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 ~


Thursday, January 31, 2008

2008 Lenten Challenge


Every year, I throw out the Lenten Challenge to my martial arts buddies. It has nothing to do with Christianity or religion. We are simply using this time as a convenient reminder to rededicate ourselves to our training. It’s kind of hard to miss either Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras, the last day before Lent, which is also Paczki Day!) or Easter Sunday (Bunnies, candy, colored eggs; that stuff). Several of us have been doing this for years now.

The challenge is this: from Ash Wednesday (Feb 6, the day before Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rat (子年) ) until Easter (Mar 23, or Apr 27 by the Orthodox calendar), train every day, without fail, no excuses.

It's not as easy as it sounds; things come up. Some days, you might only be able to get a few minutes of training in; but the point is to do it everyday, no matter what.

It doesn't have to be martial arts training either. Whatever it is that you need to really rededicate yourself to: studying, practicing an instrument, walking, watching what you eat; anything - do it every day, without fail.

In the past on some forums, people have posted what they’ve done everyday. I think everyone who’s done that has become tired of writing , and the others get tired of reading it. How about you just post if you’ve had some breakthrough, or you’ve had to overcome some unusual circumstance to continue your training? Maybe just check in every once in a while to let everyone know you’re keeping at it, or to encourage everyone to keep at it.

For those of you who insist that you really do train everyday anyway, by all means continue and be supportive of the rest of us. For the rest of us who intend to train everyday, but sometimes come up short due to life’s propensity for unraveling even the best laid plans, here is an opportunity to put a stake in the ground and show your resolution.

As a gesture of solidarity with my Orthodox friends, I’m going to keep it up through their Easter celebration.

Won't you join me?

Best Regards

Rick
Http://CookDingsKitchen.blogspot.com

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bad weather causing big trouble in China


Below is an excerpt from a Reuters article. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

Right now there are about 500,000 at that train station, and the train isn't expected for another week.

The bad weather is causing them enough trouble on the surface of things, but the ripple effects - power shortages, crops being destroyed, etc. are just going to add to the chaos.


China counts cost of snowy winter chaos

Mon Jan 28, 2008 1:50pm GMT

By Chris Buckley

BEIJING (Reuters) - Brutal winter weather across China on Monday stranded hundreds of thousands of people and choked energy flows, claiming a rising human and economic toll that pummeled local stock prices ahead of Chinese New Year.

At least 24 people had died in two weeks of accidents due to snow, sleet and freezing cold across central, eastern and southern China, regions used to milder winters, Xinhua news agency said.

Many highways, railways and airports were paralyzed, especially in the east, with officials in Hunan, Jiangsu and other provinces calling the snow and cold the worst in decades, and snow and sleet were set to continue into Tuesday.

The bad weather has hit as tens of millions of Chinese head home to celebrate the Lunar New Year, starting on February 7 this year, a human tide that strains transport at the best of times.

China also counted the economic cost from stalled production and shipping and the power brownouts across more than half the nation's 31 provinces. The main Shanghai stock index plunged 7.19 percent, its fourth biggest drop this decade, as investors added the weather woes to gloom about inflation and the global economy.

"This is like another SARS outbreak, which temporarily blocks bloodflow in the economy and causes short-term pain," said Gu Lingyun, fund manager at Orient Securities, referring to the epidemic that panicked China in 2003.

"The snow also calls into question whether the government can successfully tame inflation."

The winter chaos comes at a time when China is anxious to show the outside world its transport network and infrastructure are up to the task of hosting the summer Olympics in August.

China's Communist Party ordered a mobilization of its more than 70 million members to help offset the impact of the heavy snow, and the government will allocate a percentage of membership dues for disaster relief, Xinhua reported.

TRAIN HAVOC

For millions of Chinese workers, the pressing worry is making it back to homes and villages for Lunar New Year celebrations.

Flights at dozens of regional airports have been reduced to a snail's pace or stopped completely. Icebound highways throughout central and eastern provinces have been closed.

At the main rail station in Guangzhou, in the relatively warm commercial far south, 170,000 people crammed together waiting for trains that cannot leave because of electric trains stranded down the line, Xinhua reported.

By the end of Monday, a backlog of 600,000 waiting for trains from the city was expected. Television showed green-uniformed anti-riot troops ready to keep order around the station.

"I've been here in Guangzhou for close to 10 years and have never seen anything like this before," said Song Zhigang, waiting for a train to Wuhan in central China.

Guangzhou set up temporary shelters in stadiums and conference centers that were already housing around 60,000 stranded passengers, Xinhua said.

The China Meteorological Administration said the cold snap showed no signs of lifting and issued a "red alert" warning of snow storms in some central and eastern areas, including around Shanghai, the nation's commercial hub.

"Cut unnecessary outdoors activities," urged the notice on the central forecast Web site (www.nmc.gov.cn).

Cargo ships docked at Shanghai's Baoshan Port were also delayed by snow that has hampered operations.

PRICE OF WILD WEATHER

Already the country is guessing the economic cost, especially from coal shipment delays that have intensified power shortfalls.

The country's power shortage amounts to 39.9 gigawatts -- 5.6 percent of total generating capacity -- with brownouts worst in the country's central and southwest, Zhu Hongren of the National Development and Reform Commission, said.

The power outages have forced some Chinese metal producers to halt or cut output.

"Bad weather hit coal transportation. Hydropower in the south was severely affected by the worst drought in five decades," Zhu told a news conference. He also blamed the closure of small mines.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs, which handles disaster relief, estimated direct economic losses so far at 18.2 billion yuan ($2.5 billion), according to state television.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

'Justice' Japanese style


Below is an excerpt from an article in the Japan Times. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

'Justice' Japanese style

By DAVID McNEILL

Special to The Japan Times

Even in a culture that frowns on displays of extreme emotion, Hiroshi Yanagihara cannot suppress his rage. The state falsely accused him of rape, imprisoned him for two years and then freed him with the odd words of Judge Satoshi Fujita ringing in his years.

Takao Sugiyama, who spent 29 years in prison following a 'forced' confessiono
Takao Sugiyama, who spent 29 years in prison following a "forced" confession DAVID McNEILL PHOTO

"I hope the rest of his life will be meaningful," said Fujita following a rare retrial at the Takaoka Branch of Toyama District Court.

While languishing in Fukui Prison, Yanagihara lost his job and his father, who died alone.

"The judge's not-my-problem attitude made me sick," Yanagihara said after the verdict.

In April 2002, following two rape incidents in Himi, Toyama Prefecture, the then 40-year-old taxi driver was picked from a set of photos by one of the victims after a colleague at his taxi company contacted police to say that an artist's impression of the suspect they had released appeared to resemble Yanagihara.

Convinced they had their man, the police ignored the lack of supporting evidence and pressed hard for a confession.

Yanagihara had a plausible alibi, there were no fingerprints at the scene and he wore shoes smaller than the footprints left behind by the rapist.

But after three days in custody during which police reportedly used a photograph of his dead mother to shame him, saying she would want him to own up, Yanagihara "confessed." Despite later retracting his statement, he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in November 2002.

