Ursi's Eso Garden
Your Competent Esoteric Guide
Tuesday, 20. May 2008
Inside Sumo Wrestling
Take a look inside the world of Japanese Sumo wrestling.
Sumo - Basics
Sumo: Japan’s Big Sport - Collection
Monday, 03. March 2008
Kung Fu Crab = Crab Fu
For your fun today: Crab Fu, an animated short by I-Wei Huang.
This video was set to the tune of Kitaro's Japanese Drums ...
Great poses and timing!
Friday, 22. February 2008
Momote Shiki: Japanese Archery Ritual
On Seijin-no-Hi (Coming of Age Day) in early January in Japan, an archery ritual known as Momote Shiki is held at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo for all those turning 20 for that year.
Here's a short clip of a Shinto Priest shooting the Kabura-ya (whistling arrow):
Related Entry: Asian Traditional Archery
Seijin-no-Hi or Coming of Age Day is celebrated all throughout Japan on the second Monday of January. Throughout the country, similar ceremonies and activities take place among those newly turned 20 such as the wearing of special kimono, going to shrines, attending speeches, and so on. At Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, a unique ceremony takes place that is often overlooked in favor of seeing the kimono-clad girls that populate the shrine on that day.
Archers in old style kimono preparing to shoot n the archery ritual known as Momote Shiki
Behind the main shrine complex an archery ritual known as Momote Shiki is performed for the good fortune of all those turning 20 and becoming new adults. Archers wearing a style of formal kimono that samurai once wore in olden times shoot two arrows a piece at a central target.
Archers arriving at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo
The Momote Shiki ceremony is conducted by the Ogasawara-Ryu, one of the oldest schools of Japanese-style archery. The Ogasawara family has long been associated with martial arts training most especially archery. The founder of the Ogasawara line was Nagakiyo who was born in the mid-12th century. He excelled as a mounted archer and was granted the surname of Ogasawara by the Emperor after the name of his birthplace in modern Yamanashi Prefecture.
12th century Japan was a transitionary time. In prior centuries, the Emperor's Court ruled the land from Kyoto. Nobles held the reigns of power but as time progressed they began to lose their power to the emerging warrior class. With the increase of violence, the noble administrators had to rely more and more on the formerly despised warrior class to quell the problems. Eventually the warrior class came into its own in the mid-12th century when the powerful warrior family, the Heike or Taira, came to dominate the Imperial Court.
The archers wear a style of kimono worn by samurai 800 years ago
The Heike became arrogant in their new found power thus breeding many enemies. War broke out between them and their powerful rivals the Genji or Minamoto clan. The leader of the Genji was Minamoto-no-Yoritomo. Yoritomo destroyed the Heike family and came to rule all of Japan as Shogun. He ruled from his capital Kamakura which lies an hour south of Tokyo by train.
Nagakiyo had been Yoritomo's mentor and instructor in mounted archery. With Yoritomo's ultimate victory, the Ogasawara's fortunes rose. Yoritomo was keen that his warriors keep their martial skills honed even during peacetime. The reason for this and his decision to set his capital in Kamakura far from Kyoto was the precedent set by his former enemies, the Heike family.
Before shooting, the archers give reverence
One of the prevailing opinions of the day as to why the once powerful Heike family fell so completely was their descent into decadence. They spent more time worrying about their appearance and their poetry ability than they did on their martial skills. One Heike general was famous for abandoning his position in abject terror when a flight of geese so startled him that he thought the Genji were attacking. A great part of this stemmed from the Heike's close proximity to the culture of the Imperial Court.
Yoritomo did not want his followers to become soft and weak like the Heike. He wanted to establish a strong legacy so he set his new capital in Kamakura far from the Imperial Court. Furthermore, he avidly supported the Ogasawara clan in training warriors to maintain their skill and discipline. A number of archery rituals still practiced today were started because of Yoritomo's stern insistence that his followers retain their martial fighting skills.
A Shinto Priest preparing to shoot a special arrow to begin the ceremony
Archery whether mounted or on foot was strongly emphasized because at this time the much-praised samurai sword had yet to truly come into its own. In Yoritomo's time, the bow was the principle weapon of the samurai and the symbol of his profession and spirit.
Yoritomo's shogunate government lasted until the early 14th century. After his Spartan policies were ignored, the Kamakura Shogunate leaders became lax with luxury and in the end they fell to more determined and stronger enemies. The Ogasawara survived the downfall of the Kamakura shogunate and went on to serve the new shogunate government establish by the Ashikaga clan.
