Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Under the Sun

I correspond now and then with a fellow silat sera student in Italy. Fortunately, he has English, because I have no Italian. Recently, he was doing some research on old European fighting styles and he sent me a link to this site.

If you are a fan of such things, you'll probably enjoy this, go have a look.

An example: the illustration above, is from Nicholaes Petter, circa 1674 CE. Anybody have any trouble recognizing a sweep? Foot going one way, arm going the other? Opposite levers?

My fellow MA allowed as how the Europeans used platform training -- in the footwork-sense, and how it was amazing how much of the stuff they did looked familiar. I've seen some of this stuff before, especially in fencing. Various Spanish, French, and Italian schools used quadrants and patterns on the floor to teach swordsmanship.

Sir Richard Burton's book on swords has illustrations in it taken from the pyramids. The Mayans had beaucoup carvings on their pyramids and stella showing how they swung their blades, as did Indian temple carvings, as did the Chinese, as it ... well, you get the idea.

Actually, what would have been amazing would have been if it hadn't looked familiar.

This is a subject upon which I have touched before, but it's been a while, so I thought it might be worth visiting again.

As human beings, bipedal creatures evolved -- or created, if you'd rather -- to live at the bottom of a gravity well, there are only so many ways we can articulate our upright frames. Muscles work a certain way, joints do, and that pesky gravity sets limits on both.

Take a man from the African veldt and plunk him down in New York City, he will have no trouble at all recognizing what the folks on Fifth Avenue consider to be walking. There are only so many ways to walk, and it's pretty universal, with only slight variations. That's because there are limits as to how creatures with two legs that bend at the back can ambulate efficiently and every human culture has a version that is not far away from it.

Somebody tells you he has a new way of walking? Hang onto your wallet, or put in a call to psychiatric services.

In martial arts, as in other physical activities, there are only so many possibilities in toto, and fewer as you head toward safe, effective, and efficient ways to move.

A fist is a fist. There are variations, of course, but only so many ways to make and use one. If you eliminate the methods that will immediately damage the user and whittle them down to those that will likely cause more harm to the recipient, then there are really only a few ways left. It's the nature of the machine that it only works in certain manners, and the possible ranges of motion are going to be strait-jacketed by that biped-at-the-bottom-of-the-gravity-well and the hinges and levers and all.

It's all pull, though we call some of it push. It is how things work. Form follows function.

If you lived in India a few thousand years ago and you were fooling around with ways to punch, you'd eventually come up with something that looked like what the Chinese fellow came up with, as did the Australian aborigine, as did the Viking, Eskimo, or First Americans. Especially if you actually hit something instead of shadow-boxing.

The question isn't how could you? but -- how could you not?

As art forms, the chief differences are going to be in ways of combining such techniques; the strategy and tactics of when and where to use them; how one focuses on the overall pattern of activity; and whatever cultural or religious or physical limitations one brings to the table.

Something in the Chinese character veered into kung-fu and found resonance; and something in the Japanese liked what became ju jutsu; and something in the cold Northlands brought up their version of how to beat an enemy with whom you are standing toe-to-toe. And eventually they started swapping them back and forth.

But they were all using the same basic hardware that is the human body.

The stuff that worked got kept, and most of the stuff that didn't got you maimed or killed, so you didn't pass that along. If you are expecting kung fu and you get judo, you might not be able to adjust on the fly. If you survive, you can learn from that and be ready next time. You train for what you think you are going to run into. You can debate what that part might be, but you are bringing the same wind-up doll to the game.

A slight digression: This doesn't mean that things can't be recombined or altered to fit new circumstances. How you'd fight underwater or in zero gravity would lend themselves to somewhat different expressions. And technology can be thrown into the mix.

Consider the track event, the high jump. Up until the late 1960's, the way you went over the bar varied, from a straddle to a scissors, and eventually, a crab-like roll, but that was it, and the reason was simple. The landing surface was usually a pit dug into the ground filled with sawdust or thin mats. However high you leaped, that was how high you had to fall, and landing on your feet was the safest way. You could do a gymnastic roll and come up, but it was still hard on your body. (I knew a gymnast when I was in junior high who claimed he could set the world record in his age group in the high jump if they allowed a two-foot take off. During his tumbling pass, his back layout, if timed right, would easily clear a seven-foot bar. Ever watch those little girls do free exercise in the Olympics? They fly higher than that.)

