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, May 29, 2009

Fear in Martial Arts

Fear is a real issue with which we must contend in our martial arts study. Below is an excerpt from a blog entry about fear. If you click here, you can read the whole post.

One day I saw him on the street, and he was all banged up. “What happened to you?” I asked. He didn’t want to talk about it. A few weeks later I saw him again and this time he confessed. He had been attacked by two teenagers who demanded money, he said. “I just stood there. They hit me and then stole my wallet. I didn’t do anything.” He was so embarrassed.

His martial arts training had failed him because it had been incomplete. He had not learned to use fear, to use his reactions to his advantage. Instead fear and the stress of the moment had become his enemy. He had trained in technique but he had never trained in how to deal with his emotions and body reactions that had gripped him. And he is not alone. This is an unfortunate limitation to most martial artist’s training.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Zen Master Dogen

Dogen was a great reformer of Buddhism, and the founder of the Soto Zen sect of Buddhism. I came across a blog entry about him. A small portion is excerpted below. If you click here, you can read the whole thing.

Dogen speaks clearly of the mind that seeks the way with clarity and how to maintain the intensity of practice over time. We couldn’t ask for a world of more distraction than the one we currently inhabit. To maintain our commitment to practice over 50 or 60 years requires that we find a way to refresh ourselves daily; there is no formula that works for everyone. We each find our own life koans to keep us awake. And we are not in monasteries where the routine is set up for us, responsibilities provided, and practice times reliable. One cornerstone of waking up is meditation and finding the strength of commitment to the Way to return to our practice daily.

However far we “stray” it is always good to remember

The key to cultivating the Way is knowing that your own mind is originally pure, that it is neither created nor destroyed, and that it is free of discrimination. The mind whose nature is perfectly pure is your true teacher and superior to any of the Buddhas of the ten directions you might call upon.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Chinese Language in Modern China

I've posted previously about the Chinese language. Here is another you might find interesting. Below is an excerpt from an article about the evolution of the Chinese language in modern China. It's a very interesting read. If you click here, you can read the whole article.

The Chinese Language, Ever Evolving

(Credit: Princeton University Art Museum) Detail of a Ming Dynasty scroll by Zhu Yunming in the cursive script.

The Times recently published an article about China’s effort to manage the vast number of characters in the Chinese language. A government computer database, designed to recognize people’s names on identity cards, is programmed to read about 32,000 of the roughly 55,000 Chinese characters, cutting out the more “obscure” characters.

This is not the first attempt to modernize a sprawling and ancient language. The most ambitious effort was the introduction of a simplified system of writing in the 1950s. As part of the Communist Party’s campaign to reduce illiteracy, simplified characters were promoted as the common written language, replacing many traditional characters.

More than five decades later, simplified characters remain the standard writing system of China, while Chinese elsewhere — especially in Taiwan and Hong Kong — continue to use traditional characters.

We asked several experts to explain the roots of this shift, and how it might affect the future course of the written language.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Martial Arts Books

Here is an excerpt from an article by Meik Skoss, who is a well known practitioner of koryu bujutsu, or Classical Japanese Martial Arts. His article shows that background very clearly. What are some of your favorite martial arts books?

If you click here, you can read the whole article.

To begin, there is The Art of War, written by Sun Tzu. The version I prefer is the one translated by Samuel B. Griffith, if for no other reason than that he was a career USMC officer who fought in World War II and afterward. Later, he continued his studies and this book is a publication of his dissertation for a Ph.D. at Oxford University. The edition by Thomas Cleary (from Shambhala) is good enough, but he appears to be merely a scholar. In my opinion, he doesn’t have the kind of experience or necessary expertise to really understand the subject.


On martial arts in general, Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts, written by Donn F. Draeger and Robert W. Smith is one of the first encyclopedic books on Asian martial culture. A bit out of date in some respects, it is still, in my mind, the best over-all introduction to Asian martial culture. Available in a paperbound edition from Kodansha International. Draeger also wrote three books, all from Weatherhill, on the Japanese martial arts and ways. They are titled Classical Bujutsu, Classical Budo, and Modern Bujutsu and Budo. These have long served as the standard books on the subject and are important sources. Buy them!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rapt Attention

A while back, I posted an article on the difficulty of paying attention. In the intervening time, it hasn't become any easier. Below is an excerpt from a recent article about paying attention. If you click here, you'll be able to read the whole article.

