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, February 29, 2012

The Learning Process in Japanese Martial Arts

Over at the Classical Budoka, there is an excellent article on the learning process in Japanese Martial Arts, embodied in the phrase "Shu, Ha, Ri." Below is an excerpt. The full article may be read here.

Sooner or later, the practitioner of nearly any kind of Japanese budo (martial Ways) will hear the term “shu, ha, ri.” It is a way to describe the learning process of a traditional art or craft.

The concept, on one level, is really quite simple. On another level, it can be very deep. I had been taught and read about “shu, ha, ri” by the time I was studying under the late Ohmori Masao, my Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu iai sensei, in Kyoto. I was about to return to my native Hawaii after an extended stay in Japan. He was teaching me a new kata, explained its technical theories, and then told me that I should understand what “shu, ha, ri” was all about. He started to explain the meaning. Then he stopped.

“For the rest,” he smiled, “jibun de kenkyuu shinasai. You need to study the implications on your own.”

That, by itself, was an example of “shu, ha, ri.”

So what does it all mean?

Shu, ha, ri is a description of the way one should learn a traditional art, be it tea ceremony, origami (paper folding) or budo. Literally translated, the characters mean: protect, separate and understand. In other words, first protect and treasure what you have learned from your teacher, then separate yourself from your teacher’s instructions, and thereby, finally, reach your own understanding of the concepts.

Some people adopt a superficial understanding of the “ha” to mean a complete break with one’s teacher or training, and thus too many people with too little talent point to this concept as a reason why they come out with their “own” style of martial arts, the better to market their own unique punch-kick exercise system after two years’ worth of studying at a strip mall dojo. On the other hand, too many students never go beyond maintaining what they learned from their teacher even after their teacher’s retirement or passing, and are stuck in the “shu” level of simply maintaining, not excelling or attempting to go beyond what they learned from their teacher. They become stunted in their growth.

Shu, ha, ri, attempts to describe a traditional learning process, in which the end result is a new generation of “masters,” steeped in the tradition, but able to think and teach on his/her own, bringing new insight to the art. It is not really meant to justify new “styles” by people with minimum talents but maximum egos, nor is it meant to cast a teacher’s instructions in concrete, never to be violated by future changes.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Evolution of Mixed Martial Arts

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared in The Economist, on how Mixed Martial Arts has evolved over the years. The full article may be read here.

Competition in mixed martial arts

Ultimate trust-busting championship

Oct 7th 2011, 6:52 by T.M.

IN 2000 the United States Congress passed the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, a law that sought to protect boxers from unscrupulous promoters and sanctioning bodies. Because boxing has no single governing organisation and its fighters are not unionised, promoters used to wield inordinate market power. As the industry’s “matchmakers”, they could refuse to arrange a fight, venue or broadcast deal unless boxers surrendered a disproportionate share of the proceeds and signed a long-term promotion agreement. The act tried to crack down on “coercive contracts” and level the field between fighters and promoters in negotiations. The law has rarely been invoked, but has occasionally provided some redress. Last month Fernando Guerrero, a rising middleweight boxer, filed suit against Prize Fight Promotions, alleging that the company failed to disclose proceeds of two of his televised bouts as the law requires.

However, the law only applied to boxing. In the decade since its passage, boxing’s primacy among combat sports in America has been challenged by the rise of mixed martial arts (MMA), formerly known as cage fighting. A Brazilian import, it incorporates a range of techniques, including boxing, jujitsu, wrestling and kickboxing, and originally had few regulations. In the 1990s its American promoters rebranded it and formalised its rules in an effort to fend off accusations of barbarity. MMA has since grown in popularity in both the United States and Europe, and has moved from fringe venues and the outer reaches of the cable television dial to snazzier sports arenas (usually attached to Las Vegas casinos) and broadcast networks.

