Archive for taiji

Killer Apps

Posted in Exercise, Fighting, martial arts, Stayin' Alive, Ultimate Reality, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by wizardsmoke

The idea of martial art forms and applications… forms are just a method of meditation and ingraining solid body mechanics and physical movement into the practitioner. Forms in karate, gongfu, whatever — they’re always wider, exaggerated movements than when the “moves” are actually being “used”. But the funny thing about forms is how they, like any position the body finds itself in, can have “martial applications”.

What MA nuts love about fighting gurus is the way they can make offensive/defensive use of every physical situation they get into. In other words, for an experienced fighter, every physical position that exists becomes one with martial applications. In that sense practicing the forms are just like practicing musical scales and exercises — they appear over and over everywhere, and thus are re-emphasized. They just appear more subtly in the gist of actual movement (melodies and harmonies).

This is why it’s so funny to watch super-tough bouncers show “applications” of Taiji/Tai Chi movements. Because experienced fighters could show you the application of any movement — opening the refrigerator, turning on a lamp (the titty-twister!), throwing a frisbee, clapping your hands, drinking a beer, and so on. Destruction is available from any angle at all times — it just takes the right intent and structural coordination. A deeply experienced fighter can pull it out of anywhere. A person who is an expert with one move can pull it out of almost anywhere if you aren’t paying attention.

So on this level, everything in existence is a form that can be utilized to one’s advantage. So I suppose in practicing MA, this is what one learns — not killer death moves or street fighting talent — but a nuanced, complete understanding of the patterns and ways our bodies move and connect to each other. In this regard, I like the adage at Weakness with a Twist — that we should cultivate weakness. The weaker we are, the more perfectly we move. Everything is an application in progress.

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The Way of ‘Smoke

Posted in Buddhism, Fighting, martial arts, Reality Bites, Religion with tags , , , , , on June 20, 2008 by wizardsmoke

It’s un-Buddhist to be a martial artist, right? Everyone should live in a vanilla-flavored paradise where we all get along for ever and ever, amen. There are insecure macho types, as well as sadists, who become fascinated with martial arts and wear it on their sleeves for all to see and televise. Eventually these people become experts. Some of them even claim to say violence is bad — when they themselves are obsessed with violence!

But… isn’t religious doctrine a response to the way the world is? Isn’t that a similar indoctrination along the lines of what martial artists are teaching, that one should not get carried away by the aggressive nature and activities of the world? Sure, there are messed up martial arts teachers, maybe more so than religious teachers, but I don’t think that’s any more surprising than the amount of crappy people in any profession, social group or hobby.

It’s just worrisome that fighters physically hurt people. Even when you go to a class to learn or practice fighting, you feel violated after someone hurts you unexpectedly; even after you’ve heard a million times that you should expect to get injured in learning a martial art.

I think just as many people become evil lawyers, businessman, politicians, gangsters, pornographers, oilmen, mercenaries, or spies. Some of them are probably attracted to the martial arts too, but the arts themselves are neutral — insofar as they exist. Practicing over the years has never made me enjoy violence or think about it more. Instead, I don’t react very emotionally to actual physical pain, I’ve learned to sense intents right away and I yield or react very naturally and smoothly when someone or something is about to hit me. But some would say, certain professions are devoid of neutrality, right? Like being an assassin, or an oilman, or a mercenary, or a gangster. How can these people be neutral or decent? Some people will actually say the same thing about martial artists or anyone who practices these things seriously, or tells you Taijiquan is a violent martial art (which it is).

Sure, the Taiji forms usually emphasize movements that old people and sick or injured people can do too. But it’s because the person’s ability and structural strength is built up over time. At Weakness With a Twist, a bunch of good posts were made regarding the subject, that muscles often develop to make up for a structural imbalance creating stiffness and pain. Cleaning up one’s structure melts away excessive muscles and allows one to move without relying on them.

That’s the “magical” part of Taijiquan that makes doctors or Buddhists or whomever else approve of it. But it’s pretty freakin’ hard to get the full benefits of Taiji without learning the full martial skillset. A lot of people decry martial arts because they find the stuff intimidating or dysfunctional. They don’t want to put the hard work into practice. Doing some kind of meditation every day is pretty hard in itself, just like doing anything everyday is pretty hard. Yet I find it’s easier to be a little lazy with meditation practice. With martial arts practice, if you don’t put total effort into it every time, you’ll immediately realize you’re wasting your time when somebody (your buddy) smooshes your pretty-boy nose. One perfect nose, ruined forever! Bam!

