Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.


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, May 20, 2022

The Origin of the Character "Bu"


Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at the martial arts equipment supplier Seido on the origin of the character "Bu." The full post may be read here.

The current use of the Kanji "Bu" and its origin

The Kanji are the Chinese characters brought to Japan and introduced into the Japanese language through Buddhism around the 6th century.

First reserved to the religious community and literary figures and from there, spreading gradually at the pace of the alphabetization of the population.

The introduction of the Chinese characters into the pre-existing Japanese language, was achieved in three ways. First, adapting the Kanji closest to both, sound and meaning, then in terms of meaning and finally terms of sound. Many sounds did originally not exist in Japanese, but got integrated into the language to facilitate the implementation of the Kanji. We thus find words with the same meaning, but two different origins, "words of Yamato" (ancient Japan) and "Chinese words" from Chinese.
Let's add an example. Derived from the Kanji "fue/zou" (増) meaning "increase", the form "Fueru" (増える), the verb "to increase", and "Zouka" (増加) "increase" as noun were created. "Fueru" already existed in Yamato, before the Kanji was introduced, and it was arbitrarily determined that this Kanji could be read "Fue", while "Zo" from "Zouka" is derived directly from the Chinese pronunciation.

The multiple pronunciations that a single Kanji can have, are the result of the "forced" introduction of the Kanji into the Japanese language. Not everything could be adapted, syllabic Kana alphabets (Hiragana and Katakana) to modify the function of a word (verb, noun, adjective) got added, whilst the religious and official texts were still written entirely in Kanji over an extended period. (This is no longer the case and there are few Japanese who would be able to read a text containing no Kana.)
The Kanji "Bu" has its roots in China, it was designed before the 6th century, at a time when violence, terror and wars reigned. From there brought to Japan when the Chinese writing got simplified and evolved very little in the centuries to come.

It can be found in Japanese in terms much older than "Budo", for example "Bujutsu" (武術) (war techniques), "Bugei" (武芸) (art of war), "Bushi" (武士) (soldier), "Buki" (武器) (weapon), etc.

Taking this into account, it is difficult to justify a "peaceful" interpretation of this Kanji by historical facts. But back to its composition to see more clearly.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

The Psychological Pressure of Attacking in Martial Arts


Seme is a Japanese arts term which means "to attack" but implies a kind of psychological pressure. Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at Kenshi 24/7 on Seme. The full post may be read here.

PART ONE: From seme to strike: understanding the process

The following will briefly list the four stages of the seme process mentioned in the article, from intention to attack to strike. 

A. Kizeme (draw in for the attack)

The first thing is to have the intention to attack. This is mainly WILL but also implies movement of the body and sword as you apply pressure on your opponent. 

The more mature a kenshi’s kendo is the less physical movement tends to happen. 

B. Tameru / infer response 

As your intention manifests itself and you “close in” on your opponent (not necessarily in the spatial sense) you “hold off’ on striking immediately and, watching your opponent closely, challenge them: “so, what are you going to do?”

The more experienced the kenshi is, the better they can control the opponent and infer the most likely response they’ll make. This inference can often be made somewhat successfully because those with more experience have done more keiko with more types of people and can recognise not only physical seme patterns but are good at reading the psychological aspects of seme-ai.

C. Partner intuits they will be struck

At this point your opponent, perceiving the incoming attack, will feel under pressure to react – they have a decision to make: strike back or dodge/block? Alternatively, they may be unable to choose either and simply stop indecisively (termed “itsuku” in Japanese).

If one of the four sickness occurs in them at this point (fear, surprise, confusion, or doubt) they will find themselves in a bad situation quickly.

D. Strike

If the opponent:

1. attempts to strike first, do some sort of oji-waza (response inferred/baited); 
2. stalls, strike them (mentally defeat);
3. breaks their posture, strike whichever area is open (physically defeat).
Of course, things don’t always go as smooth as this, and there is a lot 
of to-and-fro between both kenshi in the midst of the seme-ai. In mature
kenshi especially, there will be a lot of back and forth between stages
A and B on both sides before a “sickness” appears and stages C and D 
occur.  
 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Aikido of Seigo Yamaguchi


Seigo Yamaguchi was a masterful aikidoka and taught many of the high ranking shihan who are active today. His approach to aikido is as distinct as Gozo Shioda or Koichi Tohei. Below is a video of him demonstrating. Enjoy.

 


Sunday, May 08, 2022

How to be a Great Taijiquan Teacher


Below is an excerpt from an article at Thoughts on Tai Chi about how to be a great teacher. This is a huge topic. The full post may be read here.

