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 ~

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Last Swordsman

The following on excerpts from a long and fascinating article that appeared in the Aikido Journal about Yoshio Sugino, a famous 20th century Japanese martial artist. He knew everybody and did everything. An excerpt can't do the article justice. Click on the title of this post, and you'll be directed there to read the whole thing.

Yoshio Sugino, swordsman of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu, is respected worldwide as one of the elder statesmen in the world of Japanese kobujutsu (classical martial arts). Born in 1904, his life has paralleled much of the development of modern Japan, and during that time he has been fortunate enough to know and study under many of this century’s legendary martial artists.

He has also provided martial arts instruction for many of Japan’s most popular historical movies, including Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, adding dynamism and reality to what had been staid and poorly stylized fight-scene choreography. He has also appeared frequently in the media as a representative of the world of Japanese kobujutsu. In such ways he has contributed much toward introducing the truly wonderful aspects of Japanese martial arts to the public. But despite Sugino’s tremendous service to the budo world, information on him has been limited to fragmented interviews and popular articles that do little toward painting a realistic portrait of the man himself, his origins and his history. In this series I look back on Sugino Sensei’s life and the paths he has taken, along the way presenting some of the thoughts on bujutsu he has developed during his 92 years.

Sugino was born in 1904, a year considered by classical Japanese astrology to engender good luck to those born in it. A look at a few of the details of his budo career will confirm that phenomenal good fortune has indeed been his throughout his journey. Doctors saved his arm. He got through the war without being called up. despite top examination results. Throughout a long career he has enjoyed close contact with many of the most prominent, most talented martial artists of our century, Jigoro Kano and Morihei Ueshiba among them, and he has managed to lead one of the fullest lives a martial artist could ever ask for. Of course, Sugino has had to overcome his share of hardship as well, but bujutsu has supported him through all such difficulties, serving him well as the core of his physical and spiritual being. These days he is regarded as one of the precious remaining living witnesses to the world of Japanese kobujutsu and is loved and respected as a teacher. And, despite his advanced age and long years of experience, behind his penetrating glare remains the same impish grin that as a youngster earned him a reputation as “that little rascal!” and that nowadays simply enchants and fascinates.

The boy grew up to have a good deal of fortitude and always kept a stiff upper lip, then, as now, quite imperturbable. Initiation into bujutsu Sugino first encountered the martial arts after entering Keio University in 1918, where he was enrolled in the Department of Commerce and Industry. Standing only 159 centimeters and weighing a slight 56 kilograms, what he lacked in build he has always made up for in energy. He threw himself diligently into many club activities including, of course, those related to martial arts. “I was in just about every club there was,” he recalls, “judo, kendo, kyudo, sumo and quite a few others. I’d join just about anything I was asked to.” (Students in most Japanese schools are required to take part in at least one club meeting per week and may join others if they wish. Such clubs are a significant part of Japanese school life in all grades.) He was particularly active in the boating club and in some clubs that would be inconceivable in Japan today, such as the pistol club. “I remember shooting at a pigeon in the school yard, but I missed,” he says. Unlike modern Japan with its strict gun control laws, back then, it seems, there was more freedom to own a pistol. Sugino remembers his university days fondly. He describes walking with a friend through the fashionable Ginza district, the atmosphere there alive with the cheerful optimism and freedom of Taisho-era democracy, the two of them swaggering through the crowd, surveying the scene with the confident delight and natural curiosity of youth.

Once there was a judo tournament between Keio University and the four-school alliance comprised of Kuramae Engineering University, Tokyo University of Agriculture, Rissho University and Tokyo University of Fisheries. The Keio team being short on members, Iizuka arranged for Sugino to participate despite the fact that he was still only a first kyu. His opponents were all huge black-belts. But Sugino stepped onto the mat wearing his brown belt and threw his way through six of them, with the seventh match ending in a draw. Afterward his teammates crowded around him congratulating him: “You’re so small, but you fought so well in there! Even Iizuka Sensei thought so.” He came away from the tournament with unprecedented new confidence.

