Sunday, December 4, 2011

Archetypes of Female Martial Artists

This semester, I took a class called "Everyone was Kung-Fu Fighting: East Asian Martial Arts Films."  Yes, I'm getting college credit for this.  I thought I'd share my group's final project -- a short video investigating the roles of women in martial arts films.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Birthday Present Wrapping

I just had a lot of fun wrapping presents for my boyfriend's birthday.  I picked up some fun papers at Paper Place: "heroes and villans," sneakers, and sushi.

I also got some solid red and black wrap from waste not paper.  It's nice, heavy, and smooth, great for gift wrapping.

Since the boxes were fairly large, I couldn't use the decorative paper for the full box.  I ended up cutting it into strips, then experimenting with washi tape and black ribbon.  I used a lot of black, red, and grey tapes, and a hint of the thin green striped tape.

Here is the final result!  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dit Da Jow: Part II

My Jow is finally ready!  I am posting my recipe to share.  It has been modified from a Hung Gar recipe provided by Master Rodney Morgan of The Iron Lotus Society.  I removed some of the more toxic ingredients, and even added a few from other recipes I studied.  Finally, I had my recipe refined by an herbalist at AOMA.

Awesome logo by my boyfriend.


Brew 6 weeks in one gallon of vodka or gin.  Use a dark glass or ceramic container.


  • 18 g Hong Hua (Safflower): Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, promotes circulation.
  • 18 g Bai Zhi (White Angelica):  An "upper class herb" (implies safer, more effective).  Antipyretic (reduces fever), analgesic, antibacterial.
  • 18 g Du Huo (Angelica Pubescens Radix): Analgesic, anti-inflammation, sedative.
  • 30 g Mo Yao (Myrrh): Activates blood flow, relieve pain, and promote tissue regeneration.
  • 18 g E Zhu (Zedoaria Rhizome): Used as a spice, food coloring, and preservative.  May help improve immunity against cancer.
  • 30 g Ru Xiang (Frankincense): Make sure it is clear: no black or brown impurities.  Synergistic with Myrrh.  Used in traditional Asian medicine for digestion and healthy skin.
  • 18 g Niu Xi (Achyranthes Root): Stimulates blood flow.  Anti-inflammatory properties.
  • 18 g Hou Po (Magnolia Bark): Anti-inflammatory, analgesic.  Aids in relaxation of skeletal muscles.  Some antibacterial properties.
  • 18 g Chuan Xiong (Sichuan Lovage): Relatively nontoxic. Used to promote blood flow, remove blood stasis, and relieve pain.  
  • 18 g Yu Jin (Turmeric Tuber): Anti-inflammatory.  good for sprains, wounds, bruises, itchy skin.  Edible, with a strong yellow color.
  • 18 g Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia Root): Can be used to stop bleeding.
  • 18 g Gui Zhi (Cinnamon Twig): Topical cinnamon has antimicrobial properties.  Too much may be irritating or cause allergic reactions.  Widens blood vessels to increase blood flow.
  • 9 g Rou Gui (Cinnamon Bark): See above.
  • 9 g Fang Feng (Siler Root): Antipyretic (reduces fever), analgesic, antibacterial effects.
  • 18 g Ji Xue Teng (Millettia Radix): Slows heart rate and lowers blood pressure.  Antibacterial, especially against staphylococci.  Used to improve blood tone, activate blood flow, loosen muscles and joints. 
  • 18 g Mu Dan Pi (Mountain Peony Bark): Antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive, analgesic.
  • 9 g Mu Xiang (Auklandia Root): Believed to have anti-fungal, anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties.
  • 18 g Yan Hu Suo (Corydalis Rhizome): Similar analgesic action to morphine, but much less potent.  Stimulates blood flow and relieves pain. 
  • 18 g Xu Duan (Dipsacus Root): Promotes white blood cells, strengthens muscles and bone.
  • 12 g Bai Shao Yao (White Peony): Promotes white blood cells, including lymphocytes.  Antispasmodic, sedative, analgesic, and antipyretic properties.
  • 9 g Tan Xiang (Sandalwood):  Regulate blood flow and stomach function.  Aromatic scent.
  • 9 g Xiao Hui Xiang (Fennel Seed): Protects against chemical-induced toxicity.  Used to normalize blood flow and relieve pain.

