Plastic Bangs, Rulers and Bent Bangs


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I am NOT a fan of PVC, ABS or any other plastics for use in martial arts. They are great for plumbing. However, not everyone loves wood. Here is what is needed to make the various tai chi tools using plastic piping. It is a bit trickier using metal pipes. Shown below are some 1″ fittings. Unless the tools are intended for young children or there are some special circumstances like arthrogryposis, I would not go smaller (like 0.75 inch) but larger (1.25 inch, 1.50 inch and even 2.0 inch) are reasonable choices especially for very large students.





Niemann-Pick Diseases (part two)


The gene NPC1 on chromosome 18 in the q11.2 region has almost 400 known mutations – most are implicated in Niemann-Pick disease type C1.  The gene NPC2 on chromosome 14 in the q24.3 region has a mere 20 known mutations that are implicated in Niemann-Pick disease type C2. The signs and symptoms of Niemann-Pick disease types C1 and C2 are very similar and usually become apparent in childhood.  There are (1) difficulty coordinating movements (ataxia) (2) an inability to move the eyes vertically (vertical supranuclear gaze palsy) (3) poor muscle tone (dystonia) (4) severe liver disease (5) interstitial lung disease (6) problems with speech and swallowing that worsen over time, eventually interfering with feeding (7) progressive decline in intellectual function and (8) about one-third have seizures. People with types C1 and C2 may survive into adulthood.

Combined, Niemann-Pick disease types C1 and C2 are estimated to affect 1 in 150,000 individuals; however, type C1 is by far the more common type, accounting for 95 percent of cases. The disease occurs more frequently in people of French-Acadian descent in Nova Scotia. In Nova Scotia, a population of affected French-Acadians were previously designated as having Niemann-Pick disease type D, however, it was shown that these individuals have mutations in the gene associated with Niemann-Pick disease type C1.

Niemann-Pick Diseases (part one)


As nearly as I can determine, there are over 180 mutations of the SMPD1 gene on chromosome 11 in the p15.4 region. Some mutations cause Niemann-Pick disease type A and others cause Niemann-Pick disease type B.

Infants with Niemann-Pick disease type A usually develop an enlarged liver and spleen (hepatosplenomegaly) by age 3 months and fail to gain weight and grow at the expected rate (failure to thrive). The affected children develop normally until around age 1 year when they experience a progressive loss of mental abilities and movement (psychomotor regression). Children with Niemann-Pick disease type A also develop widespread lung damage (interstitial lung disease) that can cause recurrent lung infections and eventually lead to respiratory failure. All affected children have an eye abnormality called a cherry-red spot, which can be identified with an eye examination. Children with Niemann-Pick disease type A generally do not survive past early childhood.

Niemann-Pick disease type B usually presents in mid-childhood. The signs and symptoms of this type are similar to type A, but not as severe. People with Niemann-Pick disease type B often have hepatosplenomegaly, recurrent lung infections, and a low number of platelets in the blood (thrombocytopenia). They also have short stature and slowed mineralization of bone (delayed bone age). About one-third of affected individuals have the cherry-red spot eye abnormality or neurological impairment. People with Niemann-Pick disease type B usually survive into adulthood.

Niemann-Pick disease types A and B are estimated to impact 1 in 250,000 individuals. Niemann-Pick disease type A occurs more frequently among individuals of Ashkenazi (eastern and central European) Jewish descent than in the general population. The incidence within the Ashkenazi population is approximately 1 in 40,000 individuals.

” … while you’re busy making other plans”


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the full quote from John Lennon starts with “life is what happens to you …”

I was somewhat preoccupied with (1) specifying what are called long rulers – a normal tai chi ruler is 10.5 to 12 inches long. A normal tai chi bang is about 15 to 18 inches long. The long ruler is mostly designed for two person use, is really a long bang in terms of shape and is 34 inches long (2) filming and documenting the so-called bent bang exercises from the late Grandmaster Chen Qingzhou (3) dealing with how to customize weapons and tools for some of my super-sized (6’5″ 270 pounds) students.  Not much point in having hand guards on a butterfly wing or horse-blocking knife or chicken sickle sabers if the student cannot fit his hands inside the guards. Likewise, if the student uses too short a ruler it will cause his shoulders to slump inward and at least partially collapse the tops of the lungs. There are also hand placement problems relative to the centerline. (4) Lurking in the background was an ongoing multi-person thread about homework exercises for a young boy with arthrogryposis. There are, alas, 35 genes already implicated in the various syndromes in the arthrogryposis spectrum. I would expect the number of genes to increase. Worse, what that means for the number of distinct syndromes is hard to say.

