General articles to start with, book and seminar reviews below, along with training ideas

Spot the differences

Spot the differences In my last article I wrote about how aesthetic forces lead to a shift in the appearance of things that can impede their original function. It’s time to revisit the wonder of the natural world and see how and observe how environmental conditions and needs take things from acros

The English bulldog and the fighter

The English Bulldog and the fighter   Ah, the English Bulldog, companion of Churchill, symbol of courage as a small island fought back against a continent overrun by genocidal Nazis. I like to think that the title of this post will attract feisty patriots bursting with national pride. Attract them

Beyond mechanics

Beyond Mechanics I met a long term Aikido practitioner recently who had a deep faith in his art. You could say it bordered on woo-woo, though when I pressed him he admitted that dojo practises was a long way from the dynamics of resistance and was unlikely to reflect the reality of violence with onl

War and play

War and Play Cosplay and Kung-fu This post is a reply to Jesse Conley’s article  Make war the Roman way  about some patterns he sees in self defense teaching that get on his nerves. Essentially I agree with him, I'd like to take a parallel path to some of his points then rejoin him at a

What does Natural motion offer?

What does Natural Motion offer? Natural motion/movement is an approach to movement that makes some quite specific and impressive claims. It is the creation of Monya Gorelik, based on several decades of martial arts practise, the application of mathematics and the research of biomechanics - with a sp

Unbelievable!? Face, politics and money.

For a moment I thought that something was happening. If you have not seen ex Sanda and MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong is on a campaign to call out what he considers to be frauds in Chinese martial arts. He has targeted the Chen family and other famous Chen Taiji people - who charge €26000 for a baishi ce

Book Excerpt: The appeal of the obscure and pond size effect

From How to choose your Internal martial arts teacher - full table of contents below I am curious about the appeal of the exotic and obscure in martial arts. This is what I have observed. In the world of martial arts there are fads and fashions. For various reasons people fixate on the desire to

Social media pledge

I have a mixed relationship with social media*, on the one hand it allows me to reach and be reached by people I otherwise would not, it brings in a flow of ideas and research that I value. On the other hand, well you probably know the other hand. I don't want to be part of that other hand for you.

It’s me who received the secret transmission …

Recently I've had the pleasure to work and play with a diverse set of human bodies, trained in different sports and arts. This has given me some extra exposure to compare and contrast how individuals from different groups tend to move. It's interesting. Without singling any group or persons out ther

The illusion of knowledge

Recently I had the pleasure of training with Maul Mornie in Paris. You can see what Maul does in a video below. The way Maul teaches in these seminars is to spend some time on basic drills, then go on to sequences of techniques which he demonstrates multiple times on one of his senior students. I wa

Important! Can you spot the differences?

“Information is news of difference” Gregory Bateson Of course you can see differences, I'm interested in the differences you overlook Two questions: So how many differences can you spot between these two photos? And why the hell is this important? I’ll answer the second question first with a

Beware of miracles

The world is complex, more complex than we can really understand. It is tempting to try and make sense when sense is not necessarily there. This applies to movement and martial arts. I want to tell you my story, it may save you some time. I first discovered the miraculous when I was fifteen and star

Step Size

Is this article about how long or short your steps should be in Bagua? Partly. One reason Bagua is a rich art is because movement is a rich source of metaphor that help us make sense of the world. More specifically the base unit of Bagua,  the step, is an the way we progress from  here to there.

Is ‘internal’ the holy grail of movement?

Is there a single most efficient movement method? What is natural movement? What makes a movement ‘internal’? These are all topics I’m going to cover here. Along the way we’ll touch on Swan Lake, the Easter bunny, craft beer, bees in trees, divisive marketers, what I like about Jake Mace, w

How does Bagua reflect the depth of human anatomy?

