Friday, October 30, 2015

The Language of Pain


Every martial artist, regardless of style, has to form a very close and personal relationship with pain. Pain is often times viewed as a barrier that needs to be surpassed in order to raise the level of our technique. In many respects pain is a teacher, helping us identify the different problems within our art. Bruises left behind after sparring can be viewed as a map that outlines the weaknesses in our defense, dull pains can tell us when something isn't aligned, sharp pains can warn us to slow down our training. After training long enough, we begin to understand that each type of pain is as a letter of the alphabet, spelling out our journey of training.

As a martial artist, pain is a crucial language because it's the method the body uses to help us prevent injury. At times injury can also be a strict instructor, and at other times it can be a thief, attempting to disqualify us from the battle that matters most. Many young warriors are seduced into danger by their own ego and attempt to ignore pain, later finding themselves retired early for not heeding to the whispering warnings of the body. A true martial artist is first and foremost a survivalist who understands the language of pain, yet navigates carefully the valley of damage.

Generally as an internal artist, pain - aside from sore muscles - is more related to something that is not properly aligned in the structure. An ache in the knee means your weight is not in the right place. A kink in the thumb is an indication of a poorly executed palm technique. All of our martial arts teachers will do their best to warn us of such hazards, but experience is the only real way to know how something is supposed to feel...or not feel.

We live in a society that almost completely contradicts the lifestyle of a martial artist, seeking to make everything more comfortable and convenient. This only nullifies our senses because inconvenience is just another form of pain or discomfort that can help us map out our situation. The media pushes concepts of faster computers, easy access entertainment and softer beds. But if martial arts is truly the mirror of reality, then, the softer our lifestyles become, the harder our life will be.

A man who is forced to walk to work will have to adapt many new habits to meet with the problem. He will have to wake up early, exercise more and make better use of his time. So his car problem in many ways will turn out to be a health solution. Each discomfort or inconvenience we are faced with is just another opportunity to improve the quality of our life through strengthening of the spirit. True happiness is not intuitive and the route is often the opposite direction of our mood. By giving into our mood, we lose control of our development and feed our spirit laziness.

This is the reason I've always felt strongly that everyone should partake in martial arts at least long enough to understand the meaning of progress. All forms of progress are preceded with pain or discomfort of some sort. When we avoid those difficulties, we all together avoid progress. As for the martial artist, it is important to steer clear of things that may damage us, but there is little to no advantage in avoiding challenges.

People often describe this concept by coining the phrase, "No pain, no gain." But unfortunately many of us can and are experiencing pain without making any gains at all. In fact we find ourselves faced with all kinds of pains from frustration, strife, disappointment, hopelessness, anger and misunderstanding. Some people live their lives in a loop, doomed to repeat the same conversations and debates with different people for the rest of their lives. Pain can only teach us if we are listening and willing to learn from it. Otherwise it becomes a wound that will not heal, leading to a place of permanent damage.

Identifying pain is not as easy as one may believe. Many times when we have a pain in our leg or neck, the root of the problem is in the back or the hips. You may continue to try to rub ointment on the sore areas and never understand where the soreness stems from. You may be trying to deal with your bad temper, but it continues to reemerge in different areas of your life. It's because the root of the problem is not your temper and your temper is merely a side effect from improper alignment elsewhere.

In the bible the Israelites roamed around the desert for 40 years, but the trip was only supposed to be 11 days. Their unwillingness to submit and understand caused them to loop through the same pains again and again. Whether it's in terms of your training, career or relationships, God is speaking to you through both blessings and discomfort. If you are willing to heed to those warnings and follow directions, you will find that all of your misfortunes are just a journey to wisdom, joy and ultimately power. If you ignore the warnings, you will continue to experience the same frustrations in different forms for as long as you choose.

I'm assuming many of us are pretty good at listening to the pains of the body by now, but how skilled are we at identifying the pains of the spirit? Are there obstacles that continue to manifest in different forms in your life? Or have you convinced yourself that you have bad luck and can never catch a break? Those who have an ear, let them hear.   


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Freedom of Restriction


Self reflection is not only important in terms of making progress in your training, it's also beneficial to help you gauge direction by separating your own needs from the "needs" force fed to you by society. Bruce Lee often mentioned that we must use our art to honestly express ourselves, but most people have such a diluted understanding of self that this concept is drowned in many forms of false identity. 

How do you determine the bad habits in your fighting style from your own personal concepts of combat? Should you accept yourself even though you are overweight? Or should you become the more physical fit version of your self to be true? As early as birth, you are trained to understand a self that may or may not be you. Are you an American? Then you must speak a certain language, be opposed to certain ideas and be supportive of your countries cause. If there is a plane crash somewhere in the world, it doesn't concern you so much because it's not related to the "self" that you have been assigned.

You could philosophize for a lifetime on who you really are and never reach a concrete answer, just the same way a martial artist could train for decades without making any progress. In terms of both kung fu and life, determination alone is not enough to find direction. No matter how determined a pilot is, he must follow a specific flight path to reach his destination as is the same for life. But the vast majority of us are easily lost in both our lives or in our training because of our misunderstanding of self. I've found that sometimes by analyzing a single movement, I can find direction in my system. Just as analyzing a word, can help find direction in life.

After I had spent about five years training basic punching, kicking and grappling, I became obsessed with the concept of free movement. Being able to hit, without thinking and spontaneously react to any attack has always been the best way to subdue an opponent. At the time I felt practicing a movement just as it is in a form is exactly how to get beat up. I learned to use footwork effectively to free up my attacks and control the range of the altercation. I even continually practiced fighting against multiple opponents and people with weapons to assure my ability to use my art. After another five years, I knew that I was very effective, but I also knew that I had reached a plateau.

