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 ~


Sunday, November 30, 2008

300 Tang Dynasty Poems: #29, A Poem to a Taoist Hermit



The Tang Dynasty was regarded as a golden age of Chinese culture. The arts, epecially poetry was held in high esteem. No occasion was too small to be commerated in a poem. The finest works of this age have been collected in a famous anthology, The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. If you click on the title of this post, you'll e directed to an online version of this classic. Below is #29. enjoy.


Five-character-ancient-verse

Wei Yingwu

A POEM TO A TAOIST HERMIT
CHUANJIAO MOUNTAIN



My office has grown cold today;
And I suddenly think of my mountain friend
Gathering firewood down in the valley
Or boiling white stones for potatoes in his hut....
I wish I might take him a cup of wine
To cheer him through the evening storm;
But in fallen leaves that have heaped the bare slopes,
How should I ever find his footprints!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wu Style Taijiquan Training






There’s a lot going on with my taijiquan class these days. There is a weekly weapons class that has become a fixture. They are studying the saber form there. Our teacher likes to hold more or less monthly workshops on a variety of topics. Recently there was one on taijiquan applications, and she’s planning another one for January.

While I would like to learn all that stuff one of these days, I’m not in a hurry. I think that I am further ahead by instead really trying to refine my practice of the 108 Standard Form.

For starters, when we do the form in class together, I still have a tendency to get ahead of the group, especially towards the end. This is a common error. So my assignment is to actually try and be a half step or so behind the rest of the class to break that habit. I’m sure it will be challenging, but I’ll benefit from it.

From my practice at home, after some discussion with my teacher, I have six attributes I am working on now whenever I practice at home.

The first is implicit, doing the sequence correctly, with all the little bits and pieces present every time. Do this, then that, then that; omitting none of the little sub sequences that I’ve been taught so far. It’s easier said that done. While working on the Short Round Form, which does some of the movements a little differently, I “smoothed out” a whole section of my Standard form. The result was that I skipped some movements and that’s one reason I got ahead of the class.

The next one is to do the form from a lower stance. This is a lot of physical work. To sit even a little lower and still maintain the correct postures isn’t easy. My legs are screaming at me, and it’s so easy to just stand up. The effect is that my body is pumping a lot of blood around from the flexing of my legs, and I’m breathing very deeply.

My teacher says that this practice is very good for me, but that it takes a long time. When I get past having to use strong muscles to hold myself up, I’ll really be getting somewhere. Doing the form like this is quite a work out. I am as drenched as I would be on the treadmill for an hour when I’m really pushing myself.

The next attribute is to practice slower on my own. It’s our tendency, or monkey mind, to want to rush through the form even when we’re on our own. This is related to the first point, but there I’m practicing with other people; here, I’m practicing alone. Going more and more slowly allows the monkey mind to settle. While it’s not the same as Zen, I think it’s the same sort of thing.

Closely related to going more slowly is to practice the pace more evenly. Again related to #1, we tend to want to speed up towards the end; to get it over with.

The Wu style of taijiquan requires 100% weighting in many of the stances. Well, there’s what you think is 100% weighting when you standing there, then there’s really being 100% weighted on one foot. Couple that with the lower stances, and you’re really working. An interesting aspect of this is seeing how solid you can feel even standing with all of your weight on one foot if you do it correctly.

The last point is to relax my lower back which flattens it, and in fact rounds it. Since I’ve been practicing this, some things have been loosening up in my back; I’m allowing to let it relax more. My lower back has not only felt very strong, but I feel like there’s a great deal of support there. It’s almost like the feeling of wearing one of those belts you see weight lifters or movers with. I distinctly feel stronger there, but I don’t think it’s at all to do with building muscle, but loosening up so my connective tissue is not working at cross purposes with my muscle.

My plan is to not be distracted with all the other things there are to practice in the Wu style, and there’s quite a lot. I’ll continue to go to class and soak up as much as I can about the complete art, but for my own advancement, I’ll concentrate on the 108 Standard Form and these six attributes. I’ll give it some time and see where it gets me. I could do worse.


To the extent that I can refine my practice, my practice will refine me. At least that's my theory.



