Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, 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 ~

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


The Tang Dynasty was considered a Golden Age of art and culture in China. Poetry was particulary esteemed. No occasion, no homecoming or leave taking; no celebration would be complete without one.Some of the best poems from the Tang Dynasty period are collected into a book entitled The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of it. This one is written about someone failing the imperial examination.

Wang Wei

In a happy reign there should be no hermits;
The wise and able should consult together....
So you, a man of the eastern mountains,
Gave up your life of picking herbs
And came all the way to the Gate of Gold --
But you found your devotion unavailing.
...To spend the Day of No Fire on one of the southern rivers,
You have mended your spring clothes here in these northern cities.
I pour you the farewell wine as you set out from the capital --
Soon I shall be left behind here by my bosomfriend.
In your sail-boat of sweet cinnamon-wood
You will float again toward your own thatch door,
Led along by distant trees
To a sunset shining on a far-away town.
...What though your purpose happened to fail,
Doubt not that some of us can hear high music.

Monday, February 27, 2006


You can click on the title of this post to read the whole article...

Our Life as a Wave
This article by Nomon Tim Burnett is a touch wordy, but there's much food for thought:

What if we could really feel the ocean. What if we developed the courage to allow our attention to drop below the surface of our wave into the depths. What if we were to breathe down to the bottom of our wave and see what that boundary between our wave and the rest of the ocean was like. What if we found that in fact there is no boundary there at all. If we could actually appreciate that and even relax and enjoy that dynamic edge where you can’t really tell where the ocean ends and our wave begins? Maybe it would help us relax about this fear we hold. This fear of dissolution. Because what’s really changing when our wave’s water returns to the bottom of the ocean?

Lenten Training Challenge

We all try to train everyday, but life often interferes. Families, work, travel, illnesses, you name it. Sometimes we need a little extra motivation to help push us over those rough spots.

I want to throw down the gaunlet for the annual Lenten Challenge. Lent, in the Roman Catholic church runs from March 1, through April 16 (Easter). I don't know what the dates are in the Orthodox Church, but I'm sure someone will post it.

So here's the challenge: train every day during Lent. No excuses, no days off. Won't you join me?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Eagle Claw

Legend tells us that in the year 1130, General Yue Fei, during the struggle of the Southern Song Dynasty against barbarian Jurgens, developed 108 seizing (joint lock and pressure point manipulations) which became the basis of the martial art known as Eagle Claw.

The 108 seizing techniques became combined with Northern Shaolin Kung Fu, and became the legacy of the Lau family. Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, the Ching Mo Association was founded in Shanghai. It was because of the Ching Mo Association that Eagle Claw became more widespread and popularized.

Today there are many different branches of Eagle Claw, but they can all trace their roots back to the Ching Mo Association. The two most notable masters of Eagle Claw are the sisters Gini and Lily Lau.

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a wikipedia page on the subject of Eagle Claw.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The best laid plans of mice and men are about the same

All day I had been planning on working out tonight. First one thing, nothing major; then another came up, and before I knew it, the evening had vanished.

Oh well. I'm not going to beat myself up about not practicing today. My practice isn't so fragile or shallow that missing a little practice is going to do me any harm. On the contrary, I have a chance to step back a bit from what I've been doing, evaluate it, and make a few changes.

A situation at work got me thinking about one of the 36 strategies - borrow a sword to kill another. The first thing we'd think of (and the example I gave) was getting someone else to do your dirty work, rather than do it yourself.

The 36 Strategies didn't become a classic if it didn't merit a little deeper thinking though. Some other interpretations of borrowing a sword to kill another could apply to a situation where you don't have the resources, or authority to get something done, so you get someone else who does have those assets to do it for you. Or you could 'borrow' someone else's authority or resources to get something done.

Have you ever been in a group that needed to get something done, but no one was vested with the authority to be the leader? A leader emerges by borrowing the authority to do so.

Each of the 36 strategies has interpretations that come to mind easily. These are only at the surface. Think about them and see if you can think of other ways to apply them.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Listen to the Center

A friend brought up a phrase from push hands the other day - Listen to the Center. In push hands, you first try to find, identify the opponent's center, then apply a positive or negative force (push or pull, for example), to unbalance him. At the same time, you try to protect your own center. The highest form of defense being to 'hide' your center so your opponent can't find it at all.

I was thinking that this phrase applies at a higher level as well. I'm not writing in some dewy eyed, new age sense; but in a more practical matter.

Can you find, in any situation, it's center? Can you find those several attributes which constitutes it's center of gravity? If you can, then the application of a little force will yield great results. Conversely, if you can't, all your efforts will literally be on the periphery, and count for little.

Likewise, can you keep your own center protected and hidden? If you can, then nothing can harm you.

From the Dao De Jing, Chapter 50:

Men flow into life, and ebb into death.

Some are filled with life;
Some are empty with death;
Some hold fast to life, and thereby perish,
For life is an abstraction.

