Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, April 30, 2010

Sanchin Kata Comparison

While none of these guys can move like Shakira, they are worth watching nevertheless. This is a video I found over at Ikigaiway (a very interesting blog and you should pay a visit if you haven't already). The video shows a meeting of karate masters from different styles (and a kung fu master) all doing their own versions of the famous and widely used Sanchin kata. While they are all different in the details (vastly different in some regards), so can see the common root they all share.

As I watch this, I am reminded of the quote that there is only one taijiquan. I think the same could be said for one aikido, one judo, ...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Leaving Winter Behind Us: The Beers of Spring

Now that winter is mostly behind us, we can start looking forward to spending more time outside, and knocking down a few cold ones. Below is an excerpt from an article I found about two of my favorite things: beer and spring. Click here to read the whole article.

Richard Goldsmith 
 - March 04, 2010

The Beers of Spring

The best brews for grilling and chilling.

Traditionally, March is the beginning of spring, which means different things to different people. To some, it's the start of baseball season, with training camps taking place all over the country. Others race outside to get the yard back in shape after the ravages of winter. But no matter the approach, lighter beers are back in the picture - especially the seasonal brews making their way to store shelves.

Every year as college students make their plans for Spring Break, Americans turn from the stouts and porters of winter to the lighter brews that signify the return of the sun. To celebrate this shift, breweries turn out limited edition beers that are brewed to smooth the transition from frigid winter to the more moderate spring months, and aren’t on shelves long. Typically, these are Lagers, Pale Ales, Amber and Red Ales – lighter, but with enough body and complexity to stand up to the rains and cool nights of spring. Not to mention the lawn mower that won't start after four or five months in the garage.

The following four beers are some of the best available for anyone looking to celebrate the return of lawn mowing, rain, and grilling season.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Zen House

Below is an excerpt from an article about a Japanese inspired house designed by an architect who is also a Zen priest. Click here for the full article, which  is accompanied by almost two dozen great pictures. Take a look; it'll be worth your while.

Description: This Japanese-inspired country house, built in 1994, was one of the few private residences created by renowned Bay Area architect and Zen priest Paul Discoe.

The property's wood-fenced entrance opens to a stone path leading past towering bamboo trees and a Japanese-style garden. The airy home has custom-milled wood floors throughout, built using traditional woodworking and joinery techniques.

The main living room features 12-foot redwood ceilings supported by whole, cantilevered logs and a wood-burning stove. Also featured are a modern kitchen with a Wolf range, concrete countertops, a custom sink and a Bosch dishwasher. The property sits on a secluded 14,000-square-foot lot west of Skyline Blvd., 20 minutes from access to Interstate 280.

What you'll love about it: Watching the sun set over the Ocean from the main living room and deck. Views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve aren't bad, either.

Size: The main house features two bedroom suites spanning 1,250 square feet, not including the attic/loft. A 500-square-foot addition from 2006 houses an office, a meditation room and a half-bath.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

BaGua Zhang Resource

If you follow this link, you'll be directed to the website of the Smokey Mountain Yin Style BaGua Zhang Study Group. The page is a labor of love. If  you take the time to poke around, you'll find all sorts of information about this intriguing martial art. Enjoy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Excellent Yiquan Resource

Cheuck Fung is a senior Yiquan teacher who resides in the Bay area. As a Chinese speaker who is also an excellent English writer, he gives non-Chinese speaking students insights into the art and culture that many might otherwise miss out on.

If you are interesting in Yiquan in particular, or internal martial arts in general, do yourself a favor and click here to visit his website and read some very good articles on a martial art that is at the same time one of the most simple and most advanced.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Timeless Art of Self Promotion

A friend of mine forward this to me. It's from a search agency about writing resumes. I thought it was really well done, so I decided to post it here. Enjoy.

Before he was famous, before he painted the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, before he invented the helicopter, before he drew the most famous image of man, before he was all of these things, Leonardo da Vinci was an artificer, an armorer, a maker of things that go "boom".

And, like you, he had to put together a resume to get his next gig. So in 1482, at the age of 30, he wrote out a letter and a list of his capabilities and sent it off to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan.

Well, we at have tracked down that resume, and you can click on the image below to see the full-size version.

The translation of this letter is quite remarkable:

"Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.
  1. I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.
  2. I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.
  3. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.
  4. Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.
  5. And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.
  6. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.
  7. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.
  8. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.
  9. Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvelous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.
  10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.
  11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.
Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency - to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc."

What a fantastic piece of personal marketing! There's none of his famous backwards-mirror writing here — this letter was intended to be read and to persuade.

I'm a hopeless pedant, so of course I'm going to take this opportunity to let you know what you can learn from Leonardo's resume ...

You'll notice he doesn't recite past achievements. He doesn't mention the painting of the altarpiece for the Chapel of St Bernard; he doesn't provide a laundry list of past bombs he's built; he doesn't cite his prior employment in artist Andrea di Cione's studio.