Below is a video of the Wu style Taijiquan Saber form, performed by Kevin Steele at a large gathering of members of the Wu style in Asia some years ago. Mr. Steel is a disciple of the late Wu Tai Sin. Wu Tai Sin was the 4th generation head of the Wu family and was particularly known for his straight sword and saber forms. He was the uncle of the present head of the Wu family, Wu Kuang Yu (“Eddie”).

If you click on the title of this post, you’ll be directed to the original YouTube video.



Wednesday, November 19, 2008

China's Economy


I found this article at RealClearPolitics.com. It's about the current state of the Chinese economy. They are not untouched in the world wide recession. Furthermore, because China has so many people, and all the numbers are so large, they have very little margin for error and they plot their course for the future.

I've placed an excerpt below. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.


Crash and Burn

How the global economic crisis could bring down the Chinese government

Joshua Kurlantzick, The New Republic Published: Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Normally, the Pearl River Delta, a manufacturing hub in southern China, whirs with the sound of commerce. Alongside massive new highways, clusters of factories churn out toys, electronics, and other consumer products for the world; in Pearl River cities like Guangzhou, nouveau riche businesspeople cut deals at swank hotels.

But in recent months, the Delta has started to seem more like Allentown, circa 1980s. As the global financial crisis hits Western consumers' wallets, orders for the Delta's products have dried up. And angry factory workers, many owed back pay, have taken to the streets. In one recent incident, some 300 suppliers and creditors "descended on the River Dragon complex [a factory where the owners vanished] looting warehouses in the hopes of salvaging something," As USA Today reported.

This unrest is likely to spiral. As the Chinese economy sours for the first time in years, the government this week announced a $586 billion stimulus package. But in some ways, much more is at stake: While, in the U.S., a financial failure would simply mean another dent in George W. Bush's reputation, in China it could mean the breakdown of the entire political order.

For years, the Beijing regime has stayed in power using a basic bargain with its citizens: Tolerate our authoritarian rule and we'll make you rich. And for years, this seemed to work, leading many China-watchers (myself included) to conclude that Beijing was rising into great-power status. But as the financial crisis shows, that bargain rests on weak foundations. And if Beijing breaks its end of the deal, its people, already holding rising numbers of protests, may well break theirs.

Despite its reputation, Beijing's autocracy is anything but absolute. The government long ago abandoned real communist ideology, and its current leader, Hu Jintao, a cipher with a background as a rural bureaucrat, has about as much revolutionary charisma as Bob Dole. And while China's security apparatus is sophisticated, the country is too large, with too many educated, Internet-savvy people, for Beijing to brainwash its citizens the way Kim Jong-il has in North Korea. Most urban Chinese I've met are knowledgeable about their leaders' strengths and flaws, and certainly don't see them as some kind of gods, the way Mao was viewed in the 1950s and 1960s.

So, since the late 1970s, when China's leaders began opening its economy, they have placed their bets on their ability to deliver continued economic growth. "At the time of the Tiananmen protests in 1989"--a time of economic downturn--"China's urban educated populace had good reason to be angry," notes China expert Jonathan Unger, in a study of China's middle class. "Their salaries were low, and sour jokes circulated about private barbers earning more with their razors than hospital surgeons with their scalpels." But as China's economy has grown at explosive rates in recent years, he writes, "there has been a deliberate government policy to favor [this urban population] through their pay slips and perks." China's leaders channeled foreign investment to the urban east coast, created social welfare policies that favored the cities, and, for years, prevented rural people from migrating to the cities, thus keeping the job market open for young urbanites. Deng Xiaoping himself, the author of China's economic reforms, made clear the strategy of favoring the middle class and making growth equal stability. "Let some people get rich first," Deng famously declared.

For the most part, their gamble succeeded. For three decades, China has posted annual growth rates of over 10 percent, and this nominally communist country now seems more capitalist than Wall Street. Even in small provincial cities like Lanzhou, where I visited last year, massive malls, open-air markets, and new skyscrapers dot the downtown.

Since the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, China's urban middle classes have bought into this growth--and the regime. In one Pew poll, over 80 percent of Chinese said they were satisfied with conditions in their country, almost three times the percentage of Americans who were satisfied with conditions in the U.S. (To be sure, this figure relied primarily on surveys from urban, eastern China, where satisfaction is higher than in poorer, rural areas.) Indeed, when I have interviewed young Chinese professionals in cities like Shanghai, I've found little interest in political change. "There's no point in talking about [politics] or getting involved," one yuppie Chinese told Time magazine for an article entitled "China's Me Generation" last year.