Enter Dick Fosbury, who came up with a way to go over the bar lying more or less flat on his back. This was only possible because of thick foam rubber padding which brought the landing surface up higher and made it much softer. Doing the Fosbury Flop onto sawdust six or seven feet down would be a method you might try once, maybe twice. After that, you would doubtless wonder if high jumping was worth pursuing as you lay in your hospital bed nursing your busted spine ...

Um. Back to to the main point. As soon as I hear that somebody has come up with a radical new movement system, unlike anything anybody has ever seen, my bullshit detector goes off.

No, I am here to tell you, they have not. They might have taken a direction maybe nobody has thought about recently; or perhaps combined some things that hadn't been combined just that way before, but I can guarantee you that in however many millions of years the hairless monkeys have been dancing, and however many centuries since they started writing it down or chiseling it onto walls, whoever is offering the new, never-seen-before! system of exercise, fighting, or whatever, is building it on the bones of those who have gone before.

They might have come up with a new mix 'n' match. And maybe it works better than either one alone. But that high-tech-eccentric-pulley-computer-monitored weight machine is, in the end, just a variation on the big rock. And most anything that is going to tone your muscles is something that we were doing in the trees and on hillsides and plains and in ponds two million years ago, and written down into systems since we came up with writing.

Caveat emptor ...


Sean said...

Another well-written one sir. Beyond the martial artists who've written about it along the way, you of course have touched on it (as did Zelazny in one of his short stories, as did etc. etc. etc.)

Which also goes to the fact in bujitsu as in exercise - your most efficient training and movements are going to be those which mimic and work with the way we evolved to function. And when we start straining those, or working unnaturally, is when we see those increases in injuries. Witness the recent popularity of the Five Fingers shoes for walking/running etc.

Just a few thoughts I thought I'd share.

jks9199 said...

I'm always amazed by the people who are so certain that they've found some ultimate new martial art...

Unless they've found a way to add an arm or leg, or bend a joint differently without breaking it... there just ain't no such thing. There aren't but so many ways the body can move. There are even fewer that are efficient and effective for fighting.

But those relatively few ways can be combined in what seems like a boundless infinitude of strategies, tactics, and approaches to using and training them... There's truly no excuse for not being able to find one that works and interests you, if you so desire!` Just don't fall into the trap of thinking that you've got the ONLY way...

Some guy said...

I'd claim that, though they're not new in terms of being recently invented, there are different movement systems.

There have been physiological studies done of the African women who have a different kind of walking with loads on their head which establish that it's significantly more efficient than normal walking. (Oddly, when they dump the loads they go back to regular inefficient walking.)So that's a significant variation on perhaps the oldest exercise ever.

And at a further extreme, there are the internal arts. (Caveat: I mean "internal" in the tai chi/bagua/hsing-i sense; I know it's perfectly valid to use it for kali or wing chun, but that's a different meaning.)Tai chi, etc. does use a radically different than normal coordination system. (Real tai chi, not what some Chinese politely call "American tai chi".) One seemingly knowledgeable author pointed out that his most talented students would get the mechanics in about a year and a half. Not that they'd be competent but that they'd get the idea. Contrast this with something like tennis, in which initially I'd be awful but would crudely grasp the basic mechanics almost immediately; I'd be using the same basic coordination I use for any other sport I'd do, taking the trash out, any normal life activity.

So despite using the same body, a different set of muscles and physiological skill would be used than in normal coordination. It seems that significant "technological innovations" can arise even after many millennia of standard usage.

Again, I should emphasize that I'm not talking about "American tai chi", which ranges from a mystic energy New Age parody to diluted kung fu, but the traditional internal body mechanics. (And lest I offend anyone, I should mention that my first few years were spent blithely and vacuously learning American tai chi, even - to my eternal shame - helping teach it.)

Steve Perry said...

