The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Friday, December 30, 2005

Two Dragons


This news story is from Yahoo. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed there.

Nationalism drives China, Japan apart

By Robert Marquand,
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Thu Dec 29, 3:00 AM ET

The growing trade between Japan and China in 2005 has been matched by rising symbolic and verbal provocations and a steady decline in public opinion and diplomatic ties - marking a new nadir in relations between the most important competitors for Asia's future.

And the year is ending on a sour note. Last week, China formally declared a policy of "peaceful development" as it rises economically in Asia. But within 24 hours, Japan's new foreign minister, Taro Aso, warned that China's nuclear program and secretive military development "pose a considerable threat," the first time a Japanese foreign minister has made such a bald statement of concern.

"This could possibly be the worst period of Sino-Japanese relations since World War II," says James Mulvenon, Asia specialist at the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis in Washington.

Few analysts predict violent conflict between Japan and China. Both nations are regarded as practical and pragmatic. Yet the negative dynamics of rising nationalism, fear, historical animosity - and China's rapid economic expansion in Asia - are at work with no mediating structures or nations. Diplomats and even some Chinese and Japanese officials say privately that Washington has yet to show it is paying much attention, apparently preoccupied with other priorities such as Iraq.

Relations between the historic Pacific rivals immediately plummeted at the start of this calendar year. Japan surprised China in February, on the first day of its biggest national holiday, Spring Festival, by saying it claimed formal control of the disputed Senkaku (or Diaoyu) islands in the oil-rich East China Sea. The year has now ended with rhetorical salvos, with Beijing describing the Japanese foreign minister's comments about China's military last week as "highly irresponsible."

Two days after Mr. Aso's warning, Tokyo announced it would jointly develop a naval SM-3 missile interceptor with the US, part of a "nuclear missile shield," for use on Japan's advanced Aegis-system destroyers that are expected to be launched in 2008. The US and Japan have been developing closer formal military ties since early this year.

In between the 2005 bookends has been a quiet, intense game of diplomatic snubs, protests, and cat-and-mouse maneuvers in the East China Sea over drilling rights and borders. China has systematically worked to keep Japan off the UN Security Council in proposed reforms of that body. This spring, carefully controlled Chinese "mobs" threw bottles and rocks at the Japanese Embassy here, and smashed up some Japanese businesses in brief rampages in Shanghai, frightening Japanese expatriates.

Japan's UN bid
After a Dec. 26 meeting with Japan on UN reform, China stated it would support greater participation by African countries in the UN rather than an expansion of the Security Council, and reiterated its concern that until Japan is properly repentant for its war-time past, China will block Japan's effort.

No plans now exist for leaders or even foreign ministers of the two most powerful states in Asia to meet. At the first "East Asian summit" this month in Kuala Lumpur, designed to enhance intra-Asian ties (and exclude the US), no "sideline" talks took place. Summit host Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi publicly stated, "We are concerned about the developing dichotomy in Japan-China relations ... one of the main pillars of East Asia cooperation."

Meanwhile, the general public opinion in both China and Japan about each other continues to slide, despite many instances of good business and professional working relationships. In fact, China is now Japan's No. 1 trade and export partner, replacing the US. But only 32 percent of Japanese have a friendly feeling toward China, a new government-sponsored poll shows. The figure has been dropping since 1995, when nearly 50 percent of Japanese said they felt positively toward their huge neighbor.

"Such a major drop in friendly feelings, or ... a rise in feelings of dislike, is not good for both countries," said former foreign minister Nobutaka Machimura in Tokyo Friday, after the poll was released.

Since visiting the Yasukuni shrine in October, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has come under pressure from the Japanese business community to curb his provocations with such an important business partner. On Tuesday Aso the foreign minister stated that Japan should not view China as an "economic threat" but that "competition is a good thing in nature."

Both China and Japan have strong domestic reasons for allowing, and even carefully feeding and managing, the chill between the two.

Cohesion through a new nationalism
China is a communist state whose ideology no longer inspires most of its people, experts point out, but whose communist structures of control still are relied on for authority and legitimacy.

Within that system, hatred for the Japanese occupation in World War II is one substitute for ideology, and building a proud China capable of becoming the No. 1 power in Asia is one way of creating national cohesion. When Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi visits the Yasukuni Shrine, a place where more than a dozen top Japanese war criminals were secretly placed for burial in the early 1970s, it gives China plenty of fuel to stoke the flames of nationalism.

"Try to imagine [German] Chancellor Angela Merkel going repeatedly to pay her public respects at a cemetery where a dozen high ranking Nazis and members of Hitler's inner circle were buried," Mr. Mulvenon points out. "Do you think that might be upsetting?"

In Japan, China's rise has become a major political topic. Japanese politicians, even the head of the liberal Democratic Party of Japan, now are shifting to the right, looking for votes in a prouder "stand tall" rhetoric. Japan has sought to become a "normal nation" not so reliant on the US. Japanese used to point to dictator Kim Jong Il in North Korea as an example of dangers in their neighborhood.

But today the talk is of the enormity of the Chinese threat, a country of 1.3 billion people that Japanese say is controlled by a government whose workings are secret and is less than forthcoming about the size and intentions of its military, and could one day shut down Japan's oil supply.

Just $25.6 billion for defense?After Aso's comment about China's hefty military spending increases, Beijing vehemently and publicly repeated the official Chinese annual defense spending figure of $25.6 billion. Yet few China experts believe that figure. The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies this fall argued that China now spends nearly $25 billion purchasing Russian armaments alone.

"If you are sitting in Japan, an island nation, and you are watching a huge neighboring country many times larger than you, start to develop a modern military, you are going to get worried," notes one European scholar in Beijing. "It is a fairly basic thing."

What many analysts worry about in the developing chill between China and Japan is the potential for a miscalculation. Japan's inability to offer a convincing apology for its wartime past, and the use of the Yasukuni shrine to score subtle ethnic put-downs in Asia (and get domestic applause) is one possible miscalculation.

Another is Beijing's apparent inability to apprehend how its growing muscularity looks in Asia, and its apparent inability to believably reassure other nations about its peaceful intentions. As Mulvenon points out, "When my Chinese friends ask me why Japan is so worried, I tell them the Chinese have no one to blame but themselves. They created this schism with their military modernization program.... [and] lack of transparency in their strategic intentions."

So far, the US has not actively engaged in trying to reduce the chill. "The US is better positioned than any of the regional powers to take the lead in changing the geopolitical context in Northeast Asia," notes James Goodby, a former US ambassador, speaking of a range of animosities and schisms in the Pacific.

"Until very recently the Bush administration has not seen fit to exercise this unique role...," he says. But Mr. Goodby adds that in recent weeks the White House may have gained a greater "awareness" of its potential for helping with stability.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Lotus


If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to www.chinesepaintings.com, where you'll not only find a huge collection of beautiful paintings, but also a lot of information on the meaning of symbols, history, different styles of painting, etc.

Lotus

Thanks to the Buddhist influence, the lotus (or sea-rose) is of unique importance in Chinese folklore and symbolism. It is the symbol of purity. The lotus comes out of the mire but is not itself soiled. It is inwardly empty yet outwardly upright. It has no branches but yet smells sweet. The words for lotus in Chinese have the same meanings as: to bind, connect (in marriage), one after the other, uninterrupted, to love, and modesty. It is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Karate


If you've ever trained in karate, or are now, or ever plan to; if you have any interest in martial arts, you have to read 24FightingChickens.

The host is Rob Redmond, who trained in traditional Shotokan Karate. He trained in Japan for several years. His teacher told him that he have taught him his art, and he should do with it what he saw fit.

Redmond has. He's taken a critical look at dogma and tradition, to see what really makes sense for American students of karate.

While personally I may not agree 100% with everything he has to say, he's given a lot of thought to every aspect of martial arts practice and teaching.

If you click on the title of this post, or if you find the 24FightingChickens link over at the right, please pay him a visit.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Empty Chairs


Empty Chairs

A table full of empty chairs,
Reminders of Christmas past.

The children were too young to know
That's where Grandpa used to sit.

The brother who couldn't make the flight.
Close cousins becoming strangers.
The daughter with her friends,
the son at his in-laws house.

The party becoming smaller, quieter.

The children grown,
their table put away.
They have lives of their own,
each has a full house...and not enough chairs.

300 Tang Dynasty Poems: #11 Seeing Li Bai in a Dream I


The Tang Dynasty was a Golden Age of culture in China. Poetry was particularly esteemed. The two giants of Tang Dynasty poetry were Da Fu and Li Po (also read as Li Bai). They were great friends as well as opposites.

LiPo could dash off a complete masterpiece in a single draft while drunk, while Da Fu had to grind his work out.

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of the classic anthology, the 300 Tang Dynasty Poems.

Below is #11, written by Da Fu.

Five-character-ancient-verse
Du Fu
SEEING Li Bai IN A DREAM I
There are sobs when death is the cause of parting;
But life has its partings again and again. ...
From the poisonous damps of the southern river
You had sent me not one sign from your exile --
Till you came to me last night in a dream,
Because I am always thinking of you.
I wondered if it were really you,
Venturing so long a journey.
You came to me through the green of a forest,
You disappeared by a shadowy fortress....
Yet out of the midmost mesh of your snare,
How could you lift your wings and use them?
...I woke, and the low moon's glimmer on a rafter
Seemed to be your face, still floating in the air.
...There were waters to cross, they were wild and tossing;
If you fell, there were dragons and rivermonsters.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Guan Yu


You might notice that whenever I post one of the 36 Strategies, I tend to use a variation of the image of the guy I'm using for this post. Who is he?

He is Guan Yu, the Chinese God of War. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the entry from Answers.com about Guan Yu. Below, I've also copied an entry from www.pantheon.org.

Guan Yu was a real person who was one of the main figures in during the Three Kingdoms Period. While his actual historic deeds are forever entwined with those attributed to him, we can safely say that he was regarded as a paragon of martial virtue, and eventually became regarded as a god.

The last time I was in San Francisco, in Chinatown, I passed by a temple dedicated to Guan Yu.

The following is copied from http://www.pantheon.org/articles/g/guan-di.html
Guan-di
by Micha F. Lindemans

"Emperor Guan", the Taoist god of war. He opposes all disturbers of the peace. He is charged with the task of guarding the realm against all external enemies, as well as internal rebels. He was also called upon during spiritualist seances to provide information about people who had died, prophecies concerning the future, and knowledge about divine recompense or retaliation for good and evil deeds. Guan-di was also revered as a god of literature since he supposedly memorized one of the classics of Confucianism, and as patron of bean-curd sellers. His immense popularity rests particularly on his supposed power over demons and evil spirits, and his ability to prevent war.

The war-god is a historical personality, the bean-curd seller Zhang (162-220 CE). He changed his name into Guan and became a renowned adventurer and general. As general Guan Yu he served under the founder of one of the three realms. In 220 CE he was executed on the orders of a hostile ruler. His cult is of relatively recent origin and was strongly influenced by Buddhist ideas. His veneration began somewhere around the 7th century CE, and even spread to Korea. In 1594 he was canonized by a Ming Dynasty emperor as god of war and protector of China and its people, and was accorded the title of Great Just Emperor Who Assists Heaven and Protects the State in the 16th century and was admitted to the Taoist pantheon. The title of Military Emperor was bestowed upon him in the 19th century by the then emperor of China who elevated him to the level of Confucius.

Guan-di was also worshipped as the protector of state officials who accorded him special veneration. The government sponsored the building of thousands of temples throughout the realm. In those temples the swords of public executioners were housed. Imperial official made offerings to him on the thirteenth day of the first and fifth month of each year; a practice that continued until the end of the Chinese empire in 1911.

Guan-di is portrayed as a nine-foot tall giant with a two-foot-long beard, a scarlet face, the eyes of a phoenix and eyebrows of silkworms. He is frequently shown standing beside his horse, wearing full armor and carrying a halberd. Alternatively he is portrayed as a military mandarin, sitting unarmed and stroking his beard with one hand and holding the Chun-qiu (the Spring and the Autumn Annals, one of the classic Confucianist works) in his other hand.

In popular belief he is known primarily for casting out demons and people call him Fu-mo da-di, the Great Ruler Who Banishes Demons. His festival is May 13.

