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, April 28, 2009

The 36 Strategies: #30 Make the Host and Guest Exchange Roles

Next to Sun Tzu's The Art of War, the 36 Strategies is the most widely known book on strategy to come out of Asia. Where the Art of War is an almost text book like overview of the subject, the 36 Strategies seeks to instill the idea of strategic thought by means of groups of 6 proverbs for each of 6 types of situations.

#30 is: Make the Host and Guest Exhange Roles.

The idea here is to usurp leadership in a situation where you would normally be subordinate. Another interpretation is to join the opposition, then work against him from within; eventually seizing power.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Art of the Samurai

I saw this posted at The painting above is a cormorant by Miyamoto Musashi.

Art of the Samurai: Selections from the Tokyo National Museum
April 18 – June 14, 2009

Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street
Santa Ana, CA 92706

Art of the Samurai: Selections from the Tokyo National Museum features 81 objects from the Tokyo National Museum representing a wealth of artworks related to the everyday, traditional, and official role of the Samurai class of Japan. Focusing on the art and aesthetics of Samurai culture, the exhibition features a wealth of objects that are a testament to the accomplished level of society, education, and mastery of skills the Samurai developed between the 10th and 20th centuries. Included are beautifully crafted swords, armor, tea-ceremony utensils, screen and scroll paintings, Noh theatre costumes, and other fine works. This outstanding collection dates primarily to the Edo period (1603–1868) with many pieces classified as Important Cultural Property and National Treasures of Japan.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mysterious Technique of the Cat

Taiki Shisei Kenpo has a post that clicks through to a translation of a wonderful old Japanese martial arts story, The Mysterious Technique of the Cat. Please click the link and pay a visit.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pelican Sunset

Last day in the sand
Rat race starter's gun soon
Tide rolls away

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rose Li and Her Martial Arts

Rose Li was a remarkable female 20th century martial artist. Below is a portion of a biographical article on her, from a website created by one of her students. Some of her students continue her teaching as the Rose Li School. Please pay a visit. Enjoy.

Rose Shao-Chiang Li was born in Beijing around 1914. Her father was a relatively high-ranking civil servant and was for a time responsible for the Chinese coal industry, such as it was under the late Qing Empire. This brought him into contact with foreign engineers and he developed a great fondness for English culture in particular. He made sure that his daughter received the best western education then available in Beijing, which at that time meant church institutions: an Anglican secondary school and a German Catholic university. Meanwhile, because his first two girls had both died in infancy from a blood-related weakness, he gave this third daughter what would more normally have been a boy’s name, which might be translated as ‘continuing strong’. He was also keen that she should indeed be strengthened by access to the best forms of physical exercise then available, which naturally drew his attention to the indigenous martial-arts traditions then flourishing all across the capital. These, then, were to be the formative influences on the young Shao-Chiang: Han Confucian culture from her family, Christianity of the broad-church Anglican variety from her school teachers (from whom she also received the western name Rose), and the Taoist ways of what was to become her second family in the internal martial arts.

Later Miss Li used to tell her students that she was a Confucian in her personal relationships, a Christian in her social ethics, and a Taoist in her relationship with God and Nature. For them, then, working with her was more than just about learning physical movements: it was an exposure to a whole complex culture and history.

Rose Li was intensely involved in the study of the internal martial arts from the age of eight in the early 1920s until she was twenty-four in the late 1930s: her main teacher was Teng Yun-Feng (1873-1941) and through him she also had contact with an outstanding figure from the previous generation, Liu Feng-Shan (1852-1937). She was a regular attender at Master Teng's classes in the Temple of the Fire God by Coal Hill just north of the Forbidden City, but he also frequently came to give her individual lessons at her family home in the old quarter just west of the centre, where he would often stay to eat and chat with her father. Master Teng’s high level of martial-arts skill goes without saying: he had studied with central figures in the Tai Ji, Xing Yi and Ba Gua traditions, but his role as Rose’s teacher was an unusual one for an upper-middle-class family at that time, and he had been selected carefully by her father. For, although like most of his martial-arts colleagues he was a manual worker from the countryside and effectively illiterate, he placed a much stronger emphasis than most on the spiritual side of practice: he was keenly interested in Chan teachings, had a close relationship with the Taoist abbot of the temple where he held his classes, and was also a member of a western Protestant denomination. After Rose's father died, Teng Yun-Feng arranged financial help for her and her mother, indeed she regarded him as her second father and was present when he passed away.

