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Showing posts from January, 2013

What Martin Luther King Jr. Day means to me

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To me—and this is simply my thoughts on the subject as of today—Martin Luther King Jr. Day is about so much more than just the relationship between white people and black people. It's even about more than just "racism."


It's about the seemingly instinctive impulse for one human being, or group of human beings, to consider themselves superior to another person or people, for whatever reason. And all kinds of reasons exist, even today: men believing they are superior to women; one nation believing they are superior to another nation; the young believing they are superior to their elders; the rich and entitled believing they are superior to the poor and uneducated; one religion believing they are superior to all other religions; this politcal party believing they are superior to the other.
I've seen people act with cruelty or indifference (and I believe ignoring someone is just as bad as mistreating them) for the most absurd of reasons: because they were born with …

Five Elements: Earth

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After fire—again, in my mind—comes earth.

Here we find the techniques in aikido which tend to bring uke under control, as with pins and joint locks such as oshi taoshi, waki gatame, or tenkai kote hinari. With earth, one's ki is much, much more calm than with fire. In fact, earth is emotionless, being neither angry nor kind.

Though not as merciless as fire, it stems more from apathy than compassion. Earth is steady, hardly moving. Ki moves in small increments, usually up and down—especially down.

Earth is patient, and will wait for uke to bring the attack, even baiting him. Like a python, earth allows uke to squirm all he likes, all the while crushing him gradually at the right moments with deceptive ease. Uke slowly crumples helplessly under earth, often digging his own hole from which he cannot escape.



Both earth and fire do not evade or escape; they own and command the line of movement, derailing uke.

Earth is comfortable with his tekui waza, his favorite techniques. They w…

Five Elements: Fire

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To me, the element of fire can be represented in aikido by techniques such as the first five techniques of junana hon kata, or randori no kata (or "the 17" as we often call it).

Like these, fire is direct, right to the center line (as opposed to working from uke's elbow or wrist). It often moves in short, straight lines.

With fire, one's ki moves quickly, instantly lighting up the sky like lightning, and fades just as fast.

Fire is definitely not soft. Rather, fire is sharp and capable of taking an opponent down in a single cut. There are no joint locks or pins, no effort to control or suppress; fire simply strikes (hence, ateme waza).



In terms of "go no sen, sen no sen, and sensen no sen", fire lays more in the realm of sensen no sen: our opponent has perhaps only the intention, the thought of attacking. Scarcely can he begin his move when the flames sweep in and level him like a forest fire.

Which means fire can also be impetuous, eager, quick to action.…

Contemplating the Five Elements

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My sensei has on occasion related aikido techniques to what are commonly known as "the five elements", which are of course earth, water, fire, wind, and in the Japanese version, the "void". It's a fairly common concept, really, that seems to permeate most cultures. To students of Japanese martial arts, probably the most familiar association would be Miyomoto Musashi's renown work, "Book of Five Rings".


In the Japanese tradition, the elements are called the 五大 (go dai, literally "five great"). These five are earth, water, fire, wind/air, and void. Or, in Japanese: 地火風水空 (chi ka sui fuu kuu).


Now, I've thought a lot about relating the concept of the five elements to aikido, and frankly, wondered if attempting to do so was merely an exercise of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. After all, isn't the whole idea of the five elements is one of those cool, poetic philosophical constructs that would be ideally suited to martial…

Many moons

Hey, y'all. Been a loooooong time, I know. I could offer up the usual excuses—life/work/whatever has been busy—but I think you all know how that goes.

Just so you know, I haven't lost interest in studying budo; I've been going to class. I guess it's just that (in addition to all the business) I haven't felt much like pontificating about anything.

Although, in the past couple of months I have had some thoughts along one particular subject, which I  have jotted down offline. So, if I'm going to get back into the blogging game, I suppose that would be a good place to start.

It has to do with the five elements: fire, earth, wind, water and the void. Or at least, my own interpretation on them. Stay tuned.