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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Art and Kung fu

Art and Kung Fu
By James Post

This essay will be an attempt to explain a portion of my personal understanding of how one’s art-making process and martial arts practice overlap, and are indeed derived from the same source. I have other long-winded thoughts on the matter, to be fleshed out at a later time, but I try to make a general point here about creative energy.

This is my 7th year of a dedicated martial arts practice with SYSTEMS WITHIN SYSTEMS. I have also been dedicated to making art nearly my entire life, over 23 years. Since I began my kung fu practice and digested my sifu’s martial arts philosophy, my artwork has changed drastically, becoming heavily influenced by imagery, themes, and ideas within the martial arts.
Making art takes “kung fu” or “time” and “energy.” Creative energy as I see it is the driving force of all human endeavors. I see it as an inherent creative force built into us as the main means for survival: creative energy. Our ancestors fashioned tools, created the wheel, gained control of fire and animals, and developed increasingly complex systems of technology and society- all as a means of survival, and all as a form of art-making. Define art however you like, but to make it takes creative energy, that initial driving impulse of motivation. And what is left after your activity is the effort of your labor: the artwork. That is, the “residue” of creative energy and the art-making “process.”
I propose that both the art-making process and one’s martial arts practice are both a means of survival, inherent in us in the most general sense. Meaning, the martial arts in its purest form is an expression of creative energy, as is art-making. The purest form of both would be the truest expression of one’s self. To be fair, one does not have to practice either disciplines to have pure or true expression. But to focus on these two disciplines (in what I believe to be their purpose or usefulness for us) becomes more effective to our survival as we get better at doing them.
The body is the first original art material. Kung fu is a means of sculpting and honing the body towards a perfection, just like sharpening a dull blade. The forms and postures of kung fu will actually mold the body, flex it and develop it into a more effective vessel. Creative energy, or as Maslow would say will towards self-actualization, is what develops our true expression of movement. The greater one can express him or herself, the greater the kung fu abilities and artistic abilities. Ultimately creative energy is what solves problems, be it how to hunt and forage for food, build clothing and shelter, or thrive in a socio-economic labyrinth of regalia, cues, and posturing of the 21st century.
As I stated earlier, where art is the residue of a creative energy process of problem solving, kung fu is also a process of problem solving, where the residue is in one’s expression of movement. Both are modes of survival, both are forms of self-expression. Beyond problem-solving, both are a mediation of being, a form of true expression.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Defending Against Knife Attacks

Many of our class lessons are available at Sifu Hill's YouTube page. One of our more recent and important classes that we put up are the knife defense lessons. Every few weeks, the Systems within Systems school will practice disarming and defending against various knife attacks.

It's not a pretty class where people use sweeping Hollywood-style blocks or somersualt over their opponent's heads. In our drills, we learn to be aware of how our blocks and our fighting stances align up with the attacking movement as we slash, stab, and slice towards each other (with practice knives, of course). Sometimes, someone gets poked, or screws up a move and misses a block, but it's all part of the learning process. Ultimately, the knife defense classes are a great way for students to visualize different knife attack scenarios and build confidence in their movement against such violent attacks.

Please take a look at one of self-defense classes by Sifu Lawrence Hill:

Part 1

Part 2

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Site Updates / Systems within System Forms

Hello all,

As the old Monty Python saying goes, "I'm not dead!" While you've been reading articles about how to protect your finances (Lose the Fear and Follow the Spirit, The Total Warrior) and how to fight off online attackers (30 Moves of Cyber Security), I've been ninja-ing around in the background and you haven't even noticed!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

30 Moves of Cyber Security

The Basic Form: 30 Moves
There is a basic form that Sifu teaches each new student when they join the class.  It's called '30 Moves'.  It's a wonderful form that teaches the student how to move through the basic Kung Fu stances while incorporating punches, kicks, as well as blocks.  It has both linear and circular movements that contain different layers of interpretation.  With practice you will learn to go through the form in a confident and efficient manner.  I know you are wondering, what does a basic Kung Fu form has to do with cyber security?  Perhaps more than you imagine, let me explain.