There is one truth that no martial artist, will ever be able to escape: defeating an opponent is far easier than defeating yourself. In fact winning matches can be a way of losing focus of yourself and your art altogether. Through research and self reflection, I found that there was far more to combat than just punches and kicks. When discovered Bagua, I was in awe to learn there was power that could be utilized that most people will never be able to comprehend. In order to wield this power, I had to discard my initial understanding of combat and submit to something that was more than self. In short, I had to surrender my freedom of movement.

Now that I have been training for 32 years, it appears that I am moving freely when I trade hands with other martial artists. When an attack is launched in my direction, I can move and react much faster than before. However now when I move, it isn't a single punch or kick that I attack with, it is the system of Bagua itself. By surrendering my ego and personal ideas to a system, I have enhanced the way I fight and think. I'm no longer a bunch of random martial art techniques, but an outline of well knitted and coordinated physics. As with many crafts, martial arts is just a tool or mirror that teaches how to separate your true self, from the identity that's been assigned to you. 

I always tell my students that it's ok to mix your combat art after you've practiced one style for ten years. Just as Bruce Lee had invested in Wing Chun for quite some time before learning how to move freely. Even Ronda Rousey practiced Judo for 15 years, which is why she stands alone in the UFC. All of her opponents are equipped with many different techniques, but no person is able to defeat a system of physics.  It's the same as using your personal opinion to have a debate with science itself. Both Ronda and Bruce had a specific root before adding other movements. This is not mixing, but the completion of an art.

In many ways, much of our confusion stems from the term "freedom." In both martial arts and life, we use the word freedom to loosely. In reality no one is actually free. What would happened to you if you stopped making money? What if you decided to stop eating? Yes you are free to be a bum and free to kill someone and go to jail, but the more you act on those irrational impulses, the less freedom you will have as a result. We are all slaves to many things, yet we continue to use the word freedom to describe our country and objectives. In truth real power doesn't come from freedom, but restriction.

If you want to have a nice body, you must limit what you eat. If you want to be good at martial arts, you have to restrict your time and train every day. If you want to marry someone, you can no longer see other people. As a father, I must make many restrictions on my time in order to see the proper development of my children. If you love anyone or anything then there is a cost and a responsibility that comes with it that will certainly limit your freedom, but whenever you sacrifice something in love, you actually become free. Just as surrendering yourself to a single style of fighting will show you a more efficient form of free movement.

Now when I move with Bagua movements, I don't feel restricted at all. Just as the love of my wife empowers me, so does the system of combat I use. Submission to the correct guidelines may not feel like freedom at first, but through time and growth you will find a better definition of power. If our planet rotated freely and wasn't on a fixed axis then nothing in this world exist. If you have a pen and paper you are free to mark it however you like, but if you wish to create something, you will have to learn proper shapes and proportions. Most of us are confused because we believe we want freedom when we actually want purpose. Purpose by definition is the sacrifice of many freedoms. 

Even though I understand free movement within my system, I must continue to tune and tighten my techniques throughout the course of my life. Every day I train, the system of physics merges with myself more completely. When I hit or even get hit, it's very clear that I am Bagua. In my life I continue to learn how to follow Christ. Even though I make many mistakes, it's still easy enough to see that I'm a Christian. Conversely, the world will continue to proudly chase freedom, adopting a form of decorated chaos.

We are continually encouraged to be greedy, wasteful and over-saturated with entertainment. We are free to sleep with as many people as we want or buy many things that we don't need. Whether through alcohol, pride or ignorance, there is no limit on how much we are able to destroy ourselves. We must always protect our freedom of speech, but it's often used to justify saying hurtful things. The reality is that the world is completely lost and it's not finding itself anytime soon. If you follow the projected self that has been given to you, you will eventually begin defending issues that are harmful for yourself and encouraging ideas that you actually hate. Like many others, you will be in a sea of depression because all of those "freedoms" will cost you everything.

In contrast to what the world is doing, learn to limit yourself to things that will be a blessing for others. Just as your movements can be improved through sparring, helping others is a great way to find yourself.  Don't let all of your time be consumed by random thoughts and fears of the internet and media. These are dark clouds that seem harmless, but will eventually poison your thoughts, teaching you how to think and eventually giving you an identity. You will become unreasonable if you continue to watch unreasonable things. Through refining your skills and helping others you will find a light amongst the confusion. You will become a leader in a time that people don't even know they need to be led. Clear your mind with positive development at least long enough to find your purpose. Because without purpose, you will never be free.     

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Warfox Bagua Treatise

Here is a article I wrote for Temple Underground about Bagua. If you haven't subscribed to their site yet, please do.

http://www.templeundergroundmagazinetum.com/#!peer-review/cfvg

A Treatise on Bagua























In the beginning there was Wuji or the void: nothingness. The Wuji led to the Liang Yi, which is also known as the Two Concepts or energies of yin and yang (negative and positive forces). Liang Yi led to the San Cai or the Three Principles: Heaven, Earth and Man. The Three Principles led to the Si Xiang or the Four Directions: North, South, East and West. The Four Directions led to the Wu Xing or the Five Elements: Metal, Earth, Wood, Fire and Water. The Five Elements led to the Liu He or the Six Harmonies which are the three internal energies and the three external energies. The Six Harmonies led to the Seven Stars: Alpha, Merak, Phecda, Megrez, Alioth, Mizar and Alkaid. The Seven Stars led to the Bagua or Eight Trigrams representing the eight elemental energies of Heaven, Water, Mountain, Thunder, Wind, Fire, Earth and Lake. (Wu 1979)

Baguazhang utilizes the eight different elemental energies as a means for both strengthening the body and combat. The main strengthening method, often referred to as Pre-heaven Training, is done through practicing Zhuang Zhang (circle walking). Combat training is commonly referred to as Post-heaven Training and utilizes sixty four different palm techniques. Each also consists of eight different palm attacks. Without training the structure of the Pre-heaven, the attacks and defenses of Baguazhang are empty and powerless. Without training the Post-heaven, the power of Baguazhang can’t be wielded effectively. Both of these forms of training are separate, while remaining dependent on each other.  This resembles the relationship of yin and yang.