A Shinto Priest loosens and removes his left sleeve so it will not hinder his shooting
Sometime after the power of the Ashikaga shoguns declined, the warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu established a new shogunate government set in Edo (today Tokyo) in 1603. He requested Ogasawara Tsunenao, the head of the clan at the time, to be a mentor and instructor to his son.
The Tokugawa Shogunate ushered in an unprecedented two centuries of peace. Fighting skills were no longer in great demand; however, practice of the martial arts continued but took on a new form. Archery and other martial skills became less about the physical and more about the spiritual. Archery became viewed as a way to self-improvement; of disciplining the mind and soul.
The Ogasawara clan continued to serve the Tokugawa shogunate until 1868 when the shogunate was abolished. In the midst of a rapidly modernizing Japan of the late 19th century, the Ogasawara continued to teach their traditional arts. However, since there were no more samurai to train in Japan's new society, the Ogasawara opened their school to the general public.
Today the Ogasawara perform a number of archery rituals throughout the year at a number of shrines. Every spring in the Asakusa district of Tokyo, they perform the mounted archery ritual of Yabusame.
The Momote Shiki ritual is carried out on Seijin-no-Hi, Coming of Age Day though the ritual predates the holiday by centuries. Momote - means "hundred hands." The ritual is a bit of Shinto mathematics: ten archers at a time shoot two arrows a piece. The number of archers times the number of arrows equals 100. The type of arrow used has white fletching or feather. This is the same type of arrow which is sold as good luck charms at shrines during New Years. The Momote Shiki ritual is the origin of this arrow charm. The Momote Shiki ritual used to be held in private until the Edo Period (1603-1867) when it became open to the general public.
Before the archers begin, a Shinto priest shoots a Kabura-ya, a special red-colored arrow with an turnip-shaped head. The arrow makes a whistling noise as speeds along. The noise is believed to drive away evils from all four directions.
Archers draw the bow above their heads before bringing it down to aim
The archers wear a type of kimono known as a kariginu. The kariginu was the everyday dress of the samurai of the Kamakura Period (1192-1333) and was based on clothes worn on hunting expeditions. On their head is an eboshi -- a type of hat worn by court nobles in earlier centuries.
The traditional way of shooting the bow is very slow and meticulous. The archers begin by slowly uncovering their left arm and shoulder leaving them and the left side of the chest completely bare. The purpose for this is practicality rather than for ritual purposes.
Traditional kimono robes are loose and flowing which could easily inconvenience the shooting of the bow. Female archers however do not reveal their shoulders and chest. They put their arm through a specially designed hole on the sleeves of female kimono then tie up the sleeve.
The bow is raised upwards and brought slowly down while the arrow is pulled back past the ear. Then at last the string is let loose and the arrow speeds towards the target. The emphasis of the ritual and Japanese archery in general is not on striking the target accurately but on the spiritual repose the archer achieves and maintains throughout the whole ceremony. Balance is sought between spirit and bow when the mind is empty but not dwelling on emptiness.
Archers receive a ceremonial serving of sake after the ritual
A Zen Master of the Kamakura Period once wrote:
No target's erected
No bow's drawn
And the arrow leaves the string;
It may not hit,
But it does not miss!
Once all the archers have shot the required number of arrows, they receive a small portion of sake and the ceremony is considered concluded. The health and good fortune of the new adults is thus spiritually assured for the year.
Source: Momote Shiki by Ohmy News. All pictures © 2008 by David Michael Weber
Sunday, 10. February 2008
They were the knights of medieval Japan, an elite warrior class that held the reins of power and the fascination of the people for more than 700 years. Masters of sword and bow, driven by an unforgiving code of ethics, they proved ferocious in combat. They beat back foreign invaders and fought each other for land, status, honor and glory.
This documentation explores the extraordinary legacy of martial artistry, ceremony, self-discipline and tenacity in battle that reaches to this day. Modern-day samurai explain the ways of life in the Bushido, while scholars detail the pivotal events in their centuries-long history. From the heyday of the Heian Period (794-1185) to the inevitable decline that followed the opening of Japan in 1853, this is the definitive study of some of world's most famous fighters.
Duration: 91 minutes.
Thursday, 17. January 2008
The Zen Mind - An Introduction
This is a clip from The Zen Mind documentary, filmed in Japan 2006. It serves as a nice overview of zen - a topic very few people can fully understand.
More at Empty Mind Films, an independent documentary film studio specializing in the martial arts and the philosophy and culture of Asia and in particular the countries of Japan and China.
