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 ~

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

At The Edge

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at Zen Habits. It's specifically about practicing "at the edge" in running, but I think it applies equally well to martial arts. The full post may be read here. Enjoy.

I’m not the world’s greatest runner, but lately I’ve been challenging myself to stay at my edge.

As I was running at my edge the other day, it occurred to me that this is a useful practice in many areas in life. Learning to play at your edge is a challenging practice, but pays off in so many ways.

If you learn to play at your edge, you learn to stop shying away from discomfort. You grow and learn in new ways. And you develop a confidence in yourself that is hard to do when you stay in your comfort zone.

Let’s explore this challenging practice.

How I Stay at My Edge with Running

Let’s use running as a concrete example of this, so you know what we’re talking about.

First, I should say that I don’t do all my running at my edge. I run about three times a week, and typically only one of those runs is at my edge. The other two are at an easy pace.

But that one run a week at my edge typically looks something like this:

  • Warmup: I start out running easy, warming up. Then I walk for a minute. This has me fully ready to run.
  • Easing in: I start running and ease myself into a faster pace.
  • The Pace: I run about as fast as I can run if I were running a 5K race (which is a fast pace for me).
  • The Edge: At some point, I feel like slowing down — this is the edge of my discomfort, and it makes me want to back away. At this point, I try to stay here at the edge and not back off. Note that this is not an all-out sprint, but a sustained strong pace.
  • Staying at the Edge: If I stay at the edge, it usually gets more uncomfortable. If I can stay here, I do. If I have to rest, I do so, but then try to come back to the edge.

I repeat this, staying at the edge as long as I can, then backing off, then going back. If I can stay without resting, I do it, but resting and then going back is often a part of the process.

As you can see, this isn’t about never backing off. It’s about staying at the edge for as long as I’m able. And using rest as a way to get back to the edge.

By the way, this has been a really effective way for me to get stronger at running, though that’s not the only point. The main point is to learn to stay with the discomfort.

Where Else Can We Practice at the Edge?

Running is a pretty concrete example, but there are lots of other examples:

  • Strength training: Similar to running, I practice at my edge with lifting weights or bodyweight strength exercises. I don’t have a fixed weight or number of reps to lift, but feel what I’m capable of that day. If I can lift heavier, I do. If I can lift more reps, I do. It’s about finding the edge of my discomfort and hanging out there, which always makes me stronger when I do it.
  • Learning: If you’re studying something, it’s pretty uncomfortable to be learning something that you don’t really understand yet. You’re in the unknown, and our instinct is to get out of there as soon as we can. But if you can hang out in the unknown for longer, you’ll learn more. Stay with the learning even if you feel lost.
  • Creating: If you’re writing, making music or art, creating content online, etc … it will bring resistance. That’s the topic of Season 1 of the Zen Habits Podcast — how to hang out with that resistance. If you can stay there in that resistance, you’ll be able to create, but if not, you’ll be stuck in your comfort zone.
  • Focusing: If you want to get better at focusing on work (or reading), the practice is to stay for longer even if you’re a bit uncomfortable. We feel some overwhelm, stress, anxiety … and so we want to run from it. But what if we could stay here for a bit longer?
  • Relationships: The most delicious part of intimacy is when we’re in the unknown together. We learn more about the other person, and ourselves, if we can hang out here. But most of us want to be in the known — where we’re right, or we control things. When you find yourself wanting to be right, or to control things, see if you can let go of that and step into the discomfort of the unknown for a bit.

There are lots of other areas you can practice at the edge – meditation, healthy eating, adventures, public speaking, finances, etc. — but I hope you can see that this is where the deepest learning, growth, intimacy, and creating takes place.

The Benefits I’ve Noticed with Practicing at the Edge

If you can practice regularly at your edge — not all the time, but sometimes — you’ll see lots of benefits. Here are some:

  • Greater growth — you’ll grow faster as a person, and in the particular area (like running or learning) you’re practicing, than ever before.
  • Greater confidence — you’ll learn to trust yourself, that you can stay for longer than you previously believed, and this will have you feeling more confident in all areas of your life.
  • Expansive life — your life will be less held back by discomfort, and you’ll be able to expand to new areas of life that previously felt impossible.
  • Less stress — very often our stress is about our worry about not being able to handle something. But with this greater trust an confidence, and greater sense of expansiveness, we actually feel more fully alive and less worried about not handling things.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Lessons from Weight Lifting

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at The Art of Manliness. While it specifically about weight training, I think everything in it applies equally well to martial arts training. The full post may be read here.

 Back in 2015, I started weightlifting seriously. 

Over eight years of training, I was able to get strong. But more importantly, I discovered a hobby that brought me immense satisfaction. 

While I don’t barbell train like I used to, I still religiously lift weights. 

