Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Hapkido Master Hwang Shik

Below is a video of Hapkido Master Hwang Shik in action. I would be happy to be half that agile when I am his age. Shoot, I would be happy to be half that agile NOW.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

CS Tang on Yiquan

CS Tang is a well known martial artist in Hong Kong. He practices and teaches several martial arts and is a lineage holder in Gao style BaguaZhang,, among others.

Below is an interview with Master Tang on Yiquan (which he also practices an teaches).

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Learning Courage

Before we get to the meat of today's post, I'd like to point you back to a post from years ago which gives a real life example of tremendous courage, exhibited by a high school student.

Below is an excerpt from a great article from the terrific blog, The Art of Manliness. The full post may be read here.

Hector and Achilles: Two Paths to Manliness

For the Ancient Greeks, Homer’s Iliad was the Bible on andreia — that is, manliness, particularly manly courage.

Alexander the Great was said to have kept a special edition of the epic poem (prepared by his tutor Aristotle) under his pillow during his conquests and he’d read from it often. For Alexander, Achilles was andreia incarnate, and so the young king patterned his life after him. When he began his conquest of Asia, Alexander made a detour to pay homage to Achilles’ tomb. Whenever he experienced bouts of self-doubt, he’d pray to Achilles’ goddess mother, Thetis, for comfort. When his best friend and general, Hephaestion, was killed in battle, Alexander mourned deeply, just as Achilles had grieved for his best friend, Patroclus.

Many young men since Alexander have also found inspiration from Achilles, the mighty, swift-footed warrior. For he embodies an ideal that they, deep in their gut, keenly desire: undaunted courage and physical prowess.

Yet while Achilles may be the perfect embodiment of andreia, and get all the attention and adulation, there is another character who exemplified manliness in the Iliad as well, and actually provides a better roadmap on how most men can achieve it.

Achilles: Being Manliness

Nothing could stop Achilles in battle. He feared no one, not even King Agamemnon, the elected leader of the Greek hosts at Troy.

Achilles was fast, agile, and strong. He made heroic feats look easy.

His thumos, or spiritedness, burned white hot, so much so that it would often overtake him while he unleashed carnage on the battlefield.

Achilles’ reputation for andreia was so great that the Trojans cowered in fear when they saw Patroclus walking towards the battlefield wearing his friend’s armor, mistaking him for the legendary warrior himself.

Achilles was also a handsome fella to boot. Homer described him as “beautiful.” It’s fitting that Brad Pitt played Achilles in the film adaptation of the Iliad.

Of course, Achilles did have some major flaws. His uncontrollable rage, a hyper sense of honor, and a vulnerable heel all led to his early downfall. But it was a price he had to pay to immortalize his perfect andreia and secure a legacy in which people still today talk about his excellence in courage and warfare.

Yet, making Achilles one’s exemplar poses a significant difficulty for us mere mortal men…because Achilles wasn’t a mere mortal.

His mother was a goddess, making him a warrior demigod. Achilles didn’t have to work at andreia.

He couldn’t help not being brave, virile, and good looking; it was built right into his divine DNA.

Achilles came out of the womb a man. Andreia was just a part of his being.

So while the andreia of Achilles can certainly serve as an ideal, his life isn’t a very useful pattern for most men to follow, unless of course, your mother happens to be an immortal Olympian goddess.

There is, however, a character from the Iliad who does provide a helpful model for men on attaining andreia. And he happens to be Achilles’ mortal enemy: the Trojan prince, Hector.

Hector: Learning Manliness

For nine long years, Hector led the defense of the city of Troy against the Greek onslaught. He was a battle-hardened warrior, and, like Achilles, had a reputation for andreia.

But Hector was different from Achilles. He was 100% mortal.

Unlike Achilles who was born with andreia, Hector had to learn it.

He even admitted so in perhaps one of the most touching scenes of Western literature.

Hector, battle weary and covered with dust and gore after preventing a Greek route of his forces, comes back inside the protective walls of Troy for rest. There he meets his loving and loyal wife

Andromache who begs him not to go back into battle, afraid the next time her husband returns, it’ll be on his shield, rather than with it.

