Showing posts from January, 2012

Legend and the martial arts

A long history of tall tales...

Chinese martial arts – in particular the Daoist internal arts1 of taijiquan, baguazhang and xingyiquan – have long been associated with mythological tales invoking superhuman feats; acts that defy the laws of physics. Such myths are not only incidental to the traditional histories and lineages; sometimes they are deeply wedded to them. It seems that virtually no tale of the exploits of old masters is complete without such supernatural elements.

Accordingly it should come as no surprise that the Chinese movie industry is built squarely on “wire fu” – green wires that suspend the actors and stunt men and women so that they can appear to “fly”. Modern examples include films such as “House of Flying Daggers” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.

A trailer from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” – note the taijiquan technique “ji” by Michelle Yeoh at about 1:22.

The role of legend in the martial arts

My first introduction to Hong Kong cinema was of this ilk. …

The internal arts and Daoism

I came to the internal arts through both the study of physical martial arts training and philosophical reading.

It was in the mid-80s while watching the BBC television series “The Way of the Warrior” (in particular the episode on Hong Yi Xiang and the internal arts - see the full episode embedded below) that I first learned that the earliest of the internal arts – xingyiquan – is said to be a physical manifestation of the the Chinese classic known as the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching) – “The Way and its Virtue/Power”. I was familiar with this and other Daoist texts and commentaries from the many hours I spent poring over them in the university library (while was meant to be studying other things!). Coincidentally, my teacher Bob Davies was studying xingyiquan with Hong Yi Xiang at around that time.

Internal arts such as xingyiquan are a physical embodiment of Daoist principles such as "wu-wei" - the way of least resistance (hence the title of this blog). They use use "na…

Bridging the gulf between karate and the internal arts: Part 2

Introduction: isolating the essential “yi” (concepts)

In Part 1 of this article I discussed the interest many karateka have in the Chinese martial arts, particularly the internal arts of xingyiquan, baguazhang and taijiquan. I also discussed how many karateka are dissuaded from pursuing a study of the internal arts (or any other Chinese forms) because of their perceived complexity and “overly ritualistic” nature.

Accordingly I suggested that it might be possible to create a “plug-in” for karate that teaches some of the essential concepts of the Chinese internal arts (what is known as the “yi”) without requiring a lengthy, laborious study of the exact (and complex) forms (the “xing”).1

Would some information be lost? Undoubtedly. It is not possible for a “plug-in” to teach all of the subtleties and intricacies of the concepts of the internal arts. For that you have to study the full systems themselves. But I believe it is possible to extract certain pivotal concepts (“yi”) and tran…

Surviving the surprise attack


I have been asked recently by email what it is I have against "simultaneous initiative".

For those who have come in late, "simultaneous initiative" is where you effect a simultaneous block/deflect and counter - or alternatively strike in a manner that negates the need for any block1 or deflection.

By contrast, "late initiative" is where you are forced to evade or block/deflect, then effect a counter. The common criticism is that this separates the defence and counter into two movements. Simultaneous initiative, by contrast, comprises just one movement.

Now I must make this point: I have absolutely nothing against simultaneous initiative. I don’t prefer late initiative – in fact the reverse is true. I hold it to be self evident that one should never do two movements where one is possible. Correspondingly you should never "wait" for an attack where you can simply strike your attacker.

I remember learning the latter lesson well wh…