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 ~

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Following this link will take you to a series of great pictures of everyday life in San Francisco's Chinatown. It's worth the visit.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Glimpse of Daoism in Modern China

I actually received this story from TWO friends, separately. The full article may be read here.

The Rise of the Tao

YIN XINHUI reached the peak of Mount Yi and surveyed the chaos. The 47-year-old Taoist abbess was on a sacred mission: to consecrate a newly rebuilt temple to one of her religion’s most important deities, the Jade Emperor. But there were as yet no stairs, just a muddy path up to the pavilion, which sat on a rock outcropping 3,400 feet above a valley. A team of workers was busy laying stone steps, while others planted sod, trees and flowers. Inside the temple, a breeze blew through windows that were still without glass, while red paint flecked the stone floor.

“Tomorrow,” she said slowly, calculating the logistics. “They don’t have much ready. . . .” Fortunately, a dozen of her nuns had followed her up the path. Dressed in white tunics and black trousers, their hair in topknots, the nuns enthusiastically began unpacking everything they would need for the next day’s ceremony: 15 sacred scriptures, three golden crowns, three bells, two cordless microphones, two lutes, a zither, a drum, a cymbal and a sword. Soon the nuns were plucking and strumming with the confidence of veteran performers. Others set up the altar and hung their temple’s banner outside, announcing that for the next few days, Abbess Yin’s exacting religious standards would hold sway on this mountain.

The temple she was to consecrate was born of more worldly concerns. Mount Yi is in a poor part of China, and Communist Party officials had hit upon tourism as a way to move forward. They fenced in the main mountain, built a road to the summit and declared it a scenic park. But few tourists were willing to pay for a chance to hike up a rocky mountain. Enter religion. China is in the midst of a religious revival, and people will pay to visit holy sites. So the local government set out to rebuild the temple, which was wrecked by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, modestly rebuilt then torn down when the park was first constructed.

Officials commissioned a 30-foot statue of the Jade Emperor, had it hauled to the peak and encased in the brilliant red pavilion. They then built a bell and a drum tower, as well as another set of halls devoted to minor deities.

All that was missing was a soul. For that, the temple had to be properly consecrated. The officials got in touch with Abbess Yin, widely regarded as a leading expert in Taoist ritual, and soon she was driving the 350 miles from her nunnery to Mount Yi.

As her rehearsals drew to a close, the abbess went over the next day’s schedule with a local official. All was in good shape, he said, except for one detail. Government officials were due to give speeches at 10:30 a.m. She would have to be finished by then, he said.

“No,” she replied. “Then it won’t be authentic. It takes four hours.” Could she start earlier and wrap up by then? No, the sun won’t be in the right position, she replied. The official peered up from the schedule and took a good look at her — who was this?

Abbess Yin smiled good-naturedly. At a little over five feet tall, she was solidly built, with a full, smooth face tanned from spending much of her life outdoors in the mountains. Her dress was always the same plain blue robe, and she did not wear jewelry or display other signs of wealth. She shunned electronics; her temple did not have a phone or Internet access. But over the past 20 years she had accomplished a remarkable feat, rebuilding her own nunnery on one of Taoism’s most important mountains. Unlike the temple here on Mount Yi — and hundreds of others across China — she had rejected tourism as a way to pay for the reconstruction of her nunnery, relying instead on donors who were drawn to her aura of earnest religiosity. She knew the real value of an authentic consecration ceremony and wasn’t about to back down.

The official tried again, emphasizing the government’s own rituals: “But they have planned to be here at 10:30. The speeches last 45 minutes, and then they have lunch. It is a banquet. It cannot be changed.”

She smiled again and nodded her head: no. An hour later the official returned with a proposal: the four-hour ceremony was long and tiring; what if the abbess took a break at 10:30 and let the officials give their speeches? They would cut ribbons for the photographers and leave for lunch, but the real ceremony wouldn’t end until Abbess Yin said so. She thought for a moment and then nodded: yes.

RELIGION HAS LONG played a central role in Chinese life, but for much of the 20th century, reformers and revolutionaries saw it as a hindrance holding the country back and a key reason for China’s “century of humiliation.” Now, with three decades of prosperity under their belt — the first significant period of relative stability in more than a century — the Chinese are in the midst of a great awakening of religious belief. In cities, yuppies are turning to Christianity. Buddhism attracts the middle class, while Taoism has rebounded in small towns and the countryside. Islam is also on the rise, not only in troubled minority areas but also among tens of millions elsewhere in China.

Friday, December 24, 2010

More Funny Bounces

I've written about funny bounces before. I guess it's time for an update.

Last summer, my wife and I were visiting a friend who had moved into a nice little condo overlooking a lake. She offhandedly mentioned that her company had an opening that our oldest daughter was well suited for. The hiring manager was a friend of this friend, so she probably would at least get an interview.

The older daughter applied, but didn't hear anything for a while as they had to go through all the internal applicants first. But she DID get a call, went in for the interview and did great. After some follow up phone interviews they offered her the job which she accepted and started last month.

Besides a very nice raise (she's making enough to have moved out into her own apartment), she'll be working for a company that affords a lot of different career possibilities and ideal for a young person and she'll be traveling. In 2011, she'll be spending a lot of time in London.

As for myself, something came through as well. I started working for another local engineering services company around Thanksgiving. The company has been particularly successful in telematics (moving data to and from a car without wires) and is spinning off a new division to focus on that. Besides a raise that puts me almost back where I was with the semiconductor industry (with a clear vision of catching up then getting ahead of that curve), I'm on the ground floor of a business that has the potential for a tremendous upside.

I like the work I'm doing and the people I work with. The product I'm working on ultimately saves the end customer money, so I think it will do well as the economy continues to struggle.

