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 ~

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Training Partners in Martial Arts

Today I'd like to bring your attention to two excellent posts. 

Below is an excerpt from an excellent post at Patrick Parkers Mokuren Dojo blog. It has to do with our responsibility for ourselves and our partners when training to avoid injuries and foster learning and development.

This one resonates with me because I am still bothered from time to time by an injury to one of my elbows that took place back in the late 70's. That's a long time ago.  The full post may be read here.

I have said it many times, and my instructors before me, and theirs before them all the way back to Kano - Judo is about Mutual Welfare and Benefit.  I know that's sort of a loose translation of the principle of Jita Kyoei, but it's a common translation and as good as any.
But Human Animal Males (HAMs) tend to fail to get the mutual benefit thing, or we get it in an incomplete sense.  It just does not make deep visceral sense to some of us that we are doing a deadly martial combat thing with a partner instead of an enemy - that our main goal is to improve both the self and the other.
Sometimes we start class out with some vague admission or nod to Jita Kyoei, or at least with some pseudo-Japanese etiquette, but then we inevitably end up with an uke that doesn't work quite like we want and we get into this vicious cycle of pushing harder, causing uke to resist harder or do ukemi more un-naturally, which causes tori to struggle more, which makes uke more miserable...
So, let me try to put it in different terms - one syllable each...
If your arm gets hurt it is both folks' fault.
If your elbow (or whatever else) gets bent, tori should not have pushed that hard,and uke should not have stood there and let tori push that hard.  It is almost always possible for uke to yield (and to yield productively) to force rather than to stand against it.  It is almost always possible for Tori to get the effect you're looking for with far less struggle.
On a slightly different facet we have an except from Peter Boylans The Budo Bum blog on the difference young guy and old guy training. The full post may be read here.

In the group I train Brazilian Jiujitsu with, I am old enough to be the father of most of the other students, if not their grandfather. For the most part when rolling, they tend to dial it back a few notches to where they are still giving me everything I could possibly handle, but every once in a while one of them will get caught up in the moment and it becomes time to batten down the hatches.


I wrote this about judo, but it applies just as well to every other budo I’ve seen.

I watched the young guns at judo going at it like they were hammering each other on an anvil. They were working hard fighting each other strong and fast, with all the strength and speed they have. Young guys really work at their judo. The referee called out “Hajime!” and they grabbed each other, started attacking, doing everything they could to throw each other. In no time they were panting from the effort. I was getting tired just from watching them. They were really working hard to throw each other.

It took a while, but eventually even the strength and stamina of youth wear out, and the guys on the mat needed break. Granted, they lasted at least twice as long as I would have trying to work that hard, but they still wore themselves out. After the young guys bowed off the mat and headed for a water break, the referee turned to Harold and I and invited us to take their places. Harold and I are a couple of middle-aged guys who’ve been doing judo for a while.

The referee yelled “Hajime!” Harold took a step forward, held out his hands in invitation, tilted his head and smiled at me. This was pure “old fellow judo.” Harold didn’t want to attack hard and give me any energy I could use against him. He also didn’t want to work like those young guys had been doing. Neither one of us has that kind of stamina anymore. Besides, one of the maxim’s of Judo is “Maximum efficiency, minimum effort” and Harold understands that.  I keep trying to get my ego to understand it too, so I stepped forward a little, held out my hands to make my sleeves easy to grab, and smiled back.

We stood there smiling at each other for a moment, then we gingerly reached out for each other without committing any energy that could be used against us. As we moved around the dojo it felt a lot more like a dance than a fight. As you become more skilled you become less eager to throw energy at your partner because he’s more than happy to accept it and do something with it.  We moved with a complete awareness of this, so instead of the fast, sudden movements of the young guys, we old fellows moved slowly and smoothly.

The young guys put a lot of effort into it out there, pushing and pulling on their partner, working to make a technique happen. Harold held my dogi lightly and we moved gently around the dojo looking for opportunities to work our partner’s movement.  I’ve learned from being thrown far too many times that if I push hard into someone, or pull on them, an experienced partner is just as likely to get out of the way of my push and toss me over onto the mats as not.

Harold and I were trying to feel what was happening and what the other was doing. Neither one of us was trying to make our partner do something. We were moving around the dojo. Our goal is to feel what our partner is doing and help them do more of it. We moved around the room, our feet sliding across the mats, never stepping.  A nice, big, John Wayne type step is an invitation to be thrown with everything from a simple and subtle foot sweep to a great big, literally over-the-top seioinage throw. Harold and I studied each other. He has a dropping seioinage that he likes, and I’m working on a interesting ouchigari. We’ll both take a nice footsweep though if it’s available.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Fencing on my Mind

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at the Washington Post. The full article may be read here.

