May 29, 2017

Jaden Smith goes off the deep end

Jaden, before the crazy

Too bad Jaden didn't keep up with his kung fu training, I think it would have helped him with his life challenges.

Every month we get a serving of crazy provided by this once promising young man, it would be funny if weren't so sad.

He has soiled the Karate Kid legacy, but then again I guess you can't blame him too much, it was soiled pretty good beginning with Karate Kid 3.

But still, he could have done a great work by bringing it back, instead he seems to have just buried it forever.

Jaden Smith claims swanky Four Seasons hotel kicked him out

(by Peter Sblendorio 5-29-17)

Jaden Smith certainly isn't giving this five-star hotel a five-star review.

The actor — and 18-year-old son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith — accused the Four Seasons Toronto of kicking him out of his room and tampering with his food during a Twitter tirade over the weekend.

"The Four Seasons in Toronto spiked my pancakes with cheese, I'm surprised I'm still alive," he wrote in the series of tweets. "After they kicked me out of my room."

"The Four Seasons in Toronto just made me want to throw up on myself," he wrote in a separate post.

Smith didn't go into much detail with his allegations, but a source told E! News that the actor had attempted to extend his stay at the hotel after spending several days there, but the hotel was booked.

The restaurant attached to the Four Seasons in Toronto, meanwhile, serves "lemon ricotta hotcakes," which is a menu option available at several of the hotel's locations.

A member of the Four Seasons staff declined to comment on Smith's claims, and the PR firm that represents the luxury hotel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A rep for Smith also did not immediately return a request for comment.

Smith was in Toronto to film his upcoming movie "Life in a Year," which also stars Cara Delevingne.


May 25, 2017

Up river to the forgotten dojo

Yangtze River by Wayne Haag

May 23, 2017

The Forgotten (Female) Pioneers of Tai Chi in the West

(by Charles Russo

Gerda Geddes first encountered tai chi at dawn.

Walking the misty morning streets of Shanghai in 1949, she observed an old Chinese man performing slow, meditative movements in an open field. As a formally trained modern dancer from Norway, Geddes quickly fell spellbound to the spectacle: “As I watched I had a sensation of hot and cold streaming up and down my spine…and I remember thinking, ‘This is what I have been looking for all my life.’”

Oddly enough, Geddes wasn’t alone in her interest. Sophia Delza—an American with her own established career in dance and choreography—was also compelled to learn the Chinese martial art of tai chi while in Shanghai during that very same year. Like most westerners at the time, neither women had any exposure to tai chi, but both quickly found value in what they were witnessing. In a pair of trailblazing scenarios that defied the era’s well-established boundaries of race and gender, Geddes and Delza trained separately under renowned tai chi masters before then bringing the Chinese martial art back to their home countries. In a curious mirror image of one another, the two women played pioneering though widely forgotten roles within the early martial arts culture of the West, spreading tai chi far beyond China, and launching it towards its current incarnation of a thriving global culture.
Tai chi is easily one of the most popular martial arts in the world today, with daily practitioners around the globe numbering in the millions. Yet, if the centuries-old Chinese art is widely embraced across cultures and age groups, it has been more for health and recreation than for its martial applications. In this regard, it can be easily forgotten that tai chi originated as a fighting art, and that it falls under the wide umbrella of Chinese kung fu.

Although it’s origins are often shrouded in folklore, tai chi chuan—which translates as “supreme ultimate fist”—most likely emerged several centuries ago from Taoist monks in China, at a time when martial systems had great relevance amid the violent social realities of the era. Over time tai chi would evolve to be increasingly characterized as a “soft” fighting style, which seeks to redirect an opponent’s energy and motion to work against them.

The art’s emphasis on slow movement, breathing and other notions of Qigong (or, energy cultivation) have made it increasingly appealing over time as a healthy exercise apart from any martial context. While numerous systems of kung fu fighting styles have battled for relevance in recent years, tai chi’s popularity is surging in the 21st century, especially as contemporary research increasingly qualifies the health benefits that have long been touted by its practitioners.

