Defending The Self

As the story goes, a young boy wanted to avenge the murder of his parents, so he went to a sword teacher and begged to be accepted as a student.

“How long will it take me to train myself to be a warrior?” the potential student asked.

“Seven years,” the teacher advised.

“No, you don’t understand. I want this so much that it’s in my blood. I will train day and night, never stop practicing, completely dedicate myself. If I do that, then how long will it take?”

The teacher looked for a second at the boy standing in front of him, then said, “In that case, 14 years!”

People often come to our Academy for self-defense lessons. This is invariably because they have images in their heads: either scenes from martial arts movies, where they would like to star, or pictures of fear-filled confrontations which they would like to avoid.

In the search for self-defense, they also have ideas and limits built into the scenarios.

“I only want the defensive part.”

“I want to be able to respond just enough to neutralize the attacker.”

“I only need to be aggressive on Tuesdays, and passive on the weekends.”

This is natural, of course. But Americans have a funny consumer orientation to everything. So many products are touted as being “easy” and “convenient” — why can’t the martial art be the same?

But the martial arts spends time on the self itself. It tempers the temperament and performs its subtle alchemy with each repeated punch and kick. It sets personality aside for awhile, and pursues true nature.

Quick self-defense courses are useful as is any emergency training. They show the rudiments and, if you’re lucky, the moves you will learn will fit the circumstances that arise. But real self-defense is an inner technique and an awareness that has to be cultivated slowly. In fact, one of the best ways to learn self-defense is to forget it is self-defense and enjoy the art and physical training.

Understanding this, martial artists for centuries have practiced things that look very un-martial: beautiful moves, quiet meditation, disciplined reflection. The idea isn’t just to protect the treasure of self, but to invest in it. The body becomes stronger and learns to defend itself, then the personality is free to grow.

As Raymond Chandler wrote: “If I weren’t tough on the outside, I couldn’t survive. If I weren’t soft on the inside, there’d be no reason to.”

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Kaz Checks In From Humboldt

Got a nice letter from our gone-but-not-forgotten student and friend, Kaz, who moved to Humboldt a few months ago. Here are some excerpts:

How are you guys?  I miss you!  We are pretty settled in up here, and generally loving it!  Moving really discombobulated me; I was out of sorts for a couple of months, but now I’m feeling pretty good.  It is beautiful here, a land of vast forest, rivers, coastlines and fog.  I’m beginning to find some favorite outdoor places; in Santa Cruz I spent a lot of time at the river and the beach, but because it’s been cold and wet I wasn’t getting much outdoor time up here so far and that was contributing to my funk (as was having to work a 40-hour a week job again after a decade of treating patients and having my own schedule.  Yuck!).

But for my birthday I spent my first whole day in the sun, at the Samoa dunes, and for the first time since moving I felt like everything was going to be OK.  Naked Kung Fu Guy even made his first Humboldt appearance!

One of the things I miss most about Santa Cruz is training at the Academy, and the community around it.  I’m feeling this great regret that I squandered my time and opportunity while in Santa Cruz, that I should have trained harder so that I could have learned more from you (this includes you Debbie!  If Ted is the paterfamilias and Linda the gruff warrior grandma, then you are surely the beating mama bear heart of the tribe).  I miss class, I miss hanging out with Gene and Nick, and I will really miss watching little Archer grow up and take his first steps (and kicks, and rolls, and stances).

There’s a little park right across the street from our house, and I’m happy to report I am training again!  I always do some standing, some circle walking, lots of pi, always bagua, sometimes yin shou, bagua tui, long fist, or staff/spear/sword.  Though I am a dense student, I am really appreciating what I did manage to learn under your tutelage!  You’ve given me a lot to work with.  Ted, I remember so clearly I asked you once long ago if some move we were doing was a strike or a block, and your response was, “It’s a shape.”  Now, more and more, my experience of practicing kung fu is that it’s a practice of forming my body into shapes, and mastering the fluid transitions from shape to shape, so that at any given moment you are able to express/absorb/deflect force.  And if you practice a lot, you are conditioning yourself, you are making a body and honing a mind that’s able to do that well.  So that’s what I’ll be working on.  Hopefully at some point someone will materialize that I can do partner practice with.

Anyway, I just wanted to check in!  I hope you are all well, and hope I can make it down to Santa Cruz sometime to say hi and work out!

