martial arts

  • Martial Law

    Japanese martial arts

    I wrote a story a while back about pirates and militias, and the role of the martial artist, in certain time periods, as a guardian. This idea has been with me for a very long time, due perhaps to my love of fantasy novels. The story of the hero who protects the village, or slays the dragon, is an old one, and I also touched on that cycle in a post on this blog, “Mixed Martial Arts and the Hero’s Journey.”

    I wrote the former essay during the media frenzy following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. After that shooting, it seemed as if every day another report about police shooting unarmed men – mostly black, a few white – came tumbling through my social media feeds. In each report, police aggression was clear and apparent. The police seemed eager to pull the trigger, eager to escalate the situation. As if they had been waiting for this opportunity for some time, and now finally had the chance to “fuck someone up” – I found myself more and more drawn to the fantasy of a militia with morals, with a code, with the discipline of a master, or an MMA fighter … a force made up of people who used force so often, in controlled settings, that the tendency to escalate a situation has been beaten out of them so to say.

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    September 3, 2014 • MMA, Modern Kung Fu • Views: 27424

  • 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: 8243

  • Some Disjointed Thoughts on Ceremony, Magpies, Art

    Magpie Culture

    I can’t listen to all the good hop hop that is out there to listen to. And if I can’t listen to all of the hip hop that’s out there, there is no way I can listen to all of the good country music out there, or rock music, or trance, and electronica and all of the other music that I could and perhaps should be listening to. There’s too much. I can’t read all of the books I want to read, and I can’t read all of the great writing, good articles, and interesting blogposts that are out there either. It’s impossible. There is an ocean of great content being produced every day, and I could never take it all in, even I spent ever hour of the day reading and listening. The stream is endless, and if I can’t handle what is created in a day anymore, how could I possibly read all of the amazing literature that was created by man in the past?

    — Eli Sweet

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    May 5, 2014 • Kung Fu Lore • Views: 20374

  • 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: 5883

  • 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: 20420