As martial arts historian Ben Judkins writes, “…the medical benefits of practices like Taijiquan have been discussed from time to time in the West for more than a century. Yet only recently have medical professionals dedicated the attention and resources necessary to systematically test and describe the benefits of Taiji for a wide number of (most chronic) conditions.”

Clinical studies in recent years have linked practicing tai chi to a wide range of health benefits, including the reduction of heart disease, curbing stress and improving the overall physical well-being of seniors. Last year, the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggested that the beneficial attributes of practicing tai chi were substantial enough that it should possibly even be “prescribed” by doctors to address a variety of conditions, including diabetes and arthritis.

“It boils down to relevance,” explains Jess O’Brien, author of the book Nei Ji Quan: Internal Martial Arts,  “Northern Praying Mantis [fighting style] is not for everyone, but tai chi is well-suited to the public need. For most people, the appeal is in its mind/body training.”

This modern appeal is especially fascinating to consider in the historical context of Delza and Geddes, who both envisioned tai chi's relevance and potential health benefits more than a half century ago, but were eventually forgotten amid more masculine martial art storylines.


By the time they traveled to China in the late 1940s, Delza and Geddes had already lived colorful lives.

Delza had been born to a bohemian family in Brooklyn, surrounded by art and liberal politics. She trained in modern dance, studying in Paris for a time, before returning to New York for a career that spanned stage and film. In 1928 she danced opposite James Cagney in the Grand Street Follies on Broadway, and later performed solo recitals at notable theaters around the city. In following her husband to Shanghai in 1948, Delza quickly broke ground as the first American dancer to perform and lecture in Chinese theaters and dance schools.

Geddes was born to high class society in Norway. Like Delza she trained in modern dance at a young age, before then studying psychotherapy under controversial psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich at the University of Oslo. As a young adult Geddes joined the resistance against the Nazi occupation, and after a series of dramatic encounters she escaped to Sweden hidden beneath a cart of lumber. By the time she followed her husband to Shanghai in 1949, she was developing an idea to merge her studies in dance and psychotherapy to create some kind of physically-oriented approach to mental therapy. Yet as she watched the old man perform tai chi at dawn, Geddes realized she no longer had to invent such a system, since the Chinese had seemingly been cultivating one for centuries. Even still, the notion of a western women learning the Chinese martial arts was unprecedented at the time.

“These Chinese men had very great trouble with me because women didn’t do tai chi in those days,” Geddes would later explain. “Most women still had bound feet.”

Even as they were confronted by a Chinese martial arts code excluding foreigners and women, a sizable language barrier, and the tumultuous circumstances in China after the Communists came to power, both Geddes and Delza still managed to study with established Chinese masters. Delza studied Wu style tai chi under celebrated practitioner Mah Yueh-ling in Shanghai, and then returned to promote the arts in New York City. Conversely, Geddes learned Yang style tai chi under Choy Hak Peng in Hong Kong before returning to teach in England. In the same time and environment that a teenage Bruce Lee was banned from Ip Man’s Wing Chun school on account of his quarter European ancestry, these were revolutionary relationships that defied the social boundaries of their era.

Back in Europe, Geddes’s efforts to promote tai chi were initially met with confusion and disinterest, while Delza quickly found traction by showcasing the arts in high profile settings around New York City. In 1954 she staged a public demonstration at the Museum of Modern Art. As Judkins explains, this was a landmark moment for martial arts culture in America: “In 1954 there were virtually no public performances or demonstrations of any sort of Chinese Martial Art at all. Catching a glimpse of Lion Dancing at the Lunar New Year, or a short demonstration by the Chinese student association at a University's "international festival," was the closest that most American might ever come to seeing the Chinese martial arts.” The interest that was generated from these demonstrations would soon lead to Delza conducting regular tai chi classes at Carnegie Hall and the United Nations, pre-dating some of the earliest modern martial arts outfits in America (including Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate school in Pasadena circa 1957 and Bruce Lee’s teaching in Seattle beginning in 1959). In the UK, Geddes’s efforts finally gained momentum at the London Contemporary School of Dance, which eventually incorporated her classes into their freshmen curriculum. Within a year of each other, both women gave what were presumably the first televised tai chi demonstrations in their respective countries.

