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 ~

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Who Needs Fiction: The Worst Martial Arts Instructors

If you type "Worst Martial Arts Instructors" into the search box on YouTube, you'll find a lot of entertainment.

There is nothing I can add to the spectacle.

A sample of the genre is below. Enjoy your browsing!

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

The Way of Karate

Below is an  excerpt from a post at Okinawan Karate on the meaning of "Karate Do. The full post may be read here.

Yep, you got it, another inspiration to write an article on my favorite subject, martial arts and in particular karate for self-protection. This time, as you can imagine, it's about the proverbial belief that one who practices karate, or any martial art for that matter, as a way of life. 

First, karate-do (空手道) as defined at is translated into an English definition of, "the way of karate; karate." What is, exactly, the WAY of KARATE? For every karate-ka in the martial arts communities there are as many different definitions and philosophies as to what the way of karate means. 

What does the "Way of Karate" mean, simple - it depends. Like all philosophical beliefs that philosophy depends on a slew of factors to each individual. It is something you already thought of but there are a slew of factors each of us will use to decide what it all means. 

To start, here is a link to a vBlog by Iain Abernethy Sensei on this very subject. It is short and to the point. And with everything Abernethy Sensei does, it is done well… you might say it is done with flair, personality and dedication and a love for the art and way that is karate, a martial art. 

Now, back to MEEEE, hehehe, I take a literal look at the phrase and ideograms/characters in that the way, the path of karate if you will is literally about the study, practice, training and application of karate or empty hand. There are no real philosophical concepts to the root practice because it is a physical endeavor that people involve themselves in for a variety of reasons with one that stands out. The ‘one’ is learning how to fight, how to defend and protect against an aggressive adversary bent on doing you harm, grave harm. 

It wasn’t till the time of Funakoshi Sensei and his compatriots in the world of Okinawan karate that a more philosophical aspect was born, i.e., late 1800’s maybe and surely the early 1900’s along with the educational versions being implemented for social and political reasons in a time of war or near war. 

All martial arts originally were simply a means to do harm to others before they did harm to you and add in all the ancient political and social reasons you can readily visualize the brutality and deadly need for such systems of martial skill and prowess. 

So, if that and other concepts are acceptable then we must ask the question as it relates not to ancient times but to modern times, times that began with Funakoshi Sensei and his morphing of Okinawan karate to Japanese karate. 

Funakoshi Sensei kept it pretty simple, “The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat but in the perfection of character of its participants.” Quoted in Abernethy Sensei’s Facebook vBlog presentation. 

Sunday, October 06, 2019

British Bare Knuckled Boxing

There was a series of photos published in the British publication The Sun, from a bare knuckled boxing tournament held in Manchester, in March 2019.

The article may be found here. It's not for the faint of heart.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Wu/Hao Style Taijiquan Documentary

There are two styles of taijiquan that goe by the name "Wu." There is the Wu family style that comes from Wu QuanYou and Wu Jianquan, and the Wu/Hao style that comes form Wu YuXiang and Hao Weizhen.

The Wu family style is very well known. The Wu/Hao styles, less so.

It is from the Wu/Hao style that Sun Lu Tang developed the Sun style of taijiquan.

Below is a documentary on the Wu/Hao style of taijiquan.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Taijiquan Free Style Push Hands

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at Thoughts on Tai Chi on five elements to excelling at free push hands practice. The full post may be read here.

These five points on how to master tai chi free push hands is nothing I myself have seen written down in any book or in any article. The real Masters should know them very well, but sometimes it’s not something they will describe or teach. Often, you need to discover the tactics and strategy by yourself, by understanding what your teacher does when he practice with you or demonstrates his skills. Some people will get it, some people won’t. Anyway, if you understand these five points, you will have a great advantage against any opponent, and not only in push hands. Here are also valuable things to learn for sparring and combat.

But first, remember the basics and fundaments of any tai chi, what always should be remembered at all the time: Be relaxed and always relax more. Never tense your breath and focus all your strength and movements from the dantian. Rely on tingjin, let your touch decide what to do. Always keep the integrity of your tai chi shenfa: i.e. never at any cost compromise your balance and structure. All of these points here and the five important points below, are meant to be turned into practical practice.

