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 ~
Friday, June 27, 2008
I came across this article and video clip on a mailing list I belong to. The article is about a motion research study done on a master of the martial arts of taijiquan and bajiquan. It was accompanied by the following video clip.
Stanford researchers record 'optimalforce' of tai chi master
By S.L. Wykes
Mercury NewsArticle Launched: 05/03/2007 01:33:41 AM PDT
Tai chi master Chen Xiang performs tai chi movements while a motion analysis test is beingconducted at the Motion and Gait Analysis Laboratory in Palo Alto on April 30, 2007.(Joanne Ho-Young Lee/Mercury News.Jessica Rose, an orthopedic surgery professor at Stanford, could not believeher eyes. Tai chi master Chen Xiang, sensor balls taped to key body joints, wasdemonstrating palm, elbow and fist strikes so fast - and with such force - thatthe sensors kept flying off his body. And then she glanced at her computerscreen, where Chen's movements were mirrored by an animated stick figure.Like a light-footed dancing skeleton, the figure's grace was undeniable. Andfrightening. The explosive power of the strikes was stunning - 400 pounds offorce generated by Chen's body accelerating from 0 mph to 60 mph in 2.8seconds - faster than any Lamborghini out on the street. This level of powerwas a first for her lab. It's also just plain unusual.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
#27 is Be Wise, but Play the Fool. In short, appear less than you are so that your opponents underestimate you. If your opponents don’t take you seriously, you have great freedom to act.
In literature, the most widely known example of this strategy can be found in Shakespeare's Hamlet. On the death of his father, Prince Hamlet exaggerated the extent of his mourning to the point of feigning madness in order to throw off his enemies. First, this was a strategy of survival, as he wasn’t quite sure who was indeed his enemy and who was not. Secondly, this provided him a cover under which he plotted taking action on his own.
In history, the most widely known example may be the story of The 47 Ronin. The retainers of Lord Asano, who had been wrongfully forced to commit suicide scattered all over Japan apparently leading lives of dissipation in order to lull the object of their hatred, Lord Kira, into complacency. They gave up their families and homes. After some years passed, Lord Kira came to believe that the former retainers of Asano no longer represented a danger to him.
It was then on a snowy winter night, that the 47 followers of Lord Asano gathered to extract their revenge.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Year ago, I studied Yoshinkai Aikido; that is, the Yoshinkan Aikido as taught by Takeshi Kushida, 8th Dan. Since that time, Kushida Sensei and the Yoshinkan organization have gone their different ways. If you click here, you’ll be directed to Kushida Sensei’s organization, where you’ll find some video clips.
Yoshinkan was one of the earliest incarnations of aikido taught by a student of the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. Gozo Shioda studied under Ueshiba in back in the 30’s, and founded the Yoshinkan dojo, which has evolved into it’s own substyle of aikido. Yoshinkan remains closely aligned in technique with Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, the art that Ueshiba studied which became the foundation of his Aikido. Aikido is the child of Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu.
Here is a video clip which is a short documentary on Yoshinkan Aikido. The original post on YouTube page is here.
Monday, June 23, 2008
For starters, there are those who wonder who the heck is Cook Ding? Cook Ding is a character is a story by Chuang Tzu (Zhuang Zi) in the Inner Chapters section of his eponymus book, which is one of the foundational texts of Daoism. Here below is a translation of that story:
A cook was butchering an ox for Duke Wen Hui.
The places his hand touched,
His shoulder leaned against,
His foot stepped on,
His knee pressed upon,
Came apart with a sound.
He moved the blade, making a noise
That never fell out of rhythm.
It harmonized with the Mulberry Woods Dance,
Like music from ancient times.
Duke Wen Hui exclaimed: "Ah! Excellent!
Your skill has advanced to this level?"
"What I follow is Tao,
The cook puts down the knife and answered:
Which is beyond all skills.
"When I started butchering,
What I saw was nothing but the whole ox.
After three years,
I no longer saw the whole ox.
"Nowadays, I meet it with my mind
Rather than see it with my eyes.
My sensory organs are inactive
While I direct the mind's movement.
"It goes according to natural laws,
Striking apart large gaps,
Moving toward large openings,
Following its natural structure.
"Even places where tendons attach to bones
Give no resistance,
Never mind the larger bones!
"A good cook goes through a knife in a year,
Because he cuts.
An average cook goes through a knife in a month,
Because he hacks.
"I have used this knife for nineteen years.
It has butchered thousands of oxen,
But the blade is still like it's newly sharpened.
"The joints have openings,
And the knife's blade has no thickness.