Science tells us that there is about 4 x 10 - 80th (4 followed by 80 zeroes) atoms in the Universe as we understand it. With the older daughter moved out and the younger one away at school, the Mrs and I have embarked on a reduce the number of said atoms that call our house their home. In short, we're throwing things out.

This has been an interesting, somtimes gruelling, exercise. It's just amazing how much stuff you can accumulate, find places to stash and then pretty much forget about. We always have a ton of stuff at the curb and the garbage men must really be beginning to hate us now.

Take my books for example. I decided to go through my shelves and discard pretty much everything that I also had on my Kindle. Also books that I read once and will never read again (it's not quite so easy to make that statement about some books), books that I bought that I intended to read but never did and I don't think I ever will.

I ended up with 6 big Tupperware tubs full of books. I didn't count them but I estimate there were about 300

I took off those shelves. Ironically, that's about the number I have on my Kindle. I took them to the local library which runs a used bookstore to raise funds.

Ultimately, with real estate prices and interest rates low, we'd like to downsize sooner rather than later, and maybe this is just the time to pick up a modest place on a lake as our residence. I have no issue commuting.
The kids may be gone, but I'll have an attractive nuisance to draw them back.

I've got a feeling that 2011 is going to be a very good year for us.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How Long Does It Take?

How long does it take to accomplish something you've set out to do? You want to learn a martial art, so you figure it will take five years? Ten? Maybe you want to learn to paint, or learn an instrument or to speak a language, or to write a book. How long will it take you?

Below is an excerpt from what I think is an exceptional blog post. You can read the whole thing here.

I am thoroughly exhausted after a long day of celebration, conversation, delicious food, and amazing company. This weekend, I am up in Berkeley to celebrate the completion of what essentially amounts to my father's life's work. My dad, Kazuaki Tanahashi, is many things -- painter, calligraphy master, writer, teacher, peace activist. He is also a scholar and translator of Dogen Zenji, the renowned 13th century Zen master who brought Soto Zen Buddhism from China to Japan. Kaz has been translating Dogen's work since he was younger than I am now, and he has just published an enormous two-volume book set of the Shobogenzo-- Treasury of the True Dharma Eye -- a collection of all of Dogen's teachings. This project has been 50 years in the works. You hear that??? Five-zero, FIFTY!!! I haven't spent that long doing anything, including being alive, so needless to say this is a BIG DEAL.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The 36 Strategies, #36: Run Away

Next to The Art of War by Sun Tzu, The 36 Strategies is the most widely known Chinese book on strategy. Where AoW is almost a textbook like overview of the subject, The 36 Strategies attempts to teach the general concepts of strategy with six groups of six maxims each.

Before we examine the last of the 36 Strategies, let's review what we've read so far:

The 36 Strategies, briefly translated by Thomas Cleary, in The Japanese Art of War.

One: Strategies When Commanding Superiority

1. Sneak across an ocean in broad daylight

This means to create a front that eventually becomes imbued with an atmosphere or impression of familiarity, within which the strategist may maneuver unseen while all eyes are trained to see obvious familiarities.

2. Surround one state to save another.

When a strong group is about to take over a weaker group, a third part can "have it's cake and eat it too," gaining a good reputation by attacking the aggressor in apparent behalf of the defender, and also eventually absorb the weakened defender to boot, without incurring the same opprobrium that would be leveled at outright aggression.

3. Borrow a sword to kill another

When one side in a conflict is weakening, it may draw it's own friends into battle, thus delivering a blow to it's enemy while conserving it's own strength.

4. Face the weary in a condition of ease

You force others to expend energy while you preserve yours. You tire opponents out by sending them on wild goose chases, or by making them come to your from far away while you stand your ground.

5. Plunge into a fire to pull off a robbery

You use others' troubles as opportunities to gain something for yourself.

6. Feint east, strike west

You spread misleading information about your intentions, or make false suggestions, in order to induce the opponent to concentrate his defenses on one front and thereby leave another front vulnerable to attack.

Two: Strategies for Confrontation

7. Make something from nothing

You create a false idea in the mind of the opponent, and fix it in his mind as a reality. In partricular, this means that you convey the impression that you have what you do not, to the end that you may appear formidable and thus actually obtain a security that you had not enjoyed before.

8. Cross the pass in the dark

You set up a false front, then penetrate the opponent's territory on other fronts while they are distracted by your false front.

9. Watch the fire from the opposite band of the river

You calmly look on when adversaries experience internal troubles, waiting for them to destroy themselves.

10. Have a sword in a smile

You ingratiate yourself with enemies, inducing them to trust you. When you have their confidence, you can move against them in secret.

11. One tree falls for another

Individual sacrifices may have to be made to achieve a greater goal.

12 Take the sheep in hand as you go along

You take advatange of any opportunity, however small, and avail yourself to any profit, however slight. This comes from the story of a destitute traveler walking on a road. As he went along, he came across a flock of sheep; making his way through them, when he emerged from their midst he had a sheep with him. He behaved so calmly and naturally, as if he had been leading his own sheep to market all along, that the shepherd never noticed him.

13 Beat the grass to startle the snakes

The opponents are reserved and unfathomable, you create some sort of stir to see how they will react. Yagyu mentions this, and also notes that it is used in Zen. Certain Zen sayings and stories are  used primarily to test people and find hout what they are like.

14. Borrow a corpse to bring back a spirit

You don't use what everyone else is using, but use what  others aren't using. This can mean reviving something that has dropped out of use through neglect, or finding uses for things that had hitherto been ignored or considered useless.