Thinking will be of no use. You need to do it practically.

1. Always do two things at the same time.

Whenever you do something in free push hands, whatever it might be, don’t think one dimensional, or that “two” comes after “one”. Instead, blend your movements together, always do two or three things at the same time. When you defend, attack at the same time. If one part of your opponent’s body moves forward, another part will go backwards. This means that at the same time you defend, as evading from an incoming push, you should follow and fill in the gaps. When you fill in the gaps, never let your opponent escape. Keep on following and fill in. In stationary push hands, if he continue to move, he will fall by himself. In moving push hands, you can add a third aspect as by slipping your foot behind his, or trap his body in a compromised structure, to make him fall.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Budo and Natural Movement

Over at The Budo Bum, there was an interesting post that posited the idea that martial arts practice doesn't promote natural movement, but helps us to overcome our natural tendencies to achieve a mode that is better than our natural movement.

I think that a counter argument could be made that we are conditioned since birth to move in an unnatural way and that our martial arts practice helps us to peel away the layers of baggage so that we can return to a state of naturalness.

Below is an excerpt. The full post may be read here.

I’ve heard proponents of various martial arts talk about how “natural” their art is. They proclaim that whatever they are doing is based on natural movements. Some are said to be based on the movements of animals. Others claim to be based on the natural movement of the human body.

I was working with one of my students this morning on some kata from Shinto Hatakage Ryu. His movement is getting good and solid. It struck me that his strong, smooth movement was efficient, effective and elegant, but not at all natural. When I began to think about it, I realized I could not think of any martial art where the movements are natural to human beings. By “natural” I mean that the movements are ones that people make without having to be trained for endless hours.

Along with Shinto Hatakage Ryu Iai Heiho I teach Shinto Muso Ryu Jo and Kodokan Judo. Among the movements and principles taught in those three arts, I cannot think of a movement or technique that I would call natural.  In truth, the hallmark of good, effective budo seems to be how unnatural it is. Developing proficiency in any budo movement requires years of practice with a good teacher. It never just happens. Even with students who have a natural affinity for an art, it takes years, perhaps half as many as a natural klutz like me, but years.

I’ve written before that all I teach is how to walk and how to breath. I was exaggerating a little there, and Ellis Amdur was generous enough to call me out on that point and several others. However, walking and breathing are examples of unnatural budo movement.  There isn’t much that is more natural than walking, and breathing might be the most natural thing we do. Nonetheless, as budoka, we spend years learning to breathe properly from our guts and to stay balanced and stable when we walk.

Why does it take so much effort to learn to do something that we were born doing? Breathing is the first thing we do for ourselves when we are born. We take a breath and let the world know how unhappy we are to have been kicked out of the wonderful home where we’ve spent the last nine months. Once we do that, we never stop breathing. What else about breathing could there possibly be to learn. 

A great deal when you dig into it. Our natural instincts aren’t very good when it comes to breathing.  Even before we get to all the inefficient ways people have of breathing, for all that it is a natural, automatic act, put people under just a little bit of stress and they will actually forget to breathe! I spend too much of my teaching time reminding students to breathe for the first couple of years they are training.

When they do remember to breathe, they usually are doing it poorly; breathing with their shoulders or taking shallow breaths or finding some other way to do the most natural act in the world wrongly. Proper breathing must be taught and practiced until it is an unconscious act. When sparring, you don’t have sufficient mental capacity to think about breathing correctly. If your breathing skills aren’t honed so that proper breathing happens even when you’re not thinking about it, you won’t breathe well under stress.

Walking feels nearly as natural as breathing. No one had to teach you how to walk. You figured it out for yourself, and you’ve been doing it for longer than you can remember. What could there be to learn about walking? From the condition of the students who come to the dojo, or just doing some casual people watching, we can see that most people haven’t learned very much about how to walk properly.  They roll their hips. They slouch their shoulders. They slap their feet on the ground. They lean forward past the point of balance. They stand on their heels. New students spend hours hearing me correct their way of walking. 

Because of all the bad habits people pick up over the course of their lives, learning to walk in a solid, stable, balanced manner takes a long time to learn to do consciously. Learning to do it unconsciously when under stress takes even longer. Good walking isn’t natural at all.

