The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hong Junsheng Push Hands

Hong Junsheng was one of the great names in Tai Chi Chuan. He was a master of Chen style and a student of Chen Fake. Below is a clip of his push hands.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Internal Path of Wing Chun

Today we have a guest post by Jonathan Bluestein. Enjoy.

The Internal Path of the Wing Chun Master

By Jonathan Bluestein

Karma and Fate have an interesting thing about them – they lend themselves in various ways based on a person’s choices and inclinations. That is to say, that Karma and Fate are seldom blind. More often than not, our thoughts and actions lead us to experience them in a given way. We usually cannot explain how this happened, so we call it ‘luck’. But life is about more than simple luck. I guarantee you that by indulging and immersing yourself to an immense degree in whatever you like and are good at, your life will head in very unusual and expected directions. This article is about one such occurrence, and its most extraordinary consequences.

Some years ago I have made a decision to advertise my best-seller, Research of Martial Arts, in a rather novel way, which shall not be detailed here. Thousands of miles away on a different continent, this manner of advertising caught the attention of one Keith R. Kernspecht. He decided to purchase my book, and thoroughly enjoyed it. He then reached out to me via email, and we began a correspondence which lasted two years. I seemed to recall I have heard of this man before, and indeed two quotes by him appeared in my book. It struck me then after the first email, that this is no ordinary individual, but in fact the head of the European Wing Tsun Organization (EWTO) – the largest martial arts organization on Earth, which by this time has grown into an empire of over 1000 schools and roughly 60,000 students. It could in fact be argued that master Kernspecht is the most commercially successful martial arts teacher to have ever lived; and, he was eager to befriend me.

In the pictures:  master Keith R. Kernspecht with the author of this article, shifu Jonathan Bluestein.
One thing led to another, and by Fall of 2016 I received an invitation from him to spend a week by his side in Italy, at a location which I prefer not to disclose. Then the first week of the month of August of the year 2017, we indeed spent together, also with his daughter Natalie, conversing and training some 6-10 hours a day. Why was it then, that dear master Kernspecht chose to have me around for that period of time? It had to do with his unique journey in the martial arts.

Sifu Kernspecht has been in the arts since the late 1950s. He has studied with so many teachers, I doubt he even remembers all of them. He was found among the first groups of Jujutsu and Karate practitioners in Europe. Then he became one of the first Europeans to have ever practiced Wing Chun, since 1970 (originally under sifu Joseph Cheng). He was also a student of Jesse Glover, one of Bruce Lee’s closest and best students. Eventually in 1976 he became a student of sifu Leung Ting, with whom he stayed for decades, and the rest is history. Keith and Leung Ting built a grand martial arts school empire, with the majority of the work having been done by Keith on the European continent.  

Throughout the years Keith was always a great researcher and innovator. He met up and befriended most of the long-term students of his late sigung Yip Man, who was the teacher of both Leung Ting (to whom he was close and taught many years) and of Bruce Lee (whom Yip Man actually taught for less than 3 years while Lee was a teenager). By training and questioning his many brothers and uncles in the system, Keith was able to understand it and also its history better than most.          
He was additionally quite keen on developing training programs which were meant to appeal to all sorts of crowds. Although he always kept his Wing Tsun ‘pure’ at its essence, his organization infused ideas and some techniques from Greco-Roman Wrestling, American Wrestling, Escrima and more. He brought in famous masters such as Escrima teachers Rene Latosa and Bill Newman to teach their curriculum under the EWTO umbrella, but also people like the successor to Karate legend Masutatsu Oyama and pioneer of Mixed Martial Arts Jon Bluming sensei, MMA prodigy Gokor Chivichyan and grappling legend Gene Lebelle to be a part of his extended martial arts family. In addition to that, his organization has long been offering specialized classes for women, security forces and law-enforcement agencies which used his Wing Tsun in novel and interesting ways.    

By 2000, when he was 55 years of age, Keith was awarded the final degree in Leung Ting’s Wing Tsun – the 10th master’s degree, and in this became the only person to hold the same grade as his sifu, closing a circle which began some 35 years earlier.    
It was about that time that master Kernspecht felt he should delve even deeper into his practice, and begin a process of transforming it. This was partly of course as old age was creeping on him, and he could no longer rely on his physical prowess and sharp reflexes (which, I should note, were still quite formidable when I met him at the age of 72!). Now Keith sought to take a second, more objective look at his Wing Tsun, and consider how ought it best be improved.
Granted, Keith had some doubts above various aspects in the practices of all Wing Chun lineages for years, but was patient and respectful enough to wait until he became quite mature in his style and understanding of art before taking dramatic action. After all, there was no reason to rush as the system he taught was already quite effective in most respects, easy to learn and proven in real-life situations, before any internal modifications were made to it.