Defining the Problem

You may not realize this, but each day there are billions of attempted attack from the dark corners of the internet on our personal information online.  They are automated, sophisticated, and relentless, and they succeed from time to time.  Lately it seems that the hackers are winning some key battles.  Just this past year for example, Sony's PlayStation Network was hacked into with millions of account information stolen, Gmail accounts of federal government employees were hacked into last month, and Citigroup just announced that financial information of 200,000 customers were just stolen this month.  Can you imagine if a hacker obtains access to all your emails from your gmail, hotmail, or yahoo account?  What if you can never access that account again?  Worse yet, what if someone with an agenda simultaneously obtains your social, family, financial, medical, and personal information, what kind of damage can they do without you ever knowing who they are and where they are located?   In light of this, we should review our own internet usage practices to make sure that we minimize our exposure to unnecessary online risks.  Defending our online presence is like defending our physical presence, it takes knowledge, practice, and discipline, just like practicing forms.  For some sacrifice in convenience and time, we gain a peace of mind and stronger online presence.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lose the Fear and Follow Spirit

To the brethren court and Jen,

Today's Laugh Line: "President Obama's top economic adviser, a man named Austan Goolsbee, is stepping down: He will be replaced by something a little more effective ... the magic 8-ball." - Jay Leno

On a more serious note, thanks so much for the comments that were posted! I actually thought the same regarding "a freakin pause button" while I sat through the entire video beginning at 1:30 AM! The second comment, "if America falls..." has been the subject of many personal reveries. Recently a Chinese finance official (my apologies, I can't remember his name) has warned that by not raising the debt ceiling come August 2, 2011 that the U.S. is "playing with fire." India, another country who own a large amount of dollars, does not believe that the U.S. would actually let a default happen as the resulting impact on the global economy could be potentially catastrophic. Yet many current republicans are of the opinion that allowing a temporary default (potentially 3 to 4 days) would benefit the U.S. economy, "forcing dramatic spending cuts." They claim our debtors won't mind waiting 3 to 4 days for their interest payments if it means that they are more likely to received future owed monies once the our economy is, for lack of a better word, "fixed."

In any case, I intend to pursue that matter a bit further and attempt to understand what the recommendations are the of people I actually respect in the field. More on that later...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Total Warrior

A note of humor to start things off:
"A new Facebook app is coming out that will remind users exactly what they were doing a year ago from that day. Nine times out of ten, the answer will be 'wasting your time on Facebook' " - Conan O'Brien

It has been long, long time time since our forefathers have unraveled the mysteries of focus and harmony that have paved the way for our own training. The circumstances that dictated their cultivation are unquestionalbly different than the issues that characterize the present day. Yet, even on the broadest environmental level, similarities abound.

A quick peak beneath 'spiritual surface', will reveal that the Shaolin monks too were immersed in a world governed by money, politics, and power. I do not wish to have a discussion on the financial and polictal yesteryears of Shaolin monks. It is my intent to convey that in our struggle to become complete warriors today, as was the case of the monks in their day, a proper understanding of money, politics and the flow of power is essential.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Martial Smarts"

“So it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”
-          Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The martial arts is more than just learning how to kick ass (although admittedly, it’s the most fun). Martial arts is about the combination of mind, body, and spirit, working together as one. You have to do more than just rush forward at the enemy; you have to think about your next step, strategize your available options, and use your intuition to execute a powerful attack. To be able to harmonize all three aspects is really the heart of Shaolin. But you don’t have to be in a epic battle to practice this; your personal expression and how you approach life when faced with a difficult situation is also a part of your martial arts practice.

So far, most of the previous blog articles have touched upon the spiritual philosophy of our kung fu school. As the weeks progress, we’ll also start including more insight on how to prepare yourself mentally as well as physically for all of life’s challenges.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How do you train?

Geeky confession of the day: I love training. I love the fact that my body becomes more adaptable and stronger every time I move. Sure, I get injured, get sweaty, get sore to the point where it pains me to roll out of bed sometimes. There are definitely days where I just want to melt into the sofa cushions and be left alone with my video games and a pot of tea. But nothing beats that energy-rich adrenaline that rushes through your system during a sparring match, or the relief and satisfaction you feel after completing the final ten minutes in your workout. Whether I'm doing a straight hour of kung fu forms, weight lifting, plyometrics, or running frantically to the bus stop, I enjoy moving.

That's why I'm really excited for the next article I'm working on. As mention on Day 1, the goal of this blog is to have an overall perspective of the martial arts, which includes life philosophy, self-defense techniques, and training strategies. Some of the upcoming articles I'm working on will talk about how to build on your own natural flexibility, increase your fighting stamina, and any other ideas which can better your martial arts practice.

