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Thread: Hidden in Plain sight: The view from Taiwan

  1. #1
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    Sep 2015
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    Post Hidden in Plain sight: The view from Taiwan

    Hidden in Plain Sight: The View from Taiwan (End Note 1)

    Hi everyone, my name is Dudi Nisan (see bio below). This post represents my wish to add to add to the discussion of internal power started by Ellis Amdur. I will do that by way of addressing Mr. Amdur’s arguments, theories (and speculations) about that subject. I am going to mainly address the arguments he presents in Hidden in Plain Sight, however, I will also devote some space to Amdur’s essay “A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Contextof Internal Training."

    The (tentative) structure of this (considerably long) three-part post is as follows: in the first part I am going to explain why I decided to comment on Amdur’s writing and introduce my teacher of internal power, Liu Kangyi 劉康毅.

    In my second post I am going to explain what, according to Liu Laoshi, or Teacher Liu (as we call him), internal power is; I will also describe his teaching methodology and the actual (three! Exactly like in Akiyama’s legend) exercises for developing this power; in addition, I will give LiuLaoshi’s opinion on some of Amdur’s arguments about internal power.

    Finally, in my last (and probably longest) post, I'll offer an alternative explanation for the revolution started by Yoshin ryu.

    My Reasons:

    I wanted to join this discussion for the following reasons: first, I enjoyed Amdur’s books very much. I also learned a lot from them. In fact, much of what he writes about was totally new to me. In a good way. Furthermore, his writing constantly challenged me to think, to re-think, to consider and to contemplate. Through this process, the contemplation of Amdur’s arguments and consideration of the detailed information he gives, I learned to ask new questions. Thank you Mr. Amdur!

    Second, I have always wanted to write about the cultural relationsof China and Japan. This post enables me to do that.

    Third, due to my experience and knowledge I believe that I can contribute to the discussion of internal power.

    Fourth, the quality of Amdur’s arguments attracted me.

    I would like to expand a little about the last point. Because Chinese theories and practices are discussed heavily in Hidden in PlainSight, I originally planned to take part in this discussion by writing it as a book review. However, after re-considering Hidden in Plain Sight and reading when I saw that Amdur discusses the subject of internal power in “A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training ” , I came torealize that, although written by a practitioner of Japanese martial arts, they actually present the best treatment of this (“Chinese”) subject in English. In fact, many of Amdur’s theories are remarkably insightful. Therefore, my fourth reason for taking up this discussion is the seriousness with which Amdur treated internal power.

    Since my teacher, Liu Kangyi, has done an extensive research on Chinese martial arts in general and internal power in particular, and had been teaching us how to develop such power ourselves, I thought that it would be interesting to hear what he says about Amdur’s arguments.

    Reason 5: The Training Experience.

    One remarkable aspect of all of Amdur’s writing is the generosity in which heshares his experience, insights and information (the sharing of experience is especially important; see the next paragraph). I truly appreciate it. This would have been impossible if Amdur was trying to be politically correct, was constantly second guessing himself, and/or trying to create some (saintly) image or mystify his training and abilities for some monetary gains. And that’s not easy!

    Historically speaking, the describing of, and commenting on, training experience is a commodity sorely lacking. I find it surprising because people have been practicing martial arts all over East Asia for some five hundred years. Although we know what East Asians practitioners did (= trained), we don’t know how training was structured, what was the nature of student-teacher interaction, and what those martial artists thought and felt about their training. In China such descriptions are almost nonexistent; in Japan, it seems, the situation is a little better.

    But even the situation today is not as good as it could have been (and maybe even should have been). And this, too, is surprising. For even though Westerners have joined the fray, so to speak, and been practicing Eastern martial arts formore than a hundred years now, and even though we live in age of information, only very few have publicly shared their experience and insights. Now even among those descriptions that I have seen none matches the quality and detail of Amdur’s. In this sense, Amdur is alone. And that’s not easy either.

    Modern descriptions help us understand not only how martial arts are being practiced now but also shed light at how they used to be practiced. Amdur’s observation that Akiyama Shirobei was not alone when devising his kata (an observation which I really liked (End Note 2)) demonstrate my meaning exactly. My fifth reason, therefore, is my wish to contribute to this field by sharing some of my experience.

    Reason 6: The Strange Case of ChenYuanyun and Dr. Akiyama Shirobei

    I really liked Amdur’s case for Chen’s mentoring the Three Ronin. I also liked his interpretation of Akiyama and his willow. I really did. I just don’t agree with him. Some people, me for one, think that Chen and Akiyama were in fact one and the same. Is it possible, or am I making mischief? You’ll see. But the main point is that I believe that Yoshin ryu was revolutionary (at least in a sense) and that it is therefore very much worthy of discussion. Serious discussion. As will become apparent in my second and third posts there are many points in which I disagree with Amdur. Butthat is not that relevant; Agreeing is not really the point. What matters isthat his arguments are serious enough and thought provoking enough that anexciting discussion if formed-- discussion worthy of joining.

