R.I.P. Huang 師 父!

R.I.P. Huang 師 父!
Huang Weilun has died.  A really spectacular man, martial artist, and teacher has passed from our art.  As Huang Chien-Liang told me some years back, "LaoMa, cannot retire martial art, only...die!"  Ding YeYe taught classes right up to the end of his 91st year, Jou Tsung Hwa died while taking a break from teaching a workshop at his T'ai Chi Farm.  If I could order my entrance into the Celestial Abode of the Eight Drunken Immortals it would have to be in similar style and fashion.  Huang Weilun has left this ball of dirt too soon, but he left doing his art!

One of the great benefits of being able to judge in 18 years of tournaments was the opportunity to meet, play with, learn from, break bread with, to just enjoy the many great people who live and love the Martial Arts of China.  One such great player was Huang Weilun.  I had the wonderful pleasure of doing all these memorable things, as well as joining him and others in the "Masters' Demonstrations" segment of the annual A Taste of China Tournament, where he performed such spectacular Forms as Liuhebafaquan (a piece of one such demo linked here below), and "Fast Yang-style Taijiquan."  I judged his beautiful and talented wife, and was readying for a trip, with friend and acupuncturist, Tracy Peck, to Grand Teton Mountains to train Liuhebafa a summer some 25 years ago.  A family medical emergency diverted that trip, as it turns out now, forever.  A regret I now hold in my heart, along with unanswered questions meant for Jou Tsung Hwa, that can only be revisited around a brazier and drained wine cups, at a later date for me, in the Abode of Celestials.  Huang Weilun entered my life for the briefest of times but left an indelible imprint.  He has done likewise for countless thousands of others.  Greatness, a learned sage once wrote, is to touch and be remembered beyond a small circle of friends and family.  Huang Weilun will be long remembered...!


Martial Art SASHES: Personal Story.

Although taijiquan is called the "Grand Ultimate" martial art, and, as Paul Gallagher indicates in "Drawing Silk," was once the secret art of the Emperor's elite guards, to most American practitioners the fact that Taijiquan's origins are martial is lost or not recognized.  Consequently, most schools and teachers of our art do not wear sashes, despite displaying many other Chinese cultural accouterments.  Although Taijiquan schools that offer both wai and nei gong classes, may employ and award sashes, they seem to offend many Taijiquan players of a non-martial art background.

I was first introduced to sashes back in late 70s-early 80s by a young disciple of T.T. Liang's, Raymond Hayward.  Thru him I even acquired a sash to wear, but stopped due to adverse reaction at the time from other teachers and players, it being considered something inappropriate from "hard style."

However, all this changed with my serendipitous sojourn to China in 1985-88, when and where I learned something very important about the girding and wearing of a martial art sash.
One of the things I noticed, once accepted into Grandfather Ding's Snake Mountain Pavilion School, was that all the students took out and wrapped a sash about their dantian before beginning training or class.  The sashes were of no uniform material or pattern, instead were of various lengths, cloths, and mainly white and black colors.  Some were simple and some of intricate design, some were tied with slip knots on either right or left sides (I was later informed that Buddhists tied on left and Daoists on right), and some with each end tied on each side!

I never witness a ceremony when a sash was awarded or presented, until one day after a couple months of training a large group of my class mates called me over to them and I was given a simple black, elastic belt with snap buttons made by one of my lady classmates.  In fact I was given several of these belts made by various classmates at the time and over the years.  Though they are now stretched beyond use, the first one, for sure, was the highest and most precious award I've ever been given!  It meant to me at the time that this dabizi waiguoren (big nose foreign guy), seemingly dropped into their midst like a "Stranger in a Strange Land," had been fully accepted into their school of a diverse group of Chinese martial artists!!  What I learned next made me bring wearing the sash back with me to Meiguo (America) introducing it to my students here.

What I learned in Ding YeYe's Martial Art Folk School, in a pavilion on a mountainside, was that the sash, the only indication of a uniform there, was worn and displayed not as a badge or rank of attainment, but as a symbol of deep, abiding respect for and in honor of the golden thread that holds the fabric of Middle Kingdom culture together---the Art of WUSHU!

