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 ~


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Budo and Kyokushin Karate

Scott, over at The Martial Way had a nice article about the influences on Mas Oyama's ideas of Budo and how is studied in Kyokushin Karate.

An excerpt is below. The full post may be read here.

Sosai (founder) Masutatsu ‘Mas’ Oyama was heavily influenced by his Goju-ryu Karate teacher, Nei-chu So, a fellow native countryman of the teenage Yeong-eui Choi (Masutatsu Ōyama).
Oyama 1955

The defeat of Japan and the subsequent indignity of Occupation almost proved to be too much for Mas Oyama, who nearly despaired. Nei-chu So encouraged Mas Oyama to dedicate his life to Budo, the Martial Way. It was he who suggested that Oyama should retreat away from the rest of the world for 3 years while training his mind and body.

Oyama also met Eji Yoshikawa, author of the book ‘Musashi’, a fictionalized account of the life of Miyamoto Musashi, Japan’s most famous samurai warrior. Thanks to this book and the writer, Mas Oyama began to understand the profound meanings of the Samurai Bushido Code, and ultimately shapes his own philosophy on martial arts.

Oyama became heavily influenced by the great swordsmen Miyamoto Musashi (1584 – June 13, 1645), founder of the Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū or Niten-ryū style of swordsmanship and in his final years authored The Book of Five Rings (五輪の書 Go Rin no Sho), a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy that is still studied today.

Influenced by Nei-chu So, the writing of Yoshikawa, and Musashi’s works, Mas Oyama decided to withdraw from social life and live in solitude for a period of 3 years and dedicate his time completely to the intense training of body and mind, as Musashi did in his lifetime. Oyama traveled to Minobu mountain, the same place where Musashi created Nito-ryu kenjitsu. Mas Oyama was only 23 years old at the time. In his opinion this would be the perfect place to start his severe training of body and mind that he had planned for himself.

After returning to civiliation Oyama stated that “traditional karate” is non-contactand while at it s peak of recognition, Oyama claimed that the true way of Budo Karate was in the actual physical contact.

The philosophy of budo is evident in the name that Mas Oyama chose for his karate style, Kyokushin, which means “Ultimate Truth”. It is also reflected in the Dojo Kun and in the Spirit of Osu.

The Spirit of Kyokushin emanates from the Budo axiom,

“One thousand days of training completes a beginner.
Ten thousand days of training begins the mastery of the art.”

The training to find the Ultimate Truth is a rigorous and never-ending process for the practitioner.

It is a life long dedication to the Kyokushin Way.

The greeting OSU used in Kyokushin resonates humility, gratitude, perseverance and above all, respect for one another.

Mas Oyama summed up his entire martial arts philosophy in eleven mottos, known as the Zayu no

Mei Juichi Kajo, which are central to his teaching:

Zayu no Mei Juichi Kajo

座右の銘十一個条 – Eleven Mottos of Kyokushin

- The Martial Way begins and ends with courtesy. Therefore, be properly and genuinely courteous at all times.

- Following the Martial Way is like scaling a cliff – continue upwards without rest. It demands absolute and unfaltering devotion to the task at hand.

- Strive to seize the initiative in all things, all the time guarding against actions stemming from selfish animosity or thoughtlessness.

- Even for the Martial Artist, the place of money cannot be ignored. Yet one should be careful never to become attached to it.

- The Martial Way is centred in posture. Strive to maintain correct posture at all times.

- The Martial Way begins with one thousand days and is mastered after ten thousand days of training.

- In the Martial Arts, introspection begets wisdom. Always see contemplation on your actions as an opportunity to improve.

- The nature and purpose of the Martial Way is universal. All selfish desires should be roasted in the tempering fires of hard training.

- The Martial Arts begin with a point and end in a circle. Straight lines stem from this principle.

- The true essence of the Martial Way can only be realized through experience. Knowing this, learn never to fear its demands.

- Always remember, in the Martial Arts the rewards of a confident and grateful heart are truly abundant.




Thursday, December 06, 2018

Why She Practices Tai Chi Chuan

In this beautiful little essay on her blog, Joan Lauri Pool explains why she practices Taijiquan under Maggie Newman. An excerpt is below. The full post may be read here.