At the end of that same year Sugino took his shodan exam at the Kodokan on Iizuka’s recommendation. This time he defeated six opponents in a row, earning for himself the rank of “shodan with honors”, a rank which existed at that time and indicated performance above and beyond that required for an ordinary shodan. From then until earning his 4th dan, Sugino remained undefeated. Even in elimination-type series he would inevitably wind up first or at least in a draw with the last opponent.

His friend Minoru Mochizuki (present head of the Yoseikan) once commented about his judo skills: “Sugino? That guy has the kami [divine] in him!” One of Sugino’s favorite judo techniques was utsurigoshi (hip shift), a somewhat acrobatic technique in which the opponent’s throwing power is taken advantage of to throw him instead. He was also fond of urawaza (rear techniques) and kaeshiwaza (reversals) and always exploited openings left by opponents who carelessly underestimated him because of his small size. But more than anything he had the confidence that his teacher Iizuka had planted in him.

Sugino continued training in judo rigorously, day after day, constantly thinking of ways to strengthen himself and his technique. Being of a highly assertive disposition to begin with, he never hesitated to express his own opinions, even to his superiors. He once even argued with Jigoro Kano regarding a point of judo technique. Kano said that koshiguruma (hip wheel) and ogoshi (large hip throw) were the same technique. Sugino insisted they were different; for koshiguruma, he said, you load your opponent on your hips, whereas for ogoshi you do not. It was practically unheard of and highly irregular for a judo practitioner to argue about such things with the very founder of the art! But Sugino was of a strongly progressive spirit and never allowed himself to be bound by tradition or authority. Even then, though still relatively young, he was already searching for an answer to the question, “What should modern judo really be like?”

Encountering Katori Shinto-ryu on September 15, 1927, while still just 22 years old, Sugino opened his own dojo (including a bone-setting clinic) in the city of Kawasaki, where he has based most of his activities ever since. Some time after earning his 4th dan in judo, Jigoro Kano told him that he should consider pursuing some sort of kobujutsu in addition to his judo training. Judo alone was not enough, Kano said, and one could not consider oneself a complete martial artist without studying the sword. The classical tradition to which he introduced Sugino was Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu.

Katori Shinto-ryu, founded by Iizasa Choisai Ienao (Iga no Kami), had been handed down through the generations for over 500 years in the Katori area of Shimousa (now Chiba Prefecture). Considered one of the fountainheads of Japanese martial tradition, Katori Shinto-ryu had never been taught outside the Chiba region. Kano, however, asked whether some arrangement could be made to have the style taught in Tokyo as well. This caused a great stir within the school and it was discussed at length whether or not the request should be accommodated. Eventually it was decided that, as the tradition was in danger of falling into obscurity, it should be actively disseminated in Tokyo to prevent this.

The school dispatched four shihan: Narimichi Tamai, Sozaemon Kuboki, Tanekichi Ito, and Ichizo Shiinato to teach the style at the Kodokan. It was arranged that these four should also stop in Kawasaki on their way home, training with Sugino there on Sunday afternoons and Monday mornings. Although Sugino had practiced with a shinai during his university kendo days, it was his first experience of wielding an actual sword. It was not long, however, before he had become completely engrossed in the new style of training. Katori Shinto-ryu kata tend to be longer and involve more movements than those of other classical traditions. When practicing the sword, for example, uchidachi and shidachi attack and defend back and forth in long, dynamic sets involving a whole spectrum of diverse techniques, each swordsman identifying and attacking openings in the opponent’s defenses. In this respect, Katori Shinto-ryu is somewhat distinctive among kobujutsu styles, many of which typically emphasize simpler, less elaborate movements.