Apply this lack of thickness into the openings,
And the moving blade swishes through,
With room to spare!
"That's why after nineteen years,
The blade is still like it's newly sharpened.
"Nevertheless, every time I come across joints,
I see its tricky parts,
I pay attention and use caution,
My vision concentrates,
My movement slows down.
"I move the knife very slightly,
Whump! It has already separated.
The ox doesn't even know it's dead,
and falls to the ground like mud.
"I stand holding the knife,
And look all around it.
The work gives me much satisfaction.
I clean the knife and put it away."
Duke Wen Hui said: "Excellent!
I listen to your words,
And learn a principle of life."
This has been on of my favorite stories.
I had just recently changed jobs when I began this blog, and have just recently changed jobs again a few months ago. I am still with a Japanese company, and am once again surrounded by Japanese colleagues who are encouraging me in my study of their language. My progress is slow but steady. This will be a life time study to achieve any fluency.
My oldest daughter has graduated from the university and is now officially unemployed. I can find no fault in her efforts to find work in her field though. The opportunities are few and the competition is fierce. I am sure that something will break her way soon. She’s had four interviews with one company. She’s supposed to hear something this week.
My youngest daughter just finished a successful club season in travel volleyball. The summer camps have begun, and we look forward to a successful high school season for her senior year. She has some small schools interested in her playing volleyball for them. I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll find a fit for her. The main point is her education. If she can play at the college level and get some money knocked off the school costs to boot, then it’s a no brainer. The question is no longer can she play in college, but whether there is a good fit or not.
My wife and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. As I look back on our life together, I look forward to our retiring together in about another 10 years or so. We can clearly see the day when our oldest will be out of the house on her own. In another year, the youngest will be off to college. Just as it was when we first started out, it’ll just be the two of us.
I am approaching one year of training in the Wu style of Taijiquan. I have learned the sequence of both the 108 standard and 54 round competition forms. I have been introduced to the “24 forms”, the supplementary exercises of the Wu style, and I have also been introduced to the first three of the 12 basic types of push hands exercises.
It’s been very good for me. I feel great. I am relaxed, and clear headed. I feel strong.
For my second year of TJQ training, in addition to continual refinements to both the 108 and 54 forms, I hope to refine the 24 forms and better integrate them into my personal practice, especially the standing practice; as well as learn more of the push hands sequences (with whatever skill level I can bring). I am not really interested in adding any weapons forms until after my youngest graduates from high school. So my priorities are: form refinements, integrating the 24 forms into my personal practice, and going deeper into push hands practice.
With the coming of the warmer weather, I haven’t been lifting weights or walking on the treadmill as much. I find myself outside doing yard work a lot. Truth be told, I’d rather get my exercise that way. As the seasons change, we change the way we live our lives. This is one of those changes. I have also come to accept that I don’t get as much reading done during the summer as the winter, which makes one less thing I can make myself crazy about.
With the economy the way it is, especially here in Michigan, there are a lot of vacation homes for sale. I’ve dreamt of living on a lake for years. We’re looking, but also realize that taking on a vacation home is taking on another obligation (payments, taxes, maintenance, time to get there and back, fuel, etc.). I can tell you that the prices aren’t as rock bottom as the news might lead you to believe; at least for the listings we’ve looked at.
Speaking of the economy, in the yin and yang of things, I see a lot to be encouraged about. In Michigan, especially SE Michigan, when the automakers do well, we all do well. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed much over the years. The Detroit 3 (who used to be known as The Big 3) are all making painful changes that they really should have made years ago.
When people start buying cars again, it will be like rain in the desert around here.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
One of my favorite stories from Chuang Tzu (Zhuang Zi) is the story of the fighting cock:
Chi Hsing Tzu was a trainer of
fighting cocks for King Hsuan.
He was training a fine bird.
The king kept asking
if the bird was ready for combat.
“Not yet”, said the trainer.
“He is full of fire.
He is ready to pick a fight
with every other bird.
He is vain and confident
of his own strength.”
After ten days he answered again,
“Not yet. He flares up
when he hears another bird crow.”
After ten more days,
“Not yet. He still gets that angry look
and ruffles his feathers.”
Again ten days.
The trainer said,
“Now he is nearly ready.
When another bird crows,
his eyes don’t even flicker.
He stands immobile like a block of wood.
He is a mature fighter.
Other birds will take one look at him and run.”
He just won the US Open on a bad leg. His leg had just been operated on. His doctor thought he should be on crutches, not golfing. He managed to pull it together and beat everybody else.
If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.
