Thursday, July 28, 2011

working without doing...

"The sage does not attempt anything very big, and thus achieves greatness."-- Tao Te Ching, Chapter 63

This is what is meant by, "Working without doing." Or, "Seeing simplicity in the complicated."

I, personally, am often guilty of looking too far ahead. I am guilty of trying too hard to achieve results. Any philosopher or martial artist knows that this leads to problems. It hinders growth, rather than encouraging it.

But we fall back into this pattern again and again.

However, plants don't try to grow. Just as our own bodies didn't reach adulthood through conscious effort.

"In the universe the difficult things are done as if they're easy.... Great acts are made up of small deeds."

The underlying concept of this, the chapter goes on to say, is to: "Magnify the small, increase the few."

And then just go with the flow.

I guess this is, "Working without doing."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

American Buddhism--Part Three...

Gary Snyder.

Another Beat/San Francisco Renaissance writer who spent his time divided between the U.S. and Japan. In Jack Kerouac's book, Dharma Bums, he is the poet Japhy Ryder who spurs the author on towards Zen meditation and ideology. His poetry is naturalistic and infused with Japanese sensibility. And oh yeah, he has won a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts. Synder has also translated Chinese and Japanese texts into English.

"In the blue night

frost haze, the sky glows

with the moon

pine tree tops

bend snow-blue, fade

into sky, frost, starlight.

The creak of boots.

Rabbit tracks, deer tracks

what do we know." - G.S.

Synder's Zen influence on his contemporaries is undeniable. And his spiritual approach to life and literature opened many artistic avenues for his peers.

While living in Japan, Synder received the name Chofu (Listen to the Wind). And along with awards for Nature Writing, "Synder also has the distinction of being the first American to receive the Buddhism Transmission Award (from 1998) from the Japan-based Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai Foundation." -- wikipedia

Worth checking out, for sure.

Monday, July 18, 2011

old ways...

Aikido, while regarded (perhaps erroneously) as one of the more gentle of the martial arts, has its basis in more traditional and aggressive styles.

Morihei Ueshiba, prior to developing his own art, had mastered other forms of combat such as daito ryu and even sumo when he was younger. It was from this solid base--not out of thin air--that he then developed his own interpretation of martial arts in the style of aikido.

He said:

"Even though our path is completely different from the warrior arts of the past, it is not necessary to abandon totally the old ways. Absorb venerable traditions into this new Art by clothing them with fresh garments, and build on the classic styles to create better forms."

Myself, I study japanese jiu-jitsu, but glean from the traditions of karate, boxing, and, of course, aikido. I'm dressing up my own training in fresh garments in order to create the best forms for myself.

And if Ueshiba were practicing today, no doubt his style would evolve to meet today's nuances. But of course, it would again be a tweaking of the "old ways".

And ultimately, the Master would repeat the one thing that has transcended every epoch of Japanese warrior history.

That is, "Illuminate your path according to your inner light."

This is the true legacy of Morihei Ueshiba.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011


"Equilibrium is the condition of a system in which competing influences are balanced." -- wikipedia

With this explanation, I think about the following:

-- breaking uke's balance, the body seeks equilibrium (often with the ground, which is a constant)

-- the technical aspects of the Mind and its creative aspects can be balanced and become as one entity

--when two forces meet, the way of equilibrium follows the path of least resistance (for an individual's advantage or disadvantage)

-- Peace is a condition of balance

-- atomic structure, physiological structure, and those of nature follow all the same laws of balance

--gravity is the great law behind physical equilibrium

Therefore, understanding gravity, and its effect on equilibrium, are of paramount importance.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


When people loose their sense of awe, said Lao Tsu, disaster looms.
This can be seen being played out daily in the world: A lack of recognition of the sanctity of Self and Life in general. It is, after all, awe that begets respect. And of this there is a massive deficit on our planet these days.

As a martial artist, we must respect skill in ourselves and others, and likewise not take violence lightly.

Journeyman talks about specific goals of training that fit well with this point.

"There is a tendency for most martial artists to feel a need to best their opponent, to beat them, to win," he says. (See entire post here). This point can include the best way to survive a violent encounter, as well as the best way to respect one's own self and possibly the assailant.

Peace, itself, should not be taken lightly. As suggested, it is a result of respect and a sense of awe. It is a divided mind that creates chaotic situations, and being human, as the Taoist would say, we often have to wait for the mud in the water to settle to the bottom in order to achieve clarity.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Chance is but a name for Law not recognized..." -- The Kybalion

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Low Rider...

One of the ironies I like best in the martial arts world is the fact Bruce Lee taught that kicks on the street should never go above the waist. High kicks are good for control and balance, he claimed, but best left to practice, and of course, films.

I'm not going to get into the reasons why. Most of my readers will know why a high kick can be a defensive liability. But rather, I just wanted to comment on something I've experimented with while training.

I've lowered my heavy bag from the rafter enough to bring the height of both the knee and shin into play. This has taken the head height right out of the equation, as my heavy bag isn't tall enough to cover both. What this has done is twofold: my leg kicks have gotten much stronger, and I've been forced to strike in areas that exclude the area of the face (elbows and punches often inadvertantly gravitate to the height of the head while practicing).

Aside from the legs, the targets become the ribs, solar plexus, and neck area.

This works for me as it forces me into exploring alternatives to higher punches. I work more on knife hand strikes and palm heel more than I ever have.

Later, I'll raise the bag again in order to change the game once more.

Friday, July 1, 2011

the new guy...

Mind expanding.

This is how I would describe my recent visit to another dojo.

Invited to train with a friend, I showed up despite the great differences between our background and styles. It was challenging for me. At times, I found myself right at home, and at other times, I was stretching to remember the techniques. And while many things about the techniques I liked a lot, there were a few I wasn't as keen on. But nonetheless, by trying different styles, my mind and understanding are forced to expand.

A nice aspect for me was that the instructor was fine with my ingrained habits and default movements. He didn't see a need to change these, rather he suggested meshing them with what he was teaching (for example, often my finishing techniques varied from the rest of the class, or I'd grab under an arm instead of over it).

Another thing I realized was that my prerequisite for training in another dojo was as much based on the people there than the techniques taught. With the right people, one can learn something in any situation.

And while home will always be home, checking out different dojos is definitely something worthwhile.