When he was 24, Sugino learned Yoshin koryu jujutsu from a well-known teacher. Around 1937 or 1938 he was that teacher’s partner in a demonstration of held in the imperial palace. There, he also demonstrated Katori Shinto-ryu with his teacher Ichizo Shiina. This budo demonstration was sponsored by the Society for the Promotion of Classical Japanese Martial Arts, an organization established a few years earlier in 1935 at the initiative of the Minister of Justice, himself a high-ranking kyudo (archery) teacher, and with the cooperation of members of the House of Councilors. Along with his teachers, Sugino had joined the new organization as a representative of the Katori Shinto-ryu. In April of the same year, the Society marked its establishment with a budo demonstration held at the Hibiya Public Hall and from then until the end of the war in 1945 it sponsored “dedication” demonstrations of classical martial arts (kobudo) at the most important Shinto shrines around Japan. Sugino participated in many of these. Sugino continued his study of Yoshin koryu jujutsu until he had reached the kyoshi level (a rank between renshi and hanshi). In judo, however, he took no further rank, despite several recommendations for promotion. “Kodokan judo had become a sport,” he says, “and I was not interested in that.”

Sugino first met Morihei Ueshiba around 1931 or 1932, at the newly built Wakamatsu-cho dojo in Shinjuku. He was introduced to the founder of aikido through an acquaintance, which was the usual — and more or less essential — means in those days when it was difficult to even observe an aikido training without an introduction from a reputable individual. At the time Morihei Ueshiba was nearly 50 years old and already a well-known figure in the martial arts world.

Sugino recalls that upon their first meeting he was surprised to find before his eyes a smallish yet extremely robust man with a broad smile spanning his face. He wondered if this could really be the Ueshiba he had heard so much about. Some two years earlier, judo founder Jigoro Kano had paid a visit to the Ueshiba dojo, accompanied by some of his students, including renowned “judo genius” Nagaoka. Watching the training, Kano is said to have remarked in admiration, “Now that is true judo!” Nagaoka was apparently taken aback and upset by this unexpected comment and challenged his teacher by asking impulsively: “Then the judo we are practicing is not real? Is what we do at the Kodokan nothing but a lie?” Kano explained that he had not intended to imply such a thing and that he had simply meant that aikido was judo in a broad sense. He continued to praise Ueshiba and later asked him to teach some of his own students, including Minoru Mochizuki, who, in addition to having an earnest personality similar to Sugino’s, had also practiced Katori Shinto-ryu.

In 1935 Sugino received a teaching license from Ueshiba and after the war Sugino’s dojo became the second Aikikai branch dojo in Japan. Ueshiba’s son Kisshomaru (the present Doshu) and occasionally Ueshiba himself would go there once a month to teach. Ueshiba even asked Sugino if he would consider devoting himself professionally to aikido, but after considering his family responsibilities, Sugino reluctantly gave up the idea. Still, the close relationship between the Sugino dojo and aikido continued even after Ueshiba’s death and even today Sugino’s students are known to do skillful aikido demonstrations.

While Sugino had been somewhat surprised by Ueshiba’s smallish stature, he had still been impressed by his powerful build, but the martial arts master he encountered at an Asahi News-sponsored demonstration in Osaka in 1942 was altogether different. Sugino was watching the other demonstrators as he waited his turn to take the floor. A small man standing less than 150 centimeters stepped into the demonstration area. He seemed so frail and small as to have little more strength than a child. But his gaze! … His eyes swept the crowd with a piercing glare. Sokaku Takeda.

The elderly Sokaku stood squarely in the center of the floor, glaring fiercely like one of those statues of fierce-looking, muscular guardian deities that flanking the gates of many Japanese temples. Scowling at him from across the way were his opponents, a group of powerfully built Kodokan judoka. After a hasty introduction, Sokaku began his demonstration. One of the judoka stepped forward and suddenly launched a full-power right-handed chop directed at Sokaku’s head. Sokaku met the blow with his left hand and shifted his body. He grasped the judoka’s right hand and threw him down. “Well now! How about that?!” he shouted.

