道场 Dào·Chǎng

Notes of a lifelong learner and perpetual beginner on martial arts, mindfulness, Chinese calligraphy…and many, many cups of tea.


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Small Vessel

This past Saturday my kung fu teacher David Wong taught his first class since returning from his visit to Hong Kong and China. I was conscious of how much I had missed his personal flair, humor and guidance in my life. My morning thoughts on the way home were about my estimation that I could never learn and be as skilled at kung fu as much as my teacher. I fear that I could ever learn only a fraction of what he has learned in  his lifetime. If I ever became a kung fu teacher, everything I know would only be a snapshot, a sample of what my teacher knows. Thinking about it as I drove, these thoughts came to my mind: You might think to yourself, “I will never be great. At best I can only hope to be a small vessel.” But it is important to remember that even a single drop of water contains the essence of all water. Small things contain the essence of great things. Conduct yourself accordingly.

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Video: 徐紀老師 伝統北派武術技撃秘訣 後編

Came across this excellent video depicting applications of movements similar (if not the same as) the style of taijiquan I study with Sifu David Wong. Interestingly the title refers to “northern school.” Sharing this here, as I plan to study it with greater attention when I get a chance at home.


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Moving Clouds and Flowing Water – 行雲流水

Yesterday I purchased a copy of Chan Heart, Chan Mind by contemporary Chinese Buddhist monk Guo Jun. The book begins with Guo Jun’s account of his first teacher Songnian. As Guo Jun described the rough personality and teaching style of Songnian, it reminded me a great deal of my own kung fu teacher. More importantly, as Songnian taught the principles of grinding ink for use in calligraphy (shu fa), the essential principles reminded me of the important lessons my own teacher imparted to me especially with regard to the “pushing hands” exercises (tui shou) of taijiquan. Luckily, this chapter is also available online as a publication of Tricycle magazine, and I am able to share it here: http://www.tricycle.com/feature/calligrapher%E2%80%99s-apprentice.

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“Essentials of the Wudang Sword Art” by Huang Yuanxiu

At least once I have cited an excellent online resource for studying the Wudang styles of swordsmanship. The resource is Paul Brennan’s translation of Essentials of the Wudang Sword Art by Huang Yuanxiu, published in 1931 by Commercial Press.

Huang Yuanxiu

Huang Yuanxiua

Brennan’s online translation includes some excerpts of original calligraphy as well as the original illustrative photographs. The information is fairly technical, but if you have worked your way through an elementary course of study, possibly with Scott Rodell’s Chinese Swordsmanship or Zhang Yun’s Art of Chinese Swordsmanship, you can make the connections to the content of this text. The full text of Brennan’s translation of Essentials of Wudang Sword Art by Huang Yuanxiu can be accessed HERE.


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“Food repairs the essence. Rest restores the spirit.”

I am taking a day off from work to take care of my mother today, and took the opportunity to turn off the alarm clock. Yes, of course the disciplinarian in me was not approving, but sometimes I like to see just exactly how much I would sleep if I let my body just take what it wants. In my case, it was about 10 hours of sleep!

I also recall reading the story of an American who went to China to study with a Taoist priest, and who became frustrated with himself because he spent many of the first weeks of his retreat napping and sleeping. When he brought it up with the priest, the priest responded that all of his western students went through the same thing, and that it was typical for all of them to need time to catch up on sleep and rest before they could begin establishing a daily practice requiring less sleep. The priest described that westerners are more fatigued, sleep-deprived and burnt out by their daily living schedules and environmental pollutants than they realize, and that a dedicated period of rest and detoxification is absolutely necessary and nothing to be disappointed with or ashamed of. I have always appreciated that story……just wish I could remember where I read it!

Recently Scott M. Rodell, a very respectable master of the Chinese jian (sword) also made an informative post on Facebook for his Great River Taoist Center that also highlights the importance of rest, as well as the importance of a healthy diet. Although written specifically in refernce to jian training, I believe it is relevant for all martial arts training, and for life in general. Scott M. Rodell shared this excerpt from the Essentials of the Wudang Sword Art by Huang Yuanxiu (translated by Paul Brennan):

FIVE THINGS TO AVOID WHEN TRAINING IN THE SWORD ART
from 武當劍法大要
ESSENTIALS OF THE WUDANG SWORD ART

第四戒過分
Fourth Prohibition – EXCESSIVENESS

劍術之妙用無窮。而一身之精力有限。故一日之練習。以一日之飲食休養為衡。飲食以補其精。休養以復其神。精神飽滿。則功夫亦隨而長進。故大飢大飽之時。不宜練習。練習疲勞之時。則宜散步換氣。靜座調息。如是調節。庶不致進鋭退速也。
The wonders of the sword art are limitless, but the body’s vitality is limited. This is because one day’s practice is based on one day’s sustenance and rest. Food repairs the essence. Rest restores the spirit. When your essence and spirit are abundant, then your skill will naturally develop. But when you are either overly hungry or overly full, you should not practice, or when you become fatigued in your practice, then you should go for a walk to get some fresh air, or quietly sit to regulate your breath. Moderating in this way, all of your practice will not end up a situation of rapid progress leading to rapid regress.

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Daoist Immortal Lü Dongbin
Artist Unknown
16th cent. Ming Dynasty, China


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Integrating Xingyi Quan with Taiji Quan Practice

Based on the close connection to Taiji Quan that Lu Shengli describes, I am integrating some Xingyi Quan practice into my training program. Specifically, I am working on santi shi (“three bodies alignment”) and will be doing some flexing exercises with the 84″ staff. In this video clip from Kung Fu Quest 2, both of these exercises are explained by venerable master Song Guanghua. I have to say that the initial scene of Guanghua practicing shufa (Chinese calligraphy) in his shadowy is also pretty inspiring to me.


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Video: Yu Hongqin’s Baguazhang Instructional Video

I have been talking about this instructional video in baguazhang (“eight trigrams palm”) for a few weeks now with a couple of my fellow gongfu students, and decided I should post it up. The instructor is Yu Hongqin, and it is a very good demonstration of basic and core techniques in the martial arts style of baguazhang. The video does not demonstrate any combat applications, but I have found it useful to compare what I am learning in taijiquan and consider integrating a few techniques from baguazhang.