Last week, during the final minutes of Tai Chi class, my teacher Tom Daly, asked us a simple, hard-to-answer question: “Why do you do Tai Chi? What is the main reason?”
We all looked at Tom a bit stunned and confused. Put on the spot, we brought up some of the more normal and obvious (and what I think of as dowdy) reasons at first: balance, health, and wellbeing. Then one longtime practitioner spoke of the wholeness Tai Chi had brought into his life.
I (the writer-editor) was, as usual, at a loss for words. How could I describe how I came to Tai Chi, and why was I still doing the form (and trying to get better at it) after 20 going on 21 years?
People who lack an interest in Tai Chi often ask me why I do this—to their eyes—strange-looking martial art. They often assume that I do it for self-serving reasons: to improve my health and sense of spiritual wellbeing. When I tell them the real reason, they are even more dumbfounded.
I was bewitched by the beauty of it.
When I was a student in NYU’s graduate creative writing program, I tried to stay in shape by running around the university’s outdoor track. My knees weren’t very good, so this wasn’t a very successful form of exercise. One day, inside the track’s oval, I saw a group of students doing Tai Chi. They looked like big exotic birds doing some instinctual dance. I decided that this must be a type of Tai Chi I had heard of called Soaring Crane.
My eyes were drawn to one student in particular whose movements were more graceful than the others’. When still, he was neither handsome nor fit, but when he did the form, whatever it was, he became beautiful—the way a dog’s or horse’s integrated movements are beautiful.
I wanted to be able to do whatever it was he was doing, to feel it in my body, my entire being. This was the initial allure, but the seduction was complete when I found just the right Tai Chi teacher.
By chance, my friend, poet Katrinka Moore, had been studying with Maggie Newman for some time. When I voiced interest in learning Tai Chi, she recommended that I try Maggie’s beginning class. It was being offered in a small studio in Greenwich Village on Lafayette Street. Maggie had her long white hair up in a bun. She was small and moved with great precision and gentle authority. From the beginning, I loved to watch her move. She was poetry in motion, the embodiment of grace and wisdom.
A former dancer in Paul Taylor’s company, Maggie had taken up the form in her forties—at a difficult time in her life. She had been romantically involved with Taylor, and from the rumors I’ve heard, he treated her badly. I imagine that when she broke with that dance world, she must have been bereft. At first, until she began to study the Yang form of Tai Chi with Professor Cheng Man-ching.
What I failed to realize when I started classes with Maggie was that she was famous in Tai Chi circles. She was one of Cheng’s (“The Professor’s”) “Big Six”: senior students in the United States whom he had chosen to carry on his particular Tai Chi lineage.
I hung on Maggie’s every word and movement as she slowly, very slowly taught us the 37 postures of what I later learned was the short form of Tai Chi. Very ignorant, I thought I was learning the long form because Maggie took more than two years to teach us this form.
During our one-hour classes, I also watched the senior students carefully, trying to mimic the way they moved. Their slightest movements and transitions between movements were so subtle and smooth: How did they do it? When I asked one woman, she said, “You’ll get it eventually. It takes time.” So I had to be content with Theodore Roethke’s advice in “The Waking”: “I learn by going where I have to go.”
It would be many years before I could do the form with any skill. At times I was embarrassed by my clumsiness and poor balance. Then—surprise—I would find myself doing one tiny movement a little better.
Again, every time I thought I had learned something elusive, I realized how little I really understood.
Maggie said at one of the first classes, “One thing you’re going to learn is patience.”


Monday, December 03, 2018

The Mistress of Hung Gar Kung Fu

Over at Kung Fu Tea, there is a series of articles on remarkable women who have helped to shape modern martial arts. One of these is Mok Kwai Lan, whose career spanned from the early days of the 20th century to the Kung Fu craze sparked by Bruce Lee. 

An excerpt is below. The full post may be read here.


Introduction
This post is the third entry in our series examining the lives of female Chinese martial artists.  While it is the case that the vast majority of hand combat practitioners in the 19th and 20th centuries were male, a certain number of women also adopted the art.  We started by looking at the life and historical reputation of Woman Ding Number Seven and her contributions to the creation of White Crane Kung Fu in Fujian province.  Not only did she make some critical technical contributions to the development of the local arts, but her memory served as an important touchstone for discussions of gender and hand combat throughout southern China.
Next we examined the life and contributions of Chen Shichao and her brother Chen Gongzhe.  This dynamic pair was an important force behind the success that the Jingwu Athletic Association enjoyed in the early 20th century.  Chen Gongzhe was instrumental in financing the group, while his sister worked tirelessly to promote female involvement in the martial arts on equal footing with men.  This goal challenged strongly held norms and resulted in notable (often quite personal) push-back from more conservative elements in society.  Yet ultimately the Jingwu Association succeeded in spreading the belief that women should have access to martial training and that this was an area where they could excel.  It is unlikely that this social transformation would have been quite so successful without the pen and teaching efforts of Chen Shichao.
In the current post I would like to return our focus to southern China.  Mok Kwai Lan is most often remembered as the fourth wife (or more accurately concubine) of Wong Fei Hung, the renown martial artists who is regarded by many as the father of modern Hung Gar.  Yet Mok was also a martial artist and practitioner of Chinese traditional medicine before her marriage.  Further, she maintained an independent and fruitful teaching career for more than five decades after Wong’s sad death in 1924.
Both Mok Kwai Lan’s life and career deserve more careful consideration than they usually receive.  She is a figure whose influence spans generations.  She was born in the final decade of the 19th century and her martial training likely started at the same time as the Boxer Uprising.  She saw the rapid development and transformation of the martial arts in the 1920s and 1930s, before having her own career disrupted by the invasions of the Second Sino-Japanese War.  In the postwar era she witnessed a fundamental transformation in the popular perception of the traditional arts, driven in no small part by her departed husband’s rise to fame as a local folk hero.  Lastly she was still active and teaching when the “Bruce Lee Explosion” reignited global interest in the martial arts in the middle of the 1970s.  It is hard to think of too many other figures whose careers spanned so many important eras.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Advent Challenge 2018

Today begins the season of Advent in the Catholic Church. It is a time of waiting and preparation for Christmas. Advent begins four Sundays prior to Chistmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent lasts for a little over four weeks.

As a warm up for the Lenten Challenge, I would like to issue the Advent Challenge.

Beginning today and through Christmas, in spite of the business and general insanity of the season, find a way to train every day. Do what you have to; move heaven and earth, but train every day. Even if it's just a little. No excuses.

These challenges are a form of Shuugyou Renshuu, or "Austere Training." There is a very good article about Shuugyou Renshuu right here.

Won't you join me?