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 ~

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Future of Martial Arts?

Below is an excerpt from The Future of Martial Arts blog. It is an interview with Gene Ching, an associate publisher of Kung Fu Magazine. The full article may be read here.

-What uncertainties do you see in terms of the future and Martial Arts?

 Well, I think the future of MMA is very uncertain. We have all been talking for a long time about the meteoric rise of MMA, and it seems to be climaxing. We will see where it goes now. The UFC certainly has dominated the industry. They have been trying to move very aggressively into Asia. Asia has its own thing, and they are not particularly open to it. We will see where that goes. It is curious to see what will happen next to MMA. It has established itself as a movement. Whether it continues to rise, or has topped out, we will see in the coming years.

In terms of traditional Martial Arts, you hear constantly from people that they are afraid that traditional Martial Arts will be lost. If you actually research the literature you will see that that complaint goes back centuries, which is something to think about.

I don’t see the traditional arts being lost. I see the opposite. We are seeing more scholarly work, more information sharing. Now it is very easy to research the traditional Martial Arts with the internet, which is an amazing tool for communication. I can connect with unknown Martial Arts groups, from all across the world, very easily. It is all out there. The issue of course, is whether it is all real or not.

That is one thing the internet really needs, is some serious editing haha.

-Very true! It does some like in the past 5 to 10 years, there seems to be a group out there on the fringes that really wants to put some serious academic rigor into the history, and especially into the Chinese Martial Arts. People are putting some serious work into this!
It is a very ripe subject, especially now that China is rising as a world power. Its martial traditions are garnering some scholarly attention, which is tremendously exciting! It is a huge deal because the Martial Arts ties intimately into every aspect of Chinese culture. If you think about a Chinese banquet right, a little bit of chicken, a bit of beef, some vegetables, every thing is mixed. They do not partition the world the same way we might in the Descartian West. Martial history literally bleeds into everything. That becomes a wonderful treasure-trove for any researcher to start digging into, because you can go all over the place. The biggest impediment I can see as a publisher and an editor of a Martial Arts magazine is that a lot of people can’t scale down the frame. They can’t just take a snap shot and present it in a cohesive article. They are easily overwhelmed by the magnitude of the subject because it is very easy to digress into all sorts of history and culture and art.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Old Aikido

Below is a video taken from a 1950's documentary on aikido, featuring Shigeho Tanaka. Shihan Tanaka was one of Ueshiba's pre war students and was associate with both the Yoshinkan and Aikikai.

He's a pleasure to watch. He is as smooth as glass as he moves.

Note too, his stance. It is very similar to the stance Shioda took whenever he did free style, which is unlike the basic kamae taught in what we know as Yoshinkan. Kushida Sensei called it an "old style" stance, meaning that it came from the old AikiBudo/Daito Ryu days.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hiking the Great Wall of China

I found an article in the New York Times about a hiking trip some people took along a remote part of The Great Wall of China. I found it fascinating.

An excerpt is below. The whole article may be read here.

The Great Wall, Our Way

At first, I thought the faded pink pillow on the crumbling stone floor of the watchtower was a remnant of a previous camping trip.

“Are we coming back here to sleep?” I asked our guide, Joe Zhang, at the beginning of a two-day hike last July along the Great Wall of China, which I was making with my husband, Robb Kendrick, a photographer, and two teenage sons.

Joe shook his head and guessed that the pillow belonged to a local farmer passing through. When I asked where we were going to camp, he pointed out the window to the snaking wall that sliced through lush Panlong (Coiling Dragon) Mountain, part of the Yanshan Range, which stretches across northern Hebei Province.

“If we camp tonight, we’ll set up tents inside a watchtower that way,” he said in good English. “If we camp.”

That “if,” which he felt compelled to repeat, bothered me. My family had signed up with the tour operator Great Wall Adventure Club to hike this remote part of the Great Wall because I loved the idea of actually sleeping on the wall. I envisioned drifting off to the same sounds and scents that a Mongol-fighting soldier would have experienced centuries ago. I imagined watching the sun burst over peaks crowned by ancient crenelated watchtowers in the morning.