The next man moved in with another furious strike to Sokaku’s brow. This time Sokaku met the attack with his right hand, shifting and opening his posture again, seizing the attacker’s arm and pinning him easily on his back — on top of the first attacker! “Next! Come on, quickly, quickly!” The remaining judoka rushed in with similar attacks. Shifting this way and that, Sokaku avoided their strikes and put them down one by one, eventually heaping them into a pile resembling a giant cushion. All wore pained expressions as they tried to wriggle free, but Sokaku pinned them completely by holding their tangled arms lightly in a bundle with one hand.

Sugino felt a shiver up his spine — part in awe, part fear — as he watched the elderly Sokaku calmly twist his robust, high-spirited young opponents on to the ground and pin them almost effortlessly. Sokaku’s techniques clearly had nothing to do with physical power. They were, Sugino recognized, high-level applications of certain important principles and represented nothing less than the quintessence of Japanese martial arts.

By that time, Sokaku Takeda had long been a well-known figure in the Japanese martial arts world and his techniques echoed among the martial artists of the day. Sugino knew of him, of course, particularly as the Daito-ryu teacher of Morihei Ueshiba. While he never actually spoke with Sokaku directly and had seen Sokaku demonstrate on this one occasion alone, the diminutive Daito-ryu master left a vivid impression on Sugino that has remained to this day, an impression that is strangely two-fold: While he has only the highest regard for the level and quality of Sokaku’s aiki techniques, he frankly admits that he found his attitude somewhat poor, particularly in the way he would shower his opponents with taunts and jeers during his demonstration: “Well, look what happened to you!…. Hey you, get up off the ground, hey?! ” And while he immobilized them with a pin from which they struggled to free themselves, he would slap them on the buttocks and say, “What a wimp, you call yourself a man?!”

By the early 1950s Sugino was busy teaching at a number of schools in addition to his own dojo. One day a message arrived from the Society for the Promotion of Classical Japanese Martial Arts informing him that film director Akira Kurosawa would be making a new samurai drama and hoped Sugino would instruct the actors. The title of the film was to be the Seven Samurai.

Kurosawa asked Sugino to instruct the actors in techniques that were as authentic as possible from a martial arts perspective. Fight choreography in such dramas had previously been influenced by the largely decorative style of the kabuki theater, but in making Seven Samurai, Kurosawa intended to address the question, “What should a sword fight really look like on film?”

He had already begun exploring this question in one of his earlier films, Rashomon, notably in the fierce confrontation between the bandit played by Toshiro Mifune and the traveller played by Masayuki Mori. This scene featured some of the ugliest fighting the genre had ever seen, as Kurosawa sought a new filmic language that included combatants trembling violently with fear and leaping back in terror whenever their swords came even slightly in contact. It was an unusual piece of work for the period but earned high acclaim from critics and audiences around the world as the first realistic-looking sword battle ever to emerge from the Japanese cinema.

Sugino, too, was interested in pursuing authenticity. Assisted by his student Sumie Ishibashi, he demonstrated the sword and iai of Katori Shinto-ryu in a way that gave both Kurosawa and his cast a strong sense of what bujutsu was about. Something that caught Kurosawa’s attention was Sugino’s solid, well-balanced personal deportment, and he ordered the actors to emulate this as best they could including the way he walked, the way he kneeled down and any other aspects of his everyday manner they might notice. Kurosawa saw that there was a significant difference in stability between ordinary people and the samurai of old who spent their days with heavy swords at their waists.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wild Horses

"Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning." Henry David Thoreau

I believe that philosophy isn't a word game we play at over a cup of tea, where we try to impress our friends with our cleverness. Philosophy describes how we actually live our lives.

Recently I read a post on a forum I belong to, written by someone I consider a friend, regarding her brother. The forum is for people who are interested in Daoism. The brother, I can identify with at a number of levels.

He's 47. I'm nearly 50. At this age, many of us our positioning ourselves for retirement; which will be upon us more quickly that we might wish. This brother has a bad back, and other health issues. He also has some 17 years of military service (active service plus National Guard). He'd really like to get an additional 3 years, because a total of 20 years would be a nice plum for his retirement; a military pension.