SG --

I don't argue that everybody's system is the same and that we all will ape each other beat-for-beat, only that the operating hardware is the same and that such limits the useful variations. Ballet is not sumo is not tai chi. And the slant, the focus, the emphasis in each will necessarily be different.

But if you look carefully, you will see common movements among all three of these.

You use the same muscles, because that's what we have. And certainly all the motions aren't going to be the same, but walking with a big load on your head requires adjustment because of the way our bodies work -- they weren't designed for walking that way.

Worldwide, allow for terrain and body types and cultural effects, we pretty much all walk the same way. More you do, the better you get at it.

The adjustment between a tai chi punch and a karate punch and a boxer's punch is going to be somewhat less physically than between walking unburdened or with an eighty-pound weight on your head.

Spiritually or psychologically? That goes to what I said before -- what of those you bring to the table matters.

Some guy said...

The hardware is the same, but the software is wildly different. You couldn't just show a karate guy or boxer how to do a tai chi punch; they'd first have to retrain their bodies to do a different kind of of coordination. (Most Americans who have been practicing tai chi for twenty years can't do a tai chi punch.) So that this won't sound like a "Well, my art is just really cool and different and specialler than YOURS!" type post I'll mention that I've also dabbled in capoeira and arnis. My experience is that they are virtually identical relative to tai chi because they share the same physical coordination that I use for everything else.

I understand the differences between styles with different techniques and strategies and such. I recognize that they're all different between themselves and even among different schools in the same styles. I'm talking about a deeper underlying difference in the way the body is coordinated. So tai chi, bagua, and hsing-i are all different in a number of ways but use the same underlying coordination (when done properly). It's why they're considered the internal triad in China, that commanlity, and why they're not considered kung fu. (There are other Chinese internal arts, but these three get the most press.)

Gotta run now; changing of the guard here at work.

Steve Perry said...

And I'm talking about however you throw, for example, a straight punch, if it is going to be effective, you will only have so many muscles from which to choose to send it.

It can be mostly deltoid and triceps and pectoral. Or it can use a whip motion from the hips, or an upper body twist.

You could maybe angle it and add abs or lats, or step and use a falling motion and gravity.

The style will speak to the balance and combinations thereof, but the tai chi guys has the same muscles as the silat guy as as the karate guy as the boxer. And the software is not radically different for the mechanics of a punch, but only different releases of the same OS.

The mechanics are going to be muscles contracting and pulling on levers, and the arm and fist will extend forward -- if it is a straight punch -- and impact with some portion of the clenched hand. And that every culture has some version of it. Some might have copied their neighbors, but some disparate groups came up with it all on their own.

To somebody not steeped in the fine details of inner versus outer art, the karate guy's strike, the boxer's, and the tai chi punch are going to look pretty much the same because they are pretty much the same. The differences are minor, save to the minds of the players, and the effect the same.

I saw one of those martial art shows, I can't recall which one, where they compared a karate, boxer, and kung fu punch and they were all relatively close in force delivered to the target. (Past a certain point, you don't want to hit any harder because it damages your hand more than it is worth.)

Our arts are unique, and by extension, our movemtn, and you can't qualify unique, but they are all variations on a couple of themes -- striking or grabbing.

One can debate the effectiveness of an art relative to other arts, which give more bang for the buck in terms of energy expends and profit reaped, but a lot of the tools are going to be pretty close to exactly the same because of the nature of the machines that use them.

Some guy said...

Hmmm. The basic coordination isn't based on cumulative torque, the way a karate punch or a boxing punch is, which is what I believe you're thinking of. In a sec I'll make a few points about why I think it's genuinely physiologically different, but really, it has to be experienced. Otherwise it's all just some random white boy on the internet babbling about how his martial art's magic. If you get a chance to have a competent tai chi practitioner demonstrate - of course then there's the whole question of how you find the rare competent practitioner in this country - you might take a look.

The main reason I first got interested was reading Moving Zen. It's written by a serious karate student - (now teacher) - who moved to Japan and studied, and obviously loved karate. He once had tai chi demonstrated on him and was very impressed by the level of power. He then explained why, given that tai chi was a superior art, he stuck with karate. Had the author been a tai chi guy of course I wouldn't have paid any attention, but in an often jealous field here was someone saying flat-out that here was a martial art superior to his. It caught my attention.