Competition Videos

I have recorded in print the extraordinary 2012 CACMA Tournament achievement of our now "Number One," Violet Anderson, both at the time and recently when videos resurfaced (thanks to Richard Martin of Fayetteville, NC's, Rou Long Ma Chinese School of Martial Art) showing clips of her solo Quan and Weapons, and her Push-Hands competition. The original postings were of limited lifetime and view, mainly confined to Facebook.  We are reposting them on a more permanent BBP page here before they once again become lost in the ethereal electronic vapor cloud.

Violet does not appreciate my boasts of her achievement in class, at gatherings, workshops, seminars, or to various encounters with strangers in the street.  This will be my final such boast as a proud and respectful teacher.  I just want to add a couple final notes.

With my personal experience of competing in two tournaments in China, as the only foreign competitor, and judging and chief judging for 18 years in tournaments across and up 'n down our U.S. landscape, I witnessed few times when one competitor sweep multiple events in the Internal or Taiji Division of any tournament.  But the singular and unprecedented achievement of a Taiji player crossing over to the External Division and competing, much less placing 2nd in both hand and weapon events, I have never witness in two decades of tournament experience.  I have witnessed many "KungFu" players entering the Internal Forms and Interactive Events (and always complaining about not placing due to judges failure to recognize that their "slow kungfu" was equal to the taijiquan competition!), but never the reverse...

And lastly, in the two videos of her push-hands competition, I have heard many comments, from taijiquan players and "civilians" alike that, "nothing is happening."  To the contrary, that you do not see aggressive charging and extended arm pushing is evidence enough that Violet has learned and is exhibiting nian and tingjin, or sticking and reading principles (the most important of the five basic push-hands principles to excel in before ever trying fajin!), and that in some small way she is paying tribute to my "Last Lesson" (and last time ever seeing Jou Tseng Hwa alive, in April of 1998) with MrJou, a semi-private lesson with DrJay, on "Going Back Fundamentals" in relation to tuishou work!

I am not being boastful in this testimonial, I am not judging her performances.  Highly competent and independent judges in two tournament divisions are concurring in her achievement.  I just happen to agree with them!

Musings from "The Master"

If you haven't kept up with the comments at Student Corner, you might have missed the latest story in writing from LaoMa.  In responding to Garry's comment on Fa Jin Ball Post (here), he remembers a couple displays of gigon and rebar!  We're reposting them below.  To understand the context, you'll want to look through the comments on the original post.  There is some interesting dialogue there!

“Mind Method,” Gary, or do you mean “Torso Method”...? If MrJou said he never witnessed an exhibition of Mind Method, I doubt we’ll get to see it on a Facebook post either (or in person as far as that goes, and know what we were seeing!). I did see a qigong demo in an Orlando Florida tournament in mid-90s one time where a Chinese teacher had 6 or so of his American students circle around him with long ribars placed on his neck like spears. They pushed on the ribars slowly and the rebars just bent in big arcs.

Now that was a feat to witness, and a feat to perform as well (takes a lot of training) that I enthusiastically applauded. What came to my mind, however, was a Ferry ride across the Yangtze River from one part of Wuhan to another and a family of young peasant kids who would put on shows for the captive audience sitting in benches on the fantail. They had an extensive repitoire of gigong and other Martial Art skills they’d put on in hopes of receiving appreciative tips. The one that came to mind with the above Orlando demo was also with a long rebar. The smallest kid, looked to be 4-5 years old, would assume mabu and two bigger kids would hold either end of the rebar on back of his neck and then they’d slowly walk it around him until he ended up with a big iron collar, looking like one those old National Gerogaphic photos of an African lady with a stretched up neck on stacks of brass rings, having two little ends poking on either side his neck! He stood there in mabu his strained face the color of spaghetti sauce until they collected some change, and then go and rewind that rebar off him! That group, especially the little ribar kid, always got a big tip from me. Can’t say they impressed the rest of the passengers too much though. I guess China’s just too saturated with KungFu demonstrations.....!
— http://www.blackbamboopavilion.com/student-corner/2016/6/6/fa-jin-ball#commenting=



Boogie Woogie Birthday Boy!

