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, December 30, 2009

Tomb of Ancient General Unearthed


Over at the Dao of Strategy, there is an article about the discovery of the tomb of the famous ancient Chinese General Cao Cao. You can read the article by clicking here.

Cao Cao lived in the 3rd century AD. He was one of the major actors during the Three Kingdoms Period, and immortalized in the book, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms; a book where example after example of Sun Tzu's Art of War and the 36 Strategies may be found.

Please pay a visit.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Taijiquan and Modern Western Boxing


A friend sent me this article. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here


There are those who see no application for Taijiquan in the sense of modern methods of combat. In this article, a Taijiquan teacher uses the "13 Methods" of TJQ to train boxers, some of whom have done very well.

Illusive Pugilism: Merging the 13 Postures of Tai Chi Ch’uan with Western Methods of Fighting

By Master Gurjot K. Singh, M Ed.
Tai Chi Ch'uan
Illusive Pugillism, or Western Tai Chi Ch’uan, is the physically-deceptive manipulation of an opponent’s sense of offense and defense to the point of ineffectiveness. It uses grappling and striking to neutralize the offense of an opponent while fluidly striking and grappling through an opponent’s defense without serious injury. It is a striker’s approach to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
Years ago, Master Singh, the author, noticed several modern warriors that demonstrated this ability, especially in the Mixed Martial Arts arena. Examples include Lyota Machita, Anderson Silva, and Jason Miller. While it is known that these fighters studied boxing, kickboxing, and grappling, it is unknown whether their training actively encompassed the art of Tai Chi Ch’uan.

From studying these fighters, Master Singh developed a system for teaching fighters he called "Illusive Pugilism." In Illusive Pugilism, Master Singh integrated the 13 postures of Tai Chi Ch’uan into the competitive, combative disciplines of Western boxing, kickboxing, and grappling, all of which he had taught since 2006.

Tai Chi Ch’uan’s emitting energy (Fa Chin), Interception energy (Jie Chin), Sticky energy (Nian Chin), Long and Short (Chang Chin and Duan Chin) energy, and Attraction into Emptiness energy (Hua Chin) began to have meaning when applied to competitive, combat situations. Using the pedagogy of the systems approach to training, the process of systematizing a curriculum of understanding, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesizing and evaluation was realized.

Between March 2007 to the present, this system has helped produce more than 20 amateur champions for the USA Amateur Boxing Association, the International Kickboxing Association, the North American Grappling Association, and several MMA event victors. Few of these champions had more than a year of competitive experience before becoming a champion in their respective, competitive disciplines.

The Yang Style forms that Singh was taught did not reflect his style of fighting but he found that the strategies behind their use were invaluable. He then realized the reason masters created forms and situational sparring drills:
  • To reinforce what they had learned from their teacher and to transfer knowledge into application
  • To realistically fight the way of their master
  • To evolve mentally, physically, and spiritually
When the 13 postures (later referred to as Strategies or Forms) are studied, it becomes clear that, except for three postures, Tai Chi Ch’uan is mostly a standing-upright, grappling system. The health and religious aspects of the system cannot be overlooked or relegated in importance; however, they must be put into perspective based upon the practitioner’s goals. In the latter sense, according to Li I-yu author of The Essential Practice of Form and Push-hands Training, form teaches one to know one’s self and fighting (sparring) teaches one to know others. This is the essential training philosophy that built the curriculum of Western Tai Chi Ch’uan for the illusive pugilist.

In Angel’s Gym the goal is to produce amateur fighting champions that are physically, mentally, and spiritually skilled enough to win bouts. When this system of Yin and Yang (or hard and soft) grappling is integrated into the previously-mentioned striking disciplines, a paradigm of illusive pugilism is realized. The conceptual merging of Eastern and Western concepts of martial arts begins with relating the 13 postures with the Western patterns of combative movement. Movement in this sense should be regarded as potential offensive and defensive energy disposed to allow the pugilist to yield and submit—without being vanquished—in order to neutralize an opponent.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

We Are All But Dust


A friend who is aware of my interest in mob things sent me this. Below is an excerpt from an article describing the death and funeral of a mob boss in Hong Kong. The full article may be read here.

A tough farewell

Gangsters and cops were out in force yesterday for the funeral service of a slain triad boss.

Adele Wong and Nickkita Lau

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gangsters and cops were out in force yesterday for the funeral service of a slain triad boss.
Up to 1,000 mourners, many dressed in black, arrived to pay their last respects at a Hung Hom funeral home where a service was held for triad enforcer Lee Tai-lung, who was brutally murdered early this month.
Specialist police officers were deployed and road blocks set up on three main roads leading to the funeral parlor. Lee's family hired South Asian security guards who scanned mourners with metal detectors.
Lee, 41, was a red pole fighter - a senior rank - of the Sun Yee On society and was active in the Tsim Sha Tsui area. In a suspected gangland hit, he was first struck by a car and then hacked to death by at least three knifemen around 4am on August 4 outside the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel.
Cops, some with dogs, kept a close watch, checking mourners' identities and videotaping proceeding.
The eight-hour police presence to maintain order was a rare sight. Anti- triad units from five regions, Organized Crime and Triad Bureau and Police Tactical Unit altogether deployed more than 140 officers.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The 36 Strategies: #32, Scheme With An Empty Castle


Next to Sun Tzu's Art of War, the 37 Strategies is the most widely known and read book on Chinese strategy. Where the Art of War is an overview of the whole subject of the study of strategy, the 36 Strategies attempts to impart the knack of strategic thinking through a set of 36 maxims.

The study of strategy is important to us if only to recognize when someone else is trying to benefit at your expense by employing various strategies.

32. Scheme with an empty castle


You appear weaker than you really are, so that opponents may defeat themselves by one of three reactions to your supposed weakness: They may become conceited and complacent, leading to their downfall; they may become arrogant and aggressive, leading to their destruction; or they may assume you are setting up an ambush, leading them to flee of their own accord.


In the first instance, you are intentionally allowing yourself to be underestimated. Being underestimated, your opponent will likely make mistakes when trying to manipulate you. Those mistakes are the gaps you can use to counter attack with strategies of your own.


The second instance is a little more complex. There is a story from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms which is a direct application of this strategy. It concerns Zhuge Liang, one of the greatest generals in Chinese history.


Thi
s is the description of the incident from Wikipedia:

In the legend from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhuge Liang led six expeditions to the north from Hanzhong through Qishan in hopes of capturing Chang'an. In the 1st expedition, his efforts were undermined by the loss of Jieting, a passageway into Hanzhong. This was due to the defiance of Ma Su, who refused to listen to the Prime Minister's orders to barricade the pathway. With the loss of Jieting, Zhuge Liang's current location, Xicheng (西城), is in great danger. Having sent out all the troops and left with a handful of civil officials, Zhuge Liang decides to use a ploy to ward off the advancing Wei army.