During my eight years of serious training, I’ve learned some important life lessons from the iron. 

Below, I share five of them.

1. Success Comes From a Long Obedience in the Same Direction

When people decide to get serious with exercise, they tend to focus on the minutiae of their new regimen. People spend a lot of time looking for the right program and the right equipment. They think they’ll see incredible gains if they find the optimal set and rep range. 

But there’s something just as, if not more important, than the training program you choose:

Being consistent with it for months and even years. 

How did I deadlift 600 pounds? I trained consistently for six years. Sure, my programming changed during that time, but the thing that didn’t change was me going down to my garage four times a week to train. 

The necessity of consistency applies to every other endeavor in life. 

I’ve used the consistency principle to lose 30 pounds this year. I didn’t do any crash dieting. I just gradually reduced my calories and stuck to my macro target almost every day for eight months. That’s it. 

When people ask me for advice about their online business, they often ask me about the tools and tricks Kate and I use that helped us get AoM to where it is today. 

Keeping up with the latest trends in technology, marketing, and social media hasn’t been nearly as important as simply sticking to our publishing schedule; for coming up on sixteen years now, we’ve published several pieces of content nearly every single week. AoM isn’t slick, flashy, or even particularly cool, but it is consistent. 

As Nietzsche put it, “everything of the nature of freedom, elegance, boldness . . . and masterly certainty”; everything to do with “virtue, art, music, dancing, reason, spirituality”; everything “that is transfiguring,” that makes “life worth living,” is premised on one thing:

A “long obedience in the same direction.”

The trick is figuring out ways to stay consistent over the long haul. 

When it comes to exercising, we’ve written about how to work out while you’re on vacation, sick, or simply don’t feel like it. There’s plenty of good advice there, and I think it carries over to other parts of life, too. 

But the real secret for staying consistent over the long haul is that . . .

2. You Got to Have Ganas

Ganas is Spanish for desire. 

I’ve written about the centrality of ganas in finding success in whatever you do.

Most of the things I’ve achieved in life were because I really wanted to accomplish those things. I had ganas for those goals.

A big reason I was able to deadlift 600 pounds is that I really, really wanted to deadlift 600 lbs. That strong desire was what compelled me to rarely miss a workout for four years. My coach could give me programming and offer corrections on technique, but he couldn’t make me want to go after a 600-lb deadlift. I had to have the desire myself.

Discipline is really harped on these days as the key to success. 

Discipline is one way to achieve the consistency that’s essential to reaching your goals. 

But constantly exercising self-control is exhausting. 

A better way to stay consistent is to operate with inherent motivation — to enjoy the thing you’re doing so that you want to do the thing that will lead to success. 

What William George Jordan said about duty applies to discipline as well:

Duty is a hard, mechanical process for making men do things that love would make easy. It is a poor understudy to love. It is not a high enough motive with which to inspire humanity. Duty is the body to which love is the soul. Love, in the divine alchemy of life, transmutes all duties into privileges, all responsibilities into joys.

I loved going for big PRs, which is why I could be consistent with powerlifting for so long. Kate and I love working on AoM, which is why we’ve been able to do it for over a decade and a half. 

Love, desire, is the motor that powers your progress.

3. Progress Isn’t Linear

In my quest for barbell PRs, I had a lot of ups and downs. Some weeks, I’d make consistent progress, and some weeks, I went backward. I’d have weeks where I’d deadlift 500 pounds with ease one workout, and then the next, I couldn’t even budge 405 off the floor. Injuries and sickness would pop up and throw my progress out of whack for weeks and even months. 

At first, the up-and-down nature of my progress frustrated the heck out of me, but eventually, I learned that the undulations were part of the process. I adjusted my expectations to the fact that I wouldn’t have continuous linear progression. That did a lot to assuage my angst. 

I also had to teach myself to approach my plateaus and setbacks with some detachment. Instead of freaking out about it and dramatically changing my programming, I just kept doing what I was doing for the most part. Usually things started moving forward again. If I needed to make a change, they’d only be minor tweaks. 

I’ve seen the idea that progress isn’t linear in other parts of my life. During my weight loss journey this year, I’d have weeks where I didn’t lose weight or even gained a few pounds. I didn’t freak out. I just stuck to the plan and made minor adjustments now and then. 

My mood is another area where I’ve seen progress, but not linearly. I’m mercurial and melancholy by nature. I’ve struggled with the black dog for most of my adult life and been consciously working on it for the better part of 15 years. Overall, I think I’m in a much better place now with my mood. Kate would affirm this. My temperamental troughs are less frequent than they were a decade ago, and when they hit, they’re shorter in duration.