Best,

Kaz

PS Check out my newly re-treaded FeiYues! Everyone raves about these shoes but I was disappointed how quickly the soft rubber soles wear out. A mountain bike tire, a bunch of Shoe Goo, and homemade leather-foam insoles for comfort, and they’re reborn for (I hope) years of use!

 

Posted in Articles, School Business | Leave a comment

Tai Chi Chuan For Health Class Returns September 6

Great News!

Narrye Caldwell’s popular 3 month class on Tai Chi will return on Sept 6, and for the first time class will meet twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, 9 – 10 am. This will give students more time to learn, practice and really understand the movements and structure of this essential practice.

This workshop is perfect for beginners, as well as for students with some experience who want to deepen their practice. She will also incorporate a bit of Qigong practice to support the well-known health benefits of Tai Chi.

Class size is limited, in order to assure that students receive individual attention.

Narrye brings more than 40 years experience in Chinese medicine and Tai Chi to her teaching.

To read more about the class, and to register, Click HERE.

(The Academy follows Covid protocols for the health and safety of students and staff.

Posted in Classes, Seminars, Tai Chi | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Role of Continuous Movement in Yang Style T’ai Chi Chuan

~Reprinted from T’ai Chi Magazine Millennial Issue, February 2000


At one time T’ai Chi was known as River Boxing (He Quan). The reason is obvious, even to the non-player. T’ai Chi’s smooth, continuous flowing motions move along like a gentle mountain stream turning and tumbling occasionally but never halting its fluid progress.

And to make progress in this art we often return to the set, as to a favored poem, to refresh our remembrance and to gain new insights.

Each of T’ai Chi’s honorable styles has a unique character. But the definite trait of Yang style is its emphasis on smooth and continuous movement. At first blush this appears relatively simple. Set up your metronome and proceed, keeping at an even pace throughout the form. But in a tighter view we recognize that the task may sound easy but, like that mountain stream, there may be a few slippery rocks to navigate. Continue reading

Posted in Articles, Tai Chi | 1 Comment

Ted performing Mizong (Back in the Day)

Mizong Kung Fu is also known as Lost Track Style. It is known for its quick changes, deceptive footwork and unusual walking patterns. Like many Northern styles, it is extended, expressive and graceful.

Here’s a short clip from the early days at the Academy.

 

Posted in Articles, Kung Fu, Videos | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

It’s Alive!

Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor covid has been able to stop our new book by Sifu Ted Mancuso, “Hawk Splits Sky: Jibengong Practice, Bagua Zhang Mastery,” from publication. But it’s not like the forces of nature haven’t tried really hard.

Nonetheless, the boxes of books and the spindles of DVDs are now arrived, and you can CLICK HERE to read more about our project, and to order at our introductory price.

Woohoo!

Oh, and for the first month (until January 15), if you would like an autorgraphed copy, just ask.

See Below for more info…

Here is a short interview with Ted Mancuso on the project.

Q: Your new Bagua book, “Hawk Splits Sky: Jibengong Practice, Bagua Zhang Mastery” is finally about to come out. I know you’ve been working on it for quite a while. How does it feel?

A: To be honest, I’m very happy that it’s over, but I also have a little trepidation. Of course, that’s true with all the books that I produce; I always wonder: Are they good enough? Did I explain clearly? Do the pictures work? Or, is someone going to read it and say, “This guy Mancuso is an idiot?” That kind of stuff.

But this book especially concerns me. (Jiben)Gongs in martial arts can be difficult, because so many think they know them already as, say, Basics, so they process the concept intellectually before they practice the Gongs physically. In other words, if I say, “This is a book on Jibengong,” some are going to say, “Of course. That’s what you need to get good at Bagua — that and walking the circle of course; Basics are everything!” But Jibengongs are not Basics.

The gongs that I chose for this book come right from my classes; they’ve worked for years. Some of the Gongs may not initially resemble Bagua — possibly more like Xingyi. Some of them may embrace too large a concept, such as Open-Close. Others, of course, will be easily recognized. But because Gongs are both practice and concept, they can be difficult to wrap your mind around.

Q: Well, in addition to the book, you also include more than 3 hours of DVD.

A: That was our idea from the beginning: to give practitioners enough real-life examples of using the Gongs in order to play with the concepts.

