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, July 31, 2012

Wu Xing Painting

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

As an aside, I had previously mentioned a book entitled Effortless Action: Wu Wei as a Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China, by Edward Slingerland.  The book was an outgrowth of Dr. Slingerland's doctoral thesis. 

I found a paper he work which encapsulates the main points of his book, which may be downloaded here. It's a little over 30 pages long and well work the read.

Wu Xing Painting

Wŭ Xíng is a synthesis of traditional painting with its namesake philosophic tradition Wŭ Xíng – or, more specifically, the use of Chinese Xie Yi painting techniques and the metaphysics of the five Wŭ Xíng elements. Wŭ Xíng painting also inherited some traits from several Wu Shu and Qi gong schools. The closest in style is Xingyiquan, whose 5 primary movements are balanced with the 5 elements of Wŭ Xíng. Because Wŭ Xíng painting techniques are associated foremost with consciousness and overcoming corporeal restraints, it is common to speak of the manifest art therapy influence of this method.

Because the philsophical[1], and technical components of this type of painting have been taken from Chinese culture, it is common to hear it referred to as “Chinese Wŭ Xíng painting”.
Wŭ Xíng painting has a total of five brush strokes, five movements, and five types of composition, corresponding to the elements “Wood”, “Fire”, “Earth”, “Metal”, and “Water”.

Wŭ Xíng painting is metaphysics. Through Wŭ Xíng painting one can create a picture identical in its external appearance to any example of traditional Chinese painting. In this regard there is no difference between Wŭ Xíng painting and Chinese painting. Still, if one compares Wŭ Xíng painting and Guo Hua there are a number of differences in technique: Traditional Guo Hua painting is divided into several genres: mountains and water, birds and branches, grass and insects, etc and does not usually extend beyond these genres. Wŭ Xíng painting is not tied to any genres. Using the five brush strokes the artist can paint everything that he wants. Traditional Chinese Guo Hua painting inherited an attachment to rice paper and silk as well as to a certain type of paint, while Wŭ Xíng has no such limitations.

The single most important thing for the artist who practices Wŭ Xíng painting is an attractive image harmoniously constructed using the Wŭ Xíng system. Everything else is secondary, including the type of artistic materials, the genre, and so on.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Change Your Mind

Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning. - Thoreau

That's one of my favorite quotes. What is the point of studying any sort of philisophy if you don't attempt to apply it in your daily life.

For years now, I have been practicing at night; or at least after work once I get my "stuff" around the house done. Even though my kids are gone though, I find myself just busier and busier.

The result has been that by the time I've been getting around to taking car of my self, it's been a 50/50 proposition. I could easily be mentally and physically spent from the days' activities.

This is one of my favorite stories from Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu)

Once a zookeeper said to his monkeys: "You'll get 3 bananas in the Morning and 4 in the afternoon."
All monkeys are upset.

"OK. How about 4 bananas in Morning and 3 in the afternoon?"

Hearing this, the monkeys are content.

The zoo keeper has a flexible and open mind. He doesn't mind changing  his plans to accommodate the monkeys as long as the task is being met, He could have stuck rigidly to his own idea, but then he'd have a bunch of unhappy monkeys on his hands and anyone who has coached youth sports knowns that that isn't a happy place. Parents can be awful.
What did he do? He changed his mind.

I changed my mind.

I had been adamant that I wasn't going to get up any earlier than had already been my habit. It wa almost a matter of principal with me.  "Don't I do enough? Now I am going to get up EXTRA early?!"

One of the points of resistence had been the idea of the (artificial) deadline looming over me, the little dose of anxiety that I had to be finished by a certain time (or else what? I don't know; I come and go pretty much as I please at work). It was a self imposed obstacle. I also had my little morning rituals to which I had become unconciously attached.

I changed my mind.

I started getting up an hour earlier and found that I was consistently getting one and a half hours in every day regardless of what came my way later on. I not only changed my mind, but have embraced the change of outlook. I can go into the office every day knowing that I've already taken care of what I need to do for myself. It's a great feeling.