When you consider the discrete movements and actions that make up any budo art, things become even more unnatural. Just about the first thing we teach in judo, and the technique that prevents more people from getting hurt outside the dojo than any other, is how to fall safely. Two year-olds fall pretty well. They are relaxed and comfortable with falling down, perhaps because they do so much of it. By the time we start school though, falling is met with stiffness and fear. There is no technique in judo that we practice as much as falling. Falling well requires coordination of the entire body and I’ve never met anyone besides trained gymnasts who took to it without hours of accumulated practice. It’s an entirely unnatural act: we don’t like to fall.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Outside of the Dojo

Training in the dojo is training in an idealized form. It certainly has it's place, but sooner or later we much step outside. How well does your training carry over?

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at Okinawan Fighting Art: Isshin Ryu. The full article may be read here.

If you only practice in the dojo; if you only train in the dojo; if you build experience(s) only in the dojo then you can imagine how little you know, understand and have experienced. There is a whole wide world out there and we encounter every day in every moment small things that relate and connect to what it is we strive to achieve within the dojo walls. Many of the small things may seem irrelevant to what we do in the dojo and as you already know and can readily imagine those irrelevances actually provide us experiences that we can then translate to proper trigger concepts to what we do "doah if you will" in the dojo. 

If you only train, practice and apply skills in the dojo and you don't relate that and other studies with an interconnection the the way of the dojo you can understand then how much you short yourself of the possibilities of the dojo, both in and out of the dojo. 

To truly achieve the way to the dojo you have to “transcend” that dojo and take that to the streets. To transcend the dojo one must connect the dojo to everyday life. Even when it seems to stand far from what is in the dojo. If we expect the things we do in the dojo to be relevant and workable, practical if you will, to the streets be it sport competition or self-protection against aggression and violence then transcension  of dojo practice, training and understanding must be relevant and connected to what is done in the dojo. Otherwise the dojo becomes not a dojo but a club where one socializes then leaves the social reality of the dojo at the dojo doors when re-entering the real world. To make the dojo real-world applicable it must transcend beyond the dojo doors. 

To practice, train and understand only in the dojo is to NOT practice, train and understand the martial arts within the dojo proper for martial arts to be understood is to live the training and practice in every moment of life whether obvious or not. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Vintage Ark Wong Huey

I've previously posted about the late Master Ark Wong Huey. He was one of the first to teach Chinese Martial Arts to non-Chinese.

Below is a video of a program that was put on by some of his senior students demonstrating various health and self defense aspects of his martial art.  Enjoy.

He appeared in the pilot of the original Kung Fu pilot for the series. Below he is the old monk demonstrating the Dragon form.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The 48 Laws of Power, #30: Seem Effortless

One of my favorite books on strategy is The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers.  Where The Art of War, by Sun Tzu is written as an overview of the whole topic of strategy, seeking to provide an overall understanding of the subject; and The 36 Strategies tries to impart the knack of strategic thinking through 36 maxims related to well known Chinese folk stories, Mr. Greene focuses on how we influence and manipulate one another, ie "power".

Mr. Greene draws from both Eastern and Western history and literature as his source material. Sun Tzu and Machiavelli as cited as much as wonderful stories of famous con men. 

Each of the 48 Laws carries many examples, along with counter examples where it is appropriate that they be noted, and even reversals.

It is a very thorough study of the subject and the hardback version is beautifully produced.

One of the things I admire about Greene is that he not only studied strategy, he applied what he learned to his own situation and prospered.

Today we have #30, Make your Accomplishments Seem Effortless

Your actions must seem natural and executed with ease. All the toil and practice that go into them, and also all the clever tricks, must be concealed. When you act, act effortlessly, as if you could do much more. Avoid the temptation of revealing how hard you work – it only raises questions. Teach no one your tricks or they will be used against you.

Of course we are proud of the hard work and practice that we've put into something, but when we put that on display, it makes our accomplishments seem less wonderful, less special. They'll say that anyone could do it if they practiced that much, then they'll criticize your practice.

Don't reveal why you are capable; just do it.