The Dragon Climbs the Three Tiered Pine: The Logo of Ziran Martial Arts

The Dragon Climbs the Three Tiered Pine: The Logo of Ziran Martial Arts
By Seth Davis

Ziran means “nature” in Chinese.  The full name of our school Ziran Dao Taijiquan Wuguan 自然道太極拳武館 translates into "Natural Way T’ai Chi Fist Martial Hall" or Ziran Martial Arts(Natural Martial Arts) for short.  There are a number of meanings imbedded in the name, but most importantly it is intended to serve as a constant reminder that we should be living and training according to our natural tendencies and in balance with our internal, external, natural and societal environments.   
I have had an image in my mind for several years.  It was of a dragon climbing in a spiral around the Sangai Matsu, the three-tiered pine.  The Sangai Matsu is the family crest of my teacher Grand Master Kaneiki Iwao and is also is the symbol for Ogoshi Musoryu Jujitsu, the school that was passed down to Kaneiki Sensei by his grandfather, father, and uncles.  My idea of a symbol showing a dragon climbing upward in a spiral around the tree was inspired (I think) by a gift that my teacher gave me of a cast bronze statue of a dragon coiled around a sword. I thought the tree and dragon image would be a perfect logo and symbol for our school. It imbedded the crest of our family lineage and instilled it with the energy of the dragon which is traditionally perceived as a force of nature. 

The Sangaimatsu of Kaneiki Iwao and Ogoshi Musoryu Jiujitsu

The Sangaimatsu of Kaneiki Iwao and Ogoshi Musoryu Jiujitsu

Several years back, a friend of mine named Joe Domelewski created a logo for our “Natural Dragons” program.  Natural Dragons was a weekend extension of our gongfu school. It was a synthesis of martial arts, outdoors education, and organic farming.  Joe’s logo was very nice and included a dragon soaring around the Sangai Matsu to form a ring.  I had played around with this idea for a bit after deciding that my original idea of the dragon climbing the tree was too complex for a logo. Joe brought my rough concept into a refined and professional form that I was very happy with. We did the Natural Dragons program for a season and then opted to postpone the program until we had built more infrastructure.  We are almost there by the way.  (The classroom is fully built and the solar panels are on the roof!  Next I need to install fencing and start to bring in top-soil.)  I’ll address that more in later blog posts. Kaneiki Sensei liked Joe’s logo very much and adapted it into a design for the school shirt that my classmates in Japan wear.


More recently, my friend, Edison Lee of Move Foundry came on board as our videographer and web designer. He took on the task of designing the logo according to my original idea.

Within the logo, the Sangai Matsu tree symbolizes both the tree of life and the transmission of family knowledge from one generation to the next.  The bottom tier represents those who have come before.  The middle tier represents the current generation of practitioners. The top tier represents those who will receive our martial arts in the future and carry it on.  A dragon has climbed the tree and has spiraled its way up to the top.  The dragon represents the infusion and the transmission of the spirit and skill of gongfu and budo (martial way) from the past to the present and to the future.  Furthermore, it represents qi (intrinsic energy) traveling through the body as a spiral energy.  You might also notice that there is a Z for “Ziran” imbedded in the logo.  Edison claims that it just worked out that way.  Coincidence? I think not!

Ziran Matial Arts Logo - Dragon Climbs the Sangaimatsu   Copyright 2017 Seth Davis

Ziran Matial Arts Logo - Dragon Climbs the Sangaimatsu  
Copyright 2017 Seth Davis

This is the logo image that I have been visualizing for a long time. Edison warned me before we started that it was going to be pretty complex.  I told him “let’s go for it.”  I am delighted to say that thanks to his creative efforts and tenacity in refining the design until we were both thoroughly satisfied, my good friend Edison Lee of Move Foundry has nailed it again!

Ziran Martial Arts Lineage and History Part 1 -Gu Style Taijiquan & Yang Jia Michuan Taijiquan

ZIRAN MARTIAL ARTS LINEAGE AND HISTORY       PART 1 - Gu Style Taijiquan & Yang Jia Michuan Taijiquan

Ziran Martial Arts Lineage Seth Davis Copyright 2017

Ziran Martial Arts Lineage Seth Davis Copyright 2017


Note: This history is a brief narrative to illuminate some of the figures presented in the lineage chart above.  The lineage chart does not show all significant practitioners of Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan), and is intended to show the direct path of transmission for the Gu Style ("Sun Branch Kou Style") to the students at Ziran Martial Arts. In addition it shows my classmates in Japan who  are active first tier disciples of my teacher, Master Kaneiki Iwao. Any inaccuracies or misrepresentations are unintentional, nonetheless, they are my sole responsibility. This article will be updated periodically. 