Practicing ~5 days a week x ~50 weeks a year adds up. Weekends are more relaxing since I'm not trying to get the training in that I may have skipped during the work week. Weekends can either be a recovery time or bonus training!

So. The moral of the story is that if you have a rough spot or sore point in your training, take a good look at it. Maybe all that you need to do is to change your mind.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Martial Arts and Golf

Steven Pressfield is a well known author who wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire and many other well known books. Below I have an excerpt from his blog. The full post may be read here.

The Professional Mindset

By Steven Pressfield | Published: April 11, 2012

Have you ever wondered why so many CEOs and high-achievers (including sports superstars like Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky) are so taken with the game of golf? It’s not just because they get to wear white belts and plaid pants.

(With apologies to everyone who lives along the banks of the Cuyahoga, here is Tom Wolfe’s definition of a white belt and white shoes worn as part of the same outfit. Mr. Wolfe calls it a “full Cleveland.”)

But back to golf.

The reason high-performance professionals are often smitten with golf is that golf, more than almost any other sport, requires the player to perform over and over the following mental/emotional action:
To focus exclusively on the shot in front of him, no matter how horrifically he has just screwed up the previous shot(s).
This exercise is identical to what the World Bank President or the NBA champ have to perform in their day jobs.

Golf makes performance of this action particularly difficult because unlike full-speed sports like basketball, football, tennis or hockey (where the player is in motion), golf makes the competitor execute each stroke from a standing start. As anyone who has ever tried to sink a three-foot putt under pressure knows, this is where the mental game (aka psyching yourself out or “choking”) rears its ugly head.

All this is a long wind-up to the concept of the professional mindset.

Mental toughness.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Martial Arts Training Prohibitions

Along the way, I've been admonished that we shouldn't practice in the wind or if it's raining, or a dozen other things. When I've asked why, the best answer I ever got was "Chinese medicine reasons."

Franklin Fick of the Spirit Dragon Institute has a series of articles enumerating the training prohibitions and most importantly, explaining the reasoning behind them. You can find the series of blog articles if you click here.

Please pay a visit. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The 48 Laws of Power, #3: Conceal Your Intentions

One of my favorite books on strategy is The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers.  Where The Art of War, by Sun Tzu is written as an overview of the whole topic of strategy, seeking to provide an overall understanding of the subject; and The 36 Strategies tries to impart the knack of strategic thinking through 36 maxims related to well known Chinese folk stories, Mr. Greene focuses on how we influence and manipulate one another, ie "power".

Mr. Greene draws from both Eastern and Western history and literature as his source material. Sun Tzu and Machiavelli as cited as much as wonderful stories of famous con men. Among my favorites is about a scrap metal dealer thinking he bought the Eiffel Tower.

Each of the 48 Laws carries many examples, along with counter examples where it is appropriate that they be noted, and even reversals.

It is a very thorough study of the subject and the hardback version is beautifully produced.

Law #3: Conceal Your Intentions

This is not only straight from The Art of War, but just plain common sense. If people don't know what you're up to, they are less likely to stumble into thwarting your plans. You'll have the element of surprise in hand.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Real Meaning of Kiai

Over at the Martial Art Terminology blog, Charles James Sensei wrote an excellent article on the meaning of Kiai. Below is an excerpt. The full article may be read here.

Let me being my feelings on this term/character/ideograms, kiai is not a battle cry or spirit shout in the sense westerners feel it is a loud expression of spirit and effort where effort is the louder the shout the greater your effort and supposedly spirit level. There is so much more than this when defining and understanding kiai and its energy source called, "Ki."

Ki is a cosmic energy; the animator of life. The Japanese/Chinese proved more than 2,000 years earlier, in such practices as acupuncture and a variety of health and martial arts, that some kind of special energy ran through the body.  They call this special cosmic energy ki (kee), which is translated variously as "energy," "spirit," "mind," and "cosmic breath."

A "kiai" can be a slogan, a word, or a nonsensical sound. The nonsensical sound is often used within the practice of karate kata or form. The concept of "ki" and some of its more astounding uses are on their way to being accepted universally.