Then at around 2010 his thoughts and concerns began to materialize into a more coherent picture. What Keith saw, was something which he had hints of for decades. He saw that he had a martial art in his hands which spoke of many principles shared with the internal martial arts of China, but in fact did not have the physical means and methods for putting it all into practice fully. He sensed and strongly felt that his Wing Tsun ought to somehow become ‘more internal’, and had made a decision to go on one final quest and adventure, with the goal of leaving the world with a new Internal Wing Tsun, before he himself could no longer practice.            

The guidelines for Keith on this quest to remake his Wing Tsun were as follows:

-          Looking for methods which did not teach ‘dead’ movements that were to be memorized well by heart but not really put into application in real fighting.             

-          Avoiding an approach which offered many applications in the format for ‘an answer for every questions’; rather, seeking principle-based systems.            

-          Doing without any methods which relied upon brute physical force, endurance, an ability to take punishment, fitness, reaction speed, instincts, misunderstood spontaneity & creativity and blind aggression.             

It is a brave thing to do, taking a fresh new path and journey during the seventh decade of one’s life, but then again, Keith is no coward. Having met countless challenges in his lifetime and having passed through the hell of them all, nothing could stop him from succeeding also with this one.         
For the sake of attaining his goal, Keith sought out people with knowledge or mastery of the internal arts in order that he could learn from them. The first person to have led him in that direction was his dear friend, the late Prof. Horst Tiwald, who is unknown in the English-speaking world of martial arts but was quite famous in German academic circles. Professor Tiwald, although not a martial artist himself, was capable of explaining to Keith the principles and concepts behind that internal arts even better than teachers he had met and all books he had read (Keith has a library with over 1000 martial arts books). Professor Tiwald acquainted Keith with various masters of the internal arts, and he started questioning and training with many of them

An early friend and colleague of Keith who helped him out with this is master Jan Silberstorff, who is the top Western disciple of Chen Taiji Quan master Chen Xiaowang. Later Keith also became friends with master Yang Linsheng. I was surprised when Keith showed me some videos of master Yang Linsheng, as his existence somehow evaded me up to that point. Likely, as he primarily taught in Mongolia and Italy. Once I saw the videos, which are available on Youtube by the way, I could immediately tell this was a master of a high level. He also practices and teaches some 9 different styles, including Xing Yi Quan, Taiji Quan, Bagua Zhang and Tongbei Quan. Indeed, Keith testified that master Yang was one of two or three people in his lifetime to who he could do little to if they really wanted to hurt him. You may ask – who is that ‘other person’? Well, it is he who is now Keith’s teachers of the internal arts, but his identity I have sworn to keep a secret until he is publicly revealed by the end of this year (2017).

Without getting into too much detail, in order not to reveal the teacher’s identity, I can simply tell you the following:        
Keith met this teacher some years ago, and that teacher impressed him tremendously. The teacher had a special method for instruction, which Keith felt could significantly better his Wing Tsun and eventually truly make it into a ‘fully internal’ system. Since then, Keith and his daughter had together spent over 2000 hours learning from that master and some of his top students. Keith in turn later met with his own top students and taught them much of what he had learned, so they could gradually transmit small bits and pieces of this knowledge to their students and the many EWTO schools worldwide. Eventually, Keith hopes to have a scenario in which his Wing Tsun is internalized, and the EWTO students could, if they want, gradually undergo a long process of learning which will take them step by step and year by year from the external to the internal.

Keith Had summarized the changes and additions he made to his Wing Tsun via the following general points:

 Having multi-dimensionality and circularity in every part of the art. Every movement has a forward and back, a left and right, an up and down, an expanding and contracting.

 Emphasizing balance, and therefore also relaxation (A Confucian idea – the balanced person can also become relaxed).

  Having a clear separation of Yin & Yang -  very simple energy management that acts upon a powerful movement motor and takes its effect with the help of a clear structure.

 Natural opening & closing of the joints; utilizing the power of the joints & fascia through horizontal rotation and the a lot of shifting of one’s bodyweight from one side to the other.