The Frozen Gaze
Rocco Mediate’s head swiveled about as he walked up the fairway of the sudden-death hole of the U.S. Open on Monday. Somebody would catch his attention, and his eyes would dart over and he’d wave or make a crack. Tiger Woods’s gaze, on the other hand, remained fixed on the ground, a few feet ahead of his steps. He was, as always, locked in, focused and self-contained.
The fans greeted Mediate with fraternal affection and Woods with reverence. Most were probably rooting for Rocco, but only because Woods, the inevitable victor, has risen above mere human status and become an embodiment of immortal excellence. That frozen gaze of his looks out from airport billboards, TV commercials and the ad pages. And its ubiquity is proof that every age finds the heroes it needs.
In a period that has brought us instant messaging, multitasking, wireless distractions and attention deficit disorder, Woods has become the exemplar of mental discipline. After watching Woods walk stone-faced through a roaring crowd, the science writer Steven Johnson, in a typical comment, wrote: “I have never in my life seen a wider chasm between the look in someone’s eye and the surrounding environment.”
The coverage of him often centers upon this question: How did this creature come about? The articles inevitably mention his precocity (at age 3, he shot a 48 on the front nine of a regulation course) and provide examples of his athletic prowess: Once Woods tried out four drivers that Nike was experimenting with and told the lab guys that he preferred the heavier one. The researchers thought the clubs were the same weight, but they measured and Woods was right. The club he’d selected was heavier by the equivalent of two cotton balls.
But inevitably, it is his ability to enter the cocoon of concentration that is written about and admired most. Writers describe the way Earl Woods, his lieutenant colonel father, dropped his golf bag while Tiger was swinging to toughen his mind. They describe his mother’s iron discipline at home. “Old man is soft,” Kultida Woods once said of her husband. “He cry. He forgive people. Not me. I don’t forgive anybody.”
Tiger was the one dragging them out on the course to practice. At age 6 months, he was put in a baby chair and had the ability, his father claimed, to watch golf for two hours without losing focus.
As an adult, he is famously self-controlled. His press conferences are a string of carefully modulated banalities. His lifestyle is meticulously tidy. His style of play is actuarial. He calculates odds and avoids unnecessary risks like the accounting major he once planned on being. “I am, by nature, a control freak,” he once told John Garrity of Sports Illustrated, as Garrity resisted the temptation to reply, “You think?”
And for that, in this day and age, he stands out. As I’ve been trying to write this column, I’ve toggled over to check my e-mail a few times. I’ve looked out the window. I’ve jotted down random thoughts for the paragraphs ahead. But Woods seems able to mute the chatter that normal people have in their heads and build a tunnel of focused attention.
Writers get rhapsodic over this facility. “Woods’s concentration often seems to be made of the same stuff as the liquid-metal cyborg in Terminator 2: If you break it, it reforms,” David Owen wrote in Men’s Vogue.
Then they get spiritual. In Slate, Robert Wright only semi-facetiously compared Woods to Gandhi, for his ability to live in the present and achieve transcendent awareness. Analysts inevitably bring up his mother’s Buddhism, his experiments in meditation. They describe his match-mentality in the phrases one might use to describe a guru achieving nirvana. He achieves, they say, perfect clarity, tranquility and flow. We’re talking about somebody who is the primary spokesman for Buick, and much of the commentary about him is on the subject of his elevated spiritual capacities.
And here we’re getting to the nub of what’s so remarkable about the “Be A Tiger” phenomenon: He’s become the beau ideal for golf-loving corporate America, the personification of mental fortitude.
The ancients were familiar with physical courage and the priests with moral courage, but in this over-communicated age when mortals feel perpetually addled, Woods is the symbol of mental willpower. He is, in addition, competitive, ruthless, unsatisfied by success and honest about his own failings. (Twice, he risked his career to retool his swing.)
During the broadcast of Monday’s playoff round, Nike ran an ad that had Earl Woods’s voice running over images of his son: “I’d say, ‘Tiger, I promise you that you’ll never meet another person as mentally tough as you in your entire life.’ And he hasn’t. And he never will.”
You can like this model or not. Either way, the legend grows.
Friday, June 13, 2008
A friend sent me this article, from which I've excerpted a portion below. It's fascinating. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original article. There, you will find a slide show that you won't want to miss. Enjoy.
Mystery on Fifth Avenue
THINGS are not as they seem in the 14th-floor apartment on upper Fifth Avenue. At first blush the family that occupies it looks to be very much of a type. The father, Steven B. Klinsky, 52, runs a private equity company; the mother, Maureen Sherry, 44, left her job as a managing director for Bear Stearns to raise their four young children (two boys and two girls); and the dog, LuLu, is a soulful Lab mix rescued from a pound in Louisiana.