The two characters/ideograms mean, "scream; yell; fighting spirit," and the first character means, "spirit; mind; air; atmosphere; mood," while the second character means, "fit; suit; join." The spirit yell as to my feelings and perception incorporates a lot more than the yell which is usually manifested as a short curt sound unique to one's system of practice.

But, there is more .... 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Women's Self Defense Blogging Carnival

As a follow up to the Anti Bullying Blogging Carnival, today I'd like to announce my support for the Women's Self Defense Blogging Carnival. Click on the logo below and you'll be directed to a jumping off point to many articles on Women's Self Defense, hosted this time by the BunKaiJutsu blog.
If you would like to contribute to future blogging carnivals, you can sign up for email notices at Traditional Tae Kwon Do Techniques.


Friday, July 13, 2012

The Feminine Form

The feminine form is nature's greatest work of art. A friend sent me this video. It is simply amazing. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bagua Zhang and a Musical Interlude

Before getting to the music, I just saw where Kent Howard over at the Wang Shujin Bagua Zhang blog has announced that a new DVD is available to accompany the book Wang Shujin's Bagua Linked Palms.

Speaking of videos, it turns out that a feature of Blogger which I didn't know about is that all the videos that I've posted here have been collected in one spot on Youtube. Check out Cook Ding's Kitchen on YouTube!

Now to the music ...

An entertaining cover of a clasic:

A couple of songs from the Kill Bill Vol 2 soundtrack:

Goodnight Moon by Shivaree

A Satisfied Mind - Johnny Cash

I liked Shivaree so much, let's have one more:

Bossa Nova

Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Struggle to Learn a Martial Art

"Hold on to the hard things and your mind will open." - Kushida Sensei
When it comes to learning a martial art, some have natural talent and others of us have to struggle. Who are the luckier ones?

When learning something comes naturally to you, where you just have to see something and you pick it up right away, I don't think you have the opportunity to really learn it in depth.
It is when you have to stuggle with something, grapple with it, find that with every correction that you are making new and more wonderous errors (sometimes to the exasperation of your teacher), that forces you to realy examine what you are doing and why. It is that struggle that leads to understanding.

An old post at 24 Fighting Chickens by Rob Redmond illustrates this phenomenon far better than I could ever hope. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Staying Behind

Below is an excerpt from the Japan Subculture Research Center blog. The full article may be read here.

The article concerns the state of affairs in Fukushima. 

The Buddha Of Fukushima 1-Year Later (Post 3/11)

Posted by on Friday, March 16, 2012 · 

Last year, we told you the story of Naoto Matsumura, Tomioka City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan–the last man standing in  Fukushima’s Forbidden Zone. He will not leave;  he risks an early death because his defiance of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the government is his life now. He is not crazy and he is not going. He remains there to remind people of the human costs of nuclear accidents. He is the King of The Forbidden Zone; its protector. He is the caretaker or empty houses, a point of contact for those citizen who can’t return. He takes care of the animals, “the sentient beings”, that remain behind because no one else will.  He is the Buddha of the forbidden zone. 
This is how things are now.

“Nothing has improved inside the 20km zone.”
One year after the great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami disaster that hit northern Japan, the living conditions for most of the evacuees has not changed much, especially for the evacuees of the most dangerous zone defined by the Japanese government as being forbidden for people to stay in or live in. Naoto Matsumura, “the Buddha of Fukushima”, stayed in his farmhouse, in his town Tomioka, all this time. Although the people are not allowed there, the animals have been left behind, abandoned by the human beings.
(Naoto Matsumura、came to speak on February 28, 2012 at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan in Tokyo. This is what he had to say.)

Life in Temporary Housing Shelters

All the people who evacuated the town have been stuffed into very small quarters in these evacuation temporary housing shelters. Most of them have anything to do with their time waiting for the day the government will announce they can return to their homeland. The people in the temporary houses have a tremendous amount of stress, many people have developed illnesses over the past year. Many people have actually died. “The government is not taking action, in fact they don’t even think about us.” Matsumura says.

The victims ask themselves: “How many years will it be before we will be able to return?” It may be in fact many years before people might be able to return, if that is the case. Although the older people will be able to return, the younger people will not be willing to return in such deeply contaminated land.