1. Zhang San Feng 1279-1368? is counted as the founding patriarch of Taijiquan (T'ai Chi Chuan). He is a legendary and/or symbolic figure for the art and is surrounded by mythology and fantastic tales. His achievement of taoist immortality after his exodus from Shaolin to the Wudang mountain is very famous and has been told in many versions. The exact period of his life and his actual contributions to taijiquan are not verifiable. He is credited with the classics presented in the T'ai Chi Chuan Ching (Lo,pg. 10)

2. Yang Lu Shan(1799-1872)  was the founder of Yang Taijiquan.  He is credited with founding many branches and numerous variations of his style during his travels. Amongst the famous styles attributed to him are Guang ping style, Michuan Yang (Yang Jia), and Yang Family Taijiquan.  He was an avid practitioner of the martial arts and spent a number of years in the Chen Village learning the Chen method of taijiquan. He then disseminated the art widely throughout China. He came to be known as "Yang with no rivals" (Invincible Yang) and is alleged to have fought countless matches and remained undefeated. The presentation and interpretations of his teachings seem to vary somewhat dependant on the place and period during which he was teaching. It is probable that he integrated skills into his taijiquan from a number of arts that he learned throughout his life. Several major branches of taijiquan including Wu style and Sun style have variously developed from, or have been strongly influenced by Yang during his many years of traveling and teaching. 

Yang and his sons served as trainers for the Imperial Military during much of the 1800's. The T'ai Chi Chuan that was used as a basis for sword and combat teachings and that was also taught openly in the Yang training halls is called Yang Style T'aichi Chuan. The term Yang "Public" Style is used here to distinguish this aspect of Yang's teachings from Yang Jia Michuan Style.  Michuan refers to "family" or "secret" teachings. Yang Michuan style is believed to have been only passed on to one of Yang Lu Shan's son's, Yang Jian Hou. Yang Jian Hou in turn taught only one student, Zhang Qinlin, who taught Wang Yen Nian, and a small group of others. In the aftermath of World War II, only Master Wang Yen Nien is known to have passed on the style. He successfully trained a number of qualified teachers who have significantly disseminated the style both in Taiwan and abroad. Both the Public styles and the Michuan style are martial in nature and comply with taiji principles. Michuan demonstrates certain thematic movement, mechanics, techniques and strategies not illustrated in the "Public" form such as emphasizing the rear leg as a primary motivator of motion/ terminus of centralization.

3. Yang Jian Hou(1842-1917) was reputed as a great master of Taijiquan. His Son Yang Chen Fu also became famous, and in the Yang family lineage is second only to his grandfather Yang Lu Shan. Surprisingly enough, Jian Hou did not teach the Michuan System to Yang Chen Fu. This may be because, Chen Fu only became serious about T`ai Chi after entering his adult life. Instead, Jian Hou taught Michuan to Zhang Qinlin, an orphan student. 

Jian Hou also trained with and taught many of his contemporaries in the martial arts. Amongst them, General  Li Jing Lin, exchanged techniques with Yang Jian Hou and learned the Traditional Yang Long form, later standardized and adapted by Yang Chen Fu as the 108 posture form, which he adjusted towards "large frame" with expansive movements.  General Li Jing Lin's biographical information is discussed below in the section on Gu Style Taijiquan.

Yang Jia Michuan T'ai Chi Chuan, A Hidden Tradition

4. Zhang Qinlin (1888-1967?) recieved the Michuan teachings after defending the reputation of the Yang Family by defeating a famous martial artist who came as a challenger to the Yang training hall. Jian Hou opted to pass the Michuan system out of the Yang Family since he perceived Zhang to be his most worthy student. Zhang earned a reputation as a top martial artist and became famous after winning the unarmed division of the All China Fighting Championships in 1929 (Rodell, pg. 279). 

Zhang did not teach a large number of students. However, It is clear that he taught more than one student the Michuan style and that he realized the risk of losing this aspect of the Yang Family teachings when one of his few disciples was killed in World War II. He gave instructions to Wang Yen Nien to teach Michuan to whomever wanted to learn if he was able to make it through the chaos of war and the aftermath.

