Monday, October 25, 2010

Akamine Sensei in Tokyo

Stilllll catching up on old photos. Akamine Sensei visited Tokyo last spring (and has since been to the US for the opening of Tim Jurgens Sensei's dojo) and led a fantastic seminar. I would really like to get down to the honbu dojo in Okinawa while still living in Japan...

mantis fist

Sorry for this one, found on the path at yoyogi park.

Meanwhile our mantis sessions continue. Another 5-hour blast on Sunday, mostly focused on the short xian shou ben form (先手奔) form of Liu He Tang Lang Quan, coming down through Liu Jing Ru laoshi. Even so, there were lots of connections to the other forms we have studied so far. Rumor has the remaining two of the seven forms coming to us on next year's Tokyo visit. Until then, review and consolidate...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

essential training equipment (4)

Yes, brooms.

My daughter and I lucked out again, the only two in the upper class (this is the week before last, posts all out of order).

Good chance to work on the stick/ staff form of chang quan 初级棍术 instead of the usual empty-hands stuff.

We don't usually take our sticks to this Tuesday practice, but a quick look in the storage room revealed a reasonable substitute.

baseball and wushu

I had two long days of work in Yokohama this week (Japan’s second largest city, but really feels like part of Tokyo to me since it is all one connected urban mass) – until the second day (today) got cut short.

There is a lot of cost-cutting going on in Japan these days, some of it on short notice and quite annoying. I was pretty grumpy about suddenly losing 3 hours of work (on an already-shorter-than-usual intensive training course).

Then I realized the good side of things – I was suddenly free to go to Tuesday afternoon gong fu with my daughter. We have been regulars at the weekend class(es), but have missed several of these Tuesday classes lately due to my work schedule.

The loss hits especially hard since the class size is small and we get more attention than in the ususal weekend classes.

I ran from company XYZ’s industrial complex in Yokohama, found a taxi, raced to the station, fairly ran through all the transfer stations, conscious that every minute was valuable.

I made it to my daughter’s after-school activity club just in time and was ready to hurry home, change clothes, and make the 30-minute bicycle ride to practice.

But she was involved in a Very Important game of baseball with her friends. Sigh. The choice was clear and I had no regrets. It was a special opportunity to see her playing with her peers. And I snapped up the bat (still in pinstripe suit and tie) and belted a triple when one of the second-grade baseball stars suddenly decided he had tired of the game. My daughter (sort of) caught a pop fly and then was struck out at bat and I was glad to see every minute of it.

Once finished with baseball, though, we did hurry home and then on to the training hall. The class was smaller than usual – just the two of us in the higher level class, so she got good focus on the first stick / staff competition form (chang quan) and I got drilled on the nan gun or Southern style stick / staff.

Though I couldn’t bring myself to tell the teacher why we were a bit late, I was glad for every minute of my daughter’s baseball playing that I got to see.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

wubo (4) wrapping up

Just some wrapping up on the wubo / Sport Accord / Combat Games posts (see previous).

I would like to hear from anyone else who was there as an athlete, journalist, or whatever, just to compare notes. I was only able to attend the kendo events and I was quite satisfied with the organization and execution overall. And now I am especially glad that all the events were completed before the recent….downturn…. in relations between China and Japan.

How was the level of competition in other events? The judging? Both were quite good for the kendo events, as were the additional demonstrations which helped to introduce a relatively unknown martial art to the audience.

For those interested in more in-depth coverage of the kendo events at wubo / Sport Accord / Combat Games, you’ll just have to wait for the next issue of Kendo World!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


How do you treat your weapons?

Had a long and wonderful talk the other day, rambling all over the place, hitting old themes and exploring new ground. I need more talks like that.

One of the many topics was the treatment of weapons. We can see a very clear difference between Japanese and Chinese thoughts on this matter. In a Chinese training hall, it is common to see someone using their foot to roll and scoop a staff or spear from the ground up into their hand.

Handling a weapon like that could well get you thrown out of the typical Japanese martial arts training hall or dojo. I come from a pretty strict background, where you drop to one knee before putting down / picking up a weapon, where people kneel in the not entirely comfortable seiza position even while folding their uniform or putting away protective equipment / armor.

So it often shocks me to see weapons lying all over the floor of a training space, sometimes getting stepped over (oh shudder in horror – such an offense would bring Great Unpleasantness in most Japanese dojo), and so on.

I tend to be in the middle somewhere. I think some Japanese training halls place a bit too much emphasis on formality, outward form, and the like. And I also think some Chinese training halls would benefit greatly from more respect toward weapons and a bit more formality in general.

Well, I’m a kind of formal guy to start with, and my formative years were spent in Japanese training halls, so that’s my bias. And in this country, swords were forged with the guidance and blessing of the deities, so it is natural for the depth of that tradition to be carried on into the modern day.

These days, I do it the Japanese way when in a Japanese dojo, and I do it… not the Chinese way, but less formally… when in a Chinese training hall.

But wherever I am, I try to be very aware of my weapons, where they are, and how they are handled. One thing that drives me crazy is seeing Japanese martial artists – after the full range of bows and talk about etiquette and all that – walk through train stations and get on trains with no apparent awareness of people around them, bumping into people with their bags of armor, turning suddenly while holding long weapons at an angle, and so on.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Learned a good new phrase in last week’s tai ji class: 打ち気にはやる, basically meaning that the opponent can easily see your own readiness / eagerness to strike. The dictionary says it can be used in reference to baseball, where I suppose it might be a good thing (until the pitcher throws something low and inside, knowing the batter will go for an impossible pitch).

But in taiji push hands, which places so much emphasis on “listening” to the opponent’s energy, having such a feeling only sets yourself up for defeat, making it easier for the opponent to “read” your intentions and unbalance you.

Of course, after being cautioned on this point by the teacher, I then swung to the other extreme, become too careful and cautious, missing good chances to push my partner.

I struggled with this same tension in kendo – the balance between eagerness for quick, decisive action vs. rashness, acting too quickly or signaling one’s own intentions. And I suppose this tension also comes out in games of chess, in business interactions, human relationships, almost everywhere.