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 ~


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

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Furniture

A friend sent me the following. Check out the link. The furniture is beautiful.

I'm kind of partial to the Amish / Shaker style myself.

======

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The Hung Collection(2 Volumes)
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Friday, November 11, 2005

300 Tang Dynasty Poems, #9 To My Retired Friend Wei


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

The Tang Dynasty was a watershed of art and culture in China. Poety was especially esteemed. No occasion was too mundane to not merit a poem. No homecoming or leave taking, no celebration, no invitation would be complete without a poem.

Du Fu, together with Li Po are considered the giants of poetry of that era. They were friends. They were opposites. Li Po, while drunk would dash off complete masterpieces, while Du Fu had to grind his work out.

Five-character-ancient-verse
Du Fu
TO MY RETIRED FRIEND WEI
It is almost as hard for friends to meet
As for the morning and evening stars.
Tonight then is a rare event,
Joining, in the candlelight,
Two men who were young not long ago
But now are turning grey at the temples. ...
To find that half our friends are dead
Shocks us, burns our hearts with grief.
We little guessed it would be twenty years
Before I could visit you again.
When I went away, you were still unmarried;
But now these boys and girls in a row
Are very kind to their father's old friend.
They ask me where I have been on my journey;
And then, when we have talked awhile,
They bring and show me wines and dishes,
Spring chives cut in the night-rain
And brown rice cooked freshly a special way.
...My host proclaims it a festival,
He urges me to drink ten cups --
But what ten cups could make me as drunk
As I always am with your love in my heart?
...Tomorrow the mountains will separate us;
After tomorrow-who can say?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Strolling on the bridge over the river Hao


This is a small except of a great classic of world literature, the ZhuangZi (Chuang Tsu). This particular translation was done by a famous scholar, YuTang Lin. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a translation of the complete chapter, and then you'll be able to find the whole text online.
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Chuangtse and Hueitse had strolled on to the bridge over the Hao, when the former observed, "See how the small fish are darting about! That is the happiness of the fish."

"You not being a fish yourself," said Hueitse, "how can you know the happiness of the fish?"

"And you not being I," retorted Chuangtse, "how can you know that I do not know?"

"If I, not being you, cannot know what you know," urged Hueitse, "it follows that you, not being a fish, cannot know the happiness of the fish."

"Let us go back to your original question," said Chuangtse. "You asked me how I knew the happiness of the fish. Your very question shows that you knew that I knew. I knew it (from my own feelings) on this bridge."

Thoreau's Journal: Jan 6, 1857


The stone are happy. Concord River is happy, and I am happy too... Do you think that Concord River would have continued to flow these millions of years ... if it had not been happy - if it had been miserable in its channel, tired of existence, and cursing its maker and the hour that it sprang?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The 36 Strategies: #9: Watch the fire from the opposite band of the river


Next to the Art of War by Sun Tzu, the 36 Strategies is the most famous compliation in the study of strategy in Asia. It would be wise to have an understanding of these strategies, just so you might be able to recognise when someone is attempting to use them on you!

#9. Watch the fire from the opposite band of the river

You calmly look on when adversaries experience internal troubles, waiting for them to destroy themselves.

We really are our own worst enemies. If we can patiently wait, and not make our own mistakes, we can almost certainly count on our opponents to make theirs. Very often a conflict is resolved in favor to the side that makes the next to the last mistake.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

New Imperial Tea Court Newsletter

If you love tea, you might want to check out the issue of the Imperial Tea Court's newsletter. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to it.

Blonds Enter the Sumo Ring


washingtonpost.com
Blonds Enter the Sumo Ring
Fleshy Foreigners Crack Japan's Sacred Sport
By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, November 3, 2005; A01

TOKYO -- Flesh struck flesh with a thunderous smack, and rolls of fat and muscle rippled down the alabaster-skinned frame of the blond sumo Baruto, a rising star in Japan's national sport. Clad only in a traditional loincloth, the sweaty Estonian towered over his stouter Japanese opponents during a morning practice, knocking them to the dirt floor one after the other, like so many oversized bowling pins.

"I came to Japan to be a sumo champion," said Baruto, 20, the professional name of Kaido Hoovelson. After only 19 months in Japan, the 6-foot-6, 360-pound Baruto -- which means Baltic in Japanese -- is soaring in the rankings. "I still feel like a foreigner, and I don't understand many of the customs of sumo. But I don't care. I plan on making it to the top anyway."

Baruto's ruddy complexion and hungry, outsider's spirit make up the new face of sumo wrestling in Japan, where foreigners are now dominating what once was among the purest and most sacred cultural bastions. The change has become a metaphor, many here say, for a reluctantly globalizing Japan. Foreigners are making unprecedented inroads in this nation long considered to be highly xenophobic, breaking into the top levels of fields as diverse as sports, finance and the arts.

Obstacles on the road to success in the nation with the world's second-largest economy persist, as fiercely tough immigration laws and unspoken codes that create glass ceilings for non-Japanese remain strong. But there has been movement. In June, for example, former CBS executive Howard Stringer officially became the first foreign head of Sony Corp. His path was carved by Brazilian-born Carlos Ghosn, who took control of Nissan Motor Co. in 1999 and turned the once-ailing company into one of the world's most profitable automakers by fusing his nurturing but no-nonsense foreign management style with Japanese efficiency.