And my competent - not the "American tai chi" guy - tai chi teacher was an ex-marine who had studied karate in Okinawa and become a teacher, had done judo - (think he was on the Marine Corps judo team, but I don't remember for sure), had "dabbled" in aikido - (only seven years), and had a chemical engineering background. So he's an experienced martial artist with an ability to think rigorously and skeptically, not the too common tai chi flake. And he says that he got hooked by tai chi because of the odd body
mechanics (and resulting efficiency), which he thinks are very different from anything else he's done(except aikido, which CAN be done internally but usually isn't.)So that's someone with a pretty competent martial background who believes that an alternate physiological coordination system exists. Of course I recognize that he could be a silly invention of mine to bolster an odd viewpoint. (In person I definitely don't come off to people as a "true believer" type, more of a p-in-the-a skeptic, but over the net I don't have any way of establishing non-loon-credentials.) But if I'm not just whacky, that does imply that there really is an alternate way of using our common anatomy.

Still, IHTBS, is the common slogan among some of us serious western tai chi practitioners - It Has To Be Shown. My verbiage alone will never prove anything.

Steve Perry said...

Some years ago I corresponded with -- and sometimes fought online with -- Mike Sigman, a well-known and perhaps notoriously-so tai chi teacher. Lot of conflict over this, back in they day.

He was either terrific or a total fraud, depending on who you asked.

It was Sigman's contention that most of the players in the U.S. didn't know the real deal, and that there was a simple "teacher test" you could apply to see if they knew their stuff.

"One method you can use to tell whether someone is really trained to do an internal martial art or not is pretty straightforward: they place their fist or palm on your chest, and then hit using their waist without their shoulder or hand moving back. It's not a 100% guarantee, but it's a pretty good indicator: if they're good, they should be able to do it no problem. If they can't do it, they shouldn't be teaching: it's a simple "teacher test"."

Interview here:

Sigman did videos, one of which I bought and watched, then passed on later to my son-in-law, who was studying tai chi in Portland. My son-in-law made it up to teacher status, was a west coast push-hands champion, and a couple of his school's demos, we went to watch. There were some Chinese masters who dropped by to show their stuff, and when they were rooted, their feet might as well have been nailed to the floor for all anybody could move them.

But there were vaudeville performers who used to do similar stuff onstage. One tiny woman who invited two big men up to try and pick her up, and who managed to weigh a ton when they did.

Aikido has a similar trick.

Sigman didn't get esoteric with chi, but demonstrated his skills using biomechanics and rooting stuff that was easily explained using western principles of muscle control and stance.

Once upon a time, Chas Clements, who was one of Willem de Thouars senior students, and who studied under the other de Thouars brothers living in the U.S., dropped by Sigman's to see what he had.

According to Chas, Sigman was the real deal.

My study of the art was limited to the Yang-style long form long ago, so I claim no expertise in it. But the aikido people, and the tai chi people and yes, even the silat people all have stuff that is considered inner energy. In silat, it's called "tenaga dalam," which means ... "inner energy."

The physiology, as nearly I can tell, is the same. They call it different things, but the delivery has to include certain foci to work and if you watch people doing the stuff and know how to look, you'll see the similarities.

I've got forty-odd years splayed across seven or eight arts, including nearly a decade-and-a-half in my current one, and if there is a alternative physiological coordination system, I ain't seen it demonstrated.

The Amazing Randi offers that any magic trick he's seen he can duplicate without magic. He also has a standing reward for big bucks if anybody can show him anything that *is* real magic, and nobody has stepped up to claim it.

I think the inner arts are more efficient, generally, but they aren't anything magic, nor so different that those same principles can be applied elsewhere.

Your mileage obviously differs, and I'm good with that, but being hit by somebody who knows how to hit only proves that they know how to hit ...

Tim said...


Those of us who were hanging out on RMA at the time also remember the rest of the story. Chas not only attested loud, long and convincingly that Sigman was the real deal, he also said -- again, loud, long and repeatedly -- that taiji as shown by Sigman had a cultivated, unnatural, and very different mechanic than was common in most arts, which is pretty much what SG is saying here.

