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

T’ang Dynasty poem

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

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, March 16, 2018

Having Faith in Your Martial Arts Training

Below is an excerpt from another excellent post at Green Leaves Forest, a blog about Kyudo,  regarding having faith in one's training. The comments about Kyudo could equally be applied to any type of training.

The full post may be read here.


Now lets take a look at my other imaginary friend, Jesus (pronounced “Hey-Zeus”) Bodhi, aka JB. JB doesn’t hit every arrow. But you know what, JB gets your attention. Do you know why? Maybe not.

But for some reason you see something in his shooting beyond questions of technique or race or rank. JB could be a hanshi hachidan (8th level master), or someone who has just shot their first arrow. It’s almost as if you watch JB and start to understand why kyudo is considered an art and a discipline to train the spirit.

Let’s get a little more specific. You know what really sets JB apart?

It’s actually incredibly simple.


When he does sharei (ceremonial shooting which could be anything from your regular sitting zassha practice to a yawatashi embu) he actually sits in the proper kiza position. It hurts and is hard, because he is just a regular human like everyone else with legs and a back. But you know what he does? He always practices sitting kiza properly because it will make him a stronger archer, and even practices sitting in kiza at home so he can do it better when he gets to the dojo.

His taihai (movements other than just shooting, like walking, sitting, standing) is better than everyone else, not because it’s perfect, but because he practices it every time he goes to shoot.

He does well in tests not because he is lucky or magically doesn’t get nervous, but because he always does his best whether it’s in practice or tournaments, so shooting in a test in front of all the judges is no different.

He doesn’t know everything about kyudo, so he reads a lot.

He doesn’t hit the target a lot, so he practices a lot.

He tries as hard as he can, but he doesn’t stress out if it doesn’t go perfectly.


Getting to the point of doing it perfectly will never happen unless you walk the path of trying to do it perfectly.

Simplify that equation for a second and you get:

The path is what’s most important.

Or in more commonly heard words: “It’s not the end, but the journey that matters most.”

What enables one to get on the path, and continuing to make effort towards perfection?

Even when they miss? Even when people don’t believe them? Even when they get injured? Even when they think that they just can’t get over this final wall that will be the end?

I’ll give you a hint,it’s Jesus’ super power … faith.

I’d love to be as strong as Captain Muscle, or as smart as Professor Brain, but until I get there, I’m going to do my best to imitate JB, ’cause he’s got the magic that gives meaning to it all.

Perhaps this is something special about kyudo.

Or maybe everything in life is like this.

I don’t know, so I explore.

Onward and upward.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Reminiscing About Early Tae Kwon Do Training

There is a very nice article at Traditional Tae Kwon Do Perth (the Joong Do Kwan Dojang) about the author's eclectic early days training in Tae Kwon Do.

I remember as a kid, that before musical kata performances and extravagant costumes became the norm, the "Korean Karate" guys were considered the tough guys on the block.

Below is an excerpt. The full post may be read here.


My school is called Joong Do Kwan, or School of the Middle Way. I tell people we are the point in the middle, drawing from older styles and influences, but also benefitting from modern innovations and developments. While the name pays homage to the original Chung Do Kwan, it directly relates to the training I received in the Southwest USA in the early to mid 1990s.

It was during that time I went to Dallas to attend college at Southern Methodist University. SMU is a private university situated in a very nice part of the world. I arrived in 1991 already a black belt from an eclectic Chinese/Korean style, and it didn't take me long before I noticed a small photocopied martial arts flyer stuck on a noticeboard at the gym.

In no time, I was a regular in the SMU Martial Arts Club. But there were huge differences in the training from where I was schooled in Asia. To say there was a culture shock and I had to adjust would be an understatement.

Firstly, I was welcomed warmly. You would find it hard to get past the door in Asia if you came from a different martial art school. If you did manage to join the group, you'd be considered an outsider, distrusted until you've proven your loyalty and worth; a process that could take many years. In Dallas, even from the outset, everyone was kind enough to talk with me, help me through initial sessions, were super courteous, and did not hesitate to invite me to join them for a sandwich at the local deli after training.

