Students Teaching Many Things



I thought it would be useful for students and also for viewers of a video to see markings on a long tai chi ruler. So I put some fluorescent tape in yellow, green and pink on the long ruler. None – not one – of the students liked the tape. I am not sure if it was a color problem, or they did not like the feel of the tape (as opposed to the wood) or if the tape hampered sliding one’s hands on the wood. In any case, off came the tape pieces.



Two Person sets


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In Chen Family style Tai Chi Chuan the only two-person set that I know of involves long pole (or sometimes spear), and can be thought of as really exercises as opposed to a full set. In Yang style Tai Chi Chuan there is considerable debate about the authenticity of a two-person sparring set  太極拳刀劍桿散手合編〔卷十〕[Tai Chi Sanshou Duida] 陳炎林 by Chen Yanlin which published in June, 1943 and translated by the tireless Paul Brennan in July, 2011.

I would suggest reviewing

the DVD is available at – search down for DVD#29960. The lead performer is Luo Jin Hua who learned from Sha Guo Zheng. An elderly video (1984) with Sha Guo Zheng is at



Autism genetics


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In the Dark Ages of Autism fifty years a prevailing theory was that the cause was post-natal emotional mis-treatment of the child by a so-called ‘refrigerator mother’. This was utter rubbish. For fans of English as a consistent language I regret to report I still put things in the ‘fridge, but that the actual Latin is refrigeratus, past participle of refrigerare “make cool or cold.” The root is frigere = cold. Not a letter ‘d’ anywhere.

A thirty year-old conjecture that had more validity was that deletions on the 15th chromosome caused Asperger’s syndrome and that deletions on the X and 16th chromosome caused autism. Things have turned out to be a whole lot more complicated:there are over 180 genes on all 23 chromosomes (and even in mitochondrial DNA) implicated in autism spectrum disabilities. One of the genes implicated in Aspergers is the GABRB3 gene which is on chromosome 15 at location q12. Mutations in GABRB3 are associated with Angelman syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, nonsyndromic orofacial clefts and two types of epilepsy:  childhood absence 5 (ECA5) and early infantile encephalopathy 43 (EIEE43). Also implicated in Angelman syndrome are the genes UBE3A (at 15 q11.2), ATP10A (at 15q12) and OCA2 (at 15q12-q13.1). The last is currently believed to only influence skin, hair and eye color as opposed to metabolism, cognition and so on.

One very puzzling mystery was, regardless of whether it was a repeat, delete or mutation on chromosomes 15, 16, X or anywhere else, how could the genes be continuing to appear? Where was the selective pressure? To compound the enigma it was conjectured that few of the many mutations were recent. No doubt to the great relief of fellow primates everywhere and everywhen many of the troublesome genes are only found in humans. It is currently still very challenging to retrieve archaic human DNA – the limit at present seems to be 400,000 years – and that was just a small sample. M. Meyer et al., “A mitochondrial genome sequence of a hominin from Sima de los Huesos,” Naturedoi:10.1038/nature12788, 2013.

The Sima de los Huesos cave in Spain has provided parts of the skeletons of at least 28 individuals from the middle Pleistocene period.  Not so long ago these would have been classified as Homo heidelbergensis, a possible ancestor to Neanderthals.

But the mitochondrial genomes were more closely related to Denisovans. This was unexpected as Denisovans are known only from a finger bone and molar found in Siberia.




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In order to transport lots of long weapons it seemed reasonable to build a box on wheels. There were two pieces of 24″ x 84″ particle board serving no purpose, so I used some scrap 1″ x 12″ shelving and a few pieces of recycled 2″ x 3″. Tools needed were a power drill, a Phillips screwdriver, and American screwdriver (to open the paint can), a paint brush (I used 3″ wide), a hammer and nail (to start screws), four wheels (with small screws), a box of 2.5 inch screws, a square, a pencil, measuring tape, sandpaper, a saw (miter box if sawing by the 2 x 3s by hand) and a gallon of paint. I used four C-clamps and wood glue as well.

I built a “frame” of 2x3s offset 3/4 of an inch from the edges of the particle board. These were glued on and attached with screws every 12 inches. Then the long (84 inch) 1x12s were glued and clamped. I offset the second set of screws to avoid collisions. After adding the two short 1x12s I built three upside down Us (well, with square corners) of 2x3s to add on the ends and in the middle. After a lot of painting twelve 1″ holes were drilled six inches apart at strategic points (nine inches in from the edge on the short sides and 22 inches in from the edges on the long sides).  The rope handles (24″ long) and their clamps were added. The wheels with screwed into 5″ wide by 24″ long 1″ thick boards attached to the bottom. Note that you will likely want to attach these with screws that connect to the 2 x 3s.