Those who are filled with life
Need not fear tigers and rhinos in the wilds,
Nor wear armour and shields in battle;
The rhinoceros finds no place in them for its horn,
The tiger no place for its claw,
The soldier no place for a weapon,
For death finds no place in them.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Sore Feet Song

The Sore Feet Song, by Alley Kerr, is the opening song for the Anime, "Mushishi".

The Sore Feet Song

I walked ten thousand miles, ten thousands miles to reach you
And every gasp of breath, I grabbed it just to find you
I climbed up every hill to get to you
I wandered ancient lands to hold just you

And every single step of the way, I paid
Every single night and day I searched for you
Through sand storms and hazy dawns I reached for you

I stole ten thousands pounds, ten thousand pounds to see you
I robbed convenience stores coz I thought they'd make it easier
I lived off rats and toads and I starved for you
I fought off giant bears and I killed them too

And every single step of the way, I paid
Every single night and day I searched for you
Through sand storms and hazy dawns I reached for you
I'm tired and I'm weak but I'm strong for you
I want to go home but my love gets me through

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The 36 Strategies: #13 Beat the grass to startle the snakes

The first six strategies were for situations in which you hold an advantage, whatever it may be:

1. Sneak across an ocean in broad daylight
2. Surround one state to save another
3. Borrow a sword to kill another
4. Face the weary in a condition of ease
5. Plunge into a fire to pull off a robbery
6. Feint east, strike west

The next six strategies are opportunistic in nature:

7. Make something from nothing
8. Cross the pass in the dark
9. Watch the fire from the opposite band of the river
10. Have a sword in a smile
11. One tree falls for another
12 Take the sheep in hand as you go along

These next six are offensive in nature.

13. Beat the grass to startle the snakes

You want to provoke your opponent into a response. There was a famous story of some burglars who ransacked a well to do neighborhood years ago. Over a period of months, on different days of the week and different times of the day, they'd deliberatedly set off burglar alarms.

They were doing experiments and taking measurements. They were seeing how long it would take to respond, and what form that response would take. Once they understood their environment, they robbed several houses, and were smart enough to quit when the responses began to change.

Well, almost. Greed got the better of them, and after a (too) brief lull, they hit the neighborhood again and got caught.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Is That So?

Is That So?

A beautiful girl in the village was pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who was the father. At first resistant to confess, the anxious and embarrassed girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master whom everyone previously revered for living such a pure life. When the outraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter's accusation, he simply replied "Is that so?"

When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. "Is that so?" Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.

For many months he took very good care of the child until the daughter could no longer withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained what had happened. "Is that so?" Hakuin said as he handed them the child.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Some Proverbs

Add legs to the snake after you have finished drawing it.

After three days without reading, talk becomes flavorless.

An ant may well destroy a whole dam.

Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.

Behind an able man there are always other able men.

Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one.

Better do a good deed near at home than go far away to burn incense.

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.

A book holds a house of gold.

Butcher the donkey after it finished his job on the mill.

A camel standing amidst a flock of sheep.

Clear conscience never fears midnight knocking.

A closed mind is like a closed book; just a block of wood

A crane standing amidst a flock of chickens.

Crows everywhere are equally black.

A dish of carrot hastily cooked may still has soil uncleaned off the vegetable.

Dismantle the bridge shortly after crossing it.

Distant water won't help to put out a fire close at hand.

Distant water won't quench your immediate thirst.

Do not employ handsome servants.

Do not want others to know what you have done? Better not have done it anyways.

Donkey's lips do not fit onto a horse's mouth.

A dog won't forsake his master because of his poverty; a son never deserts his mother for her homely appearance.

Dream different dreams while on the same bed.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Who needs fiction: Snake trapped in electric fence

I first came upon this when a friend sent me an email. It was a story about an Austrailian sheep farmer who had been losing sheep, and decided to put up an electric fence. The pictures were really impressive, but I thought they could have been faked, so I looked it up on the internet.

I ended up at an urban legends website. It was a real snake, but the story wasn't quite right. It wasn't a sheep farmer in Austrailia, it was at the Silent Valley Game Ranch in South Africa.

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the urban legends website, concerning the snake. Besides the picture shown here, there is a link to more pictures taken at the ranch.

Personally, I think the SWAT unit for every major police department should have a few of these. Just consider a hostage situation. Slip a couple of these into a building, and it would be cleared out in minutes.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

300 Tang Dynasty Poems: #13 At Parting

The Tang Dynasty was considered a Golden Age of art and culture in China. Poetry was particulary esteemed. No occasion, no homecoming or leave taking; no celebration would be complete without one.

Some of the best poems from the Tang Dynasty period are collected into a book entitled The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of it.

Below is #13.


by Wang Wei


I dismount from my horse and I offer you wine,
And I ask you where you are going and why.
And you answer: "I am discontent
And would rest at the foot of the southern mountain.
So give me leave and ask me no questions.
White clouds pass there without end."