Wednesday, 12. December 2007
The Way of the Warrior
I've heard about this series for a long time, and many years ago I saw one of the episodes. This series, produced by the BBC, has become a classic in the martial arts world.
"The Way of the Warrior" was an 8 part documentary originally broadcast by the BBC in 1983 on Asian fighting systems.
The combat techniques of the martial arts of India and the Far East have origins shrouded in mystery and practices protected by traditions of secrecy. Each chapter includes the world's great masters, experts dedicated to the purest expression of the martial arts, reveal the principles and philosophies that inform their discipline, training and technique.
Each part lasts approx 35-40 minutes so the total content is approx 5½ hours long. It is not intended as a training tutorial. It is a documentary going into the rich historical background, philosophy, methods and practices of each system. Each part has numerous footage of demonstrations, explanations and practical applications. Whichever martial art system you may be studying this is a very absorbing and inspiring series.
The episodes are:
2. Kalari - The Indian Way
3. Aikido and Kendo - The Sporting Way
4. Tai Chi, Xing Yi, Ba Gua - The Soft Way
5. Eskrima - The Fillipino Way
6. Karate - The Way of the Empty Hand
7. Kung Fu - The Hard Way
8. The Samurai Way
If you're interested in the diversity of the martial arts you will love this series.
So, let's go! Click a link and the video will play here in the target frame.
Shorinji Kempo - The New Way: This episode follows the recently developed Shorinji Kempo form from Japan which has close ties to a new school of Buddhism. This part also follows the main temple on Shikoku Island and talks about the history of its founding and founder, its current state in Japanese society and the future of the form religious school.
Way of the Warrior: Shorinji Kempo - The New Way - Part 1 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Shorinji Kempo - The New Way - Part 2 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Shorinji Kempo - The New Way - Part 3 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Shorinji Kempo - The New Way - Part 4 (09:00)
Kalari - The Indian Way: This episode showcases both the Southern and Norther styles of Kalaripayit, an ancient form of martial arts from India and is probably the mother form of all martial arts. This one cuts off at the very very end, but I can assure you it literally ends two seconds before it cuts off!
Way of the Warrior: Kalari, the Indian Way - Part 1 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Kalari, the Indian Way - Part 2 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Kalari, the Indian Way - Part 3 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Kalari, the Indian Way - Part 4 (09:00)
Aikido and Kendo - The Sporting Way: This episode follows the history and development of Aikido, Kendo and some Naginata and explains why they took the sporting path and yet still maintain their spirituality.
Way of the Warrior: Aikido & Kendo, The Sporting Way - Part 1 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Aikido & Kendo, The Sporting Way - Part 2 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Aikido & Kendo, The Sporting Way - Part 3 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Aikido & Kendo, The Sporting Way - Part 4 (09:00)
Tai Chi, Xing Yi, Ba Gua - The Soft Way: This episode follows a Taiwanese master of Tai Chi and showcases many forms of Tai Chi and some forms of Kung Fu. Featuring Grand master Hung I Hsiang (1925-93).
Way of the Warrior: Tai Chi, Xing Yi, Ba Gua - Part 1 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Tai Chi, Xing Yi, Ba Gua - Part 2 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Tai Chi, Xing Yi, Ba Gua - Part 3 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Tai Chi, Xing Yi, Ba Gua - Part 4 (09:00)
Eskrima - the Philippino Way: This episode follows the very old, yet ever developing, Philippino martial art, Eskrima. It has developed, largely, due to the use of knives in the Philippines and teaches one how to defend against and use knives or small blades. You can see some Old School Doce Pares, some great footage of the old Inosanto Academy and a lot more.
Way of the Warrior: Eskrima, the Philippino Way - Part 1 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Eskrima, the Philippino Way - Part 2 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Eskrima, the Philippino Way - Part 3 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Eskrima, the Philippino Way - Part 4 (09:00)
Karate - The Way of the Empty Hand: This episode deals with Goju Ryu Karate, follows the master of a small karate dojo on the island Okinawa where the martial art of karate was first created, featuring Higaonna Sensei.
