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, August 12, 2022

Three Crows

Over at Kenshi 24/7 was a post about three famous kendoka who were the best from their dojo; the "three crows."

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


Late afternoon summer 1930, Hongo-shinmasago-saka (in modern day Bunkyo-ku). A tallish slender young man, about 19 years old, walked up to the entrance of Yushinkan, the dojo of Nakayama Hakudo. Dangling on the shinai bag that was resting heavily on his right shoulder was another bag with his bogu in it. In his left hand he carried a further bag, filled with clothes and other sundry possessions. Putting his bags down, he slid open the door and called out “gomen kudasai.” After a few moments a young man appeared. 

“My name is Nakakura Kiyoshi. I’ve come up from Kyushu to join the dojo.”

“Come in, sensei has been expecting you.”

As the time for keiko got nearer, more and more people started appearing at the dojo. Nakakura dropped his stuff off in his allocated space in a room on the second floor. He changed into his keikogi and took his bogu down to the dojo. Being new there he didn’t know anybody, nor the routine. 

A young man who looked to be a little bit older than Nakakura approached him:

“My name is Nakajima Gorozo. I teach kendo at keishicho and before that I lived in this dojo and studied under Nakayama sensei for years.  And who might you be?”

“Oh really? How about a match then?”

Nakajima had been a live-in student (uchideshi) at Yushinkan for six years before – at Nakayama’s recommendation – being employed at keishicho. An “old timer” if you like (despite being only 22), Nakajima was incensed at the impertinence of the newcomer. He might have been tall (for people at the time) but what he had in height he lacked in manners. His thick regional accent probably meant he was from the middle of nowhere, meaning his kendo would almost certainly be terrible. Even though it was his first day in the dojo, he needed to be taught a lesson:

“Wait here.”

He motioned over to his good friend Haga Junichi, who was eyeing the encounter from a distance. Haga had joined Yushinkan four years earlier and, being the same age, he and Nakajima had become good friends. Haga was currently teaching at the Imperial Guards and was notorious both for his rough, even violent, keiko as well as his gruff manner. Nakajima spoke:

“This guy needs a lesson in manners.”

Haga nodded. 

“New guy, put your men on.”

What followed was not as Nakajima had imagined. Yes, Haga was full on – vicious tsuki, strong katate-han-men, full on taiatari – but Nakakura was mostly coping with it, and even striking back. In the midst of it one threw the other and they were both lying on the dojo floor grappling. The battle was going on forever, and neither looked like they would concede defeat. After a while Nakajima stepped in and stopped it.

Taking his men off Haga turned to Nakajima and said:

“Well, he seems like an interesting guy.”

This article will very briefly talk about the “sanba-karasu” or “three crows” of Yushinkan: Nakajima Gorozo, Haga Junichi, and Nakakura Kiyoshi. “Three crows” was a sort of nickname given to the three strongest individuals in a field, and in this case it was the three best (young) kenshi in Yushinkan. They not only sparred and competed together, but they formed a close and long lasting friendship. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

A Grande Arte

The movie, A Grand Arte (also titled "Exposure") puts street knife fighting front and center unlike in any movie I have ever seen before. 




Saturday, August 06, 2022

Seisan Kata for Goju Ryu

Below is a video which examines the history, performance and variations of the Seisan kata in Goju Ryu.



Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Krav Maga and Multiple Attackers

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at The Art of Manliness on Krav Maga and it's strategy for handling multiple attackers; in this example, on a staircase. 

The full post may be read here.

The origins of krav maga can be traced to pre-World War II Bratislava (a city in what was then Czechoslovakia and is now Slovakia), and a young Jewish athlete named Imi Lichtenfeld. Imi was a nationally and internationally renowned boxer, wrestler, and gymnast. Beginning in the mid-1930s, fascist and anti-Semitic groups rose to power in Czechoslovakia and began inflicting violence on Jewish communities. Feeling duty-bound to protect his neighbors, Lichtenfeld organized a group of young men to patrol his community and defend against would-be attackers. He quickly learned, however, that his training in sport martial arts was no match for the anti-Semitic thugs he encountered.

In developing his more efficiently practical and brutally effective self-defense and fighting system, Imi took into account his own experiences of often being outnumbered by multiple assailants on the streets of Bratislava. Therefore, contending against multiple attackers became a lynchpin of his krav maga thinking. 

Defending against multiple opponents, to be sure, is a desperate and unpredictable situation and one that many people cannot win. The odds are stacked against you, especially when weapons are introduced. There are two types of groups that one can confront, including a preplanned attack group and a spontaneous attack group.  The preplanned attack group intends to attack you regardless of what you might say to deconflict. The spontaneous attack group may be on the fence and you may be able to talk your way out of it or gain a greater advantage to initiate a preemptive counterattack.

If you cannot deescalate the situation or immediately escape, there are two cardinal rules you must try to follow: 1) do not place yourself between two or more assailants, and 2) do not end up on the ground.

Unfortunately, avoiding #1 is impossible in a situation in which you find yourself defending against two assailants in a staircase, one above you and one below you.

As shown in the following series of photos, strategy in this stairway scenario dictates that you first engage the closest opponent (similar to most multiple assailant scenarios). Then contend with the other opponent. Let’s take a look at how this might play out:


Thursday, July 28, 2022

Human Weapon Judo Episode

Human Weapon was a TV series that appeared on the History Channel that explored martial arts around the world. It was intended for a general audience and still appears as reruns from time to time. 

