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 ~

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Many Aspects of Kyokushin Karate

Below is an excerpt from a post that appears at The Martial Way. The full post may be read here.

At its core Kyokushin Karate is a martial art that focuses on power (also partly the reason why Sosai Oyama fought bulls was to market his style as an art that focuses on power).

In Kyokushin there are typically many different styles at work, generally speaking there are:

1. Technical
2. Power
3. Stamina
4. Pressure
5. Outside
6. Counter
7. Inside

Most Kyokushin fighters who fight in Knockdown tournaments are usually a combination of some of these. It is notoriously difficult to analyse every style at work in Kyokushin because there are numerous, for example there are many technical fighters but there is no one style to define a technical orientated Kyokushin fighter, since they all fight technically but in their own unique ways, so I will focus on the styles I have seen & have knowledge of & have had success in Kyokushin tournaments.

1. Efficiency style – this style incorporates principles introduced by one of the premier martial artists from the 20th century: Kenichi Sawai:who founded the martial art Taikiken. Taikiken is the Japanese name for the Chinese martial art – Yiquan founded by Wang Xiangzhai. Kenichi Sawai for those who do not know, was a great martial artist from the early-mid 19th century – he was a 5th dan judoka, kendo & Iaido master. The art focuses on ‘developing natural movement and fighting ability through a system of training methods & concepts, to improve the perception of one’s body, it’s movement, balance and force.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Structure in Martial Arts

Below is an excerpt from a post at Nissankan Kobudo on Kamae, or stance (sort of). The full post may be read here. Unfortunately, the kanji didn't survive the cutting and pasting.  

The literal translation of the kanji for kamae is  Kamae are therefore considered the structure  around which techniques are formed. They are best described as combative engagement postures.
Kamae are not fixed positions or poses, they are momentary, loose, flexible. One must be able to flow, to move from one position to the next as an encounter unfolds, in a natural and efficient manner. The choice of kamae is determined by the relationship with an opponent. Kamae must adapt to the opponents position to take advantage of his movements. Kamae reflect the fluidity of water, flexible and elusive. Each kamae is linked to another in a seamless flowing movement. It goes without saying that a rigid unmoving kamae will end in defeat.

In essence, the kamae are the physical embodiment of one's mental attitude. Assumed with the entire body, whether armed or unarmed, kamae encompass one’s mental attitude as well as physical attitude (posture). The mental and physical aspects of a technique may be referred to singly as the posture of the mind – kokoro-gamae and the posture of the body  mi-gamae.
Mastering kamae is considered essential to the combatant's psycho-physical dominance over an opponent. At the beginning of a combative encounter, a series of postures may be adopted to dominate an opponent, not physically but psychologically. The controlling of an opponent through adopting a kamae which may be hard to read, i.e.; hiding a weapon from view, or disguising a follow-up movement, is considered the pinnacle of martial practice. A considerable number of postures found in kenjutsu schools use postures that disguise a swordsman's possible strikes, these are termed postures of yamiuchi unperceived strikes. Also, various kamae were developed by schools with the sole intention of taking advantage of body language – through posture, eye contact, slight movements etc. It should be pointed out also that the various kamae are distinctive to the different schools, they are in a way signatures  that are readily recognisable by those who practice kobudo.
Some schools have a vast number of kamae, most added over time in the Tokugawa period (1600 – 1868), a time of relative peace and urbanisation. Other schools contain just a few tried and true kamae that they consider to be all that is necessary.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Aikido and Daito Ryu

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at True Aiki. It discusses the relationship and history between Aikido and Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu. The full post may be read here.

