Archive for deshimaru

Taijiquan for some…

Posted in Fighting, martial arts, Reality Bites, Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 10, 2008 by wizardsmoke

…miniature American flags for others!

It’s funny, if you try to compare how difficult to learn the various martial arts are, there’s no clear winner. I have my own views (Taiji is the best ever! A delicious martial art!) but they’re all pretty hard in their own right. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be worth much nor require discipline. The thing is, the uninformed public tends to gauge difficulty by how impressive something appears on the surface. For this reason I think Taijiquan has gotten a misleading reputation.

Taijiquan and other similar “internal” arts are difficult not just physically, but also in the aspect of listening and using mental awareness. They demand one get rid of muscular strength and learn a certain kind of coordination and intuition. One cannot become lazy and just put blatant physical force into the movements. The concepts are a little more subtle than just getting strong and pounding people.

Lots of people I’ve known will accept that Yoga or Tae Kwon Do or Shaolin kung fu is tough to do, just ‘coz it looks all acrobatic or elastic and spiffy. Taiji is rarely practiced fast, except when you get down to the sparring or weapons stuff. WHICH WE DO ALL THE TIME, geez. Even so, we don’t hop around all that much either. Which isn’t to say we can’t, particularly since a lot of people who practice this stuff with a serious teacher end up with a really serious rooting ability. It’s good for running around mountains or whatevas.

Another interesting thing about Taiji, is there are no visible results in your physique! Yeah yeah, we’ve all said it’s cause of taiji when we get a beer belly. But seriously, the more I do Taiji, although I get in better shape, it is absolutely not visibly noticeable to anyone — not even to me. Although my body becomes lighter and springier, and my movements more balanced and “full”, my muscle mass actually just melts away! See why you can’t attract the babes doing Taiji? You end up looking like an old Chinese man.

Based upon this, I suppose no one is surprised then that Taiji doesn’t attract the largest amount of MMA types. On top of that, to really kick ass with Taiji (having had no prior experience), it would take like 5-10 years with a good teacher. I feel like time with any typical Muay Thai teacher or whatevers, would yield “tougher” results or result in fighting ability more quickly (assuming you were already a young male in good physical shape, not the prerequisite for Taiji, if ya ask me). I just seriously doubt if those positive results from studying Muay Thai could last through one’s middle-aged career, or through illness or debilitating injury. Same with Tae Kwon Do, actually. I’ve met a couple of middle-aged guys who needed hip replacements from all their flying spinning jumps.

In fact, Deshimaru, a dude I’m always talking so big about, proves his ignorance on the subject in his otherwise pretty rockin’ Zen Way to the Martial Arts. See, Deshimaru fell into the same trap most people in popular culture have, in assuming the Taiji sponsored by the Communist Chinese government in the ’60s was a serious source of the art. The Chinese government did have some member of the Yang lineage create a watered down public Yang form for the people as a kind of nationalistic exercise, which has been spread under the guise of the 24-posture Yang form. But Taijiquan is an old-school lineage of gongfu and martial skill which goes back several centuries.

When people used to ask what kind of gongfu I study, I initially wouldn’t even say Taijiquan because it’s so annoying that everyone thinks it isn’t a deadly, soul-crushing dance with the devil. These days I usually just suck it up and tell people I do Taiji, ‘coz I don’t want the only people saying they do Taiji to be some pony-boys now, do I? There are a lot of those around: people who do Taiji for a couple of months and try push-hands a few times and think they have experience. But really, push-hands is (A) just an exercise and (B) very hard to do correctly without consistent practice for years. On the one hand you can’t have rules in push-hands because then what is the practical point of the exercise? On the other hand, without any rules it just becomes a stupid shoving match. So you stick to principles (not dogma).

Some people seem to think if they’re really peaceful and just practice push-hands and some form work they’ll magically get enlightened one day and be martial masters. I understand that people are afraid of or perturbed by martial arts, they don’t want to fight or hurt people (almost all Taiji teachers do not require that you learn to fight if you are opposed to the idea). It’s sick to hurt someone else. I have always thought that. We all say that, but I am serious. I started practicing martial arts because I really hated hurting people. In fact, I used to get bullied because I didn’t want to fight. But was that smart? Anyway, the point is, the highest level in the stuff is achieved by the martial masters. Sad but true. Not that anyone in particular has   cornered enlightenment or ultimate reality more than anyone else.

Burn yourself out

Posted in Buddhism, Film, martial arts, Mysticism, Religion, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , on May 27, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I was watching this crucial documentary the other night, called Le Chant Du Dragon about one of Taisen Deshimaru’s French dharma heirs, Stefane Kosen. It’s really good (and free for download); you should watch it. It made me recall and laugh at how I was once so eager to have crazy esoteric experiences. As one martial arts teacher said, “you are so eager to jump into so much esoteric bullshit!” What can I say? I’ve always been something of a chump.

It’s true, that a lot of people want mysterious or magical or mind-blowing spiritual experiences. Whether they want them in some sort of crazed bliss-ninny, yoga context or some deviant, sinister magickal context, the desire for the mind-blowing mystery is all the same (albeit with different “flavors” of energy). But isn’t it true that, once you hit the big kahuna and break down all the walls of illusion or whatever, nothing is mysterious for you? Isn’t that what happens when we use desire to get to the end of desire? There’s nothing left that is curious or weird or unexplainable. It’s all perfectly normal stuff.

So I think that’s why historically in Soto Zen it’s always said not to search after anything, how we just want to come to the normal human condition, how zazen itself is enlightenment, etc. It makes sense in the ultimate context. We only pursue the things that still retain an element of mystery to us. Once we’ve fully understood something we move on to other things. That’s (again) why the most interesting romantic mates for humans are always the ones we don’t know anything about. Often the more you know about something or someone, the less you care.

That strikes me as something of a difference between Soto Zen and say, Nyingma or whatever branch of Tibetan Buddhism. Soto Zen seems like it’s imploring its practitioners to look at the world from this ultimate sense, or it’s at least passing it down in that way. It’s written as if it is conveying a conventional sense of things, but the conventional sense as perceived by one with the “ultimate perspective”. This strikes me as different from most religious teachings, which are inherently condescending and write of ultimate reality in the most romantic and other-worldly ways possible.