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

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

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Some Notes on Judo History

The conventional wisdom is that groundwork entered Judo after the Kodokan lost a number of matches to the Fusen Ryu, which specialized in the later.

Maybe it's not so clear cut. Someone over at Reddit decided not to take this story on it's face and to do a little research. Below is an excerpt from a chain of posts on Reddit. The full chain may be read here.

I am pretty sure that most people here knows the story of how the Fusen-Ryu jujutsu school, led by a guy named Mataemon Tanabe, defeated the Kodokan in competition and gave it its newaza, which over time became the BJJ we practice and love. At least, that was what Renzo Gracie and John Danaher say in their Mastering Jujitsu book. They give it an ample but rather superficial covering, and most interestingly, they give basically no sources for their info. As it tickled my curiosity due to a recent mention on /r/judo, and because I love to unveil historical conspiracies and propaganda in general, I started a search binge about the matter in Wikipedia and its sources, as well as some old martial arts forums. After some interesting discoveries, my conclusion is that we are being treated with skewed history again. Gracie and Danaher's book presents as true a lot of myths which, at least according to the available info, aren't any truer than your typical Gracies in Action statements.

  • The Fusen-Ryu defeated the Kodokan in an inter-school competition

There is no solid source about a full-on inter-school competition. It's very well recorded that Mataemon Tanabe defeated personally many judokas in challenges and tournaments, but it was down to just him. A probable proof of it is that his school never grew very much: in the time and place, and inter-school victory over the Kodokan with any number of students would have been devastating and would have make Fusen-Ryu become a force instead of the niche style it turned out to be. Tanabe worked as a police instructor for most of his life and seemed to have few formal apprentices.

  • The Fusen-Ryu school specialized in groundfighting

No, it didn't. Its focus was in gyaku-waza, which is basically aikido-like standing wristlocking. Indeed, if you search for a Fusen-Ryu demonstration in YouTube, you will see something similar. Specialties aside, however, it seems Fusen-Ryu was just as well rounded as most of the jujutsu schools of the time, even those which went to form judo. It trained striking, wrestling and chokes, as well as fighting with a ridiculous number of weapons. Tanabe himself favored ground grappling, but it was entirely due to his personal experience in challenge matches, not unlike Mitsuyo Maeda would do some years later.

  • The judokas lost because their opponents pulled guard

Can't find a match account in which Tanabe does explicitly hikikomi (pulling down) or jumping to guard. His favourite takedown was stated to be tomoe nage, which admittedly can end up like a guard pull if missed, but he instead liked to transition into an ashi garami and go for a leglock instead of guarding up. Aside from tomoe nage, he was good in kuchiki taoshi and morote gari, which are your typical wrestling takedowns. Finally, a source has him doing a buttscoot in a match, but even that is disputed by another source.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Budo and Training

Below is an excerpt from a post from Green Leaves Forest. The full post may be read here.

Kyudo is about ups and downs.
It’s not a machine. It doesn’t fit nicely into a day-planner. It cannot be forced.
Kyudo is a natural phenomenon of the universe, its own entity in and of itself, and at the same time an interactive member with everything else it exists along. Kyudo follows certain laws of nature, and while it can be predicted to an extent, it also defies logic at times and shifts in ways we couldn’t expect.
In our modern world of science, not everything is known about the universe, and the same goes for Kyudo. One could even say we know close to nothing about the true nature of the universe, and the same could be said for Kyudo.
One could say the entire universe can be found within ourselves, and perhaps one could say the same about Kyudo.
I have been struggling lately with the bow.
But I am not worried.
I used to worry. But it serves no use. And I don’t like it. So I don’t so it anymore.
I make mistakes and don’t perfectly accomplish what I set out to do,
but I don’t worry.
People I train with have been saying lately, “Zac, you’re not as good as you were when you passed the renshi test.
Naturally this bothers me. I let it in, and let it pass, because I don’t want to hold on to it.
It makes me want to worry. It makes me want to ask myself, “What’s wrong?” That is a great question, but maybe nothing is “wrong.” Well, maybe something in my technique is “wrong.” But am I, as a person, “wrong”?
My technique is far from perfect, so I guess you can say it’s “wrong.”
I practice Kyudo to cultivate myself, so if I am aiming to become a better self than I am now, then perhaps I could call the present self “wrong”. But I don’t think it’s a very accurate description of the situation, or being that I am.

