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 ~


Monday, December 28, 2015

Becoming Antifragile

I've mentioned one of my favorite authors, Nassim Taleb and his book, Anti-fragile several times.

An awful lot of things are fragile: they take a blow and break. Some things are robust: they get hit and no worse for wear. A few things are antifragile: they thrive on getting knocked around.

I think that we ourselves, should strive to become antifragile.

The excellent Art of Manliness blog has had several posts on anti fragility. Below is an excerpt from one of them. The full post may be read here. Enjoy.

What’s the opposite of a person or organization that’s fragile?
If you ask most people this question, they’ll likely say “robust” or “resilient.” But philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb would say that’s not the right answer.
He argues that if fragile items break when exposed to stress, something that’s the opposite of fragile wouldn’t simply not break (thus staying the same) when put under pressure; rather, it should actually get stronger.
We don’t really have a word to describe such a person or organization, so Taleb created one: antifragile.
In his book, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, Taleb convincingly argues that this powerful quality is essential for businesses, governments, and even individuals that wish to thrive in an increasingly complex and volatile world.
If you want to succeed and dominate, to separate yourself from the pack and become the last man standing in any area of life, it’s no longer enough to bounce back from adversity and volatility – to simply be resilient. You have to bounce back stronger and better. You have to become antifragile.

Surviving and Thriving in a Whirlwind of Volatility

First, some background.

Back in 2007, Taleb popularized the idea of “Black Swans” in his book of the same name. In a nutshell, a Black Swan is an event (either positive or negative) “that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.”

The mortgage crisis of 2008 was a Black Swan event, as were both World Wars. Hardly anyone predicted them, they all had huge impacts on history, and they all seemed utterly predictable in hindsight.

Many folks walked away from reading The Black Swan with this takeaway: “Sh** happens, so don’t bother trying to predict things.” But as Taleb recently tweeted, that’s the conclusion “imbeciles” reach (one of the best parts of Taleb’s writing is that he doesn’t mince words).

Rather, the main message of the book is this: “Yes, sh** happens. The trick is to put yourself in a position to survive and even thrive when it does.”

In his most recent book, Antifragile, Taleb offers some simple heuristics to help businesses and individuals thrive in a life swirling with volatility. Before he does that, though, Taleb makes the case that people/systems/organizations/things/ideas can be described in one of three ways: fragile, resilient, or antifragile.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Relaxed Movement in Aikido

When watching old aikido videos, I get the sense that Shioda Sensei seemed to move at a different speed than everyone else. He moved at normal speed and seemed to have had some frames removed from the film.

Koichi Tohei Sensei, on the other hand strikes me quite differently. It's not that he seems to move more quickly than those around him; it's that he seems so relaxed. It's like he's just moving around, doing what he's doing, almost unaware that people are hanging on to him ... for a short time.

Here he is below. Enjoy.


Friday, December 18, 2015

The Tang Dynasty Poems, #58: A SONG OF WHEEL TOWER IN FAREWELL TO GENERAL FENG OF THE WESTERN EXPEDITION

The Tang Dynasty was a high point of culture in ancient China. Especially esteemed were poems. There was no home coming or leave taking; no event too small to not be commemorated with a poem.

Some of the best poems of that period have been collected into an anthology known as The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. A online version of the anthology may be found here.  Today we have #58.


A SONG OF WHEEL TOWER IN FAREWELL TO GENERAL
FENG OF THE WESTERN EXPEDITION

On Wheel Tower parapets night-bugles are blowing,
Though the flag at the northern end hangs limp.
Scouts, in the darkness, are passing Quli,
Where, west of the Hill of Gold, the Tartar chieftain has halted
We can see, from the look-out, the dust and black smoke
Where Chinese troops are camping, north of Wheel Tower.
...Our flags now beckon the General farther west-
With bugles in the dawn he rouses his Grand Army;
Drums like a tempest pound on four sides
And the Yin Mountains shake with the shouts of ten thousand;
Clouds and the war-wind whirl up in a point
Over fields where grass-roots will tighten around white bones;
In the Dagger River mist, through a biting wind,
Horseshoes, at the Sand Mouth line, break on icy boulders.
...Our General endures every pain, every hardship,
Commanded to settle the dust along the border.
We have read, in the Green Books, tales of old days-
But here we behold a living man, mightier than the dead.
 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Styles of Execution in Kyohushin Karate

Over at the Martial Way blog, there was a very nice article about different predominate styles of fighting by top Kyokushin karateka. The post is accompanied by many very interesting videos of top fighters.

An excerpt from the post is below. The full article with the videos my be found here. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Kokodo Jujutsu

Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu was not only the mother of Aikido, it has since given birth to many other styles of jujutsu. Among them is Hakko Ryu. Hakko Ryu in turn has given birth to several derivatives, including Kokodo jujutsu. Below is a video of a Kokodo jujutsu demonstration.


Sunday, December 06, 2015

Nito Shinkage Ryu Kusarigama Jutsu

The Kusarigama is a sort of one hand sickle with a chain and either a blade or metal ball on the end. For safety's sake, in this video, the chain and ball had been replaced by a cord an soft ball.


Thursday, December 03, 2015

Life in Tokugawa Japan

Shogun, by James Clavell is one of my favorite books. It's historical fiction based upon the historical Ieyasu Tokugawa who seized power in Japan about the year 1600 and make himself Shogun.

The story centers around a shipwrecked Englishman who really existed and whose name was Will Adams.

The Tokugawa Shogunate, which controlled Japan for some 200 years had an enormous impact on the society and the Japan that was opened to the world in the late 19th century.

Below is a documentary on life in Tokugawa Japan. I am sure that you will find it as interesting as I have.