After exploring some options, he signed up for the inactive reserves and they accepted him. These aren't the Ready Reserves; the guys who spend a weekend a month, and two weeks a year staying current. this is a level below that. He was given some advice that these reservists are rarely if ever called upon.

Sure enough, he gets a call out of the blue to put his affairs in order because he's heading to Iraq. Everyone is undstandably upset. I could only imagine how my own life would be turned upside down.

The Daoist, in my interpretation of things is above all practical and sees things as they are. There's no such thing as a free lunch. He sought to accrue a benefit from the government and in return there existed a chance that he could be called upon to fulfill an obligation. The advice he got with regards to his odds of being called up was wrong. If there are lessons in this for us it is that if you are going to make potentially a life altering decision, you'd better do your research.

No one likes to be surprised by bad news. I don't think we really like surprises at all unless it's good new. The shock is what's most upsetting at first. Tomorrow is another day. Once the shock wears off, we can begin to take stock of our situation, accept our new reality, and beging to assess our options. You have to make the best of where you are.

At nearly 50 years old and not in terribly good shape, what are the odds, really, of him seeing combat? Wouldn't it be more likely that he'd be placed in some sort of back office or maintenance job, so a younger, more fit man could see action?

And then ... there's always another shoe to drop. You never know what it might be. An old Chinese folk story comes to mind. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the website I copied this version from.

Long ago, near the frontier lived an old man. One day he found his horse missing. It was said that the horse was seen running outside the border of the country. The neighbors came to comfort him for the unfortunate loss. But the old man was unexpectedly calm and said, "It doesn't matter; it may not be a bad event, on the contrary, I think it can be a good one."

One night the old man heard some noise of horses and got up to see. To his surprise, he saw another beautiful horse as well as his own. It was clear that his horse had brought a companion home. Hearing the news, the neighbors all came to say congratulation on his good luck. At the greetings, however, the old man was very calm and thoughtful. He added, "It is true that I got a new horse for nothing, but it is hard to say whether it is good or bad. It may be an unlucky thing."

What he said was testified right. The son of the old man was very fond of the horse brought home, and one day, when he was riding the horse, he fell down from the horseback and terribly hurt in his left leg. Since then he was never able to walk freely. "Nothing serious," the old man said, "perhaps it is going to be good."

A year later, many of the youth there were recruited to fight in a war and most of them died. The son of the old man was absolved from the obligation for his disability, so he escaped death.

The old story tells us that good and bad, disaster and happiness can be converting objects to each other sometimes.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Who needs fiction: Creatures from the Deep

This is an article that appears at Yahoo. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original article that in turn has links to images of these otherworldly creatures.

Colorful Carpet of Cool Sea Creatures Discovered 2 Miles Deep

Jeanna Bryner
LiveScience Staff Writer
Fri Aug 24, 9:20 AM ET

A submerged mountain ridge beneath the North Atlantic Ocean has revealed a new crustacean species and oodles of other life forms, ranging from polka-dotted glass squid resembling beach balls to grim viperfish with teeth like ice-picks.

The finds were made by a team of 31 scientists during a five-week expedition to explore life along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge using remotely operated vehicles equipped with digital cameras and other technologies.

The "underwater eyes" surveyed regions from a half-mile to 2 miles (800 to 3,500 meters) deep and revealed distinct habitats, with colorful carpets of sponges and corals covering the rocky cliffs, and starfish, brittle-stars, sea cucumbers and burrowing worms taking residence in the softer sediments. Above the ridge, fishes, crabs, squid and shrimps foraged for food.

On the western side of the underwater ridge, the scientists, led by Monty Priede of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, discovered swarms of what could be a new species of Ostracod, or seed shrimp. The shrimp-like animal camouflages itself in the murky waters between depths of 164 and 656 feet (50 and 200 meters) with its see-through body.

