Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, 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, February 28, 2022

Train Like Rocky


Over at the Art of Manliness, they compiled all the training sequences from the Rocky movies. They are fun to watch.

 The introduction is below. Follow the link here to see the training sequences. Enjoy!

The best part of many action/superhero/sports films is arguably the training montage scene, in which we get to see, in compressed time, the protagonist prepare to do battle with his opponent. There’s something incredibly inspiring, and thumos-inflaming, about seeing a man transform from clumsy and out-of-shape, to skilled and fit. It’s a potent symbol of the kind of metamorphosis we all often hope to make in our lives.

Of all the cinematic training montage scenes that have ever been, those from the Rocky films are unarguably the best. Featuring a perennial underdog who always manages to finds scrappy ways to beat the odds, and always gives it all he’s got, they never fail to light a fire in your belly.

Fictional though the Rocky character is, his training regimen provides real inspiration on tough, often creative ways to get fit and strong — no-excuses exercises that frequently employ free or improvised equipment and could be incorporated into your own routine (make sure you get the butcher’s permission before you go punching his carcasses of meat, though).

Below we break down every single exercise from the training montages featured in the first, second, third, fourth, and sixth Rocky installments (in Rocky V, Balboa takes a break from fighting himself to train another boxer). Some of the exercises remain consistent across the various films, while each installment also incorporates new moves and methods.

Use this complete library of exercises to get pumped, add some variety to your workouts, and start really training like a champ.

 

 

 

Friday, February 25, 2022

The Fundamentals of Wu Family Style Taijiquan


Below is a video by the standard bearer of the Wu Style, Master Eddie Wu, explaining the fundamentals of the Wu Family Style of Taijiquan.

 

 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

About Muscular Fascia


Our fascia is an interesting topic when it comes to our training. Some people swear by training the fascia and others ignore it completely.  Below is an interesting video on the topic.



Sunday, February 13, 2022

The History of the Japanese Tea Ceremony


We haven't had an article about tea in ages. Below is an excerpt that appeared at Japanese History and Culture regarding the history of the Japanese Tea Ceremony. The full post may be read here. Enjoy.

History of the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Drinking of green tea was known in China from the fourth century. Tea plants didn’t grow in Japan until the first seeds were brought from China during the Tang dynasty (China 618-907), when relations and cultural exchanges between the two countries reached a peak.

In the eighth century the first mention of a formal ceremony involving the drinking of tea is found. However, at this time, it probably didn’t look much like the tea ceremony we know these days. Also, during the eighth century a Chinese Buddhist priest wrote a book on the proper method of preparing tea. The book was called “Cha Ching” and taught the correct temperature of hot water and the use of tea vessels. It is said that today’s style of the tea ceremony evolved largely through the influence of this book.

During the Nara period (Japan 710-794) tea plants were grown in Japan and mainly consumed by priests and noblemen as medicine. Toward the end of the Tang dynasty in China, the drinking of tea was going through a transformation from medicine to beverage, but due to deteriorating relations between the two countries this transformation did not reach Japan till much later. The Japanese were forced to mold and cultivate their own traditions and culture around the tea. Tea was a rare and valuable commodity from the Nara period to the Heian period (794-1192) so rules and formalities were based on this concept. Had tea been native to Japan or more readily available, it is almost certain that the tea ceremony would not have been created.

Kamakura period in Japan.

In 1187 Myoan Eisai, a Japanese priest, traveled to China to study philosophy and religion. When he came back, he became the founder of Zen Buddhism and build the first temple of the Rinzai sect. It is said that he was the first one to cultivate tea for religious purposes, unlike others before him who grew tea for medicinal use only. He was also the first to suggest and teach the grinding of tea leaves before adding hot water. A Sung emperor named Hui Tsung, referred to a bamboo whisk used to whisk the tea after hot water was poured over it in his book Ta Kuan Cha Lun (A General View of Tea). These two methods formed the basis for the tea ceremony as we know it today.

Some hostility was created among monks who didn’t like Eisai’s newly introduced religious ideas which he had imported, but the Kamakura shogunate, who were among his first converts, helped him succeed in enlisting protection. In 1211, Eisai was the first to write a treatise on tea in Japan. In his treatise, Kissa Yojoki (Tea drinking is good for health) Eisai suggested that the drinking of tea had certain health benefits and cures for; loss of appetite, paralysis, beriberi, boils and sickness from tainted water. According to him it was a cure for all disorders, so this perhaps was the main reason that the Tea Ceremony gained such popularity.

 

Monday, February 07, 2022

A Matter of Distance


Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at Ichijoji regarding the famous duel fought between Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro. The full post may be read here.