So an email from a long-time martial arts comrade in arms came in: “Do you know anything about Niemann-Pick disease?”

Bent Bang Blues


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Several of my students have shown signs of liking or at least being curious about the tool known as the bent bang. Below left we have a picture of a ruler (above) and a traditional Western rolling pin (below). On the right is the same rolling pin (above) and a straight bang (below).

The bent bang shown below probably rates another, more distinctive name. As built by the esteemed Charles Tauber, it is 1.5 inches in diameter with inner lengths of 4.75 inches and outer lengths of 5.75 inches. Bird’s eye maple in this example. As far as I can determine, the only person to make a English language (well, subtitled) video including bent bang is the late Grandmaster Chen Qingzhou. It is available as ISBN 7-88721-254-5 from Plum Publications.  If there are any of his students out there who know if  Grandmaster Chen Qingzhou invented the bent bang, I’d be grateful to hear anything definitive.



Halloween and Teal Pumpkins – part 2


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Unfortunately, there are a bewildering galaxy of food allergies. Among the more commonly encountered are lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivity, nuts (especially peanuts), high fructose foods, food dyes and preservatives. So Halloween can be a difficult situation for people with such allergies. Children may well want to go trick-or-treating with their friends. But they can’t eat the same candy, and may end up feeling left out. And that’s where teal pumpkins come in.  The Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) has provided a list of ideas for non-food treats that includes stickers, stencils, glow sticks, finger puppets and bouncy balls. A teal pumpkin, or even a picture of a teal pumpkin, means you are making available such non-food treats. In the spirit of that I dressed in teal silks – and froze my brains out. Everyone wanted candy.



Halloween and Teal Pumpkins


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Halloween is celebrated every year on October 31, and, while it is most popular in the U.S., it is actually a holiday with roots in Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival that marked the end of the agricultural year. November 1st is All Saints’ Day and a high holy day in the Roman Catholic Church. The day is one of four cross-quarter days meaning, in this case, that it occurs midway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. In the temperate areas of the northern hemisphere it would also signal the end of harvesting efforts for most crops. At one time, the festival involved people lighting bonfires to ward off evil spirits. A more practical tactic was to burn harvest trimmings – like cornstalks – to return ashes to nutrients to the soil and to break the pest cycle. According to our Irish family tradition,  as part of Samhain people would also dress up in costume and then knock on their neighbors’ doors to be given food or drink in exchange for delivering verses. I have no idea why pumpkins or large squash were also a large part of the festival. Supposedly, they were seen as either representing or defending people against the souls of the dead,  which were said to wander the Earth on Halloween. The practice of carving large objects that take a lot of garden space to grow into jack-o’-lanterns is a practice whose history is also shrouded in mystery, and which continues to this day.

A bit out of our wheelhouse


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Some months ago a long-time colleague living in Israel e-wrote to say that a mysterious artifact had allegedly been found at an archaeological dig site. It was being speculated by some, apparently including the Israeli Antiquities Authority, that the artifact might have been from the Temple of Solomon. As with many things, it is not so clear when exactly Solomon reigned. As far as I am aware, the current consensus is something like 970 BCE to 930 BCE. It is conjectured by some that the First Temple was built in about twenty years starting from the fourth year of Solomon’s reign. The Temple was said to have been plundered by the Neo-Babylonian Empire king Nebuchadnezzar II when the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem during the brief (3 months and 10 days) reign of Jehoiachin c. 598 BCE (2 Kings 24:13). A decade later, Nebuchadnezzar again besieged Jerusalem and, after 30 months, finally breached the city walls in 587 BCE, subsequently burning the Temple, along with most of the city (2 Kings 25). There is plenty of disagreement over dates, who built the Temple, where it was built and how long it lasted. In any case, my correspondent noted that the artifact looked like a tai chi ruler.

However, a hasty Google image search disclosed that what we have here is a Weber Isis Beamer, which comes in five sizes, can be all brass or gold-plated, and range in price from $271 USD (plus shipping) to $1300. This is NOT an endorsement. Their website is The YouTube video at is NOT recommended. We lean toward the older ways, so we will be sticking with wood for rulers, bangs, long ruler and bent bangs.