Why Aikido isn’t Daito Ryu

The long-held Aikido party line has been that Ueshiba Morihei, after studying many martial arts and, after having an enlightenment experience, formed Aikido.  It is now clear that the primary technical influence on Ueshiba Morihei was Daito Ryu.  And rightfully so.  Of the arts that Ueshiba dabbled in, his study of Daito Ryu, under Takeda Sokaku, was the longest, deepest, and most authenticated.
So how is it that Ueshiba, the man that Takeda Tokimune called Takeda Sokaku’s “most beloved student,” came to leave Daito Ryu and avoid his teacher?  How could Ueshiba Morihei justify the claim of creating a “new art” while performing Daito Ryu waza until the day he died?  How could he, in one conversation, credit Takeda Sokaku with opening his eyes to “True Budo” and claim to have “discovered” a “New Budo?”
Here I explain:
  • Why, and by whom, Ueshiba was encouraged and supported to become independent of Daito Ryu
  • How Ueshiba justified his actions to himself and others
  • How this justification aligns with his statement that Aikido has no kata
  • Why Ueshiba Morihei’s rationale for the justification of Aikido had to be changed by Ueshiba Kishomaru and Tohei Koichi for the spread of Modern Aikido
  • How all this relates to Aiki

Monday, August 06, 2018

Tai Chi Classics and MMA

Graham Barlow, of The Tai Chi Notebook, wrote an article for on applying the Tai Chi Classics to MMA. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.

... I would argue that the advice in the Taiji Classics is, in fact, timeless, and applies equally well to a 5th century battlefield as it does to a modern MMA match. There are innumerable examples of good advice on a fighter’s movement and posture in the classics. Take the following lines from the Taiji classic attributed to Chan Seng Feng as an example:

“In motion the whole body should be light and agile, 
with all parts of the body linked as if threaded together.”

Think of a truly well conditioned fighter – they seem to move with the same natural grace and power that a cheetah displays when chasing a gazelle, or a tiger poses while stalking deer. When you see somebody looking awkward and stiff, it’s usually not long before they hit the canvas. Take Ronda Rousey’s last fight in UFC 207 for the bantamweight title against the champion Amanda Nunes.
In the brief 48 seconds it took before the referee stepped in and stopped the fight, Nunes stalked Rousey like a panther. She looked supple, composed and fluid. In contrast Rousey looked stiff and uncoordinated, her raised hands separated from her torso as she desperately tried to shield her face from incoming blows. “Light and agile” won the day, as it so often does.

In the same UFC event we also witnessed a virtuoso display of fighting by Cody Garbrandt and Dominick Cruz, who both perfectly expressed the ideas of emptying the left and right when pressured, that we talked about earlier. In a nutshell, if somebody strikes at your right side then you need to make that side ‘empty’, say, by ducking your head out of the way. Thus you ‘empty the right when pressured’.

When empty and full are in harmony the strike is effectively neutralised. You could see Cruz and Garbrandt, time after time, perfectly evading each other’s attacks throughout the fight. This is yin and yang in harmony, and also the central concept that Taijiquan is based on – continually changing to keep the Yin (empty) parts of the body and the Yang (full) parts in balance, while engaging with an opponent.

In contrast, if you watch the Rousey and Nunes fight you will see several examples of Nunes’ ‘full’ right jab meeting the ‘full’ side of Rousey’s face, without the required movement skill to evade it.

Friday, August 03, 2018

The Three States of Initiative in Martial Arts

During the 16th century and picking up steam in the 17th century under the Tokugawa Shugunate, a lot of calories were burned on the theory of combat, particularly swordsmanship. 

An important topic were the aspects of "Sen" which in this case may loosely be translated as "initiative." While specific to Japanese martial arts, these concepts really can apply to all martial arts.

Below is an excerpt from a post at Eishin Ryu Iaido Singapore. The full post may be read here.

The Three States of Sen - Sen sen no sen, Sen no sen, Go no sen

July 13, 2018
Valeth, Billy

(That is a lot of sen...) (-_-)"

This article attempts to explain the concept of “Sen sen no sen, Sen no sen, Go no sen”. Before delving into explanation proper, a few other elaborations are needed. “Sen” (先) roughly translates to “before”. “Go” (後) roughly translates to “after”.

Let’s use the 5W-1H (what, when, where, why and how) to explain what this concept is about. 

WHAT is “Sen sen no sen, Sen no sen, Go no sen” about?

This is regarding your position, intent, and actions relative to your imaginary (in Iai context) opponent’s position, intent and actions. Think of it as your intended strategy in response to your opponent’s. With “Sen sen no sen, Sen no sen, Go no sen”, imagine they are 3 broad strategies you might use. Easy, yes?

