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, September 29, 2010

The Early Challenge Matches: East vs West

Below is an excerpt from an article which appeared in the Dragon Times.You can click here to read the whole thing.

...A parallel might be drawn with a contest held in Paris a couple of years later between a jujutsu man and a Russian wrestler. France did not have any resident Japanese instructors at this time, and jujutsu was introduced by two Frenchmen who had studied at Tani's "Japanese School of Ju-Jitsu" in Oxford St., London. The two men were Jean Joseph Renaud and Guy de Montgrilhard, who went under the name Re-Nie had added techniques of ju-jutsu to his knowledge of wrestling and felt confident of accepting any challenges that might come his way. His match against the wrestler Dubois (October 26, 1905) created quite a stir in sporting circles, and Re-Nie was so proud of his victory that he included a report of the bout in his book "Les Secrets du Jiu-Jitsu", (Editions Paclot, Paris, 1905). "Les Secrets du Jiu-Jitsu" is now almost unobtainable. However Claude Thibault, in his history of French judo, "Un Million de Judokas", reprinted the relevant section of Re-Nie's book, and we give a translation here as a matter of historical interest.
"Let us introduce the two champions. "Master George Dubois is a well known figure in Paris. He is both a formidable boxer and a first class fencer. Born in 1865 he weighs a little over 165 1bs. and stands 5'-7" tall. He is therefore a serious adversary for Re-Nie especially when one considers that the latter weighs only 138 Ibs. and is only 5'-5" tall. He is 36 years old.
"The match took place on the 26th October at Courbevoie in front of a crowd of 500 people, coming mainly from the sporting world. M. Manaud, who organized the contest, was also the referee.
"At half-past two, the two adversaries entered the arena... The combat would not stop until one or the other was beaten.

"On the command 'Begin, Monsieurs!' the two contestants, who had taken up opposite corners of the ring, moved towards each other quite rapidly, then stopped two yards from each other, keeping their guard for several seconds.
"It was George Dubois who attacked first with a low kick. It was quickly evaded by Re-Nie who immediately leaped on his opponent and seized him round the waist. By a knee stroke placed under the right thigh, while with his left hand he squeezed the back muscles of Dubois, he swung the latter over. Dubois fell heavily on his back.
"Re-Nie followed him down and, held by the throat, was able to seize the right hand of Dubois. Then, turning himself over onto his back, he passed a leg over Dubois' neck to squeeze the carotid artery. This done, he pulled violently against the arm-joint of his adversary; this hold, which can dislocate the arm, provoked such a pain that Dubois, after having tried to resist for a fraction of a second, let out a terrible cry and gave in.

"He had been defeated by one of the terrible locks of Jiu Jitsu, the "Ude-shighi". The contest lasted 26 seconds, and the actual fighting only six seconds.
"When George Dubois was delivered from this terrible hold, which Re-Nie relaxed as soon as he heard Dubois cry out, he stood up and shook the hand of the Ju-jitsu Champion. Everyone crowded round the two combatants.
" 'I would have liked to have done better', said Dubois, 'but it was impossible for me to escape from the hold. If I had continued my arm would have been broken like a straw.' "

According to Thibault, Re-Nie followed this with other victories over wrestlers. Success must have gone to his head because he then challenged the Greco-Roman style wrestling champion Nan Padoubny of Russia. Padoubny outweighed Re-Nie by 1001bs. and was a real iron man. It was a ludicrous challenge and Re-Nie was defeated. Thibault wrote that "Beaten, the pioneer of ju-jitsu in France rapidly lost the confidence of enthusiasts," and he seems to have faded from the scene shortly after. After quoting the details of these early contests. Thibault poses a question: What was the real strength off Jean Joseph-Renaud and Re-Nie? He answers as follows:

"The former described his training in a book he wrote in 1912 ('La Defense dans la Rue', Editions Lafitte, Paris): 'I studied with Japanese masters at the Oxford St. school for two summers, that is two periods of three months each, each day and sometimes twice a day.' Such a training would today probably be rewarded with a green belt, a blue belt at most for a particularly gifted student. Re-Nie was more advanced than Jean Joseph-Renaud, but his small build made him vulnerable. Taking into account the standards the day, he could have at most been worth a brown belt!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Before and After

Here is an excerpt from an article from Forum for Tradtional Wu Tai Chi Chuan. The whole article may be read here.

