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 ~

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tomb of Ancient General Unearthed

Over at the Dao of Strategy, there is an article about the discovery of the tomb of the famous ancient Chinese General Cao Cao. You can read the article by clicking here.

Cao Cao lived in the 3rd century AD. He was one of the major actors during the Three Kingdoms Period, and immortalized in the book, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms; a book where example after example of Sun Tzu's Art of War and the 36 Strategies may be found.

Please pay a visit.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Taijiquan and Modern Western Boxing

A friend sent me this article. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here

There are those who see no application for Taijiquan in the sense of modern methods of combat. In this article, a Taijiquan teacher uses the "13 Methods" of TJQ to train boxers, some of whom have done very well.

Illusive Pugilism: Merging the 13 Postures of Tai Chi Ch’uan with Western Methods of Fighting

By Master Gurjot K. Singh, M Ed.
Tai Chi Ch'uan
Illusive Pugillism, or Western Tai Chi Ch’uan, is the physically-deceptive manipulation of an opponent’s sense of offense and defense to the point of ineffectiveness. It uses grappling and striking to neutralize the offense of an opponent while fluidly striking and grappling through an opponent’s defense without serious injury. It is a striker’s approach to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
Years ago, Master Singh, the author, noticed several modern warriors that demonstrated this ability, especially in the Mixed Martial Arts arena. Examples include Lyota Machita, Anderson Silva, and Jason Miller. While it is known that these fighters studied boxing, kickboxing, and grappling, it is unknown whether their training actively encompassed the art of Tai Chi Ch’uan.

From studying these fighters, Master Singh developed a system for teaching fighters he called "Illusive Pugilism." In Illusive Pugilism, Master Singh integrated the 13 postures of Tai Chi Ch’uan into the competitive, combative disciplines of Western boxing, kickboxing, and grappling, all of which he had taught since 2006.

Tai Chi Ch’uan’s emitting energy (Fa Chin), Interception energy (Jie Chin), Sticky energy (Nian Chin), Long and Short (Chang Chin and Duan Chin) energy, and Attraction into Emptiness energy (Hua Chin) began to have meaning when applied to competitive, combat situations. Using the pedagogy of the systems approach to training, the process of systematizing a curriculum of understanding, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesizing and evaluation was realized.

Between March 2007 to the present, this system has helped produce more than 20 amateur champions for the USA Amateur Boxing Association, the International Kickboxing Association, the North American Grappling Association, and several MMA event victors. Few of these champions had more than a year of competitive experience before becoming a champion in their respective, competitive disciplines.

The Yang Style forms that Singh was taught did not reflect his style of fighting but he found that the strategies behind their use were invaluable. He then realized the reason masters created forms and situational sparring drills:
  • To reinforce what they had learned from their teacher and to transfer knowledge into application
  • To realistically fight the way of their master
  • To evolve mentally, physically, and spiritually
When the 13 postures (later referred to as Strategies or Forms) are studied, it becomes clear that, except for three postures, Tai Chi Ch’uan is mostly a standing-upright, grappling system. The health and religious aspects of the system cannot be overlooked or relegated in importance; however, they must be put into perspective based upon the practitioner’s goals. In the latter sense, according to Li I-yu author of The Essential Practice of Form and Push-hands Training, form teaches one to know one’s self and fighting (sparring) teaches one to know others. This is the essential training philosophy that built the curriculum of Western Tai Chi Ch’uan for the illusive pugilist.

In Angel’s Gym the goal is to produce amateur fighting champions that are physically, mentally, and spiritually skilled enough to win bouts. When this system of Yin and Yang (or hard and soft) grappling is integrated into the previously-mentioned striking disciplines, a paradigm of illusive pugilism is realized. The conceptual merging of Eastern and Western concepts of martial arts begins with relating the 13 postures with the Western patterns of combative movement. Movement in this sense should be regarded as potential offensive and defensive energy disposed to allow the pugilist to yield and submit—without being vanquished—in order to neutralize an opponent.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

We Are All But Dust

A friend who is aware of my interest in mob things sent me this. Below is an excerpt from an article describing the death and funeral of a mob boss in Hong Kong. The full article may be read here.

A tough farewell

Gangsters and cops were out in force yesterday for the funeral service of a slain triad boss.