All this had a strong influence on the distinctive approach Miss Li would later introduce in her own teaching. Though fully aware of martial applications, she deliberately avoided any extensive discussions of these in her classes and included very little pushing-hands or sparring practice. In part this was a reaction to the high profile of 'fighting' in the west, which she saw as a vulgar distraction from the real value of the oriental traditions, especially in the case of Tai Ji. For her these martial arts were indeed arts in the highest sense of the word: they were for self-cultivation and for health, and they should aim to make some wider social contribution. At the very least, practitioners should not make their living from them but should pursue conventional occupations and live as ordinary householders.

Meanwhile, the young Rose also became increasingly involved in Christian missionary social work and increasingly interested in western monastic traditions: she felt a particular affinity with Anglicans, above all her special mentor Miss E. Fisher. Both her parents and also her martial-arts teacher had died by the early 1940s so, as the situation in Beijing became increasingly unstable under the impact of the Japanese invasion, she left for central China with a group of Christian missionaries. She attended the Catholic University in Peiping for three years from 1944, and then received an MA in Ethnology from Furen University back in Beijing in 1947. During the Communist takeover it began to seem advisable for someone from her social background to leave China altogether, which she did with financial and administrative support from the American Church Mission, initially with the aim of attending the Catholic University of America in Washington. However, she lived for a time in San Francisco and then studied educational psychology at Teachers’ College, Columbia University, receiving a second MA in 1950. On graduation she moved for a while to Honolulu and Hawaii, teaching in church schools and discovering a special gift for working with young children. For the next thirty years Rose Li’s life was to be shaped by involvement with Episcopal monastic groups and educational work. For a period of seven years she was a member of the Community of the Transfiguration in Glendale, Ohio; and then, when she moved to England, was for five years a member of St Hilda’s Priory in Whitby, Yorkshire. She worked for a time in kindergartens in the Ohio area, then taught Chinese language, first at Ann Arbor University, Michigan, and finally in the Department of Oriental Studies at Durham University in England.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gao Style BaGuaZhang

I friend sent me an article which was very interesting, but the formatting wouldn't easily allow me to cut and paste a portion below.  Please follow the link.

If you are interested in the martial of of Ba Gua Zhang (aka PaKuaChang), a must read is the back issues of the out of print magazine dedicated to it, the Pa Kua Chang Journal, published by Dan Miller.

This particular article was an interview with C.S. Tang, an expert in the Gao Style of BaGua, and the unofficial historian of the style. The full article appears on Mr. Tang's website here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Who needs fiction: Gangster Turns Buddhist Priest

This is from the Japan Subculture blog. If you click on the title of this post, you'll get the full article. A short excerpt is below.

Tadamasa Goto, one of Japan’s most notorious underworld bosses, is to enter the Buddhist priesthood less than a year after his volatile behaviour caused a rift in the country’s biggest crime syndicate.

As leader of a yakuza – or Japanese mafia – gang, Goto amassed a fortune from prostitution, protection rackets and white-collar crime, while cultivating a reputation for extreme violence.

Tomorrow, his life will take a decidedly austere turn when he begins training at a temple in Kanagawa prefecture south of Tokyo, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper said today, citing police sources.

The 66-year-old, whose eponymous gang belonged to the powerful Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicate, was expelled from the yakuza fraternity last October after a furious row with his bosses over his conduct.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Style Wars

Before getting to the point of this post, I'd like to point out to all of those taking part in the 2009 Lenten Challenge, that there is only 1 week to go! If you've been with us since the beginning, the finish line is in sight. If you've been on the fence about joining us, or have fallen off the wagon and haven't rejoined, how about one week dedicated to practicing every day? Please join us. We'd be happy to have you.

Next, my younget daughter bought a MacBook for school this fall, and will be buying the student version of Microsoft Office (Mac) for it. My older daughter is starting grad school and is thinking of buying a MacBook as well. She's wondering if there are compatibility issues between using Office on the Mac and Office on a PC. Will she have trouble giving other people files that she's created on a MacBook? If anyone is familiar with the two version, please let me know.

Ok. Over a Wu Source there is an interesting blog entry by GrahamB entitled "Your Shit is Fake." It's about the unnecessary and often endless style wars that takes place in the study of martial arts (among other things). It's a good read. Please pay a visit. I've excerpted a bit below.

Your shit is fake

To badly misquote Tim Cartmell in Neijia Quan, Jess O'Brien's book of interviews with internal martial arts teachers, "People are just about ready to kill each other over styles. It’s ridiculous. There's no such thing as styles, there are only practitioners."

(I don't have the book with me, so if you know the exact quote then please post it in the comments section and I'll get it updated).

