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, March 31, 2016

Is MMA Evolving to Include Internal Martial Arts

Below is an excerpt from an excellent post at Tai Chi Notebook, where the author explores the question of whether the evolution of MMA might begin to include some internal martial arts.

The full post includes many videos which are fun to watch. The full post may be read here.

We’re at an exciting juncture in MMA right now. As discussed in a recent Joe Rogan podcast with MMA analyst and commentator Robin Black (see video below), MMA is transitioning from an era where the mantra had become “Boxing, Wrestling and Jiujitsu is the answer to everything” to a world of new possibilities, as exemplified by newer, unorthodox, fighters like Conor McGregor and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson who have successfully introduced elements from traditional martial arts, like controlling the distance with kicks, that can catch out a seasoned wrestler/boxer who is not used to that sort of movement.
 ...
I’d like to be able to say that going towards the refined Neijia movement would be the natural evolution of MMA, as it moved from its slug-fest beginnings to more evolved fighting techniques, however MMA evolution doesn’t work like that. It’s too simplistic to see it as an evolution from thuggish, brutish origins, to the more refined and technical fighters of the modern age. Sure, the early UFCs featured many pugilists who were more brawlers than anything else. And in contrast, today’s modern MMA fighter is a hugely technical martial artist, who needs to be well-rounded in several fighting disciplines, but the beginnings of the UFC were also characterised by victories obtained via a very, very technical martial art that didn’t require huge levels of athleticism, in the form of Brazilian JiuJitsu. So, while the evolution of MMA isn’t the nice, upward directed straight line starting at “brawling” and ending at “technical” we’d like to see, if we were going to make some sort of convincing argument for ‘more technical’ as being the final destination, things definitely are improving in terms of technique in all areas simultaneously – it’s just that we didn’t start from a level playing field for all the different areas that make up the modern fight game.

Kung Fu has plenty that can be added to MMA in terms of techniques, as I blogged about recently. What the Neijia can add specifically is a lot more subtle -it’s more about using your body as one unit to produce power, but as Ido Portal’s interest in the subject has shown, it is also about improving the quality of your movement, and that can’t be a bad thing for any fighter.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Warriors of Budo: Episode 1 Trailer, Karatedo

Trailer for the first episode of Warriors of Budo by Empty Mind Films. Warriors of Budo is a series where each episode examines a different martial art.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

The 2016 Lenten Challenge is Over!

The 2016 Lenten Challenge ends today. For everyone who participated, good job! For everyone who did not, maybe you'll join us next year.

I had a lot going on during Lent. I practiced every day. One of my daughters bought a condo and besides helping her move, I had plenty of little projects to do for her. Being laid off, I had plenty of little projects to do around my own house as well.

In addition to keeping up with the Lenten Challenge, I also gave up Facebook for Lent. I really enjoy FB as a form of entertainment and if you know me, you know I had been there a lot.

When I was laid off, I had to send the company laptop back and had been making my job search with the family desktop. I didn't have a laptop and so my evening pass time of browsing around was put to a stop as well.

Being off of FB specifically and mostly offline generally was an interesting experience. It was like a quiet after having been in a noisy environment for a long time. It helped to clear my head. A technology "fast" is now something that I will do again (although maybe or maybe not for Lent) and would recommend to others.

With the extra time, I got a lot of reading done and working out done. I would have done more if it hadn't been for the little projects.

I can say "All's well that ends well." On Monday, I start a new job with a trade association which represents the manufacturers of after market automotive test and diagnostic equipment. I'll be participating in many of the relevant standards committees and trade shows and report developments back to the members. I'll still be traveling quite a bit, but it will be much more orderly. Overall, I think that it will make for a higher quality and less stressful worklife.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems, #59: A SONG OF WHITE SNOW IN FAREWELL TO FIELD-CLERK WU GOING HOME

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 #59 A Song of White Snow in Farewell to Field Clerk Wu Going Home