In 1961, Delza also authored what is possibly the first English language book ever written on the Chinese martial arts: T’ai-Chi Ch’uan: Body and Mind in Harmony. As she explained in the opening chapter, her intentions were “to bring to the attention of Western people this ancient masterpiece of health exercise…which…is supremely suitable in these modern times.” But if Delza and Geddes had a health and even spiritually-oriented vision for an “ancient” art in the modern world, it was an entirely different martial arts future that soon commanded the spotlight.


By the early 1960s, martial arts culture in the west was still in its infancy, though poised to take off towards a substantial popularity. Since the early part of the century, the Japanese art of judo had been crossing borders, and was the first Asian martial art to noticeably take root in the Western world (in fact, President Theodore Roosevelt had trained with a Japanese judo master for a time at the White House. In his more overzealous moments, Roosevelt was known to exhibit judo techniques on young men visiting the Oval Office). During World War II, many servicemen were exposed to the Okinawan striking art of karate, and returned home resolved to continue practicing it and promoting its culture. Ed Parker held his first Long Beach International Karate Tournament in 1964, the same summer that judo was first introduced into competition at the Olympic Games. In 1965, Los Angeles-based kung fu master Ark Wong asserted in print that he would no longer restrict teaching only Chinese students and that enrollment was now wide open to anyone with dedicated interest.

In 1966, Bruce Lee’s role as Kato on the Green Hornet was the spark that finally lit the fuse. Lee’s performances were a game-changing spectacle that captured the public’s imagination and quickly pushed martial arts culture to a booming modern popularity. By the early 70s, the “kung fu craze” was in full swing, and the mind and body health culture envisioned by Geddes and Delza took a quiet back seat to a new male-dominated martial arts culture. Hyperbolic action movies and promises of esoteric fighting techniques emphasized the fighting component of the equation, and sold the Asian martial arts to the west in a big way.

As newly-minted enthusiasts devoured the latest martial arts media, the contributions of Delza and Geddes didn’t quite fit the prevailing narrative of dynamic male fighting skills, and in turn the two women were largely excluded from coverage. Despite almost singlehandedly introducing the Chinese martial art of tai chi to their respective continents as well as conducting longterm careers that spanned four decades and thousands of students, neither Delza nor Geddes ever received any significant coverage from Blackbelt Magazine, the perennial publication of record for the martial arts community.

“Popular culture is made up as much by forgetting things as discovering them,” explains Judkins. “Delza was essentially erased from the popular memory. We could only have Bruce Lee and the ‘kung fu craze’ as a new and exciting phenomenon if we all kind of pretended that Delza hadn’t already shown us many of these things 15 years earlier.”

In fact, when Delza’s name was mentioned within the martial arts community as an early proponent of tai chi, it often surfaced in the form of criticism, contending that her lack of martial emphasis constituted an “incomplete” system.

Jess O’Brien, whose book Nei Jia Quan profiles a diverse group of tai chi masters, defends the legacies of Delza and Geddes by asserting that the definition of the Chinese martial arts isn’t one-dimensional. “People want the Chinese martial arts to have a definition, but there is no one singular goal,” explains O’Brien, “tai chi is multi-faceted and can take you down multiple pathways. And there are people who say that it needs to be about fighting, but if it’s embraced as a meditative or healing art there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.”