It's a very good point. A lot of the stupid Internet flame wars on forums are because somebody used the name of a style to describe a video or something, and that causes offense to other practitioners of that style who don't recognise what's in the video as being an "authentic" or "orthodox" presentation of their style. The weight isn't 50/50 between the legs like it should be, or their back heel is up when it should be down, they have the wrong "Shen Fai", they lean when they should be upright, etc.... You know the sort of thing. They're all essentially different versions of, "You're not doing it like my teacher does it, and I know he's right because he does it like a picture I have of Master XYZ doing it in a book published in 1934, which means I'm right and your shit is fake".

Largely it’s pathetic. Totally pathetic. In fact the phrase "your shit is fake" has become something of a martial arts forum joke because of it. People use it ironically now all the time. But still these sorts of arguments happen so often it’s worth looking at closely.

You see it across all styles. Practitioners of Japanese Daito-ryu are as equally likely to engage in this kind of bitching as practitioners of Chinese XingYi Quan. In fact, it's not limited to martial arts. You see the same thing in large, organised religions. The splits in the Christian church are variations of "Your shit is fake and only I, and my followers, have the true faith". People who fly planes into buildings for religious reasons also believe your shit is fake, and they're prepared to die for it. In fact, as soon as you "believe" in anything there must be a counter position that you now think is false. But this is taking this post off into other realms. Let's get back to martial arts.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bagua Taijiquan

The excerpt below is from an article by Jarek Symanski on his website, Please pay a visit.

Origins and features of Bagua Taijiquan

Based on articles by Qiao Hongru and Chen Lixin; translated from Chinese and edited by Jarek Szymanski, photos: J.Szymanski; © J.Szymanski 1999

Bagua Taijiquan has been taught by Guo Zhushan, the third generation master of Baguazhang, and become popular in Jinan (capital of North China Shandong Province) and Tianjin areas. Although transmitted within Bagua tradition, the style belongs to Taijiquan.

Bagua Taijiquan comes from Yang Family Boxing; first Yang Luchan passed it to Xia Guoxun, Xia taught Liu Dekuan (nicknamed "Liu Big Spear"), Liu taught Cheng Haiting (Cheng Tinghua's oldest son), who passed it to Guo Zhushan (disciple of Cheng Tinghua and Li Cunyi) and Jiang Xinshan. It is said that Xia Guoxun was Yang Luchan's son-in-law so he must have received true transmission; Xia and Liu Dekuan were sworn brothers; Liu, Cheng Tinghua and Li Cunyi were also sworn brothers through Jinlan ceremony. Because of these close relations Bagua Taijiquan is said to relatively well preserve the original appearance of taijiquan. Since Guo Zhushan and Cheng Haiting were kungfu brothers and very skilful Bagua practitioners, they put some Bagua movements, kicks, etc. into Taijiquan, so that the flavour has changed. Since Cheng Haiting passed away early, Bagua Taijiquan that is known nowadays has been researched and developed by Guo Zhushan, who then passed it to Zhang Wanying, Jing Dewai, Qiao Hongru and others.

Guo Zhushan was born in Tianjin in 1901. His father, Guo Tiancheng, had a machine factory there, was very wealthy and was often inviting famous martial artists to stay at his mansion. Masters like Li Cunyi, Liu Dekuan, Zhang Zhankui, Li Kuiyuan and other were frequent guests. One of them, famous Bagua master, Cheng Haiting (also called Cheng Youlong) spent over ten years at Guo's house and was treating Guo Zhushan like his own brother.

Guo became Li Cunyi's official disciple at the age of eight and started to practice Xingyiquan first. Li Cunyi even took young Guo as his adopted son. However later, because of serious illness of legs, Guo took up Bagua Taijiquan Neigong (Internal Practice) under Cheng Haiting. Cheng taught him in the name of his father, Cheng Tinghua, so Guo Zhushan has been considered Cheng Tinghua's disciple. Practice of Bagua Taijiquan had miraculous effect on Guo, who at the beginning was able to exercise only in bed, and then, when his health improved, while sitting and standing, until he recover completely.

Later famous Wudang Sword master, Li Jinglin, asked Guo to teach Bagua Taijiquan to Li's sons and daughters.

In 1931 Guo moved to Jinan in Shandong Province and lived there until 1966, when he moved back to Tianjin. He passed away in 1968.

The name "Bagua Taijiquan" was decided in 1958. Qiao Hongru who originally studied Yang style Taijiquan, while learning the routine passed by Guo, realized that this Taijiquan has many Baguazhang features and as such differs from typical Taijiquan branches. Qiao suggested to change the name of the routine into Bagua Taijiquan, e.g. Taijiquan practiced within the style of Baguazhang, or Taijiquan that has Baguazhang features. Qiao's teacher, Guo Zhushan, agreed and since then the style has been called Bagua Taijiquan.