As with the seed shrimp, the appearance and lifestyle of all the ridge's wonky creatures are a perfect fit for deep-sea life. The jewel squid, for instance, sports lopsided eyes to keep an eye out for predators (like the viperfish) both above and below.

“It is like surveying a new continent half way between America and Europe," Priede said. "We can recognize the creatures, but familiar ones are absent and unusual ones are common. We are finding species that are rare or unknown elsewhere in the world.”

The scientists still have extensive work to do studying the collected creatures along with physical data from the region.

"The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is still relatively unexplored so this voyage will have played a vital role in expanding our knowledge of the biodiversity of the region," said Steve Wilson, director of science and innovation for the Natural Environment Research Council in Wiltshire, England, which funded the expedition.

Top 10 Freaks of Nature Image Gallery: Under the Sea: Life in the Sanctuaries 10 Amazing Things You Didn't Know About Animals Original Story: Colorful Carpet of Cool Sea Creatures Discovered 2 Miles Deep

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Monday, August 20, 2007

I came across a blog dedicated to the study of internal development, If you click on the title of this post, or find the link over to the right, you'll be directed there. There are many interesting entries, and a LOT of links to video clips that are very good.

It's well worth a visit.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The 36 Strategies: #23 Make allies at a distance, attack nearby

Second only to the Art of War, by Sun Zi (Sun Tsu), The 36 Strategies is the most widely know book on the topic. The 36 Strategies is a set of 36 maxims, from which strategic thinking is taught. It behooves us to learn strategy, if only to recognize when someone is attempting to use a strategy on us, out of defense.

Below is #23.

23. Make allies at a distance, attack nearby

When you are more vulnerable to those close by than you are to those far away, you can defend yourself by keeping those around you off balance, in the meantime cutting off their field of maneuver by securing a broader ring of alliances surrounding them.

There is a bit of the yin yang aspect here. Fight your nearby enemies by making allies at a distance. Consider the positin of Great Britain during WWII after their army had been run off of the continent of Europe by Germany.

Their distant ally, the US, allowed them to rearm. The US opened another front in Africa, and then Italy, which split the Germany forces.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


This is the text of an email I received. I conceived a third choice, to post it. Enjoy.

Two Choices

What would you do? make the choice. Don't look for a punch line, there isn't one. Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice?

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: 'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?'

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. 'I believe, that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.'

Then he told the following story:

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. His Father watched with a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first! Run to first!' Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!' Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball ... the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay'

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third! Shay, run to third!'

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!' Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

'That day', said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world'.

Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

AND NOW A LITTLE FOOTNOTE TO THIS STORY: We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate. The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

If you're thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you're probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren't the 'appropriate' ones to receive this type of message. Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference. We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the 'natural order of things.' So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it's least fortunate amongst them.

You now have two choices:
1. Delete
2. Forward

May your day, be a Shay Day

Monday, August 13, 2007

Human Weapon: a different perspective

Every martial arts related blog and forum has an article on the new series being shown on the History Channel, Human Weapon. I vowed not to do so unless I could think of something original to write.

Here we go.

The premise of the show, as you probably know, is that two Americans train in come martial art for a week or so, then one of them engages in an exhibition match against a steady practitioner. One of these guys is a Mixed Martial Artist, while the other is an ex pro football player and wrestler.

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who was impressed that the ex football player fought a karate man to a draw in a match.

I have a different point of view.

In a fight between two men, all things being equal, the advantage will go to the bigger, stronger man. The goal of martial arts training for the smaller man is to mitigate the disadvantage, or if he is highly skilled, overcome the natural advantage of the bigger man.

Football, especially pro football is an extremely violent sport. Even for someone who only spent a few years at the professional level would be extremely tough and be able to mete out and receive blows that would do serious damage to the rest of us. Anyone at a professional level at virtually any sport would also have way above average eye hand coordination, reflexes, agility, etc. In short, even if he wasn't at his physical peak, this ex pro football player would rate among the very worst opponents any of us could want to fight.

