The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

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 ~

Friday, March 16, 2018

Having Faith in Your Martial Arts Training

Below is an excerpt from another excellent post at Green Leaves Forest, a blog about Kyudo,  regarding having faith in one's training. The comments about Kyudo could equally be applied to any type of training.

The full post may be read here.


Now lets take a look at my other imaginary friend, Jesus (pronounced “Hey-Zeus”) Bodhi, aka JB. JB doesn’t hit every arrow. But you know what, JB gets your attention. Do you know why? Maybe not.

But for some reason you see something in his shooting beyond questions of technique or race or rank. JB could be a hanshi hachidan (8th level master), or someone who has just shot their first arrow. It’s almost as if you watch JB and start to understand why kyudo is considered an art and a discipline to train the spirit.

Let’s get a little more specific. You know what really sets JB apart?

It’s actually incredibly simple.


When he does sharei (ceremonial shooting which could be anything from your regular sitting zassha practice to a yawatashi embu) he actually sits in the proper kiza position. It hurts and is hard, because he is just a regular human like everyone else with legs and a back. But you know what he does? He always practices sitting kiza properly because it will make him a stronger archer, and even practices sitting in kiza at home so he can do it better when he gets to the dojo.

His taihai (movements other than just shooting, like walking, sitting, standing) is better than everyone else, not because it’s perfect, but because he practices it every time he goes to shoot.

He does well in tests not because he is lucky or magically doesn’t get nervous, but because he always does his best whether it’s in practice or tournaments, so shooting in a test in front of all the judges is no different.

He doesn’t know everything about kyudo, so he reads a lot.

He doesn’t hit the target a lot, so he practices a lot.

He tries as hard as he can, but he doesn’t stress out if it doesn’t go perfectly.


Getting to the point of doing it perfectly will never happen unless you walk the path of trying to do it perfectly.

Simplify that equation for a second and you get:

The path is what’s most important.

Or in more commonly heard words: “It’s not the end, but the journey that matters most.”

What enables one to get on the path, and continuing to make effort towards perfection?

Even when they miss? Even when people don’t believe them? Even when they get injured? Even when they think that they just can’t get over this final wall that will be the end?

I’ll give you a hint,it’s Jesus’ super power … faith.

I’d love to be as strong as Captain Muscle, or as smart as Professor Brain, but until I get there, I’m going to do my best to imitate JB, ’cause he’s got the magic that gives meaning to it all.

Perhaps this is something special about kyudo.

Or maybe everything in life is like this.

I don’t know, so I explore.

Onward and upward.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Reminiscing About Early Tae Kwon Do Training

There is a very nice article at Traditional Tae Kwon Do Perth (the Joong Do Kwan Dojang) about the author's eclectic early days training in Tae Kwon Do.

I remember as a kid, that before musical kata performances and extravagant costumes became the norm, the "Korean Karate" guys were considered the tough guys on the block.

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


My school is called Joong Do Kwan, or School of the Middle Way. I tell people we are the point in the middle, drawing from older styles and influences, but also benefitting from modern innovations and developments. While the name pays homage to the original Chung Do Kwan, it directly relates to the training I received in the Southwest USA in the early to mid 1990s.

It was during that time I went to Dallas to attend college at Southern Methodist University. SMU is a private university situated in a very nice part of the world. I arrived in 1991 already a black belt from an eclectic Chinese/Korean style, and it didn't take me long before I noticed a small photocopied martial arts flyer stuck on a noticeboard at the gym.

In no time, I was a regular in the SMU Martial Arts Club. But there were huge differences in the training from where I was schooled in Asia. To say there was a culture shock and I had to adjust would be an understatement.

Firstly, I was welcomed warmly. You would find it hard to get past the door in Asia if you came from a different martial art school. If you did manage to join the group, you'd be considered an outsider, distrusted until you've proven your loyalty and worth; a process that could take many years. In Dallas, even from the outset, everyone was kind enough to talk with me, help me through initial sessions, were super courteous, and did not hesitate to invite me to join them for a sandwich at the local deli after training.

