This next one is Thang Ta see Wikipedia.
What an awesome training ritual from Manupur. I spent a few days with some Manupuri dance masters in Calcutta, they were awesome. It is a bit like Kathak but with lots of jumping.
And here is a documentry!
Internal Martial Arts, Theatricality, and Daoist Ritual Emptiness
This next one is Thang Ta see Wikipedia.
What an awesome training ritual from Manupur. I spent a few days with some Manupuri dance masters in Calcutta, they were awesome. It is a bit like Kathak but with lots of jumping.
And here is a documentry!
The sound quality on this podcast of Rory Miller is poor, but it is still a fun talk. (I'll come back to it in a moment.)
I was talking to Daniel Mroz yesterday and he said that his friend who is a Beijing Opera (Jingju) master of martial arts roles made a very bold statement. He said that there is a basic movement of the whole body, making a flower with the hands, which is the master key movement out of which all other Beijing Opera movement comes.
This particular movement is nearly identical to a basic movement used in Kathak (North Indian Classical Dance). It is also important in Filipino knife fighting Silat, Maija Soderholm showed it to me the other day. George Xu uses identical whole body coordination as his favorite warm-up for teaching Chen Style taijiquan but working from a horse stance.
The movement is probably essential for anyone who masters handling two single edged blades at the same time.
Now that I've had a day to play with it as a key concept, I'd say it is key to all Baguazhang and is very helpful to staying integrated during shaolin movement. It is not key to Liuhexinyi, but I may change my opinon on that. As an underlying integration of right to left and homo-lateral to contra-lateral symmetry it can be used as an internal measuring stick of whole body integration in almost any complex movement.
I've been doing it for 25 years, but I never thought of it as a key movement before.
I read one of Namkhai Norbu's books last fall in which he recommends using the Vajra posture for standing until one is past the experience of fatigue before laying down and relaxing into emptiness as a way of going directly to the experience/expression of Dzogchen (non-conceptual enlightenment). Basically the Vajra posture is the same posture used for this movement in Kathak dance. It all fits together so well. And the term Vajra means a weapon of uncuttable substance, like diamond I guess. I also recently read an article by Meir Shahar about the widespread concept among martial artists in pre-20th Century China of creating a Vajra body. Here is the title (you can get it for free if you have access to JSTOR):
So all this is to preface that I met Adam who runs West Gate Kungfu School here in Boulder, Colorado. We hit it off right away. We both care deeply about the arts and we both see performance skills and having maximum fun as master keys of the martial arts experience. He invited me to hang out with his performing troupe the other day. I brought my instruments and accompanied their warm-up routines, which went really well, I also taught some Daoyin which they immediately wanted to teach to the kids classes. I had a great time and I have deep sense of respect for what Adam is doing.
His students have a lot of talent and enthusiasm and they have some great butterfly kicks too! Butterfly kicks, by the way, use the exact same body coordination as that Vajra flower movement I was just talking about above.
So I was an argument on Facebook with a Police Officer about whether or not Capoeira is utilitarian in a self-defense context. He was particularly adamant that flips are useless for fighting. I eventually got him to agree with me, which was awesome because he is obviously a really smart and experienced guy. To win the argument I went through some of the stuff you can hear in that Rory Miller talk at the top of this post. For instance, martial arts training rarely, if ever, kicks in the first time a person is in a violent situation. It is more likely that it will kick in after 3-5 violent situations. And when it finally does it can be amazing. But before that it is all conditioning and that includes what you conditioned as little kid. From a purely self-defense point of view having a lot of techniques to choose from forces a person into his or her cognitive mind which generally precipitates a whole body freeze. So one of the most important things martial artists need to train if they care about self-defense is breaking that freeze.
Conditioned movements should be designed relative to what a person is likely to need. This is very different for a police officer who may have a duty to get involved, and a citizen caught in a self-defense situation. Criminals most often (this material comes from Rory Miller) attack children and women from behind, and surprise attacks are also most often from behind. The practice of doing a back flip involves moving huge amounts of momentum backwards and up. If the attacker is taller than you are, your head is going to slam into either his chin or his nose, and you will probably both end up on the ground. The motion of a back flip is actually a really good thing to condition as a response to a surprise attack from behind.
