Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jet Li Martial Arts Scenes

Jet Li didn't resort to shirtless scenes as much as Bruce Lee did, but he had his own panache, humor and steely face.  He was superb in his own right.

Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang had a handful of superb fight scenes in `Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but the gravity-defying bout and rooftop chase were the best.  Jet Li's `Hero takes a bit of its choreography from the two ladies' extended hang-time.  All of these scenes are staged, of course, but a bit of inspiration and imagination can lift real-life Parkour practice, for example, to a higher level of athleticism and impact.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bruce Lee Martial Arts Scenes

Bruce was a great martial artist in his own right, and he was also a great show man in front of the camera.  In either case - fighting and acting - he was determined and disciplined.  He was constantly practicing and training, for example.

This is the most stunning, kickass fight scene I know, and while the martial arts choreography and movie making were more sophisticated, `Matrix Reloaded pays homage to `Enter the Dragon.  There are lessons to draw from these movies, such as using our opponent's energy against him and even using the opponent himself as a human weapon.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tao Te Ching Empower and Zen Empower

"When you are at one with loss, The loss is experienced willingly.”

tao te ching empower

the way of nature. the way of the universe. the way of virtue. the venerable text by Lao Tzu may be 2600 years old. but it's a guide and inspiration for the modern day. by

“Think of Zen, of the Void, of Good and Evil and you are bound hand and foot. Think only and entirely and completely of what you are doing at the moment and you are free as a bird.”

zen empower

in the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few. from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki. zen empower is a blog by

These two blogs on Tumblr are my personal study of Taoism and Zen, and I am grateful that many people have had a read and have enjoyed them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Searching for Something Deeper and Truer

Spirituality in everyday life
“This is part of a huge cultural shift,” said [clinical psychologist Lisa] Miller, who'd barely heard about spirituality in academia when she started out 20 years ago. “We’re evolving – as a collective – and finding something deeper, more true and more permanent.” 
The story from India “stimulated not only my intellect but also awakened my soul,” wrote one of the readers. 
“It inspired me to live my life with a more open heart,” said another. 
“An energy forced me to read your article,” wrote a third. “While reading, I cried, reflected on my life, felt the wounds of my daughters, exclaimed pain from my sister’s suicide, gave thanks to my parents and even sent advice to a guy I just met. I’m not sure where this will all lead.” 
Miller attributes this opening up, at least in part, to a loss of security, a response to challenges. Financial downturns and, for some, implosions. Natural disasters. School shootings. Domestic terrorism. Pick your pain.
Reference: The new American dream: Searching for spirituality.

Whether we call it spirituality, religion, philosophy, metaphysics or something else, and whether it's clear and firm in our lives or not, that search Lisa Miller refers to is a real thing.  Since the start of the new millennium, our lives around the world have ranged from breathtaking and dramatic, heartbreaking and despondent.  Pick your pain is absolutely right.

In a way T'ai Chi is a solution, a salve, a salvation for me.  I've been practicing and studying it since May 1978, and it's been the one true anchor in my life.  Of course it has its own principles, values and form, but it can liberate any of us from more dogmatic versions of principles, values and form.  It is akin to what Bruce Lee related in Jeet Kune Do:  You take and you adopt what works best for you, and you discard and you dismiss what doesn't.  Or at least set aside what doesn't quite makes sense for now, then maybe come back to it another time.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Weighing Spirituality, Religion and T'ai Chi

I was born Catholic, but in my teens I disavowed that religion for its dogmatism and sexism.  There was a certain rigidity about its beliefs, for example, about not allowing women to be priests and in general putting women in a subservient place.  It perpetuated, rather than challenged, the gender discrimination of Western patriarchy.

Still I believe in God as omnipotent and omniscient, and benevolent and forgiving, too.  So for the longest time now, I have viewed myself as spiritual but not religious.  Religious practices such as going to church was a social phenomenon, and as such I didn't need this particular sort of being among people.  I simply enjoy being around people, period.      

