Modern Kung Fu

  • 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: 8514

  • Assumption, Identity and Markets in Martial Arts

    36 Elbows - Artwork by Chris Rini

    36 Elbows – Artwork by Chris Rini

    I wrote a couple stories, one for Fightland about 36 Elbows, and another for Roads and Kingdoms about Kungfu and MMA, and these stories helped me move a little further down the road in terms of clarifying and understanding what it is that is happening in Chinese martial arts today.

    The stories themselves are, for me, nice to see online, but are actually exercises in exorcising assumptions really. And gauging reactions in a way as well. One of the best reactions came, as always, from Ben Judkins of Kungfu Tea, who posed a series of questions that caused my ideas to reset …

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    June 11, 2014 • Modern Kung Fu • Views: 9277

  • 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: 5828

  • Taiji vs. Muay Thai (incl. Video)

    taiji vs. muay thai

    The other day I wrote a story for Fightland about an interaction I had had with Chen Jia, the Taiji Princess I’ve mentioned here before. It was about a fight her master’s brother, Chen Ziqiang, was setting up with Thai fighters. I spent an hour telling her how bad the idea was.

    I reenacted that for the Fightland story, and then went on to hijack Prof. Ben Judkin’s essay on taiji and Taoism as symbols in a marriage of convenience, to link the idea of Chinese patriotism to Taoism/Taiji and through that find some explanation for what I considered to be an absurd, misguided macho ploy. I ended the story by saying I was happy the fights did not take place, because I didn’t want to see taiji sullied.

    But in fact, the fight did go down. Last September in Jiaozuo, Henan Province, just a few hours from Chenjiagou Village and the Shaolin Temple.

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    April 22, 2014 • Modern Kung Fu, Video • Views: 14561

  • Full Circle


    This project began as a search into the “last masters” of traditional kungfu. That has always been the core during this process. Every time I went to visit someone, read something, wrote something, or attended an event of some kind, I had the “last masters” in mind.

    I went off on a tangent. I became embroiled in MMA, and left behind the evolution – or sundering as I am calling it – of Chinese traditional martial arts from its fundamentals, known by most as traditional kungfu (see this post for more on the malleable terms in wushu), into its component parts: Combat Sports, Wushu Performances, Taiji Health Practices, and Medicine.

    To that end, I wrote a series of stories starting with this one in the Economist a while back, “Ain’t that a Kick in the Head,” and continuing with the more recent “Hard Knock Life of a Foreign Fighter in China,” and “The Shady Business of Promoting MMA in China” for, a part of Vice.

    I was worried that I may have gone completely off course. I was worried that I may have built a site and proclaimed it part of a “project” that I would never end up completing.

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    March 23, 2014 • Modern Kung Fu • Views: 7680