But there have been many ups and downs along the way to get to this point. The big thing that’s changed is that when I backslide, I don’t beat myself up over it. I just see it as a setback and stick to my long-standing plan for keeping the black dog leashed.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Bruce Lee and Grappling

When we think of Bruce Lee, we think of punching, kicking and trapping; but the fourth corner of his theory of combat was grappling. 

Below is a 5 minute presentation on grappling in Jeet Kune Do.


Monday, November 27, 2023

Sound and Awareness in Classical Japanese Swordsmanship

Over at Chris Hellman's Ichijoji blog, was an excellent post on how classical Japanese swordmanship trains all of the senses, including hearing. Below is an excerpt. The full post may be read here.


The days shorten, the leaves turn red, the scent of kinmokusei fills the air and in the evening the crickets chirp mournfully. As the autumn kicks in, it is not only the sights, but the scents and sounds that make up our experience of the season. The same is true of my training in traditional martial arts.

Anyone who has spent time training in a traditional dojo, especially in Japan, will have been struck by the sound of bare feet on wooden boards, the resounding thud as a body hits the mats, or the clash of wooden weapons, part and parcel of the environment in which the training takes place and the equipment used. There are other sounds that have more specific and deeper resonances and uses, in training.

Unsurprisingly, much of the training in traditional martial arts involves training the body – not just making it stronger or more flexible, but learning to use it differently. Indeed, training is largely a process of embodying skills to the extent that the body takes on a new identity as it moves. To do this needs powers of observation and sensitivity to a whole variety of physical and mental processes, some of which may not have been noticed previously or were not thought to be important. Becoming aware of and then using these is not an easy task - they are open to misinterpretation and difficult to nail down. Developing them so that they may support functional skills requires sensory input on multiple levels.

The role of sight and touch goes without saying, but sensitivity to the quality of certain sounds can also play a role. Below are just two examples from my experience of learning to use a sword.

The sword puts particular demands on the trainee – you cannot always look to see where your sword is, and even when it is within your field of vision, it may be moving too fast to be able to adjust its movement based on visual feedback. This is especially true of a live blade, when mistakes can have immediate and dramatic consequences. Dave Lowry makes a comment in his book Autumn Lightning about his worried demeanor as a teenager – it wasn’t girlfriend troubles but worrying about how many stitches it might take to sew him up if he made a mistake sheathing his sword that occupied his mind.

An awareness of your blade is vital when wielding a sword. This includes not only the path it takes, but the angle of the blade, too. This may be obvious, but it is sometimes more easily said than done. You can’t look to see where it is or gauge its angle, and so you become more alert to other clues. Sound is part of this.


Friday, November 24, 2023

Vintage Sai Kata

Below is a vintage video of Goju Ryu Master Higaonna Morio performing the Tsukenshitahaku No Sai kata.


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Budo Practice and the Way of Change

At The Budo Bum blog, there was a very good post on Budo being the Way of Change. Below is an excerpt. The full post may be read here.

I talk a lot about the benefits of budo. We go to the dojo and we sweat.  We work at improving some aspect of our skills every time we enter the dojo. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been training or how old we are.  My iaido teacher, Kiyama Hiroshi, was still training in his 90’s. A friend of mine pushed himself to improve his jodo to challenge for 8th dan when he was 90.He didn’t make it to 8th dan, but he was pushing himself to improve until the day he died.

Budo, much like other Japanese arts such as chano yu and shodo, makes three assumptions about practice and us. First, that perfect technique can be imagined. Second, that we can always work to come closer to perfection. Third, that we’ll never achieve perfection, but that’s no excuse for not continuing to grow and improve.

All of the streams of thought that come together to form budo assume that human technique and character can, and should, continue to develop throughout one’s life. Confucius, Lao Zi, Zhuang Zi, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), all provided strands of thought and ideas to the cultural stew of China and Japan. All of them assumed that people could change, grow and improve at every stage of life.

The Zhuangzi is filled with stories that emphasize taking your time and learning things. The idea that learning and development never end is intrinsic to the all of the lines of thought in ancient China that used “way” as a metaphor for their school of thought. There were a lot of them.

On the other hand, there is a common idea in Western thinking that we each have some sort of unchanging, immutable core or essence. I’ve heard many people say “I can’t change. That’s just the way I am.” or “I don’t like it, but that’s who I am.”  Once they finish high school or college, many people seem to think that they are done growing, changing and evolving as a person. Thankfully, there is no evidence to support any of this.

Everyone changes, every day. Whatever we experience changes us. Little things change us in little ways, and big things can be, as the saying goes, “life changing.” Life never stops working on us, changing us, molding us. We are not stone. We are soft flesh that changes and adapts to the stresses it experiences. An essential question is whether we are going to be active participants choosing how we change and what we become, or are we going to be passive recipients of whatever life does to us..