Plenty of tour operators take visitors on half-day tours from Beijing to the Badaling or Mutianyu sections of the Great Wall, which are 40 to 50 miles north of the capital; with travel time from Beijing, that leaves about two hours on the wall. But I wanted to escape the crowds and get a wilder, deeper experience. On its Web site, the Dallas-based Great Wall Adventure Club guaranteed we’d camp on the wall, but in subsequent communications, I learned the guarantee held as long as the weather was good. As we prepared for our outing, I tried not to think of the forecast I’d heard for our first day: chance of thunderstorms, 80 percent.

At 8 that morning, Joe — a lively young man who’d studied Great Wall history in college and on his own — and a driver picked us up in a van at our rented Beijing apartment. After getting through snarls of city traffic, we made our way about 90 miles northeast, much of it on a new highway that wove through increasingly mountainous terrain, arriving in the village of Gubeikou about 10 a.m. 

When the driver dropped us off at a ticket booth where Joe bought our entrance permits, we took only what we needed that day — water, sunscreen, cameras — and Joe carried our lunch. Our overnight bags stayed in the van with the driver, who would meet us at the end of our day’s six-mile hike in the town of Jinshanling, a 20-minute drive away.

Climbing up a steep paved path, we were electrified by the first glimpse of the imposing wall above us. A watchtower, poking over the trees, was haunting in its deteriorating state. “It must have seemed like a skyscraper back then,” my oldest son, Gus Kendrick, 16, said.

The Great Wall — 5,500 miles by some counts, longer by others — is not one wall, but many that were built starting in ancient times, and were consolidated and reinforced during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The purpose: keeping northern raiders from swooping down into the heart of China. 

The stretch of wall between Gubeikou and Jinshanling, which we hiked on the first day, is considered a prime example of Ming dynasty construction, built from 1568 through 1583 on top of a 1,000-year-old relic of a wall from the Northern Qi dynasty (550-577). Because the Gubeikou area was a strategic passage to Beijing, the more than 40 watchtowers we passed are closely spaced, and the wall was especially strong and well reinforced, constructed of brick up its 23-foot height.

As we began our hike, I was struck by what felt like an eternal loneliness and loveliness; as far as I could see, nothing but that golden line careening across the crumpled mountains and standing guard alone, whether needed or not, for centuries.

Early in the hike, Joe pointed out a “character brick,” where the stamp of the maker is still visible after almost half a millennium. “You couldn’t see that at Badaling,” Joe said, referring to the most visited and photographed part of the wall closer to Beijing. The throngs of tourists are so thick, he said, that you feel like a “dumpling in a pot.” He also said that Badaling was heavily restored and not always authentically, part of renovations dating back to the 1950s. The wall there is so modernized that much of it has metal handrails.

The wall around Gubeikou has been untouched (except for spot repairs on unsafe areas), and part of the thrill is to see this man-made section surviving the war that nature has been waging against it for hundreds of years. Weeds have taken over much of what was once a 13-foot-wide surface, with only a narrow path in places formed by hikers before us. While many watchtowers were merely ghostly shells with window holes, some were surprisingly intact. On several we saw artful brickwork surrounding the arched windows; one tower had a complete domed ceiling.

After a scramble up a rubble-strewn incline, we rested in a large watchtower, each sitting on a sill of one of the several windows. Joe explained that, according to one theory, the first floor is where weapons were stored. Then he took us behind a wall to a narrow steep staircase; I climbed it on all fours and exited onto the second floor, where Joe said the soldiers might have slept (and, I thought, where I hoped we’d sleep).

The garrisons stationed here — possibly up to 100 soldiers in some watchtowers — were mainly on surveillance duty, and sentries regularly paced the wall. If an enemy was spotted, fires were lighted in the separate beacon towers (the Gubeikou section of the wall had 14 of them) to send a warning in code to other soldiers along the wall, who would then pass the alert through other beacon towers.

