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 ~


Monday, May 23, 2016

Yoshinkan Aikido Demonstrations

The Russian Yoshinkan Aikido Federation put together the video below, which is a compilation of demonstrations by top Yoshinkan Aikidoka. Enjoy!


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Stretching for Martial Arts

There is a nice post on stretching for martial arts over at The Tai Chi Notebook. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.

Static stretching vs dynamic stretching – which is best?

I’ll be the first to admit that stretching isn’t the most exciting topic for most people, but it’s kind of important, so I should cover it. Plus, I’ve recently found a video by Ryan Hall that gives some extra insights into common stretches we do before BJJ:


Ryan gives some really valuable little tips on how to do each stretch correctly. Since you generally learn these stretches by just following along in class, with little to no additional information, it’s all too easy to miss the little details. For example, the first stretches he shows are the shoulder stretches you do by pulling the arm across the body (see 9.08 in the video). These are really common stretches used in all sorts of sports, yet the little detail he gives that you should be taking the shoulder down and back while pushing the chest out as you do them makes all the difference. Now you’re actually working the shoulder joint, which is the point of the stretch. Just yanking the arm across the body on its own won’t do squat.

Look at the ‘sprinters stretch’ at 24.26 – everybody I know will reach for that foot (including myself) but as Ryan points out, the point of the stretch is to get really comfortable getting your head to your leg – that’s where the focus needs to be.

What’s also nice about the video, is that Ryan puts each stretch in context – so you can see where it fits into BJJ as a whole. So, he’ll show you why it’s useful to be flexible.

And yet, he’s doing it all wrong. We all are. Or are we? You need to decide this for yourself after reading the latest research into dynamic vs static stretching, which I’ll point you towards here.

Ryan is showing what are called ‘static’ stretches, where you move into position then hold for 10 seconds. The current thinking is that ‘dynamic stretches’ are a better way to warm up. Dynamic stretches don’t involve holding the position at all, you simply take the joint through a range of motion, without holding the position at any point.

The reason of why dynamic stretching is better for you as a warm-up (than static stretching) seems to come down to two things. Firstly, the purpose of a warm-up is to warm the muscles and tendons, ready for the work that’s about to be done. In martial arts the work that is about to be done doesn’t usually involve holding stretched positions in extended periods (although if you’re getting stacked in your guard in BJJ, then it might!) Generally though, we’re about to use our muscles in an explosive way while putting our joints through their full range of motion. This is very different to the experience of a static stretch.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Guide to Kyokushin Karate

Over at The Martial Way, there is a very nice article describing Kyokushin Karate which was developed by the famous Mas Oyama.

An excerpt is below. The full post may be read here.

Kyokushin (極真) is a style of stand-up, full contact karate, founded in 1964 by Korean-Japanese Masutatsu (Mas) Oyama. Kyokushin is Japanese for “the ultimate truth”, developed from the determination of the pursuit of ultimate truth of mind, technique, and body. Kyokushin is rooted in a philosophy of self-improvement, discipline and hard training. It is grounded in both the Okinawan Shuri-te traditions (such as Shorin-ryu and Shotokan) and hard and soft characteristics of Naha-te and Tomari-te styles, such as Goju-ryu, and also includes realistic fighting.

The founder, Sosai Masu Oyama, often said that the difference between sports and Budō, or The Martial Way, is the path of self-discipline. The Budō Way is this challenge in life itself. Kyokushin Karate was founded by a man who was dedicated to the Budō Way. Read more about this here.




Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Yang Style Taijiquan Demonstrated by a Family Member

Over at Best Tai Chi Videos Online, there was a post on Yang Zhenduo. An excerpt from the post is below along with the video. The full post may be found here.

Check out Best Tai Chi Videos Online. There is a LOT of good stuff there!

 
Yang Zhenduo demonstrates a section of the Long Form from the Yang Family style of Tai Chi Chuan. Yang Zhenduo is the son of the famous Yang Cheng Fu, the 3rd generation Yang Family Tai Chi master. Yang Zhenduo was about 10 years old when his father passed away. He continued his Tai Chi studies with other family members and students of Yang Cheng Fu.
 

Friday, May 06, 2016

A Summary of the 48 Laws of Power

Modern Machiavelli is a website dedicated to the study of power as expounded in The 48 Laws of Power, The Prince and others.

Below is a list of the 48 Laws of Power taken from a post there. The author also explains the use of his own examples in illustrating each law and some useful links. The full post may be read here

Please pay a visit.