He was exonerated by Judge Fujita last October — only after the real rapist confessed.

Yanagihara was luckier than Takao Sugiyama, who spent 29 years in prison for a robbery/murder he insists he didn't commit. Now free on conditional release, the 60-year-old must notify the police of every major life change, and will return to jail until he dies if he commits another crime.

Last year, he had to apply to both the justice and foreign ministries for special permission to leave the country and speak to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland about the system of detention and trial that robbed him of half his life.

"The people I talked to in Switzerland taught me a little English," he recalls, laughing bitterly at the memory. "Crazy Japan."

In official comments published last May, the U.N.'s Committee on Torture unleashed withering criticism of Japan's treatment of people under arrest, singling out the extended detention of suspects in local jails known as daiyo kangoku (substitute prisons). In practice, these are the police-station cells in which suspects are incarcerated while detectives question them.

Interrogations and detentions can last up to 23 days without habeas corpus coming into play, meaning there is no requirement before then for suspects to be brought before a court to decide the legality of their detention. In extreme cases, such detentions can stretch into months, in what some critics have called "pretrial punishment."

Forced signed confessions, still considered the "king of evidence" by Japanese courts, are often the result.

Detention in police jails (rather than separate detention facilities controlled not by the police but by the Ministry of Justice), "coupled with insufficient procedural guarantees for the detention and interrogation of detainees, increases the possibilities of abuse of their rights, and may lead to a de facto nonrespect of the principles of presumption of innocence, right to silence and right of defense," said the U.N. committee.

In other words, the police can ignore the most basic legal protections of the Constitution.

The Justice Ministry called the committee's dismal report card "disappointing." However, those U.N. comments echo earlier reports by the Japan Bar Association, Human Rights Watch, the International Bar Association and other U.N. panels that say Japan's treatment of criminal suspects is unfair and leads to coerced confessions.

In about 99 percent of criminal trials in Japan, defendants are found guilty; and in the bulk of cases, the defendant has confessed to charges.

After three weeks, during which suspects often allege psychological and sometimes physical abuse, requests for release on bail can be denied. Lawyers are not allowed during interrogations.

Critics acknowledge that the police are mostly thorough, the legal machine functions efficiently in the majority of cases and that ultimately Japan incarcerates people at a far lower rate than most developed countries. But they say the damning U.N. report has finally focused minds here on something known by defense lawyers for years: the system is open to horrendous abuse.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"The road gods beckoned"


There did we begin
Cloistered in that waterfall
Our summer discipline
- Basho

In this month's National Geogaphic Magazine, there is an article on the hiking trip the Japanese Poet Basho took in 1689. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to that article. The photographs are simply breath taking.

I posted about Basho's trip in August of 2005, and included a link to an online version of Basho's journal. Please visit the archives. The post was entitled "Speaking of Hiking an Ancient Trail."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Olympic Teams Preparing for Beijing Smog



Below is an excerpt from the New York Times, describing how Olympic teams from various countries are preparing to deal with the renown smog in Beijing. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

Olympic Teams Vying to Defeat Beijing’s Smog

COLORADO SPRINGS — As the lead exercise physiologist for the United States Olympic Committee, Randy Wilber has been fielding one bizarre question after another from American athletes training for the Beijing Games.

Should I run behind a bus and breathe in the exhaust? Should I train on the highway during rush hour? Is there any way to acclimate myself to pollution?

Mr. Wilber answers those questions with a steadfast, “No.”

“We have to be extremely careful and steer them in the right direction because the mind-set of the elite athlete is to do anything it takes to get that advantage,” he said. “If they thought locking themselves in the garage with the car running would help them win a gold medal, I’m sure they would do it. Our job, obviously, is to prevent that.”

Mr. Wilber, a 53-year-old scientist based here at the United States Olympic Training Center, has spent most of the past two years vying with his counterparts from other nations to devise smarter, safer ways for athletes to face Beijing’s noxious air.

To protect the athletes, Mr. Wilber is encouraging them to train elsewhere and arrive in Beijing at the last possible moment. He is also testing possible Olympians to see if they qualify for an International Olympic Committee exemption to use an asthma inhaler. And, in what may be a controversial recommendation, Mr. Wilber is urging all the athletes to wear specially designed masks over their noses and mouths from the minute they step foot in Beijing until they begin competing.

His multipronged strategy could give the United States team an advantage over teams from less-prepared countries. But the plan has a downside: it runs the risk of offending the host country, creating political tension.

Chinese officials say the air in Beijing, one of the most polluted cities in the world, will not be an issue when China’s first Olympic Games start Aug. 8. They plan to limit vehicle use, close factories and do everything in their power to bring blue skies to Beijing. Jacques Rogge, the I.O.C. president, said he was confident the air would be clean because Chinese officials “are not going to let down the world.”

Mr. Rogge and Peter Ueberroth, the U.S.O.C. chairman, recalled that pollution was a concern before the Summer Games in 1984 in Los Angeles and in 2004 in Athens, but that the air quality was not a problem when competition began.

But with the Olympics less than seven months away, scientists are skeptical about the air quality for these Summer Games. Olympic teams around the world are preparing for the worst.

Pollution levels on a typical day in Beijing, some researchers say, are nearly five times above World Health Organization standards for safety. The marathon world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie, who has allergies, and the world’s No. 1 women’s tennis player, Justine Henin, who has asthma, have expressed reservations about competing in the Olympics for fear that pollution will exacerbate their breathing problems.

Some athletes who competed in Olympic test events last year complained that the foul air made it difficult to breathe and caused upper-respiratory infections and nausea. Colby Pearce, 35, an Olympic hopeful in track cycling from Boulder, Colo., said he saw smog floating inside the velodrome in Beijing. His throat became scratchy and he developed bronchitis, he said, because of air pollution.

“When you are coughing up black mucus, you have to stop for a second and say: ‘O.K., I get it. This is a really, really bad problem we’re looking at,’ ” he said.

Taiji Question




A blog that I have been visiting a lot lately, is Taiji Question.

The author has made many thought provoking posts, and I wanted to pass this along. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed there, or you can find a link over at the right.

Something that grabbed my eye the other day was a quote: Carry your body in your mind, not your mind in your body.

A good bit of wisdom there. I'll throw out a quote that I encountered not too long ago:

"Be soft in your practice. Think of the method as a fine silvery stream, not a raging waterfall. Follow the stream in its course. It will go its own way, meandering here, trickling there. It will find the grooves, the cracks, the crevices. Just follow it. Never let it out of your sight. It will take you."

Sheng-yen

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pro Wrestling vs MMA


If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an article at Yahoo Sports. There is an excerpt below. A pro wrestler is going to try his hand at Mixed Martial Arts. This just isn't any pro wrestler though. He was a highly regarded college wrestler, who was known for his strength and speed. It sounds like it will be quite an entertaining match.