 The use of indirect rather than direct forces. Multi-vectored attacks.

 Specific use of convex & concave body mechanics.

 Sticking to the physical contact point, including the use of suction. Compelling the opponent to remain in contact by creating and offering a sphere with corresponding pressure.

  No resistance, but not the opposite either – giving way or running away from the point!

  No automatic, blind reactions. Rather, acting in the Zen-Buddhist sense described by his friend Prof. Tiwald; of being mindful and fully conscious in action for as much as one's own skill level allows.             
What is actually occurring here and that I have had the honour of witnessing, is master Kernspecht making a choice and acting in a manner which shall change all of martial arts, forever. The implications of an organization numbering 60,000 individuals merging its curriculum and joining its path with a different martial art shall impact the course of martial arts history for centuries to come. There is absolutely no historical precedent for a transmission on the population scale which master Keith R. Kernspecht has attained, and neither is there a precedent for someone of such influence acting in this manner.

In the midst of this incredible turn of events, here I was – a 29 year old man in the beginning of his journey, being greeted by a big, smiling grandpa figure and his incredibly cheerful daughter, who is about my age, at an Italian airport. I could not believe these guys. From the moment they saw me, they treated me like I was a family member they had not seen in years. I had never experienced such a warm welcome in my life from someone who was not my romantic partner. Then throughout our week together, Keith and Natalie maintained this attitude consistently, catering for my every need, and looking after me like their own keen. I will never forget their kindness.       
t is funny how people like Keith are often at the center of silly political arguments, and are attacked left and right by various individuals who seek to undermine them and steal some of their knowledge or power. But meeting Keith, it was perhaps the third time in my life in which I have realized that actually, the great teacher was truly a sweet and lovely guy, while many of those who attempt to belittle or curse him are in fact bitter and envious. Having spent more than 40 hours with the man, one on one, I could say with certainty that nothing in the world could convince me that he is not an honorable and worthy human being. Alas, when you have to deal with big organizations, handle big sums of money and lead large groups of people, you will always have enemies.  

The reason Keith had me hop over to his favourite Italian spot was mere curiosity. He saw in my work that I had good understanding and insights into the internal arts, and wanted me to explain to him my take on them and my traditions as I teach them. We therefore spent most of our time together with me making an effort to demonstrate and tell Keith and Natalie of everything I knew. The focus had been on the curriculum of the Xing Yi Quan system which I teach, and also that of the Southern Mantis which I practice (of the Jook Lum lineage), which I have not begun teaching yet (as of the year 2017). Both of these are very deep internal martial arts, and it takes a while to describe and demonstrate all of their methods. Despite the dozens of hours we spent together, I still was not able to show Keith and Natalie everything, though I likely managed to get across at least 70% of the material. These arts are quite deep, and apparently it takes over a week of whole-day exposure just to demonstrate and discuss everything. Then again, if I was told in advance I had two weeks, I am not even sure whether they would have been sufficient.       
Thankfully sitting with two master-level teachers, the job which was given to me was simpler. I could not have discussed even a fifth of what I did with most other people. Being good Germans, the two were patient listeners and always asked the best questions one could hope for. I felt that through this week of showing them what I know and teach and answering their questions, I also learned quite a lot about my martial arts as well. This was partly by all of us discussing and comparing the many similarities and differences between the arts we have been exposed to.       

In the picture: master Keith R. Kernspecht and his Italian student and representative Dai Sifu Filippo Cuciuffo, together with shifu Jonathan Bluestein. This was a smiling competition and Filippo won it with ease. He can also beat us at cooking and soccer. 
Then in-between, I have also had the opportunity and great privilege to practice a bit with Keith and Natalie. It has been a while since I was fortunate enough to touch a person far more skilled than I am who was not my teacher, let alone someone with some 6 decades of experience. I fondly remember that moment. I was showing something to Natalie on the first day, and at least with her I could contend. Then Keith jumped out the sofa and said: “Now show us how you would do this on me!”. I knew this moment was coming, of course. I touched his hands, and… oh, damn. I did not like that feeling… the feeling of being a beginner again. The granpda would not bulge, and I could not move. He got me. I was not sure what happened. Then we had a long push-hands session of sorts, which Keith used to test me. I was hit quite a lot during that session, though always with moderation and in good spirits. Something was not right. I could somewhat make my position and control my angles, but then every time I thought I had an opening, his hands were striking me before mine could reach him. Often, his hands would reach just a fraction of a second before mine, but they were ahead of me every single time. This, I learned later, was due to special methods which were taught to him by his newest internal arts mentor, who was apparently far more skilled than he in using these annoying skills.         
Over the course of the week, especially after Keith showed me how he was controlling me, I was finally able to move him around a bit sometimes. But this was of no use, because within moments he could always strike me or make my structure stuck as before. I should not think too much of myself, though. Firstly, he likely was not giving me even 50% of his power. Secondly, I am a 29 year old fellow who was training with a 72 year old man with joint problems who could not even do strength training anymore, and was still stronger and faster than me, with better reaction time, and could likely have killed me if he wanted to. I could only hope to have half of his ability at his age, as he is still capable of physically dominating people 10-50 years younger than him, some of whom he himself had taught for decades. Keith jokes happily and says: “Yes, now with my new internal skills, I can be slower and lazier and still win. Isn’t it great?!”.

