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Wholesale customers and schoofgpgk^^e Visit wholesale.karatedepot.com covered carport—provided the ceiling height is sufficient. Most adults will need about 9 to 10 feet of clearance. If you're taller than 6 feet and use a longer sword, you'll need an extra foot or more.

Alternatively, you can train outside. Backyards are good, especially if there's a fence to keep out wanderers. But you still need to watch for obstacles. Remove anything you could step on and take note of bumps and dips in the terrain that could cause you to lose your balance. Perhaps the most difficult obstacles to detect are the two-legged and four-legged kind—the ones that tend to walk up behind you when you're not expecting it.

Only when you have a grasp of footwork and balance should you forget about finding a smooth surface and actually seek out uneven ground, but don't do this too soon. Remember that when a beginner trains on grass, his feet land much harder than the feet of an intermediate or advanced practitioner do. Consequently, you'll wear a bare spot in the lawn. Train on a patch of dirt and you'll leave looking like Pigpen in the Charlie Brown cartoons.

Working out in your front yard is an option, but waving a sword in daytime can attract unwanted attention and doing it at night tends to scare people. In either case, you must remain alert for curious folks who might wander into your "swing field" to get a closer look.

Another concern comes from people driving by. Distracted drivers are even more dangerous than martial artists practicing their sword moves.

If you're unfortunate enough to precipitate a visit from the local sheriff, know that he's likely to greet you with his friends, Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson. If that happens, slowly place your sword on the ground while smiling and explaining. If you're using a wooden weapon, the tension should dissipate once he examines it, but in either case, it's recommended to keep a business card from your sword instructor or dojo to prove that you're engaged in an orga nized activity.

If training at or near your home just isn't an option, consider a local field, wooded lot or park. If the land is private property, get permission from the owner first. If it's public property, remember that other people have as much right to be there as you do.

If all this sounds bleak, reconsider training at home—in a limited way. Try standing in your living room or bedroom and practicing techniques that don't require you to move much. Here are some suggestions:

• Stand with your feet together and bend at the waist until the tip of your sword touches the floor. Adjust your grip and experience the "feel" of the handle.

• Assume a stance and fine-tune the positioning of your body.

• Practice the flourish (chiburi, or clearing action).

• Practice the sheathing action (noto), both first and second catch to the close.

Even the smallest bedroom will usually have a big mirror on the wall; you can exploit it by holding your hands together in a sword-grip position and executing basic moves and stances in front of it. That can help you remember your postures, positions and patterns until you get back to class. You can even do some light movement training and overhead swing drills with a wakizash i-length wooden sword, but always go slow.

For advanced training in a cramped environment, try using a weighted training bar to augment your conditioning. Moving in slow motion also builds muscle memory and strength.

If it sounds like I'm being overly cautious in doling out advice, it's because every student of the sword has a responsibility to train safely and thus help create a positive future for the sword arts in America. X

About the author: Russell McCartney is a San Francisco-based seventh-degree black belt who founded the style known as ishi yama ryu battojutsu. For more information, visit http://www.black-beltmag.com and click on Community, then Black Belt Authors.

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the shaolin path


BY GEORGE W. ALEXANDER, Ph.D. (with John E. Graham)

The northern Shaolin Temple in Henan province has received a lot of attention in recent years. In fact, it's now a tourist attraction. But the folklore of the martial arts of southern China points to a southern Shaolin Temple. Until recently, however, it was thought to exist only in legend.

The flight from the United States was uneventful for John E. Graham and me. We arrived in Xiamen, Fujian province, tired but excited, after which we boarded a bus for Qingzhou (also spelled Quan-zhou). The city is supposedly the site of the southern Shaolin Temple. I say "supposedly" because there's controversy as to which temple is the original southern Shaolin.

Southern China served as an entry point for Buddhism beginning in the first century B.C. That's when Indian priests arrived in Canton (Guangzhou) and spread their religion throughout the Middle Kingdom. Therefore, temples abound in the area. The difference between a Shaolin temple and other temples is that a Shaolin temple embraced the warrior-monk culture, whereas other temples were strictly religious establishments. They weren't associated with Shaolin and therefore weren't destroyed when it was. (Note that shaolin, which means "young forest," was originally associated with the northern temple and the Chan sect of warrior monks that trained within its walls. Therefore, the southern Shaolin Temple is considered an extension of the northern temple and not just another Buddhist monastery located in southern China.)