UFC gambles on untested Lesnar
By Dave Meltzer, Yahoo! Sports
January 21, 2008

Dave Meltzer
Yahoo! Sports

In the spring of 2000, Brock Lesnar was a University of Minnesota senior, just two weeks and a handful of workouts away from the NCAA Division I wrestling tournament.

Today, the 30-year-old Lesnar finds himself in a similar situation as he trains for his match against former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Frank Mir in the most publicized debut in UFC history.

The former “Next Big Thing” of pro wrestling has become ultimate fighting's next gigantic question mark, a 1-0 fighter with 69 seconds of ring experience thrown into the deep end of a shark-infested pool.

Whether he's in over his head remains to be seen, but the reason he's being billed as the semi-main event of UFC 81 on Feb. 2 in Las Vegas is because of his fame as a former World Wrestling Entertainment champion.

The success of this card hinges on people buying the novelty of a former WWE champion fighting a former UFC champion. The idea, if it clicks, is to rally the UFC fan base to want to see the fake wrestler get smashed, and for the pro wrestling audience, to whom the show is being heavily marketed, to tune in out of curiosity to see how one of its all-time tough guys can do.

Lesnar knows his role is to antagonize UFC fans, as he did in dismissing Mir's submission ability in a commercial. Lesnar noted upon signing with UFC a few months ago that when it comes to promoting a fight, he "learned from the best."

"I've got eight workouts left (as of late last week) and I'm very excited for February 2," Lesnar said. "I've got it all to lose and I've got everything to gain. Frank Mir doesn't have the same kind of pressure."

Lesnar knows the knee-jerk reaction is to say a WWE champion would get destroyed in an MMA match. He's heard all the wise cracks: No scripts. No dance partners allowing you to do your moves. With his big muscles, he'll gas out in a minute of real fighting. But what makes this match different from a Kimbo Slice-type of freak show is that those on the inside are even more intrigued than those on the outside.

Oddsmakers are heavily favoring Lesnar, likely because they think people will bet on him because of name recognition as opposed to handicapping the match based on who they think has the best chance of winning.

It would be a mistake to dismiss Lesnar as an over-muscled fake; he's arguably the best all-around athlete of any heavyweight in UFC history. Certainly nobody can match his combination of strength, explosive power, and speed to go along with his 265-pound fighting weight.

After one week of training with Lesnar in late 2006, MMA coach Pat Miletich, a former UFC champion, came away impressed. "In a year, there won't be a man alive who can beat him," Miletich said. Lesnar has spent the last 18 months training at Greg Nelson's Minnesota Martial Arts Academy in Minneapolis, concentrating on striking and jiu- jitsu. He often works out with the national champion University of Minnesota wrestling team -- in particular, Cole Konrad, the 2008 Olympic hopeful who was NCAA heavyweight champion the past two years. Suffice to say, Lesnar gets a regular reality check of where his wrestling stands.

"I'm going to stay in his face and control him," Lesnar said. "I can guarantee I'll be in better condition than Mir."

But will tremendous athletic gifts and 18 months of training help Lesnar overcome a lack of MMA experience and an opponent with enough submission skills to finish even ground experts? People will be watching to see.

Lesnar's pro wrestling fame has allowed him to start as one of MMA's highest-paid fighters. The downside to that fame is it forces him into the spotlight. While most people with his potential would be brought along slowly and shielded from such a dangerous opponents so early in his career, because of what he's getting paid, he has to be in a match like this one with a theme that will grab attention.

Lesnar's strengths as a wrestler were conditioning, physical power, takedown ability, and his ability to turn his opponents over. But outside of his workout partners, the only evidence anyone has seen of him as a fighter was his June 2 win over Min Soo Kim at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Min Soo was a 1996 Olympic silver medalist in judo, so he was no slouch. But he has also had struggles adapting to MMA, with a 4-6 record. Lesnar did a quick takedown and showed unusually powerful short punches in quickly knocking out the Korean on the ground.

But the spot Lesnar put Min Soo -- on his back -- is the exact place Mir wants to be, working for an armbar or a triangle. Mir's most famous moment in UFC was an armbar from the bottom that broke Tim Sylvia's arm and won him the heavyweight title on June 19, 2004.

The question is, if Lesnar can connect from the top with his heavy artillery, how long does Mir have to get that submission before he's knocked silly? While Lesnar will have a significant size advantage over most UFC heavyweights, Mir, at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, will be slightly taller and nearly as heavy as Lesnar, and he does have a wrestling background, including a Nevada high school state championship. If he can keep his distance and avoid a takedown, he'll have a reach advantage, and while not a great striker, Mir has a huge experience edge in that aspect of the game.

"Frank Mir is a black belt in jiu jitsu," Lesnar said. "I've been training a lot in jiu jitsu, and a lot of jiu jitsu defense and a lot of striking and defense. My wrestling workouts have taken a back seat because I did that for 18 years." Lesnar says he has visualized this fight a thousand times and the only consistent thing is his hand being raised at the end.

"Anybody can get knocked out in this sport if you get hit with the right punch with the size of the gloves," he said. "I don't have a weak jaw, but if you get hit in the right spot, anybody can lose. You just try to lower the odds of being in that situation. If I can avoid that, I can win a lot of fights."


Dave Meltzer covers mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Meltzer, who has published the pro wrestling trade industry publication the Wrestling Observer Newsletter since 1982, began covering MMA with UFC 1 in 1993. He is a graduate of San Jose State University, and has written for the Oakland Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and The National. Send Dave a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The 36 Strategies: #25 Steal a Beam to Replace a Pillar


Before getting to #25, Let's review where we are so far. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a website which lists all 36 strategies and gives examples from ancient times.

ONE: Stratagems When Commanding Superiority

Strategy 1 - Cross the sea by fooling the sky (Man tian guo hai)

A familiar sight provokes no attention - Chinese Proverb

Secrets Often hide in the open. In fact, the more obvious a situation seems, the more profound the secrets it may hide.

People tend to ignore the familiar. This is the principle behind the stratagem of crossing the sea by fooling the sky.

Strategy 2 -Besiege the kingdom of Wei to save the kingdom of Zhao (Wei wei jiu zhao)

He who knows the art of the direct and indirect approach will b victorious. Such is the art of maneuvering.


- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

To assault a strong and cohesive enemy head-on is to invite disaster. The stratagem of besieging the kingdom of Wei to save the kingdom of Zhao advocates indirect confrontation

Strategy 3 -Kill with a borrowed Knife (Jie dao sha ren)

If you want to do something, make your opponent do it for you. - Chinese Military Principle


Strategy 4 -Relax while the enemy exhausts himself (Yiyi dai lao)

The female overcomes the male with stillness. - Lao Zi, The Way of Power


Strategy 5 -Loot a burning house (Chen huo da jie)

An enemy with troubles at home is ripe for the conquest - Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Strategy 6 -Make a feint to the east while attacking in the west (Sheng dong ji xi)

The commander who knows how to attack makes his enemy not know where to defend

- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

TWO: Stratagems For Confrontation

Strategy 7 -Create something out of nothing (Wu zhong sheng you)

Everything in the universe is created from something, which in turn is created from nothing

- Lao Zi, The Way of Power


Strategy 8 -Pretend to take one path while sneaking down another (An du chen cang)

Attack succeeds where the enemy neglects defense - Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Strategy 9 -Watch the fires burning across the river (Gean guan huo)

A clam was sunbathing with its shell open when a crane came along and pecked at its flesh. The clam snapped shut, catching the crane's long beak. Niether would yeild to the other. Finally a fisherman came by and caught both of them - Chinese Fable

Strategy 10 -Conceal a dagger in a smile (Xiao lo cang dao)

The man with honey on his lips hides murder in his heart - Chinese Saying


Strategy 11 -Sacrifice the plum tree for the peach tree (Li dai tao jiang)

A Peach tree grows beside the well; A plum tree takes root by it side. When worms invade the peach tree's base, The plum tree is sacrificed - Chinese Folk Song


Strategy 12 -Take the opportunity to pilfer a goat (Shun shou qian yang)

Many grains of sand piled up a pagoda makes - Chinese Saying


THREE: Stratagems For Attack

Strategy 13 - Beat the grass to startle the snake (Da cao jing she)

One can win without a fight - Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Strategy 14 -Raise a corpse from the dead (Jei shi huan hun)

If you lack the proper title, people won't listen to you; and if they don't listen, your orders won't be carried out - Confucius


Strategy 15 -Lure the tiger out of the mountain (Diao hu li shan)

Good opportunities are not as important as favorable terrain - Mencius


Strategy 16 -Snag the enemy by letting him off the hook (Yu qin gu zong)

To seize something, one must first thoroughly endow it - Lao Zi, The Way of Power


Strategy 17 -Cast a brick to attract jade (Pao zhuan yin yu)
T

he kingdom of Jin wanted to attack the kingdom of Chouyou, but there was no direct route. So Jin cast a great bronze bel as a gift for Chouyou. Chouyou biult a road to transport the gift from Jin, and then Jin troops came down the road and conquered Chouyou. - Chinese Tale

Strategy 18 -Catch the ringleader to nab the bandits (Qin Zei qin wang)

Choose a strong one when using bows, Take the long ones when choosing arrows; To shoot people, first fell their steeds, To nab bandits, catch the one who leads - Tang dynasty poet Du Fu

FOUR: Stratagems For Confused Situations

Strategy 19 -Steal the firewood from under the cualdron (Fu di chou xin)

To get rid of weeds, dig up the roots; To stop a pot from boiling, withdraw the fuel - Chinese Proverb

Strategy 20 -Fish in troubled waters (Hun shui mo yu)

Wild times create heroes - Chinese Proverb

Strategy 21 -Slough off the cicada's shell (Jin chan tuo qiao)

Misleading the enemy be false appaerance - this is what strategy is all about - 100 Ways of Warring (Baizhan Qilue)


Strategy 22 -Shut the door to catch the thief (Guan men zhuo zei)

One desperado on the run can scare off one thousand men - Warring States Strategist Wu Qi

Strategy 23 -Befriend a distant state while attacking a neighbor(Yuan jiao jin gong)

People with different dreams can share the same bed - Chinese Saying


Strategy 24 -Obtain safe passage to conquer the Kingdom of Guo (Jia dao fa guo)

Without the lips, the teeth will be cold - Chinese Idiom

Which brings us to Stratagems for Gaining Ground. The first of these is #25:

Steal a Beam to Replace a Pillar.

One interpretation is:

You try to recruit top talent, inducing them to join your concern. This both strengthens your side, and denies the talent to others.This has to do with strengthening your own position at the cost of your rivals.

In my business, we frequently employ this strategy in the form of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD). If a competitor has a press release pertaining to a different market segment, I might play this up to a buyer we are both trying to sell to as having grave consequences in our segment. If I can get him sufficiently agitated, he's going to call my competitor on the carpet, and ask him to explain himself. My competitor is therefore stuck trying to explain his company's position, which may well be benign, while I can go ahead and promote my own goods and services.

Years ago, I won a nice piece of business with a customer, offering a product they wanted at a very competitive price for the general market. They had an incumbent supplier who had a monopoly position there, and taken advantage of it. The prices they were giving this customer was no where near as low as the market priced.

By my just showing up and winning this one program, the incumbent literally spent years having to reduce prices everywhere within this customer, redrawing forecasts for their internal planning, etc. It caused them a great deal of trouble, where in the mean time, my company was able to advance our agenda.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jon Bluming: Karate and Judo Giant


I have become aware that a lot of recent visitors to Cook Ding's Kitchen are from the Netherlands. Welcome! They have mainly been finding their way into the kitchen via a Dutch blog at: http://tai-chi-weblog.blogspot.com

In honor of my new Dutch friends, I decided to post a short biography of one of the true giants in modern martial arts history, Jon Bluming. Mr. Bluming is one of the highest legitimately ranked individuals in both Kyosushin Karate and Judo. The biography is from Wikipedia. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original article where you'll find some useful links if you'd like to learn more. Enjoy.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Jon Bluming (born February 6, 1933) is a Dutch international icon as an instructor of Judo, Kyokushin Karate, and MMA.

Born in Amsterdam, he was 16 when he applied for the Marines and was accepted to the bootcamp in Doorn in July 1949. Just one year later, in the summer of 1950, the Korean War started, and he applied as a volunteer in the van Heutz regiment. When he was wounded, he was transported to a Japanese hospital in Tokyo. There he saw Judo for the first time when he visited the Kodokan in March of 1951. When he saw a demonstration by an elderly man, he knew that this martial art would change his life for good.


Martial arts career

Back in Holland in November, 1953, he came upon the Tung Jen Judo Club, an accident which would change his life. His teacher, Dr. Schutte (then 4th dan Tokyo Hirano), gave him his first dan after only 12 months. In 1955, he received his second dan, and in 1956 he was the first Dutchman to become a Kodokan member, promoted by Ichiro Abe, then 6th dan in La Baulle France; he was then captain of the Tung Jen team, winning the European championships in Bellevue, Amsterdam in September 1956. In 1957, he received his third dan from Tokyo Hirano at a Dutch summer camp when he threw 75 judoka from 4th kyu up to 4th dan in 26 minutes even though he had broken the big toe of his right foot.

Then he broke his right knee and went into surgery. In 1957, he was invited to train a police dojo in Berlin, Germany and a private judo club for several months. The money he earned there was invested to go to Canada. He went to the Canadian embassy, threw his medals on the table, and asked for a chance to go to Canada. His wish was fulfilled, and in January 1958 he arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He was hosted by an old friend and introduced the next day to Dalhousie University. There he started his career as a professional budo teacher; he gave lessons for two dollars an hour. He also founded the Maritimes Judo Association and became a lifetime honorary member.

Back in Tokyo, he started under the guidance of Donn F. Draeger. Weight training for judo and karate allowed him to finally achieve the desired transformation to heavyweight at a solid 102 kg from his previous 79 kg. Nobody could stop him anymore because he also kept his middleweight speed during which Dreager taught him.