LaoMa had a great birthday bash this month.  We all clamored around tooting the horn about how great he is and ate cake!  Selden performed her annual birthday song.  Sadly, we only got a small clip of it but we are able to provide you with the finale.  You'll see Desiree's son, Steele, accompanying Selden with is dance moves! 

For those of you who missed it, the birthday song is posted in it's entirety below.  You can also see pictures of the celebration in the photo album here or in the carousel below as well.

We wish you many many more birthdays LaoMa (mostly because we enjoy Selden's songs so much!).

Boogie Woogie Birthday Boy of Seventy-Five
(Sung to the Andrews Sisters' 1941 hit: Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B. with apologies!)




Born in Keene New Hampshire on a sunny morn
Now he's here in Bynum where it’s due to storm
He was a jarhead in Japan
And then his dream came true and he was off to Wuhan
He's been around the world
And yet he still survives
He's the Boogie Woogie birthday boy of seventy-five

Five below and eight above well golly gee
Everything seems simple when you know Taiji
Although the counts change all the time
He may be slowing down some but he can spin on a dime
And the man can talk,
Ask Gary, Dorothy, Vi
He's our Boogie Woogie birthday boy now seventy-five

(Trumpet Break)

And the students say
When he begins to jive,
That’s our Boogie Woogie Birthday Boy he’s seventy-five!

"Number One" or "First Student"

#1 Student, 2nd Row, 2nd from left (with hat)

#1 Student, 2nd Row, 2nd from left (with hat)

I have been asked by students what is the meaning and where does the appellation, "Number One" or "First Student" come from, the title "# 1" I call Violet by?  Well, the answer to the second question first is that it comes from where the majority of my information on Chinese Martial Art comes from: my three year sojourn studying in two Hubei Province Martial Art Folk Schools (as opposed to National Government Schools). The title itself, as with most of my first hand knowledge, comes from the school of Grandfather Ding at his Snake Hill Pavilion School. It was used by all my classmates for one of Ding YeYe's most senior and impressive students, a quiet and unassuming machinist, a lifelong factory worker with missing fingers and oil-stained hands.  He was addressed by YeYe and all my classmates as, Di Yi Xuesheng, "First Student." That's where the name comes from.

What the title actually means, however, I can't say.  I might have just used by YeYe in his school.  I did not see this man perform, nor did I train under him.  I was allowed once to observe a special Sunday morning tuishou seminar he conducted.  I do know that one participant that morning, a younger man in his mid-30's defeated an internationally-known Chinese Martial Artist, the year before I arrived, in a Wuhan Provincial Tournament.  All I knew with my limited resources was that "First Student" was tremendously respected by everyone on the mountain and by his teacher.  

I hold the same level of respect for Violet, and have held it far longer than her becoming my Partner in Black Bamboo Pavilion, or because of any bias toward her.  In fact I recognized her level of achievement long before when in 2012 she competed in Charlotte's CACMA Tournament of Chinese Martial Arts and not only swept the Internal (Taiji) Division's Hand, Weapon, and Push-Hands events with four First Place (Gold) awards, but then entered the External (Kungfu) Division and achieved two Second Place (Silver) Medals performing Tangquan and Taishibian!   That day she was judged not by her teacher, but by many different judges in many different events, both internal and external.  And I want to add at this point, that in all my 18 years of tournament judging, I have never seen a taiji competitor enter any external competition -- much less place.  This is truly extraordinary, singular and unprecidented.  That I call her #1 Student is in honor of my teacher's practice, that she is worthy is confirmed by the decision of these judges, my colleagues in teaching and tournament judging.

I am attaching a copy of a letter I composed right after Violet's extraordinary tournament accomplishment four years ago, along with  photos taken and somehow saved.  I know many of you missed reading this pride-filled composition, and if it was left up to "Number One" . . . You never would!



Summer, 2012

Magic Tortoise & Wudangshan Students & Friends!