Keith therefore did not of course invite me so I could be his teacher, but rather as a friend and colleague. From the height of his knowledge and achievements he was modest enough to recognize that I likely knew many things that he did not, and wanted my aid with his fantastic research and project. As a matter of fact, Keith has got a whole lot more to teach me than I have for him, but this first trip together focused on exposing what I knew, as it relates to what Keith is up to at this period of time. Beyond his teachings, he is also engaged in the writing of three new books, one of which will be detailing his long and unique journey into the internal arts. I hope that in the future I shall have the opportunity to spend more time with Keith, Natalie and their teachers, in order that I too could educate myself further. In the meanwhile, I felt that I had done my best under the circumstances. Keith and Natalie were pleased that I did not hold any information from them whatsoever, apart from a few specific practices which my Southern Mantis sifu forbade me from teaching and explaining. But then again, this is my general approach to the martial arts – I never keep secrets from those who genuinely want to learn, can understand them and whom I can trust; especially not from people who have shown me great kindness.

Though my personal contribution to the tremendous historical undertaking Keith is involved in is perhaps minor, compared with the influence of others more skilled than me, I was very happy to have been able to take part. I feel that perhaps, our long discussions have aided Keith and Nahi grasp a little bit better what their other, more influential and knowledgeable teachers had taught them, and through this I may have done a great service to many people whom I will never even meet. This historical crossroad with two special individuals shall forever be in my heart, and more adventures are sure to come…              

To read more about the EWTO organization of master Kernspecht and find a school near you, please visit their official website:


Wherein you liked this article, please support its author - take a look at shifu Bluestein’s ground-breaking book – Research of Martial Arts:

Shifu Jonathan Bluestein is the head of the Tianjin Martial Arts Academy, and teaches Xing Yi Quan and Pigua Zhang in Israel. He is also a martial arts author and researcher. If you liked this article, please ‘like’ the page of shifu Bluestein’s book on Facebook:

Shifu Bluestein conducts worldwide seminars, teaching Xing Yi Quan, Pigua Zhang, the weapons of these arts, Nei Gong, Qi Gong and more. You can arrange to study with him by reaching out through facebook or email at:      or
A full list of shifu Bluestein's articles is available at the following page:

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All rights of this article are and the pictures within it are reserved to Jonathan Bluestein ©. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission, in writing, from Jonathan Bluestein. Jonathan may be contacted directly via email:

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Kyudo Hanshi 10th Dan Suzuki Hiroyuki

Suzuki Hiroyuki was a 10th Dan in Kyudo. He was a student of Awa Kenzo ("Zen and the Art of Archery."

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Staying Calm Under Pressure

Staying calm under pressure is an important quality. Maybe a bomb disposal specialist may have something to say about this. The Observer had an article about this.

Below is an excerpt. The full article may be read here.

We’d all like to know how to stay calm under pressure. Sure, I could pull a bunch of research studies on it and just summarize those for you. But that always leaves the lingering question: “But does this stuff work in the real world?”

So who really knows about being cool as a cucumber under the most intense pressure imaginable? I’d read that when top bomb disposal experts approach a device designed to kill them, their heart rate actually goes down. Folks, I think we have a winner…

So I called a Navy EOD Team Leader.

Navy EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) isn’t like your average police department’s bomb disposal unit. These guys defuse torpedoes—while underwater. They disable biological weapons, chemical weapons…even nuclear weapons.