They are living in a typical habitat for the sort of New Yorkers they appear to be: an enormous ’20s-era co-op with Central Park views (once part of a triplex built for the philanthropist Marjorie Merriweather Post), gutted to its steel beams and refitted with luxurious flourishes like 16th-century Belgian mantelpieces and custom furniture made from exotic woods with unpronounceable names.
But some of that furniture and some of those walls conceal secrets — messages, games and treasures — that make up a Rube Goldberg maze of systems and contraptions conceived by a young architectural designer named Eric Clough, whose ideas about space and domestic living derive more from Buckminster Fuller than Peter Marino.
The apartment even comes with its own book, part of which is a fictional narrative that recalls “The Da Vinci Code” (without the funky religion or buckets of blood) and “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” the children’s classic by E. L. Konigsburg about a brother and a sister who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and discover — and solve — a mystery surrounding a Renaissance sculpture. It has its own soundtrack, too, with contributions by Kate Fenner, a young Canadian singer and songwriter with a lusty, alternative, Joni Mitchell-ish sound, with whom Mr. Clough fell in love during the project.
It all began simply enough, Ms. Sherry said, when she and her husband bought the 4,200-square-foot apartment for $8.5 million in 2003.
“I just didn’t want it to be this cookie-cutter, Upper East Side, Fifth Avenue kind of place,” she said.
The six-foot-tall Ms. Sherry doesn’t fit the mold of Fifth Avenue either: she is a former triathlete and nonfiction writer who is more interested in her children’s sneakers than in the offerings of the shoe department at Barneys.
Architects she met with made very cookie-cutterish proposals, until she met Mr. Clough, now 35, who was a friend of a friend, and they got to talking. He had smart ideas, like moving the front door and eliminating the very grand and formal front hall, the kind with marble floors and too many doors “that you’d put a round table in the middle of and flowers on top of that,” Ms. Sherry said. “A total waste of space.”
What Ms. Sherry didn’t realize until much later was that Mr. Clough had a number of other ideas about her apartment that he didn’t share with her. It began when Mr. Klinsky threw in his two cents, a vague request that a poem he had written for and about his family be lodged in a wall somewhere, Ms. Sherry said, “put in a bottle and hidden away as if it were a time capsule.” (Ms. Sherry said that her husband is both dogged and romantic, a guy singularly focused on the welfare of children, not just his own. Mr. Klinsky runs Victory Schools, a charter school company that seeds schools in neighborhoods around the country, as well as an after-school program in East New York that his own children help out with regularly.)
That got Mr. Clough, who is the sort of person who has a brainstorm on a daily basis, thinking about children and inspiration and how the latter strikes the former. “I’d just read something about Einstein being inspired by a compass he’d been given as a child,” he said. The Einstein story set Mr. Clough off, and he began to ponder ways to spark a child’s mind. “I was thinking that maybe there could be a game or a scavenger hunt embedded in the apartment — that was the beginning,” he said.
Before long, his firm, 212box, was knee-deep in code and cipher books, furnituremakers were devising secret compartments, and Mr. Clough’s former colleague, Heather Bensko, an architectural and graphic designer who had been his best friend at the Yale School of Architecture, found herself researching the lives of 40 historical figures, starting with Francis I of France and ending with Mrs. Post.
Ms. Bensko said she began writing chapters for a book, imagining scenes from the childhoods of those inspirational figures and trying to connect them. When that didn’t pan out as a narrative technique, she invented two best friends living in New York City who discover a mystery in an apartment and, in the course of unraveling the mystery, a sort of treasure hunt, they “meet” the historical figures.
All of that was tied into gizmos Mr. Clough, Ms. Bensko and others in their office hid in the apartment — without telling the clients — in a way that is almost too complicated to explain.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Nosce Te Ipsum is an interesting blog that you can find by either clicking on the title of this post, or on the links over on the right.
From "About this blog:"
I’ve put this blog together to serve as a kick up the arse for my Meditation / Qi Gong practice. Finally I’m going to get my finger out and start practising properly.
The long and short of it is that I’ve had the book 100 Days to Better Health, Good Sex and Long Life for 6 years and I’ve never got further than 20 days into it! This time I’m definitely going to do it all, and hey, if that goes well maybe complete the second book too!