WHEN and WHERE is this concept applied for maximum effectiveness?

This addresses the space-time domain. Which type of strategy you want to use depends on the distance between you and your opponent, the waza situation you are in (waza bunkai), and your reflex – which response comes to mind?
Bear in mind that while practice is done in controlled environments, the smoothness and finesse of execution translates to actions within split-seconds. There is no interruptions nor decision paralysis. This has to be something we work towards to.

WHY the fuss about this concept?

Obviously, it lies with whether you emerge the victor from the encounter!

HOW do I do it?

It may not be apparent initially while you practice. As you practice over time and gain proficiency, you might wonder about the purpose for certain actions of respective wazas. Finding out and understanding their purpose is the first step towards appreciating the strategies (Sen no sen, etc.).
Tachi uchi no kurai is one area of practicing the application of said strategies. Another is paired practice of wazas (strict observance of safety is paramount).
Also influencing the successful application of these strategies is heavily dependent on how good you are in your fundamental wazas.

That was a short primer to what “Sen sen no sen, Sen no sen, Go no sen” is. At the beginning of the article, we described the translations of “Sen” and “Go”. Putting these characters together, they can be collectively translated as taking the “initiative, in advance, before or after your opponent”

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Getting Punched in the Face

Below is an excerpt from another great post by Sam Yang at Must Triumph. The full post may be read here.

What Getting Punched in the Face Taught Me

Dealing with a punch is no different than dealing with conflict—you can cower, escalate, block, redirect, or simply move out of the way.

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here
Getting punched in the face is rather unpleasant. You should avoid it if at all possible. If you, however, have gotten punched in the face or train in a discipline where you're getting punched in the face frequently, get the most out of it. There are valuable life lessons there (and it would be a waste if all you got from the experience was head trauma).
The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor; it is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others; and it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in the dissimilar.
— Aristotle

Conflict Management

Getting punched is really an education in conflict. As a wise dramatist once told me, "Conflict is drama, action is character." From a martial arts perspective, life is conflict, and your actions define your character. The martial artist believes you can have thoughts regarding yourself—write your memoir, have all the best intentions—but your actions are the lasting evidence of your character. A punch serves as a metaphor for life and your reactions—conflict management.

If you were to look into the origins of human conflict, it may stem from the first moment a human laid hands on another human. No matter the complexity of an issue, it still operates under the same rules of a physical fight. The "civilized" world uses financial domination rather than physical. Same struggle, different domain.

Fists have a way of finding cowards. Fighting is about choices, training is about learning the best choices: the least sacrifice for the most benefit. Dealing with a punch is no different than dealing with conflict—you can cower, escalate, block, redirect, or simply move out of the way.

Ways People React to a Punch:

1. Cower

Chip gets to the checkout of his supermarket, and there's a long line. Chip blames the world. Chip says to himself, "Of course there's a line. This always happens to me. My life sucks." In Chip's mental movie, he's the protagonist who's always getting kicked around. He has turned a long line at the supermarket into Doctor Zhivago, all in his own mind. Chip looks at his cart, and he has fewer items than lots of the other folks. He thinks, "Why aren't they going out of their way to let me go ahead of them?" The cruelty of it all. A minor, fleeting annoyance has become the worst possible thing that could ever happen to Chip. He can smell the kale rotting in his cart.
Fight promoters don't care if fighters win or lose as long as they give it all they've got. The fighters who try to win to the very end, even in a losing effort, are still rewarded. The fighters who mentally break, cower, and wait for the referee to save them, are unlikely to be brought back.
It's a fight; mercy is not guaranteed. Once a fighter wilts, their opponent will only turn up the intensity. Some people can't finish what they start, and some people are amazing finishers. Cowering doesn't lessen damage; it only increases it—the worst of all worlds. Sometimes people with inferior technique will win when they have more will to fight. A person who knows every technique but lacks the will to fight makes for a better victim than a person who knows nothing but will fight with every inch of their being. Forget about intent, your actions define your character.

