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 ~
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Below is an excerpt from a common problem in the practice of martial arts: telegraphing your intentions. The full article can be read here.
Katsuhiko Shinzato in Okinawa, he demonstrated an uncanny ability to know where a punch or kick would come from. He asked me to stand in front of him and try to punch or kick him. As soon as I would begin to move he would point to the attacking arm or leg.
What was uncanny was his ability to do this before I had moved very much, or perhaps even before I had actually started moving at all. When he pointed to my arm or leg, it stopped me from moving.
That was several years ago. I have thought about it often, but only recently have begun to understand how he did this (or at least I think so).
First, at that time I did not understand how to generate power with the koshi. I had no idea at all! As a result, my movements, whether punches, kicks, or any other type of movement, were powered from the extremeties. For example, if I wanted to punch with my right hand, I would pull back with my right arm and raise my right shoulder. Quite obviously, I was telegraphing my movements. It must have been very easy for Shinzato Sensei to read my intentions and movements.
Monday, June 22, 2009
The Dao De Jing, besides being one of the foundational documents of philosophical Daoism, is one of the treasures of world literature. You can click here for a online version of this classic. Below is Chapter #30, on Violence.
Powerful men are well advised not to use violence,
For violence has a habit of returning;
Thorns and weeds grow wherever an army goes,
And lean years follow a great war.
A general is well advised
To achieve nothing more than his orders:
Not to take advantage of his victory.
Nor to glory, boast or pride himself;
To do what is dictated by necessity,
But not by choice.
For even the strongest force will weaken with time,
And then its violence will return, and kill it.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
I've added a bunch of new blogs to the category of "blogs I follow." There are links to all of them in the "links" section in the sidebar.
As I've written before, I've lately been following the Wu style form as taught by Dr Stephen Hwa. One of his senior students, Jim Roach, has recently started a blog where he makes posts of interest to his students. I think they have value to anyone studying internal martial arts.
I train locally with Rick Taracks whom I've mentioned before, with this wujifalianggong group. Three of his students, Trevor, Mike, and Dan have recently started blogs and have some very insightful things to say. Dan is also working on a PhD in psychology, and has a blog on that topic as well.
Speaking of Wuji, here is a blog by that name that I found recently and whose owner has written some very good posts.
Another Taiji related blog, by a student of the Chen style is Vale Taiji.
An electic Taiji pracitioner is at Cloud Hands.
Here is a blog by a chess master and zhan zhuang qigong practitioner.
Finally, I want to mention a blog that I've been following for quite sometime, and I'd like to mention again. Many people read the Art of War, and take a few things away from that reading. To truly understand what Sun Tzu had to say requires really studying the text and applying it to real world situation. The proprietor of The Collaborative View has studied the topic of strategy and it's application like no one else I've heard of. The study of strategy is important at a minimum so that you can recognize when someone else is attempting a strategy that is going to effect you.
Please pay them all a visit.
Friday, June 19, 2009
As the last post had to do with Western martial arts, so does this one. This time, I want to direct you to an article about 18th century western boxing. The article is a reprint of a contemporary book on fisticuffs. It makes for some interesting reading. You can find the entire article here.
Mendoza's Treatise on Boxing -A Few Extracts-
The following extracts are taken from a chap-book published c.1800 that includes Mendoza's advice and lessons in the science of pugilism. I have been unable to find the original book by Mendoza, but material seems to have been freely borrowed from it for both this and other anonymous publications.
Please note that comments in square brackets, [thus], are my additions.
MENDOZA'S TREATISE, WITH HIS SIX LESSONS
In the preceding pages is given a system of Boxing as generally practised by the most celebrated pugilists of the present day; we shall now add Mendoza's treatise on the subject, which, as the reader will observe, is comprised in a very short compass, and differs not very materially in general principles from the foregoing. The six lessons that form an essential part of his treatise are however well worth the notice of the reader, and an attention to them must be a very material help in acquiring a knowledge of the science.
