My article in Blitz Magazine

At the start of this year (I'm not sure when) an article I wrote about my last trip to Taiwan was published in Australasia's leading martial arts magazine, Blitz.

I'm really terrible at these sorts of things and somehow didn't even remember to buy a copy! In any event, it is now available on-line, so you can read it there. The article is edited down from the one I wrote (I can, as one fellow told me recently, get a bit verbose!) but it is more or less intact.

In it I tried to layout the essential flavour of the trip, the nature of the training and the experience. It became apparent that, as always, words really are inadequate for describing such a life-changing event. So I'm afraid that I have ended up with rather more of a "itinerary description" than anything else. Still, I hope my readers will find it of some interest.

I'd like to thank my senior, James Sumarac, for inviting me to write the article and for giving me the chance to come to the course in the first place. I'd also like to thank Silvio Morelli for publishing it.

I now have 3 students of my own going to Taiwan in a fortnight - with two of them to be accepted as 3rd generation Bai Shi. I dearly wish I could have joined them, but my health has not been the best lately. I hope this article at least gives them an idea of what they can expect (minus the prolapsed disc!).

Anyway, here is the article - enjoy!

Copyright © 2012 Dejan Djurdjevic


  1. Nice reading, Dan, and you even mentioned me by name, what an honour.

    One language tip, if I may offer:

    Bai4shi1 拜師 is a verb/noun phrase, meaning "to take somebody as a master". If the master accepts to take someone into his doors, the students becomes 入門弟子, an "indoor disciple". The ceremony is also called Baishi, but not the students.

    You mentioned that you come back with students of your own. Any dates yet? And where will you train? In the Foguang Monastery again? Let me know, if I can be of any service (back in EU between 15th. July and 5th Aug.

    My fractured ulna is 100% healed now, so I just started to take up a bit more training. 12 weeks has been a long brake, allthough I did a little form work and lots of sitting meditation. Maybe I'm around 30% of my best in late Feb., before the mishap happend.

    Lets hear from you.

  2. Thanks Hermann - I was very touched by your hospitality and generosity when we met.

    Unfortunately I won't be able to make this trip. Three of my students are going from 3-11 June at Tao Yuan.

    So maybe we can meet up again next time!

    Glad to hear your fracture has healed!

    All the best


  3. Dan, by senior do you mean sempai?

    By fortnight, do you mean 14 days?

    Dan, also I wanted to ask you what difference you saw in these two training methods.

    In the course of my research, I just happened to come across them when cross referencing something for Pinan Niidan. I wanted to get some feedback from other people though, if you would care to participate.

  4. You know, reading that article reminds me of that training camp you attended in South Africa I believe it was, with your wife. One of the benefits of the Taoist doctrine in Taiji Chuan is to comprehend one's own body, in sickness or in health, so as to preserve longevity or even achieve immortality, which was a Taoist ideal almost. I was surprised they were combining animal forms with Taiji Chuan. One of the reasons internal training is designed the way it is to prevent such injuries from happening, since an injured student is both more likely to get killed in a deathmatch and also can't really train much. Thus you won't often see the high jumps or acrobatics used in animal forms, in Taiji Chuan. Much of the conditioning required to do such things, has been mastered by Shaolin monks who train every day and have done so since they were children. Hours of hanging from their neck with a rope around it, tends to produce some amazing flexibility and strength in the body's ligaments, tendons, and cervical areas. Westerners should be very careful about attempting to emulate such movements in a short time span.

    One of the advantages of Chinese martial arts is that those who have exceeded a certain parameter in skill, are also talented healers. Thus every student of an internal art should take advantage of this and take any pain, even small muscular quirks, to their teacher to have it healed. If done quickly enough, this preventive care can avoid a lot of unnecessary complications later on. Of course, if this is not available, then you must heal yourself or deal with it, but when it is, one should not avoid taking advantage of it. Seeking out such solutions is not a sign of weakness, at least not when amongst allies. Your problem was severe enough that the serious nature of it could only be treated by deeper penetration of energy, such as acupuncture or a specialized healing user (an expert or master level medical chi gong user). Since it is Taiwan, I do believe there should be at least one. I believe by taking more specialized time for healing, you would also be able to prolong the time you could train, and avoid further medical complications later.

