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 ~

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Dragon of Echigo

In Chinese mythology, the Dragon and Tiger are forever in contention. So it would be appropriate that the Tiger of Kai, of whom I've posted about before would have a long time adversary known and the Dragon of Echigo.

Below is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on Uesugi Kenshin, thd Daimyo of Echigo province and a legendary general. The full article may be read here.

Uesugi Kenshin (上杉 謙信?, February 18, 1530 – April 19, 1578) was a daimyo who ruled Echigo province in the Sengoku period of Japan.

He was one of the most powerful lords of the Sengoku period. While chiefly remembered for his prowess on the battlefield, Kenshin is also regarded as an extremely skillful administrator who fostered the growth of local industries and trade; his rule saw a marked rise in the standard of living of Echigo. Kenshin is famed for his honourable conduct, his military expertise, a long-standing rivalry with Takeda Shingen, his numerous campaigns to restore order in the Kanto region as the Kanto Kanrei, and his belief in the Buddhist god of war — Bishamonten. In fact, many of his followers and others believed him to be the Avatar of Bishamonten, and called Kenshin god of war.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Who Needs Fiction:Japanese Love Hotels and Justice

A friend sent me this article, which is a review of a book, Lovesick Japan: Sex, Marriage, Romance, Law. By Mark West. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.

Waltzing into bedrooms and brothels

A new book on love and the law in Japan

Lovesick Japan: Sex, Marriage, Romance, Law. By Mark West. Cornell University Press; 259 pages; $29.95 and £19.95. Buy from 

ON FEBRUARY 19th 2006 Kimiko and her married lover Tetsuo checked into an Osaka love-hotel, swallowed sedatives and slit their wrists. When they awoke at midnight and realised their suicides had failed, Tetsuo strangled Kimiko at her request, then tried to hang himself and cut his wrists again. 

Unsuccessful, he called the police. At the trial, where an American court would consider questions of intent, the Japanese court based its ruling on whether Kimiko was in love. If she was, the court reasoned, she may have consented to her murder and Tetsuo would receive a lighter sentence.

Many facets of Japan seem mysterious to outsiders. Courts are sometimes obliged to seek answers to questions about love that may well be unanswerable. Yet in cases where love might indeed have a bearing, such as divorce, judges usually ignore the emotion entirely. Teasing out the mysteries of Japanese society by way of its statutes is the speciality of Mark West, a professor at Michigan Law School.

In “Lovesick Japan” he trolls through 2,700 court opinions to paint a picture of a country that treats marriage more as an economic contract than an emotional bond. As seen by the judiciary, a little adultery should not trump marriage as an institution. “Japanese courts have no problem waltzing into bedrooms and brothels in ways that are not essential to deciding the case at hand,” he writes. “What they find there rarely seems to please them.”

Friday, August 24, 2012

Article on Jin

Over at the Forum for Traditional Wu Tai Chi Chuan, there is an article about the meaning of Jin (Power) in martial arts. Below is an excerpt. The full article may be read here.

About jin-power

Written by Ma Hailong, translated by Dr. Lukas Kasenda

In everyday spoken Chinese, jin is used as meaning power or strength. Used as a term in relation to the theory of Taijiquan it has two aspects: the understanding of internal training and power. These aspects are closely related and cannot be separated. In relation to the internal aspect, it is the understanding of jin (dongjin)“ and the “collecting of jin (xujin)“. In relation to the power aspect jin is peng, l_, ji, an, cai, lie, zhou and kao, the four sides and the four oblique angels of the bagua. The conection between these two aspects follow the concept of “foundation (ti)“ and “application (yong)“. The following are some types of jin-power.

1) Understanding jin-power (dongjin)

In the Taijiquan Classic (Taijiquan jing)“ it is stated: “If one studies and trains regularly, one will gradually achieve understanding of jin-power. The understanding of jin-power is followed by degrees by enlightenment. Without consistent effort, however, one cannot suddenly understand”. (Taijiquan- Lilun 2). The ability to understand jin-power is not restricted to the hands and arms, but is in the whole body. To attain this it is important that qi flows freely: “The mobilizing of qi is like passing through a zigzag hole of a pearl reaching any part of the body”. The key to this lies in posture. Straight back, shoulders and neck relaxed, head like hanging from a thread, chin slightly in and sinking the breath to the dantian. In partner-exercises it is very important, not to resist the partner. Otherwise you will develop double-weighting (shuangzhong). This means stagnation, it is the opposite of flowing.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Color in Chinese Culture

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


Black, corresponding to water, is a neutral color. The I Ching, or Book of Changes, regards black as Heaven’s color. The saying “heaven and earth of mysterious black” was rooted in the observation that the northern sky was black for a long time. They believed Tian Di, or Heavenly Emperor, resided in the North Star.