The two DVDs are meant to do several things: first, of course, to teach the Gongs themselves, then to employ Usage to incorporate the Gongs into practice. But the usage DVD…I have to tell you — I’m going to be interested in seeing what people think about it, because it is definitely not what most martial artists are used to seeing on DVD. Now, if they are part of a school, that’s probably exactly the way they see it practiced. The word “practice” is key to this: on the DVD you’ll see our two senior students practicing and working out usage; that means that there are lots of hits, but also misses and fumbles; not everything is immediately accurate. Nonetheless, everything is going towards how to use these gongs, or even the concept of Gongs, to get better at Bagua. So, I’m excited about it, but I’m also apprehensive.

I’ll give you an example: You will see that one Gong emphasizes verticality; another might emphasize Open-Close. You’re not going to see the typical “ ‘A’ punches, ‘B’ Blocks,” in other words. Gongs are practiced concepts, and to get towards ‘correct’ you have to travel in the land of ‘incorrect’ for a long while (not unlike Bagua itself).

 

If you would like to read or view a little about this project and Jibengong, click links below:

Jibengongs and the Bear Palm Gong in Bagua

What Is Jibengong?

Bagua Zhang’s Jibengongs

Posted in Articles, Bagua | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bagua and the Pandemic Pivot

The unprecedented changes triggered by the pandemic are ongoing. Like every school all around the world, the Academy of Martial and Internal Arts is adjusting to the changes. We struggle onward despite these challenges, but there are surely more ahead.

Many cling to a hope for the ‘return to normal’ but that’s backwards thinking in so many ways. Change is normal and we’re undergoing global change right now. Others talk about ‘the pivot’. Here at the Academy, it has me thinking about the Bagua. Perhaps it’s because Sifu Ted has been working on a Bagua book, one that I’m sure we’re all eager to read. But also because Bagua is all about changes and pivoting. It is the essence of that art.

NOTE: Just to forewarn you, this essay will spin in circles, like a Bagua article should. As long as it doesn’t become a downward spiral, we’re good, right?

Those who practice alongside with me at the Academy will find this ironic. Bagua is a major component of the Academy’s curriculum, and it is the one style that I do not partake in at all. My aversion is not out of disrespect. I have tremendous respect for the art. It’s just that Bagua has just never resonated with me. Continue reading

Posted in Articles, Bagua, Philosophy, Training | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tradition Rebounds

We’re starting to open up classes to new students!

Interested in trying a class at our world-recognized Academy of Martial & Internal Arts? Click HERE to let us know.

Two ongoing longfist students, Christopher and Rachel, practicing foundational moves.

Posted in Classes, Kung Fu, News, School Business | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Instructor Nick Hancock Displays Fine Form

We found this great clip of our Nick Hancock demonstrating Northern Shaolin’s most famous form known as #6 Short Strike. Watch and enjoy.

Posted in Articles, Kung Fu | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Longfist Kung Fu Fundamentals: 12 Wk Class Starts Sept 28

Wow, it has been a loooong time since we have been able to add a class to our schedule and welcome new students to our school.

So, we are excited to introduce our newest 12 week series, Longfist Kung Fu Fundamentals, taught by Nick Hancock. Nick is a professionally trained teacher in both Chinese medicine and traditional martial arts, bringing his particular expertise and talents to training movement as well as principles and theory.

The fundamentals of Longfist Kung Fu establish the basics  of Northern Chinese martial arts. This series of classes will not only introduce you to moves, health maintenance and Qigong, stances, usage and an authentic routine, but each lesson will be grounded in classical training methods.

Returning and continuing students of the Academy are welcome to join this class as part of your membership fees, but please register so we can save you a place.

Click image to learn more about the class, and to register.

Posted in Classes, Seminars, Training | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Tai Chi Training Secrets: How Do You Practice Martially, When You Are By Yourself?

A recent letter from one of our favorite correspondents, Gary Shapiro, put the question: “We spoke about how practicing taiji with the martial aspects in mind enhances it’s health effects. So— how does that work? Can one practice “martially” solo? (and how?).”

In our newest video, Sifu Ted answers this and offers some training tips for integrating martial aspects into Tai Chi practice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmfSN6ywSqU?rel=0

Posted in Articles, Tai Chi, Training | Leave a comment

Year of the Metal Ox: Narrye Caldwell’s Annual Outlook

One sure thing: as soon as the calendar page turns from December to January, we start to get inquiries about when people will see Narrye Caldwell’s post for the Chinese (Lunar) New Year. Well, here it is! As always, enjoy.