  1. Never outshine the Master
  2. Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies
  3. Conceal your Intentions
  4. Always Say Less than Necessary
  5. So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life
  6. Court Attention at all Cost
  7. Get others to do the Work for you, but Always Take the Credit
  8. Make other People come to you – use Bait if Necessary
  9. Win through your Actions, Never through Argument
  10. Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky
  11. Learn to Keep People Dependent on You
  12. Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm your Victim
  13. When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to their Mercy or Gratitude
  14. Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy
  15. Crush your Enemy Totally
  16. Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor
  17. Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability
  18. Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous
  19. Know Who You’re Dealing with – Do Not Offend the Wrong Person
  20. Do Not Commit to Anyone
  21. Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber than your Mark
  22. Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness into Power
  23. Concentrate Your Forces
  24. Play the Perfect Courtier
  25. Re-Create Yourself
  26. Keep Your Hands Clean
  27. Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cultlike Following
  28. Enter Action with Boldness
  29. Plan All the Way to the End
  30. Make your Accomplishments Seem Effortless
  31. Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards you Deal
  32. Play to People’s Fantasies
  33. Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew
  34. Be Royal in your Own Fashion: Act like a King to be treated like one
  35. Master the Art of Timing
  36. Disdain Things you cannot have: Ignoring them is the best Revenge
  37. Create Compelling Spectacles
  38. Think as you like but Behave like others
  39. Stir up Waters to Catch Fish
  40. Despise the Free Lunch
  41. Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes
  42. Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep will Scatter
  43. Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others
  44. Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect
  45. Preach the Need for Change, but Never Reform too much at Once
  46. Never appear too Perfect
  47. Do not go Past the Mark you Aimed for; In Victory, Learn when to Stop
  48. Assume Formlessness


Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Balance Training for Martial Arts

Disrupting your opponents balance while maintaining your own is probably the most fundamental of martial arts strategies. It would be useful to understand balance a little more.

Below is an excerpt from Starting Strength which defines just exactly what is balance and how to understand and cultivate it. The full article may be read here.

What is Balance?

Balance can be defined as the ability to maintain one’s center of mass vertically over the base of support, with minimal postural sway. Let’s break this definition down a bit to make sure everything is crystal clear.

The “center of mass” (CoM) is a reference point representing the “averaged” mass of an object or person in space. In other words, if I were to take your body mass distribution in its current position and represent it as a single point, this would be your center of mass. For most humans of average anthropometry standing in anatomical position, this point lies somewhere within the pelvis, typically just in front of the sacrum.

How do humans detect imbalance?

So we’ve established that balance is maintained when the center of mass lies directly over the base of support (i.e., the mid-foot). Now let’s consider how humans detect imbalance. Although generally taken for granted, it requires a fascinating integration of three systems:

  1. The Vestibular system is located in the inner ear and is connected to multiple other areas of the brain and body through the brainstem. It detects linear acceleration and rotation of the head, and triggers reflexive compensatory movements to help us maintain equilibrium. For example, when focused on an object while rapidly turning your head to the right, you’ll notice that your eyes compensate by turning leftward in order to stay “locked” on your target. In addition, we can sense acceleration or tilting and adjust our posture appropriately due to the activity of our vestibular system, even in complete darkness. Impairments in this system typically result in dizziness or vertigo, and can result from various neurological disorders and diseases of the inner ear, trauma, strokes, tumors, medications, and drug/alcohol use (e.g. “the spins”).
  2. The Somatosensory system provides us with “proprioceptive” (position) and “kinesthetic” (movement) senses, among several others. The skin and musculoskeletal system detect and relay proprioceptive information along specialized sets of nerves to tell our brain about the position and movement of our bodies and joints. This is how you still know where your hands and feet are without looking at them, and how you can feel where your weight is being distributed across your feet. The sensory information coming from this system helps you maintain desired positions and stay in balance without having to watch your own body while you move. This is important since we can’t see our lower back during a deadlift, and we don’t actively watch our knees while we squat. Impairments in this system typically result from conditions affecting the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves) which commonly include diabetes, strokes, medications, and drug/alcohol use among numerous other conditions.
  3. The Visual system’s role should be intuitively obvious: a major component of sensing our position and movement is simply seeing it. Impairments in the visual system result in blindness and can result from things like diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.
Interestingly, as long as at least two of the three systems we’ve discussed are working normally, people can still compensate enough to maintain their balance. For this reason you might encounter the “Romberg test” in hospitals or at drunk driving checkpoints, where the subject stands with the feet together and eyes closed (effectively “turning off” the visual system), and the examiner watches for significant swaying, unsteadiness, or falls that might indicate a problem with one of the two “remaining” sensory systems, usually proprioception.

How do humans overcome imbalance?

At this point I’d like you to try something: stand up right where you are and slowly lean forward onto your toes. You’ll immediately detect imbalance using the systems I just described, then you’ll notice feeling slightly uncomfortable as your calves, low back, and other leg muscles start tugging to prevent you from falling on your face. This all relaxes as you come back to the mid-foot balance point. Now, lean backwards onto your heels and you’ll feel even more apprehensive as your quadriceps and lower leg muscles start pulling very hard to prevent a fall backwards. You might even reflexively extend your arms out in front of you in an attempt to shift the center of mass forward again. This again resolves as you come back to the mid-foot. All of this “extra” muscular force is required to overcome the imbalance resulting from the center of mass not being positioned directly over the mid-foot. Read that again and be sure you understand, because this is fundamental. Muscular force is required to overcome imbalance, and therefore to maintain it.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Constant Bear

A fundamental auxillary exercise found among the practioners of Cheng Man Ching Style Taijiquan is the Constant Bear.

It is said that Prof Cheng began teaching this variation of the well known exercise to an elderly student that was just having too much difficulty with the normal movements.

The Constant Bear, practiced in this manner, is supposed to embody the essentials of TJQ form practice.

There is some more information on the Constant Bear at Violet Li's column.