Then the soldiers went into fighting mode. Arrows could be shot from windows and slots in the towers. In places where the parapets were still intact we saw what are called loop holes — square spaces, also for archers — and lower down, we found half-moon openings through which rocks were rolled onto enemies. The boys squinted out of the slots as if looking for invaders and pretended to bend imaginary bows. The defense system worked until 1644 when the Manchus finally crossed the wall and took Beijing, ushering in the Qing dynasty.

About an hour into our hike, we came across evidence of another attack launched from Manchuria: a large gap in the wall, partly claimed by brush, that had been made by a cannonball in 1933. In the run-up to World War II, Japanese invaders marched down from their base in Manchuria, hoping to expand their territory, and the old wall proved useful once more — allowing the Chinese to hold them off temporarily. I had read somewhere beforehand that this battle was the last time the wall had been used for military purposes, but what we came across next belied that assertion.

In a watchtower, over a simple picnic lunch of bread, bananas, sausage and a Chinese version of Lay’s potato chips, Joe told us we were coming to a forbidden section: a part of the wall we couldn’t walk on because it was still used today as the northern boundary of an army compound. Along the top of a two-mile stretch of wall, timeworn brick met shiny razor wire. In the distance, Joe pointed out a modern concrete watchtower, woefully artless compared with its ancient counterparts. Joe said that the base’s purpose was a mystery, but guessed it was an ammunition depot. I later read that it could be an outpost for military exercises.

But no matter what goes on at the base, we hiked the next 90 minutes in the brush below the wall to avoid it — passing by farmers’ cornfields, pear trees and irrigation canals, by old cottages surrounded by bluebells and tiger lilies. Then we spent the rest of the day back on top, not getting down again until we came to Jinshanling, which means Gold Mountain Ridge, having seen only two other groups of hikers the entire day. The stretch of wall in Jinshanling has a wonderful variety of architectural styles and has been restored to what it might have looked like 500 years ago — at once elegant and forbidding.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The 48 Laws of Power, #8: Make Other People Come to You.

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.

One of the things I admire about Greene is that he not only studied strategy, he applied what he learned to his own situation and prospered.

#8: Make other people come to you. Use bait if necessary.

When you force the other person to act, you are the one in control.  It is always better to make your opponent come to you, abandoning his own plans in the process.  Lure him with fabulous gains – then attack.  You hold the cards.

Seize the initiative. Keep your opponents on their heels and reacting to YOU, so they can't carry out their own plans.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Birthday 2013

Today is my birthday. Won't you help me to celebrate?

I've written before about funny bounces and life has just taken another one.

I was just sitting at my desk, minding my own business. Management was away at a trade show. I had been invited to go along with them, but it's inconvenient for me to work away from my desk and if I'm away too long, everything just backs up.

So I get an email. It's from a competitor. They are making a new position and have been asking around our common customers at the trade show that I wasn't at, whom should they hire? They answer they kept getting was... me.

We had some telephone discussions and it was agreed that I should fly out to the company HQ in San Diego to confer, converse and hobnob (as so wonderfully put in the Wizard of Oz) with the company big shots.

Before those plans could be cemented however, there was an emergency with a customer and someone, me, would have to fly to their HQ in Rome to help smooth things over.

What this meant for me was this: The Mrs and I had a wedding to go to on a Saturday. On Sunday, I would get on a plane and fly to Rome, arriving Monday. I would stay there for the week returning Friday night. On Saturday, we had tickets to see the Eagles. On Sunday, I would board a plane for San Diego. Interview on Monday and take the red-eye home Monday night, getting home Tuesday morning.

Work is work. The place I was visiting in Rome was near the outskirts and nowhere near the city center. I spent all day until late at the office. There really wasn't time to see anything until Thursday night when I went out to dinner with the head of the IT dept and the head of the Engineering dept. We went down to the city center (picture above) and had dinner at a restaurant that had been in continuous business since 1906.