This is your brain on fencing: How certain sports may aid the aging brain

By Emily Mullin

The two fencers pull on their mesh-front masks and face each other behind two “en garde” lines. At their coach’s signal, they raise their sabres and the practice bout begins in a flurry.
Michael DeManche, 69, is fencing his son Devin, 20, who not only has youth on his side but at 6-foot-5 also has a much longer reach.
Father and son move rapidly, advancing, retreating and attacking with precision. The skirmish continues until the score is tied at four points. Then in a flash, Devin prevails with a swift hit on his dad’s mask.
Despite their age difference, the two are well matched. Although Devin is more agile physically, Michael’s tactic for winning during their Wednesday night matches at the Royal Fencing Academy in Damascus, Md., is to outthink his son in moves and positioning. “When I’m fencing, I’m completely focused,” Michael says.
Science may be able to explain what’s going on in Michael’s aging brain when he’s on the fencing strip. A small but growing body of research suggests that fencing and other sports that require quick decision-making may improve cognition in both young and old people, and help stave off certain mental declines associated with aging.
In a study published in 2012, researchers led by Francesco Di Russo of the Foro Italico University of Rome hypothesized that sports in which participants must constantly move and adapt to changes around them might counteract age-related breakdowns in learning, memory and processing speeds. They found that fencing, “which requires fast decisions and . . . places high demands on visual attention and flexibility,” was associated with improvement of certain cognitive functions, such as attention and processing, that naturally decline with aging.



Monday, May 25, 2015

Daoism vs Confucianism

Joanthan Bluestein pointed out this great lecture on YouTube to me. I had to pass it along to you. Enjoy.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Judo of Doug Rogers

In 1960, a 19 year old Canadian named Doug Rogers traveled to Japan to study Judo. He caught the attention of Masahiko Kimura, one of the greatest post war judoka and became his student.

Rogers won a silver medal in Judo for Canada in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Below is a short (~18 min) documentary about Rogers and his training in Japan.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


The Tang Dynasty was a high point of culture in ancient China. Especially esteemed were poems. There was no home coming or leave taking; no event too small to not be commemorated with a poem.

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.  Today we have #56.

Li Bai

Since yesterday had to throw me and bolt,
Today has hurt my heart even more.
The autumn wildgeese have a long wind for escort
As I face them from this villa, drinking my wine.
The bones of great writers are your brushes, in the School of Heaven,
And I am a Lesser Xie growing up by your side.
We both are exalted to distant thought,
Aspiring to the sky and the bright moon.
But since water still flows, though we cut it with our swords,
And sorrows return, though we drown them with wine,
Since the world can in no way answer our craving,
I will loosen my hair tomorrow and take to a fishingboat.        

Saturday, May 16, 2015

12 Ways to Improve Your Martial Arts Practice

I came across this article at the Mokuren Dojo blog run by Patrick Parker. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.

Wynton’s Twelve Ways to Practice

As a boy growing up in New Orleans, I remember my father, Ellis, a pianist, and his friends talking about “sheddin’.” When they got together, theyʼd say, “Man, you need to go shed,” or “I’ve been sheddin’ hard.” When I was around 11, I realized that sheddin’ meant getting to the woodshed – practicing. By the age of 16, I understood what the shed was really about – hard, concentrated work.

When my brother Branford and I auditioned for our high school band, the instructor, who knew my father, was excited about Ellisʼ sons coming to the band. But my audition was so pitiful he said, “Are you sure youʼre Ellis’ son?”

At the time, his comment didn’t bother me because I was more interested in basketball than band.

Over the next several years, however, I began practicing seriously. Practice is essential to learning music – and anything else, for that matter. I like to say that the time spent practicing is the true sign of virtue in a musician. When you practice, it means you are willing to sacrifice to sound good.

Even if practice is so important, kids find it very hard to do because there are so many distractions. Thatʼs why I always encourage them to practice and explain how to do it. I’ve developed what I call “Wynton’s 12 Ways to Practice.” These will work for almost every activity – from music to schoolwork to sports.

Wyntonʼs Twelve Ways to Practice: From Music to Schoolwork
Published in the Education Digest | Sept 1996

1. Seek out instruction: Find an experienced teacher who knows what you should be doing. A good teacher will help you understand the purpose of practicing and can teach you ways to make practicing easier and more productive.

