Monday, March 9, 2009

Sword dance from Java

This is another fine example of traditional dance sequence containing martial elements.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Here is another art rich in choreographed sequence from India, this is Silambam:

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Nearly all traditional dances from predominantly Buddhist areas conserve these same elements. One of the other conserved elements relating to the dance are mudras, hand symbols used for martial, spiritual and physical purposes. Likewise conserved are elements of costume and association of the dances with temples and royal courts. Many of the dance costumes still involve armor! Frequently they involve weapons as well. One might examine the symbols of buddhism, they tend to be the Dharma wheel which is the vedic chakra weapon which also contains 8 parts, much like bagua having 8 trigrams. Another symbol is the sword of Buddha, this one takes a bit of logical contortion to consider it as non-martial. Another symbol is the vajra, the thunderbolt of Indra. Later I will be pointing out the conservation of the Vajra symbol in global culture for now however I'd like to focus on the martial, spiritual and symbolic aspects of traditional dance in India and Asia.

In contrast with this are Polynesian war dances which contain martial elements yet are constructed differently, as well as contemporary or modern dance which lacks martial elements.
Here is a Laotian dance with several taiji like elements and seemingly related to Indian dance and spiritual traditions:
Part 1

Note the weight changes and how the arm motions are powered by the waist and body. Some of the motions look similar to silk reeling exercises of Taijiquan.

Part 2

Note the Yin/Yang like symbolic balance of the arms in many of these dances.

Burmese dance Mudras are very interesting, please compare the hand postures and gestures of the following links with those of the statue of buddha and Taiji-quan.

As Hindu and Buddhist religions came to influence Asiatic culture the martial arts aspects were also shared, included in this is the role of dance and martial art. Many cultures in Asia have dances today that appear to relate to this era.
Here is a Sword Dance from Thailand:

it is easy to see how a dance serves the same purpose as form and kata, while remaining often more formal and incorporating elements of timing and expression in a way that Kata and form cannot easily encompass.
Here is another martial dance from Thailand used in Muay Thai:

It has many common elements with Indian dancing as do many Thai dances. Some Thai dances even depict Shiva with masks and Bharata, the sage who wrote the Indian classic on performance art which states that the dances are as martial as they are entertaining, and spiritual as well. Note how the postures of the fighters in the video above are somewhat reminicent of the Dancing Shiva, Lord Nataraja.

Rama who weilds the axe

The founder of Kalari is a man named Parashurama. he was a Shiva devotee who is said to have been trained in martial arts by Shiva himself. Shiva is God of rhythm, timing, martial arts and music among other things.

It is said Parashurama founded many temples (of Shiva) and founded the martial art as a means for allowing the devotees at the temples to be able to defend themselves as well as to be able to maintain their health.
It is said he also made or commissioned statues, statues which bear postures as a means of preserving specific instructions.

Parashurama is said to be alive today, being an immortal Avatar (the sixth) of Vishnu. The Mahabharata tells that in a certain location he appears twice a month and can be consulted by those who seek him. He is said to be the one who will instruct Kalki in martial arts in the Kali yuga.

He is also known as Old Teacher.

More Kalari part 2

Some practitioners of taijiquan may note numerous similarities in the concepts, practices, movement technology and teaching methods of kalari to their own art. What may not be obvious is that the symbolism and terminology are also highly analogous. Kalari draws from the 108 postures that are also at the root of the Natya dance. Legend has it that when Arjuna was trained in celestial weapons by Indra himself, he was also trained in dance. This is like being taught applications and a form to practice and refine the jings or energies.

One may also note that kalari has meridian based vital point striking nearly identical to the Chinese daoist systems.

More Kalari

Note in the intro the postures and motions. These are quite like very fast taijiquan.

Tandava of Shiva

Like many Indian dances this one is built around martial motion and postures.
Like martial arts the dances are used as systemic ways to develop the mind, body and spirit.

They also tell a story, teaching the dancer to use posture to affect a viewer, it is said that when one is ready observing the dance can lead to enlightenment.


Bridging the gap between dance and martial practice.

fa-jin of bear and lion

Wang Jie/ Wang Chieh

He who holds the great symbol,
will attract all things to him.
They flock to him and receive no harm,
for in him they find peace, security and happiness.

Music and dainty dishes can only make a passing guest pause.
But the words of Tao possess lasting effects,
though they are mild and flavorless,
though they appeal neither to the eye nor to the ear.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Self defense

In martial art there is a lot of talk about self defense.
Who does the average person need defense from?
The answer might surprise you, they need defense from themselves.
It's true we are the biggest threat we face, from our habits, to our thoughts no greater threat to ourselves exists than us.

Go to a public place full of people and look around. What is the average person in danger from?
What we eat, what we do and how we do it, what we think and why all pose greater threats to us in a day to day setting than any imaginary mugger or bad guy.

When people think self defense they often imagine situations where a gun will help them. Will a gun protect you from heart disease from eating fast food? Will it protect you from lack of exercise?
Martial arts can help you learn to defend yourself from your own worst enemy, yourself!

It is true that martial techniques can be used to fight, even to fight to protect your life, but there is more to martial self defense than violence. With a martial art you learn discipline and develop self control. While learning to protect yourself from those who would harm you, you discover the real threat to your health and security comes from within. It is true that there are people who want to harm others, but these people are bigger threats to themselves, just like you are!

The next time you hear or read someone talking about self defense and martial arts consider whether the person is able to defend themselves against having a sour attitude or being easily offended. Consider if the art teaches defense against poor judgment and aggressive personality. I'll tell you the truth, harming others, even in self defense is easy, that side of self defense is not a challenge compared to real honest self defense: defense against yourself.

Thursday, March 5, 2009



Wuji and taiji are inseparable, yet the 13 postures are seldom called wujiquan while often called taijiquan. Wu is void while tai is full, like two sides of one coin one cannot be without the other.
This blog is to encompass this unity and provide expression of the less well known aspects of non-western Martial Arts.

As far as my own practice, I would rather this be called Wujiquan than Taijiquan, the latter tends to be very poorly translated in the west while the former still conveys the subtle aspects that are at the core of Taoist philosophy and martial arts related to such philosophy.

I also wish to demonstrate the relationship of Taoist and Buddhist martial arts and spiritual traditions with the Vedic traditions. I also seek to illustrate that these and other traditions are an important part of our global heritage and not restricted in their relevance to any particular skin color, family line or caste, religious affiliation or global region.