Ear Plugs to Lasers: The Science of Concentration

Imagine that you have ditched your laptop and turned off your smartphone. You are beyond the reach of YouTube, Facebook, e-mail, text messages. You are in a Twitter-free zone, sitting in a taxicab with a copy of “Rapt,” a guide by Winifred Gallagher to the science of paying attention.

The book’s theme, which Ms. Gallagher chose after she learned she had an especially nasty form of cancer, is borrowed from the psychologist William James: “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” You can lead a miserable life by obsessing on problems. You can drive yourself crazy trying to multitask and answer every e-mail message instantly.

Or you can recognize your brain’s finite capacity for processing information, accentuate the positive and achieve the satisfactions of what Ms. Gallagher calls the focused life. It can sound wonderfully appealing, except that as you sit in the cab reading about the science of paying attention, you realize that ... you’re not paying attention to a word on the page.

The taxi’s television, which can’t be turned off, is showing a commercial of a guy in a taxi working on a laptop — and as long as he’s jabbering about how his new wireless card has made him so productive during his cab ride, you can’t do anything productive during yours.

Why can’t you concentrate on anything except your desire to shut him up? And even if you flee the cab, is there any realistic refuge anymore from the Age of Distraction?

I put these questions to Ms. Gallagher and to one of the experts in her book, Robert Desimone, a neuroscientist at M.I.T. who has been doing experiments somewhat similar to my taxicab TV experience. He has been tracking the brain waves of macaque monkeys and humans as they stare at video screens looking for certain flashing patterns.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Another Legend Passes On.

In November 2008, one of the legends of Japanese Karate, Hidetaka Nishiyama, passed away. Below is a small excerpt from an article about Nishiyama. If you click here, you'll be directed to the full article.

“A Tall Tree In The Forest Has Fallen”

By Don Warrener

On November 8, 2008, we lost yet another one of the legends of martial arts, Hidetaka Nishiyama. He was the most senior of all the JKA (Japan Karate Association) Masters and now he has passed.

We will all remember his kindness and his knowledge on the biomechanics of karate plus his attention to detail in kata. But perhaps his greatest gift to us was his education on the culture of Japanese karate.

For me though it was November 8 2001 (seven years earlier) that I will remember Sensei Nishiyama for. This was the day my Sensei Richard Kim passed away and Sensei Nishiyama could see how I was visibly broken up. He said to me very softly and kindly in his broken English, “you come to my dojo and train is OK now”. Wow, I will never forget this kindness.

This rare interview was conducted at Sensei Nishiyama’s dojo in Los Angeles in the summer of 1999. It was video taped for future use as well.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Who Needs Fiction: My Money Troubles Are Over!

What luck! The contract was a temporary measure, but now all my financial troubles are over. This just arrived in my inbox:

Assalam Aleykoum ,

I am Mr Mohamed Garuba,the Senior & Auditor General of a Bank, during the Re: Transfer of $28,000,000.00 Twenty Eight Million USD)course of our auditing, I discovered a floating fund in an accountopened in the bank in 2000 and since 2003 nobody has operated on this account again.
After going through some old files in the records I discovered that the owner of the account died without a [heir] hence the money is floating and if I do not remit this money out urge ntly it will be forfeited for nothing.
The owner of this account is a foreigner, a miner and an industrialist. He made millions of dollars before he died victoriously .Since DEC 26 2003 website details as follow:> and no other person knows about this account or any thing concerning it.

My investigation proved to me that the account has no other beneficiary and that until his death he was the manager director of aluminium & steel industries (PTY). SA. We will
start the transfer with the total sum involved {twenty Eight million dollars [$28,000,000.00 only, into your account, as a safe foreigners bank account abroad, but I don't know any foreigner abroad that's why I have contacted you to bear the legal sole beneficiary of the fund.

I am revealing this to you with believe in God that you will never let me down in this business. Also send your private telephone number and fax number including the full details of the account to be used for the deposit. I need your strong assurance that you will never let me down in this business proposition.

With my influence and the position in the bank, as an official whom is working in our favour we can transfer this money to any foreigner's reliable account which you can provide with assurance that this money will be intact pending my physical arrival in your country for sharing.