The Taiji symbol uses black and white to represent the unity of Yin and Yang. Ancient Chinese regarded black as the king of colors and honored black longer than any other color. Lao Zi said that five colors make people blind, so the Dao School chose black as the color of the Dao.

In modern China, black is used in daily clothing. Black may also be used during a funeral to symbolize the spirit's return to the heavens. A black ribbon is usually hung over the deceased's picture.[1]

Black also references chinese food


Red, corresponding with fire, symbolizes good fortune and joy. Red is found everywhere during Chinese New Year and other holidays and family gatherings. A red envelope is a monetary gift which is given in Chinese society during holiday or special occasions. The red color of the packet symbolizes good luck. Red is strictly forbidden at funerals as it is a traditionally symbolic color of happiness.[1]

In modern China, red remains a very popular color and is affiliated with and used by the Communist government.

Blue Green

Blue-green, corresponding with wood, represents nature and renewal and often indicates spring. The color implies vigor and vitality. Its base colors also have distinct meanings.


Generally green is associated with health, prosperity, and harmony. However, green hats are associated with infidelity and used as an idiom for a cuckold.[2] This has caused uneasiness for Chinese Catholic bishops, who in ecclesiastical heraldry would normally have a green hat above their arms. Chinese bishops have compromised by using a violet hat for their coat of arms. Sometimes this hat will have a indigo feather to farther display their disdain for the color green

Blue or dark blue

Blue symbolizes immortality. Dark blue is also a color for somber occasions like funerals and deaths.


White, corresponding with metal, represents gold and symbolizes brightness, purity, and fulfillment.

White is also the color of mourning. Unlike the Western meanings of purity, chastity, holiness and cleanliness, white is associated with death and is used predominantly in funerals in Chinese culture. Ancient Chinese people wore white clothes and hats only when they mourned for the dead. Sometimes silver takes its place, as silver is often offered to the deceased in the form of joss paper.


Yellow, corresponding with earth, is considered the most beautiful color. The Chinese saying, Yellow generates Yin and Yang, implies that yellow is the center of everything. Associated with but ranked above brown, yellow signifies neutrality and good luck. Yellow is sometimes paired with red in place of gold.

Yellow was the color of Imperial China and is held as the symbolic color of the five legendary emperors of ancient China. Yellow often decorates royal palaces, altars and temples, and the color was used in the robes and attire of the emperors.

Yellow also represents freedom from worldly cares and is thus esteemed in Buddhism. Monks’ garments are yellow, as are elements of Buddhist temples. Yellow is also used as a mourning color for Chinese Buddhists.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Warm Summer Night

Down a dark road
On a warm summer night.
One hand on the wheel, the top down

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Three Components to Learning Traditional Japanese Martial Arts

Below is an excerpt from an excellent article that was posted at The Classical Budoka. The full article may be read here.

It started off pretty innocuously. A student in a friend’s koryu martial arts class asked what kind of influence Shinto, the nativistic Japanese set of beliefs, had on their training. My friend composed a lengthy email about the subject, asking me and another peer for further comments.  We added quite a bit of our own opinions, which were then annotated further by my friend. In total, printed out, the discussion could have taken several pages’ worth of commentary.

Now, koryu practice is usually not meant to be a sit-down lecture on such esoterica, which is why I think my friend preferred to discuss it via email and printed notes rather than take up more time in the dojo better spent training with a partner in the actual techniques. But it highlights the fact that in traditional Japanese arts (and, for that matter, many arts and crafts of any culture), there are three components to learning the art, not just the “practical” experience of the physical techniques. In Japanese, these are defined as Do, Gaku, Jutsu.

Monday, August 06, 2012

The Left Turns of Life

I came across this some time ago on the internet. I don't remember where it originally appeared.