No, he does none of these things, because those would be about his achievements, not the Duke's needs.

Instead, he sells his prospective employer on what Leonardo can do for him.

Now imagine being the Duke of Milan and receiving this magnificent letter / resume from the young Wunderkind of Florence. The specific descriptives paint a wonderful picture (that is, if you're a Renaissance Duke) of siege engines and bombardments and mortars and trench-draining and bridges to defeat the enemy. You can almost imagine the scenes that ran through the Duke's head as he held this letter in his hands and read through Leonardo da Vinci's bold statements of capabilities.

I mean, at that time, who wouldn't want "kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; [that] can fling small stones almost resembling a storm"? Sounds pretty enticing.

And that's exactly what your resume needs to do, too. Not the laundry list / standard bio that talks about you, but the marketing piece that talks about the benefits to your future employer and how you fit into his or her needs and desires.

So it turns out that even 500 years later, this remarkable fellow, Leonardo da Vinci, can even teach us something about the modern job hunt. What a genius. ..

Here's wishing you an illustrious week, Readers!

Warmest regards,

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Two Faces of Combat

The late Donn Draeger developed the science of Hopology, the study of weapons. Below is an excerpt from an article posted at the International Hopology Society website. The full article may be read here.


Hunter B. Armstrong
From the hoplological perspective, we clearly distinguish two primary types of combative systems, (fighting arts). As raised several times over the years in HOPLOS, and most recently in Donn Draeger’s article, “Understanding East Asian Combative Culture,”1 martial and civil fighting are two areas of combative behavior that have evolved for different applications under stimulus from different combative contexts. More importantly, however, I intend to show that their distinctions are based in biological adaptations though certainly influenced by cultural mechanisms.

Since the mid-1970’s with E.O. Wilson’s arousal of a general interest in sociobiology and greater emphasis on the biological perspective into the study of man’s behavior, great insights have been made into the wide scope of man’s performance and behavior. This area has further developed into a field now called “evolutionary psychology.” Much of these gains are results of work done in ethology (the study of animal behavior), a field that subsumes man’s behavior (albeit with a certain amount of emotional backlash). One of the leaders in the field is an Austrian scholar, Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, who has specialized in man... the animal.

Here, mention should be made that both E.O. Wilson and Eibl-Eibesfeldt have both warned against the common error of many detractors of sociobiology, that of accusing sociobiology and bio-social anthropology (or evolutionary psychology) of claiming that man is an animal at the whim of his genes. Nothing could be further from the truth. These scholars continuously point out that though man is heavily influenced by his genetic makeup, it is the very fact that man can go against that influence and behave contrary to genetic structures that most distinctly separates him from his fellow animals. Nevertheless, to ignore the genetic influence is to do so at the risk of losing what is arguably the most important perspective into man’s behavior.

From the hoplological standpoint, we are, of course, looking at man’s combative behavior and performance, its evolution and continuing development. And here, as elsewhere in man’s behavior, culture has a heavy hand in the manifestation of a behavior whose roots are in genetic structures. It is appropriate, therefore, to look into both man’s culture and his biology, (i.e., animal behavior) to understand man’s biologically based, culturally manifested, combative behaviors.
Combative behavior, as such, is not a sphere of behavior that is generally looked at separately by students of human behavior. Indeed, at best it is relegated to a position as part of the over broad application of the term, “aggression.” Nevertheless, in studies on aggression a great deal of material pertinent to combative behavior has come to light.

Here, we should stop and define for the purposes of this article in particular and for hoplology in general, the meanings of such terms as aggression, combat, etc.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Wrapping up the 2010 Lenten Challenge

Technically, we are at the end of Lent. It's been my custom to continue on through at least Easter as it's reckoned by the Catholic Church, usually to Easter as it's reckoned by Orthodox Church (they coincide this year); and this year I've decided to carry on at least until the end of Passover, which is April 5th.

I put my focus on the Wu style taijiquan square form, and I'm not at all displeased how it's come along. A milestone is not only putting an end to going through it too quickly, I'm not forcing myself to be too slow either. I am simply not in a hurry and am instead focused on doing the form correctly.

I'll soon be turning my attention back to the round form which I've neglected since about October. By the end of the year I should have a good foundation for both forms.

I've started working with Rosetta Stone for Japanese, to give my Japanese language study a jump start. I like it a lot. I think it would provide a good base on which to build conversational skiils and beyond, if you are willing to look beyond what the course itself offers.

The course can only offer a small variety of common sentence patterns, situations, and vocabulary. If you were teleported to the middle of Japan though, Rosetta Stone would provide you with enough for you to find your way back home.

You hear native speakers a lot, and you speak back to the software to test your pronunciation. There are tools that should out a waveform of the native speaker in compariosn to yours, so you can get visual as well as aural feedback immediately.