Inner Dharma:  Martial Arts & Culture

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The phrase Inner Dharma refers to the idea of hidden meaning, following a path true to one's heart. It is also a play on words, as I used to teach Modern Jujutsu near the Inner Harbor of Baltimore and Bodhi Dharma is the founder of Zen Buddhism and mythical inventor of the practice of martial arts at the historical Shaolin temple. This website is devoted to ideas in martial arts and physical culture, with a focus on Chinese Internal Martial Arts (nèijiaquán), Classical Japanese Swordsmanship (koryu kenjutsu) and modern jujutsu.

Chinese Internal Martial Arts

Baguàzhang ( 八卦掌 ), often referred to as "bagua" in short, is characterized by balanced, fluid, and circular movement. A practitioner can made sudden changes of direction without disturbing his or her balance and can find spiral paths around or through an opponent's force.

I first began to learn Gao lineage bagua, a form of Cheng-style taught primarily in Tianjian and Taiwan, from Bob Galeone in 2004. Bob was introduced to me by my friend Ellis Amdur after I mentioned to him an interest I had in the art of bagua. I had been training in a form of self-defense oriented jujutsu since 1989 and had received my final diploma in that art. I was looking for another art to explore, having moved from Princeton to Baltimore. Gao bagua complemented the jujutsu techniques I knew very well, much better than the eclectic kenpō karate I had been taught as part of my modern jujutsu practice. After a while, I began to integrate my jujutsu locks, throws, and sweeps with elements of movement from bagua. My practice of bagua has re-invented and re-invigorated my grappling practice to the point where my expression of jujustu techniques can no longer easily be associated with their original school.

I continue to practice elements of Gao lineage baguàzhang, focusing on circle walking, single palm change, and the 8 big palms (pre-heaven practice). I also practice a subset of the 64 linear tactics (post-heaven practice) of Gao lineage baguàzhang and elements of baguà staff. I have recieved corrections from both Paul Cote and Su Dong Chen on my Gao bagua practice.

In 2006, Bob introduced me to Paul Cote and the Yin Cheng Gong Fa (YCGF) organization, where I learned elements of Yin, Liu, and Cheng style baguàzhang. I have subsequently become dedicated to learning Yin style Bagua as taught within YCGF by Zhang Yun. I consider the 64 palm changes of Yin style baguàzhang to be my primary baguàzhang practice. I also practice Cheng style 8 mother palms, the linear baguàzhang of Liu Dekuan, and baguà jien (straight sword).

Xingyiquán ( 形意拳 ), often referred to as "xingyi" in short, is characterized by stability and short range explosive power. To outward appearance, it has a smaller curriculum than baguàzhang or many jujutsu styles, but each teaching is meant to convey an idea and ability to the practitioner, and develop a particular aspect of trained force (jin). This ability can be expressed in a variety of ways, spontaneously, during combat, making xingyiquán a versitile and powerful form of boxing.

I was first introduced to Hebei Xingyiquán in 2006 and 2007, when I attended training under Su Dong Chen and his Essence of Evolution (EOE) students in Minneapolis, MN. This piqued my interest and in 2008 I continued my training in Hebei xingyiquán under Zhang Yun and YCGF. I find it a compelling practice that complements my bagua training. There are a number of profound training methods found within xingyi's curriculum. I currently practice Hebei xingyiquán under YCGF, including San Ti Shi, the 5 elemental fists, the 10 step elemental linking form, the 2 person elemental change form, the 12 animal forms, and za shi chui (mixed skills form).

Tàijíquán ( 太極拳 ), often referred to as "taiji" in short, has many variants, and many people practice taiji for purely health and wellness reasons. When properly taught, taiji is regarded as a sublime grappling and throwing art. The Northern Wu style Tàijíquán taught by Wang Peisheng is well known for its combative focus, and was well regarded by his contemporaries in Chinese martial arts. Practicing taiji has introduced me to an entirely new level of detail in my martial arts practice, which has in turn informed all the other arts I practice. I study Northern Wu Tàijíquán under YCGF, including the 37 posture form, 5 posture essential form, Tuai Shou (push hands), Da Lu ("big roll back", an eight step moving push hands), Neigong, Tàijí jien (straight sword), Tàijí dao (saber), and elements of Tàijí qiang (spear).

Shi Style Tongbeiquan ( 通背拳 ) "Spreading Power from the Back" or Heiquan "black fist" is a powerful and aggresive form of Chinese martial arts that is Taoist in origin and can be viewed as a combination of internal and external principles in martial arts. I currently practice the Tian Gang Dao (36-star sabre) of Tongbeiquan within YCGF.

Classical Japanese Swordsmanship

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to learn about classical Japanese martial arts in some depth. I was introduced to the Tenshinshō-den Katori Shintō-ryū by students of Sugawara Tetsutaka and the Kashima-shinden Jiki Shinkage-ryū by David Hall, student of the late Namiki Yasushi.

Kashima-shinden Jiki Shinkage-ryū ( 鹿島神傳直心影流 ) descends from kenjutsu styles developed in the late 15th or early 16th century at the Kashima Shrine. Matsumoto Bizen-no-Kami Naokatsu (1467–1524) is typically regarded as its founder. The direct predecessors of the Jikishinkage-ryu style are the Shinkage-ryu and the Aizu Kage-ryu. Aizu Iko founded Kage-ryu in 1490, while Kamiizumi Ise no Kami Nobutsuna (1508–1548) founded the Shinkage-ryu. During the 19th century, Jiki Shinkage-ryu was one of the most popular schools of combative swordsmanship (kenjutsu) in eastern Japan, especially in the Edo area. The 14th headmaster of Jiki Shinkage-ryu Kenjutsu, Kenkichi Sakakibara, was one of the most well-known swordsmen of his time, and the personal bodyguard of the Shogun. Jiki Shinkage-ryu is famous for its powerful cutting ability and its arduous kata practice, which develops strong breath (kokyu) and spirit (kiai) in its practitioners. I am studying Jiki Shinkage-ryu from Dr. David Hall at the Hobyokan in Bethesda, MD. Dr. Hall learned Jiki Shinkage-ryū beginning in 1978 from Namiki Yasushi, Ito Masayuki, and Kato Koji. Dr. Hall is also a long-time practitioner of Shintō Muso-ryū jo and Yagyu Shinkage-ryū heiho.

Katori Shintō-ryū ( 香取神道流 ) was founded in the mid to late fifteenth century by Iizasa Ienao, who was living near Katori Shrine (Sawara City, Chiba Prefecture) at the time. It is one of the oldest surviving martial traditions in Japan, and encompasses methods of iai, kenjutsu, bōjutsu, naginata, yari, kodachi, and ryotō (two sword). I am studying Katori Shintō-ryū Sugawara Sogo Budo from France Hoang, Eric Zmarzly, and Sugawara Tetsutaka (7th-dan Aikidō). I received a mokuroku diploma from Sugawara-sensei in 2010. I practice at Capital Katori in Silver Spring, MD.


Below are some articles I have published on this site in PDF format:

I also keep a periodic blog on some of my interests, including martial arts, travel, and photography.

Other Interests

I also maintain a strong interest in Tibetan Buddhism and Vinyasa Yoga. I attended the Kalachakra Empowerment for World Peace held by His Holiness The Dalai Lama in 2011. I also 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.

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


Mark Raugas | mark [dot] raugas [at] gmail [dot] com | © Inner Dharma 2013 | All Rights Reserved