In May 1960, he defeated the Japanese champion Kaminaga with a strangulation hold, which knocked him out cold. During the Olympic training summer of 1960, he finally threw Isao Inokuma, his very close friend and training partner, after an hour-long fight with Uchi mata makikomi. He also received his 4th dan from Kodokan in competition. In April of 1959, Dreager asked him to go with him to the police dojo and train under the famous 10th dan Shimizu and Kuroda in bōjutsu, kendo, and iaijutsu. During the all-Japan police championships (Kendo), they were asked to give a demonstration of bojitsu and earned a standing ovation and a third dan in both disciplines from the Japan Kendo federation. Bluming did another examination for Ichitaro Kuroda in iaijutsu and got his third dan from the JKF.

In 1961, Bluming was invited to make a gonin gake (a match against 5 third dans) instead of Inokuma who was in hospital with a bad back injury. Dreager said to him, “Do it, that’s good for your name,” and it was. He won in less than 4 seconds in each match.

[edit] Back to Holland

Bluming received a letter from Holland in which Opa Schutte asked him to come back and teach at the old dojo and the Amateurs Association for a year on contract. Bluming, who by then had a reputation in Japan and was unbeaten in Judo and Karate, went back to teach his old friends, make some new ones, and participate in the world championships in Paris (Dec 1961). It went very differently than planned.

Bluming became coach of the Dutch Amateur Judo Association. He made his name throughout Holland and Europe solely because of his fight against the Judo Union of Anton Geesink, who told tales to the press about Bluming but refused several times to meet Bluming on the tatami. Bluming, under false accusations, was not allowed to participate in the Paris competitions. The press was amazed, especially when Bluming was introduced to the black belts of the NAJA as the new coach in the first week of December 1961 in Bloemendaal. He made a match against all comers, some 80 judoka from 1st dan to 4th dan, and threw them all within about four seconds in full view of the press.

Reporters wrote the next day that Holland would be first and second in Paris and that Bluming must be allowed to fight. This did not help, and Bluming watched the victory of Anton Geesink in Paris. It made him so miserable that he stopped competing and focused only on teaching instead.

In his career as a teacher he has coached several champions, such as:

    • Chris Dolman (four-time world champion),
    • Willem Ruska (double Olympic champion in 1972)
    • Ottie Roethof (world champion in soft style karate and the team world champion, three times world champ judo),
    • Semmy Schilt (at the top in K-1 and free fight winner three times in the daido juku and three time King of Pancrase),
    • The students of his students like Jan Plas (who fought well against Ernesto Hoost and Peter Aerts), Peter Adelaar and Jan Kallenbach.

Bluming traveled throughout Europe and founded the European Kyokushin kai kan. The first karate union in Europe was founded by Bluming in January of 1962. The first-ever karate championships were held in Krasnapolsky Hotel Amsterdam in 1965. The first international match was held against the team of Steve Arneil (a student of Oyama and Bluming in 1967) and was won by the Budokai dojo.

[edit] Kyokushin Kai Karate

On January 15, 1965, Bluming was the first foreigner awarded the 6th dan in Kyokushin karate from the Kyokushinkaikan Honbu by Mas Oyama. The karate world, which was not big in those days, was shocked. Oyama put a classical samurai end to that spectacle and told the karate world that they could fight Bluming man-to-man without any rules in a boxing ring. The one who could beat Bluming that way would win $100,000 from Oyama, who would stop karate and take away Bluming's 6th dan.

In the period after this, Bluming delivered a lot of teachers who sometimes went their own way. One example is Loek Hollander, who was at odds with Bluming. The animosity reached such a level in Japan and Europe that the Japanese organization eventually sided with Loek Hollander. The Dutch Karate Organisation (NKA), an initiative of Bluming, grew larger under Hollander and split in the 1980s when several teachers left Hollander due to "irreconcilable differences".

In January 1989, Bluming received his 9th dan in Kyokushin karate from Japan. The same year, he also got his 9th dan in Judo from Japan; he was the only one in the world who had both of the highest grades in martial arts from the Japanese organisations. In November 1989, he received a visit from Akira Maeda, 8th dan of the Budokai. He told Bluming that Mas Oyama had sent him to talk to Bluming and that he wanted Bluming back in the Honbu and to make him President of the World Karate Kyokushinkai-kan. He wanted Bluming to teach the karateka of the Honbu who were keen on fighting professionally in all-round karate, especially in the fight organisation “RINGS JAPAN“, of which Maeda was then President. Bluming said that he would do so only if Loek Hollander was out of the Honbu. Maeda said that Mas Oyama was aware of the problems but for several reasons could not agree with that.[citation needed]

In April 1994, Bluming received word that Mas Oyama had died suddenly. Devastated, he went to Tokyo to pay his respect and say sayonara to his teacher. On September 4, he received a fax from Kenji Kurosaki that he was awarded with the grade of his teacher Mas Oyama and received his 10th dan signed by 5 big organisation of Budo in Japan. He was the first 6th dan in Honbu.



Monday, January 21, 2008

Still Life


Below is an excerpt from a movie review in the New York Times for Still Life, a movie about life in China. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full review.

Those Days of Doom on the Yangtze

By MANOHLA DARGIS

Published: January 18, 2008

Correction Appended

A modern master of postmodern discontent, Jia Zhang-ke is among the most strikingly gifted filmmakers working today whom you have probably never heard of. During the past decade he has made some half-dozen documentary-inflected fictions and several documentaries that weigh the human cost of China’s often brutal, dehumanizing shift from state-controlled communism to state-sanctioned capitalism, a price paid in the blood and sweat of people who have, paradoxically, inspired him to create works of sublime, soulful art.

In “Still Life,” which won the grand prize at the 2006 Venice Film Festival, the blood and the sweat run directly into the Yangtze River, where they mingle with more than a few tears. The movie takes place amid the clatter and misery of the Three Gorges Dam, which cuts across the Yangtze in central China. The largest dam in the world, Three Gorges is a site of great cultural and political strife because of both environmental and humanitarian concerns. More than one million people have been displaced because of the dam (more are expected to follow), evicted from their homes by a ravenous hunger for power, electric and otherwise, that is washing them and history away.

This may sound like a prescription for social cinema, but Mr. Jia’s interest lies in visual ideas and human behavior, not agendas. Elegantly photographed by Yu Likwai in high-definition digital video, the movie opens with a series of nearly seamless, seemingly contiguous lateral pans across men, women and children congregated in a boat on the Yangtze near the dam. The camera sweeps across the passengers slowly enough so that you can see each person alternately laughing, chattering and in repose. After exploring the formal possibilities of the long shot in his breakthrough film, “Platform” (2000), Mr. Jia has again started to edge near his characters. In “Still Life” he uses human bodies as moving space, to borrow Michelangelo Antonioni’s peerless phrase, but with enormous tenderness.

