanding martial arts. If you know Xuanwu's epic Beiyouji your idea about what you are doing with your Martial Arts will flip. China was conquered from within after the Boxer Uprising by the idea of Tragic Religion. After that, the Comic Religions of Zhang Sanfeng and Nezha that inspired the creation of Internal Martial Arts were suppressed.

The Zhang Sanfeng Conundrum--Taijiquan and Ritual Theater

My latest academic paper, The Zhang Sanfeng Conundrum--Taijiquan and Ritual Theater, published in the Journal of Daoist Studies v.12 is now available for Free Download at

If you want a paperback copy it is still available from Three Pines Press.

More free downloads to come. Feel free to help me market my books by sharing these free articles.

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I just love this simple blog/business Cirque Physio:

As some of you know, I recently returned to San Francisco from China, where I had been working as a physio for the Chinese Olympic teams in prep for Rio. In China, the cultural standard of beauty for women is to be small and thin- no curves, no muscles, and definitely NO butt. As a result of this, it was nearly impossible to convince ANY female athlete to do their glute/hip strengthening exercises. “But I don’t want to get a big butt! Big butt not cute!” was the common complaint. It was like. Pulling. Teeth. As a result, the first FULL phrase I learned in Chinese was NOT “Hi, how are you?” or “Nice to meet you!” or any number of other useful phrases one typically learns when starting a new language…the first phrase I learned was “Every day is GLUTE day!” This was much more useful for me and my line of work..I used it at LEAST 10 times per day, way more often than the other standard phrases. I would run around the gym, excitedly exclaiming “every day is glute day! Every day is glute day!” While the Chinese athletes and their coaches looked incredulously at each other, wondering who the white girl was who wanted everyone to grow big butts. This was one of the biggest recurrent battles I fought in China (#battleofthebooty??)

What my readers are probably thinking is that this version of “China” is conflicted and false. It has been historically separated from its martial arts and theatrical roots. Performers in the Opera wear costumes to make their bodies/booties whatever shape they want. Problem solved.

Martial artist need a booty, it is a must for fighters. Non-negotiable. Everyday is a Booty Day. The Nezha-Baguazhang role is a booty role. [For some reason the video time stamp function isn’t working, go straight to 45:57 (45min; 57 sec)]

I would say that all the blog posts at Cirque Physio are worth reading. I particularly enjoyed this one too. THORACIC MOBILITY: YOUR CIRCUSSHOULDER’S KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR

If you like that blog, you’ll love my new book, Tai Chi, Baguazhang and The Golden Elixir



I recently wrote an article on Re-Enchanting the Stick/Staff in Chinese martial arts. I’ll announce it when it is published.

This Re-Enchanting idea is my answer to a question I got a lot after my first book. The question is, how do I apply this new knowledge about the history-origins of martial arts in my daily practice? Basically, what difference does it make to me? Good question.

The answer is that Re-Enchanting your art form is the single most valuable thing you can do.

Let’s take a simple example, the feet. The YMCA version of feet instructions go like this:

  1. Curl your toes to grab the ground

  2. Relax you feet

  3. Spiral the energy upwards through you bubbling well acupuncture point.

  4. etc…

The Theatricality view starts from the assumption that your feet are a vehicle for maximum expression, and therefore should be able and agile in every dimension.

  1. Maximum extension on the balls of the feet

  2. Maximum extension of the Achilles tendon

  3. Maximum point and flex

  4. Balance and power on the outside edge of the foot (blade)

  5. Walk on your heals and toes

  6. All kinds of crazy dance steps

  7. Jumprope, long jump, lateral, diagonal and backwards hops.

  8. etc…

The Re-Enchanted view are specific visualization activation principles that integrate with the Golden Elixir (the source code of internal martial arts)

  1. You are Garuda or a Thunder God (your feet are eagles claws, you have wings lifting you up—This is the first visualization for Xingyiquan ie. Yue Fei is Garuda.

  2. You are a toddler (squeeze your butt, open your chest, shorten your arms and legs)—Baguazhang as Nezah.

  3. You are the god Xuan Wu catching your spleen and liver who have become a giant snake and a turtle. You are standing on them while they sink into the mud. The snaking is wiggling, the turtle is still—Tai Chi.

  4. You are Demon General with predator feet, a tiger or a bear—Liuhe Xinyi

  5. You are walking through mud that is sticking to your feet on your way to becoming a lotus blossoming out infinitely in all directions—like the Buddha—Baguazhang as Nezha.

  6. You are riding a unicycle-like wind-fire wheel—Liuhe Xinyi or Xingyiquan.

  7. You are riding two wind-fire wheels, a bit like roller skates—Baguazhang as Nezha.

  8. You are Zhang Sanfeng stepping on clouds—Tai Chi.

  9. etc…

The Re-Enchanted version includes all the others, but improves on them. For example, if you visualize/actualize an eagles claw for your foot you will engage the heel as a hook. That is, your calcaneus bone will start to develop under-hooks, back-extensions, and rotations (in stillness and in action). Try it!

