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    First off I have to apologize to the mods. I actually signed up to give a brain dump on my opinions re. the history and functionality of TCMA in the YMAS forum. When my post didn't appear for a while I wondered wtf was up with the moderators, and then discovered that I HADN'T CHECKED THE ROOLZ and that it appears I have to gradually insert myself into the community by posting here. So sorry guys, and just throw that post away (lol, as if you haven't already :) ). It's pretty much the content of what I'm going to enlighten everyone with anyway, but all in good time.

    I'm a lover, a scholar and a fighter, the perfect ... erm that didn't sound right.

    Actually I'm a 55 year old washed-up musician who's had a lifelong interest in the martial arts, but more from an intellectual point of view (history, mechanics, etc.) than from the point of view of actually doing some physical labour every day to get good. Being lazy and fat I wish there were a magic bullet, but being pretty smart too I know there isn't. Sadly.

    My intro to MA came around 12 yrs old. Wado Ryu Karate with Hamish Adam in my home town in Scotland. The reason I'd gotten into it was because, although I have a bit of a tail-waggy attitude to fighting, I do kind of enjoy it, when I was very young I made a conscious decision not to get involved in fights at school (I could see that it would be too much trouble for me in the long run to get a reputation for fighting). This led to me being bullied mercilessly for a few years. Then one day I came across a book on Karate in the local library. It intrigued me, so I looked for a school and was lucky to find one already existed in the town down the road. At the same time, Bruce Lee films were coming out, and I loved 'em, so the two things in tandem, reading the book and watching the films, inspired me a fair bit.

    I did it for a year or so in, pretty assiduously (riding miles on a bike in the rain to class, that type of thing). I even built a makiwara in the garden and broke tiles. Not your average brown or red tile mind you, these were grey SLATE tiles, of which there was a pile in the garden - stupid me, I didn't realize how easy it would be to fool myself with ordinary tiles ;) Got up to 4 of those slate buggers. Eventually, I confronted one of my regular bullies when I couldn't stand it any more, did a straight Oi Tzuki to his chops, broke his tooth, he waaaahed his way to the Headmaster, I got the tawse, and that was the end of that. No more bullying.

    But also no more Karate - it seemed it had served its purpose, and while I maintained an interest, I didn't practice it any more. I had read up a bit about internal MA and Tai Chee and learnt the Chen Man Ching short form from a book for fun, and practiced that for a bit, totally mystified, then dropped it. I had a brief longing to take Karate up again when I went to Glasgow to study music at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - they upgraded their title, Conservatoire sounds so much posher :) ), but, with the benefit of lots of reading into the history of it, and lineages, by that point, I was beginning to understand just how inauthentic a lot of the stuff being taught as "traditional" in the West was, and none of the clubs I visited gave me much reason to change my mind.

    So I forgot about MA again (from the practical point of view - still read into it now and then) and co-founded a minor pop group (we charted once! - UK top 15) and pottered about till about 12 years ago, when I happened to do a qigong class with a Daoist teacher. Don't ask me why. But the teacher seemed quite sincere, and I knew enough about Daoism to know he knew something. He'd also studied Taiji with Gia Fu Feng, translator of one of the more popular coffee-table editions of the Daodejing. So I thought, what the hell, give him a chance.


    This led me to re-investigate the "internal" arts I'd read about so long ago in those Donn Draeger and what have you books. Because it was pretty obvious that this feeling had something to do with the fabled "qi".

    I was always sceptical enough to discount all the bullshit surrounding "qi", and constitutionally despised all the roleplaying that infests the MA - not just the hippy stuff but the fightey posturing stuff - but here I had discovered through an internal MA-related exercise, a feeling that I'd never felt before in my life, that was quite intriguing in and of itself (and actually quite pleasant to feel).

    Long story short, after much investigation on the newfangled interwebz, I zeroed in on Mike Sigman's take on qi and Internal Power. It just seemed obvious to me that he was onto the truth of it. It's a trained skill, it's a physical skill, but it's an unusual trained physical skill. Asians aren't stupid. It's unlikely they would make a big thing out of something related to a physical skill with tangible reported (albeit obviously somewhat mythified) results unless there was something to it, even if it's expressed in a sort of kooky semi-religious way. And also - although it's pleasing to imagine that we Westerners know everything, it might not be wise to believe our own hype.

    So that's it, that's my axis, my beef, my area of interest: how people like Mike Sigman, Akuzawa and the other few who have been getting a handle on reverse-engineering this kind of recondite body skill are right, and everyone else is wrong. The hippies are wrong (obviously) - it's not magic, it's neither a magic bullet nor a magic suppository. But also, the fightey folks are a bit wrong too (though less wrong). It's not just what you already know (strength, F=MA, cardio, timing, skill, co-ordination, balance, etc.) It's something else, something intriguing, and something sufficiently edge-giving that the Chinese and Japanese have respected it for centuries, although they've been very secretive about it too.