Three: Strategies for Attack

15. Train a tiger to leave the mountains

You don't go into the fastness of a powerful opponents' territory, but induce them to come out of their stronghold.

16. When you want to take captives, leave them on the loose for a while.

Fleeing enemies may turn again and strike desperately if pursued too hotly. If they are given room to run, on the other hand,  they scatter and lose their energy. Then they can be taken captive without further violence.

17. Toss out a glazed tile to draw a jade

You present something of superficial  or apparent worth to induce another party to produce something of real worth.

18. To capture the brigands, capture their king

When confronted with a massive opposition, you take aim at it's central leadership.

Four: Strategies for Confused Situations

19 Take the firewood out from under the pot

When you cannot handle an adversary in a head on confrontation, you can still win by undermining the enemy's resources and morale.

20. Stir up the waters to catch fish.

You use confusion to your advantage, to take what you want. It may specifically mean taking advantage of a general or particular loss of direction in order to gather followers from among the uncommitted or disenfranchised.

21. The gold cicada molts it's shell

This means leaving behind false appearances created for strategic purposes. Like the cicada shell, the facade remains intact, but the real action is now elsewhere.

22. Lock the gates to catch bandits

You catch invading predators by not letting them get away. You don't let them get back to their homelands with what they can get from you. If they escape, you don't chase them, because you will thereby fall prey to the enemy's plot to wear you down.

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.

24. Borrow the right of way to attack the neighbor

You secure the temporary use of another party's facilities in order to move against a mutual enemy. After having used these facilities to prevail over the enemy, you then turn and use them against the party from whom you borrowed them.

Five: Strategies for Gaining Ground

25. Steal a beam to replace a pillar

You try to recruit top talent, inducing them to join your concern. This both strengthens your side, and denies the talent to others.

26. Point at one to scold another

You criticize indirecly, getting your point across without confrontation.

27. Feint ignorance without going crazy

You pretend to be stupid and ignorant, but avoid talking loosely

28. Let them climb the roof, then take away the ladder

You maneuver enemies into a point of no return by baiting them with what looks like advantages and opportunities

29. Make flowers bloom on a tree

You dazzle and deceive the eye of opponents by showy displays.

30. Turn the guest into the host

This is when a business is taken over by one of it's own clients or consultants

Six: Strategies for Desparate Straits

31. Scheme with beauties

This refers to using the charms of women to influence key figures in an adversary organization.

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.

33. Scheme with double agents

You compromise insiders of other organizations to get them to work for you.

34. Scheme with self inflicted wounds

This is a technique particularly for undercover agents; you make yourself look like a victim of your own people, in order to win the sympathy and confidence of enemies.

35.  Scheme with continuous circles

When facing a more powerful enemy, you don't oppose by force, and don't concentrate all your resources on only one avenue of strategy; you keep different plans operating simultaneously in an overall scheme.

... and now the final strategy, #36: Run Away.

When all seems lost, as long as you're living and breathing, you're not done yet. Run away. Catch your breath and bind your wounds. Regroup. As long as there is an once of life left in you, you still have a chance.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's Friggin' Cold!

Winter has decided to pay a visit to the Winter Wonderland known as Michigan.

I've been reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens to help get into the spirit of the season.

As the wind chill has slid into minus double digits, I've come around to thinking that I should read The Call of the Wild by Jack London next, or maybe his short story To Build a Fire.

To Build a Fire is a short story about a prospector in Alaska during the Gold Rush who struggles to build that fire before he freezes to death.

Rick over at Wujifa was kind enough to send me a link to as audio version of the short story. You can listen to it here. Enjoy... and STAY WARM.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Takuma Hisa: At the Intersection of Aikido and Aikijujutsu

Below is an excerpt from an article from the Aikido Journal. More of the article may be read here.

The article is about Takuma Hisa, a student of both Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido; and Sokaku Takeda, who taught Ueshiba Aikijujutsu.

Hisa ran a dojo at the premises of his of his employer, the Asahi (Morning Sun) News. He was in a position where he was able to make a photographic record of what he taught every day. The dojo is in operation to this day, and the goal of the students is to carry on the art that Hisa taught, the way he taught it. I think this is a great tribute to a teacher.


It is a daunting task to attempt to define the role of Takuma Hisa within the context of the overlapping histories of aikido and Daito-ryu aikijujutsu. The dynamics of Hisa’s associations with Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda, two giants of modern Japanese martial arts history, are little understood. This is because Hisa was caught in an awkward situation resulting from the sometimes bizarre relationship between Ueshiba and Takeda. Hence, a principal aim of this essay will be to clarify Hisa’s relationships with his two teachers and stimulate a reevaluation of his great contribution to the aiki arts.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Heart of a Lion

Holland Reynolds is a junior at a high school in California. Her coach is dying of ALS. This video is from the last meet he would attend.

The team dedicated the meet to him and were determined to finish in first place. All went well until Holland collapsed before crossing the finish line.

For her team; for her coach, she had to finish. In pain, not knowing what was wrong with her, she finished by crawling over the finish line on her hands and knees.

By finishing the race, her team managed to take first place.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Personal Excellence

Below is an excerpt from the book The Greeks by HDF Kitto. While discussing the concept of arete, or personal excellence, Kitto quotes from The Illiad.

... But Andromache is not there. She had heard that the Trojans were being driven back, and she rant out, like a mad woman, distracted with anxiety, to the city-walls, to watch; and the nurse followed with the child. There Hector found her. Andromache grasped his hand and said:

O Hector! your strength will be your destrucion; and you have no pity either for you infant son or for your unhappy wife who will soon be your widow. For soon all the Achaeans will set upon you and kill you; and if I lose you it would be better for me to die. I shall have no other comfort, but my sorrow. I have no father and no mother; for my father Eetion was slain by Achilles; but yet (a touch of pride here) Achilles forbore to take his weapons: they were buried with his body. And I had seven brothers in my home, and all of them swift-footed Achilles slew;and my mother, who was Queen at Placos, died in my father's house. Hector you are father and mother and brother to me, and you are my proud husband. Come, take pity on me now!