Hector, still in his armor, confesses to his wife that he shares the same fear. How un-Achilliean!

Achilles would have responded with a chortle, a boast, a patronizing retort to his wife not to worry her sweet little head about it. But Hector is human and has some humility about his ability and his bravery.

As he reflects to Andromache:
“All this weighs on my mind too, dear woman.
But I would die of shame to face the men of Troy
and the Trojan women trailing their long robes
if I would shrink from battle now, a coward.
Nor does the spirit urge me on that way.
I’ve learned it all too well. To stand up bravely,
always to fight in the front ranks of Trojan soldiers,
winning my father great glory, glory for myself.”
Did you catch that? I italicized it to help you out.

Hector says he had to learn how to be brave and fight. He experiences courage not as a lack of fear, but the practiced ability to feel fear, and then decide to move forward anyway.

The Greek word for “learn” is didaskein and English professor David Mikics astutely notes that didaskein is never used anywhere else in the Iliad to describe learning about bravery or manliness.

Just in this instance. Homer is clearly setting up a contrast between Hector and his instinctively fierce rival, Achilles.

While Achilles was born manly, Hector had to learn andreia. He had to learn how to be fierce and strong, which suggests it wasn’t in his nature to be so.

Instead Hector was probably by nature a nice guy. No, not the insufferable nice guy nice guy. I’m talking niceness in terms of being genuinely kind, compassionate, and considerate to others. There’s evidence for this characterization in the Iliad; for example, while others blamed and resented Helen for starting the Trojan War, Hector went out of his way to show kindness towards her.

Further, following Hector’s admission to his wife that he had to learn andreia, his young son, Astyanax, catches sight of him in his blood-stained armor, and, not recognizing his father, begins to scream. Laughing, Hector takes off his helmet, picks up his boy and tosses him in the air while giving him kisses, just like you see dads do today.

Hector was a good guy. A caring husband and a loving father.

But he understood that goodness must be backed with strength. Hector recognized, like Theodore

Roosevelt did millennia later, that “unless we keep the barbarian virtues, gaining the civilized ones will be of little avail.”

And so he spent his life learning that which didn’t come naturally to him, but which he desired in order to live with andreia. He learned from observation and from practice how to be brave, daring, and strong. Hector dedicated himself to an education in virile manhood.

Hector: A Fellow Traveler on the Path to Manhood

I relate with Hector.

I think of myself as a “good guy.” I’m naturally inclined to be kind and friendly towards others. And like Hector, I’m a family man.

But being an andros? A courageous, fierce, thumos-driven, physically adept, and strong man?

That’s something I’ve had to learn and am still learning. It’s not in my nature. If I just followed my druthers, I’d probably do a lot of sitting around on a beanbag chair, playing video games and eating nachos. But because I believe that developing andreia is essential to achieving arĂȘte (excellence) and eudemonia (flourishing) as a man, and because I value goodness and desire that others have the chance to pursue arĂȘte as well, each day I strive to develop the strength and courage to protect that possibility.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Dao De Jing, #67: What Is There To Hold On To?

The Dao De Jing is not only one of the world's great classics, it is one of the foundations of Philosophical Daoism. A free online version of the Dao De Jing may be found here. Today we have #67: What Is There To Hold On To?

Everyone in the world says my ideas are great; great yet different from others.
So, if only what is different has the ability to be great, it seems as though what is similar would last for a much longer time.

It's really a delicate matter.
So I have three things I always protect; I hold them tightly and protect them.
The first is called unconditional love;
The second is called frugality;
The third is called not to daring to act like I'm ahead of anyone else.

With unconditional love there is the ability to be brave;
With frugality there is the ability to be boundless;
Not daring to act like I'm ahead of anyone else enables me to be able to take the actions of a useful person for a long time.

If for a moment universal love is willingly given up, so is bravery.
If frugality is willingly given up, so is broadness.
If following is willingly given up, so is leading.
Then you might as well be dead.

