Choosing Other Exercise

In my two books on the martial arts, I shared how my early focus on taijiquan benefited me on multiple levels. I also shared how my related success led to pain from sitting with a computer for hours on end. My focus on taijiquan helped to create my success, and that success lead to the later pain. That same pain lead to my intense study of baguazhang and hours of circle walking every night.

Evolution and Salt

My wife and I visited the Kansas Underground Salt Museum in August (aka the Permian Sea). I mention this because evolution, and the need to deny it, is in the news again.

One of the Republican up-and-comers,  Marco Rubio  was asked how old the earth is. He answered that he didn't know, and that it might have been created in seven days.

The scary fact is that he is not alone. According to the NPR article, forty-six percent, or nearly half, of Americans have a nonscientific belief about the creation of our Universe. My question is why? Why does your God deny you salvation because you accept some proven facts? But wait, it gets worse.

Mother's Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an American holiday. Other cultures have harvest celebrations, but the tone of an American Thanksgiving is unique to history. I drafted this essay after the September 11 terrorist attack, while the Iraq war was still young, and the Afghanistan conflict had failed to capture or kill the 911 masterminds. I meant to publish it once, on my blog, then took it down when the theme felt tired.

I have edited this work for exposition, tone, and theme annually hoping I would capture the mood of our nation as we endure this extended weekend. I rejected my work every year till this. The result is that the angst I felt over the undoing of civility the 911 attack ushered in is gone. Missing is a paragraph lamenting the loss American, Afghanistan, and Iraqi mothers must feel at wars fought over theological ideals that lack humanity. Some angst of separation is still here, hints that modern connected society lacks connection. Cleared of those old notions, the result is short, simple, and heartwarming.

Photo of relish tray abundance from Dan Gold (@danielcgold) at Unsplash Dan Gold

Children in America cannot escape the holiday season. A series of events that culminate in a week off school between Christmas and New Years. The start of this season is the next-to-last Thursday in November. On this date, parents toss their children from bed at an early hour—for a no-school-day—and order them dressed in their Sunday best.

My First Martial Rant

I was digging through old notes, making a list of things to do, when I found an early rant about my martial art practice. With mass shootings a monthly occurrence, and Russian troll farms influencing American thought, it is time to revisit my steadfast belief in non-violence and skepticism.

Before the last century internal martial art–or neijia–masters taught their students orally. Students who practiced hard and served the master well passed the art to the next generation. At the start of the last century, some masters published books about taijiquan, baguazhang, and xingyiquan. Publishing this knowledge was expensive, so only a few tried. Those that succeeded grew their schools, and their lineage survives to this day.

The Internet gives us an opportunity to access these teachings in a way the old masters could not imagine. But the business model for martial art masters has not changed. Emphasis is on the old waysand traditional methods. They insist that you cannot learn from the written word or video instruction. Their argument is that there is a secret transmission that is impossible to capture in a video or the with the written word.

Teacher, No Teacher, Teacher

My process of learning Taijiquan is not unique. I know this because one of my earliest inspirations in Taijiquan study, Jou, Tsung Hwa, said so. Now, Jou was not talking directly to or about me, but he shared his journey with Taijiquan in his books, and those stories spoke to me and my journey.

The title of this post paraphrases the Zen Koan: "First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is."

Learning a new art or skill is like this. First you see the mountain, and think that others have climbed that mountain, and you would like to follow them. You start climbing the mountain, and the trail goes up and down, back, and forth, and you are not sure if you are on the right trail, or even the right mountain. You think back to when you decided to climb the mountain, how beautiful it was in the distance, but now, when you look around, you cannot see the mountain because you are too close to it. Finally, you reach the peak of the mountain and looking back you can see all its peaks and valleys behind you.

The Gun Lobby and Rotary Phones

When I say the NRA, what do you think? The National Rifle Association, but what does that mean? What do they do?

I am aware of the NRA’s long history, but the NRA of today is not the NRA your grandfather, or father joined fifty years ago. Today’s NRA is the lobbying arm for weapon manufacturers. That is all. They are not a great American organization defending your rights till their hands are cold and dead. They are a lobbyist for a trillion-dollar industry that represents everything wrong with our government.

Violence, Fear, Hate, and the Modern Student

Modern martial art students separate their martial art training from the rest of their life. Compartmentalizing it as an activity that they share with people they barely know. They go to work, watch television, attend events and family outings without integrating or considering their martial art practice, it is just another activity on a full schedule.

This was not the way for students in the past. Martial art training was one aspect of an individual’s education. Reading, writing, studying the classics of philosophy, history, and medicine were all taught with the martial forms.

Those times were different. Institutions resembling modern police were rare and were often worse than the criminals. Hospitals were rarer still; the notion of an ambulance coming to carry you to a doctor after an injury wasn’t even a dream.

What is Martial Art?

Martial art practice is more than the study of physical movement. It’s an exploration of the body through the mind and the mind through movement of the body. Martial art practice can expose humanity’s worst instincts, or reveal an inner nature that desires harmony.

The greatest martial artist of the twentieth century promoted the martial arts to a world searching for reason in the torrents of blood spilled around the globe. From the worst of those conflicts, masters arose that sought to restore balance and civility.

Copyright Troy Williams & The Walking Circle LLC