Three Senior Students & Teacher (midway through Internal competition)

Three Senior Students & Teacher (midway through Internal competition)

Yesterday Violet, Guhl and Garry, three senior students who celebrate their 10 year anniversary of study with me this month, took me on a road trip to help support Violet's participation in the Carolinas Association of Chinese Martial Arts (CACMA) annual June KungFu and Taijiquan Tournament in the Queen City.  We left at 6:00 a.m., returning after midnight tired and very satisfied, and this is a short report of an extraordinary achievement won by Violet in her "sweep" of 4 first place and 2 second place medals in both Taiji and Kungfu Divisions.  Some photos courtesy of Rich Martin's Chinese Martial Art School in Fayetteville are attached below (a video taken by Guhl of the extraordinary Push-Hands competition will also be available on our facebook page).

The road trip and tournament competition was planned to be a celebration of our decade together.  Violet made it an unforgettable experience that will live in my mind (as long as one remains) alongside the first tournament I competed in in Wuhan, Hubei, China, 1985.  And one connects to the other in a magical way.

Wudangshan 108 Taiji Quan (Placed First in Open Hand)

Wudangshan 108 Taiji Quan (Placed First in Open Hand)

Wudangshan Jian (Placed First Taiji Sword)

Wudangshan Jian (Placed First Taiji Sword)

Wudangshan Dao (Placed First Taiji Other Weapons)

Wudangshan Dao (Placed First Taiji Other Weapons)

Most of us know that Violet competed last November in the Mooresville KungFu Tournament entering in both KungFu and Taiji Divisions and placed 2nd in "Kungfu Short Weapons," as well as placing in the "Taiji Hand & Weapons."  It was remarkable to me that she received silver in short weapons with Tai Shi Bian (Emperor's Teacher's Whip) as it was the first time a student of mine ever entered, much less placed, in external Kungfu competition.  The Charlotte Tournament was much larger in venue and number of competitors.  Her achievement yesterday far out distanced the Mooresville Tournament and she took home, in order, the following:

All six awards:

2nd Place.  Kungfu Division,    "Womens Northern Long Fist" ---Tang Quan, Tang System.

1st Place.   Taiji Division.          "Combined Hand Forms, Advanced" -- Wudang Mountain 108 Taijiquan.  

2nd Place.  Kungfu Division,     "Womens Combined Short & Long Weapons" -- Tai Shi Bian, Tang System.

1st Place.   Taiji Division.          "Taiji Straight Sword, Advanced" --  Wudang Taiji Jian.

1st Place.    Taiji Division.          "Womens Push-Hands" -- Unanimous 5-Poing Winner in all rounds. 

1st Place.    Taiji Division.          "Combined Weapons, Other, Advanced" --  Wudang Dao

I have had the great learning and training experience of  judging in tournaments for 18 years, beginning in 1989.  During that time there may have been competitors displaying this much skill in the Kungfu Divisions of a tournament this size, though that would be very rare.  I know of no Taiji competitor replicating this achievement, particularly crossing over to compete in External Divisions (though many external stylists cross over to Internal Division, none have come close to replicating Violet's extraordinary day at UNC Charlotte yesterday).  

Taishi Bien (Placed Second Kungfu Weapons, Women's Division)

Taishi Bien (Placed Second Kungfu Weapons, Women's Division)

More Taishi Bien

More Taishi Bien

Kungfu Weapons Women's Division Award Ceremony

Kungfu Weapons Women's Division Award Ceremony

Violet & LaoMa After Tangquan award for 2nd place in kungfu, hand form, women's division

Violet & LaoMa After Tangquan award for 2nd place in kungfu, hand form, women's division

My pride in her success is hard to disguise.  Her success reflects on me of course.  But the pride I have today, and that the Magic Tortoise community can have in "one of our own" is directed at her talent and very hard work, practice and training.  She is a model for all students and teachers, and my deep feeling of pride as a teacher of this Art of ours is the recognition that a student has absorbed my teaching and taken it to a different, higher level.  I think all teachers look for that particular proof of their worth.

happy LaoMa, tired Violet, proud parents (robin & andy Anderson)

happy LaoMa, tired Violet, proud parents (robin & andy Anderson)



Black Bamboo Pavilion Pottery Studio Annex

"Black Bamboo Pavilion Pottery Studio Annex" at the First Annual "Bynum Bridge Fest!"  Mrs Ma's clay creations on display...

Photo 1.   Day's beginning, 9:00 a.m.  Best sellers: bread bakers and kimchi/sauerkraut fermentation crocks (the bread bakers come with a packet which includes the recipe, detailed directions, and a pastry cloth).