So, with unconditional love:
When attacking, then victory is assured;
When defending, then endurance is assured.
The heavens become the one who mandates, as if it was using walls of unconditional love.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Monday, May 14, 2018

The South Bound Tiger

Over at Kung Fu Tea, there was a very nice overview of the life of Gu Ruzhang (Ku Yi Kheung), a famous Northern Shaolin Master who went to southern China and achieved great fame there.

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

Gu Ruzhang is one of the best known martial artists of the Republic of China era.  He is remembered today as a pioneer who helped to bring Northern Shaolin to Southern China.  Most accounts of his illustrious career start with his appearance at the first National Guoshu Exam held in 1928. At the conclusion of this tournament he was awarded the title of “guoshi” (national warrior) and came to the attention of important military leaders in the Nationalist Party (GMD).  They would subsequently sponsor his teaching mission to the South.

Unfortunately these accounts omit some of the most interesting aspects of Gu Ruzhang’s life and career.  Perhaps the real question that we should be asking is what unique set of circumstances led him to Nanjing in the fall of 1928 in the first place?   We have already seen that a close examination of the careers of other martial artists can expand our understanding of both civil society and martial culture.  My own personal background is not in Northern Shaolin, nor am I really qualified to speak to the specific substance of Gu Ruzhang’s martial method or training system.  However, a brief outline of his career does open a valuable window onto the rapidly evolving realm of the civilian fighting systems in the Republic of China period.

Much of my own research focuses on the evolution and development of Southern China’s martial culture in the 19th and 20th century.  Gu Ruzhang is a central figure in many of these discussions precisely because he crossed cultural boundaries and helped to promote and popularize different approaches to the Chinese martial arts.  For those reasons alone his career might make an interesting case study.

Still, none of us are free to make our lives exactly as we wish.  Gu Ruzhang’s career was both constrained and enabled by powerful forces within Chinese society.  Some of these were the direct result of the political turmoil that China experienced in the first half of the 20th century.  Others were a side-effect of the rapid modernization and urbanization of the state’s traditional economy.

Gu Ruzhang’s story is as much about political history as it is anything else.  By exploring these sometimes neglected aspects of his life and career I hope to shed a light on the basic forces that were shaping the development of the traditional Chinese martial arts more generally.  His career coincided with a period of immense change in the way the traditional fighting styles were imagined and taught. 

I hope that a brief discussion may help to clarify why these changes began to emerge when they did.

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Tough Martial Arts Woman

In Kyokushin Karate, there is an event that only a few have ever completed: the 100 Man Kumite.

The candidate fights 100 full contact rounds against consecutive fresh opponents. 

Over at The Martial Way, there was a post about Naomi Ali, the only woman to have ever completed this achievement. 

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

The 100-man kumite holds a special place in the world of Kyokushin karate. The act of fighting full-contact for 100 straight rounds against fresh opponents and with no protective gear is enough to deter even the toughest, most well-travelled martial artists. Many of the men who have completed the astonishing mental and physical test have gone on to receive global praise and legendary status in their respective styles. Enter Naomi Ali. In 2004, at AKKA’s Honbu in Bondi Junction, the former Japan Open winner and multiple-time world champion became the first ever woman to complete the epic feat. In the 10th anniversary year of Ali’s ultimate challenge, Blitz caught up with the mother and full-time nurse to reminisce about the day she calls “the toughest of my life”.

Soft-spoken and petite-framed, Naomi Ali is in fact a giant in the eyes of her AKKA teammates in Sydney. Understandably hard to comprehend to those unfamiliar with the pocket dynamo, behind her sweet disposition lies one of the toughest female fighters to ever come out of the country.
Growing up among the golden guitars in Tamworth, New South Wales, Sensei Ali first struck a chord with Kyokushin karate in 1995 when she began training with Sensei Mark Tyson before moving to Sydney as a Blue-belt to train at AKKA Honbu in Sydney’s Bondi Junction. It was there that she would meet Hanshi John Taylor, the figure who oversaw her journey to Black-belt as well as her battles in both the 50- and 100-man kumites.