Antonioni’s influence on Mr. Jia is pronounced, evident in the younger filmmaker’s manipulation of real time and the ways he expresses his ideas with images rather than through dialogue and narrative. The drifting, rootless men and women in many of his movies, and the wide-open, nominally empty landscapes through which they on occasion wander, further underscore the resemblances between the filmmakers. Even so, when Mr. Jia’s characters roam through the crumbling town in “Still Life” — which is being demolished in anticipation of an engineered inundation — it’s impossible not to think even further back in cinema history to Rossellini’s postwar films, like “Paisan” and “Germany Year Zero,” works in which the director’s moral position is etched into every human face and fallen building.

Like Rossellini, Mr. Jia has found a great subject in his rapidly changing country and its people, who seem to be casualties of a different, more elusive war. The two principal characters in “Still Life,” Sanming (Han Sanming) and Shen Hong (Zhao Tao), land in Fengjie separately and never actually meet, bound only by a shared desire to find their errant spouses. Sanming, a fireplug whose muscular arms and back owe something to his time toiling in one of the country’s coal mines, arrives in Fengjie hoping to find his runaway wife and the 16-year-old daughter he has never met. For her part, the willowy, more overtly middle-class Shen Hong, a nurse, is searching for the husband who stopped coming home two years earlier.

Written by Mr. Jia and two collaborators, Sun Jianmin and Guan Na, “Still Life” unfolds as a series of minor events and incidental bits and pieces with little obvious connective tissue. Things happen, though not necessarily as a consequence of what took place in the previous scene. Almost as soon as he enters the doomed town, Sanming walks into a scam (he answers the con with a flick of a switchblade), visits his truculent brother-in-law (who barely looks up from his rice bowl) and joins the ranks of the local work force by picking up a sledgehammer. After about 40 minutes, Mr. Jia suddenly shifts his attention to Shen Hong, who also comes to Fengjie in time to see the 2,000-year-old town die.

Sanming and Shen Hong inhabit separate spaces and personal stories but remain connected by context, culture, language and landscape. The same astonishingly beautiful mountains soar above both their heads. The two are routinely dwarfed by their environments, by the ruined buildings and surrounding gorges alike. The connections between the natural landscape and the man-made one, between the easy beauty of immutable nature and the eerie beauty of devastated culture (Mr. Jia is a poet of decay), are powerful and unsettling. The dam may not outlast either the gorges or the Yangtze, but if it does, you can always see the image of one of the gorges printed on a Chinese currency bill , yet another reminder of a disposable, commodified past.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fortune Cookie


Fortune cookies. They're found all over the world, except apparently in China.

Below is an except from a newspaper article on the history of the fortune cookie. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article. Please pay a visit.


Solving a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside a Cookie

Some 3 billion fortune cookies are made each year, almost all in the United States. But the crisp cookies wrapped around enigmatic sayings have spread around the world. They are served in Chinese restaurants in Britain, Mexico, Italy, France and elsewhere. In India, they taste more like butter cookies. A surprisingly high number of winning tickets in Brazil's national lottery in 2004 were traced to lucky numbers from fortune cookies distributed by a Chinese restaurant chain called Chinatown.

But there is one place where fortune cookies are conspicuously absent: China.

Now a researcher in Japan believes she can explain the disconnect, which has long perplexed American tourists in China. Fortune cookies, Yasuko Nakamachi says, are almost certainly originally from Japan.

Her prime pieces of evidence are the generations-old small family bakeries making obscure fortune cookie-shaped crackers by hand near a temple outside Kyoto. She has also turned up many references to the cookies in Japanese literature and history, including an 1878 image of a man making them in a bakery - decades before the first reports of American fortune cookies.

The idea that fortune cookies come from Japan is counterintuitive, to say the least. "I am surprised," said Derrick Wong, the vice president of the largest fortune cookie manufacturer in the world, Wonton Food, based in Brooklyn. “People see it and think of it as a Chinese food dessert, not a Japanese food dessert,” he said. But, he conceded, “The weakest part of the Chinese menu is dessert.”

Ms. Nakamachi, a folklore and history graduate student at Kanagawa University outside Tokyo, has spent more than six years trying to establish the Japanese origin of the fortune cookie, much of that at National Diet Library (the Japanese equivalent of the Library of Congress). She has sifted through thousands of old documents and drawings. She has also traveled to temples and shrines across the country, conducting interviews to piece together the history of fortune-telling within Japanese desserts.

Ms. Nakamachi, who has long had an interest in the history of sweets and snacks, saw her first fortune cookie in the 1980s in a New York City Chinese restaurant. At that time she was merely impressed with Chinese ingenuity, finding the cookies an amusing and clever idea.

It was only in the late 1990s, outside Kyoto near one of the most popular Shinto shrines in Japan, that she saw that familiar shape at a family bakery called Sohonke Hogyokudo.

“These were exactly like fortune cookies,” she said. “They were shaped exactly the same and there were fortunes.”

The cookies were made by hand by a young man who held black grills over a flame. The grills contain round molds into which batter is poured, something like a small waffle iron. Little pieces of paper were folded into the cookies while they were still warm. With that sighting, Ms. Nakamachi’s long research mission began.

A visit to the Hogyokudo shop revealed that the Japanese fortune cookies Ms. Nakamachi found there and at a handful of nearby bakers differ in some ways from the ones that Americans receive at the end of a meal with the check and a handful of orange wedges. They are bigger and browner, as their batter contains sesame and miso rather than vanilla and butter. The fortunes are not stuffed inside, but are pinched in the cookie’s fold. (Think of the cookie as a Pac-Man: the paper is tucked into Pac-Man’s mouth rather than inside his body.) Still, the family resemblance is undeniable.

“People don’t realize this is the real thing because American fortune cookies are popular right now,” said Takeshi Matsuhisa as he deftly folded the hot wafers into the familiar curved shape.

His family has owned the bakery for three generations, although the local tradition of making the cookies predates their store. Decades ago, many confectioneries and candies came with little fortunes inside, Mr. Matsuhisa said.

“Then, the companies realized it wasn’t such a good idea to put pieces of paper in candy, so then they all disappeared,” he added. The fear that people would accidentally eat the fortune is one reason his family now puts the paper outside the cookie.

The bakery has used the same 23 fortunes for decades. (In contrast, Wonton Food has a database of well over 10,000 fortunes.) Hogyokudo’s fortunes are more poetic than prophetic, although some nearby bakeries use newer fortunes that give advice or make predictions. One from Inariya, a shop across from the Shinto shrine, contains the advice, “To ward off lower back pain or joint problems, undertake some at-home measures like yoga.”

As she researched the cookie’s Japanese origins, among the most persuasive pieces of evidence Ms. Nakamachi found was an illustration from a 19th-century book of stories, “Moshiogusa Kinsei Kidan.”

A character in one of the tales is an apprentice in a senbei store. In Japan, the cookies are called, variously, tsujiura senbei (“fortune crackers”), omikuji senbei (“written fortune crackers”), and suzu senbei (“bell crackers”).