The north wind rolls the white grasses and breaks them;
And the Eighth-month snow across the Tartar sky
Is like a spring gale, come up in the night,
Blowing open the petals of ten thousand peartrees.
It enters the pearl blinds, it wets the silk curtains;
A fur coat feels cold, a cotton mat flimsy;
Bows become rigid, can hardly be drawn
And the metal of armour congeals on the men;
The sand-sea deepens with fathomless ice,
And darkness masses its endless clouds;
But we drink to our guest bound home from camp,
And play him barbarian lutes, guitars, harps;
Till at dusk, when the drifts are crushing our tents
And our frozen red flags cannot flutter in the wind,
We watch him through Wheel-Tower Gate going eastward.
Into the snow-mounds of Heaven-Peak Road....
And then he disappears at the turn of the pass,
Leaving behind him only hoof-prints.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How to Learn a Martial Art Twice as Fast

Stumble Upon pointed me towards this article on learning a skill twice as quickly. An excerpt is below. The full post may be read here.

Learning a new skill doesn’t depend so much on how much practice you do, but how you practice. The key is to subtly vary your training with changes that keep your brain learning. By changing up your routine, new research says, you can cut the time to acquire a new skill by half.

Acquiring new motor skills requires repetition, but iterative repetition is much more effective than just doing the same thing over and over. A new study from Johns Hopkins found that modifying practice sessions led participants to learn a new computer-based motor skill quicker than straight repetition. The results suggest that a process called reconsolidation is at work.

Reconsolidation is a process in which "existing memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge." The new study, led by Johns Hopkins University professor Pablo Celnik, demonstrated that reconsolidation is also key to learning motor skills, a process about which little was previously known.

Learning a new skill doesn’t depend so much on how much practice you do, but how you practice. The key is to subtly vary your training with changes that keep your brain learning. By changing up your routine, new research says, you can cut the time to acquire a new skill by half.
Acquiring new motor skills requires repetition, but iterative repetition is much more effective than just doing the same thing over and over. A new study from Johns Hopkins found that modifying practice sessions led participants to learn a new computer-based motor skill quicker than straight repetition. The results suggest that a process called reconsolidation is at work.
Reconsolidation is a process in which "existing memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge." The new study, led by Johns Hopkins University professor Pablo Celnik, demonstrated that reconsolidation is also key to learning motor skills, a process about which little was previously known.



"What we found is if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master," said Celnik, "you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row."

Eighty six volunteers were trained to manipulate a cursor on a computer screen by squeezing a small device. Three groups each trained for a 45-minute session. Then, six hours later, one group repeated the same exercise, while another group performed a modified version, with slightly different squeezing force required. Both these groups repeated the first task the next day, and a control group only did one session per day.

The control group did worst, roughly half as well as the group that simply repeated the training. The group that switched things up did best of all, performing almost twice as well as the repetitively trained group.

Come to think of it, Kushida Sensei used this principle in the way he ran his aikido classes.

For several weeks at a time, we might explore First Control (Ikkajo) from every attack imaginable: Front strike, side strike, chest grab, behind both wrists grab, etc.

Or we might take a given attack, say shoulder grab, and go through every technique as a response: First control, second control, third control, etc.

In the couple of weeks leading up to rank testing though, we'd buckle down and focus on our testing techniques.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Ukemi: The Art of Receiving the Technique

Peter Boylan, over at the Budo Bum, had a very nice post on ukemi. It may be found here.

I had previously written on the topic in my little book, The Phoenix Tastes a Lot Like Chicken. I am posting that chapter below. Enjoy.



Falling Down


‘Tis Better to Receive Than to Give.




When we watch an aikido demonstration, what catches our attention the most is the performance of the Shite (sh-tay), the “doer” (aka Tori (tor-ree), “controller”; Nage (nah-gay) “thrower” or whatever term your school uses). We pay less attention to the Uke  (oo-kay) the “receiver” unless he performs some spectacular break fall. We tend not to give the role of Uke much thought.

In the style of aikido I trained in when I was a young man, we practiced our aikido with a “compliant” uke as opposed to one who “resisted.” Different schools have differing philosophies on training and the use of a compliant uke was our way of doing the techniques for both parties in our budo practice.

