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  • grenphi 1:31 am on September 30, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , martial arts, Taiji   

    Move like a turtle, Sting like a bee. 

    It’s working! For now at least… I’m back on wordpress until the next mix-up. Thank you to Juliet and Doug for being so helpful these past few weeks. Hopefully things will run smoothly from here. Now, back to our scheduled programming:

    A few weeks ago I posted about Nanjing’s first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu dojo. I’ve been training there regularly ever since that post. However, since being here I’ve also taken up training in two other martial arts styles. So for part two of my martial arts in China series, we’re going to look at Taiji.

    Why yes, we are well dressed. Thank you for noticing.

    To the left is a picture of my Taiji instructor and I. I have no idea what her name is, and to be honest, most of the time I don’t know what she’s saying either (the classes are entirely in Chinese). I manage to pick out a few things like “relax” and “turn your hips”, both of which are instructions I’ve been hearing from my Karate sensei for the past eleven years. It’s nice to know I still can’t do either of those things. Otherwise, I rely on universal martial artist body language. So far, it seems to be working.

    The instructor is very good at what she does. She can move from deep Karate style stances to ballet height kicks, all in slow motion (did I mention she’s 3x my age?). I know a lot of martial artists. Extraordinarily few can do this.

    That being said, my instructor has some qualities that are much less mystical, or Kung fu-y if you will. She does not act in the super Zen fashion that masters are portrayed to have in movies. If anything, she’s got some spunk to her. If there’s something on her mind, she’ll say it very directly. If she’s not saying it with her mouth, she might be pushing and prodding at various parts of your body to get her message across.

    Our class meets twice a week in the lobby of our building, and are offered for free to international students. Each day we go through the exact same set of warm ups, and then work on a form (Kata, set of techniques, etc.). Each class we learn a new technique to be added on to the form. We’re then expected to be able to perform these techniques in the next class.

    Our class is small now. We used to have many people, but numbers quickly dwindled as students got bored of moving from position to position in slow motion for two hours a week. Personally, I love it. No, Taiji is not turning me into a cage fighter, but I’m learning and practicing focus, balance, and relaxation among other things. I end Taiji class with my undershirt soaked with sweat, meaning I’m working just as hard in Taiji just as any other class (except my academic classes. I work way harder in Taiji than I do in school).

    And that’s all I’ve got for this post. Tune in for my next edition to see what other martial art I’m focusing on instead of work.

    Best wishes to my fellow Asiapod bloggers and to everybody back home.


    • Sam Smukler 3:24 am on October 3, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Hey Gennady. When I was in Vietnam this summer I took Muay Thai from a Vietnamese instructor, and ended up loving it for the same sorts of reasons you were talking about (classes entirely in Vietnamese, teacher that defied the “mystical Zen master” stereotype). It’s great to see your story. Hope to hear more from you soon!

      Also if you don’t know about this guy yet (http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1), he’s spent the last 10 years or so training all over Asia and has some pretty great videos on pretty obscure martial arts, ethnic minorities, etc.

  • grenphi 8:52 am on August 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, , extracurricular, martial arts   

    A New Era-南京第一的巴西柔術道場 


    If you pay attention to martial arts these days, you probably know that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a big deal. In the U.S., it’s been a revolution that has rightfully made grappling a priority for many martial artists. Over the past year I’ve fallen in love with this style, and have taken the few opportunities to learn that have been available. I was hoping to practice BJJ regularly in Nanjing (with a population of 6.8 million, I thought there HAD to be a BJJ scene). But, after some research and talking with a training partner who travels regularly to China, all I had to work with was club in Shanghai and a vague connection to a student club at one of the two university campuses. Recently, however, that all changed…

    Fred Greenall, with his coinstructor Alex (who’s last name currently escapes me), has opened the first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club in Nanjing. Since August 15 of this year he’s been teaching BJJ in a 7th floor gym near the Zhujianglu metro exit. I happened to find him while searching through online forums for nearby martial arts opportunities. Coming accross one of his posts was the best stroke of luck I’ve had in China yet.

    I managed to go to a training session, and had a fantastic time. Travel abroad can be a bit lonely and stressful for the first week, so it was nice to go do something I love with some awesome people. I plan to continue training with Fred and Alex  throughout my stay here. The student club no longer exists, so Fred’s club takes the responsibility of being the new beginning for BJJ in Nanjing. If the club is successful, it could bring about a new era in martial arts training for the entire city. I hope it does.

    Up above, you’ll see a small gallery of the gym and the group we had that day. The club currently doesn’t have a lot of members or expensive equipment, but it’s looking to grow. In the group picture, the tall white man with the shaved head and red shorts is Fred. The man in the black shirt and shorts on his left is Alex. I apologize for the poor picture quality, but at the moment, all photos are still being taken with my ipod. I used some editing to ameliorate the quality, but to little effect.

    Dojos have been homes away from home for me for quite a while. So now, even thousands of miles from Central New York, I’ve got a home. I hope that the other asiapod bloggers will be able to share in this fortune in their travels.

    Best of luck,


    • HMJ 6:24 pm on September 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      You’re making great connections! Do you know how BJJ came to China? And is there the same level of soul-searching and tension in the Chinese martial arts community over the introduction of grappling as there seems to be in the US?