Photo 2.  Close up!

Photo 3.  End of Day.  End of Fair.  5:00 p.m.  Just before the RAIN came! ... And drove everyone off the bridge!  (Notice Mongo dog in bottom right corner, and the diminished number of pots!

Bamboo Tea pot and cups

The tea pot and cups were among the pieces Mrs Ma (Selden!) displayed in the "Bynum Bridge Fest" art show yesterday, 4/23/16, a successful all-day event down on the Haw River, 2/10 mile down the hill from Black Bamboo Pavilion.  The leaves on both teapot and lid were made from black bamboo growing around both the pavilion and pottery studio!  The Bridge Fest, the first of an anticipated yearly outdoor event, drew many artists of different disciplines, food trucks and a parade of people down to the old one-lane bridge.  Students from the Black Bamboo Pavilion's 4th Saturday of the month Quan Seminar (Wudangshan 108 Taijiquan, Tangquan, and Liuhebafaquan) were able to walk down and enjoy the art experience at seminar's end!

Selden Teapot.JPG

From the Student Corner

Student corner now has a home of it's own.  You can access it through the menu at the top of the page or click here.

While working with some senior students in class,  LaoMa frequently encourages students to analyze the form.  This includes picking it apart so that they know the number of postures, number of techniques within a posture, how many times postures are repeated, explore variations of repeated postures and what the reasoning might be for each of these differences.  Below is a short blurb that resulted from a Monday night class discussion ending in an early morning epiphany. 

I woke up this morning at 5:00 thinking about why there are only 3 ward-off lefts compared to 8 ward-off rights. I came up with an answer (disclaimer: this is “an” answer, not “the” answer, because a) I’m not even sure I’ve got this right b) I’m not sure it’s actually an answer  and c) also I imagine there is more than one answer anyway). In my head I was thinking that what you are doing with the right hand in ward-off left is like what you do in diagonal flying (I think). So there are 2 diagonal flyings (Section 2; Section 5). Then, I think you’re also doing the same thing with part the wild-horse’s mane, and there are 3 of those in Section 4. So you have 3 ward-off lefts, 2 diagonal flyings, and 3 parting the wild horse’s manes (3+2+3=8). So, 8 ward-off right things, and 8 ward-off left like things.
However, like Jason and I sometimes used to say to each other after pontification about something or other: “Or, I could just be full of @#$4”
-Micah Sam

We’re putting this out there to help prompt thought and discussion.  Feel free to leave comments and questions!

Qing Ming Jie! 清 明 節 ! Pure Brightness Festival!

Today in China the festival of honoring the ancestors' resting place, "Qing Ming Jie!," takes place.  It is a real communal, boisterous celebration of wine, spirits, firecrackers, candles, flowers, burning offerings, a picnic, and a cleaning and repainting of headstones!  The equivalent in our culture is the more sedate observance of Memorial Day and perhaps Veterans Day.


My first experience of this Festival was in 1987 at Jiu Feng (Nine Peaks), the large communal cemetery for most of Wuhan, all of Wuchang, an area of 9 rolling hills that from a distance resembles a far off city of white buildings, very reminiscent of the Hong Kong cityscape.  It was to observe the occasion of my beloved teacher, Ding Hongkui, Grandfather Ding's death, on what would have been his 92nd year.

I was taken to Jiu Feng by my dear and forever friend, Wang Jinzhi.  The tremendously large resting place was far outside the city of Wuchang, accessible by a long bus ride.  Extra buses were mobilized as thousands of people traveled the day long to "party" with their ancestors.  And a party was what it was, a very raucous celebration.  The explosions and smoke from thousands of firecracker strings alone set the noise at July 4th levels!

The bus ride ended with a long walk to the far distant hills covered with gravestones.  The top photo accompanying this blog show us stopping at kiosks on the way to purchase the necessary fireworks, candles, flowers and libations.  Most of the people in the photo are returning from their observances and it gives you some idea of the mass of people trekking to Jiu Feng to honor and respect their ancestors.

