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 ~

Sunday, May 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Mas Oyama Kyokushin Karate Documentary

Below is a documentary (with English subtitles) on the legendary Mas Oyama and his Kyokushin Karate.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The South Bound Tiger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Tough Martial Arts Woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Turn the Page

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

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

Below is a guest post by the publisher Michal DeMarco.

Guest Post

by Michael DeMarco, M.A.

Via Media Publishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Reference for Many Aikido Styles

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

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Zanshin in Martial Arts

Zanshin is an important concept in the study of Japanese martial arts. I had posted on the concept of Zanshin a couple of time before, here and there. Below is an excerpt form an article at the Kenshi Journal. The full post may be read at this link.

The description of Zanshin can be started by firmly stating that it is difficult to describe it in words. It is a part of yuko datotsu 有効打突 and I think people focus on displaying zanshin more that kime. However, they are both needed. Zanshin is not straight forward; it is a complex concept that includes technical skill, mental composure, and physical presence. It is somewhat like the Tao(道) as described by Lao Tzu, any attempt to describe it in words does not do it justice. Much more experienced scholars have described the concept as well, one of the best being the TED talk (Zanshin – The Lingering Mind in Budo: at TEDxMeieki) by Dr. Alex Bennett.

That being said, I’m am still going to try a poor attempt to do just that. Zanshin is a state of mental and physical alertness, where one is aware of all that transpires around them yet not attached to any particular thing. In kendo, it is a state of mind and body, after striking with sutemi, in which one ready to respond to any actions performed by the opponent. It can be further defined as a display of full intent to attack and to correctly follow through until one has established the proper distance between oneself and the opponent and then turns and faces them again with full commitment of mind and body.

Sunday, April 22, 2018


The Tang Dynasty was a high point of culture in ancient China. Especially esteemed were poems. There was no home coming or leave taking; no event too small to not be commemorated with a poem.

Some of the best poems of that period have been collected into an anthology known as The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. A online version of the anthology may be found here.Today we have #67: ON THE FESTIVAL OF THE MOON TO SUB-OFFICIAL ZHANG

The fine clouds have opened and the River of Stars is gone,
A clear wind blows across the sky, and the moon widens its wave,
The sand is smooth, the water still, no sound and no shadow,
As I offer you a cup of wine, asking you to sing.
But so sad is this song of yours and so bitter your voice
That before I finish listening my tears have become a rain:
"Where Lake Dongting is joined to the sky by the lofty Nine-Doubt Mountain,
Dragons, crocodiles, rise and sink, apes, flying foxes, whimper....
At a ten to one risk of death, I have reached my official post,
Where lonely I live and hushed, as though I were in hiding.
I leave my bed, afraid of snakes; I eat, fearing poisons;
The air of the lake is putrid, breathing its evil odours....
Yesterday, by the district office, the great drum was announcing
The crowning of an emperor, a change in the realm.
The edict granting pardons runs three hundred miles a day,
All those who were to die have had their sentences commuted,
The unseated are promoted and exiles are recalled,
Corruptions are abolished, clean officers appointed.
My superior sent my name in but the governor would not listen
And has only transferred me to this barbaric place.
My rank is very low and useless to refer to;
They might punish me with lashes in the dust of the street.
Most of my fellow exiles are now returning home --
A journey which, to me, is a heaven beyond climbing."
...Stop your song, I beg you, and listen to mine,
A song that is utterly different from yours:
"Tonight is the loveliest moon of the year.
All else is with fate, not ours to control;
But, refusing this wine, may we choose more tomorrow?"

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Six Words for Martial Arts Training

Below is an excerpt from a post at The Kenshi Journal. The full post may be read here.

The Japanese have six words referring to the intensity of training in any activity: keiko, renshu, shunren, tanren, kufu, and shugyo. The first four can be translated respectively as: practice, training, discipline, and forging. There are no adequate English words for the last two. Shugyō is the deepest spiritual training possible. In shugyō training there are two paths that may be followed, the first being the way of training the mind (kokoro) and the second of training the body( katachi) [1]. Refining the self in shugyō is like forging a sword from raw iron ore. Fire, water, and iron are folded upon each other by the pounding of the hammer over and over again to create the cutting edge. One should keep in mind the principles of Shu, Ha, Ri, and be tenacious in the mastering of the fundamentals (kihon), so that the mind, the body and the weapon become one. If one delves into the kanji that make up the character, one finds Shu, which can be understood as practice or to engage in study; and Gyō, that can be understood as a juncture or crossroads. Hence, it is to persevere when one has reached a point where one has a choice to quit or proceed on the Way [2]. Shugyō is the method of polishing the mind and body of a person through a means of rigorous training [3]. If one engages in their training as such, the practitioner has the opportunity to refine not only their physical ability but the mental strength and stability in order to deal with the complications of life.

