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 ~

Monday, August 31, 2009

Learn, Diverge, Forget

There is a saying in Japanese martial arts, Shu Ha Ri. It has to do with the learning process. Below in an excerpt from an excellent article. Click here to read the whole article.

“Shu-ha-ri” literally means embracing the kata, diverging from the kata and discarding the kata. The pursuit of training in a classical Japanese endeavor almost always follows this educational process. This unique approach to learning has existed for centuries in Japan and has been instrumental in the survival of many older Japanese knowledge traditions. These include such diverse pursuits as martial arts, flower arranging, puppetry, theater, poetry, painting, sculpture and weaving. As successful as shu-ha-ri has been into the modern era, new approaches to teaching and learning are altering this traditional Japanese method of knowledge transmission. Whether traditional Japanese arts and endeavors are successfully passed to the next generation of practitioners is up to the sensei (teachers) of today and their wisdom in confronting the inherent strengths and pitfalls of shu-ha-ri. In this essay I will focus on shu-ha-ri and its unique application in the honorable martial discipline of Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin-ryu jujutsu.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thunderstorm in Africa

If you've got six minute, listen and watch this outstanding performance. Turn up the volume at the beginning to hear the rainstorm.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yoshinkan Aikido Videos

Sensei Strange over at KyuRyu AikiBudo has been coming up with good video after good video. I thought I should do my part as well.

Yoshinkan Aikido has been criticized as being stiff and rigid. I disagree. This is an artifact of the teaching method, not of the art itself. The same criticism has been leveled at those who practice the Wu Taijiquan square form. It's a teaching method, not the art.

At one time I studied Yoshinkan Aikido under Takashi Kushida Sensei. I can't find any videos of Kushida Sensei, other than a couple of very short ones of him demonstrating very basic techniques on his organization's website.

Here are a couple of videoes of Joe Thambu Sensei, a very capable Yoshinkan Aikido teacher:

Stiff and robotic? I think not. How about razor sharp?

Another notable name associated with Yoshinkan Aikido is Toshishiro Obata. Like Kushida Sensei, he was an uchideschi to Yoshinkan founder Gozo Shioda. He also was a Kenshuu student (Kenshuu is an advanced training course) under Kushida Sensei. Obata's current martial arts practice has moved his aikido closer to Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, and places a lot of emphasis on sword practice.

I hoped you enjoyed the videos as much as I enjoyed finding them.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I've been tagged

Ok. This is all of the fault of Striking Thoughts. I was sitting around, minding my own business when he tags me with this meme. Ok, here are the rules:

The meme works as follows. You post five things about yourself. Four are untrue. One is true. All are so outlandish, implausible or ridiculous that no one would be inclined to believe that any of them are true. And despite the pleas from your readers, you never divulge which is true and which are fabrications. You then tag five other people (four seriously and one person you are pretty sure would never participate).

Here are my five:

1. I dropped out of a Jesuit seminary.
2. My brothers used to put LSD in my formula when I was a baby.
3. I attended Miskatonic University.
4. I was the model in an award winning ad.
5. I am the High Druid of the local chapter of the 1759 Society.

The five lucky victims who are hereby tagged are: Zen, Rick, Wujimon, Shang Lee, and Brad.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Below is an excerpt from an article by Nick Lowry, a senior martial artist regarding something which is at the heart of a martial art, violence. It's a thought provoking article and well worth reading. The whole article may be read here.

“Meditations on Violence” by Nick Lowry

Some starting points: How do we hold the realities of violence? How do we interact with the suffering and trauma of violence? How do we transform and heal in the face of violence? What do dojos and budo (martial arts) have to do with all this?

We are all touched by violence. No one comes through the door of a dojo who has not been marked by this fact. Some are victims, others are victimizers. Some want relief from fear, others want to gain more power and control over their world in the face of chaos. Some dream of becoming a hero, wielding power like a weapon and doing violence for “good and just” purposes; vanquishing evildoers for the greater cause. Others just enjoy the paradoxical dance, the dance that turns so beautifully on the edge of something so ugly— the dance that somehow, transcends.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Excellent Posts on Taijiquan Theory

Over at the Wujiquan blog, Josh has had a string of excellent posts on Taijiquan theory. If you're interested in Taijiquan, they're well worth checking out. The ones I'm referring to are dated August 18th and older.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Yoshinkan Aikido Interview

Below is an excerpt from an interview with one of the most senior Yoshinkan Aikido instructors in North America, Yukio Utada. The rest of the interview may be read here.

What has kept you going for more than 36 years?

Aikido has appealed to me on many levels. Initially, there was a fascination with the physical. In judo I had found that size and strength difference could often frustrate my ability to throw an opponent. But, with aikido I found the ability to generate great force and throw an opponent with little effort. Refining this ability over the years has never diminished my respect for its subtlety and power or curiosity over the principle that makes it work.

Philosophically speaking, I found the harmonizing concept of aikido fascinating.

