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Component: Introduction

Martial Arts in Anger

In my software development career, in anger was a phrase that meant you were developing a program or a process out of frustration with what was available. I share my mindfulness martial art practice out of a similar frustration.

The trend in martial art practice is to stress combat effectiveness. Publications, videos, and teachers stress the art’s brutal nature, claiming that it was born in combat and violence. For certain, martial arts are combat training, but unless you are preparing for war, there is no need for that training to be brutal, or even violent. This is not the twelfth or even the nineteenth century when personal disputes were decided with duels to the death.

So, it is in anger that I approach the definition of martial arts and the reasons to practice them.

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The Pinyin system is the accepted standard for the romanization of Chinese characters. Pinyin means spell sound and is used to teach the standard pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese. It is also the standard system for entering Chinese characters on computers. Because of this standardization, it is the method I use in my lessons.

You can be confident that if you pronounce the words as I present them in these lessons, you are close to the actual Chinese pronunciation. I am not a Chinese language speaker, and I do not get these pronunciations correct each time either. The following chart helps me with some tricky characters:

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Vocabulary is the foundation for understanding a subject. Martial art practice is filled with words that have similar meaning or are used interchangeably. When forced to put my practice into writing, I discovered that in a single paragraph I would skip between form and posture while speaking of the same stance.

Is the Taijiquan a sequence or a routine? Is a static position a posture or a form? The interchange of the words forms, posture, and stance creates confusion. For example, is it the Yang Style Taijiquan form, sequence, or routine? Is that the Ward Off posture or form? Are you in the Bow and Arrow posture or stance?

To avoid confusion, I promise to try to use the following the terms when presenting the physical practices in these lessons.

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The First Practice is Attention

Before you start physical exercise, take a moment to consider if you can engage in the motion requirements of that activity.

You never consider your physical condition when you bend down to pick up a dropped piece of paper or grab a suitcase from the baggage carousel at the airport. During these innocent movements you will hear the back crack, or the hip pop, and you find yourself in the doctor’s office seeking relief.

It was not the innocent movement at the office or airport that caused the pain or injury. It was the lack of motion, or the repetition of thousands of other motions that created the conditions for the innocent movement to become a life-changing experience. Picking up your luggage or bending to tie your shoe is a motion that your body can perform. It is a wonderfully designed machine with levers and pulleys all cooperating to perform the most wonderful feat in the natural world—walking upright.

The problem with the modern world is that you do not do enough of this walking upright activity, and the cooperation between large and small muscles breaks down. Therefore, before starting this or any exercise program, you must perform a careful self-examination and ask yourself: “What types of physical activity can I safely do?” Consider the flexibility of your joints and back, if there is pain or tightness in these areas, consider other exercise programs to repair those conditions before you embark on this journey.

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Knowing Yourself

In the late summer of 1993, I was working for a convenience store chain in Wichita, Kansas. During a shift change, I kneeled to open the safe and there was a loud pop from somewhere below my waist. It was so loud that both the manager I was relieving, and the customer he was serving asked, “What was that?”

“I don’t know,” I replied, “but tell you one thing, I really need to exercise.”

“Exercise? Don’t you guys get enough exercise around here?” The customer said, “You’re going a hundred miles an hour, day and night in this place.”

What he said was true enough. The stores I worked for were the busiest in town, and I had worked there for ten years. Those were the days when a single person would run the store for nine or ten-hour shifts. During that shift you would take out the trash, stock the coolers, make the coffee and tea, and keep the place in shape. When those tasks were complete enough, you would write orders, stock the shelves, and perform general maintenance on anything from a pop machine to a gas pump. It was hard to believe that anyone working at such a job could be out of shape.

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The Earth Dragon Canon Method of Internal Martial Arts

Mindfulness and martial arts are the yin and yang practices to enlightened awareness. Finding a mindful-first approach to martial art training is difficult. The trend is to restore the martial foundation to traditional arts. I understand the desire, but making plowshares into swords is not evolutionary for the individual or humanity.

Mindfulness practice is more than meditation, it is a commitment to being present in every moment of your life. The trend toward five-minute breaks guided by a smartphone application is profitable for the silicon-valley set but does little to create real mindfulness.

The Earth Dragon Canon Method of mindfulness martial art practice teaches functional practices for the internal martial arts of baguazhang, taijiquan, xingyiquan, and yiquan. Through this method, you will learn the history of these arts, the cosmological concepts that give them their names, and how they have contributed or grown from mindfulness practices as old as human civilization.

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