Welcome to The Palace Guard, the tai chi chuan and martial arts blog for intelligent martial practitioners. As the blog develops, I hope to feature other writers with a fresh take on the martial arts and related subjects. For now, I hope you enjoy my posts: feel free to leave comments, or email me at the address available on the profile.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Why Kung Fu Panda was bad...

Okay,okay, so this film came out ages ago. But I hear there's a sequel on the way...

Kung fu panda was great because it looked beautiful, and it was pretty funny. Anything that features such a devout fan of the martial arts as the lead character can never be a bad thing.
But this panda was a great big fat dude. The Dustin Hoffman creature (was it a Red Panda?) used the panda's love of food to motivate him to train, which was just fine. But why oh why did he teach the black and white oaf to fight like someone slim,lean and with long legs? He'd have been much better at a cool grappling, Bruce Frantzis-style BaGua thing instead of some pseudo-Shaolin nonsense. Of course the message is, no matter what your bodyshape/ability, you should be aiming to do all kinds of gymnastic stuff, spinning kicks and the rest...which is dull. A big guy should train like a big guy.

What do you mean I've got too much time on my hands?

Monday 21 February 2011

Anger management 101

I have been writing of late (not here...) about the possibilities of tai chi chuan as a way of being evasive and artful when it comes to conflicts of all sorts, verbal, personal and physical.
But the other day, when one of the Union reps at work slung his tuppence worth at me, I slung it right back with added venom. I yelled, I ranted, then I fumed for about a week. Not altogether the coolest way to handle things. Where was my evasion, my control? Nowhere to be seen. Our little contretemps then became an extended meeting with managers present, and I ended up dining out on humble pie filled with patronising jam and sprinkled with bullshit flakes. Boo. So I guess what I'm saying is: it doesn't necessarily translate. When being philosophical about the martial arts, it's great to entertain the broad possibilities of training.But just because you can duck a punch, doesn't mean you can duck an insult. And it's not wise to hit Union guys, however much you might want to.

Tuesday 1 February 2011

The Big Qi Debate part II

So the trouble with chi seems to be that both chi-lovers and haters present or expect chi as being something special, something extra to the normal range of mundane experience. I would suggest that chi is little more than a category, different in intent and purpose to any other category in our "|Western" experience maybe, but still referring to sensations available to all people.  In my opinion, chi is simply a different way of labelling sensations, in such a way that one can use these sensations to concentrate, feel the tides of the body, and gain energy and calmness from this process. The human body is broken down by Western medicine into the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system and so on. But none of these is a discrete "thing". These systems are all interwoven and interlinked, labelled for convenience, and the expediency of medicine. What "qi" introduces which Western medicine tries to avoid, is some idea of faith. The dictates of qi say "do me, cultivate me, try me and then see if I exist or not." Western medicine doesn't care if you believe or not. Of course, we also know that if someone feels that they are going to get better, this seems to help the process. If you follow the dictates of qi, you will create qi, or you will create the results of the qi system of work.
Really, if we had to boil it down, I'd say qi is flow. I've never come across a use or definition of qi where it wasn't recommended that it should flow. So whether one is talking about hormones, blood, breath, artistic spirit, or martial intent, flow is key. Flow implies interconnectedness; it also implies that any work to be done is about clearing the path to let the stream flow, rather than carrying the water to the destination in a bucket. Whatever qi is, it is "already there", which speaks of potential in all places, situations and beings. We don't need to do Taoist alchemy to benefit from flow. It's not mandatory because it doesn't add anything that's not there, merely changes the way one looks at it. That's all for now on this topic.