Monthly Archives: July 2010

Out on a high note


So, another semester has come to an end.

I spent most of last weekend and Monday marking reports, and on Tuesday the exams started… Since then, I’ve done practically nothing except grade those…. and finally finished about half an hour ago.

With all that happening, I haven’t made it to yiquan classes for a while; I had hoped to get there, but it just didn’t work. During the pause on Monday evening, though, I made it to an applications class at Small Steps Neijia for the first time.

We worked on some tang ni bu stepping and bai bu/kou bu, and then some drills; these were xingyi rather than bagua (Liu Lao Shi’s lineage is xingyi-bagua, mixing the two together). It was really interesting; I’ve trained in the basic xingyi forms briefly, but I’ve never done any tui shou. It was interesting to see the drilling movements of the forearm in xingyi, and compare to its yiquan equivalent.

A large part of that class was then given over to freeform tui shou, which was extremely interesting. First of all, I partnered up with Liu Lao Shi himself; I don’t doubt that he was curious to see what I’d got, and I think I made a fairly good showing. My posture and energy flow were obviously off, though, as my right knee hurt afterwards, and is still sore.

There was only one other student there, a western guy who has no real background in martial arts other than a bit of taiji. We partnered up in the second half of the class, and I was amazed to discover that I was able to completely control him, even as he tried hard to push me around. I guess I’ve become used to training at the Zhong Yi Yiquan Wuguan with fairly experienced people, and forgotten what it’s like to work with ‘civilians’…

The very final part of the class was free-form pad work; each of us took a turn, with the other two holding pads and randomly presenting them to be attacked. Not at that point being tied to practising any particular move, it was interesting to see what came up. I found myself using several different yiquan moves but also launching into taiji’s Golden Cockerel at one point, plus bagua’s single palm change, as well as some ballistic punching that almost certainly came from watching systema material….

I also found that in terms of mindset I quickly fell into a fairly brutal “take him down NOW” mindset that I associate with my time training with Zhou Yue Wen in Singapore.


After I left the class, I thought back to when I first arrived in Singapore in 2002; the days when the martial application of taiji was only an unconfirmed legend for me, and I’d never seen bagua or xingyi…… Jeez…. I really have come a long way….

Anyhow: that session of just letting rip was rather a high point. And tomorrow…. I’m outta here, flying back to Wales for a couple of weeks. I will have my MacBook, but I don’t honestly expect to be posting much. So: see you all again in August….

Are you a UK martial artist?

If you are a martial artist based in the UK? If so, I have a request.

The Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) (Amendment) Order 2008 bans all curved swords. This includes Japanese katanas, Chinese Dao, Russian shashkas, and so on. It does not, however, ban straight swords – so if I moved back to the UK, I could not take my shashkas (which are blunt replicas) but I could take a genuine, sharpened jian. The reasoning behind this is not clear to me.

In any case, the new coalition government in the UK has set up a new ‘Freedom‘ website, and is asking UK citizens to submit suggestions for the repeal of laws which should be repealed, since they restrict civil liberties or are simply unnecessary.

I would ask you to take a look, and add your voice to calls for the repeal of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) (Amendment) Order 2008. There are already several posts addressing that. I would suggest that you contribute to an existing conversation rather than start a new one, in order to keep the argument focussed. Please don’t launch into a spur-of-the-moment rant; try to make thoughtful, well-reasoned (and spell-checked) contributions; this will help the argument to be taken seriously, and less hard to dismiss us martial artists as meat-heads.

Also, please only contribute if you are a UK citizen; I’m sure that our transatlantic cousins will take an interest in this exercise in democracy, but please don’t muddy the waters by weighing in on a matter that doesn’t affect you.


Category: Martial Arts

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Two types of bagua


It rained while I was cycling to work last Wednesday. I had a rain cape, but my feet got soaked, and were damp for the rest of the day. Ever since, I’ve had a pain in my left instep; S. says that my spleen meridian has been weakened, so I need to take care of that. Apparently ‘fire’ energy works, so I’m being liberal with the red Tiger Balm…

Last night, I attended the lecture on the zhou yi, i.e. Yi Jing divination. It was interesting, but at a fairly basic level. I’m no expert, but on the other hand I have been using the Yi Jing to help me make decisions since around 1991, so I know a bit, and didn’t learn too much. It was interesting, though.