Zhuge Liang ordered all the gates to be opened and had civilians sweeping the roads while he sat high up on the gates calmly playing his zither with two children beside him. When the Wei commander and strategist Sima Yi approached the fort with the Wei army, he was puzzled by the scenery and ordered his troops to retreat.

Zhuge Liang later told the bewildered civil officials that the strategy only worked because Sima Yi is a man of suspicion, the latter having personally witnessed the success of Zhuge Liang's highly effective ambushing and misdirection tactics many times before. Furthermore, Zhuge Liang had a reputation as a keen but extremely careful military tactician who rarely took risks. Zhuge's well-known caution coupled with Sima Yi's own suspicious nature led Sima Yi to the conclusion that entry into the apparently empty city would have drawn his troops into an ambush. It is unlikely the same strategy would have worked on someone else, and indeed Sima Yi's son Sima Zhao saw through the ruse immediately and counselled his father against retreat.

Because of the lack of historical evidence and lack of logic, historians generally consider this encounter a creation of Luo Guanzhong and common folklore.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

... in Japan's Alleys and Subways


A friend sent me this travel article about travelling to Japan on a budget. I've included a portion below. You can read the whole article here.

Deals hidden in Japan's alleys and on subways

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Japan" and "cheap" are not words that ordinarily go together for Americans, and with the yen currently strong at 100 to the dollar, traveling to the birthplace of sushi and karaoke may sound prohibitively pricey. However, there is no reason to be put off; in these times of austerity, you can travel even to Tokyo without busting the budget - provided you know how.
My wife, Georgina, and I recently returned from Japan, which we've long admired as one of the safest, cleanest and culturally compelling countries on the planet. We kept our eyes on the bottom line and found that by following a few basic guidelines, we were able to have a great, and affordable, time.
Here's how we did it.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Austere training, or Shugyo has become a re occurring topic. I've posted articles here and here. My youngest daughter plays volleyball for her college. As a freshman, this year she was introduced to 3 a day practices at the college level. This was certainly a form of shugyo. The coach has several things in mind. With the team being together 24/7 for the week that they held the 3 a days, they bonded through the shared hardship. He pushed them very hard, so they knew what they'd be capable of; and it was competitive. Everyone knew where they stood at the end of the week in terms of conditioning and skill. Below in an excerpt from another article on Shugyo. The full article may be read here.
Learning to maintain and move with good posture and good energy is a process of better understanding our own internal experiences. We are learning how to “polish our spirits” by better understanding ourselves and gaining an increased awareness and capacity to control the nature of our internal experiences.
We will then progress towards better being able to connect at an “energy” level to the uke. We will suddenly begin to experience how our bodies are no longer engaged in a struggle with an opponent, but move in unison with a two-beings-connected-as-one entity. The techniques will begin to feel easier and we will begin to think that the uke is “just giving us the technique.” True martial arts looks and feels phony!!!!!!!!!!!!
Austere training is the path towards achieving these changes. We must be very sincere in learning to better understand ourselves in training and in life. We must be very sincere in serving as both an uke and nage. We must be willing to honestly test our experiences to see if we are moving towards this direction. We must be willing to openly question the teacher and fellow students to see if what we are doing has any “truth” and “integrity.” This is learning to live in the moment. This is the moment that existed in some people who developed from life-and-death circumstances and passed both their genes and teaching on to the next generation. Can we learn from their wisdom without having to experience life-and-death circumstances? Can we re-create that spirit in our training? This is the path towards transforming our practice into SHUGYO.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Thrift Bug


A friend of mine sent me this article from The New York Times. I've excerpted a portion below. The full article may be read here. 
  
Once Slave to Luxury, Japan Catches Thrift Bug

TOKYO — Not long ago, many Japanese bought so many $100 melons and $1,000 handbags that this was the only country in the world where luxury products were considered mass market.

Even through the economic stagnation of Japan’s so-called lost decade, which began in the early 1990s,

Japanese consumers sustained that reputation. But this recession has done something that earlier declines could not: turned the Japanese into Wal-Mart shoppers.

In seven years operating in Japan, through a subsidiary called Seiyu, Wal-Mart Stores has never turned a profit. But sales have risen every month since November, and this year, the retailer expects to make a profit.

That is an understatement. Across the board, discount retailers are reporting increases in revenue — while just about everyone else is experiencing declines, in some cases, by double digits.

As a result, the luxury boutiques, once almighty here, are reeling.

Sales at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, makers of what has long been Japan’s favorite handbag, plunged 20 percent in the first six months of 2009. In December, as the global economic crisis unfolded, Louis Vuitton canceled plans for what would have been a fancy new Tokyo store.

In the 1970s and ’80s, and even as the economy limped through the ’90s, a wide group of consumers spent generously on Louis Vuitton bags and Hermès scarves — even at the expense of holidays, travel and, sometimes, meals and rent.

Now, the Japanese luxury market, worth $15 billion to $20 billion, has been among the hardest hit by the global economic crisis, according to a report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Retail analysts, economists and consumers all say that the change could be a permanent one. A new generation of Japanese fashionistas does not even aspire to luxury brands; they are happy to mix and match treasures found in a flurry of secondhand clothing stores that have sprung up across Japan.

“I’m not drawn to Louis Vuitton at all,” said Izumi Hiranuma, 19.

“People used to feel they needed a Louis Vuitton to fit in,” she said. “But younger girls don’t think like that anymore.”

In the new environment, cheap is chic, whatever the product.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Ba Gua Zhang videos


Wang Shujin was not only a big man, he was a giant in internal martial arts circles. A friend of mine sent me video clips he found of one of the senior students of WSJ's system, Kent Howard, performing elements of that system. More about Wang Shujin can be learned at the Wang Shujin blog.







http://www.youtube.com/user/baguaman8
 http://bagualinkedpalms.com/     
 http://wangshuchin.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

On Martial Arts Practice

This is an excerpt from an article at Aunkai.net. The full article may be read here.

There are many who pursue the daily practice of Bujutsu (Budo) as a means to temper their spirit. Training in Bujutsu, or performing Bujutsu Tanren is one way of knowing yourself both physically and mentally. By pursuing one thing (not only Bujutsu) deeply, the insight, knowledge, inspiration, as well as the the development put into understanding it will lead to innovation. When fueled by a strong desire and intent they create original ideas allowing for ever original innovations that are a must if you wish to get close to experiencing whatever truth it is that you pursue. It is this cycle that is so fulfulling to those that have chosen to pursue their individual arts.