Friday, August 24, 2018

New Translation: The 13 Nei Gong Exercises of Xing Yi Quan

Franklin Frick, from over at the head instructor of the Spirit Dragon Institute and owner of Shen Lung Publishing, has just published a translation of book of Xingyiquan Neigong exercises, "Nei Gong 13 Exercises Illustrated and the Meaning of Xingyi Explained."

From Franklin:  

This book, originally published in 1926, is now available in English. It gives the reader a rare glimpse into authentic internal training from a bygone era.

The translation is available to purchase through Amazon:

Paperback : 68 pages, 6x9 inches

or get the Kindle Edition 

It was circumstance and chance that led me to this text and curiosity that motivated me to translate it.
I was recently talking with one of my senior (very senior) kung fu brothers. We were reminiscing about our teacher, who is now passed away. He mentioned that one time, our teacher called him over to his house and taught him a set of exercises. We don't know where he learned them or from who. And as far as we know, he never taught them to anyone else.

My kung fu brother told me that, he had once found a book in Chinatown that seemed to cover the same exercises that he learned. This is what led me to translate this book.
I was curious, so I decided to translate the book. To be clear, I never learned the exercises contained in this book. But, I did find the content interesting and informative.
The first part of the book introduces a practice of 13 Nei Gong Exercises. These exercises use physical movement, breathing, and intention (Yi). These exercises are accompanied by self massage and hitting (paida). The goal of the exercises is to build energy and send it to every part of the body. Additionally, a large part of the training involves filling the membranes and making them as strong as the tendons and the bones. Although it is not stated in the book, this training seems to be a method of iron body training.
The training prohibitions, the sequence of training, the methods of hitting and rubbing, the Nei Gong Exercises, and the self massage are all covered in detail. Additionally, there are also in-depth sections on the theory behind the training.

These sections on the theory are where this book really shines. It is very rare to have this much detail given so freely. These sections helped me to understand some other practices I have learned.
The second part of this book covers the oral teaching that the author received from his Xing Yi teacher.
Although the book is short, it is packed with information. Even the author in the postscript states, "Have a strategy to exert yourself in this lifetime. Strengthen the body through exercise. Be careful of this good fortune. Do not neglect it just because this book is short."

You can take a look at the table of contents to get an idea of what this book covers:
Nei Gong 13 Exercises Illustrated




              Important Points for Practicing

              Overview of the Practice

              Contraindications for Practice

              Rubbing Method

              Explaining the Sequence for the Rubbing and Hitting Method

                             Bamboo Beater

                             Wire Beater

                             Sand Bag Stick

                             Wooden Stick

              Exercise 1: Dan Tian

              Exercise 2: Mouth of the Stomach

              Exercise 3: Left Rib

              Exercise 4: Heart

              Exercise 5: Chest

              Exercise 6: Spine

              Exercise 7: Top of the Head

              Exercise 8: Temples

              Exercise 9: Testicles

              Exercise 10: Right Arm

              Exercise 12: Leg

              Exercise 13: Move Qi to the Whole Body

              Complete Rubbing Method

              Method of Collecting and Swallowing on the 1st and 15th of the Lunar Month

              Medicinal Wash Formula

              Talking about the Membranes (fascia)

              Talking about the Tendons

              Talking about Qi and Blood

              Ren and Du Channels

The Meaning of Xing Yi Explained





              4 Divisions

              4 Endings Power


              3 Powers

              9 Numbers

              5 Elements

              6 Harmonies

              7 Heavenly Bodies

              Rhymed Formulas Oral Teaching

              The Song of Double Push

              Essentials of the 10 Shapes


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Dao De Jing, #68, Compassion

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 #68, Compassion..

68. Compassion

Compassion is the finest weapon and best defence.
If you would establish harmony,
Compassion must surround you like a fortress.

A good soldier does not inspire fear;
A good fighter does not display aggression;
A good conqueror does not engage in battle;
A good leader does not exercise authority.
This is the value of unimportance;
This is how to win the cooperation of others;
This to how to build the same harmony that is in nature.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Many Aspects of Kyokushin Karate

Below is an excerpt from a post that appears at The Martial Way. The full post may be read here.

At its core Kyokushin Karate is a martial art that focuses on power (also partly the reason why Sosai Oyama fought bulls was to market his style as an art that focuses on power).