  • grenphi 8:29 pm on May 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , martial arts, , recommended reading,   

    Preparation Goals-Nanjing 

    Every journey begins with a single step, and my blog begins with a traveling cliché.

    I’ve decided to write two preliminary blog posts as opposed to just one. The first will be written at the beginning of my summer prep (now), and one towards the end (probably late August). I realize the preparation by itself will be an adventure because I have numerous goals and a few obstacles. Optimally, I will be a different person in three months as I depart for China.

    Let me preface before I discuss the goals and plans to be accomplished before I head off to Nanjing. I have diabetes, and I’m a martial artist. These two characteristics are very influential concerning the goals and experiences I will have in preparation and in China. Therefore, I have two sets of goals for preparation. The first is a set of generic goals that I believe are fairly common among China travelers. The second set is the set of goals that I believe are more specific to me and people with similar experiences.

    Set 1) I’d like to be able to do some basic living in China. This will mean speaking and understanding the language (I may be doomed here), and having some money for emergencies and/or spending. To do this, I study Chinese frequently (almost every day), and use multiple methods-books, videos, audio lessons, music, etc. As far as money is concerned, I’m still looking for a summer job. Living will also require a visa and various other logistics, which I believe I am taking care of by completing every task CIEE has been giving me.

    Set 2) I’d like to be able to survive in China. This means, as a diabetic, I need insulin. Insulin comes with a very particular set of restrictions, so it will be best for me to get insulin in China rather than ship it from the states. My mother has figured a way to work this out, and for this I am extremely grateful. She’s done more work for this trip already than I have, and I’m extremely lucky that she has been there for me.

    Survival, beyond just insulin, will revolve largely around martial arts. On a very basic level, I want to be performing with a very high level of physical conditioning when I travel and arrive in China. This will allow me to deal with jet-lag, changes in diet, changes in weather, diabetic issues, fatigue, and frustration much better than if I were in poor health. Good physical condition will also allow me to be better prepared for violent confrontation and emergency situations. This isn’t to say I expect a crisis to occur. I prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

    In order to maintain this physical conditioning, I will also be developing an exercise program that is equipment free, allowing me to practice wherever and optimally whenever I need. For myself and others looking to do this, I suggest looking into the 8 Brocades of Qi Gong, which has already proven tremendously beneficial for my health without great effort.

    Also, for the sake of survival, I’ve been steadily giving up vegetarianism. This was a difficult decision, but I’ve been told by numerous travel abroad students and Chinese nationals that vegetarianism and a 200 lb frame don’t go together in China. I don’t want to compromise my physical health or ability to defend myself by losing muscle mass over 4+ months, so I have to get used to eating meat.

    There are more goals that I am probably forgetting, but that’s ok. This post is long enough, and I hope I haven’t bored my readers. If I still have your attention, I would like to point you to two books for summer reading that I believe are worth your time. The first book is called Meditations on Violence. It’s written by Sgt. Rory Miller, and provides a very important insight into violence and the world as a whole. I have read this book twice, and plan to read it again many times in the future This recommendation goes double for you martial artists out there.

    The second book is called A Tooth From The Tigers Mouth. It’s written by Tom Bisio and it’s about traditional Chinese medicine. I have just begun reading the book, but I had the rare opportunity to meet Mr. Bisio in person and receive treatment from him. He’s an intelligent, humble man and an incredible martial artist. His insight and treatment were life changing, and I foresee no less from his book.

    And with that, I am off to go work on these goals. Best wishes to all my fellow Asiapod bloggers and to all the readers who have taken the time from more important things to read my words.


    • DougReilly 3:39 pm on June 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      That’s a wonderfully rich post! I definitely need to look at Meditations on Violence, as I’ve been aware of, touched by, and have given a lot of thought to violence…so thanks for sharing that recommendation.

      I think it’s great that you’re taking your preparations so seriously, and that it seems that martial arts is a very important structure for you and for your journey. What is your martial art, by the way?

      I respect your decision to give up vegetarianism, at least for a while. It probably makes good sense–and once you are the ground you could always re-evaluate. I’m not sure what your motivations for vegetarianism are–moral, environmental, nutritional, but I guess I’d view the experience of eating eat again as something worth reflecting on. In terms of the environmental and moral arguments against eating meat, I found a counterargument that I never heard before, and in an unlikely place, the novel Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. She talks about how anyone involved with mechanized crop farming knows that it kills multitudes of animals (I believe the example in particular was combines decapitating rabbits) so even most of the earth’s vegetative food production is not free from creating suffering. I’m not a vegetarian though I’m sympathetic to all the arguments, and Kingsolver’s observation I guess made me a little more conscious of the truth that suffering really is an unavoidable part of existence. We cause it, inflict it, and experience it, even when we might try not to. I think trying to minimize the amount of suffering we cause is still a good thing, however!


    • grenphi 2:09 am on June 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Hey Doug,

      My original martial art is a combination between Korean Tae Kwon Do and Japanese Shotokan Karate. I have now focused my training more towards Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts. I’ve also had chances to dabble in Tai Chi and Qi Gong.

      Let me know how the book strikes you. I’m curious to hear a reflection on it from someone other than me.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post,


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