The Cultural History of Baguazhang, Dance of an Angry Baby God.

During the first half of the 20th Century, Chinese martial arts were subjected to intense politicization and historical revisionism. Join us as we zero in on the origins of the internal martial art Baguazhang. We will explore theatrical and religious practice through historic images and show how cover stories have been a source of fierce contention, while the real “unspeakable” story has been hidden in plain sight. We will also look at the general question of how Chinese martial arts were understood in the 19th Century in China.

This is an extended version of a paper that will be presented at the Second Annual Martial Arts Studies Conference at Cardiff University in Wales, UK (July 2016).  

Includes over 100 slides and video clips, about 3 hours with question and answer session.

The Cultural History of Taijiquan (Tai Chi), Enlightenment-Theater

The origin story of taijiquan has been contested for over a hundred years. The main contestants in this conflict have argued either that taijiquan has Daoist origins and was invented by the immortal Zhang Sanfeng or that it developed purely for utilitarian combat purposes. These arguments about the origins of the art are closely related to the variety of ways in which people practice.  Despite the regularity and ease with which these two types of arguments get challenged, practitioners continue to assign great importance to taijiquan’s origins.

This slideshow-lecture-demonstration uses theatrical expression, somatic experience, and historical analysis, to show that the art of taijiquan is a form of enlightenment theater.  As a theatrical ritual it tells the story Zhang Sanfeng’s (張三丰) canonization.  This ritual incorporates inner alchemy as deity visualization, and presents violence as a transgressive path to becoming a Daoist immortal (xian).    

Includes over 100 slides and video clips, about 3 hours with question and answer session.

Daoism (Taoism) and the Martial Arts

Over the last century many people have pointed to the Daoist origins of Chinese Martial Arts.  Nearly as many people have contested that view saying it is at best wishful thinking. The problem with both sets of arguments is they rarely take the time to thoroughly and convincingly explore the many possible definitions of Daoism. Scholars of anthropology do not all uses the same definitions of Daoism, nor do scholars of philosophy, religion, or history. All these perspectives add to the richness of our discussion as do the views of living practitioners.

Once we have working definitions of Daoism, we can take a closer look at the ways Chinese martial arts were practiced historically.  From there we can answer questions about what makes a specific art Daoist or not. This lecture is full of surprises and opens doors to new ways of thinking about history and culture.

Includes over 100 slides, about 3 hours with questions and answer sessions.  

A Culture History of Chinese Martial Arts, Theater, and Religion

This slideshow-lecture is an overview of all Chinese martial arts and the role they played historically in Chinese religion and culture.  It looks at three major areas, theater, religion and martial skills.  Then it explores the large changes that took place leading up to the 20th Century and the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion.

Includes over 100 slides and video clips, about 3 hours with questions and answer sessions.  Can be tailored to cover a specific art or region.



The Origins of Qigong: Daoyin, Daoism, Opera and the Shaolin Temple

This talk uses live demonstrations, video and slides to tell the story of the creation of Qigong.  We explore how it connects to Daoist Alchemy, professional theater, and Shaolin Temple.  Demonstrating the practice of Daoyin as a pathway to enlightenment and spontaneity.  Daoyin is a source practice for exploring the outer edges of wildness and stillness. In the 20th Century Qigong was created as a way for people to heal from the horrors of Communist repression. It drew on Daoyin as a resource of inventiveness. Parts of this talk have been published in the Journal of Daoist Studies as "Reimagining Daoyin."

About 3 Hours, includes demonstrations, video clips and slides.