The Eagles were great.

In San Diego, I spoke to 8 different people altogether and felt like I was hitting them out of the ball park  all day long. They made the offer, I took it and now will be Director of Sales for Novatel Wireless' M2M (machine to machine) Telematics Enfora Divison.

I start on the 21st of this month.

I've read a lot of good books recently. I've begun The Song of Ice and Fire, completing The Game of Thrones and a Clash of Kings. This series is just so huge that attempting to start has been daunting, but I finally took the plunge. It resonates with many of my other favorite books: The Lord of the Rings, The Asian Saga, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Once and Future King, The Baroque Cycle the Foreworld Saga and so on.

I've also read The Dao of Capital by Mark Spitnagel who is a colleague of Nassim Taleb. Also, David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. I recommend The Dao of Capital, Taleb's last book, Anti Fragile and of course, Malcolm Gladwell's new book, David and Goliath..

Three other recent reads that I enjoyed very much:

At home, everyone is doing well. My wife and I are going to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks.

I'm working out and feeling good.

Everything is good.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Top Chinese Martial Arts Website of 2012

Here is a link to another thought provoking post at Kung Fu Tea. In it the author selects what he considered to be the top website for Chinese Martial Arts and why. Below is an excerpt.


New Years is a great time to reflect on where we have been, as well as where we are going.  As such, we would like to announce our pick for the “Top Chinese Martial Arts Webpage of the Year 2012.”

To be eligible for selection a webpage must have been active in the year 2012 and it must promote the study and understanding of some critical aspect of Chinese martial culture. It must also make a substantial original contribution in either its research, journalism, art or creative writing.  Finally, the webpage must be available on the open internet (e.g., you should not have to be a member of an exclusive social media community to access it).

Beyond that everything can get quite subjective.  “Chinese martial culture” is a huge research area with lots of different branches.  Better still, there are a great many individuals devoting their time and resources to researching and spreading this information.  Collectively our community turned out some great work in 2012.  Picking “the best” webpage was literally impossible.  There was just an embarrassment of riches and too many “apples to oranges” comparisons.

As a result we decided that the winner would be the webpage that best captured the spirit of the year and responded to both the challenges and opportunities that 2012 presented.  What sorts of issues were these?  You can read more about them here and here.

The Winner!

So, without further ado, the winner of the first annual Kung Fu Tea Webpage of the Year Award goes to  This webpage is a must read for anyone interested in reconstructing the traditional battlefield techniques recorded in Ming and Qing era fighting manuals.  In fact, has translated a number of historic and important works into English, vastly expanding the audience that can now read and interact with these texts.

Anyone who has been involved in the reconstruction of historic fighting systems can tell you that translation is not even half of the battle.  Figuring out how to bring the various illustrations and instructions to life in a historically accurate manner is a real challenge.  Yet increasingly this seems to be a challenge that martial artists are eager to accept.  The founders to this web-resource offer a number of videos and blog entries detailing their own reconstruction of the ancient fighting texts, and of course readers are free to come up with their own. is located in Singapore.  You can read more about the young individuals behind this project in this interview.  We believe this sort of project is very suggestive of a number of important trends in the Chinese martial arts today.  To begin with, we like the fact that these individuals are drawing on a broad range of martial and academic skills as they attempt to solve historical problems.  We also like the fact that they are willing to subject their reconstructions to experimentation to see what works under a variety of conditions.

It is also very interesting to us that the types of research they are currently carrying out happens outside of the strictures of a traditional martial arts school.  At the same time, they generate a huge amount of insight and information that might be helpful to a number of different schools.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Order In Which Material Is Presented To The Student

When I trained in Yoshinkan (Yoshinkai, Yoshokai) Aikido, each years' testing techniques showed a clear, systematic introduction of new techniques built upon previously learned skills. 

Recently at Martial Arts Training Thoughts blog, there was a post examining which kata was used by a given karate style and the order in which the kata were taught. 