The importance of practicing walking the circle (Zhuang Zhang) can never be overstated. With every movement of Baguazhang, the hand follows the body, and the body follows the legs. Every technique is first guided by a step, which is the emphasis of circle walking. All of the sixty four palms have at least six different variations that become infinite when utilizing the different geometric patterns that Baguazhang footwork provides. Even though there are thousands of different techniques within the system of Baguazhang, they are all just variations of a single movement: Zhuang Zhang. (G. Z. Wu 2000)  

There are dozens of different techniques that can be practiced during circle walking including the Single Changing Palm, the Double Changing Palm and so on. However, all of the movements teach the practitioner to find stillness within movement and movement within stillness. By learning to twist within our structure, we are able to release the power of centripetal force from the ground and through the core of our body into our opponent. Every linear attack has the power of a spiral behind it, and every spiral movement flows in a straight trajectory. Through tightening and releasing, contracting and expanding, sinking and rising, opening and closing, Baguazhang can create a great force through realizing energy like a bow and arrow, or perpetually attack its opponent like an automatic crossbow.

In order to walk the circle, we must first understand the key points of the Baguazhang stance. These are the instructions of posture written by Wu Guo Zheng:  

“Lower the weight and gather energy into the Dan Tian (energy center), tuck in the buttocks to close the anus, extend the inside leg forward, push hip flexors forward and sink your weight on them to keep pressure off the knees, squeeze the legs together, breath from the zhong jiao (middle energizer), let your breath govern physical movements, slightly lower the chin to keep the head and neck erect, curl the tongue to touch the roof of the mouth, twist from the waist extending both hands to the side of the extended foot, press down on the shoulders and hollow out the chest to round the back, keep elbows centered, wrists are erected upward, the elbow of the outside hand is aligned with the center of the chest cavity, the middle finger of the outside hand points to the inside elbow, the first finger of the inside hand points upward, the middle finger of the inside hand is slightly curved, all intent is focused on the opponent opposite of the inside hand. Train to let the body relax in this posture in order to shape the structure of power into one connected movement.” (G. Z. Wu 2000) .

When this posture has been learned, we can begin walking Tang Ni Bu (mud step) to build power within the legs. Tang Ni Bu can be done in a straight line, at first, to gain control, and later it can be practiced in the circle with the aforementioned posture. When walking the circle, the inside foot moves straight forward while keeping the energy in the legs tight together. The outside foot then moves forward with a slight kou bu (inside hooking step) at a forty five degree angle. It is crucial to always keep the weight in the back to avoid putting pressure on the knees. Just as if we were walking on mud and are uncertain the depth, the foot slides carefully forward before placing the weight firmly on the ground. Once the weight has been placed, we use the toes to grab the ground for stability while alternating weight to the other foot. The waist must remain twisted as our focus stays on the inside hand.

Just like eating, this Pre-heaven practice must be done daily. Unlike other internal styles, Bagua learns to gather its energy from continual movement instead of stillness. Every movement is controlled by breath. Inhale with one part of the technique and exhale with the other. Through relaxing, we learn the secrets of coiling and whipping power throughout the limbs. This practice must be done for twenty minutes to an hour a day in order to establish the necessary power and connectivity for the Post-heaven movements.

The Combat system of Bagua is based on the strategies of each section (gua): Heaven, Water, Mountain, Thunder, Wind, Fire, Earth and Lake. The sixty four palms also have sixty four counters with variations to deal with striking, kicking, grappling and weapon defense.  Each palm attack can be modified into a fist strike, elbow strike, shoulder strike, back strike, head butt, kick, trip, arm/leg bar or takedown. (G. Z. Wu, Soft Body Flowing Baguazhang 1985) Mathematically, the movements within the system of Baguazhang are endless because it is the art of change and unpredictability. The movements themselves are only blueprints to instruct the body to use a powerful structure while evading, controlling or dominating opposing energy.

Heaven (Qian) represents purity, straightforwardness and simplicity. It is the way of striking and not being struck. Each hand attack must contain the energy of the entire body. As you breathe, your arms are inflated with energy that strikes through the target. Smother the opponent with powerful striking combinations using every part of the body, from every trajectory. Each movement is a counter attack that is preceded with a block, but every block is also an attack and preemptive striking is often a solid defense.  

Water (Kan) represents flow and splashing energy. It is the way of using and controlling the hands. First, grab the opponent’s arm and move the limb to do more damage in the structure of the body. By raising, lowering, or stretching the opponent’s arm, the rib cage opens and can be easily fractured when struck. Dislocating and holding the limb while it is broken allows for continuous attacking by yanking the opponent into the strike. Alternate from grabbing and striking to grabbing again, hitting vital parts until your opponent collapses. Crash into your opponent’s soft spots using a waving motion like the tide.  