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I am now available for UNBOXING. This is a new service I offer in person or by Zoom Video link. $100 for One Hour. What is UNBOXING?

I am an expert in seeing the origins of ideas. I can do this for you personally and to reveal the underlying assumptions of your martial art. You will gain tools and insights to bump your practice up to the next level. One of the tools I use is Re-Enchantment. I take you and your art back to before the Boxer Uprising so that you can see it in its Native Milieu. I also perform reversals, inversions, and flips, to break you out of your set patterns and allow you to see your blindspots. I help you see outside of your Box and to recognize thresholds of transformation. Practical, down to earth, and mind blowing.

Email me to set up a time:

Daoist Conference in Los Angeles Report

I had a great time at the Daoist Conference in LA. Sold a good number of books and got to have long conversations with over 30 scholars.

Particularly excited about Sogdian Dance during the Tang Dynasty (600~900 BCE)—updates will follow.

Had great conversations about Chinese University Indoctrination. It is not “brainwashing” because the scholars that go through it are aware of it. It is a series of techniques for making sure that scholarship does not go outside the bounds of current Communist Doctrine. I learned that at the last Daoist Conference, which was held in Beijing at Peking University, some 70% of papers were censored because they contained banned topics or terminology. A total disaster.

The cohering topic of the conference was “time.” I thought too many of the papers were stretching to make their otherwise interesting discussions about “time.” But there was some great stuff. Time is so important to Daoism that it is sometimes equivalent to Qi.

I had several wonderful discussions about the Monkey epic’s (Sun Wukong/Xiyouji) inclusion of deep knowledge about the Golden Elixir as jokes, metaphors, codes, and direct teachings. And about current Daoist lineages which are using it as their primary teaching text. Wonderful. And how the same is true about Canonization of the Gods (Fengshen Yanyi), as I show in my new book. Canonization contains a great deal of information about Daoist Ritual. In fact, Canonization was most important source of general knowledge about Daoism before the Boxer Uprising. That’s why it is so important in understanding the creation of Baguazhang.

My workshop was fantastic. I love doing that kind of thing. A room full of knowledgeable/scholarly people rolling around laughing together and saying things like “my mind is blown,” or “you make this tangible in a way that is utterly convincing.”

Experienced practitioners also love my teaching. Not just because I re-enchant what they already love. But because I am giving a broad overview that puts their “methods” in context. Specifically in the context of the view that inspired the methods, and the fruition which they were designed to produce. Without those insights, Laozi’s “knowing when to stop” is in accessible. The beauty of having the big overview is that methods can be disheveled, as my teacher Liu Ming used to put it. We can discard systemization and replaced it with kinesthetic learning and spontaneous cognitive recognition. Systemization itself is just a tool.

Competing Cliques in the Chinese Government

I am headed to the Daoist Conference in Los Angeles this weekend, hope to see some of my readers there.

I have posted before about Xu Xiaodong and his conflict with the Chinese Government over Traditional Chinese Martial Arts. He says he is trying to save the arts by exposing frauds. He was recently forced to pay $58,000 to Chen Xiaowang, the Government’s official Representative of Tai Chi. He called Chen Xiaowang a fraud, obviously, but the evidence of exactly what he said has been swept from the internet by Chinese censors. Xu is being punished by having to wear Chinese Opera make-up and call himself “Xu the Northern Melon” when he fights and he has to take the slow train everywhere he travels, which in China means he basically has to live on the train if he wants to travel to take (or make) fighting challenges.

Obviously, in my way of seeing things Chinese Opera make-up is a return to China’s Traditional sources of martial prowess. But in the age of perpetual humiliation it is being played as a punishment. Chen Xiaowang is a tragic figure. He is oblivious of the history of the art which he represents to the world. As I document for the first time ever in my book, Tai Chi is the dance of the Daoist Immortal Zhang Sanfeng. Chen need only to have challenged Xu Xiaodong to a fight in Slow Motion to have defeated the challenge. But that is outside of the scope of acceptable views in China today. Both are fighting for ownership of the YMCA Consensus, the Christian Secular Normative Model, also called Pure Martial Arts.

This reminds me of Qigong Fever, which we know in hindsight was the result of a conflict between two Cliques in the Chinese Communist Party. This is almost certainly happening again, and will likely end in bloodshed, as happened with Falungong in the 1990s.

Read about the make-up here.

This video is informative.

This is the best one, 220 pound MMA fighting Xu Xiaodong starts CRYING at about the 9:30 mark.

This footage is either from the late 2016 or early 2017. That was the time in Xu Xiaodong's life when he was getting de-platformed from all major Chinese social media and the entire traditional martial arts community in China saw him as enemy number one.

This article about the Trade War also gives me the sense that China is torn between two invisible Power Cliques. A lot of commentators view China through the lens of a country which wants to rule the world. I also wonder if we simply can’t read what is going on because the competing Cliques confuse the message?