The36 Strategies: #11 One Tree Falls For Another


In our review of the 36 Strategies, we now come to #11: One tree falls for another.

This means that an individual sacrifice may be required for the greater goal.

During the Three Kingdoms period, the leader Cao Cao found that his army was unexpectedly running out of food. If the troops came to blame Cao Cao, they'd lose confidence in his leadership, and the campaign would probably not be successful.

He asked the Chief Cook to take the blame for the shortfall, promising him that his wife and family would be well taken care of after he was executed. The cook agreed, and the campaign continued as planned.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Pragmatic View


The Cardinal has been posting all sorts of interesting stuff over at The Pragmatic View. Either click on the title of this post to be directed there, or find the link over at the right.

More on current training


My practice,such as it is - a hodge podge of YiQuan, Xing Yi Quan, and CMC's Taiji form. That's fine. I don't have the dedicated time to practice a complete system. Maybe in early retirement, I can make a real run at that kind of practice. In the meantime, here I am.

Mostly my practice is stance. I do the other things - shi li the next most often, stepping, and combat stances/mojin after that, but mostly my practice is centered on stance. When I am practicing stance I'm mostly just relaxing, or following my thoughts as one would in zazen practice; but sometimes I work on the YiQuan visualizations as well. Whatever strikes me that day.

While my intention is to stand everyday, I rarely manage to come close to that goal. There's always a lot going on.

When I was younger I used to get up much earlier to work out in the morning. The last few attempts at doing that hasn't worked out so well. I have such a difficult time getting motivated. My next strategy had been working out in the evenings when the family is settling in. I've had more success wtih that, but sometimes we go out, or have people over, or what have you.

I've organized my training material into things I really need some dedicated time for, such as stance; and other items that I can just do on the spur of the moment, such as some repetitions of PiQuan. I've become more and more aware of opportunites to get something done, and am getting better at selecting something for right NOW!

So while I may not stand everyday, I'm doing something everyday. I can really feel it when my standing practice is lacking however. I can just feel myself getting all balled up. I will continue the standing practice (or some variation of it; when I'm older I might have to sit) as long as I live.

The CMC form has become an interesting exercise for me. I hadn't practiced it in years. I wanted to see what it would be like to do it again, after some years of standing practice; and I was also curious if I could even remember the steps.

I don't practice it the way I was taught.I use it as a structure of sorts around which to practice shi li. When I work on it, it's REALLY unlike what I had been taught. I haven't been very respectful of the choreography either. I'm likely to do a movement on the opposite side, repeat sequences, do them forwards, backward, then forwards again. It's a tool.

As for Xing YiQuan, I've only scratched the surface of that. I've developed an interest in it for quite some time, as it was the foundation Wang Xiang Zhai drew from in creating YiQuan. I'm only doing a most basic variation of PiQuan, but it's enough for now.

If I were to practice the full curriculum for YiQuan as laid out by Yao Cheng Guang, I'd be practicing a lot of fighting drills. I intend to use XYQ to fill that niche. I find XYQ interesting in it's historical role and for it's aethetics.

Well, that's what I'm working on.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bath Tai Chi


Here's yet another kindred spirit. You can click on the title of this post, or at the link over at the right. Please give Bath Tai Chi a visit.

Wujimon


I'd like to point out another blog of someone who is devoted to the standing practice.

If you click on the title of this post, or on the link at the right, you'll be directed to Wujimon's blog.

Please pay him a visit.

Monday, December 19, 2005

... and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest


From the Dao De Jing, Chapter 50:

Between birth and death,
Three in ten are followers of life,
Three in ten are followers of death,
And men just passing from birth to death also number three in ten.

Why is this so?
Because they live their lives on the gross level.

He who knows how to live can walk abroad
Without fear of rhinoceros or tiger.
He will not be wounded in battle.
For in him rhinoceroses can find no place to thrust their horn,
Tigers no place to use their claws,
And weapons no place to pierce.

Why is this so?
Because he has no place for death to enter.

My oldest daughter has a friend whose mother has had Lyme Disease for as long as we've know her (maybe four or five years). It wasn't diagnosed in time for any effective treatment to be applied, and she's had to live her life with the progressively dibilitating effects of the disease. When we first met her, she was already restricted to a wheelchair.

When someone has Lyme Disease at the stage she had it, one never gets better. Your body slowly atrophes. You can hold steady for a while, but your health will never improve. You can only wait until the next slip down.

In spite of this awful condition, she had always been one of the most positive people I've ever met. She was fully aware of what lay ahead of her, but that never stopped her from making the very best of her situation as it was that day; and within her constraints, living her life to the fullest.

She ran a company out of her house that provided materials for corporate training. When she became bedridden, and required a ventilator to breathe, her husband quit his job and took over the company. He could work there at the house and still see to her care. Her three kids all go to school locally, so they can live at home and help take care of her.

She managed to be a positive part of her family's lives with intelligence, wisdom, and good humor.

She went from being needing a walker, to a wheelchair, to being bedridden. She had her husband take a wall down to open up the house so she could be better able to see what was going on a be a part of it all.

She was always thinking "out of the box" and finding ways to make the absolute most of her life.

With each slip in her health, she adapted. She always found a way to give strength to her caregivers, her family, her loved ones.

She passed today. The world will be poorer without her. She seemingly had no fear about her fate, because she knew so well how to live. She had no time to dwell on dying, because she was too busy living.

Her example touched many of us. I can only hope that in my own times of distress, I can meet life with the strength and dignity she had, and she had it right to the end.

May God bless you, Mrs Targus.

Current Training, etc.


My training is starting to come along again. I got over the psychological hurdle of thinking that I had to accomplish x number of things all in one session. I've found that I can break things up to fit into whatever time is available, and as a result, I'm not only covering more ground, I'm starting to get some depth in my practice again.

The sort of obstacles I'm referring to are ideas about having perfect conditions in which to train, or just forgetting it. Just like there's never a perfect time for a crisis, there's (almost) never a perfect time to train. If you wait until conditions are perfect, chances are you'll keep waiting.

I'm still missing some opportunities, but I know what they are and why. Again, it's a matter of letting my thinking change a little more, and I'll take more advantage of them.

In fact, I'm getting more done of what I've wanted to get to all around, including reading, and my study of the Japanese language. I'm still doing a good job of giving due attention to my family and job; maybe even a better job. This seems to be the hardest thing to due, and yet it's the simplest, really.

The root of it all has been really digging my teeth back into the standing practice again. The most fundamental lesson of the standing practice is to learn to relax. Relaxing is more than what you think; we habitually carry with us what the Reichian psychologist would call "character armor." The standing practice can be an effective way of loosening up the character armor, and over time begin to remove chunks of it.

The character armor distorts our perception of the world around us (giving us bad data as input), and corrupts our response to it.

There is a free eBook on the standing practice, Zhan Zhuang, which can be downloaded from http://www.yiquan.com.pl/ or you could click on "YiQuan" over on the link list at the right side of this page.

We had some Japanese visitors to the office last week, and I was able to keep up my end of admittedly simple conversations, but I was doing it. Also, on receiving their business cards, I was able to read more of the Japanese side than I ever have, including being able to make out the kanji for their family names.

Current reading is - Nothing Special: Living Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062502565/qid=1135025549/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/103-6626333-6629413?s=books&v=glance&n=283155

I rank her right up there with Shunryu Suzuki and Brad Warner as a Zen priest who can write about the subject in a way that the reader can really sense of the subject which is after all, more experential than intellectual.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Dao De Jing: Chapter 8


The Dao De Jing, or The Way and It's Power, is one of the great world classics, and the foundation of Daoism. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of the complete text. Here is Chapter 8.

Chapter Eight

The highest good is like water.
Water give life to the ten thousand things
and does not strive.

It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.
In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep in the heart.
In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
In speech, be true.
In ruling, be just.
In daily life, be competent.
In action, be aware of the time and the season.

No fight: No blame.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Instructions for the cook


The following is a commentary on the Tenzo Kyokun, or instructions for the cook, written by the Zen Master Dogen. It appears at www.za-zen.net. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the article there. At that site is a wealth of information on Zen, and various Zen practices. Please pay them a visit. Enjoy.
==================
Tenzo Kyokun is the first section of the Eihei Shingi, written by Dogen Zenji Sama, and completed in 1237. Although on the surface it consists of instructions for Dogen's cooks living with him in the monastery more than 760 years ago in the Kamakura period, the question is why this text is important for everybody living nowadays.

But it is not only a cook-book, but a book that instructs us how to "cook" our everyday life, that is how to prepare and manage our own personal lives. This text deals not only with handling of food, but also with our attitude towards all matters and people we encounter in our every-day live.

So we have to ask us: what is the basic ingredient of our live? For Dogen Zenj Samai, it is Zazen. Zazen is the base of our live. We have to ask us how we can live Zazen in our everyday live.

Zazen is not a ecstatic experience, it should guide our lives, letting go off ideas of good-bad, white-black, right-wrong. The Tenzo Kyokun calls this "daishin". But of course "dai" does not mean "big" compared to small. The Tenzo Kyokun says that having a daishin means being unprejudiced and refusing to take sides. In the "Fukan-Zazen-Gi" DogenZenji Sama writes to drop off all relationships, set aside all activities, which means that Zazen equals (is) daishin. Zazen makes the mind like a big mountain and a great ocean, without distinctions.

The Tenzo Kyokun teaches us not to consider expensive foods precious and not to treat cheap foods roughly. It states that we should make NO difference at all and treat everything with he same respect. But this is not only limited to ingredients for cooking. We can go one step further and say that we should not feel happy when spring comes nor feel sad when autumn comes, we should not be excited when we have good circumstances in our life, or be sad when a misfortune happens. Whatever we encounter is our life, and we must live it to the fullest. The Tenzo Kyokun says that there is no such distinction as "delicious" or "plain" foods, and the Tenzo should not be happy when he receives food of high quality, nor complain when he received food of inferior quality. The many rivers which flow into the ocean become the one great taste of the ocean.

Zazen is a true religion because Dogen Zenji taught us that it must function in our everyday lives. We should put all our energy into our work, as the Tenzo does.

The Tenzo Kyokun tells us to handle all utensils with equal care and put them back to where they belong and from where we have taken them. The same applies in our everyday life of course, and if somebody closes the sliding door banging with a big sound, we wonder why he can't hear the door cry. But what the Tenzo Kyokun states should not be limited to things, it should apply to people as well. We should treat everybody with good care and without distinction of a "high" or "Low" person, rich or poor. We are all vut one big family of Buddha.

In the Tenzo Kyokun Dogen Zenji Sama writes about the incident when he met an old Tenzo who worked drying Shiitake in the heat of the sun. Asked why he did this work himself, he answered "If I don't do it now, when else can I do it". Later, he writes about meeting a Tenzo on his ship who came to buy shiitake, and, although Dogen wanted to talk more with him, he said that he needed to go back to the temple in order to prepare food. We see how Dogen stresses the importance of "Now". Do what you need to do now. We don't know what comes tomorrow, maybe we will become ill, have an accident, maybe we will die tonight, we need to do now what we have to do. The Japanese greeting comes into my mind: "konnichi wa". The signs are now and day. Such greeting exists only in Japanese, no other language has anything similar.

Yesterday is already gone, tomorrow is not there yet, only the now counts. Now is important. Not only for the Tenzo, but for everybody in our everyday life. We must thing about what is really important for us and give our life a clear direction, a clear goal - now, based on Dogen's Zazen, Shikantaza.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

WATERCourse

If you click on the title of this post, or the link at the right, you'll be directed to a blog named WATERCourse.

WATERCourse is written by Dadi Astthorsson, of Iceland.

Dadi's blog includes articles on boxing, body movement, and coaching. Please pay him a visit.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Who needs Fiction: Giant Jellyfish


Click on the title of this post to be directed to the London Times.

How do you tackle an invasion of giant jellyfish? Try making sushi
By Richard Lloyd Parry in Tokyo

THEY are called echizen kurage and they sound like monsters from the trashier reaches of Japanese science fiction.

They are 6ft wide and weigh 450lb (200kg), with countless poisonous tentacles, they have drifted across the void to terrorise the people of Japan. Vast armadas of the slimy horrors have cut off the country’s food supply. As soon as one is killed more appear to take its place.