Lately, I’ve been asked by a few individuals who liked my writings to not only write something more about learning and studying, but also to write something that focus more on teaching aspects. So far I have written a whole lot about learning (like this post) and how to become a good practitioner. But teaching is something that I have always been reluctant to write about. First, teaching is something very individual and I don’t like to preach about how others should do it. As students are all different and different types of students need different types of teaching, there is no real point in telling people about what is bad or about who can’t teach. But still, teaching is an interesting subject which is hard to completely disregard.

But also, before getting starting with trying to verbalize my thoughts on how to be a great teacher, I should be honest about that, as a teacher, I don’t consider myself as anywhere near great. Nowadays, I only teach in private sessions to individual students, or for small groups not larger than 3 or 4 persons. I teach in my own way, and only things that I like myself, so there are a lot of things I won’t teach, and because of this my teaching is limited and not suitable for everyone. Maybe the people who like me and the things I do might consider it fun and rewarding to learn from me. But they don’t expect me to teach “like everyone else“.

So here are my dos and don’ts regarding teaching, and what to do to be a great teacher. If you want to fill in the gaps with things I have forgotten to mention, object, or if you have ideas related to these things, please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments.

Don’t try to earn a living on teaching

Just let’s face it, there are already very few people who get a liking for tai chi enough to consider practicing it, and even fewer who are really serious and want to dig deeper into the art. If you want to earn your living on teaching Tai Chi, the income will always be more important than the content of teaching. You can’t really get around this. Then you need to arrange your school, classes and teaching in such a way that you will make sure you can have an income that you could live on. This would mean that you would always need to deliver what people expect.

If you teach Tai Chi as a martial art, you would probably at least consider some kind of grading system, some standard types of clothing or uniforms, or maybe print your logo on T-shirts. You would need to teach using a standard curriculum which everyone has to follow. If you want to develop your school into several classes, or even more schools, you would need to build up Some sort of hierarchy, which is something maybe not every serious practitioner would find an easy thing to accept. But you would really need to do this as senior students could take over your classes and teach their own classes.

It would take time to build up a larger organization, but it’s not an impossible thing to do, not even with Tai Chi Chuan. But every step you take in this direction would have to be more about building up a brand while figuring out what people want and expect, rather than about teaching Tai Chi as it was supposed to teach or even what Tai Chi could be if presented through it’s full potential. So obviously, the quality of your teaching, and what you teach, will have to suffer in one way or another if building up a big organization to secure an income is your main goal. There’s just no way to get around this problem.

So if you are going to focus only at being as a great teacher as possible, it is likely that you would not be able to earn much on teaching. But of course, if you are a great practitioner who has developed some rare skills people are looking for to learn, you might have people paying big money to learn from you. However, this would more likely be through smaller classes and private sessions, because teaching larger classes is the second thing you should not do if you want to become a great Tai Chi teacher.

Keep the classes small

Think about it for a while, think about how different types of classes are usually taught in music, arts and handicrafts. The real good teachers who teaches the most gifted students and produce the most high quality students always teach only very small groups or in private. Of course you would want to rather hire a great private teacher for your kid‘s piano lessons than put him or her in a public class. You would get full attention every single minute of those private classes. Learning and developing would go much faster. For a gifted student, there is often no other way to continue to develop further than to find a great private teacher.

Now, think about professional magicians, how they actually teach their students or disciples who really learns the art and the methods that are always hidden away from the public. The illusionist as a teacher usually only has one or two, or maybe a handful of students. This is how the art of professional magic is transferred from teacher to student, through a close relationship. This might be the modern type of teaching that comes closest to traditional Chinese martial arts teaching.

In the older days, teachers in the Chinese martial arts would mostly teach only through their own blood line, like someone in older days who dealt with pottery for a living, who learned from his own father and passed the skills onwards to his own sons, so they in turn could make a living on it. In older China, Martial Arts were mostly either a tradition only kept within the family or to very close friends, but sometimes they could be transmitted just like how professional illusionists do today. Still, they would mostly only teach it to maybe two or three trustworthy students or disciples in order to keep the secrets from reaching the public. Sometimes a martial arts skill was a kind of trading skill, but still, those skills were mostly only taught to a few.

And this is the way a Chinese Martial Art should be taught, within closed doors and in private, or at least in small classes. This is how a student can build up real skills (if the teacher really wants his or her students to become skilled, but this is for another topic.). However, If you only want to teach Tai Chi as a lightweight health exercise, there doesn’t need to be any kind of skill involved, and you don’t need to keep the classes extremely small. 

 

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Dignity in Judo


Below is an excerpt form an article written by the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano on the how a student of Judo should properly conduct himself. The full post may be read here.

What exactly is it that constitutes a man's dignity? There are various facets that make up a man's dignity, but in simple terms it may be said to be comprised of the five components of etiquette, lifestyle, civility, work ethic, and ideals.