Mountain (Gen) represents impregnability and silence. It is the way of counter attacking and not being countered. Through careful stepping, you can trap your opponent’s arms together, guaranteeing their inability to block your strike. Distant water can’t put out a nearby fire. Use rolling energy within your core to evade while appearing to have not moved. The more your opponent attacks, the more he becomes entangled by his own limbs. When striking, always expect to be countered to take advantage of his advantage. By stopping suddenly, we are off balance and uproot our opponent.  

Thunder (Zhen) represents invisible power. It is the way of the body. The entire body is an arsenal searching for the correct opportunity. Aim with your intent and release the power of the entire frame into your enemy. Crash into your opponent or slam them to the ground suddenly when their mind is in between movements. Move in one direction while attacking or grabbing in the other. Be as fast and unpredictable as lighting. Use explosive attacks into the soft targets of your opponent.

Wind (Xun) represents sharp, cutting force. It is the way of striking with the elbow and breaking the elbow at the joint. Use the elbow rapidly from all eight angles while aiming for the soft targets of the body. The elbow is also a shield that can be used to repel any attack while simultaneously returning damage in a wheel-like motion. Use the elbow in annular movements to roll off attacks and advance on the target. Break the opponent’s arm by catching it between your elbow and body at the precise moment of his attack. Use the elbow in combination with the shoulder or palm for bursting combination speed and effective countering opportunities.  

Fire (Li) represents heat and pressure. It is the way of kicking and stopping kicks. Utilize the Baguazhang angular footwork to kick your opponent from the least expected angle. Every step is a kick, and every kick is a step. Hide your intent within the footwork and strike suddenly at the throat, nose, armpit, groin and thigh. All of the kicks are also trips and sweeps that can be combined together like a fire in a dry field. Use stopping kicks to stop your opponent’s legs from leaving the ground. Hook the legs while striking with the hands, and strike with the hands to hook the legs. Fire consumes wherever it touches.

Earth (Kun) represents deception and craftiness. It is the way of entry. Peel, dismantle, and open your opponent’s defenses. Force him to block so that you can surprise him with a hidden attack. Bait him to attack, and force him to retreat so that he will fall victim to your setup. Attack from one direction, and, immediately the next, just so you can hit him in the center. Secretly find the weak point in the defense then dissolve and disable it in order to unleash a finishing blow.

Lake (Dui) represents stationary depth. It is the way of footwork. By using tight, circular steps you are able to travel very far within the same place. Your opponent will not be able to grasp you, but you can easily grab him. When he attacks, he becomes clumsy in the depth of your evasiveness. Sink and raise your weight to expose your opponent’s vulnerabilities. Use footwork to control all ranges and you control the outcome of the fight.

The true power behind Bagua comes, not only from the footwork of Pre-heaven or the techniques of the Post-heaven, but from the understanding of opposing forces. The entire system is learning how to twist opposing energies together: Heaven vs. Earth, Fire vs. Water, Wind vs. Lake, and Mountain vs. Thunder. The wind is the opposite of the lake because it can’t be contained, whereas the lake can’t move around freely. The mountain is the opposite of thunder because it is massive and silent, yet thunder is loud and invisible. Baguazhang is the art of change, and through combining opposing forces we find the freedom of unpredictability. (J. Y. Wu 1979)

When we combine opposing forces together, we find a power within the resistance much like magnets of opposite polarities. These opposing forces not only exist between the Pre-heaven and Post-heaven Training, but also between the individual and Baguazhang itself. Baguazhang is a system of geometric patterns and concepts that utilize physics that can be challenging for the mind and body to comprehend. The individual must practice thousands of techniques ten thousand times.  He does this not to make the technique more effective, but to be molded into a living technique. Baguazhang itself is empty without the diligence of the practitioner. As it gives power to the practitioner over time then the individual also gives life to Baguazhang.

Baguazhang is the art of adaptation which comes through researching against various environments, opponents and situations. A chameleon can only adapt to what it encounters. Every theory must be tested, tried, and re-tested to ensure that the technique is of sufficient skill against any attack. Any Baguazhang technique can be used against any attack if the practitioner has trained it into completion. The movements must be blended with the nature of the man until each technique is a natural reaction.    

References: 

Wu-yuan Jin, Baguazhang, (Xinzhu, Taiwan, 1979) 
 
Guo-zheng Wu, How to Practice Bagua Well, 2000 ( http://eaglewu7.myweb.hinet.net/new_page_64.htm)

Guo-zheng Wu, Soft Body Flowing Hands Bagua, (Xinzhu Baguazhang Association, 1985)

Jin-yuan Wu, Baguazhang Training Principles, (Xinzhu Baguazhang Association, 1979)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Improve or Else...





Trying to master a technique is a journey that continues to reveal a deeper purpose for those with the will to continue their exploration of the arts. What begins as learning how to strike, quickly transforms into learning how to think. We are scientists of combat, researching for betters ways to avoid and deal damage. Although there are thousands of reasons to pursue the arts and all of the objectives may wear different skins, the goal is quite simple: progress.

Through analyzing a punch or a kick you have to utilize all of your senses. First we are focused on how it looks, then how it feels, but even how it sounds will come into play quite often. Personally I've found that every time I've practiced a technique ten thousand times, it changes in nature. Something new emerges and old flaws are revealed, humbling me while inspiring me to stay focused with hopes of eventually obtaining some sense of martial satisfaction.

For those who are clever enough to crack the code of martial arts, we realize that it's an eternal tool to teach us how to reach for perfection in all parts of our lives. What starts as a blog grows into a book and then a song. What begins as a song grows into a painting and then a blueprint. Within the study of each skill we are forced to learn more skills to continue our journey and after each challenge we are only presented with another greater challenge. In short, all of our hard work is rewarded with the chance to do more hard work.