Adele Wong and Nickkita Lau

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gangsters and cops were out in force yesterday for the funeral service of a slain triad boss.
Up to 1,000 mourners, many dressed in black, arrived to pay their last respects at a Hung Hom funeral home where a service was held for triad enforcer Lee Tai-lung, who was brutally murdered early this month.
Specialist police officers were deployed and road blocks set up on three main roads leading to the funeral parlor. Lee's family hired South Asian security guards who scanned mourners with metal detectors.
Lee, 41, was a red pole fighter - a senior rank - of the Sun Yee On society and was active in the Tsim Sha Tsui area. In a suspected gangland hit, he was first struck by a car and then hacked to death by at least three knifemen around 4am on August 4 outside the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel.
Cops, some with dogs, kept a close watch, checking mourners' identities and videotaping proceeding.
The eight-hour police presence to maintain order was a rare sight. Anti- triad units from five regions, Organized Crime and Triad Bureau and Police Tactical Unit altogether deployed more than 140 officers.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The 36 Strategies: #32, Scheme With An Empty Castle

Next to Sun Tzu's Art of War, the 37 Strategies is the most widely known and read book on Chinese strategy. Where the Art of War is an overview of the whole subject of the study of strategy, the 36 Strategies attempts to impart the knack of strategic thinking through a set of 36 maxims.

The study of strategy is important to us if only to recognize when someone else is trying to benefit at your expense by employing various strategies.

32. Scheme with an empty castle

You appear weaker than you really are, so that opponents may defeat themselves by one of three reactions to your supposed weakness: They may become conceited and complacent, leading to their downfall; they may become arrogant and aggressive, leading to their destruction; or they may assume you are setting up an ambush, leading them to flee of their own accord.

In the first instance, you are intentionally allowing yourself to be underestimated. Being underestimated, your opponent will likely make mistakes when trying to manipulate you. Those mistakes are the gaps you can use to counter attack with strategies of your own.

The second instance is a little more complex. There is a story from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms which is a direct application of this strategy. It concerns Zhuge Liang, one of the greatest generals in Chinese history.

s is the description of the incident from Wikipedia:

In the legend from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhuge Liang led six expeditions to the north from Hanzhong through Qishan in hopes of capturing Chang'an. In the 1st expedition, his efforts were undermined by the loss of Jieting, a passageway into Hanzhong. This was due to the defiance of Ma Su, who refused to listen to the Prime Minister's orders to barricade the pathway. With the loss of Jieting, Zhuge Liang's current location, Xicheng (西城), is in great danger. Having sent out all the troops and left with a handful of civil officials, Zhuge Liang decides to use a ploy to ward off the advancing Wei army.

Zhuge Liang ordered all the gates to be opened and had civilians sweeping the roads while he sat high up on the gates calmly playing his zither with two children beside him. When the Wei commander and strategist Sima Yi approached the fort with the Wei army, he was puzzled by the scenery and ordered his troops to retreat.

Zhuge Liang later told the bewildered civil officials that the strategy only worked because Sima Yi is a man of suspicion, the latter having personally witnessed the success of Zhuge Liang's highly effective ambushing and misdirection tactics many times before. Furthermore, Zhuge Liang had a reputation as a keen but extremely careful military tactician who rarely took risks. Zhuge's well-known caution coupled with Sima Yi's own suspicious nature led Sima Yi to the conclusion that entry into the apparently empty city would have drawn his troops into an ambush. It is unlikely the same strategy would have worked on someone else, and indeed Sima Yi's son Sima Zhao saw through the ruse immediately and counselled his father against retreat.

Because of the lack of historical evidence and lack of logic, historians generally consider this encounter a creation of Luo Guanzhong and common folklore.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

... in Japan's Alleys and Subways

A friend sent me this travel article about travelling to Japan on a budget. I've included a portion below. You can read the whole article here.

Deals hidden in Japan's alleys and on subways

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Japan" and "cheap" are not words that ordinarily go together for Americans, and with the yen currently strong at 100 to the dollar, traveling to the birthplace of sushi and karaoke may sound prohibitively pricey. However, there is no reason to be put off; in these times of austerity, you can travel even to Tokyo without busting the budget - provided you know how.
My wife, Georgina, and I recently returned from Japan, which we've long admired as one of the safest, cleanest and culturally compelling countries on the planet. We kept our eyes on the bottom line and found that by following a few basic guidelines, we were able to have a great, and affordable, time.
Here's how we did it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Austere training, or Shugyo has become a re occurring topic. I've posted articles here and here. My youngest daughter plays volleyball for her college. As a freshman, this year she was introduced to 3 a day practices at the college level. This was certainly a form of shugyo. The coach has several things in mind. With the team being together 24/7 for the week that they held the 3 a days, they bonded through the shared hardship. He pushed them very hard, so they knew what they'd be capable of; and it was competitive. Everyone knew where they stood at the end of the week in terms of conditioning and skill. Below in an excerpt from another article on Shugyo. The full article may be read here.
Learning to maintain and move with good posture and good energy is a process of better understanding our own internal experiences. We are learning how to “polish our spirits” by better understanding ourselves and gaining an increased awareness and capacity to control the nature of our internal experiences.
We will then progress towards better being able to connect at an “energy” level to the uke. We will suddenly begin to experience how our bodies are no longer engaged in a struggle with an opponent, but move in unison with a two-beings-connected-as-one entity. The techniques will begin to feel easier and we will begin to think that the uke is “just giving us the technique.” True martial arts looks and feels phony!!!!!!!!!!!!
Austere training is the path towards achieving these changes. We must be very sincere in learning to better understand ourselves in training and in life. We must be very sincere in serving as both an uke and nage. We must be willing to honestly test our experiences to see if we are moving towards this direction. We must be willing to openly question the teacher and fellow students to see if what we are doing has any “truth” and “integrity.” This is learning to live in the moment. This is the moment that existed in some people who developed from life-and-death circumstances and passed both their genes and teaching on to the next generation. Can we learn from their wisdom without having to experience life-and-death circumstances? Can we re-create that spirit in our training? This is the path towards transforming our practice into SHUGYO.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Thrift Bug