For security purposes our friend requested to remain anonymous. He’s been deployed in both Iraq and Afghanistan and faced some things that are—quite literally—the stuff of nightmares. Repeatedly.
So what can you and I learn from him? How do you stay chill, keep your focus and make tough decisions when facing the most intense pressure imaginable?

Let’s get to it…

Avoid “The Rabbit Hole” And Do A Threat Assessment

Something’s going wrong. You’re worried and your mind starts to race. Your old friend Panic is nuzzling up to you and wants to snuggle. Your brain starts asking, “What if X happens? What if Y happens? What if? What if? What if?”

Navy EOD techs refer to this as “the rabbit hole.” And if you go down it, things are going to get very bad very fast. Here’s our EOD Team Leader:
With any device that’s improvised we talk about “rabbit holes.” You can go down the rabbit hole of “What if they put in this? What if they included this bit of circuitry or this kind of switch or this crazy new device or circuit board or whatever?” The opportunities for people to construct new and ingenious and totally insidious IEDs is just infinite. It’s possible when you’re looking at the device to go down a rabbit hole of “It could be this, it could be this, it could be these 10,000 different things…”

You need to avoid going down the “rabbit hole” and do what Navy EOD techs call a “threat assessment.” That means looking objectively at the situation and asking, “What kind of problem is this?”

Think about a similar situation you’ve been in before that looked like this one. How did you resolve it? What worked? Maybe you’ve never been in a situation exactly like the current one, but that’s okay. Generalize. You’ve probably dealt with something that was kinda similar or you’ve seen someone else do it.

Leveraging experience is what makes the top Navy EODs able to stay calm and size up a terrifying situation before they’ve even approached the explosive device. Here’s our EOD Team Leader:
They develop this sixth sense about what’s going on. Some of the guys had seen and prosecuted 300 or 400 devices. It was amazing what they could tell you before they ever saw the device. “This device is probably just a pressure plate, maybe with an S and A switch. There’s a possible secondary back-up waiting for us if we were to go at it from this angle.” They would just be able to tell that from merely looking at the situation.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Budo Should Enhance Your Life, Not Replace It

Patrick Parker is the proprietor of the Mokuren Dojo in Magnolia, Mississippi as well as the Mokuren Dojo Blog, one of the most widely read martial arts related blogs on the internet. Mr Parker studies, teaches and practices his budo in a quiet corner of the state and has built up something I think is quite noteworthy. He is also rumored to be the nephew of Mary Parker.

Some years back, Rick-san asked me to write a guest article about how our martial arts practice changes with the seasons here in southwest Mississippi.  I ended up talking about that and a bunch more.  Now Rick-san has flattered me again by sending me a note saying that he thought I’d totally nailed the art of NOT letting my martial arts dominate my life in an unhealthy way.

I thought that was funny, because for the first 20 or so years of my martial arts career I was a total fanatic dojo nerd!  I lived and breathed karate and aikido and judo and I only hung around with people who were likewise fanatical.

But over time I saw some of my instructors make puzzling decisions about their martial arts careers.  
My first karate teacher got married and stopped karate cold turkey.  It was like one day she flipped a switch and she no longer did karate (I think she thought she intimidated her husband).  I thought that was odd for a couple of reasons and I pondered that deep in my heart.

Then a few years later, one of my aikido teachers told me, “I have a religion and aikido ain’t it.” Soon after that, she retired and turned the dojo over to some of her students.  It was not too much longer until another of my aikido instructors got busy with his job and his participation dwindled down to nothing.  I was still in my fanatic stage and I couldn’t comprehend how someone could do aikido for years, then decide not to.

Then recently, just before he died, Karl Geis told me that something he liked about me was that he knew I would be able to, “do it (martial arts) while it’s fun and when it was not fun anymore, stop.”  I didn’t know what he was talking about because obviously I was in it for the duration.  Crazy old man!

But here was a long progression of great teachers all showing and telling me the same thing.  And it was the same thing that sensei have been telling their students since the days of Ueshiba and Kano and Funakoshi (probably even farther back) It was this -

Martial arts should enhance your life and help you to make a better society. Martial arts should not rule your life. Martial arts should be therapeutic, not harmful, to the practitioner and to society.

Bruce Lee, in Tao of Jeet Kune Do, said that the goal of all martial arts is for their practitioner to master the art of living fully (thriving instead of surviving).  I bet if I did some searching I could find a great master in whatever lineage you prefer that has said the same thing.