Through the development of a body suitable for bujutsu, forging it in a manner according to the principles that are the foundation of bujutsu, absorbing and learning how to use the body through contact training and finally through the never ending cycle of experimentation/innovation we seek to create a core within our bodies that *is* "Jutsu." That, simply put, is what Tanren is about.

The so called "wisdom" gained through the training of bujutsu is the ability for individuals to naturally adjust to whatever environment or circumstance in which they find themselves. This power, I feel, is the true essence that lies at the core of bujutsu.

There are many different interpretations of what strong and weak are in Bujutsu. However, for techniques to be effective in reality there is much solo training and experimentation needed to accquire the intuition necessary. To grasp the principles and essence requires many hours of experimentation and innovation. "Strong" or "weak" are merely results (or lack thereof) of a work in progress.

I believe that original training and ideas created by individuals that go beyond styles and methods are required if one chooses to pursue Bujutsu.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Four Arts of a Chinese Scholar


A friend sent me a link to an article regarding the four arts in which one should be accomplished to be regarded a scholar. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.

Throughout Chinese history, every scholar learns and strives to excel in four art forms: music, board game, calligraphy and painting. Fine points of these arts are taught as part of one's formal education; and skills in these arts are diligently honed and improved upon all one's life. We often see these arts illustrated and mentioned in paintings and poems.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

To Find Old Tokyo...

A friend sent me this article. I've excerpted a portion below. Click here to read the full article. There is a slide show.

Near Tokyo, a City Shows Its Age, Proudly

TO learn about Tokyo, you sometimes have to leave it. The capital has been rebuilt so many times that those wanting a glimpse of what it looked like years ago head to places like the Museum Meiji-Mura, more than two hours away.

But the city of Kawagoe, right in Tokyo’s backyard, is a more practical alternative. Less than 45 minutes by train, the center of Kawagoe is filled with a well-preserved collection of century-old kura, or warehouses, that still double as stores, workshops and homes.

Many kura are clustered around an even older wooden clock tower and a jumble of buildings from the Taisho and early Showa eras that create the feel of a small town with a charm missing in many Japanese cities. A former castle town, Kawagoe does such a good job evoking the Tokyo of yore that it is affectionately called Little Edo, a reference to the ancient name for Tokyo.

Its streetscape is so authentic that NHK, the national television broadcaster, is filming one of its serialized morning dramas in Kawagoe, a city of 330,000. That has stirred further interest. One afternoon in June, busloads of Japanese grandmothers and grandfathers ambled up and down the city’s streets admiring the three dozen or so kura, the old-time candy shops and the graceful Kitain Temple.

But as I learned more than two decades ago when I taught in the city, the real crowds arrive during the third weekend of October, when Kawagoe puts on one of the most colorful street festivals in the country, replete with three-ton rolling floats.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tea and Aikido


Two of my favorite subjects are the topic of the article I've copied a portion of below. If you click here, you'll be directed to the full article.

Tea was cultivated and developed in China about 2000 years ago - initially for medicinal purposes. Buddhist priests brought it as a medicine to Japan about 1500 years ago where the Japanese started to cultivate it not only as a medicine but also as a daily drink.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony developed from the 1300s through Zen philosophy. Matcha (pure tea) is used for the Tea Ceremony where as ryokucha (green tea) or bancha (dried tea) is used by Japanese people as a daily beverage. Matcha is rather expensive and so is normally used only for tea ceremony. Ryokucha (green tea) is for daily life but it should be drunk immediately after it is made. Bancha (dried tea) can be drunk several hours after brewing so it is more convenient than ryokucha. It is also cheaper than ryokucha.
I have been drinking matcha for several weeks in the morning and I have found out that it is actually easier to prepare than green tea or coffee. This is because matcha is made in the cup and has nothing to throw away. Green tea or coffee however has to be made in a pot with grounds and leaf residues to throw away afterwards. Also matcha is made in individual cups whereas green tea or coffee can be made for several cups. This means that drinking matcha is easy for one person and green tea or coffee is easier for several people. Matcha is best for health though green tea is also good. It must be said that coffee may not be good for health.

Friday, November 20, 2009

300 Tang Dynasty Poems: #33 To My Daughter ...


The Tang Dynasty was considered a cultural golden age in China. The arts were highly developed and poetry was particularly esteemed. No home coming or leave taking was too common, no occasion to small to be commemorated with a poem.

The finest poems of the age were collected into the classic known as The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. If you click here, you'll be directed to an online version of the text.

Below is #33: To My Daughter On Her Marriage Into The Yang Family

My heart has been heavy all day long
Because you have so far to go.
The marriage of a girl, away from her parents,
Is the launching of a little boat on a great river.
...You were very young when your mother died,
Which made me the more tender of you.
Your elder sister has looked out for you,
And now you are both crying and cannot part.
This makes my grief the harder to bear;
Yet it is right that you should go.
...Having had from childhood no mother to guide you,
How will you honour your mother-in-law?
It's an excellent family; they will be kind to you,
They will forgive you your mistakes --
Although ours has been so pure and poor
That you can take them no great dowry.
Be gentle and respectful, as a woman should be,
Careful of word and look, observant of good example.
...After this morning we separate,
There's no knowing for how long....
I always try to hide my feelings --
They are suddenly too much for me,
When I turn and see my younger daughter
With the tears running down her cheek.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Big Government in China


A friend sent me this article about some current issues in China. Among them are the perils of big government and a one party system. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.
July 27, 2009

Files Vanished, Young Chinese Lose the Future



WUBU, China — For much of his education, Xue Longlong was silently accompanied from grade to grade, school to school, by a sealed Manila envelope stamped top secret. Stuffed inside were grades, test results, evaluations by fellow students and teachers, his Communist Party application and — most important for his job prospects — proof of his 2006 college degree.
Everyone in China who has been to high school has such a file. The files are irreplaceable histories of achievement and failure, the starting point for potential employers, government officials and others judging an individual’s worth. Often keys to the future, they are locked tight in government, school or workplace cabinets to eliminate any chance they might vanish.
But two years ago, Mr. Xue’s file did vanish. So did the files of at least 10 others, all 2006 college graduates with exemplary records, all from poor families living near this gritty north-central town on the wide banks of the Yellow River.
With the Manila folders went their futures, they say.
Local officials said the files were lost when state workers moved them from the first to the second floor of a government building. But the graduates say they believe officials stole the files and sold them to underachievers seeking new identities and better job prospects — a claim bolstered by a string of similar cases across China.
Today, Mr. Xue, who had hoped to work at a state-owned oil company, sells real estate door to door, a step up from past jobs passing out leaflets and serving drinks at an Internet cafe. Wang Yong, who aspired to be a teacher or a bank officer, works odd jobs. Wang Jindong, who had a shot at a job at a state chemical firm, is a construction day laborer, earning less than $10 a day.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Way to Put Power Into Your Movements


Put your back into it!


