Sunday, 11 March 2012

Modern Names Calling

Extremist, fundamentalist, racist, fanatics, etc.

  Decades, even centuries ago, colonialist all over the world have started assigning those names to the freedom fighters of the countries the colonized. Third world countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America. While those people were in reality the very people who strived and suffered as the result of striving, for liberty of their own people, from the ones who called them with those names and do nothing sincerely, but to suck dry, extort labour (either under paid or not paid at all) from the indigenuous people and the natural resources of those very country they colonized.
  So, why should today's muslims and freedom fighters bother about the names the descendants of those colonialist extortionists put for them? What's the difference with the past? Those western colonialist extortionist come to, again, the third world countries, including the ones with muslim majorities, force and coerce, hashly or subtly, the locals' will to be allowed to extort natural resources (many times without regard to the surrounding natives and the impact on the surrounding natural environment), and put forward commerce run by themselves, forcing in their culture, their way of living, and so on. If the people don't give in to them, they won't hesitate to call them with those names above, and even to use force to make those people succumb to their will, just like what they did in China during the last dinasty, the C'hin dinasty. Then they make up good names to themselves, such as the liberator etc. In liberating, they of course need oil to run their machineries, help from the locals in the form of labour (better be cheap), etc.
  Or, they make, either by opening themselves, or by secretly adopting, to the local youths, so these latter will join education institutions in their countries. Upon returning to their "primitive" homelands, these youths don't always bring new good things, including new knowledge, to improve their motherland, but many times simply foreign high education degrees that enable them to beat their own sisters and brothers in competing for jobs and new attitudes, the one that makes them consciously or not support the westerners who gave them the education and need them as the extension of their arms in running those local countries. And start calling their own people who don't go along with them with those very bad names/callings.
  Those who create those bad names, bad calling...even with all their moneys and their so called advanced technologies (sometimes purposefully made to be extremely non-environmental friendly)...they hardly manage their countries really well. They still have corruption, rapes, extreme poverty...yet they have the time to come to other people's countries simply to force and coerce the indigenuoes people to go by their wish. Travelling many distances, using force enough to annihilate big portion of earth and its population. And start to create and call bad names to ones who resist their will.

  Who is, according to the facts, your clear consciousness and logic, the extremist ones?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Uke: Receiving

By Dave Lowry
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from "Sword And Brush," a book detailing martial arts strategic principles the author considers to be important to a broad range of Japanese martial arts. In this book he explains various characters and their meaning in the context of the martial arts. This excerpt addresses the meaning of the kanji character "Uke."

When the conversation leads to the subject of toughness, as inevitably it will among young men and women in transit on the Way, opinions will flow liberally. This master, it will be recounted, knocked an opponent senseless with the briefest riposte. That one, someone will say, uprooted young trees with his bare hands. Still another will be said to crush stalks of green bamboo with his bare hands. Comparative feats of strength are presented as proof of toughness in these conversations, especially those among younger bugeisha (a student of old style martial arts). The more senior exponents, however, tend to have a different way of measuring toughness. With experience comes too, the knowledge that toughness is less a matter of dishing it out and is really more the ability to receive.

"With experience comes too, the knowledge that toughness is less a matter of dishing it out and is really more the ability to receive."
Uke is a pictographic kanji (Japanese character), one written to depict two hands, one reaching down, the other stretching up, and between them is placed the character for "boat." This "conveyance of goods from one person to another" became, over the centuries, the kanji to indicate the act of "receiving." The bugeisha uses the word frequently. In grappling bugei, the method of falling safely are collectively called "ukemi," the "receiving body." In judo terminology, the exponent thrown is "uke," the "receiver." Of the pair in karate practice, the one under attack is the "ukete," the "receiving hand." In kendo, the defender is "ukedachi," the "receiving sword."
In these and other expressions in the bugei lexicon, the importance of the term "uke" is significant. It is commonly mistranslated in judo circles as the "taker" of a technique. Uke is thrown and so is considered the "loser" in this way of thinking.

"To be on the uke end of training is not to be passively accepting of the technique. It is instead the attitude of receiving, meeting the throw on one's own terms."
To understand that "uke" means more exactly "to receive" opens new views for the practitioner. To be on the uke end of training is not to be passively accepting of the technique. It is instead the attitude of receiving, meeting the throw on one's own terms. The mentality of the uke is not one of resignation or worse yet, of stubborn resistance. The uke flows, absorbs the force of the throw, and while he does fall, his ukemi does not necessarily signal defeat. His fall is one he controls. He receives -- and bounces up again.

The term "ukete" in karate and "ukedachi" in kendo are subject to a similarly misleading translation. Here they are thought of incorrectly as designating the participant who "blocks" an attack. Not so. The "ukekata," or "receiving forms" of kendo and karate require a receiving of the incoming force in order to redirect it away or to use it to come back against the attacker.

In the mature training hall will be very senior bugeisha, older men and women, and they can be seen happily taking falls or blows, over and over, from children trainees. Against adolescent members, young and full of themselves, the senior will be just as complacent, mildly taking all the excess energy of youth without a bruise or wince, until, among the brightest of the youngsters, will come the realization that there is something more to all this activity than it seems. They will, some of them, begin to suspect that the toughness of these older bugeisha is a thing yet to be discovered out there along the way. They will have begun to see the true toughness of receiving.

Japanese Traditions on Entering the Dojo: What Price are You Willing to Pay?


By Dave Lowery
What does it mean to join a dojo (training hall) today in the traditional sense, and what was it like to enter the dojo of a ryu (system) during the feudal era? The similarities and differences of these ways are an accurate reflection of the similarities and differences between the classical bujutsu (military arts) and their successors, the budo (military way) of our century.