I think this is an interesting topic. An excerpt is below. The full post may be read here.

Below that, I have an excerpt from a post at The Classical Budoka about how kata are organized in modern budo and in ancient koryu arts. That full post may be read here.

Order of Kata: Progression, Individual Needs, or the Way of the Disciple?

I have been thinking a lot about the order and progression of kata, specifically within the Goju system.  Recently reading an article at Total Karate brought some of these thoughts to the forefront.

I have seen a lot of theories about the order and progression of kata within a system.  Since I honestly don't have much of an opinion of the goju kata and their order (perhaps a case of being too close to see what is in front of me), I have been doing a lot of reading.  I don't think that this was often written down in the past by others, as I have found scant resources dealing with this topic specifically, and definitely little to nothing from the older masters.  I should note, I am still working through some older material at the moment, so there is still hope.

First, let's start off with some definitions.  When I refer to order I refer to the order in which the forms are taught within a system.  When I refer to progression this is an admittedly loaded term which is bundled with the assumption that there is an increase in difficulty or skill with later forms versus beginner forms.

Now for some theory.  Why have more than one form in a system?  Many of the arts are founded on a few principles which are supposedly recorded in a core form, usually the highest in the system.  This form is said to contain everything in the school - by practicing this form you can see the basics that have been isolated for training specific skills in other forms or drills.  For more on this line of thought, please see another post at Classic Budoka.

Another possibility is that the higher forms are more difficult.  Perhaps as a beginner you must learn the most basic techniques that will help you survive.  AS you progress, you can refine the technique into more subtle movements.  In this progression, the later forms are more minimalistic and obviously more difficult.  This has a certain logic to it that draws my mind to it - like learning in school, why start with calculus when you don't understand the basics of arithmetic?  But logic nor my own tendencies necessarily dictate reality...

Another possibility is that you learn a form or two to gain the skills you need.  Then you realize that something is missing, and in your research find it in another form.  So you pick it up to round out your skills and strengthen your own weaknesses.  So a form you learn later, and perhaps teach later, does not have any inherent difficulty or skill refinement that is a progression from earlier forms, but rather a new set of skills that are equally important for someone with only the preceding forms as a basis.

And now from The Classical Budoka...

96. Kata Classification in Koryu

July 12, 2013
One of the things I had to wrap my head around when I started to do koryu after over a decade of training in shinbudo (the more “modern” martial Ways) was that there were different levels of kata.

Judo, for example, may have harder kata forms that are meant for more advanced study, but they are not clearly demarcated. Nage No Kata can be considered by some teachers to be more applicable to beginners than Ju No Kata, but there really is no formal restriction that keeps beginners from learning the latter, more complex, subtle form. Nor are any of the individual techniques taught in a stratified, restrictive manner; rather they are simply taught from the easiest and most applicable to the more individualistic and complex, according to the individual instructor or the necessities of testing and ranking. In large part, this must have been influenced by Kano Jigoro’s approach to education and pedagogy. He was, besides the creator of modern Kodokan judo (and hence a distant ancestor who laid down the basic DNA for all modern grappling arts influenced by judo), one of Japan’s most important public school educators at the turn of the 20th Century. Kano embraced the open, facts-based, inquiring nature of Western educational theory. Besides training sessions, he would hold lectures on the philosophy, theory and mechanics of judo. By his actions, we see that Kano believed in disseminating knowledge; not just within the new Kodokan style but also distilling important information from the various different jujutsu ryu before they faded away, taking their knowledge with them. He wanted to open up education.

