Welcome to Inner Dharma, the personal website of Mark Raugas. Here you will find information on my martial arts training activities in Chinese Internal Martial Arts, Classical Japanese Swordsmanship, Modern Jujutsu, and Yoga. I maintain a blog consisting of periodic essays, longer articles on martial arts, as well as links to resources of interest and groups I recommended for martial arts training.
Hebei Xingyiquan: Five Element Ten Step Linking Form
Below I describe my training history, influence, mentors and teachers, and current interests.
Initial Conditions: 1989-2005
Mixed Martial Arts
From 1989 to 2005, while living in New York City, I practiced a form of modern self-defense oriented jujutsu (goshin-jutsu) that was a mixture of Isshin-ryu Karate-do, Shorinji Kempo, Kodokan Judo, Aikido, with added waza adapted from a variety of jujutsu styles. Associated to that practice were a number of Aikido-inspired weapons arts.
Although my focus was on self-defense, I remember fondly attending several seminars in classical and traditional martial arts, including the Yagyu Shinkage-ryu and Daito-ryu Takumakai, while living in New York. This sparked an interest in learning more classical and traditional arts when the opportunity presented itself. During this time, a good friend of mine was a practitioner of Chinese martial arts, and I told myself if I ever got good enough in jujutsu, I would learn a form of Baguazhang or Bajiquan.
Transition Functions: 2004-2006
In 2004, after I received my final teaching license in modern goshin-jutsu, I visited a koryu enbu, a demonstration of classical Japanese martial arts, at the St. Louis Botanical Garden. Schools such as Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto-ryu, Shindo Muso-ryu, Araki-ryu, Toda-ha Buko-ryu, and Yagyu Shinkage-ryu were represented. Each of these seemed to have a more subtle and refined method of weapons practice than the rough and tumble practice I had been taught along side our modern jujutsu. There, while talking with Ellis Amdur, he asked me what was next for me, since I had recently been awarded the highest rank in my current style of modern jujutsu. I told him about my desire to learn Baguazhang, and he told me he knew of teachers in Maryland -- in fact, he had practiced Xingyiquan while in Japan under Su Dongchen, and was interested in its sister art of Gao Lineage Baguazhang.
Gao Lineage Bagua
Ellis Amdur introduced me to Bob Galeone, a Karate and Aikido teacher who had learned Gao Bagua from Allen Pittman and Paul Cote in the lineage of Hung Yimien, a student of Zhang Junfeng. I began training in Gao Bagua with Bob Galeone in late 2004. I subsequently received feedback on my training from Paul Cote and also Su Dongchen during his Essence of Evolution seminars in Minneapolis.
A Brief Pilgrimage
In 2005, while visiting the Gassan Dai Jinja ( 月山大神社 ) shrine on Mt. Haguro in the Dewa Sanzan ( 出羽三山 ) area of Yamagata Prefecture, and the Hagurosan Kōtakuji Shōzenin ( 羽黒山荒沢寺正善院 ) in Haguro-machi, I decided to commit my full efforts towards learning Chinese Internal martial arts, even if it meant giving up teaching modern jujutsu regularly. Realizing that while the self-defense I had been taught was an effective blend of Aikido, Judo, and Karate, its associated weapons arts had been invented by our teacher without a basis in legitimate instruction. I decided also to redirect my weapons training efforts to classical Japanese swordsmanship (koryu kenjutsu), so I could better be connected to arts as practiced in the past.
Temple Bell at Gassan Dai Jinja
These decisions required resigning from the jujutsu organization I was a member of and starting over as a beginner. I can say without reservation, ten years later, that doing so was well worth the effort.
It is because of this critical decision point in my training that I name my training hall "Moon Mountain School" ( 月山館 ): Gassankan in Japanese and Yue Shan Guan in Mandarin.
Dynamic Equilibrium: 2006-Present
Yin Cheng Gong Fa
In 2006, Bob Galeone introduced me to Paul Cote and his teacher Zhang Yun, initially in the context of Northern Wu Style Taijiquan. It is quite interesting to me that my initial high school friend who introduced me to the idea of Bagua was the college roomate of one of Zhang Yun's senior students, Clayton Shiu. Small world. I began training in the North American Yin Cheng Gong Fa (YCGF) organization in earnest, receiving instruction in the traditional Chinese Internal Martial Arts of Baguazhang, Xingyiquan, and Taijiquan.
