Getting Better at Getting Better - are standards improving in the martial arts?

Martial artists love to tell stories. But whether it's about our own master, or a near-mythical, long-dead, white-bearded master from generations ago, there's always an unwritten but automatic assumption that the current generation simply doesn't match up to those that went before. In a great article on the New Yorker, they discuss how we (the human race) are actually getting better at almost everything we do. And not just a bit better - we're absolutely destroying previous generations. In disciplines ...

Animal noises in Chinese

So it turns out even animals in China speak a different language... A bit of a strange post today; perhaps this could be filed under "weird things that people living abroad encounter". Since my son was born, I've been slowly rebuilding my Chinese (Mandarin, pu tong hua) from the ground up, including all of the baby language and subjects that you don't get taught in adult classes. A big part of that is.... learning animal noises. So, here's how animals ...

Oct 2014 Kung Fu Competition and Training

It's been a couple of days since I got back from training in Yong Chun with my FWC buddies, and my body and mind have recovered just enough to write a bit about my recent kung fu competition and training. First off - the competition was in Fuzhou, and was called the First Cross Straits Cultural Martial Arts Festival (首届海峡两岸武术文化节). More on this later. I competed in two categories, freehand and long weapons (staff) and came back with a Silver ...

How I built my home cold smoker

China's food culture is one of the main reasons I fell in love with the place, but it suffers from a lack of one thing - smoked meats. Sure, you can buy a few substitutes that look and sometimes even taste similar to bacon, pancetta, prosciutto or ham, but there's nothing like the 'taste of home' so to speak. So, with my copy of Ruhlman's Charcuterie on order and a friendly local butcher in hand, I decided to build my ...

HK Protests; mainland shrugs

The HK protests continue into their second week, and I thought I'd write about something that isn't particularly exciting, but is fairly relevant - mainland China doesn't seem to care. There's an awareness gap of course, given the vast amount of censorship, but there's also a huge issue of apathy that runs deeper - it's something I've noticed not just in connection to these protests, but in many other aspects of life. The causes of mainlander apathy aren't simple - ...

Why the Alibaba flotation is overrated

The world went mad last week when Alibaba floated on the New York stock exchange - I'm probably the worst person in the world to listen for financial advice, but I have a funny feeling when I look at the stock prices. First off, the good. Alibaba is an awesome company (from now on, I'll refer to it by its retail website name, Taobao.com because I use them A LOT). By all accounts they are great towards their staff, they ...

How I resolved my domain's spam problems with Gmail

I don't often write technical posts, but hopefully this collation of resources will help anyone else facing this problem - suddenly, without warning, ALL of my businesses emails were blocked by Gmail. So the background - I run an ecommerce website minrivertea.com which sends various transactional emails like order confirmations, contact submissions, re-order reminders to customers. We don't send out mass communications from here (I use MailChimp) and we're pretty careful about spam at that (ie. everyone who gets an ...

The Chinese "Historical Village" tourism model is broken

This weekend I just got back from one of China's most famous 'ancient village' tourist locations, Xi Tang (西塘) in Zhe Jiang. The verdict? Awful. I'll start with my one and only nod in favour of Xi Tang - parts of it are undeniably beautiful, exactly what you dream about when you think of traditional China. OK, that's enough of that.... It smells The whole place stank. Really, really bad. By daytime, it was the smell of the horrible, cheapo ...

"There was nothing much else to do..."

I got my hands on an old interview of Hu Cheng Wu (胡成武) a local Fuzhou 'Dog Style' kung fu master - in it, he said something about the way he started learning that should have resonance with most people studying martial arts today. He said "when I was young the economy wasn't so developed, and there wasn't really much to do around my village. I heard there were some kung fu masters locally, so we all used to go ...

Fuzhou is 21st out of 659 cities in China...

I was browsing the Wikipedia page for Fuzhou last night, and apparently Fuzhou is ranked 27th out of 659 cities across the whole of China in terms of GDP (link). Wow. It's kind of a surprise, because I'm used to referring to Fuzhou as a '2nd tier city', which I generally use to imply that Fuzhou is average, or occasionally to mean "it's crappy". But the economics suggest that it really isn't when compared to the vast bulk of Chinese ...

China censors The Big Bang Theory - another huge WTF.