Next, I was amazed at the amount of presentation, discussion, and opinions shared throughout the session. When I trained in Asia, no one dared speak. Even my master would speak sparingly. When he did speak, it was more like a grunt cajoling us to go at it harder, or to jump higher, or to do something faster. At SMU in contrast, you could expect anything from incisive observations to a discourse of techniques by Sensei Bryan Robbins. Mr Robbins happened to be a tenured physical education professor and ex-Olympic coach; and was comfortable and extremely experienced teaching all levels of practitioners on how to perform certain techniques, what difficulties you might experience whilst doing it, how to land it successfully, and their accompanying applications.

I remember being astounded by this 'chatter'. But as I turned my listening ears on, I found that much of what was being discussed matched a lot of the non-verbalised insight I had from my own experience. I soon relied on this information for my own learning and found it was a great way to share experience. I even felt beginners had good insight to offer when discussing their own experiences learning techniques.

The last major difference I noticed was how much difficulty I was having sparring the other black belts. It's not to say we didn't spar back in Asia. Nor is it to say we didn't spar hard against each other. But on so many levels I was outmatched and outgunned, and often by people I initially felt could not be faster or more durable than I was at the time.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Guang Ping Tai Chi Chuan Form

From Tai Chi Videos, Y.C. Chiang performing the Guang Ping Tai Chi Chuan form.

Chiang was a senior student of Kuo Lien Ying, the famous San Francisco based teacher, who brought the Guang Ping form to the US.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Tendo Ryu Naginata Do

At Kogen Budo, Ellis Amdur published an interview he conducted with Abe Toyoko, a senior sensei in the Tendo Ryu of Naginata. Below is an excerpt. The full interview may be read here.

In the early late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Kini Collins and I began a project to write a book on naginata (many portions of which later became the basis of my book, Old School). We interviewed many wonderful instructors of various ryu, and among them was this one Kini did with Abe sensei, which she first published by Valerie Eads, PhD., in “Fighting Woman News.”
 Kini and I had previously gone to Kyoto to observe a yearly national practice of Tendo-ryu, and among the many powerful women was one who stood out, Abe Toyoko sensei. Her technique had a different quality, both precise, but really powerful.  Even more striking, however, was her manner.  She obviously could not accept anything less than exemplary budo.  She was blunt spoken, even harsh, but never unkind.  She simply stated how she believed Tendo-ryu must be executed, and implicit in every word was the confidence that if one disagreed, she could demonstrate physically why her way was better.
Q: When I first saw you at the school in Osaka, well, I am not well acquainted with the Tendo Ryu students, but you moved and looked so different…

A: Well, there is a reason for that. I got started in Kyoto, with the mother of the present head teacher. She was the 15th generation headmistress, Mitamura Chiyo sensei. I was living near the Heian Shrine.[i] Just by rounding the southeast corner and walking dead straight for about 2 miles, well there it was. Every year in May, there is a big festival, even today. They had everything – judo, kendo, kyudo – everything. Not like today: now they only have that modern, noisy kendo! You used to have to wear formal clothes to even get in. And even with that, the place was jammed. Sometimes you couldn’t even get in the doors. So different from now! It’s like going to the movies or a baseball game now. You used to be able to drink in the tension and quietness. That is where I first saw my teachers. That was all I needed. There have been really bad times in all those years, mostly dealing with the other people involved. I thought about quitting many times, but in the end, it was that first demonstration I saw, knowing it was and can be so good, so good. That impression helped me stick with it. That is what I want, have always wanted to pass on, something to help people stick. I’m not interested in sitting at demonstrations, judging matches or even being well known. My questions are different:  What is the meaning of the basic techniques? How can they be done with this partner? What is the timing? I think about these things. Why it happens the way it does.
This new stuff. One, up with the stick. Two, down with it. Three, put it away. Well, that’s one way of teaching, but there is something else, I only know it as kokoro (heart, spirit, will). Pull it in on one, out on two, lift on three, well, you try it! If you do it only with an awareness of moving and no concept of kokoro you are so wide open it isn’t even funny. This is what I want to teach: how to react when your partner doesn’t respond in form in the way you are used to. This is what it hasn’t got, the new naginata. There is no thought outside the form; there isn’t even any path for this kind of thinking.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Wang Shu Jin's Tai Chi Chuan

Wang Shu Jin was famous for his Xingyiquan and Baguazhang.. He also taught the Chen Pan Ling version of Tai Chi Chuan. Here is a video of him demonstrating his Tai Chi Chuan.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Karate's Literary Link to Chinese Martial Arts

Below is an excerpt from an article at  Kung Fu Tea which reviews a book linking the Bubishi with the martial arts manuals of Southern China. The full post may be read here.