Stay on these walls, and do not leave your son an orphan and me a widow. And, she says for she is a woman of intelligence, and has been observing things through her tears , post men by that fig-tree where the Greeks have been attacking.

To her in reply said Hector of the flashing helmet, Lady, this I will see to. But I should feel great shame before the Trojans and the Trojan women of long robes if like a coward I should linger away from the battle. Nor do I find that in my heart, for I have been taught to be brave always, and to fight in the forefront among the Trojans, winning great glory for my father and myself. For well do I know this and I am sure of it: that day is coming when the holy city of Troy will perish, and Priam and the people of wealthy Priam.

But my grief is not so much for the Trojans, nor for Hecuba herself, nor for Priam the King, nor for my many noble brothers, who will be slain by the foe and will lie in the dust, as for you, when one of the bronze clad Achaeans will carry you away in tears, and end your days of freedom. Then you may live in Argos, and work at the loom in another woman's house, or perhaps carry water for a woman of Messene or Hyperia, sore against your will: but hard compulsion will lie upon you. And then a man will say, as he sees you weeping, "This was the wife of Hector, who was the noblest in battle of the horse taming Trojans, when they were fighting around Illion."

That is what they will say, and it will be fresh grief to you, to fight against slavery, bereft of a husband like that. But may I be dead, may the earth be heaped over my grave before I hear your cries, and the violence done to you.

So spake shining Hector, and held out his arms to his son. But the child screams and shrank back into the bosom of the well girdled nurse, for he took fright at the sight of his dear father -- at the bronze and the crest of horsehair which he saw swaying terribly from the top of the helmet. His father laughed aloud, and his lady mother too.

At once shining Hector took the helmet off his head and laid it on the ground, and when he kissed his dear son and dandled him in his arms, he prayed to Zeus and to the other gods: "Zeus and ye other gods, grant that this son of mine may be, as I am, most glorious among the Trojans and a man of might, and greatly rule in Illion. And may they say, as he returns from war, 'He is far better than his father.' And may he slay the foeman and carry off his weapons, and may his mother have delight in him."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

For Book Lovers ...

For real book lovers, BookDrum is an excellent resource. Many wonderful books that people truly love each has their own dedicated set of pages that not only gives you a synopsis, but pages full of background, reviews and so on.

One of my favorite books is the semi biographical novel by Charles Dickens, David Copperfield. Please pay a visit, then take a look around. For a book lover, you'll find it well worth your while.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another Little Gem

Forum for Traditional Wu Tai Chi posted another little gem. This one is a video of the famous late Ma Yueliang (husband of Wu Yinghua) performing the Wu Fast Form.

I have no experience with Ma's branch of the Wu style. In his branch, apparently the fast form is taught as a separate form. In the branches I'm familiar with, the round form may be practiced as a fast form.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Vintage Yoshinkan Aikido Videos

I stumbled on these vintage videos of Yoshinkan Aikido. Shioda Sensei is a young man.

Perhaps this is much what Aiki Budo looked like? Enjoy

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems, #37 Under a Border Fortress

The Tang Dynasty was a high point in Chinese culture. Art, especially poetry was esteemed. No occasion was too small to be commemorated by a poem. The best poems of that era were collected into an anthology known as The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. An online version of the anthology made be found here.

Below is #37, Under a Border Fortress


Drink, my horse, while we cross the autumn water!-
The stream is cold and the wind like a sword,
As we watch against the sunset on the sandy plain,
Far, far away, shadowy Lingtao.
Old battles, waged by those long walls,
Once were proud on all men's tongues.
But antiquity now is a yellow dust,
Confusing in the grasses its ruins and white bones.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wu Taijiquan Slow Form

Over at Forum for Traditional Wu Tai Chi, there is a video of the late Wu Ying Hua performing the first section of the Wu Round form. Wu Ying Hua was the daughter of Wu Chien Chuan and one of Wu style's earliest practitioners. She passed in 1996.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wu Style Taijiquan Compact Form

At the Classical Tai Chi blog, there is a very insightful series of articles which compares and contrasts "the stance" of the Wu Style Taijiquan form to both Wu and Yang large frame forms. The first article in the series is here.

If you bring up the main page, the posts are from October 6th through the 11th.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Haka

Excerpted from articles at Wikipedia . Next to the octopus accompanying the Red Wings on their playoff runs, the Haka by the All Blacks is one of my favorite sports traditions. Talk about getting up for the game!

Although the use of a haka by the All Blacks rugby union team has made one type of haka familiar, it has led to misconceptions. Haka[2] are not exclusively war dances, nor are they only performed by men. Some are performed by women, others by mixed groups, and some simple haka are performed by children. Haka are performed for various reasons: for amusement, as a hearty welcome to distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements or occasions (McLean 1996:46-47). War haka (peruperu) were originally performed by warriors before a battle, proclaiming their strength and prowess in order to intimidate the opposition. Today, haka constitute an integral part of formal or official welcome ceremonies for distinguished visitors or foreign dignitaries, serving to impart a sense of the importance of the occasion.

The most well-known haka is "Ka Mate", attributed to Te Rauparaha, war leader of the Ngāti Toa tribe. The "Ka Mate" haka is classified as a haka taparahi – a ceremonial haka. "Ka Mate" is about the cunning ruse Te Rauparaha used to outwit his enemies, and may be interpreted as "a celebration of the triumph of life over death" (Pōmare 2006).