Here is a link to an article about spirals embedded in the anatomy of the human body. Bagua is of course known for it's spiral (or helical) movement. The article is one of many great ones from Simon Thakur. I know Simon Thakur because he is a fellow student of my teacher Luo. Of course there is more

The tree orbiting diagram

Want to watch something trippy? Actually it can be more than mystic entertainment if your approach it in the right way. Let me explain. My classmate Marcus Brinkman in Taipei posted this video recently. Marcus was Luo's first student, and is a very skilled practitioner of Baguazhang and our system's

This year of teaching 2015

In France the year begins twice - in September with la rentrée and then in January with the rest of the world! It's time for me to start preparing the rentrée, and my Summer. Before I do that I want to thank my students for their energy and goodwill since the rentrée in 2014. As I mentioned in my

A confession from a Bagua teacher

I have a confession to make. It's not very long, still it's a little embarrassing. For a long time I was disappointed. I was disappointed by my students. I wanted perfectly coordinated, supple, strong students, who would practise at least as much as I did when I started, who would pay on time and ju

The Sichuan Heuristic

To develop fighting skills also requires process. Every martial art has its own recipe, though quite a few fail with the end products. To continue with the cooking metaphor a full free course meal of combat is not something that is widely considered very good for the health. The wise cook separates

RIP Bozo the Bagua clown…

Recently I had the pleasure of giving a private class to introduce Baguazhang to a new student. Now over the years I have developed a lot of tools to do this, introductory exercises, stories, ways of explaining important ideas. Some of this material is to help explain what Bagua is, I have learned t

Self Defense and Krav Maga

I'm often asked what is the difference between the self defense classes that I teach and Krav Maga. There are certainly differences. I do not and have not practiced Krav Maga, and I imagine there is variation between classes. However based on research and conversations I can make some distinctions.

Internal and External

A lot of people are searching for ‘internal’ without being clear what ‘internal’ actually is. If you do not know what it is, how can you recognize it if you find it. A lot of people are working hopefully, doing qigong sets and forms because for one reason or another they think it will give t

Bagua and flow

Bagua is all about flow, patterns of flow. If you"ve ever been fascinated by water running in a stream, the shifting shapes of clouds or wheeling flocks of birds there are many similarities. It is one of the frustrating things about Bagua, because it is about flow, about movement it"s not easy to ca

Book and seminar reviews

Jitz jamming and Flo rolling with Stephanie Lee and Margot Ciccarelli

Jitz jamming and Flo rolling with Stephanie Lee and Margot Ciccarelli Do you know the aching but smiley state? That's me now as I travel back from a great few days days in Koln where I joined in with the Movement Inspiration event that Carsten Stausberg organised in his dojo. I sort of found the eve

Lu Baochun seminar review

The weekend of July 1-2 Lu Baochun was in Paris and I managed to catch the last day of training. I had meant to go earlier but life got in the way. How was it? Well as my friend Michael Rook said to me recently “Lu is awesome.” Now awesome is a much abused word, fortunately I know that Michael i

Luo Dexiu Paris 2017 seminar review

I've been in two minds about writing up this year's Paris seminar with Luo Dexiu. I'll explain why later. Clearly I've decided to go for it. More by luck than design I picked a series of topics that complemented each other extremely well. Or perhaps it is Luo’s teaching skill that allow him to sho

Emmet Louis M3 review

I've just unpeeled my closed eyes on the Eurostar coming back from London and Emmet Louise’s Modern Methods of Mobility (M3 seminar). Why did I go, what did I learn and was it worth it? There are a whole lot of approaches to mobility or flexibility or stretching or whatever you want to call it. T

Fighting monkey Anatomy of Events seminar review

Last weekend I had. My second Fighting Monkey experience in Antwerp (read about the first here). This seminar is titled ‘Anatomy of Events’ and was advertised as an exploration of how practices can be used to notice the patterns that link different aspects of life and how to to change these patt

Tim Cartmell 2017 seminar reviews

I'm back in Paris with a full notebook after a great weekend in Cologne, and it's time to get some thoughts in order. I've only been involved in BJJ on a regular basis for a short time and I feel very aware of my lack of experience. However I've also trained with several teachers over the years and

Book review: Movement Matters

I've just finished Movement Matters by Katy Bowman, and I want to write a review for several reasons. The first is because I think it's full of ideas worth sharing, the second is that I'd like to sort some of my ideas about the book and connect them to parts of my life (some of which will be peculia

Book review – Possible Origins: A Cultural History of Chinese Martial Arts, Theater and Religion

I just finished Scott Park Phillips book Possible Origins which is about Scott’s research into the cultural origins of Chinese martial arts. I got my first sniff of the book when he publicised a lecture titled something like ‘Baguazhang, and it’s origins as the footsteps of an angry baby god.