“It was obvious from the very first day that Naomi had a very disciplined attitude to training and she soon proved herself to be a very strong fighter. Of course, no one could have envisaged the greatness that she would achieve,” says Hanshi Taylor. “Naomi’s regimen would put an Olympic athlete to shame…”

Training seven days a week, her intense regimen combined strength and conditioning as well as hardened traditional Kyokushin training methods. Dividing her time between the gym, running, and the dojo, Sensei Ali describes her karate bag work as the toughest aspect of her training and one of the keys to her preparation for the 100-man kumite.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Turn the Page

For many years, Via Media Publishing was one of the few martial arts oriented publishing houses that focused on scholarly articles regarding our beloved pastime. The flagship has been the Journal of Asian Martial Arts.

Nothing lasts forever and VMP will cease publishing JAMA, while continuing to publish books and articles. .

Below is a guest post by the publisher Michal DeMarco.

Guest Post

by Michael DeMarco, M.A.

Via Media Publishing

 Twenty-five years ago, there were few martial art publications available to be read by anyone interesting in seriously learning about combatives. What was available usually oozed of hype and misinformation. Many of the early writings were not reliable for obtaining facts about Asian martial traditions, their theory or practice. Because of this sad state, in 1991, I decided to start Via Media Publishing and founded the quarterly Journal of Asian Martial Arts.

The initial goal was to setup a periodical that met academic standards. Articles had to provide references to ensure included “facts” were not pulled out of the air. As we all know through recent new media coverage of contemporary politics, there is great confusion over what is fact and fiction. In reality, it is not a mystery: either a statement is a fact, or it isn’t. Atheory, a guess, or a probability are not facts. Anyone serious writer should clearly state what they know with certainty, and what  remains unsure. This holds true across the board—in our case, writings on Asian martial arts.

The major difficulty in starting the journal was finding authors who understood the different between scholarly verses popular writing; the former seeing knowledge while the later is primarily produced for entertainment. The writing style needs to fit the purpose, so there are a variety of writing styles. Some write to make book sales or increase school enrollment. Cloaking a sales piece in an academic format does not work as truth is compromised by the intent.

The Journal of Asian Martial Arts was published for over twenty years. Besides providing well-research articles on a variety of topics by scholar-practitioners, the journal presented a new way to approach the study and practice of martial arts. Other publications and writers took note, and their quality of content improved. Today, much has been published on the martial arts and a good share is of very high quality.
Here is an interesting fact! — Popular writings about martial arts sell more than scholarly writings. The mass market is drawn toward entertainment. (“Are you not entertained?” asked the Gladiator).

The decision to cease publishing the Journal of Asian Martial Arts was made largely because there was not enough support. In order to keep the material available for serious practitioners and researchers, we have been publishing anthologies under specific topics falling under the main categories of China, Japan, Korean, S.E. Asian, and Other areas. At the same time, we have published a few new books, the newest being Laoshi’s Legacy:Emergence from Shadow by Jan Kauskas. This is a fictional work based on solid experience, focusing on the taijiquan of Zheng Manqing (Cheng Man-ch’ing), and is an enjoyable read that provides great insights into teaching and learning any martial art.
Because much of the journal material is now included in the anthologies, we will soon close our journal website that offers all the individual articles at low-cost. If anyone wants to purchase an article or two, now is the time to buy!
It has been a joy to produce the journal and books over the years. We hope the readings have benefited many in their research and practice, and will continue to inspire physical and mental training, as well as research regarding the martial arts. The journal’s logo is an abstract of a balanced pen and sword tip, illustrating a need for nurturing the martial and the cultured in the practitioner. 

Above all, we hope others will step up to further recognition of the need for including maturity and responsibility in martial art practice. Many have lost the Way of the Japanese “do” and the Chinese “dao”. There is great value in participating in whatever way you can, as does the CookDingsKitchen blog.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Reference for Many Aikido Styles

At is an amazing reference for many styles of aikido: Aikikai, Tomiki, Iwama, Yoshinkan and Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu.

There are curriculum lists with links to videos of the techniques described, plus more. To check it out, click here.