Finally, the quarrelsome governments of the region are banding together to unite against the enemy.

Echizen kurage is not an extraterrestrial invader, but a giant jellyfish that is devastating the livelihoods of fishermen in the Sea of Japan. Nomura’s jellyfish, as it is known in English, is the biggest creature of its kind off Japan and for reasons that remain mysterious its numbers have surged in the past few months.

The problem has become so serious that fishery officials from Japan, China and South Korea are to meet this month for a “jellyfish summit” to discuss strategies for dealing with the invasion. Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has formed a jellyfish countermeasures committee and fishermen are at work on technology to keep the marauders out of their nets.

The problem first became obvious in the late summer when fishermen chasing anchovies, salmon and yellowtail began finding huge numbers of the jellyfish in their nets.

Often the weight of the echizen kurage broke the nets or crushed the fish to death; those that survived were poisoned and beslimed by their tentacles.

Fishermen on the northern tip of Honshu, Japan’s main island, were forced to suspend work at the height of the lucrative salmon season.

In Akita prefecture some communities saw their incomes fall by 80 per cent. The gizzard shad fishers of South Korea have also been plagued by the Nomura’s.

In some places jellyfish density is reported to be a hundred times higher than normal. Worst of all, no one yet understands why. One theory is that global warming is heating up the seawater and encouraging jellyfish breeding.

Some observers blame heavy rains in China over the summer, which flowed out from rivers and propelled abnormal numbers of jellyfish towards Japan. Nutrients in its river water may have given them extra zip — or overfishing has allowed the growth of the populations of plankton on which the jellyfish feed.

Screens and meshes have been designed that allow fish through but keep out anything bigger, and a web of metal wires can be placed inside a net to chop the jellyfish to pieces.
In the meantime locals are making the best of it — rather than just complaining about jellyfish they are eating them.

Jellyfish are an unusual ingredient of Japanese cuisine but are much more prized in China. Coastal communities are doing their best to promote jellyfish as a novelty food, sold dried and salted.

Students in Obama have managed to turn them into tofu, and jellyfish collagen is reported to be beneficial to the skin.

SEA MONSTERS

The most poisonous jellyfish is the Australian sea wasp, or box jellyfish, with enough venom to kill 60 people. Wearing tights is an effective defence

The largest jellyfish ever found was a lion’s mane, with a bell 2m (7ft) across, and tentacles extending more than 35m

The notorious Portuguese man o’war is not a jellyfish at all but a collection of different organisms including stinging tentacles

Jellyfish have both male and female characteristics. A group releases sperm and eggs which mix in the water

A collection of jellyfish is known as a smack

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Winter Moon


Samui fuyu
Shiroi meigetsu
Yukiakari

Cold winter
White full moon
Brightness of snow

- The Snow Shovelling Daoist

Arrival of Winter


I arrive at work
Darkness still blankets me.
Winter is coming.

- The Snow Shovelling Daoist

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Who needs fiction: Shaolin Monks and the Internet


If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the LA Times, where this story first appeared.

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/la-fg-temple4dec04,1,5404115.story

Kung Fu Monks Go Modern
Amid China's growing interest in religion, an abbot uses TV, films and the Web to market an ancient temple made famous by a Jet Li movie.
By Ching-Ching Ni
Times Staff Writer
December 4, 2005

SONGSHAN, China — Shi Yongxin wears a bright yellow robe and heavy prayer beads and lives in an ancient shrine high up in the mountains of central China.

Yet he spends a lot of his time traveling in a chauffeur-driven jeep, jet-setting around the world and hobnobbing with Hollywood types.

No wonder some people call him a CEO in a monk's robe.

As abbot of the world-famous Shaolin Temple, the holy land of kung fu, Shi indeed plays multiple roles. His latest is executive producer of a $25-million movie about the life and times of the legendary fighting monks that is set to hit cinemas in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also has a reality TV project in the works, a kind of "American Idol" for kung fu masters.

To critics, Shi's lifestyle and projects prove how far the Shaolin Temple has strayed from its roots in an increasingly commercial society. But its controversial abbot says it's no crime to keep up with the times in order to preserve the past.

"Movies, TV shows, the Internet — these are all modern communication tools," said Shi, sitting in the dark chambers of his office in the Shaolin Temple as aides with shaved heads buzzed around arranging his busy schedule on their cellphones.

"We are monks living in a new era. We should take advantage of these technologies and use them to serve Buddhism and traditional culture."

At 40, Shi is one of the youngest leaders in the history of the 1,500-year-old shrine. Perhaps because of his youth, he has presided over some of the boldest moves at the birthplace of Zen Buddhism.

Among his innovations were setting up the country's first temple-based website back in 1996, when few in China had heard of the Internet. The next online move was more of a head-turner: He revealed some fighting sequences previously considered top secrets passed only to true disciples.

Shi flung open the doors of Shaolin further by sending cloistered monks all over the world to perform and promote the temple's Zen-inspired martial arts.

He knew physical prowess was not enough. He set up a corporation to defend the temple's "brand name." He was also among the first to send yellow-robed monks to take MBA courses and get doctorates.

No idea seems too far-fetched. He created a broadcasting company enabling the temple to produce film projects and oversee the selection of scripts and stars. He has been contemplating the possibility of taking his martial arts disciples to the stages of Las Vegas.

"We used to be isolated from the world. Our outside contact was only with the land, through farming," Shi said. "Now we must deal with people, it's not as simple. We need to gain knowledge, learn new skills, like study English, know about computers and study overseas.

"In many ways, the Shaolin Temple is riding the wave of a Buddhist revival in China. After years of decline, it is back and more popular than ever. Thanks to the country's growing wealthy class and a yearning for spirituality, people are increasingly turning to religion and opening their wallets to show their faith.

Communist China is officially atheist, but it is home to an estimated 100 million believers of all faiths. Though hard to quantify, many are thought to be followers of traditional faiths such as Buddhism and Taoism, while an increasing number are converts to Christianity.

Old temples are rising from the ashes and being restored to their former glory. New temples are popping up from cities to the countryside. Demand is so high for religious services that sending monks to business school has become a growing necessity in the quest to better manage these thriving houses of worship.

"We are learning about communication skills, client psychology, marketing, human resources and strategic management techniques," said Chang Chun, a monk at Shanghai's Jade Buddha Temple. He is one of 18 monks taking a half-year course in business administration at Shanghai's Jiaotong University.

Located in the heart of a vibrant metropolis, Jade Buddha Temple has a wealthy clientele. That means a need for creative ways to link its modern lifestyle with an ancient religion. A colorful brochure near the entrance advertises opportunities to invite monks to bless newly purchased automobiles and real estate — for a fee, of course.

"Some people think monks should do nothing but sit around and read scriptures," Xue Ming, another monk taking the business course, said as he sat in a newly built conference room with leather sofas and computer cubicles.

"The times have changed — we have to change too. If we stay the same, we can't survive."

By the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, Chinese Buddhism seemed to teeter on the brink of extinction.

Temples across the country were either destroyed or forced to serve the people in secular ways.

Some morphed into factories, storage facilities, residential units and schoolhouses. Precious scriptures were burned; Buddhist statues were smashed or had their faces hacked out. Many monks were kicked out to seek new livelihoods.

Shi arrived in 1981 to find the Shaolin Temple, nestled in the hills of the misty Song Mountains in central China's Henan province, a shadow of its former self. Where once 2,000 monks lived on an estate that stretched for miles, just 12 elderly monks remained, subsisting by farming a tiny plot of land and keeping a low profile reading scriptures and practicing kung fu.

Then came "Shaolin Temple," a 1982 film that was the first Hong Kong kung fu flick to be shot at the temple. Its star was a then-unknown martial artist called Jet Li. It launched his acting career and brought international acclaim to a dilapidated monastery in the Chinese heartland.

"That movie turned out to be a great advertisement for the Shaolin Temple," Shi said.He has no qualms about capitalizing on the temple's fame. Buddhism, after all, has always been on the cutting edge of innovation, he said. It was among the first religions to use paper to write scriptures and print scrolls. And advertising is not necessarily a bad word.

"What is a pagoda? It is like an ancient billboard," Shi said. "Buddhist statues too are a form of advertising. If we don't advertise, nobody would know about us.

"The problem, however, is that the more people know about the Shaolin Temple, the more they want a piece of its good fortune.

As China moved toward a market-oriented economy, the Shaolin phenomenon to some became just another big business opportunity. Products as wide-ranging as pork sausages and cars, martial arts academies and security doors started to be marketed under the Shaolin name. In 1997, the temple made headlines by establishing a corporation and hiring lawyers to fight trademark violations.

The hardest thing for Shi is fighting the perception that the Shaolin Temple is in it for the money.

"When some people see us doing things like brand protection and movies, they think there's something inappropriate," Shi said."But what we are doing is in keeping with tradition. Monks from every dynasty had to adapt to the changes of society. We are monks. But we are also citizens."

Friday, December 02, 2005

300 Tang Dynasty Poems: #10 Alone in Her Beauty


The Tang Dynasty was a golden age of art in China. Poety was especially esteemed. Du Fu was a giant of the genre.

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of the classic anthology, the 300 Tang Dynasty Poems.
==================


Five-character-ancient-verse
Du Fu
ALONE IN HER BEAUTY
Who is lovelier than she?
Yet she lives alone in an empty valley.
She tells me she came from a good family
Which is humbled now into the dust. ...
When trouble arose in the Kuan district,
Her brothers and close kin were killed.
What use were their high offices,
Not even shielding their own lives?
-- The world has but scorn for adversity;
Hope goes out, like the light of a candle.
Her husband, with a vagrant heart,
Seeks a new face like a new piece of jade;
And when morning-glories furl at night
And mandarin-ducks lie side by side,
All he can see is the smile of the new love,
While the old love weeps unheard.
The brook was pure in its mountain source,
But away from the mountain its waters darken.
...Waiting for her maid to come from selling pearls
For straw to cover the roof again,
She picks a few flowers, no longer for her hair,
And lets pine-needles fall through her fingers,
And, forgetting her thin silk sleeve and the cold,
She leans in the sunset by a tall bamboo.

Japanese Language Study


The Japanese Language studies are going well. I’m about halfway through the course I’m taking. A few weeks ago, after a big push ahead, I was just beginning to study the Kanji; the Chinese characters adopted by the Japanese.

I could see that learning Kanji was going to take a lot of effort. I decided to stop my forward progress for a time and do a big review of everything I’ve learned so far; while considering how I wanted to tackle the Kanji

While I was at it, I came across a very interesting program entitled Wakan. It’s available as a free download as long as it’s not put to any commercial use. Wakan translates between Japan and English, and between Chinese and English. It’s a very handy way to look up words and characters. Even if you have no intention of studying either Japanese or Chinese, but may want to look up a word or character from time to time, I think you would find it useful.

Wakan can be found at http://waken.manga.cz/

I was fooling around with Wakan one day. I input the phonetic rendering of my last name: mattsu (マッツ) and nothing came of it. Then I decided to try matsu (マツ), and what it spit out was “pine tree.”

I decided to put Rick (riku) in. Riku gives “shore.”   has a lot of things going on in it’s composition.

A shore pine is a type of pine tree.

In researching the sumbol of a pine, this is what I've got so far (http://www.chinesepaintings.com/chinese-symbols.html ):

Pine
The favorite tree of Chinese painters, the pine symbolizes longevity and steadfastness. Pine trees rank above all other trees and epitomize self-discipline. Pine, bamboos and plum-trees are the "Three Friends in Winter."

The Kanji for pine tree is : (matsu is the Kunyomi or Japanese reading; Sho is the Onyomi or “Chinese” reading; the Kanji is made of the characters for ‘tree’, and ‘public’).

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Who needs fiction: Chessboxing


If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original placement of this story.
----------------------------
By Hook or by Rook
In chessboxing, contestants match moves on the board one round, in the ring the next. Checkmate is as good as a knockout.

By Jeffrey Fleishman, Times Staff Writer

BERLIN — Martin "Amok" Thomas is jabbing a right, but Frank "so-cool-he-doesn't-need-a-nickname" Stoldt is as elusive as a ribbon in the wind. He can't be hit. Time.