The next three photos show Wang Jinzhi and myself reaching the gravesite and performing the cleaning and obeisant rituals.  The gravestone at that time was temporary.  The characters were painted on, not carved into, as the taller gravestone next to Wang Jinxzhi shows. The permanent gravemarker which came later, provided by Yeye's Snake Hill Pavilion students, is shown in the last photo.  The story behind this photo is a blog in itself, but it was taken in 1994 in a special visit, not on the Qing Ming Festival of that year.  Surrounding the new, larger, black and white, carved gravestone with Wang Jinxzhi is another forever friend, Lan Tian, and her now husband and my then student, Rodney Barrow.  Their presence with Wang Jinzhi at Nine Peaks has to do with Ma Meiren, the matchmaker, and a very special audience with the Abbot, priests and officials of the "Long Spring Daoist Temple!"  That story will appear in this space in a later installment...!


Calling for New Years Pics

Step up and Plant Fist!!  Wudang form class

Step up and Plant Fist!!  Wudang form class

We've started a photo album on the website!  It's a fun place to gather photos of events over the years in one spot that everyone can revisit when they want to.  Of course, a photo album is always a work in progress but we're looking forward to adding to it over the years. 

We'd like your help.  Please share photos and videos that you've collected over the years with us.  The most recent event was the Monkey New Year party.  You can email them to blackbamboopavilion@gmail.com or post them in the comments of this blog on facebook.  We'll be able to add them to the fun collection of memories.

Of course, any and all photos will be welcome :-)

Ding Hongkui at 91

Yeye and LaoMa

Yeye and LaoMa

Ding Hongkui, 91 years old at this picture and reaching the end of a 60 year career of teaching at this same Snake Hill Pavilion. The foremost authority in China on Tang Pai, an almost 1400 year old Martial Art System. He never allowed himself to be called anything but Ding YeYe... Grandfather Ding... Fortune surely smiled on me to be able to study under this great man, and be called both his first Foreign Student and Closing Student. (Snake Hill Pavilion was--it is now a mah jong parlour--at the very place on Snake Hill where the 1911 Republican Revolution of Sun Yet- Sen began the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty!)

Looking back at the Monkey New Year

The time flies by so quickly!  We ran across a few shots from the Monkey New Year party and we thought we'd pass them along.  Always nice to have a reminder of fun times during the middle of the week!

Wudangshan Taiji cohort starting first section.  Feb 2016

Wudangshan Taiji cohort starting first section.  Feb 2016

Wudangshan Taiji Cohort finishing first section. Monkey Year 2016

Wudangshan Taiji Cohort finishing first section. Monkey Year 2016

Small gift for the children in hong bao.  Monkey New Year 2016

Small gift for the children in hong bao.  Monkey New Year 2016

Two Schools Now

The Magic Tortoise Taijiquan School has always stood for the rich experience that study with teachers from various styles and backgrounds can offer. Dr. Jay began teaching in the Triangle area in 1979, and adopted “Magic Tortoise” as his dba (doing-business-as) after co-teaching a workshop in 1984 with LaoMa, then founder and chief instructor of the Tidewater Tai-Chi Club in Norfolk VA. In 1988, fresh from a sojourn in China, LaoMa moved to Chapel Hill and began a 27-year engagement as Magic Tortoise’s senior teacher. (Kathleen, coming from Illinois, became the third Magic Tortoise teacher in 1990.) It has been a fruitful association. In this Monkey year, LaoMa has decided to step back, accept a new role as Teacher Emeritus, and entrust much of his teaching burden to Violet Anderson, his “number one,” and other senior students.
In consultation with Dr. Jay and Kathleen, LaoMa has also decided to continue his legacy by establishing his own school. Therefore, we jointly announce the formation of his Black Bamboo Pavilion Taijiquan School, which will function independently, yet as a brother/sister school to Magic Tortoise. We will co-host the annual Chinese New Year/Spring Festival family potluck, and continue the established tradition of encouraging students to study with both schools.
To keep up with LaoMa’s classes and activities, you may “like” the new Black Bamboo Pavilion Taijiquan School’s Facebook page, and visit his new website, http://www.blackbamboopavilion.com/. To stay informed about Magic Tortoise classes and activities, you may “like” the Magic Tortoise Taijiquan School’s Facebook page and visit http://www.magictortoise.com/.