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 ~


Friday, July 03, 2020

Judo Giant Seiichi Shirai

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at the Mokuren Dojo blog about one of the sometimes overlooked giants of classical age of Judo, Seiichi Shirai. The full post, which contains some interesting vintage videos, may be read here.

Our judo and aikido teacher, Karl Geis, attributed a significant portion of his newaza doctrine to seemingly little-known judo sensei (at least in America) Seiichi Shirai. Geis even called part of his groundwork doctrine, "The Shirai System." .
But there is relatively little online about a Shirai-sensei, so who was this Shirai guy? It turns out that he was one of Kyuzo Mifune's uchideshi, favorite ukes, and later Mifune's nephew-in-law. That clue gives us some research leverage because there IS a lot online and in print about Mifune!
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We can get a glimpse into Shirai-sensei's thinking on judo from these quotes in Draeger's Training Methods book:
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...and from Draeger & Otaki's Judo Formal Techniques book:
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...and from some lessons quoted from the Spring Park Judo Club at Garland TX:
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"...Another of judo’s first generation who trained under founder Jigoro Kano was Seiichi Shirai. He also trained with Mifune and eventually married Mifune's niece. ...a story that Shirai would tell about the importance of repeating a lesson:.The mind is like a tea cup. And if you fill it again and again with green tea, the cup will eventually turn green, absorbing the lesson. “And that’s the way,” Shirai would say, “I would repeat a story, over and over and over again.”...Another lesson ... from Shirai was about gaijyu and naiko. While the outside appearance of people in dealing with each other should be soft and gentle – gaijyu, the mind and the heart inside should be strong like steel – naiko."


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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Cook Ding's Anniversay

Today marks the 15th anniversary of Cook Ding's Kitchen. In these fifteen years, over 2100 posts have been made along with almost 1.5 million hits.

So who's this Cook Ding cat? The "skill stories" from Zhuang Zi's Inner Chapters have always resonated with me and in particular, the story about Cook Ding:

Prince Huei's cook was cutting up a bullock. Every blow of his hand, every heave of his shoulders, every tread of his foot, every thrust of his knee, every whshh of rent flesh, every clink of the chopper, was in perfect rhythm — like the dance of the Mulberry Grove, like the harmonious chords of Ching Shou.

"Well done!" cried the Prince. "Yours is skill indeed!"

"Sire," replied the cook laying down his chopper, "I have always devoted myself to Tao, which is higher than mere skill. When I first began to cut up bullocks, I saw before me whole bullocks. After three years' practice, I saw no more whole animals. And now I work with my mind and not with my eye. My mind works along without the control of the senses. Falling back upon eternal principles, I glide through such great joints or cavities as there may be, according to the natural constitution of the animal. I do not even touch the convolutions of muscle and tendon, still less attempt to cut through large bones.

"A good cook changes his chopper once a year — because he cuts. An ordinary cook, one a month — because he hacks. But I have had this chopper nineteen years, and although I have cut up many thousand bullocks, its edge is as if fresh from the whetstone. For at the joints there are always interstices, and the edge of a chopper being without thickness, it remains only to insert that which is without thickness into such an interstice. Indeed there is plenty of room for the blade to move about. It is thus that I have kept my chopper for nineteen years as though fresh from the whetstone.

"Nevertheless, when I come upon a knotty part which is difficult to tackle, I am all caution. Fixing my eye on it, I stay my hand, and gently apply my blade, until with a hwah the part yields like earth crumbling to the ground. Then I take out my chopper and stand up, and look around, and pause with an air of triumph. Then wiping my chopper, I put it carefully away."

"Bravo!" cried the Prince. "From the words of this cook I have learned how to take care of my life."

ZhuangZi (Lin YuTang)

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Inside and Outside of the Dojo

Below is an excerpt from a very good piece from The Thoughtful Sensei - Aikido Musings regarding the difference between inside and outside of the dojo. The full post may be read here.


What we do in the dojo needs to be as real as we can possibly (and safely) make it.  It’s Budo.  It is not a sport.  It is not a game.  It is an activity where we practice the very serious art of controlled violence where mistakes have consequences and even the little things can often be critical so everyone’s head must always be on straight.  The quantum 8-dimensional algorithm may therefore be stated as:

PIE (Physical, Intellectual, Emotional) ………….. R (Reigisaho) Squared. 