The dojo is not a place that one retreats to in order to hide or escape from the difficulties of life , instead it is the place that one meets their true inner selves and thus aims to improve ones character and learn how to cope with real life. If a man is to know himself, he must be tested; no one finds out what he can do except by trying [4]. This is the heart of Shugyō, an austere training where the limits of physical endurance and performance are surpassed, where only the strength of character and the will of the spirit fuels one forward. Trying and being tested is the proof of good men [5]. Without Shugyō, all realizations are passing highs. The natural form of the body will not be developed, nor will the structures of mind emerge from the Unconscious; and a person will regress to egotistical patterns under pressure. If a person trains to attain enlightenment as an end, frustration and despair is inevitable for the Way is endless. But if you accept life as shugyō, see through both good and bad fortune as the effects of karma, and continually refine breath, posture, and awareness, then one day you will clearly realize the truth of the words of Master Dōgen, Training is enlightenment, and enlightenment is training. At the heart of this is to discover the truth for oneself.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Vintage Taijiquan Video

Below is a vintage video of Taijiquan being practiced in Shanghai. Ma Yue Liang and Wu Ying Hua are seen in there.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Documentary on Haga Style Kendo

I had previously posted a clip about Haga style Kendo. Haga style is a throw back to how Kendo was practiced before WWII. It is very rough and tumble.

The good folks at Empty Mind Films but together a documentary on Kendo, with a chapter on the Haga dojo; for which there is a trailer below.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

The Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC ought to be about at their peak right now.

The cherry trees were a gift form the mayor of Tokyo to the city of Washington DC in the year 1912. 

Below is an excerpt from an interview with a sixteenth generation Japanese gardener who is an expert on cherry trees. The full interview may be read here. Enjoy the article and the blossoms.

In Japan, tourists are admonished to visit Nara for traditional architecture, but for gardens, to head to Kyoto. The latter’s many temple and estate gardens have survived the centuries remarkably intact, and many new gardens have been constructed since the Meiji era (1868–1912), allowing visitors today to enjoy landscaped views dating from modern and ancient times.

Over his 70-year career, sixteenth-generation gardener Sano Tōemon has tended some of Kyoto’s most renowned gardens and laid out new creations in Japan and abroad. The energetic 90-year-old is especially known for his expertise with flowering cherry trees and has earned the venerable title sakuramori, “guardian of the cherries,” in recognition of his superior knowledge and talents.

INTERVIEWER  You’re involved with a project surveying well-known trees that was started by your predecessor from two generations ago. What can you tell us about that?
SANO TŌEMON  The fourteenth Tōemon began collecting information on famous flowering cherries during the Taishō era [1912–1926]. At that time traveling wasn’t as easy as it is now, but if he heard about a famous tree he would rush off to wherever it was to investigate. People around him said his “sakura fever” bordered on obsession. To him, though, it was a race against time. He feared the destruction of Japan’s natural environs and wanted to document the trees before they were gone forever.
He made detailed drawings and collected information on trees. My immediate predecessor catalogued these works, which I compiled into a book. The research project is still ongoing. Staff here at Uetō collect data on trees, including carefully hand drawing each section of flowers from the petals to the stamen.

I don’t see cherry blossoms as something to simply sit and admire. They are an annual finale for the trees. They spend the entire year preparing to bloom, and each season produces subtle variations, like in the color of petals, that reflect fluctuations in weather and other conditions over the previous twelve months. Rather than gawking at the flowers, I feel like commending the trees for their hard work.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Three Masters of Japanese Martial Arts

In 1978, I was 20. I was studying Yoshinkai Aikido under Kushida Sensei.

I was marginally employed, attended all 9 classes that Kushida Sensei taught each week at the old Dexter and Davidson Dojo, as well as all four classes taught at the Wyandotte Dojo.

In 1978, Hidetaka Nishiyama, the master of Shotokan Karate visited the US. At the time, there was a very strong Shotokan community in the Detroit area and a large tournament was held to honor his visit.

Kushida and Nishiyama were good friends. Kushida took part in a demonstration at the karate tournament and Nishiyama in turn visited our dojo where the two of them regaled us with stories of when they were and up and coming martial arts students training under Gozo Shioda and Gichin Funakoshi respectively.

Below is a video of some of the demonstrations given at the tournament. The first section is Shojiro Sugiyama, the ranking Shotokan master in the Midwest, Takashi Kushida, my teacher and a master of Yoshinkan Aikido and Hidetaka Nishiyama.

The video is a little grainy and somewhat sped up due to the technology.

Notice that Kushida's ukes are taking ukemi on a wooden gym floor; no mats.

Also, the young boy taking ukemi is Akira Kushida, Kushida Sensei's son. He was about 10 at that time, making him about 50 now.

Kushida Sensei passed away in 2012 and Akira Sensei is now the head of the Aikido Yoshokai Association of North America, which was founded by his father.

This is how I remember Kushida Sensei.