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Showing posts from November, 2009

Internal arts and pushing

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I have previously highlighted my disdain for "mystical" interpretations of the internal martial arts. In my view all martial arts function within the bounds of known physics; there is simply nothing metaphysical - nothing that is left wanting for a "paranormal" explanation.

However there are still many people out there who adhere to the opposite view. To quote a correspondent on an internet forum:"My view of internal martial arts is when the strike's power is so refined and seemingly defies physical laws. Where there is a transfer of energy enough to lift someone off their feet yet have very little to no body momentum to justify the result of the strike."And there's the rub: "lifting someone off their feet"...

What I want to know is, why do so many people who see themselves as "internal artists" think that pushing is a good measure of martial skill - or applied force, for that matter?

Typically, these internal artists will point…

"Dropped diaphragms" and "internal power"

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There is a persistent myth that I've heard over the years that somehow training in the internal martial arts gives you a big belly.

I've never regarded this myth as anything other than an obvious, self-referential joke: ie. "I don't have a beer gut - it's just that my belly is full of qi/ki."

Recently however I have become aware that some people actually think there is such a syndrome. Just yesterday a correspondent on an internet forum said that practising internal arts had given him a "dropped diaphragm" that "stretched the fascia" giving him a "thick inflated core [which] is great for MA but definitely not a hit with the ladies".1

Indeed, many famous internal martial arts masters were, shall we say, well endowed in the mid-section. Consider the picture at the top right of this article of Wang Shujin, a formidable street fighter and student of the famous internal arts teacher Chen Pan Ling (my teacher's father).

The forum cor…

Jo: an introduction to the 4ft staff

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I will admit to having a love affair that started after I met my wife and that endures to the present day. No, the object of this affection is not another woman/man (although I suspect that my wife, like many women, probably envies its figure!).

The object is none other than a 4 foot stick, made of Japanese oak.

It feels surprisingly light in the hands, is textured with the bumps and bruises of contact over 20-something years, is well-worn at the edges and smells faintly of my sweat, absorbed over countless training sessions.

Like any relationship, my affair with the jo has followed a kind of cycle: a mad infatuation with something brand new, sleek and good looking; periods of frustration and hard work; and more recently a period of renewed appreciation - of loyalty, fidelity, deeper understanding and a kind of reverence.


A video where I discuss the basic grips and stance relating to the jo.

In short, my old jo occupies a sacred place in my heart. Nowadays I reserve it for solo practic…

Going solo?

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A common criticism of traditional eastern fighting arts is the emphasis those arts place on solo practice - often at the expense of 2 person practise.

Indeed, many traditional fighting arts are so steeped in solo forms that they have barely no partner application at all. When they do, it is often stilted, stylised and unrealistic.

This criticism has led many martial artists who are interested in pragmatism to abandon solo forms - be they full kata/xing/patterns or shorter drills such as "deflect/strike" combinations - in favour of going straight into 2 person application.

I can see the issues - however I still think that, depending on the technique being taught, some level of "solo" training is essential if you want to hone correct, efficient form.

In my experience, the need for any "delay" in moving to 2 person drills is a function of just how sophisticated (ie. complex, but for the purposes of gaining greater efficiency) the movement is that you want to te…