The machinery is the same, and there are certain pretty obvious ways of working with it that everyone will stumble upon. Those ways work pretty well, and there's not much percentage in trying to look much further; most people won't. Doesn't mean there aren't some "off-label" ways to use the standard equipment.

Quick thought experiment: suppose a guy had, say, a short arm and a club foot. Might he come up with some things that are a little odd? Might some of those mechanics be adaptable to someone with normal physiology -- and yet be things that someone with normal physiology would almost certainly not come up with?

Steve Perry said...

Tim --

Indeed this is true. But I pointed out the Chas experience more to indicate that somebody from silat, albeit a branch not quite the same as ours, was able to see the efficacy of another art(ist).

And the similarities.

I don't think what we do is tai chi, by any means, and our "inner" aspect isn't bandied about, but I'd guess that most of the senior Sera students I train with could pass Sigman's Teacher Test; I'm pretty sure I can, given what effect I can see on a heavy bag when I try it. Call it "ki," "chi," "tenaga dalam," or whatever, the action accesses similar kinds of body mechanics. Maybe not exactly, but close enough.

As for the club-footed one-armed man? I have parroted that story because I like it, but evidence that he existed is -- let's be kind -- scant.

That, as one faction of the lineage contends, he lived to be a hundred and two and was of the cloistered White Badui doesn't make much sense on either count. Both are more than passing remarkable.

That's a common thing in source stories: The creator of the art was small or weak or a woman or crippled. He was, once he came up with the stuff, unbeatable. (First time I heard the story of a one-armed master who developed the circular block as a result of his missing arm was in Okinawa-te more than forty years ago.)

One would think that a master fighter with such handicaps would be famous on the face of it, especially one who passed the century mark in years. But outside Sera(k) circles, nobody seems to have heard of Pak Sera, and surely that would have been a big deal back in the day?

Mas Djut has more of a trail, being closer in time, but where he came from and what he knew is still a subject of debate. From our timeline, he couldn't have been Pendekar Sanders's Mas Djut, the dates don't work, but there isn't a boat-load of evidence telling us who he was.

That what Sanders's considers Sera and what we do seem so unrelated as to be, well ... unrelated.

Like I said, creation stories can be most colorful, but veracity isn't their strongest virtue. And they don't really matter anyway ...

Tim said...

"Maybe not exactly, but close enough"
Sure. And it's pretty darned uncommon, and the art comes from a place where exposure to the CIMA was not only likely, but near-inevitable, if one is running around fighting folks. No idea if one influenced the other, independent discovery, whatever, but it's an uncommon skill, yes?

And about the mythical one-armed man: sure the stories are common -- doesn't make much of a tale that the art comes from a physical phenom, and good luck ever making it work for you. Still, doesn't mean it doesn't happen -- story's plausible for a reason. Big, strong, fast guys don't have to invent a superior martial art.

In our particular case, I doubt I'm qualified to make the argument, but I think we both know people -- Chas among them -- who would argue that the art itself gives evidence of the club foot and the short arm--unusual levers, all that. Of course, if you have a branch of the art that thinks for two or three generations that it came from such a man, it might take on that character, maybe. (THAT would be a fun sociology experiment. Teach a bunch of people some random form -- Bassai Dai or whatever -- and tell 'em it came from a one-armed guy, rejuggled by his senior student for normal folks. Teach 'em to meditate on a one-armed man to see the 'real' lessons in the form. See what the art looks like in 60 years...)

As for Bapak Sera(k) making a splash, didn't he? Sanders is kinda...unreliable, shall we say, but him aside, Mande Muda got their Sera from somewhere, and aren't there some other lineages scattered around Java?

Steve Perry said...

Henry Ford has it that history is bunk.

Oral history is worth the paper it's not written on ...

I'm not saying there wasn't somebody teaching what is called Sera back in the old country. It might well have been named after the guy who came up with it. And maybe he was limpy and gimpy. Sure enough, it came from somewhere, and there is some evidence it was not exactly the same as tjimande, if you read Wilson's thesis.