A friend of mine sent me this article from The New York Times. I've excerpted a portion below. The full article may be read here. 
Once Slave to Luxury, Japan Catches Thrift Bug

TOKYO — Not long ago, many Japanese bought so many $100 melons and $1,000 handbags that this was the only country in the world where luxury products were considered mass market.

Even through the economic stagnation of Japan’s so-called lost decade, which began in the early 1990s,

Japanese consumers sustained that reputation. But this recession has done something that earlier declines could not: turned the Japanese into Wal-Mart shoppers.

In seven years operating in Japan, through a subsidiary called Seiyu, Wal-Mart Stores has never turned a profit. But sales have risen every month since November, and this year, the retailer expects to make a profit.

That is an understatement. Across the board, discount retailers are reporting increases in revenue — while just about everyone else is experiencing declines, in some cases, by double digits.

As a result, the luxury boutiques, once almighty here, are reeling.

Sales at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, makers of what has long been Japan’s favorite handbag, plunged 20 percent in the first six months of 2009. In December, as the global economic crisis unfolded, Louis Vuitton canceled plans for what would have been a fancy new Tokyo store.

In the 1970s and ’80s, and even as the economy limped through the ’90s, a wide group of consumers spent generously on Louis Vuitton bags and Hermès scarves — even at the expense of holidays, travel and, sometimes, meals and rent.

Now, the Japanese luxury market, worth $15 billion to $20 billion, has been among the hardest hit by the global economic crisis, according to a report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Retail analysts, economists and consumers all say that the change could be a permanent one. A new generation of Japanese fashionistas does not even aspire to luxury brands; they are happy to mix and match treasures found in a flurry of secondhand clothing stores that have sprung up across Japan.

“I’m not drawn to Louis Vuitton at all,” said Izumi Hiranuma, 19.

“People used to feel they needed a Louis Vuitton to fit in,” she said. “But younger girls don’t think like that anymore.”

In the new environment, cheap is chic, whatever the product.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Ba Gua Zhang videos

Wang Shujin was not only a big man, he was a giant in internal martial arts circles. A friend of mine sent me video clips he found of one of the senior students of WSJ's system, Kent Howard, performing elements of that system. More about Wang Shujin can be learned at the Wang Shujin blog.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

On Martial Arts Practice

This is an excerpt from an article at The full article may be read here.

There are many who pursue the daily practice of Bujutsu (Budo) as a means to temper their spirit. Training in Bujutsu, or performing Bujutsu Tanren is one way of knowing yourself both physically and mentally. By pursuing one thing (not only Bujutsu) deeply, the insight, knowledge, inspiration, as well as the the development put into understanding it will lead to innovation. When fueled by a strong desire and intent they create original ideas allowing for ever original innovations that are a must if you wish to get close to experiencing whatever truth it is that you pursue. It is this cycle that is so fulfulling to those that have chosen to pursue their individual arts.

Through the development of a body suitable for bujutsu, forging it in a manner according to the principles that are the foundation of bujutsu, absorbing and learning how to use the body through contact training and finally through the never ending cycle of experimentation/innovation we seek to create a core within our bodies that *is* "Jutsu." That, simply put, is what Tanren is about.

The so called "wisdom" gained through the training of bujutsu is the ability for individuals to naturally adjust to whatever environment or circumstance in which they find themselves. This power, I feel, is the true essence that lies at the core of bujutsu.

There are many different interpretations of what strong and weak are in Bujutsu. However, for techniques to be effective in reality there is much solo training and experimentation needed to accquire the intuition necessary. To grasp the principles and essence requires many hours of experimentation and innovation. "Strong" or "weak" are merely results (or lack thereof) of a work in progress.

I believe that original training and ideas created by individuals that go beyond styles and methods are required if one chooses to pursue Bujutsu.