Over at Weakness with a Twist, Scott Phillips has a very good article about the large and efficient muscles in our backs that our "normal" way of moving doesn't make much use of, but internal martial arts uses to a high degree.


Below is an excerpt. Click here to read the full article.

As someone whose job it is to translate ideas from one culture to another, the pressure to use more familiar language is always floating around in the background.


Many people would like me to describe the fine details of Chinese Internal Martial Arts using vocabulary from sports or physical therapy.  This is always problematic for two reasons.  First, one can only go so far describing kinesthetic experiences before one starts  sacrificing subtlety–language is an imperfect tool. 

Second, by discarding Chinese concepts, one loses the primary organizing metaphors of Chinese culture, and what might be simple suddenly becomes complex.

Still, sometimes we give in to the pressure.  Today is one of those days.

There are three big muscles on our backs which are extremely powerful and efficient. Unfortunately, the problem with humans is; we don’t use these big muscles very well.  Our arms are just too smart. We habitually use our many smaller arm muscles to do complex and repetitive tasks.  This is the cause of a lot of stress and tends to shorten our lives.  For this reason advanced internal martial artists have developed ways to make use of the three big muscles.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Who Needs Fiction: The Land That Time Forgot

Explorers entered an extinct volcano that has been cut off from the rest of New Guinea for 200,000 years. Life in that volcano habitat has been evolving on it's own for all that time. Below is an excerpt from an article about the expedition and what they found. If you click here, you find the whole article. Of course there is a slide show featuring some of the newly found creatures.

A lost world populated by fanged frogs, grunting fish and tiny bear-like creatures has been discovered in a remote volcanic crater on the Pacific island of Papua New Guinea.


A team of scientists from Britain, the United States and Papua New Guinea found more than 40 previously unidentified species when they climbed into the kilometre-deep crater of Mount Bosavi and explored a pristine jungle habitat teeming with life that has evolved in isolation since the volcano last erupted 200,000 years ago. In a remarkably rich haul from just five weeks of exploration, the biologists discovered 16 frogs which have never before been recorded by science, at least three new fish, a new bat and a giant rat, which may turn out to be the biggest in the world.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Applying the Principles of Daoism to Everyday Life


Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning. - Thoreau

Over at The Journey Within, there is a good article about applying a very basic principle to achieve your goals. That is, following the path of least resistance. The author makes a  very good point in that the shortest distance between two points isn't necessarily a straight line, but the path of least resistance.

An excerpt is below. The full article may be read by clicking here.

I like to watch river flows. I like to watch how the water goes around the bend. I like to see how it effortlessly navigates around the rocks, whether they’re big or small. Water always seem to know how to flow. It knows that hitting the rocks head on will do it no good, so it finds the path of least resistance and go around it. Let’s face it. In the real world, the shortest distance between 2 points is not a straight line, it’s the distance of the path of least resistance. It is this path of least resistance that allows water to get from one end to the other end effortlessly.

Looking to do something on a regular basis but never got round doing it? It’s because you haven’t found your path to least resistance yet. Say you want to exercise everyday, but you just can’t seem to do it. There’s always some excuse like no time or too much effort. These all are resistance. You’ll need to find a path round these resistances. I found out that the path of least resistance to practise my Tai Chi is in the morning.

It’s actually relatively easier to find the path of least resistance if I’m the only stakeholder. It gets more difficult as more people are involved. If I add just one more person into the equation, it will become that much more complicated. When I’m doing push hands with another person, when I can’t find this path of least resistance, I will create tension within myself as well, and hence creating my own resistance. If I don’t look for this path of least resistance, I myself become the resistance.

Let go of your own resistance. You might find it a lot easier to navigate the journey within yourself. You’ll also find it easier to then use this new path to create a new way of doing things. Actually, there is nothing new in this. The only thing new here, is you experiencing the power of letting go your own resistance. Stop fighting it. Start moving round the cracks. 

Monday, November 02, 2009

How To Begin Zhan Zhuang


Rick Taracks over at Wujifa has recently published some especially good articles explaining the methods of Wujilianggong. He's recently published an exceptionally good one for those beginning Zhan Zhuang practice. Please pay a visit.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Short Staff Resources


Over at Cloud Hands, there is a page devoted to the various derivations of the short staff. The author, Michael Garofalo has done a mind boggling job in pulling together resources from EVERYWHERE and put them together in one page. If you have any interest in the weapon, please check out the page here. A short description is below.

Way of the Short Staff.
By Michael P. Garofalo, M.S.

A comprehensive guide to the practice of the short staff, cane, jo, walking stick, gun, zhang, whip staff, 13 Hands Staff, and related wood short staff weapons. A detailed and annotated guide, bibliographies, lists of links, resources, instructional media, online videos, and lessons. Includes use of the short staff and cane in martial arts, self-defense, walking and hiking. Separate sections on Aikido Jo, Cane, Taijiquan cane and staff, Jodo, exercises with a short staff, selected quotations, techniques, selecting and purchasing a short staff, tips and suggestions, and a long section on the lore, legends, and magick of the short staff. Includes "Shifu Miao Zhang Points the Way." Published by Green Way Research, Valley Spirit Taijiquan, Red Bluff, California. Updated on a regular basis since October, 2008. Filesize: 300Kb+

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Training for the Pressure of Battle


Unless you are out getting in fights with people all of the time, you can't. What you can do is to put yourself into situations in which you are under a lot of pressure to perform well, even when things may go wrong. That is the gist of this article. A excerpt is provided below.
The Lessons of Embu

by Diane Skoss

In martial arts training it is essential, in my opinion, to have some arena in which one is forced to put oneself on the line. Arts that have shiai provide plenty of opportunity--believe me, there's quite a lot riding on the line when you face an opponent trying to stab you with a bayonet. But in the classical arts, and arts like aikido that in general do not have competition, we must find other ways to push ourselves to the edge. Promotion examinations provide one sort of opportunity to face fear of public failure, to learn to control natural physical stress reactions, and to continue come what may. But for most of us, exams are few and far between. Demonstrations, then, are perhaps a sensible alternative.