A central concept of the idea of a Way, michi or do is that there is always another step to take, another bit of ourselves we can polish, a bit of our personality that we can improve, and that we can direct that change. This is true whether we are talking about Daoist thought or Confucian thought or something in between. The idea of a finished, unchanging human really doesn’t come up. 

Budo constantly reminds us that we aren’t finished growing, developing, improving. Rather than declaring that we can’t change, budo is a claxon calling out that we change whether we want to or not, and that we can direct that change if we choose.  Budo is about choosing to direct how we change instead of just letting the circumstances of life change us.

We are making the choice to take part in how life shapes us from the moment we enter the dojo, although I doubt many realize how much budo can influence who we become when we make the decision to start training. Good budo training should, and does, change us. Physically we get stronger, more flexible, improve our stamina and develop the ability to endure fierce training and even injuries. That’s the obvious stuff. More importantly, budo changes who we are. It should make us mentally tougher and intellectually more flexible. It should help us to be more open to new experiences and ideas. It should teach us that we can transform ourselves. It’s a cliche that budo training makes people more confident, but it’s also true of good budo training. You go to the dojo and you get used to people literally attacking you, and as time goes on, you’re not only okay with that, but you look forward to it. I don’t know anyone who started budo training because they enjoyed being attacked, but it doesn’t take very long before that sort of training, whether it is done through kata geiko or some sort of randori or free sparring, becomes something you look forward to with a smile.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Is Taijiquan Wrestling?

Taijiquan certainly has it's share of body methods. Is it a form of wrestling? 

See what the video below has to say about it.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Martial Arts in John Wick

Below is a compilation of Aikido, Jujutsu and Judo techniques on display in the John Wick series. Enjoy!


Monday, November 06, 2023

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Elusive Art of I Liq Chuan

Below is an excerpt from a guest post that appeared at Ellis Amdur's excellent Kogen Budo blog. The full post may be read here.

In the tapestry of martial arts, I Liq Chuan (意力拳) emerges as a distinctive thread, weaving together the ancient and the modern. I Liq Chuan draws from a wellspring of principles often associated with the so-called “internal arts,” with its roots in two rare styles of Xingyiquan (鳳陽形意拳) and Baguazhang (如意八卦掌). Not much is known about either, and both appear to be extinct except what little remains embedded within I Liq Chuan’s partner training methods. 

Referred to as the “Martial Art of Awareness,” it has gained a reputation for revealing the secrets of the old masters. Emphasizing mindfulness, the integration of mind and body, and an almost scientific exploration of self, I Liq Chuan’s curriculum is logically structured, allowing for a systematic progression in learning. Through unique training methods and a focus on tangible and measurable results, it offers an approach that reaches people from all walks of life, particularly those seeking a deeper understanding of movement, balance, and the nature of what it really means to be a human being. Under the watchful eye and guiding hand of Grandmaster Sam Chin, the popularity of I Liq Chuan has surged. With schools now operating in more than 20 countries around the globe, GM Chin’s gravitas inspires practitioners across continents, transcending borders, cultures, and languages.

What sets I Liq Chuan apart within the crowded landscape of Chinese martial arts is twofold: First, there’s the magnetic presence of GM Sam Chin, a man whose existence embodies the very best of what martial arts have to offer; his full-contact fighting record and innovative teachings resonate with those seeking authenticity and connection. Second, there’s the curriculum, a masterpiece crafted by GM Sam Chin himself, based on his unique experiences and insights—careful study and practice guide practitioners toward a deeper understanding of the principles governing mind and body. Through spirited discussions with monks, encounters with fellow martial artists, and collaborations with engineers and academics, GM Chin has sculpted a curriculum that’s both a tribute to tradition and a reflection of the present. In a world where martial arts often become entangled in spectacle and myth, I Liq Chuan is a testament to the enduring power of authenticity and the transformative potential of a well-structured path.


 “You can never think outside the box; thinking is the box!” ~GM Sam Chin

As a young man, GM Sam Chin’s ferocious full-contact fights earned him the moniker “The Tiger of Malaysia.” His victories against all-comers in the 70s weren’t just triumphs; they were statements showcasing his adaptability and effectiveness across different fighting styles. In 1977, GM Chin defeated every opponent he faced in 40 seconds or less.

The Chin Family I Liq Chuan Association had an open challenge printed in Chinese newspapers in Malaysia for years.  It was a call to the world. Like the Gracies in Brazil, they demonstrated unshakeable confidence in their art.  As he enters his golden years, however, GM Chin has cast a contemplative gaze back at the exploits of his youth. The open challenge, once a clarion call of confidence and prowess, also caused discord, creating friction with other martial arts schools. With the wisdom of his later years, GM Chin recognizes the value of unity over rivalry. He now endeavors to mend fences and build bridges within the martial arts community. Guided by the declaration “martial arts are all one family,” he embarked on a new project to collaborate with and celebrate masters of all styles. It’s a tribute to his evolving philosophy: from the fiery challenges of youth to the harmonious collaborations of maturity, always seeking growth, understanding, and the true essence of martial arts.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

French Martial Arts

At Ellis Amdur's excellent Kogen Budo blog, there was a guest post on contemporary French martial arts - Savate, cane, fencing, etc. The full post may be read here. Below is an excerpt. Enjoy!