The first principle to be established in Boxing (says he) is to be perfectly a master of the equilibrium of the body, so as to be able to change from a right to a left handed position; to advance or retreat striking or parrying; and throw the body either forward or backward without difficulty or embarrassment.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Here is a link to an article about Lieutenant Colonel William Ewart Fairbairn. He led a colorful life and was a martial arts pioneer. Below is an excerpt.
INTRODUCTION TO W.E. FAIRBAIRN'S
SCIENTIFIC SELF DEFENSE
By: William L. Cassidy
The author of the work, the late Lieutenant-Colonel William Ewart Fairbairn (1885-1960), is widely and quite correctly regarded as the foremost close-combat Instructor of the modern era. His remarkable career, which has been extensively documented, began in 1901 with the Royal Marine Light Infantry and service as a member of the British Legation Guard at Seoul Korea. In 1907 he signed on with the Shanghai Municipal Police, thereafter distinguishing himself as an innovative training officer and securing an international reputation by raising and commanding the famed Shanghai Riot Squad. During the period of his service with the force Fairbairn by actual record personally engaged in over 600 violent armed and unarmed encounters, in conditions ranging from routine police work to urban combat experience during the Sino-Japanese War.
Fairbairn retired from police work with the rank of Assistant Commissioner in 1940, at the age of fifty-five. Returning to Great Britain he was recruited by the Secret Service and gazetted as a Captain on the Army list. While so occupied he was the principal instructor's instructor to components of British Military intelligence, the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS); the Special Operations Executive (SOE); the Commandos, and other specialized forces.
"To put in simply, Fairbairn's methods worked. Stripped of all the unnecessary trappings, his system of unarmed combat made it possible for a person of average strength and skills to meet and win against an opponent trained in the martial arts." This simplicity is admirably demonstrated in Scientific Self-Defence, a work originally published to serve as the complete exposition of his basic unarmed combat method. This work is the foundation of much of his later effort, including such commercially published extracts as Get Tough!, and the manuals and outlines he wrote for various agencies.
What is the essence of Fairbairn's method? Fairbairn himself wrote in 1925 that he believed his "...system to be entirely new and original, and, further, it requires no athletic effort to perform any of the exercises given. This system is not to be confounded with Jiujutsu or any other known method of defence, and although some of the holds, trips, etc., are a combination of several methods, the majority are entirely original." In an article analyzing certain aspects of Fairbairn's wartime work, I observed that his methods, "...were, from the very beginning, designed as a peculiarly Western Martial Art, a means whereby the English-speaking world could come to grips with and win over oriental systems." These statements lend outline, but the serious student of the subject requires greater detail.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
I have previously posted on Shugyo, or austere training. Another article caught my attention on the topic, a part of which is posted below. You can read the complete article here.
With the range of possible definitions applicable to each character, one soon recognises the degree of inadequacy of the unsophisticated term study when applied to shugyo.
To the martial artist native speaker of Japanese, shugyo has far deeper resonance than study suggests. For example, the renowned "father of modern karate-do", Gichin Funakoshi was known to venture outside to take advantage of typhoons for training purposes, typhoons that are noted for being particularly ferocious around his island home of Okinawa. Tales have it that whilst holding a tatami mat to create resistance to the howling winds, Funakoshi would test the strength of his stances upon the rooftops. (3) The significance of this tale to our discussion of shugyo is not the perceived eccentricity of Funakoshi and his peculiar penchant for training in extremes of weather. Rather, the tale illustrates well, the ability for a determined mind to employ any circumstance to further an understanding of the true nature of that which is being studied, the way of karate in our case.
Chito Ryu Karate founder Tsuyoshi Chitose, known reverently as O'sensei, was himself was required by his first teacher, Arakaki, to study the same kata (a standard routine of karate techniques), Seisan , for seven years before being introduced to another. Those unfamiliar with shugyo will doubtless be impressed by the depth of commitment and concentration displayed by O'sensei, a level of dedication rarely seen even in adults whilst at the mere age of seven. This last comment at first glance may be misleading in that it appears to make light of the efforts and achievements of the young O'sensei. Please consider momentarily the alternate proposition that O'sensei, Funakoshi and the multitudes of martial arts immortals not referred to here were in fact NOT inherently special.
