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Showing posts from August, 2013

Churchyard anger: an early lesson about bullies

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It was early morning, mid-April 1971 and I was in the back seat of my parent's brand-new, shiny-white Holden Kingswood, trying to listen to Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime" which was blasting valiantly from the tinny AM radio but losing to the road noise coming in through the open windows.

We were driving the 15 km or so down the dusty Riverina Highway from our "home town" of Finley to the "big smoke" of Berrigan.  My mother was an aspiring portrait and landscape artist, but living in the country gave her few opportunities to display her work.  The annual Berrigan Art Fair was one of these.

As I recall, back then the fair was held at a local church.  And, it being a Sunday in deeply conservative rural New South Wales, my atheist parents were naturally obliged to attend the service.
I remember quite clearly arriving at the imposing building, nestled in amongst tall trees, a paddock to one side.  As we walked in through the pipe-iron and wire gate…

Wu-wei in action: fighting without fighting

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Regular readers of this blog will know that the title “The Way of Least Resistance” is actually just one possible translation of the concept in Daoist philosophy known as wu-wei (無為).  Literally this phrase means “not doing”.

This can make the title of this essay seem rather odd: how inaction be “in action”?  Well, two recent videos I’ve seen illustrate my thinking better than any words I offer.  Consider the first video below:


In this video, Takanoyama Shuntaro (AKA: Pavel Bojar), a 200 lb Judo player from the Czech Republic, competes at the elite level in Sumo, demolishing much larger opponents.  He does so as the very epitome of "wu-wei in action".

In order to explain what I mean, let me back-track a bit: As I have previously explained, the expression wu-wei is not a literal injunction against action.  Rather it is description of an ideal state “where nothing is done, yet everything is achieved”.

One way of translating this maxim into a meaningful “instruction” is to say…

A salute to Fred Ettish

This is a post for Fred Ettish: an embodiment of the fighting spirit of budo - indeed, of the character "忍" (nin/ren) to which I have previously referred .

I can add no more than this quote (via my friend Andy) from Theodore Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena":
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid…

Kicking with the heel

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Something that crops up every now and again is the debate about heel kicks vs ball of foot kicks.

I hear practitioners of some arts (particularly certain Chinese systems) insisting that the heel kick is better.  (Sometimes this is based on the persistent myth that kicking with the ball of foot requires bare feet, which of course it doesn't, but usually this simply reflects a technical preference.)

I hear other practitioners (particularly karateka) insisting that the ball of foot is better. (Sometimes this is based on the "snap kick non-issue" to which I refer below, but again, usually this reflects a mere technical preference.)

As far as I'm concerned the truth of the matter is that both are excellent weapons: their applicability depends principally on range.

The ball of foot kick is suitable for a longer range because it gives a longer reach.  The heel kick is suitable for a slightly closer range because it reduces reach relative to the ball of foot variation.

Some…