    Liu Kangyi

    Liu Laoshi startedpracticing martial arts at an early age, his first teacher being his father. In this sense he had similar background to Takeda Sokaku. However, Liu’s father, contrary to Takeda Sokichi, was very kind. He was known for his spiritual powers which he used when helping members of his community and was therefore greatly respected. Liu Kangyi often accompanied his father on his various assignments. He was thereby exposed to a world, to phenomena, and to nomenclature (an important point which I’ll elaborate on in my next post) which other Taiwanese are unaware of.

    In his twenties Liu Kangyi established the magazine TaiwanWulin 臺灣武林, or The Martial Arts World ofTaiwan, a magazine which featured interviews with many of Taiwan’s top gongfu masters. For more than twenty years now he has been collecting ancient boxing manuals and traveling to Hong Kong and the mainland frequently on research, interviewing and filming dozens of masters. Recently he published twobooks explaining the theory and physics of internal power (End Note 3). I have known him for more than years now; I first went to see him to discuss the Yijinjing, a text he researched and also managed to acquire some original, unique editions of. Since then I visited many times and even went him to China on research and exploration. He has always been extremely generous with his time, knowledge, and resources (which he spent quite a lot of money purchasing). When he started teaching internal power I was away working on my PhD. When I came back to Taiwan I went to see him and he invited me to his internal power class.

    Let me begin with the third reason, class composition; we have experienced people from a variety of styles (Taijiquan, Crane Boxing, Bajiquan, Baguazhang, and Wingchun) study and train together. I’d like to think that this is how Dong Haichuan's class was, for he also taught, simultaneously, experts from many different styles.

    This brings us to the first reason; we are all drawn to this class because we feel that something very essential in the traditional schools is missing. In truth this is not just our feeling—we just stop making progress. We reach a bottleneck and that’s it. It is difficult even to reach the same level of speed and power of our respective teachers. Liu Laoshi helps us fill in the missing pieces, not only of the more physical aspects of gongfu (i.e. the developing of power none of us had felt before), but also of its history and underlying theories (which now seem to make sense).

    We all, third, both appreciate and enjoy the way he teaches. We enjoy the fact that our questions are answered directly and in detail (he even has a white board in class, and on which he constantly draws all kinds of models and writes key points). This is so pleasant! We appreciate that he does not mystify his skill and that he makes great efforts to transmit it to us. No one has to seal anything. We are all fed up with stealing!

    I went with Liu Laoshi on HIPS’arguments about Yoshin ryu, on the writing of Iso Mataemon, the phenomenon of Takeda Sokaku, and the evidence Amdur’s gives for Ueshiba’s internal power. In addition, I have also discussed with him some of the arguments which appeared in Amdur’s “A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context ofInternal Training”

    For those who wish to generate internal power my advice is this—forget about qi cultivation. The problem you have to solve is how to freefall even while standing firmly on two legs. That’s all there is to it. Please see my next post for a detailed discussion.

    Personal Bio:
    I came to Taiwan in 2001. Since then I’ve trained in Baguazhang (I mostly studied with Luo Dexiu but also with Marcus Brinkman, a student both of Luo Dexiu and of Hong Yixiang, Luo’s teacher). I have also trained in a style of Crane Boxing which emphasizes qi gong and includes “special” exercises. In recent years I have been practicing Bauguaquan with He Jinghan and internal power with Liu Kangyi. I studied Japanese language in and history in Jerusalem, but did my master’s in Chinese history. I am now completing my PhD dissertation, explaining the philosophical, religious and medical roots of the Yijinjing, or Tendon Transformation Classic.

    (End Note 1) I wish to thank my friend Alexander de Roode for reading this post and making some very good suggestions.

    (End Note 2) Hidden in Plain Sight, p.39

    (End Note 3) 武學書館聞藝錄 02 武學理法發微 (2012) and 武學書館聞藝錄 (3) 台灣漢留武學理法解析 (2014)
    Last edited by P Goldsbury; 22nd September 2015 at 00:41. Reason: Formatting

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Hiroshima, Japan.
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    Hello Dudi,

    Welcome to E-Budo. I have sent you a Private Mail.

    Best wishes,

    Peter Goldsbury
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
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    Hi Mr. Goldsbury

    Thank you so much for your kindness and warm welcome. I truly appreciate it!


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