In general, practices which use large amounts of momentum, practices which condition comfort and ease with flying through space are great for self-defense. Why? because of this maxim: If you are winning try to control the fight, if you are losing add chaos and momentum. If you get attacked by surprise, you are already losing, so add chaos and momentum. The practice of spinning around the room while holding on to a partner is also great conditioning, most judo classes train this a lot. Add butterfly kicks and you are doing even better, practice using those kicks off of walls and tables and you are approaching ninja territory.
Someone just posted this on Facebook and it is a great example of the same base movement used to organized a routine:
I'm going to try to write a new post every other day for a few weeks. Since I'm new in Boulder there are probably new people reading, and I want get into a new routine.
I've done a bunch of updates to other parts of the website, with more to come and I'm open to suggestions reader might have for changes or new pages.
I've been working on a paper that is going to be delivered at the end of the month at the Daoist Conference in Boston. I'm excited about it. Adam D. Frank wrote an interesting book about 10 years ago and here is a review of it by a friend of mine who is a growing figure in the field of Anthropology. If you track down to numbered paragraph 10, you can read the justification for my paper. I spent 4 days talking to Georges so perhaps I had an influence on him but mostly I just think we think alike. My paper is called Cracking the Code: Taijiquan as Enlightenment Theater.
I've been thinking a lot about how I want to structure my classes and how to charge for teaching. This rather boring article actually raises many of the basic questions. His point about me needing to choose exactly what I'm teaching is probably correct. I should probably institute some mandatory introductory classes too. But there are two basic problems I have that he doesn't address. (1) I don't believe there is any inherent order to the subject and I believe that all the normally discrete subjects from improv theater to baguazhang to meditation benefit from being presented in a common milieu--as a single megasubject. (2) Hardly anyone with the free time to study with me in depth has the money to pay me what I'm worth. The author of that article seems to think that if he just raises his prices students will be paying him what he is worth, I don't think it is possible to pay me what I'm worth using the model of monthly dues. I'm looking seriously at models whereby people who care about the arts can make a donation to the preservation and promotion of the arts on a 5 to 25 year scale. I'd love to hear peoples thoughts on these issues.
I read these two articles on Yoga, the first is funny, if like me you have been following the yoga is ours debate.
Of course the idea of owning artistic expression in someone else's body is absurd, and the author seems completely blind to the fantastically liberating forces of international commerce, but it is fun anyway.
...is actually incoherent unless you have a very sharp Occam's Katana handy. But she does raise a very interesting question about the reasons soccer-mom/professionals are choosing to do constantly changing disciplined workouts that are short on play. Why are they choosing so much structure over games and fun? It is apparently what a lot of people want, and I see many of the same traits in children who generally seem to find being on a very short leash deeply emotionally satisfying. The article has too much dross in it to come to any clear conclusion but there is something interesting going on. As mothers have come to be masters of their childrens' "playdates" they seem to have created the same thing for themselves, but without the play. Is it new? Is there anyway to track adult seriousness vs. playfulness over time?
And lastly, I think fish is very healthy food and I'm very excited to learn that fish prices are about to fall through the floor. If other things, like housing prices for instance, were to drop too life on earth might just become too easy! Don't read these last two links if you are uncomfortable with the idea that life is getting better all the time do to commercial prowess. I call this the green washing solution. These links have nothing to do with martial arts, but they do have to do with Tantric ideas about enlightenment, and that is part of what I'm teaching these days. Below is Manjushri the deity for cutting through styles of teaching, which my students and my wife tell me is my patron saint.
I just moved to Boulder Colorado with my wife Sarah. Many people have asked me why? The answer has too many answers. But I want a big change that will inspire me to do things differently.
At the moment we are looking for housing, it is shockingly cheap compared to the San Francisco Bay Area. This gives me hope that there will be enough of a population interested in dedicating lots of time to learning the arts. I have no idea yet where I'm going to be teaching, but there is a lot of optimism floating around and plenty of spaces.