It takes more than a flash of the cash and sporadic attendance to succeed in traditional dojo. The students above are considered worthy and dedicated by their instructor.
To no traditionalists, there might not be anything special about joining a dojo. From their point of view you just walk in and make your wishes known to whoever is in charge. Flash your MasterCard, sign a liability waiver and you're a member of the club. However, this is a long way from the manner in which things are done in a strictly traditional dojo and it's light years away from the way the feudal warrior entered a dojo in old Japan.

Understand first that the idea of the dojo or ryu as a business began very recently. The ryu was anciently seen as a combination of an extended family, an intense and lengthy apprenticeship program, and often as a semi-religious order.

There were exceptions, but the average ryu was relatively small. Whether it was supported by a feudal lord or maintained privately, money was rarely a consideration for the top instructors of the style. A select group of faithful students or a benefactor were all that was necessary. When the head instructor was retained by his lord, a stipend supported him, the same way all the lord's other samurai were kept. Otherwise, the headmaster depended on gifts and offerings from his disciples. Either way, few instructors relied upon their teaching for their livelihood.

The martial skills of classsical Japanese Ryu are still practiced in Japan as well as abroad. Students share the unique experience of practicing together an art inherited from Samurai times. Here the author uses a chain and sickle (Isshin-ryu Kugarigama Jutsu) against a sword held by Diane Skoss. This art is practiced as an affiliated school (Fuzoko Ryuha) to Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo, a classical school of jo (short stick). In Shindo Muso Ryu, the jo is used to defend against the Japanese sword. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Caile)
Early ryu had little use for large numbers of students, expensive fees for training, or for professional instructors. How, then, did the prospective disciple enter the ryu's dojo? Mainly by persistence. Initially, the applicant had to approach the dojo with letters of introduction and recommendation from someone known and respected by the masters of the ryu. This was generally followed by a check into the applicant's background.

Records were plentiful in old Japan and background checks weren't very difficult. During the long Tokugawa regime, a thorough and far-reaching network of intelligence agents was maintained by the government, and laws made sure no one traveled outside his native province without identification papers.
Records were plentiful in old Japan and background checks weren't very difficult. During the long Tokugawa regime, a thorough and far-reaching network of intelligence agents was maintained by the government, and laws made sure no one traveled outside his native province without identification papers.
Furthermore, for those of the warrior class, last name and home fief established a lot about character and personal history. One reason for this check was to insure that the applicant was of good character, but another equally important consideration was to protect against the possibility of a rival ryu member from slipping into an "enemy" school to steal their secret techniques.

Once his background was ascertained, the applicant took the keppan (blood oath), which was a written loyalty oath, signed or sealed with the applicant's blood. The average classical warrioroften had a small scar on one of his fingers, or inside his arm, from his encounter with the keppan. Practically unnoticeable, it reminded him of the great honor it was to be a part of his ryu.

Even after he became an official member of the ryu, the aspiring warrior's application was still not complete. He was eligible only for a trial period, usually referred to as te hodoki (unleashing of hands). It was a probation that could be severe, one where the beginner was ordered to perform all sorts of domestic chores-chopping wood, preparing meals, washing uniforms; the kind of scenario that's popular in martial arts movies to establish the tenacity of the film's future hero. It was a test to see how much he'd tolerate. It ascertained how badly he wanted to learn. If the beginner performed his assigned tasks with patience and dignity he was soon accepted into the beginning ranks of the ryu. He became a monjin (a person at the gate) of the ryu's teachings.

Rigorous training such as running stairs, closely resembles the karate training of early ryu.
Ancient students felt like they belonged, a feeling that carries over into present-day Japan, where the individual is judged (and often judges himself) according to the groups to which he belongs

The members of the ryu very much have the feeling of nakama (within the interior space) with others of their school or style. They have shared similar training, totally unique to those outside it.

They have a common understanding of the ryu. It's much like a family.
It's obvious, then, that joining a ryu meant more than just attending lessons and learning skills. Even today, when a Japanese craftsman wishes to convey the scope of his training, he sometimes uses the expression, "I shared the mat with So-and-So Sensei." To share the mat or sit on the mat with a high-ranked sensei has a particular significance. It means the secrets and skills of his art have been passed directly down to the speaker. He is the inheritor of the master's particular way of doing the craft.
A lot of the budo customs have changed over the years? but they haven't really been lost. True, there are no longer any keppan (blood) oaths, and only a few schools practice anything like the period of probation. But serious budoka respect the same bonds of belonging that their ancestors did. Today's budoka feels (or should feel) that he's part of a very special group, that he springs from a distinct and honorable lineage.

Students of a tradtional karate organaization, such as JKA, for example, train in front of a portrait of Gichin Funakoshi, and they should derive deep satisfaction knowing their teacher, or their teacher's teacher, actually practiced karate under this great man.

Students of another karate style who visit a JKA dojo are lucky. And students from the JKA who train in another system are equally fortunate. But should they claim they are actually a part of the dojo they visit? If they are willing to put on a white belt, forget their allegiance to their original sensei and accept their adoptive style wholeheartedly, the answer is yes. Otherwise, the visiting student who attempts to present himself as a real member diminishes both himself and his teachers.

The entrance the modern-day budoka makes to his ryu or dojo may be simpler than it was in the old days, but it has just as much meaning and commitment. And if it is taken lightly or abused, if the student fails to understand the implications of his passage to the door of the dojo, he can never expect to proceed successfully beyond it.

Five Short Principles

In practicing martial way or our lives, remember these:

  1. Pay attention.
  2. You have responsibilities.
  3. Respect others.
  4. Listen.
  5. Beware the dark side