Consider, instead, that all of the individuals above were ordinary people, the same as everybody else in every aspect besides obvious personal circumstances (language, nationality and the like). It would then follow logically that ANY other person could repeat their feats. Indeed with the right mindset it should be understood not only could any person repeat their feats, but in fact build upon them. Actually, the only thing separating such perceived greatness from the masses is hard work and an unfailing belief in the fact that the goal will be achieved. The important point to consider here is that one need not focus upon the glorified achievement of such individuals, for to do so risks deification of the personality, in turn dooming all others following their example to fall short of the ideal (the rest of us after all are mere mortals) . Far more valuable to those who wish to follow the Masters is to gain an understanding of the means by which they gained their greatness, and this in every case without exception was, is and always will be shugyo.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
This month marks the fourth anniversary of Cook Ding's Kitchen. Of nearly 20,000 blogs tracked by Icerocket, this one is closing in on number 1800. I want to thank you for visiting. I appreciate it very much.
A question that I get asked regularly is "what's this Cook Ding stuff anyway?" Cook Ding was a character in a story in one of the Inner Chapters of Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu). It's one of my favorite stories:
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."
I've been laid off for a couple of months now. I was fortunate enough to find a contract job writing software. One of my former customers won a program and had no one to work on it. The contract is for six months, and I think it could easily run through the end of the year. The company I work for is actually out in British Columbia, so I'll have at least one trip out there, hopefully for the change of colors in the fall.
I began my career as a contract software engineer, but back in the day, I had to go into the office just like the captive engineers. This is my first gig where I get to generally work from home, although I have to go in for meetings and what not. With the contract job, and the things I wanted to work on at home, I haven't yet fallen into a rhythm.
One of the things that I wanted to do when I got laid off was to simply devour books. I'm achieving that. On the average, I get a couple of hours reading in at a time. Other things that I wanted to accomplish are getting filtered out. I've been meaning to work on my chess game, but I'm just not getting around to it. I'm also finding that I'm not working on my Japanese language study as much as I had hoped. The difference is becoming clear between what I wanted to do and what I really wanted to do.
I've been working out of my basement. The Mrs tends to leave me alone, but it's really cold down there. Even when we had days in the 80's recently, I had to wear jeans, a shirt, a sweatshirt, white socks and shoes and I was still frozen and unable to warm up by the time I emerged in the afternoon.
I'm not making what I had been. I'm also paying for my health insurance, and have to pay both parts of unemployment tax, but this goes a long way in keeping the wolves from the door. Of course all of this is moot once my Nigerian benefactor desposits that $28,000,000 in my bank account.
I can't justify driving out to Ann Arbor every week for Taijiquan, even though they would work with me on the dues. I find that I've really cut back on my driving among other things.
I'm practicing a lot on my own though. Before I got laid off, I had purchased the DVDs by Dr. Stephen Hwa that I planned to study to improve my practice. I've decided to follow his form. I'm also training with the Wujiliangong group which happens to be within bike riding distance from me. I'm in good hands.
I've also been getting a lot done around the house. I lift weights and walk on a treadmill during the winter. My preference is to simply work in my yard when the weather is nice to maintain a functional strength.
I've lost about 10 lbs since I got laid off. I'm active, but mostly my diet has changed. I simply don't eat out as much. I would like to lose another 10 lbs, but they don't seem to want to come as easily.
I was talking to a neighbor who was also laid off. Off the top of his head he named another half dozen guys in the sub who were laid off. We're mostly in sales and engineering. We're all about the same age.
This recession has changed everything. When the automakers become profitable again, I don't think they'll be hiring back droves of people and neither will their suppliers. Life has changed for many of us: what we're going to do for the rest of our working lives, where we're going to live, our life styles, and how we think about retirement.