The gloves come off, and the men hurry across the canvas to the chessboard. (You heard it right.) Amok took a couple of body shots, and he's breathing hard, but he'd better focus. That Stoldt, though, everyone in the gym knows he's this warrior-thinker, slamming the speed clock, cunningly moving his queen amid unraveling bandages and dripping sweat, daring Amok to leave him a sliver of opportunity.

Time. Velcro rips. Amok slides back into his Everlast gloves, bites down on his mouthpiece, dances along the ropes. His king's in trouble, and his punches couldn't knock lint off a jacket.

Stoldt floats toward him like a cloud of big hurt. Such is the bewildering beauty of chessboxing, alternating rounds of four minutes of chess followed by two minutes of boxing. Victory is claimed in a number of ways, some of them tedious, but the most thrilling are by checkmate and knockout.

The sport's godfather, Iepe "the Joker" Rubingh, believes that chessboxing, like that contest in which frostbitten Scandinavians ski around with rifles, is destined for the Olympics.

"It has enormous potential," says the Joker, 31, a taut Dutchman with an undamaged chin and wire-rimmed glasses.

"Chess and boxing are very different worlds. Chessboxers move around in both. It's extremely demanding, but extremely rewarding. It's all about control over your physical and mental being.
The adrenalin rush in boxing must be lowered to concentrate on chess strategy.

"Some will snicker. The Joker knows this. But he is not deterred.

Former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis is a devoted chess player. Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko, another heavyweight champ who recently retired, has a keen intellect and knows what to do when a queen sidles toward his king. That's the kind of brawn and brain a clever marketing guy like the Joker thinks he can turn into success, not the novelty kind of success, but genuine prime-time, Caesars Palace spotlight success.

"I'd love to get them together," the Joker says of Lewis and Klitschko.

"What do you think they want — $30 million?" Without marquee names, however, there is a potential drawback. Will people buy a beer and a hot dog and watch bare-chested smart guys in colorful satin shorts play chess? They will, the Joker believes, if the match coincides with the possibility of a knockout or spilled blood.

He has a question: "Is this story for the sports pages or another part of the newspaper?" Hard to tell, he is told.

The World Chess Boxing Organization, founded by the Joker and several business partners, held its first European tournament in Berlin in October. Five hundred fans showed up under dim lights as Bulgarian Tihomir "Tigertad" Titschko became the new champion.

Titschko peers over a chessboard like he's trying to deconstruct the theory of relativity, and he hits like a big man who just met the guy who stole his girlfriend.

He defeated Andreas "D" Schneider, a German actor in dark trunks who punched well but succumbed in the ninth round to Titschko's blistering chess attack, described as "the Dragon variation of the Sicilian defense."

Chessboxers use words like "aesthetics" and "arduous." They ponder performance art, science, philosophy; they study grids, angles and buried meanings in obscure books. They know about black holes and Taoism. The rules might be considered simple: Eleven rounds, six of chess and five of boxing. The first round is always chess.

"That's because," says the Joker, "if you go down in boxing there is no chess." A one-minute pause between rounds allows opponents to slip on and off gloves and for the chessboard to be moved in and out of the ring.

If all is equal on the chessboard and the boxing scorecard after the 11 rounds, according to the rules, "the opponent with the black pieces wins."

Players are required to wear headphones during the chess part of the match. "This is so no one in the audience can yell out, 'Hey, be careful of the knight on E-6,' " says the Joker, whose ring alias is a bit of history and a bit of Hollywood.

"It's part court jester, who in the old days was allowed to make fun of the king without getting punished. It's a name responsible for entertainment. And everyone knows the Joker from 'Batman.' "

The inspiration for chessboxing came to the Joker in 2003 after he glimpsed some dark magical realism in a comic by Enki Bilal, a Yugoslav-born artist living in Paris. "It's a futuristic story, and there's a guy watching TV," says the Joker, "and on TV is a kind of chessboxing match."

The Joker was raised in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, the son of a carpenter and a librarian. "I always thought it was a nice combination," he says, sitting in a candlelit Berlin cafe, sipping water before an evening practice at the world's first chessboxing gym. "My mother brought home loads of books, and my father taught me how to work with my hands." He and his father would sit up until 4 a.m. watching boxing matches beamed in from the United States.

He remembers Frank Bruno's ill-fated bout with a young and ferocious Mike Tyson in 1989. "I always wanted to box," says the Joker, "but my parents weren't fond of their son doing contact sports. I did cross-country skiing and table tennis. My dad taught me chess when I was around 6 or 8. I beat him after a few months. I like games where you have to think and go deeper."

The Joker went to college and majored in German cultural history. A painter, photographer and video artist, he followed the bohemians to Berlin in 1997.

Six years later, he traveled west to Amsterdam and took on Luis the Lawyer in the world's first "official" chessboxing match. These days, the Joker speaks of hybrids, of mixing things; he believes most people don't see all of life's available dimensions and narratives.

"We're too focused on defining sport in one way," he says. "Look at the old Olympics and the ancient Greeks. They had poets in the games, but in our society we want to divide things. I don't like borders. You try to tell a story through a game. Look at Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle, or Bobby Fischer playing the Russians in chess."

The Joker grabs his gear and crosses the street to the neighborhood gym. He slips into the basement, past trophies and punching bags. This is his domain, his club, where he trains chessboxers and eyes potential stars.

The guys are setting up chessboards and speed clocks; pieces are arranged, pawns skitter.They're an interesting bunch, some with a thread of gray in their hair, others with barely a wrinkle on their face: There's Stoldt, a muscular Berlin cop and former amateur boxer. His wife was searching the Internet one day when she came upon chessboxing, convincing Frank it might be his calling.

There is Victor Abraham, a classically trained baritone with close-cropped black hair and a mustache, who paints in the Bauhaus style. Jan Schulz, the club's trainer, can play two games of chess at once and still seem as if he could handle something else, like maybe physics. And there's Amok, a website designer with good-sized fists and long arms snaking out from a tank top. The chess games begin.

Practice, of course, but intense. The speed clock clicking and clacking, and Schulz darting between chessboards. Stoldt is swirling and sliding his pieces. A few boards over, Abraham is studying the opponent's knight that's inching his way. But he takes a moment to talk.

He grew up in Leipzig, East Germany, during communist times. He boxed as a boy, and his grandfather led him to chess. He finished his classical music study in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell. He sang parts in Schubert and "West Side Story," but once, he says, "I had a cold and I kept singing because I needed the money, and my voice went bad. It's not tragic. Life is risks and I'm happy." He crushes a knight.

"This is a lot of fun," Abraham says. "I'm too old to be a professional boxer. But I'm not too old to be a chessboxer. You mix brain and power." The opponent slides a bishop to G-4. "Ahh, I have to be careful here," he says.

An hour's up. Chess pieces slide into boxes. Skipping ropes hum in the air. The Joker leads the club through stretching and push-ups. A few guys struggle, but not Stoldt. He's strong and compact, as well as dominating, like an upright piano in a tiny room.

"It's important for me to have such a channel," he says. "I can be aggressive in a physical and mental way. Chess is not boring. One mistake and you lose a game. Boxing is the same way, very intense. You have to hit at the right place at the right time, and in chess you hit your opponent where he doesn't expect it."

He slows his rope.The Joker orders up a bout. Stoldt versus Amok.Knights and bishops get a workout first. Then into the ring. Though Amok has a nice reach, Stoldt is slipping in jabs and Amok is tiring.Time. Amok slides his queen to A-4, Stoldt drops a knight on G-3. Moves, counter moves, Stoldt takes a knight with a bishop. Gloves back on. Amok can't break through to hurt Stoldt.

He's jabbing, but his arms are heavy, sweat's flowing. Gloves off. Amok goes to F-4 with a knight. Stoldt's pressuring. The queens wipe each other out. The ring again. Amok is sucking wind. Shoes scrape on canvas. Smooth and quick, Stoldt goes for the kill. Knight to H-4. Amok's toast.

"I have to learn to box better," Amok says. "I knew Stoldt could knock me out if he wanted to. I have to be calmer. I get stressed when I get hit. I've got to concentrate, work on my chess. I think chess is the most important part of this sport. If you survive the ring, the better chess player wins."

The Joker pats Amok on the shoulder. Amok may be a contender one day. He's dedicated, smart and strong. The Joker has that same recurring thought: Wouldn't it be the ultimate marketing coup for chessboxing to arrange a match between Lewis and Klitschko? He smiles at the possibility.

Here comes another thought, this one about the potential growth of the sport: "Look at Russia, Ukraine. They're chessboxing nations and they don't even know it yet."

Zhan Zhaung Qigong eBook for free download


If you either click on the title of this post, or click on the "Yiquan" link at the right, you'll be directed to the website of Andrzej Kalisz.

At this website is a free eBook on Zhan Zhuang Qigong, available for a free download. It's very well done, and well worth the read if you're interested in this subject.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The 36 Strategies: #10 Have a Sword in a Smile.


Second only to Sun Tzu's The Art of War, the 36 Strategies have shaped Asian thought. It's important to study strategy if only from the viewpoint of being able to recognise when someone is trying to manipulate you.

Here is a good article that give an overview of the entire 36 Strategies:

The Pragmatic View, A Pragmatic View of the 36 Strategems.
http://cardinal009.blogspot.com/

... and now to #10. An all too common one that we might find used against us.

10. Have a sword in a smile

You ingratiate yourself with enemies, inducing them to trust you. When you have their confidence, you can move against them in secret.

Gudo Nishijima


I've made posts in the past about an American Zen priest, Brad Warner. He hosts both a blog

http://www.hardcorezen.blogspot.com/

a webite;

http://homepage.mac.com/doubtboy/

and is the author of the book, Hardcore Zen.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/086171380X/qid=1133376536/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-6677672-5567366?n=507846&s=books&v=glance

Warner's teacher is Gudo Nishijima. Nishijima was a student of the legendary Zen reformer, Kodo Sawaki. Nishijima is a highly respected Zen teacher with several decades of practice and teaching under his belt.

Nishijima has begun a blog. If you click on the title of this post, or on the link at the right, you'll be directed there. His written English is very good. There's not much up there right now, but it'll be a blog that's worth keeping an eye on.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Dao De Jing: Chapter 7


The Dao De Jing is the cornerstone of Daoist thought. It is also one of the great world classics. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed on an online version of the Dao De Jing
==========
Chapter Seven

Heaven and Earth last forever.
Why do heaven and Earth last forever?
They are unborn,
So ever living.
The sage stays behind, thus he is ahead.
He is detached, thus at one with all.
Through selfless action, he attains fulfillment.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ocean and River


The Zhuang Zi is one of the great classics of world literature, and one of the pillars of Daoism. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the website where this fragment of the text is from.
=========================
Ocean and River

19 It was the time of autumn floods. Every stream poured into the river, which swelled in its turbid course. The banks receded so far from one another that it was impossible when looking across the river to tell a cow from a horse. Then the river laughed for joy that all the beauty of the earth was gathered to itself. Flowing downstream it journeyed east, until it reached the ocean. There, looking eastwards and seeing no limit to the waves, its face dropped. And as it gazed over the expanse, the river sighed and said to the ocean, A vulgar proverb says that he who has heard but part of the truth thinks no one equal to himself. And such a one am I.

20 To which the ocean replied, You cannot speak of ocean to a frog living in a well—a creature of a narrow sphere. You cannot speak of ice to a summer insect—a creature of a season. You cannot speak of the unvarying way to a pedagogue: his scope is too restricted. But now that you have emerged from your narrow sphere and have seen the great ocean, you know your own insignificance, and I can speak to you of great principles.

21 There is no body of water beneath the skies that is greater than the ocean. All streams pour into it without cease, yet it does not overflow. It is constantly being drained off, yet it is never empty. Spring and autumn bring no change; floods and droughts are equally unknown. And thus it is immeasurably superior to mere rivers and brooks. However, I would not venture to boast on this account, for I get my shape from the universe, my vital power from balance of forces, positive and negative. In the universe I am but as a small stone or a small tree on a vast mountain. And conscious thus of my own insignificance, what is there of which I can boast?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving thought


Continuous practice, day after day, is the most appropriate way of expressing gratitude. This means that you practice continuously, without wasting a single day of your life, without using it for your own sake. Why is it so? Your life is a fortunate outcome of the continuous practice of the past. You should express your gratitude immediately.
- Zen Master Dogen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cher Chez la Femme


If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original news site.