On 26, Rue d’Enghien, in Paris, a plaque indicates that here is practiced: Boxe Française, modern savate, stick, cane, umbrella, fencing and weight training. In my earlier years, I crossed the porch and arrived in a courtyard, then took the well-polished wooden staircase to go up to the second floor. The master was sitting behind his desk,  waiting to introduce my son and me to the place. On the left was a room for massage, and on the right, the training room with its impeccable parquet floor. At the back, to the right, was the room dedicated to weight training, equipped with dumbbells and apparatus made by Jean Lafond himself. In the annex were the changing rooms with a shower and a sauna, also self-made. A curiosity decorated the locker rooms: old black suitcases with the names of the regulars who stored their boxing gear there.

This setting might seem old-fashioned, but I would call it traditional because, here, Boxe Française, was a matter of heritage – of lineage. Jean followed the teaching of his father Roger (and himself of his father Eugene); together, they created and refined their combat sport, the “Roger and Jean Lafond Method.”  He was an accomplished sportsman, holding a diploma in physical education,  He was also a lifeguard and, along with his father,  managed a private beach in Normandy  for many years. Nonetheless, Jean Lafond rejected the term  “martial arts,”and furthermore, the title “master” exasperated him.

The physical training he taught was far from bodybuilding because it was focused on health, flexibility and fitness; the search for an imposing musculature was not the goal. Several students from the physical training establishment of Professor Desbonnet, located nearby, rue du Faubourg Poissonnière, started here when their gym was converted to offices. Their gym had been founded in 1885 by the pioneer of physical training in France. It had the same Parisian atmosphere of the “Belle époque.”

Jean deepened his knowledge by becoming a masseur. For two years, he was the assistant of Doctor De Sambucy, the originator of French osteopathy. This experience influenced his practice and his teaching as he insisted on the respect for the body and its natural possibilities.

Boxe Française according to Jean Lafond

Courses in the Roger and Jean Lafond Method consist of learning many sequences, which vary the levels of contact required to lead the partner into making errors. Priority is given to kicks, usually with the front leg, delivered without retracting it before striking, in order to be as lively and unpredictable as possible. After a demonstration, the famous magician Gérard Majax told Jean: “We do the same thing. We get attention to fool people.” After that, Majax became a regular student.

Another characteristic, neglected in modern practice, is swinging back the arm when kicking for balance and aesthetics. The blows are delivered in bursts, with fast strikes that “sting,” followed with a quick return to guard. Generally, after a session of savate, we would follow up with an English boxing session (hands only).

After repetition of techniques, we move on to responding to free attacks. We then realize that the learned sequences come automatically. It becomes an elegant fight with constant movements and fast techniques to disrupt the partner. Jean’s role model was the American boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, whose elegant style, relaxed and in constant motion, made him a true legend.

It was almost impossible to hit Jean, who could see every blow coming. “Don’t look where you’re going to hit, you’re giving me an indication.” Other remarks such as, “You couldn’t punch through a paper bag with that” were meant to motivate the student to train at higher intensity.

The weapons in the Roger and Jean Lafond Method

The main weapon is a light cherry wood cane. The Lafond method of cane uses the same principles as Boxe Française itself: feinting before striking in order to attract the attention of the partner before delivering an unexpected blow to another part of his body. There is no retracting of the cane before striking either–everything happens around the wrist, switching from the right hand to the left hand.  The hits come at amazing speed. It is not uncommon to come out with one’s chest striped by the impacts. To protect the head in practice, therefore, one puts on a helmet.

The training of the French long stick is done in the same way, keeping it in constant motion by sliding it smoothly between the hands to benefit from all its possibilities.

The defensive handling of the umbrella is also taught with emphasis on hooking with the curved handle. Jean’s father, Roger, taught this method to the British actor Patrick MacNee for the famous TV series ” The Avengers”.

The combat mix for self defense

If Jean, like Roger, insisted on the elegant side of their discipline, they also created “the Panaché de combat ”  t

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Budo as Physical Education in Japanese Schools

Apparently in Japan, Physical Education in schools offers a join of some sort of Budo study (or dance, which is what the girls mostly take).

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at Kenshi 24/7 regarding recent proposed reforms to Budo study in schools. The full post may be read here.