The karate man in question was, as I recall, only a second degree black belt. That's really not that far up the ladder at all. Granted that he wasn't the run of the mill 2nd dan, he was a tournament champion, but he wasn't a "master" either.

The karate man was much smaller, and what I thought was notable was that it was the karate man who fought the ex football pro to a draw. That is a tribute to his training and fighting spirit. The ex football pro didn't disappear in a cloud of smoke when he was hit; he took it and he hit back. Sometimes he hit back very hard.

I think this perspective might bring a whole new light to Human Weapon.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Is it just me, or is there an unusual number of butterflies this summer? Not just the common white ones, but the big colored ones as well.

Along with the Dao De Jing, the book, Zhuang Zi (aka Chuang Tsu), named for it's author, is considered one of the foundational works of philosophical Daoism. One of the most famous stories from this book is Zhuang Zi's dream about a butterfly.

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the website where I foudn this particular translation of the story, and where you'll find many other resouces for the study of Daoism.

It was a cool evening in ancient China. Chuang Tzu's friend went looking for him at the local inn. He found Chuang Tzu sitting at a table, sipping his drink in a contemplative mood.

"There you are!" Chuang Tzu's friend greeted him. "I thought by now you would be telling everybody another one of your stories. Why so quiet?"

"There is a question on my mind," said Chuang Tzu, "a question about existence."

"I see. Would you like me to leave you alone to your thoughts?"

"No, let me share it with you. Perhaps you can provide me with your perspective."

"My perspective is of little value, but I would be glad to listen." He pulled up a chair.

"I was out for a stroll late in the afternoon," said Chuang Tzu. "I went to one of my favorite spots under a tree. I sat there, thinking about the meaning of life. It was so warm and pleasant that I soon relaxed, dozed off, and drifted into a dream. In my dream, I found myself flying up above the field. I looked behind me and saw that I had wings. They were large and beautiful, and they fluttered rapidly. I had turned into a butterfly! It was such a feeling of freedom and joy, to be so carefree and fly around so lightly in any way I wished. Everything in this dream felt absolutely real in every way. Before long, I forgot that I was ever Chuang Tzu. I was simply the butterfly and nothing else."

"I've had dreams of flying myself, but never as a butterly," Chuang Tzu's friend said. "This dream sounds like a wonderful experience."

"It was, but like all things, it had to end sooner or later. Gradually, I woke up and realized that I was Chuang Tzu after all. This is what puzzles me."

"What is so puzzling about it? You had a nice dream, that's all there is to it."

"What if I am dreaming right now? This conversation I am having with you seems real in every way, but so did my dream. I thought I was Chuang Tzu who had a dream of being a butterfly. What if I am a butterfly who, at this very moment, is dreaming of being Chuang Tzu?"

"Well, I can tell you that you are actually Chuang Tzu, not a butterfly."

Chuang Tzu smiled: "You may simply be part of my dream, no more or less real than anything else. Thus, there is nothing you can do to help me identify the distinction between Chuang Tzu and the butterfly. This, my friend, is the essential question about the transformation of existence."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Notable Dao De Jing Translation

Maybe it's the baby duck syndrome, but the first translation of the Dao De Jing that I was exposed to when I was a teenager, has always been my favorite. It's the translation by Gia Fu Feng, illustrated by photographs by Jane English. It can be found here:

While looking something else up, I stumbled across a reference to the book, and decided to look up Gia Fu Feng and Jane English. They were a married couple. She provided the photographs, and he provided the translations.

There's a pretty lengthy article about Gia Fu Feng. He was quite an interesting guy, who was right in the thick of it, brining the East to the West in the 60's and 70's. You can find it by clicking on the title of this post. The calligraphy at the top of this article was done by him.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Coming backlash against Chinese goods?

Again and again we hear of massive problems surrounding imported Chinese goods. The lead based paint in the toy trains being the latest. Below is an excerpt from a news article that appeared in a New Zealand paper. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article. It's well worth reading.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Buyer beware: the debate over Made in China

Are the mounting scandals about the quality and safety of Chinese imports well founded or more to do with Western prejudices? MATT PHILP investigates.