As dancers, both Delza and Geddes had initially embraced tai chi as an alternative and far more holistic approach to dance and movement, essentially a tangible antidote to the prevailing harsh physical expectations of their industry. In time, Delza would continue to promote tai chi through a health-oriented perspective, while Geddes would increasingly embrace it as an avenue towards spirituality. Even still, both women were keenly aware that they were practicing something that ultimately was a martial art, even if fighting was never their goal.

In the long run, despite criticism and obscurity, Delza and Geddes appear to have prevailed in their vision. In the course of sowing the seeds for tai chi in the West, their students (and their student’s students) now teach in countries around the world. Since their passing—Delza in 1996 and Geddes in 2006—tai chi’s popularity has only skyrocketed around the world, while its health benefits are increasingly backed by clinical studies. Conversely, so many of the kung fu fighting styles that once commanded the spotlight have since struggled to attract followers in the 21st century.

There’s a very fitting, “soft-style” logic to this: Delza and Geddes were quietly successful in their vision, even as their louder martial counterparts have fallen on hard times.


May 17, 2017

Exit the Dragon? Kung Fu, Once Central to Hong Kong Life, Is Waning

(by Charlotte Yang 8-22-16)

Bruce Lee was 14 years old, and on the losing end of several street fights with local gang members, when he took up kung fu.

It was 1955, and Hong Kong was bustling with schools teaching a range of kung fu styles, including close-combat techniques and a method using a daunting weapon known as the nine-dragon trident.
Mr. Lee’s decision paid off. After perfecting moves like his one-inch punch and leaping kick under the tutelage of a grand master, he became an international star, introducing kung fu to the world in films like “Enter the Dragon” in 1973.
Decades later, cue the dragon’s exit.
The kung fu culture that Mr. Lee helped popularize — and that gave the city a gritty, exotic image in the eyes of foreigners — is in decline. Hong Kong’s streets are safer, with fewer murders by the fierce crime organizations known as triads that figured in so many kung fu films. And its real estate is among the world’s most expensive, making it difficult for training studios to afford soaring rents.
Gone are the days when “kung fu was a big part of people’s cultural and leisure life,” said Mak King Sang Ricardo, the author of a history of martial arts in Hong Kong. “After work, people would go to martial arts schools, where they’d cook dinner together and practice kung fu until 11 at night.”
With a shift in martial arts preferences, the rise of video games — more teenagers play Pok√©mon Go in parks here than practice a roundhouse kick — and a perception among young people that kung fu just isn’t cool, longtime martial artists worry that kung fu’s future is bleak.
“When I was growing up so many people learned kung fu, but that’s no longer the case,” said Leung Ting, 69, who has been teaching wing chun, a close-combat technique, for 50 years. “Sadly, I think Chinese martial arts are more popular overseas than in their home now.”
According to Mr. Leung’s organization, the International WingTsun Association, former apprentices have opened 4,000 branches in more than 65 countries, but only five in Hong Kong.
Few kung fu schools remain in Yau Ma Tei, a district of Kowloon that was once the center for martial arts. Nathan Road — where the young Bruce Lee learned his craft from Ip Man (often spelled Yip Man), the legendary teacher who was the subject of Wong Kar-wai’s 2013 film “The Grandmaster” — is now lined with cosmetic shops and pharmacies that cater to tourists from the mainland.
Though he lives in Yau Ma Tei, Tony Choi, a recent college graduate, has never been tempted to check out the remaining schools. Mr. Choi, 22, said that “kung fu just never came to mind.”
He added, “Kung fu is more for retired uncles and grandpas.”
When they do train in martial arts, younger people here tend to pick Thai boxing and judo.
Valerie Ng, a 20-year-old college student, says she prefers Thai boxing because it is “attractive and charming” and does not take as long to master. She noted that kung fu masters often do not have defined muscles and that some of them look, well, a little chubby.
“You can see how fierce Thai boxing is from watching professional matches,” she said. “But I rarely see such competition for kung fu, which makes me wonder whether those kung fu masters really are good at fighting or they just claim to be,” she said.
So Tak Chung, 59, remembers how different things were. When he was a boy, he and his friends would run home from school as fast as they could to watch kung fu shows on television.
“Kung fu always gave me a sense of justice and pride in being Chinese,” Mr. So said while stretching his legs for a Sunday night lesson at Kowloon Park. “It feels like if you knew kung fu, you could beat the bad guys and help the needy.”
Mr. So’s master, Mak Che Kong, 64, is less hopeful about the future. He ran one of the last studios in Kowloon in the 1980s, but soaring rents caused it to shut down, along with other family businesses that were once a fixture of Hong Kong street life, like Dit Da, or bone-setting, shops that use traditional Chinese medicine to treat sprains and fractures.
Mr. Mak, who is not related to the author of the martial arts history, has fewer than 20 students now, down from twice that number several years ago. Most students are over the age of 40.
He holds classes all over the city because “students will not come if they need to travel much.” On Tuesdays, he teaches at a pier in the city’s Central District; on Wednesdays, near a government marriage registry in Sha Tin in the New Territories; and on Sundays, at a public park in Kowloon. On Mondays and Fridays, he teaches at a kung fu school in a warehouse opened by one of his students.
Describing himself as “old school,” Mr. Mak fiercely defended kung fu traditions. “Chinese kung fu is not about fighting; it is about patience and hard work,” he said.
When he learned kung fu in the late 1960s, masters were father figures and apprentices had deep respect for kung fu. Students were willing to spend months or years perfecting just their horse-riding stance, a rest position often used for practicing punches and strengthening the legs and back.
“Today, if you ask a student to practice horse-riding stance for one lesson, he will not come again,” Mr. Mak said. “They are used to living a comfortable life.”
In English, kung fu is often used as an umbrella term for all Chinese martial arts. But in Chinese, it refers to any discipline or skill that is achieved through hard work.