Now, that bargain is breaking down. Exports constitute nearly 40 percent of China's GDP--far too high a figure. (By comparison, in the U.S., exports account for about 10 percent of GDP most years.) And the global financial slowdown is already taking a terrible toll. Some 10,000 factories in southern China's Pearl River Delta area had closed by the summer of 2008. Gordon Chang, a leading China analyst, estimates that 20,000 more will shutter by the end of this year. In the third quarter of 2008, Beijing also reported its fifth consecutive quarterly drop in growth, and several private research firms expect a sharper slowdown next year. Additionally, unemployment is skyrocketing; in Wenzhou, one of the main exporting cities, about 20 percent of workers have lost their jobs, Reuters recently reported.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Walk into Chinese History


A friend sent me this article. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

Hiking Into Chinese History

PEOPLE do not usually think of outdoor activities when you mention Beijing. But the city is surrounded by a horseshoe of mountains, nearly a mile high, and fall is the perfect season to visit them.

The mountains protected the city from barbarians on the plains to the north, west and east, and that was one of the reasons why Kublai Khan established his capital there in 1267, starting what the Chinese call the Yuan Dynasty. The city was then called Dadu. You can still see some ruins from that time at Beijing's Dadu Ruins Park between the Third and Fourth ring roads north of the city center. The park contains some replica stuff, and an old mud wall that dates from Kublai Khan's time.

But there is much more Mongolian romance to be found outside of the city in the mountains, where you can combine historical pursuits with some of the finest day hiking in China.

The area around the village of Fanzipai in Miyun County to the north of Beijing is mountainous and wild. There are villages like Fanzipai in the valleys, and you can use them as jumping-off points for hikes into the mountains.

Fanzipai — which means foreign writing sign — also has a Yuan Dynasty relic: some large rocks engraved with Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhist verses. The carvings were probably made by traveling monks — Tibetans, Mongolians and other central Asians. The rocks are behind a gate, which is usually locked, but you can walk around the back to view them. There are signs in Chinese and English with a brief note about the rocks. No ticket is necessary.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Purpose of One's Life


The Japanese have a term for one's purpose in life, ikigai ( 生き甲斐 ). This is also the name of a martal arts blog. You can find this blog by clicking on the title of this post, or by finding over on the right. There are loads of articles there. Please pay a visit. I'm sure you'll find something you'll like.


Good news! My oldest daughter found a job. She's the marketing coordinator for the public transportation agency. It's not her dream job, but it's a paycheck in a time when they're getting harder and harder to come by. Besides earning a paycheck, she's gaining some experience and in a few years will be able to move to something more of her liking.


Volleyball is still going strong for my youngest. They came out on top in the first stage of the state championship playoffs by winning their district; a mini tournament consisting of 6 teams. They are one of 32 remaining teams in their class in the state. There is a mini tournament for 4 teams next week called the regionals. It will be competitive, but they are the favorites going into that.


Right now I'm reading Sit Down and Shut Up by Brad Warner. It's an autobiography as well as an explanation of a Zen classic, the Shobogenzo. His prose is really in your face, but he has a knack of getting across what Zen is about.


I haven't mentioned my Japanese language study in a while. I've been concentrating on my study of kanji, which I intend to continue for a while. Then I want to re copy my notes from the beginning of my study, but this time instead of romanji or hiragana, I want to use the correct kanji for all the Japanese parts. What I am hoping to get out of this is to recongize common words made of multiple kanji.


I'm also reviewing Japanese Grammar by Carol Akiyama. It's a very handy book to keep in your pocket when you're in Japan. It covers the breath of the subject in a very concise format.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Aikijujutsu



Modern Aikido is derived from a traditional Japanese martial art, Aikijujutsu. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a blog entitled Striking Thoughts which has as part of it's current lead article, Martial Arts Devotion, a nice video clip on Aikijujutsu training.

You can also click on the link over at the right to be directed over there. Please pay a visit.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Self Defense and Current Events.



If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a post at the Aikido Journal, which has some pretty good advice for everyday self defense. I have posted a portion of the article below. Please pay a visit.