'Second Wives' Are Back

Mistresses are again a status symbol in China.
As scandal spreads, the government worries that they are a motive for public corruption.
By Don Lee
Times Staff Writer
November 22, 2005

SHANGHAI — Li Xin knelt in a hotel room here, wearing polka-dot boxer shorts and a grimace on his face.

The deputy mayor of Jining, in Shandong province, was pleading with his lover not to report him to authorities. But in the end, the 51-year-old official was exposed and sentenced to life in prison. His crime: accepting more than $500,000 in bribes, which he used to support at least four mistresses in Jining, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Li's transgressions were minor compared with those of other public officials. A top prosecutor in Henan province, for example, was recently stripped of his post and Communist Party membership after investigators alleged that he embezzled $2 million to support his lavish lifestyle — and seven mistresses.

"Everyone is saying, 'Behind every corrupt official, there must be at least one mistress,' " says Li Xinde, an anti-corruption activist who researched Li Xin's case and posted on his website a photo of the deputy mayor begging in the hotel room.

China's economic boom has led to a revival of the 2-millennium-old tradition of "golden canaries," so called because, like the showcase birds, mistresses here are often pampered, housed in love nests and taken out at the pleasure of their "masters."

Concubines were status symbols in imperial China. After the Communists took power, they sought to root out such bourgeois evils, even as Chairman Mao Tse-tung reportedly kept a harem of peasant women into his old age.

Now, mistresses have become a must-have for party officials, bureaucrats and businessmen.

"We are in a commodity economy," says retired Shanghai University sociologist Liu Dalin. "Work, technology, love, beauty, power — it's all tradable."

So-called concubine villages — places where lotharios keep "second wives" in comfort and seclusion — are now spread across the nation, in booming cities such as Dongguan, Chengdu and Shanghai.

So common is the practice that it has spawned an industry of private detectives snooping on cheating husbands and their paramours. One such agency, called Debang, based in the western city of Chengdu, underscores how "first wives" are fighting back.

Debang was started by divorced women with one goal: to help desperate wives ferret out their double- and triple-timing husbands and make them pay for their indiscretions.

Debang wouldn't comment, but informed people say the firm has expanded into several cities and has a staff of more than 100.

The mistress boom is contributing to a surge in divorces — and fierce battles over property when relationships collapse. Not long ago, Beijing amended the country's marriage law to make men who indulge in mistresses pay heavy penalties and to give their spouses greater rights in separations. Now, local governments are starting to take action. This year the city of Nanjing issued an order for all public officials to register their extramarital relationships. In Guangzhou, a prosperous city in the south, a major university issued stern warnings to female students about having affairs and wrecking marriages. And last month, state media reported that Hainan province had stipulated that party members who kept mistresses or had children outside of marriage would be expelled.

Government leaders worry that philandering also could have detrimental effects on China's economy and the credibility of the Communist Party.

State-run banks and agencies have lost billions of dollars to embezzlement and fraud, many at the hands of officials seeking money to support their golden canaries. In a government review of 102 corruption cases in several Guangdong province cities a few years ago, every one involved an illicit affair.

"If a government official has a mistress, there must be some corruption," says Sun Youjun, a private investigator in Shanghai. "Visits to high-end hotels are not easy with officials' incomes."

Like most bureaucrats, Li Xin had a monthly paycheck of no more than a few hundred dollars. But as deputy mayor for a city of 8 million that's a regional industrial and rail center, Li could easily boost his income. He collected bribes from m! ore than 40 businesses in exchange for helping them with land deals, commodity sales and construction projects, according to interviews and to reports in state-owned media.

Li had a penchant for drinking, people familiar with the case said, and he showered his ladies with expensive gifts and even sheltered some of them in homes. He met his match in Li Yuchun, the woman who took the photo of him in the hotel room. The two started out as lovers, according to some accounts, and then became business partners.

Li Yuchun exposed him after she learned he was laundering money. After she blew the whistle, she also was sent to jail this summer for five years for harboring a criminal, her brother — a sentence that drew public outcry over the risks of exposing corrupt government officials. She was so enraged at her prosecution that in the courtroom, she bit her finger and with the blood scrawled on paper: "This is revenge," her lawyer, Jin Xuekong, said. "She has a very strong spirit," he said.

Jin wouldn't talk about his client's relationship with the former deputy mayor.As in most cases involving corruption, government officials refused to comment. But in Chinese Internet chat rooms, some called Li Yuchun a "hero mistress."

In Chinese society, the practice of keeping concubines is thought to date back to the Qin Dynasty more than 2,000 years ago, when Confucianism took hold and women were considered inferior.

An entire set of protocols developed on the relationship between men, their spouses and so-called little wives, or concubines. One rule specified how often a man was to have sex with his concubine (every five days). In subsequent dynasties, concubines were sometimes traded for things or sold or rented to traveling businessmen. Men regarded mistresses as markers of wealth and their elite status in society.

For mistresses, their value and rank largely depended on whether they were able to produce a son and on their dealings with other concubines, a complex relationship that was captured in the haunting 1991 Chinese movie "Raise the Red Lantern."

Unlike in feudal China when affairs were private matters, today's dirty laundry is often aired in the online world. This summer, Chinese media and Web surfers were caught up in the sensational story of the "richest mistress in Shanghai."

Da Beini, 23, became a celebrity after her public row with a 36-year-old Taiwanese businessman over her attempt to sell in an online auction a garden villa in the city of Chongqing, a white Lexus sedan and other items that many assumed were gifts from her benefactor.

At a Starbucks in a high-rent district here, Da denied during an interview that she was a mistress. She wore a black leather jacket and clutched a Louis Vuitton handbag — an original, she said, showing the tags! inside. Dangling from her right earlobe were silver letters spelling Dior, and around her neck was a large white topaz.

She said her clothes, her jewelry, her properties — five apartments and villas — were bought with money she earned largely by investing in China's booming real estate market about $4,000 inherited from her mother three years ago.

"I really don't know why," Da said of the numerous reports in Chinese media that depicted her as a mistress.

"It's the thinking of the whole Chinese society. If you're young and have material things and not bad looking, they assume you must be a mistress."

Wei Wujun, known in China as the "Mistress Killer" because of his prowess for uncovering illicit relations, blames extramarital relationships on post-revolutionary China's "spiritual vacuum."

Last year, 1.6 million married couples in Chinese split up, a 21% jump from 2003, according to government data. Overall, China's divorce rate, or the number of breakups divided by marriages, now hovers at about 20%, a fivefold increase since the nation began economic reforms more than two decades ago.

Mao gave ideology to the Chinese, Wei said, but materialism is now their god. And many people with power and money are never satisfied, he said.

"There's little government can do to stop it," said Wei, taking a deep drag on a cigarette in front of a gaudy apartment complex, known as a concubine village, in Shanghai's high-end Gubei district.

Few Chinese believe that laws seeking to limit extramarital affairs will have any significant effect on a system in which bureaucrats work largely in secret.

"In developed countries … if an official keeps a mistress and buys a house that's not compatible with his income, almost everyone will know overnight," says Huang Jingping, professor of law at Renmin University in Beijing. In China, even when fraud is apparent to insiders, it can go on for years.

As head of Chongqing's vehicle licensing department, Bian Zhongqi accepted bribes from driving school operators and car dealers who wanted licenses or plates. He and his mistress, Zhou Changhui, came up with a plan for a steady income stream. Drivers seeking renewals of their licenses were supposed to pay a $6 fee and pass a review of health and driving records. Bian and Zhou extracted an additional $12 to let applicants skip the process, handing out licenses to thousands.

From 1999 to 2004, authorities said, the couple collected nearly $400,000. Standing recently in a small courtroom in Chongqing, a few feet away from his accomplice and lover, Bian sobbed as he explained why he had fallen.

It wasn't greed, the 38-year-old insisted, suggesting that he collected the bribes to keep his mistress happy."It's all because I couldn't resist sexual temptation," he said.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Lion Dancing



If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the website whence this material came.

Bringing luck and happiness

The lion dance is an important tradition in China. Usually the dance is part of festivities like Chinese New Year, the openings of restaurants and weddings. If well-performed, the lion dance is believed to bring luck and happiness.

Although lions are not native in China, they came to this country via the famous Silk Road. Rulers in what is today Iran and Afghanistan sent lions to Chinese emperors as gifts in order to get the right to trade with Silk Road merchants.

The lion dance dates back to the Han Dynasty (205 B.C. to 220 A.D in China) and during the Tang Dynasty (716-907 A.D.) it was at its peak. It was particularly performed during religious festivals. The lion dance was not only introduced in China, but also in Korea and Taiwan, where lions are not native as well. The dances are not exactly the same in these countries, but the symbolism is quite similar.

The lion is enacted by two dancers. One handles the head, made out of strong but light materials like paper-mache and bamboo, the other plays the body and the tail under a cloth that is attached to the head. The 'animal' is accompanied by three musicians, playing a large drum, cymbals and a gong. A Little Buddha teases it with a fan or a giant ball. The head dancer can move the lion's eyes, mouth and ears for expression of moods.

The lion dance combines art, history and kung fu moves. Normally the performers are kung fu practitioners. Every kind of move has a specific musical rhythm. The music follows the moves of the lion: the drum follows the lion, the cymbals and the gong follow the drum player.

Quite often people observing the dances think that they are looking at dragons. The main difference between lion dance and dragon dance is that the latter is performed with more people than two.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Who needs fiction: Rugby Fans


Click on the title of this post to go to the orginal news story.


Why I cut my tackle: rugby fan
15 nov05

A RUGBY fan who cut out his testicles with wire cutters to mark a Wales victory is at a loss to explain why he did it.

Geoffrey Huish, 31, performed the impromptu self-surgery in February when his beloved Wales beat world champion England.

After performing the deed, Mr Huish put his severed anatomy in a bag and took them to his local social club to show fellow fans.

He collapsed with blood loss and was rushed to hospital but surgeons could not reattach his missing parts.

He was put in a psychiatric ward but has no history of mental illness and was at a loss to explain why he did it.

"I'd told my pal Gethin Probert before the game that Wales didn't stand a chance," Mr Huish said.

"It wasn't a bet but I said I'd cut my balls off if we won.

"I listened to the game on the radio at home by myself.

"After the match I got up for a pee and saw the cutters in the bathroom.

"Gethin had left them after repairing the chain on my toilet.

"I remembered what I'd said and thought he had left them for me.

"I thought 'Oh no, I haven't got to do anything like that have I' and then I thought 'You can do it'.

"So I started hacking away at my tackle.

"It took about 10 minutes and there was quite a bit of pain but I just kept going.

"The cutters were blunt so I had to keep snipping."

After picking his testicles from the toilet bowl, he went to the social club.

"I went in and shouted out 'I've done it!'," Mr Huish said.

"I took my balls out and passed them in the bag to a friend.

"Some people then laid me on the floor."

Mr Huish continues to see a psychiatrist.

"I think about what happened every day and still haven't come up with a good reason why," he said.

"I'd had a lot going on and felt a bit down.

"I can't have kids now but still want a family - maybe I'll adopt."

© The Australian

Autumnal Order


Raking the leaves.
Imposing an order,
Leaves or me?

- The Leaf Raking Daoist

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Who needs fiction: The Sparrow of Amsterdam

Sparrow shot for downing domino record bid
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- The Dutch animal protection agency said Tuesday it is investigating the shooting death of a sparrow that knocked over 23,000 dominoes during an attempt to set a world record.

The ill-fated bird flew into an exposition center, threatening to derail a world record Monday, before it was chased into a corner and shot by an exterminator with an air rifle.

The bird was a common house sparrow -- a species placed on the national endangered list last year.

"Under Dutch law, you need a permit to kill this kind of bird, and a permit can only be granted when there's a danger to public health or a crop," agency spokesman Niels Dorland said.

"That was not the case. I might add, is it really necessary to kill a bird that knocked over a few dominoes for a game?"