Also, too, karatedo had kata but no real hierarchical structure as I’m about to describe. Some kata were harder, more technically complex, but once you reached a certain level of ability, you would conceivably be able to learn all of them per the judgment of your teacher. I suspect this may have arisen from the very different nature of traditional Okinawan arts compared to traditional Japanese arts. As an Okinawan karate friend related to me, from his interviews with very old karate sensei in Okinawa, before the consolidation of the kata into specific “ryu,” karate was taught more like how the art of sanshin (Okinawan “shamisen,” or three-stringed musical instrument that strikes me as a kind of Asian banjo) was taught. You apprenticed yourself to a master and learned that master’s specialty, perhaps two or three songs that he’s famous for singing. In the same way, you’d study under a karate teacher and learn perhaps two or three kata and the basics. When you reach a certain level, the teacher may tell you, “Okay, you have learned as much as you can from me. Now go study under my friend in the next village. He’ll teach you his own special kata (or song, if it was sanshin),” and off you’d go to work on a couple more kata. Pretty soon, after making the rounds of different teachers, you end up with your own specialty or flavor and start your own little school (a karate or sanshin club), or you would decide you’d rather not be a teacher and go back to studying under a teacher that you really like and whose style and emphasis you want to emulate.

With modern kendo, the standardized Kendo Kata were established by a committee for grading purposes. Everyone learns them for ranking. There’s no “secret” kata only for higher ranks. There is, therefore, only one level and you are judged by your performance per that open and widely understood parameters.

With the koryu, however, there are different ryu whose methods are so different that you can’t compare and contrast one person’s technical abilities directly with another person. Some of the gross body movements may be similar, but the execution and direction, the timing and intent of similar-looking cuts and strikes may be totally at odds from school to school. So I can understand why, in casting about for a standardized set of kata that would unify kendo players or iaido practitioners, you need a system that would hold everyone to the same form and application.

But beyond that, within each koryu ryuha, there are classifications of kata based on your ability to absorb the teachings, on a technical physiological level, and on a mental/theoretical level. Grossly speaking, I am referring to what are called the Shoden, Chuden and Okuden levels of kata.

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Rise of Mixed Martial Arts

Today we have a guest post by Virginia Cunningham on the rise of Mixed Martial Arts over the past ten years. Enjoy.
The Rise of MMA In The Past 10 Years

Beginning with the influence of Bruce Lee and the early brutality of the Gracies’ version of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, mixed martial arts (MMA) has come a long way in the United States.

 It has become both a valued spectator sport and an athletic phenomenon, giving rise to a variety of training methodologies and reshaping the way that many of us characterize “being in shape” or exercising.
 A Little History

They established rules and guidelines for fights and obtained a Nevada Athletic Commission Sanctioning that eventually put the sport back on pay per view and in front of the public eye.

Under the Gracies family no-holds-barred style of fighting, the UFC was just far too brutal for television. While popular, it wasn’t sustainable until Zuffa took over and made it more of an athletic event than a drummed up violence expo.

This was the beginning of MMA’s rise to popularity, particularly in the United States, as it would eventually eclipse the revenue earnings of both professional boxing and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in 2006.

The Ultimate Fighter reality show that aired on Spike in 2005 was undoubtedly a large piece of that financial puzzle.

It was the type of fighting that 80’s and 90’s kids had always wanted -- exciting, real and far different from the boxing matches their dad’s and granddad’s used to watch.

The Appeal

Not only does the UFC attract a strong male fan base, but with a recent increase in the number of female fighters participating, women are becoming increasingly interested in the sport, increasing its popularity all the more.

In addition to MMA being just plain fun to watch, a lot of the appeal of the sport in recent years has come from the effect that it has had on our exercise routines.

Particularly with women becoming more and more interested in fitness and contact sports, the MMA training programs have found their way into many of our own gyms, fitness classes, exercise programs and even blogs.

In simple terms, MMA training focuses on multiple muscle groups, functional movements and high intensity training, which combine both strength training and cardio, as opposed to separating the two.

So now, instead of just trying to burn calories and build mass, this type of training allows us to engage in a kind of “hybrid” of the two, that many believe is a far more effective way to exercise.

Add this to the fan base that certain fighters have amassed, the fierce and vocal rivalries between popular combatants of both genders, and you’ve got yourself one of the fastest growing sports in the country.
The Connection

What might be an even more powerful draw of the sport, is if you consider the combination of the influence on how we exercise and the fascination of the sport itself.