The finished product after 6 weeks. 

Bottled and ready to go!


The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs2nd. Ed., by Chang Huang
Chinese Herbs: Their Botany, Chemistry, and Pharmacodynamics, by John D. Keys
Herbs Dymystified: A Scientist Explains How the Most Common Herbal Remedies Really Work by Holly Phaneuf, PhD

Note that Dit Da Jow is for external use only.  Use at your own risk, and if you have questions, see a doctor.

Creative Commons License
K-JOW by Ann Kilzer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Washi Tape

I've picked up some Japanese "washi tape" when visiting San Francisco and Seattle.  Washi tape is a special kind of masking tape made with a thin, colored papers.  It has a nice adhesive with the right amount of stickiness, so you can lift off and rearrange pieces.  Also, the tapes come in many patterns and colors, and have some translucency.  Here are some cards I made for my boyfriend:

The upper left one is a gift certificate for movie tickets, and the upper right one is for chinese sword wrapping.  Notice I used the tape to create a weave pattern.  The two at the bottom are just me playing with layering.  I really felt like I could "draw" with this stuff.

I just ordered a bunch of washi tape online.  I can't wait to play with it!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dit Da Jow: Part I

My boyfriend and I been doing "Iron Palm" training for the past few months (although I must admit he's been more diligent about practicing.) This is a Kung Fu technique based on Wolff's Law, where repeated impact is used to help increase bone density in the hands.  Traditionally, a practitioner will start by hitting a bag of lentils, then upgrade to buck shot or gravel.  All the striking is controlled and gradual -- you're not improving if you break your hand.  Here is my teacher's teacher Sifu Sam Ng demonstrating Choy Lay Fut fist toughening exercises:

Integral to this training is an herbal liniment called "Dit Da Jow," (say "dee daw jow") sometimes translated as "Iron Bruise Wine."  Its purpose is to improve circulation, relieve pain, and increase bone density.

Now there are many formulas sold in various Chinatown apothecaries or websites, most being some closely-guarded secret formula of a minimum 20-something herbs.  However, being a good scientist and the daughter of two medical professionals, this mystery potion does not sit well with me.  I want to do my homework before I'm putting something on my hands every day.  Conveniently, my Kung Fu teacher had recently acquired a few Jow recipes from another instructor, so I started a small research project to find out which ingredients are safest and most effective, then brew up my own batch.

Two popular Kung Fu liniment formulas I've seen are Zheng Gu Shui, and Blue Poppy Dee Dat Jow.  I've used the Blue Poppy stuff, and it works well.  I appreciate that all their ingredients are clearly labeled, and they all check out safe based on my research.  Also, it has a distinctive curry smell.  I know very little about the Zheng Gu Shui; I've just seen my classmates use it.

I started looking online, and came across a couple of interesting papers.  The first, Toxicological Risks of Chinese Herbs, informed me of a few ingredients to avoid, such as Aconite.  Another is a Master's Thesis on the effects of Dit Da Jow coupled with Accupressure.

Next, I checked out Half-Price Books, but it felt pretty weird to try and pull the scientific books from a shelf right next to the sections on "Crystal Healing" and "Homeopathy."  My goal was to find sound scientific evidence on the safety of these ingredients, not some new-age pseudoscience.

My college's library had a couple of nice textbooks on the subject:  The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, 2nd. Ed., by Chang Huang, and Chinese Herbs: Their Botany, Chemistry, and Pharmacodynamics, by John D. Keys.  I also picked up Herbs Dymystified: A Scientist Explains How the Most Common Herbal Remedies Really Work by Holly Phaneuf, PhD, from  Of the three, the pharmacology book was the most useful.  It contained translations from the Chinese names to the scientific names, detailed descriptions of each herb, its chemical properties, effects, and indications.  However, I am no chemist or pharmacist, so much of the details of this book were lost on me.  Phaneuf's book was easy for the layperson to read.  The only downside is it mostly covers western herbs.  The book by Keys was less helpful, I just wanted to use multiple sources to investigate my claims.