Way of the Warrior: Karate, Way of the Empty Hand - Part 1 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Karate, Way of the Empty Hand - Part 2 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Karate, Way of the Empty Hand - Part 3 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Karate, Way of the Empty Hand - Part 4 (09:00)
Kung Fu - The Hard Way: This episode starts off by following a small Kung Fu school in Hong Kong and talks about the spread of Kung Fu through out the world. With this the episode follows a small British school and finally an American school with a teacher who was close friends with Bruce Lee. Featuring Grand Master Chan Hon Chung (1909-91)
Way of the Warrior: Kung Fu - The Hard Way - Part 1 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Kung Fu - The Hard Way - Part 2 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Kung Fu - The Hard Way - Part 3 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: Kung Fu - The Hard Way - Part 4 (09:00)
The Samurai Way: This episode follows an ancient Dojo in Japan who still practice the Samurai way. (Katori Shino Ryu with Otake sensei).
Way of the Warrior: The Samurai Way - Part 1 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: The Samurai Way - Part 2 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: The Samurai Way - Part 3 (10:00)
Way of the Warrior: The Samurai Way - Part 4 (09:00)
Monday, 26. November 2007
Sumo: Japan’s Big Sport
Click the picture for a larger view
A sumo tournament is as much ceremony as action. An extensive set of rituals based on centuries of religious, military, and court tradition culminates in brief, explosive bouts that may last only a few seconds. The sport has strong roots in Shinto rituals of purity, fertility, and harvest. The pillars and roof of the central arena suggest the architecture of a Shinto shrine, and the costumes of referees and officials resemble those of Shinto priests.
Wrestlers on opposing East and West sides position themselves for the ring entrance ceremony, wearing brocade aprons. At the left, the drum tower can be seen rising above the box seats.
Temple fund-raising events (kanjin) in the form of theater, dance, and sumo contests became common by about the fifteenth century. In some cases, audience members would challenge the champions. In the Edo period, the tendency of loosely organized benefit matches to devolve into brawls prompted strict government regulation.
Click the picture for a larger view
When wrestlers enter the ring (dohyo-iri), they perform a series of rituals for purification and to honor the gods. These rituals include rinsing the mouth with water, throwing salt into the ring, and stomping. Yokozuna, the top ranking wrestlers, wear a rope (shimenawa) and folded paper ribbons (shide), which are Shinto symbols of purity and demarcations of sacred space.
Click the picture for a larger view
From its legendary prehistoric beginnings until the present day, sumô wrestling has dominated the world of traditional Japanese sport. Like Kabuki actors and noted courtesans, wrestlers were idols of the urban popular culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and so appeared frequently in woodblock prints. "Sumo, Japan’s Big Sport" features not only portraits of famous wrestlers and scenes of their greatest bouts, but also views of wrestlers as celebrities in everyday life, legends and Kabuki plays featuring wrestlers as heroes, and fantasies in which animals or supernatural beings enjoy wrestling just as humans do.
Sumo: Japan's Big Sport by The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Saturday, 06. October 2007
The Way of Energy
Many Qigong books are too "Eastern" for Westerners to read, or are too technical/textbook like, spending many pages going over the meridians, cavities, times of day and orientation. This is required knowledge for advanced practicioners, but gets in the way and is intimidating for introductory students.
The reader is instructed on how to integrate these two new pieces into their practice. While the Eight Pieces of Brocade positions vary slightly from other texts, their descriptions are excellent and their purpose briefly but clearly explained.
Part Three describes four advanced standing positions and imagery exercises for the practicioner to begin managing their Chi. The last part of the book describes how to integrate these disciplines into everyday life.
In summary, an excellent introductory step-by-step guide with more than 100 drawings and full-color photographs.
About the Author: Master Lam Kam Chuen is a specialist in Chi Kung, a recognized master of Tai Chi Chuan, and a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine.
The Way of Energy by Master Lam Kam Chuen
Gaia Books, 1991
PDF | 11 MB | 165 pages
Saturday, 08. September 2007
Ninja Mind Control
This ebook is for all Ninja meditation lovers, an archieve mastery over your own mind and posses the key that unlocks the secrets of the cosmos.
Revealed here are the Breathing Exercises and Kuji-Kiri hand positions that enable you to collect, cultivate, and circulate Qi, the vital lifeforce that surrounds, permeates, and flows within the body. Through these methods, mind reading, hypnosis and suggestion, the Ninja controls himself, and, in so doing, the outcome of every encounter as well. Includes the Five Element Exercises and Mi Lu Kata, the Lost Track Form, of self defense that can turn even the most humble into a fighting champion.
Kuji Kiri, the nine cutting fingers, are a system of mudras passed along to Japan from India and used by the ninja warriors for meditation, health maintenance and combat locking and throwing. In modern times, these exercises are still useful for self-defense but also have uses in the treatment and prevention of carpal tunnel syndrome since they loosen the joints, stretch the ligaments and increase qi flow through the acupuncture meridians of the hands and fingers.