Blah blah blah, gong fu (lifelong virtuous work) is amazing. Not really. It’s like blogging. Who’s in it for the long haul? Blogging everyday, even when you feel like shit, just because you have to is more gongfu-relevant than the people who go on meditation retreats once a year and then just sit with a group once a week the rest of the time.

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.

Very Hot Yoga

Posted in Fighting, Future World, martial arts, Reality Bites, sex, sex and violence, Technology with tags , , , , , on March 26, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I really wonder about Yoga marketing. A while back I saw a blog post (I think I found the link on Formosa Neijia, but I don’t remember) that posited a very relevant question, asking why Yoga, instead of Taiji, was more popular as a marketable, new-age, meditation, health and fitness practice. The gist of the article was: Taiji is not sexy.

Yoga is sexy. You can do it in skimpy outfits, it requires sweaty endurance training, it creates obscene flexibility, it tones and shapes the body (or the booty? Haha! No seriously, there are nutty fake Yoga videos about developing the buttocks). On a purely empirical and physical level, it’s such an obvious cash crop for an adult female demographic! And of course I can see why more dudes are more attracted to martial arts or whatever here. Same supposed/promised results (inner peace, toned body, flexibility, athleticism, and of course booty) but it’s tough! Grrr!

Thing is, whenever I go to Yoga sites, they’re chock full of instructors in totally scanty outfits, sometimes in the most extreme asanas/poses! Yowza! Just who is their intended audience? I mentioned this to a friend, saying that some of those poses would be uncomfortable to witness a woman performing up close! That is, either a really attractive or unattractive woman… hahaha! Anyway, my friend is really politically correct so he didn’t think that was funny. He seemed to insinuate that I was a blasphemer for even conceiving of the idea (even though I didn’t – it floated by my psyche and I decided to attach to it, but I digress) Unfortunately, I was pseudo-serious: what male is going to a Yoga shala and isn’t completely blasted, completely awed by the sheer massive amount of female energy around them? In fact, maybe it’s dangerous, now that I think about it. Although going to one of these places could make a male less nervous around females in a social context, if a male consciously has that in mind when thinking of these places, they’re a slimeball. So, in other words, don’t let me near any shalas, haha!

But honestly, the real reason I don’t get involved in Yoga is because I’m naturally flexible. In a way that’s actually almost unhealthy. Over-flexibility is not that great if it hasn’t come from gradual strengthening. So, I don’t think yoga would be of huge benefit to me. And I’m pretty set into my own MA practices, which incidentally, take a lot of time out of the week.

Still, I’ve noticed a number of martial arts hombres who have taken up Yoga alongside their longtime martial arts practice. There have been a number of blog posts about it over on big Taiji-related blogs like Formosa Neijia and Weakness With A Twist. It seems like most of these guys do the martial arts first, though. I don’t really get it, since to my knowledge, it isn’t necessarily helpful or good from a fighting/combat perspective to be yoga flexible. Of course, some Shaolin-type training will do similar stretching, but whatever. We’re talking entirely different fundamentals for that kind of training. And I feel like that’s mostly athleticism (which is still awesome and useful). But straightforward martial technique generally calls for opened hips and good fluid dynamics (springing from the root, moving from the waist, moving and rooting, yielding and neutralizing, etc.), not limbs stretched beyond the socket or torso. (Remember, I don’t do Yoga or Shaolin, so don’t rage at my posts)

But! I’m very interested to see how yoga classes are set up. I just would not have any long-term commitment right from the get-go. So… I must stick to my guns and not check it out. And yet I do think if many more girls did martial arts it would be interesting. I wonder how the male demographic would react to that one?

Martial arts often lose out to Yoga in ethical reasoning these days. Why learn how to maim someone? Although martial arts might seem dangerous or unhealthy from a mental perspective, one should remember that like all technological progress, the techniques and teachings are only available because they’re no longer new or even openly useful. Whenever something is open to the public like that, it means it’s such old news it practically belongs in a museum. Nowadays, the only real culture is technology, and that’s obsolete as soon as it comes out. It’s like what that lesbian hitchhiker in Five Easy Pieces kept frothing at the mouth about, that everything is just a bunch of crap. Crap, crap and more crap. These days you can’t escape all the crap. She was nuts, but somehow also right!