2022 The Year of the Tiger
January 31, 2022
This year, 2022, marks the Year of the Tiger in the Lunar calendar. Revered for its power and ferocity, tiger figures prominently as a symbol in the martial arts and qigong. In celebration of the new year, YMAA Publication Center staff writer Gene Ching explores some of the connections of tigers to the martial arts.
Three Ancient Chinese Teachings: Fo, Ru, Dao
May 10, 2021
Buddhism is an ancient religion based on the Buddha's teachings - the title given to the Indian spiritual seeker Siddhartha Gautama after he attained enlightenment more than 2,600 years ago. The Buddha's best-known teachings are the four noble truths and the eightfold path, which describe the nature of human suffering and a way to liberate oneself from the existential pains of life and reach nirvana.
Happy "Niu" Year! 2021—Year of the Ox!
February 8, 2021
To Chinese, this most important celebration of the year is known as "Spring Festival" (春節; pinyin: Chūnjié). It is a time of family reunion. Family members gather at each other's homes for visits and shared meals, most significantly a feast (年夜飯; pinyin: niányèfàn) on New Year's Eve (除夕; pinyin: Chúxī). In Chinese societies, people may take weeks off from work to prepare for and celebrate this holiday. With about 3 billion passenger trips over the 40-day travel season, it is described as the world's largest annual human migration.
2020: Enter the Rat! The First of the Twelve Chinese Zodiac Signs
January 20, 2020
The Chinese year 4718 begins on January 25, 2020. According to the Chinese zodiac it will be the Year of the Rat (鼠年 - “rat year”; pinyin: shǔnián). The Chinese calendar is lunisolar (not purely lunar). Months begin with the new moon (when it is darkest). New Year's Day usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. The year 1 on the Chinese calendar corresponds to the first reign year of the legendary Yellow Emperor (黃帝; pinyin: Huángdì), who is said to have invented the calendar during the 61st year of his reign.
Fighting with Weapons
January 28, 2019
Weapons are simply an extension of the fighter. The Samurai even considered the sword to be an extension of their soul. The weapon assumes the character of whoever wields the weapon, as the weapon is simply a tool that extends the will of the fighter. The principles of fighting with empty hands apply to fighting with weapons. A fight is a fight. But there are some thoughts about these principles that should be noted.
Think of Beginning—Advance Gradually Lao Tzu, Translation and Commentary - January 6, 2019
The Nature has always developed gradually. For those who are cultivating the Dao, the final goal is "doing without doing" (wuwei, 無為). However, to reach this level, you must begin with the easy and small. Only after you are able to take care of easy and small matters should you then gradually advance into more difficult and bigger matters.
The Hero and the Warrior - December 31, 2018
My favorite quote from the movie Skyfall occurs when secret agent James Bond meets his new quartermaster, Q, the designer of his spy tech and furrowed brow to many of his boyish antics: "I'll hazard I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pajamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you can do in a year in the field," quips Q. "Oh, so why do you need me?" Bond replies. "Every now and then a trigger has to be pulled," Q states. Bond smiles. "Or not pulled. It's hard to know which in your pajamas."
Anatomy of a Warrior Spirit - December 23, 2018
Martial artists are, by definition, warriors. True warriors have warrior spirit. In martial arts, as in life, there are some people who are successful, and some people who are not. The most successful people are imbued with a warrior spirit, known in the Chinese tradition as Yi. Warrior spirit has nothing to do with fighting or aggression, even though skilled fighters often have a well-developed warrior spirit. On the contrary, warrior spirit is about having the wherewithal to resolve conflict or avoid it altogether, and most of all to muster the internal fortitude requisite to the process of mastering yourself.
Calibrating the Moral Compass - August 6, 2018
The value of life involves two distinct aspects: the physical—life itself or the actual human “being” of aliveness—and the metaphysical in orbit around it that is everything we consider worthwhile in life—our loves, ambitions, and desires, including our sense of oughtness referenced within morals, ethics, justice, and rights.
The Way of the Warrior - June 18, 2018
In the witching hours of night, after a softball game with friends, police officer Stacey Lim was returning home. As she parked, a vehicle carrying five members of a local gang crept behind her. A young man emerged from the vehicle. He meant to murder her and to steal her car. He wanted to prove himself to fellow gang members. Officer Lim stepped out of her vehicle and turned into the looming barrel of a gun.