Fast forward to now, and Rick-san sends me a note about how great I am at not being a dojo nerd.  I still find it funny because a lot of times I feel like a dojo failure because of my inability to put more time and energy into my arts.

I understand what’s happening psychologically.  It is a fanatic perfectionism that is spoiling my enjoyment of my art.  I still haven’t beaten this creeping perfectionism though.  I still want the be the great master with the perfect students and the beautiful dojo on the top of the mountain.

With all that said I love my full, active, and satisfying life outside the dojo.  Scouts, church, dancing, soccer, camping, hiking, and fishing are a few of the many activities that define the Parkers.  Which brings me to The New Thing!

For more than a decade I have had one of the most popular martial arts blogs on the planet - Mokuren Dojo, but for quite a while I’ve been wanting to write to a wider audience about a wider set of topics.  So my family is doing a new thing (in addition to - not instead of Mokuren Dojo and martial arts).

My wife and I have started a new blog called Roaming Parkers – so that we could make even more new friends and talk about things like hiking and conservation and travel and ecology and camping and sustainability and adventure – as well as martial arts!

Please join us over there at whenever you’re not reading Rick’s magnificent Cook Ding’s Kitchen blog!

(and BTW, isn't much easier to understand and remember than ?!?!?! ;-)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Theodore Roosevelt and Judo

President Theodore Roosevelt boxed as a young man and became interested in wrestling. When president, he began to take Judo/Jiu Jitsu lessons from Prof John O'Brien, and later from a graduate from the Kodokan, Yoshiaki Yamashita.

The Art of Manliness had a post about Roosevelt's interest in Judo, primarily focused on a book published by O'Brien in the early days of the 20th Century. Below is an excerpt. The full article may be read here.

Editor’s note: Theodore Roosevelt had a keen interest in martial and combative arts, beginning with boxing as a young man, and later as president — after a blow blinded him in the eye — focusing on wrestling and grappling. While in the White House, he first took jiu-jitsu lessons from Professor John J. O’Brien, who had learned the art while working as a police inspector in Nagasaki, Japan. According to a 1902 article in the New York World, Roosevelt “hope[d] soon to be able to break the arms, legs or neck of any Anarchist or thug who may assail him.”

Later, TR was taught jiu-jitsu and judo (while now distinct, he used the terms interchangeably) three times a week, for three years, by Japanese master Yoshiaki (Yoshitsugu) Yamashita. Roosevelt loved practicing jiu-jitsu (his ardor would help popularize it with Americans) as well as good old fashioned wrestling, and he would ask any and all companions and visitors — from diplomats to cabinet members to his wife and sister-in-law — to grapple with him. TR’s unflagging enthusiasm and burly frame eventually wore out even Yamashita, who told a journalist that while Teddy “was his best pupil…he was very heavy and impetuous, and it had cost the poor professor many bruisings, much worry and infinite pains during Theodore’s rushes to avoid laming the President of the United States.”

If you want to learn some of the vintage jiu-jitsu moves TR once practiced, below you’ll find the book (condensed) his original instructor, J. J. O’Brien, published in 1905. 

“A noble soul dwells in a strong body.” —Japanese Proverb
We know that you will find interest in reading and demonstrating to your own satisfaction the effectiveness of Jiu-Jitsu, in its mildest form, as a means of self-defense.

This is the first time that all the secrets of the Japanese national system of training and self-defense have been given to Western people. Less than a generation ago you could not have obtained this knowledge at any price. So religiously have the principles of Jiu-Jitsu been guarded that no foreigner has ever before received official instruction from one who has taken the highest degree in the art.

Jiu-Jitsu is the most wonderful physical training the world has ever known. It is a science. It is muscle dominated and directed in every detail by brain. The Japanese are the hardiest race of people in the world to-day, and we attribute their wonderful strength and power of endurance solely to the persistent practice of their national system of physical development. Jiu-Jitsu develops every muscle and strengthens every organ in the human body. It does not produce knotted muscles, but develops the body harmoniously and uniformly. It affects those minute muscles which are not reached by any other system. It strengthens the heart action, scientifically renews and invigorates every tissue, and helps every organ to perform its functions. The man or woman who devotes ten minutes daily to the practice of Jiu-Jitsu will enjoy a degree of health and strength that will make him or her thoroughly alive and fully conscious of the possession of perfect manhood or womanhood.

Friday, July 21, 2017


The Tang Dynasty was a high point of culture in ancient China. Especially esteemed were poems. There was no home coming or leave taking; no event too small to not be commemorated with a poem.

