Showing posts from March, 2009

My meetings with masters in Hong Kong

Today I had the rare honour of speaking with internal martial arts master, teacher and historian CS Tang at his studio in Hong Kong. Over our 2 hour interview we discussed many different topics covering xingyi, bagua (the Gao style of Zhang Junfeng in particular), taiji, Chen Pan-Ling, Wang Shujin, yiquan, shaolin, competition wushu and factors giving rise to change and evolution in all these martial arts systems. In the context of these discussions, I floated some of my theories of the relationships between various schools. As I predicted, Master Tang had quite a different take on things: for a start we discussed my long-held theory about the relationship between the zhan bu (battle stance) of xingyi (sometimes called "rowing stance" and seen in the "san ti" posture) and sanzhan/saamchien/sanzhan . Master Tang felt that xingyi's stance was of northern origin and was completely unrelated to the southern sanzhan-type stances. The fact that they might share

Memories of Taiwan: the calligraphy master

The most enduring memories I have of my trip to Taiwan are of the locals we met, in particular one or 2 very remarkable individuals. The calligraphy master was one of these. My good friend, photographer Lucia Ondrusova , had asked whether I would be interested in accompanying her to the master's house/shop. Almost everyone in Kaohsiung lives and works in the same space, and their shops generally stay open till late in the faint hope of extra custom. One of my Chen Pan-Ling martial arts "sisters", Karen Jensen had apparently seen the shop open during the day, and told Lucia, her room mate at our hotel. Having experienced a calligraphy lesson at a Buddhist monastery the day before, Lucia was quite enthusiastic - and I must say that my own interest had been piqued (you can read about the monastery experience here ). As we walked along the ramshackle streets searching for the address it occurred to me that, ostensibly, I not only fulfilled the function of a protective esc

The naming of "naihanchi", "naifuanchi" or "naifunchin"

Hot on the heels of my blog article "The naming of sanchin" , here are my thoughts on the naming of the kata most widely known as naihanchi, but otherwise known as tekki (in shotokan), naifuanchi, naifanchi and naifunchin. For the purposes of this blog I shall refer to the kata as “naifunchin” (our preferred name). This is because this is how my instructors were taught to refer to it when they were in Japan and Okinawa in the 60s. The name is not often used now and the more common "naihanchi" predominates. It is said that naifunchin is to the shorin styles (shuri and tomari te) what sanchin is to naha te: the fundamental conditioning (heishugata) form. There is some evidence to suggest that Chojun Miyagi practised the form even though it was not included in his syllabus. There are various legends associated with the origins of naifunchin, however no written records of this kata survive. All that is known with any certainty is that it was passed down from the source

Sanchin in Chinese martial arts

Further to my article: "The naming of sanchin" ... I have heard it said in crane circles that there is a different sanchin for every student, or words to that effect. I don't know if that is true, but every variant of crane seems to have a sanjan/sanzhan/saamchien. Ngo cho kun (5 ancestor fist) is based on 5 shaolin styles of which crane is one, hence they have sanchin. While Kanbun Uechi's art seems to have been a compilation of his all his various studies, I think it was most heavily influenced by white crane. Uechi certainly looks a lot like Fujian white crane (in my view much more than goju). For downloadable videos check out my friend Martin Watt's site: . He does Yong Chun white crane. His site has links to his Chinese school's site (which has more videos). Also have a look at Eric Ling's sanjin on (Fuzhou Ancestral Crane - said to be the crane form that lead to all the crane variants - calling c

The naming of "sanchin"

Further to my article on the numeric names of kata : In Chinese schools (eg. ngo cho kun) the kata is called "saam chien / sanzhan" while the stance is called "chien be / zhan bu" (battle stance) . The latter is probably the more "correct" description/name of the stance. By comparison, in karate we could perhaps call sanchin dachi "chin dachi". The kata name "sanchin" means "3 battles" and my theory is that the "battles" referred to are not "mind/body/spirit" or some other elaborate philosophical concept. Rather, I think the explanation is more straightforward: The kata is named after 3 sanchin dachi steps:Given my thoughts on the pragmatic kata naming conventions in Fujian in the 1800s (again, see my article Numeric names of kata ) I think the present kata name is shortened from the full Chinese name of the kata: "san zhan bu / saam chien be" — ie. “3 battle steps”. In this regard, bear in mind t

Numeric names of kata

I was asked on a forum why the suffix “te” is added to numeric kata names (such as “sanseru te”, “seisan te”, etc.). Furthermore why not the non-numeric kata names (eg. kururunfa)? The Chinese martial arts often add "step" (“pu” or “bu”) to the name of a technique or a form in order to give it some sense. Hence "mabu" is their term for shiko/kiba dachi and it means literally "horse step" . The same goes for zenkutsu dachi (gong bu - forward step). This is to avoid the absurd labels "horse" or "forward" without any qualification. In this case "bu" or step has the same function as stance or "dachi". They sometimes use the suffix "ji" meaning technique, but if the particular technique involves a stance or moving, "bu" or step is preferred. In Okinawa it is traditional to add the character "te" after kata instead of "pu/bu/ji". This is a cultural tradition that distinguishes Okina