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 ~

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.