Next, I was amazed at the amount of presentation, discussion, and opinions shared throughout the session. When I trained in Asia, no one dared speak. Even my master would speak sparingly. When he did speak, it was more like a grunt cajoling us to go at it harder, or to jump higher, or to do something faster. At SMU in contrast, you could expect anything from incisive observations to a discourse of techniques by Sensei Bryan Robbins. Mr Robbins happened to be a tenured physical education professor and ex-Olympic coach; and was comfortable and extremely experienced teaching all levels of practitioners on how to perform certain techniques, what difficulties you might experience whilst doing it, how to land it successfully, and their accompanying applications.

I remember being astounded by this 'chatter'. But as I turned my listening ears on, I found that much of what was being discussed matched a lot of the non-verbalised insight I had from my own experience. I soon relied on this information for my own learning and found it was a great way to share experience. I even felt beginners had good insight to offer when discussing their own experiences learning techniques.

The last major difference I noticed was how much difficulty I was having sparring the other black belts. It's not to say we didn't spar back in Asia. Nor is it to say we didn't spar hard against each other. But on so many levels I was outmatched and outgunned, and often by people I initially felt could not be faster or more durable than I was at the time.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Guang Ping Tai Chi Chuan Form

From Tai Chi Videos, Y.C. Chiang performing the Guang Ping Tai Chi Chuan form.

Chiang was a senior student of Kuo Lien Ying, the famous San Francisco based teacher, who brought the Guang Ping form to the US.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Tendo Ryu Naginata Do

At Kogen Budo, Ellis Amdur published an interview he conducted with Abe Toyoko, a senior sensei in the Tendo Ryu of Naginata. Below is an excerpt. The full interview may be read here.

In the early late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Kini Collins and I began a project to write a book on naginata (many portions of which later became the basis of my book, Old School). We interviewed many wonderful instructors of various ryu, and among them was this one Kini did with Abe sensei, which she first published by Valerie Eads, PhD., in “Fighting Woman News.”
 Kini and I had previously gone to Kyoto to observe a yearly national practice of Tendo-ryu, and among the many powerful women was one who stood out, Abe Toyoko sensei. Her technique had a different quality, both precise, but really powerful.  Even more striking, however, was her manner.  She obviously could not accept anything less than exemplary budo.  She was blunt spoken, even harsh, but never unkind.  She simply stated how she believed Tendo-ryu must be executed, and implicit in every word was the confidence that if one disagreed, she could demonstrate physically why her way was better.
Q: When I first saw you at the school in Osaka, well, I am not well acquainted with the Tendo Ryu students, but you moved and looked so different…

A: Well, there is a reason for that. I got started in Kyoto, with the mother of the present head teacher. She was the 15th generation headmistress, Mitamura Chiyo sensei. I was living near the Heian Shrine.[i] Just by rounding the southeast corner and walking dead straight for about 2 miles, well there it was. Every year in May, there is a big festival, even today. They had everything – judo, kendo, kyudo – everything. Not like today: now they only have that modern, noisy kendo! You used to have to wear formal clothes to even get in. And even with that, the place was jammed. Sometimes you couldn’t even get in the doors. So different from now! It’s like going to the movies or a baseball game now. You used to be able to drink in the tension and quietness. That is where I first saw my teachers. That was all I needed. There have been really bad times in all those years, mostly dealing with the other people involved. I thought about quitting many times, but in the end, it was that first demonstration I saw, knowing it was and can be so good, so good. That impression helped me stick with it. That is what I want, have always wanted to pass on, something to help people stick. I’m not interested in sitting at demonstrations, judging matches or even being well known. My questions are different:  What is the meaning of the basic techniques? How can they be done with this partner? What is the timing? I think about these things. Why it happens the way it does.
This new stuff. One, up with the stick. Two, down with it. Three, put it away. Well, that’s one way of teaching, but there is something else, I only know it as kokoro (heart, spirit, will). Pull it in on one, out on two, lift on three, well, you try it! If you do it only with an awareness of moving and no concept of kokoro you are so wide open it isn’t even funny. This is what I want to teach: how to react when your partner doesn’t respond in form in the way you are used to. This is what it hasn’t got, the new naginata. There is no thought outside the form; there isn’t even any path for this kind of thinking.