I got the news today that China's censors SARFT have made a strange move to ban/block the TV show The Big Bang Theory. It's not earth-shattering news, but I'm kind of unsettled by it anyway. I guess there's three things that I wanted to say, over and above the facts which are reported on the Guardian and ChinaSmack in detail. Firstly, the horse has already bolted, and this is a dumb, regressive and reactionary move. The show has been freely ...

Two Chinese companies are engaged in Tech Wars: Part Deux

I while back I wrote about two Chinese tech companies (360 and Tencent) going all out to destroy each others browser businesses; well, in 2014 the players have changed by the game is still the same, in the sequel - Tech Wars Part Deux. So by way of introduction, at lunchtime today my wife and I were stuck in a bit of a dead zone in Fuzhou, with no taxis around and what were already full. So, using the Kuai ...

The Americans has an absolutely corking Chinese name

So if you've been watching The Americans over the last year, you don't need to be told how great it is. It also happens to have one of the best Chinese name-translations I've ever seen. Deriving Chinese names for, well, just about anything, is not easy. The simplest method is transliteration - my name (Chris) in Chinese is simply ke li si. It has no meaning, it just sounds the same and is easy for Chinese people to say/remember. A ...

Language development for babies in China

As my son's language skills develop, the one language point I found so difficult to learn is something he does instinctively without thinking. Tones. Just in case you don't know, Chinese is tonal, so that a single word/sound like shi can change meanings depending on whether your voice rises, falls, stays steady or fall-rises. It's really difficult for people to 'get' when they first start learning Chinese, and it's actually very hard to hear and understand them in real-time conversations. ...

December 2013 Yong Chun Training Trip

After several mad weeks helping to organise and then actually participating in this year's winter Fujian White Crane training trip to Yong Chun, I've finally had time to sit down and write about it! The trips have been happening for years, and I've written about them before - FWC as a club has been coming to China for donkeys years, and just recently I've been helping organise the China end of things and doing translation. Dennis (the Chief Instructor) has ...

Microaggressions for foreigners in China

Remember in school when you got a crap nickname, and it stuck? People kept using it, and at some point it crossed the line from fun to annoying - that's the basic idea of microaggressions. I'm quite pleased the idea is gaining some credence, because it helps me explain why living in China is so frustrating. In China, it tends to be 'micro-inequality' more than aggression - many things people say and do towards foreigners like me constantly reaffirm the ...

Local Tyrants - the revival of a Chinese word

An old word has been enjoying a big revival in Chinese society recently - the word is 土豪 (tu hao). Just like a couple of years ago when everything was 囧 (jiong) or last year when 吊丝 (diao si) took off, this year the big word seems to be 土豪. The literal meaning is 'local tyrant', and originally it pointed to local or provincial government officials or bosses/warlords (presumably a hundred odd years ago). Now it more commonly indicates a ...

Taobao repeat success - 30bn RMB of sales in a single day....

I wrote last year about Taobao's massive day of sales, where they clocked up 19bn RMB of sales in a single day as part of the 'Guang Gun Jie' (Singles Day) on 11 November. This year's total? 35bn... The numbers coming through from Tmall's official Weibo account are as follows: 35bn RMB in sales on a single day (11th November) - that's around $5.8bn USD. Incredible 1bn RMB was spent in the first 50 minutes of the day - ie. ...

Why do Westerners 'dissect' Eastern physical arts?

It's hard to ignore the different ways Western and Chinese students approach kung fu, but when I leafed through a stack of yoga books on my friend's coffee table, I understood why. The yoga books were great (info here) - thick manuals with hundreds of clear, easy to understand and anatomically correct diagrams of the human body in various yoga postures, highlighting which muscles, bones and ligaments were in play in which moves, showing exactly how the breathing movements affected ...

Gold and Silver - Fuzhou Traditional Wushu Competition

Another weekend, another competition, another couple of medals! I got a surprise phonecall from Master Su Ying Han last week telling me this weekend there would be a kung fu competition in Fuzhou, which he was attending to give a presentation to undergraduate martial arts students. It was the 1st Annual Fujian Traditional Wushu Championships to give the full name (2013年福建省首局传统武术争霸塞), and I entered the freehand patterns and long weapons patterns as usual. The competition standard was reasonably high this ...