From the Wu Tai Chi Journal (please click here)

Before (xian) and after (hou)
By Wang Pinzheng

When a calligrapher is writing, his imagination (yi) resides first in his brush. When a painter starts painting a picture, he already has a clear image of it in his mind. This is because they first think about what to do. This is related to the demand in Taijiquan to ’Lead the qi with the heart/mind (xin). Move the body with qi.’ and ’Imagination (yi) and qi as the rulers – bones and flesh as the servants’ In Taijiquan also one emphasises before and after: ’The ruler gives orders to the subject.’ This short sentence means that imagination and qi control the movements.

In the book Wu style Taichichuan the first movement is called ’Preparation (yubeishi)’. This movement completely embodies the meaning of ’Imagination and qi control the movement’. When performing the preparation you should pay attention to three aspects:

1) The body is upright. Erect head and empty neck (xuling dingjin). Expand the chest downward and lift the upper back (huilin dingjin). The arms hang down naturally (ziran) and the feet are parallel and shoulder width apart. The knees are very slightly bent. In this posture the upper part of the body is relaxed (empty like the heart/mind) and the lower part of the body is strong (full). This is a ’harmonious body’.

2) The mouth is lightly closed. You breathe deeply through the nose. Let the air sink slowly to the dantian (near the navel). After breathing in, you slowly breathe out through the nose. When the chest is expanded downward, the diaphragm can move freely.Thus it creates the movement of breathing in and out. This is ’harmonious breathing’.

3) Both eyes are calm and do not wander around. You free yourself of confused thoughts. The visual focus is kept inside. Other thoughts are dropped. This is a ’harmonious heart/mind’.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

The 36 Strategies, #35: Scheme in Continuous Circles

Next to The Art of War by Sun Tzu, The 36 Strategies is the most widely known book on strategy in Asian. Where the AoW describes the entire subject of strategy in a methodical textbook like manner, the 36 tries to impart the knack of strategic thinking by way of maxims organized in six groups of six each.

#35 is: Scheme in Continuous Circles.

I think it was Woody Allen who said that the best laid plans of mice and men are about the same. You simply can't rely on one fixed strategy. Unforeseen events may knock your plans off kilter. Also you can never tell what unforeseen opportunity may come your way to provide you with new options.

At work, I was hired for sales as an account manager. I began laying plans for doing what I could to succeed at sales. With the bad economy, they low balled me (which is understandable), so I had to figure out ways to recover some of what I lost.

After a couple of months, a key technical guy who worked on special programs quit and they asked me if I'd take over his activities and even expand on them.

You bet. Within the company, I'm going from being an expendable sales man to a key customer contact. I am making myself a whole lot more marketable in that I am now working with a major automaker and a major university on research projects on hybrid vehicles, customizing some of our products for them, and even teaching a course on writing certain kinds of software.

I'm giving myself both more job security and making myself more valuable to someone else as well.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hung Gar Master Chiu Wai

A friend sent me this article, from which I've excerpted a portion below. It's about the legendary master of Hung Gar Kung Fu, Master Chiu Wai. The article originally appeared in Kung Fu Magazine. The whole article may be read here.

The original article has a number of vintage photos that you might enjoy.

A Legend's Story

by Curtis Kautzman (background provided by Master Chiu Wai, translations and photos by Ambrose Chiu)
A young Master Chiu WaiA Memorable Visit

Everyone has those pinnacle moments in their life. For a hockey fan it might be meeting Wayne Gretzky; for a young teenage girl, perhaps the Jonas Brothers. For myself it was Master Chiu Wai, a legend in Hung Gar kung fu. Some years ago I arranged a trip to Calgary (for those of you south of the border, that's right smack in the middle of Canada) to present him with an honorary membership in the Canadian Hung Kuen Association, and looked forward to having our plaque adorn his wall amongst hundreds of others.

Arriving in Calgary, I received a call from Master Chiu Wai's son Ambrose. We met in the Dit-ta medical clinic that he operates, located in the downtown Chinatown area. Ambrose, a mild-mannered soft-spoken man with a big smile, greeted me warmly. I was immediately drawn to all the photos and certificates on the walls. One could literally look for hours at all the incredible history that was on display.