Tom Weksler Movement Archery review

If I lean back in my train seat I can feel the edges of sensitivity on my shoulders.  It's a sensitivity that has built up from many impacts with dance floors and gymnastic mats over a very fun weekend with Tom Weksler. Tom is a dancer and he teaches his approach to dance and acrobatics which he ca

Evolve, Move, Play with Rafe Kelley

What makes a human a human? What can we learn about health and happiness from studying anthropology, evolution and cell structure? many ways into a tree There is a current of thought that questions modern approaches to fitness that places the human body and mind in a deep historical landscape. To so

Training ideas

Daily choices part 2 – time travel…

After my last post I realised that I had not said or asked what I wanted to ask. What is on my mind is more of a hypothesis, or a potential principle for to build into a daily practice or even to build the practice around. How to explain... There is an idea from NLP called an anchor.  In general t

Daily choices

There is something that has been on and off my mind for a while... When it comes to training I live in a trans-disciplinary culture. Most of the people I discuss and learn with have a more than passing knowledge of some combination of barbell training, remedial strength training, Olympic lifting, gy

What are the key ingredients of healing movement?

Ever been hurt or injured? Me too. For purely personal reasons as well as with the aim of helping others I have spent some time researching healing movements. The research has included all kinds of ingredients, concepts and qualities. A partial list includes: tempo, rhythm, volume, range of motion,

Practise, questions and transfer

I often think about how to get the most from Bagua (and other practices) for myself and when I teach. Searchlight by Kevin - We often hold high the ideal that in practice the mind is silent, the body turning in a infinite space of sublime zenitude.   But be

Did you remember the off switch?

This is another one that falls into the apparently huge category of ‘things I think I know but need regular reminders of.’ Whenever you train you leave an echo of your movements in your nervous system,  and the more intense the training the stronger the impression it leaves.  Of course the ech

Circling the issue

I want to share a quite unmartial application of circle walking. While it is something I created I think it is also true to the pre-martial origins of Baguazhang. According to the sources that I have the most trust in Dong Haichuan probably adapted a Daoist circle walking meditative practice. This p

Do you have your training focus sideways?

A lot of people labour under misconceptions about health and training. In some ways I can summarize this by saying that the reason I have a sixpack* is that I don't do cardio, I don't do crunches or planks and I don't cut fat when I eat. So what do I do? I'll tell you in a while. What I've learned

Reclaiming movement part 3: Simple food distinctions

In the first article I gave some simple rules of thumb as a way to get out of the metaphoric swamp of poor diet and inactivity. I made a choice to start this way because I want to underline the point that you get to decide what you do to begin to navigate out of the sticky and unhealthy situation. I

Reclaiming movement part 2: ‘fitness’ and ‘beauty industry cons

The biggest problem with the fitness and beauty industries is that their greatest motivation is for your money. This means they need to constantly sell you things - memberships, magazines, diets, clothes, machines to exercise on, certifications. By the way some of this fucks me off. I cannot guarant

Reclaiming movement – part 1, introduction

Welcome to the first in a series of articles in which I plan to map out routes from the couch to healthy movement, and beyond. Mountains and landscapes make great metaphors and in this article I want to show the easiest paths out of the swamps of junk food, obesity and inactivity to at the least a p

A neurological basis for martial arts style-dicks?

This linked article from University College London  shows how dancers who have trained in one style of dance when showed videos of a variety of dance styles display a higher level of motor cortex activity when they see the style they are familiar with. "The UCL team found greater activity in areas

How to be an Empty force master

If you follow these steps you will be able to demonstrate ‘empty force' the ability to throw and move other people without touching them. Actually it is fairly easy. The trickiest part is how to start. Once you have demonstrated your power a few times to a core group of students it gets a lot easi