Anyone who wants to help with connections or ideas would be welcome. I'm searching for collaborators. I love helping other people with their business or art projects and I love learning new stuff, and I particularly love trying experiments. I also have experience teaching a wide range of stuff, all of which I'm happy to share:
Daoyin, two types: 1) Orthodox hermit floor practice, 2) circus animal yoga. It can be taught as a classic yoga class, or as systematic enlightenment training (elixir or emptiness), or as games and puzzles, or for ground fighting and conditioning.
Improvisationally loaded fighting class games, with a nod toward tantric forms of enlightenment (see previous post!).
My classic kids classes using drums gongs, and wood blocks to teach shaolin and daoyin as a creative performing art.
I want to try teaching an African martial arts strategies of conditioning class using drumming to teach fighing.
Lectures: History, Daoism, Religion, Theater and Martial Arts.
Tons of different Qigong systems.
Yiquan, for meditation, health or fighting.
Bagua, Tai Chi (three styles), Northern Shaolin, Lan Shou, Liuhexinyi, tumbling, dance.
Workshops: This is a totally open thing, the idea being that any aspect of the arts can be modularized.
Note that I used the term "fighting" above which can mean a lot of different things from self-defense to games to professional uses of force strategies-- and all of them come with profound identity challenging discussions of morality and amorality.
I was at a wonderful party a few weeks back and a mathematician asked me if I'd ever heard of Long Tack Sam? I was embarrassed to say that I had not. There is some very interesting stuff on line if you search around, there is also a film, and if anyone knows how I can get to see it, please let me know. He was a professional performer from that triangle around Shandong and southern Shanxi that was martial arts 24/7. After the Boxer rebellion and the start of the Republic Era (1912) all sorts of obstacles were put in his path. His group's specialty was tricks using the queue, which was banned under penalty of death! He managed to escape to the United States and toured internationally and was a huge success. Had he stayed in China I suspect his only real option for success would have been to teach martial arts or go into some completely unrelated field. Anyway a very interesting case, there is also a bunch of stuff in the movie (I think) about how ashamed his descendants were of his performer caste origins.
I also came across this short piece on a sword maker in Taiwan. His story makes a great metaphor for a bunch of the cultural re-texturing that is going on right now. He is making very high quality steel specifically designed for martial artists. In order to tap into the authenticity of the ancients he is using an industrial process built on knowledge of engineering and metallurgy. But there is also a strong handi-craft element, or what I like to call--be your own lumberjack-- his swords get an authenticity and a quality boost because they are partially hand made. He polishes them for 2 years but the explanation of why is built around chemistry. And on top of that he has some kind of dreaming practice and transmediumship or "channelling" relationship to the gods which he is reluctant to talk about but which is also framed as essential! I love it.
Occam's Katana is not the name of the book I'm working on, although it might make a good chapter title. Occam, a rather clear thinking guy who lived in the 13th Century, is the name we give to the use of a mental razor blade used for cutting out all the unnecessary theories and mind farts that tend to get stuck to the facts. It is often stated as, the simplest and most direct explanation is the one most likely to be true.
But of course that is not always true. For situations where theories (or even ideologies or hysteria) have had a lot of opportunity to co-opt facts or even pound and shape them, a more hefty device might be necessary. Thus Occam's Katana is the tool you want for these bigger jobs.
I once dated a French woman whose name was Super Chick. She had a job, I kid you not, at the Museum of Modern Art as an expert on painting on film. You know film, the stuff that goes from reel to reel in a movie theater. Apparently some artists have thought it a good idea to paint with paint on top of pieces of film. Not as animation mind you, but as very small paintings. Anyway it's a thing. With a history and stuff.
She also had a full collection of Post Modern theory in her apartment. At that time I had already read the major theorists and such, my father had interviewed a number of them for his radio show Social Thought, and afterward he gave me the books. I had also read several when I studied with Angela Davis, and it was a big thing in both the anarchist and dance worlds I travelled in. But Super Chick had more. And she had read them in both languages. In fact, she had the extraordinary distinction of having been a personal assistant to both Richard Rorty, the translator of many of the French Post Modern Philosophers, and the film maker John Waters! You know, the guy you always see in Facebook images saying, "Do not have sex with people unless they have a lot of books!"