Below is the episode on Judo.



Monday, July 25, 2022

Friday, July 22, 2022

The Original Kata

In the video below, Iain Abernethy discusses the quest many karateka have to finding the "original" versions of the kata they practice and what value there is, if any, in doing so. Enjoy.


Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Evolution of Tang Shou Dao Xingyiquan

Below is an excerpt from the Kingdom Warrior Academy blog about the evolution of the Tang Shou Dao school of Xingyiquan. The full post may be read here.

When I started in the internal arts, I began in the Shen Long TST lineage. I didn’t really know a lot of the unique history of the lineage, and I was curious. I asked my teacher questions, his teacher questions, and searched voraciously to learn as much as I could about the origin of this lineage of which I was now a part.

I found the TST line to be unique, it had clearly gone through an evolution of sorts that set it apart from the typical Xing Yi Quan I was seeing online and represented in books. It was subtle, mostly. A larger emphasis on the rear step to root the power, scaled down movements in terms of size to emphasize shorter power, a tighter fighting guard in the san ti shi, and some unique waist mechanics to create the power. But it also possessed some things that no other line of Xing Yi in the world had… the 8 step forms.

There were 5 forms that were used as introductory forms in the TST line, specifically the Shen Long TST line. Namely:

1. Babuda
2. Balienshou
3. Bashou
4. Batangquan
5. Meihuatui

There were a few others that were unique to this line as well that did not clearly scream that they belonged to the art of Xing Yi Quan specifically. The TST line was unique in a number of ways that I will just list:

1. the addition of forms not found in other XYQ lineages
2. the way it was organized
3. it combined the three big internals (xing yi, ba gua, and tai ji)
4. the use of uniforms and belts (sashes)

While there were other lineages that also taught all three arts, none of them did it the way that the TST line did, or not so I was aware in all my research.

The first question I wanted to know was what happened to bagua and taiji? You see, historically all three had been in my lineage, but now only the one art was. I found out that my teacher’s teacher had never learned the other two from his teacher (Xu HongJi) before he had died. After a while, I realized that in all my research – I had never found a student of Xu HongJi who had learned either Ba Gua or Tai Ji from him. It made me wonder if Xu had even learned those arts from his teacher, Hong Yi Xiang.  Alas, I will probably never know the answer to that question. My gut says, probably not, or not in their entirety.  But either way, I do not believe he chose to incorporate them into his schools curriculum. I was told by one student of Xu that Hong was not given permission to teach the BGZ or TJQ from his teacher, Zhang Jun Feng. I will circle back to this point later.

Let’s go back in time to the early 1900’s. Tian Jian, China was a popular place for the internal stylists to live and teach. We know that Gao Yi Sheng lived there, as did Li Cun Yi. They were the primary source of knowledge for Zhang Jun Feng, who was a merchant that studied privately with these two men. He learned Hebei Xing Yi from Li Cun Yi and what would later be termed Gao style (a Cheng style) Ba Gua from Gao Yi Sheng. Somewhere along the way, he learned Wu-Hao (a Yang derivative) style Tai Ji, but we don’t know from whom. In 1948, he was forced to leave China because of the Communist revolution. He settled in Taiwan with a large number of other Chinese immigrants. He didn’t have much luck with his business, so he fell back on teaching the martial arts, as he had gained some attention for his skills. He opened up the Yi Zong school, a name given to his line of Ba Gua from Gao Yi Sheng.  Doctor Kenneth Fish trained with him some time after that and reports that he taught BaShou and BaShi at that time, so we know that those 2 forms pre-dated the TST formation. From other research it was clear that many lines of Xing Yi taught a form called Bashi so that one was even older than Zhang himself. I have not found any other lineage of Xing Yi or Ba Gua that teaches Bashou, and it is a clear fusion of the Xing Yi animals and the linear Gao forms, so it is likely that it is post Gao Yi Sheng, maybe even a creation of Zhang himself.

Zhang became quite successful at teaching the martial arts, even training the Taiwanese President and some of the military commanders of the time (this becomes relevant in my Ba Gua lineage which I trained in much later). He eventually began training three siblings. Hong Yi Xiang, Hong Yi Mian, and Hong Yi Wen. Each one of them were either given a specialty by Zhang or just grew into them organically. Yi Xiang was the Xing Yi guy, Yi Mian Ba Gua, and Yi Wen Tai Ji. As far as I know, Yi Wen never taught much, if at all. But Yi Mian and Yi Xiang both taught (together and separately, I believe). It is my understanding that they all learned all three arts. At some point in time, Hong Yi Xiang began his own school, Tang Shou Dao (Tao). Literally it means “Chinese hand way”, I find it hard to believe he was not referencing Karate, which originally translated the same way before Funikoshi changed it to “empty hand way”. Hong was known to have a great appreciation for the way the Japanese arts were taught, and supposedly it was a trip to Japan that inspired him to organize his curriculum the way he did. He even borrowed the uniforms and belts as well as many exercises for conditioning.

When Hong created the TST, he was apparently very rigid in the way he progressed people through the material, at least that is what is believed if you watched the BBC documentary on him. I believe he relaxed this significantly later in his life, if not abandoning it completely eventually.