Long weapons still needing a box (plus two staffs, 2 double-ended spears and three long swords)




Some Kwan Daos


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From left to right – (1) a two piece kwan dao – the steel handle unscrews and separates to make packing easier; (2) Reclining Crescent style kwan dao; (3)  three point-two edge; (4) so-called wushu kwan dao – lighter and shorter with flexible blade; (5) nine-ring pu dao bought from Brendan Lai’s store years ago; (6) eagle kwan dao; (7) Green Dragon style also bought from Brendan Lai’s store years ago; and (8) elephant kwan dao

Polling the Kwan Dao


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We are trying to determine the state of the art when it comes to Kwan Daos. If you teach the weapon, practice the weapon or own a weapon and are letting it stand around in a rack, we’d love an email to

A. do you teach the weapon? If so, what style?

Over the years we have taught General Chai’s (*) Long Handled Knife from Hung Gar (more properly a pu dao set, we think) and Spring Autumn Big Knife from Northern Shaolin. Currently, we teach the set from Chen Family style Tai Chi Chuan. We have seen a set from Zhaobao style Tai Chi Chuan. We have yet to find any recording or even rumors of anyone teaching a kwan dao set from Yang style Tai Chi Chuan. As far as we know, the weapon is not part of any other Tai Chi Chuan styles.

There are five weapons in the Choy Li Fut arsenal:

Blocking Gate Long Handled Broadsword (Lan Moon Jaai Dai Do) 攔門寨大刀
General Kwan’s Long Handle Broadsword (Kwan Do) 関刀
General Choy’s Long Handle Broadsword (Choy Yeung Do) 蔡陽刀
Nine-Ring Long-Handled Broadsword (Gau Wan Dai Do) 九環大刀
Seven Star Long-Handled Knive (Chat Sing Tiu) 七星銚

I recall seeing a Praying Mantis sifu do a Pu Dao set at least 8 years ago – perhaps even more. But I never could learn his name, or the set’s name.

if anyone teaches something else, we’d love to hear about it

*= this pays homage to a different hero, General Chai Yang of the Han Dynasty

B. how long is the weapon? does it have a metal spike on one tip?

C. how much does the weapon weigh

D. stiff or flexible blade

E. do you do anything like sanding or refinishing the wood or the metal?

F. one piece or two (the metal handle unscrews into two pieces)

G. what sort of bag do you use to transport it?

More on thyroid disorders

In the thrilling world of human genetics there are 23 pairs of chromosomes. If the dice roll poorly and someone gets a third copy of chromosome 21, they will exhibit symptoms of Down Syndrome. It turns out we are complicated and fragile, so there are several ways that extra amounts of chromosome 21 can be a problem. Some recent research has discovered that several genes on chromosome 21 are linked to several types of leukemia – that is, alas, not a surprise because there’s a very high incidence of leukemia for people with Down Syndrome. Since there are a lot of leukemias there really isn’t a single treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Thankfully, I don’t have any students with leukemia so that’s a problem for another day. I am, however, giving some thought to the general notion of if one knows that there’s trouble ahead (in this case, maybe one or more leukemia genes have been detected) can Tai Chi Chuan or perhaps some Qigong routines be used to strengthen an aspect and, in essence, try to forestall a future problem.
One other application of this notion is thyroid metabolism. There’s a spectrum from hypothyroidism (not enough activity by the thyroid gland) to hyperthyroidism (too much activity). The 67 genes found so far are scattered over the place. Here’s a tally by chromosome: 1 [6]; 2 [6]; 3 [3]; 4 [1]; 5 [3]; 6 [4]; 7 [1]; 8 [7]; 9[7]; 10 [5]; 11 [5]; 12 [2]; 14 [4]; 15 [3]; 16 [2]; 17 [4]; 19 [1]; 22 [1] and x [1].

I was hoping for a much smaller number and a simple set of personal exercises so a student could correct deficient liver qi and stagnant triple warmer blood (one diagnosis of apparently one type of thyroid problem). In the unlikely event that there is a major effort to improve American medical insurance coverages – as a part of personal medical examinations insurance plans ought to cover everyone getting a thyroid test. There are at least four tests: T3 (triiodothyronine), T4 (thyroxine), TPO (thyroid peroxidase antibodies) and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) that can be done by mail outfits like Affordable Lab and Access Labs for under $40 per test. We would like to think the United States can take better care of its citizens than Cambodia can.