It's important to consider the time frame in which the southern Shaolin temple was established. Historical data indicate there were two years around which it was built: 557 and 1644. The logical question then becomes, Are there two southern temple sites?

According to the Chinese government's official position, the temple was first established in 557 in the Putien district on top of Mt. Chiulien in Fujian. It was also known as the Nine Lotus Temple. During the collapse of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), monks from the northern temple supposedly fled south to escape from the Manchus, who founded the Qing dynasty (16441912). Those warrior monks created a resistance movement with the goal of overthrowing the Qing and restoring the Ming. It's this establishment that the Chinese government has officially designated as the southern Shaolin Temple.

However, the locals, including many martial arts masters of Fujian province, disagree. They claim the true site is the Nine Dragons Temple, located within the city of Qingzhou. However, it's officially called the Shaolin Zen Temple and thus can't be called the southern Shaolin Temple because the Chinese government has already chosen the Nine Lotus Temple.

We visited both institutions, and it's our conclusion that the original southern Shaolin Temple is the one located in Putien, aka the Nine Lotus Temple. We agree with the position taken by the Chinese government.

According to one source, the impetus for the construction of the southern temple in 557 was the warrior monks from the north, who were requested to travel to the south to provide military assistance to Tang-dynasty troops engaged

Young Buddhist monks practice their fighting art at the Nine Dragons Temple in southern China.

Young Buddhist monks practice their fighting art at the Nine Dragons Temple in southern China.

in the defense of Fujian against pirates. After helping defend the region, some of the monks stayed behind and founded the southern temple.

"The Qingzhou temple, also known as the Nine Dragons Temple of Southern Shaolin, is over 1,200 years old and was a monastery in ancient times," said Mr. Chai, a high-ranked official and vice chairman of the Southern Shaolin Wuzu Association. "It is well-maintained and includes a cadre of 55 monks who practice Shaolin martial arts and reside at the temple. The temple at Putien, or Nine Lotus Temple, was a Shaolin school but not a monastery."

In other words, the Putien site was more of a martial arts school than a temple or monastery, even though Zen Buddhism was practiced there.

The temple at Qingzhou is located near the base of Qingyuan mountain and has been recently restored. The monks practice wuzuquan, or five-ancestor fist, in addition to other styles. Their main teacher is Chi Ching Wei, a

64-year-old expert in the Chinese arts. While visiting the complex, we spoke with him extensively, and he proved helpful in arranging a demonstration by the monks. The monks, who are between the ages of 12 and 28, have extraordinary martial arts skills. They're adept at empty-hand forms and a myriad of weapons skills, especially staff fighting. They showed the utmost intensity and ferocity in their demo.

During our stay, the monks performed a two-man empty-hand set that was simply amazing. They also demonstrated a two-man staff set that consisted of 12 short routines of attack and defense. It was impressive from a combative standpoint because of the monks' intensity and technical sophistication.

One curious thing surfaced when they asked me to execute a staff form.

1 obliged, as weapons training is an essential part of the style of Okinawan karate I practice. However, when they handed me a staff, I immediately noticed that it was heavier and thicker than what I was used to. Okinawan bo are usually 1-1/4 inches in diameter at the center and taper to 3/4 of an inch at the ends. The Chinese staff was at least

2 inches and possibly 2-1/2 inches thick with no taper. Needless to say, it was a very different feel. This weapon required great physical strength to manipulate with the speed and power they expected. I later noticed that in one of their training rooms stood a weight bench and set of barbells, apparently for the martial monks who needed to augment their musculature. >•<

(To be concluded in the October 2006 issue of Black Belt.)

About the authors: George W. Alexander, Ph.D., is a ninth-degree black belt and president of the International Shorin Ryu Karate Kobudo Federation. He is the author of Okinawa: Island of Karate, The Bubishi Martial Art Spirit, The Japanese Martial Arts Dictionary and Warrior Jujitsu. John E. Graham is vice president of the USA Wuzuquan Association and chief instructor at the United Academy of Kung Fu in Mobile, Alabama. For more information, visit http://www.bbck beltmag.com and click on Community, then Black Belt Authors.

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