So I borrowed a short stack, thinking I might as well take this opportunity to up my game. She had meticulously underlined large sections of text in pencil. The problem was, I couldn't figure out why. When we talked about it she admitted (perhaps an influence from Richard Rorty) that none of these books actually had any intrinsic value in the realm of ideas, but that they had an aesthetic value. That's what she was doing with the pencil, marking things that were aesthetically pleasing.
At that time there were only a small number of Post Colonial Studies Theorists, James Clifford comes to mind, but my take on them is they are a combination of Post Modern Theory and Marxism. Which is very funny if you think about it.
Anyway all this is to introduce a book I have not read yet, I have only read this review of it by Paul Bowmen, Stateless Subjects: Chinese Martial Arts Literature and Postcolonial History, by Petrus Liu
No doubt, to get through this you will need to sharpen up your Occam's Katana.
Here is what I got out of it. The idea that martial arts can be learned from a secret manual is an idea associated with a society that privileges the written word. And a great deal of the martial arts fiction of the last 400 years has had this idea built into it. Therefore, wait for it..., martial arts fiction was written by the literati-- the elite gentry class. This might not seem like much of a revelation, like duh right? Like who else would have written it? But there is so much ideology piled up around martial arts that it actually took Occam's Razor to cut us back to the obvious truth.
But the implication of this last paragraph knocked my socks off. If martial arts manuals were a common element of fiction, they were of course also a common element of theater, opera and popular culture. We also know that secret manuals that confer immortality and various magical powers or curses are a mainstay of religious literature (also written by the literati).
The reason this is so important is that it solves a minor problem I've been dueling with. There are a handful of martial arts manuals produced in China between 1500 and 1900. Some of them have enlightenment or talismanic content, but they all seem to point to a pure martial arts, a subject fully formed and distinct from theater, opera or religion. As regular readers know, my working thesis is that martial arts was inseparable from theater and religion historically. When the history of martial arts is laid out alongside religion and theater, Occam's Razor tells us they were all interrelated and physically integrated. But how do I deal with this very small number of seemingly pure martial arts manuals?
The answer is so simple I had been missing it. These manuals were produced to feed a kind of playful fantasy that the heroic martial arts of the theater existed in real life. If the famous General Yue Fei, as portrayed in an opera, learned his martial awesomeness from a secret manual, then wouldn't a literati studying martial arts from a live-in actor (who was also his his lover-servant) want to produce a secret manual too? In fact, wouldn't that be a better way to explain how he learned the martial arts? A literati probably wouldn't want to admit directly that he studied martial arts with an low caste actor, but if he learned it from a manual, that would be cool.
In that sense, the very idea of a martial art that can be learned from a manual comes from the theater. The idea that martial arts could be learned from a book has a post modern ring to it, it is actually a form of the theatre of the absurd.
As an aside, a large number of martial arts styles are said to have been learned via watching an animal, a monkey, a crane a rooster, etc... Wouldn't that be a great way for a literati to avoid admitting they studied with an Opera trained Animal Role specialist?
And both explanation fit perfectly with the so called "penny books," which were mini-martial arts books that appeared on commercial presses in the mid-1800's. If you were an actor who wanted to become a martial arts teacher having a secret manual to share or sell would have been a perfect narrative to explain the origins of your training, or rather, to cover them up.
This also explains why laymen encyclopedias of the 1500's have references to learning martial arts, the idea of having martial arts skill transmitted through a god, a stranger, or a family member was already well developed in the theater. If you could watch it on the stage, why couldn't you hire a private tutor?
Hey, I'm going to see the Five Deadly Venoms, a great old Shaw Brothers Kungfu Movie today.
New Parkway Theater,
3 PM Saturday March 8th.
Come along, discussion and beer afterwards.
Yes, you read that correctly, I'm going to talk about strength.
My history with strength is that as a kid I was always winning those presidential physical fitness awards because I was very active. I could run long distances, I could do lots of pull ups, I was always the first to the top climbing the rope in gym class. When I tried out for the football team in high school the coaches looked at me, skinny, and probably thought no way, but I out-ran, out push-upped and out sit-upped all the other try-outs so they had to let me on the team. However, I was even more arrogant then than I am now and I figured why be on a team with all these out of shape losers, so I never went to practice.