    For the best odds, I would use massage, herbal remedies used externally or internally, internal breathing like chi gong, and acupuncture.

  5. I call James my senior because I don't train with him often enough to say he is my teacher. In his dojo he would be my sensei, not sempai. In master Chen's school he is my "uncle". Privately he is my "kum" (a Serbian term akin to Godparent). Yes, I meant 2 weeks.

    In relation to the makiwara training, yes - the Okinawan one is using "shock" - hence the little pendulum behind the makiwara board. You'll note that the strike causes the makiwara board to snap away from the fist and snap back. This is a good indication of a shock punch and is the way internal arts (and good karate strikes) are effected. The first one is not "wrong' but it has more "push".

  6. In relation to your other comments Ymar, you must remember that Chen Pan Ling is not one style but a family of systems - ranging from Shaolin through to the 3 internal arts.

    I chose to do all the activities - even the "young persons' activities". Why? Partly because I'm a bit thick and I can't get through my head that I can't do some things any more. Partly because I act as the repository of my students' knowledge and I have a duty to acquire as much as I can - both them and to Master Chen. Partly because... there are further reasons about which I can't and won't go into detail. Let's just say that until you've walked in another man's shoes, you can't really tell what motivates him and you can't judge his actions. Was there an element of foolishness or even risk in what I did? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes. There are only so many chances one gets in life to do certain things. That might well have been my last chance; I can't go this year. And you don't spend a small fortune and fly across the world for a "last chance" only to sit out watching others "doing". We all take risks in daily life. We calculate the benefit vs. the likely cost. I did that.

  7. Last, James and Shou Mei are both trained acupuncturists. They treated me as did one my Chen Pan Ling brothers who is also a Chinese doctor. They kept me going through the training and I dare say, watching the videos one cannot tell I was injured (so their treatments were effective enough in keeping me going)!

  8. Am looking forward to read it. Although I have been all over many parts of Asia, I'm yet to visit Taiwan and look forward to do so.

  9. Dan, thanks for the response to the makiwara issue. Although it seems to be common knowledge (at least from the sources I've used), judging from the polls I've taken and the number of people who review makiwara training, it is not so transparent as one may think.

    One of the requirements I have for deciding whether an individual user has "real skill" is to determine just how much independent analysis and conclusions they can draw, without necessarily copying what other people, like their peers or instructors, told them. And of course, one of the ways to check this is to check their conclusions against the results others have arrived at through an independent course.

    Dan, my comments about the medical options or risks was not about determining your motivations. I took the data in the article listed here at face value, and because only massage was mentioned, I felt that given the location and the concentration of medical skill around, acupuncture and other higher intensity procedures should have been used. Updating the story with the detail that such was already used, can only be to the good. Your motivation in terms of taking risk or not, isn't my concern, thus there's no reason for you to justify yourself on this matter. All I concluded was that if you are going to take the risk, there are ways to mitigate it. The details given in the article, did not seem sufficient on a first impression.

  10. I just found out Tim Larkin was featured in an article in Blitz as well. I wonder if you two appeared in the same issue.

  11. So, dear Dan, any news from the Taiwan trip of your students? Hopefully, they didn't get swept away by the heaviest plum rains in 10 yrs and the following taifun!

    1. Yes Hermann, they are back safe and sound and had the time of their lives! One student has offered to write up a "report" which I shall post here.

      I trust that all is well with you!

  12. Yes, the term at university ended smoothly, and in vacations I always feel fine. My left lower arms still feels strange, not much flesh over the steel plate, and as I tried to catch up, I also strained my left ankle. Old animals like us, we train through such pain, carefully, but still, after the 7th day of uninterupted exercise, I feel much better. Soon, I will be back to Bavaria with my wife, hopefully beer and cheese don't hinder more training. Have a cool winter time!?


  13. Enjoy Bavaria Hermann - sounds like it will be great.

    Yes, it has been very cold and wet here lately! Looking forward to the warmer weather!


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