Initially our motivation may stem from superficial ideas, just as I used to tell myself that after I learn Chinese I will be able to make more money. I also used to convince myself that if I kept rapping maybe one day I would be "discovered." Even though I have leaned close to 10,000 Chinese characters and have done over 300 musical performances, I am honestly no better off in terms of the physical world. Every one of the goals in my life have been awarded with more goals. Each project takes more skill and I am forever improving in areas that the world will never know about or appreciate. After 10,000 hours in multiple crafts, externally not much has changed. The question for many people who are on the path of improvement is WHY.

Even the people who have been awarded great fame, eventually are betrayed by the audience that once loved them. Or worse they become isolated in their world and surrounded by strangers who never see who they are. Money attracts great distractions that would only attempt to pull you away from your path of improvement into a life of self admiration, separating you from the struggle that makes you truly human. Everything you can buy will become something that you eventually tire of and any place you go, will soon be a distant memory. Any accomplishment, no matter how great, will  be forgotten by the following generations.

Knowing that all of the objectives are rewarded with temporary forms of joy and that each challenge is rewarded with a greater challenge, it is easy to become discouraged or unmotivated. While dealing with each challenge you will be met with painful personal issues of injury, betrayal, isolation, loss and more. Anyone who continues to improve in any form will eventually find themselves alone because improvement is not the nature of the world. The ones who choose to get better will never be truly understood.

Among all of my quests and life chores, I find it most important to help those with like minds and people who have yet to find their purpose. The question I hear from kung fu brothers, students, bloggers and friends is always Why do you do it? or How do you keep going?

First, I would say to anyone who finds themselves in a rut in terms of self development is that life is hard no matter which path you choose. Many of us are disillusioned into believing that somehow following your path is going to be more difficult than doing nothing. You still have to pay bills, deal with hard relationships and get yelled at by  your boss for things you didn't do. But when you are on your path, you are aware that the issues that you are faced with are not who you are. A kung fu master who is also a janitor, is still a kung fu master in his heart. The janitor that gave up on his dreams, is not a janitor, but a quitter in his heart.

Our personal reality in most cases is not entirely related to truth. We all hold certain ideas of people even if we've met them for the first time. We believe we have understandings of things that we've never personally experienced. How many people hold strong opinions about what we know about the moon? The only thing that is actually real to us is our own personal experience. Who we are and how we see ourselves will be based on how we spend our time. A man who has written 20 novels has been on more adventures than most people, even if not a single person buys his books. So you must follow and finish your ideas, for a sense of self-respect.

Next I would mention that if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. One of the easiest things to take for granted is that life is always changing. Every tree, rock and mountain are on their way somewhere. Nothing is ever still and even as you read these words, the world continues to rotate and revolve. By not accepting the challenges presented to you, you have chosen to accelerate your own decay. If you don't exercise you will get weaker, if you don't challenge your mind, you will become less intelligent. No matter what you do, death will eventually have its way with you, but why surrender before completing your mission?

Lastly and most importantly, you must know that you were designed for your dreams. The dream in your heart is God's promise that it's already been given to you. Much like watching a movie on a DVD. You may only be in the middle of the movie, but the DVD is already completed. You merely need to continue watching in order to discover the ending. Yet if you choose to stop watching the movie, then for you the film has already ended. Not because your story was a sad one, but because you did not have the faith needed to reach the good part. Every difficulty, no matter how tragic, is only an obstacle to gain strength and momentum.


And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28
  


There are somethings that will always be on your mind and what you decide to do will bring you closer or further from that reality. Because you can never stop thinking of these ideas, you are forced nourish them into fruition or attempt to quiet them and drown them in distractions, which will only leave you more confused about your purpose. Undoubtedly avoidance of your purpose is the avoidance of self and a pathway of subtle insanities.  

You can not choose to want or not want the things in your heart no more than you can choose what type of food you like or music you like to listen to. By accepting your mission and developing the necessary skills needed for your quest, you are not only improving yourself, but raising society as a whole. The world is now moving into a direction of aimless ideas and spiritual retardation, which promises chaos and destruction. If you haven't done your best to improve the quality of your being, you are partially to blame. 

You must always do everything good thing  that you are capable of. The more skills you learn, the more your life will be enriched and you will be able to solve problems that people haven't even begun to understand. Each time you reach a new objective, you unlock a secret within yourself that is directly connected to the  evolution of the universe. The truth is It will be difficult and there will be times that you won't have the strength to stand. Feel free to cry, scream and yell, but then stand up and keep going. Then you will be able to teach us how you did it. Your self improvement is a service to the world, not just a good idea.

I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me". Philippians 4:13.

Friday, April 24, 2015

New books on the way

This is my first story, which follows my martial life from 4 years old all the way to China to complete my training. Lots of good training ideas and concepts are presented as I try to find my place in the world as a martial artist. This is an inspirational story with lots of comedy to lighten the spirit.


http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Dreams-Successor-Robert-Arnold/dp/1592324150/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429921930&sr=8-1&keywords=robert+jay+arnold



Soon I will release my first martial arts novel which is a series of eight books. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

MMA VS Traditional Martial Arts



Recently I've seen the topic of MMA vs. traditional martial arts (TMA) in forums, blogs and hundreds ofdifferent places on the internet. Generally, the MMA supporters claim that if traditional arts were effective, they would be dominating in the cage fights and that most TMA guys are trapped inside a world of fantasy combat. Adversely, the TMA supporters say that their techniques are too lethal to be used in a sports setting and therefore the people living inside of a combat fantasy are the people who choose cage fighting to express their art.