I always had the philosophy that building muscle wasn't necessary, just do the thing and the body will give you what you need.
In the Sea Scouts I learned a different lesson from solo rowing with an over loaded boat in strong winds and choppy waters. Strength didn't work. What did work was perfectly smooth technique. I trained my rowing crew of 4, one small woman, one very small man, and another man, not so small but smaller than me. We raced heavy wooden whale boats against teams of 6 guys all bigger than me with big muscles and we won. They were just bending oars and messing each other up. We were smooth and steady.
In my 20's I was an animal. Dance, martial arts, bicycle riding 8 hours a day. I never tried to build muscle, I just did the thing. And I had the energy for it. Yes, after very intense work outs my body would hurt, but it always hurt so good!
In the realm of martial arts I did get muscles for a few years, but as I got more efficient the muscles got leaner and smoother. Standing practice, for an hour a day, also healed my injuries.
As the years went by my power got better, there are many ways of generating large amounts of power that do not require much muscle. And usually people with big muscles are at a sensitivity disadvantage, they don't feel the changes until it is too late.
But as I age the injuries keep piling up. In June I was backpacking with my wife and she was struggling a bit so I was taking more and more of the gear. Then we got on a route where there wasn't going to be water for two days, so I took enough water for both of us, 2 gallons. The day was very windy and I took a bad step injuring my knee. We had planned a lot more backpacking but my knee wasn't up to it. And then we did a huge amount of driving and I injured my lower back. Yikes.
Then a month went by, more driving, and nothing was healing. So I started getting bodywork and talking to my expert friends and finally things started healing. Then in September I was in a push hands game with someone who really did not want to lose. After I up rooted him, I put him back on his feet and he kicked me in the knee. Ow. I thought: I'm so dumb. Why did I agree to do this? Will I ever learn?
After that I was up at this Buddhist Center in Northern California working on my book, and clearing brush. It was often ice cold in the morning for my workouts and I ended up injuring my other knee too, which made my back hurt again. That was the first time in my life I had both knees injured at the same time.
None of this actually stopped me from working or moving, it wasn't that bad. But the healing was really slow.
All of this got me to reflect on all the crazy stuff I've done. Pushing my body into crazy pretzels. All of my dance teachers were adamant that we should never dance on concrete, that it would kill our knees. But I was doing martial arts outside on concrete everyday. I learned to land softly. I figured it was fine. I also did Kathak, North Indian Classical Dance, which was an exception to the rule about dancing on concrete. Kathak is done with five pounds of bells on each ankle and barefoot. Hard smooth surfaces like polished concrete or marble simply make the best sounds. And like clapping with your hands, you can make loud crisp sounds with your feet without hurting your them. But sometimes, I got carried away and brused the bones of my feet.
Anyway I did that fight group in Seattle over Thanksgiving. I was playing a version of mercy with a guy much bigger than me. It is a technical trick, it doesn't require strength. But I realized the guy's hands were so strong that even if he couldn't submit me, he might break the bones in my hand. Yikes. And afterwards I really felt that having big relaxed muscles in a well trained body is not the same as just having big muscles.
So I am here in the Southern Sierra of California in a cabin, still working on my book. It occurred to me that the injuries I got caused me to significantly limit my movement, and I probably lost a lot of strength. Strength I never thought about training because I always just had it.
So I've been doing this experiment with strength, it has pretty much healed my injuries in two weeks. Wow.
Here is what I did. Normal martial arts workouts but with the intention of building muscle. In other words, inefficient movement. I decided to build up my thighs for instance, engaging the muscles which normally would make the stances harder to do and reduce my range of motion. But a funny thing happened. The muscles just got big and then got out of the way. I realized that with big thigh muscles things like bridges and backbends are easier. So I started building up my biceps and triceps and doing pull ups and handstand push ups and stuff like that too.
The thing is I really know how to completely relax, so even with bigger muscles they aren't getting in the way, they are just adding protection. In a sense I'm not using them, they are just hanging on as support.
And here is the kicker. All that qigong and daoyin stuff hadn't been doing much for me for quite awhile. I long ago fully integrated it into everything I do so it was redundant. But qigong works wonders on muscle. I've been pulling out all my old "healing" tricks.
