martial arts
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  • The Birthplace of Chen Style Taiji Quan

    Chinese Martial Arts

    A billboard of Chen Xiao Wang and sons in Chen Jia Gou

    Last month I went to Chen Jia Gou, just outside of Zhengzhou, Henan, to visit the birthplace of Chen Style Taiji Quan. I went with Chen Jia, a young lady who studies under the style’s current, most famous master, Chen Xiao Wang. She also opened her own school in Shanghai.

    Every year in March, Chen Xiao Wang takes time out from his travels around the globe to return home and pay respects to the temple, school, and village where he was born and raised. Students from around the country – and the world – come to Henan during the last week in March to join him, participate in seminars, and train with other taiji enthusiasts.

    My primary interest in traveling out here was to learn more about Chen Jia, more about her master Chen Xiao Wang, and to take a good look at a “birthplace” of a style. I know Chen Jia, and consider her to be a very sincere and talented martial artist, and in conversations we had we often spoken of the level of “realness” in martial arts these days. We talked of the rise of Wushu – the competition style Wushu – and the decline in students of what we both understood to be real kungfu.

    It’s easy to agree on a definition when you agree with the person you speak to. So much can be left unsaid. Hence the trip: I wanted to see what was real in Zhengzhou and what Chen Jia considered to be real kungfu.

    I was, in all, pleasantly surprised.

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    April 18, 2013 • Kung Fu History, Kung Fu People, Kung Fu Places, Modern Kung Fu • Views: 24710

  • Dichotomies and Princesses

    The last remaining gate of Hong Yan Temple, which housed the secrets of Emei Kungfu. There were once 48 gates, according to legend, and hundreds of monks.

    I recently traveled to Emei, again, and to Shanghai to meet with a disciple of Chen-style Taijiquan, Chen Jia. There were some highlights that I will try and talk about below, but what these trips also did for me was help crystallize the framework for this story I am writing.

    One thing that has come clear to me over the past few weeks (and years actually) is that 武术 is so deep and so broad that I have literally no hope of understanding a large portion of it unless I dedicated myself to a life of scholarly research – and I actually just imagined finding Ming Dynasty contemporary accounts of the training that mountain-bound monks did in preparation for battle with rebels, and I literally teared up. What a beautiful thing, an old text illuminated again … but I digress.

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    December 12, 2012 • Kung Fu History, Kung Fu People, Modern Kung Fu • Views: 4307

  • China Needs a Hero

    The Tao of Jeet Kun Do

    Last Wednesday two men, father and son, defended their home from bandits trying to break the door down and force-evict their family. All we saw in the video that went viral over the weekend were several men lying in the foyer of a concrete shell – your typical Chinese home in the countryside – and some thugs outside of the home making calls to their boss. The person with the camera, most likely the man’s wife, also added text to the video letting viewers know the situation and calling for help.

    Later the Telegraph interviewed the man, Shen Jianzhong, who told a familiar story for Chinese in this era of relentless urbanization:

    “They called it a remodelling project, to turn our village into a town,” he said. “They wanted to tear down the whole street, and promised we would get a new house of the same size in two years, as well as rent to cover the interim. But I heard of people in a neighbouring village getting a much better deal, so we refused to sign.”

    “This mob of thugs would block the street most days. They would pick on the women, threatening to kill their kids. Then people started tossing bricks through windows and letting off fireworks at night. Some people got beaten on the street.”

    On October 29, as Mr Shen went to work and his wife popped out for a packet of instant noodles, a mob of “30 to 50 men” materialised at their front door.

    “My wife tried to close the door, but they pushed it back and she tripped over. That is how the fight started,” said Mr Shen.

    Shen then took off for Beijing with his family, only to have his son arrested by the same authorities that couldn’t protect him when thugs tried to force him and his family to leave their home. The Telegraph story ends with a cliffhanger: a supposedly sympathetic official contacting Shen and telling him to wait to get picked up by a car.

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    December 1, 2012 • Modern Kung Fu • Views: 3296

  • Kung Fu Kids

    Students at a Hanyuan Daishimen Gongfu School (photo by Andreas Muller)

    September 26, 2012 • Kung Fu People • Views: 15784

  • Glossary of Terms

    I recently came across a very fascinating analysis of the difference between 工夫茶 (gōngfū chá) and 功夫茶 (gōngfuchá) on LanguageLog. Both refer to the art of brewing tea in a clay pot and serving the tea in small cups.

    The discussion was fascinating to me in general, because I brew my tea in a clay pot “gong fu style,” but also because the characters that are used most often to describe this method of brewing tea are 功夫茶 – and 功夫 is of course Kung Fu, the martial art and way of life I am researching on this blog.

    There are a few phrases used for Kung Fu and all of them have a slightly different meaning and usage. The following are some terms I will use on this blog and the way in which I will use them. I encourage anyone to disagree or augment any of the descriptions I have below:

    1) Kung Fu: This is the most common usage outside of China for Chinese martial arts. This is the anglicized version of 功夫, which in modern Mainland pinyin, “the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into Latin script in the People’s Republic of China, Republic of China (Taiwan), and Singapore,” is actually written “gōngfu”. In my own personal communications or blogs, I use gong fu. Here on this blog I will use Kung Fu as much as possible, in order to appeal to a more general audience. I may switch to gong fu because it feels right to me.

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    September 25, 2012 • Kung Fu History • Views: 14350