When we practice in class, we would take turns playing the role of Shite and Uke. We patiently grind through doing our service as the Uke so that we can once again take the seemingly more interesting role of Shite where we think we’ll develop our “real” aikido skills. 

The role of Shite is the Yang aspect of learning aikido, and volumes have been written on how to perform countless techniques. It’s high time we discussed the role of Uke and how that half of our budo practice contributes to the whole.

The Yin aspect of learning aikido is developed by taking the role of Uke. As the Uke, you develop all the fundamental characteristics that are necessary to become a credible Shite. 

Just as the Shite measures the distance/relationship between himself and Uke prior to execution of the technique, so must the Uke. The term used is “ma-ai” which means interval. In the simplest terms, this means the distance between the Shite and Uke. To go a little deeper, this is more than just the physical distance between the two participants in the technique, but also denotes a relationship between them.

From the Shites’ perspective, there is an ideal distance between himself and Uke where the latter is too far away to attack him as is, and must move towards Shite in order to make the attack. Shite reveals an opening enticing Uke to attack. By having moved, the Uke leaves an opening for Shite and is now so close that whatever Shite does in response to that attack, Uke has little time to adjust.

Standing on Uke’s side of the interval, we see that he wants to be close enough to do the one thing that will make an aikido technique “work;” to make this repetition right here, now, a learning experience worthy of the two participants:  a sincere and committed attack. Anything less and this whole practice of an aikido technique becomes an empty dance where both parties have largely wasted their time. 

A sincere and committed attack doesn’t mean however, that the Uke is about to try annihilate the Shite. If you are the Uke in a demonstration with a Master, you have got to give it all you have; but in a class setting with a peer or a junior, your attack must not only be sincere and committed, but appropriate for the type of practice you are undertaking and the relative skill of Shite. Uke must give Shite a sincere attack that he can handle. This develops sensitivity and discernment.

Sincerity, commitment, discernment and sensitivity;  now what?  What comes next is perhaps the most difficult thing asked of anyone studying a martial art. Most fail in their ability to do this to any great extent. The Uke must set aside his ego and fully submit to Shites’ response to the attack. The Uke must empty his cup.


Friday, March 04, 2016

Power Generation in Martial Arts

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at Full Potential Martial Arts. The full article may be read here. Enjoy.

Many students in our San Diego martial arts school ask: “how can I increase the amount of power in my strikes?” The answer is simple: get to understand your center, and how to use it effectively!
The center is an incredibly important concept in martial arts. Where beginner martial artists use their limbs in an effort to generate power, experienced martial artists exhibit dthe skill of harnessing their center to generate what seems to be unlimited amounts of power. Such power generation appears effortless to the observer. “Gamaku” is the special term for the center in Okinawan karate-speak (Uchinaaguchi). In the Chinese arts such as Tai Chi and Kung Fu, the related (but not entirely equivalent) terms to Gamaku are Dan-Tien (sometime spelled Dantian) and Ming-Men.
The center, or core, is a key to progress in martial arts. But what is exactly the center? Why is it important? What do we need to do to harness it to generate power in martial arts?
Ancient Okinawan and Chinese martial arts masters knew a lot about how to harness the center and the core to generate tremendous power. This article will attempt to share this knowledge, as well as to relate the knowledge to modern science and anatomy.

The Center or “Core” is All the Rage

Core exercises are all the rage today in fitness circles. Academic studies have shown that weak cores are associated with back pain and joint injury. The core or center is also of paramount importance in martial arts.
It is interesting that what is good for us in martial arts, karate and self-defense fighting is also good for our general health. A lot of martial arts training is dedicated to teaching us how to use our bodies efficiently. This is because the only way we can hope to win in a self-defense confrontation with a large opponent who is stronger and faster than us, is to be more efficient than our opponent. Once we learn the “secrets” of efficient movement, we can use this skill not just in fighting but also in everyday activities, protecting our back, knees and other joints from injury or premature wear.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Taijiquan with Master William CC Chen

Master William CC Chen is one of the senior students of Cheng Man Ching, one of the pioneers who brought TJQ to North America. Below is a video from a seminar Master Chen hosted in 2013. Enjoy.