5. Wang Yen Nien (1914-2008) was an expert in several systems of bayonet fighting and a trainer for the Nationalist Chinese military. After WWII he went to Taiwan amidst the political upheaval that was occurring between the Kuomingtang and the Communists. In Taiwan he ultimately became a Taiji teacher of the Michuan System and has shared the system openly.  He has expressed that enough students have advanced to become qualified teachers of the system so that he is confident of the survival of the art. 

Kaneiki Sensei with Master Wang Yen Nien and other group members

Kaneiki Sensei with Master Wang Yen Nien and other group members

Gu Taijiaquan- A union of Old Yang Long Style and the teachings of Sun Style

Great Grand Master Gu Ru Zhang iron palm method Image courtesy of Harmonious Fist Athletic Association

Great Grand Master Gu Ru Zhang iron palm method
Image courtesy of Harmonious Fist Athletic Association

6. General Li Jing Lin (1886-1933?) The God of Swords was renowned for his Wudang Swordsmanship. It is said that he was outmatched only by Yang Jian Hou in swordplay. Another version of the story credits Yang Bou Hou, the older brother of Jian Hou with this accomplishment. As a military general, Li was also a charismatic diplomat for the martial arts and brought together many members of the martial arts community to teach at the Zhongyang Guoshuguan, a unified school with his sponsorship. He passed the Yang long form along with several Wudang sword sets onto Northern Shaolin Longfist Grandmaster Gu Ru Zhang (Kou Yu Cheung in Cantonese), one of "Five Tigers Who Came South" to teach at Li's academy. Li suffered an untimely death at the age of 47 after being poisoned by an apothecary who gave the God of Swords a pill to make him immortal.

General Li Jing Lin

General Li Jing Lin

7. SUN LU TANG (1860-1932) was a famous master of Baguazhang, Xingyiquan, and Taijiquan. He developed Sun style taiji, which synthesized aspects of all three of his specialties. He was highly influential in Kuo Yu Cheung's (Gu Ru Zhang's) style of taijiquan. See Kuo Yu Cheung below for a brief explanation of Master Sun's influences. Information about Sun Lu Tan is widely available as his teachings are wide spread. 

Sun Lu Tang

Sun Lu Tang

8. Gu Ru Zhang (Kou Yu Cheung) (1893-1952?) "Iron Palm" is widely considered to have achieved the top level of martial arts mastery. He is counted as the Great Grand Master of Bei Shaolin, Northern Long Fist. Several famous martial artists in the United States descended from his lineage include: Master Wing Lam, and Master Wong Jack Man (retired in 2005 and known for a fight with Bruce Lee with an unclear outcome.)

Gu Ru Zhang

Gu Ru Zhang

As noted above, Gu studied taijiquan with Li Jing Lin. Lin also introduced Gu to Sun Lu Tang, the founder of Sun Style Taijiquan. Sun had learned taijiquan from a separate lineage and then integrated the Yang style "traditional" long form from Li Jing Lin and Yang Jian Hou into his 13 postures method. Sun was considered a leading master of Bagua and Xingyiquan at the time. It is clear that Sun had already established his "Sun style" taijiquan form well before he worked with and instructed Gu. Sun style taijiquan, synthesized Taiji with Bagua and Xingyi and is practiced today as one of the five major branches of taijiquan. It is the crown of Sun's system.

Gu adopted many of Sun Lu Tan's principles into his own taiji, -enough to count Sun along with Li Jing Lin as his two Taijiquan teachers as noted in a translation excerpt I received of Gu's original text, Taijiquan. (Paul Brennan Translations)

Some of Kuo's descendants have called the style "Sun Branch Kou Style" form.(Tam, pg. 27)However Sun Style Taijiquan should not be mistaken for Gu Ru Zhang's Yang Long Form "Sun Branch Gu Style", although the name has evidently resulted in substantial confusion amongst practitioners trying to clarify lineage. We call it "Gu style" after the Mandarin pronunciation of Kou Yu Cheung's name: Gu Ru Zhang. 

Through my own investigation I have found that Gu's form closely coincides in sequence with Yang Chen Fu's long form although the presentation of the movements differs significantly. Gu`s form as it was taught to me has smaller steps and agile footwork compared with Yang Chen Fu`s Large frame. Gu`s form appears to retain certain mechanical aspects of Yang style that are also present in the Michuan form as well, but which are not present in Yang Chen Fu's version. This suggests that Gu Ru Zhang's modifications to the form did not take it far from its original presentation by Yang Jian Hou. On the other hand, there are plenty of variations even within the Gu lineage, so it would be innacurate to make any absolute statements or to assign undue significance to similarities that may be present. The history is interesting nonetheless.