The apprentice appears to be grilling wafers in black irons over coals, the same way they are made in Hogyokudo and other present-day bakeries. A sign above him reads “tsujiura senbei” and next to him are tubs filled with little round shapes — the tsujiura senbei themselves.

The book, story and illustration are all dated 1878. The families of Japanese or Chinese immigrants in California that claim to have invented or popularized fortune cookies all date the cookie’s appearance between 1907 and 1914.

The illustration was the kind of needle in a haystack discovery academics yearn for. “It’s very rare to see artwork of a thing being made,” Ms. Nakamachi said. “You just don’t see that.”

She found other historical traces of the cookies as well. In a work of fiction by Tamenaga Shunsui, who lived between 1790 and 1843, a woman tries to placate two other women with tsujiura senbei that contain fortunes.

Ms. Nakamachi’s work, originally published in 2004 as part of a Kanagawa University report, has been picked up by some publications in Japan. A few customers have bought senbei from Hogyokudo, the Matsuhisa family said. But otherwise, the paper has drawn limited attention, perhaps because fortune cookies are not well known in Japan.

If fortune cookies are Japanese in origin, how did they become a mainstay of American Chinese restaurants? To understand this, Ms. Nakamachi has made two trips to the United States, focusing on San Francisco and Los Angeles, where she interviewed the descendants of Japanese and Chinese immigrant families who made fortune cookies.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Taijiquan Training Advice


This was posted on a Taijiquan mailing list that I am on. It was accumulated from various sources over the years. Enjoy.

* We do Taiji slowly in order to be tranquil. Tranquility leads to
contemplation. Contemplation leads to clarity. Clarity leads to
comprehension. Comprehension enables us to dissolve all doubts.

* The best part of Taijiquan is not the external form, but the
internal cultivation. You need to practice the external in order to
find the internal.

* There's no right or wrong in one's practice, only different levels
of understanding. There's no perfection in one's practice, only
different levels of refinement. There's no graduation in the art of
Taijiquan, only different levels of progress.

* Taijiquan should not be a set of habitual movements, rather, moves
consciously. Mindless repetition of physical practice is only a
mechanical exercise.

* The mechanics of Taijiquan can be taught, but the of Taijiquan can
only be comprehended.

* You cannot enjoy the beauty of Taijiquan if you just practice but
don't understand it. Thirty-percent of understanding comes from your
teacher, but seventy-percent from your diligent practice.

* It is our body that calls us to practice, for it wants to be in
balance; Instead, it is our mind that cries out: "Wait---not today!"

* Don't find excuses not to practice, instead find every opportunity
to practice.

* You have to open your mind first, then your body. You have to relax
your mind first, then your body.

* Cultivate your body in order to accumulate skills. Cultivate your
mind in order to accumulate wisdom.

* It is good to have faith in our practice, but a strong faith needs
to be built upon our deep understanding of the art.

* When you are puzzled, your teacher is the answer. When you have
comprehended, everything is your teacher.

* Indeed, some people feel more relaxed in a couch than at Taiji
lessons, however, they cannot take the couch along with them.

* The success of many ancient Taiji masters was not from reading but
training hard.

* In the old days, students were told to practice first, understand
later. Nowadays, students want to understand first, practice later.

* To study with a famous master does not guarantee that you will be
a successful disciple; you have to make success of your own practice.

* A master is to teach us to be a student of Taiji, not his.

* A master's virtue should be more important than his powerful skill.
Skill dies with the master, but his virtue gets passed down.

* A master's personal interpretations often became a lineage's secret
transmission, and with a theory behind them.

* All masters believe in their own interpretations, there's no point
to compare their differences.

* Tension is like hard knots hidden in our muscles, in our minds, and
deep within our hearts. We practice Taijiquan in order to discover
those hidden knots and dissolve them.

* A relaxed body is a body that does not hold onto things. A relaxed
mind is a mind that does not hold onto things.

* If you want to be relaxed, practice Taiji. If you want others to be
relaxed, practice Taiji (on them).

* There are four levels of relaxation:
Level one: relaxing the shoulders and arms
Level two: relaxing the waist and lower back
Level three: relaxing the knees and feet
Level four: relaxing the mind.

* It is easy to see "what," easy to show "how," but takes true
understanding to explain "why."

* Taiji does not eliminate stress; it only helps you to manage it.

* You have to master yourself in order to master Taiji, and Taiji is
about mastering yourself.

* Don't try to surpass another's ability; instead, surpass your own.

* Taijiquen practice is a slow fix; sometimes it is so slow that the
need to fix the problem is no longer important.

* It is not how many rounds of the routine you've done, it is how
deeply you've worked on it.

* Don't just do the movements---feel them.

* Don't let the unconscious body steer your mind, instead, Let your
conscious mind steer your body.

* You are not doing movements wrong, you are just doing them
unconsciously.

* The common fears of learning Taijiquan:
fear of falling behind
fear of being ignored
fear of being incapable
fear of losing face
fear of physical pain
fear of learning the "wrong way"
fear of showing the "wrong way"
fear of giving commitment
fear of false fantasy

* One bad thing about Taiji is that it is difficult to understand.
One good thing about Taiji is that once you understand it, there's
more to learn.

* The rich contents of Taijiquan are hidden within the transitional
movements.

* Any posture in stillness can be considered a Wuji stance---Not
moving but ready for any action.

* Qi sinks to the dantien is only the midway. Qi sinks to the feet
is the final destination.

* The highest level of Taijiquan has no need of form and
movement---It is a state of non-intent.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cane Fighting and Sherlock Holmes


Over at Martial Views there is a recent article about using cane for self defense. This of course led me to think about Sherlock Holmes.

The fictional detective was not only known to be a pretty decent boxer, but also practiced a martial art known as Bartitsu, which actually existed. Bartitsu was a combination of Jujutsu, Boxing, and Stick Fighting.

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the Bartistsu Society website. There is also a Wikipedia article here.

Bartitsu was practiced in the late 1800's, and early 1900's before sort of petering out. The founder of Bartitsu, Edward William Barton-Wright, left behind quite a bit of written material, and the art has been recreated. You can find out more about this at the Bartitsu Society website.

Finally, here is a video clip of jujutsu being performed in Europe in the early 1900's:



video

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wu Style Taijiquan Qigong


I’ve learned that Wu style taijiquan has something called the 24 Forms. This is the qi gong set of exercises for the style. I’ve been introduced to the first 10 of them. The first 5 (at least) can be practiced as simple warm ups (our 5 Warm Ups that we learn in the very first class), and I am told they can also be practiced as qi gong exercises. In fact all of the 24 Forms can be practiced in a variety of ways. Over time, I’ll learn more about these and the range of how they’re done.

I have been shown one zhan zhaung form that resembles the wuji posture. I haven’t received a lot of directions about it, but the one thing that is different is that the hands are closed. Fold your fingers over your palms, with your thumbs outside of your fingers, pointing down. The purpose of this hand form, I am told, is to keep the energy circulating within the body rather than rolling off the ends of your fingers. Also the idea is to build pockets of heat up in the palms.

