Showing posts from July, 2009

Taiji and yoga: poles apart?

My Chen Pan-Ling brother and good friend Mark Small sent me a link to the Camp Tai Chi site run by John Crewdson. John's home page has the intriguing heading "7 Ways Tai Chi is Different From Yoga" . I don't disagree with any of John's points, particularly his observation that taiji (tai chi) is a martial art, where yoga is not. But I can't help thinking there is much more to the distinction between these 2 disciplines, particularly since taiji is very rarely practised as a combat art. Rather it is seen as health and well-being discipline not unlike yoga. Despite their common objectives, it is my view that yoga and taijiquan are so different in function that in many respects the question of "how they are different" is misconceived. Arguably the impression that taiji and yoga are similar activities is fostered by the fact that "new age" adherents often lump them together as both "spiritual" and "physical" disc

"Tag" competition: how "useful" is it?

Recently the subject of what is often called "bouncy tag" has reared its head at the Traditional Fighting Arts Forum . In particular comment was made about the Youtube footage of George Alexander undertaking a 50 person kumite in celebration of his achievement of his judan (10th dan) grade. I have embedded the video below: George Alexander undertaking a 50 person kumite At the outset I'll say that I think Mr Alexander's demonstration was reasonably impressive for a man of his age. I am not going to comment on the issues pertaining to his grade (for me the rank "judan" would surely be an honourary grade more than anything - a kind of "lifetime achievement award"). Rather I will simply observe that he shows skill at what he does in that video. So what is he doing? Is it karate? Or is it something else? Many on the Traditional Fighting Arts Forum argue that it is not traditional karate , and I would respectfully agree with this posit

"Contamination" and learning a "new" martial art

My good friend Jorge Morales-Santo Domingo recently posed the following question to me: "Watching your Taijiquan videos it occurred to me to ask how you avoid "contaminating" your internal arts practice with your former karate experience, or vise versa. This was always a problem for me as I inadvertently "slipped" into Goju intent at the slightest similarity of movement. This was the prime reason why I returned fully to karate. Although a lot of what I experienced during that time has surfaced in my Goju practice." This was an interesting question. I couldn't think how to answer it, so I decided to pour myself a (very big) glass of red wine and "mull" it over. Me performing the second section of Chen Pan-Ling's taijiquan form The red wine didn't help. I stood in the kitchen feeling progressively more and more inebriated but none the wiser. So I decided (as I often do) that it was probably best to write down the first thoughts that

What's in a name: the "do" and "jutsu" debate

I have often read in recent years about the difference between a school practising "karatedo" and a school practising "karatejutsu". "Do" (道) of course means "way". This is a philosophical term referencing Daoism/Taoism as well as being a more practical, everyday noun (it could simply refer to a pathway or road). As with any Chinese character (hanzi or kanji), there are mulitple meanings, often simultaneously applicable. "Do" is commonly used as a suffix in naming multi-faceted traditional Japanese activities that are analogous to both traditional Western rituals/ceremonies and performance arts. "Jutsu" (術) on the other hand means technique, method, spell, skill or trick. It is often used as a suffix in naming a practical activity (eg. battōjutsu (抜刀術) meaning "the method of drawing a sword"). Accordingly it is ofen said that "karatedo" best describes karate as an activity that is largely ritualistic o

忍 - Endurance and Spirit Training

Those who know me know my occasional reference to the Chinese character 忍 - "ren" (or "nin" in Japanese) - meaning "to endure" or "to persevere". For me this character has special resonance with martial arts training. It reflects not only the years of blood, sweat and tears poured onto the dojo floor; it also reflects the psychological challenges, the fears, the disappointments. In one word it conjures all the barriers that have confronted me along my martial journey. Some of these I have overcome. Others have bested me. Yet, despite the latter, what is critical is this; I do not define myself by the moments where I lay defeated in a crumpled heap. I choose to define myself by the moment I picked my sorry self up again. Some moments of defeat are almost too humiliating to confront. I let them loiter in the recesses of my mind, pushing them back whenever they try to intrude into my consciousness. I do so with the aid of my steadfast ally; t