But before I go on, what do you do to improve your training? Are you a long-distance jogger, or a sprinter? Do you prefer to lift weights at the gym, or train Rocky-style by climbing stairs and tossing snow tires? Or maybe you train real-old school Shaolin style by doing your forms and your kung fu drills for hours upon end. I'm even asking all the yogis, the dancers, the urban runners, the sports players, anyone and everyone who wants to share how they train to move better.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Note To The Form Hungry

This is not designed to be a reprimand or wagging finger but rather a humble reminder. Many people in the arts are form hungry, by which I mean, they want more forms. From my perspective, there is nothing inherently wrong with this, but I would like convey the importance of not neglecting the forms they've already learned.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2012 and You

Surprisingly, the most popular question asked to Sifu Hill isn’t about the mystical nature of kung fu, or insight into the human soul. Many people are asking him about his thoughts on 2012.

"2012?! The prophetic year of death and destruction, as predicated by  ancient civilizations long before us?!"

A dark, cynical part of me is skeptical about the end of the world  coming up in less than a year. I’m a Y2K survivor, so I’m a bit more aloof when it comes to doom-and-gloom discussions on 2012. I tend to agree with the other side of the argument, where nothing major would happen: just another year, another set of seasons.

Whichever way you argue, there is a universal concern about the topic of 2012 because that specific year represent some unknown, ominous, oncoming change. What IS going to happen next year? How will it affect my family/my friends/ my job/ my life? What if nothing happens, but I already prepared for the worst?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Blog Features

I’m not being paid to say this, but I really like making this blog with Google. Google has made it easy to create a blog without reminding me of how I barely got a “B” in my college web designing class. J

Here are some really cool features which I hope you guys will enjoy:

ü  Google Search Bar – Type in any word or phrase, and it will show results not only from the Systems within Systems blog entries, but also any article within our main Systems within Systems homepage and Sifu Hill’s Youtube page. You won’t believe how much content we already have!

ü  Sifu Hill’s YouTube Videos – On the left side, you can click the See more videos from Sifu Lawrence Hill link to go to his main YouTube website. There, you can take a peek at what we do in class, and more philosophy videos.

ü  Blog Archive  - 20 years from now, this blog is going to be the next Big Thing that ever graced the world wide web. History in the making. Better then butter and sliced bread! (OK, that might have been taking it a bit too far) Therefore, the Blog Archive will allow you to look back at previous entries.  Click on the year and month links that you want to see, and a list of the blog entries for that period will be shown.

ü  Labels – Want to view only articles about philosophy? Read only about the kung fu topics? Sort only by author name? Each blog entry will be labeled accordingly by topic.

ü  Followers – Be our friend! All the cool kids are doing it! Click the Follow button in the right part of the screen and sign in with your Google account so you can be informed of the latest and greatest blog entries the moment it is posted. Of course, you don’t have to be a Follower if you want to add your two cents to the posted blog entry; anyone can ask a question and make a comment to any of the blog entries. Just keep it PG, people, we’re all quite civilized here. J

If you have any ideas/enhancements requests for the blog, leave a comment in this entry.

Grow, learn, teach!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What's a Sifu?

When people ask “What’s Sifu Hill like?”, the only descriptive phrase that comes to mind is “He’s…Sifu.”

In martial arts terms, your Sifu is more than just the person who teaches you how to fight. It’s a term that should be used with great respect and honor. Using the term “Sifu” would be the same as referring to someone as a mentor, advisor, instructor, life coach, spiritualist, all at the same time. A good martial arts Sifu is your guide towards understanding yourself, and thus understanding how to defend yourself in the world.

Sifu Lawrence Hill teaches his students to know more than just how to defend themselves in a combat situation. He encourages us to be aware on all levels in our lives: socially and spiritually. To Sifu Hill, Shaolin is a form of true self expression. True Shaolin helps you find more about who you are and what you are capable of doing. This is the foundation of combat; when you know yourself, you will be able to connect with everything within your environment.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How it all began...

So I’m in the kitchen chopping vegetables for dinner, trying to find the best words to convey my “oh-so-brilliant-plan-at-the-time” idea to Sifu Hill, who is calmly sitting on the couch trying to catch up on some reading before we eat. Finally, I just blurt out what’s on my mind:
“Sifu, I have an idea that I think will work.”
(Actual sound that came out of my mouth: “SIFUihaveanideathatIthinkwillwork.”)
He looks up from the top of his glasses, with the kind of patient look that develops over decades from listening to other babbling students, even though all he really wants is to finish up reading and eat dinner. “Ok….”
“I want to start a blog. For our school.”