In some styles of aikido (Tomiki aikido in particular, but by no means exclusively) formal kata embu kyogi, or kata demonstration competitions, are used to provide this sort of training. I am coming to the conclusion, however, that the resulting emphasis on what the technique and overall performance looks like in order to win a prize is misguided. I am a (now retired) kata embu competitor, and have competed quite successfully in Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, in sometimes as many as four events per year. There is no question that I have gained from my experience--I have no problem with giving a demonstration of anything that I know in any art that I have studied at any time, and remain unperturbed when not all goes as planned.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Wish You Enough


I usually don't forward or post things like this, but it struck me as such a good application of philosophical Daoism in our daily lives. Enjoy.

Recently I overheard a Father and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure.

Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the Father said, 'I love you, and I wish you enough.'

The daughter replied, 'Dad, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Dad.'

They kissed and the daughter left. The Father walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, 'Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?'

'Yes, I have,' I replied. 'Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?'.

'I am old, and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is - the next trip back will be for my funeral,' he said.

'When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, 'I wish you enough.' May I ask what that means?'

He began to smile. 'That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone..' He paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and he smiled even more. 'When we said, 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.' Then turning toward me, he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good- bye.

He then began to cry and walked away.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.

Take Time To Live.. To all my friends and loved ones, I wish you Enough !

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Internal Martial Arts and Alignment


So much of internal martial arts has to do with the efficiency of body movement, particularly one's structure and alignment. Below is an excerpt on this topic from an aikido perspective. The whole article may be read here.

Internal Structure" by Gregor Erdmann
I have frequently spoken of making appropriate use of our internal structure in our aikido practice. I will once more explore this idea from another perspective. Similarly when painting a wall or weaving a basket, it takes multiple layers criss-crossing to obtain a good coverage of paint or a strong structure.

Our bones, ligaments, tendons and joints, can redirect, store and release a tremendous amount of energy which enable us to perform those physical feats which continue to amaze and inspire us. While we do unconsciously use this structure in our daily activities, if we wish to be extraordinary we need to take our understanding to a higher level.

I am by no means an expert in the field, and am still enjoying the journey of discovery. I recently came across a few new concepts which I shall share with you and hopefully fuel your own desire for self discovery. Before I touch on these points, I will highlight our structure fits in with the basic aikido forms we practice.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tokyo Vice


The following excerpt is from the Japan Subculture Research Center. The full article may be read here.

TOKYO VICE: An American Reporter on The Police Beat in Japan is being published on October 14th! Read an exciting (sort of) interview with the author and chief editor of the web-site,  Jake Adelstein.

I’ve been working on this thing now for almost three years and its nice to finally see it in print. If you’re curious about the sex industry in Japan, about yakuza, cops, journalists and all that can go terribly wrong in the little island country of the rising sun, please read the book.   The following interview was done for Random House, who have been kind enough to publish the book.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Rare Blade


For the sword lovers among us, this is a real treat; a very rare sword. I have taken an excerpt of an article about a Japanese katana that had been tested on a live criminal and placed it below. The full article may be read here.

THIS BLADE IS UNDOUBTEDLY ONE OF "MUNEHIRO - SOKAN'S" MASTERPIECES. THIS IS QUITE APPARENT FROM IT'S DISTINCTIVE FEATURES. THE HAMON (TEMPERING) IS HIS SELDOM SEEN "SAKA CHOJI" (REARWARD SLANTING CHOJI) THIS IS FOUND IN THE KAMAKURA BIZEN SCHOOLS OF "ICHIMONJI", AND "BIZEN HATAKADA", HIS NORMAL HAMON IS "GONOME" (ROW OF BEADS), THE HORIMONO IS OF "FUDO'S ROPE", WITH A DRAGONS CLAW, AND A KEN BLADE, ON THE END'S. THE DRAGON (KURIKARA), AROUND A KEN SWORD IS ONE OF HIS SCARCEST CARVINGS, WE KNOW OF ONLY THREE OTHERS LIKE IT. THE "TAMESHIGIRI" (CUTTING TEST) WAS DONE WITH THE "RYO KURAMA" STROKE (SEE CHART) # 1, THIS IS BY FARE THE MOST DIFFICULT TEST TO SUCCESSFULLY ACCOMPLISH, AND WAS DONE AS A PUNISHMENT (SO INSCRIBED ON THE NAKAGO) ON A "LIVE" CONDEMNED CRIMINAL, AT THE PRISON TESTING GROUNDS. IT WAS PERFORMED BY "GOTO SHINTARO", ONLY EIGHT MONTHS, AFTER THE BLADE WAS MADE. THE PRACTICE OF PERFORMING "LIVE TAMESHIGIRI" WAS BANNED ONLY A FEW YEARS AFTER THIS TEST, IN THE EARLY YEARS OF THE "MEIJI RESTORATION". THE RARE COMBINATION OF THESE ATTRIBUTES, MAKES THIS A TRULY UNIQUE (ONE OF A KIND), AND EXTREMELY COLLECTABLE BLADE. IT IS RATED AS "TOKUBETSU HOZON", BY THE "N.B.T.H.K.".

MUNEHIRO - SOKAN, WAS ONE OF THE FOREMOST SWORD SMITHS, AND ONE OF THE TOP FIVE (5) HORIMONO MASTERS OF THE SHIN-SHINTO (1801 ~ 1867), AND EARLY MEIJI PERIOD. HE WAS BORN IN OKUSHU SHIRAKAWA (AREA), ABU (VILLAGE) NEAR SUMIGAWA. HE, MOVED TO EDO (TOKYO) AT AN EARLY AGE, AND BEGAN STUDYING THE ARTS OF BLADE MAKING IN THE SCHOOL OF THE FAMOUS "KOYAMA MUNETSUGU" (ONE OF THE "FOREMOST FIVE" OF THE SHIN-SHINTO PERIOD). HE RAPIDLY BECAME ONE OF MUNETSUGU'S FINEST STUDENTS, HIS EARLY WORKS MIRROR THOSE OF HIS SENSEI (TEACHER), AND ARE NORMALLY DONE IN THE BIZEN STYLE, WITH GONOME HAMONS. HIS "HADA" (BLADE GRAIN) IS NORMALLY KO-MOKUME (SMALL BURL WOOD), MIXED WITH ITAME (NORMAL WOOD GRAIN). HE BEGAN TO CARVE HORIMONO AS AN AVOCATION. HIS SKILL LEVELS RAPIDLY PROGRESSED (FANTASTIC DETAILED), AND HE BECAME ONE OF THE PERIODS FOREMOST HORIMONO MASTERS. NEARLY ALL THE WORKS OF HIS SENSEI (TEACHER) MUNETSUGU THAT HAVE HORIMONO ARE THE WORK OF MUNEHIRO - SOKAN. IT IS SAID THAT MUNETSUGU WOULD ALLOW NO ONE ELSE TO ENGRAVE HIS MASTERPIECES. SOKAN, ENGRAVED: HI & BO-HI (GROOVES), KEN SWORDS (BUDDHIST DOUBLE EDGED BLADES), "FUDO'S" (THE DEITY OF WARRIORS) ROPE, "GOMABASHI" (DOUBLE CHOP STICK GROOVES, W / A DRAGONS CLAW, "BONJI" (SANSCRIPT KANJI, PRAYERS), AND A FEW COMPLETE "DRAGONS" (KURIKARA), WE KNOW OF ONLY THREE 3 IN ADDITION TO THE ONE ON OUR BLADE. HIS HORIMONO IS FASTIDIOUS, AND EXHIBITS THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF SKILL.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Style of No Style