Dorland said the agency plans to submit the case to national prosecutors. The incident came as the national birdwatchers association was preparing a campaign to draw attention to the rapidly declining number of sparrows in the country.

The Endemol production company, which organized the Domino Day event, defended the killing.

The organizers wanted to break their own Guinness World Record of 3,992,397 dominoes set last year by toppling a chain of 4,321,000 blocks.

Around 200,000 dominoes were left to go, and the bird knocked down 23,000 of them.

Endemol spokesman Jeroen van Waardenberg said organizers made a "split-second" decision to shoot down the bird.

"That bird was flying around and knocking over a lot of dominoes. More than 100 people from 12 countries had worked for more than a month setting them up," he said.

He said organizers had believed the building was fully sealed against birds and mice. The company is considering some kind of memorial or mention for the dead bird during the television broadcast Friday, he added.

But Dorland said shooting the sparrow to ensure the success of the program was an overreaction.

"I think they were awfully fast to pull out a rifle," he said. "If a person started knocking over a few dominoes they wouldn't shoot him would they?"

A Dutch website called Geenstijl offered a $1,200 reward for anybody who knocks over the dominoes ahead of time to avenge the bird.

Hans Peeters, director of the Netherlands Bird Protection agency, called the killing "ridiculous."

He said rapid urbanization in the Netherlands was threatening the species.

"There were more than 2 million breeding pairs in the Netherlands 20 years ago," he said. "Now there's a half a million to a million at most. We hope this can be a call to action."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Mistakes

Once of the topics I find most interesting in discussing martial arts training, or really in any aspect of life is the mistakes we make. What follows is a collection of posts from various martial arts forums that have to do with making mistakes in training, interspersed by some commentary and observations.

Some of this stuff is six or seven years old. I apoligize for not being able to given proper credit to who said what. This is pretty long, but I hope you find it informative.
==================================================


Mistakes

Best Practices - Martial Arts top 12 classic training and performance mistakes.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Undermined motivation.
* Uncontrolled problem classmates.
* Noisy, crowded training room and sessions.
* Abandoning the training goal planning under pressure.

Students make plans and then routinely abandon them (without replanning) when they run into training trouble Without a coherent plan, the students projects tend to fall into a chaotic train -and-fix mode, which is probably the least effective development approach for all but the smallest training goals.

* Shortchanging upstream activities.

Students that are in a hurry try to cut out nonessential training activities, and since long-term training exercises don't directly produce quick results. They are easy targets for the training decision ax.

* Shortchanging quality of training to improve the quality of the performance speed.
* Lack of performance control.

Students have a tendency to try to do everything at one time.

* Silver-bullet syndrome.

Silver-bullet syndrome occurs whenever students expect any single new training tool or methodology to solve all its training productivity problems. Silver-bullet tools and methodologies damage the training of the students in two ways.

First, the new training tools or methodologies virtually never deliver improvements as dramatic as promised. Training-wide productivity improvements of more than 25 percent from first use of a new tool or methodology are virtually unheard of.

Second, belief in silver bullets leads to serialization of improvements that could be made in parallel. Because teachers or students put all their faith into a single silver bullet, they try promising new tools and methods one at a time rather two or more at a time, which slows the adoption of potentially beneficial new tools and methods other than the silver bullet.

The bottom line is that trainees that succumb to silver-bullet syndrome tend not to improve their productivity at all; indeed, they often go backwards

* Wasting time in smoke, flash, bells and whistles
* Insufficient establishment of what the student wants in their training session.
* Overly aggressive training schedules.
* Adding new teachers to a late training schedule.

CALL TO ACTION. This list of mistakes is hardly exhaustive. I have simply identified the mistakes I have seen most often. Your list might be different. A complete list would undoubtedly be pages longer.

Regardless of the exact contents, keep some list of classic mistakes in mind. Conduct training sessions post-mortems to identify the classic mistakes particular to your training.

Exchange war stories with fellow students in other organizations to learn about the mistakes they've made. Create checklists of mistakes for use in your training. Post lists of classic mistakes on your notebook for use in performance monitoring.

The classic mistakes' seductive allure brings them into play again and again, but we as an industry have gained enough experience to recognize them for what they are. Now that we recognize them, we just need to be hard-headed enough to resist their appeal.

///

Ok folks. I got to spend several hours with Mike Sigman quite recently so here's as brief summation of some (a lot of stuff's left out, but it's already too long for most to get through it) of the lessons I learned. Upfront, I'd like to say that I did some things right, and inadvertantly applied too much SPD (Self Perception Disorder) to some other aspects, but certainly got a lot out of it (much more than Mike Sigman did, IMO).

I merrily go back to the woodshed...

A NOTE ON SPD BEFORE WE GO ON
-----------------------------

- SPD isn't just complete defiant resistance to obvious truths such as "I'm not good at TAIJIQUAN coz I haven't done it for 20 years" - It frequently applies to not really being aware of what you're doing. -- You can know academically what to do and even have some ability in certain aspects of those things and continue to have SPD in other aspects --- "I'm not using my shoulders" (you are just using less than you did before), "I am using my waist" (you might be, but you're using more arms -- been there -- done that, will likely continue to do more)

- To get better you have to address your problem spots, but if you can't accept them, that will never happen. Because I trust Mike's eye, I welcomed the corrections though I think he might've been too diplomatic at times. Getting all huffy won't improve your internal strength.

WAIST, WAIST, WAIST
-------------------

- I understand the importance of the waist, but still underestimated how much I should move it -- "dive into it"

- Optimal training progression, esp. for LIMITED TIME hobbiests, requires more obvious motions at 1st, more so than many big dogs will be happy with, but we don't have 6-8 hours a day to train. legs, waist, hands a good breakdown

- I had improperly copied CHEN XIAO WANG by making my waist and store motions smaller. Via SPD thought I was doing similar to him.

- w/ CHEN XIAO WANG you won't see back store unless he chooses it, but the waist muscles still act as if back store was there.

- I stopped spear shaking coz I knew something was wrong - to address the perceived problem I went back a step to spear circling, but I did it **WRONG** -- SPD about my waist motion **IRONY**: my actual waist usage during issuing (my perceived problem) was not too bad, far better than my attempts at remedial circling - understood the windings in shaking better -- same as universal exercise, piquan, rdfo, etc. DUH!!!

- better idea of how principle 1 and princinple 2 are one, ex. "dantian rotation? There's just store and release to me."

IMPORTANT NOTE TO THE READERS:

- most folks do not have an idea what using waist is. Waist does not = hips, so if you can't move waist independantly of hips, not using waist.

- CHEN XIAO WANG's dantian moves like a rifle bolt -- he should teach seminars in a t shirt so folks can see how much waist a big dog uses. Back and hip motion can be minimal but his waist will move a number of inches, but the silk "dantian hiding" TAIJIQUAN outfits the big dogs wear frequently hide this.

BRACING
-------
- I did it in push hands, but I didn't know it --SPD
CAUSE: Easy to fall into coz it works, seems like it
is path -- SPD and I almost never push hands, and
usually w/folks I've taught the pattern to.
SOLUTION: Stand higher, never go into bow/bow+arrow/forward stance which begs to be braced

IMPORTANT NOTE TO THE READERS:
- chances are high that w/o a guy who 1) knows what it is and how it differs from path and 2) will monitor and correct you, you will likely brace too -- it's so easy to do. Accept it, find when you do it and fix it.

SURPRISE, SURPRISE
------------------
- hadn't worked on bounce jin in a long time. Apparently I could do it ok, "not bad"
- saw it's usefulness (and short power in general) w/in push hands
- finally getting a physical grip on double bounce jin (knew academically for years but couldn't translate it to body), the change point is probably that I can actually do bounce jin to some effect and when I first learned it, I could not. Can't do double before single.

MORE SPD
--------

I watched as he taught (of course it was supposed to be show and tell, but as I expected all along it basically became a 2 hour lesson) some TAIJIQUAN enthusiasts. Observations of some SPD that may hinder their progress:

- had no idea they had no IS basics, even after shown some stuff
and not really being able to do it right/very easily
- convinced they practiced right coz it matched the words, ex:

"We practice right outside of competitive push hands, How do I get the IS to come out during push hands?"

Mike, learning CHEN XIAO WANG type diplomacy, let them know gently that if they did practice right, it would be there, but that was probably too gentle to effect any change.

- matching the classics to what they do "the reason my arms are bent so much and thus bad for conveying path is because I spend so much time sinking the elbows."

- unaware that results will let you know if you have done correct practice. Mike told how he used to do Yang style long form at least 9 times a day (that's a LONG time), as well a the other forms, looked smooth, etc., but came to the conclusion that despite all that diligent training he one day realized he had done it all wrong and had to start from scratch. One of the guys asked how he knew his practice wrongly, missing the obvious answer -- no results.

- This is a good time to ask yourself a question, if Mike could practice diligently a beautiful looking form for at least 3 hours a day and still be getting no where, it it remotely possible that you might suffer minutely from similar? It is possible to get the foot in the door, then not go far.

The below are delivered in Mystery Science Theater 2000 style sarcasm mode as thoughts they must've been thinking at the time -- based on what did and said. No names, dates, or styles have been mentioned to protect the innocent (no point in naming names, just good examples). No animals were harmed in the production of this email, either.

- the goal of TAIJIQUAN push hands for some folks is a game about balance. Positions that avoid falling, but have no possibility of power or issuing are good (and boy one guy amazed me with his ability to stay vertical).

- Because the push hands game is about balance and and not using tension so letting a guy who has the ability to do short power (which isn't in our style.) put his elbow on my chest, or shoulder on my chin is acceptable.

- positions that would let my arm get broken in a confrontation but do not disturb my balance are acceptable in push hands

- I cannot be locked, that my partner is being civil has no bearing in the matter. Tapping is for wimps.

- "we do that" (they didn't)
- "we sort of do that" (they didn't)
- "that different in our style" ("There's only one TAIJIQUAN" Yang ChengFu)
- winning in push hands are indicators of good TAIJIQUAN
- proper TAIJIQUAN is invinceable, so realistic assessments of IS skills not applicable in the push hands environ because TAIJIQUAN defeats experience and tactics 10 times out of 10.
- loyalty to style is paramount, "I'm a XYZ stylist so could I see how I fit in", "Elbow, shoulder, lie are not done in our style, if they were, we'd be good at it too.

============================

Subj: neijia: There will be ground rules for Boston practice group
Date: 4/4/00 10:45:16 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: ras@MIT.EDU (Richard A Shandross)
Sender: owner-neijia@lists.Stanford.EDU
To: neijia@lists.stanford.edu


I've been thinking about the lack of success of my first attempt at having a neijia practice group about 5 years ago, and what would be best for the current try.

Five years ago we met, would spend about 20 minutes total repeating random exercises from the workshop, and many more minutes talking. It was chaotic, folks didn't know where to take things, and interest petered out quickly.

This time I'm going to do things differently, since now I've made enough mistakes that I know how to avoid a few of them.

I am definitely NOT going to play the role of teacher, but I AM going to structure the practice groups to ensure that we be properly focussed, disciplined, and don't waste people's time. I think there will be room for minor modifications and evolution of the structure, but this is basically how I want it to go, and I'm the one organizing the thing, so nah nah nah nah. :-)

GROUND RULES:

1. The goal of the group will be to work on the four directions of power, storing and releasing, and opening and closing.

2. The basic warmups and exercises will be done in the order given below, and we won't skip steps. That is, we will attempt to achieve the purpose of each practice before moving on to the next.

3. No one is the teacher; we should all give each other feedback and frequently seek feedback.

4. There should be a minimum of intellectualizing. This group is to be about DOING IT, not talking about it.

5. We will not deal with forms, weapons, philosophies, etc. unless and until we successfully finish the basic warmups and exercises.

PRACTICES:

1. Establish four directions of power with groundpath.

2. Working the four directions, with groundpath, in standing (ZHANZHUANG) and SILK REELING.

3. Back bow (storing and releasing (nonexplosively)).

4. Moving while keeping the groundpath. Pushing from the waist/spine.

5. Opening and closing (universal exercise or similar).

6. Once we get to this point, we can play with push hands, simple applications, FAJIN, whatever, if there's time and inclination.

OK folks, let's get some skills!!!