Let’s be honest -- we all want to be able to fight and defend ourselves. Somehow that makes all of the mundane tasks of our daily lives a little more acceptable. Sure, we might be comfortable working a desk job, but we still want to be able to throw down if we have to. It’s possible that MMA has given us a powerful illustration of that and allows us to tap into a bit of our own inner strength.

That, and it’s a great excuse to get together and eat wings.

Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer and health enthusiast in the Los Angeles area. Writing for NorthWest has allowed her to not only share her knowledge of personal health and fitness, but she has also been able to explore new options for her fitness routines, including mixed martial arts.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Who Needs Fiction:Martial Arts Politics

If there is more than one person in a room, politics is taking place. One of the bad things about martial arts organizations is that they are frequently hotbeds of politics. I guess that is just human nature.

My associate over at Dao of Strategy sent me an article on this topic. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.

Israeli Martial Arts Gurus Duke It Out For Real

By Marissa Brostoff

When grandmaster Haim Gidon, a top-ranking practitioner of the Israeli martial art of Krav Maga, entered a studio in New Jersey on a recent Monday, the 20-odd people in the room stopped pummeling each other and lined up like soldiers standing at attention. Gidon was visiting from Israel to give them advanced training, and the students — who included law enforcement officers, military personnel and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter John Mayer — treated him like a commanding officer.

But in an interview with the Forward after the session, Gidon seemed less eager to talk about his new acolytes than about his old adversaries — the other disciples of Krav Maga founder Imi Lichtenfeld who formed rival organizations after his death in 1998.

“They all say they are the originals,” Gidon fumed, through a translator. “But if you say you are the originals, show us your proof!”

The strange journey of krav maga — a martial art characterized by gritty street-fighting techniques and, these days, by equally gritty animosity between the organizations that teach it — began in Czechoslovakia just before World War II, when Lichtenfeld, a young gymnast, developed it as a self-defense technique against fascist predators. Lichtenfeld brought the discipline with him to Israel, where it became absorbed into Israeli military training. There, soldiers like Gidon became Lichtenfeld’s top students — and later spread krav maga around the world.

Krav maga has been taught in the United States at least since the early 1980s, and today hundreds of classes are offered throughout the country, many of them in conjunction with military and police training. Its popularity has spiked in the last couple of years as celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lopez have undergone training.

But the technique’s growing popularity has also intensified tensions between the organizations that teach it — over the authenticity of their methods, the realism of their fighting techniques and even the use of the term “krav maga.”

“They all hate each other,” said Elizabeth Greenman, who teaches the martial art in New York through an organization called Commando Krav Maga. “Every group hates each other. In the end it’s about money and clientele.”

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Craftsmanship and Living

The First Dragon Rider had another great post. He found an article on craftsmanship and our daily lives. The references Matthew Crawford's Shop Class as Soul Craft and Robert Greene's Mastery, which we've discussed before here and here, respectively. An excerpt is below. The original article may be read here. It's well worth it.

Measure Twice, Cut Once: Applying the Ethos of the Craftsman to Our Everyday Lives

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 3, 2013 · 28 comments
Across cultures and time, the archetype of the craftsman has represented man’s ability to create and has been the mark of mature manhood. He is homo faber – man the creator. Instead of passively consuming and letting things happen to him, the craftsman fashions the world to his liking and proactively shapes and influences it. Ancient philosophers in both the West and the East have used the craftsman as a symbol of he who contributes to his community and as an ensign of humility, self-reliance, and calm industry.

