The road to discovering internal principles

The Begining of my Journey Into Internal Martial Arts

” I don’t do any of that rehearsed shit like a lot of these martial arts teachers do “  the voice on the other line said soon after picking up the phone and talking about what he taught.

“I’ll let you attack me unrehearsed with either hand.”

I came across the flyer in a martial arts equipment store that I happened to walk into. I would always go into a martial store just to look around even if I  had no plans on buying anything, kind of like a kid in a candy store thing, always something new to discover.

I was drawn to this particular flyer because it had the words Bagua on it. I knew nothing much about what the heck   Bagua even was back then until a guy I had been training with at that time had mentioned it.

The jujitsu instructor that I had been training with up until that time had decided to move to California. I was then lucky to stumble upon a very different teacher by the very unique name of Orpheus.

He had been a senior student of  New York Ninjitsu  master Ronald Duncan. What made this guy so unique to me  was  the way he had cross trained in a few different martial arts to complement or improve his Ninjitsu.

Much younger than me but beyond his years in skill and understanding, it was also the first time that as someone with a background in boxing that I had been exposed to a little Wing Chun. The way this guy incorporated this into what he did was very impressive.

He told me he got is foot work and a few other things from yet another art which he said was called Bagua or Pa kua, according to him he had found some acupuncturist who also taught martial arts and he studied/exchanged a few things with him.

When Orpheus would demonstrate a technique he would invariably tell those who were paying attention to not  to get caught up in the awe of the technique, but to focus on the principles behind it.

I stored away that profound little tidbit of information along with many others I would come to draw from over the years.

I picked up a few books  to do a little research on what I came to learn were called internal arts, and that there were 3 main arts in this group Tai Chi, Xing Yi, and Bagua.

Needless to say it was pretty fascinating to read about the exploits of these writers that all told stories of their experiences with legendary martial artists they came across while traveling in China.

Most people I knew up until then would only talk about some Yin Yang hard and soft stuff, which I didn’t quite understand and neither did they.

So that’s what drew my attention to the flyer, I was curious to see what this internal stuff and specifically this Bagua was all about.

So I took down the number and eventually made the call.

I was immediately impressed with what Novell Bell said back then, currently known online as the Black Taoist , especially coming from jiujitsu where it’s common to do demonstrations with the attacker starting way out  in practically another zip code launching  a robotic like attack, with arms staying  locked and extended forever while the defender executes his three or four flawless moves.

That in itself is not a problem as long as the teacher progresses beyond that fixed one step type  to more realistic training  like what’s done in Jeet Kune Do and Krav Maga and Systema, and any other martial art that trains this way .

Some Teachers Can Demonstrate , But Some Teachers Can Show!

Up until I had spoken with Novell I had never really thought about it that way, I think  like most people pursing various martial arts we tend to defer our thinking to the instructor that has the 20 plus years of experience that can seemingly do all of the good looking stuff in the demonstration, then were like…  okay where do I sign.

To be honest I only got back into the martial arts because while I had been training for the Golden Gloves in the mid 1980’s at the 42nd street gym in NY I used to do the what if”s  sometimes.

My boxing is good but what if a guy has a baseball bat ?

What if I’m ever attacked with a knife?

What if the guy is as big and wide as a door?

Following Trends

That thought process along with what was in the movies quite honestly, at that time led more to my decisions more than anything else. When Stephen Segal came on the scene I left Taekwondo after getting my black belt and moved on to jiujitsu , those throws and joint locks were what was up for me.

So I met with Novell and when we started to play around a little bit, nothing to heavy just a little light movement… but he neutralizes all of my joint lock attempts. Then what he did I had never experienced before then, he slipped past my arms to land his finger tips on my chest, as soon as his fingers would touch he would snap his palm while sinking his body and I would fly uncontrollably across the room slamming into the wall… Bam! …Bam!

The funny thing is the strike never hurt,  it wasn’t like a body punch. And I tried like hell to not let him do it again especially when I realized that I was older than this dude was, weighed about the same and I had been training in the martial arts just as long, and here he is throwing me around like I’m a little kid.

Needless to say I saw something lacking in my training, I needed to get some of this Tai chi and Bagua stuff under my belt… no one I had ever studied with up to that time had ever demonstrated anything like that, and I had studied with some pretty hardcore fighters/instructors up until then.

He said it was his fajin or explosive power; whatever the hell it was, all I knew is when he did it, it took me a while to regain my balance and control usually aided by a wall stopping my trajectory.

So the plan was to get some of this Bagua internal martial arts stuff under my belt while also training with Orpheus in Ninjitsu /Jiujitsu, which I did for a while up until Orpheus eventually graduated from divinity school became a minister and left NY.

I thought it was kind of strange for him to be studying the art of assassination while going to divinity school, I recall asking one time about how he was able reconcile the two, I don’t quite remember what his reply was but, Orpheus was one of those rare guys…  an old soul wise beyond his years.

I went on to train with Novel for about six or seven years, many of those years I had the benefit of also getting in depth instruction from the man that introduced him to the internal arts Sifu Rudy. Novel taught a lot of his classes at Rudy’s apartment, so when Rudy got home there was even more to dive into and to correct.

One of the mistakes that I made back then looking back now was as I said earlier, deferring everything to someone else based on their experience. What I mean by that is, although I felt I gained a lot by training in Bagua I sort of gave up the way I use to box to try and seemingly fit into what I perceived a Bagua fighter should look like.

Nor at the time did I completely understand center line theory or center of mass etc… Those concepts are foreign to boxers. When you box one of your main objectives is to not be in the same place that the person you’re fighting against is throwing their punches,  good classic boxers stick and move and pick their opponent apart.

That’s what Bruce Lee meant about getting stuck in tradition which I was certainly guilty of doing, I took the primary training exercise of walking around in a circle and tried to fight that way.

Don’t get me wrong slick boxers circle their opponents as well, they just don’t hold stiff rigid postures while doing it though.

If you look at how Bruce Lee applied Wing Chun for example within his system of Jeet Kune Do however, he used boxing for the medium striking distance range and then merged in the  traps and slap blocks of Wing Chun once the distance was closed further. So in essence his Wing Chun was modified.

But I’m getting ahead of myself … I’ll get more into my perspective on usage later.

Well I think that’s it for today; in my next post I’ll go into some of my initial training in internal martial arts.

What Exactly Is Internal Strength?







































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