The bank official will destroy all documents of transaction immediately you receive this fund leaving and they will be no trace to any place and to build confidence you can wrote immediately to discuss with me the modalities,after I will make this remittance in your presented account and fix my resign date, to fly down to your country at least 7 days ahead of the fund transferred and confirm into the account.

At the conclusion of this business, you will be given 50% of the total amount, 50% will be for me, while 5% will be for your expenses might have incurred during the process of transferring. Reply to my private mail to you,

I am waiting for your reply.
(Best Regards)
Mr Mohamed Garuba,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

300 Tang Dynasty Poems: #31 Mooring at Twilight

First of all, the important stuff Happy Mother's Day. The Tang Dynasty in China was considered something of a cultural Golden Age. Poetry in particular was held in high esteem. Any literate person would take pride in composing a poem. No homecoming or leave taking; no event was considered too small to have a poem lovingly composed for it's commemoration. The best of poetry from that era was collected in a famous anthology entitled The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. If here click here, you will find a complete online version. Below is a sample of the Tang Dynasty poets' handiwork from that anthology.


Furling my sail near the town of Huai,
I find for harbour a little cove
Where a sudden breeze whips up the waves.
The sun is growing dim now and sinks in the dusk.
People are coming home. The bright mountain-peak darkens.
Wildgeese fly down to an island of white weeds.
...At midnight I think of a northern city-gate,
And I hear a bell tolling between me and sleep.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Learning the Internal Dynamics of Tai Chi

If you click on the link, you will be directed to an artice entitled "Learning the Internal Dynamics of Tai Chi" by E. Marie Koepsell. It appeared in Tai Chi Magazine in August of 1998. I've included a portion below. Ms. Koepsell's teacher is Dr. Stephen Hwa, who teaches Classical Tai Chi. Please pay his site a visit. His lineage is certainly interesting. His teacher was Yang WaBu, who lived to be over 100 years old! Mr Yang was a direct student of Wu Chien Chuan, who is considered the founder of the Wu style of Tai chi Chuan. Wu Chien Chuan and his father Wu Chuan Yu were both Imperial Bodyguards who learned their Tai Chi Chuan from the celebrated Yang Lu Chan and his sons. The link was brought to my attention by Mr. Jim Roach, Dr. Hwa's senior student. There are some additional interesting things to be found at Mr Roach's site so please pay him a visit as well. Here is an excerpt from that article:


"The internal physical discipline of T'ai Chi Ch'uan" according to Dr. Hwa, 'involves the intensive training of the body and mind to develop discipline in movements so that the movements originate from the abdomen (dantien) and hack, in addition. the energy flow of these movements are developed in a relaxed body, giving an appearance of effortlessness:'


As we start aging,” according to Dr. Hwa "less and less of our movements came from the waist and back. We hold our middle stiffly, and more of our movements originate from the shoulders and the hip joints. This puts pressure on joints and we lose strength and mobility. Ultimately, we may stop using these area, of our bodies altogether. Atrophy sets in, creating the major problems of aging.”

He demonstrates this by having students raise their arms to shoulder height and push forward He noted that most people lift and push from the shoulder joint and arm muscle. and there is little strength involved. He demonstrated the way he pushes, using his back and abdominal muscles with the shoulder and arm completely relaxed- Similarly, When he moved his arm, across his head, his back and abdomen did the work.

Dr. Hwa similarly feels that T'ai Chi steps should involve the muscles of the torso, the large abdominal and pelvic girdle muscles, to lift and push the leg farad and hack. He said the leg muscles are used to move the body forward and backward. but the muscles of the torso do the work of lifting and positioning the leg, and planting the foot. The weight sifts after the leading foot is planted solidly on the ground, whether it is going forward or backward.

Turning movements of the body, according to Dr. Hua. are done with the feet stationary and the body swivelling at the waist He said it should not he a twisting motion where the hips or legs turn the body. but rather an abdominal movement. When he demonstrates !he movement. his lower and upper abdominal muscles appear to rotate in opposite directions, indicating all the power that this movement generates at the waist:

"The unifying principle of the internal physical aspect of T'ai Chi is that all movement and physical energy originate at the waist and back, the strongest parts of the body and its center of gravity." Dr. Hwa said.