One of my favorite authors, Nassim Nicholas Taleb has written a couple of books, Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan, where he describes what he calls the Black Swan. It's an event that comes along and simply changes everything.
My oldest daughter graduated from college a little over a year ago. She was fortunate, after sending our literally over 500 resumes to get a job last fall. She's working in her field for the regional public transportation agency. Many of her peers are still looking and there's simply nothing for them. Not even waiting on tables. It's not her dream job, but it's a job and she's getting experience in her field, and that's what counts right now.
She's living at home right now, saving money, and has begun working on her MBA. by the time she finishes, the economy will hopefully be better, she'll have the MBA and some experience.
My youngest daughter is graduating high school this month, and we have to get the place ready for an open house. She'll be going on to Concordia University in Ann Arbor, MI; will study graphics design, and play volleyball for them. The economy should have recovered by the time she gets out of school and is looking for work.
A lot of the yard work has to do with making the place look nice for her graduation party. As it is, it's hard to believe that my youngest is now a college student. Truly, time flies like an arrow.
Monday, June 08, 2009
Over at WuSource.org there is an article about a documentary on Hong Yi Xiang. If you click here, you'll be directed to the article.
The late Hong Yi Xiang was one of the great names in Chinese Internal Martial Arts as practiced in Taiwan. He was a student of Zhang Jun Feng, who was a legend both on the island and beyond. From him, Hong learned Gao Style Ba Gua Zhang, Xing Yi Quan, and Tai Ji Quan.
Hong's legacy was many high level students who in turn were able to pass their skills along to further generations.
Friday, June 05, 2009
Koryu are the ancient Japanese martial arts that were actually practiced by the samuai. Modern Japanese martial arts just as karate-do, aikido, judo, and kendo are Gendai Budo. Gendai Budo is descended from Koryu. They have much in common, but they are really very, very different things. Koryu was meant to be handed down from generation to generation in a most exact way. If a given master instituted a variation from the canon, he would then create a new branch of the main system (-ha, Ono-ha Itto Ryu is a branch of the main Itto Ryu). Whereas in Gendai Budo, each master student seems to recreate the art. You can look to the profusion of aikido styles as an example.
A must-read if you're interested in the subject of ancient Koryu and modern Budo is the three volume classic by Donn Draeger: The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan.
Below is an excerpt from an article about Koryu. You can read the full article here.
Authenticity in Koryu
The whole issue of authenticity is one of those things I struggle with a lot, when I'm thinking about koryu.
Here's how a lot of people seem to think about koryu:
The best koryu have been passed down from generation to generation from the time of the samurai. The best warriors distilled their knowledge of practical fighting techniques and the skills necessary to survive a life-and-death struggle, and taught them faithfully to their students, who, through long and hard study, and deep insight into the techniques, mastered the techniques themselves and, in turn, passed them on unchanged to their students. And so on through the ages.
If that view is correct, then koryu represent not only a priceless cultural/anthropological heritage, but also an invaluable insight into effective combat techniques. Unlike modern "budo", these koryu "bujutsu", having been handed down from the time when life-and-death battles were a reality, must reflect true, killing techniques.
The model for transmission, according to koryu purists, would seem to be some kind of "photocopy" model. To use a visual analogy, the founding master creates a "map" of the techniques. Through diligent study, his chosen successor copies the master, creating an identical map, much like a photocopy of the original.
People who think this way believe, not only in the possibility of "true and correct transmission" but also in its likelihood. Consider this: Many currently-practiced koryu are on somewhere between their tenth and twentieth generation, and the current state of the art must reflect "the weakest link", so to speak, in that chain of ten or twenty masters. In other words, if there was even one "bad teacher" in that chain of teachers - someone whose understanding was less than complete, or whose physical mastery was less than perfect - then the subsequent generation would continue to propagate that error, or that weak point.
Koryu purists would argue that only the best students would be chosen to continue the school - those pupils who, through long and hard apprenticeship, would have the very best mix of understanding and physical mastery.