Etiquette

 
Etiquette denotes one's appearance and manners. Correct posture is requisite for good manners, but so is one's personal appearance and dress... People are apt to think that it requires considerable expense to acquire quality items to enhance their appearance, and that it is beyond their means. However, quality and extravagance are entirely different things. Irrespective of social class, all people should avoid wasteful extravagance. Those of meagre resources must keep their limitations in mind. Whatever your station is in life, it is important to be cognisant of what is respectable and what is not for somebody in your position.

Bearing is also of consequence to the way a man's character is perceived. We admire a person who is deft at his work, who walks expeditiously down the road, who stands up and sits down unassumingly, and who opens and closes doors or removes items with composure... In short, manners should be abided by as conventions of society, and to avoid making trouble for others and incurring animosity. Judo training facilitates the cultivation of such qualities. Correct posture is emphasised in the practise of Kata and Randori, and all movements are executed expeditiously, and with composure. Practice always commences and finishes with a Rei, and the dojo is a venue in which manners are refined.

Nevertheless, it cannot be said that all Judo practitioners are striving for such self-improvement. If the intention is to practise Judo solely as an athletic exercise without comprehending its spirit, such training will accordingly be left wanting in the important aspects of self-improvement. All Judo practitioners must give heed to training both the body and the mind. It is my hope that they will perfect their manners and etiquette concomitantly with technical improvement. When sitting in the formal upright position in the dojo, if one feels only discomfort thinking it necessary to endure simply because of dojo protocol, such a man will slink back into slovenliness upon returning home... Sitting properly in the dojo is not just a matter of protocol, but is the required posture for refining one's manners as a human being.

Lifestyle

 
The next theme concerns the way one lives his life. Soundness is of the essence... The most important point is to live a frugal lifestyle. If you increase your means, use it to engage only in things that will be of use. A student should use what he has available in strengthening his body and acquiring knowledge. The adult should use his resources to develop his business further, for looking after his progenies, for helping friends, or improving society and the state. Increasing the amount of money and resources spent for ameliorating one's outward appearance should be one's lowest priority. If you maintain this policy, you will have sufficient means without risking your reputation, and you will be able to uphold your dignity.

If one possesses little wealth, it would be disgraceful to spend a large sum of money on living expenses. Choose to live in a small house and wear inexpensive clothes. Even when living so humbly, your manners and Rei need not ever be lacking, and you can hold your head high if you do not burden others. Thus, through maintaining a sound lifestyle, you can amplify your capabilities and will eventually be able lead a prosperous life.

 



Monday, May 02, 2022

A Tribute to Imi Lichtenfeld, the Founder of Krav Maga


Imi Lichtenfeld created Krav Maga, sometime in the 1930s during the social upheaval and violence towards Jews that preceded WWII. He later became
Chief Instructor for Physical Fitness and Krav Maga at the IDF School of Combat Fitness for the new state of Israel.

Below is a short video tribute to Mr. lichtenfeld. 

 


Friday, April 29, 2022

The Influence of Karate on Judo

Below is an excerpt from a post at Ryukyu Bugei, about a kata developed by Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo. It is one of ten kata recognized by the Kodokan.

The development of the kata may some influences of karate upon the development of judo. The full article may be read here.

The “Seiryoku Zen’yo Kokumin Taiiku no Kata” (in the following SZKTK) is a collection of combative movement exercises, created under inclusion of concepts from the field of physical education. It translates to “Form of national physical education of maximum efficiency”. It was officially released by the founder of Jūdō, Kanō Jigorō, in 1930 and today is one of the ten kata that are recognized by the Kōdōkan.

The SZKTK consists of two categories: The first category consists of 29 individual movements (tandoku-undō), performed by a single person. The second category consists of 20 partner exercises, performed by two persons (aitai-undō). Its salient characteristic is the almost exclusive use of atemi (impact) techniques. These atemi techniques particularly seem to indicate that Kanō incorporated results of his exploration of karate into this form.
In a lecture read on April 18th, 1888, Kanō explained towards the Asiatic Society of Japan that
“In some of the schools [of jūjutsu] special exercises, called Atemi and Kuatsu, are taught. Atemi is the art of striking or kicking some of the parts of the body in order to kill or injure the opponent.”
In his 1888 lecture Kanō strongly opposed any clams that jūjutsu originated in Chinese martial arts of any kind, while some of the major schools employing the concept of atemi clearly referred to it (See Chin Genpin, Akiyama and others), wich probably rendered it some sort of ideological no-go for Kanō at the time, or at least to be treated with great care.

As regards a possible influence from karate: Kanō grew interest in karate – with Okinawa being Japanese – in 1908, when pupils of the Okinawan 1st Middle School of Shuri presented karate at the youth tournament held by the Butokukai in Kyōto, which “Doctor Kanō attentively observed with bated breath”.