Sunday, 18. February 2007
Wudang Gong Fu
Chinese Gong Fu (Kung Fu) has long been regarded by the Chinese as a form of exercise and temperament cultivation. The art of Gong Fu is philosophically combined with the theory of yin and yang. This is due to its function of circulating the flow of Qi and blood through breathing and body movements.
In Chinese language, martial arts is Wushu. Wudang Wushu is a germ of Chinese Wushu, enjoying a popularity home and abroad. In the martial arts circle, there has been a saying since early that “ Bei chong Shaolin, Nan zun Wudang”. It means: while Shaolin sect Wushu is esteemed in the North, Wudang respected in the South.There is deep relationship between Wudang Wushu and Wudang Taoism.
The movie starts with young Jet Li and showing off some really impressive training techniques.
It's not about enlightenment, it's about balance.
It's not about balance...
Enjoy this amazing martial arts!
Runtime 87 minutes.
Wudang Kung Fu Academy for Traditional Taoist Internal Martial Arts & Wudang Taoist Martial Arts School
Wudang Taoist Kung Fu Academy (WTKFA) is located high up in Mount Wudang, the famous Taoism holy land and inner Kung Fu origination place.
Shaolin Gung Fu Institute
Dedicated to the traditions of the Shaolin order, including the kung fu styles made famous by the Shaolin monks. Site sections: styles, history, overview, philosophy, temples, letters, training methods, FAQ etc; based in Seattle, Washington, USA.
Siping City Shao Lin Martial Arts Academy
Martial arts academy run by disciples of the northern Song Shan mountain temple protection monks; located in Siping, Jilin, China.
Sunday, 10. December 2006
Myths & Logic of Shaolin Kung Fu
There is no doubt that the martial artist in this documentary are spectacular. The children are incredible! The boys enter the temple training at age 4 or 5 (at the most flexible, adaptable age) are already incredibly skilled.
This documentary gives a brief outline of the history of Shaolin & martial arts in China and you get a good look at basic training, and could even try to learn some of the basic forms of Shaolin, which are difficult to find from authentic sources elsewhere. You got a look inside the shaolin temple and the shaolin life style -- a look that is rarely given to outsiders.
'Myths And Logic Of Shaolin Kung Fu' is fun to watch, well done, and a good documentary of this most powerful and majestic form of martial arts.
Wednesday, 25. October 2006
Body Mind & Modem
Finding greater inner peace doesn't have to be a vague, metaphysical pursuit. Aikido Kokikai offers you clear and pragmatic ideas to help you catch a better feeling today, and then grow that feeling throughout your life. These four basic principles can seem simple, or extraordinarily complex. But the amazing thing is, they seem to apply to absolutely everything we encounter in life.
Body Mind And Modem: Ki Basics
Body Mind And Modem: Ki Exercises
Want to learn more about the unusual martial art that inspired the Body Mind & Modem Web Site? This is the place to do it. Learn why training to defend yourself against violent attacks helps you to develop inner peace. Discover more about the incredible man who founded Aikido Kokikai. Find out about the dojo (school) where the Body Mind & Modem Web Site originated. And other equally fascinating stuff.
Body Mind & Modem by Aikido Kokikai of Rochester.
Sunday, 09. July 2006
This program taught by Chinese Kenpo Black Belt instructor Jeff O'Donnell gives excellent detail on the basics of karate and helps the viewer discover their abilities in self defense.
This streaming video takes 28 minutes 55 seconds.
Produced by Dream Masters Studios.
Sunday, 23. April 2006
Tai Chi: Yang Long Form
This is the style of Tai Chi Chuan practiced by more people than any other. Most of the popular forms today evolved from the Yang. Tai Chi started out with 13 basic movements and kept expanding until it reached 108 movements. All these movements are actually only variations on the basic 13. This video is a step-by-step instruction.
Thursday, 20. April 2006
Aikido & Aiki Batto
Aikido - The Peaceful Martial Art by Stefan Stenudd. (English)
Much information, lots of texts, photos and video clips.
Aikido contains, in its usual curriculum, a number of sword exercises and applications. These are not regulated by any Aikikai standard, since the Hombu dojo tends to exclude such practices from its schedule.
Aiki Batto - A system of sword exercises, both Aikiken style bokken with partner and iaido style solo training with iaito or shinken, for learning how to handle the sword in an aiki way. By Stefan Stenudd. (English)
Also with video clips!