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 ~

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fight Club!

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

Fight club reawakens and channels veterans' warrior spirit

In a sweaty, loud San Diego gym, veterans train in mixed martial arts, fighting each other and the demons they brought home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

SAN DIEGO — Todd Vance — Iraq combat veteran, bar bouncer, and social-work major at a local university — is lecturing two dozen of his fellow veterans on the techniques and joys of the chokehold.

"You want the blade of your forearm on their windpipe or carotid artery," Vance says in a commanding voice. "Push your opponent into the fence.…Let's have some fun with this drill!"
It's Saturday morning in North Park, and the veterans have come to a steamy, noisy gym for Vance's mixed martial arts class. It's a fight club of sorts, for those who already have fought a war.

Vance, 31, a former Army sergeant, uses mixed martial arts to help veterans cope with post-combat problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues involving the uneasy transition back to civilian life.

His unconventional — and unofficial — approach had drawn a small, loyal following among veterans, and qualified endorsement from psychologists who work with veterans.
Jeffrey Matloff, senior psychologist and PTSD specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs in San Diego, said that as long as veterans learn self-control and not to use their skills outside the context of sports, a martial arts approach can help restore self-confidence and focus.

"When it comes to PTSD, therapy alone doesn't have all the answers," he said.

The controlled sparring, similar to a veteran's original training, "assists wounded warriors to evoke the competitive warrior identity and spirit that may have become latent when the service member was injured," said Nancy Kim, a psychologist at the Naval Medical Center San Diego's Comprehensive Combat and Casualty Care facility, who has known patients who have attended. Patients, however, should be cleared by a doctor before participating, she said.

Once he gets his degree from Point Loma Nazarene University, Vance dreams of opening his own gym that would mix counseling and high-energy workouts. For the past two years he's been offering classes three days a week at the Undisputed boxing and martial arts gym on University Avenue.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cardinal Richelieu

Cardinal Richelieu was the foreign minister for France during the tumultuous 17th century. His diplomatic maneuvers laid the groundwork for the modern European state. 

Below is an excerpt from a book review on a new biography of the remarkable Cardinal, Eminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France by Jean-Vincent Blanchard. The full review may be read here.

Poker Lessons From Richelieu

A Portrait of the Statesman as Gambler

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Snake vs Crane

In the foundation stories of several martial arts, most notably taijiquan, a story of a fight between a snake and a crane figures prominently and is symbolic at several levels. At Pennine Tai Chi, there is an article about the Snake and Crane from which I've posted an excerpt below. The whole article may be read here

Please pay a visit.

Before we get to the article, here is the Snake vs Crane Set from Choy Lay Fut.

Legend tells us that the founding father of Tai Chi lived around the late 13th century and early 14th century. He left his position as a government official to live the life of a wanderer and a hermit in the mountains. Travelling from place to place he learnt techniques of meditation and martial arts under various Taoists.

One day, he was witness to a snake and a crane in combat with each other.

He watched as the crane swooped down from a tree with its wings fully spread, the snake hissed a challenge which the crane took up by using its sharp pointed beak to initiate an attack. The snake used its deceptive coiling movements to evade the danger and responded by lashing at the crane
with its tail. The crane lifted its leg to avoid the strike and then used its claws to attack. Again the snake evaded this by twisting and turning, whilst instinctively countering with its mouth. The crane curled its neck to escape the venom and beat its huge wings to force the snake away.

Eventually, after tiring themselves out, the two combatants called a draw, the snake slithered away and the crane returned to its tree perch.

Mesmerised and exhilarated by this contest – Chang realised that he had been witnessing a perfect
exhibition of the I Ching principles of adapting to change and the ability to blend soft and hard, strength and yielding. The continuity and flow of the circular movements seemed in accord with his Taoist observations of nature.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems, #46: On a Gate Tower at YuZhou

The Tang Dynasty was a high point of culture in ancient China. Especially esteemed were poems. 

Some of the best poems of that period have been collected into an anthology known as The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. A online version of the anthology may be found here.

#46: On a Gate Tower at YuZhou

Where, before me, are the ages that have gone?
And where, behind me, are the coming generations?
I think of heaven and earth, without limit, without end,
And I am all alone and my tears fall down. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Judo in MMA

Mixed Martial Arts is what Donn Draeger and Jon Bluming were doing decades ago.
A friend sent me an article from which I've posted an excerpt below. The whole article may be read here.

Ronda Rousey and other MMA fighters widen their arsenals

The former Olympic bronze medalist and Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion incorporates judo into her effective attack.

August 07, 2012|By Lance Pugmire

At its birth, mixed martial arts were a competition of fighters from different disciplines — boxing, wrestling, karate, kickboxing, jiujitsu — battling to establish which version of combat was best.