An understanding of distance is a fundamental part of bujutsu, but it is perhaps one of the most difficult to understand. Although it involves physical distance, it includes (at the very least) consideration of subtle angles and adjustments based on timing and an appreciation of the range of the weapons used by both combatants.

 

The paired kata of Japanese bugei include aspects of this, but some of the finer points may not be grasped by even quite advanced practitioners. They were designed to be absorbed rather than to be explained, and it may be that specific explanations are a recent addition to teaching – few modern practitioners have the luxury to immerse themselves so deeply that these relationships are fully revealed. Nor is there the same sense of necessity. Even though many of these kata were developed and passed on in times of relative peace, training was more severe than it is today.

 

This control of distance was an aspect of his art for which Miyamoto Musashi was particularly well known, and an understanding of which was key to his famous duel with Sasaki Kojiro. Even if no-one can really be sure what happened, a careful analysis of what we do know provides interesting insights into some of the possibilities.

Although Musashi did not write of his fights, his writing contains references that may have a basis in specific experiences, as well as explaining broader principles. In The 35 Articles of Strategy, he wrote:

 

There are a number of different ways of covering distance according to established theories of heiho. Here I am speaking of something different. Whichever way it may be, it is something you will learn by much repetition. Speaking generally, you should be aware that when you can strike someone with your sword, you may be struck by their sword. When you wish to strike someone, you must forget about yourself. You should investigate this thoroughly.

(Author’s translation)

 

Kojiro was skilled with a particularly long sword, a skill he had developed, it is said, through acting as chief training partner to his master, Toda Seigen. As Seigen’s specialty was the short sword, it might seem strange that Kojiro used a sword that was longer than the norm. The reason, it is said, is that in refining his skill, Seigen had Kojiro use an increasingly long blade. Thus Kojiro’s skill with a long sword developed as his master’s technique grew ever better. 

P
art of the skill he developed was the ability to keep another swordsman at bay with the length of his sword. Length itself is no guarantee of victory, but Kojiro had also developed an extreme sensitivity and ability to rapidly change the direction of his sword stroke, unusual in a weapon so long, all of which made him an extremely difficult adversary. 

 

Musashi would have been aware of Kojiro’s famous ‘returning swallow’ technique (tsubamekaeshi), and he staked the results of their encounter on his ability to overcome this technique. Whatever the precise nature of the technique (and there is some argument about it, although the most likely seems to be a feint and attack or combination attack) it was clear that it made use of the length of the blade and that Kojiro was also used to dealing with attempts to move inside.

 

Instead, Musashi chose to remain at the very edge of Kojiro’s range and defeat him with a weapon that was just a fraction longer than Kojiro’s sword. The popular story is that he carved a wooden sword from a boat’s oar as he was being rowed to the site of the duel, but it is far more likely that he had already decided on and made the weapon he was going to fight with well before the duel. After all, if his strategy depended on a slight length advantage, he would want to make sure he had got it right.

 

Musashi had faced long weapons before – according to the Kokura monument (erected by Musashi’s adopted son in 1654, less than 10 years after Musashi’s death, and generally considered reliable) Yoshioka Denshichiro used a wooden sword five feet in length against him – and even if the story of his duel at the Hozoin Temple is discounted for lack of evidence, a well-verified account of a later, friendly, duel with the spear expert, Takada Matabei, shows Musashi was skilled at getting inside the perimeter of a longer weapon. That he chose a different strategy attests to Kojiro’s skill.

 

According to the Kokura Monument, Kojiro’s sword (named Drying Pole/Laundry Pole – Monohoshizao) was 3 shaku (about 90cm, plus the hilt, to give a total of something like 114 cm in length). Although the wooden sword Musashi used no longer survives, there are (at least) two surviving wooden swords he was said to have carved at a later date in response to enquiries about the duel. One of these is in the Matsui Collection, and was given by Musashi to Matsui Yoriyuki (the adopted son and heir of the Hosokawa vassal who acted as host to Musashi during the period of his duel with Kojiro). Given the relationship he had with the family, (and the fact that the Matsui Collection includes a number of other items made by Musashi) it is likely that this is genuine. It looks similar to a regular bokken in shape, but is rather larger – 127cm (4 shaku 2 sun), which would make it a little longer than Kojiro’s sword.

 

Friday, February 04, 2022

Deliberate Practice


Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at The Art of Manliness on deliberate practice. The full post may be read here.

What creates great men? What made Ted Williams the greatest hitter in the history of baseball? What made Shakespeare one of history’s greatest writers? How did Carnegie become one of history’s greatest businessmen?