In Kanō’s “Imitative physical exercises” (Gidō taisō) published in 1909 we find movements such as
  • “polishing a long board (tate itamigaki)”,
  • “kicks in four directions (shihō-geri)”,
  • “strikes in four directions (shihō-ate)”
and others. These are considered to be the prototypes of techniques incorporated in the SZKTK, namely the techniques called
  • “polishing a metal mirror (kagami-togi)”,
  • “kicks in five directions (gohō-geri)”, and
  • “strikes in five directions (gohō-ate)”.
When in 1911 six members of the Karate Club of the Okinawa Teachers College of Shuri made a trip to Tōkyō, Kanō invited them for a karate demonstration at his Kōdōkan Jūdō Institute. There they demonstrated kata as well as tameshiwari (smashing boards). As regards Kanō’s reception of this performance, it is said that “The Jūdō founder, Master Kanō, could not contain himself from expressing his high praise.”

Further references to atemi techniques made by Kanō next appeared in his “Overview of Jūdō” (Jūdō kaisetsu, 1913).

In May 1922 Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) came to Tōkyō to present Karate at the 1st Exhibition of Physical Education, sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Education. In June the same year Kanō invited Funakoshi for a demonstration of karate at his Kōdōkan Jūdō Institute. At that time Funakoshi was provided both a jūdō practice uniform and a black belt to wear during his demonstration. This fashion soon reached Okinawa. Initially, in jūdō practice the traditional keikogi (practice uniform) of jūjutsu was worn. Later the current practice uniform of jūdō with its longer sleeves and trousers was created and used during practice.  As the training content in jūdō and karate was quite different, other functionalities of the practice uniform were necessary. The practice uniform of jūdō gradually adapted to its own necessities, as did the practice uniform of karate. In this way the current practice uniforms were born.






Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Interview with Yang Jwing Ming


Yang Jwing Ming has had an impact on the transmission of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts in North America. Below is an excerpt from an interview with Dr Yang that appeared at Kung Fu Tea. The full interview may be read here.

Introduction

Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming generously sat down with Kung Fu Tea for a lengthy and wide ranging discussion of his martial arts experiences in both Taiwan and the United States. A major topic of conversation was the creation of YMAA Publications which remains one of the most important martial arts publishing houses. Also intriguing were Dr. Yang’s thoughts on the future direction of the Chinese martial arts and the role that they might play as modern societies continue to grapple with the disruption of labor markets by the rapid development of artificial intelligence and automation. The notes from that interview have been edited for length and clarity.

By way of introduction, Dr. Yang started his martial arts training at the age of fifteen under white crane Master Cheng Gin Gsao (曾金灶). The following year Dr. Yang began the study of Yang style taijiquan with Master Kao, Tao (高濤). He studied physics at Tamkang College in Taipei Xian and also began to practice Shaolin long fist with Master Li, Mao-Ching at the Tamkang College Guoshu Club (1964-1968). In 1971 Dr. Yang completed his M.S. degree in Physics at the National Taiwan University before serving in the Chinese Air Force from 1971 to 1972. In 1978 he completed his Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering at Perdue University in the United States. In 1984, Dr. Yang retired from his engineering career and undertook his life-long dream of teaching and researching the Chinese arts and introducing them to the West through his numerous books and publications.

Kung Fu Tea (KFT): I understand that as a youth in Taiwan you studied white crane, taijiquan and then Shaolin long fist while at university.  What do you think inspired your interest in the martial arts as a teenager?  Why, in your opinion, are we generally seeing less interest among young people in the traditional Chinese martial arts today?

Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming (YJM): First off, you have to understand what it was like in Taiwan in the 1960s. Military education was compulsory. When you became a teenager, they took you out and taught you how to shoot an M1 rifle and everyone was getting ready to fight the Chinese Communist army in a continuation of the civil war. And to actually fight the Chinese Communists was to die! As a result, many young people were trying to build up their inner courage, or just process their own mortality. They wanted to prove that they were brave. This led some people to fight or join gangs, and others studied martial arts.

When I first asked my parents about studying the martial arts, I was surprised that my father quickly said yes because some people used martial arts in gang activities.  When I asked my grandmother about this she explained that we were from a martial arts village.  In Yang village, before the war, everyone studied martial arts.  It was a simple family style for farmers. The number of techniques was limited but people really perfected them.

Everything is different today. We haven’t had society wide wars in a long time.  Young people are not scared or thinking about their own mortality. It was after the Vietnam War that martial arts really became popular in the United States.  There was such an explosion of interest in the early 1970s.  I remember watching Kung Fu with David Carradine and thinking that the martial arts choreography was not great, but at least people were really trying to explore a philosophy, which was good.  

All of that changed in the 1980s. There came to be so much violence in all of the media about martial arts. There was also an increasing emphasis on how things looked rather than actual technique or application.  The Chinese martial arts became like plastic flowers, a societal fashion rather than a pursuit of serious self-cultivation. “Gongfu” means time and energy, but most people have so little patience today.