Now, the sport of MMA can encompass all of those skills in one fight. In one fighter.

"Guys have trained now in MMA from a younger age. They weren't a high school wrestler like me who had to learn the other aspects one by one," said veteran MMA fighter Dan Henderson, 41.

One of the sport's latest advancements is personified by the new Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey of Venice. Rousey's judo-based stand-up clinches have produced a string of first-round victories, including her title win in March over then-champion Miesha Tate.

A 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in judo, Rousey used the discipline to bear-hug Tate and throw her down, setting up Rousey's preferred method of execution on the canvas: grabbing and twisting the foe's arm until the pain prompts a tap-out to surrender.

"Judo is an underutilized fighting style and very unorthodox," Rousey said. "The guys in MMA are working on it, but the girls are not equipped to deal with it. Judo requires good posture, so the girls

I've fought can't tell if I'm coming in to clinch or strike.… It's won me every single one of my fights."
So in watching the 2012 London Olympics, bear in mind the next generation of professional MMA fighters could be coming from the amateur wrestling mat, or taekwondo. And from judo.

"What these 'judo players,' as the fighters call them, are doing is one of the more effective martial arts," the Ultimate Fighting Championship Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta said.

"It's been quite interesting to watch this progression, with these fighters introducing a new technique or move that brings you to your feet. It's what makes this sport so intriguing — the athletes' ability to be creative and come up with moves that before were unknown."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Paleo Media Diet

I discovered an article on a tech website that I found interesting. An excerpt may be read below. The full article may be read here.

My Paleo Media Diet

Turning off, opting out, and disconnecting to save my brain for the things I really want to use it for.

I've been on a train to New York City for about 20 minutes and it just occurred to me that I haven't checked Twitter today. In fact, I sat on a bench in the station for 30 minutes without even touching my phone. I watched people walk by, I daydreamed, thought about my plans for tomorrow, stared at the ceiling and generally just sort of zoned out. That would be no big deal except that later I realized I didn't get that itchy urge to check my phone and do the circuit: email, Twitter, Yammer, G+, Email, Twitter, Yammer, G+ … my little socmed treadmill.

That's huge! This is the first time I can remember sitting down somewhere in at least three years without immediately feeling the urge, or more like compulsion, to pull out my phone and twiddle with it. And this was at the train station, for 30 minutes! I feel like a smoker just realizing that I forgot to light up when I stepped outside for an afternoon break.

For too long I've been killing time on that treadmill, which would be fine if I had time that needed killing, but that's rarely the case. Plus, once that circuit gets started it tends to keep on going well into time that really should be better used. After a while I began feeling like I was never really present anywhere. Whether I was riding the train, sitting at dinner, watching a movie, whatever … every few minutes I'd get that tug. "See if there's a pellet. Give the bar a push."

Maybe you'll scoff at this, but I'm an addict. I have been for a long time, and I'm sick of it. I'm tired of having the attention span of a meth addict. I'm tired of reaching for my phone at every red light because the urge has been building inexorably since the last one. I'm irritated that my first impulse after any real world human experience is to tweet it. What the hell? Narcissist much?

I'm tired of walking down busy sidewalks full of interesting people and places with my head down staring at a rectangle. I want to be present, in the moment and the place. I want to experience mental flow by the river full and I want to be more productive. And above all, I want to nurture the relationships I have with people that I actually see and touch in all of their materialized-in-atoms glory.

If you have never experienced addiction, be happy. This post isn't for you. But I'm addicted to those little bursts of pleasure that pile into my inbox, or are prefaced with an "@" in my stream. Each one a new affirmation. "You mean something to someone" they seem to say. Although they needn't even say that to adequately stimulate. A Skinner Box really doesn't take much. Hell, I'd probably reach for my phone if it actually dropped little pellets from a chute.

If you've read Clay Johnson's thought provoking book "The Information Diet" you know that he describes his diet in terms of infoveganism. While I get what he means by that, I think it's the wrong analogy, at least as it relates to my addiction. Going vegan is a moral choice. An approach to food designed to satisfy first and foremost the conscience. Which makes a lot of sense in the context of government and political ideology in which he uses it. But my problem isn't one of extremism, or TMZ, or empty calorie media of any kind. Most of the pellets I chomp are just fine, probably even nutritious. It's the fact that I immediately crave the next one so much that is driving me crazy.

So a few weeks ago I decided to take advantage of a mini-sabbatical and go paleolithic. I guess I'll call it the Paleo Media Diet because for me it's not about the content per se, but its medium of conveyance. The medium is the message, and the stimulant.

I'm not doing this to satisfy my conscience, I'm doing it to satisfy evolution. Or more specifically, my evolutionary state. If my ancient and maladaptive wiring, that evolved in a different time, can't resist the lever and the pellet, then I figured I was going to have to get rid of the damned lever. So I did.