The lecture that I decided to attend was entitled “Further enrichment of budo classes in school physical education” by Seki Nobuo, a senior specialist for national curriculum (P.E.) at the Japan Sports Agency.  It was given on the 5th of September 2023 at Osaka University of Education. 

An ex-high school P.E. teacher before he moved into his governmental post, Seki has had a wide experience across difference P.E. related divisions. It is important to note that he travels across the country promoting the governments sports curriculum and, also, that he is NOT a kendo person. 

Here is the English outline provided for the lecture: 

“Budo has been compulsory subject based on the policy that students exposure to the unique traditions and culture of our country and establish enrich sport life in school physical education since 2012. In the fact that about 10 years have passed since budo became compulsory and the current revision of the Courses of Study, we would like to consider issues and measures for further enhancement of martial arts classes in physical education.”

(Note that the decision to add budo into compulsory education was taken in 2008, but it took 4 years of preparation before going into effect.)

Prior to 2012 the only other time that budo has been mandatory in the education system in Japan was for boys starting in 1933/34 (girls were forced into very basic naginata training during the war).  This wasn’t as part of some sort of overall P.E. curriculum per-se, but was used to install nationalism (boys and girls) to create soldiers (boys) for/in wartime periods. This obviously stopped after the war. 

BTW, budo is not actually “compulsory” nowadays but rather, all first and second year junior high school students (approx. 12-14 year olds) have to choose between “budo” or “dance” as part of their P.E. curriculum. What budo is on offer depends on what teachers are at the school (at the moment across the entire country the rates are: 60% judo, 30% kendo, 10% others). Boys overwhelmingly choose budo, and girls dance. 

The inclusion of budo into the national curriculum only happened after years of work spearheaded by the Nippon Budokan foundation (NB) since it was formed in 1964. As such, only budo as represented by the NB can be allowed in schools, i.e. judo, kendo, kyudo, sumo, karate, aikido, shorinji-kempo, naginata, and jukendo. NB has also taken a lead in publishing teaching texts and methodology related to teaching budo in schools (and recently into exploring how to expand budo practice for special needs students).


Sunday, October 22, 2023

Rhythm and Flow in Taijiquan Practice

Thoughts on Tai Chi had an interested article on developing rhythm and flow in taijiquan practice, which I think applies to all martial arts. The full post may be read here.

My late Tai Chi teacher used to say that it’s the internal movements that are important, not external movement. How true, isn’t it? 

But it can be hard to understand what is actually meant by internal movements. On one level we do have more tangible things such as the breath work, movements of the spine, opening and closing of the ribs, the internal movement of the dantian and more. Those are things you can feel and coordinate, but they are hidden, how you work with those aspects don’t show on the outside. On another level we have the “mind”, “yi” and “qi”, that can be abstract concepts, prone to individual interpretation, or be used to express how to integrate body, breath and mind together. 

The key to really integrate these internal aspects and to work with them as a whole, is really what I myself call internal rhythm and flow. Honestly speaking, I have no idea if there’s a better or more exact word. Many speak about the importance of rhythm and keeping a flow, but they seem to mean different things or they don’t explain it what they mean.

Between westerners and Chinese, sometimes there might be a kind of language barrier. Sometimes things can be very hard to explain in another language. Not surprisingly, I have also found that it is those Chinese “masters” who have achieved the best level in English, that make the most effort trying to explain “rhythm” and “flow”. Those I have in mind also make less use of “qi”, “yi” and similar. They try to find their own ways to explain things with western language instead of Chinese words.

Of course, it is said that movement should be continuous and that Tai Chi “moves unceasingly like a great river.” Sometimes it’s slow, sometimes faster. But water also moves with a certain pulse and rhythm. Especially if you think about the waves moving up and down a shore. The waves are set in motion by the winds. When we move, we must consider gravity just as much as the limitations of our own body and balance.

Yes, I know that all of this can be hard to understand, especially for beginners. There are many steps in learning Tai Chi, it takes a long time to even start to internalize the art so you can begin practicing it on a deeper, more internal level. And most people do not. They practice Tai Chi on an external, superficial level. There’s nothing wrong with that. They might still get a whole lot of positive physical and psychological effects of Tai Chi practice. But still, the real internal practice doesn’t start until you have internalized the art. 

Obviously, you need to first go through the external steps. The first step is to learn the form so well you don’t need to think about what movement comes after another. Then there are a few basic rules you need to understand and do well, rules about how to balance and align your body, and how to move your body together as a one single whole. After getting good at following those rules, you need to internalize the outer form. On a basic level, this means that your movements need to be initiated and controlled from the feet and the center of your body, and from inside of your body, rather than start moving by using the hands and limbs.