Here is a story of an aging couple Told by their son who was President of NBC NEWS.
 This is a wonderful piece by Michael Gartner, editor of newspapers large and small and president of NBC News. In 1997 he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. It is well worth reading. A few good chuckles are guaranteed.

My father never drove a car. Well, that's not quite right. I should say I never saw him drive a car.

He quit driving in 1927, when he was 25 years old, and the last car he drove was a 1926 Whippet.

"In those days," he told me when he was in his 90s, "to drive a car you had to do things with your hands, and do things with your feet, and look every which way, and I decided you could walk through life and enjoy it or drive through life and miss it."

At which point my mother, a sometimes salty Irishwoman, chimed in:

"Oh, baloney!" she said. "He hit a horse."

"Well," my father said, "there was that, too."

So my brother and I grew up in a household without a car. The neighbors all had cars -- the Kollingses next door had a green 1941 Dodge, the VanLaninghams across the street a gray 1936 Plymouth, the Hopsons two doors down a black 1941 Ford -- but we had none.

My father, a newspaperman in Des Moines , would take the streetcar to work and, often as not, walk the 3 miles home. If he took the streetcar home, my mother and brother and I would walk the three blocks to the streetcar stop, meet him and walk home together.

My brother, David, was born in 1935, and I was born in 1938, and sometimes, at dinner, we'd ask how come all the neighbors had cars but we had none. "No one in the family drives," my mother would explain, and that was that.

But, sometimes, my father would say, "But as soon as one of you boys turns 16, we'll get one." It was as if he wasn't sure which one of us would turn 16 first.

But, sure enough , my brother turned 16 before I did, so in 1951 my parents bought a used 1950 Chevrolet from a friend who ran the parts department at a Chevy dealership downtown.

It was a four-door, white model, stick shift, fender skirts, loaded with everything, and, since my parents didn't drive, it more or less became my brother's car.

Having a car but not being able to drive didn't bother my father, but it didn't make sense to my mother..

So in 1952, when she was 43 years old, she asked a friend to teach her to drive. She learned in a nearby cemetery, the place where I learned to drive the following year and where, a generation later,

I took my two sons to practice driving. The cemetery probably was my father's idea. "Who can your mother hurt in the cemetery?" I remember him saying more than once.

For the next 45 years or so, until she was 90, my mother was the driver in the family. Neither she nor my father had any sense of direction, but he loaded up on maps -- though they seldom left the city limits -- and appointed himself navigator. It seemed to work.

Still, they both continued to walk a lot. My mother was a devout Catholic, and my father an equally devout agnostic, an arrangement that didn't seem to bother either of them through their 75 years of marriage.

(Yes, 75 years, and they were deeply in love the entire time.)

He retired when he was 70, and nearly every morning for the next 20 years or so, he would walk with her the mile to St. Augustin's Church.

She would walk down and sit in the front pew, and he would wait in the back until he saw which of the parish's two priests was on duty that morning. If it was the pastor, my father then would go out and take a 2-mile walk, meeting my mother at the end of the service and walking her home.

If it was the assistant pastor, he'd take just a 1-mile walk and then head back to the church. He called the priests "Father Fast" and "Father Slow."

After he retired, my father almost always accompanied my mother whenever she drove anywhere, even if he had no reason to go along. If she were going to the beauty parlor, he'd sit in the car and read, or go take a stroll or, if it was summer, have her keep the engine running so he could listen to the Cubs game on the radio. In the evening, then, when I'd stop by, he'd explain: "The Cubs lost again. The millionaire on second base made a bad throw to the millionaire on first base, so the multimillionaire on third base scored."

If she were going to the grocery store, he would go along to carry the bags out -- and to make sure she loaded up on ice cream. As I said, he was always the navigator, and once, when he was 95 and she was 88 and still driving, he said to me, "Do you want to know the secret of a long life?"

"I guess so," I said, knowing it probably would be something bizarre.

"No left turns," he said.

"What?" I asked.

"No left turns," he repeated. "Several years ago, your mother and I read an article that said most accidents that old people are in happen when they turn left in front of oncoming traffic.

As you get older, your eyesight worsens, and you can lose your depth perception, it said. So your mother and I decided never again to make a left turn."

"What?" I said again.

"No left turns," he said. "Think about it.. Three rights are the same as a left, and that's a lot safer. So we always make three rights.."