I believe that when someone masters something, they'll express it in their own unique individual way. This doesn't necessarily mean throwing out past practices, but seeing them with fresh eyes and understanding.

Take aikido for instance. It was basically founded by one man who taught perhaps thousands of students over decades. There are now at least dozens of recognized "styles" of aikido.

... and then there is Yamaguchi Seigo.

Below is an excerpt from an article about Yamaguchi Sensei and the aikido he teaches. The full article may be read here.

Yamaguchi Seigo

The “No Style” Style

By Ralph Pettman

Yamaguchi-sensei was one of Morihei Uyeshiba’s “third generation” students. Unlike some of the others of this generation, however, he never gave his personal interpretation of Uyeshiba’s art a particular name, in part I guess out of respect for the man who was his teacher, and in part because the kind of aikidoYamaguchi taught was too intangible to be given something as concrete as a label or a name.

This raises right at the start a key dilemma when talking about Yamaguchi’s approach, though it is the same dilemma that dogs any spiritually oriented martial art that tries to transcend the limits that language sets. It is the dilemma of how to teach an art or belief that has an ineffable end, when the means available to do so are effable ones. How is it possible to impart a truly formless form?

This is not a dilemma unique to martial arts. Painters, musicians, creative writers, and dancers all face the same problem. Religious teachers do too. Anyone who has mastered any art, or who has come to practice a particular faith, and who then seeks to teach it to others, confronts the same difficulties. If we insist too much on the “correct” repetition of the physical forms in which an art or faith is expressed (playing the correct musical scales, saying the correct prayers, for example) we risk getting a stereotyped, mechanistic result that is not a true expression of that art or belief. We risk inculcating mere technique, that is, a mere facsimile of what our art or faith involves – one where the outer form is reproduced without real understanding of what this form actually means.

This dilemma is usually resolved by trying to pass on the feeling of the art or belief in such a way as to free, rather than inhibit, the student’s understanding of what is to be done. Teaching becomes a very different practice when this is the aim. It stops being a matter of the teacher insisting that the student copy what the teacher does. Indeed, the teacher stops “teaching”, in the sense of “training” the student, and tries instead to create the opportunity for the student to learn. The teacher educates (“leads the student out”), and the better the teacher, the better these opportunities will be.

This also requires a very personal teacher-student relationship. It cannot be done, that is, by requiring the student to conform to a pattern of performance determined in advance. Nor can it be done en masse.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Hello from Nelson!


I'm in Nelson, British Columbia for work this week. This is my first time to to either the Northwest of the US or Western Canada. It's absolutely beautiful here.

I flew into Spokane, Washington, rented a car and drove for four hours north. Nelson is remote. I'm told it's about equidistant, about an 8 hour drive, to either Calgary or Vancouver.

I saw an email from the IT guy at the company I'm visiting, which said something about sending backups to a remote site. As remote as Nelson is, I'd like to know where they're planning on sending those backups. Then again, maybe I don't.

This must be a lovely place to live. Everything overlooks the lake. I understand that it's not uncommon to have to chase a black bear or an elk off of your deck in the morning. Of course living in a big city, I'm used to having virtually everything I could want right at hand (like an airport). It would take some getting used to living in a place so far out in the friggin' boondocks.

As I said, this is a beautiful place. You just have to really mean it to get here. I flew for 7 hours to get to Spokane Washington, then got in a rented car and drove for four hours north along the Pend Orielle River. It's only about 160 miles,but it's not like you're getting on an 8 lane interstate. It's basically a 2 lane highway which follows the river upstream. It's a very engaging road, in that your have to pay attention to what you're doing. The radio didn't come in very well, with the mountains, but I did get to drive along to some classical music for a while, and then accompanied by the blues.

The river, the mountains, forests of pine and birch. It was a tiring day, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The remoteness brings to mind the Daoist and Zen hermits. A recent article at Weakness With A Twist is worth reading. The author describes a sort of "Hermit Kung Fu." I don't know much about the teacher he writes about other than recognizing the name, but that man's particular art isn't the point of the article.

I'm in Nelson for work. I am visiting the company I am contracting with. I'm thankful to have this contract, but I'm putting in an awful lot of hours, which backs up into other things. Among them, my own practice.

At times my practices gets really knocked off track. However, I am a believer that once martial arts practice gets hold of you, it's like gravity; you can get away from it for a short time, but it'll always bring you back.

I am getting pretty regular again at practicing the Wu style round and square forms. What I'm not doing enough of is practicing some of the foundational exercises like Tai Chi Walking, Wujifa's Side to Side exercise, or my beloved zhan zhuang (or "standing stake").

I know from long experience that if I keep my head in the right place and take the opportunity to practice whenever that opportunity presents itself, instead of waiting for conditions to "be right," I'll gradually be right back on track. That will include those foundational exercises I seem to have trouble fitting in right now.

I usually get a lot of reading done when I travel. After knocking off the current National Geographic on the airplane, I started in on one of my favorites for the coming Halloween season, The Essential Dracula, by Bram Stoker, annotated by Leonard Wolf.

There should be a lot of good movies to watch this month. The Mummy Movies, with Brendan Fraser and Rachael Weitz   have been on TV. I can look forward to the original Dracula, the remake Bram Stoker's Dracula, the Frankenstein movies with Boris Karloff; the Mel Brooks classics Young Frankenstein and Dracula: Dead and Loving It, and if we're very lucky, the Abbot and Costello Meets ... films.

What are your favorite books and movies for the Halloween season?

I need the distraction. I'm still reeling for the news that my Nigerian benefactor may not be all he seems.