When MMA was first brought to America, a number of promotion companies vied to organise events. But in recent years the industry has consolidated under the aegis of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which has bought up most of its rivals, including Strikeforce this March. In August UFC inked a $100m-a-year deal with the Fox network in the United States to begin broadcasting its fights in November.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The 2012 Lenten Challenge Starts ... Now!

The 2012 Lenten Challenge Starts ... Now!

Mr. Luo DeXiu performs the pre heaven forms of his Gao style Baguazhang:

Friday, February 17, 2012

The 2012 Lenten Challenge

Every year, I throw out the Lenten Challenge to my martial arts buddies. It has nothing to do with Christianity or religion. We are simply using this time as a convenient reminder to rededicate ourselves to our training. It’s kind of hard to miss either Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras, the last day before Lent, which is also Paczki Day!) or Easter Sunday (Bunnies, candy, colored eggs; that stuff). Several of us have been doing this for years now.

The challenge is this: from Ash Wednesday (Feb 22) until the day before Easter (April 7), train every day, without fail, no excuses; even if you have to move mountains. Simple enough said, a little harder to do.

It's not as easy as it sounds; things come up. Some days, you might only be able to get a few minutes of training in; but the point is to do it everyday, no matter what.

It doesn't have to be martial arts training either. Whatever it is that you need to really rededicate yourself to: studying, practicing an instrument, walking, watching what you eat; anything - do it every day, without fail.

In the past on some forums, people have posted what they’ve done everyday. I think everyone who’s done that has become tired of writing, and the others get tired of reading it. How about you just post if you’ve had some breakthrough, or you’ve had to overcome some unusual circumstance to continue your training? Maybe just check in every once in a while to let everyone know you’re keeping at it, or to encourage everyone else to keep at it.

If you fail, no one will hate you. If you fall off of the wagon, climb back on board. Start anew.

For those of you who insist that you really do train everyday anyway, by all means continue and be supportive of the rest of us. For the rest of us who intend to train everyday, but sometimes come up short due to life’s propensity for unraveling even the best laid plans, here is an opportunity to put a stake in the ground and show your resolution.

Won't you join me?

Best Regards


Monday, February 13, 2012

Who Needs Fiction: The Stalled Dragon

A friend sent me an article from which I placed an excerpt below. The whole article may be read here.

Plan for Bruce Lee museum in Hong Kong stalls

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Hong Kong --
Efforts to build a Bruce Lee museum in the late kung fu movie star's hometown of Hong Kong have been stalled again.

Fans have been calling for an official tribute to the screen icon for years. Their hopes appeared to be answered two years ago when the Hong Kong government and the owner of Lee's former home reached an agreement to convert the property - a two-story house currently used as an hourly love motel - into a museum.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Brightness of Snow

It snowed!

What does fresh snow make you think of? Haiku, of course!

Samui fuyu
Shiroi meigetsu

Cold winter
White full moon
Brightness of snow

Friday, February 10, 2012

Low Tech Innovation

I love stories about using low tech in innovative ways. Below is an excerpt from an article, which may be read in full here. Below the excerpt is a short video on the same topic.

Off-grid lighting found in filled water bottles

The world is not getting smaller, but is becoming more full of life – humans to be exact. Increasing demands for water, shelter and electricity are issues that are not going away in the near future. With this in mind, a new solution has been found to meet the high demand for electricity.

While the solution may be flawed, it is an answer nonetheless. In Brazil 2002, during an energy crisis, local community members found a way to harness the sunlight into a light source to be used inside buildings. Taking a 2-liter clear bottle, two cap-sized portions of bleach, and water to fill the bottle, the bottle acts as a powerless light bulb. The bottle is then placed in a hole in the ceiling where the sun can enter on the exposed end of the bottle then refract the light into the building.

NGOs like Isang Litrong Liwanag (“A Liter of Light”) have already begun to install approximately 10,000 bottles in the Philippines. This proves not only to be a potential solution to the lack of access to electricity, but also may stimulate the economy due to the market for the light bulbs.