When we think of the archetypal craftsman, images of a bearded man clad in a leather apron and rolled-up sleeves, toiling away in his workshop producing beautiful and useful items comes to mind. What’s interesting is that the ancient Greeks had a much more inclusive idea of the craftsman than our modern conception. Besides masons, potters, and carpenters, the ancient Greeks included jobs now considered “knowledge professions” like doctors, legislators, and administrators under the craftsman label. Even the work of a father was considered a craft of sorts that required the same care and attention to detail as that of the carpenter. Indeed, the ancient Greeks believed that the values and ethos of craftsmanship were things all should seek to live by. In so doing, a man could achieve arete, or excellence, and thus experience eudaimonia, or a flourishing life.

Over time, the ideal of craftsmanship was cordoned off to just the technical arts. Physicians and legislators no longer thought of themselves as craftsmen, but as philosophers and natural scientists who were more concerned with the theoretical as opposed to the practical. Such a shift is a shame, for the principles of craftsmanship truly do apply to every man, whether he makes furniture or crunches numbers. Below we take a look at how these overarching principles of the traditional craftsman can apply to all areas of your life, no matter your profession.

Many of these principles are things we’ve covered before on the Art of Manliness. Make sure to explore the links within this article to more fully understand the concepts held within.

Do Things Well for the Sake of Doing Them Well

Make every product better than it’s ever been done before. Make the parts you cannot see as well as the parts you can see. Use only the best materials, even for the most everyday items. Give the same attention to the smallest detail as you do to the largest. Design every item you make to last forever.” – Shaker Philosophy of Furniture Making
Fundamental to the code of craftsmanship is the desire to do something well for its own sake. Sure, the craftsman often gets paid for his work, but it’s not the paycheck that determines how well he does the job. A true craftsman will work until the job is done and done well, even if he’s working for free. Philosopher and motorcycle repairman Matthew B. Crawford shared a story in his book Shop Class as Soulcraft that exemplifies the craftsman’s compulsive fidelity to this ethic.

A guy had brought an old Magna motorcycle into Crawford’s shop that needed work on the clutch. Crawford could solve the clutch problem just fine, but he also noticed that the engine’s oil seal looked “buggered.” He tried to fix it but didn’t make any headway. Due to the damage and the nature of the oil seal, replacing it would require a lot of work and a lot of time. Frustrated, he left his shop for a smoke. While the smoke filled his lungs, the thought came to him that:
“The best business decision would be to forget I’d ever seen the ambiguously buggered oil seal. With a freshly rebuilt slave cylinder, the clutch worked fine. Even if my idle speculation about the weeping oil seal causing the failure of the slave cylinder seal was right, so what? It would take quite a while for the problem to reappear, and who knows if this guy would still own the bike by then. If it is not likely to be his problem, I shouldn’t make it my problem.”
But as he walked back into the shop, he couldn’t stop thinking about that buggered oil seal:
“The compulsion was setting in, and I did little to resist it. I started digging at the seal, my peripheral vision narrowing. At first I told myself it was exploratory digging. But the seal was suffering from my screwdriver, and at some point I had to drop the forensic pretense. I was going to get that little f***er out.”
Crawford goes on to explain how he’d often bill his clients fewer hours than he actually worked on a bike because of his thoroughness or just his plain curiosity of tinkering with things:
“I feel I have to meet the standards of efficiency that [an independent mechanic] set, or at least appear to. So I lie and tell people a job took ten hours when it might have taken twenty. To compensate, I also tell them my shop rate is forty dollars per hour, but it usually works out to more like twenty. I feel like an amateur, no less now than when I started, but through such devices I hope to appear like somebody who knows what he is doing, and bills accordingly.”
Money wasn’t important to Crawford, just doing the job well for the sake of doing it well was what mattered.

You can apply this craftsmanship ethic to more than just tangible objects. Even if you do more ethereal work, you can do it well for the sake of doing it well. The reward for doing an exhaustively thorough job can sometimes be monetary, but it may very well go unnoticed by one’s customer or boss. The most fulfilling reward of living by the craftsmanship ethic is the feeling of pride that comes with knowing you gave a certain job your damndest effort. It’s the unmatchable satisfaction of seeing one’s inner integrity displayed in the wholeness and quality of one’s external labor.