Inner Dharma:  Martial Arts & Culture

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Welcome to Inner Dharma, a website focused on martial arts and physical culture, particularly the Chinese Internal Martial Arts (nèijiaquán) and Classical Japanese Swordsmanship (koryu kenjutsu). My name is Mark Raugas and here you will find short notes on my training interests, teaching, and perspectives (in the form of short essays) on martial arts and culture.


I began training in martial arts as a child in Shukokai, a hard style of Japanese Karatedo that was developed from Shito-ryu and Goju-ryu. In 1989, I entered a school of modern self-defense oriented jujutsu that was very much a Mixed Martial Art -- a blend of Aikidō, Karate, Judo, and Jujutsu. I had attended several seminars in classical and traditional martial arts while living in NYC -- including Yagyu Shinkage-ryu and Daito-ryu Takumakai -- but did not stray far from from my core practice. I have fond memories of sparring with friends who practiced Wing Chun and Choy Li Fut at the NYU gym, and listening to a good friend from high school talk about Baguazhang circle walking and a mysterious art called Ba Ji Quan. I thought I might want to eventually learn Baguazhang after my skill in jujutsu was solid, but was comfortable in my practice. It seemed to pay dividends.

In 2004, after I received my final teaching license in modern jujutsu, I visited a koryu enbu -- a demonstration of classical Japanese martial arts -- at the St. Louis Botanical Garden. Schools such as Tenshin Shoden Katori Shintō 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. In St. Louis, over lunch, after hearing I had completed my jujutsu training, my friend Ellis Amdur asked me a prophetic question:

"What's next?"

I remembered back to that idea I had early on in my training -- when my skill in jujutsu was solid, I wanted to learn Baguazhang. It seemed like as good an idea as any. When I told Ellis this story, his eyes lit up -- he was in the process of traveling to Maryland periodically, not too far from where I lived, to learn Gao lineage Baguazhang, a variant of Cheng style Baguazhang that was in many ways the sister art to the line of Xingyiquan he had learned from his one of his teachers named Su Dong Chen while in Japan. Ellis was training with Bob Galeone, who in addition to studying and teaching Uechi Ryu Karate and Aikidō, had learned Gao lineage Baguazhang from Allen Pittman and Paul Cote. Allen Pittman had learned Bagua from Robert Smith and the brother of Smith's teacher, a man named Hung Yi Mien. Thus began my study of Chinese internal martial arts.

At the time, I had practiced modern jujutsu actively for over fifteen years. 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. I continued to learn Gao lineage Baguazhang from Bob, and visited students of Su Dong Chen's Essence of Evolution to begin my study of Xingyiquan. I later had the opportunity to attend seminars in "Essence of Evolution" with Su Dong Chen when he visited Minneapolis, and get some insight into Xingyiquan and Gao Bagua from him as well.

Hebei Xingyiquan.

Over time, Bob grew more and more interested in Taijiquan, and he introduced me in early 2006 to Paul Cote, who had entered the Yin Cheng Gong Fa (YCGF) organization to study under Zhang Yun, an advanced practitioner of several internal arts. Zhang had been an indoor disciple of the late Wang Peisheng, who led the Wu Taijiquan group in Beijing. I maintained my initial Gao Baguazhang and Xing Yi practice at first, but over time began focusing on the arts as taught within YCGF. I attended Paul's Taijiquan and Baguazhang classes in Damascus and Frederick for several years, and was subsequently introduced by Paul to Zhang Yun -- both at annual seminars in Maryland and traveling out to Pittsburgh when I expressed an interest in learning Zhang's approach to Xing Yi. I am very grateful to have had that opportunity, as it radically transformed my training.

I currently travel to Pittsburgh, PA on a periodic basis to continue my training in YCGF. First, I focused on learning Xingyiquan and Taijiquan from Zhang, but I have also benefited from his corrections to my Baguazhang. I view the Xingyiquan, Baguazhang, and Taijiquan taught by Zhang Yun and his students as my primary martial art practice.

I have since realized that the level of skill offered up by arts such as Baguazhang and Xingyiquan far surpass what we had been attempting in our small NYC jujutsu school. If Gao lineage Baguazhang refined the movement I had learned from jujutsu and taught me better ways of maintaining posture and responding to changing circumstances, my subsequent practice in YCGF is slowly burning every vestige of modern jujutsu training from my bones.

I have not looked back.

While YCGF is my primary martial focus, I also practice the eight big palms (Ba Da Zhang) of Cheng Style Baguazhang and single palm change from the Gao Lineage. I have learned a variant of the 64 linear tactics of Gao bagua, but do not actively practice those forms as a complete set at this time. Instead I focus on applications of locking and throwing from the big palms and a subset of movements from the linear tactics, performed in application. I have more than enough to keep me busy.

Tongbei Dao

In summary, I currently practice Chinese Internal Martial Arts under the Yin Cheng Gong Fa (YCGF) organization of Zhang Yun Laoshi. My practice is focused on developing a level of mastery in the following arts:

As part of this training, I practice straight sword (Taiji Jian and Baguazhang Jian), two-handed broadsword (Taiji Dao and Tong Bei Dao), and spear (Taiji Qiang). I also practice the Cheng Style Baguazhang eight mother palms (Ba Mu Zhang) and Liu Style Ba Fa (Eight Methods). These are all as taught by Zhang Yun as part of YCGF.

My practice of Cheng Style eight big palms (Ba Da Zhang) and single palm change is currently drawn from my study of Gao Lineage Baguazhang.

Koryu Kenjutsu

In 2005 I was introduced by Bob Galeone 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. Capital Katori is currently led by France Hoang and was previously overseen by Eric Zmarzly. I was awarded a mokuroku diploma in Katori Shintō-ryu as taught within Sugawara Budo in 2010.

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 Jikishin Kage-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 Jikishin Kage-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.

Shintō-ryu: Omote no Tachi

As time progresses, and life commitments grow, I have begun to focus more and more on deepening my understanding of Jikishin Kage-ryu kenjutsu at the Hōbyōkan. Something in the art speaks to me -- I find it a deep and rewarding practice that fits both my physical aspect and mental demeanor, and is congruent with my primary practice of neijiaquan in Yin Cheng Gong Fa. While my focus has narrowed to continuing my study of the internal martial arts and mastering the Kashima-shinden Jikishin Kage-ryu, I continue to practice a subset of the Katori Shintō-ryu kata I know as a personal misogi (purification) and shugyo (asceticism). Due to this shift in focus, and also time and distance constraints, I no longer am an active member of Capital Katori.

Yoga Tantra

I also maintain a strong interest in Tantric Buddhism and Vinyasa Yoga. I completed a 200-hour level teacher training in hatha yoga in 2006. I have taught Vinyasa Yoga at Charm City Yoga's Fells Point and Towson studios. I attended the Kalachakra Empowerment for World Peace held by His Holiness The Dalai Lama in 2011.

Please contact me at the email address below with any comments or questions.


Mark Raugas | mark [at] innerdharma [dot] org | © Inner Dharma 2014 | All Rights Reserved