Some of the best poems of that period have been collected into an anthology known as The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. A online version of the anthology may be found here.Today we have #64: A SONG OF DAGGER-DANCING TO A GIRL-PUPIL OF LADY GONGSUN

There lived years ago the beautiful Gongsun,
Who, dancing with her dagger, drew from all four quarters
An audience like mountains lost among themselves.
Heaven and earth moved back and forth, following her motions,
Which were bright as when the Archer shot the nine suns down the sky
And rapid as angels before the wings of dragons.
She began like a thunderbolt, venting its anger,
And ended like the shining calm of rivers and the sea....
But vanished are those red lips and those pearly sleeves;
And none but this one pupil bears the perfume of her fame,
This beauty from Lingying, at the Town of the White God,
Dancing still and singing in the old blithe way.
And while we reply to each other's questions,
We sigh together, saddened by changes that have come.
There were eight thousand ladies in the late Emperor's court,
But none could dance the dagger-dance like Lady Gongsun.
...Fifty years have passed, like the turning of a palm;
Wind and dust, filling the world, obscure the Imperial House.
Instead of the Pear-Garden Players, who have blown by like a mist,
There are one or two girl-musicians now-trying to charm the cold Sun.
There are man-size trees by the Emperor's Golden Tomb
I seem to hear dead grasses rattling on the cliffs of Qutang.
...The song is done, the slow string and quick pipe have ceased.
At the height of joy, sorrow comes with the eastern moon rising.
And I, a poor old man, not knowing where to go,
Must harden my feet on the lone hills, toward sickness and despair.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What is Missing in Your Martial Art?

Below is an excerpt from a post at Kung Fu Tea. It is about defining Wing Chun by what's missing from it in particular, but goes on and discusses this theme with a variety of martial arts. It's a very interesting read and the full post can be found here.

Last week my Sifu and I were discussing the public conversation that surrounds Wing Chun.

“So this guy was trying to tell me that we have no head movement in Wing Chun.  Not just bobbing and weaving” he clarified “but that we can literally never move our heads.”
“So he thinks we stand there and get punched in the face?” I asked incredulously.
“Pretty much.  I told him to take a closer look at the forms.”

Such exchanges are not all that uncommon.  Normally I try to ignore them. However, in the last few months I have had a number of almost identical conversations with talented, highly experienced, Sifus all relating practically identical incidents.

Not all of these discussions focused on head movement.  In one case an instructor was approached by an individual (who apparently was not a Wing Chun student) claiming that our system contained only a single punch.  This is a rather odd assertion to make about a fighting system that prides itself on a rich and deep bench of boxing techniques.

I have actually heard a similar claim made before by some practitioners attempting to make a philosophical point.  They note that the basic Wing Chun punch reflects a set of core principles that, when applied in different situations, can yield a variety of techniques that superficially look quite different, but all reflect a common approach to hand combat.  This is sometimes couched in quasi-Taoist terms as “the one thing giving rise to the ten thousands.”  I immediately asked whether this is where my friend’s interlocutor may have been headed.

“Nope.  He literally believed that we only have a center-line chain punch.  Anything else, an outside line, an uppercut or hook, ‘cannot be Wing Chun’.”  The instructor absentmindedly went through movements from the second and third unarmed boxing form as he clarified the objection.
“So what did you tell him?” I asked.
“I just kept telling him to go back and look at the forms.  Youtube is full of people doing all sorts of forms.  For Christ sake, just pick anyone of them.”
“Sending someone to Youtube can be a trap for the unwary.” I offered.
“Yeah, I sent him some links.  But I have no idea if it did any good!”

Perhaps the most interesting thing about such challenges is that they do not all arise from outside of the system.  Earlier this summer I had a conversation with a third Sifu that was more serious in nature.  When another instructor (from the same Wing Chun umbrella organization) visited his school, he was aghast to discover that my friend was having his students practice entry drills (or more specifically, techniques that allow one to transition from disengaged, to kicking to boxing ranges as safely as possible).  Nor was he happy to discover that my friend’s more advanced students were starting Chi Sao (a type of sensitive training game) from unbridged positions.  “This is not Traditional Wing Chun!” he objected.