As our conversation turned to Hung Gar and his father, Ambrose and I headed to a local Chinese restaurant. We found Master Chiu Wai already waiting for us there, and I could feel the staff's reverence for him. Before we joined him, the waiter told me what a special customer Master Chiu was and that the table had been specially set up for him. Master Chiu smiled as we approached. He is not a big man, but very well built, and though in his 60s at the time, he had the physique of a man half his age. I bowed and saluted him, and he greeted me with a very firm handshake. This was not a chicken fried rice and chicken ball kind of Chinese restaurant, but very traditional, and one that Master Chiu and his son frequented often. As we dined, we talked about Hung Gar and its rich history. Finishing our meal, Master Chiu asked if I was ready to come over to his house to exchange training ideas and for him to take a look at my form. My excitement mounted as we got up from the table and bowed.

Master Chiu and his wife made me feel at home the moment I entered their house. After the formalities and small talk, Master Chiu showed me a videotape of one of his recent performances while on a cruise ship vacation. It was very plain to see Master Chiu loved to share his kung fu. When we went into his training room, I saw hundreds of pictures and certificates adorning the walls. The greatest treat was seeing the free weights that Master Chiu's father Chiu Kow used in his school in Hong Kong. I felt like a kid in a candy store, because I had seen these weights in many old photos, and it was like seeing a part of history. Master Chiu asked me to perform the Fu Hok Seung Ying Kuen (Tiger and Crane fist set) for him. Though very nervous in his presence, I managed, and was very pleased to receive guidance and encouragement from him. He then proceeded to perform the Moi Fah Kuen (Plum Flower fist set) for me. To see a great master such as Master Chiu Wai perform was breathtaking, and like a hockey fan getting to shake Wayne Gretzky's hand, I felt greatly inspired. My visit with Master Chiu was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
A young Master Chiu Wai 
The Royal Family of Hung Gar Kung Fu
Master Chiu Wai was born in 1931 in Hong Kong. He grew up in a Chinese martial arts family. His parents, Chiu Kow (1895-1995) and Siu Ying (1904-2002), were disciples of late great Hung Gar Master Lam Tsai Wing (1861-1942). Master Lam was one of the prominent protégés of the famous Hung Gar Master Wong Fei Hung (1850-1925).

When Chiu Wai was a toddler, his parents had their own Hung Gar Martial Arts school and Chinese Dit-ta clinic in Hong Kong. He started learning Hung Gar at the ripe old age of seven, under the guidance of his parents.

Days Gone Past
Master Chiu still has fond memories of the good old days (we are talking about 70 years ago) when a Chinese martial arts school was like a family. Members in the school took care of each other. Students respected their Master as a senior member of the family. Not only did they pay for their training lessons, they provided staple goods to the Master whenever they could afford it. The students shared daily chores around the school. Usually, new students took up most of the jobs. 

Training was relatively strict and very tough. The only training for new students was basics such as (Ma Gong) horse stance training and bridge drills, which could last for upwards of a year. 
It was a good way to establish a solid foundation for the future of the training style. Most students today would not tolerate this type of rigorous training, finding it monotonous and time-consuming.

Nowadays, students learn the horse stance in the first three to four lessons, quickly followed by a short form (hand set) to make the learning process more interesting. Though training the horse stance is still emphasized in Hung Gar today - to develop stamina and strength of the hips and legs - it has been modified to suit the needs of modern-day students.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Strategy or Who Needs Fiction. You Decide.

In our review of The 36 Strategies, remember #31, Scheme with Beauties? Well here's an example from real life. It's just so absurd, I'd be tempted to put it in the Who Needs Fiction category as well.

The story has appeared in many news outlets. Below is an excerpt from ComputerWorld. The whole article may be read here.

Fake femme fatale shows social network risks

Researcher Thomas Ryan says fictitious Robin Sage character fooled many holding security, military and intelligence posts

By Jaikumar Vijayan

Computerworld - Hundreds of people in the information security, military and intelligence fields recently found themselves with egg on their faces after sharing personal information with a fictitious Navy cyberthreat analyst named "Robin Sage," whose profile on prominent social networking sites was created by a security researcher to illustrate the risks of social networking.

In a conversation with Computerworld, Thomas Ryan, co-founder of Provide Security, said he used a few photos to portray the fictional Sage on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter as an attractive, somewhat flirty cybergeek, with degrees from MIT and a prestigious prep school in New Hampshire. 

Then he established connections with some 300 men and women from the U.S. military, intelligence agencies, information security companies and government contractors.

The goal, said Ryan, was to determine how effective social networking sites can be in conducting covert intelligence-gathering activities. 

Despite some patently obvious red flags -- such as noting that the 25-year-old Sage had worked professionally for 10 years -- the scheme worked. The connections to Sage, who was depicted as a real-life Abby Scuito, a fictional character in CBS's NCIS television series, were established in less than a month.