Kung fu traces its history to ancient China, with hundreds of fighting styles developing over the centuries. But it soared in popularity at the beginning of the 20th century, as revolution swept the nation.
After the fall of the Qing dynasty a century ago, the Chinese Nationalist party, or the Kuomintang, used martial arts to promote national pride, setting up competitions and sending an exhibition team to the Olympics. But the government also tried to suppress wuxia, a martial arts genre of literature and film, as superstitious and potentially subversive.
When the Nationalists fell in 1949, the new Communist government in Beijing sought to control martial arts from the Chinese mainland. The Shaolin Temple, said to be the home of Asian martial arts in central China, was ransacked during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 and its Buddhist monks jailed.
Throughout those decades, martial artists from mainland China sought refuge in what was then the British colony of Hong Kong.
By the 1970s, kung fu fever had spread around the world. In addition to Bruce Lee’s films, the television series “Kung Fu,” starring David Carradine, became one of the most popular programs in the United States.
Though Hong Kong’s kung fu films do not draw the attention they once did, the genre has influenced a generation of directors, including Quentin Tarantino and Ang Lee, and the actor Jackie Chan and others have kept it alive as comedy.
In a twist, kung fu has enjoyed a renaissance in mainland China, where the government has standardized it and promoted it in secondary schools as a sport known as wushu to foster national pride.
As the martial arts center of gravity shifts to the mainland, some in Hong Kong have expressed hope that the government might support a revival here, too. Others are trying to carry on the tradition themselves.
Li Zhuangxin, a trim 17-year-old, has been studying the wing chun technique for more than four years. He was inspired by his grandfather, a devotee of the fighting style hung ga who gave Mr. Li his first kung fu lesson at age 8.
He hopes to open his own kung fu school one day — maybe on the mainland, where interest is higher and rents are cheaper — and has already set up a small wing chun club, with eight members, at his high school.
Few of his classmates had ever heard of wing chun before. Mr. Li, undaunted, says he wants to impart “the concentration and determination of kung fu” to his friends, who he laments are “only interested in playing with their cellphones.”