I'd like to bring a couple of Wu style taijiquan related blogs to your attention. The first one is called the Forum for Traditional Wu Tai Chi Chuan, and is run by students of Ma JiangBao, who is one of the grandson's of the founder of Wu Taijiquan, Wu Jianquan.

The other has to do with the "other" Wu style, also known as Wu/Hao style of Taijiquan, Danilo Marrone's blog. Please pay a visit.

My oldest daughter is back working on her master's degree. She's taking an accounting class right now, and inspite of her generally not doing well with numbers, she's at the head of her class.

The youngest daughter is doing well at school. It's a challenge to manage being a brand new freshman student and playing a sport. She's been playing well, but the team is currently in a 9 match losing streak. The coach intends to shake some things up, so with hope we'll see the positive result of that in this last month of the season.

One of the volleyball dads is the groundskeeper for a golf course. What a great job (easy for me to say; I bet he has his complaints about his work just like the rest of us)!

The Mrs continues to look for work. She applies, she interviews, it seems to go well, ... and the cycle repeats itself.

A direct job opportunity that I once thought I had in the bag but evaporated, seems to be coming back to life again. With hope, this time it will happen.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Pragmatic View of the Dao


The following excerpt appeared in an online magazine, Jade Dragon. In it, the author to show how Daoist thought applies where it really counts; not in lofty philosophical discussions, but in the gritty realities of daily life. 


The full article may be read here. Please pay a visit.

Playing with the Dao:
A "Pragmatic" Strategic View




The Dao gave birth to One. The One gave birth to Two. The Two gave birth to Three. The Three gave birth to all of creation. All things carry Yin yet embrace Yang. They blend their life breaths in order to produce harmony.
People despise being orphaned, widowed, and poor. But the noble ones take these as their titles. In losing, much is gained, and in gaining, much is lost.
What others teach I too will teach:   "The strong and violent will not die a natural death."   --- Chapter 42 of Laozi's Dao De Jing (also known as the Tao Te Ching)
We are currently living under a challenging macro scenario of rapid urgency, where uncertainties become a regular commonality. Some of these uncertainties are driven by many global-sized, technologically driven velocities of change that unnerve the masses to ask the question "What are we going to do now?"
Someone recently asked me the following set of questions: "Since our world has gotten more chaotic than what we dreamed or believed in, what can we do about it? Can a person stay ahead of the curve of shifts and changes by understanding the Dao? Is there anything in the Dao that allows us to understand our world of uncertainty?"



Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Full Contact Martial Arts


At Masters of the Internal Martial Arts blog, there is a great article about the 1928 Hangzhou Leitai Tournament, which was a watershed in martial arts. Hundreds of contestants, some of them the greatest names in Chinese Martial Arts competed in full contact fighting. Below is an excerpt. The full article may be read here.

1929 Hangzhou Leitai Tournament

Posted by yosaku on August 16, 2009

My recent translation of an article on Pei Xirong sparked my interest in the 1929 Leitai tournament in Hangzhou, which seems to have been the largest bare-hand Leitai competition in recent history. The following translation draws on several sources, mainly here and here .

“In early 1929, the vice-dean of the Central Martial Arts Academy, Li Jinglin, wrote to the heads and gatekeepers of various martial arts from around the country, intimating that he wished to organise an ‘All-China Martial Arts Gala’, in order to inspire more Chinese people to learn martial arts. His proposal was eagerly received. On 3 May 1929, the Zhejiang provincial government decided that in November of that same year, they would hold a ‘Zhejiang Guoshu & Entertainment Gala’ (popularly dubbed the ‘National Leitai Tournament’) in Hangzhou. In August of that year, the Zhejiang Guoshuguan was established and took on the responsibility of organising the tournament. The Organising Committee was set up on 11 Oct. Chen Tianshen, at the time a Guoshuguan student, wanted desperately to take part, but was too young, and so instead was allocated to help out the organising committee.

On 9 November, the promotional activities for the Leitai tournament reached a crescendo, with decorative archways being erected in front of Qinghua and Qingtai hotels located in Hangzhou city centre. Red silk banners reading ‘Guoshu & Entertainment Gala Hostel’ were strung up in front of the archways whilst Chen and his kungfu brothers distributed flyers on the streets. The next day, participants from all over the country started pouring into Hangzhou. The oldest entrant was Ruan Zenghui from Fenghua at 68 years old, whilst the youngest was Lin Biao, from Wenzhou, aged only 7. The original number of performers swelled from 270 to 345 people whilst there were 125 entrants for the free-fighting competition. All the while, ‘fans’ from all over the country poured into Hangzhou, filling its hotels to bursting.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Dao in Martial Arts


Below is an excerpt from an interview with aikido shihan Endo Seishiro, where he explains the "Tao" in martial arts. The full article may be read here.

We previously inquired about sensei's aikidô training about ten years ago (issue 106). This time we would like to ask about sensei's changes in his thoughts about aikidô since then, from the viewpoint of "dô" or Tao.

Japanese people have a tendency to attach "-dô" to everything. This can be seen not only with budô but also with sadô (or chadô, the art of tea ceremony) and kadô (the art of flower arrangement), for instance. We even hear of sumô-dô, salaryman-dô, keiei-dô (the way of business). People attach "-dô" to various aspects and activities of our lives in order to give them special meaning or to distinguish them as areas of mastery. Yet, I don’t think many people, including myself, really know what "" is. At some point I began to wonder why there were to ways to say one thing e.g. budô/bujutsu, kendô/kenjutsu, jûdô/jûjutsu, aikidô/aikijutsu, and thus started to explore the difference in meaning.

I feel I more or less have a grasp of the meaning of "jutsu," but when it comes to "," I feel it means something immense, deep, wide, and unclear. In my desire to somehow make it clearer, I sought books relating to Taoism, Lao-tzu (Lao-zi) and Chuang-tzu (Zhuang-zi). Tao can also be found in Confucianism and its virtues: Jin (, humanity), Gi (, righteousness), Rei (, propriety), Chi (, wisdom), Shin (, faithfulness). It is said that Tao is to seek and realize, and thereby equip the self with, these virtues. We might say that this is "Tao for the people."

According to Taoism these virtues comprise a Tao as conceived by humans, and true Tao is that which has existed before this artificial Tao ever came into being. Lao-tzu expressed as follows: "The path that can be regarded as The Path is not the great eternal Path. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name1." This means that Tao is a fundamental, universal principle that has always existed before any artificial Tao came into being.