I’m not a hippie meditator! I’ve been doing martial arts for 22 years (time just carries on passing by! Just gotta carry showing up and training…); trained with KGB, GSG9, Police, Doormen and Bodyguards among others (I still manage not to be very good at it though!). If I have to say I follow any kind of meditative ’school’ it would have to be Mantak Chia’s as taught by Kris Deva North and Eric Yudelove, and also Glenn Morris’s Lightening Path way. As far as the Martial side; anything that’s not flashy, works under stress/pressure/(when I’m drunk!) and not for sport, is all good in my books!Anyway, that’s more than enough about me, it’s the practice that matters and Hopefully there’ll be lots of posts about that!
Please pay a visit.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an interview with an early British student of Judo, who learned from the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano. I've excerpted a portion below.
Trevor Pryce Leggett; Physical Education, Judo, and Kano's Original Intention. An interview conducted October 6, 1999 with the assistance of Richard "Dicky" Bowen.
"The future of Budo is in response." -T.P. Leggett-
While in London I was able to visit with Britain's senior Judoka, Trevor Leggett. With his eighty-five years stretching through Judo, Buddhism, Education, Language and Psychology in many ways he is a Renaissance man. His many books on both Judo and Buddhism have been the gate for several generations of readers to enter Asia. Quick to get to the point he said he preferred the interview to focus on things important to him rather than on himself. So it was.
He recalled how at the age of seventeen, hearing Kano lecture on Judo. "Judo for life not competition" was his message. Leggett recalled how even in old age Kano stood straight with impeccable "shinzen hontai" or balanced posture. In Leggett's book on Judo kata Kano is pictured with the same posture demonstrating the Ju No Kata, or kata of ideal movements. "Even better than his younger partner" says Leggett. Leggett continued, "Kano did not want Judo in the Olympics. Yes, he had an interest in the Olympics but this was not to do with entering it. Judo has been destroyed by competition. Kano said it was "Maximum efficiency leading to mutual aid and understanding" The animal movements of a man controlled by a ritualized activity which in turn becomes friendship and understanding. The understanding gained on the judo mats is then extended to business and into interpersonal relationships and into life generally. Judo was not supposed to become a political arena.
Kano said, that to try to force through one's point of view by stressing advantages of wealth, of strength, or political advantage may overcome the opposition for the moment but the opponent is not really convinced, he has to be convinced by calm reasoning. With Judo protocol and courtesies to keep the animal aspect in check wedded to a vigorous physical exchange, Judo can cut through class and cultural differences to create a comradery of friendship. The ritual of bowing, particularly the kneeling bow, is part of this development. The emphasis on cleanliness is also part of this. Walking down a dirty, smelly hall does not do one any good.
Modern Judo has done away with these ideas and abandoned the intent of Kano. This along with the overemphasis on competition has morally and technically bankrupted Judo. It was not intended as a sport for an audience to watch, it was a practice to be participated in. The cleanliness, the order, the ritual courtesies led by a good teacher - this was the path Kano taught. This creates understanding with accompanying technical proficiency.
One tough medical student who practiced randori with me would say, "Thank you" after I threw him and "Excuse me" after he threw me! Initially I did not understand his pedantic adherence to saying this over and over. Then I realized. It was his way of checking himself and his own temper. This is what allowed him to maintain his own self observation and discipline.
And this is not unique to the Japanese. The old aristocratic British after the French Revolution took up boxing so they could settle scores without the authority of the sword (which characterized the French way). The story of Squire Smith shows this. Squire Smith tied his horse up to go in a shop and a cartman pushed it aside. The Squire emerged from the shop catching him and they had a fight. They were separated by the police but the carter went home wondering whether the Squire, his landlord, would have him thrown out of his house. Instead the cartman received a handerchief from the Squire. When he opened it he saw two golden coins and a note which read, "That was the best fight I've had in many years!" Empty hand combat can transmute into friendship. But this cannot happen with a sword.
I asked Leggett for his views on physical education and his comment was, "They need to get away from ball games. Life is not a ball that you can throw and kick and steer. These ball games require too much space and have no relevance to life. On the other hand if they taught Kendo, or Judo, or some sort of stick-fighting - that is something that teaches economy, posture and timing. These are traits used in life and can also give one a way to defend oneself.
Judo for instance teaches you how to use the body and movement in changing furniture around! Exercises from Judo and other martial arts, like Shaolin, you can do everyday with minimal space. They are good for you and have utility in life. The one ball game I believe is the exception is golf because it favours experience and spans age groups. At sixty-five I could still play golf against young men in their twenties and win. Admittedly as a trained judoman I could retain balance well into age. But still it required too much space and most cannot do it everyday. For some time I had a ball on a string hanging from the doorway and a small wooden sword. I would hit the ball with the small sword and try to hit it again and again while it swung from each hit. It develops timing and responsiveness.
Monday, June 02, 2008
By CHRISTINE HAUGHNEY