As for current events, my oldest daughter got a job! After over 6 months of looking and some 500 resumes sent out, she finally got a job in marketing with the local public transportation company. It's not her dream job, but it's a paycheck and those aren't easy to come by these days.

The important thing is that she's off of Dad's payroll. She'll start accumulating some experience on her resume that will help her get something more of what she'd like to do. Now she gets to move on with her life.

The younger daughter is receiving acceptance letters from some of the universities she's applied for. If volleyball doesn't work out for her she'll still be able to have her choice of schools.

I just noticed that Cook Ding's Kitchen has surpassed 30,000 hits! Thank you for coming by.

Closing this post is a film clip of an older Hapkido master. I don't know who this guy is. I was about to say that I hope to be half as agile as he is when I'm his age, but honestly, I'd be happy to be half as agile as he is right how!

Ok, here's the excerpt from that article on self defense:




Coping In A Violent World


by Dennis Fink


Aikido Journal #102 (1995)


Random acts of violence seem to be on the increase, at least in the United States. Although many of us hope to improve our self-defense skills as part of our aiki training, just how realistic is this hope? Aikido Journal has asked four law enforcement professionals to answer a series of questions about how each of us can cope when confronted by violence. Using as a starting point the December 1993 Long Island Commuter train incident, in which a gunman gone berserk killed and wounded dozens of his fellow passengers, we asked our experts the following:


What advice would you give to a passenger seated in a train car in which someone has begun shooting?


Should the untrained individual attempt to disarm the gunman?


What steps might you personally take to deal with the gunman?


Are there any distracting maneuvers that could divert the gunman’s attention in another direction?


Are there techniques taught in the dojo that might be of use in such a situation?


What steps should be taken by bystanders afterwards, while waiting for the police and emergency personnel to arrive?


Is there any way to minimize the panic among passengers?


What common sense steps can we take to protect ourselves in crowded public places such as a train, subway, or bus?


Do you favor banning or placing restrictions on the sale of handguns in an effort to reduce the number of gun-related incidents?


What should people traveling abroad keep in mind when visiting large cities with frequent violence?


If you find yourself in this situation


Depending on the configuration of the train car utilize cover and concealment, if possible. Immediately take cover behind a seat or any other available object that might provide protection, or take advantage of concealment (any object that hides you, but does not provide protection-for example, hiding behind a curtain). This would apply in all three cases, especially if the distance between you and the gunman is too great. If the distance is close, the techniques demonstrated below may be attempted as they apply to each of the three cases indicated.


Should untrained people attempt to disarm?


In most cases, no. In the Long Island Railroad train incident the gunman was captured by untrained citizens, subsequently saving lives. This is, however, a judgment call that has to be made at the time.


The professional response


Please refer to the photos presented. However, nothing is engraved in stone. You cannot prearrange or choreograph a REAL situation. Each is unique.


Distracting the gunman?


The scenario specifies a berserk gunman. To distract a drug-crazed or berserk individual is difficult at best, if not impossible. They develop tunnel vision and are in somewhat of a trance.


Techniques to use


I cannot speak for all dojos. However, I believe that in most legitimate dojos, yes, there are useful techniques. They may need to be modified to meet today’s needs, as indicated in the techniques I demonstrate in this article.


The aftermath


Try not to have too many chiefs, which can confuse the situation further. Clear direction is needed at times like these. Call and wait for police and other emergency services to arrive. Avoid disturbing the crime scene (touching or moving things), assure victims that help is on the way and that everything will be okay. If possible, do not let victims (or family members) see wounds (cover with blanket/coat, etc.). You should be concerned with blood-borne diseases such as AIDS.


Minimizing panic


Attempt to help take charge and assure everyone that the situation is under control. Reassure people that the gunman has been subdued and encourage them to stay calm until help arrives.


Common sense self-protection


Be alert with regard to your surroundings (suspicious characters, gangs or groups of youth, etc.). Avoid confrontations, and whenever possible travel in groups of two or more. Keep jewelry, money, and other valuables unexposed. Avoid empty train cars. If possible, sit in a car with a conductor or motorman. Do not stand near the platform edge in train stations.


Does gun control help?


No. New York City is a perfect example. In New York almost all gun-related crime is committed with illegal, unlicensed guns. New York City has the toughest restrictions on gun permits in the country and has one of the highest incidences of gun-related crime.