Now I own the world's dumbest smart phone. I removed all of the "social" apps - Yammer, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, Path ... all gone. I open up preferences and turn off "cellular data" for long stretches of each day. If there is a specific email I'm waiting for I'll go through the multiple steps to turn it on and check, otherwise data stays turned off. I'll get my mail when I'm at my computer, with intention. But I turn my computer off when I'm not actively using it too, and leave it off for most of each day. The first time I turn it on is at lunch. I don't check anything electronic in the morning — that was the first thing I needed to stop. Compulsively checking messages before brushing my teeth is just ridiculous.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fighting Black Kings

In 1975, several Americans trained to take part in the First World Kyokushin Karate Tournament in Japan. This was documented in a classic film entitled The Fighting Black Kings. It is available on Youtube in it's entirety right here.

Below is the commercial for the film.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Guo YunShen and his Xingyiquan

Below is an extract from an article that appears at Hsing-I Martial Arts Institute, operated by Sifu Mike Patterson, one of the senior teachers of Xingyiquan in the US today. The full article may be read here. Please pay Mr. Patterson's website a visit.

"The Tiger Fist"
According to Master Wang Shu-Jin, one day Kuo Yun-Shen was sparring with a master of another style. In the course of the fight he was too forceful in his use of Peng Chuan; his opponent began to spit blood, and died. Because of this, Kuo was sent to prison.

After three years he was finally released. One of the top students of the Master he had killed came and declared his intention to avenge his teacher's death, inviting Kuo to compete with him. People knew that for the three years he had been in prison, Kuo had been manacled hand and foot, unable to move with much freedom, and so unable to fully practice his art. All thought that his health was probably weakened, and his vehemence doubtless dimi nished from its former state. His opponent was undoubtedly taking advantage of all this to get his revenge.

As soon as they crossed arms, however, Kuo struck violently with both fists, and his opponent was actually thrown back some fifteen to twenty feet and collapsed. It was very obvious that everybody was mistaken in their belief. During the time that he w as in prison, even though Kuo Yun-Shen did not have complete freedom of movement, he thought incessantly about his fighting style; although his hands were chained, borrowing from Hu Hsing Hsing-I's Tiger Form) he was able to come up with a new hand style. Morning and night he developed and practiced his "Tiger Striking Hand".

There exists yet another version of this same story, told in A Biographical Sketch of Master Kuo.
Kuo Yun-Shen was appointed as warden of Shen County. When he went to take over his post, the county magistrate presented him with money and gifts in recognition of his achievements. Because of this he drew the ill-will of the local bandits, who took every opportunity to make trouble for him.

One day, Kuo found himself face-to-face with a sword-brandishing brigand. He easily took the sword from him, and using it to return the attack hacked him to death. The penalty for killing a man was very severe, and Kuo found himself facing this penalty . But the county magistrate was fond of Kuo and so lightened his sentence to only three years imprisonment.

When the day for his release arrived, Magistrate Ch'ien asked, "Have you lost your kung-fu?" Kuo Yun-Shen declared "Absolutely not." His glance happened to fall on the courtyard wall. He struck it with his "Tiger Fist", and with just this one blow, the wall collapsed in a thunderous roar. For the three years that he was in prison, even though manacled, he found a way to practice, and created his "Tiger Fist". For this reason, his fame shines even today.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Mind of the Dragon

“The heart of the study of boxing is to have natural instinct resemble the dragon.”          Wang Xiang Zhai

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Journal of Asian Martial Arts

This notice was posted at Talking Chen Taijiquan with David Gaffney. Please pay a visit.

The Journal of Asian Martial Arts has always been a quality magazine that I have enjoyed for many years. Filled with thoughtful and scholarly articles about the many faces of the various Asian fighting traditions - an enjoyable source of inspiration and education. It came as a shock a few months ago to hear from the editor Michael DeMarco that the journal was to cease publication due to cost issues. So ends one of the very best Asian martial arts publications, as my friend Kim Ivy said - a sad reflection of the times on many levels!    
On a brighter note - In celebration of the journals' two decades of great work the JAMA team are publishing a new book called Asian Martial Arts: Constructive Thoughts & Practical Applications. With nine articles by leading martial art scholars covering history, media, healing, spiritual, and combative components and 27 articles by renowned practitioners of many different disciplines demonstrating their favourite techniques and offering practice tips. I was honoured to be asked to contribute a piece about Chen Taijiquan applications.The cover is fantastic and I can't wait to get hold of a copy.
The journal's new website will be live in a few weeks where you can get hold of  a fantastic archive of articles, with new content to be added. Anyone who loves traditional martial arts would do well to support this project.