The assumption that tendons and ligaments can do most of the job of muscles was correct, and the efficiency and whole body connection and increased range of motion that comes with that approach are all real, and worth doing. And there are a lot of cool tricks to be learned from using tendons and ligaments instead of muscle. But the combination of many years of practice and age takes a toll on those soft tissues. (I think there are significant hormone shifts that effect changes in soft tissue too, also part of aging.)
I lost my jump! And I was a jumper, I used to do long strings of split leaps and straddle jumps in rhythm across the dance floor hitting the top of my jumps on the beat. Where did my jump go?
So we will see if I can get that back. Live and learn.
Feel free to offer thoughts or advice. I think I'm a beginner again.
For the wood horse year I'm planning something really big, but I'm about to go into solo retreat for a month in the Sierra Nevada first.
The workshop last weekend went really well, basically my theory is that what I've been doing with kids will work even better with adults. Conditioning not learning.
I have a bunch of links I wanted to share, so here they are.
The first one is kind of whatever, but I learned that the classic Bruce Lee movie Fists of Fury (remade by Jet Lee), is called Jingwu in Chinese. Jingwu means Pure Martial, it was the name of the political martial arts movement that was essentially an exorcism of all the yin stuff in martial arts like ground fighting and magic.
Dog style is one of the surviviors of that purge. Check it out. Dogs and pigs were the very lowest status animals, so it is hard to imagine someone wanting to do such a style unless it was a joke, or they themselves were super low status in the society and they were claiming a kind of reverse awesomeness.
This was how some of it came back in a flood in the 1980's, great pictures of Qigong Fever.
This is an awesome return of the pre-20th Century martial arts narrative culture, unfortunately it got removed, a commenter says that seen from the other side there is a beaver visible.
This is a fun idea for martial artists, con-men and actors alike.
If you are signed up with academia.edu you can get a copy of D.S. Farrer's $200 book Shadows of the Profit: Sufi Mysticism and the Martial Arts, for free as download. It is about Silat, and looks very interesting. So does the 45 minute video that goes with it!
And this is just a freaky image of the future for no particular reason.
Enjoy the ride!
I'm Teaching a workshop this Sunday at Soja Marital Arts in Oakland at 12 Noon
It's called Martial Games, come on down!
I'm still technically on a writing retreat but I dream about teaching and I have lots of new ideas to try out. I have a developed a game for transforming jing into qi.
I picked up a few different types of outlining software/apps and I'm wondering if it is a good way to produce blog posts. The theory being that many people actually want to read an idea in outline form, so they can skip to the parts of a text that most interest them. I think some of my best blog posts have been outlines or frameworks for thinking about larger issues.
One of my mentor teachers, Chitresh Das, is the subject of a documentry about improvisation and a collaboration with an award winning tapdancer.
The title Upaj, means a musical expression that arises spontaneously and instantaineously from the heart.
It is showing on PBS today, tomorrow and next monday. PBS is a government station so it is anyone's guess when it is actually showing. This page is supposed to tell you.
Commentary to follow when I actually watch it. But it will be amazing I'm sure.
Martial arts as a route to enlightenment is a subject I have written about some in the past, and I'm working a bunch of new material into my book. But this is a pretty great summary of some of the issues, awesome really, Ling Gesar. The links are easy to follow from there too.
And the Placebo effect is always on my radar. This is a link to a study by the star of placebo research most people know as the author ofThe Web That Has No Weaver , Ted Kaptchuk.
Basically the new spin on placebo is that it works, so we should use it. The why and how it works is, at this point, still only explainable via religion (A former stepfather of allopathic medicine I suppose). This is true of the mind in general. The arrogance of science, or scientism if you prefer, or rational modernity, whatever, simply does not have a metaphor that adequately explains either the mind or consciousness. We are not really robots or computers or computer-like monkeys. We are what we are, or, as Popeye was fond of quoting Torah: I yam what I yam.