Building up heat in the body is a recurring theme I’m seeing in the Wu style. When doing the form, you are weighted 100% on one leg, and then the other. You’re pushing a lot of blood around your body, and really get warm. Even in winter, we tend to be pretty sweaty after doing the form in class; and during the summer, some of the advanced students are drenched.

I’m going to begin to introduce standing into my personal training again, doing it their way.

Over 100,000 Chinese Dead in Work Accidents Last Year


This appeared in Yahoo news. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed there.

Over 100,000 died in China work accidents in 2007

Fri Jan 11, 3:48 AM ET

More than 100,000 Chinese died in workplace accidents last year, including on the roads and railways, but the figure was down one-tenth on 2006, a senior official said on Friday.

Li Yizhong, head of the State Administration of Work Safety, said 101,480 people died but that government education and publicity campaigns were paying off.

"The national production safety situation continues to steadily improve," he told a national meeting, carried live on central government Web site http://www.gov.cn.

Accidents in coal mines and on the roads showed the largest improvement, Li added.

China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, with fatal accidents taking place almost on a daily basis as mine owners push productions beyond safety limits to pursue profits.

Li said many problems remained.

"One is that the implementation and propagation of the concept of safe development and of safe production policies is not deep enough," he said. "The work of some localities and work units is still superficial."

Supervision and safety inspections were carried out unevenly, Li added.

"The results have not been consolidated, and there can easily be localized rebounds," he said. "It will be hard to maintain the downward trend in 2008."

Last year's death toll was still unacceptably high, added Zhou Yongkang, the former head of public security who was raised to the Politburo Standing Committee in October, the Communist Party's most senior group of leaders.

"It ought to be said that 100,000 people dying in accidents every year is a serious social problem," he said.

Natural disasters including floods, landslides and lightning strikes also took their toll last year, killing 2,325 people, the Ministry of Civil Affairs added.

More than 1.46 million houses were destroyed and 48.67 million hectares of arable land affected, the ministry added in a statement on its Web site (http://www.mca.gov.cn).

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

How do you look like your martial art?


A question on a martial arts forum asked how do you make the way you fight look like the style you are studying. That’s an interesting question. What does a pure taijiquan guy, or a karate guy, or whatever, really supposed look like in a fight?

A martial art is based on a philosophy, has principles derived from that philosophy, and a training method which is meant to imprint those principles into your body. What we tend to think of as a martial art is really it’s associated training method.

Fighting is fighting. You’ll fight the way you are trained. To the extent that the training method has had an impact on us, how we fight will be influenced by our training method.

In the larger sense of how we live our lives, if we really want to live up to some of the hype of the benefits that taijiquan (or karate or zen; you name it) is suppose to bring to us, we have to open minded and let the training method mold us.

Without any gaps, water fits the container into which it was poured.

I once read an interview with a martial arts master. In the interview he said that before studying the martial art he had mastered, he had trained diligently in something else. When he took up his current martial art, his teacher had him do nothing but the standing exercise for several years, to “erase” the previous martial art from his body, while still doing something that would help him make progress in his new study.

When I was young, I trained very intensely in aikido for a number of years. For the last six months or so, I have been studying taijiquan. If someone were to take a poke at me right now, how I respond would probably be a lot more like aikido (having left a strong imprint on me) than taijiquan.

With my new study with the taijiquan people, I have been scrupulous about doing things “their way.” I have not retained any martial arts practice I’ve learned from any other source, in an effort to allow taijiquan to leave an imprint on me.

In years to come, if I continue to apply myself, my response will gradually resemble aikido less and less; and taijiquan more and more. This is the outcome I am working towards.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Pollution, Safety, in China


Below is an excerpt from an article in the New York Times regarding the appalling working conditions that are present in China. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

National Geographic Magazine this month has an article about how recycling is largely off shored (big surprise there). This recycling generally goes on in third world countries using very primitive technology and is extremely dangerous to the workers, and ends up putting toxic materials into the environment. A link to the article is here.

In Chinese Factories, Lost Fingers and Low Pay

GUANGZHOU, China — Nearly a decade after some of the most powerful companies in the world — often under considerable criticism and consumer pressure — began an effort to eliminate sweatshop labor conditions in Asia, worker abuse is still commonplace in many of the Chinese factories that supply Western companies, according to labor rights groups.

The groups say some Chinese companies routinely shortchange their employees on wages, withhold health benefits and expose their workers to dangerous machinery and harmful chemicals, like lead, cadmium and mercury.

“If these things are so dangerous for the consumer, then how about the workers?” said Anita Chan, a labor rights advocate who teaches at the Australian National University. “We may be dealing with these things for a short time, but they deal with them every day.”

And so while American and European consumers worry about exposing their children to Chinese-made toys coated in lead, Chinese workers, often as young as 16, face far more serious hazards. Here in the Pearl River Delta region near Hong Kong, for example, factory workers lose or break about 40,000 fingers on the job every year, according to a study published a few years ago by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Pushing to keep big corporations honest, labor groups regularly smuggle photographs, videos, pay stubs, shipping records and other evidence out of factories that they say violate local law and international worker standards. In 2007, factories that supplied more than a dozen corporations, including Wal-Mart, Disney and Dell, were accused of unfair labor practices, including using child labor, forcing employees to work 16-hour days on fast-moving assembly lines, and paying workers less than minimum wage. (Minimum wage in this part of China is about 55 cents an hour.)

In recent weeks, a flood of reports detailing labor abuse have been released, at a time when China is still coping with last year’s wave of product safety recalls of goods made in China, and as it tries to change workplace rules with a new labor law that took effect on Jan. 1.

No company has come under as harsh a spotlight as Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, which sourced about $9 billion in goods from China in 2006, everything from hammers and toys to high-definition televisions.

In December, two nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, documented what they said were abuse and labor violations at 15 factories that produce or supply goods for Wal-Mart — including the use of child labor at Huanya Gifts, a factory here in Guangzhou that makes Christmas tree ornaments.

Wal-Mart officials say they are investigating the allegations, which were in a report issued three weeks ago by the National Labor Committee, a New York-based NGO.

Guangzhou labor bureau officials said they recently fined Huanya for wage violations, but also said they found no evidence of child labor.

A spokesman for Huanya, which employs 8,000 workers, denied that the company broke any labor laws.

But two workers interviewed outside Huanya’s huge complex in late December said that they were forced to work long hours to meet production quotas in harsh conditions.

“I work on the plastic molding machine from 6 in the morning to 6 at night,” said Xu Wenquan, a tiny, baby-faced 16-year-old whose hands were covered with blisters. Asked what had happened to his hands, he replied, the machines are “quite hot, so I’ve burned my hands.”

His brother, Xu Wenjie, 18, said the two young men left their small village in impoverished Guizhou Province four months ago and traveled more than 500 miles to find work at Huanya.

The brothers said they worked 12 hours a day, six days a week, for $120 to $200 a month, far less than they are required to be paid by law.

When government inspectors visit the factory, the young brothers are given the day off, they said.