In my 31 years of training, I began with with traditional arts and then switched to MMA in my teens for competition. Then when I was in my 20's I switched back to traditional arts for the rest of my journey. In this article I will do my best to explain to both MMA and TMA practitioners the pros and cons of each side, with hopes of giving a clearer perspective on the issue.

I should begin by clarifying that the modern era has a far different understanding of what combat is than in previous years. Historically, traditional arts had been used strictly for protection and many of the representatives of each lineage had to be sworn to secrecy to make sure that potential enemies would not gain advantage through the knowledge of their styles' techniques. Secrecy has been and still is a fundamental factor in terms of martial arts. Once you know what your opponent is capable of, you are able to form a strategy around his best movements. Without the element of surprise, many styles lose at least 60 percent of their effectiveness. So there have been numerous styles that have attempted to camouflage movements to appear to be drunk, dancing or animal-like to confuse the opponent.

In earlier China when two people finally did decide to expose their movements to each other in combat, they first signed a legal contract or waiver in case of the death of the other individual. This means the first time you saw someone else's style, there was a good chance that one of you would die or receive permanent injury at the least. In addition these fights took place with only a few witnesses so that the concentration of the fighters would not be broken. However most often fights were just spontaneous events that took place against bandits, thieves, assassins or a form of unavoidable conflict. The true goal for the traditional fighter has always been survival not combat. If he could remain a secret his entire life, he would have been more successful than the traditional artist who has had to win 20 battles, but now suffers a severe limp.

The modern fighter is not so interested in what martial arts is capable of outside of the realm of combat. They seek out to challenge themselves and their abilities whenever the opportunity lends itself. This often means that the more people they are able to conquer, the more successful they are. Through fighting continually they prove their courage and show their value to the world even if it means sacrificing their own health for glory. The modern day fighter is far more concerned with glory than survival.

Even though it would seem that these two different systems of practice are in opposition with each other, they are actually different points of the same circle. MMA fighters have stripped most of the components such as forms, one steps, weapons, multiple opponents and various forms of practice in order to be supremely efficient at one situation. The MMA fighter should always dominate the cage because it is the natural setting of his training. Yet if you give him a knife and ask him to go against a knife fighter, he will be eaten alive because he is no longer in his element. No style can beat a Taekwondo fighter if they are limited to the rules of Taekwondo and no one can beat a jujitsu fighter when they are limited to the rules of jujitsu.

So no matter what type of contest we see, we are forced to accept the reality that is given to the contestants. Likewise, basketball players and football players can only be successful in their own environment. The argument that one style is better than the other lends to the ignorance of the speaker.

So instead of trying to convince one side that the other is better, you should understand we are actually all on the same path. MMA fighters wouldn't even exist without the traditional arts. Each kick, punch, elbow and take down are a part of an arsenal that was developed by a style much older than MMA itself. In fact I've been training longer than the term MMA has been around and I'm only a beginner in my own mind. As MMA continues to improve, they also add more techniques from the older traditions in order to make their game more effective. In fact all of the great fighters of MMA are traditional artists first like Rhonda.

Even though Bruce Lee complained about the roots of traditional systems, he would have never been able to know Jeet Kun Do without first having strong roots in Wing Chun. The traditional arts are only a blueprint to teach you a way to express yourself. All arts in the beginning are quite unnatural because power is not something the human body is able to immediately translate physically. Once you learn the rules of your system, you must relax during combat and let it flow on its own. Yet if you throw away the blueprints, you will only be as good as you already are. A beginning boxer may start flailing after he takes a punch much the same as a traditional artist will change his system to panicky slap boxing after taking a powerful shot. In both cases it indicates that it's time to go back to the drawing board.

Traditional artists should also understand that we can not improve our system of movement without interacting with a non co-operative opponent from time to time. Historically all of the traditional artists had practices similar to MMA to make sure they were getting the best out of their style. They had to be sure that their system of physics was working as effectively as it did in theory. Due to the Great Cultural Revolution many of the teachers and arts were scattered. In addition many performers and acrobats that made shows about kung fu stole the spotlight and lead the world to follow a false idea of what true combat entailed. Whether this corruption was intentional or not doesn't matter. The result is that there are more people who can perform movements than apply them.

Many of the traditional arts have become watered down and it's not due to the techniques, but rather the practitioners who refuse to research the techniques. It doesn't matter if you are trying to use Praying Mantis, Drunken Boxing, Karate, Bagua or Muay Thai, there must be a time when someone is trying to honestly hit you in the face. Perhaps your movements are perfect but you have no concept of timing or strategy. Traditionalists far too often underestimate the power of the human will and will be defeated for that poor assumption. No one is going to let you beat them, just because you know kung fu. Nowadays, traditional styles are in the hands of a much more peaceful society and the practice methods have not evolved to meet many of the modern day circumstances. For example modern day ninjas should be the most efficient with guns because they are supposed to master all weapons. If you don't take on the modern day reality, you are still training for a historical fantasy.

The greatest flaw of the MMA fighter is they ridicule the physics because they feel the physics teacher is inadequate. If you attend a class and the teacher shows you something you've never seen before you can't say, "Prove it." In fact the teacher would have the students prove the theory for their own growth and development. If our society always had teachers attempt to prove their own theories before they could be taught in class, we would still be working with inventions as primitive as the wheel or flight. There are always teachers and doers. If MMA fighters worked hard to prove many of the traditional movements to be true instead of attempting to prove them wrong, they would immediately accelerate in terms of victory in the ring just by the element of surprise itself. In a sense, the MMA fighters have become the rigid thinkers that Bruce Lee spoke against because of their refusal to do what they feel is not possible. Yet many things are impossible until someone has decided to do it.