But isn't the reality far more complicated, and less ideal than all that?
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Some of the Daoists were interested in in finding an elixir which would make them immortal. Achieving immortality is a bit of a stretch, but living longer in good health is a worthwhile goal.
Since I got laid off, I've lost about 10 lbs. I'm more active than I had been earlier, but the biggest change to my lifestyle is my diet. I simply don't go out to eat as much.
For dinner, we eat at home a whole lot more, but I rarely now go out for lunch. I either eat at home, or just have a snack.
Changing how we eat is a difficult thing to do. Perhaps making a few substitutions is a bit easily for a permanent change. Here is an article that suggests 8 very simple substitutions you might make that could have a real impact on not only your waistline, but your longevity.
Live long and prosper.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
This is an excerpt from an AP story. The full store can be read here.
Komodo dragon attacks terrorize Indonesia villages
KOMODO ISLAND, Indonesia – Komodo dragons have shark-like teeth and poisonous venom that can kill a person within hours of a bite. Yet villagers who have lived for generations alongside the world's largest lizard were not afraid — until the dragons started to attack.
The stories spread quickly across this smattering of tropical islands in southeastern Indonesia, the only place the endangered reptiles can still be found in the wild: Two people were killed since 2007 — a young boy and a fisherman — and others were badly wounded after being charged unprovoked.
Komodo dragon attacks are still rare, experts note. But fear is swirling through the fishing villages, along with questions on how best to live with the dragons in the future.
Main, a 46-year-old park ranger, was doing paperwork when a dragon slithered up the stairs of his wooden hut inand went for his ankles dangling beneath the desk. When the ranger tried to pry open the beast's powerful jaws, it locked its teeth into his hand.
"I thought I wouldn't survive... I've spent half my life working with Komodos and have never seen anything like it," said Main, pointing to his jagged gashes, sewn up with 55 stitches and still swollen three months later. "Luckily, my friends heard my screams and got me to hospital in time."
Komodos, which are popular at zoos in the United States to Europe, grow to be 10 feet (3 meters) long and 150 pounds (70 kilograms). All of the estimated 2,500 left in the wild can be found within the 700-square-mile (1,810-square-kilometer) Komodo National Park, mostly on its two largest islands, Komodo and Rinca. The lizards on neighboring Padar were wiped out in the 1980s when hunters killed their main prey, deer.
Monday, June 01, 2009
Someone sent me this link. As usual, there is an excerpt below. If you'd like to read the whole thing, click here.
The Old Samurai Art Of Fighting Without Weapons
Part 1 - Origins
By Jigaro Kano
Translated by Rev. T. Lindsay, April 18, 1888
Submitted by Stan Hart
Editor’s Note: This is the first part of an article originally written by Jigaro Kano, the founder of modern Judo (Jiudo). Part 1 investigates the origin of Jiujutsu (Jujutsu). There is also a glossary provided by Stan Hart, who translated the Japanese Kanji (characters) used in the original text. Part 2 discusses various schools and relates some stories about old Jiujtsu masters. The romanization of Japanese words that appear in this article are based upon the spellings used in England at the time the article was written.
In feudal times in Japan, there were various military arts and exercises by which the Samurai classes were trained and fitted for their special forms of warfare.
Among these was the art of Jiujutsu (1), from which the present Jiudo (2) has sprung up. The word Jiujutsu may be translated freely as the art of gaining victory by yielding or pliancy. Originally, the name seems to have been applied to what may best be described as the art of fighting without weapons, although in some cases short weapons were used against opponents fighting with long weapons.
Although it seems to resemble wrestling, yet it differs materially from wrestling as practiced in England, its main principle being not to match strength against strength, but to gain victory by yielding to strength.
Since the abolition of the feudal system the art has for some time been out of use, but at the present time it has become very popular in Japan, though with some important modifications, as a system of athletics, and its value as a method for physical training has been recognized by the establishment of several schools of Jiujutsu and Jiudo in the capital.