I could go with either offshoot/answer to tjimande, though I've had guys tell me that tjimande wasn't the be-all, end-all it's made out to be. But again, it don't matter anyhow.

It could have been that Pak Sera descended from the heavens on the backs of a flying naga, too. Got as much evidence for that as anything else.

Yep, Sanders and I went back and forth and he does have an axe to grind, so anything he has to say about Sera is thus suspect. But he does make that one point -- there was a guy that handicapped, surely there would have been more stories about him?

I looked. I couldn't find any outside our traditions. That seems a little odd.

And our traditions have surely changed. Between Paul and Rudy ter Linden and Jimmy Wu, I'd expect the art to look different than it did in Java. And what Guru Plinck does doesn't look altogether like what the other lines are doing,

I think the best efforts at pusaka are doomed eventually to fail. Nature of continental drift.

It doesn't make it better that there are folks in the arts who would rather climb a tree and tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth.

As for the gimpy levers, people see what they are led to believe is in front of them. That standard shooting-at-the-police-academy drill, in which somebody runs into the middle of a class and shoots the teacher with a blank pistol and then runs out is a good example. What did everybody see?

A tall/short/fat/thin/black/white/bearded/clean-shaven/hairy/bald/man/woman did it.

And when a couple of shills in the class lead it even further afield, you wind up with some of the witnesses convinced that the attacker was a nine-foot-tall-albino using a bazooka.

Well, okay, I wax a bit hyperbolic, but you get the idea. If you think a cripple created it, you can see that. If you think a woman did, you can see that.

I used to buy that line about Sera being something a club-footed player with one-arm might come up with. I don't see those limits in it now, so if he did, it got changed when the fitter folks got to it. You don't have good legs, you can't do this to its best light.

Some guy said...

First, I only used the word "magic" to maybe poke a little fun at myself. I can't rule out that mystic energy might exist, but I have no reason whatsoever to believe in it. I've known too many tai chi guys who talk about all this wonderful energy they're circulating, channels they're opening, etc. but can't do the most basic correct physical tai chi mechanics. As far as I know, real tai chi, all helpful energy visualizations aside, is based on objectively measurable physical movement. Hope I didn't give the wrong impression.
The problem is that the words "inner" and "internal" are used widely; that's why I made the caveat about the way I was using internal. It's often used for arts to mean "relaxed, soft, flowing" (like kali) but it's a particular kind of coordination that I'm talking about. (Good) aikido, tai chi, hsing-i, etc. use it but most arts don't. If it were more general, I think that more artists from other styles would be able to learn tai chi based on their previous training. I've seen silat in a few different schools and on video, but never in the interactive way I'd need to have an informed opinion about whether it might be "internal" in the sense I mean.
Even with a lot of time in the martial arts, it's hard to perceive a demonstration of the internal. Most traditional teachers don't even show their own students in detail, and their students can take years, decades, or never to see what's going on. So it's pretty hard to know what you're seeing. Mostly the best you can see them show in demos is unusual power or cool tricks; they don't exaggerate to show what they're doing physically.
Small world. Yes, Mike was the teacher I was referring to. He probably was "the real deal" (as far as skills, not teaching ability). Back then I just knew him as a tai chi teacher I'd hooked up with, but unaffiliated external artists - like a local tae kwon do teacher - would drop by push hands and occasionally talk to me about his unusual level of power. They were serious martial artists and didn't have that "worshipful flake" vibe so I figured it was probably true, unless Mike was actually bribing them to lie to me. (EXTREMELY unlikely, but skeptics'r'us.)The only time I ever caught him saying he thought he could do something that he couldn't, I knew because he immediately tested himself in front of us, so I found him to be pretty realistic. I can just imagine the tenor of your internet dialogue :0) but at least he probably downplayed what he could do.
The teacher test is a rough estimate and isn't perfect; its main value is just to rule out the people who CAN'T do it as competent tai chi teachers. There are other neat ways of generating power, so I'm sure some people can pass it without using the same method.
Your "only proves that they know how to hit" is a very good point, and I considered that at one point. I had researched tai chi enough over a fair amount of time to think that it did indeed generate unusual power. Still, I did ask myself "I'm trying to learn these bizarre and extremely difficult body mechanics because Mike says so. But what if Mike got his power somewhere else (or it was genetic) and just says it came from tai chi? What if this weird stuff I'm trying to do is a complete crock?" So when he was in town I paid for a private lesson with someone like Michael Jordan - maybe he's not the world's best, but he's probably not too far away either - in tai chi and explained that I wanted a reality check. Discounting for cultural Chinese courtesy, he seemed to be saying that I was on the right track. So I figured that I was learning the 'real thing' from Mike, no matter how slowly and imperfectly. Along with some silly comments I've heard elsewhere about how 'strong' I am, I've concluded that Mike's striking power did come from tai chi.