"The first goal for the T'ai Chi practitiioner is to have the qi circulate continuously throughout the body, following the Yin/Yang changes of the movements. To achieve the Yin -Yang balance of the body and mind It is essential that these movements of intense energy and stretching be performed in an otherwise relaxed body and mind.

"The practitioner must not only be aware of the Yin/Yang of individual movements, but also the total Yin/Yang of the body as one goes from movement to movement," Dr. Hwa said.


I have taken only a few steps on the path of learning, but I am amazed by the richness of the art. My prior T'ai Chi exposure was enveloped in a philosophical and abstract context. But now I see that T'ai Chi can be explained in scientific, concrete terms and it is no longer such a mystery to me. I have developed even more respect and admiration for the art. Unquestionably, the internal physical discipline, with its power to bring out the inherent potential in a person, has been, for me, a most significant discovery.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Who Needs Fiction?: The Darwin Awards

The stories that make up the Darwin Awards get checked out. Someone sent these to me via email. I don't know if these are the authentic awards or not, but they'll make you laugh.

It's Time For: Stupidity

Yes, it's that magical time of year again when the Darwin Awards are bestowed, honoring the least evolved among us.
Here is the glorious winner:

1. When his 38 caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in Long Beach , California would-be robber James Elliot did something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked.
And now, the honorable mentions:

2. The chef at a hotel in Switzerland lost a finger in a meat cutting machine and after a little shopping around, submitted a claim to his insurance company. The company expecting negligence sent out one of its men to have a look for himself. He tried the machine and he also lost a finger. The chef's claim was approved.

3. A man who shoveled snow for an hour to clear a space for his car during a blizzard in Chicago returned with his vehicle to find a woman had taken the space. Understandably, he shot her.

4. After stopping for drinks at an illegal bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver found that the 20 mental patients he was supposed to be transporting from Harare to Bulawayo had escaped. Not wanting to admit his incompetence, the driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered everyone waiting there a free ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital, telling the staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre fantasies. The deception wasn't discovered for 3 days.

5. An American teenager was in the hospital recovering from serious head wounds received from an oncoming train. When asked how he received the injuries, the lad told police that he was simply trying to see how close he could get his head to a moving train before he was hit.

6. A man walked into a Louisiana Circle-K, put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer... $15.

7. Seems an Arkansas guy wanted some beer pretty badly. He decided that he'd just throw a cinder block through a liquor store window, grab some booze, and run. So he lifted the cinder block and heaved it over his head at the window. The cinder block bounced back and hit the would-be thief on the head, knocking him unconscious. The liquor store window was made of Plexiglas. The whole event was caught on videotape.

8. As a female shopper exited a New York convenience store, a man grabbed her purse and ran. The clerk called 911 immediately, and the woman was able to give them a detailed description of the snatcher. Within minutes, the police apprehended the snatcher. They put him in the car and drove back to the store. The thief was then taken out of the car and told to stand there for a positive ID. To which he replied, "Yes, officer, that's her. That's the lady I stole the purse from."

9. The Ann Arbor News crime column reported that a man walked into a Burger King in Ypsilanti, Michigan at 5 A.M., flashed a gun, and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn't open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren't available for breakfast. The man, frustrated, walked away.

10. When a man 20 attempted to siphon gasoline from a motor home parked on a Seattle street, he got much more than he bargained for. Police arrived at the scene to find a very sick man curled up next to a motor home near spilled sewage. A police spokesman said that the man admitted to steal gasoline and plugged his siphon hose into the motor home's sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the vehicle declined to press charges, saying that it was the best laugh he'd ever had.

In the interest of bettering mankind, please share these with friends and family...unless of course one of these individuals by chance is a distant relative or long lost friend. In that case, be glad they are distant and hope they remain lost.

*** Remember... They walk among us!!!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Improving Your Zhan Zhuang Practice

A good friend of mine, Rick Taracks, has begun blogging, and you can find his blog right here. Rick teaches internal martial arts in the Detroit area. He recently posted an article that would be helpful to anyone who practices zhan zhaung, or "standing like a stake."

An excerpt from the article follows. A link to his blog, Wujifa, is over in the sidebar, or you can click on the links I've embedded above.

The basic concept of "sitting down" is an important one when you are first learning Wujifa standing. So, with this in mind I will do my best to sharing some helpful information on this and a few other helpful bits to explore. On that note hopefully you find something below to help as well with your own personal Qigong training.