The first New Zealand rugby team to tour overseas, playing eight matches in New South Wales, Australia, in 1884, performed "a Maori war cry" or haka before each of its matches.

During 1888-89, the New Zealand Native team toured the Home Nations of the United Kingdom, the first team from a colony to do so. It was originally intended that only Māori players would be selected, but four non Māori were finally included. As the non Māori were born in New Zealand, the name "Native" was considered justified. The team performed a haka before the start of their first match on 3 October 1888 against Surrey. They were described as using the words "Ake ake kia kaha" which suggests that the haka was not "Ka Mate". It was intended that before each match they would perform the haka dressed in traditional Māori costume but the costumes were soon discarded.

The Ka Mate haka was not well known at this time. In 1900, a newspaper reported New Zealand soldiers in the Boer War chanting "Ka Mate! Ka Mate! Ka ora! Ka ora! Hae-haea! Ha!" The soldiers thought it meant "Kill him! Chop him up! Baste him!"

But during the 1901 Royal Tour, Ngati Kahungunu warriors revived Ka Mate when they performed it to welcome the Duke of Cornwall at Rotorua. Newspapers described the full actions of this "ancient ngeri," printing its complete Maori words and an accurate translation. A movie cameraman recorded the performance. Ka Mate became famous, and was widely performed throughout New Zealand.

Nevertheless, when, New Zealand played its first full international test match against Australia in Sydney in August 1903, the New Zealanders' warcry was "Tena Koe Kangaroo." (full details below)
In 1905 New Zealand made their first tour of Britain. This was the first time the team were referred to as the All Blacks and this particular team also became known as the 'Originals'. It is uncertain whether they performed a haka before every match, but they at least performed "Ka Mate" before their first test, against Scotland, and before the match against Wales. The Welsh crowd, led by the Welsh team, responded by singing the Welsh national anthem.

When a New Zealand Army team played Wales in 1916, the words of "Ka Mate" were included in the printed programme, indicating that the haka was established as an accompaniment to New Zealand rugby teams playing overseas.

The haka, whilst normally enjoyed by spectators, has been criticised as an unsporting attempt to intimidate the opposition before the match begins. However, most teams accept that the haka is a legitimate part of rugby's heritage and face up to the All Blacks during its performance, with both teams standing about 10 metres apart. The 2007 Portuguese Rugby team Captain Vasco Uva said of the haka that "[We] faced it, gave it the respect it deserved and it gave us motivation and we knew if it gave them strength, it was also a point of strength for us." [5]

Ignoring the haka is a tactic sometimes used by opposing teams. Famously, the Australian rugby team did a warm up drill well away from the All Blacks during their 1996 Test Match in Wellington, and were beaten by a record score. More recently, the Italian rugby team ignored the haka during a 2007 World Cup Pool Match, and the All Blacks then went on to beat them 76 - 14. All Black team member, Keven Mealamu, said later that the snub had backfired and provided motivation to his team.[6] Australian back David Campese often ignored the haka, most notably in the 1991 World Cup semi-final, when he chose to practice warm-up drills instead of facing the All-Blacks. Campese went on to score a try as the Wallabies defeated the All-Blacks en-route to winning the cup.[7]

In 1989 as the All Blacks were performing the haka in Landsdowne Road before playing Ireland, the Irish lined up to facing New Zealand and then edged closer and closer to the All Blacks. By the time the end of the haka came, captain Willie Anderson was only inches from Buck Shelford's face.

In 1997, Richard Cockerill was disciplined for responding to the haka before the start of an England vs All Blacks game. Cockerill went toe-to-toe with his opposite number Norm Hewitt while they performed the haka. The referee became so concerned that Hewitt and Cockerill would begin fighting that he pushed Cockerill away from Hewitt. Cockerill went on to say afterwards "I believe that I did the right thing that day," he said. "They were throwing down a challenge and I showed them I was ready to accept it. I'm sure they would rather we did that than walk away."[8]

At the 1999 Bledisloe Cup match at Telstra Stadium, Sydney, 107,000 voices sang Waltzing Matilda as a response to the New Zealand haka. The Australian players responded by delivering New Zealand a record 28-7 defeat culminating in the cup being retained by Australia.

In 2005, the All Blacks agreed to a request from the Welsh Rugby Union to repeat the sequence of events from the original match a century before in 1905. This involved the All Blacks performing the haka after "God Defend New Zealand" and before "Hen Wlad fy Nhadau". For the November 2006 test, the Welsh Rugby Union demanded a repeat of this sequence. The All Blacks refused, and instead chose to perform the haka in their changing room before the match.[9] All Blacks captain Richie McCaw defended the decision by stating that the haka was "integral to New Zealand culture and the All Blacks' heritage" and "if the other team wants to mess around, we'll just do the haka in the shed".[10] The crowd reacted negatively to the lack of the haka and then being shown brief footage of the haka on the screens at the Millennium Stadium.[11]

In the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, France, after having won the coin toss for the choice of uniforms, famously wore the blue/white/red of the French flag and walked up to within a metre of the haka performance, forming a line of opposition to the performance by the All-Blacks, who were wearing a predominantly silver uniform (as opposed to the traditional all black). France went on to defeat the All-Blacks 20-18.

In the 2008 Rugby Autumn Tests, Wales responded to the haka by standing on the pitch refusing to move until the All Blacks did. This resulted in the referee Jonathan Kaplan berating both teams for a full two minutes after the haka had ended until eventually New Zealand captain McCaw instructed his team to break off. After a spirited first half display which ended with Wales leading 9 - 6, the All Blacks responded positively and won the game 9 - 29.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Exploding Samurai Myths

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared on Spacious Planet. The whole article may be read here. The article is accompanies by some really great pictures.