May 15, 2017

Samurai on charging horse

artwork by Devon Bragg

May 11, 2017

M.M.A. Fighter’s Pummeling of Tai Chi Master Rattles China

(by Didi Kirsten Tatlow 5-10-17)

For weeks, the mixed martial arts fighter Xu Xiaodong had been taunting masters of the traditional Chinese martial arts, dismissing them as overly commercialized frauds, and challenging them to put up or shut up.

After one of them — Wei Lei, a practitioner of the “thunder style” of tai chi — accepted the challenge, Mr. Xu flattened him in about 10 seconds.
Mr. Xu may have proved his point, but he was unprepared for the ensuing outrage.
When video of the drubbing went viral, many Chinese were deeply offended by what they saw as an insult to a cornerstone of traditional Chinese culture.
The state-run Chinese Wushu Association posted a statement on its website saying the fight “violates the morals of martial arts.” The Chinese Boxing Association issued similar criticism.
An article by Xinhua, the state news agency, called Mr. Xu a “crazy guy,” saying that the fight had caused people to question whether Chinese martial arts were of any use and even to ask, “What exactly are traditional Chinese martial arts?”
The reaction has been so furious that Mr. Xu has gone into hiding.
“I’ve lost everything, my career and everything,” he said in a message circulating online. “I think many people misunderstand me. I’m fighting fraudulence, but now I’ve become the target.”
Many people around the world assumed that this debate had long been settled. Mixed martial arts fighters have for years held exhibition fights against practitioners of traditional martial arts — kung fu, karate and judo among them. The old ways, for all their balletic grace, lost decisively.
Known broadly as wushu, traditional Chinese martial arts include such disparate disciplines as qigong, categorized as an “internal” practice that is mostly spiritual, and kung fu, an “external” art that is practiced by the monks of the Shaolin Temple and was popularized around the world by Bruce Lee. There are hundreds of styles of wushu in China, and many overlap.
Tai chi, while a martial art, is viewed by many today as a spiritual breathing and balance exercise enjoyed by people of all ages, usually performed in slow motion in a quiet park instead of a fight ring.

The fight between Mr. Xu and Mr. Wei was brutal. As Mr. Wei circled slowly, arms outstretched in a calm tai chi defense, Mr. Xu lunged, jabbed him to the floor, then used a “ground and pound” technique to subdue him. It was all over in about 10 seconds.
A woman reached by telephone at the Battle Club in southeast Beijing, where Mr. Xu works, said he was not giving interviews. She declined to give her name.
On Wednesday morning, the door of the Battle Club, in the dingy basement of a high-rise, was locked. Photographs of Mr. Xu and other M.M.A. fighters decorated the walls of the stairwell.
An electrician lingering by a cigarette shop at the top of the stairs said he practiced wushu and had come to check out the club after hearing about the controversy. He said that Mr. Xu had been right to pose his challenge, even though it had infuriated people.
“No one can avoid fighting,’’ said the man, who gave only his surname, Lian, and a social media username, Ruyi.
He said defenders of the traditional martial arts were incensed that Mr. Xu had dared to say that they staged impressive performances but were ineffective fighters and that, by doing so, he had threatened their livelihoods.
Yet Mr. Xu’s ultra-aggressive assault on his tai chi rival had missed an important point, Mr. Lian added.
“The key difference between what Mr. Xu does and martial arts is that martial arts isn’t a competitive sport,’’ he said. “It’s not about really hurting. It’s about giving your opponent ‘face.’ And Mr. Xu’s style is about beating your opponent to near death.”

May 5, 2017

The Dojo

Our mission is to make our students more successful in life through their practice of Martial Arts at our school.
We do this by teaching our Martial Arts as a complete discipline (mind, body, spirit), which in addition to developing physical defense, encourages the formation of high personal standards and respect for fellow men and women.
Through our practice and teaching, we strive to produce individuals who are positive, respected and contributing members of society.