Reigisaho can be considered many times more important than simple PIE.  PIE can be looked at as how “teachable” a student is (a measurement of their capacity and potential so-to-speak).  R (Reigisaho) can be looked at as “how seriously” that student views the training and whether they develop the proper mental attitude to understand that the dojo (and indeed Budo) are not sports nor are they games.  Reigisaho should then be looked at as R-Squared.  Maybe even R-Cubed and beyond.  That is how important Reigisaho is to the life of a dojo and to its’ existence in the Budo-Verse.

A dojo, if one pauses to consider, is an unrealistic and impractical idea; a waste in the business sense of unoccupied space and underutilized facilities since 24/7 classes are impossible.  Many Sensei have described the dojo in their own fashion so there are many ways to consider the idea of the existence of such a place.  A place of competition?  No.  A place of combat?  No.  A place of pure contemplation?  No.  A place of self-realization and enlightenment?  No.  An institution of learning?  No.  A place of social discourse?  No. 

What then?

It is not a gymnasium, a sports bar, a church, a social club, a rec center, a temple or monastery, a beer or dance hall, a business or a corporation.  Some Sensei have used the term “sacred place” although that term while more complete than others, is still insufficient.  It’s not even a school although most of the advertising one sees describes it as such because the normal Western civilian is simply unable to grasp the idea that it is something beyond a mere “school” per se.

It is also not a “physical” place.  Yes; it has walls, roof, floors, and other structures that one can walk into and “be” within, but a dojo is more a mental and spiritual state of being than of mere body.  Yes; the dojo is a physical manifestation of the ideals of Budo, and a dojo is said to absorb the “energy” of those who train and spend time there to the point that a sensitive can enter and “feel” those energies.  

A Dojo however is better considered a larger existence with all other descriptive possibilities attaching themselves to that one point; a locus as-it-were.

We all work and struggle and rejoice and suffer in our efforts to prosper or just to survive in our society with its emphasis on achievement, money, politics, etc. so the dojo becomes an offset to that life-battle.  It becomes a space that exists for our larger selves, and that space is energized by us going beyond the binary yes-no, win-lose idea.  The dojo needs several things that create, support, and maintain its “being”.  Those are within the overall encompassing aspects of Reigisaho.

There is a widely told teaching story in Budo concerning kendo and kickboxing.  A high-level championship shiai is held and when the winner is declared there are two differing reactions.  In the kendo match the facial expression of the winner and of the loser both remain the same with no real emotion.  The winner is the one who first bows (to the loser) to show his respect for the efforts made by him.  The respect from each to each is obvious.  In the kickboxing match when the winner is declared, the winner begins to raise his hands in the air, jump up and down and beat his chest as-if to gloat and disrespect the loser.  Two different reactions.  Two different personalities.  Only one understands.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The 48 Laws of Power, #33: Discover Each Man's Thumbscrew

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 #33: Discover Each Man's Thumbscrew

  • Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall. That weakness is usually an insecurity, an uncontrollable emotion or need; it can also be a small secret pleasure. Either way, once found, it is a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.

  • How to find weaknesses:
    • Pay Attention to Gestures and Unconscious Signals: everyday conversation is a great place to look.  Start by always seeming interested. Offer a revelation of your own if needed. Probe for suspected weaknesses indirectly.  Train your eyes for details.
    • Find the Helpless Child: knowing about a childhood can often reveal weaknesses, or when they revert to acting like a child.
    • Look for Contrasts: an overt trait often conceals its opposite. The shy crave attention, the uptight want adventure, etc.
    • Find the Weak Link: find the person who will bend under pressure, or the one who pulls strings behind the scenes.
    • Fill the Void: the two main emotional voids are insecurity and unhappiness.
    • Feed on Uncontrollable Emotions: the uncontrollable emotion can be a paranoid fear or any base motive such as lust, greed, vanity or hatred.
  • Always look for passions and obsessions that cannot be controlled.  The stronger the passion, the more vulnerable the person.
  • People’s need for validation and recognition, their need to feel important, is the best kind of weakness to exploit.  To do so, all you need to do is find ways to make people feel better about their taste, their social standing, their intelligence.
  • Timidity can be exploited by pushing them into bold actions that serve your needs while also making them dependent on you.