In Kyokushin there are typically many different styles at work, generally speaking there are:

1. Technical
2. Power
3. Stamina
4. Pressure
5. Outside
6. Counter
7. Inside

Most Kyokushin fighters who fight in Knockdown tournaments are usually a combination of some of these. It is notoriously difficult to analyse every style at work in Kyokushin because there are numerous, for example there are many technical fighters but there is no one style to define a technical orientated Kyokushin fighter, since they all fight technically but in their own unique ways, so I will focus on the styles I have seen & have knowledge of & have had success in Kyokushin tournaments.

1. Efficiency style – this style incorporates principles introduced by one of the premier martial artists from the 20th century: Kenichi Sawai:who founded the martial art Taikiken. Taikiken is the Japanese name for the Chinese martial art – Yiquan founded by Wang Xiangzhai. Kenichi Sawai for those who do not know, was a great martial artist from the early-mid 19th century – he was a 5th dan judoka, kendo & Iaido master. The art focuses on ‘developing natural movement and fighting ability through a system of training methods & concepts, to improve the perception of one’s body, it’s movement, balance and force.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Structure in Martial Arts

Below is an excerpt from a post at Nissankan Kobudo on Kamae, or stance (sort of). The full post may be read here. Unfortunately, the kanji didn't survive the cutting and pasting.  

The literal translation of the kanji for kamae is  Kamae are therefore considered the structure  around which techniques are formed. They are best described as combative engagement postures.
Kamae are not fixed positions or poses, they are momentary, loose, flexible. One must be able to flow, to move from one position to the next as an encounter unfolds, in a natural and efficient manner. The choice of kamae is determined by the relationship with an opponent. Kamae must adapt to the opponents position to take advantage of his movements. Kamae reflect the fluidity of water, flexible and elusive. Each kamae is linked to another in a seamless flowing movement. It goes without saying that a rigid unmoving kamae will end in defeat.

In essence, the kamae are the physical embodiment of one's mental attitude. Assumed with the entire body, whether armed or unarmed, kamae encompass one’s mental attitude as well as physical attitude (posture). The mental and physical aspects of a technique may be referred to singly as the posture of the mind – kokoro-gamae and the posture of the body  mi-gamae.
Mastering kamae is considered essential to the combatant's psycho-physical dominance over an opponent. At the beginning of a combative encounter, a series of postures may be adopted to dominate an opponent, not physically but psychologically. The controlling of an opponent through adopting a kamae which may be hard to read, i.e.; hiding a weapon from view, or disguising a follow-up movement, is considered the pinnacle of martial practice. A considerable number of postures found in kenjutsu schools use postures that disguise a swordsman's possible strikes, these are termed postures of yamiuchi unperceived strikes. Also, various kamae were developed by schools with the sole intention of taking advantage of body language – through posture, eye contact, slight movements etc. It should be pointed out also that the various kamae are distinctive to the different schools, they are in a way signatures  that are readily recognisable by those who practice kobudo.
Some schools have a vast number of kamae, most added over time in the Tokugawa period (1600 – 1868), a time of relative peace and urbanisation. Other schools contain just a few tried and true kamae that they consider to be all that is necessary.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Aikido and Daito Ryu

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at True Aiki. It discusses the relationship and history between Aikido and Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu. The full post may be read here.

Why Aikido isn’t Daito Ryu

The long-held Aikido party line has been that Ueshiba Morihei, after studying many martial arts and, after having an enlightenment experience, formed Aikido.  It is now clear that the primary technical influence on Ueshiba Morihei was Daito Ryu.  And rightfully so.  Of the arts that Ueshiba dabbled in, his study of Daito Ryu, under Takeda Sokaku, was the longest, deepest, and most authenticated.
So how is it that Ueshiba, the man that Takeda Tokimune called Takeda Sokaku’s “most beloved student,” came to leave Daito Ryu and avoid his teacher?  How could Ueshiba Morihei justify the claim of creating a “new art” while performing Daito Ryu waza until the day he died?  How could he, in one conversation, credit Takeda Sokaku with opening his eyes to “True Budo” and claim to have “discovered” a “New Budo?”
Here I explain:
  • Why, and by whom, Ueshiba was encouraged and supported to become independent of Daito Ryu
  • How Ueshiba justified his actions to himself and others
  • How this justification aligns with his statement that Aikido has no kata
  • Why Ueshiba Morihei’s rationale for the justification of Aikido had to be changed by Ueshiba Kishomaru and Tohei Koichi for the spread of Modern Aikido
  • How all this relates to Aiki

Monday, August 06, 2018

Tai Chi Classics and MMA

Graham Barlow, of The Tai Chi Notebook, wrote an article for on applying the Tai Chi Classics to MMA. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.