 

Year of the Metal Ox—February 12, 2021

Let me start with a true story. Twenty years ago we had a presidential election that was too close to call. Everything hinged on a razor thin margin in Florida that showed George Bush leading Al Gore by a mere 537 votes. State law required a recount. A month of legal battles ensued, and finally a Supreme Court decision stopped the recount in Florida. This resulted in Bush winning the presidency with 271 electoral votes, one more than required, in spite of losing the popular vote by a significant number.

That winter I attended a Chinese New Year’s talk by one of my teachers, Lu Ming. Ming’s talks were always sprinkled with stories and clever insights. And this is what he said, with a sardonic
chuckle, about the election I just described: “If it had been a Rat year, every vote would have been counted.”

Well, here we are. The election we just had is the one Ming foretold. It happened in a Rat year, and yes, every vote got counted. This past Rat year brought much hardship, which there is no need to review here. But the one silver lining is, “in a Rat year, every vote gets counted.”

Overview of the year

First let’s talk about the Metal Ox. Ox qi is associated with the long view. The Ox is a yin Earth sign, so patience, endurance, constancy, and persistence are its superpowers. Remember that, because though there is much to be done and the world is in a frightful state right now, the new qi coming in with the Ox year brings the strength required to shoulder burdens, take on the necessary work, and keep our eyes on long term solutions.

Each year’s astrological signature is made up of the combination of heaven qi—which is Metal this year—and the Earth qi associated with the animal sign—in this case, Earth. From the traditional Five Phase view, Earth nourishes Metal so we have a harmonious energetic quality to the year. Think of it this way—the stability and constancy of Earth, when unobstructed, can transform base metal into gold. We have an opportunity now. Through hard work and sound judgment, we can recover what is precious and lies buried deep within us. So, noses to the grindstone, all.

Now for the fun part. Here’s a quick look at how each animal sign can best utilize this year’s qi. Continue reading

Posted in Articles, Chinese Astrology | 1 Comment

Becoming A Sifu

sifu

Sifu Ted, Sifu Linda, me and Sifu Lam, along with fellow students, Phil, John and Jerome after we did a Kung Fu demo at the County Fair in the mid-80s.

When do you become a Sifu? The simple answer is you become a Sifu when other people start calling you a Sifu. A more legitimate answer is you become a Sifu when your Sifu says you’re a Sifu. However, like many aspects of Chinese culture, there’s simple answers, and then there’s a deep dive. At the Academy of Martial and Internal Arts, we like those deep dives.

The title “Sifu” is a fine example of simple answers versus deep dives. On the simplest level, it’s the Chinese term for ‘master.’ It gets complex when you go deeper. “Sifu” is the Cantonese pronunciation, which sounds kind of like “sea-fu.” Master Ted Mancuso’s lineage has both Cantonese and Mandarin influences. Among his masters are Grandmaster Adam Hsu from Taiwan where they speak Mandarin and Grandmaster Kwong Wing Lam from Hong Kong where Cantonese is spoken. In Mandarin, it’s “Shifu,” which sounds a bit like “sure-fu.” Although Cantonese and Mandarin use the same written characters, there are regional dialect distinctions and vast idiomatic differences, so the comparison isn’t always an X=X relationship. This gets even more complicated, deserving of an essay of its own, so we won’t dwell on it too much here. At the Academy, we generally default to the Cantonese, most likely because that set the precedent in the 70s and 80s when Kung Fu was beginning to cross the Pacific. Continue reading

Posted in Articles | 3 Comments

Better With Age

After class the other day my student Harvey, who has studied with me for more than 15 years, asked me a pointed question: “How and why does a longtime practitioner maintain his or her interest in studying Tai Chi?” This caught my attention immediately, because he asked me to consider it from the advanced study point of view, not the more common basic level.

wu tu nan

Wu Tu Nan

After 50 years practicing Tai Chi, I admit that the shoe may be old, but it still fits.

I went home and wrote this question at the top of a page of wide-ruled yellow paper: “What is the attractive secret of Tai Chi that encourages people to play the game without getting bored?”

I immediately filled the page with notes outlining all the remarkable qualities of Tai Chi; for example, how the slow pace encourages curative postures and uniformity of movement, and how this allows us to craft our life instead of violating it. Tai Chi adjusts you to rhythms of action rarely seen in daily life. Conforming to an attack also teaches you to conform to terrain, timing, other classmates—a rainbow of patterns. Continue reading

Posted in Articles, Tai Chi | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Bear Bones

Thanks to our student, John, for sending this to us. And as one keen observer on youtube noted, those are three-sectioned sticks, not nunchakus. Not that the bear cares…

Posted in Articles | Leave a comment