Kung Fu People

  • Kungfu Women and the Summer Solstice

    summer solstice

    Courtesy of Indigowillow

    On this, the longest day of the year, it seems fitting to read about and perhaps put a few words down on the topic of gender. What? Yes … The longest day of the year means the year with the most Sun, the most 阳气, the most Yang essence, the most masculine of days if you believe the Chinese. In some parts of the world, most notably Europe, this day (the Summer Solstice) is celebrated with massive bonfires. A reveling in the energy of the sun and its tiny cousin fire, both a symbol of potency and bright obvious power.

    In China, this day is celebrated often with a bit of water … swimming perhaps … to balance out the Yang energy with a bit of Yin. Yin being the female – soft dark wet – susceptible to the moon and the tides, the hidden power, the power you never see coming.

    I spent the day eating lamb, another source of Yang in China (lamb is not only 羊 yang in Chinese, but is also believed, like beef and dog meat and many other foods, to have strong Yang energy). Normally lamb is only eaten in winter, again, to balance out the cold winds and snows of the ultimate Yin season, sunless and dormant and secretly fecund. But I figured I’d revel in the Yang myself, and if a bonfire isn’t feasible, then a little lamb and some beer in the hot Sichuan sun should do the trick.

    Before I went out to eat, I read three essays (one, two, three) on gender in the martial arts by (who else?) Ben Judkins and I found myself thinking of the Kungfu Women I have met over the years. Several of them fit Judkins’ descriptions of past Kungfu Women: magical, sexual, “honorary men,” yet still so feminine, no matter how many times she hit the bag or stared down a male rival …

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    June 21, 2014 • Kung Fu People • Views: 36670

  • Douglas Wile mentions The Last Masters

    The cover of one of Wile's books on Taiji and Daoism

    The cover of one of Wile’s books on Taiji and Daoism

    Douglas Wile is one of the most prominent martial arts scholars alive today, and in a recent article for JOMEC, “Asian Martial Arts in the Asian Studies Curriculum,” he mentions The Last Masters blog. Pretty cool.

    Dr. Wile has written a number of books on traditional martial arts, check some of them out here, and be sure to read this essay linked above, as well as Ben Judkin’s response/review, “Will Universities Save the Traditional Asian Martial Arts.”


    June 11, 2014 • Kung Fu People, Modern Kung Fu • Views: 8241

  • The Ya’an Fight Night Extravaganza

    Moses and Juan

    (A condensed version of this story went up on Fightland)

    When the Apocalypse goes down, I want guys like Moses Baca and Juan Quesada on my team. They’re both MMA fighters out of the renowned Cesar Gracie Academy in California, one of the sport’s legendary gyms, and both have years of training and fights behind them. Moses in particular is old school, having grown up and trained with the legendary Diaz brothers, Jake Shields and Gil Melendez during that team’s decade of dominance. That’s enough to give them a special place at the table. They make a great tandem: hard as nails Juan reborn again in martial arts, and soft spoken Moses, a BJJ black belt who loves to play with the kids.

    Unfortunately, most of that was lost on their Chinese host. For Sichuan-based C3, the tiny provincial promotion that paid to bring them over, Juan and Moses were just warm foreign bodies, part of a big show for the people of Ya’an, a city at the foot of the Himalayas famous for good fish, pretty girls, and lots of rain.

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    April 30, 2014 • Kung Fu People, Modern Kung Fu • Views: 5463

  • Some thoughts from Professor Ben Judkins of Kung Fu Tea


    Prof. Judkins is a scholar of traditional Chinese martial arts, and runs the extremely well-informed and well-written blog, Kung Fu Tea. There is a wealth of information on the blog, and I take the time to read it weekly. Below are a few questions I had for Prof. Judkins, just a little back and forth to get the juices going again … 

    “People are saying that “kung fu is dying”? What is your response to that? You have mentioned before in your blog that kung fu has “died before” and been reinvented, what do you mean by that? Can you give some examples?”

    I am not really sure that “dying” is the right metaphor for what is going on right now.  I think that I would prefer to say that Kung Fu is “evolving” in an almost Darwinian sense, with everything that this implies regarding competitive selection, differentiation, the development of new forms and the consolidation (or “extinction”) of some old ones.  I think that this would be a more accurate assessment of what we are dealing with right now …

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    December 22, 2013 • Kung Fu History, Kung Fu People • Views: 41722

  • The Man in Charge of Sichuan Wushu

    The top of Emei Mountain in Sichuan Province

    The top of Emei Mountain in Sichuan Province

    It’s been a while, again, so I will get right to it.

    I want to talk about a man named Ren Gang, the Party Secretary of the Sichuan Provincial Wushu Association. As such, he holds sway over all things martial in Sichuan. Wushu performances and training, allocation of belts, degrees and titles, approval of new schools and temples, any martial events – including fights – and, in general, the direction of wushu itself in this province.

    The first time I spoke to him, I made a trip out to Dujiangyan by high speed rail specifically to talk to him. He was busy coaching the Sichuan Provincial Wushu Team in a closed door session, and came out for dinner. He was waiting for me by the back gate of the gym, besides his eggshell white BMW. We walked across the street, gauging each other and small-talking about Sichuan food.

    Ren Gang holds himself like a martial artist. He stands up straight, swaggers slightly, and has a reserve of energy dozing beneath a pressed white polo shirt and pressed black pants. His hair is thinning, but his eyes are sharp and I felt them analyze my movements, my speech, the way I held myself and, after he demanded a demonstration, the weakness in my horse stance.

    Ren speaks his mind without fear, because not only does he sit atop the Sichuan martial arts world, but he is also somewhat of a legend. Most people who know him speak of him with a mixture of envy, reverence, and fear. My own master, Li Quan, was shocked to know that I had dinner with THE Ren Gang, the man whose 1983 film, Little Heroes, influenced an entire generation of martial artists. A member of the very first group of official wushu practitioners to emerge out of the Cultural Revolution with the mandate to re-introduce, re-discover and revive the ancient art.

    The MAN in Sichuan, when it comes to wushu, gongfu and sanda.

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    September 10, 2013 • Kung Fu People, Modern Kung Fu • Views: 20411