I initially studied Northen Wu Style Taijiquan with Paul Cote, and when my jobs changed and work schedule increased, shifted to visiting Shifu Zhang Yun in Pittsburgh, PA, periodically for training. Initially I focused on learning Hebei Xingyiquan from Zhang, but over time received instruction and corrections on my Bagua and Taiji as well. I am making sure to put in a strong effort into learning classical Chinese weapons of the sword (jian), sabre (dao), and spear (qiang), which YCGF maintains a very strong and dynamic practice of.
I currently practice:
- Yin & Cheng & Liu Style Bagua Zhang ( "Eight Trigram Palm" )
- Northern Wu Style Taiji Quan ("Grand Ultimate Boxing ")
- Hebei Style Xingyi Quan ( "Form Mind Boxing" )
In September 2015, I was very honored and fortunate to be accepted as a lineal disciple of Shifu Zhang Yun, himself a student of the late Grandmaster Wang Peisheng. I currently practice Yin, Cheng, & Liu Baguazhang, Hebei Xingyiquan and Northern Wu Style Taijiquan as taught by Zhang Yun.
In the Fall of 2006 I received my 200-hour certification as a Hatha Yoga instructor from Kim Manfriedi at Midtown Yoga, with a focus on Vinyasa Yoga.
In 2012, I attended the Kalachakra Empowerment for World Peace officiated by His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama in Washington, DC. My practice of Vajrayana Buddhism and Yoga have positively influenced my life in countless ways.
During the last ten years, I have also been quite fortunate to learn elements of koryu kenjutsu (classical Japanese swordsmanship). In 2005 I was introduced by my Gao Bagua instructor to a small group at Capital Aikidō that practiced the approach to Tenshinshō-den Katori Shintō-ryu taught by Sugawara Tetsutaka (7th dan shihan in Aikidō and kiyoshi in Katori Shintō-ryu) who is the founder of Sugawara Budō. I was awarded a mokuroku diploma in Katori Shintō-ryu as taught within Sugawara Budo in 2010.
Shintō-ryu: Omote no Tachi
In 2006, a jujutsu friend named Michael Heiler introduced me to his Yagyu Shinkage-ryu kenjutsu teacher, Dr. David Hall, who leads the Hōbyōkan, a private school of classical Japanese martial arts. Dr. Hall studied Shindō Muso-ryu jō under Donn Draeger, Yagyu Shinkage-ryu under Yagyu Nobuharu, and Jiki Shinkage-ryu under Namiki Yasushi. I expressed an interest to Dr. Hall in understanding the differences between arts stemming from Katori and Kashima shrines.
In 2008, I was allowed to join the Hōbōykan as a student of Kashima-shinden Jikishin Kage-ryu (鹿島神傳直心影流) kenjutsu. I have benefited greatly from Dr. Hall's experience and insights based on his training in Jiki Shinkage-ryu as well as his experience in Yagyu Shinkage-ryu and Shintō Muso-ryu jō. I currently practice the full curriculum of Jikishin Kage-ryu taught at the Hōbyōkan. I find Jikishin Kage-ryu a deep and rewarding practice that fits both my physical aspect and mental demeanor, and is congruent with my primary practice of internal martial arts.
Since 2015, my scope of practice has narrowed to continuing my study of the internal martial arts and mastering the Kashima-shinden Jiki Shinkage-ryu. While I continue to practice a subset of the Katori Shintō-ryu kata I know as a personal misogi (purification) and shugyo (asceticism), I no longer am an active member of Capital Katori.
In addition to neijia, I still practice modern jujutsu, but in a condensed curriculum integrated with a practice of Gao Lineage Baguazhang. This is an independent jujutsu art called Gassankan Jujutsu, which I developed after ten years of practice in Gao Bagua, focusing on an efficient curriculum of locking, throwing, and self-defense, compatible with bagua principles, so that students of Gao Bagua could have a basic vocabulary of grappling.
More information can be found at my dojo website: Gassankan.
Ben Lawner is my current student in Gassankan Jujutsu and has reached the chuden level of training. He has my permission to teach that art.