... I would argue that the advice in the Taiji Classics is, in fact, timeless, and applies equally well to a 5th century battlefield as it does to a modern MMA match. There are innumerable examples of good advice on a fighter’s movement and posture in the classics. Take the following lines from the Taiji classic attributed to Chan Seng Feng as an example:

“In motion the whole body should be light and agile, 
with all parts of the body linked as if threaded together.”

Think of a truly well conditioned fighter – they seem to move with the same natural grace and power that a cheetah displays when chasing a gazelle, or a tiger poses while stalking deer. When you see somebody looking awkward and stiff, it’s usually not long before they hit the canvas. Take Ronda Rousey’s last fight in UFC 207 for the bantamweight title against the champion Amanda Nunes.
In the brief 48 seconds it took before the referee stepped in and stopped the fight, Nunes stalked Rousey like a panther. She looked supple, composed and fluid. In contrast Rousey looked stiff and uncoordinated, her raised hands separated from her torso as she desperately tried to shield her face from incoming blows. “Light and agile” won the day, as it so often does.

In the same UFC event we also witnessed a virtuoso display of fighting by Cody Garbrandt and Dominick Cruz, who both perfectly expressed the ideas of emptying the left and right when pressured, that we talked about earlier. In a nutshell, if somebody strikes at your right side then you need to make that side ‘empty’, say, by ducking your head out of the way. Thus you ‘empty the right when pressured’.

When empty and full are in harmony the strike is effectively neutralised. You could see Cruz and Garbrandt, time after time, perfectly evading each other’s attacks throughout the fight. This is yin and yang in harmony, and also the central concept that Taijiquan is based on – continually changing to keep the Yin (empty) parts of the body and the Yang (full) parts in balance, while engaging with an opponent.

In contrast, if you watch the Rousey and Nunes fight you will see several examples of Nunes’ ‘full’ right jab meeting the ‘full’ side of Rousey’s face, without the required movement skill to evade it.

Friday, August 03, 2018

The Three States of Initiative in Martial Arts

During the 16th century and picking up steam in the 17th century under the Tokugawa Shugunate, a lot of calories were burned on the theory of combat, particularly swordsmanship. 

An important topic were the aspects of "Sen" which in this case may loosely be translated as "initiative." While specific to Japanese martial arts, these concepts really can apply to all martial arts.

Below is an excerpt from a post at Eishin Ryu Iaido Singapore. The full post may be read here.

The Three States of Sen - Sen sen no sen, Sen no sen, Go no sen

July 13, 2018
Valeth, Billy

(That is a lot of sen...) (-_-)"

This article attempts to explain the concept of “Sen sen no sen, Sen no sen, Go no sen”. Before delving into explanation proper, a few other elaborations are needed. “Sen” (先) roughly translates to “before”. “Go” (後) roughly translates to “after”.

Let’s use the 5W-1H (what, when, where, why and how) to explain what this concept is about. 

WHAT is “Sen sen no sen, Sen no sen, Go no sen” about?

This is regarding your position, intent, and actions relative to your imaginary (in Iai context) opponent’s position, intent and actions. Think of it as your intended strategy in response to your opponent’s. With “Sen sen no sen, Sen no sen, Go no sen”, imagine they are 3 broad strategies you might use. Easy, yes?

WHEN and WHERE is this concept applied for maximum effectiveness?

This addresses the space-time domain. Which type of strategy you want to use depends on the distance between you and your opponent, the waza situation you are in (waza bunkai), and your reflex – which response comes to mind?
Bear in mind that while practice is done in controlled environments, the smoothness and finesse of execution translates to actions within split-seconds. There is no interruptions nor decision paralysis. This has to be something we work towards to.

WHY the fuss about this concept?

Obviously, it lies with whether you emerge the victor from the encounter!

HOW do I do it?

It may not be apparent initially while you practice. As you practice over time and gain proficiency, you might wonder about the purpose for certain actions of respective wazas. Finding out and understanding their purpose is the first step towards appreciating the strategies (Sen no sen, etc.).
Tachi uchi no kurai is one area of practicing the application of said strategies. Another is paired practice of wazas (strict observance of safety is paramount).
Also influencing the successful application of these strategies is heavily dependent on how good you are in your fundamental wazas.

That was a short primer to what “Sen sen no sen, Sen no sen, Go no sen” is. At the beginning of the article, we described the translations of “Sen” and “Go”. Putting these characters together, they can be collectively translated as taking the “initiative, in advance, before or after your opponent”