"Sumo, like Japan itself, is becoming globalized," said Yutaka Matsumura, chairman of the Japan Sumo Federation. "Not everyone is happy about it, but I would say it is inevitable. I think in the end it will make us more competitive and raise the bar for greatness."

The culture clash is evident in the rarified world of sumo, where the last Japanese grand champion of the 2,000-year-old sport retired in January 2003. Since then, foreign-born wrestlers have reigned supreme while young amateurs from many countries have steadily climbed the professional rankings.

Rules regulating foreign wrestlers were relaxed in 1998 -- in part because of a steep decline in the sport's popularity among young Japanese athletes. The percentage of foreign professionals has grown from 2.5 percent in 1995 to more than 8 percent. More important, foreign-born sumos now make up 28 percent of the makuuchi , the upper professional ranks. A Hawaiian and a Mongolian have won the grandmaster's title in the sport of giants during the past two years.

Fueled in part by a multimillion-dollar Japanese campaign that sumo be added to the Olympics, the sport has gone global. The number of nations with important amateur circuits has more than doubled in the past decade, from 40 to 86 countries. In the United States, Las Vegas played host last month to America's first professional sumo tournament in 20 years, and two weeks ago, an exhibition was held at Madison Square Garden in New York called "World Sumo Challenge: Battle of the Giants."

Sumo fever has swept the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which has put two wrestlers into the Japanese pro ranks. Georgian sports officials went so far as to build a round earthen sumo-wrestling ring three years ago at their National Sports Arena, where would-be pros now train three times a week. In Brazil, local sumo tournaments are luring tens of thousands of spectators a year, with regional winners from 18 states going on to an annual national championship.

Pacific Islanders and Mongolians, who have long practiced their own tradition of sumo-like wrestling, were the first to break down barriers here more than four decades ago. But the arrival of East Europeans over the past five years has captured attention. Bulgaria's Kaloyan Mahalyanov, 22 -- known here as Kotooshu , or the European Harp -- has jumped into the high ranks of sumo, standing out from the chubby champs because of his brooding good looks and tall, muscular frame. Now a sex symbol in Japan -- posters and pins of him outsell other wrestlers at sumo stadiums -- he has also become a hero in Bulgaria, where all of his bouts are broadcast nationally.

Set to film a new instant soup commercial and negotiating for his own TV show, Mahalyanov, a farmer's son, is also now fabulously wealthy. The lure of fame and fortune through sumo has become as strong a draw for some young athletes in the developing world as the dream of winning a professional soccer contract in Europe or playing basketball in the NBA.

"There are many young wrestlers like me in Georgia whose only wish is to become a professional sumo wrestler," said Levan Gorgadze, 18. Gorgadze, 6 feet 5 and 276 pounds, arrived in Japan last month to turn pro after two years on the international amateur circuit. He became interested in sumo when one of his countrymen shot to fame in Japan in 2001.

Gorgadze, a dashing young man with blue eyes and sandy hair, is now living with a group of Japanese college sumo hopefuls who are also waiting to be drafted by a professional stable, an official house of sumo wrestlers. Once drafted, Gorgadze will be forced to scrub toilets and lay out futons for older pros for at least his first year of training.

He speaks no Japanese or English and eats in silence as he watches the Japanese wrestlers cheerfully chat amongst themselves. He has been told he needs to gain at least 40 pounds to have a shot at the top, and that he also needs to learn the polite form of Japanese speech and master the art of emotional restraint in public. For now, his only lifeline is the cell phone he uses to call his family back home, plus an oversized dream. "I am filled with the desire to win," he said through a Georgian interpreter.

"I know that in Japan, I can become rich and famous as a sumo wrestler," Gorgadze said. "That is not an option for me back home in Georgia."

But in a nation where outsiders are still regarded with unease, the stream of foreigners invading the most Japanese of sports -- and one whose rituals are strongly tied to the domestic Shinto religion -- has generated both controversy and backlash. Critics contend that the new European stars have longer arms and legs and allege that this gives them an unfair advantage. The huge growth in foreign-born pros led officials in 2002 to impose a limit of only one foreign wrestler per sumo stable. Some stables, all of which are permitted to be owned and operated only by Japanese citizens, maintain private policies barring foreigners.

That, however, has turned out to be the stable owners' loss. Like boxing managers, they get a percentage of their wrestlers' purses, and those stables that court foreigners have done extremely well financially. Many others now are actively scouting international talent -- including Baruto, who was spotted by a visiting Japanese stable owner while wrestling at a local sumo club in Estonia.

Baruto's meteoric rise to the upper echelons of sumo has caused a stir. He is poised this year to become the first blond to pass into the higher ranks, meaning he must wear a traditional hairstyle binding his straw-colored locks in a topknot shaped like a ginkgo tree leaf. Some sumo officials have demanded that he now dye his hair black in deference to the essentially Japanese nature of the sport.

That is one fight, at least, that Baruto might be willing to concede.

"I am in Japan and I know things are done differently here," he said, lifting hands the size of hams in a shrug. "I don't care what the color of my hair is. I just care about winning."

Special correspondent Taeko Kawamura contributed to this report.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dao De Jing: Chapter 6


The Dao De Jing is one of the world's great classics. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of the text. The picture is from www.haikuvenue.com

The spirit of emptiness is immortal.
It is called the Great Mother
because it gives birth to Heaven and Earth.
It is like a vapor,
barely seen but always present.
Use it effortlessly.