I was meant to be going out of Beijing this weekend, spending a bit of time in Hebei province, but it fell through late last night – I wasn’t too upset, as I’d been feeling pretty sick. The meant that this afternoon, I attended a personal Yi Jing reading with the same teacher. There are two ways in which the Yi Jing is useful for me. The first is when I have a clear choice to make, and am seeking input and guidance towards the decision. The second is when the situation is extremely unclear, and replete with possible options, none of which are obvious choices. In this situation, asking a question can help to collapse the cloud of possibilities into a clear choice. Today was an example of the second, and I’m left with a clear path suggesting itself. What I do about it is, of course, going to need more questions.

Oddly, the same path was described in detail last night. As I mentioned before, S. attended last night’s lecture, and we went for dinner afterwards. It was a strange evening; there were a lot of strange things happening, meaningful decisions suddenly arriving… there must be a word to describe it but it doesn’t come to mind: ‘eldritch’ isn’t quite it… ‘Uncanny’, perhaps… S. went into prophecy mode, foretelling a number of things for my future. All I know is, unless she’s managed to wiretap my Skype account, she knows a lot of things I haven’t told her… Hehehe, another thing she said was that I’m a sabre person, which seems to be true – I love the Chinese jian, because it’s such a delicate, precise weapon, and yet I always seem to end up working on sabres (either the Chinese Dao or the Russian shashka). Not sure what that says about me… Oh, and it seems a number of people who know me believe that I belong naturally to the eighteenth or early nineteenth century. (Actually, that was a pretty interesting time in many ways, when Iolo Morgannwg was writing Barddas and starting the modern Druidry movement; his son was present as a harper and singer of cerdd dant during the Merthyr Rising…. At the same time the Rebecca Rioters were burning tollgates… It was a busy time in the Welsh jianghu…).

The details – both of the zhou yi reading and what S. said – aren’t for this blog yet; I want to digest them a bit, and see what happens with some plans, but they would suggest that I’ve been reading John Michael Greer’s piece on Green Wizards, at the right time, since it fits so well with my own past thoughts both on Druids and on preparing for a post-oil future. Well, we’ll see. As I say so often, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so since there’s not much else I can do, I’ll await events. Either the forecasts will come true, or they won’t.

In other news, I gasped my way through the full 16 minutes of Flowfit Level 2 this morning. It was interesting to note what hurt and what didn’t; which parts of the body took more strain than I might have expected. I’ve come to note that my torso is subtly curved from bottom left to top right, a misalignment no doubt due to sitting at a desk with my left hand up controlling the mouse, year after year…. Need to sort that out…. I noticed it first whilst doing some of the qigong exercises at Small Steps, and I think today’s Flowfit workout confirmed it.

Speaking of Small Steps, I was talking with Liu Lao Shi and Dalida this afternoon, and they want me to change classes; they say it’s time for me to move from the qigong classes to the bagua application classes. Well, I actually blogged here a couple of days ago that I wanted to do that, but I hadn’t discussed it with them yet, so at least I had the right idea!

After leaving them, I came down to Ritan Park to do some practice, but it’s been a really, really hot day and I was baked by the time I arrived. I managed to do some work with the shashkas, but not for long; I overheated, and retreated to the Stone Boat, where I’m typing this….

Recent reading

  • Striking Thoughts has a good review of Jingwu: The School That Transformed Kung Fu. Jing Wu, or Chin Woo as I know them, were my training neighbours in Duxton Plain Park, and I got to know a number of them. Lots of very nice people there. This looks to be an interesting book; I’d like to pick up a copy some time.
  • Mike Garofalo over at Cloud Hands discusses something very interesting: what were Yang Lu Chan’s Training Methods while he worked for the Imperial Guards? That’s something I would definitely like to know more about. I tried searching Chinese-language websites using Google auto-translate, but didn’t get very far. Maybe some of my Chinese-speaking readers could give some pointers?
  • Rick at Cook Ding’s Kitchen links to a really interesting National Geographic article on the ancient tea trade route between China and Tibet, with Tibetan horses being sold in exchange for Chinese tea. The tea was carried over breathtaking mountain passes on the back of coolies…
  • Dojo Rat discusses a Robert W. Smith quote about The Chatter In The Modern Urban Mind. Makes me think once more how much I miss my Welsh mountaintops…
  • I’m not sure why Scott Phillips has been ‘vacationing at home‘ recently, but his comment about ‘Whatever it is that holds “me” together is unraveling’ certainly strikes a chord.
  • And given the last two, and some of my more recent posts, I read John Michael Greer’s latest dispatch from The Archdruid Report, “Merlin’s Time“, with a lot of interest. There’s a lot to think about there.
  • Let me also add there, an article on the Energy Bulleting: Creating a post-peak future you will want to live into, and A quiet crisis whispers of impending poverty on The Automatic Earth, which actually ends on a an uplifting note (way down below the quoted news articles, just above the comments).