2. Write out a schedule: A schedule helps you organize your time. Be sure to allow time to review the fundamentals because they are the foundation of all the complicated things that come later. If you are practicing basketball, for example, be sure to put time in your schedule to practice free throws.

3. Set goals: Like a schedule, goals help you organize your time and chart your progress. Goals also act as a challenge: something to strive for in a specific period of time. If a certain task turns out to be really difficult, relax your goals: practice doesnʼt have to be painful to achieve results.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Team Martial Arts Sports?

Calcio Florentino is an old sport from Florence Italy, which is experiencing a modern revival. It's part rugby, part MMA.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Budo Should Enhance Your Life

"Budo should enhance your life, not replace it." - FJ Lovret

It's easy to get carried away with martial arts training and letting the rest of your life go to hell. Below is an excerpt from an excellent post by Peter Boylan at The Budo Bum, on this very topic. The full post may be read here.

Budo Isn't life.  It's training for life.  

I was reading an article about a writer who became a carpenter, but didn’t stop writing, and it made me think about the mistake I sometimes see people make with budo.  Budo is a Way, and as ways go, I think it is a great one.  You can explore strength and conflict, peace and stability, action and quietude, moving with things without being moved by them, and many other points that are important in life. For all that, budo is not life.

I’ve see a number of people over the years who become so involved with training in budo that they let the rest of their lives go to hell.  They often become fabulous martial artists, but their personal lives are train wrecks, with disasters everywhere. These are people who make the mistake of putting budo training above everything else in their life. Budo is training for life. When you let the practice become so large that it squeezes out everything else, including the application of the training to your real life, you have completely missed the point. In fact, you’ve failed as a budoka.

Budo only has meaning in the context of a complete life.  When your training gets in the way of a complete life, you should be asking what’s wrong. If your only friends are people you train with, why don’t you have time for anyone else? If budo has replaced all your recreational activities, why are you becoming so one faceted? If budo is the only thing you enjoy, why is that?

Thursday, May 07, 2015

10,000 Hours Is Only a Start Towards Martial Arts Excellence

Here is yet another article bringing clarity to the "10,000 Hour Rule" make famous in the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. 

The article is a review of the book Focus, by Daniel Goleman, who is also the author of several other great books about Emotional Intelligence.

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

The secret to continued improvement, it turns out, isn’t the amount of time invested but the quality of that time. It sounds simple and obvious enough, and yet so much of both our formal education and the informal ways in which we go about pursuing success in skill-based fields is built around the premise of sheer time investment. Instead, the factor Ericsson and other psychologists have identified as the main predictor of success is deliberate practice — persistent training to which you give your full concentration rather than just your time, often guided by a skilled expert, coach, or mentor. It’s a qualitative difference in how you pay attention, not a quantitative measure of clocking in the hours. Goleman writes:
Hours and hours of practice are necessary for great performance, but not sufficient. How experts in any domain pay attention while practicing makes a crucial difference. For instance, in his much-cited study of violinists — the one that showed the top tier had practiced more than 10,000 hours — Ericsson found the experts did so with full concentration on improving a particular aspect of their performance that a master teacher identified.

Goleman identifies a second necessary element: a feedback loop that allows you to spot errors as they occur and correct them, much like ballet dancers use mirrors during practice. He writes:
Ideally that feedback comes from someone with an expert eye and so every world-class sports champion has a coach. If you practice without such feedback, you don’t get to the top ranks.

The feedback matters and the concentration does, too — not just the hours.

Additionally, the optimal kind of attention requires top-down focus. While daydreaming may have its creative benefits, in the context of deliberate practice it only dilutes the efficiency of the process. Goleman writes:
Daydreaming defeats practice; those of us who browse TV while working out will never reach the top ranks. Paying full attention seems to boost the mind’s processing speed, strengthen synaptic connections, and expand or create neural networks for what we are practicing.

At least at first. But as you master how to execute the new routine, repeated practice transfers control of that skill from the top-down system for intentional focus to bottom-up circuits that eventually make its execution effortless. At that point you don’t need to think about it — you can do the routine well enough on automatic.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Kodokan Goshin Jutsu

According to Wikipedia: Kōdōkan Goshin Jutsu or Kōdōkan goshinjutsu (講道館護身術?, Kodokan skills of self-defence) is a set of prearranged self-defence forms in Judo. It is the most recent kata of Judo, having been created in 1956. It incorporates techniques from aikidothrough the influence of Kenji Tomiki. It consists of several techniques to defend oneself from: unarmed attack, attack with a dagger, with a stick, and with a gun.

Below is a video demonstration of the form by two Kodokan 6th Dans.