Working on becoming better at relaxing the mind, body and breath and learning how to sink your strength, and building some basic rooting skills are also aspects of internalizing the art. First, when you have practiced maybe one, two or three years, depending on your own personality and dedication to the art, I suspect you could really begin to understand what is meant by rhythm and flow. If you are a beginner, maybe you understand it on an intellectual level, but as always, there’s a difference between understanding logically and understanding by doing.

Music according to Master T.T. Liang

If we speak about rhythm and flow, obviously music should be something of the first that comes to mind. Tai Chi Master T.T. Liang, a student of Cheng Man-Ching, differ slightly in philosophy compared to his teacher. While Cheng Man-Ching promoted his short form, Liang thought that practicing the long form was important, and meant that only by taking time so the body can build up an internal heat, you would understand the real benefits of Tai Chi as a health practice.

The teaching style differs even more in the fact that Liang actually created his own music that would help practitioners finding the rhythm in the Tai Chi form. So his own Tai Chi should be practiced together with music, and he himself used to play it in his classes. 

For some people, practicing the form together with music might seem odd and maybe even as taking away some of the internal focus. However, it will help the student to find a good overall speed, pace and to find a natural rhythm. Regardless if you prefer to study Tai Chi with or without music, this kind of practice could still help you to better understand how to practice form together with both an external and internal rhythm.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Samurai and the Color Indigo

Have your noticed that modern budo practices tend to favor white uniforms (karate, aikido). Judo permits both white and blue (stick a pin in the color blue), while kendo favors the dark blue, indigo, color.

The older martial arts, kenjutsu and the like, all seem to favor the indigo color. Why is that?

Below is an explanation from the Ancient Origins website (here) and an accompanying video. 



Monday, October 16, 2023

2023 Birthday Post

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




I've had my share of changes in the past year, but the biggest one is that I'm now retired.

This is what happened. Full retirement age for my cohort is age 66 and 6 months, which would have taken me to April of next year. Since I would have had to work the first quarter anyway, and the commission payout for the first quarter occurs in May, I was planning on retiring at the end of May next year.

But the best laid plans of mice and men are proverbial the same and my well laid plans to sign up for this and enroll in that were crushed down to a single point as if they had met a black hole in outer space by the machinations of my latest employer. After an abysmal 2nd quarter, I was among those who were laid off.

Overall, it's not a bad thing. There has just been a lot of short term chaos to manage.

Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.”

The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.”

The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said, “Maybe.”



My wife and I had purchased a motor home earlier this year, anticipating another year's income and commissions. With the abrupt change, the RV had become a source of anxiety to my better half and so we have it up for sale.

I'm not about to get upset about losing it after only have had it out a couple of times. It's just a thing, and there is no use fighting about a thing. Besides, if she's not comfortable, how am I going to be?



Most of the aforementioned chaos stems from having to rapidly getting my Social Security, Medicare and unemployment (since I was laid off) all lined up. It's getting there. 

I always have something to do. I'm still married and have so far not discovered that I've been smothered in my sleep with my own pillow.

My retirement plan had been to mow the lawn every morning at precisely 7 AM, then sit on a lawn chair in my driveway to make sure no one steps on it. I haven't been able to realize that just yet.

I have been working out more, lost about ten pounds (so far) and have increased the pace of my reading (from a baseline of about 50 books a year). 

In addition to the taijiquan practice I have been almost religious about, I am slowing adding in other practices I have learned from yiquan, xingyiquan and baguazhang to my morning.

One thing I am immediately thankful for is not having to toe the line every morning at work. 

Something else that I've been doing is helping out a friend with a medium sized businesss by working at trade shows with him. My expenses are covered, I get a nice check for my time and talk to strangers about technology. I have a blast. The only downside is being on my feet all day in dress shoes on concrete.

The long and short of it is that we should just roll with the changes.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

The Other Benefits of Martial Arts Training

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at The Tai Chi Notebook, on some sometimes overlooked benefits of martial arts training. The full post may be read here.

One observation I have on ‘internal’ martial arts is that there there is often very little focus on the ‘internal’ qualities to a human being. Or if they do address them then it is, not directly and often in passing.

I’m not talking about things to do with forces, or the body, like Qi, Xin and Jin. Yes, the Yi (intent or mind) is mentioned all the time in the Tai Chi Classics, but it’s always in relation to fighting, or releasing and accepting forces on the body. “Quelle surprise”, you might say, since Tai Chi is a marital art, but if I contrast ‘internal’ martial arts with ‘external’ martial arts for a moment, the discussion there is often on the internal qualities of a human that internal martial arts, ironically, neglect.

I’m talking about things like self-control (temperance), endurance and patience.

The goal of improving these internal qualities has been the goal of practical philosophers since man first decided to ponder his/her existence. I could quote from LaoTzu here, but I find it more explicitly written by the Greek philosophers, particularity the Stoics.