I also heard a metaphor people might like to consider. You know how we talk about twenty year olds who can call in 3 laser guided smart bombs in like 10 minutes in Afghanistan at like a million dollars a pop? Well that's what it is like for Doctors in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). They are calling in smart bomb medicine every time they push a button, like a million dollars a pop. If you've been to the ICU, whether you are a pauper or a prince, you are now probably worth more than the Six Million Dollar Man! And all the savings we can pile up in every other type of medicine will be used up in two days in the ICU. And it is getting more expensive everyday because they are inventing new machines all the time. And yes, most of that money gets spent on people at the very end of their lives. I don't know, it seems like this ought to lead to some moral discussion here. Like perhaps we could pay people to wear Do not resuscitate wrist bands? Or at least give them a tax break?
I've been working through some vocabulary problems, "popular" religion vs. "village" religion, verses the clerical lineages, verses text based traditions, verses movement based traditions...anyway, I like the term "temple religion" and when I Googled it I got "temple culture" and a video from my friend Fabian who does wonderful work:
My father recently linked to this article about Aging Baby Boomers in the Housing Market. Over the next 3-5 years we are going through a massive inversion! Retired people will suddenly out-number working people by a large ratio. The ratio just started flipping out! Consensus housing, consensus religion, consensus rock, consensus exercise, consensus marriage, education, medicine, crime, and consensus marital arts--it's all flipping out! It's going to change big and change fast. What do you think?
Yikes, I haven't posted a blog in over a month. I'm still working on a book. For January I'm house sitting South of San Francisco. I'm trying to write all day, everyday. In February I'm going to stay in a home in the Southern Sierra Nevada and after that I'm not sure. It depends on whether my book is finished.
I am teaching a half day workshop. I get so much pleasure out of teaching, I really miss it:
Also, a giant in the world of martial arts passed away this morning. A true hero in the worlds of kungfu, commerce and entertainment.
Run Run Shaw 1907-2014
I want to give a plug to Rafe Kelley and his Good Men Project, he also has a business called Evolve Move Play. His latest blog post is right on! I nearly got ejected from a Christmas Dinner for saying the same thing, albeit in more provocative terms. Well, and also I did punch someone as a way of answering the question: "Why is fighting essential for emotional and intellectual development?" Hey, a single punch is worth a thousand words, right? Why We Need a Little Roughhousing!
I'm presenting a paper on the Theatrical and Religious origins of Taijiquan and doing a workshop in Boston at the:
These conferences are a lot of fun, I hope to meet some of my East Coast friends and readers while I'm there!
I would have more to say, but... my Apple Stickies program crashed with about 7 half-finished blog posts, sooooo 2003. amirite?
Don't worry, I have numerous blog posts still spinning in my head and I'll have them up soon.
This post is entirely free of romanticism. It points to a new super charged modernity of pure martial arts.
Three days have passed...
I recently got to visit a secret society of violence experimentation. I'm 5'11'' and 160lbs. The guys I was playing with have a ton of experience with actual violence and averaged 6'3'' and 230lbs. Each was different and has a unique story but the results on my end were: 6 choke outs. 20 throat pokes. Head butt to the nose and the eye socket. Nose and jaw rubbed into the ground. A knee bouncing up and down on my solar plexus. Random pain compliance. Balls kneed and squeezed. Floor impact. Chest compressed to the point of no inhale do to excessive weight. A mildly dislocated shoulder. And 3 accidental chiropractic adjustments.
I mention all this because none of it is actual damage, but my mind read it as damage at the time. Well, I had a bit of vertigo this morning and my nose has some free floating bits of cartilage, and maybe my shoulder isn't quite where it should be, but over all I feel great.
Several of the most experienced guys I was playing with claimed they had no hormonal response. They say fighting with another person is like fighting with a teddy bear, they don't see another person there so they are not triggered emotionally or socially. That's pretty amazing. They, in some sense, are able to shed their identity so that fighting is just what normal feels like.
Over all the feed back I got was very positive. My skills and training are great. The problem is that when I'm taking what I perceive to be damage I become more of a monkey, that is, I start reacting instead of fighting the way I'm trained to do. Getting poked in the throat in this case was not doing real damage but it freaked me out. Taking five or six body shots in a row, in this case, wasn't damage but believing it was made me fight poorly.
But what is most interesting to me is tracking how I feel.