7 Samurai Myths

Samurai Myths
The popular image of the Japanese Samurai warrior as a well educated, spiritual and honorable gentlemen does not tell the whole story. Each generation tells the story of the Samurai according to its own values and attitudes rather than based on history. Some common myths about Samurai include:

1. Seppuku for honor
In popular mythology Samurai are quick to commit Seppuku to preserve their honor. Seppuku (切腹) is a Japanese term for ritual suicide by cutting into the stomach with a short sword called a wakizashi or knife called a tant�.

2. Samurai don't retreat
Studies indicate that Samurai were as practical on the battle field as any other warrior. Reports written by Samurai warriors indicated they sometimes attacked and then retreated when they began to experience casualties.

3. Samurai were dependent on swords
The Samurai warrior is usually portrayed as being entirely dependent on his sword (katana) for fighting. Indeed, the Bushido teaches that the katana is the Samurai's soul.

4. Samurai Gentlemen
In popular lore Samurai were all loyal and law abiding. Modern romanticism about Samurai portrays them as diligent followers of the Bushid� code of conduct.

5. Samurai were few
The first comprehensive survey in the Meiji era counted the Samurai at 1,774,000 out of a total population of about 25 million people.

6. Samurai were merciful
Samurai are often portrayed as having modern ideas about fairness and justice. Samurai are even depicted as being protectors of the poor and weak against the tyranny of the elite.

7. Samurai were all battle hardened
The Edo era saw an extended time of peace during which no major battles were fought. During this long peace many Samurai became scholars, bureaucrats, administrators or leisurely gentlemen rather than warriors.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The 13 Movments of Taijiquan

It is said that taijiquan consists of 13 movements. What follows is an excerpt from a post a Forum for Traditional on this very topic. The whole post may be read here.

The 13 Basic Movements

(one can find this article as a pdf with pictures here)

Usually, the beginner first learns the slow form of Taijiquan. Anyone who at this stage is interested in the classic texts of Taijiquan will find time and time again the notion of the 13 basic movements. So what are these 13 basic movements? In Chinese they are called shisanshi.

Shisan is the number 13 and the second shi means basic movement. In a direct translation shi is given as “posture”, “position”, “gesture” or, as in Sunzi, “strategic advantage”. When talking about Taijiquan it is best to use the word “movement” to express the dynamic character of shi. The 13 basic movements are subdivided into eight hand techniques (bamen,literally: eight gates) and five steps (wubu). The eight hand techniques are allocated to the compass points respectively to the eight trigrams. The five steps are allocated to the five phases (wuxing). The eight directions are in China traditionally the four sides North, South, East and West and the four corners, NE, SE, SW, NW. Together, these make up the 13 basic movements of Taijiquan.

They are explained in the “Explanation of the method of Taijiquan (Taiji fashuo)” in text 1:

The eight hand techniques and the five steps (Bamen wubu)

Direction Eight Gates
peng South kan
West li
ji East dui
an North zhen
cai Northwest xun
lie Southeast qian
zhou Northeast kun
kao Southwest gen

“The compass points and the eight hand techniques demonstrate the law of the cyclic change between yin and yang, which changes eternally. In brief, one has to learn the four sides and the four corners. Peng, lü, ji and an are the hand techniques of the four sides. Cai, lie, zhou and kao are the four hand techniques of the four corners. Combining the hand techniques of the four sides and the four corners we achieve the allocation of the gates to the trigrams.

The differentiation between five steps (wubu) is based on the idea of the five phases (wuxing) and supports the eight directions. The five phases are: jinbu (to advance)/fire, tuibu (to retreat)/water; (to look left)/wood, youpan (to look right)/metal; zhongding (central equilibrium), the centre of the directions/earth. Advancing and retreating are the steps of water and fire and to look left and right are the steps of metal and wood. The central equilibrium of the earth is the central point of the axis. The eight trigrams are hidden in the body, and the feet step the five phases. The eight hand techniques and five steps make 13. This is how the 13 basic movements are created naturally and are called the eight gates and the five steps.“ (Wu, p. 16).

The 13 movements are the basis of Taijiquan.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Every year around this time, I find myself rereading one of my favorite books, by Dracula by Bram Stoker.

The version I like to read  the best is an annotated edition, with notes by Leonard Wolf.

I've recently learned of a great resource for book lovers,, which has an entry for Dracula. If you follow the link, you'll find all sorts of background material, maps, links, etc.

My favorite movie versions include of course, Dracula, the 1931 version starring Bela Lugosi; Bram Stoker's Dracula with Gary Oldman in the starring role and Dracula: Dead and Loving It, starring Mel Brooks and Leslie Nielson.

Check out the links! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Learning to Stand

Mike, over at Internal Gong Fu has had a great series of posts based on the notes he's taken along the way in learning the standing practice of Zhan Zhuang. Please follow the link and have a look. I'm sure you'll find it worthwhile.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu: The Six Principles of Training

Below is an excerpt from an article at The whole article may be read here.

Six Principles of Training

by Kondo Katsuyuki

(English translation by Derek Steel)

Daito-ryu is built upon a foundation of six basic elements. These are extremely deep and complex and mastery of even any one of them requires a great deal of time and effort. One's ability to perform Daito-ryu techniques correctly and fully will only develop through constant and strenuous efforts to take all six into account at all times. 

Rei: Correct Formal Personal Conduct

Daito-ryu preserves historical forms of correct personal conduct, not because they have any particular relevance to the performance of techniques per se, but because they contain and continue the spiritual mindset of the traditional warrior that pervades and informs the Daito-ryu tradition even today. 