According to various sources, in 1952, Gu Ru Zhang, at the age of 59 was imprisoned and shot dead under Communist rule. A more reliable private source has informed me that Gu passed away as a result of illness in his home. The absolute details of his fate remain unclear.  Below is a memorial of Kou in mainland China. At the memorial ceremony where the bust was dedicated, it was stated that he died alone in his home. There was no reference to the above mentioned violent death. 

Memorial to Gu Ru Zhang

Memorial to Gu Ru Zhang

9. Lung Chi Cheung (1909-1963) (dates listed on Koo's Tai Ji DVD produced by Lung Kai Ming, Northern Shaolin Lung Chi Cheung Association in Hong Kong)

According to Paul F. N. Tam's biographical information on his teacher, Master Lung Chi Chueng (Lung Tze Hsiang) (Long Zixiang) studied with Kuo Yu Cheung (Gu) from the age of eighteen and was exposed to the full teaching of Northern Shaolin, taijiquan, etc. as a disciple student. (Tam, pg. 26) As an adult he was an orthopedist and martial arts teacher. In 1935, Lung became instructor at Guangzhou Martial Arts Institute. In 1937 during the Sino-Japanese war (WWII in China) he treated victims in the Northern Provinces of China. After the war, he moved to Hong Kong and founded the Chinese Health club along with some associates and taught martial arts there. In 1950 Lung was appointed as taijiquan instructor by the Kowloon Chamber of Commerce. Paul Tam become his student during this period. Master Lung was actively engaged in social wellfare and was granted a lifetime honourable chairmanship of the Yau-Ma-Ti-Kai Fong Social Welfare Association (Tam, Pg. 26) He wrote the book "Tai Chi chuan Studies" (Taijiquan Xue)in 1951 under the spelling (Long Zixiang). Lung Chi Cheung is survived by his son Grand Master Lung Kai Ming the head of the Northern Shao Lin Lung Chi Cheung Association in Hong Kong. Photograph borrowed from ( Leung Chi Cheung Photo Gallery

Grand Master Leung Chi Cheung

Grand Master Leung Chi Cheung

10. Tam Fung Gnar Paul (1935- ) Master Tam was born in Hong Kong. In his childhood and teens, he was a disciple student of Master Lung Chi Cheung, studying Northern Shaolin, taijiquan, and Choa- li- fo, Zhou jia, etc. After graduating from National Taiwan University in the Republic of China he worked in education for 28 years in Hong Kong. Tam taught gongfu (kungfu) courses for a wide range of companies throughout Hong Kong and served as secretary, executive, and judge for the Hong Kong Martial Arts Association for 10 years. He was also elected chairmain of the Kou Yu Cheung Memorial Association. He is the author of T'ai Chi Chuan Theory and Practice and also co-authored a book on Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan with Sun Lu Tan's daughter, Sun Jian-Yun , which was published in English in 2002. In 1989 he moved to San-Jose California where he establish the Sun Style Research Institute. 

Master Paul Tam

Master Paul Tam

Image borrowed from (

11. Tam Wing On- is listed as a disciple student in Tam Fung Gnar Paul`s text book (# 1 below). Little biographical information is currently available on Tam Wing On other than that my teacher Kaneiki Iwao met him in 1987 while Tam was teaching T`ai Chi in a park in Hong Kong. Kaneiki recognized his taijiquan as exceptional and studied with him and his students over a number of years and on repeated trips to Hong Kong. Kaneiki judged Tam to be in his sixties (?) in the 1990s. According to Kaneiki, Tam and some advanced students practiced the form with bagua palm changes and performed the form with both small and large frames. Later development incorporated by Kaneiki emphasized the palm changes, dantian rotation and spinal work, using small frame movements with agile stepping. Master Kaneiki incorporated greater angles in leaning postures derived from Wu style. These were practiced for use in push hands, grappling, counter grappling, and throws. Kaneiki implied that Tam's various students at different phases of study were guided to practice in different ways to keep their taijiquan organic and in a perpetual state of growth. This is a key principle in taijiquan training. 

A detailed biography of Kaneiki Sensei along with his background in No Shadow Fist Shaolin Gongfu (Wu Ying Quan Shaolin Gongfu) will be included in Lineage and History Part 2.  Lineage and History Part 3 will tell the history of Sanuki Tenka Musoryu Jujitsu.  