In my personal opinion both sides that would argue superiority need to have a slice or two of humble pie. I even place myself in this category because I've also been tempted to judge the man and not the movement. We are all explorers of the human body and there is no one who is an authority on what is possible or even practical. If MMA fighters do not adopt some of the practices of the traditional arts, you will burn out or get injured long before you reach your true prime. Do you really want to say, "I used to be a martial artist?"

If the traditional artists don't seek a way to evolve their style to the modern world, you and your art will become obsolete. At heart we are all survivalists not fighters and that means knowing how to fight and knowing how to not fight. Accepting every challenge is almost as dangerous as never accepting a challenge. If we don't take more efforts to work together for the benefit of both sides, martial arts itself will soon be a thing of the past. There are so many enemies worth fighting and we are wasting time on each other.

In the end, I myself returned to the path of traditional arts because improvement of self is truly an endless journey. If you continue to explore the physics of each movement, it will eventually unlock your ability to see the world through a more magnificent lens. Martial arts will improve the way you paint, talk and do business at the highest level so I can not stress enough it is primary that you protect your brain. Don't become punch drunk for a few bucks that would be easier made through a few better ideas than fighting. Save your brain not only for your sake, but for your loved ones who want to enjoy your personality until you are old and gray. Yet without the benefit of my experience in combat for a short time, I would have never gained the full understanding of how to react to each situation. If a warrior does not train his mind to be as sharp as his body he will be manipulated out of his own power. If a warrior fears conflict, he will never know his true potential. 


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Realistic




As the world continues to evolve into the understanding of its own existence, we tend to find ourselves demanding more from mankind. We saturate ourselves with various forms of information with hopes that it will eventually satisfy our craving for the ever elusive truth. Along with this awakening, we've found that many things that we thought to be true at one time, were merely myth, exaggeration or downright lies. Many of the things or heroes that we believed in have been proven to be fictional tales, quietly breaking the hearts of many hopefuls while giving reign and even authority to the skeptic. In the martial arts world this translates into students only interested in learning movements that are "realistic."

I think it is extremely important to be watchful in the martial arts world. After all, there are many people who are unable to determine combat movements from high level circus tricks. In every occupation there are those who would seek to take advantage of the curious, swindling their money over a long period of time while giving them techniques that are not only questionable, but dangerous in a real situation. Phonies and conman of all sorts have almost lead the charge on spreading martial arts, seeing an opportunity to make quick money while the real practitioners have remained so secretive that they have almost disappeared entirely from the modern day map.

As the world continues to get "smarter" we weed out these conman through making blogs and videos exposing these cheap parlor tricks. But at the same time there remain many older martial arts techniques that have also been deemed as ineffective in the eyes of modern martial artists. Movements that may be a bit more complex or difficult to learn have easily been disregarded and seen as performance while everyone continues to adopt a simplistic form of boxing. In short anything that doesn't look like what we've already seen is in question.  

Myself growing up in an area that martial arts was purely for survival has made me a purist in many aspects. In my personal opinion, if it is not usable in a combat situation, then it's not martial arts. To me martial arts is the use of a combination of physics, science and the understanding of anatomy to preserve life in the presence of danger. This means that everything will have to be studied, researched and trained thoroughly in order to deal with all of the possible outcomes in a real fray. 

While I was growing up, the only martial art I knew anything about was Taekwondo. My father continually made me and my two brothers practice kicks sometimes a thousand times a day for every type of situation. When I got picked on by skin heads at school, kicking them in the face became a family pass time. Experience was the greatest teacher and I quickly adapted to slippery floors, clothing restrictions and other dangers of combat. I had to learn to use set ups and fakes and of course hand combinations in order to plant my foot on the sweet part of the jaw. In my mind for the first 7 years of my martial arts career, Taekwondo was as realistic as it got. 

When I got into high school, I began training with many different martial arts stylists that believed that high kicks were completely unrealistic in a fight. This was not only surprising, but also a bit infuriating. Something that I had used to save my life so many times was a joke in the eyes of many martial artists. After a few rounds, they learned that I was able to tag them in the face with a kick quite easily. At the same time, I learned that it's much harder to kick someone in the face if they know you are a kicker. Therefore, I found the greatest advantage of kicking was the element of surprise. In fact, I learned many other styles just so it would be easier to kick people in the face. 

After learning that the most effective way to kick people was deception, I stopped advertising my ability to kick. The most realistic way to use any technique is to keep it hidden from your opponent until the right moment. I continued training as I watched the world of martial arts become popular in the media. In the beginning years they also felt that high kicks were fancy moves that couldn't be used in a real situation. As the sport grew in maturity, fighters began to see the devastation that a high kick had to offer and now many people have added it into their repertoire. 

At the same time, I had made my transition into the internal arts, finding that it is obviously the most logical step to becoming a better martial artist. My experience had given me a deeper understanding of the physics of combat and when I saw Bagua, it was clearly the most effective form of self-defense for my future. Over the years I've had to use it on several occasions in the club, on the street or even training temples throughout Asia. I would never call myself a great fighter, but I believe that I have pretty good training habits. Through research and continual practice, I've found that the possibilities that can be done with my art are endless. 

Still many people of the martial arts world, would see my art and tell me that it's not realistic. The exotic movements and footwork appear to be too beautiful to be effective to some. Now my situation isn't much different than it was back when I was doing Taekwondo: I have a secret that no one believes is real. If I was still in high school, I would find myself in a situation of frustration, but now that I've gained wisdom, I honestly would rather people not know what I am capable of. Even with a simple understanding of physics, fighters are able to do great damage. As the fighters get better, the brutality increases and for a while I began to fear that maybe one day they would also discover the power of the internals. 