Culturally as well, the study of aikido exposed me to some of the finer aspects of Japanese culture and not only gave me greater appreciation for my roots but a method to share with others that which made Japanese culture special. I have witnessed numerous differences between American and Japanese cultures, I am proud to introduce budo to Americans, not as a Japanese but as a human being who can bridge these two great countries. In order to promote an atmosphere of Zen ( good will/ virtue) one has to be a person of virtue. It is easier said then done. But, to me striving to become a person of virtue is thoroughly worthwhile and goes hand in glove with aikido training, and you can do it even when your joints are sore! (Laughing)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The 36 Strategies: #31 Scheme with Beauties

Next to Sun Tzu's Art of War, the 36 Strategies is the most widely known book on strategy in Asia. Were the Art of War is a methodical overview of the topic, the 36 Strategies attempts to teach the habit of strategic thinking by way of 36 maxims, divided into 6 groups of 6 maxims.

Strategy is important to learn, if only for the defensive aspect; recognizing when someone is trying to hatch a strategy that will not be to your benefit.

Here is a link to an online version of the 36 Strategies.

Strategies 1 though 6: Strategies when commanding superiority
Strategies 7 through 12: Strategies for confrontation
Strategies 13 through 18: Strategies for attack
Strategies 19 through 24: Strategies for confused situations
Strategies 25 through 30: Strategies for gaining ground
Strategies 31 through 36: Strategies for desparate straits.

Strategy #31: Scheme with Beauties. It hardly needs any explanation, does it? I think it would probably work as well with either sex.

Here's a story off the top of my head. During the Olympics in China, a British diplomat found himself to be the object of attention of a beautiful Chinese woman. After drinking way too much, they spent the night together. When he awoke, she was gone ... and so was his Blackberry, which contained a lot of sensitive information.

There is a story from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms., about one of the Four Beauties of Ancient China, one Diao Chan.

According to the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Diao Chan assisted the official Wang Yun in a plot to persuade the warrior Lü Bu to kill his adopted father, the tyrannical warlord Dong Zhuo. She did this by becoming Dong Zhuo's concubine but also Lü Bu's betrothed, then manipulating the two through their jealousy and her charm. Dong Zhuo's tactician, Li Ru, saw that the dancing girl was driving both the lord and the warrior mad, so he proposed that Dong Zhuo give Diao Chan to Lü Bu instead of fighting over her. Upon hearing this he threatened Li Ru with death and stated that no warrior was worth what Diao Chan was to him. Diao Chan had Lü Bu wrapped around her finger.

She told him that being with Dong Zhuo made her unhappy and wished to only be with him. Lü Bu was outraged and went to Wang Yun to plot Dong Zhuo's death. Lü Bu had to escape shortly after killing Dong Zhuo and he lost a battle to Dong Zhuo's generals. He did, however, meet up with Diao Chan once more. Diao Chan followed Lü Bu during his time as a rogue leader until he took Cao Cao's castle of Puyang. Together they were married and traveled the land until Lü Bu was later killed when Cao Cao's forces overran his base at Xiapi. There is no mention of Diao Chan in the novel after this.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Golden Dragon Massacre, 1977

In 1977, San Francisco's Chinatown experienced the most public expression of gangland violence, the infamous Golden Dragon Massacre. Follow the link to read the whole eBook, Bamboo Tigers. A portion is excerpted below ...

A few feet away, the gang members seated on the lower level lived up to their Chinatown nickname of fei jai--"flying youth." Common sense told them they could easily be the gunman's intended targets. They had enemies from one end of Chinatown to the other. As one man, they crashdived to the floor and cowered in fear behind cover of a table.
They were the lucky ones. Seasoned gangsters, they immediately understood when the first shots were fired that the Golden Dragon had become a combat zone.
A woman screamed. The shooter at the front of the restaurant went trigger-crazy. His automatic barked as he peppered the startled crowd with bullets. It sounded like strings of firecrackers exploding.
The waiter making his way through the crowd with the tray of duck noodles for the table beside the dragon pillar heard what he thought was firecrackers go off above the din of voices and the clatter of plates. In that instant he had his eyes on his waiter friend the violinist, who was taking an order near the table of a prominent Chinatown artist who sat beside the low wall of the upper level.
The violinist toppled forward, a spray of blood spurting from his neck. The horrified waiter froze, his tray in mid-air, and turned his eyes to the main doors. In a haze of numbing horror, he saw two figures bearing long weapons sprinting toward the stairs to the upper level. Their movements seemed unreal. He felt himself coldly suspended in disbelief as if he were ice in water.
Detached from reality, he swayed with his perilously balanced tray in a sea of humanity suddenly set in motion by unreasoning fear. People swept around him, their screams dashing against a huge crimson screen along the back wall like waves pounding against rocks.
At the front of the restaurant, the waiter saw a third figure with a gun, bursts of flame spouting from the barrel. In this moment of madness, he imagined the flames to be the fiery breath of the golden dragon escaping from the hell of its crucifixion on the pillar to soar around the room in a wide arc of death-dealing destruction.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Aging Gracefully

Here is an excerpt from an article about a yoga instructor which I find inspiring. Whether it's yoga, taijiquan, gardening, or something else, the article underscores the importance of doing SOMETHING as we slide into our autumn years to help keep us lively and vital. The original entire article may be read here.