    I think we are going to see more and more of it in the coming decades - from two sides. On the one hand, the Chinese, Japanese, etc., are going to come out of the closet about it more and more, as they realize they might as well join the modern world (in this matter) and go with the flow of science - sharing data makes you more powerful, in the long run, than hiding it. We don't use cutlery to kill people these days, we use guns, and it's no longer really necessary to hide what you can do so your family or racial group has an edge in real cutlery-based combat. So why not share the cultural treasures more openly, in an antiquarian spirit, in the spirit of keeping these ancient cultural treasures alive by opening them up to a broader public?

    And on the other hand, as people like Sigman and Akuzawa continue to reverse engineer this stuff, it's going to creep into general MA, and all the old clowns who have infested this area of MA are going to either die out or die of embarrassment. And as to serious teachers of the MA who have either conned themselves or been conned by their teachers, or not given the goods by their teachers: either they're going to get with the program, stop pretending they already know everything so they can keep roleplaying the big muck-a-muck, realize they have a duty of martial virtue to their students to learn this stuff so that what they teach can be authentic and infused with either part or the whole of the core skillset of classical MA principles THAT THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO FUCKING HAVE; or they're going to die of shame and embarrassment too.

    As to my personal level in this skillset, it's abysmally low - I'm still a fat, lazy dilettante at heart - but through some haphazard practice of Sigman's experiments and some bouts of on-again, off-again obsession with Chen style Taijiquan, I do have a foot in the door, enough to make a plausible case if I combine rational argument with gentle physical contact. Not enough to actually impress anyone yet, but I'm working on it.

    Oh, a thing I forgot to mention. I have actually used my l33t skillz in a "street" confrontation. Roundabout the late 90s, me and a musician friend were making some club music with a team of two English guys in their studio in Amsterdam. One evening the four of us, plus another guy, were wandering the canals of Amsterdam, stoned as crows, enjoying the night ambience of that charming city, chatting away merrily. We'd lengthened into two groups of three and two, and just as we were about to crest one of the bridges, me and my friend heard a commotion ahead of us. Thinking our studio friends were in trouble, we ran over and saw 5 people kicking the shit out of one of the studio guys, who was curled up on the ground. His mate and the other guy had legged it, and at that point my mate also legged it, but I steamed in shouting "what the fuck do you think you're doing?!" or something dumb like that, pulled the guys away from the studio guy, and kicked several of them really quite hard in their arses. They scattered a bit, evidently somewhat surprised, and I stood over the guy on the ground in my ingrained-from-Wado-Ryu-Karate ready stance.

    I was probably very lucky that night, and the gang was drunk, and/or knifeless, and/or they'd had a beef specifically with the studio guys and had been after them or something (that might have been possible, they lived a bit on the shady side - I never pursued the matter but it was an obvious suspicion). At any rate, the gang all looked at me, presumably wondering what to do. One of them came at me punching and kicking and missing, I punched and kicked harder, not missing, he backed off. By this time, the studio guy was getting up off the ground. I helped him up (keeping a wary eye on the gang who were standing at a distance, still talking to each other in Dutch), he leaned on me and we walked away. One of the gang guys ran up and threw a shoe at the back of my head (so I guess at least he must have been a Muslim) and they were shouting some shit, but thankfully they didn't come after us.

    If knives had been involved, I would have probably been fucked (though they did seem quite drunk), but I'm sort of constitutionally incapable of running when someone's in trouble, so I did the stupid/brave thing, and luckily came out unscathed, bar a ringing head from the shoe. But I'm proud that the studio guy didn't get a worse beating, and of course the studio guys were grateful. We all laughed at the incident afterwards, especially at the scenario of the other three legging it, but of course it was perfectly understandable under the circumstances.

    It's notable that while I had a huge adrenaline dump and sense of panic seeing the kicking happening and realizing shit was serious, and while running up to the gang, by the time the action started, my mind seemed to clear up and it all slowed down, and I was surprised at how I had a sort of overall view of the situation (e.g. awareness of movement in peripheral vision), and how "buttery" the action was with the guy who took me on - not like it was in bullet time or anything, but there was definitely some kind of subjective sense of time distortion going on. Also, I felt peculiarly calm, still and focussed, which, again, surprised me. I think it may also have been what surprised the gang - what with that and the language barrier, their shouting was water off a duck's back, and I was just hanging out there, in my ready stance, so I probably had some kind of psychological edge, especially given that they seemed a bit drunk.

    Happy days!



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