 Metsuke: Eye Contact

Metsuke refers to the use of the eyes. Essentially there are two types of metsuke training in Daito-ryu, one called mokushin(lit. "the eye of the mind"), the other called ganriki(lit. "eye power").

Maai: Distancing

Maai refers to the physical distance or interval between things. Maai is often the single most important factor in determining the outcome of a combative encounter. 

Kokyu: Breathing

Kokyu refers to breath or breathing. We generate physical power and movement more easily when exhaling or in some cases when stopping our breath, both of which are states of yang. The opposite is true of inhaling, a yin state. Thus, techniques are usually performed while exhaling, often with one breath from start to finish.

Kuzushi: Unbalancing

From ancient times the admonishment to attack where the opponent has been unbalanced has been a fundamental axiom of Japanese combative theory. In the name Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu we see that the term aiki has been placed before the word jujutsu, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that this aiki refers mainly (though not exclusively) to the principle of kuzushi, or unbalancing, the opponent. 

Zanshin: Remaining Mind & Full Effort

The characters for zanshin have the general meanings of "remain" (zan-) and "mind" (-shin). The term is usually interpreted as referring to a mental state in which you continue to focus your attention on your opponent and the surrounding environment. I have another interpretation, however, which is that the characters for zanshin can also refer to the phrase "Kokoro wo nokosazu" (lit. "Leave nothing of the spirit behind").

Friday, October 22, 2010

Who Needs Fiction: All it Takes is a Spark

From Yahoo Sports:

You can use a golf club for all kinds of non-golfy purposes -- walking stick, fishing rod, club, to name three. And now we can add to that list -- firestarter.

Over the weekend, a golfer's routine swing in the rough at the Shady Canyon Golf Course in Irvine, Calif., struck a rock. Not so different from the way you play, right? Only this time, the impact caused a spark, and the spark set off a blaze that eventually covered 25 acres, according to the Steven Buck, General Manager of Shady Canyon Golf Course, and required the efforts of 150 Orange County firefighters, writes the Associated Press.

Wow. And I felt bad the time I shanked a ball through the window of a house too close to the fairway. That was nothing compared to this!

The golfer's name is being withheld, which is probably for the best, and no charges are going to be filed.

Fortunately, it all could have been much worse. As it was, the blaze required both helicopters and on-the-ground crews.

The conditions were ripe for a blaze, with dry brush from a recent heat wave just waiting for the right spark. Like, say, one caused by metal on rock.

And now, your turn. This is going to inspire a raft of bad Sportscenter-esque "When we say he set the course on fire, he really set the course on fire!" jokes. So let's get ahead of the curve. Best bad golf-and-fire-related pun in the comments wins a round of applause. Go!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Life is a Circle

Today's my birthday. Won't you celebrate with me?

It's been a long time since I posted a personal update, so I might as well make one now.

I started a new direct job on Feb 1. My role was purely sales. After a few months, we had someone who was in a critical position quit. His role involved both sales and engineering. He was the primary customer technical contact on some leading edge stuff we're doing. So they wanted me take over that role and expand upon it.

That worked for me. I am doing a lot of work with the Linux operating system now, which is keeping my technical credentials up to date. I'm also working with a major auto maker and a major university on research projects involving hybrid electric vehicles which is one of the hottest areas in the auto industry right now.

I don't think anything can be taken for granted and I want to keep myself employable. They basically asked me to go from 0 to 60 in 0 seconds, and so far I've been able to deliver.

Once I updated my LinkedIn profile with my new responsibilities, I've been getting a steady stream of inquiries for new employment opportunities. I like the people I work with and I like what I'm doing, but I'm also making about 2/3 of what I was making previously and I don't like that so much.

I hear opportunity knocking. Most of these inquiries have amounted to nothing, but a few have been active for a while. If they don't turn out either, that's ok. The thing is that I'm getting at-bats, I'm taking swings and it's just a matter of time before I connect. In fact, I may close on one of them before the end of the month.

I've also found a channel to get some software work going on the side. If I can make some extra cast that way, that's fine with me.

You see, what I would really like to do while the real estate market is bouncing along the bottom is to buy a house on a lake and rent out my present home, which I'd sell once real estate prices recover. Maybe my daughters would want to rent it from me and the improvements I'd make would be a tax write off.

"Appreciate your life."
  - Maezumi Roshi

I want to highlight a very good book I read in the past few months. The book is The Importance of Living by Lin Yu Tang. If you have wondered how the principals of Daoism can be applied in one's regular life, this book offers some insight.

Mr. Lin was Chinese but was raised to be a Christian pastor. He eventually became disillusioned with the structure of Christian religious organizations, and while his faith and belief in God remained, he turned to rediscover his Chinese roots. Mr. Lin was a modern day Daoist.

The book discusses his views of human nature. He believed in man's innate ability to do good. How to live a good life? By appreciating your life. It becomes easier to appreciate your life when you come to understand the aesthetics of everyday living, which the Chinese have been developing for several thousand years.

By no means does he try to assert either culture is better than the other, but with his unique insight from having a foot in each, he attempts to show what each culture can learn from the other.

He discusses the aesthetics of painting poetry, music, literature, philosophy, religion, flower arranging, smoking, drinking, laughing, story telling, trees, rocks, women, ... you name it. 

Remember the line from the original Kung Fu series:

"Listen for the color of the sky. Look for the sound of the hummingbird's wings. Search the air for the perfume of ice on a hot day. If you have found these things, you will know." -Master Po

I used to think that style of speech was just a flourish, and I'm certain the writers didn't know what they were doing, but it's not just a flourish; it means something. It's the poetry of our everyday lives.