The yoga supergran who can still assume the lotus position... at the age of 83

Yoga instructor Bette Calman may be 83, but she's still bending over backwards to spread the benefits of the ancient Indian discipline.

The nimble grandmother can really pull some shapes and with her set hair and pearl earrings she looks as glamorous as Greta Garbo in a pink jumpsuit.

With 40 years of teaching under her belt, the Australian wonder is living proof that a lifetime's dedication to yoga will keep you flexible as a rubber band.

While others her age complain about aches and pains, Mrs Calman focuses on getting tough balancing manoeuvres right.

Mrs Calman from Williamstown, southeast Australia, can do all the difficult moves including the agonising 'peacock' where the body is held in a horizontal position by the strength of the arms alone.

The bendy granny can also pull off a tricky raised 'lotus', 'bridge' and a headstand with ease.

She can also put her head between her knees and hold her ankles putting her inflexible grandchildren to shame.

'I'm proof that if you keep at it, you'll get there. I can do more now than I could 50 years ago,' Mrs Calman said.

So when will she give it up?

'You're never too old. The body is a remarkable instrument.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Who Needs Fiction: Forgery on a Grand Scale

I guess if you're going to commit a crime, it might as well be a big one so the pay off would be worth the risk. A friend sent me an article form which I've excerpted a portion below. You can read the whole article here.

Italy Intercepts Billions in Fake Treasuries

Ever since two middle-aged men with Japanese passports were caught in Italy this month trying to smuggle a purported $134.5 billion in United States government bearer bonds into Switzerland, the Internet has been abuzz with theories.

Was the Japanese government, or some other creditor nation, secretly trying to dump Treasury bonds to drive down the value of the dollar? Had the Italian mafia stolen the equivalent of 1 percent of the American gross domestic product, using the paper, which supposedly was instantly convertible into cash, to run a giant scam?

Adding spice was the whole Bond — James Bond — aspect of the tale. A crowded customs checkpoint near the Alps; two men traveling on a local train, professing that they had nothing to declare; and a false-bottom suitcase containing United States government bonds made out in stratospheric denominations.

In all, the Italian financial police and customs guards confiscated 249 paper bonds, each supposedly worth $500 million, and 10 bonds with a face value of $1 billion each.

Too bad the bonds were fake.

“The whole thing is a total fraud,” Stephen Meyerhardt, a spokesman for the Treasury Department, said Thursday. “They don’t look anything like real securities, which in any case were never issued in any of those denominations.”

Monday, August 03, 2009

Training the unification of Body and Spirit

Below is an excerpt from an article by the founder of Aikido, Morihei (aka Moritaka) Ueshiba. The full article may be read here.

People are cut first not by the blade of the sword, but by the sakki, the bloodthirsty wish to kill, which is thrust out from the mind of the attacker before the blade moves. The famous teacher of the third Tokugawa Shogun, Iemitsu, Yagyu Taiima no Kami was walking one day in a garden followed by a servant who was suddenly taken up with the thought, “If I were to attack him now, even such a great swordsman as my master would surely be unable to resist…” At that very instant, as if taken over by some great anxiety, Tajima no Kami hastily returned to his own quarters and spoke to his servant, “Just now while walking in the garden, I felt sakki attack me. But no one except yourself was present. What I fear is sakki where no enemy is apparent.”

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Forgotten Man

The Forgotten Man and Other Essays is a book by William Graham Sumner, an American scholar who was active at the turn of the 20th century. Below is a quote from The Forgotten Man.

"The type and formula of most schemes of philanthropy or humanitarianism is this: A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D. The radical vice of all these schemes, from a sociological point of view, is that C is not allowed a voice in the matter, and his position, character, and interests, as well as the ultimate effects on society through C's interests, are entirely overlooked. I call C the Forgotten Man."[2]

"As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X, or in the better case, what A, B, and C shall do for X.... What I want to do is to look up C.... He is the man who never is thought of."

"He works, he votes, generally he prays--but he always pays. . . ."

Other interesting quotes from William Graham Sumner, Yale University 1883, are below.

    (on government responses to economic recessions) "No scheme which has ever been devised by them has ever made a collapsed boom go up again"

    “All history is one long story to this effect: men have struggled for power over their fellow men in order that they might win the joys of earth at the expense of others, might shift the burdens of life from their own shoulders upon those of others.”

    "I think the hardest fact in human life is that two and two cannot make five; but in sociology while people will agree that two and two cannot make five, yet they think that it might somehow be possible by adjusting two and two to one another in some way or other to make two and two equal four and one-tenth." (Sumner Today, 1940 p. 82)

    "Nature's remedies against vice are terrible. She removes the victims without pity. A drunkard in the gutter is just where he ought to be, according to the fitness and tendency of things. Nature has set upon him the process of decline and dissolution by which she removes things which have survived their usefulness." -- from the essay "The Forgotten Man".[2]

    "It used to be believed that the parent had unlimited claims on the child and rights over him. In a truer view of the matter, we are coming to see that the rights are on the side of the child and the duties on the side of the parent."