1. Tai Chi Chuan Theory and Practice, Paul F.N. Tam (English Translation by Peter Chan and Ying-Lok Lee , PBI Publications (Hong Kong) Limited 1991

2. Chinese Swordsmanship The Yang Michuan Jian Tradition, Scott M. Rodell
Seven Stars Books and Video, Annandale, Virginia 2003

3. Video Interview with Kaneiki Iwao Sensei 2000 regarding Lineage and History of Kou Yu Cheung`s taijiquan

4. The Essence of T`ai Chi Chuan Benjamin Lo, Martin Inn, Robert Amacker , Susan Foe North Atlantic Books, Berkley, CA 1985

5. Interviews with Kaneiki Iwao August 2006, July 2009, August 2011, July 2015 Kagawa Japan, regarding biographical information and documented telephone conversations/ emails through the most recent update.

Last Update April, 2017

Creed & Precepts for Ziran Martial Arts

Tom and I were having some deep conversation about what should be our first blog entry. We decided that it should be our school creed and precepts.  This is what we strive to be all about.

Creed信条 (Shinjo) By this path I develop myself for success in life:
1. I am a Martial Artist and Scholar.
2. I seek mastery through moderation. My journey towards excellence is unending.
3. I strive to be a person of positive character. I treat others with respect, courtesy, and benevolence.
4. I discipline my thoughts and behaviors.  I take responsibility for my actions.
5. I complete my daily tasks purposefully, with correct action, pride and humility.
6. I keep my eyes open to see the truth and listen with an open heart.
7. I am mindful to nurture wellbeing through the balanced cultivation of mental, physical, spiritual and environmental health. 
8. I maintain a spirit of gratitude.

Code of Self-Cultivation for the Martial Artist Scholar: 道場訓 (Dojo Kun)
1. Cultivate the spirit of Respect, Courtesy, and Honesty

I am truly respectful and courteous at all times. I choose my words carefully and am honest and forthright.  I do not belittle others. I choose kindness and courtesy over indifference and disdain. 

2. Cultivate the spirt of Continual Striving, Effort, and Commitment  

I develop myself mentally, physically, morally and spiritually through hard work, reflection and correction.  I eliminate harmful behaviors, attitudes and actions and cultivate positive attributes. 

3. Cultivate Honor through Virtuous Living

I study the meaning of virtue and carry the obligation to live virtuously.  If I fail to do so, I dishonor my parents,  my teacher, and my school (Dojo).  I am careful to affiliate with people who share these values. 

4. Cultivate the spirit of Discipline & Responsibility

I develop self-discipline, self-control and responsibility in thought, deeds and words in order to bring out the best of myself and others. Only I am responsible for my actions, and I do not blame others for my shortcomings.  I think before I act knowing that life, my own and that of others, is precious and cannot be replaced.

5. Cultivate the spirit of Humility

I act with humility. This is pride without arrogance. I do not show off or think myself superior to others, andI strive to rid myself of vanity.

6. Cultivate a lifestyle in harmony with nature  

 I work to live in harmony with nature and my environment so that I may cultivate health and contribute positively to the community and society for the present and future generations.  

7. Cultivate the spirit of Right Action, True Courage, Restraint & Benevolence

I take action with courage and restraint and the judgment to do what is right.  Benevolence is my manner and my first choice. I do not act violently, abusively or impulsively.  A violent action can never be undone. I understand that true courage will allow me to face my deepest fears and challenges in life, with positive action physically, mentally, and spiritually.  

8. Cultivate Awareness, Power of Perception, Understanding and Wisdom

I strive to be aware of my surroundings, society and myself. I hone my perception and study deeply. I learn from experience so that I do not repeat my mistakes, and I strive to use wisdom in decision making.  Power without perception is without value to me. 

9. Cultivate the spirit of Stoicism, Fortitude, Endurance and an Indomitable Spirit

I am strong in my path and do not give up even when there seems no way to go on. 

10. Cultivate the spirit of generosity and gratitude. I know that giving is better than receiving, and I nourish my spirit of gratitude.


The Four Elements ofCorrect Movement

精神  seishin(spirit)-to engage in an action with a sincere intention and a commitment to proper action
意識  ishiki (consciousness) - to have presence of mind and to concentrate one’s senses to be fully attuned with the action
呼吸  kokyuu (breath) - to unify the breath with the action
姿勢  shisei (posture) - to maintain proper posture and mechanics through the full action