Rich Shandross


==================================

> I'll let you know - it might be a while, though. I've got to work this stuff into my CHENG MAN CHING form, my Chen form and my CHENG MAN CHING sword >form... not to mention push-hands and then sparring.
>

Well, if you try to do this, you will probably have wasted a lot of time and money.

I'd suggest that you stop doing the CHENG MAN CHING form entirely (as in, never, ever do it again). Everything the CHENG MAN CHING form contains, and far more, is contained within the Chen Yi Lu. Don't do the Chen form for something like a year either, except for once a week or so to remind yourself of the choreography, and hang your sword up until you are comfortable with the empty handed form. If you have the neijin, learning the forms again is icing on the cake, if you don't have the neijin, those forms are worthless, and they will only distract you from what is really important. Those forms aren't going anywhere - and neither will you if you hold onto them.

In my experience, the biggest reason that people go to seminars, think they learn something, and then still fail to improve is that they attach some value to the forms they know already, and refuse to let them go. I'm saying this based on my own experience, as well as seeing other people make the same mistake, over and over again.

My advice is to cut your losses - forego forms practice, except for maybe 1 form, that you only do to keep from forgetting it, and spend all your time doing basics: standing, single movement exercises, line drills and 2 man work (like push hands). Holding onto those forms will only retard your progress. Especially if you are holding onto a form that was probably taught to you incorrectly, or which doesn't lend itself to learning basics.

If you are really diligent, maybe in a year's time, you'll be able to do all 8 TAIJIQUAN jins consistenty and reasonably correctly in single exercise drills. Which is actually kind of ambitious, if you ask me.

Stephen
===============================================

If it was me, I'd simply open doors, close doors, lift iced tea, flush the toilet, etc., etc., with the correct strength. Try to do *everything* that way for a few months. You'll get miles ahead. Forget forms for a while. Do simple 4-power circling, etc. My opinion, FWIW

Mike Sigman

=============================================

>
>>I'll let you know - it might be a while, though. I've got to work this
>>stuff into my CHENG MAN CHING form, my Chen form and my CHENG MAN CHING sword form...
>
>Uh, why? I think you need to get a better handle on where the
>practice of forms fits into your training and overall objectives. If one
>form is good enough for Yang Lucan, Chen Fake, et al. Why do you think
> you need to do CHENG MAN CHING and Chen?

Actually, I never thought about it - I just kept practicing what I was taught for lack of any particular reason not to. :-)


Now that both you and Stephen Chan have challenged that assumption of mine - made me look at it - I think you're both right. I don't need multiple forms; I certainly don't need multiple arts, either. And since I have to work for a living (like most of us), I have a very limited time to spend on any practice, so I should focus it instead of "spreading it out".

If I had applied my professional judgement to my personal practice, I would have realized that on my own.

Thanks for your opinion and willingness to point that out.

Best regards,

Jim "Same amount of roadwork, but only in one direction" Mercer

> I suppose teachers are able to recognise and correct mistakes of their
> students, because the teachers made those very same mistakes themselves.
>
>
> What are some of the dead ends, false starts, and red herrings that you
> encountered?
>
Ok. In typical fashion, I ended up explaining quite a bit, so I'll sum this up since it's standard to be ignored if you write more than 1 page of stuff unless you focus on an inflammatory task involving personalities or other religion topics. SO let me sum up the points.

Those who feel it useful, please read the explanations below. If you come away with anything I hope it's this. "If you're not getting any better at the things you're supposed to be getting better wrt IS" some reasons may be in the points below.


1) the bottom line
2) not emptying one's cup
3) not being goal oriented
4) picking ego over "the bottom line."
5) honesty with one's self
6) Not seeing the big picture/understanding things shallowly.
7) You're always cheating!


1) the bottom line: What can you do? Talk, email, buzzwords don't mean a thing if you can do anything. In truth, if you're really on the right track you can do things, and the time scale should not be measured in years. Don't ignore the bottom line as a reality check. BTW, if IS is what you're after (and folks do indeed do IMA for reasons otherwise), the bottom line is not, "pretty choreography," or "generally feeling good."

2) not emptying one's cup: Took me ~ 2.5 years to go from "hey! We do basically that" to the realization "I've got to dump it all or it will hold me back." People hate to hear this and usually delude themselves into thinking they have emptied their cups or that they understand things, or the way they were doing it was compatible. See the "the bottom line," if you've emptied the cup and are doing things right, you should be making progress towards tangible (i.e. verifiable by *impartial* observers, i.e not solely your own good feelings). Makes me sound mean to some folks, but since I gain nothing (fame, monetary value, popularity all seem to, in fact, decrease when this is said) you have to realize I'm just trying to someone else some time of spinning one's wheels.

3) not being goal oriented: A man w/no goal, "goes nowhere quickly" Most folks collect buzzwords and exercises and frequently "the secrets" but don't really know what their trying to achieve. Be it, IS, fearsome fighting ability, health, whatever, if you don't organize your efforts towards that and just do a mish mash of stuff with no order, you too will "go nowhere quickly" -- which may be what some folks are looking for.

4) picking ego over "the bottom line." Everyone has an ego, but some are aware of how they try to protect it and others are totally unaware that the real reason they do stuff (in this case, IMA) is to bolster their ego. A teacher that *REALLY* wants a student to learn, will take the time, to correct, to hands on prevent folks from doing things incorrectly. If a student is consequently screwing up, it's a real teacher's **DUTY** to not let them continue. If the student is serious about progressing (have a goal, pay attention to the bottom line), a 5 minute ego crush is worth the time saved doing it right. I know a lot of times folks may spare some corrections coz some folks cannot take criticism and just intentionally get upset over correction, but for me personally I don't want to be wasting my time. Just had Mike S over this weekend and I'm glad he likes me enough to actually tell me when I'm screwing up so I have the chance to try to adjust it, rather than happily going about my way doing it INCORRECTLY.

5) honesty with one's self: Related to 1,2, 4. If you can't do it, you don't really know it. When you first figure out something, naturally you're not too good at it. But if it stays pretty much at a low level over a period of time (say a year or more) then you don't really understand it coz you really haven't been practicing it correctly. This applies to so many things, "we use the waist" (if it can't move in dependant of the hips, you don't) "I'm using jin/path", (if there is not a direct correlation with the waist, you aren't", "I'm not stiff" (it's relative, you might be less stiff than before, but chances are high you're still stiffer than optimal. Another checkpoint is that if you can keep a non wavering groundpath and move the joints, you are too stiff), "I do good push hands" (if winning is priority #1 you aren't. If you loose balance (which you may not recognize) but change your balance loss into a grab on tight, swing him around with momementum so he steps a bigger step than you, or re adjust your feet without acknowledging it until you turn around the situation to something that was lost to a winning position, you're winning the game, but not training good skills).

"It's so hard to change/learn" (how hard have you really tried, did you you empty the cup and start from scratch? Do you refuse to accept that whatever sentimental reasons or legendary exploits of your teacher and lineage, if they don't use jin all the time and you can't do anything wrt jin after say 2+ years (the bottom line again) that what they probably was external.

This is also the not me, "Oh yeah, all those guys are not internal, except you and ME" Or "Those guys are all bogus, thank god, my teacher is is legit.

6) Not seeing the big picture/understanding things shallowly. THis relates to much of the above point.

- Most folks think knowing the buzzwords is knowledge
-- apply "bottom line" if you can't do it, you don't know it.
- In the big picture there is a progression of skills, if you know the path you can train along it
-- goal oriented
- Thinking feeling path in the foot, or not being pushed over, or winning the game known as "he who steps first, or bigger loses" aka fixed step push hands, means you know the whole deal
- Thinking when told directly by oftentimes more than 1 person that you suffer any of the following: too stiff, use too much upper body, "use the waist more", "that's mostly arm" doesn't apply to you coz your understanding is much better
- ignoring the fact the dantian doesn't move independantly of the hips, that after 3+ years, the teacher test is still as inaccessible as ever, etc.

7) Corrallary to above: You're always cheating! As you get better, you may cheat less. The ego learns to hide your own cheating from yourself, sometimes this is by just being oblivious, other times, it's using non internal methods that have similar response (like a fast, hard, loud, strong shaking fajin that does use some waist, but is really 80% upper body -- those of you who fajin more impressively than Chen ZhengLei should consider this, coz chances are 100% that the kind of torque he can inflict on a long spear exceeds what you can do by a many folds despite that your hidden hand punch looks and sounds more impressive than his after 45 years of training). CHEN XIAO WANG tells me he still works on perfecting stuff, i.e. ridding himself of cheating, so unless you do it better than him you are cheating.

This attitude can make your training more effective. Think of it as a game, you body cleverly finds ways to cheat, your mission, should you choose to accept it Mr. Phelps, is to find those cheats as efficiently as possible and get on the track of training with results.

Fo

=====
> section 5. see below seems particularly applicable to me and it makes me
> question if what I've been doing for 3 years is really TAIJIQUAN, and where the system breaks down. is >it my training that isn't getting some things across, or is it the system or the teacher?

what Mike said...


> The simplest and most obvious obsercation about myself, and anyone who worked with me this >weekend will easily have seen that my upper body still comes heavily into play.

Try less hard.

Part of point #6 (Not seeing the big picture) is focussing on the wrong results. With IS it's quality over quanity -- not how much you do, but how you do it. In fact that's what the teacher test is about, do you use jin and waist. Doesn't matter that you can put a hole in the guy's chest if it's from shoulder. Anyways, with the quality will come the quality.

Typically people over focus on 1 aspect to point of messing up or ignoring the other stuff. Examples:

- Feeling in the foot is the sole means I'm doing it
- winning push hands means I use IS
- impressive looking and sounding fajin is really it, even though the waist does almost nothing
- tense or tired shoulders can be ignored in favor of some other results
- etc.

If the upper body comes into play. Back off and do it with less resistance.

> Sure I can feel the waist in there, and when I relax my shoulders I can almost feel the waist fall into place. sometimes I >really got that feeling of my leg and waist really running the situation, but other times, I would really feel my shoulder

#6 again, getting a basic idea doesn't mean you have it. But many folks don't even get the foot in the door, much less step through.

> start to tremble ... I would try to justify that with maintaining the geometry of the shoulders to transfer force, but I must be >using some shoulder strength at some level to get things to work.


Don't. Go back and do it with less.
>
> Well, I noticed that there are some body positions in which you use less and less strength in >the shoulders. If I keep my arms wider fom my shoulders then I usually do, I can tend to get a >better line. Is this degenerating into a bracing situation of the upper body against the waist >which is maintaining a ground path, and is that TAIJIQUAN? I don't know.

THere are better and worse positions. It's why TAIJIQUAN is sometimes called the science of angles. It's also why some MA can never be internal because the shapes/structure do not propagate neijin well -- which is not to say they do not propagate power or are effective, just that they support neijin well.

>
> can anyone give some suggestions or thoughts as to how one does "loosen" the shoulders >enough that you can start to make progress towaard more regularly connecing the waist without >the interplay of shoulders?

Step 1. Be aware that you do it
Step 2. Constantly monitor it
Step 3. Practice, backing off when you notice shoulder usage
Step 4. Don't forget step 1, goto step 2

>
> Now, on to the more complicated and less understood things:
> This whole idea of moving the waist independently of the hips. I've never ever seen that before. I've seen people talk about it, >but it wasn't like what I'd imagined. My TAIJIQUAN system has never demonstrated the side to side movement of the waist.

Draw your own conclusions.

> I think there is some movement of the waist without hips in the sense of deep storing and >releasing, moving the dantien >forward and backward, but there is always physical up and down movementof the hips.

Are you sure?

> What are the implications of this sort of body movement toward developing decent IS? anyone?

Real usage of the waist means you should be able to move side to side w/o turning the hips much, and move up and down without bending/extending the legs, and then convey path to hands.

Naturally this will be limited in range, but not as much as most folks who don't use the waist think. If you HAVE to move the hips for side to side and/or HAVE to bend/unbend the knees to facillitate up and down for movements more than 1 inch, then you're missing it and will likely never develop it -- can't train what you don't do. IT's like expecting one's breast stroke to get better when I on do back stroke.