2. Escalate

Phil is given directions to a job site. It doesn't take Phil long to realize he's at the wrong place. Phil doesn't call his boss to check in or to see if there's a possible mistake since it's not his mistake. Phil is feeling righteous. The boss calls, he's understandably upset that Phil's not at the job site. Phil tells his boss where he is; his boss realizes he gave Phil the wrong address. Phil's boss apologizes for his mistake but is still upset that Phil didn't take responsibility to correct the situation when he became aware of the error first. Phil thinks, "How dare my boss be upset at me. He's not allowed to be upset. I'm the one who should be upset because I'm the one who waited around. It's my boss's fault, not mine. It's just another example of my boss trying to pass the blame to his employees." Phil keeps a mental ledger of all perceived slights against him.
The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.
— Joseph Joubert
It's smart to be hard but hard to be smart. In a professional fight, you'll have fighters who take a punch to give a punch. "How dare he punch me? I'll show him!" Do you want to be right or do you want to get the job done? Being easy to work with, getting the job done when situations aren't perfect are advantages when climbing the rungs of a company. It's the question amateur fighters need to ask themselves: Do you want to prove how tough you are or do you want to win the fight? Do you want to prove you're stronger than your opponent by taking a punch to give a harder punch, or do you want to be smart and walk away with the winner's purse—hit without being hit, and maintaining a long career? It's what separates the best from the tough.

3. Block

Rita graduates college and starts her first job at a startup. She doesn't know much about finance but she remembers her high school economics teacher telling her, "Once you get a job, always keep at least three months worth of rent in the bank." Rita wants to spend like her friends but the words of her teacher linger. She lives conservatively and saves four months of rent. Like many startups, her company fails. Since everyone was a new hire, Rita's coworkers panic. Rita, however, shields herself from the full force of the damage. She looks for another job but doesn't have the desperation of some of her coworkers. Rita also has the luxury of not having to take the first job offered. With time, a strong resume, leveraging her network, and some luck—Rita procures a new job that is better than the one before. This time Rita promises herself to save six months rent.

4. Redirect

Jackie learns of digital cameras and Photoshop in the 90s. Jackie could have listened to her ego and be "pure to her craft," or be a working photographer. Jackie can prove film is "higher culture" or she can remain relevant. Her clients don't care; they just want the best image possible. Jackie adopts digital media early and positions herself to be high in demand when digital takes over. Jackie intercepts a situation early on before it gets beyond her control. Instead of fighting its power, she uses its power to her advantage. Instead of being creatively stifled, the new medium opens her up to an infinite amount of artistic possibilities. Like many business opportunities, it pays to be a pioneer. Jackie first had to open her mind.

5. Move Out of the Way

You're at the supermarket, and there's a long line. It doesn't bother you. You knew living in a big city meant more people, more cars, and longer lines. It's a popular market with good produce and it's worth the wait. It's par for the course of living the life you choose to live. You're in the moment and not sulking. When another cashier opens, your ease makes you the quickest to react. But in your good mood, you allow an elderly customer who's been waiting much longer to proceed in front of you. You're smart and a good person.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

A Taijiquan Class with Yuan Weiming

A few months ago I learned that my original taijiquan teacher from over 35 years ago, a direct student of Cheng Man Ching (Zheng Manqing) from the New York school, Carol Yamasaki, taught a class in the evening during the week within a reasonable distance from my office. I began training with her again.

I found that I was at about the median in age of the students and that most of us had a similar story: life pulled us in different directions back in the day and now we're back.

There is a loose network of the direct and next generation students of CMC. They keep in touch. Sometimes they pay each other a visit.

The other night in class, we had the great honor to be visited by Yuan Weiming. Mr Yuan is a disciple of the late Liu His-hung, the chief instructor at Shizhong Institute in Taipei and is one of the most senior teachers of the Taiwan branch of CMC Taijiquan.

I found him to be very warm and approachable.

We did a deep dive into the Grasp the Sparrow's Tail sequence. The emphasis was on moving from leg to leg by relaxing either (or both) hips and sinking.

We also did some push hands drills where he linked what we're doing in push hands with doing the form. There is no better solo practice for push hands but to do the form correctly.

It was a great experience and I think my practice will improve as a result. I have so much to work on.

There WAS a video of him on YouTube demonstrating the form in Italy, but I can no longer view it from the US.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018