Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.


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 ~


Thursday, April 22, 2021

Six Levels of Song

"Song," or relaxation (more or less) is an important concept in Taijiquan. Below is an excerpt from a post by Adam Mizner which appeared at his blog on DiscoverTaiji. The full post may be read here.


Within the traditional teachings of the Yang family, Song is divided into 6 levels. Each level dependent on the one before it and inclusive of all before it.
It’s important to understand that Song is always release, and that the six grades of Song are refinements on this one principle, much like milk becoming cream, becoming butter and so on.

松開 Song Kai – Open

When the body is closed, bound up and filled with Li, Song is not possible. In order to achieve the first level of Song, it is first vital to open the body.

Traditional training in Taijiquan involves various exercises designed to stretch, separate and liberate the tissues of the body. This openness of the tissue within the body, allows one to begin to touch the first quality of Song, namely openness. So the opening of the body allows one to taste Song, after which, Song, or release of the tissue allows the body to open. So we open to Song, and we also Song to open.

When one observes the Da Lu, performed by a competent practitioner, it is clear that all the joints of the body are open and not compressed. The tissue is released and free.

This initial stage of Song, Song to open, begins the process of allowing the Qi to move within the body, where it previously could not because of tension and blocks that needed to be opened. This is traditionally called Kai Men, or Open the Gates, referring to the energy gates within the body. When these gates are open, it allows the mobilization of Qi and Jin to travel, unifying the body from toes to fingertips.

While external methods may use contraction force, and the closing of the muscles around the bones to generate power, this is strictly taboo in Taijiquan, for it restricts Song and the one flow of Qi.

松沉 Song Chen – Sink

The second level of Song is Song to Sink. At this stage we must understand that Song and Qi move together. When we begin the training, all the joints, tissues and diaphragms of the body, act as gates or dams which are tightly closed. The first level of Song, Song to Open, opens these gates, or destroys these dams. This allows our body to function as an open conduit.

Openness allows sinking, we Song to sink the Qi. The sinking of the Qi to the Dan Tien is of paramount importance. When there is no Qi in the Dan Tien, this is considered having no Qi from the Taijiquan point of view. In fact, the Dan Tien is widely misunderstood as simply a region of the body, or something that is innate. We are born only with the Tien, or the field, but it is empty of Qi, it is empty of Dan, or the Elixir. Only after extended periods of authentic practice, with a well developed quality of Song to Sink, does the Qi begin to sink to the Tien, accumulating drop by drop over time, to form the elixir, and thus one has formed the Dan Tien.

When engaging with an opponent or training partner, any resistance within our body creates bracing, which is a quality of Li. This brings your force and center up, away from the ground, causing the Qi to float. When the Qi is floating, one becomes top heavy, clumsy and easy to tumble. Song to Sink is the antidote.

Mental activity and emotional turbulence also cause the Qi to rise. In order to achieve Song and for the Qi to sink, one must develop a calm and tranquil mind, as well as emotional stability. This calm and stable mind can then be used as a powerful tool, because the calm mind has Yi, or mind intention, at its service. The Yi is used to command Song, while the Ting is used to recognize Song to Open and Song to Sink.

In the Neijia arts, one of the most important practices is Zhang Zhuan, or Standing post. The purpose of Zhang Zhuan is twofold. The first aspect is aligning the skeleton with gravity. 

This alignment, which includes the quality of Song to Open, decompressing the joints, allows the skeleton to act as efficiently as possible, allowing the flesh to release and sink. 

The second aspect is Song to Sink. Once the skeleton is aligned and open, the sinking process can begin. Without the openness of the body, sinking is not possible - the internal dams caused by tension (contraction) and blockage, stop the downwards flow of Qi. Standing practice in this way is an excellent method for developing the initial stages of Song to Sink, and sinking the Qi to the Dan Tien.


Monday, April 19, 2021

The 48 Laws of Power, #36: Disdain Things You Cannot Have

One of my favorite books on strategy is The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers.  Where The Art of War, by Sun Tzu is written as an overview of the whole topic of strategy, seeking to provide an overall understanding of the subject; and The 36 Strategies tries to impart the knack of strategic thinking through 36 maxims related to well known Chinese folk stories, Mr. Greene focuses on how we influence and manipulate one another, ie "power".

Mr. Greene draws from both Eastern and Western history and literature as his source material. Sun Tzu and Machiavelli as cited as much as wonderful stories of famous con men. 

Each of the 48 Laws carries many examples, along with counter examples where it is appropriate that they be noted, and even reversals.

It is a very thorough study of the subject and the hardback version is beautifully produced.

One of the things I admire about Greene is that he not only studied strategy, he applied what he learned to his own situation and prospered.

Today we have #36: Disdain Things You Cannot Have.

Here is a bit of Stocism.

Remember: You choose to let things bother you. You can just as easily choose not to notice the irritating offender, to consider the matter trivial and unworthy of your interest. That is the powerful move.

Desire often creates paradoxical effects: The more you want something, the more you chase after it, the more it eludes you. The more interest you show, the more you repel the object of your desire. This is because your interest is too strong— it makes people awkward, even fearful. Uncontrollable desire makes you seem weak, unworthy, pathetic.




Friday, April 16, 2021

Yoshinkan Aikido on Discovery Channel

Some time ago, Discovery Channel paid a visit to the Yoshinkan Aikido Hombu and met with Kyoichi Inoue. 

Inoue Sensei and my own teacher, Takashi Kushida began their training under Gozo Shioda on the same day, those many decades ago. It was Inoue and Kushida who organized the training system that we recognize today as Yoshinkan. 

In the 80's, there was a movement to create an international organization, the International Yoshinkan Aikido Federation (IYAF). Kushida chose not to bring his own Aikido Yoshinkai Association of North America (AYANA) into the IYAF and became a persona non grata in Yoshinkan. His name has been all bust erased from the official history of Yoshinkan Aikido. 

Kushida Sensei's AYANA lives on as the the Aikido Yoshokai of North America, under the leadership of his son Akira, since Takashi Kushida's death a few years ago.

Anyway, the Discovery Channel episode was split into three segments for YouTube, which you'll find below. Enjoy.






Saturday, April 10, 2021

Taijiquan and Wrestling

At the age of 60 Master Huang Sheng-Shyan, a student of Cheng Man Ching, demonstrated his abilities in Taijiquan by defeating Liao Kuang-Cheng, the Asian champion wrestler, 26 throws to 0, in a fund raising event in Kuching Malaysia.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Thursday, April 01, 2021

The Life of Judo Founder Jigoro Kano

Below is a video about the life of the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano. It's not so much about the man as a martial artist, so much as about him as an educator. Enjoy.


Monday, March 29, 2021

Small Circle Jujutsu

Wally Jay was highly ranked in both Danzan Ryu Jujutsu and Judo before founding his own Small Circle Jujutsu. Below is a video of him demonstrating his art. Enjoy.