Some people, thanks to micro-lending and access to resources, have even begun to make a business out of the bottle light bulb. One man, Demi Bucras in the Philippines, now works at installing these lights for the community. His addition to the solar bottle lights: metal sheets. Bucras takes the metal sheets and cuts a small hole. He then puts the bottle into the hole and creates a secure fit. Next, he cuts the same size hole into the roof and places the bottle into the hole. The metal sheet keeps out unwanted weather, like heat and rain, while still allowing the sun light in. Within a month of the first solar bulbs in Buras community in the Philippines, over a 1,000 ‘bulbs’ were installed.
Burcras says he even had to quit his job because the demand was high, and the money was good.

Many critics say this sun light-driven light bulb is creative, but it is not a lasting solution. Questions concerning lack of access to water, multiple storey buildings, maintenance, and how to have light at night time are some of the main criticisms of the water bottle light bulb.

While the light bulbs cannot power homes at night, it can save electricity from being used during the day, which can then be used at night, or saved for other purposes. This can help reduce electricity bills and that money as well can be allocated towards other expenses.

The light bulbs not only work during sunny days, but also on cloudy days as well. Water refracts light at 360 degrees which means that any source of light can be used to create the light bulb. Users also state that opening a door or window only allows so much light in, and usually much heat or cold. The light bulbs in the ceiling allow for more light to be let in, and in controlled areas, without heating or freezing the house.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Daoist Immortality

As philosophical Daoism changes into alchemy, the search for an Elixir of Immortality became the Holy Grail. Perhaps modern science isn't that far away. Below is an excerpt from a recent new article. The whole thing may be read here.

Who wants to live forever? Scientist sees aging cured
Mon, Jul 04 14:39 PM EDT
By Health and Science Correspondent Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - If Aubrey de Grey's predictions are right, the first person who will live to see their 150th birthday has already been born. And the first person to live for 1,000 years could be less than 20 years younger.

A biomedical gerontologist and chief scientist of a foundation dedicated to longevity research, de Grey reckons that within his own lifetime doctors could have all the tools they need to "cure" aging -- banishing diseases that come with it and extending life indefinitely.

"I'd say we have a 50/50 chance of bringing aging under what I'd call a decisive level of medical control within the next 25 years or so," de Grey said in an interview before delivering a lecture at Britain's Royal Institution academy of science.

"And what I mean by decisive is the same sort of medical control that we have over most infectious diseases today."

De Grey sees a time when people will go to their doctors for regular "maintenance," which by then will include gene therapies, stem cell therapies, immune stimulation and a range of other advanced medical techniques to keep them in good shape.

De Grey lives near Cambridge University where he won his doctorate in 2000 and is chief scientific officer of the non-profit California-based SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Foundation, which he co-founded in 2009.

He describes aging as the lifelong accumulation of various types of molecular and cellular damage throughout the body.

"The idea is to engage in what you might call preventative geriatrics, where you go in to periodically repair that molecular and cellular damage before it gets to the level of abundance that is pathogenic," he explained.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


Walt posted this over at a Plainly Hidden View. Below is an excerpt. The whole post may be read here.

Upright, firm and collected -- these are the three marks of that posture which is typical of the Japanese who knows how to stand, and taken together, show the presence of Hara.

Modern man in his self-assurance holds too strongly to what he believes is his by his own efforts. Not only does he not hesitate to attract attention to himself but he even emphasizes his "persona." This means that he lacks the wise restraint suitable both in social life and toward those greater forces which are present everywhere and which may suddenly fall on him and attack him. Regarding these, man is better prepared either to ward them off or deliberately to let them in, if the deep-centeredness of the soul-body posture at least counterbalances the outward thrust and striving of the mind or, better still, slightly preponderates over it.

For avoiding all postures emphasizing the ego the Japanese has one sure remedy -- his firm Hara.

-- excerpted from Hara, The Vital Center Of Man, by Karlfried Graf Durkheim