Once I'd found a safe recipe, I went to get it checked out by the experts at the Academy of Oriental Medicine Austin (AOMA).  For just $45, I got to visit an herbal specialist who had earned an MD in China.  He took a look at my recipe and helped me scale it to the right ratio to brew one gallon.  Next, I filled my new prescription from the adjacent herbal store.

Now I have a bag full of herbs, but how do you turn it into a liniment?  Most recipes soak these herbs in an alcohol solution for a minimum of 6 weeks.  Traditionally, the container was buried in some clay vessel; supposedly the longer it brewed, the better.  Since this solution is light sensitive, I opted to use amber glass for the brewing.  I found an affordable amber jug on amazon.  (Don't use plastic, because the alcohol solution tends to leech bad things out of the plastic.)  For alcohol, I picked up two bottles of King's Square Vodka, some bottom-shelf brand that's good enough to put on my hands.  Then it was just a matter of bottling it up and tucking it under the shelf for a couple of weeks!

I'll update soon with the results!  If I get permission, I'll try to post the recipe that was shared with me.

* Disclaimer:  I am not, nor do I claim to be any sort of medical or herbal expert.  Take this advice at your own risk, and remember, Dit Da Jow is for external use only.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chinese Sword Gripwraps

A friend gave me a nice pair of DaDao (broadswords) for Kung Fu training.  After a lot of practice, the fabric grip wraps wore off, and I scoured the web for information on how to add traditional wraps to my swords.  I came across some excellent examples here, created by Peter Dekker, an expert in Chinese Arms.    Now this guy does professional restorations on antiques, so clearly I'm not looking to spend more on the grip wrap than the original cost of the blades.  However, it was a source of inspiration for me.  It was interesting to learn that many grip wraps incorporated sting-ray leather under the lacing!  If you've never seen sting-ray leather, it is very durable, with a smooth, pebbly surface.  Also, I loved Dekker's attitude toward his craft.  On an old price list, he states:

"I am open for special requests, but I will not do anything without historical precedent, or at least historical plausibility.  This is because with the abundance of fantasy out there, I feel the need to place an emphasis on Qing regulations and aesthetics if it is Qing arms we are into.

Customer may be king, but Qianlong was emperor."

Wow, take that cosplayers!  Lots of web forums cite an old document he wrote as being a great intro to making your own gripwraps.  Now his current website has been under construction for awhile, and that document is nowhere to be found.  In the meantime, I need to practice my broadsword forms, so I used a nice online guide found here.  The pictures are a bit blurry, but the instructions were pretty clear.

Actually one of the most difficult parts of the process was finding the right cord.  I spent more time searching the internet for 4-6mm unwaxed cotton or silk cord in a non-white color (to prevent yellowing from sweat).  It seemed that nowhere on the internet had the right thing, from craft stores to martial arts shops.  Now I did see many grip wraps for Katana, but Japanese grip wraps are very different than Chinese.  They use a wide ribbon and the wrapping patterns are quite different.  Many people on the web suggest using paracord, but I didn't like the idea of using a slippery synthetic cord for a grip.  I could buy cotton cord wholesale from, but lord knows how much cord I'd end up with.

Then one day, I got an idea.  I could just buy white cord and dye it any color I want!  A local hardware store had just the right thing.  100% cotton cord in 3/8" thickness.  I ended up using under 25 feet per grip, so this clothesline will last me awhile.

I used Rit dye and a five gallon bucket to color the cord.  They have a wonderful color guide here.

Then, I just followed ineffibleone's guide, using Gorilla glue to adhere the ends.

Also note that if you have a cat, they will find the string irresistible, and may claw it up a bit.

Here is the final result!  It feels great when I'm training, though it's added a little thickness to the handle.