Some guy said...

If my post was kind of choppy, it's because I had to delete some stuff throughout because I went over the 4096 character max. To be fair to Mike, though, I wanted to emphasize that my questions and search for proof don't imply that I thought he was dishonest or fraudulent in any way - in his net discussions that I've seen he's either been conservative or quiet about what he can do and the only personal martial arts story I can recall him recounting was about being tossed through the air by a farmboy; it's just that I try to be skeptical.

And ironically part of what I had to cut was telling you, Steve, that after this subject's comments are finished I'll go back to my usual habit of contributing only occasionally (and briefly!). Usually I rein in my tendency to run on but this subject was too interesting...

Steve Perry said...

And cutting to the revelatory scene where the detective assembles all the suspects and reveals the murderer ...

We are all unique. And we are all mostly the same.

And I hear that distinct, "Yes, but --"

Which is gently and softly followed by "we really are different."

At a rock festival long ago, I stood in a long line to use a porta-potty. Tens of thousand of people attended, and there were only a few of the outdoor johns, and in the semi-tropical heat, vile places pretty quick, but what happened was I had a suddenly laughing fit as I looked at the lines and got the impression that those waiting were all somehow trying to convey the impression that they weren't going into the honeybucket for the same reason as these other fools.

Cracked me up, and I started telling the people ahead of and behind me why I was howling like a drunk baboon, and pretty soon, most of them were laughing, too.

I can't do tai chi, so passing the Teacher Test isn't meaningful in that context. But if I can pass the test in the way it is set up, how can I not be accessing some of the same principles? There is only so much to work with, given the trick.

And what I have been saying all along is that these principles didn't get invented by somebody, they got discovered by somebody, and in different places at different times.

We are all unique. But we are all mostly the same.

And if the response is, yeah, that's all well and good, but it's not tai chi, I will stipulate to that. I call it silat.

A Mercedes isn't a Chevrolet, but they are both cars and they both use the same mechanical principles, and they both use motors or engines or combinations thereof, with transmissions, drive trains, all like that that are very much based on the same principles.

You got your wheel, and that's the name of that tune.

I can't say that most arts don't have the ability to access the engine that drives tai chi because I don't know most arts. Maybe that karateka who has been assiduously practicing for fifty years might not leave the external power stuff behind and turn into something else altogether.

Maybe the TKD guys do, or some of the harder styles of kung-fu or grappling. I haven't seen it in a lot of places, but I haven't looked everywhere ...

Tim said...

That Sanders point is interesting. I'd never considered it quite that way -- thanks for that. So what's Mande Muda's origin story for Sera? (or do they have one?)

History may not be bunk in se, but the lion's share of Sera(k) history certainly is. Too many people lying, for too long a time, especially in the de Thouars branches. Strikes me as a little like the Kennedy assassination -- nobody quite believes the official story, hypotheses abound, and in the end, the water's been so muddied that we'll probably never know.

And all that time we're gonna waste on it, we coulda been training -- it's not really worth it, is it?

"I think the best efforts at pusaka are doomed eventually to fail. Nature of continental drift."

Must be an ugly surprise to have evidence of a continent, and then discover that the continent has moved on you...;)

On a serious note, it would take an act of God to preserve a pusaka. It seems to take treating the pusaka as a god to even make a serious attempt. One of the problems I have, personally, with the pusaka mentality is the tendency toward idolatry that seems inherent in it. Some of the "tests of character" are. Others are tests of worship that any honorable man would fail.