Many friends freely shared personal information and photos, invited the fictional threat analyst to conferences and asked her to review documents. Some "friends" at major companies, including Google and Lockheed Martin, even expressed interest in hiring her, he noted.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method

Shang Lee, over at The Journey Within has begun translating a Chinese text on the Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method. An excerpt is below. The first part of the translation may be read by clicking here. I am sure it will be a series that you want to follow. Enjoy.

This is a translation and my interpretation of the text written by Sun Zhonghua. He is the 19th generation standard bearer of Chen Style Taijiquan and a 2nd generation standard bearer of Hunyuan Tai Ji Academy. I hope I did it justice with my translation, and didn’t lose the spirit he is trying to convey. I have to split it in parts as this is a long article and it’ll probably take me some time to translate. Also, I’m savouring the text. It’s great reading it the second time round. :) Hope you enjoy it. You can find the full text here if you can read Chinese.


People train in martial arts for a variety of reasons, but if there is someone who is in love with martial arts to the point of addiction, this must be caused by a rare gene in his DNA. The evolution of this gene would most likely come from hunting and the battles that the previous generations have to fight, where those instincts are then secretly passed on to these “martial art addicts”. History has shown that even with the ban on martial arts or the downplay of martial arts to give way to a more “civilized” way of learning, all did not manage to suppress this rare gene from being passed down through the generations.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Joy of Joint Locks

Below is an excerpt from an insightful article at Aikido Arts of Shin BudoKai blog on utility of joint locks. The whole article may be read here. Please pay a visit.

As a young man I trained very hard in Yoshinkan Aikido, and for a while worked in security on the midnight shift at a Detroit area hotel. Months of boredom would sometimes be punctuated by .. you name it: fights in the bar, parties getting way out of control, fights in the parking lot and so on. It was our job to hold down the fort until the police arrived. Sometimes the hands on the clock can move very slowly; like that New Years Eve one of my co workers (the biggest and toughest one of the bunch no less) almost got throw off of a balcony... but I digress.

I always emphasize that joint-lock techniques cannot be viewed as a means to lock a particular joint.  This narrow focus causes many problems.  One, a person is attacking you, not a joint.  If you simply focus on one joint, the rest of the person is typically more than happy to tee off on you as a reward for not paying proper attention to him/her.  Two, a conscious intent on your part is easy “read” by the other person, which then results in that person moving in a manner to counter the joint-lock.  I emphasize that a joint-lock should result in a cascade of locking joints so that the attacker’s frame (spine and hips) is negatively impacted so that effective movement becomes almost impossible.  This can only occur if one’s intention is directed at the person’s center and not directed towards the initial joint that you seek to lock.  Before this can happen, you must do something to off-balance the attacker.

The act of off-balancing the attacker serves to effectively neutralize the effective strength of the attacker.  It is very important to understand that the human body has a primary directive to maintain dynamic equilibrium (maintaining balance).  When a person’s body is off-balance, the body automatically and pre-consciously re-directs all available body resources towards re-establishing dynamic equilibrium.  I always demonstrate this phenomenon by having a person stand with excellent posture and hold an arm out straight as strong as possible.  You push down on that arm to gauge the strength.  Then have that person do something that negatively impacts that posture ( eg. tilt head in any direction) and push on the arm again.  The difference is always striking!  When the person’s functional strength has been significantly curtailed, it is easy to begin to execute a joint lock technique.  As long as you increasingly impacting the stability of your attacker through the execution of a joint-lock technique, the person should not be able to effectively counter the technique and that person should not be able to re-establish a stable posture or base to work from.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Japanese Martial Arts Video

I found about a half dozen videos from a martial arts exhibition that took place in Japan on the 4th of July. Here is the link to YouTube. I've embedded them individually below.

Enshin Ryu Satto Ryu Taijutsu


Shorinji Kempo

Shoden Nagao Ryu Taijutsu

Seibukan Fusan Ryu Jujutsu

Kokusai Ryuki Ho Karate Do

Kama Tameshigiri

Shingetsu Enshin Ryu Sai

Friday, September 03, 2010

Yoshokai Aikido Video: Kushida Sensei

Kushida Sensei named his offshoot of Yoshinkan Aikido Yoshokai. I trained directly under Kushida Sensei in the late 70's and early 80's. I finally found a video of him. Unfortunately, it's very short. The very brief scene from the 1980 is how I remember him.