Not quite a stranger

I have no idea why, but as I was sitting at my desk grading assignments, I suddenly found myself thinking of Joanna Zorya.

I mentioned Joanna in a couple of posts on the earlier version of this blog, while I was still living in Singapore. I followed the blog of one of her students, Kenny, until he stopped maintaining it, and Joanna and I exchanged comments a couple of times.

She’d come to my attention when her philosophy of rejecting the concept of qi, and teaching neijia purely as functional martial arts caused a stir for a while; looking back now, I’m not sure I remember why exactly people got so worked up about it.

Anyway, I quickly googled her to find her school’s website, and was startled to see this message at the top of the page:

Joanna Zorya passed away peacefully on Sunday 6th March 2011. Her memory lives on through this website, through her articles and videos, and in the hearts, minds, and movements of her students and her friends.

I never met Joanna in person, and I don’t know what happened to her. It seems from her website that she’d had a tough couple of years. I suppose all I can say is that we briefly made contact, and she impressed me with her passion and commitment to her arts, and her determination in fighting her corner. I’m sorry to learn that she isn’t with us any more.


  1. Like you I also only knew her by the internet, the controverse discussions on Qi in MA. I have no clue about her as a person. RIP

    But sorry, in relation to CMA, I couldn’t find anything in her line of thinking which would make me respect her work. I also didn’t like her vids with the small Julie, saying she would beat up grown man, and as she has lived in Taiwan, where I’m a long term resident, I just wonder, how the hell she could have missed the concept of Qi, which is found here in any aspect of live. To negate such a basic aspect of Chinese civilisation would make it impossible to really grasp the meaning of any disciplines comming out of that civilisation.
    2 cents only!


    1. I think it was a discussion that belonged to a certain time and place. As I understand it, she was reacting against the people in the UK who were teaching taijiquan simply as “Chinese Yoga”, often actively denying that there was any connection with fighting. Such teachers spoke a lot about mystic qi, and healing powers, and so on, but wouldn’t know that taijiquan was once taught to imperial bodyguards. I think Joanna was reacting against this misrepresentation of taiji, and perhaps went too far in the opposite direction as a result.

      As fo the UK, those teachers are still plentiful, but I see more and more adverts from schools and teachers who appreciate taiji for what it is, and teach it appropriately; that’s a shift that’s occurred while I was living in Asia.


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