First off there was the enjoyment of my failures and feelings of appreciation for the folks helping me with that. The first session went until 2 AM so there was some exhilaration, and a kind of body looseness that happens when I'm passed tired. That seems like 3 or 4 hormone combinations right there. But I'm pretty sure that my social challenge autopilot-- I need to be tougher than you-- hormones didn't flood my system. That's a very important detail.
From 8 in the morning we went until about 1 pm. Some nausea, lots of need to drink fluids. Perhaps that had something to do with the whiskey the night before. More simple feelings of fun and enjoyment. Then that evening I was just feeling elated. Tired but extra friendly. I was in pain all over, one arm was barely functional and my face felt bruised, but the pain was mixed with some hormone that made me feel really good. Perhaps I felt socially bigger then normal, unflappable.
All the next day I was happy about being in pain. Every time I felt pain, it was accompanied by joy. And then I had a new effect. My body wanted resistance. Not push ups or squeezing or jumping around, or powering through. My body wanted dynamic resistance all over. It was perhaps like being a kid and wanting to be tickled, very dynamic and unpredictable. And a bit like wanting to wrestle, but different from wanting to physically dominate. This deep physical desire was my body wanting to relax against dynamic and chaotic oppositional forces.
That last one was a very cool feeling. Unfortunately I only had my wife around to play with, but she indulged me for a few minutes and that made me very happy. I believe that whatever that hormone combination was, it is probably key to the highest levels of martial arts training. It's as if once I got there my body already knew how to make up games that would condition me for optimum battle skills. I should add here that this hormone inspired feeling is related to what I have elsewhere described as a separation of the inner and outer body, distilling jing and qi in motion. The version I practice without the hormone inspiration feels like the mass of muscle and bone is a dull container driven by an inner body that can not be easily caught because it is moving around inside, like a separate body.
The next day (two days after) I had mostly come down from the high but I felt heroic and larger than normal. My body had mostly healed but the pain I still had bothered me more, it had migrated. My limbs and my face felt better but my chest felt stiff and compressed. Not a big deal from a healing point of view because bruises on the torso get great blood circulation. I did a lot of chest loosening exercises and felt fine. But later in the day I had a very strong sensation around my chest and heart. A new hormone. I felt hollow. Longing. Like I'd been emotionally crushed, but just as a sensation. I wanted to be held and gently caressed, it felt childish. Vulnerable. Like I wanted to be inside and then inside again.
Three days later all the effects are gone.
Many if not all of these hormones have been isolated and probably can be injected into the blood. I think taking hormones could be a really smart way to train but just look at how many changes I went through, it would require very complex monitoring.
Understanding how to trigger (or not trigger) the hormones and then not over doing it is probably a better route. We should consider monitoring these hormones in students too. Right now there is potentially inexpensive technology that can tell you all the hormone concentrations in your blood in about an hour. We just have to create the market for it.
There are so many implications for education and learning in general here. Imagine a school where subjects are taught only when the student's hormone profile is at its optimum for that subject? If, for instance, your hormones are primed for mathematical thinking, you would likely invent the games that would teach you everything you need to know as long as you had the inputs/problems/proofs/tools available. Imagine a speed reading class that focussed on getting you to the right hormone balance before trying to teach you anything. My guess is the very best teachers all do this intuitively already.
The opposite, having exactly the wrong hormone profile for a particular type of learning would be a pure disaster.
Nothing here is new. All the feelings I've described are part of NORMAL. But conscious discussions of how to optimize these feelings for specific results needs a lot more attention and naming.
I suspect that traditional ritual behavior and ritual design is deeply tied up with conditioning people via hormone responses. Some rituals require a big crowd because that triggers certain hormones. A wedding for instance, is meant to permanently seal a social bond in the mind of everyone present. An execution follows a similar logic. There are countless other examples. Secrets and secret rituals must be a different combination of hormones. I don't want to simplify this to the point of triviality, but enlightenment may just be a relationship to hormones. That doesn't mean we all have access to it or even care to. This is just a line of thinking.
Again, this is nothing new, A Brave New World, and A Clockwork Orange were built around this theme. Two early scifi's that crossed the blood-brain barrier into literature, from low brow to high brow. Which brings us to the title of this post.
Silence is golden,
Duct tape is silver
(an original poem) by Sgt. Rory Miller