The typical answer that most people give is that greatness is born. Nature blesses a few great men with some sort of innate gift that allows them to excel at what they do – Shakespeare entered the world with a peerless writing talent, and Williams was born to swing a bat. Under this view, you’re either born with talent and destined for greatness or born without talent and destined for a life of mediocrity.

There’s one small problem with this view of greatness: there isn’t much science to back it up.

In fact, studies show that greatness and excellence aren’t “a consequence of possessing innate gifts [and talents].” Rather greatness is the result of years and years of enormous amounts of hard, painful work. Ted Williams spent hours hitting baseballs, and Carnegie spent his entire adolescence learning how to network and developing his prodigious memory, skills that would turn him into a mind-bogglingly wealthy captain of industry.

Studies have demonstrated that young prodigies excel not because of some kind of mystical innate talent but on the merits of pure hustle. Mozart wrote his first masterpiece at 21. That’s pretty young. But people often forget to mention that he had spent the previous 18 years of his life studying music under the tutelage of his father. Mozart had been paying his dues since he was three years old, and it paid off big for him.

In short, great men aren’t born; great men are made, and they’re made through the process of deliberate practice.

What Is Deliberate Practice?

In the book Talent is Overrated, Fortune Magazine editor Geoff Colvin highlights recent studies that show that greatness can be developed by any man, in any field, through the process of deliberate practice. How does one practice deliberately? Colvin proposes five elements that allow a man to practice deliberately and thus achieve greatness.

1. Deliberate practice is an activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help. Most people practice by mindlessly repeating an activity over and over without any clear goal of what they want to accomplish. For example, let’s say a man wants to improve his golf game. If he’s like most men, he’ll just go to the driving range and hit a couple of buckets of balls without thinking much about specific ways he can improve his swing. Three hundred balls later, this man hasn’t improved at all. In fact, he may have gotten worse.

Deliberate practice, on the other hand, is designed with clear objectives and goals. When top performers practice, they break down their skill into sharply defined elements. After breaking down a skill into parts, a top performer will work intently on the element they need to improve most. During the entire practice, they focus solely on that one aspect.

Take the golfing example again. Instead of just going to the driving range to mindlessly hit golf balls, break down your golf swing into different elements – body alignment, club-face alignment, grip, back swing, down swing, etc. After breaking down your golf swing into specific parts, go to the range and spend an hour focusing on just one of those elements. Keep working on that one element until you’ve made improvement, then move on to the next one.

Carrying out practice sessions in this deliberate fashion is a skill that takes time to develop. That’s why having a teacher help you design your practice sessions can be invaluable. They have the knowledge and expertise to break your skill down into specific elements. Teachers can also see you in ways you can’t see yourself and can direct you to focus on the elements that you need to work on most.

Unfortunately, many men have the tendency to think they’ve outgrown the need for teachers or coaches. We think it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help. But asking for help will only make you stronger and better. There’s a reason the best golfers in the world continue to have coaches and the most successful businessmen seek the advice of mentors throughout their career. They understand the power of an outside eye and opinion in their personal growth. Don’t let your manly pride get in the way of your success. Stay humble and hungry.

2. The practice activity can be regularly repeated. The world’s top performers spend years of their lives practicing. Ted Williams, the greatest hitter in baseball history, would practice hitting balls until his hands bled. Basketball legend Pistol Pete Maravich would go into the gym on Saturday mornings and practice shooting from a specific spot on the court until the gym closed at night. To be the best, you have to put in the time. In fact, if you want to become an expert in your field, you’ll need to put in at least 10,000 hours or 10 years of practice first.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, Gladwell describes a psychology experiment done in the 1990s to see what created world class musicians. Psychologist Anders Ericsson went to Berlin’s Academy of Music and divided the school into three groups: the stars, the “good” performers, and those who were unlikely to ever play professionally and would probably become music teachers. They were all asked the same question: “Over the course of the years, ever since you picked up a violin, how many hours have you practiced?”

All the violinists had started playing at around age five, and they all played about two or three hours a week during their first few years. However, around the age of eight, an important difference began to emerge in the amount of hours they each practiced. By age 20, the stars in the group had all totaled 10,000 hours of practice over the course of their lives; the “good” students had totaled 8,000 hours, and the future music teachers just over 4,000 hours.

Nobel Prize winning psychologist Herbert Simon and William Chase found similar results in their study of world-class chess players. They found that no one seemed to reach the top ranks of chess without at least 10 years of intensive study and practice. The “ten-year rule” cuts across disciplines, too. Top musicians, athletes, scientists, and authors don’t reach the top until after they’ve put in around ten years of work and practice.

There are no short cuts to success. If you want to be the best man you can be, you’ll have to commit yourself to years of repeated practice.