So it was intriguing, and affirming of course, to read Examining the Growth of the 'Spiritual but Not Religious'.  Three women debate the viability of such a stance, from its being a form of ambivalence (Lillian Daniel), to a recoil from institution (Linda Mercadante), to an alternative to traditional worship and medicine (Carolyn Bender).

In the end, though, the following resonates best with me:  

(quote credit)
I've traveled the world, and encountered people from other major religions, such as Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism.  While each may in fact have its own dogma and bias, I learn and adopt what makes to learn and adopt for myself and I am not bound by one or the other.  Rightly or wrongly, this is what T'ai Chi practice and Taoism study have taught me.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mind, Body and Spirit of Bruce Lee's Punch

Bruce Lee
Drawing upon both physical and neuro power, Lee’s devastating one-inch punch involved substantially more than arm strength. It was achieved through the fluid teamwork of every body part. It was his feet. It was hips and arms. It was even his brain. In several milliseconds, a spark of kinetic energy ignited in Lee’s feet and surged through his core to his limbs before its eventual release.
Reference: The intriguing science behind Bruce Lee’s one-inch punch.

This is a good review of the biomechanics of Bruce Lee's devastating punch.  In brief, he nurtured an amazing ability to converge mind and body, and spirit, too, no doubt, onto a target and to do so with breathtaking speed and power.  This happens only through countless practice sessions, as Lee was known to practice his martial arts constantly.  These sessions are not just physical, but also mental and neural, offering testament to the T'ai Chi Ch'uan principle of the mind being the commander (i) over the chi and over the body.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Master Wong Works at T'ai Chi for Health

This demonstration by Master Wong is probably more of what we've seen of T'ai Chi and how we prefer to practice in our daily life.  But there is simply no denying how strong and forthright he is, in his demeanor, expression and speech.  There is also no stifling his apparent bent toward the martial applications of this ancient Chinese art.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Master Wong Shows How Strong T'ai Chi Is

Who said T'ai Chi was a weak martial art and was only for old people and women?  Master Wong shows just how strong T'ai Chi is, and can be, when applied for self defense.  

At the end of the day, we as practitioners may decide how to manifest the essence of T'ai Chi as a martial art.  It is often viewed as soft, relaxed and slow, but that is just in the hall or the park.  In a real life threat, we can call upon the very power (fajin) that we nurture in practice.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Advanced T'ai Chi (3) "Train" Self Defense

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The T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classics say, In self defense, use your opponent's force and energy against him.  Stepping out of his line of attack may be all you need to defend yourself.  But it may be necessary to deflect his onrushing punch with a circular arm movement, then push him to the ground in the same direction as his attack. 

Better yet, however, if you can come on board his "train" and make friends with him, then why not?  For example, much as I argued in meetings with a former colleague of mine, he and I always enjoy a nice lunch conversation together.  He'd get emotional, even critical in some meetings, and felt compelled at times to defend whomever was in his radar.  But we never took each other's rebuffs personally.  We literally absorbed each other's offense and defense, and kept more or less positive chi with one another.

This is T'ai Chi self defense at its best, where you and your opponent manage not only to sidestep a fight, but also to join energies together.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Advanced T'ai Chi (2) "Train" Self Defense

(image credit)

Attacks may be so varied, multiple and sophisticated, that simple T'ai Chi self defense principles do not seem at all adequate.  Your attacker, for example, seems to leap off the ground and rain down from the sky, like a flying train.  What now?

Bruce Lee was positively philosophical yet exceeding practical, too:  You do whatever it takes to protect yourself and perhaps a loved one.  A life-threatening situation is no longer about trying to remember and apply whatever techniques you learned in class.  

You go on instinct, you sense things quickly, you react in whatever way your mind, body and spirit deem you ought to.  Perhaps scream and run, claw and bite, or talk your way out of it.