Then I took a deeper look into my style and many other traditional arts and began to notice a pattern that separated the men from the masters. I suddenly understood why so many Taekwondo practitioners were so incapable of fighting and why so many fighters were so incapable of martial arts: the filter. It was as if the designer of martial arts itself created a filter that would hold the irresponsible at bay, eliminating the arrogant, skeptical and the aggressive.  

The arrogant believe that they can come up with something more effective than what has been practiced for thousands of years. Even though in ancient times, these arts were only used to prevent or inflict lethal damage, the arrogant assume their generation is the only one with the capability to think freely. He subconsciously calls the people of the past idiots while creating his own system, based on the roots of a tradition that he feels is obsolete. He will live in his world feeling both superior and unfulfilled. He is always trying to prove he is best, but never finds the appropriate outlet. He will win many battles against weaker opponents, but will never win the battle of self. 

The skeptic feels that he must take a more scientific approach to everything and uses caution as he practices. In a small dose, this could be wisdom, but doubt is often times far too addictive to control. The skeptic can not imagine what is outside of his own experience and he will only learn what he already believes is realistic. He will spend most of his time trying to disprove what is possible instead of trying to take on the impossible. He feels that he is being realistic, but fails to acknowledge that we have no true understanding of reality. You must believe in what you have never seen before it can possibly be achieved. 

The aggressive is in a hurry to be effective, discounting anything that seems overly complex. He will remove anything that he does not understand immediately, assuring that he will spend the majority of his martial arts career relying on a more effective form of brute force. He is in a hurry to get good, which generally causes him to retire early. 

It's not surprising that in most traditional arts they have the opposite traits of these individuals hanging on the doorway of the practice room: humility, faith and patience. These are traits that actually contradict our modern culture and will almost certainly ensure that true martial arts remains in the shadows. The world will debate, argue and mock the traditional artists, but his training should give him the understanding that these shadows are for our own protection. If power is not properly balanced it will only lead to destruction. If someone with the wrong attitude comes looking for the secrets within the internal arts, he will be repelled by the training or changed by the time he attains them.

Humility is the most important step to achieving true power. You must acknowledge that you do not control your own heartbeat, that you did not choose your birthday and that everything around you is a gift. No matter what you have learned, you must be willing to accept that information may possibly be inaccurate. It is not learning that it is progress, but many times re-learning that molds us. Everything that is taught to us is contaminated by some form of corruption. Everything from science, politics, religion, finance, history etc. are manipulated for reasons of control. The truth is no matter how cautious we are, we have all ingested a form of deception. People who feel they know the completely truth are likely to be the most deceived. Most everything that seems real will mean very little in the long run. What matters most is how we live and that our beliefs fill us with a joy that makes life worth living. 

Faith is what we all operate on. We can not even prove our own existence so why spend so much time trying to disprove what can and can not be done. Everything great happens in the mind before it can be manifested and in a culture of people who doubt everything, we are only teaching ourselves restrictions. It's easy to prove something doesn't work, but just as easy to prove something does work when we believe in it. A person who is hopeful, is filled with joy even when his ideas are wrong because they will be replaced with new ideas backed by experience. A person who doubts all things will eventually surround himself in the darkness and void of limitations. A joyful skeptic is often an oxymoron. 

Patience combined with perseverance is the only way to make it to your goal. There will be obstacles and many things that you do not understand at first. Spend time with the things you don't understand in order to expand the borders of your imagination. We are only children compared to a world that so drastically out dates us. When we are in a hurry, we are only creating discomfort because of our inability to accept the current reality. All good things will take longer than you expect, but will also be more fulfilling than you thought. 
    

     

Monday, January 19, 2015

Warfox Training Rooms and Missions





In order to meet with the needs of students that are all over the world, I've decided to open the Warfox Training Rooms for FREE  online tutorials. 

Check out online tutorials for Soft Body Flowing Baguazhang on my facebook page, "The Warfox Training Room."

(https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Warfox-Training-Room-RJA-%E5%AD%94%E6%9C%89%E6%9C%89/925078367526760)

The Warfox Training Room is a free visual training blog with  tips to help people have a better understanding of the physics of this system of combat. 

There will be videos on an almost weekly basis to help my online students with their practice from the comfort of their home. The first room is focused on the Heaven Section of training, meaning it is the simple truth of how techniques are used and applied.

After students have gained enough Warfox Experience points they will be able to advance to the  Warfox Water Section, which goes deeper into the mechanics, offering even more thorough explanations of training, combat and more.

Just as in Bagua there are eight rooms: Heaven, Water, Mountain, Thunder, Wind, Fire, Earth and Lake. New videos will continue throughout all the rooms, but the lethal movements and more dangerous concepts will not be introduced until the later rooms. Each room is a filter so that every student gets exactly what they are looking for. If your only interest is simple striking, then there is no need for you to go deeper into the next rooms. The Heaven Section (Warfox Training Room) will be plenty for those who are in need of basic combat defensive skills.

For the students who wish to go deeper, they will have to accept training missions in order to gain experience points for entry to the next room.

There are three types of training missions: Mind, Body and Spirit. Each one will be tailored to the individuals skills to help them better blend their martial existence with their daily life. To request a mission please send an email to warriorfox@gmail.com

Please title the subject with "Mission Request" so that it doesn't go unnoticed.

The level of missions will also vary in difficulty: Heaven, Water, Mountain, Thunder, Wind, Fire, Earth and Lake. However in the beginning missions will all start simply to help the online student get a better understanding of the system.

Thank you and have fun training.