A few words of introduction may be necessary for readers who are not familiar with the manuscript tradition generally referred to as “the Bubishi.”  This Japanese romanization of the Chinese title Wǔbèi Zhì, does not refer to the venerable Ming era military encyclopedia compiled by Mao Yuanyi.  Rather, it is a term that in the 1930s came to be retrospectively applied to a diverse manuscript tradition preserved in Okinawan hand combat circles.  Yet the exact nature of these “books” is difficult to pin down.

These untitled works were essentially collections of texts dealing with a range of topics including medicine, martial philosophy and unarmed fighting techniques.  (Andreas Quast suggests that it is significant that the Bubishi contains no discussion of weapon techniques.)  No surviving editions include a title page, preface or statement of authorship.  In that sense they are even more mysterious than the Taiji Classics, though they likely date to the same period and may have been at least partially the product of similar social forces.  While there was some overlap in critical material, various lineages of Bubishi transmission included different numbers of articles organized in a wide variety of ways.  While clearly a compiled work with multiple authors (or editors) the Bubishi was not so much a cohesive edited volume as an ongoing research file or, in the words of Nisan and Liu, “a notebook.”

While Japanese authors have been discussing this manuscript tradition since the pre-WWII period, in the current era it is best known to English speaking audiences through the efforts of Patrick McCarthy who has published multiple editions of translation and commentary. McCarthy’s once characterized the Bubishi as the “Bible of Karate,” and the symbolic resemblance is certainly recognizable.  While very little in this work outwardly resembles modern karate practice, many of the art’s pioneers drew inspiration from its pages.  The Bubishi functioned as a textual witness linking what became a modern martial art to an idealized and supposedly pure past tradition.

Karate students have dominated the discussion of this manuscript in the West.  Yet, as Nisan and Liu argue (and as I have repeatedly noted on this blog), that is only half of the story. In fact, it may be a good deal less.

Very few individuals in Japan can read the Bubishi as it is written in a combination of classical Chinese and the local Minnan dialect of Fujian province.  When accounting for the various textual errors that arose from poor copying and mistakes in the transcription of local dialects, it is a challenging document for anyone to work with.  Yet it is a uniquely Chinese document, one that is tied to the Fuzhou region and the folk martial art traditions still popular in the area, including White Crane and Luohan Boxing.  The authors of the present volume lay out a convincing case that it was probably compiled sometime in the second half of the 19th century (and probably after 1860).  As such, the Bubishi is a potentially invaluable textual witness to a period of rapid transformation within the Southern Chinese martial arts.  Yet students of Chinese martial history have, for the most art, passed over this manuscript tradition in silence.

The efforts of Nisan and Liu may well provide the push needed to spark a long over-due discussion.  By examining this work within its original cultural context, they hope to both shed light on the nature, origin and authorship of the collection, as well as providing martial artists with a new set of concepts for making sense of it.  This effort was facilitated when Lionbooks acquired a previously unpublished Bubishi manuscript from the estate of a Japanese-American karate student that was unique in a number of ways.  While badly damaged in places, this copy seems to represent an early textual variant.  Further, it is unique in that it contains a very large number of beautifully painted, full color, images.  While a few other hand painted Chinese fight books are known to exist (see the Golden Saber Illustrated Manual, 1725) such works are extremely rare and suggest interesting questions about their ownership and the social function of these texts.  Yet this work is not a translation project.  Rather, the beautiful facsimile edition is accompanied by a text that seeks to explore the place of the Bubishi in Chinese martial arts history.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018