> One thing I coulden't quite grasp this weekend was whether I'm going in the right direction at all. There were obviously plenty >of folks with way more experience then myself, and I hope that with sheer hours of training I would get there....
> the question is whether I"m moving in the right direction and how to know

Work the basics, try to find the ways you're cheating. Stop cheating. Get qualified feedback whenever you can.

> that. I feel that I've improved dramatically from where I was this time last year, but I don't know if that is in an IMA way or not.

What criteria did you use? "Better" as catch all term for feeling better doesn't mean much. What is your goal? WHich aspects improved that brought you closer to your goal? DO any of these aspects have anything to do with IS. If no, you know the answer.
========
mike and others...

just wanted to drop my own two cents worth from what i teach in psychology. other psychology people on the list feel free to jump in and correct any errors i might make.

i doubt that you will end up changing the majority of players/practitioners that you are discussing for the following psychological reasons:

1. confirmation bias. this basically says that people will only look for information that already confirms the beliefs that they have. they will tend to not look for, or worse yet, discount/disparage/ignore information that would call into question their beliefs.

2. related to this, people tend to remember information that supports their beliefs, and tend to forget (i.e., not encode into memory) information that goes against their beliefs.

3. belief perseverance. this is one of my favorite psychological effects. even when you SHOW people evidence that their beliefs are wrong (even at the level of undeniable proof, not just when it is others' opinions), many people will STILL ignore the info and keep their beliefs. they somehow do a cognitive twist in their mind which allows them to keep the belief they have. as we've seen on the list, this usually consists of ignoring the info, trying to argue why the info is wrong, or disparaging the messenger.

quick example. belief: clinton is a scumbag.

confirmation bias would suggest that you would only read books, watch shows, have discussions with people who also think clinton is a scumbag. this narrows your world view so that you might never hear about anything he did that was actually good. if you did hear something bad, you'll remember it and tell others. if you hear something good about him, you'll promptly forget it.

belief perseverance. even if the courts find him innocent and he did 10,000 good things, he's still a scumbag.

it would seem that TAIJIQUAN has a large number of people who will have discussions that confirm their beliefs and will show belief perseverance even when it's apparent to others their beliefs are incorrect.

btw, it's very hard to fix/control/change either of these phenomenons.

so, i think that you have to do something else other than trying to change those people.

1. inform others as much as possible about these people and why they should be avoided. i'm not sure if there is a nice way to do that, without getting a whole lot of people who want bad things done to you.

2. keep doing what's been done to inform others thru methods like the neijia list, internal martial arts journal, etc.

but bottom line, i don't think those people will probably change their beliefs just cuz you or others point out the errors of their ways.

regards,

dan rozanas

------------
From: "mike cherrill"

> What do you regard as the key points of training, particularly for > beginners?

Probably the biggest distraction for beginners is "learning a form". Usually, in the West, a beginner learns a choreography from someone who is not really that good at TAIJIQUAN himself/herself and so they go off on the 'forms' route. I would suggest just learning peng, lu, ji, an and practice doing very slow, correct movements with them would be far more productive. Depends though on if you are trying to learn TAIJIQUAN skills or learn a choreography that will get your social life moving. :^)

> What exercises have you found to produce the best results?

Every door that you push open, push with very relaxed but solid ground path powered by the legs and back; no shoulders or arms. Every door you pull open, pull it open as though you are doing it with your belt and your front leg.


> What do you regard as the most dangerous pitfalls?

Getting wrapped up in a myriad details that your common sense tells you "wait a minute... that's not really going to work for any practical reason that I can see". The "blind faith following" approach sure to lead nowhere.


> Do you have any other comment that you would like to make? >
> Any help is much appreciated and will be useful to me and any other > newcomers.

Read as many books as you can that have *fucntional* information in them. Since there are almost none of those, simply read enough to get an overall idea of what the real major subjects are in TAIJIQUAN... then start asking someone who knows about those subjects (perhaps Yang Zhen Duo, CHEN XIAO WANG, Wang Pei Sheng, etc.)

FWIW

Regards

Mike
===========================
Roy K's comment about the shoulder's relationship to "pushing from the middle across the gap" are worth talking about...particularly in light of his comments about the shoulder locking up.


Point 1: "relaxation" versus lockup:

First of all, the idea of "groundpath", as I noted in an earlier post, is important... but for many people it has now become a simple "alignment" issue. That's not what it is. I'm seeing more and more people who "do peng jin", but they're basically using body alignment, "rooting", and a lot of shoulder and arm when the going gets tough.

A real problem with the "alignment" is that often what "relaxation" you get is simply from the fact that if you practice something hard enough and with enough resistance, you can wind up doing it "relaxed". However, this is like saying that a weight-lifter can slap you across the room in a "relaxed" fashion simply because he has worked out to the point where he puts little comparative effort into many tasks. For many years I've always considered this factor in both "correct" and "incorrect" jin paths... it has to be factored in that both ways of doing jin can involve a certain additional aspect of "relaxation" simply due to having trained extensively.

Another factor of relaxation in the "jumping the gap" problem is that (as Rich Shandross noted), some relaxation is obtained by the fact that the shoulder muscles are used to hold the structural position, but they are not driving the movement themselves.

Lastly (in point 1), but most importantly, let me get back to what I have said in previous posts. The idea of "forming a groundpath" involves recruiting *many* small muscles to handle a load on a "global" scale, as opposed to the local use of large muscles. Applying "downpower" involves the same sort of recruitment. An extensive training, while being very relaxed and using the mind "intent" (all of this in order to shift away from the way we've trained to move since being a baby) is needed to recruit all of these small muscle contributions. I like to use the example of someone applying shao tran (nikkyo) to my wrist and stopping it with a relaxed application of jin.... there is no tension when I do this, yet the joint does not collapse.... think of the global recruitment of muscles that is needed to effect this "trick" (but a martially usable trick, at that).

My point is that if you have areas that are "locking up", you need to go back to basics. If you are going to be "relaxed, but strong as steel" (i.e., the "needle in the cotton"), you must train from basics, not from "alignment".


Point 2: a method of gaining control of some things:

I'm not sure how to describe this, so please be lenient in the critiques. :^)))

If you are holding a staff point straight out from your body, you can bring the end of the groundpath to the end of the staff. You "bring your qi" to the end of the staff. Forming any groundpath involves bringing something (the end of a resultant?) to a particular area. In this sense you "grab control" of some part of your body or a weapon.

If you bring the focus of your weight to your armpits or your elbows, or your hands, or to the edge of a down-cutting sword, you are likewise "bringing your qi" to those areas. Downpower, like "groundpath" (both of these are properly part of the same phenomenon in "peng jin") involves recruitment of numerous global muscles to "grab control" of some part of your body or weapon.

I could extend this idea to throwing a baseball. I "grab control" (i.e., I "bring qi") of the baseball when I throw it. Imbuing the baseball with this form of control results in some marked results. As a matter of fact, you can "grab control" of the end of a golf club and use it to hit a golfball in the same manner. Koichi Tohei, of Aikido fame, used to teach this sort of trick to golfers... using your "ki" to hit a golfball. A few years back, I laughed when I saw that some smart westerners had begun selling a practice golf club that was hinged on the shaft... the only way to hit the golfball with that club was to "grab control" or "bring your qi" (to a certain extent; there is a bit more in the details) of the business end of the golfclub.

The important thing about the golfclub is that you somehow "grab control" of the end of it.

The point I was getting to was that you can "grab control" of your arm and fist in the same way when you "launch" them with a punch... you don't use local motion to do it. You can strike with an elbow, a shoulder, a leg, etc., etc., in the same way. It's an adjunct that is important as your skills increase.

FWIW

Mike Sigman



...feelings are all our bodies give us to work with. I don't see a big problem with the "calibration" process either. You do something, you feel something, you get feedback by comments from a competent teacher - repeat ten thousand times and your "neural network"
*will* be able to quite precisely tune into a "correct" motion, even if you can't eloquently explain how it does that.

On the other hand simply embracing all kinds of feeling occuring during practice makes no sense. Not everything you feel will be helpful for your practice, the process of weeding out the unimportant or even detrimental feelings is what concerns us here. To do that most efficiently, we will certainly need a good teacher. But he will naturally judge us from *external* signs - he can't read your mind to find out what's happening *internally*, he can just watch and feel what your body is doing.

----- Original Message -----
From:
>>
> Are people being too ambitious, not ambitious enough? Are they
> focussing on the "right" things (whatever they are), or getting ahead > of themselves?

I think they don't do the part about defining their goals ... they just do a bunch of ritual stuff, hoping the rest will happen.

My private comment would be that in most cases of "extensive workouts" (like XXX's for example), even though someone may workout for 2.5 hours, their functional and productive workout is probably only about 15 minutes. They waste time on unproductive practice.

FWIW

Mike




I've had a couple of offline conversations going about "muscular push hands", "TAIJIQUAN fighting", etc., so I thought I'd throw out a couple of personal observations to get some discussion going.

The first thing I'd say about TAIJIQUAN is that the major thing I find of interest in it is the unusual strength. Finding out the components of that strength and developing it is what I am interested in. The "techniques" of TAIJIQUAN, the power of a XINGYIQUAN p'i-chuan strike, etc., etc., are all secondary to having developed that form of strength. Someone who has "learned a form" or been shown some "Tai Chee applications" or says that "judo is the same thing as TAIJIQUAN" ... these are all people who have missed the point. You
can't use the famous "shaking power" by just learning to mimic a shake.... you have to develop all the body skills and conditioning before you can do it actually and effectively. You can't learn a few "jin tricks" and think that you're there... and finding like-minded buddies who will support your
idea of "Tai Chi" by engaging in a safe-formatted bs competition called "push hands" won't make what you're doing real TAIJIQUAN, either. Basic skills and conditioning come first.

I always marveled at the people who would lean far backwards in push hands
and call it "neutralizing"... it was always one of those surreal things that made me question just how sane some of these "Tai Chee Teachers" are. Push hands techniques are steps toward sparring and fighting and any "trick" that would teach you to expose yourself to danger in a real fight is not part of real TAIJIQUAN push hands. For someone to lean over backwards, break any possible jin path, and expose their groin to any attack desirable to the
opponent... it's simple insanity. I remember listening to one of the tournament sponsors telling me about a conversation he and a number of skilled Chinese had with William C.C. Chen about that sort of thing... the opinion was universal (particularly among the Chinese big dogs) that this
little trick was a complete error and waste of time and it was disallowed in most of the tournaments.

So what would the opinion be on the list of someone who used a lot of muscle, showed off his "leaning back" evasion, etc.? If you "lost" to such a person, would it bother you? Are you worried about your jin skills or are you worried about "losing"?

There are a number of situations I encounter in push hands that are, to me,
similar to the "lean back" as obvious errors. I can't name all of them, but I can name a few that jump readily to mind:

1. Someone gets into a stance that leans forward like a wrestler. When you pull them slightly they tense to try to regain the balance they lost so easily and they jump toward you. How is that TAIJIQUAN? Yet, they are the sorts of people who will drone on and on about "central equilibrium".

2. Someone gets into a stance so that their head is inches from yours. I learned to never let this happen after a few pretty martial Chinese knocked my head with theirs. Never put your head anywhere in the neighborhood of the opponent's head or shoulder.... it's a basic mistake, even if the other person doesn't take advantage of it. If you "win", but that's one of your habits, then your "winning" is only artificial.

3. If someone likes to lean over, drop down low and come powering up at an angle to "push you" it usually means they haven't been trained enough to understand what Kao does to someone coming up. Many, many times I take an upcoming push like this without responding simply because I know the opponent has never been hit that hard and I don't want to be the one to
break the news to him. It's another basic error that I have learned to ignore while I'm pushing hands with a lot of people.

There are a number of other basic errors that people engage in, but you get the points. Most of what people do is not really TAIJIQUAN because they don't have the skills/conditioning to back up the use of "TAIJIQUAN" in what they're doing. A lot of the "push hands" is based around childish "Spanky and Our Gang" errors that have developed because of the low level of training that abounds. The thrust of what I'm saying is pointed toward getting people away from the "winning" against people who are making very basic mistakes but who can muscle you to a standstill. Focus on what TAIJIQUAN is and try to go in the right direction.

FWIW

Mike