Monthly Archives: January 2008

Been here, want the T-shirt


Hehehe, I was on the MRT last night, on my way to the lesson with Master Zhou, and I noticed a guy wearing a t-shirt from the Hong Kong chain Baleno. On the front of the shirt? “Jianghu”, in hanyu pinyin and Chinese calligraphy!

Baleno has branches here in Singapore; I reckon that come the weekend,  I’ll get to one of them and see if they have any left in stock!

Category: Blogging, Jianghu

Wuji and me

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This is rather an embarrassing thing to admit, but I think I might be beginning to understand wuji long xing baguazhang, ie the form Master Zhou is trying to teach me.

I say “embarrassing” because, after all, I’ve been working on this form for months now, and I really haven’t got anywhere. This is entirely my own fault. I certainly don’t blame Master Zhou, who is really a great teacher. It’s more that I’ve had a mental block of some kind; I’m not sure why. I know it’s a great form, I know that Master Zhou can teach me not just how to do it but also how to apply it, and I know I really like the form AND enjoy the lessons (that’s why I keep going back, after all). But… I’ve never really got it, if you know what I mean. That’s to say, I guess I’ve never seen where it’s going, or where what I’m learning fits in.

The result has been that after every class, when I go to practice solo, I’ve worked on Ge Chun Yan’s bagua form; I’ve worked on Zhang Sheng Li’s bagua form; I’ve worked on bagua sword and bagua pen; I’ve worked on CMC-37, Nam Wah Pai’s Yang-24 form, Xuan Xuan taiji sabre… hell, I’ve even worked on a bit of capoeira on occasion. But, I haven’t worked much on wuji long xing bagua. I just haven’t been able to do it, even immediately after class.

At long last, I’ve had a breakthrough. Last week I filmed Master Zhou doing the whole set, converted it to mp4 format, and loaded it onto my iPod. I’ve been watching it a lot. Now, at least, I feel that I get it. After class tonight, I spent 90 minutes just working on this one form, and I finally have confidence that I can learn it.

Watch this space…

A fighting Thai monk


We tend to associate fighting monks with the Chinese Shaolin tradition, or with certain Japanese sects. Today’s Straits Times features a Thai boxer with a law degree, who became a monk at age 29 after a long and successful career in the ring.

Sadly, he still needs his skills. He’s taken the Dharma to the hill tribes, where he encourages the villagers to grow food crops instead of drugs. He also takes in and educates children orphaned in turf wars between drug gangs. Sadly, these activities have made him a target, and he’s had to use his combat skills on several occasions to defend his life against assassins sent by the drug lords. A courageous man…

Read the story here.

Category: Buddhism, Martial Arts

What a weekend…

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I need a holiday to recover, how am I going to face work tomorrow…?

As I mentioned, the Piper guys were passing through town for a few days; I managed to catch up with them on Thursday night at a seminar they gave at a local school, and then again on Friday night – after my class with Master Zhou – as they explored Chinatown. Very, very nice guys. More on that in a later post.

Yesterday was taken up with a small part of the seemingly endless preparations for my move to Beijing, followed in the evening by Ch’an meditation. Our sifu instructed us in the different kinds of meditation, and their purposes. I am still hung up on the koan of “What is a butterfly?“. Katz!

Today was the second in my interview series as I sat down over lunch with Madam Ge, and asked her about the Beijing wushu team, life in the movies , and the future of Chinese wushu. Many, many thanks to her for her time – and even more to my gongfu brother Jono, for translating.

A bonus was meeting up with a visiting Taiwanese master, Mr Liu Pang Yao. We had much difficulty understanding each other, but it turns out he’s expert in at least Cheng Man Ching taijiquan and Cheng-style bagua (and probably much else besides). He gave a few demonstrations of applications, which were very, very cool – and which I will appreciate a lot more once my back and shoulder return to normal 😀 Very, very, effective, let’s put it that way! He gave me a few flyers for the World Cup Tai Chi Chuan Championship, to be held in Taipei in October this year. Email tccass at ms35 dot hinet dot com for more info.