Good People Who Want to be Better People Get Trained - June 4, 2018
"I'm at Laughing Man Tavern in Washington, DC." This is the last tweet of Kevin Joseph Sutherland. It's dated July 3, 2015. In the early afternoon of July Fourth, Sutherland boards the Metro Red Line to meet friends downtown to watch fireworks. He is twenty-four, has recently graduated from American University, and has been hired as a digital strategist for a DC firm.
The Protector Ethic - May 21, 2018
Take this true story of a young man who went to the aid of a young woman—she was being beaten. This fellow tried to thwart the attack by attacking her attacker. But, unbeknownst to our hero, the aggressor's friends were not far behind, and when they came on their comrade receiving a knuckle sandwich, they served up several of their own. Whatever happened to the girl is anyone's guess.
No, Fairy Tales Are Not Morally ‘Ambiguous,’ And That’s Why They’re Worthwhile - May 14, 2018
“Darth Vader was seduced by the other side of the Force.” Actually, it was the dark side, not the other side. Vader was seduced by a set of values in contradiction to what Jedi took for granted about the Force and its usage.
Discipline: Keep Cool - May 7, 2018
One of my teachers frequently used the phrase, "Keep a cool tool." Samurai Miyamoto Mushashi expressed this a bit more eloquently centuries earlier, saying, "You must remain calm at all times; in this way you can control the attack."
Winning Fights is Based on Principles—Not Techniques - April 9, 2018
Technique is important. But techniques change, adapt, and evolve. Principles are timeless. Bruce Lee recognized this truth, and advised to “absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.” To Lee, there was no single superior style of fighting. He even referred to his methods as the “style of no style.”
Winning Fights - April 2, 2018
Everyone knows that any fighter can win or lose on any given day. There is even a saying among fighters that there is always someone bigger and better. No one can consistently predict the outcome of two fighters facing each other who possess equal skill. The Navy SEALS have the same problem. Men of all sizes, body types and different skill sets wish to enter SEAL training.
Can We Win the War on Terror? - March 19, 2018
Terrorism and Rapid Mass Murder seem to be permanent, lurking shadows darkening the stage of modern politics. Experts weave a nest of causes, from untempered religious orthodoxy and the moral queasiness of the West to historical grievance and the Internet as a mechanism for radicalization, among others. All, perhaps, carry their measure of truth. I would like to suggest that whatever volatile mix of causes accounts for the menace of terrorism, as a practical matter, the problem is intractable. The prevailing structure of our institutions offers no response to it.
The Spirit of the Warrior - March 12, 2018
The spirit of the warrior touches many across time and place. It is not exclusive to those professionals who devote their lives to it. It touches the mother who, with blinding ferocity, protects a child against danger. It touches the young man who blazes like a flame and charges forward when an armed terrorist storms onto the train that carries him.
Sumo: David vs. Goliath - February 10, 2017
In Malcolm Gladwell's very popular book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, the author deeply explores the lessons behind the three-thousand-year-old Biblical story of how the small young David defeated the giant warrior Goliath.
Simple Drills Worth Knowing - January 30, 2017
The following are important things, some little, some major, that lend themselves well to simple drills or exercises. Backing up is almost never the answer. Unless you are excellent at reading and remembering tactical terrain, you might not know what or who is behind you.
MMA Champion, Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida, Incorporates Sumo into his Fighting Style - January 5, 2017
A prime example of how a MMA fighter has incorporated sumo into his game is former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida. He has a strong sumo background, but his primary style is traditional Shotokan karate.
Sumo: A Case Study in Size vs. Technique - November 7, 2016
Sumo is the fusion of honored ritual with unbridled power. Even in a combat sport like sumo, where great body mass and girth are often winning factors, superior technique can overcome size and strength.
Evaluating Drills—Part 2 - October 31, 2016
I get especially annoyed with weapons. Unarmed defense against a weapon sucks. Never, ever, ever practice dying and do not train to be killed. The stakes are too high to blindly imprint a habit, even a habit as simple as handing a weapon back once you have disarmed someone.
Evaluating Drills—Part 1 - October 24, 2016
I'm not a big fan of most drills. There is a fine line, but conditioned reflexes are crucial in a fight and habits will get you killed. Conditioned reflexes are things you do without thinking about it. They are essentially trained flinch responses. If something suddenly comes at your eyes you WILL do something: block, move your head or, at the very minimum, blink.
The Hidden Roots of Karate and Jujitsu - October 5, 2016
This article will discuss several martial arts to illustrate how different looking martial arts are apparently closely related and how the idea of hidden historical roots applies to many martial arts. First the origins of karate and Okinawan sumo will be explored. Then the root of jujitsu will be uncovered.