Made in China: the phrase has long been a byword for cheap. Now, thanks to a spate of heavily publicised product recalls, including some involving tainted food, Western consumers are rapidly getting the idea that it can also be a shorthand for nasty.

In New Zealand, the big story has been the discovery in the Just $2 discount chainstores of tubes of Chinese-sourced toothpaste containing a chemical component of antifreeze. That prompted a recall by the Director General of Health and, just this week, a disclosure that further investigations had uncovered another dozen toothpastes, all believed to be from China, containing the same diethylene glycol.

Overseas, toxic pet food containing industrial plastic, jewellery containing lead, and farmed seafood loaded with antibiotics are among the scares to have knocked consumer confidence in all things Chinese, no matter that the vast majority of exports are perfectly fine.

And there is a strong whiff of jingoism about the reaction, particularly in the United States, where one conservative news website headlined its coverage "Chinese products choke, burn, drown, drop, trap Americans".

Writing for The Washington Post, an Asian affairs columnist, Jeff Yang, remarked that even mainstream coverage has tended to portray China as "a nation blind to hygiene and blissfully unconcerned about recent reports of food contamination" and quoted chef Anthony Bourdain's line about fear of dirt sometimes being indistinguishable from fear of dirty people.

Nevertheless, the recalls have exposed serious shortcomings in China's supervision systems for a range of products, shortcomings from which Chinese consumers have suffered more than anyone and which are being exacerbated by China's rapid emergence as an export powerhouse.

Take a look around your house and count just how much of what clothes, shods, entertains, warms and feeds your family comes from China. The world's factory floor is also the source of a rapidly growing volume of the world's food and drugs – $US30 billion in exports of those two categories to North America, Asia and Europe – and China is racing pell mell towards becoming the world's second largest economy by 2020.

In New Zealand, the value of Chinese imports has grown from just over $1b at the end of the 1990s, to $5b, a long list topped by computers, women's wear, seats, TVs, T-shirts and toys. In the big chainstores, more than half of what is sold is from China.

There's no great mystery to that. The rise of China has helped to keep inflation in check and sustain comfortable lifestyles in the West. Yang puts it bluntly: "Companies want higher profits, consumers want lower prices."

That's why you can disregard talk of a backlash. In several industries, no-one could possibly match the level of China's output. And for all the apparent distrust stirred by recent cases – one poll found only a third of Canadians believe Chinese products are safe – even if you wanted to cut Made in China from your life, where would you start?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Who needs fiction: Time Travel

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared in EETimes, a trade magazine for engineers. If you click on the link, you'll be directed to the full article.

Israeli researchers tout time machine model

NETANYA, Israel — Researchers at the Technion University (Haifa, Israel) claim they have developed a theoretical model of a time machine that, in the distant future, could enable future generations to travel into the past.

The team's findings were published in the latest issue of Physical Review.

"In order to travel back in time, the spacetime structure must be engineered appropriately," explains Professor Amos Ori of the Technion's Faculty of Physics. "This is what Einstein's theory of general relativity deals with. It says that spacetime can be flat. That is " it has a trivial, simple structure. But it can also be curved with various configurations."

The team stresses the main question is whether — according to the principles of curvature development in the theory of relativity — a time machine can be created. "In other words " can we cause spacetime to curve in such a way as to enable travel back in time? Such a journey requires a significant curvature of spacetime, in a very special form."

The researchers explain that traveling back in time is actually closing time-like curves so we can go back to an event at which we were present in the past. In flat space, it is not possible to close curves and go back in time. In order for closed time-like curves to exist, there has to be a curvature of a specific form on spacetime.

The question Prof. Ori is investigating is whether the laws of gravity permit the development of spacetime with the required curvature (closed time-like curves).

In the past, scientists raised a number of objections to this possibility. Now, Prof. Ori is proposing a theoretical model for spacetime that could develop into a time machine.