"You're kidding!" I said, and I turned to my mother for support.

"No," she said, "your father is right. We make three rights. It works."

But then she added: "Except when your father loses count."

I was driving at the time, and I almost drove off the road as I started laughing.

"Loses count?" I asked.

"Yes," my father admitted, "that sometimes happens. But it's not a problem. You just make seven rights, and you're okay again."

I couldn't resist. "Do you ever go for 11?" I asked.

"No," he said " If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it a bad day. Besides, nothing in life is so important it can't be put off another day or another week."

My mother was never in an accident, but one evening she handed me her car keys and said she had decided to quit driving. That was in 1999, when she was 90.

She lived four more years, until 2003. My father died the next year, at 102.

They both died in the bungalow they had moved into in 1937 and bought a few years later for $3,000. (Sixty years later, my brother and I paid $8,000 to have a shower put in the tiny bathroom -- the house had never had one. My father would have died then and there if he knew the shower cost nearly three times what he paid for the house.)

He continued to walk daily -- he had me get him a treadmill when he was 101 because he was afraid he'd fall on the icy sidewalks but wanted to keep exercising -- and he was of sound mind and sound body until the moment he died.

One September afternoon in 2004, he and my son went with me when I had to give a talk in a neighboring town, and it was clear to all three of us that he was wearing out, though we had the usual wide-ranging conversation about politics and newspapers and things in the news.

A few weeks earlier, he had told my son, "You know, Mike, the first hundred years are a lot easier than the second hundred." At one point in our drive that Saturday, he said, "You know, I'm probably not going to live much longer."

"You're probably right," I said.

"Why would you say that?" He countered, somewhat irritated.

"Because you're 102 years old," I said.

"Yes," he said, "you're right." He stayed in bed all the next day.

That night, I suggested to my son and daughter that we sit up with him through the night.

He appreciated it, he said, though at one point, apparently seeing us look gloomy, he said:

"I would like to make an announcement. No one in this room is dead yet"

An hour or so later, he spoke his last words:

"I want you to know," he said, clearly and lucidly, "that I am in no pain. I am very comfortable. And I have had as happy a life as anyone on this earth could ever have."

A short time later, he died.

I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot. I've wondered now and then how it was that my family and I were so lucky that he lived so long.

I can't figure out if it was because he walked through life, 
Or because he quit taking left turns. "

Life is too short to wake up with regrets.

So love the people who treat you right.

Forget about the ones who don't.

Believe everything happens for a reason.

If you get a chance, take it & if it changes your life, let it.

Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it."

Friday, August 03, 2012

Wu Quan Yu, the Founder of Wu Style Taijiquan

A friend sent me an article that is at Smiling Tiger website, which is run by Joe Crandall, a senior Chinese Martial Arts teacher and noted translator in the Bay Area. The article is a translation of one that ran in a Chinese martial arts magazine. The full article may be read here. An excerpt appears below. Please pay a visit to read the original.

 Wú Quan You, the Founder of Wú Style Taiji
Information taken from an article in Wudang Magazine 2000.6 #118
By Xin Xilan and Gu Ziyuan

Wu Style Taijiquan founder, Quan You (1834-1902) was from an aristocratic Manchu family that was famous for its martial skills. Quan You Gong was a military officer in a banner camp in Beijing during the Qing Dynasty.  At that time, Yang Luchan Gong (1799-1872) was the martial arts instructor in the banner camp, teaching Taijiquan.  In the camp, there were many officers studying with Yang Luchan, but only three men, Wan Chun, Ling Shan and Quan You studied diligently and trained hard enough at Taijiquan and to deeply get what Yang Luchan had to teach.  They got his true transmission. 

However, they declined to be listed as Mr. Yang Luchan’s students, and asked to be enrolled as students of his son Yang Banhou (1837-1892).  The original reason is given below:
Mr Yang Luchan, also known as Fukui, was from Yongnian Hebei.  He studied Taijiquan in Chenjiakou, Wen County, Henan from Chen Changxing (1771-1853).  He studied with Changxing for 20 years and received the true teachings.  When Yang returned home, he began to teach the local people there. 