That was certainly news to me.  The system contains entry techniques.  Why not drill them?  Why not create a greater sense of complexity and realism by adding them (or joint locks, or kicks) to your Chi Sao?  My personal training happened in a school built on a “traditional lineages” going back to Ip Man.  We certainly practiced both of these things, nor was it ever considered to be the least bit controversial.  Apparently not all lineages share this same approach to training.  The uproar that resulted from the visit caused my friend to remove his school from an organization that he had been part of for some time.

Who wants their martial practice to be defined only by the things that one (supposedly) does not do?

This is something all Wing Chun students deal with from time to time.  My personal favorite is when people tell me that Wing Chun is an exclusively short range art with highly restricted footwork.  All this tells me is that the individual in question has never seriously studied the swords and has no idea how much distance that footwork can actually cover.  Let’s just say that there is a very good reason why Bruce Lee turned to fencing in his attempt to augment his own incomplete training in Wing Chun.  Nor would I call a 3-4 meter pole a “short range” weapon.  Wing chun is clearly a short range art…except when it is not.

In reality every self-defense art strives to be a complete system of combat.  Granted, all approaches will have their unique strengths and weaknesses, but real martial artists work very hard to present as strong a front as possible.  No one who wants to defend themselves refuses to train kicks, throws or weapons simply because “everyone knows that Wing Chun is a short range boxing art.”

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Supplemental Training for Martial Arts

Kyokushin Karate is known for it's hard training and the fitness of it's members. Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at The Martial Way on strength and conditioning. It's a quite comprehensive article. Even if you practice a soft martial art for meditation, this will give you some appreciation of the dedication and hard work these individuals put into their martial art. The full post may be read here.

Far too often you hear people saying their techniques are too deadly to need much physical conditioning, when in reality you are showing that you are inexperienced and unprepared.

You may be better off than the average Joe on the street unless he has also taken some classes. Or he may just be simply stronger, in that case you run the risk of getting your ego knocked in. Most people who want to fight are usually big and pretty confident in their abilities; they have something to prove and they don’t usually go out starting fights they think they will lose. The wimps you can beat usually do not want to fight in the first place; your training should protect you against a trained killer. You want to train smart and combine your conditioning to create a strong body ready for war.

How to Hit Harder and Faster

Besides talking from a technical perspective, there are two ways of looking at increasing the power of your strike. These methods are
  • Developing the speed of your strike
  • Developing the strength of your body behind the strike
Newtonian kinetic energy of rigid bodies states that   Ek=(1/2)mv^2

Or (Mass x Velocity Squared) Divided by two

This basically translates the mass of the object in motion is doubled when it hits with twice the amount of power, thus if you strike twice as fast your output will be four times the amount of force.

A rough example of this can be seen in a little bullet vs a baseball pitch, speed will be the victor.

Having speed can be very beneficial and wise to acknowledge if you are smaller framed or female. I find this formula gives good insight into understanding how legendary Bruce Lee was so powerful in his movements and able to be so fast and able to blow his opponents back with his strikes.

Looking at physics we clearly want to develop more speed to get the most impact; speed definitely has its advantages whether it is being the first to make contact, sneaking in the K.O shot, or simply just getting more shots in. So in order to increase our speed we must add different methods of stress to our body. You are an adaptive organism, and must constantly challenge yourself to produce growth and to gain increased results.

Before we move ahead it is very important that we first talk about technique as you will need a good foundation before pounding in hours of forming new muscle memory. So to go fast you must first go slow. That can sound counterproductive but let me tell you why. In the beginning when you are learning how to punch, you must first learn the proper way to strike and use your body weight before raising the speed. Using that Newtonian formula, being able to put your body weight behind your punch rather than just hitting with the strength of your arm alone will increase the mass behind your projectile.

Double the mass, double the output force, this can all be found within proper form which is what makes it so essential. Learning the proper method you will have to first learn all the little details. For example learning a punch you will first have to dig your foot into the ground, engage your legs, torso, and shoulders before delivering out the arm and clenching your fist upon impact. Of course all depending on which style and tradition you subscribe to, a simple punch can be taught in different ways. With incorrect movement comes unwanted movement which can be inefficient as it can create tells for your opponent, reduce your power, and slow you down with non-essential positioning.

So now let’s say you have been practicing slowly and diligently and have your footwork down. Your upper body form is present and you are consistently hitting your heavy bag or target with the right spot on your knuckles or hand. All while presenting proper penetrating force, not simply just slapping the bag and retracting. You can also add intent into your strike, for example imagining you are going to punch through the spine of the opponent.