In Chapter 10 of the Greek classic of Stoicism, The Enchiridion, we find:

“On the occasion of every accident (event) that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use. If you see a fair man or a fair woman, you will find that the power to resist is temperance (continence). If labour (pain) be presented to you, you will find that it is endurance. If it be abusive words, you will find it to be patience. And if you have been thus formed to the (proper) habit, the appearances will not carry you along with them.”

Epictetus, The Enchiridion

Sure, these internal qualities can certainly be learnt from any martial art, however I find it is the external martial arts that really emphasise them. Many Taekwondo schools use the goal of improving your inner qualities as the main sell in their marketing approach. For example, I just did a Google search for Taekwondo clubs in the local area, clicked on Tiger martial arts, and what do I find written on their website, in all caps, so you can’t miss it?


This is followed up with “We give students the focus and confidence to achieve in all areas of their lives.  Yes, you can learn to take care of yourself in dangerous situations, but really it’s about learning to use your mind and body like a martial artist – learn how to control your body and your mind, and you will be set up for life.”

It’s the same with Karate. I did another random search on Karate clubs and found Bristol Karate Academy whose motto is “virtue in industry” from “Virtute et industria” — or by virtue and industry — from the city of Bristol, which dates back to at least 1569. They explain how that relates to the values of their club on their About us page:

“So what does that mean for us?

Virtue (美徳): We have integrity, in our commitment to traditional, effective Karate and integrity in the way that we treat others. We are respectful, fair and aim for high moral standards. We build character, strive for excellence and show courage in the face of challenges.

Industry (勉励): We work hard to reach our goals. We’re diligent and determined to get better at every single training session. We are rigorous in our approach to improvement and dedicated to our own and each other’s development.

Through hard, honest training we become our best possible selves”

Again, while I’m sure they can kick-ass with their karate, the emphasis in their motto is on the internal qualities of a human being. It’s about becoming your best possible self.

I know what you’re thinking – “perhaps it’s about teaching children?” Things like Karate and Taekwondo can be very orientated towards teaching children, and you obviously don’t want to be raising a hoard of little ninjas who have no idea about the moral implications of using their marital arts. However, it’s not just non-Chinese marital arts that have a heavy emphasis on building moral character. Similar ‘external’ Chinese martial arts do too, and those tend to have as much emphasis on adults as children. Also the moral aspects were there right from the beginning in the Southern arts.


Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Push Through

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at Martial Views regarding perseverance in training. The full post may be read here.

I have a confession to make. I've been out of work for seven months (courtesy of some health issues I've previously discussed, but I go back at the end of September), and I'm not happy with the way I look. This morning on a doctor's scale I weighed a whopping 205 lbs., way up from my sparring heyday of 178. (I used to be 5 ft 10; I'm currently 5 ft 9. I have a medium frame.) A lot of this is just due to my inactivity, but also, to my defense, it's age related. I turn 63 in October, and my body just doesn't do what it used to do. Not just willful physical activity, whether it's performing job duties or exercising in my basement gym/dojo, but also trying to keep my weight down, recover from minor injuries, and incentive to do otherwise menial tasks. I find myself actually having to push myself to go on my daily one-mile walk. My strength and stamina in the gym over the years has diminished significantly, and when I confided this to a friend, he replied, "why bother pumping iron if you just keep getting weaker?"

"Alright," I replied. "What do you suppose would happen if I just completely stopped working out?"

Stopping my workouts is not an option for me. Perish the thought! But naturally I have to modify a routine to accommodate my pre-existing injuries. And as of late I need serious motivationfortunately fate came to the rescue. The other day a co-worker texted me a bodybuilding routine Bruce Lee created in 1965, before he became a star cinematically (although by this time Lee was an in-demand martial arts instructor). This flow chart, I'm assuming, is a catalog of exercises to be performed in a single session. It's a list of mostly upper body/arm exercises, but I really like how the first item is squats. Never skip leg day. I'm glad Lee knew his priorities.

As Lee's status as a star rose he continued his self created bodybuilding routine that emphasized both strength and muscular endurance. At  5 ft 7 12 and 140 lbs, Lee was not not an overtly formidable presence. But his devotion to fitness paid off. Chuck Norris once said that Lee was, pound for pound, the strongest human being he has ever trained with.

While Lee was making gains in the gym, he began to adjust his diet and cardio exercises that accelerated his body's ability to burn fat. In the 1965 photo above, I would guess his body fat percentage to be about 12. The pic below taken from Enter The Dragon (1973) depicts a much leaner version of Lee, evident with a marked increase in muscular definition and striations. I'd put his body fat here at about 7 percent. Understand that this level of body fat is quite low, even for an athlete, and is very difficult to achieve without resorting to sports enhancing drugs. (There is no respectable evidence that Lee used steroids or the like to achieve his physique. I'm also fairly confident this photo has not been enhanced.)