Now, it’s home again, and settling back into paperwork before work tomorrow…

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In life, we must make the best preparations, and be ready for the worst.

Zen Master Sheng Yen

Category: 108 paths, Buddhism, Ch'an

Interviewing Master Zhou

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On Sunday night, I met up with Master Zhou to interview him. One of his Singaporean students helped out as an interpreter, and I’m grateful to her for giving up her time. We talked for about three hours; I think I got it all recorded, although I haven’t had time to review the file yet (crosses fingers).

To his credit, Master Zhou was very open about his himself, his past, and what motivates him. I learned a lot about him, I must say. I don’t want to say too much until I’ve reviewed the ‘tape’ (why is it that I still feel obliged to say that, even though I used a digital recorder?); I’ll probably write something up after that if I get time, but for the details you’ll have to wait until I write my book 😀

So, in brief: Master Zhou grew up in a very poor part of Shanghai. He was born shortly before the Cultural Revolution started. He got into martial arts because that was all there was; in the absence of any other entertainment, everybody in his neighbourhood studied martial arts. At that time, they had to study late at night and early in the morning, to avoid being seen. With his background, and in that time and place, it was natural for him to become a Red Guard. He got involved in the fighting between different factions, and had to fight for his life, heavily outnumbered, on occasion. (At this time, he was in his early teens). After the Cultural Revolution ended, he was still obliged to fight on a regular basis.

Speaking as someone who has fought for his life against armed opponents, he says that his favourite moves are xingyi’s pi quan, and some bagua techniques.

He gave me a lot of information about the styles he knows, and the masters he’s studied with. He confirmed what Edward mentioned in a comment on the last incarnation of this blog.
What else can I say at this point..? There’s so much! OK, that will have to do for now.

Piper demo in Singapore


A quick note for anyone who’s interested but didn’t notice Lloyd’s comment on the old blog: the Piper guys will be in Singapore for a few days. They’ll be giving a demo of their Urban Shield system on Thursday; it’s a private event, but they’ve extended an invitation to me – should be very interesting!

Category: Piper, Singapore

Thanks for following…

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OK, this is the new incarnation of Jianghu. Sadly, the old one isn’t accessible from China, so I can’t stick with it.

There are a number of differences between running a blog on WordPress.com and running a self-hosted WordPress installation. Plus, for some reason, my hosting service is running an older version. This all means that things will take a while to settle down here – expect to see lots of oddities and seemingly random changes!

Category: Blogging

My next obscure form…


What to do in Beijing? There’s no shortage of options, in terms of teachers, forms, and so on! On the other hand, I have a massive list of things that I need to get done while I’m in China – and most of them are career-related, rather than martial arts…

So, right now I’m starting to work out what I want to get done. Here’s a few thoughts:

  • I’ve trained with Master Liu Jing Ru before, and would like to do so again. He’s very well spoken-of as being traditional in his styles. However, he lives far away from where I will be based, and his styles are different to what I’ve learned. Do I want to start a whole new set?
  • Master Sun Zhi Jun is Madam Ge’s main teacher; he’s the one to go to if I want to maintain my current knowledge – namely, the ba mu zhang, the sword, and the needles. I’m hearing different things, though: some say he’s one of bagua’s best fighters, others say that his styles have too much xin pai (performance style) in them. He does live much closer to my base in Haidian than Master Liu, but it’s still quite far.
  • Professor Huang Zhen Huan lives very close to where I’ll be, and I have his phone number. He was a student of Wu Tu Nan for twenty years, so I’m guessing he practices Wu style, rather than the Yang-based forms I know. On the other hand, I may well ask him to help me work on developing softness, and push hands…
  • I am very tempted to learn another obscure form – bagua fan 🙂 I know that Zhang Sheng Li of the Beijing Milun School knows at least one fan form, and in any case I want to contact him to review the Long Xing form he taught me…

Here’s two examples from YouTube:

[youtube RXs47Kqmag4]

[youtube s9NjRv1Ww_w]