In Chuang-tzu's book of "Chi-hoku-yû" (荘子 知北遊篇)2, it is written, "There is nowhere that Tao is not. It is everywhere." The entire universe is Tao, and it is ki that gives birth and life to all the phenomena in the universe. It is also said that in order to know that ki and the flow of ki, one must know Tao. It appears that this is the origin of the words, "Seeking Tao," and "Mastering Tao." Lao-tzu referred to one who has mastered Tao as "mu-i-shi-zen" (無為自然, natural and unaffected). Chuang-tzu interpreted this as "emptiness unlimited" or "absolute nothingness3." When one grasps and masters the flow of ki of all the phenomena in the universe as it is, one is in the state of "mu-i-shi-zen" and "absolute nothingness." To strive to attain such a state is a true way of life for humans. This is what Taoism teaches.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

There is only one taijiquan


It is said that the multiplicity of styles in Taijiquan is an illusion; that there is only one Taijiquan. There is a recent article at Classical Tai Chi Blog on this topic. There is an excerpt below. The full article may be read here.

As Wustyle.com in Hong Kong reports:"In 1916 Grand Master Wu Chien Chuan, along with other famous Wushu experts of the time Yang Shao Hou, Yang Cheng Fu, Hsu Sheng Chi Tzu Hsiu, Sun Lu T'ang, Liu En Shou, Liu Tsai Chen, Chang Chung Yuan, Tong Lian Chi, Chiang Teng Tsui, Hsing Shih Ju and others established the Beijing Institute of Physical Education."

These most famous teachers from "Yang Style", "Wu Style", etc., taught under the same roof. If I had to venture an opinion, I would say the teachers themselves were not going around saying, "I'm teaching Yang Style and because of that, the correct way to stand is perpendicular to the ground". My other opinion would be that it was not teachers but it was students who came up with the names, like: "I'm studying something from Yang", "I'm studying something from Wu". I would also venture another opinion and say, those gentlemen did not develop their arts in a vacuum...they also trained with each other, compared arts, pushed hands with one another, etc. That itself has profound implications.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mastery




Below is an excerpt from an article by Rob Redmond at 24Fighting Chickens. It's a little story he wrote about the difference between excellent performance and mastery. The full article may be read here.

The Master and the Champion
by Rob Redmond - October 15, 2005

A long time ago, in a land far, far way, there lived two boys. The two boys were fast friends, and they could be seen together every day. When one of them wanted to swim in the river, the other went with him. When one of them wanted to ride horses, the other went with him. When one of them had chores to do, the other one helped him. They were always together in everything that they did.
One afternoon, while the boys were down by the river skipping stones, some other boys a little older than they were came walking by. They saw the two boys standing by the river laughing and throwing rocks, and they decided that since no one was around, they could do as they pleased.
They walked up behind the two boys and said, “You two! Turn around. We want to talk to you.”
The two boys dropped their rocks and turned around. They were facing three older boys. The one in the middle was the one doing the talking. He said, “Do you have any money?”
The two young boys were frightened, but they answered him firmly, “Yes, why”?
The older boy said, “Give it to me.”
The boys answered, “No. You get your own money.”
At this the older boys looked at each other in shock. How dare these two speak to them in such a defiant tone of voice! The two boys were younger and smaller than they were. They would teach the two boys a lesson.
The older boy said, “You should not have said that!” And he ran at them with his friends. The two boys held up their hands and tried to struggle, but the older boys pushed them down on the ground and began kicking them.
The kicks hurt terribly, and two boys screamed for the older boys to stop kicking them while they lay on the ground. The older boys laughed and continued kicking until the young boys were beaten soundly. Then the older boys took their money, and walked away.
After that day the two boys decided that they would learn the art of karate. They walked together to the home of a man who they knew was a master instructor of karate. They knocked on his door together, and they waited together while they heard the shuffling of someone’s feet coming to the door.
The door opened slowly, and behind it was an old man with grey hair. He said, “Hello, boys. Why are you here?”
The two boys looked at each other, nodded, and then said at the same time, “We want you to teach us karate. Would you please, sir?”
“Why would you wish me to teach you karate?” He asked.
The boys answered, “We were beaten down by the river. We need to be able to protect ourselves.” They nodded after they said this, emphasizing that they were very ready for karate lessons.
The old man said, “I see. Very well. Come inside why don’t you, and we will begin your lessons at once.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

'Beauty is a reminder of the preciousness of life'.


I previously posted an article about an art exhibition entitled The Lords of the Samurai. Heres another article, but from a different perspective. The writer who authored the introduction to the exhibition's catalog is none other than the famous translator, Thomas Clearly. Below I have an excerpt, the full article may be found here. The painting is from the article, and is a folding screen painted by the famous swordsman Musashi.

Samurai hold lessons for modern warfare


At first glance, Thomas Cleary is an unlikely expert on war, weaponry and man's ability to destroy.

The Oakland author and translator of some 80 spiritual texts is gentle and soft-spoken, perfectly suited for poring over ancient works in hushed libraries. Cleary reads in nine languages, and his career has focused on Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim and Confucian classics. Through his studies, though, Cleary's understanding of war spans the ages, from Japan's warrior class to the world wars and the military assaults of today.

"All campaigns for war focus on creating fear," said Cleary, known by many for his translation of Sun Tzu's Chinese classic "The Art of War." When Cleary watched the buildup to the Bush administration's invasion in Iraq and its assertion of imminent threat from weapons of mass destruction, Cleary thought "it was all too predictable."

In his writings and translations, Cleary hopes to increase "intelligence and thoughtfulness," and bring added awareness to the human condition. Much is to be learned, Cleary says, from studying the warriors of Japan - the samurai, who strove to balance truculence with culture.

"When your mind is full of death all the time, beauty is like an intense experience of life," said Cleary, sitting on a sofa in an apartment in Oakland where he sometimes goes to work. "The samurai tried to find balance."

That fragile, meticulously constructed pursuit of balance is on display at the "Lords of the Samurai" exhibition at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Cleary, who has written six books on the samurai, wrote the introduction in the show's catalog. The warriors' suits of armor in the show are made like haute couture, with colorful silk lacing and exquisite detail and ornamentation. Lethal swords of forged steel are displayed near beautiful scrolls and screens with pale pink tree peonies.

"All of this is a reminder of the idea that when you bear a deadly weapon, you ought to be careful about using it," said Cleary, speaking to the juxtaposition of beauty and lethality in the museum show. "Beauty is a reminder of the preciousness of life."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Favorite Quotes

Some of my favorite quotes includes:

If you can't find the truth right in front of you, where do you expect to find it?
 - Zen Master Dogen

Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning.
 - Thoreau

Empty your cup.
 - From a Zen story

All's well that ends well.
 - title of a play by William Shakespeare

What are some of yours?