Mr. Lin has solid roots in both Eastern and Western cultures, making him a rarity, especially for his times. He was an admirer or Emerson and Thoreau. I'd put this book right alongside Walden as one I will return to regularly.

Above all, he suggests a "doctrine" of reasonableness. It's a wonderful read. You'll gain many insights into the Chinese way of thinking.

Several years ago, I tried to take up golf.  I didn't take lessons, and I didn't get out often enough to develop any skill. Since I never improved, it turned out to be an exercise in frustration.

When my youngest daughter began to play travel volleyball, I decided to hang up the golf clubs until that ride was over and take up the game again. Well, this year my oldest daughter went for golf lessons with my wife, while I went with my youngest daughter. We're all playing now, with greater and lesser enthusiasm at different times, but it's something we can all do.

For me, I'm not so much interested in "improving" as long as I'm able to keep up with whomever I'm golfing with. I just like to be outside with good company enjoying a game.

From A Night at the Opera (Marx Brothers!):

I've been making progress at Taijiquan.

I've been practicing regularly and when I do that, I'm a better person in every way. I've made a lot of progress in relaxing both my shoulders and my hips and moving from my center. Where the real progress is being made is that I am getting better in carrying this relaxation into my normal everyday movements.

For years I've been wanting to get my weight down. I've told myself I was exercising hard enough and eating sensibly enough.

Four in the Morning, Three in the Afternoon by Chuang Tzu

A keeper of monkeys said that each monkey was to have three chestnuts in the morning and four at night. But the monkeys were very angry at this; so the keeper said they might have four in the morning and three at night, with which arrangement they were all well pleased. The actual number of the chestnuts remained the same, but there was an adjustment to meet to the likes and dislikes of those concerned. Such is the principle of putting oneself into subjective relation with externals.

I changed my mind. I upped my workout a notch. On the average of four times a week, sometime more and sometimes less, I do a little over an hour of taijiquan and body weight exercises, then get on the treadmill for an hour and push the limits of what my joints will tolerate.

As far as eating goes, I eat less. I don't really deny myself anything, but I don't often indulge myself either. I just eat less, and most of what I eat is better for me than not.

So far, I've lost over 20 lbs and counting.

You know, even though the economy in Michigan has been especially bad and for a long time, it's still a great place to live.

In a couple of weeks, I'll be celebrating my 27th wedding anniversary with my wife.

We've had our ups and downs like any other couple, but I couldn't think of anyone else I'd rather spend the next 27, or maybe 47 years with; sitting on a deck overlooking a lake, watching the fall colors turn and letting our kids worry about us for a change.

The cranes at the title of the blog have some significance. In Asian folklore, cranes are accounted to be very lived animals. They also mate for life. A pair of cranes symbolizes a long, happy marriage.

... and that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Historic Kiso Road

I had previously made a post entitled The Road Gods Beckoned, about an article that appeared in the Smithsonian Magazine. The author of the article retraced the steps of the famous Japanese poet Basho as written in is travel diary made hundreds of years ago. The article was accompanied by some outstanding pictures.

This month in the Smithsonian Magazine is an article about the Kiso Road, which is equally historic and accompanied by just as many beautiful pictures. You can read the article here. Enjoy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Asian Youth Forgetting How To Write

This is an excerpt from an article I saw online. The full article may be read here.

Wired youth forget how to write in China and Japan

Like every Chinese child, Li Hanwei spent her schooldays memorising thousands of the intricate characters that make up the Chinese writing system.
Yet aged just 21 and now a university student in Hong Kong, Li already finds that when she picks up a pen to write, the characters for words as simple as "embarrassed" have slipped from her mind.

"I can remember the shape, but I can?t remember the strokes that you need to write it," she says. "It?s a bit of a problem."

Surveys indicate the phenomenon, dubbed "character amnesia", is widespread across China, causing young Chinese to fear for the future of their ancient writing system.

Young Japanese people also report the problem, which is caused by the constant use of computers and mobile phones with alphabet-based input systems.

There is even a Chinese word for it: "tibiwangzi", or "take pen, forget character".

A poll commissioned by the China Youth Daily in April found that 83 percent of the 2,072 respondents admitted having problems writing characters.

As a result, Li says that she has become almost dependent on her phone.

"When I can?t remember, I will take out my cellphone and find it (the character) and then copy it down," she says.

Zeng Ming, 22, from the southern Guangdong province, says: "I think it's a young people's problem, or at least a computer users' problem."

One notoriously forgettable character, Zeng says, is used in the word Tao Tie -- a legendary Chinese monster that was so greedy it ate itself.

Still used as a byword for gluttony, the Tao Tie is one of many ancient Chinese concepts embedded in the language.

"It?s like you?re forgetting your culture," Zeng says.

Character amnesia happens because most Chinese people use electronic input systems based on pinyin, which translates Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet.

The user enters each word using pinyin, and the device offers a menu of characters that match. So users must recognise the character, but they don't need to be able to write it.

In Japan, where three writing systems are combined into one, mobiles and computers use the simpler hiragana and katakana scripts for inputting -- meaning users may forget the kanji, a third strand of Japanese writing similar to Chinese characters.

"We rely too much on the conversion function on our phones and PCs," said Ayumi Kawamoto, 23, shopping in Tokyo's upscale Ginza district.

"I've mostly forgotten characters I learned in middle and high school and I tend to forget the characters I only occasionally use."

Tokyo student Maya Kato, 22, said: "I hardly hand-write anymore, which is the main reason why I have forgotten so many characters.

"It is frustrating because I always almost remember the character, and lose it at the last minute. I forget if there was an extra line, or where the dot is supposed to go."