Then the founder of Wu Style Taijiquan, Wu Yuxiang (1812-1880), started studying with him. Mr Wu did not study with Yang for long and only knew the rough outline of Taiji.  Wu’s brother, Wu Chengqing, was the county administrator of Jiuyang County in Henan. He knew that there was a Taiji teacher in Zhaobao Village named Chen Qingping.  They had supressed a rebellion in the area together. Mr Chen was very grateful.  Therefore when Wu Yuxiang went to Zhaobao village to seek instruction. He received the true teaching and martial principles of Chen Qingping’s Taijiquan.  Later he became the founder of Wu Style Taijiquan, which he transmitted to Li Yiyu (1832-1890).  At the same time, Yang Luchan’s son, Yang Panhou also studied with Mr Wu.  Therefore Yang Banhou received the true teachings from both his father, Yang Luchan, and from Wu Yuxiang.
At that time, Wu Yuxiang’s brother, Wu Ruqing (Wu had two brothers, Wu Chengqing and Wu Ruqing) was a successful candidate for the highest imperial office. In the capitol, he served the Lang. 

There were comparatively many princes and ministers coming and going.  He heard that they were looking for a martial arts teacher and invited Yang Luchan to come to the palace. There Yang taught Taijiquan to Shi Shaonan. He had another student, General Yue Guichen. He was a military man of good family and had heard of Yang.  When Yang arrived at the palace to teach Taijiquan, these two men officially asked Yang Luchan to teach them.  At this time, there were many princes who came to learn Taijiquan but most did not have perseverance and they did not officially ask to be students. 

Also, Wang Lanting, a resident of the Lei Palace studied Taijiquan with Yang Gong. At that time Wan Chun, Ling Shan and Quan You were middle grade officers in the Banner camp. Because of  their rank, they could not be seen as fellow classmates with nobility.  On Yang Luchan’s orders, Quan You is listed as studying under Yang Banhou for three years.  Therefore these three men not only got Yang Luchan’s true teachings, but also got Yang Banhou’s true teachings. Thus they also got knowledge of the essence of Wu Style Taijiquan.

General Yue Guichen later died fighting in battle.  He never had any students.  Shi Shaonan’s achievements in Taijiquan were great and Yang Luchan loved him very much.  Unfortunately he developed smallpox at 41 years old and because of his old age returned to Yongnian to take care of his health. Mr. Luchan was broken hearted.  When Quan You retired from the military, he set up a school in Beijing. It had a good reputation. People called him Quan Sanye (3rd Uncle). Ling Shan wrote down a history.  And Wan Chun was never known to have had students.

The frame that Quan You was teaching at this time, is known as Wú Style Fast Frame.  When training, there is fast and there is slow. There is issuing energy.  There is jumping and leaping.  The so-called agility has 4 interdependencies:  The mutual interplay of hard and soft.  Pauses and transitions are mutually interspersed. Fast and slow are mutually together.  Front and back are mutually connected.  The whole frame is performed in 6 to 8 minutes.  Wú style Fast Frame is the frame that Yang Luchan taught. After Yang Luchan got Taijiquan from Chen Changxing, he designed the Taijiquan skill frame according to his own experience.  And at the same time Wu Yuxiang was getting Taijiquan from Chen Qingping of Zhaobao village and creating the Wu Style Taijiquan skill frame.  Yang Luchan taught his skill frame to his sons, Banhou and Jianhou (1839-1917), Shi Shaonan, Yue Guichen, Quan You, Wan Chun, Ling Shan, Wang Lanting etc.  Then Jianhou’s sons, Shaohou (1862 – 1930) and Chengfu (1883 – 1936) and Quan You’s son Jianquan. (1870 – 1942) each practiced this fist frame.  Mr. Yang Chengfu changed the Yang Style Taijiquan skill frame according to his own body type and nature. This was called the new frame or big frame and the original skill frame was called the old frame, small frame, or quick frame.  After Yang Chengfu created his own fist frame, he no longer practiced or taught the small frame. But his 21 year older brother Shaohou, only practiced small frame, or quick frame until the time he died. He never practiced Chengfu’s frame.  (Shaohou mainly studied with his uncle Banhou.  When Chengfu was born, his grandfather Luchan had already been dead 11 years.  When Banhou died Chengfu was 9 years old.  When he was 34, his father Jianhou died. Therefore Chengfu mainly studied with his father and his training was different than Shaohou’s.)